Star Carr – part 1

Star Carr. What an awesome name, and suitable, too, for an awesome archaeological site. Star Carr is a Mesolithic site in North Yorkshire. According to many sources, it is the most archaeologically important and informative site in Great Britain – and I get very excited by it, so I hope you will too!

   In 1948, a local amateur Archaeologist, John Moore, began an excavation at Star Carr, just to see what he could find. When he found some flint, bones and antler, he decided to contact Grahame Clark, lecturer from the University of Cambridge to come and investigate. Clark had been looking for a Mesolithic site which preserved organic materials (bone, wood, antler, etc) so he jumped at the chance. From 1949 – 1951, Clark carried on the dig at Star Carr, and published his finds in 1954. And what finds they were!

Flint scraper

   There were a lot of flint artefacts found, such as axes, scrapers (used to clean off hides before they were made into leather) and microliths. Microliths are tiny, razor-sharp flint pieces that are fixed onto spears to make them barbed. These barbed spears were most likely used for killing and hauling in fish. The amazing part is that 193 flint barbed spear points were found at Star Carr, and this makes up 97% of all the barbed spear points ever found in the UK!

   At Star Carr, Clark found that a huge platform would have been built over what was once a large lakeshore. Excavators found the remains of many animals on this platform – mainly wild boar, red deer, roe deer, hare, badger, pine martin, beaver, auroch (wild cattle), elk, and birds. There are also finds indicating canines – this was once thought to be wild wolves, but it is now more likely that they were domesticated. Other finds included amber, shale, haematite, and iron pyrites, all of which are not very common in this area.

   As mentioned before, a lot of organic materials were found at Star Carr, and if there’s anything we should know, it is that organic materials do not last very long buried under the earth. Normally, all we find at Mesolithic sites are stone tools. So how did all these finds survive? The answer lies (literally!) in the long-gone lake. Sometimes, when vegetation falls into a body of water and piles up, it will, over time, turn into peat. And peat is a great preserver. Any objects that fell in the lake were sucked down, had vegetation piled on top, and were preserved as the vegetation around it turned into peat.

Peat cuts

   There’s a lot more about Star Carr to learn, so join me next time as we look at the best treasures yet! (in my opinion!)

   Stay curious!