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Retired Firefighter’s Tip Off Leads To Exciting Archaeological Finds

Published on: 13 Jan, 2014
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2014

Archaeologists can thank a retired firefighter from Guildford whose tip off has resulted in them finding 2,400 rare flints dating back 14,000 years – right when the town’s new fire station is to be built.

Archaeologists digging on the site when the new fire station is to be built in Ladymead.

Archaeologists digging on the site where the new fire station is to be built in Ladymead.

The important finds dates to the last Ice Age and were uncovered just one inch below where the archaeologists started combing for clues.

Mr Shettle spent his whole career as a firefighter. He was based in many part of Surrey including Guildford, where his father had also been a fireman.

One of the flints that dates back 14,000 years.

One of the flints that dates back 14,000 years.

A keen historian, it was more than 40 years ago that he noticed a number of mesolithic flints, once used by ancient man for tools and blades,  lying on the surface of allotments near the fire station in Ladymead. Some of the staff who lived in the houses next to the fire station were keen growers.

With the impending plans to build Guildford’s new fire station next to the current one, Mr Shettle contacted Surrey County Council pointing out that he believed if archaeologists dug there while the ground was clear they may find something of interest.

Indeed they did and their finds have proved to be even older. The dig took place last autumn and Nick Truckle, of Surrey County Council’s heritage conservation team, says the flints are in excellent condition and were found exactly where hunter-gatherers left them around 12,000 BC, despite intervening centuries of river flooding and development.

“Mr Shettle said: “I am delighted what the archaeologists have found. I initially took my mesolithic finds to Guildford Museum for identification. I did not find anything as old as the ones found recently which are paleolithic.”

He added that he believes that there may be even more items waiting ton be found towards the Stoke Road side of the fire station.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “To have made this important discovery in Surrey is very exciting. This is a particularly rare find because there are very few intact British sites as old or complex as this one.

It is hoped that the flints will go on show at the Surrey History Centre.

It is hoped that the flints will go on show at the Surrey History Centre.

“We now have experts doing detailed studies on these flints, which we hope will give us more answers about the lives of the people that used them and how they lived.”

The flints will then go for further academic research at Oxford University, and some may be displayed at the Surrey History Centre in Woking when this work has finished.

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