Guest blog: The Prehistory of Dartington 

Tom Gloyns is an archaeologist resident on the Dartington estate. He explores and documents points of archaelogical interest across Dartington as part of his voluntary work with Dartington’s Woodlands and Conservation team.


Prehistory is a term referring to the period of human cultural development prior to the emergence of writing.

In Britain, the written record can be thought to establish with the Roman invasion, around AD 43.  This 1,972 year period of recorded history may be regarded as comparatively short when considered alongside the 44,000 years during which the remains of homo sapiens sapiens have been recognised.

Items of archaeological interest found across the Dartington estate on display in the Head Gardener's office during Community Day 2015
Items of archaeological interest found across the Dartington estate on display in the Head Gardener’s office during Community Day 2015

This, in turn, falls into a wider temporal context spanning 814,000 years, within which the tools of various hominid species have been discovered. The general pattern of hominid occupation appears to be fairly sporadic, with their presence interspersed with significant periods of absence. In some instances, these absences can be loosely associated to climatic and/or environmental factors that made Britain problematic to inhabit.

From a very early age I have been interested in how to understand these vast swathes of human experience . Initially I was intrigued by the Neolithic and Bronze age monuments of the Wessex landscape, near to where I grew up. I began to look for traces of the past in the form of flint tools and pottery.

I remember being amazed at the ability of certain experts to both interpret and date these objects. Over the years, I have learned how to conduct this type of analysis being helped along the way by many members of the archaeological community who generously shared their knowledge and experience with me.

Devon has been my home for the last 12 years. Initially, I was drawn to Dartington through the arts college.

I soon began to explore the ploughed fields on the estate, finding evidence of ancient human activity in the form of flint tools. I started to accumulate these collections field by field and over the years a picture of prehistoric presence in the landscape has began to emerge.

The flint scatter appears to represent a fairly uncontaminated Early Mesolithic occupation site within close proximity to the River Dart. My full report on the findings can be read here.

Tom

 

 


 

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