Flint is a form of quartz, a hard stone which is found in the chalk hills of southern England.

Flint flakes easily so it was ideal for making the tools ancient people needed for scraping  hides or cutting and chopping. Tiny pieces could also be used to make saws and spear tips.

Pictured above is a scraper found on the Downs at Whitehawk, near Brighton, It is from the Palaeolithic period, but people in Sussex carried on making flint tools right into the Bronze Age. We know this because of research by Peter Drewett at Black Patch, East Sussex.

Since flint was so vital to everyday life, and in particular to the first Neolithic farming communities, who needed axes to cut trees and clear land, people eventually began to mine flint on a large scale. Many ancient flint mines have been identified in West Sussex.

Fact file

  • It is thought flint nodules formed in chalk as a result of chemical changes in compressed rock.
  • Mining for flint began about 6,000 years ago in the Neolithic period. The extraction pits survive today as large, crater-like hollows in the chalk.
  • Sussex flint mines are the earliest in Britain.
  • Sites in West Sussex that have been identified as Neolithic flint mines include the mines at Harrow Hill and Blackpatch, West Sussex.
  • Flint tools have been found at the Bronze Age site of Black Patch, East Sussex.

Find out more:

 Archeologist Neil Oliver explores flint mines