News

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Science Notes – A new approach to wood preservation

Wood can be a difficult, and costly, archaeological material to preserve. This is nowhere better highlighted than by the enormous efforts put into place to help conserve the Mary Rose. When the remains of Henry VIII’s warship were lifted out of the Solent in 1981 (see CA 218 and 272), little was known about how best to preserve the wreck once it had been removed from the protective anoxic conditions under the seabed. But over the past three decades, multiple techniques have been developed to keep the ship, and other wooden artefacts recovered from archaeological contexts, from degrading before our eyes. In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we explore the latest of these preservation techniques.

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Migration and disease in the Iron Age

Scientific analysis of a human skeleton discovered at Tarrant Hinton in Dorset has shed new light on life – and the transmission of infectious disease – in Iron Age Britain. The remains were originally found during excavations at a small Iron Age/Romano-British settlement between 1967 and 1985. Examination and radiocarbon dating of the skeleton indicated that it was that of a man, aged between 30 and 40, who had died between 400 BC and 230 BC.

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Hadrian’s Wall revealed at Walltown Crags

Many miles of Hadrian’s Wall survive beneath turf and rubble, unexplored and often under threat from erosion, people, and animals. A recent excavation at Walltown Crags in Northumberland, undertaken in advance of fixing some of this damage, revealed sections of the Wall that had not been seen for centuries.

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Prehistoric settlement uncovered in Aberdeenshire

Evidence for an extensive settlement, possibly dating to either the Bronze Age or Iron Age, has been uncovered on the outskirts of Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, on a site overlooking the North Sea. It is the first major prehistoric site to be identified near Cruden Bay, making it an important discovery to add to our growing knowledge of Aberdeenshire during this period.

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Witch marks discovered in Stoke Mandeville?

Unusual graffiti have been discovered among the ruins of the medieval church of St Mary’s in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. Archaeologists from Fusion JV have been carefully excavating and deconstructing the church ahead of HS2-related construction. The building was supposedly demolished after it was decommissioned in 1866, when a new church was built closer to the village, and so it came as a surprise to the team to discover that the walls of St Mary’s actually survived to a height of c.5ft, with the floors almost completely intact.

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Spectacular prehistoric discoveries from County Sligo

COVID-19 restrictions have not stopped the Sligo Community Archaeology Project, which can boast of some very exciting prehistoric discoveries in the county over the past few months. This initiative (undertaken in partnership with the Heritage Council) aims to connect archaeologists and members of the public in order to properly record chance finds within the county.

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Judicial facial mutilation in Anglo-Saxon England?

Anglo-Saxon law codes speak of facial mutilation as a punishment for certain crimes, but until recently no archaeological evidence had been found for it in England. Now the skull of a young woman discovered in Oakridge, Basingstoke, has been identified as the first possible example. It also suggests that this brutal practice had a longer history than had been previously thought.

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The CARD Fund: still open for applications

A specialist grant that helps volunteer and community groups date their finds is encouraging projects to apply to their 2020 funding round ahead of its 30 November deadline.

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Science Notes – The disappearing Neanderthal Y chromosome

In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we explore the evolution of the Y chromosome in Neanderthals and Denisovans (an extinct subspecies of humans, who appear to have been concentrated in Asia during the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic).

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Delving into Viking DNA

A large study, led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, has mapped the DNA of the Viking world. The results paint a complex picture of population movement across Europe during this period.

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