Flint Artefacts from a Late Antique Cemetery Neyzats in Crimea
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Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego, ul. Moniuszki 10, 35-015 Rzeszów
Publication date: 2016-12-31
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2016;LXVII(67):175-193
Major development of metallurgy production in the Crimean Peninsula and adjacent areas led to a gradual decline in late 2nd millennium BC of the use of flint in the manufacture of tools and elements of weapons. Contrary to the prevalent view about the loss of interest in this resource flint has been recorded in proto- and early historic sites. There is evidence for the use of flint resources by the population of Crimea from the site at Neyzats, rai. Bilohirsk (Fig. 1) dating to 2nd–3rd quarter of the 2nd–4th century AD. The large and quite varied inventory from this cemetery included flint finds that are uncharacteristic for this period. Their number, and quite importantly, their location inside the graves, have prompted us to make a closer study of the assemblage from this sepulchral site. Our analysis covers the finds from excavation seasons 1996, 1997, 1999–2008 and 2011–2013 headed by prof. I. N. Khrapunov. They include 65 flint artefacts and a single quartzite chunk (?) recovered from 557 graves that were identified and excavated during this period. The study focuses on a series of flint artefacts that were found resting on the grave pit bottom at the level of detection of the inhumations, and on other elements of the grave inventories eg, vessels, tools and personal ornaments. Left outside the analysis were flint artefacts found in the fill of the entrance corridors, their location recognized as accidental since deposition of grave goods in this part of the grave was not practiced. The typological description of the flint finds was made using the system established for Stone Age assemblages. The inventory of interest includes chunks (Fig. 2:2–4, 3:, flake forms (Fig. 5:1–7, 6:2–8, 9), blades and retouched blades (Fig. 3:3.6–9, 4:2.4–10), a para-blade (Fig. 6:1), cores (Fig. 4:1.3) and bifacial tools (Fig. 7:1.2, 8:1.2). Also classified to this group is a single object made of quartzite (?). Technological and morphological analysis of the assemblage identified the style of manufacture of these forms as typical for the Stone Age (Mesolithic) and the Bronze Age. This would confirm the conjecture that in the first centuries AD the population of the Crimean Peninsula obtained lithic resources by collecting flint artefacts from the surface of chronologically older sites (debitage) and from flint outcrops (natural flint chunks and fragments of concretions). The study took into account 20 graves containing a total of 26 burials in situ with flint artefacts found resting where they originally had been deposited. The other 16 graves had been robbed in Antiquity or in the modern age, their inventories displaced and mixed. In most cases the flints rested in the area of the belt of the deceased, together with other items, eg, whetstones, knives, awls, buckles and iron objects too heavily corroded to identify. The arrangement of the artefacts and their location within the grave space suggest that the flints were carried placed with other objects in a container fastened at the belt (leather pouch?). Many of the flint artefacts have evident macroscopic alterations attesting to their use, in the form of heavily polished or battered areas (Fig. 2:1.2, 3:1.2.5, 4:1.5.9, 6:1–3, 7:1.2, 8:1.2). Marks of this sort are regarded as typically associated with the process of striking fire. The method which most likely caused the blunting of the edges involved striking a flint against a concretion of pyrite or marcasite to produce sparks. Although the observed polish is characteristic for this process to confirm the use of this technique additional use wear analyses are needed. In the context of firemaking methods we cannot overlook the question of the identification of iron firesteels, a tool used in striking fire. Unfortunately, in the past these objects were not recognized in the materials dating to the Late Antiquity. The observation of our material suggests that it is safe to interpret as firesteels some of the iron objects of oblong shape (Fig. 9) found in male graves. They appear to be similar in their form to needle-shaped firesteels of with a large number is has been recorded in Scandinavia and Hungary. The question of the correct interpretation of the discussed group of artefacts requires further study. In addition, an ingot firesteel (Fig. 10) was discovered in one of the graves in the Neyzats cemetery. In any study of archaeological sites from the proto- and early historic period it is essential to take note of the occurrence of lithic artefacts. As the finds assemblage from the Neyzats cemetery has demonstrated they are an extremely interesting but insufficiently recognized source of information useful in the study of the everyday life of a population during a given age. Definitely an important issue in need of resolution is the question of the use in the process of firemaking of a set consisting of a flint and an iron firesteel.
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