The earliest metalworker in the North Pennines!
Back in 1935, an extraordinary discovery was made at Kirkhaugh, near Alston, the significance of which has only recently been recognised. In one of two burial mounds excavated here by Herbert Maryon, a single gold ‘earring’ (possibly a hair-braid, but usually referred to as an earring) was found along with some flint artefacts, a pottery beaker and two polished stones the purpose of which was then unknown. Earrings like this are very rare, only a dozen or so examples are known from the whole of Britain. The earring, beaker and flints enable us to date the burial to the very early Bronze Age, about 2,400BC.
Kirkhaugh and Stonehenge
A recently excavated burial near Stonehenge, known as the ‘Amesbury Archer’, contained a similar range of artefacts. The Amesbury Archer’s excavator, Andrew Fitzpatrick, has drawn attention to similarities between the burials at Amesbury, Kirkhaugh, and a number of other graves, apparently all male, throughout Europe. Scientific analysis of the Amesbury Archer’s teeth suggests he was born in the Alps, demonstrating that some people travelled great distances during their lifetimes. Andrew Fitzpatrick has also made a crucial observation regarding the polished stones: they are cushion stones, used for the working of copper and gold by the very earliest metalworkers. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the person buried in the Kirkhaugh cairn was involved in some way with metalworking, perhaps engaged in local copper exploitation when he died.
A new survey
In 2013, AA volunteers worked with Andrew Fitzpatrick and archaeological surveyor Al Oswald to produce a new survey of the Kirkhaugh cairns within their local landscape setting. Results suggest much potential for further investigation here into the origins of industrial activity in the North Pennines. Excavations are provisionally planned for summer 2014; results will be posted here in due course.
For further information about this project, or any other aspect of the Altogether Archaeology project, please contact the Project Manager, Paul Frodsham: firstname.lastname@example.org