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Prehistoric cairnfield 660m north east of Barnscar settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Muncaster, Cumbria

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.3553 / 54°21'19"N

Longitude: -3.3284 / 3°19'42"W

OS Eastings: 313762.647589

OS Northings: 496341.826241

OS Grid: SD137963

Mapcode National: GBR 5L62.6J

Mapcode Global: WH718.VS6J

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield 660m north east of Barnscar settlement

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019910

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32866

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Muncaster

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Muncaster St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle

Details

The monument includes a prehistoric cairnfield located on the undulating,
moderate slope of a small spur on unenclosed land 660m north east of Barnscar
settlement. It represents Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape and
includes a small number of stone banks and approximately 40 oval-shaped
clearance cairns measuring between 2m to 8m long by 1m to 5.6m wide and up to
0.5m high. Towards the south eastern side of the cairnfield there is a stone
bank aligned north east-south west; the cairns on the south east side of
this bank are generally smaller than those on the north west side of the bank,
suggesting that this bank may once have formed a boundary.
Pollen cores taken from the sediments of nearby Devoke Water have revealed the
changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 years and show
episodes of forest clearance and a development of grassland during the
prehistoric period. During one of these episodes most trees were soon replaced
by extensive grassland. This clearance is associated with the Bronze Age on
the basis of its similarity to a clearance episode from Seathwaite Tarn 9km to
the east, which has been scientifically dated to around 1000 BC

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Cumbrian uplands comprise large areas of remote mountainous terrain, much
of which is largely open fellside. As a result of archaeological surveys
between 1980 and 1990 within the Lake District National Park, these fells have
become one of the best recorded upland areas in England. On the open fells
there is sufficient well preserved and understood evidence over extensive
areas for human exploitation of these uplands from the Neolithic to the post-
medieval period. On the enclosed land and within forestry the archaeological
remains are fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human
activity extended beyond the confines of the open fells. Bronze Age activity
accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes
some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in
England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles
and other ceremonial remains. Taken together, their remains can provide a
detailed insight into life in the later prehistoric period. Of additional
importance is the well-preserved and often visible relationship between the
remains of earlier and later periods, since this provides an understanding of
changes in land use through time. Because of their rarity in a national
context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, most
prehistoric monuments on the Lake District fells will be identified as
nationally important.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture,
and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots.
They were constructed from the Neolithic period (from about 3400 BC) although
the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which
began during the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and
variation in the size, content and associations of cairnfields provide
important information on the development of land use and agricultural
practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and
social organisation during the prehistoric period.
The prehistoric cairnfield 660m north east of Barnscar settlement survives
reasonably well and forms part of a large area of well-preserved prehistoric
landscape extending along the fellsides of south west Cumbria. In conjunction
with a wide range of other prehistoric remains in the vicinity it provides
evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric
times.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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