In Current Archaeology 339, we reported the discovery of a number of human skeletons on the ominously named ‘Rat Island’ in Gosport, Hampshire. These burials had been exposed as a result of erosion following winter storms and were found to be those of adult males – probably prisoners from the prison hulks that had been moored in the harbour in the 18th and 19th centuries.
A team from the universities of Leicester and Southampton recently re-examined previous Avebury excavations and conducted new surveying of the site (in a study published in the journal Antiquity), establishing a possible new chronology of the monument’s construction and shedding new light on its use.
The study of isotopes – chemical signatures preserved in our bones and teeth that shed light on diet and movements during life – are increasingly becoming a major part of archaeology, frequently redefining how we look at different periods and featuring in most post-excavation analyses. But we still have a long way to go in terms of being able to use them to confidently pinpoint a person’s specific origins. At the moment, most isotopic maps are still fairly crude and the science is better at identifying local vs non-local rather than confidently determining exact locations. A new study, recently published in Science Advances, has highlighted the need to make sure these maps are more accurate, bringing up the potential impact that agricultural practices might have in certain regions.
An unusual underground Monitoring Post (UGMP), used during the Cold War, has been revealed during an excavation by Wessex Archaeology near Wokingham. The structure is part of a national network of 1,563 UGMPs, which were built for the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) between 1957 and 1965 as part of preparations for the reporting of radioactive fallout should a nuclear strike occur.
The largest concentration of apotropaic graffiti, or ‘witch marks’, in the UK has been identified in the caves at Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Two Neolithic halls have been identified within a previously unsuspected prehistoric landscape, thanks to new dating analysis following extensive excavations in Carnoustie, Angus.
Rare examples of graffiti, made by the Roman army while they were repairing and rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall, have been recorded in a Cumbrian quarry associated with the monument’s construction. Dating to the early 3rd century AD, these inscriptions have survived for more than 1,800 years, but gradual erosion of the soft sandstone into which they were cut has put them under threat. In an effort to save the graffiti before they are lost, they are being documented by Newcastle University archaeologists in a project funded by Historic England.
The oldest human cranium fragment ever mudlarked from the Thames (found on its foreshore) has been identified as Neolithic. The cranium was discovered by Martin Bushell while he was walking along the south bank of the river, just one week after starting his new hobby of mudlarking.
A study recently published in Scientific Reports, examining examples from across Ireland of what is known as bog butter – waxy deposits found in the peat bogs of Ireland and Scotland (see CA 226) – has demonstrated that this was an unusually long-lived practice, spanning from the Early Bronze Age through to the post-medieval period.
Recent news from post-excavation analysis of the excavations for the A14 Cambridge-to- Huntingdon improvement scheme (see CA 339), which recently won the Current Archaeology Award for Best Rescue Project of 2019, is bringing archaeobotany into the spotlight. Archaeobotanist Lara Gonzalez Carretero has discovered that organic samples taken from the site, dating to the Iron Age, are consistent with the by-product of making beer and may represent the earliest evidence for this process in Britain.