Monument record MNL 001 - Three Hills, Warren Hill, Mildenhall, (Palaeolithic)

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In terms of palaeolithic implements, Warren Hill is the richest site in East Anglia and it has produced more hand-axes (over 2000) than any other in Britain.


Grid reference Centred TL 743 742 (258m by 269m)
Map sheet TL77SW


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

In terms of palaeolithic implements, Warren Hill is the richest site in East Anglia and it has produced more hand-axes (over 2000) than any other in Britain. A crude industry of stone-struck hand-axes in rolled condition and a highly refined industry of ovate and cordate hand-axes in much fresher condition. Bones of ox, horse, elephant, bison and elephas antiquus, primigenus and meridonalis listed, although rare.

The age of the handaxes has been discussed for over a century. The first interpretation suggested that the gravels were outwash from a major ice-sheet, however fieldwork in the 1990s noted the high proportion of quartz and quartzite pebbles in the gravel, which originally derive from the Midlands. This indicated that the gravels were part of a now extinct river (called the Bytham ) which flowed from the Midlands across East Anglia and out into the North Sea near Lowestoft. A later ice sheet (the Anglian Glaciation) destroyed the Bytham River valley and carved out the Wash Basin. This created the drainage pattern that we see today, with rivers flowing from west and east into the Fens.

The age of the Anglian Glaciation was circa 450,000 years ago, which means the handaxes found within the Bytham River gravels at Warren Hill are earlier, probably dating to the previous warm period, (MIS13) about 500,000 years ago. This makes Warren Hill not just one of the richest human sites in Britain, but also one of the oldest.

Mention of Levallois in Terps suspect

Twisted ovate handaxes are present, but in a low overall percentage of the sample.


C. 1864-early 20th Century: Formerly a road ballast pit in the 19th and early 20th Century, (S4).
1950: Visit by John Wymer. The pit was still open, (S4)
1956: Visit by John Wymer. Wired off and planted with conifers by Forestry Commission (S4).
1976: Visit by Edward Martin. nothing visible, area extensively disturbed by quarrying and afforested (S5). Now open (heathland re-creation site).
1964-2002: Fieldwalking by Terry Hardaker, (S19).
1991: Excavation by Quaternary research association, (S15, S16).
2002: Excavation by Rose (AHOB), (S15, S16).
2016: Test pitting as part of the Breckland Palaeolithic Project to date deposits, (S14).
2013: Flint flakes found whilst metal detecting, (S22).

Material in various museums. University of Edinburgh, Moyses Hall, MAA Cabridge, Ashmolean, Pitt-Rivers

Also note cleaver from nearby, MNL 215 (1986), and for handaxe see MNL 319, (1990). Also Scraper found 1990 see MNL 717.

See also Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon records.

No further details found in Ipswich Museum Accession registers September 2020.

Sources/Archives (25)

  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: 1911. Victoria County History, Suffolk (VCH). Sturge W A, 235-238 (ill).
  • <S2> Index: OS. OS Card. OS, cards TL77SW4 & TL77SW45, (map).
  • <S3> Index: Ipswich Museum. IPSMG card. IPSMG, card 1931-166,1931; 1920-77.1 & 13; 1948-72; 1921-1; 1926-68; 1927-82.36; 1931-160; 1931-148;.
  • <S4> Bibliographic reference: Wymer, J.J.. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia.
  • <S5> Unpublished document: Martin E. 1976. Site Visit Notes?. SAU, Martin E A, 1976.
  • <S6> Unpublished document: Basil Brown. Basil Brown Archive. Brown B, XCVIII, 100, 1951.
  • <S7> Personal Correspondence: University of Edinburgh. 1991. Dept of Archaeology, letter to SAU, 22 Oct 1991. University of Edinburgh, Dept of Arch, letter to SAU, 22 Oct 1991.
  • <S8> Bibliographic reference: Smith, R.A. 1931. Sturge Collection.
  • <S9> Bibliographic reference: Roe, Derek.. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower & Middle Palaeolithic sites.
  • <S10> Bibliographic reference: Moir J R. 1927. The Antiquity of Man in East Anglia.
  • <S11> Bibliographic reference: Evans, J.. 1897. The Ancient Stone implements, weapons and ornaments of Great Britain.
  • <S12> Digital archive: Wymer, J.J.. 1999. The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPs) The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPS). 22867.
  • <S13> E-mail: Ashton, N. 2012. To Richard Brook (FC) to Colin pendleton (SCCAS).
  • <S14> Unpublished document: Davis et al. 2017. The early Palaeolithic archaeology of the Breckland: current understanding and directions for future research.
  • <S15> Article in serial: Martin, E.A., Pendleton, C. & Plouviez, J.. 2003. Archaeology in Suffolk 2002. XXXX (3).
  • <S16> Unpublished document: AHOB. 2003. Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Workshop Abstracts.
  • <S17> Article in serial: Lewis et al. 2019. Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13: Happisburgh Site 1 (Norfolk, UK) and its European context.
  • <S18> Article in serial: Gibbard et al. 2019. Comment: Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13: Happisburgh Site 1(Norfolk, UK) and its European context: A response to Lewis et al.(2019).
  • <S19> Article in serial: Terry Hardaker. 2012. The artefacts from the present land surface at the Palaeolithic site of Warren Hill, Suffolk, England.
  • <S20> Article in serial: Solomon, J. D.. 1933. The Implementiferous Gravels of Warren Hill.
  • <S21> Article in serial: White, M.J. & Ashton, N; Bridgland.. 2019. Twisted Handaxes in Middle Pleistocene Britain and their Implications for Regional-scale Cultural Variation and the Deep History of Acheulean Hominin Groups.
  • <S22> Digital archive: Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service. Portable Antiquities Database. SF-72D480, SF-72D074.
  • <S23> Digital archive: Historic England. National Record Of the Historic Environment.
  • <S24> Article in serial: Ashton, N. Davis, R. Kirsty E.H. Penkmane, G. Russell Coopef. 2021. Cultural Mosaics, Social Structure, and Identity: The Acheulean threshold in Europe.
  • <S25> Article in serial: Davis et al. 2021. Palaeolithic archaeology of the Bytham River: Human Occupation of Britain during the Early Middle Pleistocene and its European Context.

Finds (14)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (8)

Related Events/Activities (12)

Record last edited

Sep 16 2022 10:12AM

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