Had you arrived 400,000 years ago, the Thames Estuary would offer a world-class safari. Lions, rhinos, monkeys, and elephants all quenched their thirst near what is now Ebbsfleet. Some never left. One massive bull elephant was brought down by a pack of particularly dangerous predators. As well as daring to take on the massive, 4m-high beast, these hunters picked its carcass clean with flints that they discarded at the scene. This butchery site reveals a rare glimpse of Palaeolithic hominin activity in Britain.
A magnificent Anglo-Saxon hall discovered at Lyminge in Kent would have hosted more refined dining. One of the star finds of 2012, the royal hall is the first of its kind to be dug for a generation. The Kings of Kent, possibly even King Aethelbert himself, may well have been entertained beneath its roof.
Of course, the Romans also knew how to have a good time. Recent work at the sumptuous Chedworth villa has shed new light on life within its walls. As well as appeasing the gods, visitors could relax in the baths, enjoy fine dining, or select a spear from the arsenal of hunting weapons and ape their Palaeolithic predecessors.
Finds being recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme also reveal pursuits both pleasurable and pious. We cast an eye over some fascinating artefacts that demonstrate just how fluid function and meaning can be over time.
Finally, this month our sister-magazine Current World Archaeology celebrates a decade of bringing us the latest digs and discoveries from around the globe. Meanwhile, Oxford Archaeology, one of the UK’s first archaeological units, turns 40. Happy birthday both!
THE EBBSFLEET ELEPHANT
Making a killing in the Thames Estuary
Excavation ahead of the construction of a high-speed railway revealed a Palaeolithic
elephant butchery ground, as well as the bones of a host of exotic animals that inhabited Britain some 400,000 years ago.
DISCOVERING AN ANGLO-SAXON ROYAL HALL
Harnessing community archaeology at Lyminge
Was a monumental hall unearthed beneath Lyminge village green — the largest structure of its kind found in Britain for 30 years — home to the Medieval Kings of Kent?
CHEDWORTH ROMAN VILLA
Life in the Cotswolds then and now
Boasting a set of spectacular mosaics, this luxury residence recently reopened to the
public following a major conservation project. What has this revealed about family, faith, and fine dining in the 4th century?
ARTEFACTS IN THE LIMELIGHT
Recording Britain’s secret treasures
We explore some of the more enigmatic artefacts reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. What can these pieces add to our picture of the past?
Britain’s earliest sheepskin; Scotland’s first loch village; Europe’s oldest bog body; Unearthing Drumhome’s lost monastery; Medieval boating on the Norfolk Broads; Converting views of Roman Norfolk; Street House’s Roman finds enhanced; Swash Channel rudder resurfaces
Investigating an Iron Age tragedy at Ham Hill, Somerset
The Time Team Dig Book; Reflections on the Past; The King’s Grave: the search for Richard III; The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
As one of the UK’s oldest archaeological units approaches its 40th birthday, we catch up with Oxford Archaeology’s Chief Executive Gill Hey about the latest in developer-led archaeology.
The Branch Line Society