Creswell’s First Collectors is the latest display at the Museum of Archaeology at Lakeside Arts. Local archaeologist Ben Normington introduces this ‘collection’ of artefacts made by early humans who lived in the Creswell Crags gorge in Nottinghamshire during the Ice Age…
The Pleistocene, more commonly known as 'The Ice Age', has forever been one of the harder aspects of our world’s history to understand. It was an environment completely alien and cut off in an informative sense from the one we occupy today, despite our ancestors roaming it. The Museum of Archaeology at Lakeside Arts has put on a fantastic new display encompassing some of the wonderful finds that have come out of the local Creswell Crags gorge over the years. The crags themselves lie in between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and are home to some of the northernmost evidence of hominid occupation in Europe. The collection here, while small, encapsulates a great deal of the key tenets of life during a time dominated by mega fauna and encroaching glaciers.
In the left-side of the new display cabinets, we see a series of bones from animals that no longer reside on the British Isles, even in an evolved sense. The remains of a cave hyena show perfectly how different the landscape and the life living within it would have been during that time. Looking in the right-side display cabinets, there are artefacts that would delight even the grumpiest of archaeologists, with an array of stone tools made by our fellow hominins (and, for many people in Central Europe, ancestors). Though lacking in some of the elegance we see in later tools, these are beautiful in their own right. They mark the existence of human pioneers spreading our earliest technologies and thriving in what would have been some of the most extreme conditions at the time.
Leading on from this superb glimpse into the ancient story of the land, a clockwise jaunt around the remaining exhibits takes us on a tour, telling the story of our ancestors who inhabited it. We see an array of amazingly delicate and masterfully crafted stone tools ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic, within a broad collection of fine cutting implements and much larger hammers and axes. These serve as an amazing example of how the same technologies have been reworked and perfected by us over time.
Holding over 250,000 years’ worth of this small pocket of the world's archaeology is a monumental feat, and the way it has all been curated is beyond amazing
From here on, the museum guides the visitor through the Bronze and Iron Ages, showing how humanity’s path in the area skyrocketed. Displays of beautiful metal tools, weapons and cremation urns demonstrate this monumental shift in production value in comparison to the millennia predating them. It isn’t just tools that we see erupting from this period, though. It’s incredibly important to remember that within England, it’s within this time that we see metal jewellery and coins coming into circulation, demonstrating the progression toward a civilisation much more akin to our own. We are then offered a glimpse of life in Roman Nottinghamshire. This period occupies the largest portions of the museum, which is understandable considering how much the Romans left behind. The artefacts from this time stagger the mind in their refinement, with beads, metal work, jewellery and pottery much finer than anything that came before it. The large lead container is a must see.
This exhibition serves as an amazing example of how the same technologies have been reworked and perfected by us over time
Leaving the Roman period behind, we enter my personal favourite period: the Anglo-Saxon Early-Medieval period. The arrangement here is superb for a museum of its size and, honestly, I could write another article of its own on that, but sadly that's not what I'm here for. From here, we move through the Norman and Post-Medieval periods toward where we are now. I know I've just rushed through hundreds of thousands of years’ worth of human material history, but I hope I made my point. All of this fantastic innovation, all of the culture that has been allowed to develop in this area, started with people braving the cold and coming back to the northernmost reaches of this little island time and time again.
Holding over 250,000 years’ worth of this small pocket of the world's archaeology is a monumental feat, and the way it has all been curated is beyond amazing. The museum as a whole is well worth the visit and anyone interested in the deep pre-history of Nottingham should most certainly check out this new display of artefacts from the early collectors of Creswell Crags.
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