Current Archaeology 398

3 mins read

This month’s cover story takes us to the western fringe of the early medieval Christian world: the isolated islet of Skellig Michael, off the coast of Co. Kerry. Once inhabited by intrepid ascetics, the ruins of monastic structures still cling to its jagged slopes. We explore the history of this and later communities who once called the rocky outcrop home, and why it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1996.

Moving to another coastal site, we next travel to the waters off north Norfolk, where the Gloucester struck a sandbank and sank in 1682. Its wreck was rediscovered in 2007, and since then artefacts eroding from the site have been shedding light on the lives of its passengers – which included the future James II and VII – and the post-Restoration politics that drove its fatal final voyage.

Our next feature reflects another turbulent period in English history, culminating in the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. An ornate shrine was built in Canterbury Cathedral to house his relics, but it was torn down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. What has recent research revealed about its appearance?

Completing our trio of conflict-themed articles, we then explore the long-demolished Civil War-era defences of King’s Lynn. What can we learn about their design?

Finally, we travel to Govan Old, an impressive Victorian church in Glasgow’s former industrial heartland which houses a remarkable series of Viking Age carved stones. With recent fieldwork uncovering more such stones in the churchyard, we explore the latest findings and highlight an ongoing initiative working to put the site at the heart of the local community once more.

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In This Issue:



Exploring early medieval asceticism on the Skelligs
Just off the west coast of Ireland sits an isolated monastery perched precariously on top of a rocky islet. What was early monastic life like on the fringes of the medieval Christian world, and how was this amazing feat of architecture achieved?


Piecing together the story of a royal wreck
Almost 350 years ago, the Gloucester struck a sandbank off the north Norfolk coast and sank – almost taking the future King James II and VII with it. Since the wreck was rediscovered in 2007, analysis of recovered artefacts has been illuminating the experiences of those on board, as a new exhibition reveals.


Reconstructing the shrine of Thomas Becket
Following on from last month’s feature about research focused on the elaborate mosaic that lay in front of the shrine of Thomas Becket, what has the same project revealed about the shrine itself, and Canterbury Cathedral’s two chapels associated with the saint?


How a small field in North Lynn illuminated Civil War fortress engineering
What can recent excavations tell us about how the imposing earthworks that once defended 17th-century King’s Lynn were constructed, and the history of the town’s earlier fortifications?


Placing archaeology at the heart of a Glasgow community
Govan Old Parish Church is home to one of the most significant collections of Viking Age carved stones in Britain. We learn about the latest fieldwork in the churchyard, and an ambitious initiative to transform the building itself into a heritage centre that will engage and invigorate the local community.


The Colchester Vase re-examined; Iron Age comb made from human skull bone among A14 finds; Roman place of worship found under Leicester Cathedral; Work begins on reassembling the Newport ship; Unusual artefact from Vindolanda re-investigated; Science Notes; First residue analysis of a medieval stone cresset; Finds Tray


Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive

Spring cleaning at Fishbourne Roman Palace

Winters in the World: a journey through the Anglo-Saxon year; 50 Finds from Somerset: objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme; The Emperor Nero’s Pottery and Tilery at Little London, Pamber, by Silchester, Hampshire: the excavations of 2017; The Coffin Roads: journeys to the West; Medieval Bridges of Southern England: 100 bridges, 1000 years; Treasures of Roman Yorkshire

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions

Stories of St James’s Burial Ground at St James’s Church, Piccadilly in London

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

A round-up of what happened at CA Live! 2023

An array of upcoming archaeological opportunities

Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues

Wealden Iron Research Group

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