Articles

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Connecting the dots at Kinneil House

Kinneil House in Bo’ness, just outside Falkirk, is not only a striking 16th- to 17th-century structure, once the principal seat of the wealthy Hamilton family: its estate preserves a rich historic landscape that is also home to a stretch of the Antonine Wall and the only visible example of an Antonine Wall fortlet, as well as the workshop where James Watt perfected the steam engine.

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Science Notes – Weaning ourselves off bone for isotopic analysis?

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.

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Carved in stone: recording Scotland’s prehistoric rock art

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).

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Review – 50 Finds from Worcestershire

The series looking at the stories behind the objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme continues with Worcestershire. Victoria Allnatt, the Finds Liaison Officer for West Staffordshire and the South West Midlands, has selected objects from across the chronological range that are representative of the material routinely recorded (weapons and tools that characterise the Bronze Age records give way to coins and brooches in the Iron Age) or are in some other way special.

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Review – Late Iron Age and Roman Settlement at Bozeat Quarry, Northamptonshire

This volume describes the results of some 20 years of investigation at a site near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The work revealed a pit alignment and cremation burial dating to the Bronze Age or Iron Age, a middle-to- late Iron Age settlement, two Roman-period settlements, and an early-to-mid- Saxon cemetery. Finds included 12 Iron Age coins, early Roman pottery from 14 kilns, a Roman casket burial, and a Saxon buckle with preserved textile.

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Review – Who We Are and How We Got Here

In this fascinating book, geneticist David Reich reveals the origins of modern populations through the study of DNA. The results of analysis of hundreds of bone samples thanks to the ‘ancient DNA revolution’ are remarkable and have the potential to overturn long-held beliefs about identity and cultural change.

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Review – Kingdom, Civitas, and County: the evolution of territorial identity in the English landscape

Conventional wisdom has it that very little of the English landscape can be traced further back than the Anglo-Saxon period; and while DNA and isotopic analyses are starting to identify post-Roman Britons in ostensibly Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, it has long been held that British populations in large parts of England were replaced almost entirely by Germanic settlers. In Kingdom, Civitas, and County, Stephen Rippon demolishes these views, demonstrating that territories and administrative boundaries have endured in some form since prehistoric times and that Britons were key to their survival.

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Review – Axe-heads and Identity: an investigation into the roles of imported axe-heads in identity formation in Neolithic Britain

In the last 15 years, the Implement Petrology Group – its members colloquially known as the mad-axers – has been reinvigorated and has returned to its mid-20th century origins. This is part of a general revival of interest in non-flint lithics, best exemplified by the definitive and highly influential European Project Jade, which puts detailed, modern lithological examination of the artefacts at their core. Indeed, most of this volume can be thought as a continuation of Project Jade.

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Review – The Quest for the Irish Celt: the Harvard Archaeological Mission to Ireland

his book tells the story of the Harvard Archaeological Mission, which worked in Ireland between 1932 and 1936 to explore the Celtic origins of the Irish race. Using now-controversial eugenics ideas, it looked to physically identify a Celtic race in the modern Irish. Its social anthropologists saw 1930s Ireland as a society in transition from a traditional, rural, Celtic way of life to modernity. And its archaeologists sought, through excavation, to find evidence of the Celtic presence in Irish prehistory, linked to Continental European cultures.

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Review – Bodies of Evidence

The whereabouts of some of the estimated 1,700 men who died in captivity after the Battle of Dunar was not known until the discovery of human remains in two pits during building work at the city’s Palace Green Library in 2013. Today, a memorial plaque on the wall outside the library’s courtyard café commemorates those who were found at this spot and those who still lie buried beyond the boundaries of the excavation. It is at this most fitting venue that the exhibition Bodies of Evidence: how science unearthed Durham’s dark secret delves into research behind the identification of the excavated remains.

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