Photography, Diplomacy and Grub | 1986 archaeology on a moor in Yorkshire

Dear Microburins.

Danby RiggI was flipping through some old (scanned) pictures from the prehistory of my archaeological past and thought you might enjoy these. It’s 1986 throw-back time, the second season investigating the Bronze Age upland landscape on Danby Rigg in the beautiful Esk valley on the North York Moors.

Aerial photography | On-site diplomacy | Sectioned lunch

The Bronze Age triple dykes subsequently radiocarbon dated to the Viking period, which was a surprise. The Durham University project included re-examination of a Bronze Age ring cairn with a large monolith, proving it to have at least one cremation burial.

Ring cairnThe landscape survey plotted the entire network of field systems and cairns hidden under the heather—certainly one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind in north-east England, and executed before the advent of GPS or Total Station technology, but we did have an EDM. This was all dumpy level and back-sighting. I’m proud to be able to set up a theodolite in five seconds, while sleeping!

There is a tenuous Mesolithic connection in that, on the long walk up to the moor each morning, Microburin discovered a small Mesolithic assemblage at relatively low altitude. It included some blades and a scraper with edge gloss from processing plant materials, but no microliths. A large Mesolithic core was, inevitably, lying at the bottom of the deepest Viking ditch (residual). It’s a bit like the “token” sherd of Roman Samian Ware (posh dinner service crockery) found most other places, no matter what period you’re digging.

AF Harding Danby RiggHarding, A., Ostoja-Zagorski, J. 1994. Prehistoric and Early Medieval Activity on Danby Rigg, North Yorkshire, Archaeological Journal 151, 16-97.

The plans and sections are mostly mine, but some cheeky rascal got the credit.


Compelling Kickstarter digital project | 3D Virtual Prehistoric Worlds | Donate as little as £1


Donation window is now closed but was very successful!

Digital heritage professional Marcus Abbott is using Kickstarter, an innovative way to fund projects, to raise donations for his Virtual Prehistoric Worlds project—an explorable visualisation of a 3D digital world generated from archaeological and palaeo-environmental data.

“This project is a visual representation of what we know about a past landscape, it combines archaeological data and scientific data with cutting edge digital recording and visualisation techniques to produce a virtual world.

This world is a representation of the Bronze Age in East Anglia and focuses on an area known to be of religious significance during this time. The landscape is a wetland environment and has been generated entirely digitally. The archaeology has been reconstructed from actual evidence found on sites in the area. Round houses and wooden platforms, track ways, fences and the great causeway structures of Flag Fen are all present in the landscape.”

You can pledge as little as £1 to support this exciting project and join more than 58 backers who have already offered over £1,000. There are just seven days to go—and every extra pound helps bring the project to realisation. The funding window closes on 7 October 2013.


More from Low Hauxley | Mesolithic tsunami evidence

BBC Look NorthThe latest media coverage and a short video from BBC Look North. The Storegga slide tsunami occurred around 6100BC, sealing the separation of Britain from continental Europe.

The thick layer of marine pebbles, stones and fragments of shell covers the site with later Mesolithic organic layers containing flints and charred hazelnuts sitting on top. One wonders about the effect on surviving coastal communities at the time and how long the fear of surging sea endured? We have more recent world experiences to ponder.

“The deposits we have found are in a gravel-type layer with quite large blocks of stone dating back about 8,000 years. “This material was dumped by the sea in what was a catastrophic event at the time.” Dr Clive Waddington said the site was a ‘staggering find’.  “We hope this discovery will flesh out the story of how Britain became an island as well as tell us about what the environment was like at that time here in Druridge Bay.”

The last few weeks of the dig, which included Bronze Age beaker burials in stone cists, are underway and I’m privileged to be heading up soon as a volunteer for the final phase of a multi-year project of international importance, and the back-filling.

Druridge Bay was once the location for open-cast coal mining. It is now largely a restored landscape and hosts internationally important nature reserves as well as spectacular beaches, dunes, picturesque villages and Medieval castles such as Warkworth, Alnwick and Bamburgh. One of the UK’s best (if not THE best) second-hand bookshops is Barter Books in the old railway station at Alnwick and boasts an overhead model railway.




Rescued from the sea | Excavations at Low Hauxley | Island of the dead? (video)

Updated 15-Aug with tsunami article

Click to watchAn ongoing rescue project is taking place in Northumberland where coastal erosion has revealed a Bronze Age “cemetery” burial cairn and evidence back to the Mesolithic. There are flints for sure but also antler and hundreds of preserved footprints in the peat beneath the present beach dated to over 7,000 years ago—adults, children and animals.

More media coverage is promised over the coming weeks, but here’s a great 8 minute video hosted by the inimitable Clive Waddington of Archaeological Research Services Ltd. This is a huge community project with more than 150 local volunteers and over 300 school children involved, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Newcastle University, UK Coal and The Leader Project. Clive is well-known for the excavations of a Mesolithic house at Howick, Northumberland—one of the earliest Late Mesolithic structures in Britain, occupied from about 7800 cal BC, repaired and rebuilt over many generations. Will they find similar at Low Hauxley?

Recommended Reading

  • Barton, R.N.E. & Roberts, A. 2004. The Mesolithic period in England: current perspectives and new research, in Saville (2004, 339-58).
  • Passmore, D.G. & Waddington, C. 2012. Archaeology and Environment in Northumberland: Till Tweed Studies, vol. 2 of 2. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Saville, A. (ed.) 2004. Mesolithic Scotland and its Neighbours. Edinburgh: Soc Antiquaries Scotland.
  • Waddington, C. (ed.) 2007. Mesolithic Studies in the North Sea Basin, a Case Study from Howick, North-East England. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Waddington, C. & Pedersen, K. (eds) 2007. Mesolithic Studies in the North Sea Basin and Beyond. Proceedings of a Conference held at Newcastle in 2003. Oxford: Oxbow.


Teesside Archaeological Society | eNews | Oct 2012

TAS eNewsThe latest edition is out—packed with news and events!

  • Editorial Review | Autumn Programme | 2013 AGM | Time called on Time Team
  • Activities & Events | October Lecture : Prof Nicky Milner on the Star Carr Project | Tees Archaeology Day School | Regional Events
  • Site Notes | Crimdon Dene Latest | Bronze Age Wearside | Iron Age Chilton | Roman South Shields Community Archaeology
  • Members’ Voice | TAS Member Chris McLoughlin shares summer heritage travels
  • Browser | This month’s recommended Browsing, Listening and Reading items
  • About TAS | How to Join | eNews Archives

Remember | eNews is free—spread the word about TAS!

Love the rich, distinctive heritage of north-east England



Hartlepool Sandman | Kids discover skeleton in dunes

Crimdon Dene Creative Commons 2.0

Crimdon Dene beck towards the sea | Creative Commons 2.0 License

School kids have come across human skeletal remains revealed by coastal erosion at Crimdon Dene near Hartlepool, north-east England. As a crouched burial, assuming it is a burial, could it be prehistoric? Bronze Age? Or even older? Evidence for Mesolithic burial in the UK, for example, is virtually non-existent outside Somerset and the odd finger in Scottish shell middens, unlike Denmark and Scandinavia.

Challenges and Possibilities | Dreams in Dunes

There are some challenges too. How do you investigate such a find in a highly unstable environment like sand dunes? I’m sure there’s more news to follow from Tees Archaeology. Crimdon Dene¹ is also known for extensive Mesolithic flint scatters discovered in the 1940s. Filpoke Beacon², 1.25km north, produced one of the earliest Late Mesolithic radiocarbon dates for geometric narrow blade microliths: 8760 +/- 140 BP³ (Q-1474) based on carbonized hazelnut shells. A submerged forest sits off the coast south of Hartlepool and has revealed Late Mesolithic and Neolithic evidence including flints and a possible fish weir (see Tees Archaeology’s monograph).

Bronze Age burials, albeit in stone cists, were discovered in the vicinity of the Mesolithic house at Howick, Northumberland Coast. I know where my money’s going—but dreams at least are free!

¹ Young, R. 2007. ‘I must go down to the sea again…’ A Review of Early Research on the ‘Coastal’ Mesolithic of North-East England, in Waddington, C. & Pedersen, K (eds). Mesolithic Studies in the North Sea Basin and Beyond. Oxford: Oxbow.
² Jacobi, R. 1976. Britain Inside and Outside Mesolithic Europe. Proc Preh Soc 42: 67-84.
³ Before Present (1950), hazelnut shells are more reliable for aging than timber because they are shorter lived—”old wood” can itself be hundreds of years old before burning.