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Archaeologists were carrying out excavations of a known Roman settlement along the road, ahead of plans to upgrade the junctions from 51 to 56 to motorway status, when they discovered a number of flint tools that date back to between 6,000 and 8,000 BC. They also found a small Mesolithic structure that resembled a type of shelter where they were making the flint tools. The site, near Catterick in North Yorkshire, is believed to have been used by people travelling north and south as an overnight shelter, similar to today’s motorway service stations.
“It was fascinating to find one of those was a Mesolithic site, a further 8,000 years into the past beyond the Romans,” said archaeologist Steve Sherlock. “This was a place that people knew of – a place they could return to on many occasions to stay overnight during their travels. There is evidence of people using the route and moving through the area over periods of time. It is also adding to our knowledge of the early Mesolithic period, a time we don’t know very much about.
“It has often been wondered how the Romans managed to build the Fosse Way, which goes from Exeter to Lincoln. They must have known what the finishing point would be, but they didn't conquer that part of Britain until decades later. How did they manage to do that if they didn’t follow the Celtic road?”
Mr Robb, former fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, first came up with the theory when he planned to cycle the Via Heraklea, an ancient route that runs a thousand miles in a straight line from the tip of the Iberian Peninsula to the Alps, and realised that it was plotted along the solstice lines through several Celtic settlements.
It'd be absolutely wonderful to see a satellite view of Northern Europe from either the mesolithic or neolithic periods. I think we'd see well-trodden trade and migration routes scarred into the landscape from Ireland to the Mediterranean.