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THE NAB HEAD, SITE I

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 308819

Map Reference SM71SE

Grid Reference SM79061107

Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire

Old County Pembrokeshire

Community Marloes and St Brides

Type of Site LITHIC WORKING SITE, SETTLEMENT

Broad Class DOMESTIC

Period General, Mesolithic

Site Description 1. The Nab Head (sites I and II).

Paraphrased from David, A. 2007. Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Settlement in Wales, with special reference to Dyfed. BAR British Series 448. Archaeopress, Oxford, Chapter IV (91-114)

‘The Nab Head is one of the more prominent of the many small headlands along the irregular perimeter of the Skomer peninsula which divides St. Brides Bay to the north from Milford Haven to the south. The headland thus lies almost at the farthest south-western extremity of Wales, forming a small northward-facing promontory of Old Red Sandstone… on the southern edge of St. Brides Bay.

The Nab Head is about 100m long and some 40m. across at its widest point. It is surrounded on all sides by cliffs which are at their most abrupt and tallest along its western edge… The headland narrows at its junction with the mainland at a point called ‘The Neck’ and it is here that further faulting is concentrating an erosion which will eventually isolate the headland entirely. Modern gully erosion is now eating into both this and the overlying postglacial soil in which quantities of Mesolithic flints are being exposed. This is The Nab Head Site I. [The Nab Head Site II lies just to the south (at SM 7909 1099), between the stone wall of St Brides Castle and ‘The Neck’’

Flints were first noted across the headland stripped bare of soil by Atlantic gales by Edward Laws in 1880 (Laws 1880, 241; 1888, 17). Stone tools and beads were collected from a ‘factory’ at around the same time by Colonel F. W. Lambton of Brownslade. Further digging was carried out by Rev. J. P. Gordon-Williams who made well over 3000 finds (Gordon-Williams., 1925, 1926), who found the famous ‘phallus’, ‘amulet’ or ‘figurine’ discovered in close association with at least nine beads. Two small trial trenches were later excavated by Prof. G. J. Wainwright which revealed a few flints (Wainwright 1969, 1970), following which Wainwright claimed the site had been largely destroyed by erosion and private collectors.

Inspection of the site by David in 1978 confirmed artefacts and stratigraphy were still present on site. Leading to ten days excavation in 1979 by A. David and D. Benson, which saw 186 square metres completely or partially excavated and 12,000 flints recovered. Further work was carried out in 1980.

Finds:

The excavations of 1979-80 recovered 39, 863 items of flaked flint and stone, of which 98% was debitage resulting from the reduction of pebbles. There are 155 blade and bladelet cores, 143 microliths, 114 scrapers from Site 1 and various other tool types including axes/adzes. At the time of David’s report (1990, published in 2007) 692 beads were known, with 64 complete or partial recovered during the 1979-80 excavations. All are made from small discs of water-smoothed blue-grey shale, identical to specimens that can be collected from the beach at St Brides Haven, a kilometre to the east. The discs are usually oval, with occasional sub-angular perimeters, typically 2-3mm thick. With a few exceptions they are perforated by a central hole, U-shaped in section, and drilled from one face only.

Material from the various investigations is mostly held in Tenby Museum and the National Museum of Wales. Other material is held by: the Asmolean Museum; the Museum of Archaeology and Anthroplogy, University of Cambridge; the Manchester Museum; Abergwili Museum, Carmarthen, and Scolton Museum, Haverfordwest (see Figgis 1999).

Sources:

David, A. 2007. Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Settlement in Wales, with special reference to Dyfed. BAR British Series 448. Archaeopress, Oxford
Leach Archaeologia Cambrensis 88 (1933), 229-36;
Wainwright Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 29 (1963), 99-132 [108-112];
Benson & David, Archaeology in Wales 19 (1979), 24 [42];
Benson & David, Archaeology in Wales 20 (1980), 36 [33].
Figgis "Welsh Prehistory: catalogue of accessions ..." (1999)

2. The Nab Head is a study site within the EU-funded Ireland-Wales CHERISH Project (2017-2021), intended to study erosion on the site. A flint scraper, blades and a shale pendant were collected from the eroding site surface on 4th April 2017 and have been drawn by Ian Dennis.

3. UAV photogrammetric survey carried out for the CHERISH Project on 19 June 2019.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, 2019

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Archive Records