archaeological science

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Face to face with Cheddar Man

The nearly 10,000-year-old skeleton who came to be known as ‘Cheddar Man’ was found in 1903, in Gough’s Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. In more recent times, his remains have been on display in the Human Origins Hall at the Natural History Museum. Despite his fame, until recently little was known about this individual. Now a team from UCL and the Natural History Museum has successfully sequenced his DNA for the first time, revealing a wealth of details about his physical appearance – with dramatic implications for our understanding of how inhabitants of Mesolithic Britain looked.

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Science Notes – Let’s talk about sex… determination

In the first ‘Science Notes’ (CA 333), we discussed the identification of a possible female Viking warrior using ancient DNA analysis. This is a guaranteed way to confirm sex in human remains, but can be costly, time-consuming, and destructive to the bone, meaning that it is not feasible when a project needs to determine the sex of a large number of skeletons.

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Neolithic wanderings in Wales

The Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in Britain is a widely debated topic, particularly with regard to the role migration played in spreading Neolithic farming practices from the Continent to Britain. Now researchers from Durham University are using isotope analysis to examine the childhood origins of early Neolithic Britons, in an initiative aiming to address this question.

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Science Notes – Laboratory spotlight: Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU)

For this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we went to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU ) to explore the enigmatic process behind radiocarbon (14C) dating, sitting down with Professor Tom Higham, the deputy director of ORAU, and Dr David Chivall, the lab’s chemistry manager, to discuss ORAU’s history, laboratory practices, and current research, as well as future prospects.

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Feeding the ‘builders of Stonehenge’

A newly opened exhibition at Stonehenge documents the diet of the community thought to have been responsible for erecting the main phase of the monument – including the surprisingly far-flung origins of some of their food.

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Excavating the CA archive: archaeological science

Joe Flatman explores half a century of reports from the past. A selection of articles mentioned by Joe Flatman in this month’s column below can be accessed for free for one month via Exact Editions, from 7 December. Use the links within the text to jump to the individual articles, or click on the covers below. […]

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Ruminations on food supply at the Roman fortress of Caerleon

It is a problem not often considered: the difficulty of feeding armies while they are hundreds of miles from home or any of their allies. Previously, it was taken for granted that supplies were procured from local sources. But a new study by Dr Peter Guest and Dr Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University, with colleagues […]

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Review – Skeletons: our buried bones

What can a dozen skeletons tell us about life and death in Britain through the ages? Lucia Marchini visits an exhibition at Leeds City Museum to find out. It is not uncommon for development-led archaeology to uncover human remains – fascinating traces of individuals otherwise lost to history, which often offer intimate insights into their […]

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