Why did early people make flint tools?

If people wanted to settle permanently in Southwold, they had to be able to do more than just subsist on wild fruit, nuts and an occasional dead animal – so they needed tools. But there were no metals; the Bronze and Iron Ages were millennia away. However, East Anglia’s abundant flints yielded a source for a wide range of sharp-edged tools for every purpose.

It took a very long time to progress from simple, small, hand-held flints for scraping and cutting to sophisticated axes, arrowheads and spears. But this fundamental change enabled people to hunt more effectively, to cut down trees, to cultivate the land and provide themselves with clothes and shelter.

The archaeological evidence for permanent settlements at Southwold includes flints found in and on the cliffs at Easton Bavents. You can see some of the fossil bones and flints displayed in the museum – but not all were originally local. People traded in flints over a very wide area and travelling nomads would bring them to Southwold. Grimes Graves near Thetford in Norfolk was mined as a source of high-quality flints for tools, and on display you’ll find a particularly fine axe head (found at Easton Bavents) which came originally from Levallois in France.