News in brief

Excavations begin along the A303

Photo: Wessex Archaeology.

Preliminary investigatons by Wessex Archaeology in advance of the planned A303 tunnel scheme are in progress. So far they have undertaken more than 462ha of geophysical survey and 440 evaluation trenches, uncovering diverse finds in the Stonehenge landscape. These include the burial of a young woman dating to the Beaker period. Near to the burial were several pits, all dating to the same period as the woman and filled with pottery, worked flint tools, animal bones, and, in one pit, the tiny ear bones of an infant. Further from this site, the team has uncovered a ‘C’-shaped late Bronze Age enclosure, which, based on the amount of burnt flint found in the soil, may have been used for industrial purposes. Not all archaeologists welcome the tunnel scheme, however; on 16 February the Stonehenge Alliance secured a hearing in their judicial review challenge, arguing that the proposed tunnel design could harm the area’s archaeology, including key sites such as Blick Mead (see CA 271, 324, and 325). As work continues, we will continue to report both on excavated finds, and on the campaign’s progress.

Saving shipwrecks

Two 19th-century shipwrecks have been given scheduled status by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport on the advice of Historic England. The first wreck, GAD23, is located off Goodwin Sands in Kent; the second, WA08, is in the Thames Estuary in Essex.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: ‘These two unnamed sailing ships help tell the fascinating story of England’s industrial history. They are a rare survival of merchant trading that took place around Britain’s coast in the mid- to late 1800s. This is a period when Britain rapidly expanded its industrial and commercial activities. They are special and deserve protection as well-preserved examples of a common type of vessel of the time, with their cargos of coal and Cornish slate clearly recognisable.’

Caernarfon Castle

Excavations at Caernarfon Castle that began in January 2019 have recently concluded, revealing evidence of the castle’s early history.

Ian Miller, Director of Salford Archaeology, who led the dig, said: ‘Working closely with Cadw’s archaeology and conservation teams, we’ve discovered tantalising evidence of Roman settlers dating back as far as the 1st century, suggesting that the site… was of huge strategic significance long before a castle was built in 1283. What’s more, this once-in a-lifetime project has yielded some very significant clues as to the use of the site immediately prior to the construction of the castle, and an insight into how this incredible building developed during the late 13th and 14th centuries.’

Post-excavation analysis is now in progress; watch this space for more details.