Research Project of the Year 2020

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Sponsor of the 2020 Research Project of the Year award.

The Research Project of the Year award was won by ‘Life beside the lake: opening a new window on the Mesolithic at Star Carr’.

Nicky Milner from the University of York collected the 2020 award for Research Project of the Year on behalf of the team working at Star Carr.
Nicky Milner from the University of York collected the 2020 award for Research Project of the Year on behalf of the team working at Star Carr. [Photo credit: Adam Stanford, Aerial Cam]

Star Carr, in North Yorkshire, is celebrated as Britain’s most important Mesolithic (‘Middle Stone Age’; c.9000-4000 BC) site, home to an extraordinary hunter-gatherer settlement that has yielded unprecedented insights into a little-understood period of Britain’s history.

When the site was first excavated over 70 years ago, Mesolithic people were stereotyped as primitive nomads, but recent work by the University of York, Newcastle University, and the University of Chester has revealed a much larger, more consistently occupied, and far more culturally sophisticated site than was previously suspected.

The peaty conditions of the local soil mean that Star Carr’s remains have been spectacularly well preserved for over 11,000 years: preserving vivid details about what its inhabitants ate, the massive timber platforms (made from huge split timbers including entire tree trunks) they constructed on the lake’s edge, and the tools they used – as well as enigmatic clues to possibly ceremonial activities, including sacrificial offerings of animals placed in the shallows, and antler ‘frontlet’ headdresses crafted from deer skulls.

Accepting the award for Research Project of the Year on behalf of the project was Professor Nicky Milner of the University of York.

Below are all the nominees in this category:

Myths and Monsters: the Boxford mosaic revealed

(Boxford History Project / Cotswold Archaeology / Anthony Beeson, CA 357)

A remarkable mosaic, first discovered in 2017, was fully excavated in summer 2019 thanks to a project involving over a hundred local volunteers. It revealed one of the most impressive mosaics ever found in the UK, with sophisticated depictions of scenes from Classical mythology. 
Read the full article here.

Axe the Anglo Saxons? Rethinking the migration period

(Susan Oosthuizen, University of Cambridge, CA 355)

Ideas about the ‘Anglo-Saxon migrations’ and life in Britain after Roman occupation have been the source of much debate in recent years. Now research proposes continuity and adaptation from a late Roman base, rather than imported cultural practices imposed by an invasion of migrating Germanic elites. 
Read the full article here.

Resolving Repton: a Viking Great Army winter camp and beyond

(Cat Jarman, CA 352)

New analysis and excavation have enhanced understandings of the 9th-century Viking army camp at Repton, and the mass grave associated with it. The research also discovered a possible second camp a few miles away, altering the story of the Viking presence in Repton. 
Read the full article here.

New Secrets from Prittlewell: reconstructing a burial chamber fit for a prince

(Museum of London Archaeology / Southend Borough Council, CA 352)

The Prittlewell burial, with its luxurious grave goods, was known to be significant when it was first discovered in 2003, but research and conservation efforts since then have enabled the team at MOLA to piece together information about the individual buried in the chamber and the East Saxon kingdom in which he lived. 
Read the full article here.

Life beside the Lake: opening a window on the Mesolithic at Star Carr

(University of York / Newcastle University / University of Chester, CA 349)

This project, involving over a decade of work at Star Carr, presents new interpretations of the site, offers more detail about the lives of its inhabitants, and provides unprecedented insight into the Mesolithic period at this exceptional, spectacularly preserved site.
Read the full article here.

Investigating Ava: an encounter with a woman from Copper Age Caithness

(Maya Hoole, CA 346)

A range of scientific techniques have been used to shed light on the life and death of a woman buried at the northern tip of mainland Scotland c.4,250 years ago. Information has been gathered about her health, her diet, her lifestyle, and her ancestors, as well as the way she was buried, exemplifying how much science can tell us about people in the past.
Read the full article here.

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