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Archive for August, 2010

Dry weather makes 2010 ‘vintage year for archaeology’ says English Heritage Britain’s dry early summer has made 2010 a “vintage year for archaeology” with crop marks revealing several hundred new sites, according to English Heritage.

The hot, dry conditions in May and June allowed aerial researchers to identify ancient sites visible through the appearance of crop marks in one of the busiest years for such finds since the long, hot summer of 1976. A Roman camp near Bradford Abbas, Dorset, was revealed in June after three sides became visible in rain-parched fields of barley. The lightly built defensive enclosure would have provided basic protection for Roman soldiers while on manoeuvres in the first century AD and is one of only four discovered in the south west of England.

  Crop marks are produced when barley or wheat growing over buried features develop at a different rate from those growing next to them because differences in the depth of soil and the availability of nutrients. English Heritage said ”full advantage” was taken of the conditions, which allowed hundreds of crop mark sites to be photographed from the air. The conditions also allowed existing sites to be photographed in greater detail. Newton Kyme, near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, was shown to not only be home to a Roman fort dating back 2,000 years but also a larger, stronger defence built in 290AD. Stone walls up to three metres thick and a ditch 15 metres wide were revealed by an image taken from a Cessna light aircraft. Dave MacLeod, an English Heritage senior investigator based in York, said: ”It’s hard to remember a better year. ”Cropmarks are always at their best in dry weather, but the last few summers have been a disappointment. ”This year we have taken full advantage of the conditions. We try to concentrate on areas that in an average year don’t produce much archaeology. ”Sorties to the West Midlands and Cumbria, together with more local areas such as the Yorkshire Wolds and Vale of York, have all been very rewarding.” Flights over the Holderness area of the East Riding proved particularly productive with around 60 new sites, mainly prehistoric, found in just one day including livestock and settlement enclosures. English Heritage said some sites which have not been visible since the drought of 1976 reappeared this summer. Damian Grady, a Swindon-based English Heritage senior investigator, said: ”Promising signs started to emerge in late May when the dry conditions had started to reveal cropmarks on well drained soils, especially river gravels and chalk in the east and south east of England. ”By June it became clear that the continuing dry conditions would produce good results across most of the country. ”We then targeted areas that do not always produce cropmarks, such as clay soils, or have seen little reconnaissance in recent years due to recent wet summers or busy airspace. ”Unfortunately July saw deterioration in the weather which reduced the amount of flying we could do and the cropmarks started to disappear just before the harvest got under way.” Mr Grady added: ”It will take some time to take stock of all the sites we have photographed, but we expect to discover several hundred new sites across England.” Crop marks are produced when crops growing over buried features develop at a different rate to those growing immediately adjacent. For example, over a soil filled ditch the deeper soil may provide better moisture retention and more nutrients allowing the crop to grow faster and taller. Over a buried wall, for example, the shallower soil may produce a stunted crop and one more liable to parching under dry conditions.
The first record of aerial surveys dates back to 1906 when Stonehenge was photographed from above from a hot air balloon.
Wiltshire Tour Guide
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Later Silbury – Archaeological evaluation of the fields south of Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

This project aims to evaluate the Roman settlement in the fields south of Silbury Hill, to improve our understanding of a poorly-understood phase of activity around the monument and to provide information to help with its future care within the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site.

English Heritage’s Silbury Hill Conservation Project started in 2001, following a series of collapses within the Hill. In 2007, and research and rescue excavation stabilised the Hill and consolidated it for the future.

As part of the Conservation Project, English Heritage’s Geophysical Survey team carried out extensive surveys of the fields around the monument. You can read a summary of their results in Research News (Issue 10: Winter 2008-09, pages 10-13).

In the large field south of the A4 – a Roman road – extensive evidence for archaeological features shows clearly in the magnetometer survey, and ground-penetrating radar has added the details of several large stone buildings to the picture.  We think that this is a Roman roadside settlement or small town. Roman activity around Silbury has been known since the 19thcentury, when wells and middens were excavated. In the 1990s, air photographs and excavation provided new evidence for stone buildings set along a trackway on the slopes of Waden Hill, east of Silbury.

Being able to see the layout of an extensive settlement was a new and exciting discovery. It has raised many questions about the area around Silbury Hill and how it was used in the Roman period – and many of these can only be answered by excavation.

So this summer, as part of the new Later Silbury project, archaeologists and archaeological scientists from our Research Department based at Fort Cumberland are excavating some evaluation trenches in the fields south of the Hill.

We aim to: 

  • Understand more about the settlement itself – what activities can we find evidence for? When was it occupied? Is there any evidence for its ritual or religious role?
  • Investigate its relationship to Silbury Hill and surroundings – how did it fit in with the ritual landscape of Silbury Hill and Avebury, more than 2000 years after they were built?
  • Find out more about the past environment and use of the landscape around the hill and in the Winterbourne and Kennet valleys.
  • See how well the archaeological remains survive, and how deeply they are buried – this will help plan the management of the site and its safe preservation.
Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is huge; it is likely to have involved roughly 4 million man-hours of work and 500,000 tonnes of material.

The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. There is no access to the hill itself.

It is part of the Avebury World Heritage Site.

Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle Tour Guide
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FEATURED EVENT

Wednesday 18th August to Sunday 22nd August 2010 11am – 5pm
Old Sarum, Wiltshire

Tommies and Trenches. We pay tribute to the the soldiers who fought for us in the Great War. Visit the trench, learn about life at home and then join us at the weekend as we are joined by more soldiers from the Great War Society and Meg the pack mule who will demonstrate how animals were used during the war. An English Heritage event

2010
29th / 31st October 2010
Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, The Fosse Way, Leamington Spa, CV31 1XN

INTERNATIONAL LIVING HISTORY FAIR. Currently staged twice a year in February and October, the International Living History Fair has become the primary multi-period market place for re-enactors, historical interpreters and historical enthusiasts across Europe. The International Living History Fair exists to provide a market place, a meeting place and a fabulous opportunity for all, visitors and re-enactors alike, to meet and discuss all periods of our historical past. Many of Europe’s best artisans, craftsmen and traders are on hand happy to advise on and provide a huge array of items and replicas of our historical heritage. Admission Charges £3.50
(Children 5 – 15 £1.50)

More details:
http://www.livinghistoryfairs.com

PREHISTORIC BRITAIN  4000BC – 43AD

4th and 5th September 2010
Chiltern Open Air Museum, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP8 4AB

Iron Age Weekend.


43AD – 410

Monday 30th August 2010
Binchester Roman Fort, nr. Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham

Roma Antiqua and Legio IX re-occupy Binchester. See military equipment like sling-staffs, bows and arrows and even a catapult being put to use on the battlefield!

25th & 26th September 2010
Caldicot Castle, Caldicot, Monmouthshire, NP26 4HU

Romans & Britons Re-enactment Event. Experience the new province of Britannia brought to life through living history and combat displays by The Vicus. See how they lived, their craftsmanship and how Romano-British civilians, armoured Roman soldiers and native warriors coexisted in the 1st Century AD.

Second Weekend in Every Month
Veralamium Museum, StyAlbans

Legion XIIII on Guard. Verulamium Museum is invaded every second weekend in the monthby Roman soldiers who demonstrate the tactics and equipment of the Roman Imperial Army. Free.
Contact  01727 751 810


410 – 1066

14th August 2010  10.30am – 5pm
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Anglo-Saxon Encampment with Ealdfaeder. Come and see how the Anglo Saxons lived. Watch demonstrations of craft and cookery, listen to Anglo Saxon tales and learn about clothing and weaponry.

29th & 30th August 2010
Rockingham Castle, Rockingham, Market Harborough, Leicestershire LE16 8TH

Vikings! of Middle England. The Vikings return! Be prepared for battles, horses, pageant, living history camp and much more. Noon to 5pm.

Every night throughout the year
Market Square, Ripon, North Yorkshire

Every night, in a tradition dating from  886 A.D.,  at 9 pm. the Wakeman blows his horn in the Market Square at the four corners of the Obelisk to ‘set the watch’. The City has 3 ‘sounding’ horns, the oldest of which (no longer blown because of antiquity) is known as the ‘Charter’ horn and is dated A.D. 886 since, according to ancient tradition, it symbolised the granting of ‘charter rites’ to Ripon in that year. The second horn is dated 1690; the third, an African Ox horn (blown daily today) was given to the city in 1865 by the then serving Mayor.

1066 – 1216

Saturday 7th August & Sunday 8th August 2010 10am – 5pm
1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield, East Sussex

Saxons and Normans. Step inside a world of Saxons and Normans. Witness soldiers preparing armour, see tradesmen carrying out woodwork and learn about traditional cooking methods. An English Heritage event

Tuesday 10th August & Wednesday 11th August 2010 10am – 5pm
Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight

Time Travellers Go….Normans and Saxons. Step inside a world of Saxons and Normans. Witness soldiers preparing armour, see tradesmen carrying out woodwork and learn about traditional cooking methods. An English Heritage event

1216 – 1485

Saturday 21st August & Sunday 22nd August 2010 11am – 4pm
Conisbrough Castle, South Yorkshire

Medieval Castle Clash. Watch the Escafeld re-enactors gather for courtly pursuits of archery, dancing and presentations of the arming of knights as the mighty castle of Conisbrough becomes the stage for the medieval pageant of the knights. Be sure not to miss the dramatic conclusion with the main Tournament of Knights at 3pm.

Wednesday 25th August & Thursday 26th August 2010 11am – 4pm
Warkworth Castle and Hermitage, Northumberland

Soldiers of the Roses. Discover the assassins before they strike! Come to Warkworth Castle and unlock the intricate medieval living history, listen in to the dramatic dialogue of the armoured Knights and livery men taking part in hand to hand medieval combat. It is the summer of 1464 and the Scots intend to withdraw support from the exiled Lancastrians and sue for peace with Edward IV. Gather at the castle to pledge your allegiance to the house of York or Lancaster.

VIDEO SHORT:
Wars of the Roses Re-enactment, Kenilworth Castle 2007

First weekend of every month, July to September 2010 11am – 4pm

The largest restored medieval aisled hall in Wales will open its doors to visitors the first weekend of every month from July to September with a costumed guided tour and medieval living history displays in the grounds, including 15th century cooking, crafts and archery. The day offers a unique insight into life in medieval Wales and is supported by the local heritage group ‘History Matters’ and reenactors from the ‘Montgomery Levy’ living history society.


1485 – 1603

Tuesday 3rd August & Wednesday 4th August 2010 11am – 4pm
Warkworth Castle and Hermitage, Northumberland

Gruesome Tudors. Tudor England could be a gruesome place. Discover the head chopping antics of King Henry VIII with light hearted performances of ‘Top of the Chops”! Plus, meet the Executioner and the Barber Surgeon and a variety of other gory characters and hear their terrible tales.

Sunday 29th August & Bank Holiday Monday 30th August 2010 11am – 5pm
Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, Warwickshire

Kenilworth through the Ages. Join us as we take a step back into Kenilworth’s turbulent past, from the Normans who built the castle to the Tudors who lived here. Explore the living history camps and allow our arena displays to tell stories of the castles history.


THE  1603 – 1714Sunday 29th August & Bank Holiday Monday 30th August 2010 11am – 5pm
Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire

Siege of Goodrich. Join the Wardour garrison as we step back to the Civil War and witness displays of life from over 360 years ago. 2010 marks the 21st anniversary of the group, who have been authentically recreating life from this period at many castles throughout the country. Witness the siege of the castle complete with musket firings, plus visit the living history camp to see displays of cookery, weaving and surgery. Enjoy music inside the castle plus families can have fun taking part in traditional games and a quiz.

31st October 2010  11am – 5pm
Caldicot Castle, Caldicot, Monmouthshire NP26 4HU

All Hallows Highwaymen! Meet the Highway robbers of the past in person & hear their tales of adventure, but watch out! The local constable and Militia have got wind of this gathering of rouges, and things could certainly turn sour.
A living history day with 17th Century Life3 and Times.

VIDEO SHORT:
The Kings Army March, Whitehall, London, 31st January 2010

On the 31st January 2010 The English Civil War Society carried out The King’s Army March, following the route taken by Charles I to the place of his death.

BRITAIN 1714 – 1837

14th August 2010 – Gates open 4.30pm
Althorp Hall, Northamptonshire

Battle Proms 2010. Before the afternoon’s entertainment begins, there’s time to visit the fascinating Napoleonic encampment6.45pm Napoleonic Cavalry and Infantry displays. The ‘age of elegance’ is expertly brought to life as the Napoleonic Association demonstrate the skills needed to survive on the battlefields of the period. It’s acaptivating and colourful display of top-class horsemanship; expect lances, rifles, chivalry and plenty of cheering!  7.25pm Evening gun salute byThe English Field Artillery Company, answered by infantry musket fire.

7.30pm – 10.00pm The Musical Programme – New English Concert Orchestra. The historic rumble of the Spitfire engine will accompany the beautiful opening pieces of the musical programme, as a meticulously choreographed aerial display is executed in the skies over the concert arena. In true Battle Proms style, the evening continues with awealth of triumphal classics including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with live cannon fire, and of course the signature piece which gives this special event its name:Beethoven’s ‘Battle Symphony, a work which was originally composed to include thefiring of 193 cannon as part of the score.

The Battle Proms is the only regular concert in the world to rise dramatically to this challenge using live cannon with real black powder explosions, each fired electronically according to the original score by the orchestra’s percussionist. Add to this a sky lit with precisely and expertly launched fireworks, and you truly have a spectacle of unforgettable dramatic impact.

Then it’s time to warm up your singing voice for the traditional flag-waving proms finale, including favourites Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, culminating in a dazzling firework spectacular!

More details: http://www.battleproms.com/Althorp-Park-14-August-2010

THE AGE 1837 – 1901

7th & 8th August 2010  10am – 5pm
Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Soldiers of the Queen Weekend. Find out about the life of a soldier during the reign of Queen Victoria, and see a military camp on the Green at Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge.

21st – 29th August 2010
Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5DG

Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival. Llandrindod Wells is proud to present the leading Victorian Festival in the UK today.  Set in the beautiful heart of Wales, it is held in the last full week of August before the Bank Holiday. As Llandrindod was a thriving spa resort in the Victorian era it seems natural to base the Festival on the Victorian theme.  The town’s unspoilt architecture provides a perfect backdrop to the celebrations, and on Temple Gardens and Middleton Street we have ideal venues for the many different types of street entertainment provided free  throughout the day. The 9 day Festival will be incorporating some new events and street entertainment with some of the old favourites which regular Festival-goers have come to love. More details: http://www.victorianfestival.co.uk/

29th & 30th August 2010  11am – 5pm
Pendennis Castle, Cornwall

A Grand Victorian Fayre. Experience 19th century entertainment at its finest! Marvel at the breathtaking gymkhana skills, enjoy the silliness of the Victorian side show as we challenge you to count the fleas in the Victorian flea circus, meet the “Soldiers of the Queen” and don’t forget to curtsey for Her Majesty as she passes by. Plus, there’s traditional music from a local Cornish brass band who are here to entertain the Queen and a grand parade around the castle.

26th September 2010 1pm-3pm
London: starting at Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street, London EC2

Costermongers’ Harvest Festival Parade. A parade of a marching band, street traders (“Costermongers”), Pearly Kings and Queens and Victorian Characters from 1-3pm, starting at Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2 London. This is followed by a Harvest Festival service at 3-4pm at St Mary Le Bow Church, Cheapside EC2. A “harvest festival” is a traditional thanksgiving ceremony, to give thanks after crops have been harvested successfully.

ERA AND WW1
1901 – 1918

Wednesday 18th August to Sunday 22nd August 2010 11am – 5pm
Old Sarum, Wiltshire

Tommies and Trenches. We pay tribute to the the soldiers who fought for us in the Great War. Visit the trench, learn about life at home and then join us at the weekend as we are joined by more soldiers from the Great War Society and Meg the pack mule who will demonstrate how animals were used during the war.


An Edwardian Banquet. Our 7 course Edwardian Banquet takes place every Saturday night and is served by staff in Edwardian tails and the girls in mob caps and aprons ( as in ‘Upstairs Downstairs’). All the food is presented to guests as it would be at one of Edward VII’s banquets. There is a short interlude by an actress describing Lillie Langtry’s and Edwards’s story in words and music.

Last Sunday of Every Month: Sun. 29th August 2010
The Forties Experience, Lincolnsfields Children’s Centre, Bushey Hall Drive, Bushey Herts. WD23 2ES

1940s Experience Days – 1940s House Open Days. Open last Sunday of each month. More details: 01923 233841.

11th & 12th September 2010 10am – 6pm
The Royal Airforce Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London NW9 5LL

Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Living History Weekend. Bring the whole family to the RAF Battle of Britain Living History Weekend to watch re-enactments and learn more about life during the battle. This year, the RAF Museum is inviting visitors to remember the conflict which took place in the skies during WWII and is often dubbed the nation’s “finest hour”. Highlights include:

  • Flypast by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (weather permitting)
  • Living history areas with re-enactors
  • Performance by the RAFA band
  • Film screenings of the Battle of Britain and Deep Blue Sky in the Museum’s 250-seat cinema
  • Archive film footage from the Battle of Britain including the White Eagle which examines the contribution made by Polish Fighter Pilots during the Battle of Britain, andFighter Pilot which shows actual Battle footage
  • Outdoor vintage vehicle display

HisTOURies UK – Bringing History Alive
Bespoke Private Guided Tours of England

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Streaking down towards Stonehenge across the path of all the other stars in the sky, this shooting star is hurtling to Earth at 135,000 miles per hour – 100 times the speed of Concorde.

The smaller, diagonal lines on the photo are normal stars, with the long-exposure photography tracing their movement in the sky as Earth revolves.

The longer, almost vertical streak of light is the shooting star, which stems from grains of dust left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it sweeps through space.

A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky over Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain

A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky over Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain.  More personal photos will be uploaded later this week.

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – Guided Tours of Stonehenge Stone Circle

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London Olympics

The Worlds gone mad…………………..
The ‘quango’ VisitBritain has issued a guide book aimed at the British on how to treat overseas visitors during the Olympics.  Unbelievable ???
Please take the time to read some of the advice below, this is not one of my hoax blogs – its completely true!  The ironic thing is that VisitBritain is staffed with ‘non Brits’………………
If you happen to meet a Mexican during the 2012 Olympics, don’t mention the war – that is just one of the pieces of advice being given to Brits on how to treat foreign visitors during the Games.
The war in question is the 1845-6 war with the United States. Instead you should try talking about Mexican art or museums.
 They have been written by the agency’s staff, who are natives of the countries featured.

Britain is ranked 14th out of 50 when it comes to the welcome it gives to foreign visitors, but some wish they had received a more exuberant welcome from their hosts.

The comprehensive catalogue of cultural norms and traditions should ensure that you do not unwittingly offend any guests – or feel slighted because of a lack of understanding.

For example, the advice says that you should never call a Canadian an American.

Similarly, steer clear of physical contact when meeting someone from India for the first time.

Pouring wine for an Argentinean may seem to be an innocuous enough task, but it is in fact a cultural minefield – pouring it backwards represents hostility.

 When Japanese people smile they may not be happy, in fact they could be the complete opposite.

 Talking to them with your hands in your pockets will cause offence.

Remember Arabs are not used to being told what to do.

 

VisitBritain advice

 

 Sandie Dawe MBE, CEO of VisitBritain, said making visitors to Britain feel welcome was “absolutely vital” for the UK economy.

 She said: ”Overseas visitors spend more than £16bn a year in Britain, contributing massively to our economy and supporting jobs across the country.”

She added: “With hundreds of thousands of people thinking of coming to Britain in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, this new advice is just one of the ways that VisitBritain is helping the tourism industry care for their customers – wherever they come from.”

 Other pieces of advice include:

:: Winking is considered a rude gesture in Hong Kong.

 :: The Chinese are very suspicious – talking about poverty, failure or death could cause offence.

:: Visitors from the United Arab Emirates don’t take kindly to being bossed around.

:: When accepting thanks, Koreans will typically say “No, no.” The remark should be interpreted as “You are welcome”.

:: The term “Poms”, which is used by Australians and New Zealanders, is a term of endearment, rather than a insult.

:: Snapping your fingers in the presence of a Belgian is regarded as impolite.

:: Do not imply that Polish people drink too much.

 For those visiting London and the UK during the Olympics 2012 remember to book well in advance, we already have private tours booked for the summer of 2012. 

Personalised tours of  London and Britain
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours during the London Olympics

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First sighting of Perseids in Wiltshire

Perseids

The Perseids are particles left in the wake of the Swift-Tuttle comet

A Wiltshire man was startled to see a bright light in the sky travelling fast on Saturday 7 August.

Daniel Hodder from Salisbury was travelling along the A303 when he spotted the object.

He said: “We saw an enormous light in the sky north of Amesbury. We could only assume it was a meteorite.

“It was a very bright, white and blue light moving incredibly fast to our right-hand side, there was a long stream, a long tail of about 400 or 500 metres.”

Andy Burns from the Wiltshire Astronomical Society had a straightforward explanation for what Daniel and several other people witnessed on the day.

He said: “What has been seen is a meteor, not a meteorite. A meteorite actually lands on the earth and is a lump of rock or stone that you can pick up. A meteor is a stone in the atmosphere that burns up.

“What we are seeing is the beginnings of the Perseids meteor shower. This tallies with the very bright fireball that has been seen in the north. You don’t need a telescope to see this type of phenomenon, you can see it with the naked eye.”

Daniel Hodder from Salisbury spotted the Perseids on Saturday 7 August

The Perseids are visible between 23 July and 22 August every year, but peak activity is expected on the nights of 12 and 13 August with around 80 meteors per hour.

Like most meteor showers, the Perseids can be traced to the orbit of a comet, in this case that of Swift-Tuttle.

The meteors consist of dust-sized particles which burn up on entering the Earth’s atmosphere, at an altitude of 60 to 70 miles, as the Earth passes through the trail left by the comet.

It’s consistently impressive display can be traced as far back as 36AD when Chinese astronomers noted high numbers of meteors.

The best way to observe them is to look towards the northeast after dark. They appear to originate from the constellation of Perseus, which at midnight lies just below the easily recognisable ‘W’ of Cassiopeia.

The highest frequency of meteors is likely just after midnight but with the moon, just past full, the best time to look for the ‘shooting stars’ will be between 9:00pm and 10:00pm when the moon is still low.

The chalk downland of Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge was named by the National Trust in 2009 as one of the seven best places in the UK to witness the Perseids.

They consider that light pollution in towns and cities has increased so much in recent years, that the countryside is the perfect environment to witness such astronomical spectacles as the Perseids.

Stonehenge has been voted the best place to witnes this meteor shower

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours of Stonehenge and Wiltshire

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It is cramped, draughty and unlikely to win any design awards. But, according to archaeologists, this wooden hut is one of the most important buildings ever created in Britain.

The newly discovered circular structure – as shown in our artist’s impression – is the country’s oldest known home.

Built more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge, it provided shelter from the icy winds and storms that battered the nomadic hunters roaming Britain at the end of the last ice age.

Ancient find: Manchester University student Ruth Whyte on the archaelogical dig in Flixton near Scarborough which has unearthed an 11,000 year old tree and remainsAncient find: Manchester University student Ruth Whyte on the archaelogical dig in Flixton near Scarborough which has unearthed an 11,000 year old tree and remains

Pictures from the dig where archaeologists believe that one of the first houses in Britain may have been buriedPictures from the dig where archaeologists believe that one of the first houses in Britain may have been buried

The remains of the 11ft-wide building, discovered near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, have been dated to at least 8,500BC. It stood next to an ancient lake and close to the remains of a wooden quayside.

Dr Chantal Conneller, from the University of Manchester, said it was between 500 and 1,000 years older than the previous record holder, a building found at Howick, Northumberland.

‘This changes our ideas of the lives of the first settlers to move back into Britain after the end of the last ice age,’ she said. ‘We used to think they moved around a lot and left little evidence.

‘Now we know they built large structures and were very attached to particular places in the landscape.’

None of the wood used to make the building has survived. Instead, archaeologists found the tell-tale signs of 18 timber posts, arranged in a circle. The centre of the structure had been hollowed out and filled with organic material.

STONEAGE HOUSESTONEAGE HOUSE

The researchers believe the floor was once carpeted with a layer of reeds, moss or grasses and that there may have been a fireplace.

Dr Conneller said the hut was used for at least 200 to 500 years – and may have been abandoned for long stretches.

‘We don’t know much about it and we don’t know what it was used for,’ she said. ‘It might have been a domestic structure, although you could only fit three or four people in it. It could have been a form of ritual structure because there is evidence of ritual activity on the site.’

Previous archaeological digs have unearthed head-dresses made from deer skulls close to the hut, along with remains of flints, the paddle of a boat, antler tools, fish hooks and beads.

Archaeologists have been excavating at the Mesolithic site Star Carr since 2003 Archaeologists have been excavating at the Mesolithic site Star Carr since 2003

The researchers also found a large wooden platform alongside the ancient – and long vanished – lake at Star Carr. It was made from timbers which were split and hewn.

The platform, which may have been a quay, is the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe. At the time, Britain was connected to the rest of Europe. The occupiers of the hut were nomads who migrated from an area now under the North Sea to hunt deer, wild boar, elk and wild cattle.

Dr Nicky Milner, from the University of York, said: ‘This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time.

‘From this excavation, we gain a vivid picture of how these people lived. For example, it looks like the house may have been rebuilt at various stages.

The ancient Star Carr site is located not far from the Yorkshire town of ScarboroughThe ancient Star Carr site is located not far from the Yorkshire town of Scarborough

 

‘It is also likely there was more than one house and lots of people lived here. And the artefacts of antler, particularly the antler headdresses, are intriguing, as they suggest ritual activities.’

Although Britain had been visited by hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, it was only at the end of the last ice age, when the glaciers finally retreated from Scotland, that the country became permanently occupied.

Thousands of miles away, in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of Mesopotamia, the earliest farmers were learning how to sow seeds and domesticate animals in a discovery that would transform the world – and herald the age of villages, writing and civilisation.

But in northern Europe, the hunter-gatherer way of life that had served prehistoric man for millennia remained unchallenged.

 

A depiction of a stone-age house in Ireland.A depiction of a stone-age house in Ireland. The original building at Star Carr would have looked very similar to this, with thatched roof and circular shape

Salisbury and Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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