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Archaeology up on Ox Close

Thursday 25 April, 2019, by Hannah Kingsbury

There is so much archaeology up on Ox Close. However for April’s Site of the Month we will be focusing particularly on the enclosed cremation cemetery.

It was originally described as a ‘stone circle’ but is now thought to be an enclosed cremation cemetery. Enclosed cremation cemetery is a term used by archaeologists to describe a type of cemetery found in North-Western Europe during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. A circular or oval bank and outer ditch surrounded the area of cremated remains. The most famous example is Stonehenge which functioned as such a cemetery during its early use when it was an earthwork enclosure. They are interpreted as being variations on the funerary practice of enclosing significant sites of activity during the period.

At Ox Close, the enclosing bank is approximately 24m north to south by 28m east to west. The bank itself is about 3m wide and 0.4m high. It is made up of earth and a great quantity of small stones. It is thought that the stones were erected on the crest of the bank but most have now fallen inwards. At the approximate centre of the enclosed area is a low mound about 0.2m high. The centre of which has been hollowed out exposing large and small stones.

The monument is quite subtle in the landscape

In the wider landscape there is a probable late prehistoric coaxial field system [MYD45003]. There are a number of linear boundaries as well as possible small clearance cairns. See our Site of the Month from October for more information about field systems.

To the Western side of Ox Close is Wet Grooves Lead Mine [MYD28956]. This is a post medieval lead mining complex with potential medieval origins. There are several groups of disused shafts. There is also evidence that a substantial amount of dressing activity took place. This possibly included the dressing of material from other areas of mining in the area. The dressing floors are supplied with water by leats. There are a number of spoil heaps associated with the dressing waste. The amount of relatively fresh dressing waste suggests that there is likely to have been a significant degree of 20th century ore reprocessing work undertaken.

Historic Environment Record: MYD4264
Designation: Scheduled Monument. It also situated within Ox Close SSSI
OS Grid Reference: SD 990 901
Civil Parish: Carperby cum Thoresby
Dale: Lower Wensleydale
Access: A PROW passes next to the enclosure that follows “Ox Close Road”.
The featured image is a great oblique aerial photo that shows the earthworks of the site © YDNPA (Photographer: Robert White)
Picture of Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah is the Cultural Heritage Officer for the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership scheme


3 Replies to “Archaeology up on Ox Close”

  1. Tom Lord says:

    Hannah great to see the photos of Caperby.
    Fieldwork during the 1930s on the Bronze Age Funerary Landscape on Giggleswick Scar recovered cremated human bone from a feature rather like the enclosed cemetery cairn on Caperby. You are very welcome to have this material examined. Giggleswick Scar is part of the YDMT Stories in Stone Project Area, and so HER enhancement and analysis of the cremated human bone might be eligible for HLF.funding.

  2. Patrick Mason says:

    Thanks Hannah, for highlighting a lesser known archaeological site in Wensleydale. I have long been curious about the Ox Close site (being brought up in Carperby and having walked past it dozens of times over the years). I wondered if you could direct me to the reference which suggests it to be a cremation cemetery. I am also curious to know if there are links between this site to Castle Dykes Henge which is roughly at the mid-point of Ox Close and the settlement sites on Pen Hill and Addlebrough. I wondered if all these sites were possibly contemporary and parts of the same community?

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