Above: The archaeologist at work in Greasby
The earliest known human settlement in Merseyside has been found at Greasby, Wirral. It dates from
approximately 7000 BC. National Museums Liverpool archaeologists excavated the site between 1987
and 1990. The site was found during a programme of fieldwalking. The site was probably a base
camp belonging to a family, or several families of hunter-gatherers during the Mesolithic period. These
people lived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants, nuts and berries. However, only burnt
hazelnuts had survived on the site. The site is said to date back to 8000 years bc.
As well as base camps like the Greasby site, these people would have had several smaller camps
around the region. These would have been overnight camps for hunters, sites where animals were
killed and butchered and hunting stands.
Above: Worked chert from the Greasby site that was brought from North Wales.
At Greasby there is archaeological evidence for the mobile nature of their lives. Nearly all the tools are
made of chert, a type of stone which only occurs naturally in this region in north Wales and the
southern Pennines. This means that these people must have spent part of the year in north Wales.
Perhaps a hunting expedition brought the stone back with them to their base camps. The sea-level at
that time was much lower than it is today so it was easier to cross the River Dee into north Wales.
Above: Stones from a partly damaged Mesolithic fireplace or hearth at Greasby.
The evidence at Greasby consisted of a hearth or fireplace and a series of pits which may have been
used for storing food and later rubbish disposal. In one small pit, under some pebbles at the bottom,
we found a little group of pre-shaped stone pieces. These were ready to be made into arrowheads,
or microliths. There were many different types of stone tools. They could have been used for activities
such as food preparation, bone/wood working or hunting. One small area may have been associated
with an episode of stone working, probably by a specialist flint knapper. There was also a square
area of packed stone pebbles which may have been the basis of a working area, perhaps for the
preparation of food or other materials. The evidence suggests that people might have stayed here for
several months at a time.
Although there are many such sites on a low sandstone hill in Greasby, this is the only one that has
been excavated. Prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups must have returned time and again to this same
area perhaps over hundreds of years. The place may have had a special meaning to them. Several
miles away, at Thurstaston, overlooking the present Dee estuary, there is an even denser
concentration of stone tools. This represents another important area for similar findings which is being
looked into for historical clues