10,000–4,000 BC - The Mesolithic

  • A dog trots through modern day woodland with birch and pine. Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated, from wolves, to help with hunting..

About the Mesolithic

About 14.000 years ago, the temperature began to rise, the ice started to melt and the seas began to fill up. It was the beginning of the end of the Ice Age. Birch and Pine trees began to grow in the tundra plains.

By about 8,000 BC, Britain had turned into an island, cut off by water from the rest of Europe. By about 5,000 BC the weather was warmer and wetter still. Deciduous trees took over: hazel, oak, elm, lime and alder. The herds of big animals who liked to roam in the open plains disappeared. Instead there were woodland animals like deer, elk and wild boar.

These animals are harder to chase and kill, so the hunters had to change their methods of getting food. They started to make spears, bows and arrows. They burned or chopped down trees, to make clearings. They tamed dogs to help them hunt. They also worked out how to catch fish and wild fowl, and collected shellfish, mushrooms, fruits and berries. They lived in temporary camps, moving around season by season, to where the food was. Their way of life had changed so much that we have given this time a different name: the Middle Stone Age (meso=middle; lithic=stone)..

What was it like in the Mesolithic Quantocks?

During the Mesolithic, the Quantock Hills were covered in thick forest.

  • Deer still live wild on the Quantocks. Here are some, well hidden in the woods in Holford Combe.

This would be a good area for hunter-gatherers to find food: wild deer and boar, fruit, mushrooms, nuts and berries in the woods and fish from the streams. There was plenty of free food on the coast too: shellfish, birds and eggs from the sea-shore and cliffs.

  • Kilve beach, with a range of different habitats, would have been a good place for Mesolithic people to search for food.

People still sometimes find flint tools and weapons lost by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago.

  • The tiny flint blades at the top could be stuck onto wooden hafts to make arrows. The other tools were for scraping animal skins.