Skip to main content
Read page text

British ArchaeologyIspublishedbimonthlyNextissueoutJune12

Editor Mike Pitts

Briefing editor Sarah Howard

Subscriptions and membership Phone 01904 671417 One year (six issues): uk £29, Europe airmail £38, elsewhere airmail £47. Digital edition only: £15.95. Council for British Archaeology (cba) membership, which includes British Archaeology printed and digital and our Newsletter: £36 (full-time accredited students £21). Find us online at

Advertising Peter Olver

Magazine design by Mike Sigrist

Copyright © authors (text and pictures) and the cba (typography and design) 2015. Views expressed may not reflect cba policy and the cba does not necessarily endorse services and goods advertised issn 1357-4442

Beatrice de Cardi House, 66 Bootham, York yo30 7bz Phone 01904 671417 Fax 01904 671384 Web Email

The cba promotes archaeology for all. It makes the case for safeguarding our archaeological heritage, and increasing public participation and understanding. It has a growing membership of individuals of all ages and over 600 organisations, and partnerships with Archaeology Scotland, cba Wales/ Cymru and cba English Regional Groups. The cba is an environmental charity registered in England & Wales (287815) and Scotland (sc041971), and a company limited by guarantee (1760254)

On the cover: Faces of Mithras, on a 3d digital visualisation of an altar from Hadrian’s Wall (main image, page 42), a farmworker on a Roman jug handle (page 14), and the early medieval King Sigebert iii on a gold coin (page 36). Mithras image: John McCarthy/Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle 2014


No archaeologist can be unmoved by reports of deliberate destruction at iconic ancient sites like Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq. Images of Islamic State militants smashing displays at the Mosul Museum, or of tourists hiding from murderers in the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, are profoundly shocking.

It can be confusing to find oneself responding in this way to attacks on material remains, when the same perpetrators commit appalling crimes against human life. Yet the destruction of heritage is part of a chillingly informed plan to eradicate cultural identity. When we defend ancient carvings and walls, and especially, perhaps, layers of unglamorous, unexcavated debris, we are not just thinking about relics. We recognise that such things alone give voice to forgotten civilisations. They contribute significantly to the authenticity and future of people with proper claims to the land from which they derive.

You might think we are safe, here in Britain, from heritage destruction. That would be a mistake. The slow chipping away at archaeological and historic remains by lax bureaucracy is no less damaging than mindful eradication – artefacts care not what thoughts drive the bulldozers.

Generations of democratic planning lie behind our system of heritage protection. It relies on the skills and passions of people working in national and local museums, in local government, and in organisations as diverse as Historic Scotland, English Heritage or the Portable Antiquities Scheme. It depends above all on political support and funding. Now more than ever, we must remind politicians that our past is everyone’s future.

This issue’s contributors include

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews is archaeology officer at North Hertfordshire District Council. In October he was called to a familiar field to investigate an unexpected discovery, as he reports on page 14

Vincent Gaffney holds the anniversary chair in landscape archaeology at the University of Bradford. On page 22 he and colleagues present the results of a controversial, pioneering sedimentary dna study

Helen Geake is a Portable Antiquities Scheme advisor at the British Museum. She helped to excavate an unusual Anglo-Saxon grave in Norfolk, as she describes on page 36

Radiocarbon dates Unless otherwise noted, 14c dates in British Archaeology are calibrated at 95% confidence (cal ad or cal bc, expressed as ad or bc), and rounded out after Mook (1986). See Radiocarbon_dating

British Archaeology|May June 2015|3

My Bookmarks

Skip to main content