A Report to the Filey Bay Initiative
15 March 2010
Prepared by Anthony Green of The Filey Bay Research Group
An investigation into a probable Ballast stone from the wooden Wreck
In Filey Bay, Yorkshire, England.
In August 2000, Donald G Shomette of Cultural Resources, Maryland, USA undertook an archaeological reconnaissance of an eighteen century shipwreck in Filey Bay Yorkshire, England. He summarised his findings in a report dated January 2001 in which he commented on the presence of a field of large round cobbles twenty feet to the east of the main section of wreckage.
Prior to the August 2000 investigation, a single stone was recovered for scientific investigation that appeared to rounded cobble similar to samples found at the Filey Brigg harbour site. The harbour site investigation known as The Spittals Rock Survey was carried out by the Filey Brigg Research Group and is believed to date from Roman or medieval times. Examination of a fragment by Dr Ann Linn of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington D.C. determined the fragment of be shingle, thereby suggesting that some if not all of the stones are shingle cobbles. Though shingle is found in the area, it is in slab form and not round stone, which is normally formed by rivurine erosion,
Following Dr Ann Linn's report, Don Shomette asked Dr Garrison of the University of Georgia, the Franklin college of arts, Geology Department to investigate the stone further. Dr Garrison kindly provided funds from his own resources for the investigation in which a thin translucent slice of the stone was prepared and mounted between glass slides. It was then photographed and analysed by a Petrographer. The photographs and conclusions of this investigation are shown below.
Dr Garrison and his Petrographer concluded that the sample is a meta-granite e.g. unsuspecting granite that got metamorphosed. This is possibly closer to a meta-diorite because of all the feldspar (grainy whitish matrix). The one photomicrograph of the quartz inclusion shaped like a shell is curious and they are unable to determine what this is.
Submerged Prehistoric Landscapes
It is widely contended that there is the potential for prehistoric drowned landscapes to be present off the east coast of England below sea level, landscapes that became submerged as sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age. Recent work by Lee and Pethick in 2003 has shown that the sea level during the Paleolithic within the Filey area was up to 50m lower than it is today. This level has steadily risen to be with about 10m of current levels in the Mesolithic period and has continued to change to the levels we see today with the current cycle of coastal erosion.
In these Prehistoric times with lower sea levels, both present day Europe and Britain (albeit with a different coastal profile) were connected by a land bridge that is termed Doggerland. This land bridge is believed to have had its own terrestrial features and including river channels. While there is argument supporting the theory that most of these ancient features in Filey Bay have been erased by the tidal streams, there may be evidence that they have survived.
In 2007, a survey of the wreck site and its immediate surrounding area was undertaken by the Royal navy ship HMS Gleaner. In his survey report that comments on this area, Lt Cdr T M Fox RN identified that there appeared to be a shallow feature in the in the locality of the wreck site that is river like in appearance. An investigation of the images produced by HMS Gleaner support this observation.
If this shallow feature is indeed the remains of a river that would be commonly referred to as a Paleochannel. A Paleochannel comprise deposits of unconsolidated sediments or semi-consolidated sedimentary rocks deposited in ancient, currently inactive river and stream channel systems. This would indicate that there are today the remains of a prehistoric river feature that was present when England was connected to Europe by what is termed as "Doggerland".
The discovery of a possible Paleochannel is very relevant as this round stone that is normally formed by rivurine erosion could equally be the product of this ancient river system as it could be the part of ballasting for a sailing vessel. Consequently there can be no firm conclusions reached regarding the origin and purpose of this stone and further enquiries are being pursued.
Anthony Green, The Filey Bay Initiative who represent the community of Filey and FURU thank Dr Garrison, his Petrographer, Donald Shomette and Lt Cdr Fox RN, his staff for completing their analytical work on behalf of the people of Filey and their Heritage. Without support from outside distinguished individuals and organisations such as these, expanding the frontiers of knowledge would not be possible. Additional thanks are to be recorded to John Buglass Archaeological Services for his excellent archaeological assessment.
Cobble Photograph © A Green, Photomicrographs © Dr E Garrison, Photograph of Dr Garrison © The University of Georgia, the map of Doggerland by an unknown author.
Buglass J. The Archaeological and Historical Background to Filey Bay and its Environs, Filey North Yorkshire
Shomette D. G. Investigation of an eighteenth century shipwreck in Filey Bay, Yorkshire, England, January 2001
Shomette D. G. Private correspondence