Excavations in the north and south continue to reveal evidence of how Romans buried their dead. Lucia Marchini explores two exhibitions in London and York approaching the subject in different ways.
In June, the Queen’s Birthday Honours for 2018 saw Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford awarded an MBE ‘for services to archaeology’. Formal honours are a rarity in our community, and so all the more to be celebrated when they occur. In the spirit of my ongoing mini-series of ‘great excavations’ reported in the pages of Current Archaeology down the years, I give here the story behind the MBE from one perspective, that of the great ‘site’ (if it can rightly be called that) of Doggerland.
The creation of a new town on the eastern side of Plymouth has afforded a rare opportunity to investigate a wide multi-period archaeological landscape, revealing the hidden secrets of the people who lived there centuries before. Gareth Chaffey and Matt Kendall explain how these discoveries are pushing back the boundaries of our understanding of southern Devon’s past.
Archaeological work near Woodbridge in Suffolk has revealed the rare remains of a Neolithic wooden trackway and platform. The waterlogged timbers were found towards the end of an 18-month project carried out in advance of the installation of underground cables to connect ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm to the National Grid.
Post-excavation analysis of a grave discovered on a hillside just north of Shoreham-by-Sea suggests that its Anglo-Saxon occupant may have met a violent end. The human remains were found by Archaeology South-East (the contracting division of the Centre for Applied Archaeology, University College London), who were working in advance of construction for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm within an area of the South Downs Way known for its prehistoric burials.
A community project at Thusater Burn near Thurso – the most northerly town of mainland Scotland – has revealed possible evidence of far earlier occupation of the area. Traces of what is thought to represent an Iron Age settlement were uncovered during an event organised by the Caithness Broch Project – a charity that aims to promote and preserve archaeological sites in Caithness by training the public in fieldwalking, geophysical survey, and excavation techniques (see CA 322).
Extensive archaeological work during Highways England’s A14 improvement scheme in Cambridgeshire has revealed a wealth of features spanning thousands of years (see CA 339). As the excavations draw towards their close, further finds are continuing to emerge.
A stone inscribed with 7th-century writing has been discovered during excavations at Tintagel Castle. Found during a five-year project commissioned by English Heritage and undertaken by Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU), the two-foot-long piece of Cornish slate appears to have been used as a window ledge, and it is etched with an eclectic combination of Latin writing, Greek letters, and Christian symbols.
While we have talked a lot about ancient DNA (aDNA) in ‘Science Notes’, it has mainly been in the context of decoding ancient human genomes. We have not really delved into the other applications of the methodology, including the detection of ancient pathogens. However, this is a quickly emerging area that could have a huge impact on how we are able to study health and disease in the past, and deserves some unpicking.
It is well known that the Industrial revolution led to a staggering shift in the global nitrogen cycle – a key process that supports life by circulating nutrients between the land, atmosphere, and oceans – but human-linked impacts on the environment in earlier periods of history are far less well understood. A paper recently published by an international team of researchers led by the University of British Columbia and the Institute of Technology, Sligo, is set to change that, however, showing that humans may have had a significant impact on the nitrogen cycle in Ireland during the Bronze Age.