First exhibition to showcase Scarborough’s Stone Age gem

A stag frontlet unearthed at Star Carr
A stag frontlet unearthed at Star Carr

Some of the most remarkable and complete finds from Britain’s Stone Age, unearthed on the outskirts of Scarborough, will be assembled for the first time in a special exhibition.

Eleven thousand-year-old deer skull head-dresses, bone harpoons and amber jewellery - amazingly preserved in peat - are just some of the highlights of the exhibiton at the Yorkshire Museum, in York, later this month.

The objects, on loan from museums all over the country, all come from Star Carr, near Scarborough, where a number of Mesolithic settlements once stood on the shores of a huge lake.

Star Carr is noted internationally as the type-site for understanding hunter-gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period in Europe.

It has been investigated by archaeologists since 1948, including by researchers from the University of York.

The ancient finds will be displayed alongside digital content giving visitors a taste of the sights and sounds of Yorkshire 11,000 years ago.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of Star Carr: Life in Britain After the Ice Age, by the Council for British Archaeology, which tells the story of excavations at the site which was buried in a deep layer of peat on the edge of prehistoric Lake Flixton.

Natalie McCaul, curator of Archaeology, said: “Eleven thousand years ago at Star Carr, Stone Age people lived, hunted and worshipped. They built Britain’s oldest known house and wore deer skull head-dresses to hunt or to worship unknown Gods. 
“For the first time since they were discovered we have brought together some of these remarkable objects in this new exhibition. It is a unique chance to see them all under one roof and to learn more about the mysterious people who lived in Yorkshire thousands of years ago.”

The Yorkshire Museum’s own collection of material excavated at Star Carr will form the basis of the exhibition. This will be complemented by loans from Scarborough Museums Trust, Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and the University of York.

Professor Nicky Milner, of the University of York, co-director of excavations at Star Carr since 2004, said: “We are very excited about this exhibition: this site is incredibly important and it is fantastic that people will get a chance to see the amazing finds which tell the story of how people lived 11,000 years ago.”

Iconic objects on display will include a deer antler head-dress, a wooden paddle, bone harpoons, amber and shale beads and planks believed to show some of the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

After the Ice is the first in a series of displays forming part of a wider Prehistory in Yorkshire project. This three-year research and exhibition project is designed to link the Yorkshire Museum’s prehistoric collections back to the iconic Yorkshire landscapes in which they were discovered.
While this year focuses on the Mesolithic period and the site of Star Carr; years two and three will look at Bronze and Iron Age Yorkshire respectively.