While we have talked a lot about ancient DNA (aDNA) in ‘Science Notes’, it has mainly been in the context of decoding ancient human genomes. We have not really delved into the other applications of the methodology, including the detection of ancient pathogens. However, this is a quickly emerging area that could have a huge impact on how we are able to study health and disease in the past, and deserves some unpicking.
It is well known that the Industrial revolution led to a staggering shift in the global nitrogen cycle – a key process that supports life by circulating nutrients between the land, atmosphere, and oceans – but human-linked impacts on the environment in earlier periods of history are far less well understood. A paper recently published by an international team of researchers led by the University of British Columbia and the Institute of Technology, Sligo, is set to change that, however, showing that humans may have had a significant impact on the nitrogen cycle in Ireland during the Bronze Age.
The Picts remain one of the more elusive early medieval kingdoms of Britain, and our knowledge of their culture is still rather limited. But archaeological work and post-excavation research at Burghead, near Lossiemouth in Moray, is helping to illuminate these enigmatic people.
A recent study, conducted by researchers from the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology at the Museum of London and Durham University, has looked into the diet of Roman London. Children were of particular interest to the team, as they may have had a different diet to that of adults due to their lower social status in Roman culture.
The long-lost moat of Newark Castle has been rediscovered during a £60m project led by Severn Trent to upgrade Newark’s sewers. The discovery was made while the engineers were working in Castlegate Street, just to the south-east of the remaining castle ruins. Subsequent excavations by Trent & Peak Archaeology showed that the moat, found at a depth of 3m below the current street level, contained animal bones and green glazed pottery, broadly dating to the 13th and 14th centuries.
CITiZAN, a community archaeology project focused on vulnerable intertidal and coastal sites, has won the Arts, Culture, and Heritage prize at the Charity Awards 2018 – Civil Society Media’s annual awards programme to recognise organisations for their commendable charitable work.
The Isles of Scilly are known for their sandy beaches and shallow tidal waters, but the archipelago was not always like this. A collaboration between researchers is investigating how the islands and their surrounding sea have changed over the millennia, reconstructing the ways in which our prehistoric ancestors adapted to a changing landscape – and examining how current climate patterns are likely to affect the islands in the future.
In today’s era of ‘fake news’, we haven’t been entirely surprised to see recent headlines claiming new research has proven that radiocarbon dating is inaccurate or plain wrong (one even went so far as to say ‘A Crucial Archaeological Dating Tool is Wrong, and It Could Change History as We Know It’). To be fair, once you get past the headlines, the articles mostly provide a bit more of the truth and a little less clickbait. Nonetheless, we thought it pertinent to delve into the actual science of this discovery and offer a more impartial, if less sensationalist, account of the findings.
An ambitious project to conduct the largest geophysical survey to-date of the island of Rousay in Orkney has begun. It is being led by a team from the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Römisch-Germanische Kommission (DAI) – which is based in Berlin – working together with archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute.
It remains one of the biggest archaeological mysteries: why do so many hillforts, particularly across Scotland, appear to have undergone a significant burning event that caused their stone walls to melt and ultimately fuse (see CA 133)? Was it done deliberately, either during an attack or as a ceremonial act, or was it accidental? One of these ‘vitrified’ forts, Dun Deardail in Glen Nevis, was recently excavated over the course of a three-year project funded by Forestry Commission Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Nevis Landscape Partnership. This Iron Age hillfort was built in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, around 2,500 years ago, and was eventually destroyed in a catastrophic fire. Now excavations have shed light on its construction, occupation, and destruction.