The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 112

Issue 112

May / Jun 2010


Rare prehistoric finds at major Carlisle dig

Hammerwich hoard "saved" – but who for?

Mary Rose studies query science of tracing migration

Surprising age of new-found stone row on Dartmoor

in brief & phase 2


University archaeology

THE BIG DIG: Discovering Bosworth

The Buried Gods of Gogmagog

Three Men and a (Leaky) Boat

on the web

Caroline Wickham-Jones investigates the archaeological value of encyclopaedic websites and Stuart Jeffrey describes the Grey Lierature Library


A child's gift to science, the human remains debate


Your views and responses

CBA Correspondent

Mike Heyworth explores the great rewards and challenges of undersea archaeology


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts


Star Letter


Star Letter

Brian Philp

Please be warned of a bogus story that appeared in some British newspapers about discoveries in Madeira. These claimed that an "iron nail" had been found on an excavation in an "ornate box" in direct association with three skeletons and three swords, one of the latter marked with the Knight's Templars cross. The nail was claimed to be Roman!

Formal excavations were carried out at the site, Fort Sao Jose, Funchal, in 2004–06 by trained Portuguese archaeologists. In February this year I conducted a two-week archaeological project in the fort, but I am now working in Malta. I can confirm that the iron nail came directly from the areas already excavated. There all the finds from both projects, including many similar nails, are in fact of 18th/19th century date. No skeletons, swords or ornate box have ever been found at the fort, but two replica swords hang on the wall for the benefit of visitors. Sorry I can't be more helpful to the followers of the Da Vinci code.

Brian Philp, Sliema, Malta

On Mar 2 the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph (headline: "Nail from Christ's crucifixion found?") reported that a first century nail was found last summer in a fort on the isle of Ilhéu de Pontinha, Madeira; British archaeologist Bryn Walters was quoted suggesting the nail was a relic. Élvio Sousa, director of the Research Unit at CEAM (Centro de Estudos de Arqueologia Moderna e Contmporânea), wrote in a blog that the story was "manifestly false". Ed


JRL Allen

I read with interest Sebastian Payne's Science column (Mar/Apr) on important recent excavations that establish the character and distribution of iron hammerscale at a number of Romano-British and medieval smithies. It was a surprise, however, to find no reference to the considerable, pioneering experiments of the blacksmith-turned-archaeologist David Sim at his forge at Reading (Beyond the Bloom: Bloom Refining & Iron Artefact Production in the Roman World, by D Sim, Archaeopress 1998). Sim made many experiments under controlled conditions on the character, chemistry and distribution over the floor of the forge of hammerscale produced as he refined blooms and made iron articles. The distribution of hammerscale at the Danish Viking-period site illustrated by Payne bears comparison with his many mappings and the interpretations that can be placed on them.

Prof John RL Allen, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

Sweet flowers

Patricia Tricker

Of course the use of meadowsweet flowers in mead is not unlikely (Letters, Feb/Mar): the original name, meadsweet, is a precise indication that they were used to sweeten mead. The German name is Mädesüss, which means exactly the same.

Patricia Tricker, secretary Bedale Archaeology & History Society, N Yorkshire

Crowd puller

Paul Roberts

"Newhenge" was very interesting (feature, Jan/Feb). When the question is put forth, "What was the purpose of Blue Stonehenge?", I think what comes in mind is that it was a place for a gathering of people for special events, such as executions, sacrifices, the observation of the heavens, burial of the elite and festive moments in which beating drums would pulsate off the columns, entrancing the crowds.

Paul Dale Roberts, Elk Grove, California

In context

Tony Kesten

I read your editorial in this month's issue with great interest (Mar/Apr). I am active on two Roman sites – Vindolanda at Hadrian's Wall, where I'm just a digger working for one of the best managers I've ever encountered, Justin Blake, and the Whitehall Roman villa just north of Towcester in Northants (volunteers welcome, no experience required), where I am a permanent member of the context team. Your focus on context set out exactly why it is central to what the team does at Whitehall and, with a very different approach, to what happens at Vindolanda once we diggers have gone off each day to the pubs, hotels and campsites we enjoy.

Tony Kesten

Watch that Goth

Lindsay Dannatt

Great cover picture on the Mar/Apr edition. However, the two Goths nonchalantly looting would not look so relaxed if a horse at full gallop ridden by a man wielding a torch had really passed by quite so close to them. Also, the hoof on the horse's right foreleg appears to be on backwards.

Lindsay Dannatt, Swindon

Cover illustration 'Barbarians at the Gate' by Severino Baraldi (1981), Look & Learn Magazine Ltd. Ed

Missing survey

Vincent Megaw

The feature on the recent results of the Stonehenge Landscape Project made fascinating reading (Mar/Apr), but maybe was a little light on the history of surveying the site. I missed a reference to Flinders Petrie's survey undertaken with his father between 1874 and 1880. Less worthy of note perhaps is the contoured survey – at three inch intervals – which formed part of the Stone-Atkinson-Piggott excavations of the 1950s. I know because, to adapt Mortimer Wheeler's famous expression, "I was there when the measurements were written down".

Vincent Megaw, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide

To coin another famous expression, "The records are missing". Ed

[When managing clubs in Spain and Italy] his holidays were often spent visiting archaeological sites. Chris Bowlby reveals that Fabio Capello, England football team’s Italian manager, has a passion for archaeology and museums. BBC Radio 4 Profile Jan 6

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