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16/05/2013

After the Ice: Yorkshire’s Prehistoric People

Opens May 24 2013

Some of the most remarkable and complete finds from Britain’s Stone Age will be assembled for the first time in a special exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum later this month.

Eleven- thousand- year-old deer skull head-dresses, bone harpoons and amber jewellery – amazingly preserved in peat – are just some of the highlights of the exhibition which will tell the story of the people of Yorkshire in the Mesolithic period.

The objects, on loan from museums all over the country, come from Star Carr, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where a number of Mesolithic settlements once stood on the shores of a huge lake. Star Carr is noted internationally as the type-site for understanding hunter-gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period in Europe. It has been investigated by archaeologists since 1948, including by researchers from the University of York.

The ancient finds will be displayed alongside exciting digital content giving visitors a taste of the sights and sounds that our ancestors would have experienced in Yorkshire 11,000 years ago. The exhibition coincides with the publication of Star Carr: Life in Britain After the Ice Age, by the Council for British Archaeology. The book tells the story of excavations at the site which was buried in a deep layer of peat on the edge of prehistoric Lake Flixton.

Natalie McCaul, Curator of Archaeology, said: “Eleven thousand years ago at Star Carr, Stone Age people lived, hunted and worshipped. They built Britain’s oldest known house and wore deer skull head-dresses to hunt or to worship unknown Gods.

“For the first time since they were discovered we have brought together some of these remarkable objects in this new exhibition. It is a unique chance to see them all under one roof and to learn more about the mysterious people who lived in Yorkshire thousands of years ago.”

The Yorkshire Museum’s own collection of material excavated at Star Carr will form the basis of the exhibition. This will be complemented by loans from Scarborough Museums Trust, Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and the University of York.

Professor Nicky Milner, of the University of York, co-director of excavations at Star Carr since 2004, said: “We are very excited about this exhibition: this site is incredibly important and it is fantastic that people will get a chance to see the amazing finds which tell the story of how people lived 11,000 years ago.”

Iconic objects on display will include a deer antler head-dress, a wooden paddle, bone harpoons, amber and shale beads and planks believed to show some of the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

The new exhibition will also use digital content to give a taste of what Yorkshire was like in the Mesolithic period. Visitors will be able to experience the sounds of the Star Carr landscape, as well as learning about the history of the site from a number of films made by students at the University of York. Footage of live excavation will provide up-to-the-minute information about the site and exciting new technology will bring the objects to life.

Star Carr: Life in Britain After the Ice Age is written by Professor Milner together with Dr Barry Taylor, of the University of York, and Dr Chantal Conneller, of the University of Manchester, and Tim Schadla-Hall, of University College London who is fieldwork director of the Vale of Pickering Research Trust.

Catrina Appleby, the CBA’s Publications Officer, said “The CBA is delighted to have been offered the opportunity to publish the first popular book on this world-famous site. The CBA is committed to making archaeology accessible to all, and indeed this book forms the first in our new series of Archaeology for All titles. Working with Professor Milner and her colleagues has been very exciting and we hope this book will showcase the ground-breaking work that she and her team are doing.”

After the Ice is the first in a series of displays forming part of a wider Prehistory in Yorkshire project. This three-year research and exhibition project is designed to link the Yorkshire Museum’s prehistoric collections back to the iconic Yorkshire landscapes in which they were discovered.
While this year focuses on the Mesolithic period and the site of Star Carr; years two and three will look at Bronze and Iron Age Yorkshire respectively.
For more information go to: www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk

ENDS


Photo Call

Time: 10am
Date: Thursday May 23
Venue: Yorkshire Museum
Photographers are invited to photograph Natalie McCaul, curator of archaeology, with the deer skull headdress, in front of a mural of Stone Age Star Carr.


Notes:

Star Carr is one of the most important Mesolithic sites in Europe.

The site was occupied during the early Mesolithic period when the Ice Age had ended and temperatures were close to modern averages. However sea levels had not yet risen enough to separate Britain from the rest of Europe. The site was discovered in 1948 by John Moore. It is most famous for some of the extremely rare artefacts discovered during the original excavations, such as the 21 deer head-dresses and nearly 200 harpoon points. What makes the site so rare is that these, and other finds in materials that would not normally survive, have been preserved by being buried in waterlogged peat.

More recently, in 2010, archaeologists from the University of York found Britain’s oldest house at the site. This was later studied by Channel 4’s Time Team.

The Mesolithic period is a period of the Stone Age, between 9500 BC and 4,000 BC. It is between the other two subsections used to describe the Stone Age – the Palaeolithic (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) and the Neolithic (4000 BC to 2,500 BC). These are the dates used for the British Stone Age.

Star Carr; Life in Britain After the Ice Age ISBN: 978-1-902771-99-1
124pp, 53 figs full colour, May 2013 Price £13 GBP More information at:
http://new.archaeologyUK.org/books-and-publications/

More information on Star Carr at http://www.starcarr.com/

More information about the Department of Archaeology at the University of York at http://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/