Categorising the past: lessons from the archaeological resource assessment for Yorkshire

Table of Figures

Figure 1: The Yorkshire region: a topographically coherent unit limited by the Pennines, North York Moors, North Sea and Humber Estuary, encompassing eight distinct landscape blocks linked by three river systems.

Figures 2a and 2b: Data entries of possible and proven Neolithic date: each entry in this, and all other, periods could be defined at one of two levels of chronological resolution - those possibly of that period (2a), and those provably belonging to it (2b).

Figure 3: Overall distribution of all encounters in the database: a basic pattern for all periods is their increased density in the eastern half of Yorkshire.

Figure 4: The distribution of medieval elite habitation: its relative absence in the west of the region in general, and in the Dales in particular, seems to be a 'real' aspect of that society, not a by-product of modern data gathering or systems of classification.

Figures 5a and 5b: Palaeolithic data entries: the initial distribution of possibly Palaeolithic points was dominated by spurious entries. Once the latter were weeded out, the accurate 'possible' distribution was far sparser (5a), closely resembling that of the 'provably Palaeolithic' entries (5b).

Figures 6a and 6b: Iron Age data entries: concentrations of land enclosure along the Magnesian Limestone west of the Vale of York are recorded in the SMR for the north of the region as being definitely of Iron Age date (6a). To the south, they are classified only as broadly late-prehistoric, hence appearing only in the possibly Iron Age distribution (6b) (data used under licence from the British Geological Survey).

Figures 7a and 7b: Neolithic data entries: those possibly of that date (7a) are distributed differently from the provable find spots (7b). Most of the 'floating' entries of the latter must be of either Neolithic or Mesolithic date, but have a distribution matching neither of the 'proven' maps.

Figures 8a and 8b: Bronze Age funerary entries: the close correspondence between the distributions of possible (8a) and provable (8b) evidence is due to the fact that, in most cases, barrows of this date can be accurately identified.

Figure 9: Provably Mesolithic entries: concentrations of this material in the uplands of the North York Moors and the east-central Pennines are largely a product of accessible exposures there.

Figure 10: Mesolithic finds in West Yorkshire: the central gap is due to the impact of the modern Leeds-Bradford conglomeration obliterating traces of nearly all sites of that date

Figure 11: Mesolithic finds in West and South Yorkshire: the marked differences in distribution either side of the modern county boundary is partly due to the relative absence of peat exposures to the south, but also to historically different collection and curation processes in each county (data used under licence from the British Geological Survey).

Figure 12: Neolithic material around Bridlington: its concentration here is largely a product of focused fieldwork in the vicinity of the modern town.

Figure 13: Bronze Age records around Ilkley: the intensity of entries on the hills overlooking the town are another product of dedicated fieldwork.

Figure 14: Medieval landscape activity around Ilkley: this concentration of data seems to relate, in part, to those undertaking recording of prehistoric evidence also noting material of a different date

Figures 15a and 15b: Bronze Age land enclosures: the distribution of entries provably of that date (15a) differs significantly from that of the possibles (15b). The additional concentration amongst the latter on the Magnesian Limestone belt in West Yorkshire might suggest field systems originating here in the Bronze Age.

Figures 16a and 16b: Iron Age entries: the distribution of the provably Iron Age material has the expected general concentration in the east of the region, with less extensive concentrations elsewhere, plus areas where evidence is sparse or non-existent (16a). When entries possibly of that date are considered (16b), the picture is transformed, data points increasing fourfold, previously noted concentrations being reinforced, and further densities appearing elsewhere. Presumably the real extent of known Iron Age activity lies somewhere between these extremes.

Figures 17a and 17b: Iron Age Enclosures: very marked differences in scale and density are evident between provable (17a) and possible (17b) distributions in some areas, but elsewhere they are identical. Each has major implications for agrarian development. Only detailed investigation on the ground will confirm or reject identifications made on the basis of monument morphology seen from the air.

Figures 18a and 18b: Entries of possibly Iron Age and possibly Roman date: comparison between the former (18a) and latter (18b) show some areas complementarity, with Romano-British settlements perhaps developing alongside the communication network and the rest of the countryside remaining unchanged. Elsewhere, new Roman sites concentrated in the Howardian Hills and the shift in focus from the Wolds to the Vale of York may be genuine changes dating to the latter period.

Figure 19: All entries provably of medieval date: significant changes are evident during the Middle Ages e.g. limited occupation of the North York Moors and Wolds, but concentrated activity in the Howardian Hills.

Figures 20a, 20b and 20c: Elite, military and agricultural entries of medieval date: the similarity of elite (20a) and military (20b) activity suggests that the distinction between defensive and 'ideological' motives for monument construction may be rather blurred. There is a marked contrast between their eastern concentration in the east and that of purely agricultural functions (20c), widespread across the whole region. This paucity of 'superstructural' sites in the west of Yorkshire in general, and in the Dales in particular, obviously demands further interpretation.


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Last updated: Mon Nov 26 2007