Harker Mires is the general area of a number of
major earthworks of uncertain age. They have been reported as Middle
Bronze Age / Iron Age /
Romano-British / Medieval or later. The earthworks are a scheduled
monument. The scheduling report can be read here.
A section of this particular earthwork has been washed out
during periods of heavy rain. As it has been damaged by natural
events SWAAG together with
English Heritage and the
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are taking this
opportunity to review a clean cross-section of this linear
earthwork so that a variety of environmental and dating samples
can be taken and analysed.
This excavation will be managed by
Archaeological Services Durham University (ASDU). The lead
archaeologist from ASDU being
Mark Randerson. Coming to join us or to see how we are
getting on? then see this
The weather was kind to us. The
forecast of heavy showers with thunder didn't materialise, just
a couple of light showers.
The first 3 images show you the 'washed out section of the
ditches and banks.
Image 1 Peter and Mark from ASDU sizing up the task whilst stood
on a subsided section of the main bank.
Whilst near left of the image the 'wash out' has cut through the
lower ditch and bank.
Image 2 A better view of the subsided main bank with the upper
ditch not very obvious to the right of Peter and Mark.
Image 3 A view down the 'wash out' towards Swaledale in the
Image 4. Mark and Duncan winning an argument with some heather
Image 5. Rob and Alan making good progress on the lower bank and
ditch whilst I bunk off taking the photographs.
Image 6. In this section you can see the cut of the ditch. This
isn't the actual section we will be recording as it is in a
section that has subsided. We will be extending back a little
more until it is a true representative section, as we do we will
be collecting samples of various layers.
Image 7. A close up of the cut.
Image 8. The lower section is now ready to be recorded tomorrow.
The natural boulder clay and stone made it hard going.
Image 9. A close up of the lower ditch.
Image 10. End of day and whilst it has been quite difficult
under foot at times, we have made good progress on the main
Tuesday August 7th
Apart from one 10 minute fairly heavy shower the day was a
perfect one and we made progress on all fronts.
Image 1: Alan freshened the section across the lower bank and
ditch prior to photography and recording.
Image 2: Alan, John and Mark start on drawing the section.
Image 3: This is the section being drawn. You can see in the
background the Bank and ditch. Ideally this section would have
been excavated about 10 metres back across the full height of
the bank, however because this is a Scheduled Monument we have
excavated in this position so as to have as little impact as
possible on the structure.
Image 4: Images 4-9 are of the upper main bank and ditch.
Here Mark is taking the first bulk sample from the upper of the
3 distinct layers in the bottom of the main ditch.
Image 5: These are the 3 layers in cross section.
Image 6: The upper layer being collected
Image 7: The middle black layer being collected.
Image 8 The lower grey clay layer being collected by Shirley and
Image 9: At the end of the day the lower grey clay layer has
largely been removed leaving the profile of the ditch.
Wednesday August 8th
A beautiful day, dry, sunny, warm with a slight breeze and a
beautiful view from Swaledale to the Yorkshire Moors!
You will have read at the top of the page that we are trying to
confirm the age of these earthworks by taking a variety of
environmental and dating samples of key deposits obtained from a
clean cross-section of the earthwork. It is difficult to imagine
the nature of the 'washout'. These washouts only get water in
them occasionally when there has been an extraordinary amount of
rain. The day before we started the dig there was severe
thunderstorm activity across this area with local flooding.
When we got to the dig site the 'washout' was bone dry! To give
you some idea what they look like I walked done the 'washout' from about 50 metres
above the dig site to opposite the main earthwork. The washout
in placed is more than 2 metres high. Forgive the
jerkiness as it is not an easy walk down the bed of the
'washout'. Take a look at the video below:
Image 1: In this section we were hoping to see some evidence of
the material dug out of the ditch being deposited on top of the
main bank. Alas we didn't, however as the top of the bank wasn't
the same height as the bank about 1 metre further back due to
subsidence caused by the washout, it was decided to recut the
bank 1 metre further back.
Image 2: Half way through cutting the bank back a further metre.
Image 3: Nearly complete.
Image 4:The new section showing evidence of ditch material being
deposited on top of the bank. This will be sampled.
Image 5: If you have watched the video this is the view up the
'washout' which sometimes is up to 2 metres deep.
Image 6: Turning around this is the view down the washout
towards where Mark Randerson and Duncan are working on the main
Image 7: The main ditch in section showing what looks like a 'V'
cut in the bottom of the ditch
Image 8: A close-up of the ditch.
Thursday August 9th
Yesterday's blog started with a video of a short walk down the
'Washout' above the dig site. You may be wondering where does
all that water come from? Todays short video shows the open
heather moorland catchment area, followed by a short walk down
the upper section of the watercourse. Here there is a small
amount of peat stained water trickling down the washout, but
just beyond where this video ends the water disappears down into
the sedimentary rocks of the Yoredale series.
Today's images start with the
watercourse. The walk down the washout takes you over a
multitude of sedimentary rock types of the Yoredale series,
which are mainly carboniferous limestones interspersed with
layers of cherts, sandstones and shales with millstones grit
occurring at higher elevations.
Image 1: Stones of the Yoredale Series in the Washout
Image 2: The upper part of the Washout does contain a small flow
of peat stained water before it disappears underground into the
Images 3: Fossil example from the Washout.
This fossil and the circular one with the 5 pointed star
in the images below have both been identified as fragments of a
crinoid stem by Roy Shepherd
Images 4: Fossil example from the Washout.
Images 5: Fossil example from the Washout closeup.
Image 6: Everyone mucking in to give this section a final spruce
up before recording.
Image 7: An organic layer found at the bottom of the main ditch.
Image 8: As image 7 but in cross-section.
Image 9: The bright sunshine and the dark consequent
shadows made it a difficult day to take photographs.
Image 10: Mark Randerson (ASDU) photographing the main ditch.
Image 11: After photographic records have been made comes
drawing the section of the main ditch and also finalising the
Image 12: Mark setting up an horizontal line prior to drawing
Tomorrow is the final day which should see the completion of
both the documentation and sampling of the earthworks.
Friday August 10th
The final day was a lovely hot summers day with just a slight
breeze, and what a place to spend it - marvelous.
Not too many tasks left to do. Duncan and Justin complete
recording section 2 of the main bank prior to further samples
Whilst the short stepped section in the foreground was recorded.
Section 1 of the main bank and ditch required some context
sheets completing before taking further samples.
Mark takes some core samples from a rich organic layer both here
and in the other sections.
In all a comprehensive amount of samples were taken from the 3
sections. These included bulk, core and monolith tin samples.
All that remained was an accurate GPS survey of the site.
(And a beer of course)
What happens next?
Well Mark will write a
report on the excavation, and the bulk samples will be analysed
by ASDU. SWAAG will also get an assessment regarding the other
samples regarding which may be suitable for Carbon14 or
When the dating results are back, ASDU will issue their final
report. SWAAG in turn will publish the ASDU report on this
website and almost certainly publish a follow up SWAAG report
outlining possible interpretations of the data.