Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers' Archaeology from other English Counties

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. 1998.271.66

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. 1998.271.66

Pitt Rivers carried out a large number of archaeological excavations (and field walking surveys) during his career. Not all of his excavations before 1884 are represented in the Pitt Rivers Museum's founding collection, but most are. Here are the collections from counties other than London, Oxfordshire, Sussex, and Yorkshire.

A. Bedfordshire

The following items were obtained from a site known as Maidenbower or Maiden Bower Camp near Dunstable which Pitt Rivers appears to have worked on in January 1870. Neither Bowden nor Thompson (Pitt Rivers' biographers) mention him working on this site. According to the megalithic portal Maiden Bower is a hillfort near Dunstable. The link shows photographs of the site. The site was damaged by vandals in 2003 (see here). This site calls Maiden Bower the most significant Iron Age site in Bedfordshire.

1. 1884.123.212-231 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - 20 white patinated flakes and implements Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 ALF
1884.123.212 Suboval ?core, flaked all over with high back (c 4 1/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.213 Plano-convex long narrow suboval ?implement (5 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.214 Suboval straight-based plano-convex flake, sutriangular section, thick at one side (c 4 3/4 mean) [Drawing]
1884.123.215 Subquadrangular round thick-ended end scraper (c 4 1/2 mean) [Drawing]
1884.123.216 Suboval lozenge-shaped plano-convex keeled flake (c 5) [Drawing]
1884.123.217 Subquadrangular round-ended thin flake, bevelled slightly each side (4 1/2) [Drawing]
1884.123.218 Subquadrangular high sub-pyramidal-backed ?scraper (not evidently worked) (c 5) [Drawing]
1884.123.219 Small semi-oval ?scraper, worked at one side (or both sides?) of straight 'base' (2 1/2 x 3 1/2)[Drawing]
1884.123.220 Small subquadrangular end scraper with ?worked sides and steep parallel flaked 'scraper' (3 1/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.221 Suboval plano-convex keeled side scraper of pebble, half cortex longitudinally worked off (5) [Drawing]
1884.123.222 Small suboval plano-convex flake (3 1/4)[Drawing]
1884.123.223 Small longitudinally curved flake with cortex on convex side (2 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.224 Small discoidal plano-convex flake, somewhat pointed, with ?worked edge as scraper (3 1/4)[Drawing]
1884.123.225 Small discoidal plano-convex flake platform end (2 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.226 Suboval round-ended thin flake end scraper (4 1/2 - 4 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.227 Oval discoidal thin flake implement (?scraper), apparently worked all round (4) [Drawing]
1884.123.228 Skew semi-oval plano-convex scraper, worked along curved edge, cortex around top (5 x 3 1/2) [Drawing]
1884.123.229 Steepbacked tarté type plano-convex end scraper, oval (3 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.230 Steepbacked tarté type plano-convex end scraper, semi-round with ?worked nozzle (4 x 4 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.231 Oval discoidal ?end scraper with keeled back (4 1/2) [Drawing]

2. 1884.123.351 Subcircular white patinated scraper plano-convex resembling tarté type (4 1/2) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable ALF Jan 1870 [Drawing]

3. 1884.123.392 Elongated white patinated plano-convex piece of flint flake with cortex on butt, triangular in x [sic - cross] section (7 3/4) Maiden Bower Dunstable [Drawing]

4. 1884.123.403 Subcircular plano-convex white patinated flake (5 1/2) Maiden Bower Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

5. 1884.123.442 Pebble flake discoidal scraper, cortex on back worked on a straightish edge (3 1/2) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

6. 1884.123.443 Discoidal worked all round small curved and very thin (3) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

7. 1884.123.444 Discoidal worked all round (4) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

8. 1884.123.445 Suboval plano-convex end scraper (flake), cortex surface on one side of the back (c 4 1/2) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

9. 1884.123.446 Roughly semicircular flat flake ?scraper, flat one end, the other (curved) work slightly (4 3/4) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

10. 1884.123.464 Small suboval flat grey flake scraper, worked on thick side (4+) Maiden Bower Camp Dunstable Jan 1870 [Drawing]

11. 1884.133.74 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.133.1 - 235 Stone Implements Worked Flakes Scrapers - Rounded subquadrangular end scraper, steeply bevelled at the end (4.5) Maiden Bower Dunstable [Drawing]

B. Devon

According to the accession book records Pitt Rivers obtained 6 flakes from Hope's Nose, Torbay (which is sometimes given as Somerset and sometimes Devon in the accession records but is actually south of Torquay in Devon on the northern end of Torbay). It is a promontory, see here for map and description of area. He also gave 3 plaster casts of stone tools with the founding collection from the same site. The present location of the original stone tools is unknown. It may be that he did not find these flakes and (the original) tools himself but just obtained them from an unnamed third party in 1869. However, usually when the accession records add 'ALF' (that is, Augustus Lane Fox, his then name) to a record it identifies sites he himself worked on.

1. 1884.123.193 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - (Cast) Suboval shallow small implement flaked both sides with edge all round of pinkish yellow flint. Surface above raised beach Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869
Additional Accession Book VI entry - On a card with 1884.123.194 and 195
Added Accession Book VI entry - From Somerset - Hyena Den - Upper Palaeolithic Ill Campbell H 'The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain' vol II Fig 90 [LM] [See below for full details; JC 7 10 2005]

2. 1884.123.194 (Cast) Subtriangular implement of the same stone triangular section worked edges (one edge notched) (6 3/4) Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869

3. 1884.123.195 (Cast) Curved ?flake implement, keeled tip (triangular section), with irregular worked convex edge (6) Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869

4. 1884.123.196 Accession Book VI entry - Flint flake with parallel flaking on convex side Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869
Additional Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.196 - 201 on a card

5-6. 1884.123.197-8 2 Flint flakes cortex-covered Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869

7. 1884.123.199 Flint flake cortex-covered along back Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869

8-9. 1884.123.200-201 2 Flint flakes Hopes Nose Torbay ALF 1869

C. Somerset?

There are a number of poorly provenanced items in the founding collection which are said to come from Warlbury or Worlbury. There are no places with these exact names that can be identified but it is possible that they are either to
a. Worlebury Camp [Iron Age hillfort] in Somerset, near Weston-super-Mare which is obviously where the compiler of the Museum's catalogue cards thought this object was from (though they still spelt it incorrectly). See this site for further information about the site.
b. There is also another Iron Age fort at Walbury Hill which is near to Combe, west of Highclere in Berkshire (near Inkpen), this is presumably the one that the blue book is referring to (it is north of Stockbridge in Hampshire). See this site for more information.
I think the former is probably correct but cannot be sure because the journal reference in a couple of the entries is to Worlebury Camp near Weston-super-Mare. Pitt Rivers does not seem to have carried out any other excavations in Somerset.
Although some of the entries mention Cranborne Chase it should be noted that there is no record of a Pitt Rivers excavation in that area with any similar name, and no place name on the Chase like that. In any case, so far as is known, Pitt Rivers did not start excavating in that area until after he inherited the Rushmore estate in 1880. The entries seem clear (when they are dated), that Pitt Rivers undertook the excavation or field survey (when he found the stones) on 12 April 1871. Bowden does not mention it or any other archaeological activity in 1871 by Pitt Rivers and neither does Thompson.

Pitt Rivers did dig in Somerset, in July 1877 he excavated three round barrows at Sigwell with his friend Professor George Rolleston. [Bowden, 1991: 84-5]

1-3. 1884.10.21-23 [Geographical] Card Catalogue Entry - [English archaeology] Wiltshire Various Sites Romano-British - Wiltshire Romano-British Worlebury Cranbourne Chase excavations Two flints and a greensand pebble splintered by heat and evidently used as boiling stones Two marked with provenance as above Original Pitt Rivers Collection

4. 1884.125.20 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.125.1-415 Neolithic implements - Rough grey chert nodule with patch of yellowish cortex, ?hammer or ?boiling stone (5 1/2 cm) Worlbury Camp 1871 [Drawing]
[Geographical] Card Catalogue Entry - [English archaeology] Somerset Worlbury Camp - England Neolithic or later R [sic] Probably Early Iron Age B Somerset Worlbury as accession book Surface A.L.F. v. Hawkes Antiquity V 1931 p96 Original Pitt Rivers Collection

5. 1884.125.21 Subpentangular white flint flake, ?end scraper ?and side scraper, with cortex patch (5 3/4) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 ALF [Drawing]

6. 1884.125.22 Small subrectangular grey flake, trimmed all round, ?scraper (3 1/2) Worlbury Camp 1871 [Drawing]

7. 1884.125.23 Rough thick grey flake with 2 sides at right angles and curved worked edge, ?discoidal scraper type (4 3/4) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

8. 1884.125.24 Suboval dull white chert flake with shouldered point at the top (6 3/4) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

9. 1884.125.25 Small flint core with cortex-covered end Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

10. 1884.125.26 Small flint core with a high crest Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

11. 1884.125.27 Suboval white patinated flake ?end scraper (signs of use at bevelled bulb end) (6 1/2) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

12. 1884.125.28 Elongated roughly suboval purplish-grey thick plano-convex flake, ?side scraper with ?worked nozzle at the end (8) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

13. 1884.125.29 Subquadrangular white patinated plano-convex flake scraper, worked on both sides with a ?worked lateral projection on one side (6 3/4) Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 [Drawing]

14-20. 1884.125.40 - 46 Square wooden (velvet bottomed) small tray containing 7 'flints' from Worlbury Camp 12.4.71 Surface ALF
Blue book entry - 1419 Flakes Walbury Camp near Stockbridge (3217)
1884.125.40 Large subconical cylindrical grey flint core [Drawing]
1884.125.41 Subquadrangular rounded grey flint flake, 3 edges apparently trimmed, ?scraper (c 4 1/2) [Drawing]
1884.125.42 Large 'hastate' surface flake with brown cortex strip on one side, rounded projection worked near base (c 8) [Drawing]
1884.125.43 Subquadrangular round-topped white patinated flake (4 1/4) [Drawing]
1884.125.44 Thick plano-convex leaf-shaped grey flake, ?side scraper (5 1/2) [Drawing]
1884.125.45 Small blue-grey leaf-shaped flake (c 4) [Drawing]
1884.125.46 Leaf-shaped flake of brownish flint (3 1/2) [Drawing]

Further reading

Dymond, C.W. and H.G. Tomkins, 1886 Worlebury, An ancient stronghold in the county of Somerset (privately published in Bristol)

Christopher Hawkes. 1931. 'Hill-forts' Antiquity 5 (17) pp 60-97 (NB this is a one-line mention of the above reference)

D. Gloucestershire

Bowden suggests that Pitt Rivers may have surface-collected the following flints with Katharine Russell:

On 30 August 1869 Kate Amberley [sic] wrote in her journal, 'Augustus and I ride to Wheybury [Uleybury?]; I held his horse while he walked over the field and found some flints which proved it to be a British camp, at all events pre-Roman'.[1991: 94]

Katharine was a relative by marriage.[1] At the time she lived with her husband at Rodborough Manor, near Stroud. Uleybury is a hillfort, near Uley in Gloucestershire.

1884.123.202-211 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - 10 small flakes and implements in a small oblong tin box with lid surface Uleybury Camp (Ulebury) Glos ALF
1884.123.202 Small subquadrangular flake [Drawing] flat with cortex one side
1884.123.203 Suboval flake with cortex one side [Drawing]
1884.123.204 Flake chip, white flat both sides [Drawing]
1884.123.205 Suboval flake, very thin, parallel flaked on one side [Drawing]
1884.123.206 Suboval flake, curved plano-convex [Drawing]
1884.123.207 Roughly suboval flat keeled flake [Drawing]
1884.123.208 Subquadrangular keeled flake [Drawing]
1884.123.209 Short plano-convex parallel flaked ?end scraper [Drawing]
1884.123.211 Roughly flaked flint rod, oval to subquadrangular section [Drawing]

E. Hampshire

The first of these flakes appears to come from near Barton-on-Sea near Lymington in Hampshire. Only some of the entries are dated to 1876 but it must be assumed that they were all collected at the same time, it is not known where he was staying or what he was doing in the area at the time. The excavation or fieldwalking survey is not mentioned by Bowden or Thompson.

1. 1884.122.144 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.122.1-597 Stone Implements Palaeolithic Period Flint unless otherwise stated- Brown grey rolled ovate, cortex on butt and one side (9) Barton Cliff Lymington Hants 1876 [Drawing]
2. 1884.122.145 Chocolate-red weathered ovate, flattish, twisted one end (10) Barton Cliff Lymington Hants 1876
3. 1884.122.148 Rough weathered yellow-grey broad subtriangular plano-convex implement (c 9) Barton Cliff 1876
4 1884.122.155 Similar [to 1884.122.154] yellow brown implement but flat, weathered fairly even surface (12) Barton Cliff Lymington Hants 1876
5. 1884.123.393 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - White patinated flake, subquadrangular (broken base of point) Long Barrow Barton Down Hants Surface [Drawing]
6. ?1884.123.393 .3 White patinated flake, subquadrangular (broken base of point) Long Barrow nr Cross roads Hants Surface [Drawing]
7. 1884.123.415 Suboval plano-convex tortoise-shaped flake (4 1/4) Round Barrow Barton Down Hants ALF [Drawing]
8. 1884.133.217 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.133.1-235 Stone Implements Worked Flakes Scrapers - Subcircular thick flake white patinated scraper with brownish red cortex on surface worked at one end (4.9) Round Barrow Barton Down Rd Hants [Drawing]

St Catherine's ramparts from wikipedia page for site

St Catherine's ramparts from wikipedia page for site

These flakes and nodules come from St Catherine's Hill near Winchester in Hampshire. The entries are not dated so it is not known when Pitt Rivers collected them (if he did) or where he was staying or what he was doing in the area at the time. This is a hillfort, see this for further information.

1884.123.422-441 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - Shallow wooden drawer containing following 20 flakes and nodules (white patinated) from outside St Catherine's Hill Winchester ALF
1884.123.422-426 5 Rough nodules [Drawing]
1884.123.427 Globular hammer stone with signs of stunning [Drawing]
1884.123.428 Large subquadrangular thick plano-convex flake [Drawing]
1884.123.429 Subcircular flat flake [Drawing]
1884.123.430-436 7 Suboval flakes, patches of cortex [Drawing]
1884.123.437 Pointed ovate-shaped pebble flake with cortex all around [Drawing]
1884.123.438 Very small subquadrangular flake [Drawing]
1884.123.439 Roughly semi-oval thickish flake [Drawing]
1884.123.440 Thick cortex-butted subquadrangular core, quadrangular in section [Drawing]
1884.123.441 Similar core [to 1884.123.440], triangular in section, cortex along one face [Drawing]

F. Norfolk and Suffolk

Grimes Graves flint tools from  Greenwell 'On the Opening of Grime's Graves in Norfolk' JESL vol 2 no 4 (1870): 421

Grimes Graves flint tools from Greenwell 'On the Opening of Grime's Graves in Norfolk' JESL vol 2 no 4 (1870): 421

These stone tools all come from around the famous Grimes Grave / Brandon sites on the Norfolk / Suffolk border. They were all collected in August 1868, probably around the 27 August. Pitt Rivers (then Lane Fox) was attending the International Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology at Norwich and London between the 20 and 28 August. He was actually Secretary of the Congress at the time [Thompson, 1977: 124] Bowden comments that he got this job, despite his comparative lack of experience of archaeological fieldwork, because of his 'acquaintance with a number of leading British archaeologists and men of science and to a reputation for organisational skills connected with his work for the Ethnological and Anthropological Societies. [Bowden, 1991: 73] In addition to many of the leading archaeologists of the day, many members of Pitt Rivers family were also present at the Congress including his father-in-law, Lord Stanley of Alderley. He may have collected these artefacts during a field trip by the Congress to the famous archaeological sites. Canon Greenwell had been working at Grimes Grives in 1868.

The following three flakes were all found in Brandon, Suffolk:
1884.122.62 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.122.1-597 Stone Implements Palaeolithic Period Flint unless otherwise stated - Dark grey suboval flake (scraper), bulb of percussion on underside (8 3/4) Drift Broom Hill Brandon 27.8.66 [sic, actually 1868] A.L.F. 852 [Drawing]
1884.123.232 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.123.1-911 Neolithic and Mesolithic Madelainean etc - Roughly suboval grey flake, large flake scars on back, worked to a scraper edge on the bulb surface (7 1/4) Surface Brandon Aug 27 1868 ALF [Drawing]
1884.123.352 Similar larger scraper [to 1884.123.351, Subcircular white patinated scraper plano-convex resembling tarté type] with pebble cortex patch on top (5 3/4) Brandon ALF [Drawing]

All the following were found 'Surface Grimes Graves Aug [August] 1868 ALF' [Augustus Lane Fox, meaning he found them personally]:
1884.123.239 Rough polyhedral small white flint block (5 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.240 Suboval grey and buff grey flake with parallel scars (7 1/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.241 Mussel shell-shaped blue-grey flake, smooth both sides (bulb flake) (7 3/4) [Drawing]
1884.123.242 Suboval dark brown flake with cortex on the back, worked as a scraper and ?hollow scraper at the anti bulb end (7) [Drawing]
1884.123.243 Flake of pointed oval form with concavity on one side, ?trimmed along most of the edge (7 1/2) [Drawing]
1884.123.244 Roughed-out white patinated plano-convex ?celt or large ?end scraper [Drawing]
1884.123.245 Large subquadrangular celt or end scraper with 2 concavities each side, thin one (rounded) end ?trimmed (c 12) [Drawing]

Find out more about Grimes Graves in 1868 when Greenwell was working there

G. Wiltshire


Pitt Rivers was a prominent member of the Committee formed by the British Association in 1869 to undertake excavation and restoration work at Stonehenge. He fieldwalked around the monument, which was presumably when the following items were found, as well (it seems from the first account) as some other flakes which did not reach the Pitt Rivers Museum:

[1] found several worked flints in the rubbish around the Trilithons, during the short visit that I paid to the spot this year on my way to Exeter. Observing that two or three bare places had been scratched in the soil, apparently by animals, at the foot of the stones, I examined the loose earth carefully, and succeeded in finding the four flints which are exhibited to the meeting. Two of these, it will be seen, are perfect flakes ... points which it is hardly necessary to mention are now admitted by all prehistoric archaeologists to be evidence of human agency. Besides the flakes, I observed numerous small splinters of flint, such as might well have resulted from the fracture of flint tools ... [Pitt Rivers, 1869:2]

The following description does match the artefacts in the Pitt Rivers Museum, however:

... I was able to examine a field close by that had been ploughed, rolled and subsequently washed by rain, and which was therefore in the best possible condition for finding the flints, had there been any; but I failed to discover a single worked flint of any kind, except in one place where a small tumulus had been scored by a plough; here I picked up as many as twenty, some of which are exhibited. [Pitt Rivers, 1869:3]

The British Association's excavations were prevented by the landowner, Sir Edmund Antrobus. [Bowden, 1991: 75-6]

1884.132.240-247 Accession Book VI entry - 1884.132.1-405 Stone Implements Flakes - 8 Flakes of grey flint Tumulus nr Stonehenge Aug 1869 glued onto a board with 1884.132.240-247 [Drawing]
1884.132.248-253 6 Grey flint flakes Interior of Stonehenge Aug 1869 glued onto a board with 1884.132.248-253 [Drawing]

Further reading

[Pitt Rivers] Lane Fox, A. 'On the proposed exploration of Stonehenge by a Committee of the British Association' Journal of the Ethnological Society of London vol. 2 (1) (1870) pp 1-5


The following items (of unknown number) are the most unusual Pitt Rivers items in that they came into the collection AFTER 1884, that is after the founding collection. They were donated in 1888. Only a very few artefacts were donated by Pitt Rivers after 1884 to Oxford, it is not known why he decided to donate these artefacts from one of his excavations on his own Rushmore estate. In the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum's manuscript collections is a letter [L551] pro-forma from the Oxford University Museum (of Natural History)[of which Pitt Rivers Museum was then part] dated October 16 1888 completed by Edward Burnett Tylor as Keeper, 'I am directed to inform you that your Donation of flints and lump of greensand which have been made red hot probably for cookng purposes from Rotherley Camp has been received and registered, and to convey the thanks of the Delegates of the Museum for this Contribution to the Collection under their Charge. I have the honor to be Your most obedient servant E.B. Tylor Keeper of the Museum.'

The excavations at Rotherley (on Pitt Rivers' estate) were supervised by Francis Reader and took place between October 1886 and April 1887. The earthworks on the Down had apparently not been noticed until Pitt Rivers saw them in 1885. [Bowden, 1991: 116] Several large postholes were found which Pitt Rivers suggested were granaries, and circular hollows. Section drawings were prepared [Bowden, 1991: 116-7]

1888.26.1 Accession Book Entry - Lt Gen A Pitt Rivers Rushmore Salisbury. 1 - ? Flints and lump of greensand which have been red hot (?for boiling) Rotherley Camp Rushmore

Further reading

Bowden, M. 1984 [reprinted 1990] General Pitt Rivers the father of scientific archaeology Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
Bowden, M. 1991. Pitt Rivers - The life and archaeological work of Lt. General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers DCL FRS FSA. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Thompson, M.W. 1976 Catalogue of the correspondence and papers of Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt -Rivers (1827-1900) Royal Commission on Historical MSS List 76/75
Thompson, M.W. 1977. General Pitt Rivers: Evolution and Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century. Moonraker Press, Bradford-on-Avon UK


[1] Katherine Louisa Stanley, later Viscountess Amberley (1842-1874). A leading woman suffragette and radical. In 1868 she became the first president of the Bristol and West of England branch of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. She died from diphtheria. Mother of Bertrand Russell. [Elizabeth Crawford 'The Women's Suffrage Movement' 1999 UCL Press]. DNB entry