Our November cover feature brings you a report on the fabulous recent discovery of Shakespeare’s lost theatre, home to the first performances of Romeo and Juliet. Going back in time, the medieval monastery at Merton Priory once enjoyed a priviledged lifestyle – yet now it lies beneath a supermarket carpark. Buckton Castle, a 12th century Norman fortress, was all but forgotten until a team from Manchester University decided to investigate. And, as archaeology continues to grow in popularity, we take a look at the profession in the 21st century.
Finally, we introduce the Jeffrey May award, which will be part of the first-ever Current Archaeology Awards at the Archaeology Festival in Cardiff in February 2009.
‘THIS WOODEN O’
Known for his work at both the Rose and the Globe theatres, William Shakespeare’s early plays were written for a playhouse known simply as The Theatre, in Shoreditch. Following a dispute over the lease, his company left, the theatre was demolished and the site lost for centuries — until this year. Uncovering a brick foundation wall, Museum of London archaeologists have discovered what looks like the remains of an octagonal building that once supported heavy timber walls. Could this really be what Shakespeare refers to as ‘this wooden O’? They think so.
MERTON PRIORYMerton Priory was once a prestigi ous and affluent monastery, attracting wealthy patrons with powerful connectons: Parliament met here in1236; it was a favourite retreat of Henry III; and the most famous archbishop in English history, Thomas Becket, was educated within its walls. Now it lies beneath a very different kind of temple, one dedicated to 21st century consumerism – a supermarket and carpark. Recent excavations at this forgotten site have uncovered a wealth of information about life – and death – in a medieval monastery.
In the years following the Norman Conquest, castles suddenly appeared throughout the country, bastions of Norman lords, their symbols of authority and power in an era rife with violence and feudal warfare. Yet, within a couple of centuries most were gone, abandoned and left to ruin. Standing high above the Tame Valley, overlooking the north-eastern edges of Cheshire, Buckton Castle is one such example. Manchester University archaeologists have excavated the site, looking to answer the many questions about just who built it, when and why.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROFESSION TODAY
The Institute for Archaeologists has just published their updated report on the archaeological profession in the United Kingdom. Massive and in-depth, the document covers important statistics and broad trends from the past five years. Similar information from across Europe has been collected in order to provide a snapshot of the archaeological profession as it currently stands.
The National Piers Society
Balancing harm and benefit
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