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The recent excavations

Recent excavations at Star Carr. Watch Professor Nicky Milner explain what the key discoveries were.
I started working at these sites in the mid 1990s along with Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor, and the three of us began excavating at Star Carr in 2004, up until 2015. The first key discovery was a house, which was very important because it is the oldest known house in Britain. There wasn’t actually a lot to see in the ground but very careful excavation of the soils showed that there was a hollow in the centre, surrounded by holes which would have been used for the supporting posts. From this evidence we can imagine perhaps a domed or teepee like structure, probably covered by reeds. We will be learning more about this and several other houses we found in week 3.
Following on from the 1980s excavations, we also uncovered the rest of the timber platforms in the waterlogged part of the site. These are massive constructions, made out of trees and pieces of wood that have been split into planks. Nothing like this is known from the rest of Europe and these platforms are the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe. We shall look at how these were made and discuss what they might have been for in week 3. Also in week 3, we will explore some very important and extremely rare wooden artefacts. We found a number of digging sticks which people would have used for digging post-holes for their houses and probably also for digging up roots of edible plants.
Towards the end of the dig, we thought we had uncovered another digging stick but on further examination it turns out to be a bow, and in fact what we think is the oldest known completed bow in the world. This is very exciting because it tells us more about hunting strategies at the site. One of the really mysterious artefacts found was a pendant made out of shale. What made it particularly remarkable was a series of engraved lines across one face. Again, nothing like this is known from the rest of Britain, though there are some similar types of engravings on amber pendants from northern Europe, and in week 2 we will explore this strange objects.
Finally, my favourite of all the artefacts - the antler frontlets, otherwise often known as headdresses, which we study in detail in week 4. These objects are also very rare - no others have been found in Britain and only a few others are known from Europe. They are crafted out of red deer skulls but yet we don’t fully understand how they were used, although they are usually thought to have been worn as headdresses, perhaps by shamans performing ancient rituals.
As you can see, there is a wealth of important information that has come out of these excavations - over the next few weeks we are going to be introducing you to the data and together we will explore the mysteries of Star Carr.

In this film, Nicky talks about some of the most important discoveries we have made during our recent excavations at Star Carr, from 2004-2015. Excavation of this more recent phase is now completed, but there may be the opportunity for future generations of archaeologists to return to the site and learn more.

Further resources

You can read more about the excavations and how these progressed from 2004-2015 in Chapter 3 of our book and if you really want to find out the details, all our excavation reports, data, photos and films are accessible on the Archaeology Data Service website.

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Exploring Stone Age Archaeology: The Mysteries of Star Carr

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