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Viewing website implies consent to set cookies on your computer. Full details Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
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Tim Laurie FSA
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Neolithic farming techniques
Last night's talk by Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy was a fascinating look at the sophisticated farming techniques used by Neolithic farmers. Our understanding of these early dwellers on the land has developed over the years from a rather dismissive "primitive" judgement to a better appreciation of their skills and resilience. New archaeological methods such as carbon dating, DNA and isotope analysis have provided new and detailed evidence of their diet and of the genetic makeup of this population and their animals.
After the last ice age, Britain was initially inhabited by hunter-gatherers. They followed the herds of wild deer in their northerly migration each year, also hunting the massive aurochs cattle and wild boar as well as smaller animals, birds and fish.
They were gradually replaced by a new kind of immigrant, the farming communities of the Neolithic. Bringing with them new strains of domesticated cattle, sheep and pigs, they established small-scale communities in woodland clearings. They ploughed using the ard, a wooden surface plough, crossing and recrossing the earth to break up the soil and grub up the weeds. They enriched the soil with manure from their cattle. Then they planted grains, mostly emmer wheat and barley. They coppiced hazel so that they could use the thin, flexible stems for weaving fish traps. They learned how to extend the calving season so that there would be a supply of milk over a long part of the year and they made the surplus into cheese. They traded their cattle to avoid inbreeding.
They met and feasted, raising large buildings like the one at Balbridie or creating causewayed enclosures. It was a hard and precarious existence but clearly there were times of plenty when families could get together with the local community (including it seems, their hunter-gatherer neighbours) and celebrate.
Thank-you, Peter, for a very entertaining and educational talk.
Reconstruction of Neolithic hall at Balbridie (Wikipedia)
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News Record: 131     Updated: 12-05-2021 20:15:13

Members' Meeting 11th May
At 7pm on Tuesday 11th May we will welcome Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy as our speaker. Now Professor Emeritus in Archaeology from Durham University, Professor Rowley-Conwy will speak about Neolithic farming. He says:
"Recent work both in ‘conventional’ archaeology and new scientific techniques have changed our understanding of what Britain's earliest farming was like. Our earliest farmers were using unexpectedly intensive and sophisticated methods, showing that they were by no means ‘primitive,’ as used sometimes to be assumed, but on the contrary knew exactly what they were doing."
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News Record: 130     Updated: 27-04-2021 12:56:00

Evolution of Hartlepool Through the Ages
Old Hartlepool developed as a fishing village on the magnesium limestone headland. Surrounded by the sea on three sides it is a picturesque area with interesting architecture and a marina. Old Hartlepool amalgamated with its more industrialised neighbour West Hartlepool in 1967 to form a single entity. John Russell's talk covered the history of Hartlepool Headland from the Romans through to modern times.He highlighted the many archaeological digs which have taken place there, unearthing the remains of a 7th Century monastic community and an extensive Anglo-Saxon community. The impressive St Hilda's church was built on the same site.
During the Napoleonic wars a French ship allegedly sank nearby. The only survivor is said to have been a monkey and legend has it that the monkey was duly tried and hanged as a French spy. Hartlepudlians are known as "monkey-hangers" to this day.
The Heugh Battery was established in 1860 to protect the fast-growing port. The guns, suitably updated, formed an air-raid defence during both World Wars. In 1914 the area was bombarded by German battle cruisers and Hitler launched a massive air raid on the East coast of England which saw 40 bombers attack Hartlepool.
Our thanks to John for an interesting talk.
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News Record: 129     Updated: 14-04-2021 14:53:25

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