Peak District Archaeological Time Line

A very brief summary of some of the key archaeological events and places in Derbyshire's Peak District

12000 to 8000 BC (late upper Palaeolithic)

Environment - Tundra, main trees were dwarf birch and there were beaver, fox, horse and badger present. Land bridge to Europe still available.

Archaeology - Limited to a few finds in caves in the Manifold Valley (see caves page for more information)

8000 to 4000 BC (Mesolithic)

Environment - Warmer conditions, birch and pine giving way to deciduous forests. Wet, many small lakes, rivers and streams. Land bridge to Europe now cut off by rising sea levels. Peat formation initiated, possibly by forest clearance using fire.

Archaeology - Manifold valley, including microliths indicating a hunter-gatherer culture with possible seasonal migration.

4000 to 2000 BC (Neolithic)

Environment - warm conditions with oak woodland dominant.

Archaeology - Bark ringing to  clear woodland, earthworks (Arbor Low is best known and it had a stone circle added at a later date) built late in the period, standing stones, burial mounds with cists (burial chambers).

2000 to 700 BC (Bronze Age)

Environment - weather deteriorated towards end of the Bronze Age, main trees were oak, ash, hazel and elm.

Archaeology - Fortified settlements (late bronze age), tools or mainly stone and bone, stone circles with possible astronomical alignments, jewellery, weapons that appears to be more about status than fighting, barrows, and the arrival of the Beaker culture (not known if it was an invasion, mixing of peoples or an adoption of external ideas).

700 BC to 50 AD (Iron Age)

Environment - even cooler and wetter than at end of Bronze Age.

Archaeology - some hill forts e.g. Mam Tor and crop marks of settlements, generally poorly represented.

50 - 350 AD (Roman)

Archaeology - Derbyshire ware and evidence of lead mining. Minor Roman forts e.g. Navio, Roman roads.

400 - 900 AD (Saxon)

Archaeology - Carved crosses, barrows with grave goods and also place names. Saxon Trading route the 'Portweg' (Portway).

900 to 1600 AD (medieval)

Archaeology - Norman castles e.g. Peveril Castle and Motte and Bailey castles, Manorial centres. Ridge and furrow cultivation.

1600 AD onwards

Archaeology - mining and the industrial revolution, Arkwright’s Cromford Mill the first water powered factory, other mills along the river Derwent, now designated a World Heritage site.


The times are approximate and applicable only to the Peak District, the equivalent ages begin and end sooner or later in different regions of the UK.

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