On the cover Caernarfon Castle was built to look like the Walls of Theodosius at Constantinople. Was it the last bastion of ‘Roman’ identity in Britain?
Sometimes, new evidence turns old theories on their head. Sometimes, old discoveries are revisited and look different the second time around. And sometimes, academic fashion changes and we no longer talk about the past in the way we used to. This issue is about taking a fresh look at some old problems.
When did Roman Britain end? What was the point of rock art? When did medieval halls go out of fashion? How reliable are old excavation records? These are the big questions addressed in our main features this issue.
In the Late Roman Empire, West Britain formed the Province of Britannia Prima. In our first article, Roger White examines the archaeological evidence for an enduring Romanitas in the region – so much so that today’s Welsh and Cornish nationalists might make some claim to being the last true Romans! Meanwhile, George Nash has been exploring Anglesey’s chambered Neolithic tombs in search of rock art missed by previous investigators, piecing together the evidence of symbols and standing stones to come up with new ideas about Stone Age death-rituals.
On the other side of the country, John Shepherd has also been reopening old case-books. Norfolk’s only decorated mosaic – at Gayton Thorpe Villa – has just been re-exposed to test the accuracy of hurried excavations in the 1920s. Also in Norfolk, a team of volunteer researchers has discovered evidence in the village of New Buckenham that avante-garde architects were building modern houses instead of medieval halls long before the Elizabethans.
In this issue, too, we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Chris Catling looks at how the study of the past has changed between 1707 and the present, as new discoveries, new techniques and new theories have impacted upon the London Antiquaries. Miles Russell still thinks they are out of date, however, arguing that NASA should employ an archaeologist to look for alien civilisations in space!
Welcome to a controversy-packed issue!