The British Archaeology Awards

Here’s another award – the biennial British Archaeology Awards shortlist has recently been announced. This year the whole thing has been revamped and relaunched to give them a higher profile. The award ceremony will be held on 19 July at the British Museum. The shortlist of nominations was announced on 14 June:

Best Archaeological Project:

Best Community Archaeology Project:

Best Archaeological Book:

Best Representation of Archaeology in the Media:

Best Archaeological Innovation:

Best Archaeological Discovery:

Of these nominations there are a few I can comment on. The Staffordshire Hoard has had an enormous presence in the news – since they have been on display I have been to look at the few items at the British Museum most times I have visited. It will be interesting to see whether any conclusion can be eventually drawn as to what the hoard actually was collected together for and why it was where it was. I wonder whether it was assembled as heriot, wergild or a ransom? It’s unfortunate for the other two nominations in this category that they are up against such a high profile contender.

I found the Time Team episode one of the most satisfying in the series, and it’s available to watch on 4od. The fact it was a relatively recent site made it stand out from the rest of the series; Francis Pryor said it was ‘an archaeologist’s dream’, having been occupied for a short five years and then abandoned and untouched since. The excavation was of a temporary camp for railway navvies building the Settle-Carlisle railway in the 1870s, high above the Yorkshire Dales. What made it all the more interesting was the mixture of personal and industrial remains, and the fact that the 1871 census was taken while the camp was in existence.

The three radio programmes (unfortunately not available on the BBC iPlayer) with Mike Pitts (editor of British Archaeology among other things) were the sort of thing Radio 4 was invented for. In Pursuit of Treasure was about the relationship between metal detectorists and archaeologists; the two episodes of The Voices Who Dug up the Past dealt with why different archaeologists can dig up the same site and come to complete different conclusions, and how much archaeological interpretation is imagination. Programme one covered Mortimer Wheeler’s excavation of Maiden Castle: he was a military man and so saw the whole thing in a military light; more recently, new excavations and our changing ideas have altered this. The second programme centred on Sutton Hoo, and whether this really is the grave of Raedweld. I find it fascinating how our attitude to the past is influenced by our attitudes to the present.

Europe's Lost WorldHow the landscape has changed over the millennia, and therefore Doggerland, also interests me. Back in February I attended a CBA event Archaeology Under the Sea, and among other talks there was one by Simon Fitch: Landscapes under the sea – Doggerland and modelling submerged prehistoric landscapes, which spurred me on to read the book Europe’s Lost World, and very good it was, too. Of the book nominations, this is the only one I have so far read.

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