Langdale axe industry

Langdale axe industry

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Langdale axe industry'
Start a new discussion about 'Langdale axe industry'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Langdale axe industry is the name given by archaeologists to the centre of a specialised stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

 manufacturing at Great Langdale
Great Langdale
Great Langdale is a valley in the Lake District National Park in the county of Cumbria, in the northwest of England. It is often simply referred to as Langdale, the epithet Great distinguishing it from the neighbouring valley of Little Langdale....

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

's Lake District
Lake District
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth...

 during the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period (beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world).

The area has outcrops of fine-grained greenstone
Greenstone (archaeology)
Greenstone is a common generic term for valuable, green-hued minerals and metamorphosed igneous rocks and stones, that were used in the fashioning of hardstone carvings such as jewelry, statuettes, ritual tools, and various other artefacts in early cultures...

 suitable for making polished axes which have been found distributed across Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The rock is an epidotised
Epidote
Epidote is a calcium aluminium iron sorosilicate mineral, Ca2Al2O, crystallizing in the monoclinic system. Well-developed crystals are of frequent occurrence: they are commonly prismatic in habit, the direction of elongation being perpendicular to the single plane of symmetry. The faces are often...

 greenstone quarried or perhaps just collected from the scree slopes in the Langdale Valley on Harrison Stickle
Harrison Stickle
Harrison Stickle is a fell in the central part of the English Lake District, situated above Great Langdale. The fell is one of the three fells which make up the picturesque Langdale Pikes, the others being Pike of Stickle and Loft Crag. Together they make up one of the most picturesque, and...

 and Pike of Stickle
Pike of Stickle
Pike of Stickle, also known as Pike O’ Stickle, is a fell in the English Lake District. It reaches a height of 709 metres and is situated in the central part of the national park in the valley of Great Langdale...

.

Petrographic analysis


Archaeologists are able to identify the unique nature of the Langdale stone by taking sections and examining them using microscopy
Microscopy
Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye...

. The minerals in the rock have a characteristic pattern, using a method known as petrography
Petrography
Petrography is a branch of petrology that focuses on detailed descriptions of rocks. Someone who studies petrography is called a petrographer. The mineral content and the textural relationships within the rock are described in detail. Petrographic descriptions start with the field notes at the...

. They have been able to reconstruct the production methods and trade patterns employed by the axe makers. The Langdale industry
Archaeological industry
An archaeological industry, normally just "industry", is the name given in the study of prehistory to a consistent range of assemblages connected with a single product, such as the Langdale axe industry...

 produced roughly hewn (or so-called "rough-outs") axes and simple blocks as well as the highly polished final product and all were traded on throughout Britain and Ireland. Polishing
Polishing
Polishing is the process of creating a smooth and shiny surface by rubbing it or using a chemical action, leaving a surface with a significant specular reflection In some materials polishing is also able to reduce diffuse reflection to...

 the rough surfaces will have improved the mechanical strength of the axe as well as lowering friction
Friction
Friction is the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and/or material elements sliding against each other. There are several types of friction:...

 when used against wood.

Some axes appear worn whilst others appear unused implying that they were regarded as sacred objects, as well as being used as practical tools. The shape of the polished axes suggests that they were bound in wooden staves and used for forest clearance. It has been suggested that the area itself may have had some mystical importance to its inhabitants and that axes from here were deemed significant across the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

, although the hardness of the rock and its resistance to breaking made it a viable alternative to the ubiquitous flint axe
Flint axe
A flint axe was a Flint tool used during prehistoric times to perform a variety of tasks. These were at first just a cut piece of flint stone used as a hand axe but later wooden handles were attached to these axe heads. The stone exhibits a glass-like fracture similar to obsidian, and can be...

s widely used at the same period.

The manufacturers of the axes also built some of the first Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 stone circle
Stone circle
A stone circle is a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle. Such monuments have been constructed across the world throughout history for many different reasons....

s such as that at Castlerigg
Castlerigg stone circle
The stone circle at Castlerigg is situated near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England...

.

Context



The Langdale industry was just one of many which extracted hard stone for manufacture into polished axes. The Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period was a time of settlement on the land, and the development of farming on a very large scale. Clearance of the forest cover was necessary in order to plant crops and rear animals, so axes were a staple tool, not just for clearance but also for wood working timber for houses, boats and other structures. Flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 was probably the most widely used, simply because it was available from numerous flint mines in the downland
Downland
A downland is an area of open chalk hills. This term is especially used to describe the chalk countryside in southern England. Areas of downland are often referred to as Downs....

s, such as Grimes Graves
Grimes Graves
Grime's Graves is a large Neolithic flint mining complex near Brandon in England close to the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. It was worked between around circa 3000 BC and circa 1900 BC, although production may have continued well into the Bronze and Iron Ages owing to the low cost of flint...

. Cissbury
Cissbury
Cissbury is the name of a prehistoric site near the village of Findon around 5 miles north of Worthing in the English county of West Sussex. The site is managed by the National Trust....

 and Spiennes
Spiennes
Spiennes is a Walloon village in the municipality of Mons, Belgium.It is well known for its neolithic flint mines, which are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000....

. Offcuts from roughing-out could also be used as small knives, arrowheads and other small sharp tools.

But other stones were used, such as those from Penmaenmawr
Penmaenmawr
PenmaenmawrConwyPenmaenmawr is a town in the parish of Dwygyfylchi, in Conwy County Borough, Wales. The population was 3857 in 2001. It is a quarrying town, though the latter is no longer a major employer, on the North Wales coast between Conwy and Llanfairfechan.The town was bypassed by the A55...

 in North Wales
North Wales
North Wales is the northernmost unofficial region of Wales. It is bordered to the south by the counties of Ceredigion and Powys in Mid Wales and to the east by the counties of Shropshire in the West Midlands and Cheshire in North West England...

, and similar working areas to Langdale have been found there. Many other locations for production of axes have been found across the country including Tievebulliagh
Tievebulliagh
Tievebulliagh is a 402m high mountain in the Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland. It forms part of the watershed between Glenann to the north and Glenballyeamon to the south...

 in County Antrim
County Antrim
County Antrim is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 2,844 km², with a population of approximately 616,000...

, sites in Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and elsewhere.

The variety of rocks used in polished tools and other artefacts is evident in museum collections, not all of the sources of the rocks having been positively identified. Taking sections is necessarily destructive of part of the artefact, and thus discouraged by many museums.

See also


  • Cissbury
    Cissbury
    Cissbury is the name of a prehistoric site near the village of Findon around 5 miles north of Worthing in the English county of West Sussex. The site is managed by the National Trust....

  • Grimes Graves
    Grimes Graves
    Grime's Graves is a large Neolithic flint mining complex near Brandon in England close to the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. It was worked between around circa 3000 BC and circa 1900 BC, although production may have continued well into the Bronze and Iron Ages owing to the low cost of flint...

  • Great Orme
    Great Orme
    The Great Orme is a prominent limestone headland on the north coast of Wales situated in Llandudno. It is referred to as Cyngreawdr Fynydd in a poem by the 12th century poet Gwalchmai ap Meilyr...

  • Flint
    Flint
    Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

  • Flint tool
  • Penmaenmawr
    Penmaenmawr
    PenmaenmawrConwyPenmaenmawr is a town in the parish of Dwygyfylchi, in Conwy County Borough, Wales. The population was 3857 in 2001. It is a quarrying town, though the latter is no longer a major employer, on the North Wales coast between Conwy and Llanfairfechan.The town was bypassed by the A55...

  • Spiennes
    Spiennes
    Spiennes is a Walloon village in the municipality of Mons, Belgium.It is well known for its neolithic flint mines, which are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000....

  • Stone tool
    Stone tool
    A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

  • Tievebulliagh
    Tievebulliagh
    Tievebulliagh is a 402m high mountain in the Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland. It forms part of the watershed between Glenann to the north and Glenballyeamon to the south...

  • Mere
    Mere (weapon)
    The mere is a type of short, broad-bladed club , usually made from Nephrite jade . A mere is one of the traditional, close combat, one-handed weapons of the indigenous Māori, of New Zealand. A mere could be used to split a skull open.- Form :The Mere is a spatulate, leaf shaped, form of short club...


External links