Scarth Wood Moor – a Neolithic village?

I’ve run across Scarth Wood Moor near Osmotherley many times in orienteering races but I can’t honestly remember encountering this boulder field. This is not surprising as, looking back at the 2019 map, I see nothing on the orienteering map, any exposed boulders were not considered significant enough to have been mapped.

Scarthwood Moor Neolithic hut circles - 'East House'
The easternmost ‘hut circle’.

The boulders have gradually appeared as a result of a loss of approximately half a metre of peat and bracken soil, eroded away through wind and rain. This has been partially accelerated by a drying out of the peat (due to climate change?) and the trampling of grazing cattle.

This was all pointed out to me today on a guided walk around the moor1Guided walk, 1st August 2021, led by Robert Thorniley-Walker from Osmotherley in conjunction with the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology from 17 July – 1 August 2021. Online: https://festival.archaeologyuk.org/events/explore-prehistoric-civilisations-scarthwood-moor-1626987442. Several ‘hut circles’ and alignments of stones were noted. It was suggested that these are Neolithic and the remains of dwellings, yards, paddocks, dykes, cists, and channels for water. Undisturbed quarries, possibly the source of the huge number of stones, are nearby. Potentially, at least twenty hut circles have been identified.

The area has not gone un-noticed by the archaeological community. A ‘concentration of stones2Nationaltrust.org.uk. (2015). MNA143964 | National Trust Heritage Records. [online] Available at: https://heritagerecords.nationaltrust.org.uk/HBSMR/MonRecord.aspx?uid=MNA143964 [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021].‘ and several round barrows has been recorded as a  ‘barrow cemetery3North York Moors National Park. (2012). HER Map: North York Moors National Park. HER No: 22 [online] Available at: https://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/archaeology/her-map [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021].‘ by Colleen Batey and Blaise Vyner in the 1990s following on from work by Frank Elgee but this new interpretation has raised its significance to National importance.

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