Would you walk under a ladder? Could you stab the image of a loved one? A new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford brings together artefacts, documents, and artwork to explore the magical thinking behind questions like these over the centuries. Lucia Marchini went along to find out more.
In my archival ‘excavation’ of Doggerland (CA 342), I mentioned that it was Bryony Coles who coined the name of this site and led early research into its landscape, and that I planned to return to her work in a later column. Here I make good on my promise, for hers is a story well worth exploring. Beyond Doggerland, Bryony Coles is best known for her work on the Somerset Levels in the 1970s and 1980s. It was here that she and her collaborator (later husband) John Coles led many seasons of fieldwork on a range of prehistoric sites. In the process, they effectively invented the formal discipline of ‘wetland’ archaeology.
In a research project originally published in Scientific Reports, Dr Christophe Snoeck and researchers from the University of Oxford, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Université libre de Bruxelles, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, and University College London have used isotope analysis to examine some of the cremated human remains excavated at Stonehenge, with fascinating results. Their findings highlight not only how mobile some Neolithic populations were, and how important Stonehenge was to them, but also the lengths to which they may have been willing to go to bury their dead on the site.
Volunteer and community groups/projects are invited to apply to the Community Archaeology Radiocarbon Dating fund before 30 November.
The first clear evidence for possible prehistoric habitation on Staffa, a small island in the Inner Hebrides, has been uncovered during a recent excavation.
It has long been assumed that the technique of spinning thread has a lengthy and robust history. New evidence, though, suggests that a different way of making thread – called splicing – was instead the norm throughout most of Europe and the Near East during prehistory.
Recent excavations at the Theatre, the playhouse where most of Shakespeare’s early plays were first performed, have uncovered evidence from the first stages of its use, when it was remodelled from Holywell Priory into an Elizabethan performance space.
The remains of a Roman villa and aisled hall have been discovered during a Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavation in advance of the new University of Cambridge development at Eddington, a new district of Cambridge.
Kinneil House in Bo’ness, just outside Falkirk, is not only a striking 16th- to 17th-century structure, once the principal seat of the wealthy Hamilton family: its estate preserves a rich historic landscape that is also home to a stretch of the Antonine Wall and the only visible example of an Antonine Wall fortlet, as well as the workshop where James Watt perfected the steam engine.
With the remarkable potential of isotopic analysis making recent headlines (see p.18), it seems apt to talk a bit more about this technique. Among the wealth of archaeological questions isotope analysis can help to answer are: where was an individual born and raised, did they migrate during their lifetimes, what did they predominately eat, and when were they weaned? As this is a relatively new and ever-evolving methodology, though, some of the wrinkles are still being ironed out – and one of the biggest questions currently being explored is whether bone is as effective as teeth in reflecting the isotopic values that a person accumulated in life.