Published: Eye (September 2024)

ISBN: 9781785634086


Joanne Bourne


A lithic love letter

‘Vivid, personal, upbeat – makes you feel her happiness’

Maggie Gee

Joanne Bourne has been in awe of flint as long as she can remember.

It was all around her where she grew up in Kent: used for garden walls, to edge drives and weight dustbin lids, as well as to build pubs, churches, Roman villas and castles. For centuries it was the only building stone available.

It is also magical. Made from the remains of plankton and sea sponges, it is second only in hardness to a diamond and can be used to make fire. Part of human development for three million years, it was used as a weapon to hunt and in war, and hung as protection against thunderbolts and fairies.

In a deeply personal love letter to this extraordinary ‘biogenic’ rock, Bourne traces its geological, architectural and social history and invites us to roam with her in search of it on her beloved North Downs.

Fusing science, poetry, history and a profound love of landscape, this is her heartfelt, thoroughly persuasive tribute to the stone she calls ‘an art project of the great divine’.






‘If you love walking through the English countryside and the deep history of these isles, you will love this vivid, personal, upbeat book about the hundred varieties of flint gleaming just under our feet. It’s an archaeologist’s love-letter to a landscape trampled by prehistoric elephants, bears, boars, Romans, Saxons, Romanies and modern picnickers. Joanne Bourne makes the reader feel her happiness as she spots in a wood or on a chalk beach yet another shape or colour of the ancient stone that obsesses her, or as a Red Admiral butterfly curls its tongue for the salt on her arm’

Maggie Gee

‘Joanne Bourne writes beautifully and convincingly. I liked it very much and learned a lot’

Liz Trenow




Joanne Bourne

Joanne Bourne is a writer, photographer and archaeologist, born and raised on the North Downs of Kent, where she still lives. She has combined a career in publishing with archaeological fieldwork, excavating Neolithic and multi-period sites in Dalmatia, Libya and Orkney, where she has spent nine summers with the Ness of Brodgar team.  

Her great love is the chalk downland of her native Kent and, when she can, she spends her free time walking and photographing the seasons of its nature and wildlife.

Her book Jake’s Bones, written with the young bone collector Jake McGowan Lowe, was shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. She is also the author of The Maps Book, published by Lonely Planet Kids in 2023, which was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Children’s Travel Book of the Year.

She is a member of the Folklore Society, the Lithic Studies Society and the Geologists’ Association.

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