Unveiling the Bronze Age landscape of the High Moor and Forests

The project aims to improve understanding of and to promote the internationally important Bronze Age landscape on Dartmoor.

Unveiling the Bronze Age landscape

Sittaford Excavation
Excavation work at Sittaford Stone Circle

The project aims to improve understanding, enable better management of and promote the internationally important Bronze Age landscape on Dartmoor through a programme of survey, research, excavation, interpretation and conservation management works.

This will be achieved through the following outputs:

  • Survey, research and excavate specific sites within the Whitehorse Hill area. Undertake restoration/conservation work as necessary
  • Implement a programme of works to reveal and restore 24 archaeological sites to their age old settings within the 3 Forestry Plantations. Assist with future management; provide better public access and interpretation of these sites
  • Carry out an archaeological baseline survey of the Rippon Tor area (one of Dartmoor’s PALS which contains 130ha of Scheduled Ancient Monuments) to underpin and inform future ES management plans and interpretation/education strategies
  • Organize conservation works on 12 Scheduled Monuments (SMs) identified as being Heritage at Risk in conjunction with English Heritage (EH) Out of the 165 SMs within the MTME area 21% are currently recorded as being at High Risk. This will be EH main contribution to the MTME project and the work will be supervised by their Historic Environment Field Adviser (HERFA)

In 2007, the first stone circle to be discovered on Dartmoor in over 100 years was found near Sittaford Tor. At 525m above sea level it is not only the highest stone circle in south west England but is also one of the largest  to be found on the Moor. In 2011 an excavation of a cist on Whitehorse Hill revealed the burial site and grave goods of a young woman who lived in the early Bronze Age. More recently several previously unrecorded features (possibly cairns) were identified in the vicinity of Hangingstone Hill. As ever, Dartmoor continues to offer up its long buried secrets, giving us glimpses into the lives of the people who lived on the Moor in our long distant past. Whitehorse Hill Survey
Volunteers at Whitehorse Survey

As these important discoveries reveal their individual stories, further investigation has continued to understand and capture this important information; through the Rippon Tor baseline survey, geophysical surveys and excavation (at Sittaford Stone Circle and Hangingstone Hill), peat depth surveys (Sittaford stone circle) and radiocarbon dating. The work has included opportunities for volunteers to work alongside the DNPA archaeology department in surveying and excavating these important sites. For the general public, replicas of the Whitehorse Hill grave goods can be viewed at the Postbridge Visitor Centre. There are also updated versions of the Whitehorse Hill booklet and the Fernworthy guide, available at all visitor Centres. 

Bronze Age Artefacts Pic
Bronze Age Finds

Within the Moor than meets the eye remit, work is also being undertaken, in partnership with Historic England, to remove SM’s (Scheduled Monuments) from the At Risk Register. To date,18 have been successfully resolved. There is also ongoing management at 24 important archaeological sites within the area. Currently, work on Hangingstone Hill has yielded some early results on the suspected ‘cairns’. One has proved to be a natural structure. The second is under scrutiny. At Sittaford stone circle work on samples taken during excavation is due to commence shortly and will provide fresh dating evidence as well as insights into the changing environment of the monument before its construction and during and after its use. Results will be published at a later date.

Related Articles

New Survey of Rippon Tor PAL

A new survey of Rippon Tor PAL has been commissioned by Moor than meets the eye to help archaeologists get a better understanding of this important landscape. The work was undertaken by Dr Phil Newman who is a leading expert in the field archaeology of Dartmoor.The objective of the work is to provide an up to date, geographically accurate record of archaeology within this sensitive area, in order to help counter a number of key risks to the cultural heritage identified in the project proposals. In particular:.. a general threat to the landscape character from changing agricultural practices, with past problems of overgrazing now changing to undergrazing, and an associated spread of gorse and bracken and a general increase in vegetation, which threatens archaeological remains.. (DNPA 2014)

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Bellever and Postbridge Trails

Proposals for trails, interpretive media and visitor management (including car parking and landscape proposals for the forest area) which make links around Bellever Forest and Postbridge, using Whitehorse Hill as a means of developing further interest in the heritage of the area. An Access and Interpretation Plan was commissioned to set out what the community would like to see happen in the area.

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Fernworthy LiDAR Day

LiDAR mapping is a relatively new technique to enable digital aerial photographs to be taken of the landscape. It has great potential to help archaeologists explore the landscape and look for clues of previous human inhabitation. During the development of the scheme we surveyed Fernworthy, Bellever, Soussons and the East Dartmoor NNR. The LiDAR is able to see through the woodland canopy and map the forest floor to enable us to see a landscape without trees. We met with an enthusiastic group of volunteers on Thursday 23rd April to look at some of the maps produced by LiDAR and to try out the technique of "ground truthing". We had identified features we already knew about from the HER and marked them on the LiDAR maps and we also highlighted potential features. The day was an attempt to match up the mapping with features on the ground to see what things were picked up- how big a feature might have to be- how easy it might be to miss features. The day proved to be very interesting - sadly we didn't discover a new hut circle! but we did identify the continuation of some wall features- all of which is potentially very exciting. The next step will be to develop the project into a formal survey and to help potential volunteers develop skills to manipulate the LiDAR data and to survey it on the ground. If you would like to find out more or get involved please contact Andy at andy@moorthanmeetstheeye.org A big thank you to all those who came along on the day.

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Last update: 20 Mar 2017 3:51pm