Long before written records began, the area of Sunderland was inhabited by prehistoric peoples who were drawn to its geography for a number of reasons. The presence of the river and its hilly terrain offered excellent defensive cover, allowing them to see the wider region for miles in all directions. Here, we discuss some of the best prehistoric sites to visit and explore around the city, where extraordinary archaeological discoveries have been made over the years, leaving traces of some of our earliest ancestors.
Located to the city’s Southwest, Hasting Hill is probably the most famous prehistoric site in Sunderland. A huge mound of Magnesian limestone, over ten bronze age burials were discovered on Hasting Hill in the past century, as well as other neolithic findings which included tools and pottery. It is believed that the hill was a site of religious significance or a monument of sorts.
Fulwell Quarry and Carley Hill
The Carley Hill area of Southwick and the adjacent area of Fulwell Quarry has been a boom for archaeological findings, especially from the Roman Era. This included a small statue of the Roman god Jupiter, Roman coins, and reportedly several burials including a man described as a “giant” reportedly 9ft.
In Hollycarrside, next to Ryhope, there are a number of limestone caves that have been carved out through water erosion. In 1850, workers stumbled across a Neolithic burial which consisted of 5 men, 1 woman and a child alongside animal bones from a goat, ox, pig, rabbit, sheep, dog, birds and some fish. Shells and charcoal were also discovered. The cave is still partially accessible today.
Foxy Island, Farringdon
On the site of Farringdon school, prior to the 1950s, was a former swamp land described on maps as “Farringdon Carr” which a former stream came out from. Although the swamp no longer exists, archaeologists have hypothesised that the area, and the neighbouring grassland described as “Foxy Island” were meeting points and tracks for hunter gatherer communities.
The Burdon Barrows
If you go to Hangman and Salters Lane in Old Burdon south of the A19, you will note two unusual circular mounts sitting in the middle of fields. These mounds are ancient neolithic barrows and burial grounds, seemingly part of the same community to the north at Hasting Hill from the bronze age.