12 January 2013 (York)

16th Meeting of the Implement Petrology Group

held at St Olave’s Church Hall, York

Saturday 12 January 2013 at 12 noon.


Present: Vin Davis (Chair) (RVD), Richard Bevins (RB), Jon Clatworthy (JC), David Field (DF), Mik Markham (MM), Alison Sheridan (JAS), Peter Topping (PT), Katharine Walker (KW) and Andrew Young (AY).

Recent publications were tabled.

RVD welcomed the attendees and thanked JAS for taking the Minutes in Steve Burrow’s absence. The attendees introduced themselves.

1. Apologies for absence
Torben Ballin, Steve Burrow, Tom Clare (TC), Gabriel Cooney (GC), Tim Darvill, Carol Dempsey, Mark Edmonds, Heather Jackson, Nicolas Le Maux, Frances Lynch, Steve Mandal, Fiona Roe, Rosemary Stewart, Gill Varndell.

2. Minutes of 14th Meeting, York, 7 January 2012 and 15th Meeting, field trip to Great Langdale, 3 June 2012
Approved, and signed by RVD.

3. Matters arising (not covered elsewhere on the agenda)
• Item 3: Jamie Quartermaine was thanked for guiding this excellent trip. Mik Markham showed a selection of images from the Great Langdale field trip and reported that around 700 working sites are now known, of which Site 123 was one of the most productive in terms of providing petrological matches with axeheads. Discussion included the observation (by PT) that site management, and the vast amount of poorly-provenanced artefactual material held in private collections remained a major problem. RVD reported that Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, had agreed to accept the Stewart Feather collection only because it was well-documented as to findspots.

• Item 4.3: Nicolas le Maux and Serge Cassen had expressed an interest in pursuing Tim Darvill’s proposal of developing a cross-Channel implement petrology recording initiative. This would be progressed as time and resources allowed.

• Item 5.2: Richard Bevins (National Museum Wales) was welcomed as a new member, along with all the other nominees – Nicolas le Maux, Onur Özbek, Serge Cassen, Dave Chapman, Chris Fowler, Jane Kenney and George Smith. RVD welcomed the expansion of the IPG network, and remarked that the strength of IPG had been the informal, friendly, co-operative way in which this network operates.

• Item 9.1: Carol Dempsey was congratulated on her successful completion of her 2-volume Masters’ dissertation on Lough Gur stone axeheads (which passed with 1st class Honours), and thanked for having deposited a copy with the IPG. The background to her research was explained, and Professor Billy O’Brien was congratulated for having encouraged Carol to undertake this research. It was noted with regret that Carol did not intend to pursue implement petrology at Doctoral level, and best wishes were extended to her by the Group. It was suggested that she be encouraged to publish the results. (It later emerged, after the meeting, that she had already submitted an article to the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society.)

• Item 9.6: JAS reported on the successful publication of the 2-volume JADE book by Pierre Pétrequin et al. A very few copies are still available (for 120 Euros) from: La Librairie archéologique
BP 90, 1 rue des Artisans, 21803 QUETIGNY cedex, Tél. : +33 (0)3 80 48 98 60, Fax : +33 (0)3 80 48 98 69, infos@librairie-archeologique.com, Site web : www.librairie-archeologique.com. JAS undertook to enquire whether the English-language version of the Projet JADE film was also now available for purchase; this would be a useful teaching resource for University-based members. (The French version is available online for free: http://www.cerimes.fr/le-catalogue/jade.html. For other footage, see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoE2bFUome8.) News of the recent sale at auction of a jadeitite axehead in London, and of the issues surrounding this, was reported by JAS.

The substantive issues for report and discussion, as listed in the Agenda, were as follows:

3(i): Revised Constitution (Document C of documents circulated with the Agenda):
RVD explained the background to this. It was necessary to have an up to date, ratified Constitution in order to comply with Charity Law. The substantive changes involved enlarging the Committee to comprise: Chair, 2 Vice Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer, Web Officer and Events Officer, plus five ordinary Committee Members. Definitions of the roles and responsibilities of each of these posts needed to be drafted up ASAP. After minor amendments were proposed and accepted, there was unanimous agreement that the revised Constitution should be ratified, subject to approval by the wider IPG. It was agreed to circulate the document to the whole Group, offering a 2-week period during which any objections or proposed changes could be notified to the Chair.

The following were elected: Chair: RVD (already proposed by GC; seconded by JAS); Vice Chairs: GC (proposed by RVD, seconded by MM) and ME (proposed by JAS, seconded by MM); Hon. Secretary: MM (nominated by RVD, seconded by GC); Hon. Treasurer: TC (proposed by ME, seconded by MM); Web Officer: SB (proposed by GC, seconded by JAS); Events Secretary: PT (proposed by DF, seconded by RVD). Three of the Ordinary Council places were elected, with the broader membership invited to nominate the other two: 1. JAS (proposed by RVD, seconded by GC); 2. DF (nominated by JAS, seconded by PT); 3. RB (nominated by JAS, seconded by RVD).

3(ii): Stone Axe Studies IV Project (also known as the ‘Great British Axe Project’
MM circulated the HLF Project Enquiry Form and talked about the application to HLF. The proposal was to obtain funds to digitise the existing 8000 IPC/IPG record cards and make this information, and other information about the axeheads, widely available for all to use. The possibility of incorporating 3-d laser scanning was discussed. MM reported on the meetings of the Steering Group and asked for guidance on the wording of the HLF Project Enquiry Form. The need to explain the public benefit and engagement aspect of the project was emphasised, and to emphasise the collaborative, ‘partnership’, educative nature of the initiative. A catchy project title such as ‘Unlocking the secrets of the stones’ was suggested. Benefits to the Portable Antiquities Scheme needed to be highlighted. Discussion of the project ranged widely and RVD thanked MM and the Steering Committee for their efforts.

3(iii): Atlas of Implement Petrology update
RVD had circulated a draft text of the Atlas to IPG members, and invited feedback. It would cover all the IPG Groups and act as a critical audit of all the type specimens. RVD would be approaching petrologists in IPG for specific content. The issue of photomicrographs was discussed; all the available images will be included, and there will be a hotlink to MM’s and other people’s photomicrographs. It was noted that the Irish Stone Axe Project was shortly to go online, and that National Museum Wales are planning to put information about their axeheads on-line as well.

3(iv): Proposal for one-day implement petrology workshop
Mark Edmonds had proposed a workshop to cover recent work on source areas and the Group agreed that this was an excellent idea, and would give help as needed.

3(v): Field visit strategies and programming for 2013 and beyond
PT and DF had kindly offered to lead a visit to Grimes Graves in May 2013, and GC and Prof. Billy O’Brien had offered to lead a trip to Lambay Island and to sites in SW Ireland in April/May 2014. They were warmly thanked for this. The impact of high travel costs on individual budgets was acknowledged, although given the wide dispersal of IPG members, it would always be impossible to arrange visits that would not involve a long journey for some members. Any costs are more than outweighed by the superb quality of the visits.

4. Officers’ Reports

4(i): Chair
RVD went through his previously-circulated report. The ‘Congratulations’ entry was expanded to include best wishes to Heather Jackson, who was expecting a baby.

4(ii): Hon Sec
There was nothing to report; the Hon Sec’s time had mostly been spent on developing the IPG website.

4(iii): Hon Treasurer
The current bank balance is £742.54. There would be a £60 charge for the hire of the meeting hall and £60 to pay for the website domain name. Members were reminded to change their Standing Order from £5 to £10.

ACTION POINT: It was agreed that TC be asked to circulate information on how to pay the subscription.

5. Members’ Business

5(i): Felsite exploitation in Shetland
It was reported that GC had succeeded in securing a €20,000 grant from National Geographic to undertake fieldwork at the felsite sources in Shetland in 2013. This builds on work undertaken by TB and RVD, and by GC and Will Megarry.

5(ii) Carn Alw and Gp VIII axeheads, SW Wales
Tim Darvill had been investigating Carn Alw as a potential source of Stonehenge bluestones, but had not found any match; instead, Mike Parker Pearson’s excavations at Craig Rhosfellin seem to have found a match for some of the bluestones. There was ambiguity in the literature about the attribution of (Gp VIII) axeheads to Carn Alw, and all such attributions need to be treated with caution. The four thin section slides used by Thomas in his claims about Carn Alw in 1923 had been located, and inconsistency in Thomas’ use of magnification and light source had been identified. Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer had published an article about Carn Alw in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

5 Other
DF declared an interest in locating the Charnwood Forest source area. Very little work had been done in the Midlands since Shotton’s study, and the multiplicity of landowners hindered fieldwork. JC advised of local geological research that might help.

DF also reported that Chris Fowler had instigated a project, ‘Stonescapes’, to investigate the prehistoric use of lithic resources in the English and Scottish Borders – not just for axeheads, but for monuments.


6.1 AY reported that he had been working on the terminology of stone tool description. It was agreed that the IPG recording forms needed to be upgraded and made available on the IPG website, and that a list of standardised descriptive terms needed to be created, so that others could use these forms. ACTION POINT: AY to ensure this was done.

6.2 PT circulated a dark green axehead made from a cobble, and the possible identity of the stone was discussed.

6.3 RVD expressed the desire to develop an itinerant group of petrologists, willing to provide an identification service to museums, excavating units etc. This was to be discussed at the next IPG meeting.

7 Date of next Meetings

7.1 The Spring Field Meeting to Grimes Graves, Norfolk will take place during the weekend of 18-19 May 2013.

7.2 The 18th Meeting (and AGM) will take place, in York ,on Saturday 11th Jan 2014.