Forest of Galtres Society

Prehistory of the Vale of York

November 20, 2008

Forest of Galtres Society members had a real treat in store at the November 2008 meeting. We were delighted that we had two archaeologists present – Jon Kenny and Mark Whyman, both from York Archaeological Trust.

Dr Whyman proceeded to tell us about his recent studies of the Vale of York. The glaciation, the morainic deposits, the altered river forms and even more exotic, the changing heights of the valley floor for the river draining into the Vale. Now it all makes much more sense.

The valleys of the eastern Pennine slopes had been cut down to accommodate a low sea level out beyond the Humber. When the glacial tongue came down and blocked the gap near Gilling and deposited tons of debris in long snaking mounds, the sea level rose, and so the valleys flooded upstream of the glacier and the rivers re-adjusted to a more modern, much higher, river bed. It is a little difficult to describe without diagrams and cross-sections of the valleys, but nevertheless we heard how glacial action has dictated the position of river crossings and safe routes and even the evolution of York itself.

What Dr Whyman wove into his story all the time was the archaeological evidence for man which might be found in various places. A fascinating pattern emerges. Stone implements are found scattered about, and the sea level changes affect whether they are buried hundreds of feet under our modern surfaces or just waiting for someone to pick them up.

The littoral emergence of artefacts is where Dr Jon Kenny’s position as a community archaeological officer comes to the fore. He helps communities wishing to research in the field, and at this time of year ‘wrap up very warmly’ is the first piece of advice he gives. Are you interested in field-walking?

It was Dr Whyman who conducted the dig on the line of the Easingwold bypass back in 1992-93. He gave us his up to date knowledge and interpretation of the finds, and particularly, why only certain artefacts and features emerged from the muddy and slippery site. The bypass was an archaeological dig carried out in winter weather of nearly equally cold and wet snowy conditions as our present cold snap. The results should appear in book form before too long. We can then all read about it and remember Mark’s excellent lectures to his several Forest of Galtres Society audiences.

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