11,000 years ago people began
to occupy Vale of Pickburg in
They lived alongside
prehistoric animals in an area
of vast woodland.
They left traces of their
settlement in this area.
This site is known as Star Carr.
Map of Star Carr
Star Carr belongs to the important period of the Mesolithic, or
Middle Stone Age, a time before farming when we were still
The items preserved at the site include bone and antler which
would otherwise have rotted away.
Other items include skulls, timbers as well as carved barbs made
from deer antler have all been preserved giving us an idea of
what life was like back then.
Differing interpretation of Star Carr from base camp to ritual
Peat consists of slowly decomposing
The process of peat formation
consists of the decomposition of
plant material in anaerobic
It is these conditions that preserve
both artefacts and other natural
materials like pollen.
It is significant in giving
archaeologists the surrounding area.
An example of a cross-section of peat.
The Mesolithic is an exciting period to look at as it has so much to
However it lies between two other significant periods, the Palaeolithic
and Neolithic so is often overlooked.
It began with dramatic climate change which changed the continent to
what it is today and ended with the introduction of polished stone tools.
As a result it is likely people were very adaptive and this is displayed by
their tools at the time.
Ethnographic evidence can also provide an insight into what life and
people were like.
The time before the Mesolithic is defined by great changes in climate.
22,000 years ago when much of northern Europe was covered with Glaciers.
However, 12,700 BC the climate warmed rapidly and summer temperatures
reached 20º in Britain.
Decline again at 10,900 BC with Younger Dryas.
Pre-boreal and boreal are most likely to see return of people before/at start of
The rapid climate change of the pre- boreal period
resulted in significant sea level rises which caused
the covering of the peninsula which linked Britain
to Europe, Doggerland.
It is clear Mesolithic people lived here because of
what has been found trawled up from the North.
This area existed until 6,500-6,200 BC when a
massive tsunami covered most of the area.
It was fully covered another thousand years later.
Some believe it was this event which caused
humans to abandon Doggerland.
Rising Sea Levels
People in the Mesolithic had a rich
environment to take advantage of and
will have used tools and materials
Flint – butchery to carpentry.
Wood – canoes to housing.
Plant Material –ropes to nets.
Antler – barbs for hunting.
Bone – perhaps used in making of
Technology and Tools
It is very likely the hunter gatherer of the Mesolithic travelled in small
groups following animals to kill for food.
Although there is an example of a house at Howick in
There are post holes and numerous hearths located above one another
containing hazel nuts which have been dated to show the house was
occupied over several generations.
Flints found far from where their rock type originate challenges this.
It also seems that Mesolithic people had different land uses as well.
It is difficult to tell what the diet of Mesolithic people consisted
of but it is likely it ranged widely.
Large and small animals were likely hunted for their meat.
Birds may also have been hunted.
Wild plants, an indication to the beginning of farming, were
It is even likely that Mesolithic people knew how preserve food
for future consumption.
Death can often provide a great insight into what the attitude of
prehistoric man was like to the afterlife.
Mesolithic peoples across Europe seemed to have varying methods of
dealing with their dead.
Evidence for dismemberment has been found at Oronsay, Scotland
where bones were found amongst shell middens.
Evidence for cremation and inhumation also exist at the sites of
Hermitage, Ireland and Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge respectively.
Evidence for mass burials or cemeteries have been found at both
Aveline’s Hole and Greylake in Somerset.
Not all archaeological evidence points to a practical use, some
points to ritual.
Evidence for ritual and suggestions as to what may happened
Ethnographic evidence of modern societies
Larger monuments denoting significance of a certain area of
land, such pits found near Stonehenge.
Beliefs and Rituals
The tendency of Mesolithic archaeology of presuming everything
was the same for the span of 5000 years then has been proven
wrong. There have clearly been shown to be many changes
throughout the period both in how people lived and died and why
they did it this way. While it is clear that there is still much to
learn, the site of Star Carr has highlighted all of these aspects of
Mesolithic life, earning its place as one of the most important sites
surviving in Britain.