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Viewing website implies consent to set cookies on your computer. Full details Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation Number 1155775
SWAAG Honorary President:
Tim Laurie F,S,A,
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Maiden Castle and other Scheduled Monuments
The early February weather was kind to our party of twelve on our walk around Harkerside.

We set off from Grinton passing a funerary barrow (SM 1012599) close to Swale Hall, crossed the Fremington dykes (SM 1004043,4) and discussed their attributes as defensive structures, boundary markers and enclosures. Perhaps they have been all of these things.

We pondered over the significance of a large mound of stones at a stile below Bleak House and some earthworks just to the west of it.

Then onwards and upwards, sheltering from the wind in the ditch of Maiden Castle (SM 1012609) to eat our lunch, share information from a 2011 geophysical survey of the place and from Will Swales research on the excavation of the large mound to the east of the “castle” by Rev Canon Greenwell who, on a summer’s day in 1867, had “a very effective staff of miners” at his disposal. However, “not a single bone or fragment of man’s work was found”.

Upwards again to another barrow, west of the castle earthworks, and then turning east towards Harker mires.

Five of us continued to the cairn field (SWAAG HER 150) and the feature marked as a hut circle on the Ordnance survey map but described by Tim Laurie as an embanked stone circle in a Bronze Age settlement landscape and listed as such as a Scheduled Monument In 2005 (SM 1012612). Nearby there are numerous cairns, stone features and a linear ditch and rampart (SM 1012617) which merges at its east end with the steep west bank to Grinton beck. We finished our walk downhill to Grinton just before wind and rain set in.
Linear ditch and rampart - Harker MIre Footpath / style crossing large semi circular stone feature at Bleak House
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Hut circle or embaned stone circle ? Harker Mire Large semi circular stone feature at Bleak House
News Record: 180     Updated: 26-02-2024 14:43:06

Changing environment and Roman artefacts
For our first meeting of 2024, Doctor Gillian Taylor, Associate Professor at Teesside University, explained how a changing environment is impacting on the artefacts recovered at Vindolanda and Magna Roman forts. There is increasing concern that changes in climate are affecting the preservation of the unique artefacts as the chemistry of their burial sites alters.

Some materials, such as metal and ceramics, are relatively resistant to change but the wooden tablets, which give such an insight into Roman life on Hadrian’s Wall, are more susceptible. The writing can fade and the wood crumble. Thousands of leather shoes have been discovered at Vindolanda but as summers become drier the anaerobic environments that currently preserve these ancient leather artefacts will vanish. Textiles are even more fragile and worryingly none have been recovered in any excavations since 2019.

Scientists and archaeologists are working together to monitor and track changes. Weather stations have been set up at Vindolanda and Magna. Sensors below ground now continuously record changes in soil chemistry e.g. pH values, conductivity, moisture content, and microbe activity. A picture of past climatic and soil conditions is also being established through core sampling and radio carbon dating. This was a very thought-provoking talk as these are issues that will be facing archaeologists across country.

J. H.
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News Record: 179     Updated: 28-01-2024 16:21:04

Stones, standards, and standing men
Perry Gardner, a SWAAG member, shared some of his PhD research at December’s meeting on Zoom. Recently he has been examining old maps to identify boundaries and boundary markers in Swaledale and Teesdale. The dales are rugged upland areas which have similar climate, geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology. Since prehistoric times their land systems might therefore be expected to be associated with similar patterns of habitation, resource exploitation, and communication.

Perry plotted the locations of curracks, earth mounds, and tumuli separately from those of piles of stone, standards, and standing men and related both to the river systems. This revealed that land demarcation was more extensive and comprehensive in upper Swaledale and ran over longer distances than in central Teesdale. Dating these boundaries is difficult but those in Swaledale may date back to the Early Bronze Age, whilst those in Teesdale are probably much later. Perry explained that ‘Tuath’ was the communally agreed management of land which preceded enforced enclosure and fencing. This may have persisted longer in Teesdale, only being fully replaced after the Norman Conquest, the imposition of the Honour of Richmond and later the legal creation of ‘Westmorland’ in the 13th century.

J. H.
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News Record: 178     Updated: 25-01-2024 14:24:58

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