Current Archaeology’s August Issue

i-34762278f33e1a2f641ec956b2d647ee-CA257-cover.jpgI always enjoy reading Current Archaeology, both for the quality content and for the simple fact that it’s about the UK, an area whose archaeology I have some little insight into and a great deal of interest in. (My interest hinges largely on the many similarities with the Swedish record and my knowledge of the language.)

The cover story of the current issue (#257, August) treats contract excavations at a graveyard near the original Bedlam mental hospital in London, or the priory of St Mary of Bethlehem as it was originally known when founded in 1247. The burials actually don’t have much to do with the institution itself: Early Modern London had a great need for new cemeteries, and so one was established on reclaimed wetland next to Bedlam in 1568. It was used for about two centuries before being razed and built over.

At Richborough just south of Thanet is an important Roman shore fort and settlement with standing 3rd century walls, covered here in a feature piece. This may be where the first legions made landfall in AD 43. I was amazed to learn that the fort used to have an enormous marble triumphal arch, erected in the 80s AD to celebrate the conquest of Britain. (It was torn down after two centuries, the imported marble kilned to make concrete for the present defensive walls.) A Medieval chapel to St Augustine commemorates the supposed landfall here of another kind of conqueror – the Apostle of England.

Shaw Cairn in the Peak District is an Early Bronze Age monument that has yielded several burials with fine objects. Sadly, this is another case where weak late-20th century UK heritage law allowed poorly executed and unreported excavations (like Bamburgh Castle). The best has been made of the situation, with a publication of such data as survives and new excavations and geophys. But I was surprised to see this damaged 16 m diameter cairn now being trial-trenched in this day and age. Either you find funds to dig the mutha and get the big picture, or you leave it alone, I say. It’s not a bloody garden allotment.

Current Archaeology has a new editor, Matthew Symonds, and the mag still offers all the goodness we’ve come to expect. Only there’s this thing about copy editing, you know, where you find all the words correctly spelled thanks to the spell checker, but sometimes it’s the wrong words?

In the last issue we got “rights of passage” for rites of passage (plus another slip in the same article that I’ve forgotten). In issue 257 we get two doozies in the same text box on p. 34: “ridged” for rigid and “augurs” for augers. That last one is funny as an augur was “an ancient Roman religious official who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens”. The sentence thus turns out “The framework [of a Late Medieval hall building] was assembled on the ground with saws, chisels and [ancient Roman religious officials foretelling the future]”. Those priests cannot have augered well.

Update 10 August: Aaaand in the September issue, on p. 35, we have another “young person’s right of passage”. Come on people, should you really need a Swede to teach you English anthro terminology?

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

One thought on “Current Archaeology’s August Issue”

  1. The arch at Richborough must have been a truly spectacular sight. There is a power station there now and, given how flat the land is you can see it from a very long way away. That arch must have made it pretty clear to half of Kent who was in charge!


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