Beyond ‘Core’ Research Zones: A Fresh Perspective on Yorkshire’s Archaeological Past

Yorkshire Archaeological Society

Founded in 1863 the Yorkshire Archaeological Society has a long history of supporting archaeological work in the historic county of Yorkshire. The Society publishes the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, and carries out an active programme of lectures and visits.

A new study of burials at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr has implications for our understanding of Britain’s earliest farmers. It also highlights the need to move beyond ‘core’ research ‘zones.

The Journal of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society

The journal publishes archaeological discoveries, research and reinterpretation of known evidence, edited source material, reviews and bibliographies, covering all periods in the historic county of Yorkshire. It aims to foster a greater interest in the prehistoric past, and encourages broader participation in archaeology. The journal is Gold Open Access, with a readership of over 44,000.

Across the region, there is a clear need to transcend localised archaeological ‘zones’. Discrete sites with exceptional preservation or visibility are often characterised by their own traditions of research, and have had a damaging effect on broader regional agendas. A truly regional agenda needs to address these imbalances, and also offer a fresh perspective on the interplay between stone sources and distinctive regional landscape and settlement complexes. This is a particularly important issue for Yorkshire, which occupies a key position in the distribution of stone artefacts between conventionally seen static Neolithic communities and still mobile Mesolithic elements. Better dating will help to elucidate these issues, as well as enabling the characteristics of different types of monument and their associated landscape settings to be identified with more accuracy. Similarly, environmental data (e.g. pollen sequences) do not easily fit into database systems based on individual sites or monuments, and yet they can provide an essential context for understanding the relationship between culture and nature in the prehistoric period.

The Yorkshire Archaeological Society website

The Society maintains a wide range of archaeological and historical publications and research materials and its headquarters at Claremont close to Leeds is the centre for a large library and archive. It has specialist sections on Prehistoric, Roman and Medieval archaeology and history; Family History; Local History; Industrial History; and Parish Registers and Court Rolls. Members can also join a number of community projects around the County.

Its role is to support local communities in their archaeology by providing training and advice, and through the publication of the Yorkshire Archaeological Advisory Service (WYAAS). The Society also advises planning authorities on heritage issues and holds and actively maintains the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record (HER).

As well as excavating sites in the three counties, the Society conducts research and publishes its results. It has an extensive catalogue of finds, including stone tools and weapons used by our ancestors. More recent finds include Roman military camps and burial mounds, as well as evidence of a past that saw elephants and rhinoceroses roam the landscape. The Society is also a major contributor to the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s Cave Rescue Teams, which preserve and explore the many underground archaeological sites in the region. These reveal a wilderness that was scoured by glaciers in Ice Ages that have come and gone throughout the centuries.

The Yorkshire Archaeological Society Collection

The Society has a collection of archives, manuscripts and rare or early printed books, which offer insight into the archaeology of Yorkshire from prehistoric to modern times. They are catalogued in three broad groups – manuscripts (MS), manorial documents and deposited papers (DD). These works are lodged with the Special Collections Department of Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. They can be viewed free of charge by appointment.

The collections have been expanded over the years to reflect new developments in the study of prehistory, Roman history and medieval archaeology. The Society also holds a number of important historical and archaeological maps and has an extensive collection of photographs.

In recent years, the Society has been involved in reinvestigating Clark’s excavations at Star Carr, and has undertaken new fieldwork to better understand the site’s context. This has led to the discovery of a unique assemblage of everyday domestic artefacts, from giant food storage jars to delicate drinking cups, as well as evidence for the existence of a sedentary population.

In the twentieth century, the Society has encouraged and supported the work of a wide range of amateur archaeologists, from local societies to specialist period groups. These ‘grassroots’ activities are vital to the advancement of the discipline. They can complement and supplement the work of institutions such as universities, county councils and museums.

Go backwards to the home

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *