In 1999, a new World Heritage site was created entitled the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. This brings together some of our greatest Neolithic monuments, from the tomb at Maeshowe, to the Stones of Stenness. But how far was this a purely ‘ritual’ landscape? A major geophysical survey provides important new evidence, which forms a highlight of this special issue of Current Archaeology, devoted to the latest work in Orkney.
Two of the most remarkable new projects both concern the Iron Age, and both appear to be ‘ritual’ – something new for the Iron Age in Orkney. At Mine Howe, a natural mound was dug into, to form a very strange subterranean cell; surrounding it was extensive evidence for metalworking – was metalworking closely connected with ritual in the Iron Age?
A similarly odd site has been investigated at the Knowe of Skea, which again turns out to be Iron Age and to contain numerous burials and an odd building bereft of the usual evidence for domestic occupation; was this some sort of shrine? There is also a fine example of a souterrain or underground chamber from Langskaill.
But what of later Orkney? After the Viking invasions, was there a break between Viking and medieval? At Quoygrew, a major research project is in progress to investigate the story of Orkney from the Vikings onwards.
But we do not neglect other matters. Following the dramatic discovery of Upper Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags (CA 197), Mesolithic engravings are now discovered at Cheddar Gorge.
Finally, we cannot do without the Romans, so we asked Paul Bidwell to give us news of the work being done on the Roman bridge at Corbridge, where Dere Street crosses the river Tyne.
Shorter items of news are no less interesting: an important Late Bronze Age hoard from Norwich, an Anglo-Saxon papal bulla from Herefordshire (the second oldest to be found in Britain), a medieval censer cover from Shropshire, and the oldest shoe so far found in Britain, from an Iron Age well at Burlescombe in Devon.