About the Bronze Age

Timeline - Bronze Age


As the Neolithic period gave way to the Bronze Age in the Yorkshire Dales, people continued to farm, clear forest and use stone tools. They also continued to hunt in the upland areas as finds of their barbed and tanged flint arrowheads show. Only gradually did metal tools and weapons become adopted. Throughout the Dales, these rare items are still occasionally found. Most may have been dropped and lost, but some such as the bronze spearhead found on the bottom of Semerwater, may have been ritual deposits placed to appease or ask favour of some sort of watery spirit worshipped at the time.


Thanks to the 19th century fashion among the wealthy for digging barrows, we know a little more about Bronze Age burial in the Dales. All the various earthen and stone mounds under which they buried their dead date to the first part of the Bronze Age. Burials may be cremations or inhumations with or usually without grave goods. One near Scale House, Rylstone when dug in Victorian times, revealed a body wrapped in woollen cloth and placed inside an oak coffin.


The placing of these barrows is also significant. It has been suggested that they may lie on territorial or community boundaries. Some, such as the one above Cray in Wharfedale, are situated on hillsides or watersheds, commanding magnificent views. Once upon a time the families of those buried in the barrows may have looked up at them from their settlements and fields. Today, it is almost impossible to locate the remains of their dwellings and farms. An isolated oval stone hut at Comb Scar south of Malham Tarn was excavated in the 1960s and identified as being Bronze Age. Others no doubt exist, but unfortunately dating evidence and modern excavation techniques have passed them by. The unexcavated group of 14 hut circles on Burton Moor set within small fields or garden plots may be what we should be looking for.