Research Project of the Year 2012

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This year the Research Project of the Year 2012 awards went to  Massacre at Fin Cop, featured in CA 255.

Iron Age hillforts are commonly viewed as peaceful — if monumental — settlements, statements of prestige and power rather than military fortifications. But harrowing evidence from a Derbyshire site suggests these communities could come to a tragic end, with women and children massacred during the settlement’s destruction.

Clive Waddington, of Archaeological Research Services, accepted the award:

‘We are delighted to win this award — I feel really honoured, particularly  because this was a community project and the award highlights  that really great research can be carried out with the help of local  communities.’


This has been another  great year for archaeological research, with fascinating projects going on all over the country. We have really enjoyed following the latest advances in theory, technology and methodology — and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them in CA. The following are the projects which particularly captured the imagination of readers and editors alike in the last 12 months, and were nominated in this category:

Silchester: how it all began

(CA 250 — University of Reading)

Rejoining the long-running excavations at Silchester 8 years after our last report, CA learned the investigations had reached a crucial point and the site still had secrets to reveal. Recent investigations have uncovered tantalising clues about the settlement’s pre-Roman past, adding substantially to our picture of how Iron Age Britain became Britannia.

Settlement under the sand

(CA 253 — Oxford University)

Orkney’s Bay of Skaill is best known for being the location of Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement stunningly-preserved beneath a thick layer of windblown sand. But this is not the only archaeological treasure hidden by the weather; excavations have recently uncovered a massive Norse longhouse 2m below the sand, granting rare insight into the life and death of a major Viking settlement.

Roman rings and the cult of Toutatis

(CA 254 — Adam Daubney, Lincs FLO)

Best known to us from the Asterix comics, Toutatis was a Gaulish god and favourite patron of Roman soldiers who identified him with their war deity Mars. Evidence of Toutatis-worship is seen across the Roman Empire, but strangely limited inBritain. Now a new study of 68 finger-rings inscribed with the god’s name seems set to change all this.

The second radiocarbon revolution

(CA 259 — Alasdair Whittle, Alex Bayliss, and Frances Healy/EH)

In October we covered a breakthrough in dating methodology that promised to rewrite our understanding of the early Neolithic. Exciting advances in radiocarbon dating, permitting more secure chronologies and more precise dates than ever before, allowed a fascinating new research project on causewayed enclosures to be carried out.


  1. An amazing site – the sort of place one always imagines Vikings landing at. What is impressive is that at the end of years of vacation excavation the last dig uncovered this amaxing building – probably only one of a group in the near vicinity. No violence in evidence, just a record of ordinary life.

  2. The Fin Cop dig has shown once and for all that hillforts were places of violent conflict, rather than being an expression of wealth and grandeur as some archaeologists have chosen to portray them. Human nature is to kill and/or enslave other humans. It still goes on today. Nothing changes!

  3. Settlement under the sand. Only the sand could preserve a Viking longhouse so immaculately. Wonderful place, extraordinary dig.

  4. Fin Cop certainly gets my vote. Fascinating research, and with such local involvement too.

  5. Fin Cop is a fascinating excavation of national significance, with tremendous local involvement.

  6. Such a fascinating project and possibly a start of a delicious debate on the Iron Age Hill Forts and their purpose/function…we’ll see.

  7. The Birsay, Orkney :’Settlement Under The Sand’ I think really deserves to win above all the rest.In the very least for opening a ‘window’ into the effects of relative climate change & it’s effects in northern British/Scottish locations.

  8. I’m voting for Fin Cop for the way in which it inspired a local community to find out more about their past. Well done!

  9. An outstanding piece of work involving so many enthusiastic and dedicated local people – an absolute vote winner

  10. My vote goes to the SETTLEMENT UNDER THE SAND! Such a unique location and exceptionally well preserved – definitely deserves to win.

  11. Settlement Under the Sand – The landscape of Orkney is decorated with remarkably well preserved sites and still manages to hide gems like this. A link that ties the community to another part in the history of their isles.

  12. Fin Cop gets my vote. This research dig has discovered new and unexpected evidence relating to the Iron Age in Derbyshire. Innovative involvement of children and people of all ages. An absolutely superb presentation of the findings through a filmed re-enactment on site of events by local teenagers, using authentic props and backed by their own original music and poetic composition. Stunning!

  13. Settlement Under the Sand! An amazing site I was lucky enough to have worked on. A fascinating place in a very complex landscape. Amazing!

  14. The Second Radiocarbon revolution gets my vote. This will change the way we think and talk about the past. It is a breakthrough we will still be talking about in 100 years time.

  15. Silchester – huge and log-running project, consistent enthusiastic leadership, invaluable finds and excellent scholarship!

  16. Settlement under the Sand. It had locals digging, drew in everyone who lived round about and did brilliant tours of the most amazingly preserved archaeology. The smithing ovens, benches and other stone furniture were great.

  17. Settlement under the Sand:
    I did a bit of volunteering with Jane Harrison and David Griffiths on the East Oxford Archaeology project at Bartlemas Chapel. I was very impressed by their efficiency and their skills in organising this quite difficult project all around a still functioning chapel and with a large variety of participants as well. Some exciting finds were made and are being carefully conserved and documented.

    I am sure Jane and David’s Orkneys project will be extremely interesting and rewarding; and, especially given the distance too (sadly I can’t volunteer up there!),it deserves enthusiastic support.

  18. Please vote for Settlement under the sand, a mammoth effort from a great team over many years, surely deserves to win the award.

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