Focusing not so much on marine environments (as the title might suggest) as on wetlands and inland waterways, this book is the latest addition to a series of multi-author volumes exploring the environment of the Anglo-Saxons. Rivers, marshes, landing places, and sacred springs were just some of the important watery places that existed in early medieval England. The nine chapters of this volume explore these features, focusing on some fairly well-researched topics, such as inland waterways, towns, and fishing, and some less familiar ones, like water in Anglo-Saxon poetry and fenland frontiers.
Author: Kathryn Krakowka
Review – Winchester: an archaeological assessment – St Swithun’s ‘City of Happiness and Good Fortune’
Winchester is a city with remarkable historical and archaeological roots. At various times playing a local, national, and international role, the city has been blessed with an unusual amount of attention in the 20th century when it comes to uncovering its past. Whether through schoolboy endeavours, private and municipal enterprise, a major research unit, or commercial organisations, a massive amount of activity has variously been funded, under-funded, and developer-funded – and so the resulting publication record is uneven.
Most of England’s monumental mounds are assumed to be Norman castle mottes built in the period immediately after the Conquest – but could some of them have much earlier origins? Jim Leary, Elaine Jamieson, and Phil Stastney report on a project that set out to investigate some of these mighty constructions.
Scattered across England, a host of monumental mounds have long been interpreted as Norman castle mottes. Large round mounds boast a much earlier pedigree, however – as this month’s cover star, Silbury Hill, attests. A recent project has been investigating whether any sisters to Silbury are hiding in plain sight – with some surprising results.
The nearly 10,000-year-old skeleton who came to be known as ‘Cheddar Man’ was found in 1903, in Gough’s Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. In more recent times, his remains have been on display in the Human Origins Hall at the Natural History Museum. Despite his fame, until recently little was known about this individual. Now a team from UCL and the Natural History Museum has successfully sequenced his DNA for the first time, revealing a wealth of details about his physical appearance – with dramatic implications for our understanding of how inhabitants of Mesolithic Britain looked.
Ancient DNA analysis of an Anglo-Saxon woman from East Anglia, afflicted with leprosy, has indicated that there could be a link between the spread of the disease and squirrels. The discovery adds to the already comparatively high number of medieval leprosy cases from the region.
Archaeological analysis has revealed what is being called a Mesolithic ‘crayon’. It came from the ancient Lake Flixton – now covered in peat – in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire. It is an area rich in prehistory, not least the famous occupation site of Star Carr (see CA 282). Now, a collaborative project between the Universities of York, Chester, and Manchester, studying ochre objects from the lake, has provided new evidence of how our ancestors may have coloured their animal skins and artwork.
A Bronze Age barrow cemetery has been uncovered in Hampshire, along with a connected mortuary enclosure and other possible ritualistic features. After an earlier evaluation by Wessex Archaeology and a geophysical survey by GSB revealed ring ditches, the site’s potential archaeological significance was flagged – and with the area selected for development, Cotswold Archaeology began a 2ha excavation last November, targeting the areas highlighted during the initial investigation.
Post-excavation analysis of the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch, which staged some of Shakespeare’s plays (see CA 316), has revealed new clues to how the Elizabethan playhouse was used. Among the key discoveries revealed by MOLA archaeologists was that the theatre’s stage was the same length as a modern-day fencing piste – 14m from stage left to stage right, and 4.75m deep – making it perfect for performing elaborate fight scenes.
In the first ‘Science Notes’ (CA 333), we discussed the identification of a possible female Viking warrior using ancient DNA analysis. This is a guaranteed way to confirm sex in human remains, but can be costly, time-consuming, and destructive to the bone, meaning that it is not feasible when a project needs to determine the sex of a large number of skeletons.