Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Flint mines on Bow Hill

A Scheduled Monument in West Dean, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8914 / 50°53'29"N

Longitude: -0.8292 / 0°49'45"W

OS Eastings: 482440.358019

OS Northings: 110869.755806

OS Grid: SU824108

Mapcode National: GBR DG4.15N

Mapcode Global: FRA 964R.BR6

Entry Name: Flint mines on Bow Hill

Scheduled Date: 16 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008378

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24397

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: West Dean

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Octagon

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes an area of prehistoric flint mines situated just off the
summit of a ridge of the Sussex Downs.
The flint mines are an area of irregular, hummocky ground covering c.0.5ha,
made up of a series of roughly circular hollows up to 16m in diameter and
surviving to a depth of between 2m and 3m. These are the partially infilled
remains of pits dug into the ground to reach the underground seams of flint.
The circular hollows are surrounded by overlapping spoil heaps surviving to a
height of up to 1m. One of the hollows was excavated in 1933, when it was
found to contain a sub-rectangular pit 4m by 3m wide and 2.75m deep.
Prehistoric pottery sherds, nodules of worked flint and blocks of chalk with
pick marks hacked into them were discovered in the pit.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Flint mines are found where, during Neolithic and Early Bronze Age times
(c.3500-1200 BC), nodules of flint were extracted from underground seams
within chalk deposits. There is no pattern or regular form to the arrangement
of mine sites as the shafts, pits or open-cast workings are closely related to
the underlying supplies of flint rather than an overall scheme of how the mine
should be organised. In general, however, the shafts, pits and spoil heaps are
closely packed together and sometimes even abut one another. In overall size,
flint mines range from single shafts and associated works covering less than
1ha, to large mines of several hundred shafts spread over an extensive area.
Flint mines provided high quality flint for implement manufacture in the
millennia before the widespread availability of metal; the discovery of
ceremonial deposits, including carved objects, in some shafts indicates the
importance ascribed to them by early prehistoric communities. The workings
were excavated by hand with antler picks and a selection of specialist bone,
antler, wood and flint tools. Extensive flint knapping floors, areas where the
mined flint was worked, are sometimes found within and around the mine area,
along with hearths and traces of timber buildings. Evidence of secondary uses
of abandoned flint mines is fairly common, and human burials dating from
Neolithic times onwards are regularly found in the upper fills of pits and
shafts. The hollows left in the tops of infilled shafts also provided suitable
areas for occupation long after the mines themselves had gone out of use.
The distribution of flint mines is largely dictated by the extent of the Upper
Chalk, which is the geological band in which seams of flint occur. Flint mines
are known in most areas of Upper Chalk outcrops and generally occur on the
tops of hills or ridges, or along their flanking slopes, from Norfolk to
Dorset. The earliest sites, dating to the Early and Middle Neolithic period,
are clustered on the Sussex Downs.
Flint mines are a rare monument type, with only around 20 examples known
nationally. One of relatively few classes of monuments dating to all phases of
the Neolithic period, they contain evidence relating to technology and work
organisation in the period and represent the source of the most commonly used
and widespread material available for making edged tools and implements. All
well-preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

Despite some damage caused by occasional trees and shrubs, and ground
disturbance caused by rabbits and ants, the flint mines on Bow Hill are known
from partial excavation to survive well and contain archaeological remains and
environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it
was constructed. The mines lie just to the south of a group of three round
barrows. These monuments are broadly contemporary and their close association
will therefore provide evidence for the relationship between flint extraction
and funerary practice during the period of their construction and use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hamilton, B C, 'Sussex Notes and Queries' in Suspected Flint Mines on Bow Hill, , Vol. 4, (1933), 246-247

Source: Historic England

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