Sponsor of the 2020 Rescue Project of the Year award.

The award for Rescue Project of the Year 2020 was won by ‘Roman writing on the wall: recording inscriptions at a Hadrian’s Wall quarry’.

Julian Richards (left) presents the award for Rescue Project of the Year, which is collected by Jon Allison (right) at the Current Archaeology Awards.

Julian Richards (left) presents the award for Rescue Project of the Year, which is collected by Jon Allison (right) at the Current Archaeology Awards. [Photo credit: Adam Stanford, Aerial-Cam]

Adventurous archaeologists who abseiled down the face of an ancient Roman quarry near Hadrian’s Wall to record rapidly eroding 3rd-century graffiti have won 2020’s award for Rescue Project of the Year.

The Written Rock of Gelt, a sandstone outcrop in a Cumbrian wood 5.5km from the Roman frontier, is covered with inscriptions (as well as carved faces and phallic imagery) left by 3rd-century soldiers who were tasked with quarrying stone to help repair Hadrian’s Wall.

These markings represent a unique historical record, but exposure to dripping water and the weather was rapidly wearing them away. A recent project by Historic England and Newcastle University saw archaeologists using cutting-edge technology to document these markings and to preserve their insights into the area’s Roman past before they were lost forever – efforts that saw the team lowering themselves down the sheer quarry face on ropes to access inscriptions that today lie 10m above the ground.

The award for Rescue Project of the Year was accepted by by Jon Allison of Newcastle University, who led the team of researchers.

Jon Allison said: ‘It was very pleasing to receive the award at Currently Archaeology Live! on behalf of myself, Historic England and Newcastle University. It was doubly pleasing for me because the Written Rock of Gelt is one of thirteen Roman quarries that I am currently researching which would have supplied Hadrian’s Wall. The quarries are the only known examples that survive with inscribed text and sculpture.’

Mike Collins from Historic England addedWe are delighted that our partnership with Newcastle University to investigate and record the Roman inscriptions at Gelt Forest has been recognised through such a prestigious award. This work, and particularly that of the project lead Jon Allison, has safeguarded the fascinating information contained in these carvings for future generations. It has also given a wide range of people virtual access to a site which was previously inaccessible.’

A digital record of the inscriptions can be seen at: https://sketchfab.com/historicengland/collections/written-rock-of-gelt

Below are all the nominees in this category:


An Anglo-Saxon Enigma: encountering a cherished Cotswold child

(Cotswold Archaeology / Operation Nightingale / Breaking Ground Heritage, CA 356)

The discovery of a high-status but enigmatic Anglo-Saxon burial in a field near Tetbury was part of archaeological work intended to gain information about the site and protect it from future ploughing regimes. The fragile nature and importance of the find made further investigation vital. 
Read the full article here.


Roman writing on the wall: recording inscriptions at a Hadrian’s wall quarry

(Jon Allison / Newcastle University / Historic England, CA 351)

A Roman quarry wall etched with inscriptions by 3rd-century soldiers responsible for repairing parts of Hadrian’s Wall was exposed to the elements and at risk of erosion. Cutting-edge technology has been used used to document these markings and to preserve their insights into the area’s Roman past.  
Read the full article here.


You are what you eat? Excavating the Oxford Jewry

(Oxford Archaeology, CA 350)

Excavations in the heart of Oxford unearthed some of the city’s earliest-known Anglo-Saxon structures, and remarkable evidence for the medieval city’s Jewish inhabitants, such as animal-bone assemblages that match Jewish dietary law.  
Read the full article here.


Underneath the Abbey: uncovering more than 1,000 years of religious life in Bath

(Wessex Archaeology, CA 348)

A project to repair Bath Abbey’s collapsing floor and improve its facilities gave an opportunity to investigate a millennium of religious activity at the site, including the remains of the lost medieval cathedral, once one of the largest in England, and traces of the Anglo-Saxon monastery that preceded it.
Read the full article here.


Life among the Dead: revealing riverside rites at Trumpington

(Cambridge Archaeological Unit, CA 348)

CAU’s excavations ahead of housing developments uncovered important evidence of the site’s ceremonial use in prehistory, including unusual burials from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, and an Iron Age settlement close to the monuments. 
Read the full article here.


Conserving the Calder Stones: how a chambered tomb travelled from Liverpool to London

(Orbis Conservation, CA 347)

Commissioned by The Reader, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Liverpool City Council, this project saw the Calder Stones, monoliths from a prehistoric passage tomb, travel from Liverpool to Orbis’ conservation workshop in Greenwich for expert cleaning and consolidation, before being redisplayed back in Liverpool.
Read the full article here.


Voting has now closed

Leave a Reply