Norfolk’s history is unearthed at Gressenhall Museum’s archaeology day

An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Alexander Wright (5) with a stone age tool. Picture: Matthew Usher. An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Alexander Wright (5) with a stone age tool. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sunday, July 13, 2014
5:45 PM

From stone age tools to the relics of a Georgian workhouse, the stories of Norfolk’s rich archaeological heritage were unearthed at the county’s rural life museum near Dereham.

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An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Flint knapper John Lord works away. Picture: Matthew Usher.An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Flint knapper John Lord works away. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The special event at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse today gave visitors the chance to meet experts from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service, and learn about the area’s diverse history.

Volunteers helped sift the earth from a test pit dug on a patch of farmland, in a bid to find evidence of previous settlements by the river.

There were also chances to talk to metal detectorists about their discoveries, while children dipped their feet in paint and walked across cloth to recreate the 800,000-year-old footprints found at Happisburgh last year – the oldest known human footprints outside of Africa.

Claire Bradshaw, community archeologist at Gressenhall, said: “This is about telling people what sort of archaeology they have in Norfolk, on their doorstep. We have got some of the best archaeology in the world, from a 950,000-year-old hand axe all the way through to the Cold War.

An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Kieran Loades (10) works away in a test pit. Picture: Matthew Usher.An archaeology day took place at Gressenhall Museum - Kieran Loades (10) works away in a test pit. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“Every house in Norfolk has an archaeological site within four miles of it.

“Here on the farm at Gressenhall we have got part of a medieval building and we have found prehistoric flints which are at least 6,000 years old. We have also been able to dig out the remnants of the old workhouse, from cloth balls and children’s clothes.”

Visitors also marvelled at the skills of flint knapper John Lord, who demonstrated how to make the flint and bone tools which our ancestors would have used thousands of years ago.

Mr Lord said it could take an expert flint knapper just 20 minutes to make a tool to carve up large mammals for meat. But it would have taken at least a couple of years to perfect the craft.

He had examples of hand axes found at Lynford, near Mundford which were 50-65,000 years old. And he said it could be important for mankind to retain the knowledge of how to make them.

“We might have a new Stone Age, and it might be handy then to know what it was all about,” he said.

“People tend to gloss over them in museum show cases, and because you cannot touch them you cannot feel how sharp or heavy they are. But people are very impressed when they find out the amount of time it takes to learn how to make them. I have been doing this for 40 years, and I am still learning.”

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