Current Archaeology 390

3 mins read

With enormous capstones perched precariously on stone supports, Neolithic dolmens appear to defy gravity – and, in some cases, interpretation. Why were these mighty monuments built across northern Europe, and were their stone frames intended to impress, or originally concealed within earth mounds? Our cover story investigates the options.

Equally monumental in construction, though very different in nature, are the frontier fortifications of Hadrian’s Wall. How did the Romans source the stone used to build this edifice – and how were these materials redistributed and reused in subsequent centuries? A community archaeology project that has excavated more than 15 sites on and around the Wall since 2019 set out to find more.

Hadrian’s Wall left an indelible mark on the surrounding area, but our next feature explores rather earlier environmental evidence, based on recent scientific analysis of sediment, pollen, and aDNA samples from the Mesolithic ‘home base’ at Blick Mead, near Stonehenge. The results paint a vivid picture of a long-vanished landscape.

From Salisbury Plain, we then soar towards the northern fringes of Britain, paying a visit to the Outer Hebrides, and specifically South Uist, where cutting-edge augmented-reality technology is being used in innovative ways to illuminate the island’s rich archaeological heritage, from Bronze Age mummies to a Viking longhouse.

Finally, we take a tour of Dulverton House, a former monastic infirmary near Gloucester Cathedral which was recently refurbished to become a Sixth Form Centre. What have these works revealed about the building’s long and varied past, and what material traces of these earlier incarnations survive?

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In This Issue:



New insights from community archaeology on Hadrian’s Wall
Since the start of 2019, the WallCAP initiative has excavated more than 15 sites on and around Hadrian’s Wall. What has this project revealed about how stone was sourced to construct the frontier fortifications, and these materials’ post-Roman afterlife?


Exploring environmental evidence from Blick Mead
Scientific analysis of sediments, pollen, and ancient DNA preserved at Blick Mead, a Mesolithic occupation site close to Stonehenge, has provided a detailed image of the landscape, and how people interacted with it, 8,000 years ago.


Hebridean archaeology goes virtual
Cutting-edge augmented-reality technology is helping to bring the archaeology of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, to life, in the form of a new app and exhibition. How did these come about, and what have excavations revealed about the sites featured?


The great dolmens of Neolithic northern Europe
Why were dolmens – imposing constructions comprising huge capstones supported on three or more stone uprights – built during the Neolithic period? We explore the possible purpose of these mighty monuments and consider whether their stone frames were deliberately designed to impress, or had originally been concealed within earth mounds.


Tracing the evolution of Dulverton House
Nestled in the shadow of Gloucester Cathedral, Dulverton House was recently renovated as a Sixth Form Centre. These works have revealed material traces of a long history, from monastic infirmary and Reformation-era graffiti to Restoration redesigns.


Evidence for some of Britain’s earliest humans found in suburban Canterbury; Killer whale remains from Anglo-Saxon Norfolk; Medieval ‘Daneskins’ revealed to be animal hide; Iron Age remains and animal sacrifices found in Dorset; Digging the beautiful game in Glasgow; Science Notes; Endangered buildings: Victorian Society calls for nominations; Finds Tray

Gravestones and grindstones: one of England’s earliest-known shipwrecks found off Dorset


Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive

Treasure of Mercia: the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Lyde Green Roman Villa: Emersons Green, South Gloucestershire; Assessing Iron Age Marsh-Forts; The Prehistoric Artefacts of Northern Ireland; Atlas of the Hillforts of Britain and Ireland; Land Surveying in Ireland, 1690-1830; Shadowlands: a journey through lost Britain

The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions

Our selection of exhibitions and events, as well as historical, archaeological, and cultural resources from around the world that are still available online.

Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues

The Offa’s Dyke Association

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