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7000 years of Nosterfield

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Robin Barquenast
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« on: July 10, 2011, 03:01:19 am »


Excavating at Nosterfield quarry. Mike Griffiths and Associates


7000 years of Nosterfield

Tuesday, July 5, 2011  |  Articles, Featured, News

Archaeologists have published the findings from a quarry close to the Thornborough Henges the culmination of seventeen years of fieldwork. The watching brief, carried out during mineral extraction at Nosterfield Quarry, has recorded human activity on the site from the Mesolithic period onwards providing a valuable insight into how the area around the monuments was used and occupied in the prehistoric and later periods.
Wetland Location map. Archaeological Planning Consultancy Ltd

Wetland Location map. Archaeological Planning Consultancy Ltd

Nosterfield Quarry is situated to the north of Ripon, North Yorkshire. It lies to the north of the Thornborough Henges a row of three Neolithic henge monuments, each 250m in diameter, which themselves are superimposed over an earlier cursus. The Northern Henge, despite being covered with trees, is the best preserved monument of its kind in Europe. The henges are believed to be part of a wider group of Early Prehistoric monuments that extend at least between Boroughbridge 17km to the southeast and Catterick 19km to the northwest.

The henges and associated monuments are located on Thornborough Moor, a northwest southeast aligned ridge of gravel that is bounded by the River Ure to the southwest and lower lying ground in what is now Nosterfield Quarry to the northeast. Little is known about the purpose of these enigmatic features but they continued to be the focus of activity into the Bronze Age.

A limited amount of fieldwork carried out by Newcastle University is due to be published in the near future.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2011, 03:02:56 am »



Wetland Location map. © Archaeological Planning Consultancy Ltd
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2011, 03:03:22 am »

7000 years of human activity

In 1992, planning permission was granted to extract gravel from Nosterfield Quarry, approximately 600m to the north of the monuments, and a programme of archaeological recording followed. Over the last 17 years more than 70 ha have been examined, allowing a substantial part of the archaeological landscape to be studied on a scale that is rarely seen. The results have been intriguing and point to human activity here for 7000 years.

The fieldwork identified areas of degraded peat on the site which indicated that the northern side of  Thornburgh Moor was once an area of extensive wetland – very different from the large arable fields that characterise the landscape today. Pollen recovered from the site suggests that the margins of the wetland were initially wooded with birch and poplar, followed by a succession of hazel, pine, oak elm and alder.

The few flint artefacts recovered from the Mesolithic Period suggest that the wetland was being exploited for hunting at this time, and possibly earlier.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2011, 03:03:54 am »


The triple henge of Thornborough and nearby quarries
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2011, 03:04:39 am »

The origins of Thornborough




Inverted pot over cremation © Mike Griffiths and Associates

At the time when the monuments were constructed, Thornborough Moor would have been a relatively narrow ridge of well drained higher ground with the river on one side and the marsh on the other. The archaeology from the quarry shows that during this time the margins of the wetland were the focus of small scale possibly seasonal activity defined by scatters of small pits containing pottery and flint. It has been suggested that they may represent the physical evidence of small camps for visitors to the monuments.

At the end of the Neolithic the archaeological record indicates a change in focus in the landscape. The Henges appear to take on a new significance and the Moor becomes the focus for burials. On the quarry the pits disappear along the margin of the wetland and the archaeology shifts westward toward the higher ground of the limestone escarpment toward the village of Well.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2011, 03:05:11 am »

A Bronze Age funerary landscape – an Iron Age equine mystery

Archaeological deposits from this period comprise burial activity, and later the construction of a series of ditches, possibly relating to the formation of an estate. The Early Bronze Age saw limited occupation activity, demonstrated by four pits containing pottery from this period.  It also witnessed the interment of a cremation within a ring ditch.  During the Middle Bronze Age the evidence is purely for funerary activity, with a single inhumation and a small cremation cemetery consisting of 10 cremations.

The main ditch system persisted into the Iron Age at which time the enclosed area was subdivided into smaller fields by two lines of regularly spaced pits.  In total 108 pits were excavated, though aerial photographic evidence suggests these alignments extend further across the landscape.
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2011, 03:05:53 am »


Inverted pot over cremation © Mike Griffiths and Associates
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2011, 03:06:18 am »


Pit alignment © Mike Griffiths and Associates
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2011, 03:06:45 am »


Four horse burial © Mike Griffiths and Associates
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« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2011, 03:07:12 am »

To the east of the ditch system evidence of more unusual Iron Age practices were recorded. A pit containing the remains of four horses (one possibly a mule) carefully laid back to back and head to tail indicates a rare form of ritual practice.  The large stature of two of these animals would have been unusual for native animals of the period, and suggests they were imported from the continent.

Close by a square enclosure was recorded. No evidence of a burial was found and the sections of the ditch suggested that they may have once held timbers, forming some kind of screen. A second square enclosure was recorded further to the north. While this did not contain a central burial, the skeleton of a man was recorded in the quarry ditch. The feature appears to be the remains of a square barrow, a monument type frequently associated with cemeteries in East Yorkshire.
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« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2011, 03:07:52 am »

A scarce Roman presence

The archaeological evidence suggests that at some point during the Roman period the ditch/field system fell out of use. A high status Roman settlement is known to have existed in Well, approximately 2km to the north. On the quarry, however, evidence of Roman activity was scarce, consisting of a large oven or kiln but with few associated features. The edge of a possible inhumation cemetery was also recorded north of Nosterfield village.
Later activity

With the exception of a few field boundaries and drainage ditches there is little archaeological evidence for activity from later periods and the few medieval furrows that survived showed that the higher ground was being farmed at this time. The documentary evidence for this period demonstrates that the marsh was still a major landscape feature, and arbitration documents from the time record disputes between the men of Well and Nosterfield over rights to extract peat from the area. Later wills also suggest that two trackways crossed the peat fields along promontories of higher ground.

The wetland persisted until the 18th century until this marginal land was enclosed and drained. The peat, once a major component of the landscape, has dried out and shrunk leaving in many places nothing more than a dark ploughsoil. Where it does survive it has largely been truncated by ploughing so that only the earliest material remains in situ. The exception to this is where peat has formed in sink holes. Soil cores recovered from at least one of these has recorded a pollen sequence form the Mesolithic to the Roman period and provides an invaluable insight into the local environment.

All of the finds from the quarry have been deposited at the local museum in Bedale and are available to be viewed or consulted for further research.

Nosterfield Quarry is owned and operated by Tarmac Northern. The fieldwork on the site was carried out by or on behalf of Mike Griffiths and Associates. The final publication report for the work has been compiled by Antony Dickson and Guy Hopkinson, and is available to download.
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2011, 03:08:50 am »

More information



Sunset at Nosterfield © Mike Griffiths and Associates
    Sunset at Nosterfield © Mike Griffiths and Associates

Holes in the Landscape: Seventeen Years of Archaeological Investigations at Nosterfield Quarry (full publication) The fieldwork and publication have been funded by Tarmac Northern.  Produced by Antony Dickson (B.A., M.A.) and Guy Hopkinson (B.Sc., M.A., M.Sc.) on behalf of Mike Griffiths and Associates, and has been peer reviewed by Mark Edmonds, the Anniversary Chair at the archaeology department at the University of York. 2011

For further details about the project please contact Steve Timms, Mike Griffiths & Associates Ltd (valid 2011-06-30)

    * The Neolithic Monument Complex of Thornborough, North Yorkshire (valid 2008-05-22)
    * The Archaeology of the Thornborough Area – with interactive map
    * Details of work undertaken by Newcastle University in the Thornborough Area.
    * North Yorkshire County Council – Thornborough Henges (valid 2008-05-22)
    * Bedale Museum (valid 2008-05-22)
    * Thornborough Henges – Wikipedia Entry (valid 2008-05-22)

 
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2011/7000-years-of-nosterfield
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2011, 03:09:54 am »


Roman oven/kiln plan © Mike Griffiths and Associates
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2011, 03:10:37 am »


Roman oven /kiln © Mike Griffiths and Associates
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« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2011, 03:11:10 am »

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2011/7000-years-of-nosterfield
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