Category: Articles

Interior of Maeshowe, scanned during the Scottish Ten project. Image: Historic Scotland

Chamber of secrets: Historic Scotland launches virtual tour of Maeshowe

Orkney is world-famous for its spectacular Neolithic archaeology, and now visitors from all over the globe will be able to explore one of its most enigmatic monuments, after a new virtual tour of Maeshowe chambered tomb went live today (29 August). In a video unveiled yesterday by  Scotland’s  Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the structure […]

Remains of the Namur. Photo: M Symonds

Solved: the 17 year mystery of the ship under the floorboards

In 1995 archaeologists made a surprising discovery beneath the floorboards of the Georgian wheelwright’s workshop at Chatham Historic Dockyard – the remains of an 18th-century flagship. Now after almost two decades of research, the mystery vessel has been named as the  Namur, a second-rate ship of the line that played a key role in the […]


Rare Roman altar found at Maryport

Ongoing excavations at Maryport, Cumbria, have uncovered a Roman altar – the first to be found at the site in over 140 years. In 1870, landowner and antiquarian Humphrey Senhouse discovered  17 altars buried at the Roman fort near Hadrian’s Wall. Now Newcastle University archaeologists have added an 18th to this number. Like those found […]

A selection of Jupiter altars found at Maryport Roman fort and now on display in the Senhouse Museum

Jupiter, best and greatest – Revisiting Maryport’s ritual pits

New excavations have revealed why the country’s finest set of Jupiter altars were committed to the earth in gigantic pits. Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott explained the contents of the Maryport pits to Matthew Symonds. ‘Never before’, the great Hadrian’s Wall scholar John Collingwood Bruce declared in July 1870 ‘were the antiquaries of this district […]


CA 270

When thousands of bodies were discovered in Medieval mass graves at Spitalfields cemetery, the Black Death was believed to be responsible. Then the radiocarbon dates came back. These placed the burials almost a century before the plague. Seeking an alternative explanation for the deaths, the archaeologists found historical accounts of a famine, and a tantalising […]

MOLA's Don Walker examines a Spitalfields skeleton. Of the 10,516 skeletons excavated, over 5,300 were analysed.

Reading the bones: Spitalfields’ human remains

  Spitalfields in London is thought to be the largest excavated cemetery in the world. Recent research has focussed on the site’s mass graves, uncovering a wealth of new information about the population of Medieval London. One of the archaeological advantages of mass burials is that the urgency of the situation leaves no time to […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Do Irish Bog Oaks Date the Shang Dynasty?

In CA 111 Chris Scarre pointed  out that the explosion of Thera  could be dated to 1626 BC. This  may, however, only be the beginning.  There are at least 4 other  prehistoric dates that the readers of  CA should learn by heart; I believe  that our work on tree-rings has  revealed several major volcanic  eruptions […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Volcanoes and population

In 1985 I presented a  population graph for Britain extending  from the Mesolithic to  recent times, which was characterised  by periodic ups and downs,  the lows being the result of catastrophic  processes in which an overall  loss of the order of 50% in a  century was envisaged. This was  on the level of the historical […]

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Image: Royal Society

Volcanoes, Catastrophe and the Global Crisis of the Late Second Millennium BC

When Andrew Selkirk asked me to append some comments to Mike Baillie’s piece on volcanic “events”, it prompted the notion that I had written on catastrophes  in Current Archaeology some years ago. It proved after a long search to be exactly ten years ago (CA 67) and to be a paragraph entitled “Catastrophe?” I postulated […]