The Reporter
Issue no 487, 27 January 2003
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Surprising discoveries at Dales dig


A prehistoric burial site in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales – unique in the North of England – has been unearthed by a team of University archaeologists.

Students at the Dales digThe discovery of a 3,000 year old Bronze Age ring-cairn and other items, including human remains, at the site near Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale follows two years’ work by Dr Martlew and students from the school of continuing education.

“The site has been unusual right from the start,” said Dr Martlew. “After a detailed field survey we thought we’d found a prehistoric round-house, but once the excavation started we realised we were on to something very different.”

Dales diggers – Roger Martlew (below) with an arrowhead from the site (above left)

The surprises have continued: hollows that were expected to contain cremation burials in pottery urns have proved to be empty. The latest find is the burial of an infant, carefully laid in a stone-lined hollow, with more stones placed on top of the body. This burial may well belong to a phase of activity even older than the ring-cairn, and, according to Dr Martlew, no other site like this has been found in the Dales. It indicates the region may have had a greater importance during that period of history than was believed.

Dr Roger Martlew“The site is full of features which, although found individually at different ring-cairns around the UK, have not been found together in one place before,” said Dr Martlew. “It could show that the Dales, which had been thought to be a bit of a backwater at the time, actually had wider connections to other parts of the country.”

The excavation has already provided the focus for archaeological field courses run by the school of continuing education, and funding has also been obtained from the Center for Field Research in the USA. After an enforced break during the foot and mouth crisis, work is now continuing to unravel the complexities of this site.

See the full press release.


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