What did the Romans do for us? Aside from sanitation, roads, and many other technological and engineering innovations that were introduced to these shores during imperial occupation, their arrival also transformed Britain’s religious landscape. With the Roman army came not only knowledge of the Classical pantheon, but also more exotic mystery cults and gods from the eastern fringes of the empire – including Christianity.
Would you walk under a ladder? Could you stab the image of a loved one? A new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford brings together artefacts, documents, and artwork to explore the magical thinking behind questions like these over the centuries. Lucia Marchini went along to find out more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The popular (and beautifully illustrated) series exploring Portable Antiquities Scheme finds in different areas continues with a slim volume focused not on a region, but on all of medieval England.