With the Christmas break comes the annual read of all the magazines and journals that have dropped through the letter box in the last year and piled up unread. The likes of Current Archaeology and British Archaeology report on ongoing fieldwork, research projects, development-led excavations and reflect on projects passed. Covering the whole of the UK and all time periods, deserted villages appear occasionally and here are a few of the highlights for this year.
The A14 excavations Cambridgeshire
This project has featured in both British Archaeology (Sept/Oct 2018 Issue 162) and Current Archaeology (June 2018 Issue 339) over the last year. These major excavations ahead of the creation of a new bypass and widening of the current A14 and part of the A1 have been one of the largest development projects to date (but as the article in British Archaeology (Issue 162) highlights – is one of a number of large infrastructure projects that will be coming soon). The excavations employed 250 archaeologists, excavated over 40 sites, revealed extensive evidence of activity from prehistory onward – including part of the deserted settlement identified as Houghton – there in the 12th century but abandoned in the 13th century (the site was not listed in 1968 – so has yet to appear on the website). Excavations revealed a number of buildings situated alongside a hollow way along with evidence of industrial activity. This included a blacksmith’s workshop and a number of pits used for retting or tanning. Suggestions in the articles were that the village was abandoned as royal forests were expanded – but some of the press coverage does repeat the old adage that many DMVs are the result of the Black Death – something that is not substantiated by the evidence. The British Archaeology article mentions a community excavation at Houghton, continuing after the completion of the investigations required for the road works – so maybe more will be revealed of this village in the future.
Remembering Wharram Percy
Joe Flatman regularly digs into the back issues of Current Archaeology to review themes or projects. In the July issue of Current Archaeology (Issue 340: 14-15), he reviews the times that Wharram featured in the magazine from Issue 4 onwards. In this review he also demonstrates how important the excavations were in terms of not only Medieval settlement studies, but in archaeological methodology and how the annual excavations trained many of the future generation of archaeologists (including this blog’s author as a novice 16 year-old!). It seems fitting that the article appeared in the July edition – the annual timing for the excavations – which continued from 1948 to 1990. The appearances of Wharram in the pages of Current Archaeology reflect the changing focus of the project through the years, but stand the test of time of this important project. In contrast to the A14 excavations were new ways of recruiting archaeologists had to be developed, the annual excavations at Wharram saw the development of many archaeologists, the networking and camaraderie that camping brought, and make you wonder if Wharram was still running – would there be a ready supply of trained archaeologists for these large projects?