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Science Notes – Parsing the properties of Egyptian purple pigments

Between 30 BC and the 3rd century AD, during which period Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire, a practice developed of attaching a portrait of a mummified individual to their mummy wrappings. Approximately 1,100 of these paintings have been collected over the centuries, the majority during the 19th and early 20th century – but, as many were bought and sold as works of art instead of archaeological artefacts, information about their context and provenance has disappeared.

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Contextualising Bronze Age burials on the Isle of Man

Recent assessment of a unique burial assemblage from the Isle of Man has helped illuminate a rare type of funerary practice also found in parts of Wales and northern England. This new work provides a blueprint for moving away from traditional single-object typologies towards a more holistic approach that takes into consideration multiple forms of evidence in order to get a clearer picture of varying cultural practices across different regions.

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Searching for the people of Doggerland

Around 8,150 years ago, a sudden shift in the seabed created the Storegga tsunami in the North Sea. With all known evidence pointing towards this event greatly affecting, but not completely inundating, Doggerland (the strip of land that once connected Britain to continental Europe – see CA 367), the search is now on for evidence of human occupation. While it is thought that there must have been significant Mesolithic groups living here during the period, without knowing just how populated the area was likely to be it cannot be determined how catastrophic the tsunami may have been.

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Roman villa revealed near Wrexham

The remains of a Roman villa have been revealed near Rossett, Wrexham. It is the first site of its kind to be found in north-east Wales, adding to our knowledge of the region during this period.

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Updates to the definition of Treasure

The definition of what is considered ‘Treasure’ is to be revised by the Government, to broaden its parameters and provide increased protection for archaeological finds made in England and Wales. It will be the first change made to the Treasure Act since it came into effect nearly 25 years ago.

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A new chronology for Glastonbury Lake Village

A new robust set of radiocarbon dates from the Glastonbury Lake Village in Somerset has allowed researchers to establish a more-precise chronology for how the site was used during the Iron Age. As the settlement contains so many well-preserved finds from this period, it is hoped that this new information will help to provide a better timeline for similar artefacts found across Britain and Ireland.

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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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