ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Volunteer Diary by Durham Archaeology Young Explorers

Durham Archaeology Explorers (DAX) is based at the Oriental Museum, Durham University. Founded in 2012, DAX is an archaeology club for children aged 7–11 years. We aim to inspire a lifelong interest in, and respect for, archaeology and the people of the past by exploring both local and world archaeology.

In August 2017, DAX attended the Eston Hills excavation, led by Adam Mead. The group toured the site and took part in excavating and recording a test pit on the site.

In October 2017 Adam Mead visited the group at the Oriental Museum. He gave a talk about prehistoric life on the Eston Hills, and the children explored some of the finds from the site including flint arrowheads, axes, microliths, and flint tools – from the time before metal which arrived around four thousand years ago.

After looking at the rock art found on the Eston Hills site, DAX members then made their own piece of rock art.

Finally, through a group discussion, we explored the threats to the Eston Hills in the form of the use of illegal off-road vehicles and deliberate destruction of local plant life leading to soil erosion and the loss of the archaeological record. The group then experimented with different types of soils to see which was the most resistant to erosion, concluding that plant life helps to protect soil structure.

– Charlotte Spink | Access and Community Engagement Officer
Culture Durham | Durham University
Oriental Museum | Elvet Hill, Durham DH1 3TH

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Free guided walk of archaeology on Eston Hills Teesside


Sun 29 Oct | 10am – 1pm FREE
Meet at Flatts Lane Country Park Visitor Centre, Flatts Lane, Normanby, TS6 0NN | Free parking

Discover the prehistory of Eston Hills with archaeologist Adam Mead and Forensic Anthropologist, Dave Errickson. Explore the traces of early human activity. This free guided walk will show archaeological sites including those uncovered in this year’s Heritage Lottery funded ICE & FIRE project — shortlisted for a 2017 national community archaeology award.

Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, pictured above with some of our younger volunteers.

There will also be the chance to view and handle some of the recent finds!

This ongoing project aims to explore, record and celebrate the evidence for over 10,000 years of human life, death, ingenuity and persistence in a fragile community landscape.

The walk may not be suitable for some people due to the rough terrain and a steep incline to the top of the hills. Strong, stout shoes or boots are a must with the usual advice to bring waterproof clothing, and plenty of liquid refreshment. Toilet facilities are located in the Flatts Lane visitor centre. Dogs and difficult husbands should be kept on a lead please.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Awards, Explorers and Lasers

Hello ICE & FIRE team members, here’s the latest news roundup!

ICE & FIRE shortlisted for 2017 Community Archaeology Award

Excerpt from British Archaeology magazine No. 157 | © Council for British Archaeology.

We’re absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for the Community Project category in this year’s Marsh Archaeology Awards, with results to be announced at the Council for British Archaeology’s AGM on November 6th in London. There are two other contenders in this category, both based in Wales. We wish all the candidates the very best of luck!

Other categories include Young Archaeologist of the Year and Community Archaeologist of the Year. Team member Spencer Carter will be attending the archaeology day on behalf of the project. We’re extremely grateful to Dr David Petts, Assistant Professor at Durham University Archaeology, for hosting our nomination.

Adam visits the Durham Archaeology Explorers Club

On Saturday 7 October, project director Adam Mead visited the archaeological club at Durham University’s Oriental Museum to talk about the project and show some of the finds from this year’s fieldwork. One of the items, shaped like an axe but without a sharp cutting end, might actually be a pecking tool used to create rock art motifs like cup and ring marks. More analysis will take place to test this possibility, noting similar recent finds in Wales.

Durham Archaeology Explorers aims to engage with children aged 7–11 years to inspire a lifelong interest in, and respect for, archaeology and the people of the past. DAX aims to explore both local and world archaeology:

Lasers at the ready!

One of our flint tools from earlier fieldwork has made its way to Oxford University’s Earth Sciences Department where doctoral candidate Tom Elliot is using laser technology to analyse the chemical composition of flint artefacts.

Tom’s research aims to establish whether links can be made between the primary stratigraphic deposits – flint occurs in or is derived from chalk geology formed in oceans millions of years ago – and the locations where artefacts are found. This can give us clues about human mobility in the past, from preferred sources of flint to the locations where tools were manufactured, and ultimately deposited. The analysis technique is called laser ablation which removes a minute sample from the material and so is non-destructive.

Our artefact is an impressive late Neolithic oblique ripple-flaked arrowhead. Although it is damaged, missing its tip and long tail, it is of particularly fine workmanship closer to that encountered in East Yorkshire and East Anglia. Indeed, was it purely a functional arrowhead or something prized by its owner?

We eagerly await the results! Incidentally, Tom, who is studying at the University of Worcester, is also a keen and brave caving fanatic (speleologist). Some of his work has involved being supported by a harness and descending chalk cliff faces.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

BELIEF IN THE NORTH-EAST | ICE & FIRE day school presentation

The ICE AND FIRE project team are delighted to have a slot in the Belief in the North-East day school at Durham University on 1 October 2017. Adam will present the Teesside project’s aims and achievements in its first season of fieldwork and campaigning, together with implications for future work.

“This is a unique opportunity to explore the prehistory of Teesside. What we know already demonstrates a rich landscape of the living, of ancestors, of memory, belief, aspiration and endurance. We should expect to find much more!

View the ICE & FIRE presentation (PDF) »


Belief in the North-East is a new community archaeology project being developed by the Department of Archaeology at Durham University and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund North-East. We plan to work with local people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the rich archaeology of the belief, religion and ritual of North-East England. Ranging from prehistoric rock art to 19th-century graveyards, we hope to shed new light on the complex religious beliefs of the past populations of Teesside, County Durham, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

Learn more about the project (Website) »

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Volunteer Dig Diary by Cool Hand Luke Collin

Luke drawing plans and sections of a prehistoric hearth feature.

“The other volunteers there were very friendly, some from around the world, and that made me think how amazing it is that this one subject brings people together from so many different places and backgrounds.”

HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY have interested me from a very young age, starting from when I asked my grandfather to buy me a history book. Back then I was only interested in the pictures, looking at how people dressed and the weapons which they used. I was never really into playing gun games with my friends but rather sword-fighting with sticks and using pieces of cardboard for a shield. It wasn’t before long that I realised that cardboard wasn’t the best material for a shield – bruised arms!

As time went on I began to read what was beside the pictures and I learnt so much about the world’s history. That inspired me to learn more. My grandfather had a lot of friends who happened to be archaeologists, and so through that I got to experience true history right there in my hand, and not just an image in my head. Growing into my early teens I had visited a lot of historical places and sites around the world and, out of all the locations, I found Malta the most interesting. Perhaps it was my fascination with knights and the crusades or maybe it’s the beautiful renaissance architecture in the capital, Valetta. Through travelling with my parents, I began to experience different cultures – so different from my own – and the languages we encountered.

There’s no brass in muck

During my late teenage years I set myself on a goal to study archaeology at university. However, my grades from school were below average and I needed to do something about that. When my teenage years came to an end I found myself with a CV full of pointless subjects but I discovered that I could enrol into an Over 19s Access Course, and that I did.  I came out of that course with distinctions in History, Psychology, Politics and Sociology. Did I go straight into university to study archaeology? No I didn’t. I went to Law School instead, with ambitions of becoming very financially successful. I hated every second of it. Whenever I was there in that lecture theatre, I was constantly thinking about archaeology and enjoying myself with like-minded people. I learnt a valuable lesson there; I learnt that chasing wealth by any means does not make you happy, but doing something that you are passionate about will make you successful. This leads me to this present moment. I am finally attending Newcastle University to study Archaeology.

Skills for the record

With a place on the course, I knew I needed to gain some field experience. I contacted the BAJR Facebook page where I encountered a seemingly limitless number of people pointing me in the right direction. This is where I found out about the Eston Hills project. In no time I had purchased an Archaeology Skills Passport to document my learning, and volunteered to join the team. I had never been so enthusiastic about something in my life. I attended my first day wearing a pair of vans and jogging pants thinking it was such a bad idea – and it was! In the team meeting I was given a brief about what to look out for, and about health and safety. We then set off climbing up the Eston Hills, a workout and a half! On the way up I realised that I really needed a pair of walking boots. In a typical British summer, me feet were getting stuck in the delightful mud.

Throughout the project I made plenty of finds, which was incredibly exciting. The project leaders were very engaging and taught me archaeological techniques – from how to set up a test pit, to surveying with a total station. All these techniques would then be signed off in my Skills Passport. I actually found the passport very useful, especially if you were to go for a job interview in the future. The other volunteers there were very friendly, some from around the world, and that made me think how amazing it is that this one subject brings people together from so many different places and backgrounds. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on this project and my initial expectations were certainly exceeded.

If you were an ICE AND FIRE 2017 volunteer and would like to submit a Dig Diary piece, please email with any pictures of your own or, if you appear in any of the pictures on this website, let us know! Thank you again for being part of a brilliant – and hopefully ongoing – ground-breaking rescue project.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE | We have a new logo!

Hello ICE & FIRE team members

Not only do we have a team mascot, Echo, but thanks to Archaeosoup Productions – who made our latest dig video – we also have a project logo which seems to be going down rather well. Do we print T-shirts next year?

If any volunteers would like to write about their 2017 experiences, informal (and with pictures if you can), please do send us a “diary” or “postcard” piece for this website! Send us an email, and the more humour the better! Archaeology is fun despite the sea fret every now and again.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Made In Teesside TV News

ICE AND FIRE archaeological project director Adam Mead talks to our local TV Station Made In Teesside about the Eston Hills Project | 14 August 2017

 Watch the video at 16:12 until 19:26

Read more about the archaeology of Eston Hills and view flint tool images »
Download free fact sheets and booklets »
Image and drone footage courtesy of Clive Winward.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Flinty Finds – Mesolithic Arrow


The 2017 rescue excavation season produced some exciting prehistoric finds – exactly what we had hoped for. As well as features, the finds include flint artefacts and the debris associated with the creation of tools.

We’re particularly pleased to have recovered a flint blade dating to the Late Mesolithic period, around 8000–3900 BC in our area. It has been carefully worked – we say “retouched” – down both long edges. Removing tiny chips with an antler knapping hammer blunts the edges so that the flint can be more easily glued into an arrow shaft, for example with adhesive based on pine or birch resin. During this hunter-gatherer-fisher period, the creation of these tools, called microliths, is a characteristic technology which ends with the onset of Neolithic farming and the transition to leaf-shaped flint arrowheads. We can also tell, by the size and style of the microliths, what period within the Mesolithic they likely date to.

Prehistoric lithics specialist Spencer Carter assessing finds from earlier in the project.


On Eston Hills we have both Early (around 9000–8000 BC) and Late Mesolithic flint artefacts, as well as some chert from the Pennines and Vale of Mowbray to the west – demonstrating mobility in an increasingly densly-forested landscape, along rivers like the Leven, Tees, Wear, Swale and Ure. The early style used ‘broad blades’ greater than 9mm in width, obliquely trimmed to form a point. The late style included a greater range of shapes, often geometric like triangles and crescents, and very narrow indeed – termed ‘narrow blade’. Our example here is a narrow, straight-backed bladelet, although broken at one end. It is made from light brown speckled flint which, even today, can be found on the local beaches and in boulder clay deposits as nodules dragged in by the Ice Age glaciers from Denmark and Scandinavia.

Image: Arne Sjöström, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Lund University.
Read more about this amazing discovery

An arrow, or other tools like long knives or piercers, might incorporate a number of these microliths as either barbs, cutting edges or ‘drill bits’ – almost like “Black & Decker” composite tools which could, in the case of arrows, be easily replaced or repaired after a day’s hunting. We often find them and the knapping debris around or in the remains of camp fires. Very rarely, such as this example from Sweden (above), the flints and arrow shafts survive in waterlogged conditions. Very occasionally we find arrangements of microliths in Britain too. If any of you have the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, you will be bowled over – many of their incredible finds come from underwater before sea levels rose to their present levels.

Watch flint knapper Will Lord make a Mesolithic arrow in this fascinating 15 minute video.


Read more about the archaeology of Eston Hills and view flint tool images »
Download free fact sheets and booklets »

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

Northern Echo | Campaign to tackle Eston Hills trouble starting to take shape

13 August 2017 | Graeme Hetherington Chief Reporter (Tees Valley)

A local action group have begun tackling arson and vandalism which has been blighting a beauty spot and archaeological site.

The Eston Hills action group, set up by Redcar MP Anna Turley, has been working to reduce crime in the area to make the hills safer.

Residents had previously raised concerns about illegal off-roading, fires, abandoned vehicles, and environmental damage to the hills and wildlife.

The group working together to tackle these issues includes Cleveland Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger; local councillors; and representatives from Cleveland Fire Brigade, Cleveland Police, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Friends of Eston Hills, and the Ice and Fire archaeology project.

Read the article »

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team

ICE AND FIRE 2017 | Volunteer Dig Diary by Echo | Team Mascot

Thoughts from a Bone Specialist and Supervisor

My name is Echo. I’ve been trying to keep the ICE AND FIRE team in their test pits. Honestly, sometimes it’s like herding misbehaving sheep! I look out for bones and tell them to keep their sections straight. I know bones don’t survive from ancient times in these acidic soils, they just dissolve, but they might in the soggy wetland. Oh, those volunteers do moan about the weather too. It’s summer on Teesside! Aye.

If you were an ICE AND FIRE 2017 volunteer and would like to submit a Dig Diary piece, please email with any pictures of your own or, if you appear in any of the pictures on this website, let us know! Thank you again for being part of a brilliant – and hopefully ongoing – ground-breaking rescue project.

– ICE AND FIRE Project Team