Just off St David’s Head in Pembrokeshire, Wales, lies Ramsey Island. It is currently owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), as the island is home to many avian species and, in particular, is a Special Protection Area for the chough. Historically, though, Ramsey Island was also home to humans – and a new study involving detailed airborne laser-scanning technology (LiDAR; see CA 215) is revealing this intricate archaeological landscape, highlighting the island’s use over the past 5,000 years.
The decision to build a new visitors’ centre at St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire – part of the Heritage Lottery-funded project, Alban, Britain’s First Saint – offered the excellent opportunity to explore some of the site’s archaeology. From August 2017 to February this year the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, with Professor Martin Biddle, carried out extensive excavations between the current presbytery and the south-east transept. In the process, they revealed the cathedral’s long history, from its foundations as a Norman abbey in the 11th century through to its restoration and conversion to a proper cathedral in the modern era.
New research analysing palaeoclimate data in conjunction with archaeological findings has provided evidence for how resilient the community of Star Carr – the famous Mesolithic occupation site in North Yorkshire (CA 282) – was in the face of extreme climate change.
A detailed LiDAR survey of the Antonine Wall – the Roman military structure that ran east–west between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde (see CA 215 and 289) – was recently carried out in a collaborative research project between Canterbury Christ Church University and Historic Environment Scotland.
There has been a longstanding debate among archaeologists over the purpose of Bronze Age (c.2500-800 BC) hoards, particularly those including objects that appear to have been deliberately broken. early theories suggested that they were purely functional: created either for temporary storage, recycling, or for actual ‘hoarding’ in times of strife. More recently, though, many archaeologists have ascribed a more ritualistic meaning to the practice: perhaps buried as religious offerings or as displays of social status. until now these ideas have mostly been based on the descriptive analyses of hoards’ characteristics. A new study, however, addresses this debate using mathematical modelling.
In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we are discussing yet another form of dating: uranium-thorium (U-Th) dating, also known as uranium-series dating. Readers may already be aware of the technique, as it has featured a few times in research covered by CA over the years (see CA 83, 93, and 259), but recently it made international headlines for its use in determining that cave paintings in Iberia pre-date the presence of modern humans.
Dublin is known for the exceptional anaerobic conditions that have preserved swathes of medieval archaeology there (see CA 328), and a recent dig at Dean Street in the Coombe area, just to the west of the city centre, was no exception. An investigation in advance of the construction of a new hotel had indicated that the site was likely to be archaeologically significant, and in October, when Aisling Collins Archaeology Services (ACAS) were brought in to fully excavate the site, this was proved correct after the remains of medieval building foundations were uncovered.
In February, Norsemen strode the streets of York once more in the city’s annual Viking Festival. Carly Hilts went along to see for herself.
More than 4,500 years ago, a hugely popular cultural phenomenon – today known as the Bell Beaker Complex – captured the prehistoric imagination, flourishing across much of Europe. Archaeologists are still deliberating over how this Complex, first identified in the 19th century, developed so quickly and effectively. Now the largest ancient DNA study to-date has shed revolutionary new light on the question, with surprising implications for our understanding of ancient populations – particularly that of Britain, which seems to have undergone an almost complete genetic turnover in just a few centuries.
In last month’s ‘great excavations’ mini-series (CA 337), I mentioned the then editor’s suggestion in CA 8 (May 1968) that ‘one of the Roman towns like Silchester or Wroxeter that are ploughed every year’ be excavated by the BBC as an example of public archaeology – Time Team before the Team, so to speak. With Silchester featured last month, it is worth turning to the other site mentioned, Wroxeter – a well-known Roman site near Shrewsbury. It is a site familiar, I am sure, to many readers of CA for its impressive upstanding remains.