Sampling at Viaduct Farm, Polstrong, Cornwall, UK: identifying the source of Group XVI greenstones

A.M. Jones, H. Quinnell, R.T. Taylor, A.C. Thomas


Since petrological work in the 1930s enabled some Neolithic stone axe-heads to be defined as distinctive Groups which could be associated with their rock sources, it has been assumed that there were discrete ‘axe factories’ which could be pin-pointed on the ground for each Group. In some parts of Britain, fieldwork and excavation have confirmed the presence of axe production sites but, the source sites of the Cornish greenstone axe rock Groups have remained elusive. This is surprising as a large number of Groups have been assigned a Cornish origin with pin-point source locations provided. Recent work, however, on potential Group 1 sources and at an axe production site in West Penwith, has indicated that the picture is more complex than previously thought. In this paper, the smaller Group XVI source is considered, and thin sections from locally found axe-heads, a significant number of which were from the nearby Neolithic tor enclosure of Carn Brea, are reappraised. A small inland greenstone site at Viaduct Farm, near Camborne, which has been identified with Group XVI, was focussed on to see if a discrete source could be established. Outcrops along the western side of the valley were sampled and examined against thin sections attributed to Group XVI to see if this material really was the source of Group XVI. The results suggest that there was there was a low degree of matching between the axe-heads from Carn Brea and the outcrop at Viaduct Farm and that the axes themselves from were not derived from a single source. The variability instead suggests that the axes were made from a variety of materials from the Polstrong valley. In light of this, caution should be used in attributing specific source sites for Cornish axe rock groups.

Full reference: Jones, A.M., Quinnell, H., Taylor, R.T. & Thomas, A.C. 2015. Sampling at Viaduct farm, Polstrong, Cornwall: identifying the source of group XVI greenstones. Lithics: the Journal of the Lithic Studies Society 36: 55–63.

Keywords: Greenstone, Group XVI, stone axes, Viaduct Farm

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