THE MIKE PITTS NEOLITHIC AXEHEAD ARCHIVE
The Mike Pitts Neolithic Axehead Archive (MPAA) comprises records of over 2,000 stone and flint implements, mostly axeheads, from museum collections in England and Wales. Compiled in the late 1970s, with additions in the 1980s and 1990s, the archive is one of the largest bodies of data of its type, making it extremely valuable to researchers. Held by Historic England at the National Monument Record (NMR), Swindon, the archive has, until now, been available only by appointment. Thanks to generous grants from the Prehistoric Society and Society of Antiquaries of London, the IPG is delighted to have been able to digitise the Mike Pitts Stone Axe Archive and make it freely available online.
Scans of the Pitts’ manuscripts and paper records in the MPAA can be found:
- Archive Index available here
- Flint axehead records here
- Stone (non-flint) axehead records here
These records are structured in a way which replicates the physical storage of the archive. Each A4 sheet provides data and contextual information for one implement. On the front is a table of quantitative physical characteristics, and on the back is a 1:1 technical drawing. Each implement record sheet has been serialised, and the sheets are currently stored in batches of 50, in paper envelopes, in archive boxes at the National Monuments Record (NMR), Swindon. In the case of non-flint stone, a batch contains records of implements all made from stone belonging to the same IPG petrological group. Serialised records for the flint implements are stored in a single box with the non-flint stone in the other.
The full digital archive, including high quality digital images of the drawings and other records, are available from the IPG (contact us here). An index for the 2000 implement drawings is provided as an MS Excel spreadsheet and PDF file. This index relates the sheet number (the first 5 digits of the file name (e.g. 10023; 60001, etc), to the museum, and associated accession / identification number(s), find location and, where available, and the IPG group and implement number.
Analysis of this data was presented by Pitts his seminal paper (Pitts 1996) where he proposed a new framework for studying and classifying stone axeheads, defining six classes by their rock composition and working properties.
Pitts, M. 1996. The Stone Axe in Neolithic Britain. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 62, 311-371.
Initial proposals for this work were written by the late Professor Vin Davis during 2015, then Chairman of the IPG, and were redrafted following his untimely death by Professor Mark Edmonds, former acting Chairman, who appreciated the value in making this data widely available. The IPG gratefully thanks the Prehistoric Society and The Society of Antiquaries of London for their support in co-funding this work. Sincere thanks go to staff at Historic England and especially Keith Austin, and Ian Savage for their assistance during our visits, and Mike Evans for his advice in the planning stage. We are also incredibly grateful to Mike Pitts for his support and encouragement in planning stage and insight into the archive during a personal visit made during the digitisation stage.