In my part of world the Downs are pitted with the scars of flint mining. The extraordinary flint workings can be seen for yourself at Grimes Graves in Norfolk.
We were lucky enough to visit a few years ago and there is something rather eerie about being able to view the underground tunnels dug 5000 years ago. Many still have the original antler picks discarded by the neolithic miners remaining in situ to this day.
It has been suggested that there was something special about this particular flint as there was plenty of it readily available above ground so apparently no need to go to the trouble of digging it out of the earth. Elsewhere in the country people have gone to dangerous lengths to obtain stone when there are easier sources nearby...it almost suggests to me that there may have been a spiritual element to specific places that were of huge significance to our forebears.
Whatever theories abound some of the stone tools created by our ancestors were stunningly beautiful as well as functional. I spoke to a modern flint knapper at Butser Ancient Farm who had a selection of finds with him. On that occasion he explained to me the faults in flint that had caused the maker to discard a hand axe mid way through its creation that he had recently found. He blew my mind as he commented that they are akin to the disposable coke cans of our day which we thoughtlessly toss aside once they are no longer fit for purpose. This week I was lucky enough to visit the British Museum and be able to hold one for myself...it was surprisingly moving to hold something that old and realise the effort that had gone into polishing it for it was as smooth as glass.
These are some further examples we saw on our visit up there on Monday.
I saw many incredible treasures whilst there which I shall blog about later but this one is my absolute favourite. A rare example of a tool with its wooden shaft attached. Extraordinary.