The unctuous sweat of the sun

Following a large moorland fire in 2003, my friend Graeme Chappell and I took a walk across Fylingdales Moor to look for unrecorded prehistoric carved rocks. The fire had burned so intensely that, in a number of areas, much of the peat had been removed revealing the prehistoric land surface below. During our visit we found the three items in the photograph below.  A small worked flint, a fragment of medieval, Scarborough ware, pottery and an amber pebble. The pebble was found within a previously undiscovered prehistoric ring cairn.

Stoup Brow moor finds

The pebble is a beautiful object to hold and roll around in the hand, it is one of my favourite finds.

Baltic amber, transported by glacial action, can be found on British beaches but how the pebble found its way into a prehistoric ring cairn 260m above sea level is not known.  We know that in prehistory both amber and jet were much used, amber beads have been excavated from Upper Paleolithic sites in Germany which have been dated to 15,000 BCE. Baltic amber has been traded and distributed throughout Europe from the Neolithic period to the present day.

It is possible that the pebble was deposited on the moor by glacial action. It is also possible that someone may have deliberately placed the pebble within the monument. Given that our ancestors placed a value on amber I would like to think that the latter possibility was the more likely, a small offering placed within a funerary monument as an act of protection or rememberence.

Both jet and amber are known to have been attributed magical powers in more recent times – mainly, it is thought, because of their electrostatic properties. Rub them, and they develop a static charge. Jet and amber were used for amulets by the Romans and Vikings, and were widely employed in the Middle Ages and down to the recent past for healing, divination or for turning away evil spirits.

Alison Sheridan. British Archaeology Magazine. May 2003

I’d definitely recommend Graeme Chappell and Paul Browns wonderful book about the Prehistoric Rock Art of the North Yorkshire Moors.




3 thoughts on “The unctuous sweat of the sun

  1. That’s a great idea to go up after a moorland fire – I never thought of old stuff getting uncovered if it’s a big enough fire. We have quite a few big fires on our moor (Barden Moor in the Dales) – not sure how many antiquities we have there though. Perhaps Ilkley Moor would be a better bet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s