The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 87

Issue 87

March/April 2006



Unique Roman tombstone may leave UK

"No synthesis of British prehistory is right"

Neolithic road is unique

Bottle message is dry

The dead make way for iron age warrior

In Brief


When Rome left Britain: the Bosnian perspective
Buckles and Bosnia - Stuart Laycock has a dark vision of early historic Britain.

Telling the story of the people who made London
Archaeology in London: Peter Rowsome reviews a year of new publications.

Boudica: a queen in search of a husband
Finding Prasutagus: Amanda Chadburn deciphers iron age coins.

on the web

Recommended websites


Views and responses

CBA news

Headlines from the CBA office.


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts



by Nigel MacBeth

I fully concur with the last sentence in your review of Seahenge: an Archaeological Conundrum, having just read it prior to the magazine ["It is to the profession's shame that this unique and now destroyed monument was so poorly photographed", Books, Jan/Feb]. I don't know what the answer is but the evidence is clear that we are witnessing a diminishing standard of quality in the national archive.

I recently had a conversation with a unit manager about curatorial staff who worried that his contract work was relying heavily on digital photography. I felt that the curators were not addressing the real problem of how to cope with the new technology. Basic photographic knowledge isn't that difficult to understand, and is, of course, applicable to both chemical and digital photography.

Perhaps a solution is to leave it to free-lancers, like myself, who are trained as photographers not archaeologists? But how can you justify paying for a "fly-on-the-wall" person when you need experienced diggers? Could English Heritage support a few peripatetic photographers to cover targeted sites? I greatly enjoy reading British Archaeology these days. Well done!

Nigel MacBeth, Ipswich

Industrial Archaeology

by Stuart Nisbet

The review of industrial archaeology was welcome (A major change in human evolution, Jan/Feb) but the photos, exclusively of large works, slightly missed the point. If ever there was a need to integrate industrial archaeology with conventional archaeology (whatever than may be), it is with the more subtle aspects of industrialisation in the landscape, beyond the buildings and machinery.

A complex of cotton mill buildings may fit the cliche, but its gathering lades can stretch several kilometres over a varied landscape, crossing all disciplines. Also, rural clamp kilns for burning lime can easily be mistaken for much earlier features.

With such features the approach is no different to any other branch of archaeology, but without proper identification based on experience, embarrassment can result all round. As one who is pigeonholed as an industrial archaeologist, it is these much more subtle remains which I am most often asked to look at.

Stuart Nisbet, Clarkston

by Bernard J Mulholland

I was pleased to read the article on industrial archaeology. The first site that I worked on professionally, under site director Stephen Gilmore of Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, was at the Annadale Embankment in Belfast. This was an old brickworks that hosted one of the few circular Hoffman brick kilns (many appeared to have been rectangular in plan) and, despite the clay and brick fill, was an enormously enjoyable excavation. Within ten minutes of starting the excavation we had the Irish equivalent of "snow shoes", ie plates of clay stuck to the soles of our boots!

Bernard J Mulholland, Portadown

Somerset mystery

by John Cross

I wonder if readers could assist me in identifying some ruins I used to visit as a child. Details are sketchy but as we lived in Somerset (Yeovil) I presume they were reasonably local as we visited them more than once. They were near to a lake or reservoir and were reached by crossing a trench which had presumably been a moat. There didn't seem to be much left of the structure although the remnants of a tower were still standing. As most structures tend to be bigger in the memory of a child, I can unfortunately not vouch for the approximate height of the structure. (My Father of course told me they were the ruins of King Arthur's castle and I believed that until I was old enough to know better!) I don't recall us having to pay to access the site or seeing any form of kiosk or parking lot, but my visits were in the early 1960s so that might have changed. Perhaps someone might be able to offer some suggestions or even pictures. It would be nice to be able to put a niggling little question to rest!

Kind regards from the Fairest Cape in all the World.

John Cross, South Africa. Mobile +27 82 462 3285, office +27 21 914 9370,

Nebra sails on

by Josephine Leigh

As an historian and amateur astronomer I believe I may have stumbled on to the answer to the "sky boat" or "rainbow" question on the Nebra disk (Star wars, Nov 2004, Letters, Jan/Feb and Mar/Apr 2005). I set up my astronomy software to view the skies over Germany at midnight on the winter solstice 3600BC, and found to my delight the Milky Way appears as an inverted arc sitting upon the horizon. Given the intensely dark skies the milky way appears as a boat made of stars.

Josephine Leigh,

Wrong turn?

by Priscilla Gadzinski

The article, Bringing history to Birmingham (Jan/Feb) shows the "Stunning new architecture" of the Selfridges building. "Stunning" is not the word that comes immediately to mind; "God-awful" seems better fitted. I know that architecture must evolve, but even new styles can fit into their surroundings. Surely Birmingham could have found some other use for recycling tin cans.

Incidentally, the picture in the Letters section of the reenactors, doesn't Bill Bryson have the arrow on the wrong side of the bow? Shouldn't it be on the left?

Otherwise, I enjoy each issue immensely. Thank you for increasing the archaeology news.

Priscilla Gadzinski, White River Jct, Vermont

A visit to the post office

by Arthur Cross

I noticed that your map of sites in the Pakefield article (A weekend to remember, Jan/Feb) included Waverley Woods, a few miles downstream with a line of red dots. These stone tools in the main seem to be small like Pakefield, although not of that age, the British Geological Survey tell me the sediments which they derived from are 500,000 years old. Over a year ago a number of very large flint "chopper" type tools were unearthed, the most interesting weighs in at over 11 pounds on my angling spring balance, 5kg 120gm on the post office scales. With no local source of flint here, they would have to bring flint material with them, or use local rock such as quartzite or tuff.

Large stone choppers have been found at Bilzingsleben Germany, used for smashing elephant bones. It would make sense for these people to migrate down the Rhine and spread inland along the Bytham river, similar large two handed cores have been found here on the Warwickshire/Leicestershire border.

Arthur Cross, Burbage, Leicestershire

New corners

by Roger Palmer

I've been meaning to congratulate you on the improved "Brit Arch". The No archaeology? letter (Jan/Feb) has provided the spur to make me do so. I wonder what that person has been reading as each issue seems to better the last with loads of archaeology, photos and lots of information on, often, corners of the subject that I wouldn't otherwise have discovered.

Roger Palmer,Air Photo Services, Cambridge

Writers write

British Archaeology depends on the energy and commitment of other archaeologists, professional and amateur, who write or talk willingly about their work, often in their own time. In return for their generosity, we strive to represent their thoughts faithfully and attractively. By and large we seem to get it right, as this selection of comments on the last issue shows. Thank you all.

I thought the industrial article looked great... thanks! Michael Nevell

I and Finbar are over the moon with the Isbister article – it's beautifully put together and superbly illustrated. Alison Sheridan

Chris, Richard and Tony have told me that they are very pleased with the BA articles. Hugh loves his picture. Simon Parfitt

Splendid article, this made it all intelligible. Bob Carr, Suffolk County Archaeological Service

Thanks very much for the piece in British Archaeology – made me laugh! Jayne Phenton

Piece looks good. Mike Hodder

Many thanks for the Lynford rabbits offprints. The article looks great. David Robertson

Everyone in the town seems pleased with the British Archaeology article. Bruce Watson

I just received the magazine. Layout looks great! Good luck with future issues, and keep me in mind if you need a Pacific Island correspondent. Brett Sherpardson

Boxing Day with back issues

by Dave Chamberlain

With regard to comments made by Paul Stamper and Roger Pitts [May 2004] regarding the digging up of aircrew as a result of aircraft archaeology, I would go further and ask why archaeologists think it right to dig anyone up? How exactly does digging up a Saxon warrior improve my life? Not one bit I'm sure, it just satisfies some archaeological curiosity. Leave the dead alone.

Dave Chamberlain,
• Received midnight December 26

We welcome letters from readers. They may be emailed to Mike Pitts the Editor at or faxed to 01904 671384. They may be edited.

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