Current Archaeology 316

2 mins read

CA316_Cover-smallThe true nature of the events that played out at Burnswark in the 2nd century AD has long excited speculation. Two Roman camps were aggressively positioned to hold a former native hillfort in a vice-like grip, but does this dramatic arrangement testify to a desperate siege, or a rigorous military training regime? Now an ingenious new approach to studying the site has given us a powerful glimpse of what really happened on that Scottish hilltop, almost two millennia ago.

Offa’s Dyke presents another earthwork, albeit a rather longer one, with an uncertain pedigree. Was this barrier really the handiwork of the famous Mercian ruler, and if so what was it intended to achieve? Previous studies have cast the Dyke as an overblown boundary marker for a consensual border, but could there be another explanation? We weigh the evidence.

Marden’s mysterious earthwork takes the form of the largest ‘superhenge’ known in Britain. Investigation of the site has revealed a Neolithic sauna, the diminutive vestiges of a once monumental mound, and an intriguing connection with water. What can this tell us about the rituals performed within?

We know more about the performances in the Curtain theatre, which was long thought to be the inspiration for the famous allusion to a ‘wooden O’ in Henry V. Ongoing excavations have, however, revealed what seems to be a distinctly rectilinear playhouse. We take a look inside a building that helped usher in a new age of theatre.

Matt Symonds




A call to action
Since it was first mentioned in a 9th-century Life of King Alfred, the great ditch separating Mercia and Britain has been consistently attributed to King Offa (d. 796). But does archaeology support this attribution? This is just one of the questions still to be answered about the Welsh equivalent of Hadrian’s Wall.


A Roman assault on a hillfort in Scotland
Two Roman camps lie on either side of the Iron Age hillfort at Burnswark, where an extraordinary number of Roman projectiles have been found. Is this evidence of a Roman training facility or a fierce assault on Burnswark Hill?


Exploring Neolithic landscapes in the Pewsey Vale
Britain’s largest ‘superhenge’, Marden henge, is also its least understood. What has ongoing fieldwork here and at the neighbouring Wilsford henge revealed about one of the richest Neolithic landscapes in Europe?


Inside an Elizabethan playhouse
The Curtain is one of the most mysterious of London’s 16th-century theatres. Extensive excavations indicate it was rectangular rather polygonal, but how did this structure come into being? And what can the finds tell us about the development of Elizabethan drama?


Conserving Richmond Castle’s conscientious objector graffiti; London’s post-Boudican fort revealed; William Wallace’s kirk found?; More Saxon graves on Salisbury Plain; Llanwnda’s ‘Iron Age’ earthworks are medieval; Reshaping the Star Carr headdresses; England’s smallest medieval chess piece; Seal matrix’s owner identified


The Neolithic village on Mainland, Orkney

Hadrian’s Wall: 40 Years of Frontier Research is approaching fast. This special section contains the latest details on our specialist speakers, timings, and how to book

Death and Burial in Iron Age Britain; The Thames Iron Works 1837-1912: A Major Shipbuilder on the Thames; 50 Finds from Lincolnshire: Objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues

Odd Socs
The Devon Buildings Group


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