Furness's first farmers: Evidence of early neolithic settlement and dairying in Cumbria

Gav Robinson, Matthew Town, Torben Bjarke Ballin, Ann Clarke, Julie Dunne, Richard P. Evershed, Lynne F. Gardiner, Alex Gibson, Hannah Russ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In 2015, excavations at Stainton Quarry, Furness, Cumbria, recovered remains that provide a unique insight into Early Neolithic farming in the vicinity. Five pits, a post-hole, and deposits within a tree-throw and three crevices in a limestone outcrop were investigated. The latter deposits yielded potentially the largest assemblage of Carinated Bowl fragments yet recovered in Cumbria. Lipid analysis identified dairy fats within nine of these sherds. This was consistent with previous larger studies but represents the first evidence that dairying was an important component of Early Neolithic subsistence strategies in Cumbria. In addition, two deliberately broken polished stone axes, an Arran pitchstone core, a small number of flint tools and debitage, and a tuff flake were retrieved. The site also produced moderate amounts of charred grain, hazelnut shell, charcoal, and burnt bone. Most of the charred grain came from an Early Neolithic pit and potentially comprises the largest assemblage of such material recovered from Cumbria to date. Radiocarbon dating indicated activity sometime during the 40th-35th centuries cal bc as well as an earlier presence during the 46th-45th centuries. Later activity during the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age was also demonstrated. The dense concentration of material and the fragmentary and abraded nature of the pottery suggested redeposition from an above-ground midden. Furthermore, the data recovered during the investigation has wider implications regarding the nature and use of the surrounding landscape during the Early Neolithic and suggests higher levels of settlement permanence, greater reliance on domesticated resources, and a possible different topographical focus for settlement than currently proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-198
Number of pages34
JournalProceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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