An archaeologist from Cumbria has discovered the remains of some of northern Britain’s oldest people.
Located at the Heaning Wood Bone Cave in Great Urswick, south of Cumbria, the cave has been confirmed to be a burial site by experts from an international team from the University of Central Lancashire.
Local archaeologist Martin Stables has been working in the area since 2016, and academic analysts interpret the evidence.
Mr. Stables had previously discovered human and animal bones, stone tools and prehistoric pottery in the area.
He told reporters: “After six years of digging, everything has come to a place I never expected it to get there.”
Leading the academic team of the project, Dr. Rick Peterson said, “This is a great discovery. We were pleased to confirm that Martin’s incredible find dates back about 11,000 years, providing us with clear evidence of Mesolithic burials to the north.
“This is particularly exciting as these are some of the earliest histories of human activity in Britain after the end of the last Ice Age.”
Studies involving researchers from the University of Nevada at Reno and academics from Pennsylvania State University were able to carbon-date many of the remains found at the site.
Dr Peterson continued: “Cave tombs like this are well known from some periods of English prehistory and the Heaning Wood tombs are an important addition to our knowledge of funerary practices.
Previous excavations at the site in the 1950s and current archaeological work by Liverpool John Moores University have dated some materials from the area to the early Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.
Prior to this latest discovery, the oldest ‘northern’ excavated was a 10,000-year-old tomb at Kent’s Bank Cavern in Morecambe Bay, discovered in 2013.
Dr Peterson said: “To put it in perspective, the last Ice Age lasted until about 11,600 years ago. After that period, global temperatures increased rapidly over about 100 years, providing the climate we have today.
“These people are as early as we might expect them to be – the pioneers who reoccupied the land after the Ice Age.”
Mr Stables, from Ulveston, Cumbria, told reporters: “Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect anything like the Early Mesolithic connection.
“Can’t wait to hear the final results, it’s amazing so far, it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like around 11,000 years ago.”
Further research at the site will continue to determine what happened to the people discovered, their origin and whether they were related.