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Cave archaeology has a long pedigree. Romantic images of our earliest ancestors sheltering in caverns led to many being stripped of their stratigraphy in the 19th century – when recording techniques were still in their infancy. New work has revealed remains that escaped antiquarian attention, shedding light on a once-vibrant world under the uplands.
Research in Oakington, Cambridgeshire, is unearthing an Anglo-Saxon Fenland community. The project has battled to bring modern villagers face to face with their forebears by securing a permit to excavate skeletal remains openly. Now everyone can share in the investigation of a settlement and cemetery, complete with rare examples of 6th-century infant burial rites.
Anglo-Saxon Fenland community. The project has battled to bring modern villagers
Alderney has been famous for its fortifications ever since the British government ordered it transformed into a new Gibraltar. But the oldest of its defences has long defied dating. ‘The Nunnery’ has a groundplan that is otherwise uniquely Roman, yet archaeologists who studied it in depth tended to conclude it was Medieval. As recent excavations progressed, stripping ivy from the walls demonstrated that clues to the site’s origin do not just lie underground.
Finally, a survey of the Brecklands is piecing together the elements of a forgotten luxury industry. For centuries, rabbit fur and meat were prized goods. Massive artificial warrens were overseen by wardens living in fortified lodges and tasked with protecting their furry charges from predators and violent bandit gangs. Join us for a rabbits-to-riches tale.
Our contributors this month
UNDER THE UPLANDS BRENDON WILKINS Since his first excavation in the Yorkshire Dales, Brendon has been fascinated by cave archaeology. Now Senior Project Manager with Wessex Archaeology, he returns to the hills to make new discoveries under the uplands.
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ANGLO-SAXON OAKINGTON DUNCAN SAYER Duncan is a lecturer in archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire. He is author of Ethics and Burial Archaeology and co-editor of Mortuary Practice and Social Identity in the Middle Ages.
THE NUNNERY JASON MONAGHAN Jason has published research on the Roman pottery of Kent and York, plus shipwrecks from Guernsey and Alderney. After a stint as a merchant banker and thriller writer, he is now Museums Director for Guernsey.
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