The Festival of Archaeology is a two-week celebration of archaeology in the UK, encouraging people to find out about the archaeology that’s going on in their local area – which seems like a good excuse to share some information about two excavations I’ve been following with particular excitement recently, plus some archaeological cakes!
First up is an excavation I was lucky enough to visit last summer – the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney. This Neolithic site, dating from c.3000-2400 BCE, is basically rewriting the entire archaeology of the Neolithic in the UK – ongoing excavations are revealing a huge complex of monumental buildings, with finds ranging from pottery to slate roof-tiles and even the remains of painted walls.
Check out the dig diary for daily updates on finds (or follow the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar on Facebook), and there’s information here about visiting the site – they have excellent (and free) site tours for visitors during the excavation season. In fact, the Ness gets a shout-out for being the best excavation I’ve come across at sharing their results with the wider public (and practically in real time!). And as if that wasn’t enough, the Ness is also right next to one of the most spectacular locations I’ve ever seen, the Ring of Brodgar standing stones:
A bit nearer to home for me is Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, where excavations have been revealing equally exciting finds from a Bronze Age settlement. The site is uniquely well-preserved because the village was built on piles over a river, so when the settlement was destroyed by fire, rather than burning completely it sank into the river and was covered by silt. This preserved even materials that don’t normally survive, like wood and textiles, so there’s an incredible amount of information to be gained about life in this village in the Bronze Age. Unfortunately, the site is located in a quarry so can’t normally be visited, but you can check out their blog or follow them on Facebook for pictures and discussion of finds. For UK readers, Must Farm is also about to star in a BBC documentary, ‘Britain’s Pompeii: A Village Lost in Time’ (BBC 4, August 2nd at 9pm, and on Iplayer after broadcast) – despite the overblown title (no volcanoes involved), looks well worth a watch!
Finally, as promised, the cakes: the Festival of Archaeology is running a cake competition, so check out #archaeocake on Twitter! The Must Farm cake is my favourite so far, but there’s still time for more entries…archaeologists and archaeology enthusiasts should get baking!
For UK readers, the Festival of Archaeology is on till July 31 – find out about events near you here.