A stone axe from Cissbury, West Sussex

Image: A stone axe from Cissbury, West Sussex, from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum
During August, we are publishing through this blog a series of new photographs taken by archaeological photographer Ian Cartwright for an online Image Gallery created with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can read more about the gallery here, and you can see the whole gallery online here.

Here is the caption for this image:

Pitt-Rivers’ fieldwork at the Neolithic site of Cissbury in West Sussex in 1867-8 is less well known that his more famous excavations at Cranborne Chase later in his life. It was one of the first field projects to be directed by Pitt-Rivers. But in his account of Ninety Years of Archaeological Discovery, written in 1932, archaeologist J.L. Myers suggested that 'systematic excavation in Britain began with Pitt-Rivers’ work at Cissbury'. 

This Neolithic flint axe offers some textual evidence to support the claim that Cissbury was one of the first modern scientifically recorded archaeological excavation. Attached to it is a pre-printed label, completed by hand: “CISSBURY PIT NO. 22 FEB 4 1868 ALF”. The label is a very early example of the recording of archaeological features or contexts from which objects were recovered. 

This modest 150-year-old label is just as significant as the Stone Age axe to which it is glued – perhaps more so. The letters “ALF” stand for Augustus Lane Fox – as the fieldwork was undertaken before the General took his full name, Augustus Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers. 

(Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.125.153).

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