Summer art | Summer heat | ICE AND FIRE update

◊ Dear Microburin Friends,

Realising it’s too hot to move for many off us, here’s a summer update about our Teesside project written from the concrete-melting south. There’s plenty more news in the pipeline as we continue with grant-funding applications.

Hot weather, parched earth and a drone make for some very interesting possibilities.

Spence

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It’s been a while | Microburin’s news

◊ Dear Microburin Friends,

It has indeed been a while since the last post. Your Microburin has still been dogged by bouts of ill-health and while the mind is largely mended, the meds have caused trouble with a stressed immune system. However, onward and upwards.

The time since last posting has not been short of media coverage of the Mesolithic. The most recent headline is the publication, as two volumes, of the most recent (and rescue) fieldwork and research at Star Carr. The reports are open-access free-to-download, or to purchase for just under £100. This is a remarkable achievement and congratulations go to Nicky Milner and the entire multi-disciplinary project team (including Dr Harry R on fungi). Warm celebration surrounds now-Dr Charlotte Rowley, University of York, one of Star Carr’s lithics gurus, viva voce.

Science Rules

Exciting work continues offshore in mapping and investigating Doggerland and, for an example of best practices in community archaeology, the Mesolithic Deeside Project (Aberdenshire, Scotland). There have also been influential, if not game-changing, reports about DNA and isotope research findings related to the Mesolithic period, earlier hominin periods too, transitions to the Neolithic, and later prehistory such as the Beaker period – adding insights that we could not have imagined until very recently. Science wins.

ICE AND FIRE

Speaking of ice, and fire as the arson season commences on Teesside, there’s been a great deal of progress with the ICE AND FIRE rescue archaeology project in the Eston Hills, Redcar & Cleveland, North Yorkshire. The 2017 season finds have been catalogued and some enigmatic, unusual artefacts will undergo further scientific research. The HLF-funded project in 2017, its first full season of geophysical surveys, test-pit excavations and pollen-coring, has exceeded all expectations.

Features include three hearths or fire-pits, a posthole with a potsherd in the fill, many flint artefacts and a radiocarbon date from the edge of our wetland – the edge and not yet the centre – dates back at least to the Bronze  Age! We hope that cores from the centre of the wetland will take our narrative back to the end of the last Ice Age. There is still the prospect that it may preserve organic material such as wood, antler and bone (if anaerobic) given that we have intense human activity directly around it, from the Early Mesolithic to the Iron Age, with particularly strong Neolithic signatures. We have now published the free-to-download 2018 Interim Report, lavishly illustrated, which places the project and our findings so far into a regional perspective.

What’s more, we have LiDAR and Google Earth images for what looks to be a previously unrecorded prehistoric monument, or indeed monuments aplenty, close to the Eston Hills.

Image | Environment Agency LiDAR laser-imaging has revealed a large circular feature, more than 100m diameter and, in addition to a couple of scheduled round barrows, a possible linear feature too (yellow). They show as soil and crop marks in both winter and summer on arable land.

Poster Klaxon!

In addition to the report, we’re pleased to announce that printed A3-size posters will be available for distribution by the end of April. The project team will deliver copies to schools, colleges, museums, libraries and other community outlets. It is worth emphasising that we do still have a few libraries and museums open – celebrate the third sector of community volunteers where professional staff have been made redundant.

We have also added this and a Timeline Chart to our Publications webpage. The chart is included in the report. We’re seeking charitable funding (£2000) from regional and national archaeological and historical societies, as well as commercial businesses in Redcar & Cleveland (Teesside, North-East England), to print and distribute our 2018 report across the community. Regrettably, and despite huge progress across local government, emergency services and community agencies, the 2018 fire-season has commenced together with other antisocial behaviour, illegal offroaders and more. We need our message about what is at risk – in addition to human lives – to go viral.

Mystery Find

A remarkable fragment of oil-shale or cannel coal, much like Whitby jet, from one of our 2017 excavated test pits. It is most likely prehistoric possibly early Bronze Age Beaker period (c. 2000 BC), or Iron Age to Roman-British. Whether the rim of a vessel, or an arm band or bracelet, around 90mm diameter, it is extremely rare. Only one other such vessel is known in Britain (Devon) and if an armband, it is of a very unusual form. The inner surface has been carefully shaped, more than likely with a flint blade. The hole is drilled either for repair or suspension. This would seem to have been a highly valued item or heirloom. Its next stop will be the National Museum of Scotland for examination by leading experts in this material and artefact type.

Exhibitionists?

We would like to create a museum display of the amazing 2017 finds, as well as hands-on displays for schools with replica, artisan-crafted pottery, flint tools and prehistoric bronze artefacts such as daggers, axes and arrows. Conversations are underway.

Recent Past

Earlier in the year Microburin was delighted to attend the Thornton-le-Street Roads To The Past kickoff weekend in North Yorkshire, hosted by friends at Solstice Heritage LLP, to examine their lithics finds and provide an introduction to prehistoric lithics workshop – with the luxury of home-made cakes. What’s remarkable is that on day one of their field-walking they recovered a fantastic flint-and-chert assemblage that takes us back to the Mesolithic, as well as later periods. In May I’ll be returning to deliver two more workshops to enable the community group to be self-sufficient in first level recording and identification of their finds. There assuredly is much more to come in those river-side fields! The hint is always in wetlands.

Lastly for now, and sadly much delayed, I am completing a lithics chapter for the Street House Farm Project 2010-11 season with, yet again, a rich suite of flints that demonstrate thousands of years of persistence in a very special place. In the last two years we now have a series of phased Early Neolithic (around 3700 BC or earlier) domestic structures with all the material culture to match. Radiocarbon-dated hazelnuts rule!

Signing off for now. All good wishes,

 Spence

ICE AND FIRE | A Very Special Place – 2017 Archaeology Project Video

◊ Dear Microburins

The 2017 rescue archaeology excavations on the Eston Hills, Teesside, have now been completed and post-excavation work on the finds, records and digital plans is about to commence. We can say that, in the two weeks of test pit and trench work, we have finds and features of both regional and national significance!

Half way through the season, archaeological filmmaker Archaeosoup Productions visited the project and, with the help of fantastic drone footage by Clive Winward, has produced this dramatic video of what we have learnt so far in this first of hopefully many seasons ahead. Project director Adam Mead explains the context of the project, its strategy and methods.

Watch the video | Youtube 15:20 »

Spence

ICE AND FIRE | Project kick-off and finds already!

◊ Dear Microburins

The Eston Hills rescue archaeology project has kicked off and, three days in, we have features and flints. The weather has been mixed, but the hearty project team are delighted with progress, well-informed by previous geophysical work kindly provided by AOC Archaeology Group.

Read the ICE AND FIRE Week 1 Site Diary »

In other news, Mesolithic Spence has a job interview scheduled. Cross your fingers and roast a hazelnut for me?

Spence

ICE AND FIRE | Taskforce meeting at Cleveland Police HQ | School visits scheduled

◊ Dear Microburins

Momentum continues across local government, emergency services and community groups to coordinate sustainable solutions to problems on Eston Hills – devasting fires, burned out vehicles and illegal off-roaders. Friends of Eston Hills campaigner Craig Hornby is adamant that solutions ‘are not rocket science’ but need the will, resources and concerted effort to put in place. Watch the video and read the Evening Gazette 10 May article »

“I think the biggest problem is not allocating sufficient funds and resources fast enough to tackle the issues. I have been lobbying the authorities for three and a half years for robust barriers to be installed at the points of access being used by illegal vehicles.

Barriers are now in place at Lazenby and Eston but the Flatts Lane barrier and plans for an earthwork barrier have been delayed six months, so the problems have persisted.”

Cleveland Police Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, has called the first meeting of an action group at Police Headquarters on Ladgate Lane at 1.30pm, Monday 15 May 2017.

School Visits

Adam Mead, ICE AND FIRE project director, has also scheduled talks in local primary schools and a further visit to the hills:

  • Whale Hill Primary School, Eston | Talks on Fri 12 and Fri 19 May
  • Parkend Primary School, Parkend, Middlesbrough | Visit to Eston Hills on Mon 22 May

Look out for a feature article on Teesside’s archaeology in the forthcoming Council for British Archaeology Newsletter no. 40!

♦ Spence | Get Involved!

ICE AND FIRE | Public Meeting with Anna Turley MP & Cleveland Police Commissioner | Fri-28-April

◊ Dear Microburins

The ongoing problems on Eston Hills and neighbouring farmland will be the subject of a Public Meeting hosted by Anna Turley MP at the Cleveland Inn, 37 Cleveland St, Normanby, Middlesbrough TS6 0LX at 5.30pm on Friday 28 April 2017. Cleveland Police Commissioner Barry Coppinger and ICE AND FIRE project director Adam Mead will also be in attendance.

The meeting is intended to discuss and explore, in an open community forum, both the issues and how cooperation between local government authorities, the emergency services, landowners, schools, residents and businesses might work together more effectively.

Acts of fire-setting, the burning of abandoned vehicles, illegal 4×4 and off-road vehicles, fly-tipping and other anti-social behaviour persist on an increasingly frequent basis, despite ongoing efforts by local services and voluntary organisations, including the Friends of Eston Hills, and media coverage.

The ICE AND FIRE project team and its stakeholders also believe that shifting public opinion – across generations from school children, their parents and people who benefit from tourism and economic footfall – is a local and regional priority. While the project aims to rescue archaeological and environmental assets where they are at risk, the longer term solutions must involve a coordinated effort to make anti-social behaviour entirely unacceptable in a community that values its rich historic, archaeological and natural environment.

More about the project and summer fieldwork »

Spence