MESOLITHIC (C.8,300 - 4,000
temperatures an the appearance of a closed woodland, together
with improved soil quality, is, conventionally, taken as
marking the end of the Palaeolithic and the onset of the
Mesolithic ("Middle Stone Age") period. Like all
such period divisions in the past, this was not a single,
clear-cut event, but, rather, a gradual, piecemeal, transition
from one identifiable cultural formation to another.
dramatically changed landscape meant that a new range of food
resources became available. In order to fully exploit the
opportunities afforded by the new environment, Mesolithic
people developed a technologically sophisticated tool-kit.
This enabled them to cope with hunting woodland animals, such
as red and roe deer, wild boar, brown bears, and cattle,
rather than those of the open tundra.
occupation sites, such as coastal settlements convenient for
the exploitation of marine resources and upland hunting camps
based on the exploitation of herds of animals grazing the less
wooded or open high ground, can be recognised in the
archaeological record. Sometimes, as at Star Carr, in the Vale
of Pickering, campsites were strategically situated at the
interface of two or more ecosystems, or "ecotones",
in order to maximise their immediate resource base without the
necessity of having to travel great distances.
time, the annual range of seasonal movement by Mesolithic
communities decreased, and people became more (but not
entirely) fixed to particular localities. This was all part of
a gradual "settling down", a process which would not
be finally completed until later prehistory (sometime after
1,400 BC). Until about 6,000 BC, Mesolithic people appear to
have accepted their environment as they found it, content to
harvest its resources, and adapting themselves to the
challenges the wildscape offered. However, as communities came
to rely on a smaller range of resources, and perhaps as
population levels increased, attempts began to be made to
modify or control the natural world.
In the Great
Wold Valley, at Willow Garth, to the west of Boynton, pollen
samples of Mesolithic date, taken from the vicinity of
putative occupation sites, indicate that the forest cover in
this area was being disturbed and altered by man, and that
open grasslands were, perhaps, being promoted in order to
create grazing zones in which animals would become
concentrated, thus making hunting easier.
to effectively manipulate the environment was most probably
triggered by a rise in sea-levels, between approximately
7,000-5,000 BC; Britain became finally separated from the
European mainland by this event, at around 6,500 BC. As a
consequence, communities across Britain became more insular,
adopting a distinctive and narrow range of tool-types and a
relatively restricted range of animal and plant resources.
Groups that had formerly occupied areas now covered by the sea
would have been forced into already settled zones, inevitably
increasing pressures on the available natural resources.
4,000 BC, there was an extensive distribution of
hunter-gatherer communities across many parts of the British
Isles, dependent, to a large extent, on red deer, wild boar
and auroclus (wild cattle); those groups with access to the
coast would have supplemented their diet with marine
resources. Some small-scale, temporary, clearances in the
post-glacial climax forest certainly existed, but the country
as a whole was still heavily wooded.
A large number
of Mesolithic sites and artefacts, particularly from the later
part of the period, are known from East Yorkshire. This
material is not distributed evenly across the landscape, but
is concentrated in certain well-defined areas: the lowlands of
central and northern Holderness (particularly around
Brandesburton, Ulrome and Skipsea) and the eastern part of the
Vale of Pickering (especially in the areas around Flixton and
Star Carr) are of outstanding importance in any understanding
of the Mesolithic in East Yorkshire.
sites are known on the chalklands of the Yorkshire Wolds, at
Craike Hill (Eastburn Warren), Garton Slack, Huggate Dykes,
Huggate Wold, and Octon Wold, they are few and far between.