With the remarkable potential of isotopic analysis making recent headlines (see p.18), it seems apt to talk a bit more about this technique. Among the wealth of archaeological questions isotope analysis can help to answer are: where was an individual born and raised, did they migrate during their lifetimes, what did they predominately eat, and when were they weaned? As this is a relatively new and ever-evolving methodology, though, some of the wrinkles are still being ironed out – and one of the biggest questions currently being explored is whether bone is as effective as teeth in reflecting the isotopic values that a person accumulated in life.
Over the summer, archaeology students descended on Kilmartin, Argyll, to record the numerous examples of prehistoric rock art found in the Glen. Trained by staff from Edinburgh University and the Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP) team, and supported by the Kilmartin Museum, the students noted the location, orientation, scale, and various other notable characteristics of each carving, as well as creating 3D models using photogrammetry techniques (pictured above).
A previously unknown Neolithic passage tomb has been discovered in County Meath, Ireland, beneath the 18th-century manor house of Dowth Hall. The monument was unearthed by a team from Devenish – the Belfast-based agri-technology firm that has owned Dowth Hall and the surrounding estate since 2013 – in partnership with UCD School of Archaeology, and has been hailed by Dr Clíodhna Ní Lionáin, lead archaeologist on the project, as ‘truly the find of a lifetime.’
Recent analysis of cremated human remains excavated from Stonehenge has shown that some of the individuals buried at the Neolithic monument may have spent some of their lives in western Britain, or even west Wales – the same region where the Stonehenge bluestones are believed to have come from.
The search for the lost monastery where the Book of Deer – a tome containing the earliest surviving Gaelic writing – was written and illuminated – continued this summer. Digging in the walled garden of Pitfour Estate near Old Deer in Aberdeenshire, where the monastery is thought to have been located, the excavation uncovered a number of interesting finds. One of the most notable was a game board that may have been used to play the Norse strategy game hnefatafl.
A well-preserved prehistoric hearth has been discovered 5ft below the surface during a commercial watching brief on a pipe trench in St Clement, southeast Jersey, which was carried out by the Société Jersiaise’s Field Archaeologist Robert Waterhouse.
The latest excavation season in Orkney has uncovered a cornucopia of finds. these include what may be the oldest wooden bowl yet discovered in the archipelago, unearthed at the cairns, South Ronaldsay, by a team from the UHI Archaeology Institute.
In this month’s Science Notes, we turn to one of the most immediately recognisable monuments in the world – Stonehenge – examining how the origin of its bluestones was taken for granted for so long, and how it shows why research is ever evolving, and never absolute.
A Pictish coppersmith has left his prints – literally – on the remains of his workshop, recently excavated on Rousay, Orkney. This discovery was made at the Knowe of Swandro, a multiperiod site that includes a Neolithic chambered tomb as well as subsequent Iron Age, Pictish, Viking, and Norse settlements, but which is slowly slipping into the sea. In a race against the tide, the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust, along with a host of partners, is working to excavate and record the site before it is too late.
Archaeological work near Woodbridge in Suffolk has revealed the rare remains of a Neolithic wooden trackway and platform. The waterlogged timbers were found towards the end of an 18-month project carried out in advance of the installation of underground cables to connect ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm to the National Grid.