Archaeologists find Stone Age campsite where hunters fished and foraged on Teesside

By Ben Miller | 01 September 2015

Stone Age hunter camp in County Durham could be earliest site ever excavated in North Pennines

A photo of archaeologists digging a dark brown pit of a Stone Age campsite in the North Pennines
Volunteers have found the remains of a Stone Age campsite in Upper Teesside© Stephen Eastmead / eastmead.com
Archaeologists excited by a crowd of stones sticking out of eroding peat at a County Durham nature reserve say they have retrieved 1,500 pieces of a Stone Age campsite, ranging from Mesolithic objects to industrial waste flakes.

Bands of hunter gatherers are thought to have occupied the hunting camp for days at a time, fishing, foraging for berries and nuts and pursuing wild cattle and deer from about 7,000 BC – three or four millennia before the land was farmed.

A photo of archaeologists digging a dark brown pit of a Stone Age campsite in the North Pennines
Working flint would have been brought to the site by the hunters, as no examples occur naturally in the local landscape© Stephen Eastmead / eastmead.com
“It was very lucky we were alerted to the stones before they disappeared and we lost an important piece of history,” says Paul Frodsham, who led a team of volunteers to the lithics as part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

“The finds date back to the Mesolithic period, which is the earliest period for which we have evidence for people in the North Pennines. Most of the pieces are very small and include chert, which is a locally found stone, and flint that has probably come from Yorkshire.

A photo of archaeologists digging a dark brown pit of a Stone Age campsite in the North Pennines
The North Pennines is the second-largest of the 46 AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland© Stephen Eastmead / eastmead.com
“As well as the finds, which are now carefully catalogued and dated, we also took some samples that will be radiocarbon dated and hopefully tell us about the site’s changing environment, both during and after its occupation.

“Unfortunately no structures like houses or wigwams were found, but it was very interesting nonetheless. And it gives us an insight into what life was like in Upper Teesdale and for the first people who lived here after the end of the Ice Age, perhaps 300 generations ago.”

Now owned by Northumbrian Water, which paid for the excavation alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund, the site could have stood on an ancient route between Yorkshire and Cumbria. Samples of birch and pine tree suggests it was once partially wooded.

The work is part of the culmination of the five-year Altogether Archaeology project in the area.


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Three museums to discover Stone Age stories in

Butser Ancient Farm, Waterlooville
An experimental archaeological site of world wide standing displaying ongoing constructions of buildings based on real sites, crops from prehistory and rare breeds of animals.

Reading Museum
Current exhibition Thames Stories: Art and Archaeology includes mysteries and surprises from the Stone Age to the present day. Until October 5 2015.

Orkney Museum
Telling the story of Orkney from the Stone Age to the Picts and Vikings, right through to the present day.
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