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We conclude our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the final sessions on Saturday.

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After lunch, there were just two sessions left of this year’s conference, and it had gone all too quickly. The next session was entitled ‘Experiments in Archaeology’ and was presented by Karly Hilts, Deputy Editor of Current Archaeology magazine.

Ryan Watts from Butser Ancient Farm was first up, talking about ‘Past, Present, Future: 40 Years of Experimental Archaeology’, and gave us a quick run down of Butser’s 42 year history. Initially set up by Peter Reynolds to aid research in archaeological interpretation of earthworks and other constructions, the first Open Day was held in 1974, and was so successful that the entire site had to move to a new, larger location. As funding for experimental projects can be scarce, Butser worked to become self sustaining, largely through an education program which now sees around 30,000 schoolchildren pass through its gates each year. Visiting groups from schools, universities, U3A, WI etc all help to fund the research, which is as much about destruction as it is construction. The way in which buildings deteriorate and collapse over time can be extremely informative. The original prehistoric scope of the project has now extended to include construction of a Roman villa, and a new Saxon Hall was completed just the day before the conference. This joins the existing Neolithic houses, based upon excavated building footprints from Durrington and elsewhere. Education and Research remain the main principles behind the site, and public visitors are welcome during the summer months.

Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock then gave an update on their latest findings in ‘Secrets of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith: Conservation and Scientific Research of the Staffordshire Hoard’. Pieta showed us some stunning pictures of some of the more than 4000 pieces representing a few hundred objects. The use of many of the fragments remains a mystery. “Reconstructing a helmet from its foils is like reconstructing a house when you only have its wallpaper”. Eleanor then gave an in-depth insight into the scientific analysis of the gold in the objects. Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths added copper and silver to their gold to create alloys – to change its working properties and colour, and these alloys corrode at different rates. Copper in particular will be lost in the ground, but surface analysis showed that much silver was lost too – up to 40% in some cases, where 1% is more usual in a burial environment. Looking below this surface loss, the core composition of some pieces showed a similar depletion, so obviously not something that happened in the ground. Investigation into the ways that silver can be removed from gold alloys in this way led to just 4 possible techiniques for enrichment and depletion. It seems that the A-S goldsmiths were more highly skilled that previously thought, using the different alloy combinations not for the cost factor, but to produce contrast in an artistic manner.

Zena Kamash was next on the agenda, with a talk entitled ‘Digesting the Romans’. no, this wasn’t about Roman menus, but about 3D printing and a project to help people experience museum exhibitions in different ways – through poetry and through 3D models!  The 3D process involves first laser-scanning an object to build up a digital model which can then be ‘printed’ using a variety of materials. This prompted a question of whether 3D models belong in museum display cases at all – there are several famous replica objects in museums already, but the team recently 3D printed the Roman cockerel found in a child grave at Cirencester – the ‘Corinium Cockerel‘  with mixed results – the final model is quite ‘sticky’ and malleable in places, and brittle in others. 3D printing is not yet a perfect process – dirt on a laser scan resulted in several imperfect models being produced., and several of these aborted attempts were available during the following teabreak for people to handle for themselves. To go along with the images of the cockerel and the models, a poem composed by poet Dan Simpson was played to the audience, and the talk finished with another of Dan’s poems, ‘The Museum of Replicas‘, which caused some amusement, and took us into the final tea break and a last chance to spend money on books in the Archaeology Fair.

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Following the teabreak, Julian Richards, Neil Faulkner and Ray Baldry briefly took to the stage to announce that the impromptu collection for the Sedgeford project, to allow for isotope analysis of some of the remains to determine if they were local, settlers or invaders had raised (including Gift Aid) a sum approaching £1000, which was duly presented to Ray Baldy who expressed his extreme gratitude to everyone who had contributed. A very successful crowdfunding effort, and we look forward to reading about the results of the analysis in a future issue of Current Archaeology magazine!

crowdfunding

The last session of the day finally arrived, and David Breeze told us about ‘Hadrian’s Wall – 40 years of research on the Roman frontier’. David began with a quick rundown of early research of Hadrian’s Wall, through the 1800s and early 1900’s. The first chronology for the wall was proposed in 1909, and refined twenty years later.  These early chronologies suggested that the wall was rebuilt in it’s entirety several times during its active life. Showing several illustrations of the wall, David questioned why it was so ‘tidy’, and why was there a walkway on top when other frontiers walls didn’t have this feature? Looking at modern frontiers and barriers, the Berlin Wall, the West Bank etc., these are all much simpler in construction and designed to control people, not soldiers. Documented evidence suggests people could only move within the  Roman frontier zones with permits. Identification of obstacle pits between the wall and ditch (also seen at the Antonine Wall) brings into question whether a wall walk was needed at all, and looking at the wall’s place in the landscape, it’s not always best placed for visibility or defence. Looking at the forts along the wall, many are earlier than the wall itself which was then built in front of the older forts, with new forts incorporated into it. Discovery of large civil settlements on either side of the wall also suggest that the wall was not a definitive barrier, leaving – as always – many questions still to investigate and answer.

Ending the conference, Andrew Selkirk, Editor in Chief regaled us with a brief summary of the previous two days in his own inimitable style. Then it was all over, for another year. However, for the Romanists there will be another 3-day conference in September at Durham University, following up on David’s talk and focusing upon ‘Hadrian’s Wall: 40 Years of Frontier Research’.

But I’ll hope to be back again at Senate House next year, for another enthralling conference, CALive! 2017

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We continue our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the Saturday sessions.

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We reconvened at Senate House once again on Saturday morning for the first session of the day, ‘The Osteology of Trauma’, introduced by Neil Faulkner, editor of Military History Monthly magazine.

First up was Ray Baldry with ‘Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons – That Fateful Day’.  Only around 30% of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Sedgeford has been excavated so far, with over 400 skeletons found. Eight of these – all tall, strong men – show signs of ‘severe hit trauma’ and wounds associated with armed combat – sharp weapon trauma to arms bones and skull. One poor victim had lost the left half of his face, which had been cleaved off – horrific, brutal injuries. Looking at a second group of three men, it was interesting to hear how trauma fractures can be traced to specific defensive actions (identified by some experimental archaeology: “when I tried this on my son…”) For instance, forearm trauma associated with a partial skull cut shows a successful defence of an axe attack, but only partially – a second axe cut pierced the skull. But some of the skeletons showed no sign of defence – executions? If so, which came first, the conflict or the executions? Trying to analyse trading routes and possible Viking raiding parties as an explanation requires more precise dating evidence, but as a charity the SHARP project is financially constrained (however, see below).

Louise Loe then told us about the Ridgeway Hill Vikings in ‘Death on the Ridgeway: Analysis of a Viking Age Mass Grave discovered near Weymouth’.  The grave was uncovered in 2009 during construction work for a relief road built for the 2012 Olympics. The burials were all male, mostly young, dating to the 10th-11th centuries. All had been decapitated and thrown into a disused Roman quarry, the heads being tossed to one side. Splinters of bone found in the soil suggest graveside executions. Isotope analysis shows they were from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland and the Baltic states, and hadn’t been in England long when they died. Study of the bones showed an average of four wounds per execution victim, most beheadings having been ‘hacked off’, rather than taken cleanly. There was some thought given to the idea that the cleaner executions in  the group were either done earlier when the blade was sharp, or later when the executioner had had more practice and had ‘got into his swing’. Many of the men had put up a defence, with sword trauma on hands and arms, and many of the victims had disabilities or some form of  physical impairment. Despite their Scandinavian origins, it is unlikely the victims were Viking warriors. So more questions to be answered with further analysis.

Dr Martin Smith then described ‘The Children of Cain, Making sense of Neolithic violence’. He explained that the Neolithic is generally considered a peaceful time, with few obvious weapons. However, a pattern is appearing in prehistoric skulls of ‘healed trauma’, skull depression injuries often explained as prehistoric people ‘banging their heads on caves’! But we also were shown some unhealed trauma injuries, and Martin compared living bone fractures to chocolate, and dead bone fracture to biscuits – an interesting image. Moving on to projectile injuries there was an interesting comparison between shotgun wound trauma and arrow or slingshot injuries. Flint arrowheads shot into cattle and pig scapulas showed nice clean holes.  Turning to look at various sites across Europe, several show signs of mass attack where occupants were violently killed, often from behind (running away?) Many Neolithic mass graves across Europe include men, women, and children, but no young adult females; perhaps kidnapped as they were of childbearing age? Statistics suggest 1 in 8 Neolithic people suffered violent trauma to the head. Some possible reasons for such violence were discussed: Neolithic people were herders and farmers, so could support bigger families. This could have led to greater rivalry for resources/wives. Inequality often leads to violence – the haves and have-nots.

Just before we broke for a refreshment break, during which the Archaeology Fair was once again packed out, Julian Richards grabbed the microphone and suggested that as there was so much interest in Ray Baldry’s talk, and there was no money for dating analysis, that a voluntary collection should be made from the conference delegates. To this end, a makeshift collection box was set up, and donations poured in…

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Back to the talks, and the late morning session leading up to lunch described ‘Warfare in Roman Britain’, and was introduced by Matt Symonds, editor of Current Archaeology.

Mike Bishop, editor of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies  ushered into the hall a couple of members of the Ermine Street Guard for his talk, ‘The Detritus of War or Peace?’ – a wonderful piece of one-upmanship in the visual aids area!

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Mike explained that Roman military equipment is rare, and only found in specific circumstances. This affects what we can say about the Roman army in battle. Classicists and military historians have to largely rely on written sources for evidence on battle. Sculptures can also be useful for interpretation. Looking at physical evidence for Roman equipment, it seems that hobnails were commonly lost, and can sometimes provide evidence for ‘lost’ Roman roads. The various parts of the Roman armour/dress were explained – the army adopted and adapted equipment and techniques. Lorica segmentata armour sheds parts “like a Mk 3 Land Rover, and has the same corrosive issues”, leather straps linking the metal strips of the armour seem not to have been tanned and are not found except via traces of mineralisation. Roman law stated that soldiers mustn’t lose their sword, shield, or helmet (upon pain of death), and intact helmets are rarely found, except as votive offerings in rivers though helmet components are sometimes found due to re-use and repair. There is little evidence for Roman battle in Britain – the famous Maiden Hill skeleton with a ‘ballista bolt’ was in fact shot with a javelin head (it has the wrong profile for a ballista bolt).

Phillip Crummy then told us about ‘Boudicca, Colchester and Buried Treasure’, talking about Boudicca’s legacy in the Roman town, which is clearly delineated by the burnt area. Archaeology confirms that Colchester’s defensive ditches had been filled in and its town wall post-dates the Boudiccan attack so the town would have been essentially defenceless against the Iceni. After comparison of different descriptions of Boudicca and the Gauls, focus changed to the Fenwick Hoard which included Gold earrings, bracelets and silver cuffs. Three large silver arm bands were armilla – military awards – but there was also gold female jewellery present, as well as a bulla – an amulet given to a baby boy and worn throughout childhood. Many of the male items included panther imagery, a possible link to the owner’s nickname perhaps? It is thought that the hoard was hurriedly buried as the Iceni were about to attack the town, in the hopes of later retrieval, but the finds are now just a sign of human catastrophe, as Phillip drew comparisons with modern Syria “will we ever learn?”

Finishing off the morning session, John Reid told us of ‘The Roman Siege of Burnswark Hill‘ in Dumfriesshire, about a day’s march north of Hadrian’s Wall. Two Roman camps have been discovered north and south of the hill. The hillfort is covered in projectiles, many lead slingshots, stone ballista bolts and arrowheads, and the topology of the camp entrances would allow fast movement of troops from the camps. The standard interpretation is of a siege, but could it have been an artillery range? Analysis of the projectile scatter provided some clues and experimental archaeology showed that whilst a ‘lobbing’ method allows projectiles to travel up to 300m, a lower, horizontal action allows much greater accuracy at the expense of range (circa 100m), and can be as powerful as a .45 Magnum! Three types of shot were recovered, a lemon shape, an acorn shape (much rarer) and a third type which was pierced. Experimenting again, there was little difference in accuracy for the first two, but the third was less accurate, and whistled. Could this have been to terrify the enemy? Metal detectors have been used to locate used slingshot a Burnswark – but not excavated as the stratigraphy there is very delicate, with deposits just 3″ deep in most places. Of over 2600 targets, based on trial trenching nearly 700 are almost certainly lead sling bullets. Their distribution suggests a line of attack from the south, and the use of ‘live’ ammo i.e. lead, suggests a true attack rather than a practice run. A fascinating piece of research, which continues.

With a reminder that Current Archaeology will be holding a conference focussing on Hadrian’s Wall, in Durham in September, Matt brought the session to a close for lunch.

Once again, lunchtime seems a reasonable time to take a break here, and we’ll finish off this conference review in Part 4, later today.

Previous installments:

Once again, the first day of the Current Archaeology Live  conference this year was concluded with a short Awards ceremony. These awards are especially important as they are voted for by the readership of the magazine, and thus reflect their interests. The awards were sponsored by Historic England, Oxbow Books, Oxford University Press and Export and General Insurance Services Ltd.

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The first award, ‘Photo of the Year’ , was sponsored by Andante Travel, and judged by Adam Stanford, of Aerial-Cam. It was won by Shuo Huang, for a stunning photograph of the Easter Island statues.

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As in previous years, there were several categories to vote for:

  • Research Project of the Year
  • Rescue Dig of the Year
  • Book of the Year
  • Archaeologist of the Year

The nominations for each award were as follows, the winner of each is indicated in Bold Type:

Research Project of the Year

  • Digging Sedgeford: A people’s Archaeology
  • Burrough Hill: Signs of Life in a Midlands hillfort
  • Vindolanda: Revelations from the Roman frontier
  • Bannockburn: Scotland’s seminal battlefield rediscovered
  • Recapturing Berkeley Castle: One trench, 1,500 years of English history
  • Rewriting the origin of the broch builders: Exploring fortifications and farming at Old Scatness

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Rescue Dig of the Year

  • The Drumclay crannog-dwellers: revealing 1,000 years of lakeside living
  • Death on Ridgeway Hill: how science unlocked the secrets of a mass grave
  • Excavating Barrow Clump: soldier archaeologists and warrior graves
  • Coast to coast: recording England’s vanishing heritage
  • The London’s burning: a 17th century warship sunk in the Thames
  • The Fenwick Treasure: Colchester during the Boudiccan War of Independence

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Book of the Year

  • Celtic Art in Europe: Making Connections
  • Thinking Big
  • The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland
  • Caithness Archaeology: aspects of prehistory
  • Hadrian’s Wall, a history of archaeological thought
  • Objects and Identities: Roman Britain and the North-Western Provinces

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Archaeologist of the Year

  • Philip Crummy
  • Vincent Gaffney
  • Roberta Gilchrist

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Information and articles on all the above nominees can be found on the Current Archaeology  web site. Our hearty congratulations go out to all the winners!

Winners

We continue our review of Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CALive!’ conference held recently in Senate House in London, picking up the action after lunch on the first day.

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The afternoon session on Friday was dedicated to Current Archaeology’s sister magazine, World Archaeology, and was introduced by Caitlin McCall, editor of the magazine. The session was titled ‘Around the Ancient World’, and looked at how the movement of people in three areas at different times affected three very different civilisations.

Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe first told us of ‘The Birth of Eurasia’, pointing out that humans are acquisitive, items can instil power, and explaining how acquisition of items is motivation to travel. His talk took us from the spread of Neolithic settled culture from the Fertile Crescent, through to seeing horses being milked in Mongolia! The tectonics and ecology of Eurasia encourage E-W mobility, but early eastern civilisations were constrained by ecology, leading to the quote “Domestication of horses on the Steppe was more important than man walking on the moon!” This eventually led to a predatory nomad culture (viz. Ghenghis Khan) and the development of the Silk Road for trade.

Professor Ray Laurence then spoke about ‘Roman Roads: Movement, Migration and Mobility’, and how one of his students attempted to walk from Canterbury to Rome, finding that the Alps are a major obstacle! Any mobility in Roman times required the appropriate infrastructure; roads, bridges, milestones etc. We heard about the huge increase in the population of Rome between 200BC and 50BC, with Livy reporting huge numbers of migrants in 186BC. Roman roads were famed from the earliest times, and material culture and ideas can be traced expanding along their routes, with many roads showing signs (e.g. Milestone inscriptions) of having been ‘restored’ rather than ‘built’ – a strong indicator of their great age. The roads were as important to the Roman State as money, temples etc, in controlling who could go where, with many stopping places reserved for use by high ranking officials only.

Andrew Robinson then highlighted one of the great ‘lost’ civilisations, that of the Indus Valley. We learned that the civilisation flourished from 3000BC and started to decline around 1900BC. Alexander the Great was not aware of the civilisation, and it was not really known to archaeology until the 1920s, despite covering an area equivalent to 25% of Western Europe. The site at Mohenjo-Daro was shown, including pictures of the ‘Great Bath’ – a huge public water tank over 2 metres deep. The culture was very different from Egypt and Mesopotamia, there were no pyramids or statues, but many spectacular buildings survive. They were mainly a water-borne trading people, with connections to Mesopotamia. Climate change is one possibility for their decline, and flooding in the area is still a problem today. Salination is slowly destroying the brickwork on many sites.

During the coffee break we had time to take another look around the Archaeology Fair which included bookstalls and other archaeology related companies. Oxbow Books had arranged a display which included the nominations for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year award (of which more tomorrow).

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It was then time for the Keynote speech from Prof. Mike Fulford of Reading University, ‘Silchester after the Town Life project: chasing the Iron Age, chasing Nero’, which began by taking a look at the Iron Age town discovered below Insula IX at Silchester. The town is situated in a rural setting, but as we were told, it had far reaching trade connections as a home of the Atrebates, who originated in NW Gaul. We then saw some of the finds from the area, including some stunning imported glassware, and were told about the ongoing research in the area. Gravel pits associated with the town’s construction have been found to the west, and we heard about excavations last year at nearby Pond Farm. Nero was next, and his connection with the town is due to discovery of his name on some bricks. The only other known ‘Nero bricks’ are in Northern Italy – the bricks at Silchester are unique in Britain. Returning to Silchester, plans are afoot to excavate part of Insula III – previous excavations there did not match the plans drawn up by Victorian diggers at all, so many questions remain.

There was a brief Q&A session for Mike, but time caught us all up, and it was soon time to move across the hallway for the Reception and Awards ceremony. Check back tomorrow to read about the winners.

Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CALive!’ conference recently returned to Senate House in London and the Heritage Journal was there throughout, assisting in live Tweeting the event once again.

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As in previous years, the two days of the conference were split into 3 sessions each, with a Keynote speech and the Awards ceremony on the Friday. Traditionally, the conference opens with a specifically prehistoric flavour and this year’s ‘In Search of the Prehistoric’, introduced as usual by Julian Richards did not disappoint, although there was a slight hiccough when the first scheduled speaker of the session, Dr Francis Pryor, was held up due to transportation issues.

Last minute preparations!

Last minute preparations!

A minor reshuffle of the schedule saw Dr Lindsey Büster from the University of Bradford open by telling us about her work with ‘Ancestral Homes: the Late Iron Age Roundhouses at Broxmouth, SE Scotland’. An intriguing site, covering almost 800 years of occupation, with stone-built roundhouses which pre-date the Roman era by some time. Indeed, we were told that at Broxmouth, “roundhouses come in all shapes and sizes”. Looking at one house in particular, it seems to have been built in 5 separate stages, each stage being built on (and inside?) the last, reducing living space at each stage. Interestingly, it seems that similar artefacts were deposited in the same relative locations throughout the life of the house, providing continuity of curated items and imbuing the houses with their own biographies.

Mark Knight, from the Cambridge Archaeology Unit then regaled us with a series of images from the treasure that is unfolding at Must Farm. He began by giving an idea of the depth of stratigraphy there – the river course is a *long* way beneath current ground level, with over 2 metres of sediment being removed before finds began to become apparent. The finds were accidental, as the site is being quarried for clay for a brickworks, and is downstream of the log boats found a few years ago. An entire settlement burned, and was buried in the river, almost intact. ‘The Pompeii of the Fens’ as it’s been tagged. The current jewel in the crown is a recently uncovered wheel, almost complete, with axle. As Mark stated, “The more we dig, the more we look, the more we find” – there’s obviously much more to come from this enticing site.

Francis Pryor having arrived, he began his talk, ‘Flag Fen: Pegging down the enigma of ritual’ by stating that “Must Farm is the most important excavation in this century and the last”. A bold claim! He then made an impassioned plea for scheduled protection to be given not only to monuments, but to the landscape they sit in. Monuments are only part of the story! He told us how his practical experience of farming helped to understand the landscape of the Fens, and how the conventional view that as the fens were inundated the people retreated to dry land is now coming into question with the ‘post alignments’ at Flag Fen and Must Farm showing that navigation was possible across the flooded landscape, and probably organised by a central ‘committee’ who controlled timber supply etc.

After coffee and a quick first look around the Archaeology Fair, the second session kicked off with Neil Holbrook  of Cotswold Archaeology entertaining us with the story of how he invited a live BBC crew to the lifting of a ‘lump of stone’ found in a Roman cemetery under excavation in Cirencester. The stone turned out to be an inscribed memorial to ‘Bodicacia’, a possibly ‘celtic’/ British name. Other similar examples exist across Europe, but this was a somewhat unique find in Britain. The carving was poorly laid out and possibly incomplete. A depiction of Oceanus on the tombstone had the face deliberately damaged. The tombstone covered the body of a 45 year old man. This prompted Neil to speculate that it may have been a later burial which didn’t want to be associated with a pagan god’s face? It was a fascinating story.

Ben Ford was next, to tell us about ‘Excavating an Urban Friary at Westgate, Oxford‘. After setting the scene with the topology of Oxford, we were shown the footings of some massive walls, almost 2 metres thick. Surprisingly, below this were found oak timbers – an earlier timber framed structure – so much timber if fact that it could not all be stored. It was all recorded on site though, and a sample amount retained for further study. A quantity of lovely Romanesque Norman carvings were also found, but most of this stonework had been robbed away. There were some nicely preserved ovens in the kitchen area though, and some finds included a crucifix and a pilgrim’s badge. This was a popular dig, with a 6-hour Open Day attracting more than 200 visitors! A free exhibition about the dig is currently on in the Oxford Town Hall until 23rd April.

More timbers next, but of a different kind as Dan Atkinson  explained ‘The Investigation of Re-used Ship Timbers in the Wheelwright’s Shop in Chatham Historic Dockyard‘. This project has been running on and off for over 20 years now. In 1995 the building at the dockyard was due to be reused for another purpose and the floor layers were recorded – 169 timbers reused from a large ship were found. Many marks were found on the timbers, including numbers that might represent hammock stations, raising many questions which only now are being answered. A large proportion of the marks identified the timbers’ management, stock checking, and use, providing an insight into life in the dockyard. Painstaking checking of naval records and comparison with recorded evidence of repairs to the wheelwright’s shop strongly points to the timbers coming from HMS Namur, built and eventually broken up at Chatham, and Dan took us through some of the historical associations of the ship. For instance, HMS Namur fought in the 7 Years and Napoleonic Wars, and was captained by Jane Austen’s brother. Full details of the discovery of the timbers can be found in Current Archaeology issue 273 .

Finally, taking us up to lunch, Ronan Toolis told us about ‘A Dark Age Legacy Rescued from Obscurity: Excavating Trusty’s Hill, Galloway’. Trusty’s Hill is a fort, and a high status secular site – with an enigmatic rock cut basin containing some intriguing Pictish carvings found way outside their usual catchment area, and also an outcrop with a footprint cut into it. Along with a series of finds including clay moulds, Continental pottery and high status metalwork, all the evidence suggests this was a high status early medieval royal site. An excavation report will be published later in 2016 by Oxbow Books.

Browsing one of the bookstalls during lunch at CALive!16

Browsing one of the bookstalls during lunch at CALive!16

We’ll take a break ourselves now, and continue in the next part of this report, later today.

With just five weeks to go, it’s time to book your ticket, if you haven’t already done so, for the best conference in town! Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CA Live’ conference returns to Senate House in London at the end of February, and we’ll be there live Tweeting the event once again.

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Although the full lineup has yet to be finalised, the session schedule already looks very enticing:

Friday 26th February

  • 9:30-11:00 In Search of the Prehistoric, introduced by Julian Richards, speakers to be confirmed.
  • 11:30 – 13:00 Rescuing the Past:
    • Neil Holbrook – The Cirencester Roman Tombstone
    • Ben Ford – Excavating Westgate
    • Dan Atkinson – Chatham Dockyard
    • Ronan Toolis – Trusty’s Hill
  • 14:30-16:00 Around the Ancient World:
    • Barry Cunliffe – Birthing Eurasia
    • Ray Laurence – Roman Roads: movement migration and mobility
    • Andrew Robinson – The Indus civilisation: lost and found?
  • 4:30-5:50 Keynote: Professor Mike Fulford

…followed by the Reception, Awards Ceremony (have you voted yet?) and entertainment.

Saturday 27th February

  • 9:30-11:00 Osteology of Trauma:
    • Ray Baldry – Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons
    • Louise Low – the Ridgeway Hill Vikings
    • Martin Smith – Violence in the Neolithic
  • 11:30:1300 Warfare in Roman Britain:
    • Mike Bishop – Roman Military Warfare
    • John Reid – A Seige at Burnswark?
    • Philip Crummy – Boudicca and the Fenwick Treasure
  • 14:30-16:00 Experiments in Archaeology:
    • Ryan Watts – Butser Ancient Farm
    • Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock – The Staffordshire Hoard
    • Zena Kamash – Food for Thought
  • 16:30-17:00 David Breeze – 40 Years on the Frontier

Ticket details are available from the CA Live web site. I hope to see you there, please stop and say hello if you spot me!

 

As the calendar year draws to a close, it’s time to cast your votes for the annual Current Archaeology Awards.

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This is especially important if you’re a regular reader of the magazine as the awards are designed to reflect the interests of the readership, but if you’ve not read the magazine, happily that doesn’t preclude you from casting a vote!

As in previous years, there are several categories to vote for:

  • Research Project of the Year
  • Rescue Dig of the Year
  • Book of the Year
  • Archaeologist of the Year

The nominations for each award are as follows:

Research Project of the Year

  • Digging Sedgeford: A people’s Archaeology
  • Burrough Hill: Signs of Life in a Midlands hillfort
  • Vindolanda: Revelations from the Roman frontier
  • Bannockburn: Scotland’s seminal battlefield rediscovered
  • Recapturing Berkeley Castle: One trench, 1,500 years of English history
  • Rewriting the origin of the broch builders: Exploring fortifications and farming at Old Scatness

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Rescue Dig of the Year

  • The Drumclay crannog-dwellers: revealing 1,000 years of lakeside living
  • Death on Ridgeway Hill: how science unlocked the secrets of a mass grave
  • Excavating Barrow Clump: soldier archaeologists and warrior graves
  • Coast to coast: recording England’s vanishing heritage
  • The London’s burning: a 17th century warship sunk in the Thames
  • The Fenwick Treasure: Colchester during the Boudiccan War of Independence

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Book of the Year

  • Celtic Art in Europe: Making Connections
  • Thinking Big
  • The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland
  • Caithness Archaeology: aspects of prehistory
  • Hadrian’s Wall, a history of archaeological thought
  • Objects and Identities: Roman Britain and the North-Western Provinces

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Archaeologist of the Year

  • Philip Crummy
  • Vincent Gaffney
  • Roberta Gilchrist

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

So, once you’ve read about all the nominees, pop along to the voting page and cast your votes for your favourites! Winners will be announced at the Current Archaeology Live 2016 Conference at the end of February next year. If you missed last year’s conference and want to know what it’s all about, see the video below.

Last weekend, I attended a one-day conference organised (and fully funded) by Wessex Archaeology at the Greenwich University Medway Campus on 12th September 2015. The theme of the conference was ‘Celebrating Prehistoric Kent’.

The programme was set out as follows and despite some minor overruns, all went very smoothly, ably m.c.’d by Wessex Archaeology’s Regional Team Leader for London and the South East, Mark Williams.

Programme
9.30: Welcome (coffee and selection of teas provided)
9.50: Introduction
10.00: Paul Garwood (University of Birmingham): Seas of change: the early Neolithic in the Medway valley and its European context
10.40: Sophie Adams (University of Bristol): We dig what you dig: exploring later prehistoric bronze working from the excavated evidence
11.20: Break with coffee and selection of teas provided
11.40: Phil Andrews (Wessex Archaeology): Digging at the Gateway: the archaeology of East Kent Access 2
12.20: Andy Bates (University of Kent): Investigation and Survey of the Oppida at Bigbury and Oldbury
1.00: Lunch (not provided) displays etc
2.00: Jacqueline McKinley (Wessex Archaeology): The Late Bronze Age-Middle Iron Age mortuary landscape at Cliffs End
2.40: Ges Moody (Trust For Thanet Archaeology): Prehistory in our place and our place in Prehistory; Thanet and the Trust for Thanet Archaeology
3.20: Andrew Mayfield (Kent County Council Heritage Team): Public perceptions of prehistory
4.00: Discussion & Close

I tried to take notes throughout the day, and I hope I haven’t misrepresented what was said by anyone in the following summary. Please comment if you were there and feel I’ve got anything wrong.

Paul Garwood kicked off the day, talking about the Medway Valley Megaliths, “discovered, forgotten, rediscovered etc. but not quite fitting in”. He postulated a two-phase Neolithic: The ‘Formative’ (4000-3750BC), which included the spread of farming to previously Mesolithic cultures, and the ‘Early Developed’ (3750-3400BC) which included the long barrow culture.

Evidence from each of the megaliths in the Medway Valley, which we’ve visited before, was examined in turn. As the size of the monuments increases (4000BC for White Horse Stone, Kits Coty etc) up to large enclosures such as that at Burham Causewayed Enclosure (3700-3500BC), this indicates a time of huge social change and activity, and suggests a new chronology for the British early Neolithic period.

Sophie Adams then ran through a wealth of evidence for Bronze Age and Iron Age metalworking in Kent, and provided several samples and reproductions to be passed around the audience. The evidence for metalworking usually consists of ingots, crucibles, moulds (often made of clay) or smithing tools.

There are many metalworking objects recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme from Kent relating to the Bronze Age, plus a lot of Iron Age coins.

Some 25 sites in the county provide evidence of metal working. This is a high number for such sites in a single county in Britain. Sophie examined the finds from several of these sites in detail, such as Holborough Quarry, Mill Hill in Deal, Highstead Chislet, and the Boughton Malherbe hoard.

After a short coffee break, Phil Andrews took us back to 2010 and the largest excavation in Britain, where over a period of 9 months some 48 hectares of land were stripped from a rich archaeological landscape for the East Kent Access route. The project was overwhelming but the road was completed on time. The site was divided into 25 ‘zones’ for ease of reference.

Among the earliest remains found were a palaeolithic flake from Telegraph Hill, along with Mesolithic axes. Zone 6 included a concentration of Neolithic Flint in pits, while zone 14 exposed pits with pottery. There are a large number of barrows in Thanet, almost all of which have been ploughed flat. There were at least 12 large barrows under the course of the road.

One ring ditch barrow produced up to a dozen burials at Cliffs End near to a possible henge – a 50 metre wide monument. A total of 8 late Bronze Age hoards were all found on the Ebbsfleet peninsula as part of the excavation.

Zone 6, over 300m long, also produced evidence of a very complex Iron Age site, with trackways, ditches, roundhouses etc. The settlement grew through to Roman times. The most significant discovery? A possible link to Julius Caesar in the form of a very substantial ditch, part of defences dating from around 100 bc or so. The ditch was recut in 100 AD, and investigation continues.

Andy Bates then described his work, surveying two under-researched hillforts in Kent, those at Bigbury and Oldbury.

Bigbury is an are dominated by gravels, much of the area has been quarried, some of the surrounding fields are being surveyed using metal detector, magnetometry and resistivity geophys, with some encouraging results including an intriguing rectilinear feature which bears some resemblance in form to a possible shrine found on Cadbury Castle in Somerset.

Oldbury, one of the largest hillforts in Europe, has been largely inaccessible to geophys due to being heavily wooded to the south with agricultural use (orchards) to the north, but an opportunity opened up for some survey work in a northern field. Not much showed on the geophys here, some features but all were very disturbed.

After a lunch break Jacqueline McKinley described some of the major findings from the Cliffs End farm site (see the article in Current Archaeology issue 306). This was a very busy mortuary site, with burials from the late Bronze Age, middle Iron Age and some Anglo-Saxon burials too. There were no bones in many of the graves, due to the acidity of the soil, but fortuitously in one area of redeposited soil, 14 articulated burials were preserved. This find increases by around 30% the number of articulated bodies found in Kent to date. Unusually, the majority of the bones were from teens.

The main find was the burial of a Bronze Age woman, found with two lambs on her lap, holding a piece of chalk to her face, and her other hand pointing to a central enclosure. Two youths were also buried with her, one with their head resting on a cow skull. The woman had died from four blows to her skull with a bladed instrument – a violent death, but possibly a sacrifice?

Ges Moody then gave us a brief history of Thanet, the Trust for Thanet Archaeology and the background to many of the antiquarian (and more up to date!) archaeological investigations in the area.

The Trust recently completed their ‘VM-365’ project, with a blog post every day for a year looking at Thanet archaeology and many of the finds available in their ‘virtual museum’. An interesting site, well worth a visit.

The day finished (for me) with Andy Mayfield giving a lighthearted look at how the public view prehistory. he then went on to explain a little about his work as a Heritage Environment Records Officer in Kent (what a H.E.R.O.!), and a review of the enormous amount of prehistory available in the county.

After the meeting, an invite was extended to all to continue discussions in a nearby pub, but as we had a long trip home in front of us, we left as the organisers were packing up the display materials.

All in all a very entertaining, interesting and educational day, and Wessex Archaeology are to be applauded for covering the cost of the event. I’ll certainly be looking out for other events in the future. Maybe they could consider covering each county in turn? Personally I’d like to see a similar review of archaeology in my local counties of Hertfordshire and Essex (hint hint!)

Once again, the annual two-day archaeology-fest that is the CA Live! Conference organised by Current Archaeology magazine and sponsored by the Institute of Classical Studies is rapidly approaching. Held on February 27th and 28th in the stately setting of University of London’s Senate House, this year’s timetable looks as exciting as ever, and as in recent years, the Heritage Journal will be there again to live Tweet the proceedings.

CALive

This year’s conference kicks off with a session looking at Anglo-Saxon Settlements, with contributions from Neil Faulkner, Andrew Reynolds and Helena Hamerow.

The World Archaeology session, sponsored by sister magazine Current World Archaeology, features Brian Fagan talking on ‘Tutankhamun and Lord Carnarvon’, Richard Hodges on ‘Rome’s Great Treasures’ and Ian Hodder with ‘Neolithic Çatalhöyük‘.

There is then a session Rescuing the Past, with Neil Holbrook, Ann Crone and Roger Bland, before the keynote speaker, Martin Biddle. This is followed by the now traditional drinks reception and Current Archaeology Awards ceremony. All winners will be decided by a readers’ vote – nominations for the four categories can be viewed on the Current Archaeology web site and you can cast your vote in each category there too.

The conference continues on the Saturday with our favourite session In Search of the Prehistoric, chaired by Julian Richards. Talks include Chris Stringer describing the work at Happisburgh, David Jaques on Blick Mead, and Jim Leary – ‘Silbury Hill and massive monuments’

A session on Boats in Archaeology then follows, with Karl Brady on ‘The Lough Corrib logboats’, Robert Van de Noort ‘Building Morgawr’ and Mark Jones ‘Conserving the Mary Rose’ taking us to the lunch break.

Finally, a session on Roman Frontier Life follows, chaired by David Breeze. Lidsay Allason-Jones tells us about Housesteads and Matthew Symonds explains the Passage aAcross the Frontier.  Finally the conference concludes with a talk on ‘The Imperial War Museum and WW1’ by Paul Cornish.

There are some pretty enticing topics, and as usual, something for everyone no matter which particular period of the past piques your interest! And don’t forget the marketplace, with stalls selling publications, courses, tours and other items of interest

Tickets are going fast, so don’t forget to reserve yours as soon as possible! If you’re there, why not come up and say Hello!

A couple of weeks ago, Current Archaeology magazine once again held their annual conference, Current Archaeology Live!, at Senate House in London. And once again, we were fortunate enough to be present to live tweet the event, bringing you all the news as it happened. Many of the talks could merit an article here in their own right, so this brief review has been posted in several parts, of which this is the last for this year’s conference.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And so, suitably refreshed after lunch on the Saturday, the seventh and penultimate session of the conference, ‘Early Medieval England‘ kicked off the afternoon proceedings, introduced by Karly Hilts, Assitant Editor of Current Archaeology. The talks in this session were slightly shuffled from the published program, in order to better present them in chronological order, so first up was Dr Catherine Hills, talking about ‘Spong Hill and the Adventus Saxonum‘, the coming of the Anglo Saxons.

So, was there a violent invasion, a mass migration or a takeover by a ruling elite? We began by looking at weapons deposited in lakes in Denmark, such as Illerup which held a large number of sophisticated weapons, far too intricate for supposed ‘savage’ Angles, Jutes and Saxons to have produced. This suggests large groups of organised people, rather than small primitive bands. Looking at Spong Hill, over 2000 cremations have been found so far, many more than would have been expected for the size of settlement. Many artefacts found are typical of those found in northern Germany, the chronology of these is imprecise, but being refined. Pots and bone combs provide clues as to a possible sequencing – pots with similar designs and stamps are being grouped and plotted. Could these denote family groups? Many of the grave goods have been typologically dated to the early 5th Century. The conclusion (so far)? The invasion was not a single event. There is evidence of connections with N Germany and Jutland over a long period.

Next to take the podium was Prof Martin Carver, who gave us a glimpse of ‘Sutton Hoo: a slice of England‘. The famous Anglo Saxon features at Sutton Hoo overlie a Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age landscape, with many of the prehistoric finds sitting on the 300’ contour. These include Neolithic pit burials, a Beaker settlement, late Bronze Age enclosures and Iron Age field systems. Commonly, Anglo Saxon mounds are placed on earlier Iron Age banks, and that is the case at Sutton Hoo. There are three cemeteries there, and Martn ran through the chronologies. A 6th century family burial ground contained cremations and inhumations. The 7th Century ‘princely’ ship burial and a later cemetery of executions, dated to the 8th-10th Centuries. This latter contained 39 bodies, grouped around a gallows site. All had been decapitated or garotted, one still had the rope around it’s neck. Pictures of some of the now famous grave goods were shown, and it was explained that the chronology suggests a political sequence for the site. From family cemetery, to chiefdom, to a Christian kingdom where dissidents were punished.

Martin Carver in full flow!

Martin Carver in full flow!

Finally to round off the session, Prof Julian Richards, on ‘The Viking Great Army at Torksey‘. There has been very little hard archaeological evidence for Viking raids, but Torksey was mentioned in the AS Chronicles, in 872, as somewhere the raiding army camped over winter, but until recently the actual camp site had not been identified. Metal detectorists reported finding Viking artefacts near Torksey, which identified the site, and the project to investigate the site began. Its aims: to identify the nature and extent of the camp, and whether the camp contributed to Torksey’s subsequent industrial growth.

Seventy detectorists have been working on the 20 hectare site at Torksey for some years, not all have reported finds to the PAS, but over 1500 finds have been logged to date, mostly early Medieval.

Over 300 Anglo Saxoncoins included some Northumbrian small change – stycas – as well as some dirhams from as far as Arabia. This is the largest number of Aracbic dirhams found in Britain to date. Also, lots of bullion and scrap metal was being processed; hack silver, hack gold and some forgery (gold plated copper alloys). Evidence of metalworking whilst camped? Also some lead gaming pieces have been found. The landscape is constantly changing; deep ploughing and blown sand are bringing more finds to the surface. The Winter Camp is north of the current village, a later Burgh is near the current village, where some 15 kilns have been excavated – a sizable Burgh. The lack of pottery at the camp site indicates that it pre-dates the Burgh.

And all too soon it was time for a last tea break before the final session, entitled ‘Time Team and Geophysics‘. Dr John Gater regaled us with anecdotes from Time Team, ‘Geofizz, what have we learned after 20 years?

There’s no doubt he got off to a good start, with “In 1993, Archaeology became sexy overnight”, accompanied by some hilarious shots of the various team members. John then explained about the early use of ‘geofizz’, the creation of a new word to explain the use of science to understand archaeology, at the Athelney Abbey dig. Time Team was unusual in that geofizz usually was used on development sites anything up to a year before the excavations began. With Time Team, feedback was almost instantaneous, and exciting! Even Ribchester was exciting, although the early interpretation was completely incorrect. Roman road? field boundaries? No – modern football pitch markings!

After the laughter died down, John explained the different types of survey; Resistance Survey, Magnetometry, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) etc. Although the 3 day format didn’t allow time for experimentation, GPR Was a great leap forward, useful on greenfield sites and allowing a not just a plan, but a 3D model with depth information to be created. The plan of Brancaster was compared to the early plan of Athelney. One a 2D plan, the other a full 3D model, showing the improvements made over time. John’s one regret, was making it all look too easy. A very entertaining and educational talk to finish the conference.

And that was it. Editor in Chief Andrew Selkirk provided the closing remarks, reminding us all of what we’d seen and heard over the last couple of days, and it all too soon it was time to pack up and head home.

Was it all worth it? Certainly! And with any luck and a prevaling wind, I’ll be back next year to report it all again..

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