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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Geology Site Account

White Colne Fishing Lakes, WHITE COLNE, Braintree District, TL875286, Historical site only

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White Colne Fishing Lakes

Summary of site

Site of the discovery of a fine flint tool of Upper Palaeolithic age together with a mammoth tusk and the remains of other Ice Age mammals.


Site details

From the Colchester Road at White Colne, a track leads south towards Chalkney Wood and passes between two private fishing lakes in the flood plain of the River Colne. These lakes are former gravel pits that in 1927 were the site of the discovery of a particularly fine flint implement of Upper Palaeolithic age, about 30,000 years old. The Upper Palaeolithic is not well represented in Essex but this find was meticulously recorded which makes it one of the best stratified, securely dated examples of Upper Palaeolithic flint workmanship in Britain.

The discovery was made by Nina Frances Layard (1853-1935), an English archaeologist who made many important finds and was one of the first women to be admitted to the Society of Antiquaries of London. John Wymer, in his book Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia, describes the implement as “a bifacial, plano-convex leaf point of brown, unpatinated flint, in sharp condition”. It was found during Layard’s archaeological excavation of an overlying rich Mesolithic site, at a depth of 8 feet (2.45 metres) in white sand above a blue loam, which was below the water level. In her 1927 paper Layard described it as being “a rich, chocolate colour, worked on either side, and very flat underneath, but slightly convex on the upper surface”. She also said that it was “sand-polished, but with no signs of rolling, and was probably left by its maker where it has now been found”.

Layard also described the finding of a mammoth tusk in the same pit. She states: “No fauna has at present been found in the upper strata, but at a lower level we have been more successful. A very large tusk of mammoth (whole when discovered, but, alas, now in fragments), portions of two teeth, probably of the same animal, and a single molar each, of horse, large Bos, and ibex, have come to light”.

In Ipswich Museum is a hand-axe that was discovered in these pits in 1929. It is slightly rolled and is edge damaged and therefore not likely to have been connected with the flint leaf point.


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Reference: Layard 1927, Wymer 1985 (p. 251 & 379)

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