Battlefield sites are endlessly debated. Where did the final defeat of Boudica take place? What was the exact location of the Battle of Bosworth? Occasionally archaeologists stumble upon an answer by chance. David Mason has been investigating some mysterious burials overlying the Roman small-town site at Heronbridge just south of Chester. A military earthwork, vicious multiple injuries on the bodies, and a batch of radiocarbon dates clustering around the early 7th century, make it all but certain that he has found the site of the Battle of Chester, fought between Briton and Anglo-Saxon in AD 616.
Then we cross from west to east to hear about the excavation of a Bronze Age barrow near the Humber Estuary. It is a tale in three parts – antiquarian barrow-digging, local society dig, and then a last-minute rescue mission to record the site before the sea destroyed it completely. And it turned out to be more than just a barrow – there was also a Bronze Age henge and a Neolithic long-house.
Our third story takes us to farthest South-West Wales. Carmarthen was one of the most remote towns in the Roman Empire. Heather James has been working there since the 1970s and has just published a major report. It turns out the town never took off: the local bigwigs stayed in the hills, preferring a traditional Iron Age life among their clansmen to Mediterranean-style baths, mosaics and wine!
What happens after a precious and fragile object is dug up? In CA 188 we reported the discovery of a Roman cavalry parade-helmet buried with coin hoards in an Iron Age sanctuary in East Leicestershire. The helmet has since been excavated in the British Museum conservation lab. As the clay was picked away, a face was revealed on the wafer-thin fragments of metal. Was it the emperor himself ? And what was this thoroughly Roman object doing in a British sanctuary?
Our last feature concerns the highest of high-tech. How do you record a priceless artefact like the Lord Mayor’s Coach that is a mass of curves and swirls? The answer is a close-range laser scanner. Befuddled by the science, I went to see Duncan Lees for a practical lesson in the new art of ‘geomatics’ and an explanation of a £30,000 recording project at the Museum of London.
Finally, as well as all the usual regulars, we have Carenza Lewis describing the second phase of Time Team’s Big Roman Dig last summer, and, new to the magazine, Anthony Francis, a veteran field archaeologist based on London, alerts us to a ‘crisis’ at the trowel-face of commercial archaeology.