Howick Coast


Howick

A team of archaeologists unearths remains in Howick, which they believe are the Stone Age remains of Britain's first house.


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Transcript


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Two years ago, a rambler stumbled over some fragments of flint sticking out of the cliff edge.

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That discovery led a team of archaeologists

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to unearth the remains of a wooden house.

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Painstaking work led them to believe they were the remains of a Stone Age settlement.

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Now the same archaeologists, joined by Alice Roberts, are back to test their theory

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and recreate what they believe is Britain's first house.

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This project is something really special to me -

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the chance to recreate a Stone Age structure

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on its original site from 10,000 years ago.

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Discovering how to build the house should give us an insight into an ancient world,

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which is otherwise hard to imagine.

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After more than two years of research,

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Dr Clive Waddington believes that this house will change our understanding

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of how Stone Age hunter-gatherers lived.

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This is the earliest evidence we have

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of a dwelling structure in this part of Britain.

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It's the earliest evidence of people here.

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Why are you recreating it?

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It's giving us a chance to understand what we excavated

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and put that into practice to see what it was like as a built structure and whether it works.

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So we're testing our interpretation of the excavated evidence.

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So how do you know the structure was like this?

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When we were excavating, we found charred circles in the ground where the posts had stood.

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And on the outside of the hut, just round the edge,

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we found these stake holes which were angled towards the apex of the roof.

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We can measure from the angles of those stake holes what the pitch was.

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They were around 65 degrees, which made for a really steep roof.

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There's this idea of Stone Age people being pretty backward,

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living in caves - Flintstones.

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They are people and no less intelligent than we are.

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It was just a different technology. They might have been more ingenious, living on the edge.

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-There's all these skills we've lost.

-Making the string.

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This is a really robust construction

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and stands in stark contrast to the traditional idea

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of Mesolithic people building only temporary and relatively flimsy shelters.

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With the build complete,

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Clive has one more piece of evidence that points to this

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being a permanent dwelling for Stone Age hunter-gatherers.

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We found a series of hearths in the centre of the building

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and there was a succession of them, the latest ones at the top and earliest ones at the bottom,

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and we found hazelnuts inside each of these hearths.

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Hazelnuts only live for one year

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so we did all our carbon dates on hazelnuts

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and they've allowed us to date the different phases of occupation

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-and how long the hut was occupied for.

-So how long was it occupied?

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The hut was occupied for somewhere in the region of 200 years.

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Several generations - many lifetimes, in fact.

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And it's that that makes this house so special.

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The proof that it was occupied

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for over 200 years

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has forced people to revise their theories

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about our Stone Age ancestors 10,000 years ago.

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Rather than being nomadic, as was previously believed,

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these people were building complex houses like this one

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and calling them home.

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Subtitles by BBC Broadcast - 2005

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E-mail [email protected]

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