Home

Meetings are held at 7.30pm at Cottenham Village College, unless shown.

Thursday 21 January ‘Poisons, Plants and Palaeolithic hunters’ by Valentina Borgia

Borgia picture    Foxglove 1983

Hunters, from all over the world, poison their weapons with toxic substances derived from plants and occasionally from animals. This practice highlights the fact that weapons are often completely ineffective as hunting tools if their tips are not poisoned. Ancient peoples, such as the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, used plant-based poisons both for hunting animals and in war. The fact that toxic substances were available, and the benefits arising from their use on throwing weapons (e.g. safe distance of the hunter from the prey, quick death of large prey), suggest that this practice could have also been widespread among prehistoric hunters. Dr. Borgia will present an interdisciplinary research project focused on development of a method capable to detect poisons on archaeological spears/arrows with the aim of going back in time to the Palaeolithic in order to find out if poisonous substances were added to weapons as a way of further improving their hunting success.

Valentina Borgia is a Visiting Scholar at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge). Since doctoral studies, at the Univeristy of Siena (Italy) her research has focused on Palaeolithic hunting techniques and weapons.

Wednesday 17 February ‘The New Excavations at Must Farm’ by Selina Davenport

Must Farm is a clay quarry near Peterborough extracting clay for brick making. It is also home to a marvellous archaeological project currently being undertaken by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), funded by Historic England and Forterra (formally Hanson).
Previous excavations at Must Farm unearthed a wonderfully intact prehistoric landscape preserved by the fenland deposits. The current phase revisits the 2006 excavations which investigated mysterious pieces of timber protruding from the side of the disused quarry face. The excavation, though small, produced a vast amount of archaeological material and some previously unseen artifact types from the British Bronze Age. The small trial trench dug in 2006 is now being expanded to see what further hidden treasures can be uncovered. The 9-month excavation is aimed at increasing our understanding and creating a much broader, hopefully more accurate, picture of domestic life in the Bronze Age. This is made possible thanks to an unfortunate accident (maybe) which led to the catastrophic destruction of a settlement in use preserving an intact snap shot of life of the inhabitants.
The talk will bring you up-to-date on the excavations which have been ongoing since September and discuss some of the working theories of the excavation team about what they are finding and how these discoveries help embellish the picture of Bronze Age life.
Selina Davenport is the Must Farm Outreach Supervisor based at Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

Thursday 10 March ‘Archaeology and Language’ by James Clackson

Languages evolve over time, and by comparing languages it is possible to reconstruct languages spoken thousands of years before the advent of writing. The best studied of these reconstructed languages is called ‘Proto-Indo-European’ and is the ancestor of most of the languages spoken in Europe (except for Finnish, Hungarian and Basque) as well as the languages of Iran, Pakistan and northern India. In this talk I shall present different theories linguists and archaeologists have proposed about the speakers of Proto-Indo-European—where they lived, how they lived and why their language eventually came to dominate so much of Eurasia.

Wednesday 18 May ‘Looting Matters: Returning Archaeological Material to Greece and Italy’ by David Gill

David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of Heritage Futures at University Campus Suffolk. He was a Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and previously a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum. His research includes cultural property, archaeological ethics and heritage tourism. He was a contributing editor of the Dictionary of British Classicists with responsibility for classical archaeology. He is working on a study of the nineteenth century collector and philanthropist Dr John Disney.

FEAG talk: Thursday 22 September, 7.30 pm, At Willingham Baptist Church, George St, Willingham, Cambridge CB24 5LJ

‘Landscape Survey in East Kent’ by Lacey Wallace

A large site in east Kent is raising questions about how the Roman imperial administration and military functioned in Britain. It is also demonstrating that our categorisations of sites as ‘rural’, ‘villa’, ‘roadside settlement’, ‘industrial complex’, ‘military depot’, and ‘ritual/funerary’ are much more blurred than we might think. At this site, covering an area the size of a small town, there are aspects of all of these categories. Its location, at the conjunction of the road that once connected the urban centre at Canterbury with the urban and military centre at Richborough and with the waterways of east Kent, was ideal for communication and transport from the Continent and to the rest of Britain. Through geophysical survey and analysis of metal-detected artefacts and past excavations, details of this area are becoming more clear. It appears that this road-river junction occurred in a landscape dominated by Bronze Age barrows, which were probably of symbolic significance to the pre-Roman Iron Age population. An enormous round barrow in this area may date to the Roman period and, along with enclosure and boundary ditches, may represent the symbolic dominance of the Roman authorities. By the early third century, roadside industry, including watermills, was connected to a large storage and distribution complex with connections to the imperial administration. The official in charge of this complex may have been housed in a high-status complex of buildings, including a bath-house.

Dr Wallace is a Research Associate in Roman Archaeology in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge. She conducts research on the archaeology of the western Roman Empire and current projects include the post-excavation analysis and publication of the survey and excavation at Thwing, East Yorkshire (in collaboration with Prof. Martin Millett). Her past research has focused on early Roman London and she is currently the Principal Investigator of The Canterbury Hinterland Project.

Thursday 24 November ‘Did Neolithic people really hate fish? – stories from the world of palaeodietary analysis’ by Tamsin O’Connell

Tamsin O’Connell started academic life as a chemist at the University of Oxford. The lure of applied science led her to archaeology, working with Prof Robert Hedges at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art in Oxford. She joined the Department in Cambridge in 2004 to set up an isotope and palaeodiet laboratory, now called the Dorothy Garrod Laboratory. Her research traces signals of diet and climate in human and animal tissues, using isotopic analysis.