Nationally significant Mesolithic pit discovered – BBC News

  • By Danny Fullbrook
  • BBC News, Bedfordshire


The holes appear to have been laid out in a straight line 500m (1,640ft) long.

Archaeologists have discovered up to 25 Mesolithic pits at what has been described as a “nationally important prehistoric site”.

The hole found at Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, is up to 5 m (16 ft) wide and 1.85 m (6 ft) deep.

Animal bones found at the bottom of the pit have been used to identify them to be around 8,000 years old.

Prof Joshua Pollard, a British prehistoric expert, described the find as “very exciting”.


Experts believe there may be more holes outside the excavation area

The discovery was made at the Linmere residential development in the market town of Bedfordshire.

Prof Pollard, from the University of Southampton, said: “While we are aware of other large and mysterious holes dug by hunter-gatherers from elsewhere in England, including at Stonehenge… .”

The holes were filled after the excavation work was completed.

Prof Pollard said experts will continue to study the find and “hopefully it’s something that the people who will live on it will find out”.

image source, Archeology of Albion


Thousands of similar prehistoric pits have been found near Stonehenge, but only five of these date from the Mesolithic period.

The site was first excavated by Albion Archaeology in 2019. The Archaeological Museum of London (MOLA) returns for further excavations in 2021.

MOLA said it was possible “there are still other holes discovered outside this excavation area”.

Yvonne Wolframm-Murray, project officer, said: “It was absolutely incredible for the whole team to work on such a significant Mesolithic site. It really shows how important radiocarbon dating is alongside field work, because without it we would not have realized the significance of our findings. .”


Several steep holes widen at the bottom to become a wider base

MOLA says there are very few Mesolithic sites in England.

“Evidence from this period is often scant, consisting only of flint tools and the occasional remains of slaughtered animals,” a spokesperson said.

“This makes it difficult to build a picture of what life was like in Mesolithic England.”

image source, MOLA/Hugh Gatt


Evidence from Mesolithic England is scanty, consisting only of flint tools and animal remains

Mesolithic English

  • The English Mesolithic period lasted from 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC
  • The Linmere Pit is believed to date from around 6,000 BC
  • They are significantly older than other popular ancient landmarks such as Stonehenge (circa 3,000 BC) and the Great Pyramids of Giza (circa 2,500 BC)
  • People in Mesolithic England were hunter-gatherers who tended to move around, not staying in one area
  • The Mesolithic period ended when agriculture arrived in England and the Neolithic period began
  • The pit is one of the largest Mesolithic sites discovered in England

image source, Archeology of Albion


The remains of several wild species were found in the pit, including deer, wild boar and aurochs

Experts say digging such a large hole would have been a difficult task for nomadic people.

There are theories as to what the holes were used for.

Some theorize that they could have been used for hunting or for food storage, although this is considered unlikely due to their shape and size.

It is also speculated that they could have a spiritual meaning, which is why they are excavated in certain alignments and are close to water.

Archaeologists hope to unravel the purpose of the site by studying environmental samples and animal bones in the laboratory.

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