Earliest signs for human presence in the Durham area date from the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age, about 7000 BC). Characteristic flint "microliths" found in the Durham Dales show that people were mounting these tiny flint blades onto harpoons or arrows for hunting.
By around 4000 BC, "Neolithic" or New Stone Age farmers had begun to clear forests to grow crops and rear animals. Archaeologists have found stray flint tools in the Durham area. Settled, farming life brought the need for more goods: pottery to store food, querns for grinding grain and specialised tools for building homes and for processing animal products.
Evidnce for Neolithic religious practice exists in the form of large earth monuments, such as the burial mound at Copt Hill (Houghton-le-Spring), and in smaller "cist" burials (stone-lined chambers). In 1996, excavations at Witton Gilbert revealed stone and flint tools and cremated bone within a cist covered by a "cup and ring" marked capstone.
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