Britain’sEarly Years: Grimes Graves

Grimes Graves Flint Mine
Grimes Graves Flint Mine

Grime’s Graves is a flint mining complex located near Brandon, between the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk.  The mine was worked between 3,000 and 1,900 BC, and consists of 433 shafts dug into the chalk to access the flint, across ninety-six acres.

Flint was used in the making of stone axes, during the Neolithic period, and was later replaced by iron.  Fortunately, the use of flint had other uses, starting fires and centuries later as strikers for muskets.

One of the tools used in the excavation of flint, would be a “Deer Antler Pick” fashioned from a red deer.

These miners dug shafts some forty feet in depth, searching out the better quality flint in the subterranean galleries, which radiated outwards from the base of the shaft.

Much flint could be found close to the surface, but they opted to dig deep for the smooth black stone, better known as floor-stone.

These floor-stones were used in the construction of axes for warriors, but they were never used in battle, but buried with them.  These floor-stones were of ceremonial use.

Interesting finds have been discovered in many of these pits, leading us to suggest ritual ceremonies took place: Chalk platforms shaped to resemble that of an altar, arrangements of pottery and antler picks, close by.

Once the mines had been abandoned, possibly at the time when iron had been introduced to Britain.  The floors showed evidence of fires, being used in some form of purification ceremony.

An axe made from Cornish greenstone, had been discovered, carefully laid on a gallery floor beside two antler picks, both laying parallel and facing inwards, with the skull of a Phalarope (shorebird).

This is possibly laid out in such a way as a ritual purpose, was it about the mine or the bird, we will never know!

As the mines were backfilled, a time when flint mines had been exhausted, human and animal finds have been discovered.


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