| 7 November 2009
Ancient weapons factory unearthed in Leicestershire
Archeologists have unearthed an 8,000-year-old weapons factory in Britain. The find, near Melton, is the biggest ever mid-Stone Age discovery in Leicestershire (England), with fingernail-sized flint pieces, burned animal bones and evidence of tents. The site has not been churned up by ploughs, like most county land has - it has remained undisturbed since the time before Britain became an island.
The dig took place prior to the construction of a new estate. Developers Jelson called in the university team to remove any interesting artefacts from the site before building work started. The dig has just come to an end and the team has revealed its findings.
Archaeologist Wayne Jarvis, who has led the dig, said: "What we've collected are a large number of very early flint artefacts. It's an incredibly rare find. We know from the shape of the flints that they are from the mesolithic period - about 8,000 years ago. We've collected about 5,000 pieces of flint in a small area and it seems to have been a site where the arrows were made. The pieces of flint are largely discarded flakes from when the arrowheads were shaped. However, there are some complete bits that were probably arrowheads, although it's possible they had other uses. We've found nothing like this before."
Mr Jarvis said flint was a rare commodity in Stone Age Leicestershire. The nearest good source of the hard, sharp stone, would have been in Lincolnshire - so flint from used arrows would probably be re-sharpened and recycled. Also on the site are small boulders grouped together, which the archeologists think were probably used as prehistoric tent pegs to pin animal skin canopies to the ground for shelter. There is also evidence of campfires, including burned animal bones.
Patrick Clay, co-director of the University of Leicester archeological service, said: "Most mesolithic artefacts from Leicestershire are 'surface finds' which are bits of flint churned up by ploughs. It was a great surprise to find all this. We didn't know of any archaeology on the site when we started the dig. There's a lot of further work to be done in the lab and hopefully we can learn a lot more about how people lived 10,000 years ago.
Source: Leicester Mercury (4 November 2009)
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