Bringing the Stone Age to Life


Katy England with Nick Waring
Katy England with Dr Nick Waring

Probus members were taken back to pre-historic times at the latest lunch meeting when Katy England from Salisbury museum gave a talk about times in early Britain.

The earliest remains were discovered at Boxgrove near Chichester in the 1990s and consisted of a leg bone, two teeth and other artefacts from which it is calculated that they originated from a 6 feet tall and well built male. It was concluded that these remains are at least 500,000 years old. At that time Britain was connected to Europe and had a climate similar to that enjoyed today in the African savannah. This find however did not show any evidence of clothing, habitation or the use of fire and the conclusion was that things were eaten raw. It did prove that the inhabitants used long wooden spears with flint points and hand held flint hand axes.

Katy England with spear
Hand held flint axe and wooden spear

Experts think that the use of fire developed around 400,000 years ago perhaps coinciding with a change in weather patterns. Over the next 200,000 years, as the weather became colder, the animals changed with woolly mammoths and reindeer roaming freely, the original Boxmore man developed into Neanderthal man. He was shorter and stockier and more able to cope with the colder conditions.

About 50/40,000 years ago another species arrived from Africa that we call Homo Sapiens. There is some DNA evidence that there was some interbreeding but gradually the Neanderthals died out. There was also development of flint and antlers that could be made into tools including needles which allowed animal skins to be sewn together to create clothing as the climate got colder. Cave painting is thought to have started about 30,000 years ago when ochre and charcoal were used as the basis for colour.

The Great Ice Age came 20,000 years ago and after its departure the sea levels rose thereby creating different land masses as the weather improved to be similar to what we enjoy today. Oak trees and Hazel arrived as well as the formation of lakes and rivers. Mammoths and reindeer were no longer to be seen but there was plenty

Katy England with arrow
Arrow with flint tip & swan feathered flight

of deer and wild boar.  All these changes became essential to supporting life and with the invention of a form of glue and the development of the bow with the “string” made from animal sinews and arrows with flint arrow heads and flights made from swan feathers the age of the hunter/gatherer became prevalent.

But there then began a significant change of life style 12/10,000 years ago, in a period known as the Neolithic Stone Age, they became farmers, domesticating plants and animals, created settlements as permanent villages and we see the appearance of crafts such as pottery and weaving. It is recognised that this is the most significant change in all of human history.