CA 190

1 min read

ca190-1We start this issue with a spectacular new discovery: an Anglo-Saxon royal  burial fit to compare with Sutton Hoo. Though the body had completely  rotted away, the wooden burial chamber had been preserved by sand  seeping through cracks to fill the air space, leaving artefacts still hanging on  walls just where they had been placed at a funeral 1400 years ago. Among  some 60 grave-goods were two gold-foil crucifixes. So was this one of the  first Christian kings of Essex?

Then we turn our attention to another famous burial. Working in the  crypt of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, Dr Louise Scheuer stumbled upon a  missing lead coffin. Recovered in 1952 and then hidden behind a pile of  boxes and forgotten, she found it unexcavated and with bones and earth still  inside. The name-plate on the coffin revealed the identity of the occupant:  it was one of greatest figures in English literature, and Louise Scheuer was  soon busy re-examining a patient whose previous doctors had pronounced  him ‘hypochondriacal’.

We then leap back in time to the Palaeolithic to look at the work of the  Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project. Were there humans in  Britain before Boxgrove? Was human occupation continuous, or were there  periods of abandonment and recolonisation? Most fascinating of all, was  Britain unoccupied in the last warm period, the Ipswichian? Was there a  mass extermination, in which it was the humans that were exterminated?  These and other questions are being tackled in a five-year project involving  the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and five universities.

Our fourth feature looks at new evidence for an ‘archaeologically invisible’  community: the Jews of medieval England. From the Norman Conquest to  the end of the thirteenth century the Jews formed a sizeable group in  English society. But where is the evidence in archaeology? Now London  archaeologists are interpreting two recently discovered features as mikva’ot Jewish  ritual baths.

We return to the Dark Ages for our final feature. Again the problem is a  gap in the archaeological record: the Vikings. Were they a class of  conquering overlords or were there large numbers of peasant settlers? Kevin  Leahy has been logging metal-detected finds in Lincolnshire for decades and  thinks he now knows the answer.

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