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12 February 2010

Current Archaeology March 2010.

Rising sea levels are not a recent phenomenon it would seem as the seabed off the coast of the Orkney island of Darnsay has been investigated by a team led by the University of Aberdeen and they have discovered stone buildings and walls, as yet undated. What is intriguing is that some of the finds may be connected to an early chapel as it is known to have formerly been part of a larger complex. It now sits on what seems to be a disappearing shoreline – yet northern Scotland is supposed to be bouncing back from the Ice Age. The sebed around the Orkneys could be littered with human structures according to a geophysicist on site. Study of sediments show that Orkney only reached present sea level at 2000BC, and considerable coastal change has taken place since that time (as elsewhere around the coasts of Britain).

Excavations on Skye (ahead of a housing development) has come across the Bronze Age grave of a chief which stood in a prominent location above the Sound of Sleat – thereby in view of passing boats along the major sea highway along the western coast of Britain and Ireland. There were other graves, mainly cist burials, and the the site appears to have been a burial place over a long period of time. Another monument was somewhat intriguing as it consisted of an arc of three standing stones within a ring ditch that encircled a large cist capstone. The ditch had post holes thought to have housed at different times wooden posts and stones. The structure was reused and restructured over a long period of time but the purpose of the circle is unknown.

A fire on the moors of North Yorkshire National Park in the autumn of 2009 unveiled a prehistoric monument – probably dating to the Neolithic. The burnt heather and rough grass revealed the remains of some kind of structure – and as yet, the newsflash informs, it was not necessarily ritual but could have been domestic.

CA reports on an article in December’s Antiquity which claims that 200 huge earthworks have been uncovered as a result of forest clearance by farmers in the Upper Amazon basin near the border of Brazil with Bolivia. Spread across 156 miles the earthworks are linked by avenues and date between AD200-1283. Many other earthworks remain within the jungle.

This issue of CA is largely a special devoted to research along Hadrian’s Wall and what can be encountered if you were to walk from one end to the other. Hence, it is mostly Roman material and remains, plus a bit of more recent archaeology along the route (from salt pans to post-Roman occupation at Birdoswald – which included a Dark Age hall. William the Conqueror, it emerges, built his New Castle on top of a Roman ffort – the origin of the modern city of Newcastle upon Tyne. A narrow section of wall was buried by industrial development in the 19th century, and some of it lies beneath a modern road that has from time to time had holes dug down to see the wall.

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