British Collections by Archaeological Period:

Mesolithic (9600 - 4000 BC)

The Mesolithic period (or 'Middle Stone Age') in Britain dates from just after the end of the Pleistocene ('Ice Age') approximately 11,600 years ago, to the beginning of the Neolithic period about 4000 calibrated years BC. In England the period is traditionally divided into Early (about 9600-6000 BC) and Later (about 6000-4000 BC) phases mainly based on lithic artefact typologoes and technology. The division is also well-supported by radiocarbon dating and associated palaeoenvironmental evidence.

People at this time were hunter-gatherers who practised high logistical mobility within what was an increasingly wooded environment. Mesolithic human activity in inland areas, such as Oxfordshire, seems to have been focused along rivers valleys, especially during the later phase.

Britain was joined to Europe at the start of the period, as it was for much of the preceding Upper Palaeolithic period. The English Channel and North Sea were originally low-lying plains, but were gradually submerged as the climate warmed and the ice from the last glacial period melted. Britain became an island by about 6,000 BC. As the climate warmed, the land also became densely forested with hazel, birch, lime elm and oak, and the large fauna became dominated by red and roe deer, elk and pig.

Most of the evidence for Mesolithic activity in England consists of stone artefacts, although there is a potential for preservation of organic remains from sites associated with peats. Although the population were mobile hunter-gatherers some occupation evidence has been recovered from excavations, including the identification of hearths and activity areas. There are also possible rare examples of structures and storage pits from some sites.

6 mesolithic flint tools

Microliths, typical flint tools of the period, from Kimbles, Buckinghamshire (AN1968.1781)

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 (Click to enlarge)

3 microlithis

3 microliths from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire (AN1953.43)

2 fine microlithis

2 fine microliths from Longworth, Oxfordshire (AN1958.315)

2 microliths

2 microliths from West Runton, Norfolk (AN1958.427)

2 mesolithic tools

2 broad microliths from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire (AN1968.1050)

5 microlithis

5 microliths from Hackpen Hill, Wiltshire (AN1968.1082)


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January 2012