CA203The finest Celtic art for a generation has recently been unearthed at South Cave,  in Yorkshire. A hoard of Iron Age swords in their finely decorated scabbards  reveals the superb artistry of the Iron Age craftsmen. Most of such metalwork –  and Britain is well endowed with it – has come from chance finds in rivers or as  surface finds. But at South Cave, near Hull, metal-detectorists saw the ends of  scabbards just clipped by ploughing, and they called in the Humber Archaeology  field unit to excavate. David Evans gives us a firsthand account of his discoveries.

Big digs are still happening. We look at a huge excavation at Llandygai  near Bangor in North Wales producing evidence of early Neolithic rectangular  buildings – are they ceremonial or domestic? As is often the case, though, work on  this scale reveals human activity from almost every period, from early Prehistoric  times to modern – with a gap in the Middle Ages.

Traprain Law has been an iconic site in Scottish archaeology ever since the  discovery there in 1919 of a great hoard of late Roman silverware, much of it cut  up ready for re-cycling. The hillfort, near Edinburgh, was the tribal capital of the  Votadini. New excavations emphasize, however, that Traprain’s story goes much  further back in time. Bronze Age finds begin to look more like evidence for a  sizeable hilltop settlement rather than casual activity, and there is even a possibility  of Neolithic settlement as well. Could one call Traprain a Bronze Age town?

The Romans undertook some of their bloodiest fighting in North-West Wales,  yet their forts have been little known. Now brilliant fieldwork by David Hopewell  using geophysical methods has not only confirmed the existence of these forts, but  has revealed in startling clarity the layouts of their interiors, and of the extensive  complex of operations, military and civilian stretching for some distance in all  directions around the forts.

On three separate occasions, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Tutbury  Castle in Staffordshire. This had been one of the great Medieval strongholds  which, like better-known Nottingham, guarded the Midlands and provided a  gateway to the North. Now under proper excavation for the first time, the history  of the castle, and perhaps even Mary’s dingy accommodation is being revealed.

News brings reports on the Roman soldiers executed at York, possible rock art  from the chambered tomb at Barclodiad y Gawres on Anglesey, an important Iron  Age warrior burial at Dunbar – together with a splendid Anglo-Saxon skillet or  ‘saucepan’ from Shalfleet on the Isle of Wight. Then there is a marvellous example  of Gothic art in an extremely rare ‘double leopard’ or double florin of Edward III –  the very first gold issue of the later medieval period, and a disturbing  account of the sale of the Anglo-Saxon Coenwulf coin.

This issue also sees the publication of our annual Archaeology Handbook.  This supplies all the indispensable information for archaeologists, ranging  from lists of all the archaeological societies, to details of where you can find a  dig to experience archaeology for yourself. And there is also our guide to  everything you wanted to know about archaeology in Britain but were afraid  to ask – ranging from an explanation of PPG 16 – to that perpetual question  how can I get a job in archaeology?

This is issued free to all subscribers, so have a good read now, and then  keep it as a work of reference for the rest of the year.

Leave a Reply