The Mesolithic site at Haroldslea was first discovered in 1998. The then landowner, Peter Cox, had given permission for an area of his orchard to be used for a practice dig by a local WEA Archaeology group. As the site is only approximately 30m from “Thunderfield Moats,” it was a possibility that medieval artefacts may have been found.
Thunderfield Moats are a Scheduled Monument under the protection of English Heritage, and are believed to be the site of a 12th century manor house. The only known excavation on the moats was carried out by S. E. Winbolt and E. Hart in 1936, it revealed the existence of a late medieval bloomery.
The area around the moats was once extensively wooded, indicated by the great abundance of charcoal in the soil. Other evidence of iron working in the vicinity comes from the lumps of slag, bloom and nodules of ironstone found all over Haroldslea.
The WEA excavation in 1998, carried out in early summer in an area of 3 sq metres, revealed large amounts of pottery dating from modern times back to medieval. A small piece of worked flint was found by Jennifer Robinson and identified as Mesolithic by Jean Shelley, and later Peter Cox dug another pit nearby and found several flakes and blades which were confirmed as Mesolithic by Roger Ellaby and the British Museum.
Further areas of the orchard and the adjoining paddock were dug by Peter Cox during the late summer of 1998 and since then, Maureen Hart (no relation of E. Hart) and Roger Ellaby are still continuing the dig, and the approximate extent of the flint working site is becoming apparent. The north eastern boundary of the site, lying only a few metres from the road and the outer ditch of the moats, shows much evidence of soil disturbance, most of which is undoubtedly due to medieval and later digging and earthmoving.
It is likely that the moats were originally stream-fed, and that the ditch leading from the southern corner was once the course of the present Burstow stream. The Mesolithic site may therefore once have been much closer to running water than it is at present.
The site so far excavated at Haroldslea is relatively small, and may simply have been where a couple of hunters stopped to light a fire and repair their weapons. So far some 6,664 pieces of flint have been found, but flint-knapping always produces an extremely large percentage of waste material.
The list of finds up to 30th April, 2012 is as follows:
Piercers, awls, borers 14
Truncated flakes and blades 27
There are no positive burins and no axes or axe sharpening flakes
There are a few miscellaneous retouched pieces
Blades and blade fragments 1904
Pieces affected by fire 1791 (26.9%)
Some sites have produced tens of thousands of waste flakes. The most interesting finds in this site are the microliths, cores and a few scrapers which have been found in the approximately 160 sq. metres dug so far. Microliths are believed to have been used as barbs in arrows.
Maureen Hart, Roger Ellaby & Peter C. Cox. May 2012
Pictured are four of the microliths.