This pair of flint axeheads were found together at Clappers Platts near Fulking in 1905 and were later purchased by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. They date from the Neolithic Period, around 5,000 years ago.
Although they are unpolished, the axes have been finely worked so that they are almost identical in size and shape. The flint they were produced from was carefully chosen to ensure that the patterning and coloration match perfectly. Given the effort and care put into their production, it would seem unlikely that the axes were intended for practical use. They were probably made by the same person and then deliberately buried in an act that must have had some important ritual meaning.
The production and trading of stone axes, particularly polished axes, is an important feature of the Neolithic. At a time when land was being cleared of woodland and then cultivated to produce crops, the axe may well have been an important symbol of the change of lifestyle from hunter-gatherer to farmer.
This importance may be reflected in the deliberate burial of groups or ‘caches’ of axes which is fairly common at that time. In general, axes are found in unpolished pairs and because of the similarities in their production, it is thought that in each case the same person would probably have produced them. At the Neolithic site of Combe Hill, one of the six Sussex sites where axe caches have been found, three axes were found carefully placed in the eastern ditch of a causewayed enclosure. Local archaeologist, Professor Peter Drewett, has speculated that the eastern side may well have faced the wilder, uncultivated land and the burying of the axes may well have signified the boundary between the tamed and the untamed.
Although we have little information about the discovery of the axes at Clappers Platts it may well be that they were buried on a similar boundary, as Neolithic farming communities spread from West to East, using their axes to tame the wild woodland.
Andy, Volunteer Local History & Archaeology