The Prehistory Section

Lower Gorple Reservoir

Midgley Moor

See gallery for more images, and extended captions

Update to October 2010

The last eighteen months has been a busy time for members of the Section and these notes are necessarily a brief outline only. If you need to know more - ask!

Members have attended various meetings and visits relevant to Calderdale prehistory:

  • The Prehistoric Society's Europa Day at York which had a focus on the Mesolithic in Northern Europe. Of particular interest were the speakers discussing the return of people and animals to, what is now, the British Isles before and after the Younger Dryas; and the stable isotope analysis which has revealed two distinct Mesolithic cultures – coastal and inland.
  • The Yorkshire Archaeological Society Prehistoric Research Section visit to Ingleborough where members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group guided us around the numerous Neolithic to Iron Age features located during their survey of the west side of the hill, above Chapel-le-Dale. Useful contact was made with Yvonne Luke, the English Heritage Field Officer whose 'patch' includes Calderdale.
  • The YAS conference at Helmsley on Neolithic and Bronze Age Yorkshire.
  • The PLACE conference at Grassington focusing on the Dales since the last ice age. Of note was the account of the '8.2k event' when a large freshwater lake in Canada breached an ice dam and flowed into the Atlantic, disrupting ocean currents and causing substantial and sudden post-glacial cooling across the whole of northern Europe. Differences between the glaciated uplands to the north of Calderdale and unglaciated Calderdale began to become apparent.
  • Saddleworth Archaeological Society hosted Andy Myers of Manchester Archaeological Service, who discussed the 800-year withdrawal of people during the Mesolithic (the 8.2k event) drawing on findings from Starr Carr, Seamer Carr and Deepcar.
  • Huddersfield Archaeological Society presented Terry Brown of Manchester University outlining the uses of DNA in establishing prehistoric population movements.
  • We visited the community archaeology project at Buck Wood, just north of Bradford, where a Bronze to Iron Age site has been excavated and recorded.
  • At the YAS in Leeds Rachel Pope from Durham University discussed her findings about Neolithic households from a practical, structural standpoint.

Apart from these meetings, and conferences members have made visits to see the rock art in Kilmartin, Northumberland and the North Yorks Moors, and further afield in the Libyan and Algerian Sahara.

We have begun an association with the West Yorkshire Geology Trust, attending meetings and field trips, and providing the prehistoric component for interpretive panels to be placed at Otley Chevin. The area around Widdop Reservoir has been identified as a future RIGS. (Regionally Important Geological Site).

A lot of time has been taken up with the Stanbury Hill Project on the southern side of Rombalds Moor. We have participated in the geophysics, the field walking and, latterly, the first season of excavation - of two cairns a linear feature and a possible dwelling site. Scheduled Monument consent arrived too late to allow excavation around the panels of rock art and this has been held over until next summer. We expect to be involved in the post-excavation work at Bradford University this autumn.

We used the equipment and experience gained at Stanbury to carry out a geophysical survey on part of Ridge Rough above Blake Dean. The results were somewhat inconclusive and there are doubts about whether to press on with projected surveys at Clough Head and Midgley Moor. We feel a LIDAR overflight would be more helpful - if there are any millionaires reading this…

Yet another standing stone was found to point to midwinter sunrise - this time near a very cold Blackstone Edge.

The provisional gazetteer of Calderdale rock carving will be published in the YAS Prehistoric Bulletin this year and 3D photogrammetry of the more interesting examples has begun. Commentaries on private collections of Calderdale flint have also been produced for the Bulletin.

A preliminary account of apparently propped stones will appear in the CBA journal Forum. The above item relates to ongoing work to formally plan all the cairns we have located in Calderdale, which has been widened to include other, hard-to-explain features which may have a prehistoric origin.

A new late Neolithic/early Bronze Age site has been located adjacent to Mount Skip Golf Club, and a new Mesolithic site has been found below the normal water level at Withens Reservoir.

The robbed cairn/herders' hut on Rishworth Moor has been reinstated after persons unknown moved many of the stones to make it into a caricature of a ring cairn. An account has appeared in Northern Earth Issue 123.

We have continued to maintain links with WYAAS. Dave Weldrake was taken on a tour of the main sights of Midgley Moor. Talks have been delivered, or shortly will be, to John Wheelwright Archaeological Society, Halifax Scientific Society and Ryburn Valley Historical Society.

Update to May 2009

We have continued our efforts to locate and record private flint collections in order to arrive at a better appreciation of the amount and variety of prehistoric activity in this area. Two collections seen and two more to come soon.

Our involvement with the Bingley History Society's exploration of Stanbury Hill (on the flank of Ilkley Moor) has continued - despite a lull for nesting birds and the identification of unexploded ordnance... We have been trained and taken part in geophysics surveying and penmap techniques, and have done battle with the associated software and interpretation methods. Our intention is to borrow the equipment and apply it and our skills to selected sites in the South Pennines.

The quest for practical software for 3D recording of rock art is also continuing and will complement a drafted paper summarising South Pennine rock art. A companion paper dealing with standing stones has been accepted for Halifax Antiquarian Society's journal and should appear in due course.

Another paper will cover the curious grooves we have found on some gritstone surfaces. These are thought to be natural but have attracted prehistoric carvings as well. Two field visits by experts from British Geological Survey were less than conclusive about a precise mechanism of causation. The South Pennines seems to have some unique, previously unrecorded geological features!

The planning discussions about the redevelopment of the windfarm on Ovenden Moor are continuing and West Yorkshire Archaeology Service has accepted and incorporated our submission about the importance of the mesolithic sites we found and which will be jeopardised by the new access road and footings for the larger windmills.

Visited 'The Tomb Builders' Museum of Wales travelling exhibition in Wrexham for comparison purposes.

Seminar on red deer in British prehistory, and symposium on the prehistoric uses of caves and rock shelters - both at University of Bradford.

In Huddersfield we heard Julian Thomas describe the Riverside Project - the latest excavations at Stonehenge and Durrington Walls.

Chesterfield Archaeology Day - the Derbyshire Archaeology Service, Peak National Park and Derbyshire Archaeology Society - again provided a useful comparison with another area.

We have also made contact with the West Yorkshire Geology Trust and with Pennine Prospects, particularly in relation to the cross-border Watershed Landscape Project, and we anticipate providing a prehistoric input in the near future.

We are also in contact with a PhD student who is proposing to examine aspects of South Pennine prehistory.

Update to July 2008

The period since last summer has seen a great deal of activity both in Calderdale and further afield.

Four ‘prehistoric walks’ have been conducted, around The Ridge and around Meg Dyke and Rishworth Moor, for HBLHS, Halifax Antiquarians, South Pennine Research Group and an adult education class from Bradford University. We attended a guided walk around the rock art of Middleton and Snowden Moors led by Edward Vickerman, president of Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society and joint author of ‘Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding’.
July 2008 - full report

Update to June 2007

Recent work with photos including the revamping of Heptonstall Museum; a prehistoric dug-out boat; the Bronze Age burial area; A visit to Cresswell Crags; fieldwork in our home area and much more.
June 2007 - full report



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