Motoring through Thetford Forest on our long way around from Yorkshire to London, we chanced on an English Heritage sign for Grime’s Graves, a foremost Neolithic site in Breckland, Norfolk. It is the only Neolithic flint mine in Britain open to visitors. I was unaware of its significance, but Clare who has a great interest in archaeology, knew exactly what the site represented. Quarter of a mile past the notice we did a U-turn to make our way through woodland to the pock marked lunar-like landscape that is Grime’s Graves.
The Anglo-Saxons named the site Grim’s Graves, meaning the pagan god Grim’s quarries, or ‘the Devil’s holes’. They are, in fact, five thousand year old mine shafts dug to extract a rich seam of flint by our Neolithic ancestors, and later filled in by following generations and tribes. Flints were used for all manner of cutting processes. A modern reproduction of a flint axe was on display, an axe capable today of holding its own felling a tree.
There is one mine shaft, excavated over a century ago, down which the public can descend using a nine metre ladder.
In the dark, those who don a hard hat and climb down, can crouch to examine the mine workings of millennia ago.
We visited in the first week of July in the days after the Centenary Commemorations of the Battle of the Somme. Standing on the site, looking out over its pock marked landscape, with a skylark climbing, in full song, high into the a perfect summer sky, such as was witnessed in The Somme valley on 1st July 1916. It was a moment of reflection of ancient tribes perfecting their sourcing and manufacture of tools and mankind’s relentless pursuit through the centuries of the means of ultimate destruction.