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British Archaeology – Back Issue 115 (Nov/Dec 2010)

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THE HUMAN REMAINS CRISIS

“Editors like the word ‘crisis’ (providing it describes somebody else’s predicament!). It’s punchy, eye-catching and can be applied to almost anything. So it’s good for headlines – where it plays its part on our striking front cover.

“But what is this crisis? It affects the excavation and study of every human burial. At its heart is bureaucracy and the interpretation of law. Unless action is taken soon, British archaeology’s entire relationship with the remains of ancient and historic people will be transformed. And inasmuch as archaeologists are a mouthpiece for extinct or forgotten societies, that change would affect us all. I urge you to read about this.”

Mike Pitts (Editor)

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ON THE COVER

THE HUMAN REMAINS CRISIS

“Editors like the word ‘crisis’ (providing it describes somebody else’s predicament!). It’s punchy, eye-catching and can be applied to almost anything. So it’s good for headlines – where it plays its part on our striking front cover.

“But what is this crisis? It affects the excavation and study of every human burial. At its heart is bureaucracy and the interpretation of law. Unless action is taken soon, British archaeology’s entire relationship with the remains of ancient and historic people will be transformed. And inasmuch as archaeologists are a mouthpiece for extinct or forgotten societies, that change would affect us all. I urge you to read about this.”

Mike Pitts (Editor)

 

AMONG OTHER STORIES

ENGLAND’S OLDEST WOODEN WINDOW

A small oak window, complete with frame and shutter and described as the oldest window of its kind, has been found in place in the wall of a Berkshire church. The discovery suggests the church’s present chancel is mostly of Anglo-Saxon build, adding to the scarce proven standing structures of this era

ON THE TRAIL OF VIKING… WOMEN

Over 500 items of Viking-style jewellery has been found in England by metal detectorists – an astounding 20-fold increase in the number known a generation ago. The finds include a wide range of brooches worn by women in Scandinavia, particularly in Denmark, and most come from the English Danelaw. This draws new attention especially to East Anglia and Lincolnshire, and away from the traditional areas of interest in northern England and the east Midlands, where Scandinavian placenames and sculpture are found. Histories are almost entirely about the men, but these brooches suggest that many women also came to England as part of the Viking settlement

UNIQUE ICE AGE FIND

A small scatter of flint debris excavated at Farndon Fields, Nottinghamshire, marked the spot where someone had knelt on the ground some 14,000 years ago and shaped flint blades. The flints were soon covered by river silts, preserving the pieces until revealed by excavation, as if the stone age hunter had just stood up and walked away. He or she may have visited Creswell Crags, 20 miles to the north-west where Britain’s only ice age cave art was recently discovered

REFUGEE ARCHAEOLOGIST

Pul Jacobsthal was pivotal in the development of European prehistory in the 20th century, and wrote a landmark study of Celtic art. New research into his correspondence reveals the tensions in the life of a German Jewish archaeologist forced to flee his university town in 1935 and find a new home in Oxford

THE BID DIG: BESTWALL QUARRY

Between 1992 and 2005, amateur archaeologists excavated a 55ha (140 acres) landscape near Poole Harbour in Dorset, as it was being quarried away. The site is now a classic for understanding the rich story of Britain’s early past, with activity spanning 11 millennia and featuring a unique house-by-house sequence spanning seven or eight centuries of the bronze age whose story can be told through individual human generations.

THE LITTLE HOUSE BY THE SHORE

We reported three years ago that the wood and animal remains that make the mesolithic site of Star Carr, North Yorkshire, so important, were in danger of disappearing. New excavations confirm these fears – and show there is still much of interest to learn, not least from the surprising find of what seems to be the UK’s oldest house

ADVENTURES IN ARCHAEOLOGY

Large post-war digs that drove the “rescue” movement in the 60s and 70s challenged traditional ideas about excavation. Eight archaeologists look back at those heady – if not hedonistic – days

EXCAVATING THE LIVING DEAD

For the first time, we report the full and surprising story of the bronze age people on Boscombe Down:

  • Between 2400–1600BC over 38 individuals were buried on the hill near Stonehenge
  • Contrary to expectations, most people were not buried under barrow mounds, but in small graves and pits. Some of these graves were dug into while there was still flesh on the bodies, and bones removed; others were dug out and packed full of blocks of flint; in one case a pit with skull and long bones was flanked on either side by pits holding complete pots
  • Scientific analyses show that most people were born and grew up locally
  • A few people had travelled widely before their deaths: the “Amesbury Archer” was born in central Europe, three of the “Boscombe Bowmen” came from Wales, north-west England, Scotland, or elsewhere in Europe; and the recently reported “amber boy” came from southern Europe
  • Near the archer was buried his “companion”, a younger man who died a few years after the archer; distinctive bones in their feet show the men were related. We reveal that the companion was born locally, but he travelled to central Europe in childhood and back, perhaps visiting the area where his father grew up

 

REGULARS INCLUDE

* News

Introducing a new regular feature, Britain in archaeology: a unique and authoritative pick of recent discoveries and events in the unfolding story of our past

* Greg Bailey on broadcasting

How Mud Men went from guerrilla archaeology to responsible best practice

* Mick’s travels

Mick Aston visits Bamburgh, Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands

* Science

Sebastian Payne looks for the remains beneath the bracken

* Spoilheap

Don’t judge a book by its cover – unless you’re on it

* On the web

Neolithic excavations and Cranborne Chase

* My archaeology

Artist David Inshaw talks about time and sensuality in landscape

 * Books

Mesolithic Hebrides, Edwardian castles in Wales, and shipwrecks

* Letters

Homeless diggers, test pits and Carausius’s pocket money

 * Briefing

Archaeological conferences and networking for the winter

* CBA Correspondent

Mike Heyworth reviews current events in marine archaeology

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