4,000-2,100 BC - Neolithic

  • A cleared area in Neolithic time might have looked like this .

About the Neolithic

Peoples’ lives changed a lot in the Neolithic. The biggest change was that they began to learn how to be farmers. They cleared patches of woodland so they could dig the soil. They began to plant seeds to grow their own crops for themselves. Gradually they domesticated some herds of animals, so they could control them. No longer did they need to follow the wild animals from place to place.  They could stay in one main place.

So, Neolithic people began to settle down and live in the same place all the year round. They built huts and made fields to keep their crops safe from animals. They made special places where they could all gather together for religious ceremonies.  They discovered how to make clay go hard in a fire, and they started making their own clay pots. They improved their tool-making skills: some of their stone tools and weapons are very finely made.

Archaeologists call this time of settling down the New Stone Age (Neo =new; lithic = stone)

What do we know about the Neolithic Quantocks?

At the beginning of the Neolithic, the Quantock Hills were completely covered in trees: oak, elm, lime ash, hazel and hazel. In the woodland lived deer, wild horse, wild cattle and wild pigs, plenty for people to hunt. They could also collect fish, shellfish and wild fowl from the sea shore and rivers.

Someone found a Neolithic stone axe on the Quantocks. Perhaps it was used for chopping down trees for wood, as they gradually cleared the tops of the hills. Animals would come to these clearings to graze, and then it was easy to catch them.

In 1972, 200 Neolithic flint flakes, arrowheads, scrapers and tools were found on the top of Cothelstone Hill. This shows that Cothelstone Hill has been a special place since the Stone Age. People set up markers made of stone or wood to show that places were special in some way. You can still see some.

  • The Long Stone (on Longstone Hill!) was first set up as long ago as the Neolithic. There used to be many more standing stones and wooden posts too. Most of them were moved when people started to plough the hills.

No-one has discovered any actual Neolithic houses on the Quantock Hills, but archaeologists think that people started to farm the lower slopes of the hills. And, near Williton, you can still see the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber, and some burial mounds.

Not far from the Quantocks are the Somerset Levels. In the Neolithic the Levels were wetlands with plenty of fish and wildfowl, another place to find food.

  • Getting across the water-covered levels was tricky so they built a wooden trackway, which survived for nearly 5,000 years in the waterlogged peat.  This is a reconstruction of the trackway, at the Peat Moors Centre.

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.