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Neolithic tombs are often seen as ‘houses for the dead’. Striking similarities between the residences of the living and repositories for the deceased have long suggested a symbolic link, but could it be the other way round? Evidence from Orkney suggests that the departed were being laid to rest in their cairns for about 300 years before homes began to mimic their design. What can these ‘tombs for the living’ tell us?

A crucial question for understanding hillforts is ‘what were the defences really for’? These imposing monuments are renowned for the serried ranks of ramparts that often tower over their entrances. Any attacking force that took the time to scout out the rear of the Cardigan Bay hillforts, though, might well discover far weaker defences or more vulnerable entrances. So who were their occupants trying to impress?

Rumour had it in 1666 that the Great Fire of London was kindled to prepare the way for an invasion. Although reports of foreign soldiers pouring into the capital proved to be false, a Frenchman ended up taking responsibility for the inferno. As a new exhibition opens at the Museum of London, we examine the myths and mysteries surrounding this epochal event.

Finally, the hunt for the long-lost design of a Victorian guard’s wagon led investigators to a derelict chalet wreathed by woodland. What followed may be the first archaeological excavation ever mounted on a railway carriage!

Our contributors this month

COMMANDING THE LANDSCAPE TOBY DRIVER An aerial archaeologist with the Welsh Royal Commission, Dr Driver studied the hillforts of north Ceredigion for his PhD. He has written extensively on Welsh archaeology and hillforts, and co-directed excavations on Iron Age and Roman sites in west Wales.

A VICTORIAN MISSING LINK DAVID WOOLLISCROFT Dr Woolliscroft is codirector of the Roman Gask Project, a study of the 1st-century invasion of Scotland. He specialises in Roman military studies, notably frontiers and signal communications, but is also interested in railway history.

A TALE OF TWO NEOLITHICS? COLIN RICHARDS Colin is Professor of World Prehistory at the University of Manchester. He has undertaken research and fieldwork in Orkney since the mid 1980s, and published books including Building the Great Stone Circles of the North (2013).

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