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Science Notes – Studying the secrets of syphilis

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.

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Climate change in Bronze Age Ireland

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.

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Review – Viking Nottinghamshire

Once part of Mercia, Nottingham was a key Anglo- Saxon settlement that became one of the five Boroughs of the Danelaw. It is therefore surprising that – according to a foreword by eminent Viking scholar Professor Judith Jesch – this slim volume is the first to be dedicated to Viking Age Nottinghamshire, but it is an informative guide to the region’s early medieval heritage, and an enjoyable read.

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Review – The Stonehenge Bluestones

The Stonehenge Bluestones is a semi-glossy, well-produced, slim, populist volume that, after ten years, replaces John’s earlier book, The Bluestone Enigma. It is the better of the two, with fewer factual errors, less immoderate language, and a closer understanding of the complexities of the ‘problem’: whence did the bluestones come and how were they moved to Salisbury Plain?

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Review – The Chambered Tombs of the Isle of Man: a study by Audrey Henshall 1969-1978

The Isle of Man lies at the centre of the Irish Sea and is characterised by its own insular traditions, while also being subject to influences from all those regions surrounding the sea – as well as beyond. This is evident in the megalithic monumental tradition described within this volume, which presents the evidence from Man and places it in its wider context. This definitive account will appeal to scholars of British prehistory, as well as those interested in Manx studies. Although the initial research took place several decades ago, the editors have conscientiously reviewed and updated it.

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Review – Paths to the Past: encounters with Britain’s hidden landscapes

If anyone is capable of introducing the casual reader to the landscapes of Britain it is Professor Francis Pryor. In a career spanning the last 30 years, he has brought to life lost environments, settlements, and human experience at some of the most ephemeral and enigmatic sites through his archaeological excavations – and, latterly, his books. His latest volume is an anthology of his experiences of various British landscapes, and his personal responses to them.

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Review – The Outcast Dead: the effect of the New Poor Law on the health and diet of London’s post-medieval poor

Based on the results of the author’s MPhil research at Durham University, this volume examines an intriguing hypothesis: that the introduction of the New Poor Law in 1834 had such a profound effect on the diet of the poor that it left visible traces on their bones. It does so by interrogating historical data, with an osteological assessment of the health of five buried populations.

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Review – The Art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450

This is the second edition of what has become a standard work on Roman art, and covers the period described as the Second Sophistic – a time that saw a seismic transformation in the art and architecture of the empire. Some of the illustrations and a chapter examining the influence of Roman art beyond the empire are new, but the older material has lost none of its relevance and power.

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Review – Reading Abbey revealed

Almost a decade ago, the crumbling remains of Reading Abbey – once one of the most important medieval religious centres in northern Europe – were closed to the public. Now, following major conservation work, the site has reopened. Carly Hilts paid a visit.

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Excavating the CA archive: Coppergate

In this latest excavation of the CA archive, I continue to explore some of the ‘great excavations’ reported on over the years by the magazine. Last month, CA 340 included news of a York Archaeological Trust (YAT) oral history project, which is capturing memories of the 1976-1981 Coppergate excavations; fittingly, it is to this site that I now turn, by any standards a ‘great’ excavation in terms both of its discoveries and its public engagement.

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