CA 195

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CA195-1What are the outstanding achievements in British  archaeology? The British Archaeological Awards set out  every two years to survey the field of archaeology and pick  out some of the outstanding work done. This issue of Current  Archaeology is devoted to the Awards that reached their  climax in Belfast on 8th October 2004.

There are fourteen awards in all, and these are the  subject of a supplement at the end of the magazine. It is  fascinating for us to discover the many aspects of archaeology  that are highlighted by the awards, and they make  good reading too.

But in the main body of the magazine we look at our own  Current Archaeology award. This is a new award devoted to  the achievements of ‘developer funded’ archaeology. Thanks  to the government guidance known as PPG 16, this now  accounts for well over 90% of all the spoil moved by archaeologists  in this country. But just what they have been finding? In this issue, we  put them to the test.

We discover how excavations at Byker and Throckley in Newcastle have  turned the old idea that Hadrian’s Wall was more customs post than defence-work  on its head. A dense thicket of spikes may have run the entire length of  the Wall – making the north British frontier a truly formidable barrier. We  summarise the evidence with the help of a backward look at Caesar’s Gallic  War siege-lines.

Then we return to the great barrow at Gayhurst in Buckinghamshire  (CA 191) to unravel an extraordinary story locked up in the great haul of  cow bones from the barrow ditch. The story concerns a funeral on the  grandest scale the Early Bronze Age could manage as a great cattle baron  was laid to rest.

When did ironworking reach Britain? The British Iron Age is supposed to  start in c. 700 BC, but at Hartshill in Bedfordshire archaeologists have found  evidence for smelting and smithing as early as the 10th century BC. We  describe the discoveries and, with the help of ancient metals expert Tim  Young, get to grips with the technology.

The small town of Leominster in Herefordshire had, until recently, hardly  been touched by archaeologists. But there was a medieval priory there and it  had been a great centre of the Anglo-Saxon Church before that. Excavations  have now begun. Is a mysterious rotunda in the medieval cloister the first  fragment of the Anglo-Saxon town to be revealed?

After the Amesbury Archer (CA 184) and the Boscombe Bowmen (CA  193), we now have the Sacred Circle. Wessex Archaeology may be finding  answers to the question: why were the Archer and the Bowmen buried were  they were? We have a brief report on this, and also, from Corrstown in  Northern Ireland, a description of a newly discovered Middle Bronze Age  village of 50 houses – densely packed, well ordered, and all apparently  occupied at the same time.

Neil Faulkner

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