Surviving in the Stone Age - A Top-Tip Guide with Author Elizabeth Barber
Surviving in the Stone Age would have been mighty tricky.
I mean, think about it... no electricity, no heating, no supermarkets filled with food... no PlayStation 5* - oh the inhumanity!
Frankly, in the Stone Age, I wouldn't have made it past mid-morning without freezing to death, getting eaten by a Dire Wolf, or stubbing my toe on a big rock.
Nonetheless, people did survive the Stone Age. They did manage to survive the frigid cold, the deadly animals, and the lack of microwavable meals.
But who did they (we) do this? Thankfully, we asked an expert in order to find out!
Elizabeth Barber is a former teacher and debut novelist. Her first children's book, 'Stone Arrows', is set in 7000BCE - around the middle of the Mesolithic period of hunter-gatherers - and is based on careful research. This all means that Elizabeth is the ideal candidate to teach us - and you, dear reader! - about how to survive, maybe even thrive, in the Stone Age!
* Please note, other video game consoles are available. But they are not as good.
Imagining History - Hi Elizabeth! First off, please tell us a bit about your brilliant book, 'Stone Arrows'
Elizabeth - 'Stone Arrows' is an adventure story set in the Mesolithic, a period that lasted from the end of the Ice Age around 12,000 years ago, until the first farming a little after 4,000BCE.
Stone Arrows begins when Zeta's father is killed and she and her brother Finn, together with Kuba their pet wolf, are forced to cross the country to seek sanctuary with their mother's birth tribe. On this perilous journey, they must outwit their pursuers and put into practice all their hunting and gathering skills and knowledge of the land.
Right, let's talk about surviving in the Stone Age! If I lived in the Stone Age, would I be best to join a tribe or have a go of it on my own?
Although a lot of the fierce Ice Age animals no longer exist in Britain, there are still wolves and bears, so it's much safer to travel and live as a member of a group. Sometimes people do go off hunting and gathering on their own, maybe when they have to prove their manhood by hunting alone, but there is definitely safety in numbers.
Would be we be best to live in one place or travel around?
Hunter-gatherers are nomadic. Some groups move around following the herds as they search for fresh feeding grounds, but they often return to places that are special to them. If food is plentiful, people often stay in one place for longer.
Tribes often choose to live near water where they have plenty of fish, waterfowl, and plants to eat. Rivers and lakes provide good hunting grounds too, because all animals need water. Sometimes people are forced to move on, such as when there's a natural disaster like a flood or maybe to escape a disease that is spreading through the camp.
What tools should I bring with me to go hunting?
You will need your spear, bow and arrows, and a sharp, flint knife. Make sure you put some spare flints in your pack in case you need to make or mend weapons.
A harpoon carved from an antler is great for fishing. Don't forget to take a pig's bladder or stomach for water - you may have to travel long distances in hot weather before finding a stream or spring. Dress in warm clothes, or take some in your bag. You will probably have to sleep out in the open or under a tree on hunting trips. You'll need to light a fire for cooking and for keeping animals away at night, so don't forget your aurochs' horn to carry hot embers from place to place.
What tools should I bring with me to go gathering?
Baskets are useful so that plants like berries don't get squashed, but skin bags are fine for hazelnuts - and nuts are very useful for eating when meat is scarce or when travelling.
Which animals should I definitely avoid?
Bears and wolves are the most dangerous, but watch out for adders in the long grass. If you're carrying your kill home, be extra careful, as predators can smell from long distances. You won't stand a chance if wolves or bears scent the blood! If they feel threatened, the tusks of a wild boar or the horns of an auroch can injure you badly.
What areas of the land should I visit and which should I give a wide berth?
You will probably often hunt along river plains and near lakes where animals feed and rest. Watch out for boggy ground where you might get stuck. And be very careful not to hunt over another tribe's territory. Some are friendly, but I wouldn't risk it! Try to find a shallow part if you need to cross a river - the current can wash you away quickly. Don’t get lost – stay in a group.
Leave markers to find your way if you are going back to your camp.
What is your go-to top tip for surviving the Stone Age?
Be alert! And that means using all your senses - look, smell, touch, taste and listen. Try imagining all the things you might see, smell, touch, taste, and hear in your daily. life. Remember, different animals have some senses stronger than others - make sure you stay aware. It could save your life!
Thanks Elizabeth! With your help, I reckon that I'd be able to make it to at least bedtime on my first day living in the Stone Age.
'Stone Arrows' is written for eight-to twelve-year-olds, and the novel would complement teaching resources very well. 'Stone Arrows' is an original novel combining an exciting adventure with historical detail. It paints a wonderful picture of how life was lived in these far-off times – the terrain, the wild animals, the clothing, the sights and smells – while telling an engaging and fast-moving story.
To find out more about 'Stone Arrows' and to purchase a copy, please click here to visit The Book Guild website.