Move Over Time Team: Nine-Year-Old Unearths Prehistoric Arrow

By David Prudames | 05 August 2003
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Shows a photograph of a child's hand holding a small flint arrowhead against a blue sky.

Photo: 3500-years-old, the flint arrowhead dates back to the Neolithic era. Courtesy of Castle Howard.

As any archaeologist will tell you, unearthing the past is all about close academic study, years of experience and being in possession of an extremely patient mind.

Alastair Dunn, aged nine, will tell you different. On August 4 he turned up at Castle Howard, Yorkshire for an archaeological activity session. In one move he rewrote the site's history book by 3,500 years.

Local lad Alastair discovered what Castle Howard's archaeological team have identified as a 4000-year-old Neolithic flint arrowhead, the oldest artefact discovered at the stately home to date.

Photo: built in 1699, the stunning Castle Howard was designed by John Vanburgh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Courtesy of Castle Howard.

"What a great find for a young child to discover on their first stab at being an archaeologist," exclaimed David Fallon, Castle Howard archaeologist.

"This discovery will encourage the whole team to hunt out further exciting finds as we continue to search out more of Castle Howard's history."

Taking part in the stately home's 'Get Dirty on the Dig' activity, Alastair was washing finds and sieving soil from ongoing excavations at the site. He found a small piece of flint and showed it to a very surprised on-site archaeologist, who was able to identify it as Neolithic.

At a dig established to search for the lost medieval village of Henderskelfe, demolished to make way for Castle Howard in 1699, all previous finds have only dated as far back as 500 years.

Shows a photograph of a young boy holding up a flint arrowhead against a backdrop of trees.

Photo: nine-year-old local lad Alastair Dunn, an unlikely Indiana Jones, shows off his incredible find. Courtesy of Castle Howard.

Head of Visitor Services, Richard Kemp explained how the dig is all about encouraging the public not only to learn about archaeology, but to have a go at it.

"I've always known the value of an archaeological excavation as the ultimate visitor attraction - they change every time you go and it isn't just what you find, it's the process behind it."

Since Alastair's discovery, archaeologists have unearthed a number of Neolithic scrapers, which would have been used to skin dead animals.

Activities are running daily throughout August, so get down there. Who knows what you might find?

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