After only two years, we are already beginning to establish some Festival traditions. One is to tackle a ‘difficult’ subject. Last year Alex Bayliss, of English Heritage, explained Bayesian statistics; at each step in her idiots’ guide, instead of declaring QED, she said ‘woof, woof’, like a school teacher keeping her class alert and amused. This year nobody barked at us but we did get clear and entertaining explanations of the difficult science of the genome and what it can tell us about human migration and the settlement of northern Europe after the Ice Age.
I am told there were many brilliant papers that I missed; with two sessions running simultaneously, one can’t take everything in. But the highlights for me included Alison Sheridan’s enthralling account of tracing jadeite axe heads to their rock source high in the Alps, Sam Moorehead proving how much can be learned about late Roman Britain from Valentinian coinage, Steve Mithen’s riveting account of excavations at sites in Jordan on the crux of the Neolithic revolution, naughty jokes from Bettany Hughes about the physical attractions of Helen of Troy, and Francis Pryor saying, as he opened the envelope containing the name of the winner of the reader poll for Archaeologist of the Year, ‘Oh please don’t let it be an archaeological theorist!’