There has been a longstanding debate among archaeologists over the purpose of Bronze Age (c.2500-800 BC) hoards, particularly those including objects that appear to have been deliberately broken. early theories suggested that they were purely functional: created either for temporary storage, recycling, or for actual ‘hoarding’ in times of strife. More recently, though, many archaeologists have ascribed a more ritualistic meaning to the practice: perhaps buried as religious offerings or as displays of social status. until now these ideas have mostly been based on the descriptive analyses of hoards’ characteristics. A new study, however, addresses this debate using mathematical modelling.
In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we are discussing yet another form of dating: uranium-thorium (U-Th) dating, also known as uranium-series dating. Readers may already be aware of the technique, as it has featured a few times in research covered by CA over the years (see CA 83, 93, and 259), but recently it made international headlines for its use in determining that cave paintings in Iberia pre-date the presence of modern humans.
Dublin is known for the exceptional anaerobic conditions that have preserved swathes of medieval archaeology there (see CA 328), and a recent dig at Dean Street in the Coombe area, just to the west of the city centre, was no exception. An investigation in advance of the construction of a new hotel had indicated that the site was likely to be archaeologically significant, and in October, when Aisling Collins Archaeology Services (ACAS) were brought in to fully excavate the site, this was proved correct after the remains of medieval building foundations were uncovered.
Vindolanda, the Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall, is known for its treasure trove of well-preserved Roman archaeology, and this past excavation season has proved to be one of the most successful yet. The team has been excavating a pre-Hadrianic cavalry barracks, where they uncovered finds including complete swords, copper-alloy horse gear, leather shoes, bath clogs, combs, dice, and a small hoard of wafer-thin writing tablets, many of which bore fine examples of ancient cursive script (see CA 330).
Perched above Windwick Bay on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, the site known as The Cairns has been under continuous excavation by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands for several years. Although best known for its Iron Age broch (see CA 275), it seems that the area continued to be used even after this structure fell into ruin around the mid-2nd century AD. Recent radiocarbon dates are now shedding new light on this post-broch occupation, particularly on how it reflects the shifting social structure of late Iron Age Scotland.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have undertaken the mammoth task of mapping the complex network of merchant trading routes and ports that operated during the late medieval and Tudor periods. The project team analysed 50,000 ship movements between more than 600 ports in England and Wales from AD 1400-1580, scouring heaps of data from custom accounts, navy payrolls, and national ship surveys.
A Neolithic causewayed enclosure has been unearthed at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet. Lying within the Middle Thames Valley, a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle, it forms part of a well-populated Neolithic landscape that is already known to be home to a plethora of cursus monuments, timberframed houses, and middens. The discovery was made by Wessex Archaeology as part of an archaeological programme for CEMEX UK (a cement and aggregate supplier).
Two sites in Stirling are revealing new evidence of the castle and burgh’s inhabitants over the decades, from the medieval period through to the modern day, thanks to post-excavation analysis by GUARD archaeology. more than 2,000 artefacts – ranging from medieval pottery and 17th-century clay tobacco pipes to a more modern iron knife and a First World War Austrian army belt buckle – provide a snapshot of the town and castle through the years.
The application of proteomics, or the analysis of proteins, to archaeology is a fairly recent phenomenon – it only became viable thanks to developments in high-throughput, high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry – and archaeological scientists are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the many ways in which this technique might be used. Its potential is exciting, however.
Recent excavations in a field near the ruins of Deer Abbey in Aberdeenshire have provided the most compelling evidence so far for the remains of the monastery where the 10th-century Book of Deer may have been written and illuminated.