Take a look inside a prehistoric mine shaft at Grime’s Graves which has been opened to the public for the first time
PUBLISHED: 17:17 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:38 06 March 2017
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
Visitors to an ancient Norfolk landmark will be given access to part of the site which has never been opened to the public.
The 12 metre deep prehistoric mine shaft Greenwell’s Pit at Grime’s Graves, near Thetford, is one of more than 400 pits dug at the 4,500 year old site.
Although people have been able to go down and look inside Pit One on the site, Greenwell’s Pit differs in that it remains in its original archaeological state.
Special tours set up by English Heritage, who cares for the site, will enable people to descend into the dark pit, using a ladder and winch, where they will be able to see the marks made by Neolithic humans as they excavated flint to make tools, weapons and ceremonial objects.
Rob Pyatt, from English Heritage, will be giving the tours to people when they visit.
He said: “I am so excited. Pit One is great, but it is a polished version of this pit. This is as good as it gets really and as close as what our ancestors would have worked in.”
It is believed the Neolithic communities would have dug the pits seasonally and up to nine people would have been involved at a time.
Once they had finished digging one mineshaft, they would fill it back up with the materials they were removing to create the next pit.
The site was first excavated by Canon William Greenwell between 1868 and1870 who confirmed it was a flint mine. Greenwell’s Pit was excavated again between 1971 and 1972 and by the British Museum from 1974 to 1976 and has since then been left untouched.
A greenstone axe from Cornwall, antler picks and the skull of a bird were discovered in the pit.
Will Lord, flint knapper and pre-historic expert, said: “It is breathtaking and it is archaeology in action. It is a breathtaking opportunity to be in there.
“You can go into the environment and just be absorbed.”
Tours of Greenwell’s Pit for English Heritage members will take place on April 6 and May 4 and will cost £25. It will include entry, a tour and refreshments.
Public Tours will take place on June 1 and July 14 and will cost £29.30 which includes entry and a tour.
For more information about Grime’s Graves and to book a place visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
A prehistoric expert, re-enactor and experimental archaeologist, Will Lord grew up on the site of Grime’s Graves where his parents were custodians.
He has been involved with flint knapping - the shaping of flint - for 40 years.
Mr Lord said it would have taken a Neolithic man 25 minutes to make an axe head but 100 hours to have made it smooth.
The Neolithic process of making an axe head would include:
• Finding a flat piece of flint
• Using a range of tools, which would be made out of pebbles and deer antlers, to shape the flint
• Striking the flint with the tools to make it slim enough to make an axe head
• Straightening the edges of the flint
• Smooth out the axe head
A similar process would be used to make blades and arrow heads