Reasons for Designation
Flint mines are found where, during Neolithic and Early Bronze Age times
(c.3500-1200 BC), nodules of flint were extracted from underground seams
within chalk deposits. There is no pattern or regular form to the arrangement
of mine sites as the shafts, pits or open-cast workings are closely related to
the underlying supplies of flint rather than an overall scheme of how the mine
should be organised. In general, however, the shafts, pits and spoil heaps are
closely packed together and sometimes even abut one another. In overall size,
flint mines range from single shafts and associated works covering less than
1ha, to large mines of several hundred shafts spread over an extensive area.
Flint mines provided high quality flint for implement manufacture in the
millennia before the widespread availability of metal; the discovery of
ceremonial deposits, including carved objects, in some shafts indicates the
importance ascribed to them by early prehistoric communities. The workings
were excavated by hand with antler picks and a selection of specialist bone,
antler, wood and flint tools. Extensive flint knapping floors, areas where the
mined flint was worked, are sometimes found within and around the mine area,
along with hearths and traces of timber buildings. Evidence of secondary uses
of abandoned flint mines is fairly common, and human burials dating from
Neolithic times onwards are regularly found in the upper fills of pits and
shafts. The hollows left in the tops of infilled shafts also provided suitable
areas for occupation long after the mines themselves had gone out of use.
The distribution of flint mines is largely dictated by the extent of the Upper
Chalk, which is the geological band in which seams of flint occur. Flint mines
are known in most areas of Upper Chalk outcrops and generally occur on the
tops of hills or ridges, or along their flanking slopes, from Norfolk to
Dorset. The earliest sites, dating to the Early and Middle Neolithic period,
are clustered on the Sussex Downs.
Flint mines are a rare monument type, with only around 20 examples known
nationally. One of relatively few classes of monuments dating to all phases of
the Neolithic period, they contain evidence relating to technology and work
organisation in the period and represent the source of the most commonly used
and widespread material available for making edged tools and implements. All
well-preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.
Martin Down enclosures (named after a typical example on Martin Down in
Dorset) are small, usually sub-rectangular areas usually covering less than
0.3ha. originally bounded by a low bank and/or fence with a surrounding ditch.
Most have a single entrance, identified by a causeway over the ditch. Dating
to the Late Bronze Age, from the tenth to eighth centuries BC, these
enclosures are interpreted as domestic settlements, and excavated examples
have been found to contain circular structures, post holes, pits, hollows and
burnt mounds, associated with querns, pottery, animal bones, charred grain,
worked flint artefacts and metalwork. In some cases, as with the enclosure on
Martin Down itself, they are associated with contemporary field systems. They
appear mainly on the chalk downland of central southern England, although
examples in Kent, Sussex, East Anglia and the Midlands are also known.
Generally constructed on the flanks of hills, they have also been identified
in valley bottoms and on hilltops. Because they are usually situated on good
agricultural land, many have been levelled by subsequent ploughing and survive
largely in buried form, often visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs.
Fewer than 15 examples have been positively identified so far. Martin Down
enclosures are thus a very rare monument type and form one of a limited range
of monuments dating to the Late Bronze Age. All examples with surviving
remains are considered to merit protection.
The Flint mines and Martin Down style enclosure on Harrow Hill survive well,
despite some modern disturbance, and part excavation has shown them to contain
archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the varying
uses of the hilltop over at least four millennia.
The monument includes a Neolithic flint mine and a later, Martin Down style
enclosure dating to the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age, situated on a chalk
hill which forms part of the Sussex Downs. Around 245 flint mine shafts and
pits have been identified by a 1994 survey and earlier investigation,
occupying around 8ha of the hilltop. To the north and east is an area of
large, partly infilled shafts which survive as roughly circular hollows up to
19.5m in diameter and 1.8m deep. These are surrounded by irregular,
overlapping spoil heaps up to 1m high. Part excavation in 1924-25 and 1936
showed that the shafts take the form of bell-shaped pits about 5m deep
containing horizontal galleries excavated along the seams of flint. Finds
discovered within the shafts included mining tools made from worked flints and
animal bones, carved chalk blocks and charcoal. An antler pick from one shaft
has been dated by radio-carbon analysis to c.3710 BC. Pictograms, or engraved
designs, were found above the entrances to some galleries. These were
interpreted by the excavator as miners' tallies.
The southern part of the mine survives as an area of hummocky ground which has
been interpreted as a slightly later phase of flint extraction utilising
different mining techniques, including open-cast mining. Part excavation
during the 1980s identified areas used for the initial processing of the mined
flint between and around the shafts and pits. The analysis of snail species
found within the shaft fills has shown that the hill was under woodland when
the mines were in use.
The south eastern part of the monument has been partly levelled and disturbed
by modern ploughing.
The later, east-west aligned rectangular enclosure is situated on the western
side of the monument and partly overlies some of the more westerly flint mine
shafts. It is a raised area of c.0.4ha enclosed by a bank up to 6m wide and
0.6m high. This is surrounded by a ditch up to 4.5m wide and 0.5m deep,
flanked by a slight counterscarp bank 4.5m wide and 0.4m high. Access to the
interior was by way of a centrally placed, inturned entrance 6m wide through
the western ramparts. The enclosure was partly excavated in 1936, when pottery
sherds dating to c.600 BC were discovered. The excavations also revealed that
the enclosure bank had been reinforced with a timber palisade, and that the
entrance contained a timber gateway. Around 100 ox skulls were found,
indicating that the primary purpose of the enclosure may have been stock
rearing, meat processing or feasting.
A fenced, covered reservoir built during the 1950s has destroyed part of the
western ditch and counterscarp bank of the enclosure, and this area is
therefore not included in the scheduling.
The modern field fence which crosses the monument is excluded from the
scheduling , although the ground beneath it is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.