Young Archaeologists Discover Bronze Age Cairns On Moor

| 21 August 2003
shows two young archaeologists standing on a stone on Bodmin Moor

Photo: YAC members explore the remote Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. © YAC

A group of young people on an archaeological holiday in Cornwall with the Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC) were astounded to find two previously unrecorded oblong, grave-shaped stone mounds on Minions Moor, part of Bodmin Moor.

Experts have now examined the cairns, which could date from the Bronze Age, and further work will be carried out to identify them when the summer growth of bracken and gorse has died back.

shows a team member recording a low grassy mound, found to be a cairn.

Photo: carefully recording the new finds on Minions Moor, part of Bodmin Moor. © YAC

Two keen young archaeologists, Emily Gilchrist and Lewis Golding, made the discovery. The party was lead by retired headmaster and stalwart of the YAC, Tony Blackman.

"Just before we stumbled on the find, one of them even said to me - 'I wonder if we are going to find anything. Just about everything there is to be found here has already been found!"

A few minutes after that, Emily and Lewis, using the observational techniques they'd learnt in YAC, had spotted the mounds on the horizon. Closer inspection by the group raised more questions than answers, and excitement mounted.

"It's all about looking," explained Tony Blackman. "The close look, the far look and the extended look." Blackman has seen many of his young group members go on to become professional archaeologists, "though I do warn them to expect a life of penury if they do!"

shows team leader Tony Blackman showing yac members satellite location equipment.

Photo: Tony Blackman, leader of the Cornwall holiday showing YAC holiday members satellite-based location recording systems. © YAC

"Young people are sharp-eyed and open-minded - key attributes for making interesting new discoveries," said George Lambrick, Director of the Council for British Archaeology. "YAC gives them a hands-on experience of what archaeology is all about - and they can make a real contribution to our knowledge of the past."

So what is a cairn anyway? Cairns survive in relatively large numbers in uplands such as Bodmin Moor. The newly discovered examples may be funerary monuments - covering either single or multiple burials - dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC), or alternatively 'clearance cairns' created by prehistoric and later farmers removing stone debris off the land to bring it into cultivation.

Either way, their discovery will help archaeologists gain further insights into the evolving economy, culture and organisation of Bronze Age society. Although Bodmin Moor has been extensively surveyed by archaeologists before, the cairns discovered by YAC had not previously been recognised.

Many of the cairns, field systems, settlement remains, standing stones, stone circles, stone rows and other monuments in this part of Bodmin Moor are protected as nationally important 'Scheduled Monuments'.

shows a yac member getting very muddy making wattle and daub.

Photo: YAC holidays aren't all about tramping across moors and getting wet and filthy in trenches - you get to get messy as well! This young archaeologist is learning about wattle and daub. © YAC

The Young Archaeologists' Club, which is run by the Council for British Archaeology, has a UK network of 70 branches and its members regularly make new archaeological discoveries.

"Many of our Branches work in close contact with local archaeologists and the results can be amazing," said Alison Bodley, Co-ordinator of the Club.

"For example our North Downs Branch recently found a previously unknown Iron Age enclosure whilst field-walking near Maidstone. The area was to form part of a country park, and the plans for the design of the park were subsequently altered in order to preserve the site."

Branches of the Young Archaeologists' Club run a programme of varied activities including recording graveyards, excavating sites and preparing museum exhibitions.

Membership costs just £7.50. Call 01904 671417 or click on this link to visit the YAC website in a new window.

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