Posted on 9 January 2012
A team led by Dr Nicky Milner has won a €1.5 million grant from the European Research Council to develop a high-resolution approach to understanding how hunter-gatherers adapted to climatic and environmental change between 10,000 and 8,000 BC at Star Carr in North Yorkshire.
We know little about the lives of our ancestors who lived during the Preboreal – the postglacial period followed rapid climate change c. 9600 BC – the last major global warming event on earth
Dr Nicky Milner
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.
The latest research aims to take advantage of new techniques to integrate high-resolution records of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental change with the remarkable new archaeological record of postglacial sites around palaeo-Lake Flixton, including Star Carr.
The team will analyse human responses to environmental change during this postglacial period. Archaeological sites from the period are rare, and those with good organic preservation even rarer. Consequently there have been few opportunities to link palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental records with evidence for past human activity for the postglacial period.
Dr Milner said: “We know little about the lives of our ancestors who lived during the Preboreal – the postglacial period followed rapid climate change c. 9600 BC – the last major global warming event on earth. For more than a millennium, Northern Europe had been held in the grip of tundra-like conditions, but within a matter of decades temperatures soared by as much as 10oC, resulting in the generation of birch woodland.
“The hunter-gatherers who lived during this postglacial period have been characterised as highly mobile, dispersed and living in small groups, and there is much debate as to how they adapted to global warming.
“Recent discoveries at the Early Mesolithic site of Star Carr, which lies on the shore of palaeo-Lake Flixton, offer a new picture; one in which hunter-gatherers move into a new territory but then settle down and invest time and effort into building huts and large scale wooden structures with evidence for occupation that spans hundreds of years.”
The ERC grant (POSTGLACIAL 283938) will fund three years of fieldwork involving 20 specialists followed by two years of analysis of their findings.
Last month, Heritage Minister John Penrose designated Star Carr a scheduled monument for its rarity and archaeological importance.