Snow falling on Burnley

Especially on the Towneley Hall museum, where I went yesterday to look at finds from the Early Bronze Age ring cairn at Moseley Height, near Cliviger. This is yet another thing I am involved in which is not directly to do with caves or memory. I seem to have more side projects than David Byrne and Bryan Eno combined. The ring cairn at Moseley Height was excavated in 1950 by Walter Bennett – then a master at Burnley Grammar School. The site was about to be destroyed by open-cast coal mining and, in the days before organised rescue archaeology, a local volunteer dig was the only way any knowledge of the site could be saved. Mike Townend, senior curator at Towneley Hall, pointed me to some contemporary footage of the dig, taken by local film-maker Sam Hanna, which is now available online from the North West Film Archive.

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My interest in Moseley Height came about because Ken Tyson, the current landowner, remembered the site of the ring cairn and also of the now re-instated open cast pits. Although the site was listed as having been destroyed, Ken was convinced that it would have stood outside the area of the mining. There was just a chance, therefore, that it might have survived. In 2009 and 2010 we opened these enormous areas in Ken’s pasture on Moseley Height to gauge what had survived the attentions of the Coal Board. Ken was right, the circle had stood outside the area of the open cast pit. You can actually see the back-filled edge of the mine showing as the pale surface nearest the camera in this shot.

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Despite not actually being dug away by the mine, this was the only surviving feature from the ring cairn, the base of one of the stone holes. Ten years of 1950s era mechanical plant trundling over a site will do that for you. However, even though we didn’t find any structures from the ring cairn we did discover lots of artefacts. We found 107 pieces of worked stone, mostly waste from making tools, but we also found some tools, including a beautiful barbed and tanged arrowhead.

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Bennett and his team found four cremation burials in the centre of the ring cairn, three of them in Early Bronze Age urns of the type that are known as collared urns. This photo is of the largest one. They also found around 20 worked stone tools, mostly scrapers and knives, along with at least two arrowheads. The cremation burials were re-examined by Sam as part of her PhD. The reason I wanted to go to Towneley and re-examine Bennett’s finds is that we are aiming to bring together the results of both excavations in a new publication.

As always, when you go and look at archive material in museums, there was a surprise or two in the boxes. One interesting development is that not all of Bennett’s stone tools are Early Bronze Age, at least one of the arrowheads is Neolithic, there was obviously something happening on Moseley Height before the Early Bronze Age burial cairn. Even more importantly, Bennett had carefully marked the position of their finds on a map which is still held in Towneley Hall. This means that we should be able to tie together the results of the two excavations and get a clear idea of how the site was used in the Early Bronze Age.

Rick

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5 comments
  1. Fascinating stuff! I really enjoy your posts. You have such a wonderful job!

  2. one we should get radiocarbon dated 🙂

    • It could be another one with a long chronology, it would be interesting if the un-urned cremation was early, I’m going to have a look at the distribution of the early lithics next week – and read the next draft of your paper obviously 🙂

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