North Devon in 100 Objects: 8. Flints from North Devon

Four flint arrowheads

Tools, blades and arrowheads fashioned in flint or chert (a more granular material) are found in the soil across North Devon. The flints on display in the museum represent a few of the large number held in store, while every year the plough turns up more, representing human activity from around 8000 BC up to the start of the Iron Age, around 600 BC.

Mesolithic hunter-gatherers left plentiful evidence of their presence in the form of worked flint at Westward Ho! where remains of a submerged forest and a settlement low down on what is now the beach are constantly eroded by the tide.

The area around the massive earthwork near Clovelly known as Clovelly Dykes also produces quantities of flint from the Bronze Age (roughly 2000 to 600 BC) – the characteristic barbed and tanged arrowheads (arrowheads with a stem for attachment to a shaft) now on display in the museum were gathered in that area by an enthusiastic local collector in the 1940s.

One might ask where the material comes from, because there is almost no naturally occurring flint or chert in North Devon.  Butthere are flint pebbles on the local beaches, washed up from geological deposits in the Irish Sea. Working on such unpromising material must have involved many a bruised thumb and probably much swearing. On the other hand, we suspect a trade in flint from South Devon, around Beer, and in chert from the Blackdown Hills. Either way, flint and chert tools and hunting equipment were hard-won.

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