Deer park life

One of the reasons prehistoric archaeology survives as well as it does in and around New Laund is that for most of the medieval and post-medieval periods large bits of the landscape were enclosed hunting parks for deer, rather than being used for farming. The deer park on the other side of the river at Radholme Laund has been well studied, we think we may now have found a deer park boundary on this side of the river too.

During the spring, while we were digging at Fairy Holes Cave, Alex and Paul from Pendle Heritage Centre Archaeology Group came out to visit the dig. While they were there they had a bit of a poke around, as you do, in the mole hills in the field above Fairy Holes wood, where they found quite a few bits of worked flint and chert.

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Alex gave us a grid reference for the find spot and we opened trench K as a 3 x 3 metre area centred on that point. This bit of the project had two main aims. One was to find how much more worked stone there was in this bit of the field and the other was to see if there were any structures associated with all the finds.

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The worked stone found in April appeared to be Late Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) in date. They were probably made between six and seven thousand years ago. Unfortunately dating worked stone tools and waste is not a very exact science. By digging trench K, and particularly by working in controlled 1 metre grid squares and sieving everything, we hoped to recover a lot more worked stone. The more pieces we have to look at then the more likely it is that we will get a reliable picture of the date when all this stuff was left here.

This part of the project had been a big success. We now have a (relatively) vast assemblage of chert and flint pieces which will be analysed to tell us not only when they were made, but also a bit about how they were made, what they were used for and how often people came here to make them. One thing we have spotted already is that there seems to be a much wider range of dates than we thought before we started digging. There are pieces which look to be Mesolithic but there are also Neolithic and Bronze Age looking artefacts too.

I think that this is potentially really exciting for the long-term development of the project. We now have three sites, Fairy Holes Cave, New Laund Enclosure and this one, where people seem to have been active right from the Late Mesolithic through into the Early Bronze Age. They also seem to be three different types of place. We have a cave, a built monument and an open site. The focus of our research was always supposed to be on how the environment and human activity interacted to make particular places memorable. These three sites together give us the opportunity to study those processes in different parts of the same landscape through that long timespan.

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Trench K did contain one feature towards the base of the sequence. This is it after excavation. Jasmine thought that this was part of a former stream channel, rather than anything that had been made by people, because of the bands of sand and gravel filling it.

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We also used the gradiometer to look for buried archaeology over a wider area of this field. Here is Scott gathering the data while Mike strides along beside him like a Sergeant-Major to keep him walking at the right pace. The gradiometer is supposed to take a reading every 0.25 metre and it uses a timer to do this so you need to make sure you are walking at a constant and predetermined speed.

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The end result of all of that careful pacing. The red square shows the position of trench K. Just to the south of it, running diagonally across the plot, is a boundary made up of a bank, a deep ditch and another bank. This is parallel to the modern field boundary but about 10 metres north-west of it and this is what we think is likely to be a deer park boundary of medieval or post-medieval date. As well as this feature there are big pits to the north and west of trench K which look very interesting. These are much more likely to be prehistoric and to be part of the same open settlement site as all the stone tools come from.

Rick

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