|19 December 2005
New row erupts at site near Thornborough henges
Campaigners have strongly criticised the way archaeological work has been carried out at a proposed quarry site close to the 5,000- year-old Thornborough Henges (North Yorkshire, England). The latest row comes after a second dig was undertaken recently at the Ladybridge Farm site, where quarry firm Tarmac wants to extract sand and gravel, to evaluate further its archaeological importance. But the Friends of Thornborough claim finds have been lost or destroyed in the process.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mike Sanders said that the investigation went ahead in wet weather conditions which was detrimental to the important archaeological site. "The topsoil was mechanically stripped with quarry diggers and all subsoil features excavated by hand in atrocious wet weather," he said. "Only a fraction of the soil was subjected to the careful sieving necessary to identify 5,000 years-old remains from the Stone Age. Unsurprisingly, few fragile remains were found and English Heritage continues to maintain that the preservation of the remaining setting of the henges is of national importance."
Mr Sanders said the county archaeologist, Neil Campling, went against agreed strategy to preserve finds on site. "In a departure from the agreed strategy that required any finds to be preserved in situ, he authorised the complete excavation of the early prehistoric features," he claimed.
English Heritage said this week that Tarmac's recent study confirms their belief that the site should be preserved. "English Heritage confirmes that the area contains nationally important early prehistoric remains which should be preserved. We await Tarmacís proposals," said a spokesman. Mr Campling said the council has not yet received the further evaluation report from Tarmac.
In response to criticism from the Friends of Thornborough, he said their information was "entirely factually incorrect." Mr Campling said: "They say the archaeology was destroyed but it wasnít; it has been fully recorded and the finds recovered and saved from further loss or plough damage. There is a big difference between loss without recording, and scientific investigation. The weather, although unpleasant, was not a serious problem, especially given the sandy soil. Almost all archaeology is carried out under less than ideal conditions. We donít want to inflame the situation. We are trying to move this forward and develop a management strategy for the landscape around the henges, create a low-key visitor centre and secure the long-term future for the henges and nearby monuments."
North Yorkshire County Council is due to make a decision on Tarmacís application to quarry the Ladybridge Farm site in February.
Source: Nidderdale Today (16 December 2005)
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