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The Mesolithic and Modern Life project, led by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and funded by a £1.1 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, seeks to promote the natural and environmental heritage of Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and Flood Storage Reservoir, near Sefton, Merseyside.

The reserve, which is visited by around 30,000 people a year, is not only an important area for nature conservation, but also holds the archaeological remains of a 9,000 year old hunter-gatherer settlement. The site, which was excavated by archaeologist Ron Cowell of National Museums Liverpool, dates to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, and is one of the best-preserved settlements of this period in the north-west.

Dr Amy Gray Jones and Dr Barry Taylor, who are both Senior Lecturers in Archaeology at the University of Chester and experts in the Middle Stone Age, will use their archaeological knowledge to teach visitors to the reserve how prehistoric communities made use of the plants and animals that inhabited the landscape 9,000 years ago. In doing so, they hope to encourage people to think about their own relationship with the natural world.

Dr Gray Jones said: “Middle Stone Age people lived the ultimate sustainable lifestyle. They only took what they needed from the environment, and made full use of the animals they hunted and the plants they collected.

“By teaching visitors to the reserve about the way these people lived we can think about our own lifestyles, and what we can do to live in a more sustainable way.”

Dr Taylor added: “We know from our work on other sites that Stone Age communities had a strong connection with their environment. They didn’t just see it as a source of food and raw materials, but as something that should be treated in a respectful manner.”

With the financial support provided by the grant, the archaeologists will run practical workshops on Stone Age crafts, using the plants that grow on the reserve, and training staff and volunteers from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, with COVID-safety measures in place where required. They will also produce education resources about Stone Age life for use in primary schools.

While the project is focused on the environment, the archaeologists hope that their work will also help to improve people’s mental health, by encouraging people to spend more time outdoors.

According to Dr Gray Jones: “We know that spending more time in nature can improve people’s mental health and sense of well-being, which is more important than ever in the light of the challenges many have faced over the last year.”

The project, Presenting Mesolithic and Modern Life, is led by Lancashire Wildlife Trust in partnership with the University of Chester, The Environment Agency, the Museum of Liverpool, and Soroptimist International Crosby, and will run for the next five years.

Funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will be used to improve facilities at the reserve, including a visitor centre, classroom, outdoor teaching area and a reconstructed Mesolithic house, as well as supporting public events, including plant and animal identification workshops, guided wildlife walks and stargazing. Visitors to the reserve will also be able to learn more about the archaeological site, and take part in some of the practical aspects of archaeological fieldwork.

Events to launch the project will take place throughout the next two months, starting with an introduction to the project and partners today, Wednesday February 24, hosted by the Wildlife Trust.

To find out more about these events and to book on to talks, please visit: www.lancswt.org.uk/events.

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Stitching a coiled basket, during a Stone Age Experience workshop.
Basket weaving, during a Stone Age Experience workshop.

Top image: Sunset at Lunt Meadows by Alan Wright.

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