Jersey and Guernsey are famous for their prehistoric archaeology, but the smaller Channel Island of Sark is less well known. Since 2004, though, Barry Cunliffe has been striving to bring the stories of its earliest inhabitants to light.
Lying closer to France than to Britain, the Channel Islands show close cultural ties to the Continent throughout the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. French connections also abound in our cover feature, which tells the story of an elite Iron Age warrior who was buried in West Sussex with an extraordinary helmet. His remains speak of cross-Channel voyages, refugees fleeing Roman oppression, and Gaulish resistance against Julius Caesar.
Martial splendour also characterises the Staffordshire Hoard, a spectacular collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver that was discovered in 2009. Over a decade on, the full findings of a research project exploring its contents have been published – but why was the hoard buried in the first place?
The Staffordshire Hoard’s almost 4,600 fragments grant unique insights into the 7th-century world in which it was assembled. In stark contrast is a Viking hoard from Herefordshire whose finders tried to sell it instead of reporting their discovery. Four men have since been jailed, and while only 34 of the hoard’s more-than 300 elements have been recovered to date, it is already telling a fascinating tale of a little-known alliance between Alfred the Great and the Mercian king Ceolwulf.
We end this issue as we began, exploring islands off the coast of Britain – though this time rather further to the north. Orkney is home to more than 50 runic inscriptions; this month’s ‘In Focus’ explores some of the stories they preserve.
In This Issue:
SARK: THE UNEXPLORED ISLE
Investigating millennia of isolation and connectivity
Sark, surrounded by its steep cliffs, has been a challenging destination throughout history but the island’s archaeology reveals a tale of human activity spanning thousands of years, from Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to Bronze Age trade and medieval monasteries.
Reconstructing the life and times of an Iron Age warrior
Who was the evidently elite individual laid to rest in West Sussex at the time of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, accompanied by elaborate martial regalia including a unique helmet? We explore a story of Continental connections, conflict refugees, and resistance against Rome.
SMITH’S CACHE, ROYAL TREASURE, SACRIFICE, OR SPOILS OF WAR?
Why was the Staffordshire Hoard buried?
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever found. But what does it represent? We consider some possible scenarios behind its being committed to the ground
THE HEREFORDSHIRE VIKING HOARD
Unpicking the story of a stolen treasure
The theft of a significant Viking hoard found near Leominster came to light during court proceedings last year. With most of its contents still missing, what can 34 recovered objects, combined with information about the landscape in which they were buried, tell us about Anglo-Saxon England? A surprising amount, it seems.
AN OPEN BOOK?
Exploring Orkney’s runic inscriptions
Over 50 examples of writing in runes have been found in Orkney, mainly carved into the walls of Maeshowe chambered tomb, but also seen on tools, jewellery, and other everyday objects and scrap material. Ranging from Christian prayers to more light-hearted messages, what stories do these voices from the past preserve?
Walberton’s ‘warrior’ burial; Medieval remains under Somerset House; Anglo-Saxon buildings beneath Bath Abbey; Medieval priestly burial found at Lincoln Cathedral; Roman discoveries in Llanwern; Science Notes; Durham City’s ‘earliest inhabitant’ identified; Finds Tray
The Barrow Clump fork: reconstructing the story of a prisoner of war
Island story: La Hougue Bie, Jersey
Early Medieval Settlement in Upland Perthshire: Excavations at Lair, Glen Shee 2012-17; The Medieval Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital and the Bishopsgate Suburb: Excavations at Spitalfields Market, London E1, 1991-2007; 50 Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme; Britannia Surveyed: new light on early Roman Britain through the work of military surveyors; The Beau Street, Bath Hoard; Into the Wildwoods: explore the Mesolithic in Scotland’s native woodlands
Acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions
Our selection of exhibitions and events
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
The Isle of Wight Society
Have all this delivered directly to your door every month – click here to find out more about subscribing to Current Archaeology, the UK’s favourite archaeology magazine.