The early medieval cemetery at Sutton Hoo has a long and complex history. Our cover feature explores how a royal burial ground was transformed into a grim place of execution; how interpretations of the site have evolved; and how its wider context traces the Anglo-Saxon story, from pagan immigrants to a Christian kingdom.
New arrivals to these shores were also a feature of the Mesolithic period, when, as Britain’s last Ice Age ended c.11,000 years ago, intrepid groups of humans from continental Europe repopulated the landscape.
From pioneering journeys to pioneering initiatives, this month we mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Treasure Act, and the subsequent birth of the Portable Antiquities Scheme: revolutionary developments aimed at ensuring that finds can be properly recorded and the most important acquired for public collections.
It was also for the public good that Roman citizens pooled their resources to form ‘burial clubs’, cooperative funds for funerary expenses. Might a York cemetery shed further light on how poorer Romans were able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity?
No such care had been shown to a man from Roman London whose skull was found in a pit near the city wall. His battle-scarred features led him to be interpreted as a possible gladiator; we look for traces of these famous fighters in the capital.
Finally, I would like to welcome two new members of the CA team – Joe Flatman, as a contributing editor, and Edward Biddulph, as books editor – and thank my predecessor, Dr Matthew Symonds, who now heads Current World Archaeology. I am excited to be following in his footsteps, and I hope you will enjoy walking with me.
IN THIS ISSUE:
AFTER THE ICE
Exploring Britain 11,000-6,000 years ago
The Mesolithic period was a watershed in British prehistory, when ice sheets retreated and large numbers of people resettled the landscape, but also when rising sea levels cut us off from the Continent.
A wider context for the Sutton Hoo burials
Sutton Hoo is best known for the elite Anglo-Saxon cemetery excavated there in the 1930s, but more recent campaigns tell an even richer tale. We explore how the site can be seen as a local showing of a bigger European drama, with a legacy that still lingers today.
ON THE RECORD
20 years of the Treasure Act
In 1997, the Treasure Act came into force and the Portable Antiquities Scheme was born. We reflect on how these initiatives evolved, and how they have transformed our understanding, and recording, of the past.
THE BURIAL CLUB
Excavating Eboracum’s common people
How did Romans of slender means bury their dead? The discovery of more than 70 graves in York sheds new light on the funerary traditions of its low-status inhabitants in the 2nd-4th centuries AD.
Searching for gladiators in Roman London
Gladiatorial combat is a famous feature of life in ancient Rome, but what do we know about those who fought in London’s amphitheatre?
Tudor traces of Greenwich Palace revealed; More evidence of ritual cannibalism at Gough’s Cave; Unusual Bronze Age hoard found in Cumbria; Brunswick wreck identified in Bristol Port?; Rescuing the Rooswijk; Pictish longhouse unearthed at Burghead Fort?; Multiplying Lufton fishes; Beating London’s bodysnatchers; Finds tray
Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive
Roman ritual at Red Lodge, Suffolk
Medieval monasticism at Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire
Scottish Archaeology Month
Highlights of heritage-themed events taking place this September as part of Scotland’s month-long celebration of archaeology
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
Cardiff Transport Preservation Group