A Long Time Ago But Not That Far Away - the title of David Shepherd’s talk - gave a sense of the perspective needed to look back into pre-history, a time covering 7,000 years before history was recorded.
As David cautioned, we need to hold on to an awareness that these valleys and hills were occupied by people who would share recognisable emotions and ways of organising their society.
The hill tops are still revealing the secrets of their prehistoric occupation and archaeology sheds more light on the lives of these distant societies.
Stones survive where bone and leather disappear, and the dozens of standing stones identified by David and his group provide fascinating evidence of design in their careful placing.
Many of these stones have their long axis pointing to the rising place of the mid-winter sun, suggesting that they may have ritual purposes. There are ring cairns too, with puzzling features that may mark entrances, and a henge on the hills above Midgley where the ditch on the inside of the circle rules out a defensive purpose.
Other questions are raised by huge propped stones, deliberately poised and balanced on other stones by human effort.
Some stone features are more clearly understood as graves or memorials – collapsed cairns and ‘kists’ where the stones which formed the sides of the chest are still clear, though no human remains can be found in this acid ground. The aesthetic sense of these early people is becoming more evident, with special chosen stones containing fossils or other distinguishing features placed carefully on the inside of the kists, often on the west facing side.
Rock art has been known for a while, though not fully understood. Recently David and his group have found some mysterious grooves in stones which have not yet been identified either as deliberate marks or geological features.
“Hot from the trowel”, David shared the fascinating archaeology underway in the area. Here is yet more evidence of how the upright stones were carefully slotted into the ground. Stones now hardly noticeable to the untrained eye would have stood as proud as those stones which we are impelled to raise to memorialise our dead.
Not so far away then, either in distance or emotion.
The society meets on alternate Wednesday evenings at the Methodist Hall. At the final meeting of the season on March 25, Dave Smalley will reveal the story of “The dam that isn’t and the great floating plug of Colden.”
All welcome and details on the website www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk