"A NEOLITHIC 'CAUSEWAYED ENCLOSURE' ON GREEN HOW, CUMBRIA
Under low, slanting sunlight on the evening of 16 June 2000, routine reconnaissance by the English Heritage Aerial Survey team discovered what appears to be the first Neolithic causewayed enclosure to be recognised in northern England. Causewayed enclosures were built in the late Stone Age between about 3,700 BC and 3,400 BC, probably to serve as arenas for periodic communal gatherings; they are among the oldest and rarest field monuments known in the British Isles. In view of the potential importance of the monument, an analytical field survey was undertaken by English Heritage's Landscape Investigation Team in the wake of the discovery.
The enclosure lies on Green How, a prominent hill on Aughertree Fell, near Uldale. The hill commands panoramic views, with a particularly impressive prospect north-westwards to the Solway Plain and the Solway Firth. Although just taking in the highest point of the hill, the enclosure 'tips' across the contours on the slope facing towards the low-lying ground, a characteristic recognised as typical of other causewayed enclosures throughout Europe. Assuming that it occupied a clearing in the forest that probably would have covered the area at that date, the monument would have been clearly visible for some considerable distance across the Solway Plain.
The enclosure survives as well preserved low earthworks, with a single circuit describing an elongated oval 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres) in extent. The characteristic causeways - short gaps - at irregular intervals around both the bank and ditch are immediately apparent: on the aerial photograph, six or seven main segments can be seen in the circuit of the bank. Field survey reveals slight traces of further partial interruptions: this is thought to reflect the remarkable construction technique revealed by excavation at other sites, whereby parts of the monument were demolished or remodelled at intervals throughout its use, as though the monument was always regarded as a 'work in progress'. Despite the lack of firm dating evidence, the form of the enclosure and the slight, degraded appearance of the remains strongly suggest that it can be interpreted with confidence as a Neolithic causewayed enclosure.
In the British Isles, Neolithic causewayed enclosures have a distribution concentrated in southern England, with not a single site positively identified north of the valley of the River Trent, although isolated examples have been identified in Northern Ireland, Anglesey and the Isle of Man. The majority of the sixty-nine certain and probable examples previously known were discovered as cropmarks through aerial reconnaissance, and only fifteen survive to any appreciable degree as earthworks (click to find out about our book on causewayed enclosures throughout the British Isles: The Creation of Monuments, published 2001). In the north of England a handful of sites have been tentatively claimed to be earlier Neolithic enclosures, but none bear close comparison with the site on Green How, which is strikingly similar to examples long known on the chalk downland of southern England.
Aughertree Fell is open to the public, but the causewayed enclosure lies nearly a kilometre from the nearest road.
To get details of the full report, click here. For more information, contact Pete Horne or Alastair Oswald in English Heritage's York Office on 01904 601901; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com"