A complex crop mark site within an arable field, first identified in 2010. The focus of the scheduling is a clear circular feature that is interpreted as being a Neolithic henge. This is set within and respected by a field system, suggesting that the henge was reused in the late Bronze Age as a ringwork: a high status domestic enclosure, a site type also known as a Springfield style enclosure. The core of the surrounding field system is also included in the scheduling.
Reasons for Designation
This Neolithic henge later reused as a Bronze Age ringwork is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Diversity: the monument is of particular importance because it appears to be a complex, multiperiod site that was established as an important centre of ritual activity in the Neolithic, subsequently adapted as a high status settlement site in the later Bronze Age;
* Rarity: identified Neolithic monuments of any type are nationally rare, henges being of particular significance. Although Bronze Age sites are far more common nationally, ringworks are a very rarely identified site type that are of particular importance for the light that they shed on the rise of elites in later prehistoric society;
* Potential: the fine grained appearance and high level of detail shown by the cropmarks indicates that there is a high potential for well preserved in situ archaeological remains despite the lack of upstanding earthworks.
The East Field crop mark site centred 300m SSE of Northorpe, was first identified via aerial photography in 2010. The form and complexity of the cropmarks suggest that the site is comparable to a similar site on the side of Paddock Hill, Thwing on the Yorkshire Wolds which was excavated by Terry Manby in 1973-87. Paddock Hill originated as a Late Neolithic henge which was subsequently remodelled in the Late Bronze Age as a high status fortified ringwork and then again in the early Post-Roman period where it was reused as a settlement site including a possible chapel with an associated cemetery.
Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which date to the late Neolithic period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular or oval- shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a deep ditch and an external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the interior of the monument, which may have contained a variety of features including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials or central mounds, although some of these features may be the result of later reuse or adaption. Few henges have been systematically investigated archaeologically. Those that have undergone excavation have produced finds and deposits that provide important evidence for the chronological development of the sites, the types of activity that occurred within them and the nature of the environment in which they were constructed. Henges occur throughout England with the exception of south-eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally situated on low ground, often close to water. Although most are now identified as cropmarks, having been levelled by ploughing, in antiquity they would have been prominent features in the landscape. Consequently a number of henges were reused in later periods, sometimes maintaining a ceremonial or ritual use, but sometimes being adapted for new uses.
Late Bronze Age ringworks, sometimes termed Springfield style enclosures (after the excavated example at Springfield, Essex), are roughly circular enclosures, typically found on a hilltop or spur. They are characterised by either single or double enclosure ditches with simple internal or external banks or box ramparts. Within the enclosure, one or more circular buildings may be found with numerous pits and postholes. Their function appears to be domestic, but of relatively high status. Field systems and other associated prehistoric enclosures are often found to extend around ringworks. Such sites will yield archaeological and environmental information about the lifestyle of the communities living in them. They are relatively rare sites that only appear to be found in eastern England, usually surviving as cropmark sites visible through aerial photography. Although mainly late Bronze Age (approximately 1000-750BC) some examples appear to persist into the early Iron Age.
The principal feature of the East Field crop mark site is interpreted as a henge because the cropmarks are consistent with other known henges in terms of features, scale and particularly its setting within the landscape. Its position, on slightly elevated ground, yet not on the highest land within the immediate area, is very typical for a henge. In the Neolithic, the lower lying ground to the north, south and east of the henge is likely to have been open water, before subsequent silting and drainage in more recent centuries for agricultural improvement. The association with open water is also a typical association for henges.
The henge is thought to have been reused in the Bronze Age as a ringwork because of the way that the surrounding field system clearly respects and directly relates to it. The form of this field system is not Neolithic in character, but is consistent with being part of a more extensive Bronze Age co-axial field system. In form and scale, the cropmark interpreted as a henge is also consistent with those interpreted as Bronze Age ringworks, however its position in the landscape, being low lying, is not typical. This strongly indicates that the site was not a purpose built ringwork, but was opportunistically adapted from a pre-existing monument in the landscape.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: Neolithic henge, probably reused in the Bronze Age as a ringwork, set in a prehistoric field system, surviving as a series of buried features.
DESCRIPTION: the main element of the scheduling is a roughly circular cropmark of a substantial ditch around 6-8m wide enclosing an area about 50m in diameter. There is a marked break in this ditch to the ESE of the centre, forming an entrance to the enclosure. The terminals of the ditch either side of the entrance are emphasised, the ditch widening to form inward pointing horns, with the entrance passage being about 10m wide, narrowing slightly internally. Immediately outside of the main ditch, clearly respecting the entrance, there is a parallel, narrower cropmark interpreted as a beam slot designed to support the inner face of the henge's encircling bank. A further, intermittent cropmark is interpreted as either an outlying, encircling ditch or the beam slot which retained the outer face of the bank. If it is the latter, the bank would have been about 15m wide. Within the interior of the henge there is a roughly circular crop mark around 15m in diameter, also with an entrance to the SSE. This is interpreted as a high-status domestic round house related to the reuse of the henge as a Bronze Age ringwork, however it may be the remains of a Neolithic structure: an inner ritual enclosure or building forming part of the henge or potentially an earlier phase of the ritual site, predating the construction of the henge's bank and ditch.
Further cropmarks within East Field indicate that there is a co-axial field system which extends beyond the scheduled area. This field system is defined by crop marks of boundary ditches which extend WNW to ESE and NNE to SSW. The henge lies to the centre of one field which is approximately square, being around 120m across. The northern boundary appears to curve around to accommodate the outer ditch or beam-slot of the henge, whilst in the eastern boundary there appears to be a break in the ditch directly in line with the henge's single entrance. On either side of the northern boundary of the field to the east, there are cropmarks of a series of smaller rectangular ditched enclosures ranging between 10m to 40m across, probably representing paddocks, garden or other enclosures related to the reuse of the henge as a Bronze Age ringwork.
AREA OF SCHEDULING: this is focused on the henge, with the boundaries drawn to modern field boundaries to the north, east and south, following a straight line to the west. These boundaries include the henge and extend to include the main identified features of the surrounding prehistoric field system. The prehistoric field system is likely to be extensive, but its full extent is currently unknown and thus likely to extend beyond the scheduled area. There are also likely to be further concentrations of Neolithic activity associated with the henge, but lying some distance away beyond the area of scheduling. Research at Thornborough, near Ripon, has identified that Neolithic activity suggestive of camp sites surrounded the henges at a distance of between 500m - 1km, with little evidence of such activity taking place immediately around the henges. Survival of such potentially significant, but outlying remains are currently unknown.