Analysis

Investigating Neolithic Britain: How archaeology is set to reveal prehistoric Britain’s cultural diversity

Archaeology correspondent David Keys explains how a salty tale from Yorkshire is helping to transform our understanding of the Neolithic

Wednesday 31 March 2021 01:09
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The North York Moors National Park's Boulby Cliffs, almost twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover, are the highest cliffs along England's eastern and southern coasts. But new archaeological research suggests that their prehistoric predecessors were also economically crucial to Yorkshire's economy almost 6000 years ago.
The North York Moors National Park's Boulby Cliffs, almost twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover, are the highest cliffs along England's eastern and southern coasts. But new archaeological research suggests that their prehistoric predecessors were also economically crucial to Yorkshire's economy almost 6000 years ago.

The extraordinary discovery of a Stone Age industrial site, revealed today by archaeologists in Yorkshire, sheds remarkable new light on what is arguably the most important and transformative period in British prehistory.

The new find – of the earliest known salt-manufacturing complex in western Europe – is likely to change the way prehistorians understand that crucial period, the Neolithic, when agriculture was first adopted in Britain.

It is important because salt would, for the first time, have allowed prehistoric Britons to efficiently preserve their meat stocks – and that ability would almost certainly have had a huge positive impact on their economy and population levels.

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