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PRE-HISTORY TO IRON AGE (250,000 BC - AD 43):

It was long thought that the inhospitable terrain of CHARNWOOD, including heavy clay solid and thick forests, had deterred settlement by early man. But archaeological evidence, much of it discovered quite recently, has reinforced the importance of the Soar and Wreake Valleys as early routeways, especially from the Iron Age onwards.

The earliest archaeological find in the whole of CHARNWOOD is from RATCLIFFE ON THE WREAKE, near SHIPLEY HILL. This is a flint hand axe dating from the early Stone Age (250,000 - 8,000 BC). However, as this is such an isolated find, it is extremely unlikely that there were any settlements here at that time. It would be fascinating to know how it came to be there. A Stone Age hunter lost in alien territory perhaps? Or possibly lost during an exploration to find new hunting grounds? Whatever the reason, it's owner did not stay. There are also a few finds from the later MESOLITHIC hunting parties in the early post-glacial period, again, probably from hunting parties rather than residents. Evidence of their presence is found in characteristic flints which have been found in WANLIP, BUDDON WOOD and QUORN.

Hunters by their very nature were often nomadic, especially this far north. Scarcity of prey would necessitate a continual search for food and any settlements would probably be more like camp sites than villages. Permanent settlements indicate a change from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one based on farming and the domestication of animals. So it is logical that the earliest evidence of settlements woudl be found after the arrival of farmers in Britain around 4,000 BC - the start of the NEOLITHIC period. Despite a lack of NEOLITHIC monuments, distinctive polished stone axes of the period have been found in the Soar Valley, made from CHARNWOOD rock. These were also traded and have been found as far afield as Norfolk and the Peak District. REARSBY has a circle of pits - probably the remnants of wooden poosts forming a "henge" type monument - and also a small number of NEOLITHIC "BEAKER" finds dating from around 2,000 BC.