Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Walking Into The Past

In recent months a new archaeology group has started up in our village with the great name of Time Travellers. We are a small and friendly group of enthusiastic amateurs, a mixture of hands-on types and those like me with more of an interest in the results of someone else's hard work:) Earlier this month we had an outing to Creswell Crags to see the prehistoric cave art that was discovered there recently. Creswell Crags was among the most northerly places on earth to have been visited by our nomadic ancestors during the Ice Age and there have been hundreds of finds there of stone, bone and ivory tools.  (All the photos will enlarge if you click on them.)

These are all replicas of the original finds which are now in various museums around the country. Near the top you can see a bone needle which would have been used to sew animal skins and furs into clothing and bags. The bags would have been used to  carry things both large and small. Some of the axe heads and arrow heads are really beautiful when you look at them closely. The replicas are all made by experts in these ancient crafts.

The interior of the cave which contains the cave art, I have to tell you that I was horrified to discover that there were spiders all over the walls and ceiling!! I concentrated very hard on the art which was actually very necessary as you would never spot it unless it was pointed out. This was not painting as in the caves at Lascaux but simply drawings scratched into the rock using a flint tool of some sort.

This is a carving of an Ibis bird, the top photo is borrowed from the Creswell Crags website and the lower one is my photo. It's hard to photograph it as it's done on a curve of the rock and the man (or woman!) who did it used this curve to form most of the body.  At the top is the beak with a natural indentation in the rock forming the eye and then the lines coming down at an angle are the bird's neck. Once you get your eye in it's easy to see but had I been the one searching in the cave the drawings would have remained forever undiscovered I'm afraid.

This is part of what you can actually see on the wall, can you pick out the stag? Look for his eye to the left of the modern graffiti and then try. No? Then move on to....

....the useful interpretation which shows not only the stag but various other things as well!

There are not only caves to be seen at Creswell Crags,the land originally belonged to the Duke of Portland and it is thanks to him that the site still exists. There were plans to put the a railway through the gorge in the 19th century and in order to prevent this the Duke had a large artificial lake made thus preventing the destruction of the archaeology and also providing a home for large numbers of waterfowl including Mama Mallard and her babies.....

.....and this little family of cygnets. Mummy and Daddy Swan were close by too:)

On Wednesday of this week a small group of us went up onto the moors in search of stone circles and burial cairns. On the way up to Frogatt Edge we passed this huge rock which one of our number called 'The Dog Stone'. We all saw straightaway what he meant, if you enlarge the photo I'm sure you'll see it too:)

Here is one of the entrances to Stoke Flat Circle on Frogatt Edge. The Peak District circles are not on the same scale as places like Stonehenge and Avebury of course but this one is unusual because it has two rings of standing stones on each edge of a low bank. The circle is too big to get the whole of it into a photograph unless you are in an aeroplane or have a very much more powerful zoom than I possess.

This is all of the group except me posing artistically by the largest of the standing stones. You can see for miles in every direction from here.

The moors are covered in wild flowers at this time of the year, this is sheep's sorrel (the red stuff) and what I think may be heath bedstraw.

This is a reconstructed burial cairn on Big Moor, it has been excavated and an urn containing the cremated remains of a child was found. I confess that I don't like the idea of burials being excavated even when they are very ancient. No-one would be allowed to go and excavate a grave in a churchyard however old and interesting it might be so why is it OK if the burial is elsewhere? There is great debate about this of course the main excuse being that 'we can learn so much from the remains'. Possibly, but I still don't think that this is a valid reason for desecrating a grave.

This is another cairn burial that has been excavated but it has been left open. The moors are covered with both stone circles and ring cairns - over 40 of them in the Peak District in fact! I knew that there are three circles near here but had no idea that there were as many as that.

This stone circle is known rather unromantically as Barbrook 2 Circle. It's been excavated and then reconstructed to give an idea of how it would have looked originally. There is a stone cist and a cairn inside the circle both dating to about 1800BC.

There are many of these guide stoops on the moors most dating from the 18th century. They were put there to help guide travellers over the bleak and dangerous moorland tracks, this one has a hand pointing to Sheffield in one direction and on the other side is a hand pointing towards Bakewell. Even today the moors can be dangerous, the weather can close in very quickly and it is very easy to become disorientated.This particular stoop is now close to the main road and marked the end of  a really interesting and enjoyable day - and we got home just before the downpour that had threatened all day finally arrived:)


Lynda (Granny K) said...

Fascinating Rowan! Thank you!

Diane said...

Spooky!! I just saw a big advert for Cresswell Crags in Asda car park and I was planning a visit! It looks really interesting. What a great group you have joined. xxxx

Rosie said...

Nice to see another guide stoop! I grew up not far from Cresswell and my cousin used to work at the Craggs which have altered so much as a visitor attraction since I was a child. It sounds as if you have joined a really interesting and friendly group of fellow enthusiasts - I wonder where you will visit next?

Dog Trot Farm said...

A most interesting and informative post Rowan! What a wonderful way to spend the day, traveling the Moors of England, only in my dreams! You offer us the most fascinating adventures, but the spiders I too could do without!

John said...

Looks like another place I'll have to get to someday. It's astonishing how many prehistoric sites there are up on the moors - and how few people know they are there.

MorningAJ said...

I've never been in the caves at Creswell. Fascinating place though. Thanks for the guided tour.

Roy said...

I am trying to visualise you on your knees scraping away at the ground with a little trowel Rowan. {:)

Von said...

Absolutely agree with you on excavations of burial sites including those in Egypt, I'm funny that way.
I lived quite near here for a time, it was a favourite stomping ground, nice to see these bits of it.

Janet said...

You have so much history in your part of the world. It must be such fun to be able to see all these ancient places and wonder about the people who lived there at that time.

Piecefulafternoon said...

What an interesting group - thanks for sharing with us.

Thimbleanna said...

Very interesting Rowan! I mostly feel the same way you do about excavating remains and I often think about that in relation to excavations like the Ice Man or King Tut. I wonder if Egyptian burials would have been so carefully planned out if they'd known their remains would be paraded all over the world in museum after museum. They are so very interesting, but still ....

Bovey Belle said...

What an interesting post, and I wish I could have tagged along too! I'm afraid I'm in the "necessary evil" camp regarding digging up ancient burials, but then I would be wouldn't I?!

There is SUCH a wealth of archaeology in your area, I don't think you'll ever run out of places to visit.

laoi gaul~williams said...

Rowan what a great post and so close to my heart~how exciting.

we have many bronze age barrows within a few miles of my home and most were excavated in antiquity and it always makes me me sad.
there are also, if you look closely, 'hill forts' on some of the higher hills, but well hidden now with gorse but it is easy to make out double ditches.

laoi gaul~williams said...

i forgot to say, i am reading Francis Pryor's 'Britain BC' and the crags are discussed quite a lot~it is a very good book and easy to read.

Rowan said...

Lee, I have read Francis Prior's 'Britain BC' and am currently reading his 'Britain AD'. They are, as you say, very good books and easy to read.

Mary said...

I need to get my hands on those books - they must be so interesting!

How great to have a group interested in doing this type of historical exploration of the beautiful British countryside - can I join from afar?!!!!!!!!

Happy trekking.

FireLight said...

Rowan, I truly wish I could have tagged along. I have been to Avebury several times, and Woodhenge, and of course Stonehenge. Thank you for all the details and information and the your usual great photgraphs.
These books sound like something I need to find!
And, thank you for stopping by my blog.

Lucy said...

Sounds as if that was a truly fascinating day. I am deeply impressed by the bird carving; don't feel as edgy as you about investigating graves - and get more bothered about the reconstruction element.



Rowan -- Found this post fascinating especially the guide stoops and the cave art. What a brilliant idea to have an archaeology group in your area. -- barbara

WOL said...

What an exciting group outing you had. I find stone circles and such like fascinating. I wonder if the people who put them up wondered how long they'd last.

Mac n' Janet said...

Wonderful blog, Mac's dream vacation would be to get to help out on an archeological dig. We've spent several trips to England searching out standing stones and cairns. I'm with you on digging up the dead there's something wrong about it, always has been.
But I'd like to dig other things up.

Gracie said...

This is a very interesting hobby you got for yourself! Please post more of your groups whereabouts in the future.

Jane said...

"The Time Travellers" - how perfect! I would also be horrified at the thought of all those spiders above my head. A very interesting post.

Anna at the Doll House said...

I found your piece on the ancient rock pictures fascinating.

Here, we have the largest concentration of rock pictures in Norway. However, unlike the ones you showed, these pictures are not in caves. Instead, they have been scratched, or hacked, onto open rock faces. To make them more easy to see, the contours are coloured red. And, of course, spiders are not a problem.


Louise said...

Hello, I'm new to your blog but have enjoyed this post! I grew up in the Peak District and now live just outside it!

Cresswell Crags is a place I have never been to, but I've been meaning to go for years and years! One day I will get there, perhaps this summer! It sounds like the Time Travellers is a great group to belong to!

I look forward to reading more in future posts!

Comfrey Cottages said...

i would so enjoy being a member of your group! love this:) xxx

Eigon said...

Time Travellers sounds like a great idea. Just a few words about digging up burials, though - as an ex-archaeologist, I have to say that this goes on all the time. In Norwich I assisted in lifting 80 medieval skeletons that were in the way of a new shopping centre. They were photographed in situ, planned and lifted for later study, with the intention that they would eventually be returned to the church which still exists next to the site for re-burial. Nearby we found a previously undiscovered graveyard, probably Saxon, which also had to be lifted.
Our boss at the time had previously been in charge of clearing a crypt under a church so that it could become a youth club, I think. The burials there were more recent and were all named individuals - one was a Lady Courtauld.
So it does happen, quite frequently, I'm afraid.