A study of one of the Europe’s most important Early Mesolithic sites -- Star Carr, near Scarborough -- has won "Research Project of the Year" in the national Current Archaeology Awards 2014.
A team of archaeologists from the Universities of York and Manchester have worked at Star Carr since 2004 to piece together its use by hunter-gatherers at the end of the Ice Age around 9,000 BC.
The joint directors of the excavations, Professor Nicky Milner, of the Department of Archaeology at York, Dr Chantal Conneller, of The University of Manchester, and Dr Barry Taylor, now of the University of Chester, were surprised but thrilled by the award which was voted for entirely by the public.
Recent research at Star Carr has revealed the oldest house known in Britain – dating from at least 9,000BC -- as well as the earliest known carpentry in Europe.
Star Carr has an international reputation in the archaeological world but is less well known to the public. It is one of the key aims of the project to present these important discoveries more widely. The team have written a book and presented their findings in a year-long exhibition in the Yorkshire Museum (open until May 2014), as well as giving many talks to local societies and appearing on the Channel 4’s Time Team.
Professor Milner said "Our team has worked extremely hard over the years to reveal the secrets of Star Carr and present the story of this unique site to the public: it is wonderful that we have been rewarded in this way. We are delighted that so many people are interested in Star Carr and the lives of our ancestors who lived 11,000 years ago."
Dr Chantal Conneller said: “It has been a real privilege to excavate such an exciting site and to communicate our findings to the public. It’s great news that our work at Star Carr has caught the public imagination. We hope that our work will inspire future generations to continue to study this period.”
Dr Taylor added: “This is a fantastic award to receive. The Mesolithic is a neglected period of our past, so it is great to see the work that we’ve been varying out at one of its most famous sites receiving such an endorsement from the public.”
The site was inhabited by hunter gatherers from just after the last ice age, for a period of between 200 and 500 years.
According to the team, they migrated from an area now under the North Sea, hunting animals including deer, wild boar, elk and enormous wild cattle known as auroch. Though they did not cultivate the land, the inhabitants did burn part of the landscape to manage the growth of wild plants and they also kept domesticated dogs. Research at Star Carr has been supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the British Academy, English Heritage, European Research Council and the Vale of Pickering Trust.