The Yorkshire Wolds Research Project

Melanie Giles (University of Manchester) with Julian Richards, Steve Roskams and Katherine Giles (University of York), and Colin Hayfield

Aims & Objectives

The Yorkshire Wolds Project aims to investigate the human inhabitation of this region and how it has changed over time, from its earliest occupation to the recent past. Whilst we aim to address key research questions pertinent to each period, we are also committed to developing archaeological techniques, evaluating the potential of local archaeological remains, and using this information to inform local management strategies in the surrounding countryside. As a result we work closely with landowners, local communities and policy bodies, and are committed to their involvement in these projects, as well as the dissemination of our results (both through publication and local outreach activities – talks, events and museum displays).

Yorkshire Wolds

Fieldwork Projects

1. The later prehistoric landscape of the Wolds.

This project focuses on the transformation of the landscape in the first millennium BC, from the development of linear earthworks in the late Bronze Age/early Iron Age, to the appearance of square barrow cemeteries and open settlements (4th-1st centuries BC), and their gradual replacement by ‘ladder’ or ‘droveway’ enclosures (1st century BC – 2nd century AD). At present, this project has focused on the key site of Wharram Grange Crossroads (adjacent to the famous Medieval village of Wharram Percy). It includes a study of transformations in settlement and burial practice as well as the representation of the human body, as illustrated in the rare find of a chalk figure at this site, dating around the time of the Roman invasion.

2. The Historic farm graffiti of the Yorkshire Wolds.

This project focuses on a remarkable local phenomenon: the scratched, carved and drawn graffiti found in agricultural buildings across the high Wolds. As an unprecedented insight into the ‘unheard’ voices from the farms, it tells of their hopes, aspirations, fears and desires, including records of the two World Wars, humourous anecdotes, ‘rude’ rhymes, games and affectionate portraits. The graffiti is being recorded, alongside the buildings in which it is found, as part of a broader attempt to chart transformations in both agricultural practice and the make-up of the farming communities who used these spaces. Buildings survey is being complemented by use of oral histories, estate archives and photographic collections, to bring the lives of these graffitists to life.