What are we doing here?

Welcome to Sheltering Memory. This is a blog associated with archaeological research on caves and rock-shelters carried out at the University of Central Lancashire. In particular I want to use the blog to keep people up to date with the results of the excavations we are carrying out at the moment at Whitewell in the Forest of Bowland. I’m hoping to get students and volunteers on the project to contribute both posts and discussions covering the results of our work but also more generally on anything to do with the archaeology of caves, rock-shelters and limestone landscapes.

Fieldwork this summer will start on Monday 2nd July. Thanks to John Alpe at New Laund Farm, Mark Darbyshire at English Nature and Simon Waller at Smiths-Gore land agents for help and permissions to get this season underway.

New Laund Hill, on the west side of the River Hodder and just about opposite the famous Inn at Whitewell, has lots of small limestone outcrops around it. There are also some small caves and many sink or swallow-holes; all typical features of the limestone landscape and ones which are often associated in other limestone areas with prehistoric activity. There were excavations at Fairy Holes Cave on the east side of the hill in 1946 by Reginald Musson and Wilfred Jackson who found animal bone and Early Bronze Age pottery (published in the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society in 1947).

We will be excavating small test pits and coring for pollen samples at as many of these sites as we can during the fieldwork. We are looking for different kinds of evidence: artefacts may tells us how people lived and worked around the hill; human remains would tie in with the now fairly well documented tradition of later prehistoric burial at caves (there is a paper on nearby examples from the Yorkshire Dales by Stephany Leach – full details on the reading list page); pollen evidence for changing vegetation patterns might tell us about how people were managing the local landscape; animal remains will also help us understand what they might have been farming or hunting at different periods.

As well as the cave research we will also be looking at a curving bank and ditch still visible on the top of  the eastern spur of New Laund Hill. This seems to be the remains of an enclosure of some kind and we will excavate a section of it to try and get some idea of its date and how this man-made structure relates to the natural features all around it.

Rick

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