40. North Devon’s Oldest Pottery
In 1864 the geologist Townshend Hall was alerted to a concentration of prehistoric flint material at a spot on Baggy Point called Freshwater Gut, where rabbits had been burrowing. Conducting the earliest archaeological excavation in North Devon, Townshend Hall uncovered flint tools and waste together with these two fragments of pottery which modern archaeologists would identify as dating from the Neolithic period around 4000 BC.
This raises a question, because the flints were characteristically those made by Mesolithic people. These ancient hunter-gatherers left widespread evidence of their presence on Baggy Point where they appear to have sat working flint for their hunting and fishing equipment, while gazing out over a coastal plain which would have been rich in fish and game. Their nomadic life of hunting and gathering was governed by the seasons, but it was a way of life which was coming to an end.
Around 4000 BC Neolithic farmers were arriving in Britain, creating small settlements with cultivated fields and beginning to make pottery.
So these humble fragments seem to tell a story of change. They suggest that the site at Freshwater Gut may represent something more than a seasonal encampment, something perhaps more permanent. In these fragments we may perceive the last gasp of a way of life that stretched back many thousands of years and the beginning of the life that we all live today.