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Iron Age Wharfedale

Iron Age SitesPlant Dyes Crannogs & Roundhouses

Rich in Antiquities

There is no doubt that there is much to see in this part of Wharfedale; from large earthworks, stone circles, rock-carvings, enclosures and ancient trackways. The map shows the location of a few of the major sites. Ilkley Moor is particulary rich in rock-carvings, Snowden Carr above Otley is another.

Enclosures

An Iron Age enclosure/settlement on the eastern side of the Chevin has been partially excavated in Danefield Wood (E1 at the top of East Chevin Road). Beehive querns (for wheat grinding) have been found there as well as evidence of huts and roundhouses.

Backstone Beck on Ilkley Moor (E2) has been partially excavated and an enclosure and hut has been partially reconstructed.

Rock Carvings

The area has many carved rocks whose purpose is largely unexplained. Typically there are many with elliptical carvings with a hole in the center, often arranged in groups. Some of the stones are very simple in design, with just a single cup and ring, whilst others have very complex arrangements. In the books these are said to represent the sites of individual or groups of roundhouses and their boundaries.

Many of these carvings have been given speculative names referring to their location or design. The Badger Stone and Hanging Stones are shown here; these can all be visited on the first walk on Ilkley Moor. Erik Von Daniken would have a field day explaining these.

Map Showing Iron Age Sites (not to scale)

The Badger Stone - Ilkley Moor

Detail from Hanging Stones - Ilkley Moor

Iron Age 'Forts'

There are two earthworks that could be looked upon as forts. The larger is to the west of Addingham round Counter Hill (F1 on the map). It's also known as Conaltradh (and is in the book).

From the Northern Antiquarian: "More than -mile across along its longest NW-SE axis, and a half-mile from north-south at its widest point, this huge ellipse-shaped earthwork surrounds the rounded peaked hill that gives the site its name: Counter Hill."

Castleberg (F2) sits between Nesfield and the Wharfe north west of Ilkley. Its earthworks are well-defined and occupy an imposing position on the top of a steep bank of the river. Again the site has not been seriously excavated. The fact that it sits so near to the river has lead to speculation that it might have been some kind of religious base for worship of the river goddess Verbeia (see below).

Sources

E.T. Cowling spent years investigating in Wharfedale and published a book "Rombald's Way: A pre-history of mid Wharfedale" in 1946. The book is no longer in print, but there is a copy in the Otley Museum. Below is a sketch he made of details of the Hanging Stone.

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