Archaeologists have uncovered remarkable evidence that stone age man lived in the centre of Birmingham more than 10,000 years ago.
The settlers used basic flint knives to hunt and cut meat and used fire to clear areas of woodland for grazing and growing food.
Two flint tools, a layer of charcoal and pollens were found buried in the earth off Curzon Street, Eastside, where the new Birmingham City University campus is to be built.
Until now, the earliest known settlements in the city centre are medieval, dating back to the 12th century, less than 1,000 years ago.
A time team from the University of Leicester carried out the dig and found the artefacts preserved in a hollow beneath the ground. Accurate carbon dating has put them at 10,400 years ago – during the Mesolithic or middle stone age.
Even in wider, suburban Birmingham, the earliest sites found date back to the bronze age, some 3,000 years ago.
Birmingham City Council archeologist Dr Mike Hodder believes it is a hugely significant historical discovery. He said: “It is by far the oldest settlement in the city centre. Much of this area was churned up during waves of industrial development so there are very few historical remains in situ.
“We have found stone age tools in other parts of Birmingham, including Saltley and Erdington, but they had been displaced. This area was in a hollow and had not been disturbed. We could see evidence of the whole settlement.”
A layer of charcoal showed that the stone age Brummies had burned the woodland to make a clearing in which fruits would grow and animals would graze. Pollen found shows that the area was populated with pine and birch trees and mosses.
Dr Hodder added: “These discoveries emphasise the wide range of archeological remains in Birmingham.
“Remains dating from the 12th century onwards have been found on several sites in the city centre.”
The flint tools and samples are currently being recorded and catalogued at the archeology department at the University of Leicester. But one studies are complete they will be returned to Birmingham to become the property of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and could go on display.
Middle stone age, or Mesolithic, man inherited fire and crude stone tools from their ancestors and added to this technology with the bow, canoe and fine stone tools. The Neolithic stone age began shortly after this period – about 9,500 years ago – which saw mankind develop organised farming, animal husbandry and pottery.