Star Carr Archives Project

Nicky Milner, Hayley Saul, Ben Elliott, 2013

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Prof Nicky Milner
Department of Archaeology
University of York
King's Manor
Exhibition Square
Tel: 01904 323940
Fax: 01904 323902

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Nicky Milner, Hayley Saul, Ben Elliott (2013) Star Carr Archives Project [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Reconstruction drawing of Star Carr, by Dominic Andrew

Star Carr is an internationally renowned, Early Mesolithic site in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire. It was first discovered by a local amateur archaeologist, John Moore, but became known worldwide after the excavations of Professor Grahame Clark, 1949-1951, due to the well preserved, rare artefacts which were uncovered. More recent excavations by the Vale of Pickering Research Trust (in the 1980s and since 2004), have led to further important discoveries such as a timber platform (the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe) and a structure (the earliest known "house" in Britain).

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to conducting further research is access to the archive from the earlier excavations. Moore's paper archive is missing. There is no known paper archive from Clark's excavations and it is thought that all records must have been destroyed once the monograph (Clark 1954) had been published. The only surviving records are some of the photographic slides which are held in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge (MAA) and a small number held by Scarborough Archaeology and Historical Society. In addition, Clark's excavated assemblage has been dispersed across many museums and there is no over-arching catalogue. The paper archive for the Vale of Pickering Research Trust is being collated by Paul Lane (University of York), but some of the finds from the 1980s have not been found.

Given these problems, it should be no surprise that it has been difficult for recent scholars studying the site of Star Carr to locate all the finds. Due to the current interest in Star Carr by a range of stakeholders, English Heritage agreed to fund a period of 'archive mapping' with the primary aims of locating and cataloguing as much of the material as possible to enable further research (as part of the project: Star Carr: Excavation to inform management, project 6064 ANL).

The outcomes of the project aimed:

  • To produce copies of catalogues and finding aids of museums and universities holding finds, artefacts and archives relating to the site;
  • To produce lists of contacts at each institution and clear instructions as to how future researchers can access the material;
  • To assess how/when/where Star Carr material has been exhibited as well as stored and researched;
  • To examine what can be deduced about finds conservation (in order to assess whether further dating can be carried out);
  • To suggest how the site may be imaginatively interpreted for a range of users, using internet technology;
  • To produce recommendations as to the future distribution of finds and archives to facilitate research access.

A report was produced which addresses these points and explains how the project was undertaken. Through visitations to museums, data was collected and photographs taken of the artefacts and ecofacts. These data have been uploaded onto ADS in order to provide a resource for anyone who is interested in studying the Star Carr archive.


We are very grateful to English Heritage for funding this project (Star Carr project to inform future management decisions, 6064 ANL) and to Jonathan Last and Keith Emerick for advice. We would like to thank all the museums who have been so helpful and let us access their archives: Karen Snowden, Will Watts and Shirley Collier (Scarborough Museums Trust), Andrew Morrison and Natalie McCaul (The Yorkshire Museum), Elizabeth Marsh, Mark Edwards (Whitby), Imogen Gunn (MAA, Cambridge), Virginia Smithson (The British Museum), Richard Sabin, Robert Kruszynski, Chris Stringer, Roberto Portela Miguez (Natural History Museum). We would also like to thank Catherine Hardman and Tim Evans at the ADS for their help and guidance.

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