Right so I am a professional Historian. I lecture, I write and I research but the one thing that I have never done that I’ve always wanted to do is to find a flint tool from the Stone Age. One of the topics I teach workshops on in schools is Stone Age and I have a lovely collection of tools that have been donated and bought but they were not quite the same. What is worse is that children ask me where they can find flint tools and I tell them that they can find them field walking, that there are plenty of archaeological societies they can join that will help them.
This year I decided to get serious about finding my own flint tools so I got some books, joined some Facebook groups and spoke to some experts. I decided that my best luck would be in Cornwall. First I knew some farmers so getting permission to walk their fields would not be a problem and second Cornwall does not have natural flint deposits so any flint that you find there has been bought in. Third, I had stalked… not stalked a Facebook friend who lived near my parents who had found some amazing flints and no I wasn’t green with envy.
Off I went, finishing work on the Friday and driving six hours to South West Cornwall. The next day I was walking up and down fields staring at the ground. By lunch time I was in despair. I was pretty sure I was the only person in the world who would never find a flint tool despite doing hours of research. Despite going to a flint rich environment where Stone Age people not only lived but put up monuments they could not be bothered to leave flint tools for me. Professional failure stared me in the face, I would have to retrain as an accountant.
Then there it was. A piece of flint. Not a sliver or a tool but a lump and because it was flint I picked it up and knew instantly what it was. I have another example in my collection. It was a core. Cores are the flint that is left after you make a blade. I rubbed the dirt off the sides and saw the distinctive shape of the microliths that had been knapped off it sometime in the Mesolithic Stone Age. Sometime between 15,000 years ago and 5,000 years ago somebody had used this to create microliths. Rather than carry around a whole knife kit they had one core that they knapped when they needed a knife and threw it away when they had used it. I am a very romantic person and I felt that vertigo of time and a connection to someone who was very possibly one of my ancestors. That day I found two mircoliths and another core. I was excited to say the least and my imposter anxiety was buried in a nice deep grave.
The next day I went out again and was walking in a field just behind St Leven church. As a shuffled along in my vivo barefoot I heard a voice say, “Hello!” I turned and returned the greeting which was followed by the question, “Can I ask… what are you doing?” It was a walker and his wife. She was curious but he had clearly come to the conclusion I was a nutter. I pulled myself together, I was walking in a field staring at the ground in the hot sun wearing smart clothes and expensive boots. “Ah! yes Im a historian and I’m looking for flint…”