Talk delivered by Yvonne Luke

The Neolithic period, starting about 6000 years before the present, marks the beginning of a society based on farming. The earth mounds dating from this time are generally thought to be  collective tombs and they are among the oldest structures ever built. Two types can be distinguished: stony mounds (cairns) and those covered with turf (barrows). Although there are many well  known examples in the Yorkshire Wolds it was thought until very recently that there were few, if any, in the Dales. This is because they are particularly difficult to discern in a limestone landscape dominated by glacial deposits and the clearance banks of early field systems. Many have also been degraded by tillage.

Yvonne Luke’s research has revealed the existence of numerous long mounds in the Dales, although not all can be identified with certainty. A key feature is their alignment, particularly with regard to prominent high points on the horizon and with the rising or setting sun at the solstices. A long mound at Burnsall is aligned with Simon’s Seat. The cairn at Dudderhouse Hill is generally aligned with Pen-y-Ghent but the end bay shows a different alignment, to Cosh Knott, nine miles away. In a particularly interesting example, the cairns on Little Hard Rigg, Scales Moor are aligned with the dramatic passage of the shadow of the midwinter sunrise over Ingleborough.

Yvonne Luke is undertaking a PhD in archaeology at Bradford University.