British Collections by Archaeological Period:

Neolithic (4000 - 2300 BC)

The Neolithic period ('New Stone Age') in Britain dates from about 4000 - 2300 BC, and is traditionally defined by the change of economy from one based on hunting and gathering to one based on the the growing of crops (barley, wheat, and pulses) and breeding of animals (sheep, goats, cattle and pigs). People in Europe first learned about farming and animal domestication in about 8000 BC, perhaps from people in Anatolia or the Near East. ). Farming was adopted first in Greece and the Balkans, then in other parts of southeast Europe, reaching Germany by 5500 BC.

Farming arrives in Britain about 4000 BC. The domestication of sheep and cattle and the cultivation of wild grasses as crops led to a more settled life. Permanent settlements with livestock enclosures and fields for crops were established after the land was cleared. With farming came a range of new tools to cope with this new way of acquiring food, particularly polished axes (stone and flint) and pottery. Some of these were traded hundreds of kilometres, in many separate transactions, probably based on social relationships.

In the British Isles, the evidence for settlement in the earlier Neolithic is sparse. The Neolithic people constructed defendable causewayed camps and buried their dead in long barrows. In the later Neolithic they started to build circles of wood or stone (henges). Many of these communal sites have ritual deposits in pits and ditches, of animal bone, pottery, stone tools and antler.

flint axe from Mawbray

Flint axe from Mawbray, Cumbria (John Evans) (AN1927.3457)

Click to enlarge

 (Click to enlarge)

stone axe from Wareham, Dorset

Greenstone axe from near Wareham, Dorset (AN1927.3466)

flint axe from Woodbridge, Suffolk

Flint axe from Woodbridge, Suffolk (1958.412)

axe Burwell Farm, Cambs

Greenstone axe from Burwell Fen, Cambridgeshire (John Evans) (AN1927.3385)

flint axe from Bierton, Bucks

Flint axe from Bierton, Buckinghamshire Manning Collection) (AN1921.1443)



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January 2012