Marathoners or Hunter-Gatherers

Prepared for Newark Half Marathon 14 August 2016

Our community archaeology group has been investigating ancient flint tools, dropped after being used for butchering prey and processing animal pelts near the River Devon some 14,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.

Only the flint tools survive, but we can model the lifestyle of these past hunter-gatherers from people who still (or until recently) lived by hunting. Even though such people live in very different environments today (the coldest, driest and hottest places on earth), by learning how they structure their activities and lives, we can start to glimpse how our ancient hunters might have behaved.

They probably moved camp regularly, both with the seasons and to locate new resources (wood, flint, fresh grazing places).

Study of one family group of 
Nunamiut Eskimos showed 
that they moved 11 times in one year - most moves being the equivalent distance of our half marathon (route between the black lines. Image © L. R. Binford 1983, In Pursuit of the Past, Thames and Hudson)
Our hunters would have had to carry their equipment themselves because there were no wheeled vehicles or pack animals. Even the heavy flint nodules, which they worked into sharp blades for tools, must have been dragged or carried. Geochemical analysis of the flint suggests it came from glacial deposits exposed to the east - at least the distance of a marathon away.

These people would have known the landscape well. We may imagine them using the high ground of the early part of the half-marathon course to lookout for animals crossing the river Devon and, as there would have been few trees to block the view, down to the river Trent.

Our hunters left similar flint tools in the caves at Creswell Crags, nearly a full marathon distantwhere they also engraved animals on the walls of the caves.

Now follow the Newark Half Marathon route and discover your ice age compatriots.

Rock-Art Site at Tadrart Acacus, Algeria © Federica Leone