Features

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The Mildenhall Treasure: a secret history

The British Museum’s Richard Hobbs has been playing detective — investigating the 60-year-old mystery surrounding the spectacular Mildenhall Treasure and here he reports on the outcome of his enquiries. One of the most celebrated hoards ever recovered from British soil, the Mildenhall Treasure consists of 34 pieces of exquisitely decorated Roman silver tableware of the […]

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Excavating the slums of Belfast

A neglected and deprived part of Belfast has been excavated by archaeologists to reveal its transformation from 17th century farmland to squalid, overcrowded 19th century urban slums.In 1853, the Rev. W M O’Hanlon, Congregationalist minister for Upper Donegall Street Church, published a series of letters in the Northern Whig, a Belfast newspaper, detailing the filth […]

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Hadrian’s Wall: 30 years on

Thirty years ago, David Breeze and Brian Dobson wrote a history of Hadrian’s Wall from the archaeological evidence. Still in print in a revised edition, it is one of the most successful archaeology books ever written. With a major British Museum exhibition devoted to Hadrian opening this July, we asked David Breeze to take a […]

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The Lingering Death of Roman Britain

In the centuries while Eastern England succumbed to Germanic takeover, Britannia Prima still flew the flag for Rome. Only in 1278, when Edward I captured Caernarfon, did this last outpost of the Western Roman Empire fall to a ‘barbarian’ king. Roger White of the Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham, describes how Romanitas endured on the […]

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Rebuilding a Roman fort

‘Look after the soldiers’ was Roman emperor Severus’ advice to his successors. Officers were especially favoured, with centurions in the ancient equivalent of modern semis, and regimental COs in veritable mansions. With a new full-size reconstruction now open at South Shields, Nick Hodgson, Principal Keeper at Tyne and Wear Museums, describes a major project to […]

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Vindolanda: Clock or calendar?

It was not easy for the Romans to keep a close track on time. They did not work by minutes, let alone seconds, their smallest unit being the hour. Even that was not standardised, but varied according to season and location. By day, a Roman hour was a 12th of the time between sunrise and […]

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Brough of Deerness

The Brough of Deerness is a sea stack in east Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. Its grass-covered top, surrounded by 30m cliffs, holds the remains of an enigmatic Viking Age settlement interpreted as a chiefly stronghold or monastery. The co-occurrence of a Viking Age church and approximately 30 associated buildings in such an exposed location make it […]

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Shooters Hill : Digging up Dad's Army

Conflict archaeology — the archaeology of communities preparing for, or involved in, military or civil strife — is a relatively new discipline, asking questions about the physical and cultural landscapes of wartime Britain. In this light, the order quoted above becomes a check-list for the landscape of defence created by the British Government between 1936 […]

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Royal Hospital Greenwich

Royal Hospital Greenwich was the naval equivalent of the more famous Chelsea Hospital for army veterans. It was a retirement home for ‘seamen worn out or become decrepit by age and infirmities in the service of their country’. Among them were at least 93 men who fought at Trafalgar.