Prehistoric Thatcham

Most of the towns and villages of the Thames and Kennet Valleys have histories, which are full of interest, but few can boast a story either as long or as fascinating as the history of Thatcham.

Mesolithic

The first known human settlement in the area occurred about ten thousand years ago during the Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age), when a village of light temporary shelters was erected on a pine covered gravel bluff near the modern sewage works on Lower Way Lane. The bluff was bordered on one aide by a lake – which covered a large part of the Kennet Valley, possibly extending from Newbury to Woolhampton – and the other side by treacherous marshes.

The villagers, who were semi nomadic hunters and fishers, occupied the site periodically for at least three centuries, but about 7500 BC the area was flooded and covered with layers of peat and marl, perfectly preserving many of the relics buried beneath

The settlement was discovered by workmen in 1920 and excavated a year later by Messrs. Peake and Crawford. Further traces of occupation were discovered in 1957 by Local amateur archaeologists, Messrs. Barber, Collins and Sheridan, and an excavation, directed by Mr. John Wymer and completed in 1962, revealed that Thatcham was one of the finest examples of Mesolithic prehistoric settlement in Britain.

Numerous flint tools were unearthed, as well as hearths and flint knapping floors, on which the tools were shaped. Excavated food and bones included those of the red deer, roe deer, wild pig, elk, horse, ox beaver, pine marten, fox, dog, wolf and some wild fowl. Very rare bone and antler tools were also discovered.

Perhaps the most curious find of all were some pine cones which, having been buried for almost ten thousand years, popped open when exposed to bright sunlight as if they were freshly grown.

References

  • Proser, A. W., Thatcham through the ages, Occasional Paper Number 2, Thatcham Historical Society: Thatcham, 1979