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New access to Grimes Graves

06 Mar 2017
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An article by Maev Kennedy on theguardian.com - Prehistoric Norfolk mine  to open second pit to public - reports on new public access down into the 4,000-year-old site where Neolithic miners used antlers to hack out flint.

Grime's Graves Neolithic flint mine
The remains of the ancient pits. Image: English Heritage/PA Wire

Members of the public will soon be allowed to explore, via ladders, winches and harnesses, the shafts and galleries cut deep under Norfolk heathland more than 4,000 years ago.

The surface landscape of Grime's Graves, with its numerous shallow depressions, was caused  by the neolithic flint mines. The pits were sunk up to 13 metres deep, a labour-intensive process using antler picks.

Image: English Heritage/PA Wire

 
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The name Grime's Graves has Anglo-Saxon origins, from long after the mines fell out of use as metal tools replaced flint. Some of the accessible hollows were used as burial grounds in the Iron Age. For the Normans the site was used to keep rabbits for their meat and skins, as the poor sandy soil was ideal for the animals warrens.

Grime's Graves Neolithic flint mine

Images: English Heritage

In 1870 the site was excavated and identified as a Neolithic flint mine, yielding an almost indestructible jet-black flint. The work was initiated by William Greenwell, an Anglican priest and archaeology enthusiast.

Ritual deposits were discovered in the shafts including an axe made of greenstone from Cornwall and human and animal bones. Many of the artefacts are now in the British Museum.

Grime's Graves is just one of ten prehistoric flint mines in England, and it is the only one open to the public. Booking starts this week for visits by English Heritage members from April and for the general public from June.

English Heritage:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/grimes-graves-prehistoric-flint-mine/

View the British Isles Prehistory Archive:
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/british_isles_prehistory_archive/index.php

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