|Archive of Monthly News Items|
As previously featured in the History Centre
The Medina Cement works was established in the early 1840s. In 1911 the works changed dramatically with the introduction of a rotary kiln. Over time the rotary kiln dominated production, replacing the previous chamber kilns. This kiln and its associated operations remained largely unchanged up until the closure of the plant in 1946.
In 2006 one of the few surviving locals who had worked at the mill gave an account of life at the works in the 1930s. Ron West started there as a fifteen-year-old in 1935. In addition to describing the working practices, he was able to recall many of the technical processes. These recollections can now complement the movie to provide a comprehensive slice of prewar Isle of Wight. In addition, an expert in the history of cement plant is compiling a clarification of the operations shown in the movie. It is hoped these texts will be published on the Net to accompany the link to the film. The film can be seen on this East Anglian Film Archive webpage.
Another useful record of the works was revealed in the recent release of Aerofilm archive photos by English Heritage. They include a view of the works in 1926. It shows what a sizeable operation it was at its peak. Most of chamber kilns shown in this photo would have been out of operation and the site thinned out by the time the film was made.
The blade is about 15cm long. Such items cannot be easily dated and are often assessed on the basis of associated context. The obsidian tool has no context but some experts claim it has the look of a paleolithic implement. It doesn't appear to be worn through practical use, which might suggest it was a much prized item.
The gravel beds around the southern end of the Medina River have been the source of nationally important paleolithic finds. The discoveries at Pan in the 1920s produced numerous stone tools dated to between 300,000 - 50,000 years ago, a world of Neanderthal hunter-gatherers and woolly mammoths. There have been recent excavations at Pan and off Blackwater Road in the hope of discovering similar finds but without success. It nevertheless seems probable Neanderthals were moving around in the Shide area at some point. However, the blade could also be from the later neolithic period.
In those parts of the world where obsidian is present, it was struck for tools in much the same way as stone, notably in the Americas and some parts of the Mediterranean. Extinct volcanoes in Scotland may have produced obsidian but evidence for tools appears to be limited to pitchstone, a coarser volcanic material. Very few obsidian tools have been found in Britain.
The blade appears to be another example of prehistoric travel and trade. If it is neolithic, it would be unusual but not completely surprising. There is plenty of evidence of neolithic trade in stone tools. If it is paleolithic, the implications are far more interesting.