Perry Wood is famous for discoveries of flintwork that were left by the first hunter-gatherer groups of Mesolithic people who ranged through the landscape after the last ice age more than six thousand years ago. The excavations we carried out on Windmill hill earlier this year have uncovered some rare and important evidence that the first Neolithic farmers settled on the same hilltops two thousand years later.
In a trench excavated to search for evidence of a Roman fort of the the first century AD, we were surprised to find some flint-tempered pottery in the earliest layers which might be evidence of a settlement three thousand years older than expected.
Several sherds joined to form part of a round bodied vessel, decorated by smoothing and polishing the outer surface of the clay. Traces of soot on the surface suggest the sherds are from a cooking pot likely to date to around 3500 BC, in the Neolithic period.
Neolithic people had cleared the ancient forests where their ancestors had hunted wild animals and grew crops like wheat on the cleared land. The farmers settled near their fields making the first distinctive pottery cooking and storage vessels which archaeologists use, along with the remains of the pits and ditches they dug, to recognise the settlements of Neolithic people.
The finds from the small excavation at Perry Wood suggest that there may be more evidence for Neolithic settlement in the area which could be explored in further archaeological excavation.