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Early Man

Flint mine
Flint mine - pits dug into the chalk of the Artois hills.

What archaeologists have found
Early humans first reached this area from Africa about 500,000 years ago. The oldest traces of these hunter-gatherers in the region were found at Wimereux.

Early men were nomads, following herds of wild animals and seeking edible plants as part of their struggle to survive. They left few traces apart from the flints, bones and antlers they used as tools.

Flint mines
225,000 years ago, men were skilled at making the best tools and weapons from flints - hard rock nodules found in layers in the chalk. Flints were mined in shallow pits dug into the chalk hills both sides of the Channel, hammered and flaked into axe-heads, spear-tips, arrow-heads, etc., fitted to wood handles, and traded with other areas.

Last Ice Age
18,000 years ago, at the height of the last big Ice Age, ice sheets covered everything north of the Thames. It was so cold in north France and Kent that few humans remained. Even in summer, the area was a soggy wasteland - like Siberia or the Canadian tundra today.

Stone Age man returned as the area warmed up after the last big Ice Age. 8,000 years ago those in Britain were cut off from those in France by the forming of the English Channel. The rising sea level forced people to live in the hills, which with warmer weather thrived with woods and game animals.

First farmers
8,000 years ago people came from northern Europe bringing ideas from the Middle East about sowing seeds and growing crops (wheat and barley); and keeping dogs and animals for meat (pigs, cattle and sheep). They lived in thatched wooden huts. By 5,500 years ago there were farming settlements over much of the chalk hills, and large areas of woodland had been cleared. These communities developed tribal societies; they left standing stones which could have had religious significance; buried their warrior leaders in tombs with "grave goods" (tools, weapons, food and jewels they might need in the afterlife); and built forts on hilltops to defend their people and animals against attack by other tribes.

Dover Bronze Age boatDover Museum's "Bronze Age boat" - shipwrecked 3,000 years ago near the white cliffs of Dover

Bronze Age
4,500 years ago people brought skills of smelting copper from the mountains of central Europe. They made jewellery, then learned to add tin to make a harder alloy called bronze - useful for better, sharper axes and knives. They also learned how to weave woollen cloth

Iron Age tribes either side of the Channel
2,750 years ago (750 BC) people brought iron-working skills to the region from southern Europe. Iron was harder than bronze, and iron-tipped ploughs helped farmers clear and plough more woodland for crops.

Celts and Romans
2,500 years ago (500 BC) warlike Celtic tribes settled in the area from central Europe. They were ruled by kings and queens, and built bigger hilltop strongholds to defend their wealth and people as tribal wars over land grew fiercer. These were the people who the Romans met and conquered in first France then Britain.


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Places to visit:
Archéosite - reconstructed Iron Age Gallic village, nr Cambrai
Dover Museum, Kent - award-winning BronzeAge Boat gallery

Related background information
Formation of the English Channel
Romans - north France in the Roman Empire




A-Z © Copyright 2002 Invicta Media Last updated 7th April 2002