A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1

early east anglia

Palaeolithic Period, Old Stone Age 400,000 - 8,000 BC

The early inhabitants of Suffolk arrived around 400,000 BC during a warm inter-glacial period. Signs of these people were found some 20 miles north-west of Halesworth at Hoxne in Suffolk, where hunter-gatherers lived in temporary shelters made of wood and leaves around a lake in what is now an old brick pit. They survived by eating fruits, nuts, roots. and meat, and they made primitive tools by cracking flakes off the cores of flint nodules, known as 'flint-napping'. Many flint scrapers, blades and hand axes have been excavated, and it has been estimated that over a period of several days, a family group could make up to two hundred such tools. These were used for cutting plants and meats, scraping skins clean, and boring holes in wood, bone or stone.

Around the encampment at Hoxne were woodlands and grasslands in which signs of horses, red deer, bison, elephants and even monkeys have been found. These early stone-age people were nomadic, moving from place to place with their animals, and living in groups of a dozen families of men, women and children. Life was very hard, and few lived beyond their middle thirties.

The first discovery at Hoxne was made by John Frere in 1797 when he found flint hand axes some twelve feet below the surface. Excavations continue and finds are still being made of hand axes and flakes.

About 250,000 years ago, the climate grew colder as the Wolstanian Glaciation took effect. The hunter-gatherers moved south, leaving the frozen areas to the mammoth and woolly rhinos, and it was not until about 120,000 years ago (Ipswich Interglacial period) that the climate changed. It became drier and warmer and once more there were grasslands all over Suffolk. This encouraged the increase of herds of horses, bison and elephants, while the wooded patches became home for the deer, bear, pig, wolf and the wild aurock - a type of oxen. The nomads moved back, leaving some of their tools at places on the way, and at Chediston in Suffolk, scrapers, hand-axes and flint cores from their toolmaking have been found. The type of hand-axe is called Acheulian, after St.Acheul in France.

Once more around 80,000 years ago, the cold climate returned - The Devensian Glaciation, and the humans emigrated once more to the warmer south, going across the land link to the continent.


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