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  • Here in Norfolk on this unassuming patch of land about 35 miles to the west of Norwich

  • lies an important landmark in this country's history.

  • I'm Rob Bell, engineer and adventurer and I'm exploring some of the most fascinating

  • and significant sites in England's industrial heritage.

  • Grimes Graves is a complex of Neolithic flint mines.

  • It first operated over four and a half thousand years ago and continued for several hundred years

  • In the present day, visitors are still able to descend an open shaft

  • and walk in the footsteps of those prehistoric miners.

  • Before we head down, let's meet with English Heritage historian Susan Greaney

  • to find out more about this prehistoric site

  • - Hello - Hi

  • - Susan, nice to meet you - Welcome to Grimes Graves

  • Thank you very much. It's quite a landscape!

  • - I'm not sure as I've seen anything like it before really - It's amazing, isn't it? It's a really special place

  • And all these divots and bunkers all around - they're the actual flint mines, are they?

  • Yes, each of these hollows is the top of one of the really deep shafts that goes down

  • - There's about 430 of them here at Grimes Graves - Wow

  • This is the only place in the country where you can actually go down into a Neolithic flint mine

  • - And we can do that right here, right now? - We can do that

  • I was hoping you'd say that

  • Susan, it's great to be down underground here.

  • What exactly is Grimes Graves and where does its name come from?

  • Well Grimes Graves comes from the Anglo Saxons

  • who gave this funny undulating landscape the name of Grim, who was their god - also known as Woden.

  • So it's 'grimes' and then 'graves' - as in pits or hollows

  • How important was flint in Neolithic Britain?

  • What kind of things was it being used for?

  • Flint was the most important material for Neolithic people

  • It was used to make every single tool that you can imagine

  • It's kind of the Swiss Army knife of the Neolithic.

  • To make make axes, to make knives, to make cutting tools, boring tools

  • Anything really where you needed a cutting edge

  • Well, what was being used before flint was discovered and started being used for all these tools then?

  • Flint was in use for a really, really long period of time

  • So right back into the Paleolithic period - the Ice Age here in Britain

  • Before that they were using stones to pound and break things

  • but not really working stone in such a way

  • Mining is a hard, hard graft

  • I'm now thinking about the tools and machinery that they might have had

  • available to them and I'm guessing it's rudimentary, if anything really?

  • The main tool that they were using was antler picks.

  • So they were using these both to hammer out the flint

  • and also to chip away at the chalk to expose areas of flint.

  • Flint is quite a strange material in some ways

  • It's incredibly hard, but most of it appears in kind of nodules

  • So you're just taking out nodules from the ground that are already self-contained

  • and if you strike flint in the right place, it breaks in a very predictable way

  • so people would have been able to break up pieces quite regularly

  • It's phenomenal to think that this hole we're stood in now was dug out by antlers

  • Was this just another flint mine amongst a number of flint mines around Britain?

  • The flint here in this part of Norfolk is particularly high-quality.

  • I've got a little bit here to show you. You can see it's this beautiful black colour

  • It's got no impurities in it - it's really pure.

  • It seems that people were deliberately selecting this type of flint, because it was very easy to work

  • and created amazingly good and sharp, and hard tools

  • So they were probably coming here deliberately.

  • The reason they were digging down so deep, was here it occurs as something called floor stone

  • which is a complete layer of this very black, pure flint. So it's quite unique

  • Once they'd established that it was here on this site, all shafts they'd go down for that third layer?

  • They'd drop down their shafts to that layer and then go out sideways into little galleries and passages

  • - And that's what we're seeing around us here? - Yep, that's what you're seeing here

  • And then they're just following the line of that floor stone and digging it out

  • In a shaft like this, that would be open to the skies

  • But when you go off into these galleries I imagine it's got to get pretty dark in there?

  • Yeah, the shafts themselves would stay relatively open to the daylight so that's okay

  • But once you're off down the galleries it's very dark.

  • We have found very small little chalk lamps in some of these mines

  • and some of them have been found to have traces of oil in them.

  • So it's quite likely they were taking in little lamps or perhaps burning tapers of some kind

  • The people would have been mining this flint which is incredibly sharp

  • They probably would have had cut hands a lot of the time

  • But they'd also have been white - they'd have been covered in chalk dust

  • So for people coming down here mining this flint would've been quite an experience

  • And you'd have known which people have been down mining because they would have looked so different.

  • Once the flint's been dug out from the ground then, what happens to it?

  • So once it gets up to the top of the shaft

  • they're working it into what we call 'rough outs', which are the basic rough shape of an axe

  • Just knocking off all the sides of the nodule that you don't want to be carrying around with you

  • And then those rough outs are exported

  • Do we know where these products might have gone on to?

  • We know that it gets transported all across southern England.

  • There's even a hint that perhaps that it gets across to the continent, into France

  • Because it's such good quality and because it's this lovely dark colour

  • it can be made into the most beautiful polished axes and things

  • people do seem to have been transporting it a very long way from its origin here

  • Do you think that those people who were involved in the mining here

  • would have known the significance and the quality of the flint that they were mining?

  • Or was it just another flint mine for them?

  • They knew. They knew that this was particularly special and important flint

  • They came back here and dug over 430 shafts over many hundreds of years

  • They would have been famous. People across southern England would have known -

  • Grimes Graves - that's where the really black flint comes from

  • What happened for there to be an end to the mining of the flint here at Grimes Graves?

  • Grimes Graves is being dug in the very end of the Neolithic period, the end of the Stone Age

  • And what happens is that basically metal arrives from the continent.

  • And of course bronze as a material is very very hard -

  • it's much more efficient at doing things like cutting down trees

  • and it's also mouldable - you can make it into any shape you wish

  • So really, metal takes over as the tool of choice

  • and here at Grimes Graves, flint mining stops

  • Susan, thank you so much for bringing me down here. It is fascinating to come and learn exactly what's gone on here

  • It's been a pleasure

  • When you come to Grimes Graves, the first thing you notice is this bizarre landscape

  • These pitted craters all around you - and that's intriguing enough

  • But it's even more fascinating when you get to scratch beneath the surface

  • and find out just how important an operation this flint mine was to prehistoric progress in this country

  • Grimes Graves is open to the public during the warmer months of the year

  • and you can find out everything you need to know to plan your visit on the English Heritage website

  • And whether you're more interested in what's above-ground, or beneath the ground

  • I can tell you, it's well worth the trip.

Here in Norfolk on this unassuming patch of land about 35 miles to the west of Norwich

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英格蘭是怎樣煉成的|第1集:新石器時代的礦場。 (How England Was Made | Episode 1: Neolithic Mines)

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    Summer 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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