Author: Kathryn Krakowka

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Prehistoric pop culture: deciphering the DNA of the Bell Beaker Complex

More than 4,500 years ago, a hugely popular cultural phenomenon – today known as the Bell Beaker Complex – captured the prehistoric imagination, flourishing across much of Europe. Archaeologists are still deliberating over how this Complex, first identified in the 19th century, developed so quickly and effectively. Now the largest ancient DNA study to-date has shed revolutionary new light on the question, with surprising implications for our understanding of ancient populations – particularly that of Britain, which seems to have undergone an almost complete genetic turnover in just a few centuries.

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Current Archaeology 338

Over 4,500 years ago, the Bell Beaker phenomenon swept across much of Europe. The resulting changes to burial practices and technology are clear in the archaeological record, but the origins of these ideas were obscure. Now ancient DNA analysis has revolutionised this picture –and revealed that the impact on the make-up of Britain’s population was […]

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Packing a punch: boxing gloves found at Vindolanda

Vindolanda, the Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall, is known for its treasure trove of well-preserved Roman archaeology, and this past excavation season has proved to be one of the most successful yet. The team has been excavating a pre-Hadrianic cavalry barracks, where they uncovered finds including complete swords, copper-alloy horse gear, leather shoes, bath clogs, combs, dice, and a small hoard of wafer-thin writing tablets, many of which bore fine examples of ancient cursive script (see CA 330).

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Iron Age Orcadian ornament

Perched above Windwick Bay on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, the site known as The Cairns has been under continuous excavation by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands for several years. Although best known for its Iron Age broch (see CA 275), it seems that the area continued to be used even after this structure fell into ruin around the mid-2nd century AD. Recent radiocarbon dates are now shedding new light on this post-broch occupation, particularly on how it reflects the shifting social structure of late Iron Age Scotland.

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Mapping medieval maritime merchants

Researchers at the University of Southampton have undertaken the mammoth task of mapping the complex network of merchant trading routes and ports that operated during the late medieval and Tudor periods. The project team analysed 50,000 ship movements between more than 600 ports in England and Wales from AD 1400-1580, scouring heaps of data from custom accounts, navy payrolls, and national ship surveys.

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Neolithic causewayed enclosure discovered in Berkshire

A Neolithic causewayed enclosure has been unearthed at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet. Lying within the Middle Thames Valley, a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle, it forms part of a well-populated Neolithic landscape that is already known to be home to a plethora of cursus monuments, timberframed houses, and middens. The discovery was made by Wessex Archaeology as part of an archaeological programme for CEMEX UK (a cement and aggregate supplier).

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Sterling finds from Stirling

Two sites in Stirling are revealing new evidence of the castle and burgh’s inhabitants over the decades, from the medieval period through to the modern day, thanks to post-excavation analysis by GUARD archaeology. more than 2,000 artefacts – ranging from medieval pottery and 17th-century clay tobacco pipes to a more modern iron knife and a First World War Austrian army belt buckle – provide a snapshot of the town and castle through the years.

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Pondering the possibilities of proteomics

The application of proteomics, or the analysis of proteins, to archaeology is a fairly recent phenomenon – it only became viable thanks to developments in high-throughput, high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry – and archaeological scientists are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the many ways in which this technique might be used. Its potential is exciting, however.

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Searching for the lost monastery of Deer

Recent excavations in a field near the ruins of Deer Abbey in Aberdeenshire have provided the most compelling evidence so far for the remains of the monastery where the 10th-century Book of Deer may have been written and illuminated.

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Review – Early Bronze Age Round Barrows of the Anglo-Welsh Border

This volume, a PhD thesis, is a detailed study of round barrows in the central and northern Anglo-Welsh borderland. This is an under-researched region, as other scholars have tended to focus their studies where barrows are densely clustered or have seen extensive antiquarian excavations. The book begins with an overview of approaches to round barrows and their settings, and a useful synthesis of evidence for prehistoric settlement in the study area.

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