There has been a longstanding debate among archaeologists over the purpose of Bronze Age (c.2500-800 BC) hoards, particularly those including objects that appear to have been deliberately broken. early theories suggested that they were purely functional: created either for temporary storage, recycling, or for actual ‘hoarding’ in times of strife. More recently, though, many archaeologists have ascribed a more ritualistic meaning to the practice: perhaps buried as religious offerings or as displays of social status. until now these ideas have mostly been based on the descriptive analyses of hoards’ characteristics. A new study, however, addresses this debate using mathematical modelling.
In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we are discussing yet another form of dating: uranium-thorium (U-Th) dating, also known as uranium-series dating. Readers may already be aware of the technique, as it has featured a few times in research covered by CA over the years (see CA 83, 93, and 259), but recently it made international headlines for its use in determining that cave paintings in Iberia pre-date the presence of modern humans.
Dublin is known for the exceptional anaerobic conditions that have preserved swathes of medieval archaeology there (see CA 328), and a recent dig at Dean Street in the Coombe area, just to the west of the city centre, was no exception. An investigation in advance of the construction of a new hotel had indicated that the site was likely to be archaeologically significant, and in October, when Aisling Collins Archaeology Services (ACAS) were brought in to fully excavate the site, this was proved correct after the remains of medieval building foundations were uncovered.
In February, Norsemen strode the streets of York once more in the city’s annual Viking Festival. Carly Hilts went along to see for herself.
More than 4,500 years ago, a hugely popular cultural phenomenon – today known as the Bell Beaker Complex – captured the prehistoric imagination, flourishing across much of Europe. Archaeologists are still deliberating over how this Complex, first identified in the 19th century, developed so quickly and effectively. Now the largest ancient DNA study to-date has shed revolutionary new light on the question, with surprising implications for our understanding of ancient populations – particularly that of Britain, which seems to have undergone an almost complete genetic turnover in just a few centuries.
In last month’s ‘great excavations’ mini-series (CA 337), I mentioned the then editor’s suggestion in CA 8 (May 1968) that ‘one of the Roman towns like Silchester or Wroxeter that are ploughed every year’ be excavated by the BBC as an example of public archaeology – Time Team before the Team, so to speak. With Silchester featured last month, it is worth turning to the other site mentioned, Wroxeter – a well-known Roman site near Shrewsbury. It is a site familiar, I am sure, to many readers of CA for its impressive upstanding remains.
Vindolanda, the Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall, is known for its treasure trove of well-preserved Roman archaeology, and this past excavation season has proved to be one of the most successful yet. The team has been excavating a pre-Hadrianic cavalry barracks, where they uncovered finds including complete swords, copper-alloy horse gear, leather shoes, bath clogs, combs, dice, and a small hoard of wafer-thin writing tablets, many of which bore fine examples of ancient cursive script (see CA 330).
Perched above Windwick Bay on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, the site known as The Cairns has been under continuous excavation by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands for several years. Although best known for its Iron Age broch (see CA 275), it seems that the area continued to be used even after this structure fell into ruin around the mid-2nd century AD. Recent radiocarbon dates are now shedding new light on this post-broch occupation, particularly on how it reflects the shifting social structure of late Iron Age Scotland.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have undertaken the mammoth task of mapping the complex network of merchant trading routes and ports that operated during the late medieval and Tudor periods. The project team analysed 50,000 ship movements between more than 600 ports in England and Wales from AD 1400-1580, scouring heaps of data from custom accounts, navy payrolls, and national ship surveys.
A Neolithic causewayed enclosure has been unearthed at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet. Lying within the Middle Thames Valley, a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle, it forms part of a well-populated Neolithic landscape that is already known to be home to a plethora of cursus monuments, timberframed houses, and middens. The discovery was made by Wessex Archaeology as part of an archaeological programme for CEMEX UK (a cement and aggregate supplier).