Current Archaeology 360

2 mins read

North of Inverness lies the evocatively named ‘Black Isle’ – a fertile peninsula that has hosted human activity for 10,000 years. Since 2017, community excavations have uncovered a wealth of finds from rare Mesolithic antler objects to a monumental Pictish barrow cemetery. Our first feature tours highlights from this productive project.

The effort that went into creating such mighty burial mounds suggests that their intended occupants were distinctly upper crust – and in our cover feature we encounter more apparently privileged people: the Bowl Hole burials. Laid to rest in the shadow of Bamburgh’s Anglian fortress c.1,400 years ago, these individuals are thought to be members of the royal court from Northumbria’s 7th- and 8th-century ‘Golden Age’. Two decades of research have revealed a surprisingly diverse community with links to continental Europe and beyond.

European connections continue as we piece together the story of the enigmatic Iron Age carnyx. Was it a ceremonial musical instrument or a terrifying war trumpet, and how was it played? A fragmentary antiquarian find from north-east Scotland may hold the answer.

Our fourth article is also something of a jigsaw puzzle, combining a broken horse bit and a single piece of horse bone with experimental archaeology to investigate an intriguing question: how big were the horses that raced in Colchester’s Roman circus?

Circuses were prestigious sites, hosting chariot races across the Roman Empire, but rare in Britain. Our final feature takes us to a rather different landscape of power, travelling to Laughton-en-le-Morthen to search for an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon hall that might shed light on the construction of Norman castles.

Carly Hilts

In This Issue:



Tracing Tarradale through 10,000 years
Excavations on a Highland peninsula have uncovered finds spanning millennia, from middens and a possible structure built by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to the second-largest Pictish barrow cemetery known in Scotland.


Life and death in Northumbria’s Golden Age
Analysis of Anglo-Saxon skeletons buried on the beach below Bamburgh Castle has uncovered a story of far-ranging migration and a surprisingly diverse community that thrived 1,400 years ago.


Studying the Deskford carnyx
A fragmentary bronze horn terminating in a boar’s head has been adopted as a symbol of Scotland’s prehistoric past – but what can we learn of its purpose? We explore depictions of this enigmatic instrument in the Iron Age and Roman worlds, and recent studies that have set out to understand and reconstruct it.


Horses return to Colchester’s Roman circus
Recent experimental archaeology at Britain’s only known Roman chariot racetrack is helping to shed light on the horses that competed at Colchester’s circus.


Searching for Laughton’s Anglo-Saxon elite
The hunt for an Anglo-Saxon hall belonging to Earl Edwin, brother-in-law to Harold Godwinson and an important member of the 11th-century aristocracy, has revealed interesting insights into how pre-Conquest power centres shaped the construction of Norman castles.


First intact Roman-era egg recovered; New discoveries in the Neolithic landscape of the Callanish Stones; Insights into Iron Age mobility at Navan Fort; Bronze Age burials beside Loch Ness; Romano-British cemetery unearthed in Somerton; Science Notes; Home Guard Auxiliary bunker discovered; Finds Tray


Joe Flatman excavates the
CA archive

Keeping up with the neighbours: Bryn Celli Bach, Anglesey

The Romanesque Abbey of St Peter at Gloucester; The Lost Art of the Anglo-Saxon World: the sacred and secular power of embroidery; The King in the North: the Pictish realms of Fortríu and Ce; The Prehistoric Archaeology of the A477 St Clears to Red Roses Road Improvement Scheme 2012; Carrick, County Wexford: Ireland’s first AngloNorman stronghold; Irish Houses and Castles, 1400-1740

Your Stonehenge at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Museum News
The latest acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions

Our selection of exhibitions and events

Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues

Odd Socs
The Cockburn Association

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