Two more Stone Age houses dug up at key site


IT HAS al­ready been ac­knowl­edged as the site of Bri­tain’s ear­li­est house – and new se­crets given up by a mid­dle Stone Age set­tle­ment near Scar­bor­ough sug­gest that it was also home to an es­tate and pos­si­bly a prim­i­tive fac­tory.

An arche­o­log­i­cal team ex­am­in­ing the Star Carr site say they have found ev­i­dence of at least two more houses, which have been dated us­ing ra­dio­car­bon tech­niques to around 8,900 BC.

The dis­cov­er­ies, which are doc­u­mented in a new book about the site, in­di­cate that it was in­hab­ited sev­eral cen­turies ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought.

The news fol­lows the rev­e­la­tion that a 10,000 year-old crayon had been found be­neath the earth there. The 22cm (8.6in) im­ple­ment, ochre in colour, is thought to have been used to draw on an­i­mal skins.

Re­searchers have also been able to doc­u­ment ev­i­dence of rit­u­als, feast­ing, jew­ellery-mak­ing, com­mu­nal build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and tool man­u­fac­ture.

The book, funded by His­toric Eng­land, is be­ing made avail­able as a free on­line ver­sion, with video and 3D im­ages, as well as in tra­di­tional for­mats.

Its co-author Prof Nicky Mil­ner, from the Univer­sity of York, de­scribed the site as “in­cred­i­bly rare” and said it had at­tracted in­ter­est from around the world.

“We are thrilled to fi­nally share our re­mark­able dis­cov­er­ies pre­served in lay­ers of peat,” she said.

“The dig­i­tal ver­sion in par­tic­u­lar re­ally brings the find­ings to life through pho­tos and video, and al­lows us to share the sci­en­tific tech­niques em­ployed to in­ter­pret and re­con­struct the lives of th­ese an­cient peo­ple.”

The set­tlers at Star Carr would have been among the first to re­turn to Bri­tain af­ter the glaciers of the Ice Age had re­treated, Prof Mil­ner said.

The book con­firms that the site was oc­cu­pied over an 800-year pe­riod, and in­cluded large tim­ber plat­forms along the shores of the vast lake that once cov­ered part of the area.

The car­pen­try work un­cov­ered is so sub­stan­tial that the au­thors be­lieve they may have been the re­sult of com­mu­nal build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, in which sev­eral groups united for build­ing and sea­sonal cel­e­bra­tions.

Co-author Dr Chan­tal Con­neller, from New­cas­tle Univer­sity, said: “The book pulls to­gether all the new ev­i­dence from Star Carr into a sin­gle source. It changes our per­cep­tion of the com­plex and cul­tur­ally so­phis­ti­cated lives of th­ese hunter-gath­er­ers.

“Though th­ese groups moved into an empty land­scape, this place quickly be­came their home as well as rep­re­sent­ing an im­por­tant rit­ual fo­cus.”

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