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Yarnbury Henge Project 2013

The Invitation

In August Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group received the following invitation :

I am getting some Austrian colleagues over on 21st Sept for 1 week to do some landscape geophysical survey over the Yarnbury henge field and it's neighbour to the north east
Before this, however, starting, probably 3rd or 9th Sept we will be field walking, looking especially at the molehills in both fields. The HER already have flints recorded from the field but we do not know where or in what quantities.
We are hoping to complete this before the geophysics starts.

Yours sincerely
Alex Gibson
Reader in British Prehistory, University of Bradford.
Vice-President: The Prehistoric Society

Week One

A good number turned up on the first day – 3rd September – and were delighted to see former UWHG member Debbie Hallam again; She is studying at Bradford University and helping Alex with the project.


The weather was good, the surroundings beautiful and the molehills fresh. But as one volunteer with some experience of fieldwalking pointed out, this wasn’t quite your usual fieldwallk. Not for us the neatly ploughed arable field, with artefacts lying on the newly turned soil glinting in the sun to catch our eye. Before us lay a large exposed field with lush dew-covered grass, so long that it was falling over flat on the ground. Hiding among all this were numerous molehills and rabbit scrapes – the field is protected by Natural England, and Yarnbury henge itself is a scheduled monument, so we were no allowed to actually dig into the ground. We walked up and down 20 metre wide transepts across the field, kicking aside the large tufts of grass, and gently scraping through the upturned mounds of soil left by the moles – who are of course exempt from the rules about digging protected sites.

Although antiquarians had reported significant flint finds around here (now lost) we found very few over the first week. Those we did find were small Mesolithic flints, mostly well away from the henge.


                                           The team working in a sea of flags marking the molehills  photo © Jane Lunnon

On the second day we were briefly visited by Robert White and Miles Johnson of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, who were giving a small group of walkers a tour around the Grassington area.

But on the 4th day the weather changed dramatically!


                                                    Derek Paley battles against wind and rain ; photo  © Jane Lunnon

Suddenly the summer was gone, and the brave and hardy few who ventured out with their trowels and wellies were absolutely soaked by mid-day. We called it a day at noon, and took refuge at one of our favourite haunts, the Cracoe Café.

Week Two

Work started again on Tuesday – in the vain hope of finding more flints in the neighbouring field. Despite the appearance of some magnificent storm clouds the rain didn’t fall and quick work was made across the field. Only 5 flints were found, and those, were again near the henge monument but not actually on it. 

The field walking was completed on the Wednesday, with just one single find as we examined the section of our grid further away from the henge.

At just gone 11am Alex called it a day. Although the absence of a large number of flints overall had been disappointing, we consoled ourselves, as archaeologists often do, with the knowledge that the absence of artefacts is just as meaningful as finding lots of artefacts.


Our thanks to Alex for giving us the opportunity to take part in this project; and to all the volunteers who joined us during the two weeks.

Jane Lunnon 

Further Reading

Printed publications

Barrett, J. - “Grassington, W.R.” (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 161, 1963).

Blaise, Vyner – “A Great North Route in Neolithic and Bronze Age Yorkshire: The Evidence of Landscape and Monuments” (in Landscapes, Vol.8, No.1, April 2007, pp.69-84)

Dymond, D.P., “Grassington, W.R.” (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 163, 1965).

Harding, A.F.,- “Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain” (BAR 175: Oxford 1987).
Harding, J. – “Interpreting the Neolithic: The Monuments of North Yorkshire” (Oxford Journal of Archaeology, Volume 16, Issue 3, pages 279–295, November 1997)

King, Alan, et al -  “Early Grassington” (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1995).

Martlew, R. – “The Druids' Altar: A 'Scottish' Stone Circle in Craven, North Yorkshire” (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.82, June 2010, pp.59-72)

Wainwright, G.J.- “A Review of Henge Monuments in the Light of Recent Research” (Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 35, 1969.)


Out of Oblivion website – Yarnbury Henge

English Heritage – Pastscape website -

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