Archaeology is alive with uncertainties. Time and again new sites or technologies upend longstanding theories. All this month’s featured sites show the sometimes fractious relationship between fresh research and what we think we know.
Early digging at a newly discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Great Ryburgh unearthed a rare coffin created from a hollowed-out tree. The team wondered whether it held a local dignitary, but then another such coffin emerged, and another. Eventually it turned out that most of the investigated graves contained these caskets. Is this a local tradition, or a glimpse of what has been lost at other sites?
A recent report on the Roman archaeology at Mucking has embraced the unknowns. In the past, attempts to impose order on the archaeology involved viewing the site as a villa estate – with the villa itself proving frustratingly elusive. Focusing instead on what was found highlights an intriguing industrial complex that sent products the length of the province.
Working from what was known was a less complex business in the case of the Dartmoor cist burials. In the 19th-century heyday of antiquarian investigation scores of cists were opened to reveal that little or, more often, nothing lay within. Excavations in 2011 produced a major shock when they revealed the intact contents of an Early Bronze Age burial.
Survey of the 17th-century battlefield at Killiecrankie, in Perth and Kinross, is helping to piece together how the fighting unfolded. On this occasion, though, archaeology is vindicating an eye-witness account of the conflict.
Finally, this issue unveils the nominees for the 2017 CA awards. Good luck to them all – do vote for your favourites!
IN THIS ISSUE:
A remarkable Anglo-Saxon cemetery revealed
Anglo-Saxon timber coffins are rare, but archaeologists working in Norfolk have recently uncovered over 80 log coffins and plank-lined graves beside the River Wensum. What can the burials tell us about this early Christian community?
Coming to terms with messy reality
With evidence of large-scale pottery production and grain processing, five cemeteries, and two areas of cremation burial, Roman Mucking is far from simple. We examine how the settlement was redeveloped over the centuries, and how the complex site has been reinterpreted.
THE CIST ON WHITEHORSE HILL
Inside an Early Bronze Age burial
Many of Dartmoor’s prehistoric cists excavated in the 19th century were found to be empty, so when archaeologists investigated the Whitehorse Hill cist in 2011, its contents were a great surprise. What does this exceptional burial and its grave goods reveal about life in Early Bronze Age Dartmoor?
THE ‘BLUIDY’ BATTLE OF KILLIECRANKIE
Excavating the opening engagement of the first Jacobite Rising
How does a commanding officer’s account of the Battle of Killiecrankie stand up against finds from recent archaeological fieldwork at one of Scotland’s best-preserved battlefields?
The archaeology of ancient mice
How did ancient attitudes towards mice vary? Were the rodents seen as hungry pests, heroic warriors, or comic critters?
Little Carlton’s inhabitants revealed; Lincolnshire’s diverse Anglo-Saxon burial rites identified; Setting the scene at Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre; Safeguarding Star Carr; Great Fire manuscript on display; Irish adze illuminates Mesolithic burial rites; Neolithic Orcadians ate voles; Finds tray
Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive
Restoring Sir John Soane’s Museum
St Paul’s Cathedral; Small Finds and Ancient Social Practices in the Northwest Provinces of the Roman Empire; Hadrian’s Wall; Warriors, Warlords, and Saints; Castle Builders; The Archaeology of Darkness; Exploring Avebury; Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and
Mediterranean Island Ritual
South Africa: the art of a nation at the British Museum
The latest details about Current Archaeology Live! 2017, including the nominees for our awards
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
The Caithness Broch Project