Ice age flint tools found during road repairs

Archaeological remains dating back to the last Ice Age have been found during work to upgrade a major road, the Highways Agency said.

The remains, along with Iron Age and Roman settlements, were uncovered during work to upgrade the A46 between Newark and Widmerpool in Nottinghamshire.



The Highways Agency said the finds included ancient flint tools and flint knapping debris dating back to about 11,000 BC - around the end of the last Ice Age when Stone Age hunter-gathers returned as the climate began to warm up.



A46 Highways Agency project manager Geoff Bethel said: "As the A46 follows the route of the old Roman road, we expected to uncover a number of artefacts from Roman Britain and we were not disappointed.



"But to uncover such rare flint tools dating back to the end of the Ice Age was very exciting."



Evidence of such early people had been found in caves, but the pieces of flint found at Farndon appeared to show these people were making things out in the open, possibly in a temporary campsite, the Highways Agency said.



The excavations also provided insight into the Iron Age and Roman communities that used to live in the area.



Evidence of an Iron Age settlement at Owthorpe Junction, just east of Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, was uncovered, and a 4,000 year old Neolithic circular monument with eight Bronze Age burials was found further north at Stragglethorpe junction.



The archaeological team uncovered part of the settlement that lined the road leading into the town, including Roman timber buildings, rubbish pits, wells and track ways, as well as a number of burials, all dating back around 2,000 years.



Phil Harding, Stone Age expert and presenter of Channel 4's Time Team, worked on the excavations as a field archaeologist for Cotswold Wessex Archaeology.



He said: "Among the findings was a piece from a Neolithic axe made of greenstone, a type of stone from the Lake District.



"It was very distinctive, only a chip the size of a stamp, but exciting nonetheless.



"The stone was very good quality and very distinctive - you could tell a person's wealth or status by the number of axes he owned, or the flint it was made from.



"Overall, there were enough bits and pieces to suggest we have evidence of hunting people, gathering, camping, and visiting the confluence of two rivers right through to the time of the first farmers."



The project to widen a 17-mile (28km) stretch of the A46 in Nottinghamshire is hoped to be finished in summer 2012.



The design for the route made sure the majority of the site of Margidunum Roman town, near Bingham, was avoided, the Highways Agency said.



Jon Humble, English Heritage's regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments, added: "The line of the A46 coincides with part of one of the most important roads from Roman Britain - the Fosse Way that linked Exeter with Lincoln.



"So when the dualling of the A46 was being planned, we knew that the Highways Agency would have to consider the potential for important archaeological discoveries over the full length of the road scheme.



"More than a hundred archaeologists have worked very closely with the road designers, highway engineers and earth-moving contractors to ensure that important archaeological remains have been properly recorded and recovered.



"The Romans understood the value of first-rate team-work - I like to think they would have been impressed."

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