A RESCUE operation is to be mounted to excavate a Northumberland prehistoric cemetery before it falls into the sea.
Since the 1980s Bronze Age stone-lined burial pits, called cists, have been exposed lodged in the cliff-side at Low Hauxley on Druridge Bay as the shoreline gradually erodes.
Now a three-year project, titled Rescued from the Sea, will focus on the Bronze Age remains after the award of £285,900 yesterday by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Run by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the project will involve around 400 volunteers and local schoolchildren.
An area of 20 metres by 30 metres will be the subject of a community archaeological dig in April or May next year.
Chance finds from the area which have been revealed by erosion include cists, with skeletal remains, cremations and pottery beakers which probably contained food or drink.
The latest cist burial discovery was during a recent survey by English Heritage to measure the rate of erosion along the Northumbrian coast and the threat this poses to archaeology sites.
As well as burials, a Bronze Age midden has also been exposed, containing shellfish, fish and animal remains which the area’s prehistoric people would have eaten.
One of the stone cists has been re-assembled at the entrance to Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Hauxley nature reserve.
The dig will also investigate the area’s ancient peat beds.
All finds will be go to the Great North Museum in Newcastle although there are plans for exhibitions in the local area.
Volunteers will be trained in excavation skills, and the recording and preserving of finds.