CA Letters 394 – December

Your views on the latest issues raised in CA.

Dreaming about Dinas Dinlle

I was interested to see the news item in CA 391 on Dinas Dinlle (below). It reminded me of two family holidays enjoyed there, around 1960, in a guest house on the beach very close to the fort, which I climbed up most days. I think the building is still there, from photographs. I was reading T H White’s The Once and Future King at the time, and the misty view across to Anglesey from the ancient fort seemed an appropriate setting for reading about this mysterious period of the past. Maybe it contributed to my later choice of research in the early medieval period – although I have worked in the brighter, drier air of East Anglia, and I am more sceptical about mystery and magic than I was in my teens.


Catherine Hills

Murder mysteries and maps

I saw in CA 392 that a British Historic Towns Trust book on Oxford has been published. My husband bought me the one on York and it is fascinating. I was reading a set of historical novels, Matthew Cordwainer Medieval Mysteries, set in York in the 13th century, and I had been bemoaning the lack of a map, which would allow me to relate places in the books to the city’s modern layout that I knew reasonably well. When the book was delivered, we were both surprised at its size but immediately appreciated how interesting it is to be able to overlay maps to understand York’s development. Most importantly for me was seeing where characters in the novels lived, worked, and were murdered. An interest in archaeology and history can take you down many different paths.

Jacquie Howard
Bramhope, Leeds

Puzzling pommels

Sword-guards and other pommel items are a puzzling component of the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire hoard. There is a possible clue about them from samurai-era Japan in a wonderful book by Takashi Matsuoka: Cloud of Sparrows. In the book, a character gives Lord Genji a sword-guard as a token of allegiance. In the context of Mercia, they could also be tokens of submission to an aggressive king.

Richard Durrant
Portland, Dorset

IMAGE: C Hilts

Silly signage

Reading the ‘Odd Socs’ article on the Ministry of Works Signage Appreciation Society in CA 392, I was reminded of something my father, Sussex archaeologist Eric Holden (1911-1989), told me many years ago. He and my mother Hilda were on a visit to a Welsh castle with the Society for Medieval Archaeology (1960s?). Dad was chatting to a Dutchman who spoke good English. The man chuckled as he looked at the signage either side of the path, saying ‘I shall never understand your English language – here I see a sign saying “Path to the Keep”, and there another saying “Keep to the Path”.’ Though presumably the Ministry of Works was not to blame.

Janet Pennington
Steyning, West Sussex

Reply from Carly:
Thanks for writing in, Janet! I think my favourite sign from a heritage site is this rather ominous warning that I photographed during a visit to Sutton Hoo…

Digging up Staffordshire

Members of Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society enjoyed Joe Flatman’s recent review of the CA archive focusing on Staffordshire. Joe appeals for reports on early prehistoric sites in the county, and our Society is happy to help.
Kings Low and Queens Low, a pair of Bronze Age barrows north of Stafford, were excavated under the direction of Professor Gary Lock and published in an exemplary publication by Archaeopress. The kerbed tumuli were found to contain collared urns and a faience bead. The Society later dug two Bronze Age burnt mounds south of Uttoxeter, with detailed dig diaries archived on our website The reward for months of hard digging here was a magnificent trough securely radiocarbon dated with charcoal from 1300 BC.

Earlier still, we excavated a rock shelter at Wetton Mill with stratified evidence of use through every period from Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Roman through to the 19th century. Finds from there and Kings Low are displayed in the Potteries Museum.

Keith Ryan
Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society


Every year my mum has challenged herself to bake me a prehistoric-themed birthday cake. Previous (re)creations include a shortbread Stonehenge and Bryn Celli Ddu (complete with carved standing stone). This year’s was of Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire, replicated in chocolate.

I’m currently studying for a PhD in Archaeology at the University of Bradford and also working as the Community Archaeologist for the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, so I’m not the slightest bit miffed that my mum made it into Current Archaeology before I did…

Jack Rowe
Mid Wales

CA Online

Alec Badenoch @alec_badenoch
Lovely column on Scotland’s archaeology by a dear friend, dedicated to my favourite Scottish archaeologist.

Excavating the CA Archive: Scotland via @CurrentArchaeo.

HE Archaeology @HE_Archaeology
For #Halloween reacquaint yourselves with how the medieval inhabitants of #wharrampercy dealt with the problem of reanimated corpses that arise from their graves in this open-access publication from 2017: j.jasrep.2017.02.023 @CurrentArchaeo #heritagescience.

Paul Jeffery @HeritageMedic
As a student in the 1080s, I spent a night camping in the graveyard while working on an excavation. To my knowledge no corpses were reanimated and I had a good night’s sleep.

Sarah May @Sarah_May1
I hope you mean 1980s or are you yourself reanimated.

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