Archaeology for all - Council for British Archaeology

Archaeology Matters

Past issue 167

On the cover: Bling King Returns

Details of the Anglo-Saxon Prittlewell prince are revealed as study of the burial excavated in 2003 is published and a new exhibition opens in Southend.

Issue 167

Among other stories


  • Reading’s secret dig  The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has secretly excavated at Reading Prison, where Oscar Wilde witnessed the execution and burial of a fellow inmate as described in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and over remains of Reading Abbey, where Henry I was buried. A Freedom of Information Request revealed that the MoJ fears that making the excavations public would reduce the market value of the land, which it wishes to sell for redevelopment – despite the Prison being a listed building, so any future owner would be bound to respect the site’s archaeology. We reveal the full story, including the history of Reading Abbey. And we propose the exact site of the grave of Henry I – beneath the carpark tarmac of Reading Prison.
  • Stonehenge stone irradiated in 1950s  Radioactive sodium was rushed from Harwell to Stonehenge in 1958 to measure cracks in one of the large megaliths. Bolts were drilled through to secure it. A core of sarsen removed at the time has been returned to the site’s custodians, having travelled in private across the US.
  • Life-long learning using archaeology in care homes  Taking archaeology to care homes stimulated older people to talk about their lives and ask challenging questions.
  • Middens and the end of the Bronze Age  How did societies change when iron first came to Britain? A new project revisited an extraordinary mound at East Chisenbury in Wiltshire, hoping to create the first requirement of answering that question – a scheme to say what happened when. They succeeded. 
  • Britain’s earliest scripts  In the first of two features about early scripts in Britain, we visit north-east Scotland, where a new project has dated Pictish symbol stones, suggesting they were inspired by contact with the Roman world. The second feature is set in Orkney. A famous Neolithic monument was visited by Norse travellers in the 1100s, who inscribed messages that have been digitally examined for the first time.
  • Big data on the Roman table  Archaeologists like to classify ancient pottery by type, texture and colour, but such things may offer little help with understanding how the vessels were used. A major collaborative project has considered new ways in which pots might inform our knowledge of Roman dining.

 Regulars include

  • News  A Neolithic dog’s face reconstructed
  • Letters  Treasure Act review
  • Greg Bailey on broadcasting  Robert Macfarlane’s Underland on Radio 4
  • Sharp focus  WW2 structures intended to confound invading aircraft
  • My archaeology  Linda Brothwell, artist with a passion for tools
  • Correspondent  The challenges of archaeological publishing
  • Casefiles  Low Whita Farm, Swaledale, North Yorkshire
  • Books  The Prittlewell Princely Burial
  • Spoilheap  The US share flotation that outfoxed UK museums
  • Briefing  The UK's only archaeological events listing, with exhibition reviews

British Archaeology is a bimonthly members' magazine that is also available in newsagents, and by subscription in print and digital

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