An exhibition at Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology brings together artefacts from early excavations at Star Carr, the latest finds from the celebrated site, and more, to conjure up what Mesolithic life was like beside Lake Flixton. Lucia Marchini went along to take a look.
In this final column exploring the stories behind Current Archaeology cover images, I am bringing things right up to date by examining covers from issue 301 (April 2015) onwards. Despite the challenging environment for archaeology in recent years, with particularly worrying cutbacks in local-authority heritage services, there has still been some amazing work and some spectacular sites and finds to celebrate.
Four years of excavations at a 5,500-year-old causewayed enclosure have shed vivid light on a Berkshire monument and the landscape’s early Neolithic past, illuminating the lives of some of the first farming communities in Britain.
Three long-lost gravestones belonging to one of the most significant collections of Viking Age sculpture in Britain and Ireland have been found during a community dig in the churchyard of Govan Old Parish Church in Glasgow. The stones were (re)discovered by Mark McGettigan, a 14-year-old student volunteering on his very first excavation, which was run by Northlight Heritage.
Previous isotopic analysis of animal remains from Durrington Walls, a large henge enclosure 3km northeast of Stonehenge, demonstrated that both cattle and pigs were brought to the complex from across Britain (see CA 334). Now, a further study looking at pig bones from three other nearby Neolithic sites, as well as examining the Durrington Wall pigs more thoroughly, has found that this was not an anomaly – it seems that all these complexes served as meeting points for people from across the British Isles.
A lost monastery founded by an Anglo-Saxon princess may have been rediscovered, potentially bringing an end to a search that has gone on for decades.
In Current Archaeology 339, we reported the discovery of a number of human skeletons on the ominously named ‘Rat Island’ in Gosport, Hampshire. These burials had been exposed as a result of erosion following winter storms and were found to be those of adult males – probably prisoners from the prison hulks that had been moored in the harbour in the 18th and 19th centuries.
A team from the universities of Leicester and Southampton recently re-examined previous Avebury excavations and conducted new surveying of the site (in a study published in the journal Antiquity), establishing a possible new chronology of the monument’s construction and shedding new light on its use.
The study of isotopes – chemical signatures preserved in our bones and teeth that shed light on diet and movements during life – are increasingly becoming a major part of archaeology, frequently redefining how we look at different periods and featuring in most post-excavation analyses. But we still have a long way to go in terms of being able to use them to confidently pinpoint a person’s specific origins. At the moment, most isotopic maps are still fairly crude and the science is better at identifying local vs non-local rather than confidently determining exact locations. A new study, recently published in Science Advances, has highlighted the need to make sure these maps are more accurate, bringing up the potential impact that agricultural practices might have in certain regions.
An unusual underground Monitoring Post (UGMP), used during the Cold War, has been revealed during an excavation by Wessex Archaeology near Wokingham. The structure is part of a national network of 1,563 UGMPs, which were built for the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) between 1957 and 1965 as part of preparations for the reporting of radioactive fallout should a nuclear strike occur.