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8 July 2011
Over 7,000 years of human activity in Yorkshire

The findings from a 17 year fieldwork study at Nosterfield Quarry, near Ripon in Yorkshire (England), have just been published. In 1992 Tarmac Northern - a construction company - were granted planning permission to extract gravel from the area and they funded Mike Griffiths & Associates - an archaeological planning consultancy - to carry out the studies. In that time over 70 hectares have been examined, covering a range of 7,000 years of human activity.
     The gravel pits cover an area on the edge of Thornborough Moor, which was a ridge of higher ground, flanked by a river on one side and marshland on the other. The marshland has since been drained, in the 18th Century, and is now a heavily farmed area. Along this dry ridge, near the quarries, is a stunning triple Neolithic group of henges, known as the Thornborough Henges, one of which is purported to be the best preserved, of its type, in Europe. This triptych is only part of a much wider group of monuments, stretching across over 35 kilometres of Yorkshire countryside.
     Indications have been found of Mesolithic hunting, together with evidence of small camps, which may have been associated with henge visitors. As time progresses to the end of the Neolithic period more burial sites were found, which indicates that a greater significance is becoming attached to the henges. Burials and cremations continue into the Iron Age and one interesting find for this period is that of four horses, carefully laid out in a ritiualistic pattern. Two of the horses would appear, from thir size, to not be native to the UK.
     Moving on through time very little Roman activity was discovered, apart from a large oven/ kiln, despite the fact that there was a high status settlement not too far away (2 km, at a village called Well). Archaeological evidence dwindles even further as we progress to the modern era, with modern agricultural practices destroying most of the wetlands and peat, with the exception of a few sink holes, which revealed pollen and seeds, giving valuable environmental information about the trees and plants which would have populated the edges of the wetland.
     The full report on the findings, titled 'Holes in the Landscape: Seventeen Years of Archaeological Investigations at Nosterfield Quarry' is available for download.

Edited from Past Horizons (5 July 2011)

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