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.

Spence

Wild Things 2.0 Palaeolithic-Mesolithic Conference 2014 Abstracts | Lithoscapes posters

wild20Abstracts are now available, including two poster presentations from Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation! That’s Paul Preston and me. There’s an exciting line-up of paper presentations with renowned national and international speakers. And a pub.

IMG_4469Unpicking the Palimpsest: A late Mesolithic upland activity area in North East England

Spencer Carter, Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation | p30

This poster will outline the emerging results from on-going analyses of artefacts recorded during a systematic rescue excavation of a typologically Late Mesolithic upland lithic scatter at White Gill, Westerdale on the North York Moors, UK. The excavation and lithic assemblages are described and evaluated, including unequivocal evidence of hearth features with associated, discrete knapping events surrounding them, artefact associations with flat-stones, and a tentative structure. The early results of the lithics analysis are elucidated and reveal the complex lithic chaînes opératoires including the possible expedient use of legacy lithic material, and the possibility that one of the knappers was a juvenile or ‘apprentice learner’.

WGW2000-conjoining-microlithThe poster will also outline interesting evidence for site “pairing” suggested by lithic re-fits between neighbouring sites in the proximity of a palaeolake, the transport of raw materials, including the presence of finished Pennine chert tools. The project therefore affords a rare opportunity to analyse potential coeval activity and mobility over distance. Being the first comprehensive study of its kind in an area hitherto ignored or largely unrecorded, the micro-scale of the analyses described in this poster provides a keyhole view that not only confirms a rich data set, but also opens up new research questions that allow us to begin unpicking a persistent, palimpsestual, complex Mesolithic taskscape in a largely over-looked period and region. It also highlights implicit warnings about the damage that well-meaning or illicit “flinting” activities can wreak on a fragile archaeological record.

IMG_9690Everything We Know is Wrong? The MESOlithics Project: Charging lithics into the Mesolithic Canon

Paul Preston, Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation | p42

Many researchers have set ambitious goals in attempting to create social narratives from Mesolithic lithic scatters in a landscape context or to derive socio-cultural/stylistic meaning from. While laudable, and recognising the rich debate that emanates from the research, such attempts have been arguably impeded by their reliance upon referential frameworks that fail to integrate adequately their theoretical base with systematic methodologies in support of their conclusions. As a result British Mesolithic studies — and concomitantly the so-called ‘Mesolithic Canon’ — have been hampered by the lack of three fundamental analytical foundations:

  1. a consensus definition of the Mesolithic, its phases and its geographic variation;
  2. an accurate, calibrated, sufficiently granular chronology, and;
  3. an explicitly defined, standardised, replicable lithic analysis methodology and typology.

KnapperThe most important of these is the third: it underpins the other two. However, this issue is especially acute since there are no agreed minimum standards for analysis and there remain a number of incompatible, unsystematic non-technological methodologies. It is therefore difficult to compare assemblages analysed by different lithicists, to derive reliable conclusions from past analyses and literature, and to communicate interpretations with universal clarity. Hence, interpretations tend to be subjective, result in para data rather than meta data, and are difficult to test in a replicable way.

As a consequence, this poster considers best practice in lithics analysis and how it can impact on current definitions of the British Mesolithic and its chronology. It then proposes a way to ameliorate many of the highlighted problems and outlines how a standardised technologically-based lithic methodology—with explicitly defined types, attributes and analytical protocols—can be developed and integrated with current theoretical paradigms.

About the conference

See you there!

Spence

Bio updated | 2013 fieldwork and Lithoscapes added

Spence-at-SHF13Dear Microburins, I’ve just updated my bio in case you’re interested in the latest fieldwork and a joint archaeological venture in-the-making with my colleague Paul Preston. I have also uploaded a summary paper about the Intertidal Prehistoric Peat Beds at Redcar in Cleveland, North-East England which is available to view on academia.edu. I’m grateful to Francis Pryor and Maisie Taylor for commenting on the pictures of possible stone axe marks and coppicing/copparding. The majority of the peat beds are now (October 2013) covered with beach sand again.

You can learn more about the peat beds north of the Tees Estuary in an earlier post

Spence

TEESSCAPES Teesside Archaeological Society eNews | Autumn 2013

The latest edition is out—packed with news and events! Two options are available:

» Read as an online e-magazine | NEW! Gorgeous format using ISSUU e-publishing
» Download as a PDF file | save to your computer and read offline

  • TEESSCAPES Autumn 2013Society News | 2
  • TAS Lectures | 4
  • Special Feature | 7
    Skeletons in your cupboard?
  • Activities and Events | 10
  • News Roundup | 16
  • Site Notes | 22
  • Browser | 25
  • About TAS and how to join | 26

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

Uncover the hidden heritage of North East England

Spence | Twitter @microburin

TEESSCAPES Teesside Archaeological Society eNews | Summer 2013

The latest edition is out—packed with news and events! Available directly as a PDF download.

  • NAA Excavations at Greatham CreekEditorial Review | Professor Mick Aston in memoriam
  • TAS Lectures | After the summer break, the next lecture is Tue 24 September 7.30pm | How to get to Stockton Library
  • Special Feature | Northern Archaeological Associates report on surprising prehistoric and Roman finds at Greatham Creek in the Tees Estuary
  • Activities & Events | Archaeology Festivals | Fieldwork opportunities | Local and regional conferences, day schools, lectures and exhibitions
  • Site Notes | The latest regional projects and finds | Pipeline Update | Wear Stories
  • News Roundup | Stories and press coverage for our region
  • Browser | The latest recommended Browsing, Listening and Reading items
  • About TAS | Who we are | How to join | eNews Archive

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

Love the rich, distinctive heritage of North East England

Spence | Twitter @microburin

TEESSCAPES Teesside Archaeological Society eNews | Apr 2013

The latest edition is out—packed with news and events!

  • TEESSCAPESEditorial Review
  • April Lecture Reminder | Tue 23 Apr 7.30pm Stockton Library : Dr Jim Innes (Durham) on the palaeoenvironments and landscapes of Fylingdales Moor, North York Moors
  • Activities & Events | Lectures, activities, events, fieldwork, training and more
  • Site Notes | The latest discoveries from the Tees area and NE England, Pipeline developments and consultations
  • Action Stations | Bamburgh Research Project crowd-funding campaign, English Heritage Angel Awards, Pevsner update for County Durham
  • Browser | This month’s recommended Browsing, Listening and Reading items
  • About TAS | How to Join | eNews Archive
  • Also available as a PDF download

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

Love the rich, distinctive heritage of North East England

Spence