Occasional Papers 03  

The Archaeology of Yorkshire: An assessment at the beginning of the 21st century

by T. Manby, S. Moorhouse, P. Ottaway (eds) (2003)

The Archaeology of Yorkshire: An assessment at the beginning of the 21stThis volume collects together papers arising out of the Yorkshire Archaeological Resource Framework Forum Conference held at Ripon in September 1998. The conference’s purpose was to assess the current state of the archaeological resource within the historic county of Yorkshire with a view to contributing to the development of research agenda in the region.

This volume is divided into sections on the natural environment (including “The geological background to Yorkshire’s archaeology” and “Yorkshire’s palaeoenvironmental resource”); period-based papers (including Neolithic, Bronze, Iron ages and Roman and Medieval periods); and thematic papers.



The Past and Future of Yorkshire’s Past by Peter Addyman
This paper, which is based on the keynote address at the Ripon conference, begins by setting the work of the Yorkshire Archaeological Research Framework Forum in the context of the call for regional reviews by English Heritage following the publication of Frameworks for our Past (Olivier 1996). The history of archaeological research in the region is briefly reviewed and particular strengths of the region’s resource identified. Note is taken of the continuing threats posed by modern development, but the paper concludes by drawing attention to the opportunities presented by new research techniques and the excellence of human resource in the region’s universities and other institutions.

The Geological Background to Yorkshire’s Archaeology by G.D. Gaunt and P.C.

This paper is an introduction to the distribution of solid rocks and Quaternary deposits in the Yorkshire region and their influence on human settlement. The paper is structured in terms of the seven systems which comprise Yorkshire’s geology and are, for the most part, related to its principle physiographic regions. Whilst it has not been possible to provide a fully comprehensive background to the inter-relationships between geology and archaeology in the region, the paper draws attention to palaeo-ecological sites within each physiographic region which provide the most useful sequences, and to the earliest and most extensive evidence for human activity and usage of geologically derived resources.

Yorkshire’s Palaeoenvironmental Resource by J.J. Innes and J.J. Blackford
Yorkshire’s natural sedimentary record is reviewed and used to describe the county’s palaeoenvironmental resource potential and evaluate its value to archaeological study. Several different types of deposit are identified which formed under different environments of deposition at different periods of the past, and each are considered to have particularly valuable, although contrasting, research potential. Their character, history and current state of knowledge of their palaeoenvironmental data record are discussed and illustrated by reference to selected key sites.

The Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Periods in Yorkshire by T.G. Manby
It was not possible to include a paper in the Ripon Conference programme on the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods in Yorkshire, although they have been fields of substantial research for more than a century. In view of this a short summary of research has been prepared for this volume.

The Neolithic and Bronze Ages: a Time of Early Agriculture by T.G. Manby, A.
king and B.E. Vyner

The conventionally termed Neolithic and Bronze Ages, c.4400-700 BC, are reviewed first in the terms of a historical background of excavation and research. A vast legacy of recorded data and collections resulting from the prolific work of the 19th century collectors and barrow diggers has overshadowed most of the 20th century. There was a slow beginning to scientific archaeology across Yorkshire caused by a scarcity of resources for research and excavation and outlets for publication. Not until the 1960s was there an expansion of research into Yorkshire’s prehistory. Much of the excavation was motivated by rescue concepts; only in the 1970s was there a development of landscape programmes.

The implications of 20th century research and excavation are presented in a
chronological synthesis integrated into national periodisation schemes that utilise
radiocarbon chronology. Geo-environmental based reviews outline the historical
impacts on monumental survival, the implications of palaeoenvironmental study, the
extent of excavation and field collection. The subsistence evidence and economic
resources are reviewed along with aspects of inter-regional relationships.

The Iron Age in the Yorkshire Region
The Iron Age in Yorkshire has been a field of substantial research for more than a century, but it was only possible to include a paper in the Ripon Conference programme on eastern Yorkshire. After Rodney Mackay’s paper, therefore, a summary by T.G. Manby of work in other parts of the region is included.

The Archaeology of the Roman Period in the Yorkshire Region: a Rapid
Resource Assessment by Patrick Ottaway

This paper presents an overview of archaeological work relating to the Roman period in the historic county of Yorkshire in the 20th century, based largely on published material. The subject is treated chronologically according to three periods (1900-45, 1946-71 and 1972-present day) so as to reveal the changing course of research objectives. In conclusion, a number of research themes for the 21st century are proposed.

The Archaeology of Post-Roman Yorkshire, AD 400 to 700: Overview and
Future Directions for Research by Chris Loveluck

This paper presents a summary of the evidence for the development and nature of society in the Yorkshire region between c. AD 400-700 and also seeks to set it in a wider north of England context. It is noted that Yorkshire is an ideal region for research into this period because of the distinction that can be drawn between the east, where a distinctive Anglo-Saxon culture began to emerge in the early 5th century, and the west where a sub-Roman British culture may have survived until the 7th century, although the visibility in the archaeological record of the former is recognised as being considerably greater than the latter. After a brief review of the region at the end of the Roman period, which dovetails with the previous paper in this volume, the main body of the paper is structured on the basis of the east-west division already noted. For each zone the archaeological evidence for settlement, funerary customs, and economic activity are reviewed. These topics are re-examined in a discussion of Yorkshire in the 7th century and the paper concludes with the identification of a number of themes for future research.

Medieval Yorkshire: a Rural landscape for the Future by Stephen Moorhouse
Yorkshire is well known for its legacy of the Middle Ages through surviving churches, castles and monasteries, many of which have been studied for various reasons since the 16th century. However, these are the most obvious piecemeal survivors from a complex landscape, studied over the past half-century by researchers from a variety of disciplines, including history, historical geography and archaeology. This paper will examine the development of the subject, the current trend in landscape work and the potential for the future. It will propose a strategy for the future, drawing on the most informative elements of the range of disciplines now used. It involves an understanding of the medieval landscape, its structure, components, influence on it and its development, identified through documentary evidence and name work. This will provide a detailed framework for understanding the physical remains revealed through fieldwork and particularly all-inclusive survey, the culmination of both providing a blueprint for more conventional work, and a firm basis for management, conservation, preservation and presentation in the future.

From Newby Hall to Navvy camp: Power, Pots and People in Post-medieval
Archaeology by David Cranstone

This paper seeks to develop priorities for the study of the period from the 16th century to the present in Yorkshire, building on existing work and new thinking. The differences in intellectual culture between post-medieval and industrial archaeology are discussed. For industrial archaeology, recent emphasis on data-gathering allows a coherent resource assessment to be prepared, but research questions remain functionalist in approach. For post-medieval archaeology, the sheer wealth and variety of the evidence renders a resource assessment difficult to formulate, but the research agenda and framework can pose some very interesting questions. The post-medieval and industrial past has directly shaped our current society; its archaeological study is exciting, contentious and highly relevant to any full understanding of modern society and its future.

Researching the Prehistory of Wensleydale, Swaledale and Teesdale by T.C.

No account of the history of Wensleydale, Swaledale or Teesdale exists, for the reasons perhaps that access to the moorland grouse preserves has hitherto been difficult and no university has been sufficiently interested in these rather remote (from them) districts. Wensleydale is at the northern limit of the region considered habitable during the late glacial and the small surface collection of lithic artefacts of Late Upper Palaeolithic character from Carperby Moor is described here for the first time. The Later Mesolithic and Neolithic lithic finds from Wensleydale arising from previous and recent fieldwork placed on record. One area with widespread lithic scatters of Mesolithic and Neolithic character, Preston Moor, is in imminent danger of destruction from quarrying activity. The recently recognised burnt mounds are described in context with the rock art and the round barrows, stone circles, ring cairns and cairnfields which have not been considered previously.

Exploring our Past in the Humber Wetlands: The Work of the Humber
Wetlands Project 1992-2000 by Robert Van de Noort

The lowlands of the Humber basin have been the subject of an extensive archaeological and palaeolenvironmental survey between 1992 and 2000. This paper summarises the research rationale, methods and main results, and also offers a short chronological overview of wetland exploitation from the Mesolithic to the postmedieval period. The final part of this paper is concerned with the future framework for the Humber wetlands.

Researching an Ancient Landscape: The Foulness Valley, East Yorkshire by
Peter Halkon

This long-term research project, which has integrated archaeological and palaeoenvironmental technique, has shown the close connection between landscape and human activity over a long time span in this region of lowland east Yorkshire. Woodland was managed for furnace-based industries, including one of the largest and oldest iron production sites in Britain. Other archaeological evidence, ranging from a Lower Palaeolithic handaxe to medieval pottery, appears to relate to courses of the River Foulness, past and present. Special emphasis has been placed on the impact of Romanisation on rural settlement patterns.

The Heslerton Parish project: 20 Years of Archaeological Research in the Vale of
Pickering by Dominic Powlesland

This paper begins by reviewing the origins of the Heslerton Parish project and its programme of rescue excavation and landscape assessment. Although work began with the excavation of a major Anglican cemetery, research was soon broadened out into the investigation of a transect of the landscape running across six geomorphological zones. After reviewing the problems posed by the variable visibility of different types of archaeological remains, which continue to restrict understandings of many aspects of settlement history in the locality, a summary of the principal results of the work at Heslerton on a period by period basis is presented.

Anatomy of the Yorkshire Dales: decoding the medieval landscape by Stephen

The aim of this long-term project is to recreate on paper the topography of the medieval landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, and its development through time, within the framework of the contemporary townships, and not modern civil parishes. The initial approach is through documents and map sources and the various levels of names, supported by targeted and large-scale survey within township units. The aim has been to allow the form and development of the multi-period-landscape to emerge, rather than to go looking for particular monument types, apply artificial models, or look for monument shapes out of context in palimpsest landscapes that are not understood. The approach has endorsed the view that the layout of medieval landscapes are far better studied from documents, backed up by detailed field survey at a level necessary to understand the Dales’ sophisticated and subtle landscapes. It has also highlighted the acute dangers of using aerial photography on its own to understand earthwork landscapes. The medieval landscape was part of a complex evolution of man’s use of the landscape stretching back millennia. By recognising this medieval landscape in a complex earthwork sandwich, it has allowed us to see where it has come from by pushing backwards beyond the Norman Conquest, into the non-text aided Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon and ‘Dark Age’ periods, and beyond, by
providing sound models and frameworks to work from.

Regional Frameworks for Medieval Rural Settlement by Stuart Wrathmell
Medieval rural settlement in Yorkshire is neither distinctive nor cohesive: it displays the forms and varieties that can be found in many other parts of England. This contribution therefore recommends that construction of a regional research strategy should be informed, from the start, by national research strategies and frameworks. The research issues identified on this basis should be used to guide the resource assessment and subsequent research agenda.

Urban Archaeology in Yorkshire by Steve Roskams
This paper presents a review of some of the current problems faced by urban archaeology and recommends a number of ways its potential can be exploited. After a brief review of the recent history of the discipline in terms of its organisation and funding, a contrast is drawn between the concepts of ‘archaeology in towns’ and ‘archaeology of towns’. A discussion of the former notes the constraints on research imposed by the operation of PPG16 and the tension between conservation and investigation of the archaeology of urban areas. An analysis of the ‘archaeology of towns’ begins by rejecting prevailing concepts of urbanism and urban characteristics in favour of relating data from towns to generalised approaches to social dynamics. This does not, however, diminish the need to pay more attention to the specific character of urban sites and to the importance of integrating the distinctive stratigraphic and spatial information they yield with their artefactual and ecofactual assemblages. The paper concludes with a call for greater attention to town-hinterland relations and regional settlement hierarchies.

The Contribution of Museum Archaeology to Research Frameworks by Tony

This paper examines the contribution of museum-based archaeology to the debate on research strategies. It stresses the central role that museums undertake in the longterm care and promotion of the archaeological resource, not only to specialists but also to the general public.

The Changing Nature of the Archaeological Resource: Portable Antiquities as
part of the Yorkshire Framework by Ceinwen Paynton

The Portable Antiquities Scheme was launched by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in September 1997. The aims of the Scheme are fourfold: to advance our knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales; to initiate a system for the recording of archaeological finds and encourage better recording practices by finders; to strengthen links between detector users and archaeologists; to estimate how many objects are being found across England and Wales and what resources are needed to record them.

Since this paper was written, the PAS has gone from strength to strength. 49 000 objects have been recorded nationally since the end of 1997, and the project has moved on from its pilot phase to a programme of national expansion. There are now 23 people working as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (there were only a handful of Finds Liaison Officers at the time that this article was written), and by the end on 1003, several more FLOs will be appointed. The Scheme is set to expand in Yorkshire with a new FLO post being created to cover South and West Yorkshire from December 2003 and a half-time post to support the existing FLO in north and East Yorkshire in August of the same year.

Archaeological Surveys Carried out by the RCHME and English Heritage in
Yorkshire, 1975-2000

This paper summarises the background to recent earthwork and aerial survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and English Heritage in Yorkshire. A catalogue is appended containing a full list of surveys conducted between 1975 and 2000 at scales of 1:2500 or larger.

Are your Research Frameworks really necessary? An open letter to English
Heritage from Andrew Selkirk (Copy to David Miles)


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