Andrew T Young BA (Hons) MA MIPG FSA Scot

Department: Archaeology
Discipline: Archaeology

Project Summary

The Ground Stone Tools of Britain and Ireland: an Experimental Approach

Andy's doctoral research explores the way ground stone tools are currently interpreted and examines the manufacture of a wide range of implements through experimental archaeology.

His research contextualises the nature of ground stone tools with reference to the Neolithic and Bronze Age, analysing the trajectory of their development over time and the ways technological innovation may have driven certain morphological changes.

He has developed a range of  complimentary technical analyses which can be applied to experimental replication studies in order to better understand a wide range of tools.

Interpretations are based on qualitative and quantitive data, whilst at the same time examine the ways a post-processual-linked phenomenological perspective might be a valid means of enquiry, with special emphasis on craft skills.

Supervisory Team

Professor Bruce Bradley

Doctor Linda Hurcombe

Wider Research Interests

Experimental archaeology and stone tools

Andy has been making replica Neolithic and Early Bronze Age stone tools since the second year of his undergraduate degree in archaeology when he studied lithics modules taught by Linda Hurcombe and Bruce Bradley. Since then he has specialised in ground stone tools made using the pecking, hammer-dressing and grinding techniques. He makes replicas for museums and the University of Exeter archaeology department. The replicas include adzes, axes, battle-axes, carved-stone balls and maceheads.


Neolithic Carved Stone Balls and Stonehenge

Research into Scottish carved stone balls led Andy to examine the nature of social complexity at the time of Stonehenge. He observed links between these enigmatic objects, recumbent stone circles and Grooved Ware pottery which  all originate in north-east Scotland, but whose influence spread far south and importantly to the Stonehenge environs.

A materials-science perspective led Andy to scrutinise the way carved stone balls were made, then what they might have been for, which has long been subject of debate. Andy's hypothesis is that the original balls, which were made to exacting standards and which are often the same size, might have been used to move the heavy recumbent stones in Aberdeenshire, and that knowledge of the technique probably spread south.

In a large scale experiment both stone and wooden balls were used to move tons of stone successfully and much more efficiently than any of the past attempts to move such heavy stones. Andy believes that oxen would have provided the traction power, not people, and that moving a stone from the Marlborough Downs to Stonehenge could be accomplished in a single day using his method. The use of wooden balls would mean the people who brought the idea south with them  from Scotland did not have to transport a heavy load and could even conceal their mechanical contrivance after moving the stones should they so desire it.

This theory revolutionises the way we think about how Neolithic people in Britain moved such heavy stone (the sarsens at Stonehenge weigh upto 45 tons and the recumbent stones in Scotland can weigh upto 70 tons), and is the first to provide any archaeological evidence of how it might actually have been accomplished. The experiment was recently depicted in a new documentary produced by NOVA television: 'Secrets of Stonehenge' (Nov 2010).

Bronze Age Furnace Project

Andy initiated the Bronze Age Furnace Project at the University of Exeter where he has constructed several replica Bronze Age furnaces which he uses to manufacture replica bronze objects using authentic techniques and equipment.

Almost invariably the extant literature describes the bronze-casting process from a modern theoretical perspective and without any empirical data obtained through experiment, one of the major failings the Bronze Age Furnace Project seeks to address.

Andy's archaeometallurgical research examines a range of technological questions pertaining to the operation of early furnaces, particularly the manufacture and use of accoutrements (crucibles, bellows, tuyeres). The objects manufactured can be subjected to use-wear analysis which is impossible with archaeological specimens. Finished items are supplied to museums and universities for their teaching collections.


Andy's interest in protomathematics developed out of his research into the Platonic solids and Scottish carved stone balls. He has demonstrated that the makers of carved stone balls were numerate and incorporating compound polyhedra in their design through the multi-symmetric-packing of spheres on a spherical surface. Currently he is examining geometry and symmetry in ground stone implements of the British Isles.

Neolithic food

Researching the Neolithic diet and new ways of thinking about prehistoric food.