Meeting Report - January 2013
The first meeting of the year 2013 nearly didn't happen. Our guest speaker, Patrick Hadley, travelling from York by train missed Cross Gates station and travelled on to Leeds . However he arrived by taxi only a short time after the allotted time and quickly made up for his late arrival.
Patrick is an established archaeologist currently studying for a Phd at York university having already gained a Bsc and Msc at Bradford. His main area of interest is the Mesolithic period and this had led to his involvement in the excavation at Star Carr, the oldest house in Britain. This was the subject of his revealing and fact filled lecture.
The site of the archaeological excavations at Star Carr.
Showing the soil marks of the 2010 excavations. Hunters gatherers settled
here over 11,000 years ago
Patrick began by explaining that at the end of the last ice age, approximately 11,000 years ago, people began establishing sites around a large lake situated in what is now the Vale of Pickering. This period is known as the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) Period.
Mesolithic sites had been found and excavated in other parts of Europe, but until 1948 no such sites had been found in Britain. In that year, local archaeologist John Moore was excavating Carr lands near Pickering and found evidence of a long narrow trench. The information about this trench was relayed to Grahame Clark of Cambridge University. The site proved to be unique in that no other has produced the same amount or range of amazing discoveries. These artefacts have been remarkably preserved due to being buried in water-logged peat for over 10,000 years.
Perhaps Clark's most amazing discovery was the brushwood platform excavated in 1950 which is thought to have been lived on by Mesolithic man.
Patrick showed us a reconstruction of a Mesolithic house, evidence of which had been discovered at the site. He than described how archaeologists build up a picture of how the inhabitants lived, by the artefacts found at the site made of bone, wood and animal remains. The illustrations which accompanied his talk really brought this home to the audience. They conveyed the fact that Mesolithic man was just as good at coping with and surviving in his stone-age environment as we are today. Long held impressions of caveman capabilities were dispelled as we realised they were able to make boats, very effective weapons, jewellery and living accommodation.
Patrick also brought along various artefacts found on the site and replicas of barbed hunting tools for fishing and hunting. We were thrilled to be able to handle these realising the time period from which they belong.
Patrick ended his talk by explaining how time is running out to complete the excavation of the site, due to the peat drying out allowing oxygen to enter the deposits. This causes a chemical reaction which produces sulphuric acid which in turn causes deterioration of the archaeology.
One can only hope excavations can be completed before
the complete deterioration of one of the most important mesolithic sites