|19 November 2003
Relics or oven chips?
A North Yorkshire (England) site “as important as Stonehenge or Avebury” is under threat from farmers who are being urged to plant potatoes for a nearby McCain oven chips factory. Researchers have discovered a huge area of buried buildings and villages, spanning 6,000 years, under fields at West Heslerton, near Malton. “The graves, burial mounds and houses have been left untouched by mechanised farming which has wrecked so much of the rest of our archaeology,” says English Heritage chief archaeologist David Miles. But digging in preparation for potato planting could change all that: “This is the archaeological equivalent of finding the Domesday Book, then having it burnt before your eyes before having a chance to open it.”
Talks have now begun between English Heritage and the Department of the Environment in a bid to stop the site’s destruction. Senior archaeologists and local farmers have also begun discussions. Project leader Dominic Powlesland said: “This is a vast untapped resource. We have to ensure that its most important parts are saved so that we can excavate and study them carefully. It would be tragic if this place was wrecked for a few potatoes.”
Source: BBC News (16 November 2003)
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