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Following the news of the completion of the recent Verulamium Survey, a second “Archaeology in Hertfordshire” conference has been announced for November 26th, to be held in Hitchin Town Hall.

Their previous regional conference which we reported on in 2012 was a very interesting event.

The current outline of speakers and topics this year, subject to last minute changes, is as follows:

  • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews: Odd pots and foreigners: forgetting Romanitas, becoming Angelcynn
  • Isobel Thompson: New clues to the conquest: how Hertfordshire entered the Roman Empire
  • Andrew Fitzpatrick and Colin Haselgrove: Searching for Julius Caesar
  • Kris Lockyear and Ellen Shlasko: Surveying Verulamium
  • Emily Esche, Clare Lewis, Kris Lockyear and Tony Rook: Lower Rivers Field
  • Murray Andrews: Coins, commerce, and Christianity: money in late medieval Hertfordshire
  • Gil Burleigh: 118+ Tons of History: results from community test pitting and other fieldwork in Pirton
  • Karin and David Kaye: Roman Ware: A River-Crossing Settlement
  • Chris Green: Puddingstone querns from Hertfordshire and elsewhere
  • Mike Smith: The medieval manor of Wheathampstead

We’ve been asked to mention that tables will be available for local groups to have small displays (if arranged in advance via Kris Lockyear). There is no charge for a table, but the people manning it will need to have a ticket!

Full details including how to purchase tickets for the conference (£15, or £12 for WAS members) will be included on our Events Diary page when available.

Last month we questioned why Historic England had invited lots of prominent archaeologists to discuss “developments in conservation” (see here). To associate them with the idea conservation has changed and driving new roads over the World Heritage Site is now valid? Perhaps, for the word was then dropped and they’ll now be talking instead about “research and the potential for further discoveries” (see here).


But it’s not just archaeologists being manoeuvered. ICOMOS has been wrongly characterised as pro-short tunnel (see here) and the public are being as well (see here). Historic England’s guidelines have been unilaterally changed to say destruction is OK if there are “important planning justifications” (see here). More recently English Heritage seems intent on misleading the public by offering free balloon flights (see here) “to get a sense of how the removal of the A303 from the landscape would transform the World Heritage Site” but not mentioning it would involve cutting massive new roads over another part of the site (the elephant in the landscape as Stonehenge Alliance calls it). We suspect doing that offends every conservation instinct of EH personnel but it’s up to them to deny it.


You may well feel 5 yowling moggies are now out of the bag, each one designed to further the Government’s wishes. Will there be more? Probably, since the plain truth is that massive new roads inside the WHS cannot be justified without further disreputable tactics by Britain’s main conservation bodies. Future historians may view this as a shameful era.

PAS is staging yet another conference praising metal detecting. (Why, when they were set up to cope with it not promote it? A biscuit to anyone who knows!) It’s titled “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists?” The answer is simple: NO, for the nature of the activity precludes its participants from adhering to the archaeological  practices, aims and ethics developed to maximise knowledge and minimise cultural loss which real archaeologists have to! Why would you need to stage a whole expensive conference to explain that, unless you were trying to pretend short changing the community is acceptable?

The title of the conference is all the more perplexing because the BM specifically told us recently that they’d endeavour to ensure “misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future” and for our part we highlighted Rule 1.4 of the Institute for Archaeology: “A member shall not undertake archaeological work for which he or she is not adequately qualified”. No, metal detecting can never be Archaeology for a multitude of reasons. It’s endlessly claimed by both metal detectorists and PAS that archaeologists shouldn’t be elitist. They’re right. But Archaeology should be.

If it’s not, and if it isn’t done right, it’s one of many inferior ways of interacting with the past of which metal detecting is merely one. By what right does our national museum, uniquely in the world, imply otherwise? The whole bloody farce reminds us of 2011 when Diana Friendship-Taylor, chair of Rescue, wrote witheringly of a previous similar attempt:“We are, frankly, astonished, that the British Museum is prepared to lend its considerable weight to the furtherance of a method of historical inquiry which belongs in the distant past, and which has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

Five years later another million recordable artefacts have been dug up and not recorded yet PAS is STILL promoting something which "has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

Five years later, a further MILLION recordable artefacts, that’s 1,000,000, have been dug up and not recorded and are now lost to science yet PAS is still promoting something whichhas as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

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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.

coriniumcockerel

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

Previous installments:

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.

CALive2014

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.

CA_awards-logo-general

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.

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