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Heritage Minister gives protection to Star Carr

Posted on 19 December 2011

Heritage Minister John Penrose has today protected one of the UK’s most outstanding historical sites whose importance has been established through work by the University of York’s Department of Archaeology.

Star Carr Yorkshire Mesolithic hunters and fishers in temporary camp. From an original drawing by Alan Sorrell.

On the advice of English Heritage, the early Mesolithic site at Star Carr, North Yorkshire is being made a scheduled monument for its rarity and archaeological importance. 

The designation provides legal protection for the site where last year a team of archaeologists, from York and the University of Manchester, discovered Britain's earliest surviving house. The house dates to at least 9,000 BC - when Britain was part of continental Europe. The research team unearthed the 3.5 metres circular structure next to an ancient lake at the site, near Scarborough, which archaeologists say is comparable in importance to Stonehenge. They also excavated a well preserved 11,000 year-old tree trunk with its bark still intact and the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe. 

John Penrose said: “The diversity of finds on offer at Star Carr and its history which goes back to 9000 BC are unequalled in British archaeology and it remains one of the most important Mesolithic sites in Europe.” 

Nick Bridgland, Designation Team Leader for the North at English Heritage, said: “The remains at Star Carr, including what may be the earliest building known in Britain, are unequalled in British archaeology and designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument recognises this importance. Scheduling Star Carr will help archaeologists manage the site effectively and carry out critically important excavations to recover the rapidly decaying remains so we can all learn as much as possible about this fascinating period of prehistory.” 

We are really looking forward to carrying out further excavations which will help us answer more questions about how our ancestors lived, just after the end of the Ice Age.

Dr Nicky Milner
University of York

Star Carr is an early Mesolithic occupation site near Scarborough, North Yorkshire and is an exceptionally rare site due to its remarkable survival of organic material from this prehistoric date and the evidence of built structures on the site. It is known for the great diversity of finds and archaeological features from the site.  Some of these are visually spectacular such as the head-dresses now in the British Museum, while some, such as worked timbers, demonstrate the early use of stone tools for carpentry.  

Dr Nicky Milner from the University of York and Dr Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor from the University of Manchester have worked at Star Carr since 2004. 

Dr Milner said: “It is great news that the national importance of Star Carr has been officially recognised and it will now be legally protected. We are really looking forward to carrying out further excavations which will help us answer more questions about how our ancestors lived, just after the end of the Ice Age.” 

Dr Conneller added: “The scheduling of Star Carr confirms its position as Britain's most important Mesolithic site. We are delighted that the finds from our excavations - in particular the house and the wooden platform - have increased our understanding of such an iconic site.”

The designation of Star Carr comes less than a month after the announcement of a Queen’s Anniversary Prize to the University of York in recognition of the Department of Archaeology’s influential role in broadening the scope of archaeology.

The research at Star Carr was made possible by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council, early excavation funding from the British Academy, and from English Heritage. The Vale of Pickering Research Trust has also provided support for the excavation works. 

Notes to editors:

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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