Current Archaeology 391

3 mins read

How do we define archaeology? In some countries, there are clear parameters in terms of date – the USA’s Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979) stipulates a minimum age of 100 years, for example. In CA, though, we have featured many decidedly modern sites representing not only the material legacies of the two World Wars and the Cold War, but even the excavation of the Reno, a Manchester night- club demolished in 1986 (see CA 342). Our cover story has a similarly recent tale to tell, featuring an ongoing project working to document thousands of pieces of Lego – part of a cargo lost overboard in 1997 – that are still washing up on Cornish beaches today.

Our next article traces the rise and fall of medieval London Bridge. A far cry from the bare concrete construction that currently shares its name, it was lined with shops, religious buildings, and the homes of some 500 people.

From this lofty spot above the waters of the Thames, we then plunge beneath the waves to explore the wreck of HMS Northumberland, which was lost off the Kent coast during the Great Storm of 1703. As the sandbank surrounding the ship’s remains rapidly erodes, archaeologists are racing against time to record as much as possible.

From the seabed to the higher and drier environment of the Wiltshire Museum’s attic, our fourth feature showcases a recently rediscovered series of Victorian rock samples, which are shedding invaluable new light on the Stonehenge bluestones.

Finally, I would like to extend a warm ‘welcome back’ to our deputy editor, Kathryn, who has returned from maternity leave and will be delighted to hear from you about news stories for future issues.

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In This Issue:



Exploring London Bridge and its houses, 1209-1761
Serving as both the main crossing of the Thames for the City of London as well as housing for some 500 people, the medieval London Bridge was an architectural wonder of its time. Here, we explore the bridge’s evolution over the centuries and the individuals who once called it their home.


A curious tale of Lego lost at sea
Since a shipment of Lego went overboard during a storm off of Land’s End in 1997, thousands of pieces of those iconic plastic bricks have been washing up on Cornish beaches. A new book has painstakingly documented their recovery, charting when and where these pieces have come ashore. But is this archaeology? Read on to form your own opinion.


Diving a victim of the Great Storm of 1703
HMS Northumberland was built as part of a ship-building programme that transformed the Royal Navy as a professional fighting force, and enjoyed a long and successful career fighting mostly against the French. In 1703, though, it was one of several vessels to be lost on the Goodwin Sands during what would become known as the Great Storm. The wreck was rediscovered in 1980, and now, as the sandbank shielding its remains erodes, archaeologists are working to record the vessel before it deteriorates.


New insights into the Stonehenge bluestones
The recent rediscovery, in the attic of the Wiltshire Museum, of an assemblage of rock samples collected in the late 19th century revealed three thin sections that proved to be rare samples taken directly from Stonehenge bluestones. This fortuitous find is now providing scientists with a rare look into the composition, and potential origins, of these stones.


Cardiff’s oldest house?; Excavating Dinas Dinlle before it falls into the sea; Magnetic Pavilion unearthed in Greenwich Park; Medieval prayer beads found on Lindisfarne; Bringing Glencoe back to life with a replica turf house; Science Notes; Rock crystal commemorations in the Neolithic; Finds Tray

Going underground: echoes of Napoleonic-era mining found at Alderley Edge


Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive

A voyage to the past: Dover Museum, Kent

Conquering the Ocean: the Roman invasion of Britain; Stratton, Biggleswade: 1,300 years of village life in eastern Bedfordshire from the 5th century AD; Growing Up Human: the evolution of childhood; Fen and Sea: the landscapes of south-east Lincolnshire AD 500-1700; Roman Rural Settlement in Wales and the Marches: approaches to settlement and material culture through big data; Hunter-Gatherer Ireland: making connections in an island world

The Cairns and The Newark Project, Orkney

Final countdown begins for Museum of London move

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions


Highlights from Scotland’s month-long celebration of heritage and archaeology

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 East End Preservation Society

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