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19 July 2010
Cairn circle rediscovered in North Yorkshire

A cairn circle which has laid hidden at a place called Snowden Crags, Askwith Moor, North Yorkshire (England) for a long time has been recently rediscovered by a group of archaeology enthusiasts, led by Mr Paul Bennett. The ancient site was only mentioned once in the past, by Mr Cowling's fine survey of the area more than 60 years back, where he reported: "A large circle of heavy material, some thirty feet in diameter, is isolated on the shelf above Snowden Crags to the west."
     Thankfully, with the help and dutiful attention of Michala Douglas on Thursday, 20 May 2010, this large and very well-defined site has been relocated. The Snowden Crags Circle was much overgrown in heather and bracken; it was relocated during an exploratory walks by the group of amateur archaeologists. On that day, Ms Douglas stumbled upon an average-sized ring of stones, between 1-3 feet tall, and about 13 yards across, with what seemed like an entrance on its southern side, seemingly untouched in the middle of the mass of decaying bracken.
     A few days later the group returned to the site, spending a few hours picking up much of the dead bracken and carrying it beyond the outskirts of the circle, so to see with greater clarity the monument Michala had found a few days previously: a very distinct man-made circular monument, measuring 13 yards by 12 yards across and, at its highest point, not even three feet above the present ground level. But today's ground level is certainly much higher than it was when these stones were first placed here - at least 12 inches higher.      
     At first, only a few small upright stones were sticking up amidst the mass of compacted bracken, but once all this had been brushed off a stony earthworks averaging 18 inches high around the edges was clearly visible; and in places this outer ring is nearly 6 feet across. The ring consists mainly of smaller packing stones between a number of larger upright stones - a dozen of them - making up the perimeter. On its southern side is what appears to be an entrance; but without a proper excavation, this 2 yards across 'entrance' may in fact be illusory.        
     The circle has similarities in size and design to the better-known site of Roms Law on Ilkley Moor. Yet there is a distinct anomaly here. The re-discoverers noticed that some form of internal walling was unning roughly north-to-south. This 'walling' started about three yards between the southern 'entrance' and the inside of the ring, but then it ran roughly through the centre and all the way to the northern perimeter.
     After a few more weeks, the group found the most probable answer: the central walling was, in fact, where someone had dug into the central region of the circle and in doing so had moved a great number of the small stones that were initially in the middle of the ring, pushing them up into small piles of stones, creating an obvious long line of rocks which, once covered with dead vegetation, gave the impression of it being a length of walling. This begged the question: who dug out a trench in the middle of this cairn circle centuries before the site had even been catalogued? It didn't seem like it could have been Mr Cowling, as the covering vegetation was much more than a mere 50 years of age; and Cowling would very likely have reported any such finds. So it is a mystery that needs a solution.
     This site and the surrounding monuments have received no archaeological attention of any worth. If it wasn't for the fact that amateurs had explored these moors, this cairn circle would remain unknown. So, Mr Bennett put an appeal on his website asking for anyone with a healthy financial backing who might want to help. "It would be good to get an archaeologist and a good team up to excavate the place, but it seems nobody has any money for such things," said Mr Bennett. "We need an archaeologist to be paid for in order that we can do the duties correctly, but there is a group of a dozen volunteers willing to put a lot of work in to do the right job in this and the surrounding sites," he concluded.
     For contacts: Paul Bennett

Source: The Northern Antiquarian (19 July 2010)

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