Image Credit: YEAR Centre
ON FRIDAY 2 October, the YEAR centre used by the University’s department of Archaeology was broken into and vandalised. A unique Mesolithic structure - which is supposedly protected on the University campus -was also damaged during the incident,with sections of the reed thatching being pulled away, alongside the complete destruction of the door and ladder used for repairs. The police have been notified of this break in; however, it is still unknown as to who the vandals are.
This has not only compromised the ongoing research being conducted on the structure, but has also destroyed several weeks of painstaking labour and skilled craftsmanship. This craftsmanship is not something that can be replaced, as specialists from the Netherlands were brought in to construct the initial structure.The hut itself formed the basis for research looking into the lifespan of this kind of Mesolithic structure. Alongside this vandalism, tools such as axes and saws for wood processing were stolen from the site which were key teaching resources for the upcoming first year students, but also for on-going research. First aid supplies and essential PPE equipment were also stolen.
Whilst unknown to most students at the University, the York Experimental Archaeological Research(YEAR) Centre forms a part of the archaeology department located on Campus West, being officially opened by survival expert and craftsman Ray Mears in July 2019.
Being an on campus outdoor experimental research centre, the YEAR centre is one of only a few of its kind in the world. This small piece of woodland is vital for conducting practical research experiments on campus, one of which being the construction of an authentic Mesolithic structure for a Smithsonian Channel documentary.
Alongside this construction other smaller experiments take place, ranging anywhere from the production and use of flint tools in the past, to teaching how scientific methods can be employed in an archaeological context to better understand the past.
Although the initial research has been compromised with the vandalism to the hut, the YEAR centre team remain optimistic and are planning on incorporating this into their research. Unexpected as it may be, this has broadened the research to include looking into how structures may have been repaired during the Mesolithic by using authentic techniques and materials, with Andy Needham saying “While we didn’t anticipate the structure being damaged in this way, it’s an opportunity to think more about structure repair practices”.
This whole incident raises the question of how security can now be increased for the area by the University. Nouse contacted YUSU Academic Officer Matt Johnstone on how YUSU are supporting the department. He said: “We are working with the Archaeology Dept to make sure that there are suitable alternatives available to students who would otherwise now be missing out on the incredibly valuable hands-on experience the YEAR Centre usually provides.”
The University also pledged their support in a statement to Nouse, telling us that “Additional options for the YEAR Centre such as police posters,lighting and signage regarding security patrols and CCTV coverage of the area are currently being considered,” so to try to ensure that issues such as these do not happen in the future.