Over 4,500 years ago, the Bell Beaker phenomenon swept across much of Europe. The resulting changes to burial practices and technology are clear in the archaeological record, but the origins of these ideas were obscure. Now ancient DNA analysis has revolutionised this picture –and revealed that the impact on the make-up of Britain’s population was no less dramatic than on its material culture.
Excavated human remains are also helping to illuminate another enigma: evidence for early medieval execution cemeteries is relatively rare in this country, but an unusually long-lived example near Andover has revealed invaluable details about sites of this type.
London’s medieval friaries are equally elusive: almost nothing survives above ground, but a study combining maps, archives, and archaeology has reconstructed their stories.
We first reported on Operation Nightingale in 2012 (my first site visit for CA!), and since then the project has gone from strength to strength. The finds it has uncovered, and the benefits it brings to its former service-personnel participants, are inspiring.
If you are feeling inspired to get more involved in archaeology, we have a selection of opportunities in our annual Digs Guide (pp.48-55), as well as full listings (searchable by criteria including cost, historical period, and location) at www.archaeology.co.uk/digs.
Finally, after CA Live! we had some useful discussions about making archaeology open to all. I’d like to emphasise that at CA, we’re always glad to hear from people who want to share their research, and we appreciate that a diverse range of voices telling these stories gives a wider perspective on the past. If you have an idea for a feature, a news article, or a talk for a future CA conference, do get in touch – we’re listening.
IN THIS ISSUE:
Deciphering the DNA of the Bell Beaker Complex
The Bell Beaker Complex was a hugely popular cultural phenomenon that swept through Europe and Britain during the 3rd millennium BC. A recent ancient DNA study, the largest to-date, has now shed new light on its development and, in particular, its staggering impact on the populations of prehistoric Britain.
Exploring an Anglo-Norman execution cemetery
During construction on the outskirts of Andover, an enigmatic cemetery was discovered: jumbled graves whose (mostly young, male) occupants were buried in unusual positions, many with signs of decapitation or mutilation. With evidence mounting that this was a rare Anglo-Saxon execution cemetery, further research was carried out on the site – with surprising results.
Touring the friaries of medieval London
In the wake of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, most of London’s medieval friaries were destroyed or converted for other uses, leaving behind little evidence of their previous lives. But recent research has breathed new life into this medieval urban landscape, creating a detailed monastic map through the combination of archives and archaeology.
The latest manoeuvres of Operation Nightingale
For the past seven years, Operation Nightingale has been working to help injured servicemen and -women by engaging them in archaeology and heritage. It has been remarkably successful. We hear about the latest work being done by the project, from continuing to rescue Barrow Clump from badgers to uncovering former First World War practice trenches.
Packing a punch: boxing gloves found at Vindolanda; Iron Age Orcadian ornament; Mapping medieval maritime merchants; Neolithic causewayed enclosure discovered in Berkshire; Sterling finds from Stirling; Science notes; Searching for the lost monastery of Deer; Finds tray
Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive
New Visions of the Countryside of Roman Britain: Volume 2 – the rural economy of Roman Britain; Maryport: a Roman fort and its community; Roman Britain: the frontier province; Recollections of a Female Archaeologist: a life of Brenda Swinbank; The Ness of Brodgar: digging deeper; Writing Britain’s Ruins
Jorvik Viking Festival 2018
Digs Guide 2018
This special section gives a taste of the projects you can get involved in this summer
A round-up of what happened at CA Live! 2018
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
The Queensbury Tunnel Society