Current Archaeology Live! 2023: the debrief

At the end of February, more than 400 people came to UCL’s Institute of Education in London for our first in-person conference since 2020. Here is a round-up of what went on.

On 25 February, Current Archaeology Live! returned for a day full of all things archaeological, this year in partnership with the UCL Institute of Archaeology. We heard from the experts themselves as they discussed some of the most significant archaeological projects from the past year – in Britain, abroad, and under the water, covering prehistoric, Roman, medieval, and post-medieval finds.

Kicking off proceedings, Dr Campbell Price explored the history of Egypt’s Graeco-Roman ‘Golden Mummies’ and how the public has responded to them over recent centuries. Continuing on an international theme, Dr Corisande Fenwick then talked about the spread of Islam into North Africa and how decades of excavations at Volubilis/Walila in Morocco have shed new light on the caliphate’s power at the far reaches of the empire. Finally, Dr Rebecca Roberts and Saltanat Amir concluded our foray abroad with a presentation about the richly adorned burials of the Iron Age Saka culture of the Great Steppe.

Photo: Adam Stanford

Our second morning session saw Dr Daniel Pascoe take us on a deep dive into marine archaeology, exploring the many shipwrecks that have been found in British waters, and highlighting how technology is enabling us to document and raise awareness of these fragile archaeological sites. Dr Stuart Brookes then gave us a tour of early medieval England, highlighting the evidence for local assembly places that can still be found in the landscape. This session concluded with Dr Sam Leggett guiding us through the illuminating insights that can be gained from isotope analysis, sharing the stories of six women from across history.

After lunch, the afternoon session showcased recent work by some of our major commercial units. Dr Clare Randall from Cotswold Archaeology talked about the evolution of the Roman villa at Dings Crusaders, near Bristol (see CA 394), which appears to have developed from a smaller Iron Age farmstead. We then headed to Hadrian’s Wall, with Scott Vance from Pre-Construct Archaeology telling us more about the newly discovered Turret 3a in urban Tyneside (see CA 392), and what it adds to our understanding of the Roman frontier. Finally, Paul Thompson and Lyn Blackmore from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) described the excavation of the elaborate early medieval bed burial found at Harpole (see CA 395), and updated us on the latest findings from post-excavation analysis.

Finally, this year’s keynote lecture was given by Shahina Farid, who discussed her wide-ranging career in archaeology both in the UK and abroad, from commercial excavations in London to working on cold, damp sites in Orkney and warm, sunny ones in Turkey, including the famous Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük.

Shahina Farid. PHOTO: Mark Edwards

Our thanks go to our new partners the UCL Institute of Archaeology; to UCL’s Institute of Education for hosting us; to Andante Travels, Oxbow Books, Wessex Insurance Brokers Ltd, and the Ashmolean Museum for sponsoring this year’s CA Awards; to Ace Cultural Tours for sponsoring the CWA photo competition; to all of our thoroughly deserving award nominees; to our excellent speakers; to our ever-helpful volunteers; and to everyone who took part in the archaeology fair.

We also extend our thanks to all of you who came along, or joined in from afar via our live-tweets: we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did – we could not have done it without you. We are still finalising the dates for next year’s conference, so watch this space for an update in the near future.

The winners of the annual CA Awards, which recognise the people, projects, and publications that have made an outstanding contribution to archaeology, were announced by Julian Richards at the end of the conference. There was also a separate award given by Adam Stanford for Current World Archaeology’s Photo of the Year. Thank you to everyone who voted.

The results!

The winners from left to right: Jane Downes, Tracey Williams, Julian Richards, Maeve McCormick, Máiréad Ní Challanáin, David Jacques. Photo: Adam Stanford

Archaeologist of the Year (sponsored by Andante Travels):
David Jacques

‘I really can’t believe it – Gabor and Lilian [Dr Gabor Thomas and Lilian Ladle, the other two nominees for this year’s award] are such obvious winners, so I am really taken aback. But this is for my friends, skilled archaeologists and really lovely people; all our volunteers; and the town of Amesbury, which is a very special community that has been so supportive of us.’

Research Project of the Year (sponsored by Oxbow Books):
Prehistoric pioneers: how female migrants changed the face of Bronze Age Orkney (University of Huddersfield/EASE Archaeology)

Accepting the award on behalf of the project team, Maeve McCormick and Máiréad Ní Challanáin, both of EASE Archaeology, said: ‘We are overwhelmed and delighted to accept this award on behalf of EASE Archaeology and the University of Huddersfield. It is an honour and an acknowledgement of everyone’s hard work, particularly during COVID.’

Rescue Project of the Year (sponsored by Wessex Insurance Brokers Ltd):
Archaeology adrift? A curious tale of Lego lost at sea (The Lego Lost at Sea Project)

Accepting the award, Tracey Williams said: ‘I would just like to thank all the people in Cornwall and beyond who pick up plastic from beaches, and all the fishermen who bring it up in their nets – this is for them.’

Book of the Year (sponsored by the Ashmolean Museum):
Landscapes revealed: geophysical survey in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Area, 2002-2011 by Amanda Brend, Nick Card, Jane Downes, Mark Edmonds, and James Moore

Accepting the award on behalf of the project team, Professor Jane Downes of the University of the Highlands and Islands said: ‘Thank you very much! I am quite overwhelmed given the field of volumes that have been nominated this year. Thank you to all who voted, to Current Archaeology, and to the sponsors of the award.’

Current World Archaeology Photo of the Year (sponsored by Ace Cultural Tours)

West Cemetery of Meroë in Sudan by Nickolas Warner

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