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New centre proposed for Grimes Graves

PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010

It was just a nanosecond in the life of a 5,000 year old mining village.

But budding archaeologists marked a special anniversary at the weekend by delving deeper into the history of one of East Anglia's prehistoric treasures.

It was just a nanosecond in the life of a 5,000 year old mining village.

But budding archaeologists marked a special anniversary at the weekend by delving deeper into the history of one of East Anglia's prehistoric treasures.

Seventy five years after Grimes Graves, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, was first opened to the public, English Heritage is set to bring the Neolithic flint mining site into the 21st century.

Officials from the Stone Age village revealed at the weekend plans to launch a virtual tour of the unique 37 hectare site, near Mundford, and a proposal for a new visitor centre for the next 75 years.

More than 300 amateur historians descended on the site on Saturday and Sunday for guided tours, expert advice on flint finds, and to watch the ancient tool making skills of flintknapping.

Grimes Graves, which was first opened to the public in 1931, has a grassy lunar like landscape of more than 400 pits and Britain's only accessible flint mine. It is also home to a host of rare wild flowers and birds, like the skylark, nightjar, and woodlark.

Between 2100 and 1800BC, it was a place for flint excavation and tool making and from 1000 to 800BC it was used by Bronze Age farmers.

Dave Mcomish, archaeologist for English Heritage in Cambridge, said television programmes like Time Team had made historical sites more popular. He added that visitors had brought in some "fantastic" axe heads and cutting tools over the anniversary weekend.

"In the British Isles there are ten known sites and only one accessible flint mine, so we are lucky to have Grimes Graves."

"Over the last ten years, archaeology has been exposed to a huge television audience and we are seeing lots and lots of people getting involved. It is incredible that people doing their gardening are picking up flint implements and recognising them without being an expert or going to university."

Mr Mcomish added that a new virtual reality tour of Grimes Graves would allow people of all abilities to discover the mines. Plans for a new environmental and low impact visitor centre were also being drawn up.

Scott Knight, from Kenninghall, who was visiting with his two young sons, said Grimes Graves was overlooked by the majority of the local population.

"People see it as a hole in the ground and some stones, but when you get here you can really gauge the significance and history of the place," he said.


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