Archaeology up on Ox Close

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)

3 Replies to “Archaeology up on Ox Close”

  1. 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. 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?

    1. Patrick apologies for the delay in answering your question. Hannah has now successfully completed her apprenticeship and moved on to pastures new. The reference to the site as cremation cemetery is actually an Ordnance Survey field investigators comment rather than a published article. These along with OS record cards formed the basis of the old National Monument Record which is listed online on Pastscape (see http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=47317). A very short description is also listed on our Out of Oblivion website here: http://www.outofoblivion.org.uk/record.asp?id=270. You can also view the online archived version of our HER record for the site here: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=2115598&resourceID=420

      Actually a recent investigation at Castle Dykes suggested this might be an Iron Age site, which was a very surprising result indeed, with henges usually being Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age features (see https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/survey-and-sampling-at-the-castle-dykes-iron-age-henge-wensleydale-north-yorkshire/4B2648EAFCDF7088F1A75FE2A3AB31FA).
      Settlements like Burton Moor on Penhill are likely to be later in time than the Ox Close Cremation Cemetery (which is probably Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age, although its exact date is unknown and it could also be Middle Bronze Age). Settlements comprising groups of roundhouses like at Burton Moor first start to appear in the Middle Bronze Age. Although the date of Burton Moor settlement is not known for certain at present, it is likely to be a Bronze Age or Iron Age settlement. So in this case the features you discuss are probably not all part of the same community or in use at the same time. Although, it is possible that the Ox Close Cremation Cemetery and Burton Moor settlement could be in use at the same time, if both did turn out to be of Middle Bronze Age date. I hope this helps!

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