Gunflint from Stoneyfield, Inverness
04 January 2021
- News Type:
- Find of the Month
As firearms became more common, they required a gunflint to help create the spark. They first appear in the 16th century, generally very simple, but production was clearly standardised form an early period, and especially in the later period when the government prescribed shapes and sizes. Gunflints were used in cannons, muskets and pistols. The industry continued into the 20th century. An excellent film on YouTube from the 1940s illustrates the large scale production at Brandon, Suffolk. The Wikipedia entry on ‘Flintlock Mechanism’ has a useful animation illustrating how they worked (both accessed December 2020).
Gunflints are fairly common finds, as in general they are thought to have had limited lifespan before replacement. They can be difficult to distinguish by non-specialists, especially early examples, and have been misidentified in prehistoric assemblages. A detailed discussion of typology was published by Torben Ballin (2012), who also focussed on an early gunflint workshop in Lewis which shows a local industry. As flint is limited in the Highlands, no such industries are known from here, although some flint was probably arriving as ballast. The finds of gunflints in the Highlands has yet to be pulled together. One would expect them on battlefield sites, but examples are also known from other contexts, for example caves and rockshelters on the west coast investigated by the Scotland’s First Settlers Project (Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 184.108.40.206; 2.2.9). Further research on finds from the Highlands, and documentary searches relating to imports, would be useful.
Ballin, Torben Bjarke 2012 ‘ “State of the art” if British gunflint research, with special focus on the early gunflint workshop at Dun Eistean, Lewis’, Post-Medieval Archaeology 46, 116-142.
Hardy, Karen and Wickham-Jones, Caroline (eds) 2009 ‘Mesolithic and later sites around the Inner Sound, Scotland: the work of the Scotland’s First Settlers project 1998-2004’, Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports 31.
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