Oct 252013

Wednesday evening saw me wending my way to Ribston Hall High School for my first meeting of Gloucestershire Archaeology formerly known as GADARG.


(I just had to look up the word ‘wend’ – a compulsion of mine – and it seems I have described my journey exactly as it was:


[no object, with adverbial] (wend one’s way)

  • go in a specified direction, typically slowly or by an indirect route.”

I love it when a word describes a thing perfectly.)


The talk was on Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers in the Severn Estuary.  A talk given by Dr Paula Gardiner, Research Fellow from the University of Bristol.  Paula was both knowledgeable and passionate about her work and I learned a great deal from the talk.  Mainly I learnt a lot of new words which I will share with you:


Definition of Mesolithic in English


Pronunciation: /ˌmɛsə(ʊ)ˈlɪθɪk, ˌmɛz-, ˌmiːs-, ˌmiːz-/



  • relating to or denoting the middle part of the Stone Age, between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic.
  • (as noun the Mesolithic) the Mesolithic period. Also called Middle Stone Age.

In Europe, the Mesolithic falls between the end of the last glacial period (circa 8500 bc) and the beginnings of agriculture. Mesolithic people lived by hunting, gathering, and fishing, and the period is characterized by the use of microliths and the first domestication of an animal (the dog)


mid 19th century: from meso- ‘middle’ + Greek lithos ‘stone’ + –ic


Definition of Palaeolithic in English


Pronunciation: /ˌpalɪə(ʊ)ˈlɪθɪk, ˌpeɪ-/

(US Paleolithic)



  • relating to or denoting the early phase of the Stone Age, lasting about 2.5 million years, when primitive stone implements were used.
  • (as noun the Palaeolithic) the Palaeolithic period. Also called Old Stone Age.

The Palaeolithic period extends from the first appearance of artefacts to the end of the last ice age (about 8,500 years bc). The period has been divided into the Lower Palaeolithic, with the earliest forms of humankind and the emergence of hand-axe industries (ending about 120,000 years ago), the Middle Palaeolithic, the era of Neanderthal man (ending about 35,000 years ago), and the Upper Palaeolithic, during which only modern Homo sapiens is known to have existed


mid 19th century: from palaeo- + Greek lithos ‘stone’ + –ic

Obviously, I have heard of the above words but they took on more significance when put into context.


Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in geology and other scientific disciplines to specify when events in the past occurred. Because the “present” time changes, standard practice is to use 1 January 1950 as the origin of the age scale, reflecting the fact that radiocarbon dating became practicable in the 1950s. The abbreviation “BP”, with the same meaning, has also been interpreted as “Before Physics”; that is, before nuclear weapons testing artificially altered the proportion of the carbon isotopes in the atmosphere.

A fascinating explanation.

I must admit when I first heard the term ‘BP’ used my immediate thought was “What’s British Petroleum got to do with hunter-gatherers?”

But that just goes to show my level of ignorance when it comes to archaeological and geological terms.  I’ll wager that in a few years time when I become a seasoned member of GA I will be able to use the terminology with panache.


Definition of burin in English


Pronunciation: /ˈbjʊərɪn/

  • a handheld steel tool used for engraving in metal or wood.
  • Archaeology a flint tool with a chisel point.


mid 17th century: from French; perhaps related to Old High German bora ‘boring tool’


Definition of mattock in English


Pronunciation: /ˈmatək/

  • an agricultural tool shaped like a pickaxe, with an adze and a chisel edge as the ends of the head.


Old English mattuc, of uncertain origin.

Sounds more like a hill than a tool?


Definition of haft in English


Pronunciation: /hɑːft/

  • the handle of a knife, axe, or spear.

[with object] (often as adjective hafted)

  • provide (a blade, axe head, or spearhead) with a haft:the motifs included animals and hafted axes


Old English hæft, of Germanic origin: related to Dutch heft, hecht and German Heft, also to heave.


Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration.

There are whole websites dedicated to this craft if you’re interested…


Definition of aurochs in English


Pronunciation: /ˈɔːrɒks, ˈaʊ-/

noun (plural same)
  • a large wild Eurasian ox that was the ancestor of domestic cattle. It was probably exterminated in Britain in the Bronze Age, and the last one was killed in Poland in 1627. Also called urus.
    • Bos primigenius, family Bovidae


late 18th century: from German, early variant of Auerochs, from Old High German ūrohso, from ūr (form also found in Old English, of unknown origin) + ohso ‘ox’.

1624 in Poland!


Definition of boreal in English


Pronunciation: /ˈbɔːrɪəl/

  • 1 Ecology relating to or characteristic of the climatic zone south of the Arctic, especially the cold temperate region dominated by taiga and forests of birch, poplar, and conifers:northern boreal forest
  • (Boreal) Botany relating to or denoting a phytogeographical kingdom comprising the arctic and temperate regions of Eurasia and North America.
  • 2 (Boreal) Geology relating to or denoting the second climatic stage of the postglacial period in northern Europe, between the Preboreal and Atlantic stages (about 9,000 to 7,500 years ago), marked by a warm, dry climate.


late Middle English: from late Latin borealis, from Latin Boreas, denoting the god of the north wind, from Greek.

Nothing to do with Aurora Borealis!


Definition of lithic in English


Pronunciation: /ˈlɪθɪk/

  • 1chiefly Archaeology & Geology of the nature of or relating to stone.
  • 2 Medicine, dated relating to calculi.


late 18th century: from Greek lithikos, from lithos ‘stone’.

I never knew ‘lith’ meant stone so I thank fellow members of the group for pointing that out Smile

Really looking forward to the next meeting which is being held in Cheltenham and is about Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire; the talk being given by the legendary Carolyn Heighway.

  2 Responses to “Newbie attends meeting of Gloucestershire Archaeology”

  1. Some serious note-taking going on there!

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