Current Archaeology 381

If you think of the monastery that was founded on Iona in AD 563, your imaginings are probably tinged with tragedy, evoking an island community all-but extinguished by vicious Viking raids. Increasingly, though, research suggests that the religious site was much longer-lived than previously thought, as our cover story reports.

Turning to more secular settlements, archaeology can establish where medieval peasants lived, and what their homes were like – but how far can we uncover their sense of identity? A wide-ranging project focused on south Oxfordshire has revealed intriguing clues.

Leaping forward to the present day: as this issue rolls out, the UN Climate Change Conference is under way in Glasgow. Can improving our understanding of the past help ameliorate the current climate crisis? Research on Mersea Island, Essex, suggests so. Speaking of green matters (which I know from my inbox concern many of you), a quick reminder that the polythene that wraps subscribers’ copies can be fully recycled at larger supermarkets and in some household collections. We are actively looking into biodegradable packaging, though, and are determined to switch when financially viable.

Our next article explores the history of archaeological illustration, before we cover a site that is really changing images of the past: Blick Mead in Amesbury has flipped the balance of Mesolithic finds in the Stonehenge landscape, producing tens of thousands of pieces of worked stone and evidence of feasting. I visited the project in October to hear the latest news – and, while prehistoric finds still abounded, the team also had a colourful medieval discovery to share.

Cover Story

Iona in the Viking Age: laying a ‘zombie narrative’ to rest The traditional story of Iona’s early medieval monastery ends in tragedy and bloodshed, with the religious community wiped out by vicious Viking raiders. Increasingly, though, the archaeological and historical evidence does not support this persistent narrative, as Adrián Maldonado, Ewan…

Features

CITiZAN’S Climate Emergency: protecting the future by understanding the past Can studying past coastal change help us to ameliorate the climate crisis facing us today? A project focused on Mersea Island in Essex has illuminated invaluable information, report Oliver Hutchinson,…
Picturing the past in Wales: the evolution of archaeological illustration No more waiting for photographs to be processed only to discover that half of them are under- or over-exposed or out of focus: we live in the age of selfies,…
Living like common people: uncovering medieval peasant perceptions of landscape How did medieval villagers understand the world around them? Stephen Mileson and Stuart Brookes addressed this question in a research project and recently published book. Here Stephen reports on their…
From aurochsen to abbey tiles: uncovering Mesolithic and medieval finds at Blick Mead Excavations at Blick Mead, a significant Mesolithic occupation site close to Stonehenge, continued this autumn. Carly Hilts travelled to the site to learn more about prehistoric hunters and traces of…

News

Over 90 burials discovered in Deal Most of the later burials were found outside the ring ditch, but inside the prehistoric enclosure the archaeologists found the c.AD 550 grave of a warrior.
Little Hadham’s road to the past The team uncovered evidence of farming activity within the enclosure, alongside the foundation walls of a late Roman ‘tuning fork’ corn-dryer.
Iron Age shrine unearthed in the Yorkshire Wolds Excavations on a hill in the Yorkshire Wolds have uncovered the remains of a 24m2 Iron Age shrine packed with cow skulls, deer antler, and other animal bones. The site…
Biocodicology and the proteomics of parchment By analysing the proteins found in early modern legal records, a team of researchers have been able to prove that people in early modern Britain preferred to write their documents…
Excavating Scotland’s earliest railway A community project excavating Scotland’s first railway has uncovered three 18th-century phases of timber construction layered on top of each other. The unprecedented discovery was made in East Lothian by…
Experimental ‘Bronze Age roundhouse’ unveiled The new roundhouse was built almost entirely by 33 volunteers from Operation Nightingale, a charity assisting the recovery of wounded and traumatised military personnel and veterans through archaeology.
Roman Venus figurine found in Gloucester Dating to the 1st or 2nd century AD, the moulded statuette is just 17cm high and has been interpreted as a religious icon, probably imported from elsewhere in the Roman…
Secrets of scotch PHOTO: Alison White. Archaeologists from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are discovering the secrets of Speyside malt at the old site of The Glenlivet Distillery in Upper Drumin (pictured…

Views

Letters – CA November 2021 Letters Your views on previous issues of Current Archaeology.
Excavating the East Midlands Comment, Places While investigating a site near Clifton in the south-western suburbs of Nottingham, Wessex Archaeology found evidence of a late Iron Age/early Romano-British farmstead, as well as the remains of two…
Exhibitions, Events, and Visits Museum, What's on With even more heritage sites and museums around the UK opening up and in-person events being held again, we have put together a list of some of the exhibitions, lectures,…
Friends of Canterbury Cathedral Groups The Friends have raised some £15 million towards projects as diverse as the purchase of a minibus for the choristers, the conservation of rare books in the library, the restoration…
Northampton Museum & Art Gallery Museum, What's on Following a £6.7 million transformation, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery has reopened to the public, with new galleries showcasing the town’s history – particularly its proud shoemaking heritage. Carly Hilts…
Early medieval disc brooch Objects Crafted from copper-alloy, this early medieval disc brooch features a bird holding a branch (outlined above by Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Hereford). The item is thought…
Sutton Hoo: capturing a ghost ship The Picture Desk It is one of hundreds of images of the investigation that are now available to browse online thanks to the conservation and digitisation efforts of the National Trust.
Museum news Museum, What's on The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions.
Church Communities and Heritage Comment Churches are significant repositories of community history; they contain rare and precious objects; they are, in a very real sense, museums at the heart of every community. They are also…

Reviews

The Wrecks of HM Frigates Assurance (1753) & Pomone (1811) In April 1753, a British frigate called the Assurance sank on the Needles, off the coast of the Isle of Wight. Its remains were rediscovered in 1969, complete with cannon,…
Exhibitions, Events, and Visits With even more heritage sites and museums around the UK opening up and in-person events being held again, we have put together a list of some of the exhibitions, lectures,…
London’s Roman Tools: craft, agriculture and experience in an ancient city This new study of tools from Roman London is a hefty volume, but it more than justifies the bookshelf space. Thorough coverage of dozens of crafts and tool types will…
Cruck Building: a survey Crucks, curving roof timbers that in their purest form go from the ground to the apex of the roof, have long been a puzzle. They superficially appear to be a…
Stranger in the Mask of a Deer ‘Dreamer, can you cast your mind back to before you were islanded?’ This thoughtful and thought-provoking book-length poem is described by its author, Richard Skelton, as a ‘call-and-response from the…
Northampton Museum & Art Gallery Following a £6.7 million transformation, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery has reopened to the public, with new galleries showcasing the town’s history – particularly its proud shoemaking heritage. Carly Hilts…
A Mighty Capital Under Threat: the environmental history of London, 1800-2000 The London we know today traces its roots directly back to the modest settlement developed on the banks of the Thames in the late 9th century, in the time of…
Museum news The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions.