As this month’s contribution to the ‘great excavations’ mini-series, I turn my attention to a ‘great’ project of Anglo-Saxon archaeology: Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The site is one of the best-known in the country thanks to the stunning array of high-status grave goods recovered during the 1939 excavations and displayed in the British Museum since the late 1940s. But in this column I want to focus not on the objects but rather on the two great post-war phases of fieldwork undertaken on the site between 1965 and 1971, led by Rupert Bruce-Mitford, and then again between 1983 and 1992, led by Martin Carver. With CA having launched in March 1967, the timing of these projects coincides perfectly with the emergence and growth of the magazine.
In last month’s ‘great excavations’ mini-series (CA 337), I mentioned the then editor’s suggestion in CA 8 (May 1968) that ‘one of the Roman towns like Silchester or Wroxeter that are ploughed every year’ be excavated by the BBC as an example of public archaeology – Time Team before the Team, so to speak. With Silchester featured last month, it is worth turning to the other site mentioned, Wroxeter – a well-known Roman site near Shrewsbury. It is a site familiar, I am sure, to many readers of CA for its impressive upstanding remains.
In this latest column exploring ‘great excavations’ (a mini-series that we began last month), I turn my attention to the Roman period. Everyone loves a good Roman site – to visit as much as to dig – and CA can modestly argue to have set the ball rolling on the excavation of at least one such site. It is a challenger for the crown of ‘great excavation’: the Iron Age settlement and (from the mid-1st century AD onwards) Roman town of Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum). Located on the northern edge of Hampshire, it has been subject to nearly constant excavation by the University of Reading since 1974.
By any standards, one of the ‘great’ archaeologists of our age is Francis Pryor, a prehistorian who has featured regularly in the pages of CA and whose work – on site, in countless publications, on television, and more recently online – has profoundly shaped our thinking about the past. The site that Pryor is synonymous with, Flag Fen near Peterborough, first appeared in CA 87 (June 1983) – more on that later.