4000 BC to 2500 BC
In what is generally called the New Stone Age, people were the first proper farmers, looking after crops and animals. They were the first people to make pots, like the ones found at Betchworth.
These people still hunted animals and gathered wild plants, but they began to grow a small range of crops, which included wheat and barley. They kept dogs, sheep and goats, and later cattle and pigs. Making fields to grow crops meant that people could not move around as much as they used to; now they had to be close by to tend to their animals and crops. This encouraged small villages to be made, some just for a season but some permanent, with proper wooden houses. Any extra foodstuffs were stored for winter, or exchanged for other goods between groups.
At this time, people built stone and earth monuments such as long barrows, causewayed camps, round henges and parallel ditch (cursus) monuments. There is a long barrow at Badshot Lea, and a cursus near Stanwell. They built chambered tombs, where they kept some of the bones of the dead. These sometimes acted as boundary markers, and reminders of the spirits of their ancestors, and may have been places where rituals took place. The building of these monuments would have required lots of man-power and time, and a lot of social organisation to get the job done!
People were skilled at making the tools needed to look after, harvest and process the crops they grew, such as sickle blades and grinding stones and for cooking and eating. They also produced other types of stone tools and ornaments including spear and arrow points, beads and statuettes. The most important tool was the flint axe, mounted on a wooden shaft.
To make sure they had the best flint for their tools and ornaments, people discovered how to mine for raw materials. They dug down through the chalk to the seams of flint using antler picks, wooden ladders and woven baskets on ropes, and used chalk cups full of fat to make lamps so they could see underground.
- An unusually large assemblage of Grooved Ware pottery was found at Betchworth.
- Farming was not the only innovation of this period. Large communal monuments were built for the first time, and are associated with ceremonial and ritual activity. An excavation near Staines revealed an enclosure with burials in the surrounding ditch at Staines Road Farm, Shepperton. Viewed from the centre, the entrance pointed directly to where the sun rises on Midsummers Day and was guarded by a human skeleton. This skeleton was of a 3040 year old female who was buried in a tightly flexed (foetal) position. It seems that when her body was in an advanced state of decomposition parts of it were removed.
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