Last month, we reported in ‘News’ on the recent LiDAR work done to accurately measure the length of the Antonine Wall. Here, we highlight further groundbreaking research being carried out to uncover the history of this magnificent monument. Dr Louisa Campbell from the University of Glasgow has used X-ray and laser technology to analyse the remnants of the Wall as part of the Historic Environment Scotland-funded project, Paints and Pigments in the Past.
This month we are doing something a little different, exploring a wider theme rather than a specific technique. A recent public-interest piece in Nature – published in response to their research paper about the Bell Beaker culture (for more on this research, see CA 338) – discusses the ‘sometimes straining’ relationship between archaeologists and geneticists.
The 6th and 7th centuries in England were defined by great social change. Along with the gradual conversion to Christianity in many areas, there is also evidence for increasing social stratification, most clearly seen through the emergence of prominent princely burials such as Sutton Hoo. It seems the rich were getting richer, and the poor poorer. A new study by Emma Hannah (Queen’s University Belfast) and Susanne Hakenbeck (University of Cambridge) has analysed how this upheaval may have affected diet during this period. Early Christian proscriptions involving meat suggest that, as more of the population converted, they may have become increasingly reliant on fi sh. At the same time, with the development of a clear social hierarchy, a distinct dietary difference between social classes may also be expected.
Norwich Castle’s life as a royal fortification was short-lived, and it served much more time as a county gaol. Lucia Marchini pays a visit to an exhibition that charts the changes to the structure over the centuries.
Highways England’s road improvement works between Cambridge and Huntingdon have allowed archaeologists to investigate an entire landscape on a vast scale. Carly Hilts visited the project to see some of the impressive finds that have been uncovered.
As this month’s contribution to the ‘great excavations’ mini-series, I turn my attention to a ‘great’ project of Anglo-Saxon archaeology: Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The site is one of the best-known in the country thanks to the stunning array of high-status grave goods recovered during the 1939 excavations and displayed in the British Museum since the late 1940s. But in this column I want to focus not on the objects but rather on the two great post-war phases of fieldwork undertaken on the site between 1965 and 1971, led by Rupert Bruce-Mitford, and then again between 1983 and 1992, led by Martin Carver. With CA having launched in March 1967, the timing of these projects coincides perfectly with the emergence and growth of the magazine.
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.