The Late Bronze Age in County Durham

One of the things that I really love about archaeology is that there is always something to learn. We might develop areas of specialty, but a single person could never learn it all (in fact, we could never learn it all because so much of archaeology is based on interpretations of evidence and our ideas and hypotheses that we form while trying to understand the actions and beliefs of people in the past).  Last year, I had the opportunity to write a treasure report on a hoard from the Late Bronze Age. I have a broad background in a lot of periods, but I have to confess that I haven’t spent much time studying this particular period! So, writing the report gave me the perfect opportunity to learn more.

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Guest Post: Boudica the Redhead? The Difficulty in Translating Ancient Colour Words

By Jo Zalea Matias

Boudica (d. AD 60 or 61), rebel queen of the Iceni (Image 1) is stereotypically depicted in the present day with a mane of long, fiery hair – one could even say that this is one of her defining features. This is true in both academically produced images in books to video games like Total War: Rome II (Image 2). But where does this depiction come from? In this post, I will discuss the origin of descriptions of Boudica, focusing primarily on her hair, the archaeology, and ultimately the difficulty in translating ancient Greek colour words.

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Tools of the artefact specialist

When you get down to it, archaeology is a bit of a funny subject. We make use of specialised tools like magnetometers to do geophysical surveys and we use scientific instruments like XRF and LA-ICP-MS for materials analysis. Yet, the field archaeologist usually uses tools like the iconic trowel, shovels, mattocks and often a digger if you have a large area of turf and topsoil to clear. Recording is still often done by hand on paper, although there are some growing options for digital recording.

Like the field archaeologist, the tools of the artefact specialist tend to be quite simple. Initial artefact records are usually concerned with visual examination and measurements related to size and weight. In this blog post I’m going to discuss some useful tools for specialists and hopefully share some tricks that will help.

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Researching Roman Dividers

For the last twelve months I was lucky enough to work as an Assistant Finds Liaison Officer in the Durham Portable Antiquities Scheme office. This was a part-time role supported by the Headley Trust for the first six months and I am grateful that it was extended for another 6 months for one day a week. Working on the Portable Antiquities Scheme has been a wonderful experience. I have enjoyed talking to finders (mostly metal-detectorists) about their finds and the chance to research artefacts I was less familiar with. I used to be really intimidated at the prospect of identifying coins, but having access to training and the right resources allowed me to grow my confidence. Let’s just say, I may actually like coins!

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Becoming a finds specialist

Freddie and I are artefact specialists and we both followed similar paths. I did a PhD that allowed me to study Iron Age glass beads and other artefacts, which allowed me to gain an in depth understanding about how dress was constructed during the Iron Age and Roman period. I did my research by reading hundreds of excavation reports to build an artefact dataset from published and unpublished reports and I visited collections that were mostly held in museums. A couple of the collections I recorded were from recent excavations and had not been deposited at a museum yet and were still in the care of commercial archaeology units. I think recording these collections well and truly set me on the path to becoming a finds specialist, because I sent the archaeology companies each a report on their assemblages. This was a good learning experience, as I had never written an artefact report before and didn’t know anyone that could guide me. I had read plenty of finds reports by that stage, both published and commercial grey literature reports, so I at least had an idea of what I was aiming for, but no real way of knowing whether what I was writing was correct.

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