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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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Reeth Museum's Digital Image Archive has beeen transfered to the Resource Centre in Keld.

Walk to a Romano-British settlement near Applegarth
The postponed walk to the enclosed Romano-British settlement below Whitcliffe Scar finally took place in mid-March. Six SWAAG members met leaders Rod Flint and Jane Harrison at Marske. The original plan to follow the Coast-to-Coast footpath across the fields was abandoned in favour of picking up the ancient trackway further along the tarmac road. As a result of the detour we avoided getting very wet feet, spotted an old sunken trackway running parallel to the modern road and discovered several newts in a trough!

Jane explained how Swaledale owes its distinctive character to the underlying Yoredale rocks and subsequent erosion by ice and water. The more resistant limestones and the overlying cherts form the higher ground and scars on the north side of the valley. On the southern side of the valley these are overlain by younger rocks which were mostly deposited in terrestrial rather than marine environments. Thin coal seams were able to form and were mined for a limited time on Downholme Moor.

The settlers at Applegarth probably made use of natural features when building their settlement below Whitcliffe Scar. There are several springs in the vicinity and the steep rampart overlooking the approaching sunken way may be a modified fluvial or glacial deposit.

We explored the site after lunch. There are two main enclosures separated by a sunken track. Both contain the remains of buildings. The most interesting features are the unusual beehive structures in the east wall of the eastern enclosure. Further exploration revealed there were probably others which have either collapsed or have been buried below rock fall. Further information is available on SWAAG database record 228

or on Historic England’s website. List entry: 1018335. Of the rumoured lead mine, we could see no evidence!

Although it was cold and drizzly when we met, the day stayed dry, and we were rewarded with some beautiful views along Swaledale when the sun came out. There were good views of the cultivation terraces when we walked back down to Marske. These are thought to pre-date the medieval ridge and furrow.

Beehive feature in eastern enclosure Close-up of beehive feature
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View eastwards across eastern enclosure Cultivation terraces at Marske
News Record: 183     Updated: 09-05-2024 11:42:28

Early Medieval Lindisfarne
Dr David Petts, Associate Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, has been digging on Lindisfarne for many years. His talk began by outlining the early medieval history of the island, as well as describing how its geography would have been different from today’s.

Most recent archaeological excavations, apart from those undertaken prior to building work, have occurred around outskirts of the present village. As well as finding stone buildings, walls, ditches and evidence of industrial activity, the excavations have frequently unearthed skeletons. Some were clearly secular burials, and the cemetery sites were frequently re-used, resulting in confusing juxtaposing of the skeletons. Isotopic and DNA analysis will throw more light on who these people were. A possible shrine tomb and an adjoining chest burial suggest high-status individuals were also buried on Lindisfarne. Twenty-three runic name stones have also been unearthed.

Some of the more unusual artefacts recovered include a beautiful gaming piece and a bone comb with runes inscribed. Many animal bones, fish bones and shells have also been recovered providing evidence of the diets of the early medieval population.

The discoveries – and particularly those of elaborate stone carvings – are beginning to challenge the long-held view that there was a mass exodus of the monks from Lindisfarne in the 10th century. The excavations will continue for another two summers.

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News Record: 182     Updated: 25-03-2024 09:51:47

Botanical remains at Healaugh
Marijke Van der Veen, Emeritus Professor at Leicester University, was our speaker in February. She has published a paper on the excavations undertaken by Tim Laurie and Andrew Fleming on the house platforms at Healaugh, in Swaledale (1988-1990). As an archaeobotanist she focusses on macrofossils, such as seeds, grains, and chaff, which can be used to discover more about agriculture in the past, for example, the transition to farming, crops, diet, animal fodder, and trade. Healaugh provided only 17 sediment samples, but the botanical remains still provide a valuable insight into farming and the natural environment in the late Iron Age and early to mid-Roman period. The full paper can be downloaded from the SWAAG website under publications.

Marijke also placed the site in its context. The Romans were responsible for introducing large numbers of new food crops to Britain. Some, such as carrots, plums, and walnuts, thrived in the climate and continued to be grown after the Romans left, whilst the cultivation of others, such as olives, grapes, and fennel, declined. The relative proportions of spelt wheat and bread wheat grown also changed over time as did their geographical distribution.

In this country fruits, vegetable, herbs, and nuts survive best in waterlogged conditions, whilst cereals and pulses survive best when charred. Waterlogged conditions occur mostly on military and urban archaeological sites, which is also where more remains of the newer crops are found. There are fewer excavated rural sites, and this applies particularly in the north where military sites tend to predominate in the middle to late Roman period. The site at Healaugh provides another small piece in the overall picture.

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News Record: 181     Updated: 06-03-2024 15:26:47

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