In the early 1890s, he found evidence in the clay pits at Caddington of some of the earliest human activity in Britain. The clay pits supplied the brickworks of the Luton area. Below the clay was a layer of flints dating from the Lower Palaeolithic period. He later found similar deposits at Gaddesden Row and Leverstock Green. Mixed in with the flints were the bones of elephant and rhinoceros. These deposits have since been dated to the last inter-glacial period, between 125, 00 BC and 70,000 BC.
His work was meticulous. Each of his flints has a WGS number with the site and the date it was found written on it.
Worthington Smith lived in Dunstable, but managed to visit regularly almost every pit, building site, or road excavation in north and east London and much of Essex. His flowing cloak and wide-brimmed hat were a familiar sight on the many excursions of the Geologists’ Association, which he either attended or led.
He probably had the largest collection of flint implements northeast of London. Most of the collection was later acquired by Dr Stuart and can be studied at the British Museum. A catalogue of the collection was published in 1913.
He was a contemporary of Sir John Evans and his son, Sir Arthur Evans. Smith and Sir John often worked together on the local flints. Sir John studied the flints, coins and bronzes of the continent and further afield and wrote important books on each of the subjects. Sir Arthur was made famous by his discoveries at Knossos on Crete and his studies of the Minoan civilisation.
Worthington G Smith was a great archaeologist who has not been given credit for the enormous contribution he made to the study of flint implements and of early man in this area and he and his works deserve to be better known.
By the Dacorum Heritage Trust
19th January 2011