Basingstoke in prehistory
The area of Basingstoke has two distinct types of terrain. To the north
is clay soil and to the south chalk lands. Scattered around these two
areas are patches of clay-with-flints
On the chalk downlands a ready supply of flint was
found which could be used to fashion crude tools and weapons and during
Palaeolithic times (100,000-12,000 BC) flint working sites were set up here. In
fact it is still relatively easy to find worked flints to this day in the area
around Basingstoke, especially in any freshly dug sites.
In 1912 when Penrith road was constructed in
Basingstoke there was found an ancient cooking site, with a blackened flint
hearth. This was the first evidence of a man-made settlement in Basingstoke, and
was in use at least 5000 years ago in the Mesolithic period (12,000-3,000 BC).
The last of the Stone Age people were the Neolithic
invaders from the continent (3,000-1,800 BC) who were the first to attempt
settled farming in the area. Camps were built on the chalk uplands surrounded by
a causeway, the light woodland was cleared and crops planted. In the Kempshott
district of the town a burial mound was discovered where these ancient people
buried their dead in chambered tombs.
In the Bronze age (1,800-550 BC) the practice of burying
your dead singularly under a circular earthen mound, known as a round barrow,
was used and in Hampshire alone there are nearly 1000, several of which are in
the Basingstoke area. During the Bronze Age trade routes started to develop
linking the southern counties from east to west and north to south to the
prehistoric ports. Two trade routes passed through the Basingstoke area, the
first was the Harrow way which passed close by Stonehenge and still has a road
named after it in the town today. The second track to pass into the area is the
Ink Pen Ridgeway.
The introduction over time of iron into this country extended farming onto the
downlands and the threat of invasion produced great defensive earthworks,
or hill forts. One such hillfort was the one at Winklebury during the Iron Age
period (550-150 BC) which had settlements dotted around the hillfort. The people
who established these settlements brought with them the Celtic language. The
camp at Winklebury stands on the 400 ft contour line and had a commanding view
of the Loddon valley. It was one of the earliest forts in the country with
pieces of pottery dating from the third or forth century being found in the
To find out more about life in prehistory times click on the video link below
to view a short video. Choose the full view speed option if you wish to see the
full length video.
|PREHISTORIC SITES: Stonehenge to the Moorlands of Western Britain. Video from the Roland Collection.
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