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Textbook Unit 2: Leicestershire Before the Romans (300,000BC to AD43)

Page 1 of 2 (p2)

2.1. Introduction
In this unit, you will learn about Leicestershire before the coming of the Romans (AD43), from the first people through the Bronze and Iron ages. This time period is known as Prehistory, and is before the time of written records. This time span is different in induvidual countries, but throughout Britain, it is known as the time before the arrival of the Romans


2.2. The Stone Ages
The Stone Age is the general name given to the time between 300,000BC and 2,000BC, and is split into 3 sections:
  • Palaeolithic Period (Old Stone Age): 300,000 - 9,500 BC
  • Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age): 9,500 - 4,500 BC
  • Neolithic (New Stone Age): 4,500 - 2,000 BC

During these time periods, the only materials used by man for making tools were those which occurred naturally, such as Stone, Wood, Bone, etc.

2.3. Palaeolithic Period
People first occupied the area now known as Leicestershire during the Palaeolithic period, which ran from 300,000 BC to 9,500 BC. The first people to move through the county would have been small groups of hunters, who would have used simple flint tools, examples of which have been found in the Abbey Meadows and Scraptoft areas of Leicester.

Of course, at this time, the animals they would have been hunting would be quite different from the animals around today. They would have hunted Elephants, Rhinoceros, deer and wild boar.

The occupation of the area continued periodically between ice ages, which changed the landscape and climate of the area, until around 12,000 years ago, when the last glaciers retreated, leaving a landscape similar to that of today. Since this time, people have always occupied the area.

2.4. Mesolithic Period

After the end of the Palaeolithic period, the hunter gatherer people continued for around 5000 years, into the Mesolithic period, which lasted until 4,500BC

It was during this period that the first farmers began to work the land, which led to the construction of small communities. Towards the end of the Mesolithic period and into the Neolithic period, trade started to develop. Trade routs started to spring up across the countryside, several of which crossed the river soar at the places now known as Leicester, and Cotes (just outside Loughborough)


2.5. Neolithic Period

During the Neolithic period, which ran from 4500 BC to 7000BC, farming was developing, as farmers came up with better and more efficient farming methods and tools. The climate was, by this time, similar to that of today, and much of the county was covered by dense oak forest, large areas of which had to be cleared to provide farming land, which required the use of stone axes, examples of which have been found in the area, and which were mainly made of stone from the Charnwood forest.

As trade increased, settlements began to spring up along the trade routes. The largest of these was Leicester, on the main crossing point of the river Soar, where several trade routes all met. The land here was cleared around 4,000 years ago (2000 BC) and the settlement became a major trading post.

The woodland was cleared during this period over much of the Wolds and the Soar Valley, but the higher hills remained untouched, the area now known as Charnwood forest.


Question A
Click on the following link for the map. If you are being instructed by a tutor, your tutor will have sent the question as a Word Document, and you should ignore this question for now. MAP


1. Using the map, describe the distribution of the Palaeolithic finds. [2]
2. Explain possible reasons for this. [3]
3. Why are do the mesolithic finds not follow the same distribution? [2]
4. Why do you think the area of Abbey Meadows has finds from both periods? [2]
5. Why would there not b
e many finds from the Mesolithic period in the Charnwood area? [1]
Total Number of Marks for this Question: [10]

Question B
There are two source questions on tools so far. The first is here. The next one will be added soon.

Source Question The Stone Age: Tools.

A.) Handaxe made sometime between 60,000 and 40,000

(2000 British Museum)

B.) A handaxe (biface) made sometime between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago

( 2000 Creswell Heritage Trust )

Source C: From ""

Like flint, clay-ironstone is sufficiently fine grained and can be knapped producing conchoidal fractures. However, the material is softer than flint and the effectiveness of tools made from it may have been limited and requiring frequent resharpening.



  1. Of the hand axes above, one was made of clay-iron stone and one was made of flint. Which is which?


  2. Read source C. Why might the people have used clay-ironstone to make their axe rather than flint?


  3. Looking at the diagram, was the top or bottom of source B the cutting edge?


  4. Why did they burn the forest first, before clearing the area with axes?


  5. A. Why did farmers begin to clear the land in the middle to late stone age?

B. Why was the land on top of Charnwood forest left relatively untouched?



2.6. Bronze Age
The Bronze age stretched from 2000 to 700 BC, and began when the first metalworking technology was introduced into Britain about 4000 years ago. However, it was not until about 1000BC that the bronze tools began to replace their flint equivalents, as before then, bronze tools were only really used as a measure of wealth, and usually were made as "grave goods"

We know that during the bronze age there was a settlement somewhere in the area now occupied by Leicester City Centre, as the burial site has been found in the High Street, Silver Arcade area. We also now that a barrow cemetery was built on a ridge overlooking the River Soar. We also now that there were bronze age burial mounds in the Western Park and New Parks areas because crop marks have been found.

Bronze tools have been found in the area, as far apart as Eyres Monsell, Abbey Meadows and Glenfield, as well as in the city centre itself. A large amount of pottery was also found in Glenfield during building work on the Elm Tree Avenue Housing Estate. This settlement is believed to date from 1000BC and is thought to be an important centre, possibly the bronze age predecessor of Leicester.

2.6.Question 1
Source A

A selection of Bronze Artefacts found during excavations at a Traprain Law near the River Tyne.

From ""


bronze age daggers Source B

Bronze Age Daggers.

(From ~clist/Pacabrze/)

  1. Use the scale to work out the approximate width of Axe 2 at its widest point. (1)
  2. What do you think item 5 is? (1)
  3. What do you think the round cylindrical part on the axes is for? What special natural item would be required (1+1)
  4. Compare these axes to those from the Stone Age (question b above). What were the advantages of the bronze age ones? (4)
  5. Why did jewellery really start to be used during the bronze age, and not during the stone age? (2)
  6. Why did bronze tools take a while to become widely used (2)
  7. When did bronze tools really start to be used. (1)
  8. What was a "Barrow" (2)

(15 Marks in Total)

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