Principal Investigator: Dr Niall Finneran, Reader in Archaeology
The new departmental research project 'Granite: an archaeological biography of Dartmoor stone extraction and consumption', which begins in summer 2017, is a collaboration with Dartmoor National Park Authority (Devon), Queens University Belfast and local heritage and archaeology groups. Focussing on the social and cultural implications of the post-medieval stone extraction industry, the team will be studying quarries, extraction landscapes, canals, granite tramways and granite artefacts of all sizes.
Archaeological studies of material culture often focus on how past societies expressed themselves via the medium of a specific material, be it ceramics from clay, weapons or personal adornment from metals, or artefacts and structuresr built from stone. Less frequently is there reflection on the raw materials used, which, rather than being regarded as passive elements in these processes, should be seen as actors that influence human creative output. Granite is arguably the most important natural element in the human story of Dartmoor: not only is it one of the oldest materials available there, it is also the material for which we have the earliest evidence of human adaptation and the longest history of exploitation, extending from the Neolithic period to the present day.
Haytor Down has been chosen as the focus for field investigation for its extended association with granite usage by humans. It is a landscape visually dominated by its geology, containing massive granite outcrops, or tors. One of the most familiar landscapes in Dartmoor National Park, images of Haytor Down have travelled across the world in books, films and postcards. The rugged tors with their moorland backdrop attract millions of visitors every year, and Dartmoor granite still plays an important cultural role.
Possible 19th-century gunpowder store at Haytor Down