MOLA's Don Walker examines a Spitalfields skeleton. Of the 10,516 skeletons excavated, over 5,300 were analysed.

Reading the bones: Spitalfields’ human remains

  Spitalfields in London is thought to be the largest excavated cemetery in the world. Recent research has focussed on the site’s mass graves, uncovering a wealth of new information about the population of Medieval London. One of the archaeological advantages of mass burials is that the urgency of the situation leaves no time to […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Do Irish Bog Oaks Date the Shang Dynasty?

In CA 111 Chris Scarre pointed  out that the explosion of Thera  could be dated to 1626 BC. This  may, however, only be the beginning.  There are at least 4 other  prehistoric dates that the readers of  CA should learn by heart; I believe  that our work on tree-rings has  revealed several major volcanic  eruptions […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Volcanoes and population

In 1985 I presented a  population graph for Britain extending  from the Mesolithic to  recent times, which was characterised  by periodic ups and downs,  the lows being the result of catastrophic  processes in which an overall  loss of the order of 50% in a  century was envisaged. This was  on the level of the historical […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Volcanoes, Catastrophe and the Global Crisis of the Late Second Millennium BC

When Andrew Selkirk asked me to append some comments to Mike Baillie’s piece on volcanic “events”, it prompted the notion that I had written on catastrophes  in Current Archaeology some years ago. It proved after a long search to be exactly ten years ago (CA 67) and to be a paragraph entitled “Catastrophe?” I postulated […]


Raising the Curtain: Excavating Shakespeare’s lost playhouse

Immortalised in Henry V as ‘this wooden O’, the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch was home to Shakespeare’s company of players until the completion of the Globe in 1599. Yet despite staging some of the playwright’s most famous works, barely 50 years after its opening in 1577 the theatre faded into obscurity and was lost— until […]

Excavating an infant burial. Image: Oxford Archaeology

Oakington: Life and death in the East Anglian Fens

Anglo-Saxon skeletons have been surfacing for almost a century in the fields of Oakington. Now a new project has laid bare the trials and tragedies of a small 6th-century Fenland community. Duncan Sayer, Richard Mortimer and Faye Simpson bring flesh to the bones. In 1926 four early Anglo-Saxon burials, one equipped with a spear, knife […]


Orkney’s first farmers

An entire Neolithic settlement, predating Skara Brae, has been found on the tiny Orkney Island of Wyre.


Treating leprosy

Were lepers reviled as ‘unclean’ outcasts of the Middle Ages? Recent excavations cast doubt on this enduring belief


When the Celtic Tiger roared: the golden years of commercial archaeology in Ireland

During the Celtic Tiger economic boom, Ireland experienced a period of prosperity which led to an unprecedented ‘golden age’ for commercial archaeology. In a four-part series, Brendon Wilkins examines the top sites, finds and controversies that defined over a decade of discovery. Imagine a place where the term ‘millionaire archaeologist’ would not sound ridiculous, and […]