Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic Age)
The First People to live on Dartmoor were hunters and gatherers. This meant that they were probably nomadic (had no fixed home). They would move from place to place in search of animals to hunt or for berries to pick and eat. They had very basic weapons made from a stone called flint. The people on Dartmoor seemed to have liked using bows and arrows to hunt.

At this time (9 to 5,000 years ago), Dartmoor had many trees. They were not huge trees - the ground was not strong enough to support large, heavy trees. However, there were a lot of small and medium size trees and there were plenty of bushes around. There were openings on some of the higher hills (Tors) where the wind was too strong to allow trees to grow. This thin forest was perfect for woodland animals to run around in and for humans to move about and hunt. If the forest is too thick - it can be difficult to see anything or to chase after anything. The forests on Dartmoor were well suited to the hunters. Also, according to the season, the bushes would have had lots of berries for the people to gather. In winter, it seems as if the people headed towards the rivers and sea. This was probably to catch fish which would have been available throughout the year.

New Stone Age (Neolithic Age)
About 5,000 years ago, farming was introduced to Dartmoor. Land was now needed to grow crops. It seems as if the Neolithic farmers started farming on the open clearings on the higher ground. However, these openings would soon run out of space. The farmers would then either chop down neighbouring trees or would start fires to clear large amounts of area quickly. Farmers would also need wood for firewood in the winter, to use for building or for tools. The pressure on the trees was very great. The large forests were broken up into smaller and smaller clumps of trees.

Farmers do not move around as much as hunters and gatherers. Therefore, these farmers built themselves homes. These were usually made of the granite stone that is so plentiful on Dartmoor. The remains of many of these can still be seen today on Dartmoor. They also built themselves stone circles and burial mounds. It is not known why they made these stone circles. Possibly, they were used for places to pray to the gods of nature to help the farmers' crops grow, or to thank them after a good harvest. They could also have been used for marriage or death ceremonies. It seems as if death was very important to Neolithic man - It seems as if they spent a lot of time and effort building their burial mounds.

Bronze Age
Over time, the lives of the people on Dartmoor became more sophisticated. One way that this has been shown to us is through their increasing skill in using metals. Gold and silver are quite soft metals that can be worked on to produce beautiful jewellery and simple household utensils. It was discovered that tin and copper could be mixed together to form the hard metal known as Bronze. This metal was strong enough to make tools and weapons with.

The longer people farmed the land on Dartmoor, the more arguments they would have over land. Young farmers could not go off and find their own land any more - it had all been used up. During the Bronze Age it appears that walls were built for the first time. These were called reaves and they were built to try and organise the lands of the neighbouring farmers.

Towards the end of the Bronze Age the weather began to get colder and wetter and the soils became more acidic, causing grass and crops to grow less easily. Dartmoor became a less pleasant place to live and people began to leave it.

map of Dartmoor
Map of Dartmoor
Sites on Dartmoor
Worksheets Available
Bronze Age Dartmoor
Learning Tasks
Multiple Choice Quiz
Mesolithic Quiz
Neolithic Quiz
Bronze Age Quiz
Mesolithic Age
8 - 4,000 BC
Dartmoor is mostly trees and forests. People on Dartmoor are hunters and gatherers.
Neolithic Age
4 - 2,500 BC
Farming begins on moorland. Trees are cleared. Stone buildings and monuments are built.
Bronze Age
2,500 BC -
People are beginning to use metal (bronze) tools to help them in their lives. Dartmoor is divided in to walled sections. Trees are now scarce.
Online Resources
Mesolithic and Neolithic Dartmoor
This site has many pictures of the remains on Dartmoor
Prehistoric Archeaology
This informative .pdf file was produced by the Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Dartmoor Timeline
This is a timeline covering the history of Dartmoor up until the present day.
History of Farming
This covers the history of farming on Dartmoor.
Books Available in School
Chapman, L.
Grimspound and Hound Tor
Newton Abbot: Orchard, 1996
Reference Books
Butler, Jeremy
Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities
Exeter: Devon Books, 1991-7
Fleming, Andrew
The Dartmoor Reaves
London: Batsford, 1988
Gerrard, Sandy
The English Heritage book of Dartmoor: landscapes through time
London: Batsford, 1997
Gill, Crispin
Dartmoor: A New Study
David & Charles, 1983
Greeves, Tom
The archaeology of Dartmoor from the air
Exeter: Devon Books, 1985
Kain, R.
Historical atlas of south-west England
University of Exeter Press, 1999
Griffiths, D.
A Guide to the Archaeology of Dartmoor
Devon Books, 1996
Hemery, Eric
High Dartmoor
Robert Hale, 1983
Pettit, Paul
Prehistoric Dartmoor, new ed.
Liverton: Forest Publishing, 1995
Pearce, Susan M
The Bronze Age metalwork of south western Britain
Oxford: BAR, 1983
Todd, Malcolm
The South West to AD 1000
Longman, 1987
Sale, R
Dartmoor the Official National Park Guide
Pevensey Press, 2000
Woods, S.
Dartmoor Stone
Devon Books, 1988
Videos Available
Praxis Films
Dartmoor Vol. 1
Spring & Summer
Praxis Films
Dartmoor Vol. 2
Autumn & Winter

| History | Humanities |

by Stephen Luscombe