News in brief

Museums + Heritage award winners announced

Winners of the 2021 Museums + Heritage Award were announced at a virtual ceremony on 1 July, after a record number of entries were submitted. In addition to the normal awards categories, this year several COVID-specific awards were added, including the COVID Special Recognition Award and the COVID Supplier of the Year Award, to recognise the amazing response many in the museum and heritage sector made to keep it alive and thriving in such trying times.

The full list of winners can be found here.

Thames Discovery Programme to continue

MOLA’s Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) – which trains volunteers to record the archaeology of the Thames foreshore – has been granted £250,000 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support their two-year ‘River Recoveries’ project. These funds – in addition to support from Historic England, the City of London Archaeological Trust (COLAT), and the Port of London Authority – will help revitalise the TDP, hopefully allowing it to continue well into the future.

The new project officially began this past July and is to focus on revising the TDP volunteer training programme to allow a wider range of people to take part, as well as engaging with younger audiences by establishing a TDP Young Archaeologists’ Club. It also aims to create a complete online archive of all artefacts recorded from the foreshore.

New discoveries on Rat Island

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and Operation Nightingale recently returned to Burrow Island – also known as ‘Rat Island’ – excavating more graves before they eroded into Portsmouth harbour (see CA 339 and 351). The cemetery on Rat Island is believed to have been used for convicts who were imprisoned on hulks moored in the harbour during the late 18th and early 19th century.

Photo: MOD Crown Copyright 2021

The latest work on the island has revealed the remains of a further 12 people, including an infant and possible woman. Previously, all of the other individuals recovered from the site have been identified as male, ranging in age from their late teens to early 60s. These new discoveries could indicate that the harsh treatment on these prison ships was not a punishment solely reserved for men, but further research on the remains will be needed to confirm the circumstances of their life, death, and burial.

Read more about the previous discoveries at Rat Island in:
Current Archaeology 339: Exercise Magwitch and the prisoners of Rat Island
Current Archaeology 351: Return to Rat Island