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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 15:52 GMT
Oven chips threat to relics
Archaeologists hope to beat farmers to the dig
One of Britain's most important archaeological finds is under threat - from North Yorkshire potato farmers.

Scientists have discovered a vast area of buried buildings and villages spanning 6,000 years, under fields at West Heslerton, near Malton in North Yorkshire.

But the land is used by farmers who are being urged to start digging it up to plant potatoes for the nearby McCain chips factory.

"This is the archaeological equivalent of finding the Domesday Book, then having it burned before your eyes before having a chance to open it," said English Heritage chief archaeologist David Miles.

Urgent talks

"This site is as important as Stonehenge or Avebury.

"The graves, burial mounds and houses have been left untouched by mechanised farming which has wrecked so much of the rest of our archaeology."

In a bid to halt the site's destruction, talks have been set up between English Heritage and the Department for the Environment.

It would be tragic if this place was wrecked for a few potatoes
Project leader Dominic Powlesland

Senior archaeologists and local farmers have also begun discussions.

Project leader Dominic Powlesland said: "This is a vast untapped resource.

"We have to ensure that its most important parts are saved so that we can excavate and study them carefully."

Quarry threatens prehistoric site
27 Oct 03  |  North Yorkshire
Dig reveals Roman transvestite
21 May 02  |  England

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