The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Miscellaneous Posts by Chris Collyer

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Battlestone (Humbleton) (Standing Stone / Menhir)

MAGIC seems to back up Stan about this stone calling it a Bronze Age standing stone associated with a cist a couple of metres away.

Star Carr (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Due to current renewed interest in Star Carr I've added the following text I wrote elsewhere.

Star Carr must be one of the most unassuming yet archaeologically important sites it is possible to visit in the British Isles. An empty field hides below its surface the waterlogged remains of what was once a Mesolithic settlement standing on the eastern shores of the now vanished Lake Pickering, a glacial lake formed by meltwaters at the end of the last ice age that stretched as far west as the Hambleton and Howardian Hills towards the north of York. At this time lower sea levels meant Britain was not yet an island being still connected to the continent and as the ice retreated hunters followed herds of migrating animals across land which is now under the North Sea and began to move into new territories. One of these that seems to have been particularly to their liking was beside Lake Pickering where they burned back the sedges and rushes on the marshy edges of its shore and laid down mats of brushwood and a trackway of split timbers to make a platform out into the clearer water - evidence of a wooden oar suggests they also used boats to move out onto the lake to fish.

It is thought that the edge of the lake was not used as a habitation area but that camps would have been set up a short distance to the north on slightly raised ground. These would probably have been temporary seasonal camps and archaeologists seem to be divided on when the site would have been in use, analysis of plant remains suggests the main activity taking place here was during the summer months while finds of worked and natural deer antler suggest people were hunting here during winter.

Although animals such as auroch, elk and boar were taken as food sources it seems that red deer held a special place in the Mesolithic world view of these people. Not only were they hunted in large numbers but they are also responsible for the most famous finds at Star Carr - the antler headdresses. These consisted of the frontal forehead bone of red deer stags with the longer parts of the antler trimmed off and holes drilled through the bone to form either eye-holes or to tie the headdress to the wearer. What these were used for has fired the imagination of many writers (this one included) - were they worn as disguises to allow the hunters to get close to their prey or were they worn during ceremonies where perhaps a tribal leader would enter a trance state to try to commune with the spirit of the animal? Whatever their purpose it seems to have been an important one as twenty one of these headdresses where found here and it appears that they were placed into the wet areas of the site perhaps as an offerings after use. A more pragmatic reason could be they they were submerged to soften the bone prior to it being further worked and what we could be looking at is Star Carr as a production centre with the headdresses being traded further afield.

This theory could be supported by the finds of nearly two hundred barbed antler points which would have been tied to the end of poles to make spears or harpoons for catching fish. Other finds from the site include many flint artifacts such such as scrapers, burins and microliths, pieces of worked and unworked antler and bone as well as wood working tools. Several perforated stone beads, perhaps used as jewelry, hint at the more personal lives of the occupants of the site.

At some point the site was abandoned, perhaps the settlers moved elsewhere as the level of the lake fell although luckily the ground remained waterlogged and a layer of peat slowly formed helping to preserve so much of the organic remains that make Star Carr such a unique and archaeologically rich resource. It slipped from memory until it was rediscovered in 1947 by local archaeologist John Moore and was then excavated between 1949-1951 by Sir Grahame Clark whose discoveries, particularly of the headdresses, sparked so much interest in this quiet corner of Yorkshire. Further excavation work during the 1980's and within the last ten years have helped to shine more light on the activities that were taking place on this shore line and carbon dating of organic remains have given us a date range of activity at Star Carr of between 8770BC-8460BC suggesting that the site remained important for many generations of Mesolithic families.

Despite all that has been learned from the study of the area much remains unexcavated and the true extent of the site has yet to be discovered however recent research indicate that drainage is now threatening the very existence of Star Carr. Falling water levels mean that the water-logged peats that have protected the bone and wooden artifacts that make the site so important are now drying up leading to the decay and destruction of these irreplaceable items with some experts predicting that much will be lost within 5-10 years. To lose all that can be learned from this unique 10000 year old site would be a real archaeological shame.

Dane's Graves (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

From Mortimer, 1897-

These mounds, covered by the trees of an old plantation, may be seen in a little valley within the boundaries of the Lordships of Driffield and Kilham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, nearly four miles due north of Driffield.

They measure from 1 ft. to 3½ ft. in height and 9 ft. to 33 ft. in diameter. The place has from time immemorial been called " Danes' Graves " and " Danesdale." Some accounts say there were originally 500 at least of these mounds; but on the Ordnance Map 197 is the number given. Their comparative preservation seems to be due entirely to the protection afforded by the old trees growing on them. Very probably they once extended, on two sides at least, beyond the boundary of the plantation into the adjoining fields, but there the plough has obliterated all surface trace of them. Many of them within the plantation have been more or less levelled, and some wholly obliterated by persons digging for rabbits ; while others have been frequently excavated at various periods by relic seekers and the otherwise curious, who have left no authentic account of their finds.
The first written record respecting these barrow is given by Leland more than 300 years ago.

Top Low (Round Barrow(s))

This elongated barrow has nearly five pages devoted to it in Bateman's "Ten years diggings" book which goes into detail about the various cists and bone remains found. In cist 4 on the plan he found 'the skeleton of a young hog inside a roughly built cist' and he later notes 'we are inclined to assign the post of honour to the cist containing the hog, which was placed nearest the centre'.

Brown Edge (Stone Circle)

The SMR for this site lists it as a ring cairn with an internal diameter of 6-7.5 metres and a 3 metre wide bank.

Brisworthy Stone Circle

Just to clarify access to this site, the 2005 edition of the OS Explorer Map OL28 shows the circle to be on access land as is the whole of Ringmoor Down *except* the fields immediately south of the circle.

Danes Hills (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

This is one of two sites close to Skipwith known as Danes Hills. The other is just over a mile and a half away to the southwest. Both are Iron Age square barrow cemeteries.

Danes Hills (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

There are two sites close to Skipwith, both called Danes Hills and both Iron Age square barrow cemeteries. The other site is just over a mile and a half to the northeast.

Little Meg (Stone Circle)

English Heritage have Little Meg recorded as a Round Cairn.

Carn Brea (Causewayed Enclosure)

John Wesley (the preacher) wrote the following about the site in 1770 -

"I took a walk to the top of that celebrated hill, Carn-Brae. Here are many monuments of remote antiquity, scarce to be found in any other part of Europe: Druid altars of enormous size, being only huge rocks, strangely suspended one upon the other; and rockbasins, hollowed on the surface of the rock, it is supposed, to contain the holy water. It is probable these are at least co-eval with Pompey's Theatre, if not with the Pyramids of Egypt. And what are they the better for this? Of what consequence is it either to the dead or the living, whether they have withstood the wastes of time for three thousand, or three hundred years?"

Foster Howe (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

EH gives the following measurements for the barrows.
North - 12 metres diameter and .75 metres high with a 2 metre wide ditch on the south side.
Centre - 20 metres wide and 1.75 metres tall with traces of a 2 metre wide ditch.
South – 20 metres diameter and 2 metres high with traces of a 2 metre wide ditch.

Raven Hall Hotel (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Canon Greenwell writing in 1890 mentions the following in respect to carved rocks in the area -

"Eight stones with these markings are preserved in the gardens at Peak House, or, as it is now usually called, Raven Hall, some of which are said to have been taken out of neighbouring barrows."

So where did the other seven carved rocks go?

West Ashby Henge

Although there remains nothing to see on the ground this is nevertheless an important site in the understanding and unfolding story of prehistoric Lincolnshire. It was first discovered by the aerial photography of crop marks in the 1970's that revealed a slightly oval area measuring about 25 metres in diameter surrounded by a 2 metre wide segmented ditch with entrances to the northwest and southeast, making this a Class II henge. No trace of the external bank that we might expect to find associated with this type of monument has been found but we could reasonably assume that this would have extended the size of the monument by another 2-3 metres on either side. Just beyond this proposed bank was discovered a ring of 24 pits or post holes, whether these were originally left as pits, perhaps for ceremonial offerings, or used to support wooden posts is not known at present but an extract from English Heritage's scheduling report of the site tantalisingly suggests that they may have held standing stones. Personally I think this is highly unlikely as there appears to be almost no tradition of the use of stone within Lincolnshire (or at least no surviving evidence) - it is not used at other sites, so why here, and where would this stone have come from?
Looking at aerial photographs of the site shows what looks like the dried remains of a stream or river just to the east of the current course of the River Bain - was this the original course of the river? If so then the henge was closer to the Bain than it is now and this might strengthen the argument that this site was somehow linked to other sites that could be associated with the Bain such as Grim's Mound and Ludford Barrow further north.

Fonaby Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The picture from C. Phillips report on Lincolnshire published in 1932 says that the stone stood 'until recently' which would vaguely tie in with Grays assertion that it was broken up in 1917. He also states that although it stood on chalk land it was formed from ironstone which occurs several miles away concluding that it was either moved here and then erected or that it was a glacial erratic. He goes on to say that it 'did not exceed 3 feet in height and was a cheesewring of three superimposed pieces of stone' that was 'religiously removed during ploughing and then replaced in position before it finally fell to pieces'.

Ash Hill Long Barrow

On the opposite side of the Waithe Beck valley from Hoe Hill barrow, Ash Hill is around 40 metres long, 16 metres wide to the north-east trailing to 10 metres wide at the south-west and stands about 2 metres tall. C. W. Phillips reported in 1932 that there were a number of large trees growing from the mound and that rabbits were 'burrowing freely' in several places.

Mam Tor (Sacred Hill)

The first evidence of activity here consists of Neolithic flints and a polished axe head, next comes the pair of round barrows. The hillfort itself (known as a slight univallate hillfort) dates from the later Bronze Age and seems to have been used and modified into the Iron Age with the original wood and earth rampart being replaced by a stronger stone affair. The defences which enclose an area of about 6 hectares are built (from the inside outwards) with a rampart about 3 metres high and 5 metres wide followed by a flat berm and a U shaped ditch which would have been a couple of metres deep and about the same wide. This has now silted up and the berm and ditch are at the same level. Beyond these was a small outer bank that was probably no more than a metre high. There were entrances to the north and the southwest and the central area was covered with over 70 huts whose bases had been cut into the hillside giving a flat platform before the walls were erected. Excavations have revealed hearths and storage pits as well as large amounts of pottery sherds and whetstones.

Creswell Crags (Cave / Rock Shelter)

There seems to have been 3 main occupation periods at the site which was used as a summer camp by groups following herds of reindeer, bison, mammoth and horses. The first group were Neanderthals from 50000 years ago onwards, then the first modern humans were here around 30000 years ago. The last group left their Creswell Points and bone carvings as well as the recently discovered wall engravings about 11-13000 years ago. Sporadic evidence of use of the caves continues through the prehistoric period. A great deal of information has been lost however as the Victorians actually used explosives to excavate some of the caves On the plus side, when plans were being made to lay a railway through the gorge the land owner thwarted them by damming the stream and creating the modern lake - nice one!

Standingstones Rigg (Ring Cairn)

This small stone circle or ring cairn is situated just beyond the north-eastern edge of the southern end of Harwood Dale Forest on Standingstones Rigg close to several cairns and barrows. There are originally thought to have been around 24 stones here with the 15 that remain set into a low 14 metre earth bank, the circle itself having a diameter of 8 metres - it is possible that an earth mound extended over, and covered the stones but has since been eroded away leaving the circle visible. The tallest of the stones measures just over a metre in height while most of the others are much shorter and many are leaning outwards. In the centre of the circle are three uprights which are believed to have formed part of a burial cist - four of the stones from this cist were decorated with cup and ring marks and are the ones mentioned by Stubob as being in Scarborough Museum.

Kirkheads (Round Barrow(s))

There are also replicas of the drums in the Hull and East Riding Museum in Hull city centre.

Little Meg (Stone Circle)

Sir J.Y. Simpson wrote about Little Meg in the 19th century-
‘Two or three cairns or tumuli existed locally …. One of them, of large size, stood on land belonging to the free school of the township of Maughanby. After removing from its central mound or barrow a quantity of cobble stones mixed with earth, several large stones, one of them only erect, were found arranged in a circle about eighteen feet in diameter. Several of them were buried beneath the projecting edges of the barrow. In the centre of the circle was placed a semi-ovoid cist formed of rough stones, and measuring only three feet nine inches in length, two feet four inches in breadth and ten inches in depth. The cist contained an urn, burnt bones and charcoal. The only ornament upon the rude urn was a raised line near the top.’
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