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

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News

Earthworks: The Heritage Action Fundraising CD


Heritage Action fundraising CD: 'Earthworks'

A twelve track CD, released to raise funds for Heritage Action. Heritage Action was formed in 2003 by 'ordinary people caring for extraordinary places', in response to the neglect of the ancient prehistoric sites of Britain and Ireland.

Covering an eclectic mix of musical styles, the CD features both established and unsigned artists who care about our ancient heritage. From gentle acoustic to banging techno, ska to spacey jam, ambient to indie guitar and folk/dub to funk.

01. Tex la Homa - The Circle (Dub Mix) 03.34
02. Tarantism - Bless My Friends 04.41
03. Silverspace - Salsify 08.29
04. Rebelation - Politrics 03.44
05. Zone Fluffy - Chumblefunk 09.00
06. A Show of Hands - Crooked Man (Live Version) 03.55
07. Twin Hazey - Awaiting The Arrival 03.18
08. Subgiant - Solstice Morning 05.11
09. Zion Train - Zion High (Banco de Gaia remix) 06.30
10. Celtica - UFS 23 07.12
11. X03 - Procession to the Omphalos (World Tree Mix) 05.55
12. Judge Tev - Yer all Gonna Die 03.14

Total: 65.12

The CD can be ordered from the Heritage Action online shop at http://www.heritageaction.org for £8.99 + P&P.

We would like to say a heartfelt thanks to all the artists who contributed to this CD for free. All profits from the sale of this CD will go towards helping to run Heritage Action (a not-for-profit voluntary group), and fighting to stem the tide of destruction facing our ancient heritage.

Heritage Action is a rallying point for anyone who feels that society is deaf to the threats to heritage places, especially the most threatened of all, our most ancient sites.

We want to help individual voices to be heard loud and clear by the public, the media and the authorities.

We believe that this generation holds its heritage in trust for future generations and we should never break this trust. From this comes our single purpose — to build a powerful voice for action on all threatened heritage places.

We aim to promote an appreciation of the value of these places, highlight threats to them, and encourage the public to become involved in responsible but vigorous action to preserve them.

Each individual threat needs publicity and, if necessary, pressure on site owners, commercial interests, local authorities, and heritage bodies.

For more info about Heritage Action and our campaigns, please visit our website at http://www.heritageaction.org

Source: Heritage Action

Rombald's Moor

Officials Rocked as Moor is daubed With Graffiti


Mindless vandals have scrawled graffiti over one of Yorkshire's best loved beauty spots.

Shocked walkers on Ilkley Moor have discovered that ancient rocks have been defaced by louts.

The hooligans have used white gloss paint to leave their mark between the Cow and Calf and the White Wells.

And they have defaced an earlier carving of a deer on one specimen.

Local councillors and walkers have expressed their disgust at the senseless vandalism.

Coun Brian Mann said he had not personally seen the graffiti but would be raising the issue with his colleagues on the council, and he urged everyone to be vigilant.

He said: "It is nasty and cowardly. What do they hope to achieve?"

He said graffiti on the moor would have a massive impact, and he stressed: "It is something we are going to stamp down on."

Coun Mann said thankfully vandalism did not appear to be a persistent problem.

He added: "I think more people should report these kinds of things if they see them happening - and certainly they should bring it to our attention."

Coun Anne Hawkesworth said the graffiti had not been brought to her attention but she was planning to look into it.

She said people tended to respect the area, and but added: "Obviously it would be quite disturbing if the vandalism got too much.

"It is quite incredible that someone had trailed white paint up there."

Richard Perhim, a spokesman for Bradford Council's countryside department said the reports of graffiti would be investigated.

He said: "It comes round every now and again but it is usually not too bad up there."

He said masonry paint would be used to cover the graffiti.

"We have tried using removal stuff in the past - but it doesn't work particularly well," he said.

"The rock is quite coarse so it is easier to paint over it."

Source: Ilkley Gazette - Thursday 01 July 2004

http://www.thisisbradford.co.uk/bradford__district/archive/2004/07/01/otle_spor22.int.html

News

Prehistoric Metals as Treasure


A day-school at the Student Union Auditorium, University of Sheffield (England), jointly hosted by YAS & Prehistoric Society, exploring the significance of recent prehistoric metalwork finds wil be held on Saturday, 20th November 2004.

Speakers include Roger Bland (Impact of new legislation); Ian Stead (Snettisham hoard); Naomi Field (A votive deposits at Fiskerton); Vicki Priest (The helmet & the hoards: E Lincs); Megan Dennis (Sedgeford Hoard), along with Kevin Leahy, Paul Wheelhouse and Donald Coverdale.

For more details, contact Jenny Moore at 19 Storrs Hall Road, Walkley Bank, Sheffield, S6 5AW, or email at jennym.editing@virgin.net

Source: Archeo News/BritArch mailing list (18 June 2004)

Cambridgeshire

Neolithic remains found at bypass site


Vital clues into how ancient Britons lived thousands of years ago have been unearthed on a bypass site. Among the items uncovered along the A142 between Newmarket and Fordham (Cambridgeshire, England) include skeletons from the Bronze Age and Iron Age, along with a body from Roman times. Flints and pottery, buried since the Neolithic period around 4,500 years ago, have also been discovered, and will now be cleaned and carefully examined to help experts learn more about the history of East Anglia's ancestors.

"It is very exciting. We have found an awful lot of archaeology in general at the Fordham bypass site," said Richard Mortimer, project officer at Cambridgeshire County Council's archaeology field unit. "We found skeletons from the Bronze Age and Iron Age, along with a Roman skeleton and some lovely other pieces, such as flints and pottery. We have also found large, pit-like shafts and a couple of Roman roads - all manner of things which are very rich and very prehistoric. Finding skeletons is not that unusual, but to find the amount of pieces we did, from difference periods but all in the same place, is very rare."

One of the skeletons dates back around 6,000 years, and coincides with the birth of farming. "This is the first evidence of people settling down and becoming more sedentary, after we had stopped being hunter-gatherers," added Mr Mortimer. The pieces will be sent away to specialists and cleaned, which will take up to a year.

The team were asked to move onto the site before work begins on the Fordham bypass scheme in July. They then spent around 12 weeks painstakingly clearing the area, using pick axes and shovels, before uncovering all the archaeological gems the site has to offer.

Source: Archeo News/East Anglian Daily Times (11 June 2004)
http://www.eadt.co.uk/homeStory.asp?Brand=EADONLINE&Category=NEWS&ItemId=IPED10+Jun+2004+20%3A15%3A34%3A240

News

Australia has a Swastika Stone of its own


In light of the recent claims of author Terry Deary, a design similar to the Ilkley Moor Swastika Stone has surfaced on rocks near Brisbane, Australia.

The design is etched into the face of a small boulder and measures 1090mm in height and 970mm in width. It closely resembles the design of the 'Camunian Rose' motif (based on a cross of nine cups surrounded by an interweaving groove), found in Valcomonica, Northern Italy.

The Swastika, sometimes known as the Fylfot, is a widely used symbol found all over Europe and Asia. In Britain, it is thought to have been a solar symbol and a symbol of the Celtic Goddess Brigit (also known as Brig, Brid, Bride, Brigantia and the christianised St Bridgit), but was previously unknown in Australia.

It is not known how old the carving is, but was discovered by the finder two years ago.

Pics and diagram:
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/28464
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/28467

Source: Personal Correspondence

Yorkshire

Upcoming Exhibition on Modern Views of Rock Art


NOT SET IN STONE

An exhibition to explore perceptions of prehistoric rock art, time and landscapes in Britain.

Ilkley Manor House Museum
25th September to 21st November

This exhibition aims to explore what prehistoric rock art, its time-depth and its landscapes mean to us today. It will also explore how these different meanings and perceptions be captured and communicated. It intends to move beyond traditional ways of portraying rock art and its surroundings. It will emphasise the dynamic continuity of the landscape and illustrate how the past pervades the ideas and identity of the present.

By presenting alternative perspectives on the rock art and on our relationship to them and by exploring new ways of communicating these ideas, the exhibition aims to stimulate public imagination, to challenge preconceptions of ownership and to raise awareness of the engravings and their place in our world today.

A variety of media and approaches will be used to explore these themes, including photography, digital image enhancement, sculpture, archive material, poetry/words, interactive media (including textiles, wood and stone).

There will be an official opening on 25th Sept with a guest speaker and it will run for 9 weeks up to 21st November in the Manor House Museum and Art Gallery, Ilkley. It will form part of the Ilkley International Literature Festival which is from 27th Sept-18th Oct.

For more information contact Tertia Barnett at tertiabarnett@hotmail.com

Ilkley Manor House Museum, Castle Yard, Church Street, Ilkley L529 9DT. Tel. 01943-600066

Opening Times (admission free)
Monday closed (except Bank Holidays)
Tuesday 2pm-4pm
Wednesday - Saturday 11am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-4pm

Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor (Stone Circle)

Legal Fight Over Future of Nine Ladies


Peak Park bosses and quarry chiefs are locked in a legal battle over the rights to extract stone from a controversial quarry where eco-warriors have been camped for four years. Planners at the National Park Authority listed Endcliffe and Lees Cross Quarries at Stanton Moor (England) as dormant because there had been no significant working in them for many years. But quarry owners are making a legal challenge in the High Court against the listing.

Park bosses say they are determined to defend the challenge, even though it could leave them with a huge legal bill, in order to uphold their primary purpose of protecting the Peak District's special qualities. Councillor John Bull, the authority's planning committee chairman, said the course of action is essential to reduce the risk of environmental harm to an area that is of nationally-important archaeological and historical interest. "It is absolutely crucial to establish the legal status of the quarries, as this affects our ability to impose modern working conditions on the operations based on the existing planning permission which dates back to 1952," he added. "If we do not defend the challenge, the quarries will be deemed to be 'active' making it more difficult to impose any conditions to limit the effects of quarrying. "Future working could then lead to significant environmental damage and disturbance to communities living nearby.

The High Court hearing is currently taking place in London. Protesters set up camp in the quarry four years ago amid fears that new workings could create a landslip and destroy nearby Bronze Age burial grounds, including the Nine Ladies stone circle.

Source: Archaeo News (22 May 2004)

Kilmartin Area

Kilmartin House Museum in Crisis


Kilmartin House Museum is an independent charitable institution established in Scotland in 1994. The impetus for the museum was the rich archaeological and ecological heritage of the area, which includes nationally important monuments such as Dunadd, a great density of prehistoric rock carvings, cairns and standing stones as well as outstanding environmental habitats.

After the initial development phase, the institution has been funded through ticket sales and income generated in the shop and café. However, as with all museums, that will never be enough. If KHM are not able to persuade national and local government bodies and other agencies of our worth, and secure further funding, the Museum will have to close. They currently receive no core funding from local or national government.

If you think it's important that Kilmartin House Museum doesn't close, you can help. KHM needs to persaude local and national government that the Museum is worthy of support, so you can call into the museum, sign the online petition (http://www.kilmartin.org/) or write to the Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute Council: Mr James McLellan - Chief Executive Argyll and Bute Council, Kilmory, Lochgilphead Argyll PA31 8RT Scotland. So that KHM can monitor support, please also copy your letter to the Curator, Dr Sharon Webb, Kilmartin House Museum, Kilmartin, Argyll, PA31 8RQ, sharon@kilmartin.org. The petition will be sent to Argyll and Bute Council and copies will be sent to the Scottish Executive.

Source: Archaeo News (22 May 2004)

North Ayrshire (incl. Arran)

Prehistoric Finds at a Housing Site in Scotland


Archaeologists will have a greater understanding of the lives of the people who built great ritual monuments following excavations at one of Scotland's largest rural settlements. A dig at a new housing development in Dreghorn, Ayrshire, has revealed major medieval remains and Neolithic features including the site of a ceremonial pole, houses and a pottery kiln.

The site suggests a 5000-year-old village similar in scale to the group of stone houses at Skara Brae, Orkney. Large amounts of grooved ware pottery, a decorated ceramic that seems to have evolved in Scotland and is found across the UK at ceremonial monuments including henge earthworks and timber structures, were also found.

Tom Addyman, excavation director of Addyman Associates, who carried out the ongoing dig at the housing development, said: "This was part of a five-acre development where it was suspected from documents, including an aerial photograph taken in the 1940s, that there was evidence of prehistoric remains. Once we had gone in and tested the ground by cutting strips across the land, we found two or three corn-drying kilns. Very often these kilns caught alight and the grain turned to charcoal that could be dated to the thirteenth century. There had been a hint of prehistory but we excavated a two-acre trench and at the top of the slope there was a great deal more prehistoric activity behind the village street."

Mr Addyman added: "We found 750-odd pieces of grooved ware, which is one of the largest collections in the south-west of Scotland. The area is now known as a type site for the Neolithic period, which means that all other sites will be compared to this one."

Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine, said: "Finding evidence at this date for settlement, in the form of building foundations and for pottery making, is extremely rare, and promises to help us understand the lives of the people who built the great ritual monuments like henges and early stone circles."

Source: The Herald (19 April 2004) & Stone Pages

Creswell Crags (Cave / Rock Shelter)

Cave Paintings Were Part of a Continent-Wide Culture


The people who created the first surviving art in Britain were committed Europeans, belonging to a common culture spanning France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, according to the man who discovered the cave art in Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire (England). The discovery of 13,000-year-old rock paintings in Nottinghamshire last year rewrote ice-age history in Britain. Archaeologists from all over Europe met in Creswell to discuss how the finds form part of a continent-wide culture known as the Magdalenian.

Paul Pettitt, of Sheffield University's archaeology department, said: "The Magdalenian era was the last time that Europe was unified in a real sense and on a grand scale." According to Mr Pettitt, the artists behind the Creswell paintings would have spent summers in the area feasting on migrating reindeer, but the winters on lowlands which now form the North sea or in the Netherlands or central Rhine areas. They would have kept in close contact, possibly through yearly meetings, with people in the middle Rhine, the Ardennes forest and the Dordogne. At the time it was possible to walk from Nottinghamshire to the Dordogne. "The importance of art for the Magdalenians is clear," said Mr Pettitt. "It helped to reaffirm their common cultural affiliation."

Of particular interest on the Creswell paintings is a depiction of an ibex, an animal now only to be found in Europe in the Pyrenees. "Not one ice-age ibex bone has been found in Britain. The nearest ibex remains [from the period] were found in Belgium and mid-Germany," said Mr Pettitt. He said the most likely explanation is that Magdalenians saw ibexes elsewhere and painted them in Creswell as a reminder.

Other shapes found at Creswell were initially thought to be long-necked birds. "Looked at another way," said Mr Pettitt, "You see a naked women in profile, with jutting out buttocks and raised arms. It appears to be a picture of women doing a dance in which they thrust out their derrières. It's stylistically very similar to continental examples, and seems to demonstrate that Creswellians are singing and dancing in the same way as on the continent."

The cave complex and attendant museum attract 28,000 visitors a year. The museum trust has submitted a £4 million bid to the lottery heritage fund to improve access to the site. Jon Humble, inspector of ancient monuments for English Heritage, called it "the best and most successful example of an archaeology-led project for social and economic regeneration anywhere in the UK".

Source: The Guardian (15 April 2004) & Stone Pages

Orkney

Kist Unearthed While Ploughing in Orkney


An Orcadian farmer has unearthed on his land at Howe Farm in Harray (Orkney, Scotland) what is believed to be a Bronze Age burial kist. Despite kists being quite common in Orkney, Historic Scotland called in AOC Archaeology from Edinburgh to carry out the excavation at the end of last week.

AOC project officer Ronan Toolis said: "The machinery went over the kist and broke through the top slab. It was reported to Historic Scotland and they called us in." Ronan and project supervisor Martin Cook travelled to Orkney on Friday and found a stone kist grave, in effect a stone box. "It is actually very well constructed and inside was a small deposit of cremated bone. We would expect it to be human, although it is still to be analysed," Ronan said. He continued: "The bone was in a small pile, it may have originally been in a bag that has since rotted away."

The kist measures about 1.5 metres long, by 60cm wide and was 70cm below the ground surface. Samples have been taken from the kist and surrounding area in a bid to date the burial. The bone material will also be assessed to see how many individuals were buried, their age, sex and health. "We suspect the grave could be Bronze Age as we found a bit of melted metal within the kist," Ronan said. The grave has been taken apart by the excavators and recorded.

Source: The Orcadian (18 March 2004)

Nottinghamshire

Cave Art to Go on Show


The only known Ice Age cave art in Britain is to be revealed to the public for the first time. But the tours, to be held for just two weeks next month, will be the only chance to see the 12,000-year-old carvings at Creswell Crags (Nottinghamshire, England) for some years.

Archaeologists announced their unique discovery at the Crags last summer. The images carved by nomadic Ice Age hunters who sheltered in the caves were the first to be found in Britain. Before then only small carved objects from the period had been found in the UK. Ice Age cave art has previously been found in France and Spain. The Creswell pictures, of animals such as the ibex (a type of goat), wild ox and birds, were found carved into the walls of Church Hole Cave at the heritage site at Welbeck, near Worksop. But they have been kept from public view while they have been studied, and to protect them.

Now the first tours to see the carvings are to be run daily between April 3 and 18. Times will vary and places must be booked in advance. Visitors will be able to see the ancient images, which are high up on the cave wall, by climbing steps to a viewing platform. Brian Chambers, Creswell Crags curator, said: "This really is a chance in a lifetime."

It is likely to be the only public viewing allowed for two, possibly three years. But other caves will remain open. Public access has been limited owing to health and safety issues. But in the long term, organisers are investigating ways for the public to have more access. Researchers will be given limited access to the site.

Ian Wall, services and operations manager, said: "It is a sensitive archaeological site and we have already had to take special measures such as installing scaffold platforms for people to stand on to look at the art.

The cave tours will cost £5 for adults, £2.50 for children or £12.50 for a family of four. Visitors must be aged above five. The number of people allowed on each of up to four tours a day will be limited to ten for health and safety reasons. Early bookings for cave tours are recommended. Call 01909 720378.

Source: This is Nottingham, Evening Post (26 March 2004)

Somerset

Prehistoric Axe Found in a Garden in Somerset


A 5,000-year-old flint axe head has been found in a garden in Somerset (England). Andrew Witts made the rare prehistoric discovery while landscaping his garden at Creech St Michael near Taunton. Mr Witts said: "I knew I had found something unusual when I noticed the object had a polished surface, but I never thought it would be that." The Somerset County Museum which identified the object said it was a fine example of a highly polished, flint Neolithic axe. Mr Witts plans to donate the axe to the museum, where it will be put on display as part of the Taunton 1100 exhibition.

Source: BBC News (13 March 2004)

North Ayrshire (incl. Arran)

Britain's oldest continuously inhabited village


Dreghorn in Ayrshire, Scotland, has been revealed as Britain's oldest continuously inhabited village after the remains of an ancient settlement were uncovered by builders.
North Ayrshire Council granted permission for a development of 53 new houses at Dreghorn on the condition that tests were carried out on land next to Dreghorn cemetery. Developers spotted suspicious-looking lumps and bumps on aerial photographs, and when a 5,500-year-old well was found in November, archaeologists were called in. The team of archaeologists is being led by Tom Wilson.
"This is only one of five to be discovered in Scotland and we think it dates back to around 3500 BCE" he said. "It would be a farming community with around eight huts taking pride of place in the site. We have also found pits with pottery and a giant fence that must have circled the village. Although other neolithic villages have been found in Scotland, this is the only one I believe has been permanently lived in. We can see where the huts and kiln would have been. The residents moved further up the hill in the winter as the land was prone to flooding. We're really like detectives and so far we have found some important artifacts including grooved-ware pottery and a kiln that we think is the oldest found in Scotland."
Pitchstone cooking pots from Arran have been found, along with animal remains. Also found were some much later mediaeval artefacts. Many of the artefacts will be put on display at the National Museums of Scotland.
The archaeologists have until the end of March to complete their investigations before the building work goes ahead.

Source: icAyrshire (4 March 2004)

The Isle of Man

Underwater Clues to Isle of Man's Prehistory?


A scientist from Douglas (Isle of Man) who is helping explore and visualise the underwater landscape of the Southern North Sea is hoping that the same technology could help historians firm up dates when the island was populated. Simon Fitch is in the second year of a PhD in geoarchaeology at Birmingham University. He is part of a team of archaeologists, geologists and engineers investigating the large plain where hunter-gatherers roamed up to 10,000 years ago, before the inundation by rising ocean levels in the last post-glacial period. With a first degree in geology and a master's in landscape archaeology, Simon has played a pivotal role in the North Sea exploration, reviewing and analysing key data. He hopes that the same techniques could be used to discover how his home island first became inhabited.

Source: Isle of Man Online (23 February 2004)

Aberdeenshire

Details of Ancient Burial Site in Scotland


An Ancient burial site, which was unearthed by workers preparing land for a massive gas pipeline, has proved to be a mine of information about Scottish people of the Bronze Age. Archaeologists at the 3,500-year-old cemetery, found in a field near Auchnagatt (Aberdeenshire), say the discovery also reveals important clues about ancient burial rituals in the north-east. They are analysing pottery urns, containing cremated human remains.

The Bronze Age graveyard was found in the summer of 2001 on the route of a major Transco pipeline development from St Fergus to near Aberdeen. The find was the first of its kind in Aberdeenshire for more than 30 years.

Melanie Johnson, field officer at CFA Archaeology, said: "The cemetery consisted of almost 40 pits containing cremations, 11 of which were contained inside pottery urns," she said. "The site was unusually well-preserved." A number of cremations have now been dated, using the latest advances in radiocarbon dating of human bones. Ms Johnson said: "This shows the cemetery was in use from about 1900 BCE to 1600 BCE. "The urns are currently being conserved at Aberdeen's Marischal Museum, while analysis of the cremated human bones will reveal all sorts about the person who died, including their sex, age and whether they were in good health."

Source: Aberdeen Press & Journal (15 January 2004)

Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham (Region)

CAPE will Highlight Welsh Bronze Age Culture


The CAPE (Culture, Archaeology, Prehistory Experience) Project comprises the construction of a visitor centre highlighting the Bronze Age and Celtic culture of north east Wales that could attract up to 150,000 tourists a year. At the core of the new visitor attraction, drawing on Arthurian connections, would be the famous gold Bronze Age Mold Cape, currently held in the British Museum.

Experts have drawn up a study and believe that such a centre is feasible, probably on land next to Clwyd Theatr Cymru. To get the project going, the report will suggest trying to establish an academic centre first which could be a base for archaeological dig teams. "We urge local people to take an interest and get involved. It is vital we now widen the debate and engage local people at the earliest opportunity in the future planning of the project in the hope that they will get behind it, " said Project chairman Adrian Barsby.

The whole idea was sparked by a drive in the town for the return of its famous Bronze Age cape. It was discovered by labourers in pieces at Bryn yr Ellyllon (Hill of Elves) just off Chester Road, Mold, in 1833 along with the bones of a man. It is dated between 1900 and 1600 BCE and is made from the equivalent of 23-carat Irish gold.

Sources: Daily Post, icNorthWales, North Wales Weekly News (6 February 2004)

Highland (Mainland)

Migdale Hoard returned to the Highlands


The Migdale Hoard has been returned to the Highlands of Scotland for an exhibition at Inverness Museum. A priceless collection of Bronze Age jewellery - including a bronze axe head, bronze hair ornaments, sets of bronze bangles and anklets, and several carved jet and shale buttons - it was found in May 1900 in a rock crevice above Loch Migdale, Sutherland.
Although kept in Edinburgh at the National Museums of Scotland, the artefacts are being lent to Inverness Museum for an exhibition lasting until mid-June. Local Highland councillor Alison Magee said "I'm delighted that these highly important artefacts will be on display in the Highlands close to where they were found. I hope as many people as possible from the Kyle of Sutherland and the wider Highlands will be able to visit the museum and see for themselves this stunning example of our local Bronze Age history."
However, the collection may be incomplete, as Inverness Museum archaeologist Patricia Weeks explained "Intriguingly, some of the pieces found with the hoard never made it to the National Museum." Smaller artefacts were apparently picked up at the time of discovery by local children, and it's possible some of the missing pieces may still be in the area.
Later this year, Dr Alison Sheridan of the National Museums of Scotland will give a talk in the Highlands on the Migdale Hoard, but the time and place have still to be confirmed.

Suffolk

Axe found in England could be 500.000-year-old


Hundreds of thousands of years ago, stones were washed down to East Anglia with a vast river that cut through the middle of England. But what the experts are puzzling over today is where this river ran its course. If they can plot its course and date it accurately, they could prove there were humans living in Britain 500,000 years ago and fill a gap in the prehistoric knowledge. And a hand-axe discovered at Lakenheath in the 1800s could be the vital link they need.
This is part of an historical puzzle being pieced together by British archaeologists as part of the national Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) survey. Members of AHOB were at Maidscross Heath, Lakenheath in Suffolk, taking samples from the site of the ancient riverbed to help them track its course. The site was chosen mainly because antiquarian geologist RW Flower found a hand-axe on the heath in 1869. In three pits, scientists have already found gravel deposits, which prove the river ran from the West Midlands down through Suffolk and Norfolk.
Archaeologist Nick Ashton, the British Museum's senior curator in the department of pre-history and Europe, said they are trying to look at when humans were here and what kind of climate they were living in. The evidence suggests the hand-axe found at Lakenheath was probably carried onto the site by the river from somewhere else in England. "There is a huge gap in human occupation between 250,000 and 60,000 years ago. There seems to be a complete absence of humans in Britain - probably because of the creation of the English Channel" said Ashton. "We are looking at dating this site. The hand-axe found by Flower is slightly rolled smooth, caused by it rolling in river gravel. This (site) would not have been where it was made. The axe could have been eroded out of an even earlier deposit, which means it is at least 0.5 million years old, possibly even 600,000 years old," he added.
Simon Lewis, a lecturer at Queen Mary College of London, said this river bed was an exciting find. "Drainage altered beyond recognition during glaciation 450,000 years ago." At that time the River Thames flowed through Suffolk and Essex, but it was diverted to its present course by the pressure of the ice. At Lakenheath there is evidence of quartzite and quartz that has travelled from a very old deposit in the West Midlands. "Lakenheath is a fragment of this river's story. It flowed out across to Great Yarmouth and out to a massive delta where it met the Rhine and other large continental rivers," he said.

Source: EDP24 (28 January 2004)

Yorkshire

Why did Iron Age Man go off Fish?


Fragments of femur excavated from an Iron Age burial site in east Yorkshire (England) have been analyzed by the department of archaeological sciences at Bradford University. For scientists, bones such as these contain a key piece of information about ancient societies: what people ate. Remarkably, bones retain a chemical signature of what went into making them in the first place: what it was in the diet that provided the raw materials for the bone to grow. By examining bone in this way, the Bradford researchers, led by Dr Mike Richards, have made a number of significant discoveries. The most intriguing is that around 6,000 years ago Stone Age man in Britain seems suddenly to have stopped eating fish and shellfish. This dietary restriction persisted for the better part of 4,000 years, until the Romans arrived.

Mandy Jay has been examining the diet of people buried at the largest Iron Age cemetery in Britain at Wetwang, on the Yorkshire Wolds. The cemetery dates from the 3rd or 4th century BCE, and contains around 450 people. "The cemetery was used over a period of about 200 years, and there is a very particular pattern to the burials," says Jay. "There are five chariot burials, where bodies have been buried with chariots. It is assumed that these were the highest-status individuals. There are remains of bodies that were buried under specially constructed mounds, or barrows, which presumably was also indicative of status, and finally bodies buried in the ditches surrounding the barrows - suspected to be the lower status."

"The question I wanted to ask is whether we could see a difference in diet depending on the assumed status of the individuals," says Jay. Following isotope-ratio analysis on almost 50 samples, Jay has concluded that there is no difference between the three groups in terms of the source of their protein. "All of the samples showed quite a lot of animal protein in the diet," she says. The proportion of animal and plant protein remained similar throughout the period that the cemetery was being used. This suggests that the community was highly economically stable over this time, with the same farming practices persisting for two centuries. "The other thing that we can say with some confidence is that there is no evidence of any marine protein having been consumed," says Jay. "Things like fish and shellfish were absent from the diet." This fits in with a recent finding by Dr Richards that people simply did not eat seafood at this point in history.

"We know that about 6,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, there was a revolution in the way people lived. People stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers and started to farm animals and crops, and live in villages." said Dr Richards. There were big cultural as well as economic changes at this time. Domesticated animals were brought over from the Continent, and wheat and barley appeared. Pottery began to be made, and elaborate burial monuments started to appear. "From a dietary point, before this time there was only wild food," says Dr Richards. "If you do isotope analysis of bones found at coastal sites, you find evidence of a large amount of marine food in the diet. But after about 4,000 BCE suddenly there is no marine food in the diet. People simply stopped eating fish and shellfish."

The reasons for this are not clear. One school of thought suggests that a shift in climate at that time, causing sea levels to rise, made fishing difficult. Other archaeologists think that the advent of farming made the food resource much more secure - there was no need to harvest wild food. Dr Richards believes that the radical change in diet reflected larger changes in society. "It coincides with the appearance of pottery and of big monuments and new burial practices," he says. "My hunch is that there was a spread of a new kind of belief system, a new way of looking at the world, and a big part of that could have been a change in diet. But it is rare that you see such sudden changes."

Fish seems not to have appeared again on the menu until the Romans arrived, 4,000 years later. The pattern is confirmed in Jay's findings. She has looked at samples of Iron Age bone from two coastal sites, in Cornwall and East Lothian. These, too, are devoid of any evidence of a marine diet. "We know that the technology for fishing existed and you would have thought that a ready source of food would be exploited. It might have been that seafood in some way became taboo. Even now there are dietary taboos - for example we balk at the thought of eating horsemeat or dog, but these are eaten in some societies. In fact we know that people in the Iron Age did eat dogs and horses." says Jay.

Source: The Independent (14 January 2004)
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Name: Andy Hemingway

D.O.B: 17.04.66

Occupation: Graphic Artist

Website: http://www.ahgphotography.co.uk

I was born and raised in Huddersfield. I moved to Norwich in 1988 to go to Art School and haven't got it together to leave yet!! My interests are visiting and reading about ancient places, tribal art and society and trying my damnedest to keep as far from the Rat Race as possible! Ambient Rambling is where it's at!

Love music - psychedelic 70's rock, punk, roots n' dub and world/trancy sort of stuff in general!

Also do voluntary work for festivals and have been involved in the Norwich Free Festival in it's various guises for a number of years.

My special area of interest is Ilkley Moor. I don't get the opportunity to go back often these days, but I spent much time on the moors in the 1980's... often for days on end. The Twelve Apostles is an old friend of mine! Although I know the moors fairly well, each journey I make back there is still full of discovery. I always seem to find something I haven't seen before.

NB - Since I wrote this I have in fact gotten away from Norwich and now live in Barnsley.

My TMA Content: