ENGINEERS burying power lines in the Yorkshire Dales have unearthed a piece of ancient history which has baffled local experts.

The underground feature – a long- buried strip of ash and burnt material – was discovered in Kingsdale, near Ingleton, by an archaeologist working for power companies United Utilities and Electricity North West.

Arthur Batty, from Ingleborough Archaeology Group, initially thought the find was a fire pit – a temporary hearth used by nomadic hunter gatherers who used the valley for food during the summer months for thousands of years.

But further site investi-gations indicate that it is the wrong shape and depth, and no-one has yet been able to shed further light on it.

“We have had the feature carbon-dated and it is Iron Age, about 300BC,” said Mr Batty.

“Previous finds in Kingsdale have given us evidence of human activ-ity from 6,700BC up to the present day, but we have very little from this particular Iron Age era, so it’s quite a significant find.”

Engineers alerted Mr Batty, who was brought up in Kingsdale, after spotting changes in soil colour while digging trenches for power cables.

Around five kilometres of overhead power lines and poles in Kingsdale are being replaced with underground cable as part of a project to improve the view.

The project is funded by Electricity North West and is being carried out by United Utilities.

Mr Batty said: “There is plenty of evidence of prehistoric fire pits and hearths in Kingsdale, but this find is different.

“It is a long feature and buried about 800mm below ground, whereas you would expect a fire pit to be roughly circular. “Interestingly, there is also some stonework and paving less than 50m away in the river bank which is being eroded away. This could date to around the same period.

“Further surveys of the area are proposed. It raises a lot of questions that only more detailed research could possibly answer, but it is a very tantalising glimpse into the history of this beaut-iful area.”

United Utilities project manager Eamon Robinson said the discovery was “fascinating”.

“We try to plan cable routes to avoid historical areas, but sometimes things crop up that you just can’t expect. That’s why we quite often employ archaeologists to look over our shoulders.

“We have now almost finished laying the cables and expect to be able to remove the poles and wires early in the new year, meaning visitors will be able to enjoy uninterrupted views of the valley for the first time in many years.”

Mr Batty has co-authored a book called The Kingsdale Project on the discovery of the area’s oldest known feat-ure – a fire pit dating back to 6,700BC.

For more information, or to find out about Ingleborough Archae-ology Group, visit website www.ingleborough