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The New Stone Age in Bedford

The New Stone Age, or Neolithic, lasted from about 3500 BC to about 1600 BC. It was preceded by the Middle Stone Age, or Mesolithic and was succeeded by the Bronze Age. At this time families began to settle in areas and farm cereal crops as well as keeping livestock. This development in places such as Mesopotamia and Egypt marks the beginnings of what is commonly thought of as civilization. Towards the end of the Neolithic some people began to cast use bronze implements.

A number of Neolithic finds have been made in Bedford as identified by the Heritage Gateway website:

  • A Neolithic axe was found somewhere in the town and given to the Bedford Modern School museum
  •  A number of Neolithic skulls were also discovered in the town;
  • A chert axe was found at Jackman's Farm in Kimbolton Road in the 19th century and is now in Bedford Museum
  • A stone axe was found at Furzefield in Putnoe in 1970 and is now in Bedford Museum

The most impressive finds have come from Bury Farm in Goldington, excavated in 1987 as a rescue dig ahead of development. This was described as a multi-phase site extending from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. The site was a circular enclosure with a related barrow. The site had first been recorded as a crop mark of a double ring ditch seen from the air and was then field walked, which showed that the barrow was still just visible at ground level.

The first phase of occupation was thought to be a ditch, possibly a henge, with associated pits in which hazel nuts, sherds of pottery, querns (for grinding grain into flour) and part of a flint axe head had been placed. The second phase of occupation was identified as two crouched burials in separate pits as well as a separate pit which may have been a post hole. One skeleton had a round stone, a flint core and a small pottery vessel buried with it. A low mound was raised over both burials with a stake fence erected around it. The third phase of occupation saw a round ditch cut through part of the barrow, closely following the line of the fence. Pottery, a quern stone and animal bone were found at the bottom of the ditch. Later dug into the ditch were two pits each containing a crouched burial in a small stone lined chamber called a cist. Another body was buried in the ditch without a cist. Later three further burials were made in the surface of the barrow and another ditch was cut between the original ditch and the later one through the barrow. Earth from this ditch was used to make the barrow higher. Finally a Bronze Age urn with a cremation was placed between two of the ditches.