A series of archaeological excavations in Nidderdale have unearthed evidence of farming dating back to before the Romano-British period.
The Heritage Lottery funded Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership’s Our Farm Heritage project is led by volunteers from a local archaeology group, Iron-Age (Nidderdale), working with experts from Solstice Heritage to undertake surveying and excavation work on farm holdings.
The excavations have identified a number of previously unrecorded features in the area.
Recognised for centuries as the dwellings and fields of our ancestors, the farm holdings in Nidderdale have attracted the interests of antiquarians, archaeologists and idle passers-by, but until now have been poorly understood.
Alongside field surveying using GPS units across 15 farms, four excavations were spread across three separate sites – Blayshaw Gill, Knott’s Gill and Colt Plain.
The earliest site was around 2,000 years old. Evidence recovered from hearths and storage pits included different forms of wheat and barley, natural resources such as hazelnuts, and the remains of coppiced wood.
The team also found new pieces of rock art, some of the earliest forms of art, carved into rocks near the settlements, and two pieces of Romano-British pottery.
Bob Barker, secretary of Iron-Age (Nidderdale), said: “People have looked at lumps and bumps and noted prehistoric things, but no-one before has excavated and dated them.
“The findings show there might be a continuity of farming at sites in Nidderdale that lasted for hundreds of years.
“It’s a very important discovery. It puts something concrete into that black hole of history – what happened in Nidderdale during the Roman period – what was it like? It helps fill in that history.
“We would like to thank the farmers who allowed access to private working land. They have been instrumental in helping us preserve and gain access to sites.”
Louise Brown, scheme manager of the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership, said: “These excavations have cast significant new light on our understanding of how people lived and farmed in Nidderdale.
“The exciting results of these investigations are also testament to the growing body of volunteer-led archaeological projects that are making genuine and meaningful contributions to our knowledge.”