The original Flintstone

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The Independent Culture
You know when you want a cigarette and somebody's stolen your lighter? Well, that's not flint-knapping. Flint- knapping is the age-old craft of breaking down big pieces of flint so you can make lovely, aerodynamic arrow-heads to kill deer with. Learn about this vanishing art, and more, by nipping over to the fascinating new exhibition at the Natural History Museum, "The Bones of Boxgrove". Boxgrove is a normally sleepy Sussex village which has been the centre of world archaeological attention since 1993, when a shin-bone from our ancestor, Boxgrove Man, was unearthed. Boxy (as his friends call him) is half a million years old, and was one of the first Britons ever, hanging out with his fellow Neanderthals and now-extinct sorts of tigers, bison, rhino and horses. Digging has been going on in earnest over the last two years, helped by a shed-load of cash from English Heritage, and you can follow the twisty detective story of the excavations in a special edition of Horizon on Monday week. Boxy and his chums also seem to mark the turning-point when the proto-human species switched to a nutritious meat-filled diet, and thus started growing bigger brains (in order to produce, more than 500,000 years later, such specimens as Chris Evans). Loads of lovingly-manufactured flint tools have also been discovered on the site, as well as animal bones bearing evidence of cut marks, which all seem to endorse the carnivorous theory. Bright sparks, these archaeologists.

STEVEN POOLE

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 (0171-938 9123) 10am- 5.50pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5.50pm Sun, to 25 Feb; `Horizon: the Butchers of Boxgrove', Mon 8 Jan, 8pm BBC2

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