C&B Notes

Scorched Earth Reveals the Past

A heat wave in Northern Europe has revealed the outlines of a number of ancient buildings and towns.

The scorching weeks of the summer of 2018 left crops shrivelled and gardens scorched. It has also revealed the lines of scores of archaeological sites across the UK landscape, tracing millennia of human activity, from neolithic cursus monuments laid out more than 5,000 years ago to the outline of a long-demolished Tudor hall and its intended replacement.

Lost sites have been turning up all over Britain and Ireland, ploughed flat at ground level but showing up as parch marks from the air, in areas where grass and crops grow at different heights, or show in different colors, over buried foundations and ditches. A treasure trove of discoveries, including ancient field boundaries, lost villages, burial mounds and military structures, was revealed on Wednesday, recorded during the summer by aerial archaeologists flying over the landscape for Historic England…

There is particular excitement over four iron age square barrows at Pocklington in the Yorkshire wolds. Their distinctive shape is rare nationally, but others in Yorkshire have also been excavated to reveal spectacular burials with grave goods including chariots.

The discoveries include two cursus monuments near Clifton Reynes, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, which are some of the oldest and most enigmatic prehistoric field monuments in Britain. The long, straight-sided enclosures — some up to several kilometers in length, and laid out between 5,600 and 5,000 years ago — were named by early antiquarians who believed they were used for chariot races, but they are now believed by some to have formed part of ritual processional routes.

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