A strange and ancient landscape hides the dark, cavernous remains of a 5,000-year-old flint mine.
In the heart of England’s East Anglia region, a pockmarked landscape of strange undulating mounds and depressions fills a woodland clearing. Despite the cratered land’s bombing-range appearance, this ancient 90-acre site is actually a Neolithic flint mine, and each of the depressions in the ground represents a collapsed mine shaft.
Known as Grime’s Graves, this is one of Britain’s earliest known industrial sites, and was in operation from 3,000 BC until 1,900 BC when prehistoric Europe’s fondness for flint tools came to an abrupt end with the arrival of bronze.
As many as 433 mine shafts have been identified, and some of them are still intact. The landowners, English Heritage, have installed a ladder and lighting in one of the best-preserved shafts, enabling visitors to see where the Neolithic miners worked by candlelight, armed with only deer antlers, to extract the valuable rock to make their stone tools and weapons.
The name Grime’s Graves dates to the Anglo-Saxon period, by which time the landscape would most likely have looked similar to today. The Saxons named the site after one of their gods, Grim. The suffix “Graves” is thought to be a corruption of the Saxon word “Graben,” meaning quarry.
It seems that although Victorian-era archaeologists only discovered the true purpose of the eerie landscape around Grime’s Graves in 1870, the Anglo Saxons of 1,500 years ago recognized it for what it truly was, a stone extraction site.
Know Before You Go
Grime's Graves is located near the town of Brandon in Suffolk, which has a railway station with services to Norwich and Cambridge. The site is operated by English Heritage and has ample car parking. Children under 10 years of age are not permitted down the mine shaft, and you must wear sensible flat shoes!
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