Cattle ranching in Yorkshire BC
(from the Yorkshire Post)
ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have solved a 50-year-old riddle about Iron Age remains in the Yorkshire Wolds.
For years they were puzzled by lines stretching more than 16 miles across chalky hillside near the village of Weaverthorpe.
Thought to be Iron Age crop markings, the lines are now believed to be the remains of a huge cattle ranching operation dating from the second century BC.
The lines were discovered by aerial photography in the 1950s and baffled experts until English Heritage aerial investigator Dave MacLeod – working with three other archaeologists, Mark Horton, of Bristol University, Jo Caruth, of Suffolk County Council, and Melanie Giles, of University College, Dublin – took another look.
"Essentially we are looking at the remains of a highly-sophisticated cattle business that is more reminiscent of the High Chaparral, rather than small-scale peasant farming," said Mr MacLeod.
"Clearly thousands of cattle were being herded.
"Looking at our aerial photographs we can see that the Yorkshire Wolds are covered in a mass of ancient markings, hinting that the rural population 2,000 years ago wasn't too much different from that today.
"It paints a vastly different picture of the Iron Age. These people were engaged in specialised farming and had the stability, resources and expertise to ranch on a much bigger scale than most people realise."
The archaeologists will reveal their findings in the BBC2 series Time Flyers in a programme titled Reading Between the Lines, to be broadcast on Thursday.
The Time Flyers team used aerial archaeology techniques combined with ground excavations to examine the lines.
Some of the more fanciful theories for the interconnecting lines, which are broken by huge "funnels", gaps 100m wide, suggested they were part of a Celtic purification ritual which involved cattle being driven between fires.
"The funnels channelled livestock into broad droveways leading down to the settlements along the Gypsey Race, which is still the only reliable water source on the Wolds," said Mr MacLeod.
"The cattle would have been driven back up and out of the funnels to the higher pasture to graze and brought down for water twice a day. We think the funnels are part of a much bigger system stretching over 20km."
He added: "None of these structures survive above ground, so the only way we can understand the scale of what we are dealing with is through interpretation and mapping of thousands of aerial photographs."
The lines seen in growing crops are the remnants of 6ft-wide ditches.
25 October 2002
Posted by Rhiannon
28th October 2002ce
Edited 12th January 2003ce