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30 October 2010
Restoration of 31 prehistoric sites on Dartmoor

A great deal of of prehistoric sites on Dartmoor (Devon, England) have been restored in a five-year project. As a result of the work, now 31 Bronze Age cairns have been taken off the English Heritage 'at risk' register. 49 of the summit cairns, dating back to 2,000 BC, were surveyed and 31 needed restoration.
     The project has just come to an end, but plans are under way to restore more of Dartmoor's 3,000 Bronze Age cairns - ancient burial mounds. "These ancient monuments have the highest level of protection that we have in this country" said Andy Crabb, archaeologist at Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA). "We started with the cairns at the honey pot sites where they have been damaged," said Andy.
"We are on hold now until next year, when we will go back and assess some of the most exposed cairns," he added.
     The restoration work is being done by DNPA, English Heritage and volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Association. Michael Nendick from the park authority said the work was vital: "Dartmoor is one of the most important places in western Europe when it comes to prehistoric sites - it was very highly populated." One of the biggest risks to the cairns is disturbance from people visiting the sites. "They just pick up the stones, not realising they are part of an ancient monument," said Michael.
     During the survey work, the team learned more about how the cairns were constructed, and it is clear that they are not just random collections of stones.
"They are very complex," said Andy. "They have multi-phases to them which were done over time and they were obviously carefully planned." Previously unknown features within and around the cairns have also been identified, such as kerb stones, ring banks and smaller satellite cairns.
     Andy said: "Not only is the project helping protect threatened archaeological sites on the moor, we have created a pool of highly skilled surveyors drawn from the local community who through their work are helping to increase our understanding of the past."

Edited from BBC News (19 October 2010)

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