MESOLITHIC BRITAIN _
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ABOVE The Mesolithic period can be neatly divided into two portions: from 11,000 years ago, when Britain was still linked to continental Europe by a physical land bridge, and from 8,000 years ago, when the North Sea Basin was flooded.
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After centuries as a fluctuating frozen wasteland, Britain's last Ice Age finally ended some 11,000 years ago. The glaciers and the icy tundra that had covered these shores for the previous 15,000 years, broken only by the occasional warmer period, now melted rapidly. The landscape underwent profound changes, with water, rock, and marsh the dominant theme, then open grassland dotted with stands of dwarf willow and dwarf birch. These open conditions later gave way to more substantial woodland as birch and hazel became widespread across Britain and Ireland - and then elm, oak, and pine slowly colonised southern England, before spreading northwards. Oak eventually reached Scotland 9,000 years ago; followed by pine 1,000 years later; and finally alder, lime, and ash, the last rare until 7,000 years ago.
It was not only Britain's flora that was transformed, however, but its fauna too. Horse and reindeer, plentiful in the Upper Palaeolithic, migrated north to cooler climates, while Britain was recolonised by woodland animals such as red and roe deer, elk, aurochs, and wild boar, as well as beaver, hare, hedgehog, pine marten, fox, and badger. All are known to have been hunted by the humans who also migrated to the British peninsula in their thousands, judging from the number of known sites dating from this time.
This post-Ice Age period is known as the Mesolithic, and it can be neatly divided in two by the flooding of the North Sea Basin (Doggerland - see CA 314). During the first portion, Britain was still physically linked to the European mainland by a land bridge across which ideas such as ways of making tools flowed freely between the peoples of northern Europe. Once Britain became an island between 8,000 and 7,000 years ago, though, isolation from the European mainland saw the development of distinctly different forms of material culture and marked regional innovations.
In the last SO years, the number of known Mesolithic sites has increased significantly thanks to the efforts of the late Roger Jacobi (1947-2009), who was based at the British Museum where he co-founded the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, which ran from 2001-2011, exploring the archaeology of the last million years in Britain and northern Europe (CA 288).
Before this groundbreaking work, Roger spent the 1970s and 1980s travelling by train across the length and breadth of the British Isles, visiting virtually every museum collection in the UK. By reappraising neglected and overlooked collections, he set the number of Mesolithic sites on record soaring from 200 to 10,000. Many of these locations have produced tens of thousands of tiny flint blades, or 'microliths', often found as surface scatters on heath and moorland or in newly ploughed fields. Found in contexts where animal or plant -
" The glaciers and icy tundra that had covered these shores for the previous 15,000 years ... now melted rapidly. ~ ~