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It is the immediacy of Must Farm’s archaeology that is so startling. Walking around the site it is easy to believe that the embers have barely cooled following the disaster that overtook the settlement. Instead, the charred and tumbled vestiges of roundhouses lay in Fenland silts for almost 3,000 years. This stunning preservation will bring Late Bronze Age building techniques into sharp focus, but what lies beneath the flattened superstructure might prove even more valuable. If the Must Farm fire did claim the homes of colonists seeking to exploit the Fenland, their tragedy could revolutionise our understanding of an entire era.
The Roman state indulged in colonisation on a grander scale, but the surviving relics of its empire in Britain are usually judged pale imitations of continental models. Survey of the Roman town at Aldborough in the military north, however, has highlighted hints of a surprisingly cosmopolitan approach to urban planning.
St Kilda, to the west of the Scottish Western Isles, is often celebrated as an isolated archipelago insulated from the wider world. Recent research has revealed, though, that the romantic appeal of this image has obscured the islands’ links with their neighbours.
Scientific analysis is demonstrating the lengths that the inhabitants of Roman Britain went to in order to forge a connection with their gods. The elite spent considerable sums importing the exotic fragrances that courted divine favour and helped mask any air of decay during funerary rites.
Finally, we return to the Fens to discover what contribution archaeology can make to investigating historic aircraft crash sites.
Our contributors this month
MUST FARM INFERNO DAVID GIBSON AND MARK KNIGHT David is an Archaeological Manager responsible for many of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit’s large quarry projects, and Mark is Site Director at Must Farm for CAU.
ALDBOROUGH DR ROSE FERRABY Rose is co-director of the Aldborough Roman Town Project. Her research also includes authorial illustration, cultural geologies of stone, and landscape writing. She currently works for Exmoor National Park.
THE FRAGRANT DEAD RHEA BRETTELL Rhea is currently completing her PhD at the University of Bradford. Her main area of interest is the treatment of the dead in antiquity as revealed through the chemical analysis of organic residues.
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