The Three Ages - Stone, Bronze and Iron

1. The Middle Stone Age - Hunter gatherers

At this time ...
After the Ice Age, humans moved from place to place, searching for animals to kill or plants to collect for food. A family might settle somewhere for a while, but when food became scarce they would move on to new hunting grounds.
What sort of homes did people have?
How did people get food?
Why was fire important?

Homes and shelter

At the beginning of the Middle Stone Age, some people lived in caves – it was a good place to keep warm, dry and safe. Where there were no caves, people made simple shelters from natural materials such as stone, branches, sticks and reeds. These were covered with animal skins to keep the rain out.

People led a semi-nomadic life. This meant they moved around with the seasons. Families settled somewhere for a while, but if food began to run out then it was always possible to move somewhere else.


Tools and transport

Weapons such as axes, spears and arrows were made of flint tied onto wood. Flint was a rock that could be chipped away to make a sharp point or edge.

Antlers and bones were used to make finer tools, such as needles for sewing, and hooks for fishing.

People of this time also made simple canoes. These were shaped from trunks of trees that were hollowed out using stone tools. On land, people walked – there was no other form of transport.


Food and hunting

Hunting for animals such as boar and deer was an important activity. It provided food, skins (for shelter and clothes), and bones (for tools). People started to keep dogs. These were bred from wolves and were slowly tamed and trained. They made perfect hunting companions.

As well as hunting, humans had other sources of food. They trapped, snared or netted small animals, fish and birds. Wild plants, roots, nuts, berries and mushrooms were also an important part of early Britons’ diet.

Eggs were a good source of protein but these came from the nests of wild birds – it wasn’t until much later that animals or birds were kept on farms.


Using fire to cook

At one time, humans ate raw meat, but, by the Middle Stone Age, they had discovered fire. Dry bits of grass and leaves were gathered and put in a small, loose pile. Two flints were struck together to create a spark to light this dry material. This was a time-consuming process which could be tricky if the weather was wet. So, once a fire was lit, a family would try to keep it going for as long as possible.

People realised they could cook meat by holding it over the fire on sticks. It made meat taste better – and easier to chew. People also discovered that smoked meat and fish kept fresh longer. This meant that food could be stored and eaten on another day.