Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Later Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Monday, 18 May 2020

10 Great Castles in England & Wales

Conwy Castle

The Norman Conquest of 1066 CE brought sophisticated motte and bailey castle architecture to England but it was really in the 12th and 13th centuries CE that stone castle-building reached its zenith. Edward I of England (r. 1272-1307 CE) was a huge fan of using castles as a way to keep control of conquered territories in northern Wales and they became an impressive and lasting symbol of royal power. In this collection of resources, we examine ten of the most famous castles in England and Wales, all of which can still be visited today. From the dark events within the Tower of London to the perfection of concentric castle design that is Beaumaris on Anglesey, we look at the evolution of these great structures, their tumultuous history, their decay and their restoration in modern times. We also include a general look at the key parts of medieval castles and provide a detailed visual glossary of all their distinctive architectural features.

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12 podcasts about medieval history to listen to right now


1 Back to the Black Death

I enjoyed recording this conversation recently, with Professor Jane Whittle from Exeter University, about the government’s response to Black Death in the mid-14th century. You don’t get more topical than that.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Coronavirus: Lockdown boost for archaeology as amateurs uncover Roman remains

The technology can 'strip away' vegetation and modern features to reveal what is underneath

Self-isolating volunteers analyse aerial survey maps to reveal ancient roads and settlements.

Lockdown has given archaeology an unexpected boost with volunteers finding previously unrecorded Roman, prehistoric and medieval sites from the comfort of their own homes.

In a project coordinated by a team at Exeter University, enthusiastic amateurs have been analysing images derived from Lidar (light detection and ranging) data - laser technology used during aerial surveys to produce highly detailed topographical maps.

Modern vegetation and buildings can be digitally removed, allowing archaeologists to look at the shape of the land surface to find the remains of archaeological earthworks.

The data is being systematically examined and cross-referenced with records of known archaeology and historic maps, meaning the total of new discoveries regularly changes.

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Archeologists discover prehistoric sites – while working from home

A probable Iron Age or Roman enclosed settlement (indicated by red arrows) and an associated field system (inidicated by blue arrows), which is hidden beneath woodland but has been revealed by volunteers using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data during lockdown. (Credits: PA)

Dozens of previously-unrecorded Roman, prehistoric and medieval sites have been discovered by archaeology volunteers based at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Digging may be on hold due to the pandemic, but the team have found parts of two Roman roads, around 30 prehistoric or Roman large embanked settlement enclosures, and some 20 prehistoric burial mounds, as well as the remains of hundreds of medieval farms, field systems and quarries. 

Those leading the project believe they will make many more discoveries in the coming weeks. 

The team are analysing images derived from LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data.

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Monday, 11 May 2020

Study Examines Possible Medieval Longbow Wounds

(University of Exeter)

According to a statement released by the University of Exeter, an examination of bones and bone fragments led by archaeologist Oliver Creighton indicates that arrows shot from medieval longbows inflicted small entry and large exit wounds similar to those caused by modern bullets. The arrowheads that caused this damage may have been the “bodkin” type, which were square- or diamond-shaped and designed to pierce armor, Creighton explained. The bones, which were unearthed at a Dominican friary in southwest England, are thought to be the remains of warriors killed in battle at other locations. Their bones were later honored with reburial in holy ground.

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Rewilding: lessons from the medieval Baltic crusades

Bison in the forest of Białowieża. © Magnus Elander

The Forest of Białowieża, which straddles the border of Poland and Belarus, is unique in Europe: it is incredibly ancient. Woodland has been continuously present there for some 12,000 years. With the protection of 6059 hectares from human disturbance within the Polish national park, as well as the return of its iconic European bison herds from the brink of extinction, the forest is widely regarded as a model for restoring biodiversity or “rewilding”, which areas across Europe are trying to emulate.

Human memories are remarkably short – often only a generation or so. What we remember as “natural” landscape is often what we remember experiencing as a child. This makes conservation and landscape management particularly subject to “shifting baseline syndrome” – a psychological phenomenon which describes how each new generation accepts as natural or normal the situation in which it was raised. This means that significant time depth is rarely considered in future planning. But understanding environmental change, and planning for the future impact of our species, must include a long-term perspective.

There are ways around this. Archaeologists such as ourselves are uniquely placed to understand how fluctuations in human activity can affect the environment over much longer time periods. It is well known, for example, that our species’ mastery of farming enabled our populations to grow, with resulting deforestation and loss of biodiversity. This can be mapped through pollen coring, and the study of archaeological plant and animal remains. These techniques have become more precise in our lifetime, especially with advances in radiocarbon dating.

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Saturday, 9 May 2020

Dunwich – The medieval town lost at sea

Chapel of St James’ Leper Hospital, Dunwich St James’ Hospital was a C12 leper hospital located just to the west of the medieval coastal town of Dunwich.

Dunwich is a small rural village located on the Suffolk coast in England. Visitors will find a quaint English pub, tea rooms and a pebble beach popular with holiday makers.
At first glance, there’s nothing overly remarkable about this picturesque setting, but beneath the surface Dunwich has a unique story to tell that spans centuries….

The earliest evidence of occupation around the Dunwich area starts in the Roman period, with scant but suggestive evidence of a large settlement. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler Bede referred to “Dunmoc” as a “Civitas”, with archaeological discoveries that includes a Roman tumulus and masonry trawled from the nearby seabed.

The Roman document, ‘Notilia Dignitatum’ even refers to a late Roman fort or station in the area, but due to the continual coastal erosion, any surviving remains of the fort or settlement would be hundreds of metres out to sea.

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