KS2 teachers, what can you find out about . . . the Palaeolithic?

You might think that finding information on the archaeology of the Palaeolithic of the area you live and work in might be difficult. Well, think again. Each county in England and Wales for example is required to maintain a register of all archaeological sites, find spots, listed buildings etc. It is known as the Historic Environment Record or HER. It used to be called the Sites and Monuments Record or SMR – you may come across this at some point!

As with many other things, there are different approaches to accessing the information – some are searchable on-line databases, some are not. This one in Scotland is one you can search online: http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/archaeology/

In the case of those which aren’t online, you can access these via your local county council who are responsible for them. Our local HER is not online but we have always found an email to the archaeology team will be enough to get the information we need! You should be able to find an email address to write to on your local county council’s website.

We asked our team about Palaeolithic sites in Derbyshire and in return got lots of records. Here are just a few of the interesting things we found:

  • Reindeer bones found in Lathkill Dale, although it is uncertain exactly where!
  • At two sites in the Peak District there is evidence of a hearth dating back to end of last ice age with horse and red deer bones split for possible marrow extraction. Bone marrow is very nutritious and a valuable source of energy.
  • The range of animals found in Palaeolithic contexts from Windy Knoll fissure cave near Castleton include reindeer, bison, grizzly bear and wolf.
  • Some 70 handaxes dating to the Palaeolithic have been found in the Willington area, all of them in the gravel terraces of old river courses.
  • The remains of a mammoth’s tusk was found near Shardlow in September 1995. When examined, the tusk was found to be in pieces with the external sheaf surviving, but only a small part of the inner core was present. It was reported to be from the sands and gravels at about 1m above the Mercia mudstone floor of the quarry, probably of Devensian age (120-12,000BP).
  • A number of flint implements were found in Langwith Bassett Cave between 1902-12. The cave of Langwith is situated at the base of a low scarp of limestone near the summit of the hill on the northern side of the valley of the River Poulter just behind the rectory of Langwith Bassett.

Armed with information from your local HER you can explore sites to see what they look like today and perhaps imagine what they looked like many thousands of years ago. As you can see from the picture here, taken when we went to explore Creswell Crags and nearby sites, the cave at Langwith Bassett is hidden today under vegetation, but you do at least get a sense of the location and what it might have been like.

You do need to be aware of beasties in the field!
You do need to be aware of beasties in the field!

Hidden in the bushes is Langwith Bassett cave, site of human activity in the Palaeolithic.

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