Thursday 18 January

‘The Bedford Roman Villa Project: community archaeological investigations

at Manton Lane and its Roman setting’ by Mike Luke

This talk will describe the discovery and give an account of the investigations to date of a possible Roman villa at Manton Lane, Bedford. Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding its discovery it has only been examined in a piecemeal manner by a mix of professional and community-lead projects.

The recovered evidence indicates that the site contains masonry buildings with painted walls, glazed windows and at least one room which featured an underfloor heating system (hypocaust). In addition, the presence of stucco work, a rare type of decorative moulding found at only a handful of Roman sites in Britain, including Fishbourne Roman Palace, suggests that at least one of the buildings had elaborate internal decoration. Surprisingly, very few villas have been found in the Bedford area and possible reasons for this will be discussed in the talk.

Mike Luke of Albion Archaeology provided professional help and guidance to the project. He spoke to FEAG about ‘Life in the Biddenham Loop’ in January 2013.


Tuesday 13 February

‘Roman glass: abundant, bright and beautiful’ by Denise Allen

(NB: Meeting at Willingham Baptist Church)

Glass is a most remarkable material. Its manufacture is a sort of alchemy, with plentiful cheap ingredients producing a completely new and wonderful substance: clear, colourful, versatile, waterproof and resilient – unless it breaks, when it can be easily recycled. It existed long before the Romans, but they revolutionised its use, and it continues to be a vital commodity in every aspect of life today.

Denise Allen completed her PhD on Roman Glass in Britain more than 30 years ago, and has continued to be involved in glass studies ever since, although for many years she was side-tracked as a director of an archaeological travel company, leading and organising tours around the world. She has written many reports on assemblages, mainly from Britain,  and is secretary of the Association for the History of Glass. She will summarise what we know about Roman glass, including its manufacture, trade, uses, forms and decorations, and provide some guidelines as to identification.


 Thursday 15 March

‘A bone to pick: (zoo)archaeology of the Cambridge region’ by Vida Rajkovaca

Animals as economic assets and the relationship between people and animals are only a few themes central to our understanding of past societies, their diet, economy and social rituals. Basics of zooarchaeology will be introduced first, by looking at what we study and how we exploit the evidence from the animal bone. This talk will then give a broad overview of the current status of faunal record we have for the region, by discussing a range of environmental, socio-economic and cultural changes that were taking place across the region over time.
If there is time and interest, there will be an opportunity to have a hands-on session with animal bone material at the end.

Originally trained in Palaeolithic zooarchaeology and the Pleistocene fauna in the Balkans, Vida now works as the zooarchaeologist for the CAU. With over ten years of experience working in the commercial sector, Vida has studied assemblages from prehistoric rural settlements, Romano-British sites both within Cambridge and on the outskirts, as well as from city centre sites. Vida especially enjoys studies of butchery practices as one of the main tools to understand a range social rituals of collective food procurement and sharing.

 Tuesday 10 April

‘Before the flood: the late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of the Fenland’

by Lawrence Billington

This talk provides an overview of the hunter gatherer communities who lived in and around what is now the Fenland, from the earliest colonisation by small groups of hunters at the end of the last glacial maximum (c. 12,700 BC) until the beginning of the Neolithic (c. 4000 BC). This is a timespan that saw major changes in climate, sea-levels, flora and fauna and the record of archaeological activity will be related to increasingly detailed understandings of these environmental changes. The talk will emphasise the effects of changing landscapes on the lifeways of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and explore the special opportunities that the Fens offer for studies of this period.

Lawrence Billington recently completed a PhD on the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of Eastern England and is currently a project officer at Oxford Archaeology East.

Thursday 17 May

‘Stonehenge: new discoveries’ by Mike Parker-Pearson 

In the last 15 years, research on Stonehenge has revealed a wealth of new evidence about this enigmatic monument and its builders. Discoveries at Stonehenge and surrounding sites include new information of the people buried there, the houses that they lived in, and relationships of Stonehenge to its surrounding landscape. New scientific techniques such as analysis of ancient DNA and isotopes have also transformed our understanding of who these people were. Geological studies have also paved the way for archaeological excavations at some of Stonehenge’s distant quarries in Wales, to cast light on the mystery of when and why some of its monoliths were brought from so far away. Mike Parker Pearson is Professor of British Later Prehistory at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology in London. Since 2003 he has been leading a multidisciplinary team investigating Stonehenge, and has also worked in many different parts of the world, from Greece and the Middle East to Madagascar and Easter Island, during his career as an archaeologist.

Monday 10 September 2018

‘A Landscape Through Time: Archaeology of the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme’ by Tony Walsh

NB: This meeting takes place at Histon Baptist Church, Station Road, Histon, CB24 9LN and is a joint meeting between FEAG and the Histon and Impington Archaeology Group.

This illustrated talk explores the evidence uncovered so far, including prehistoric henge monuments, industrial Roman kilns and Saxon settlements and will focus on the eastern end of the scheme near Cambridge.

Tony Walsh, one of four Project Managers for MOLA Headland Infrastructure working on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme on behalf of Highways England, discusses the archaeological findings from one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, which brings together the skills and knowledge of over 250 archaeologists.


Admission: Free to all

Wednesday 3 October

‘The Relhan collection: recording south Cambridgeshire’s antiquities in the early 19th century’

NB: Meeting at Landbeach Village Hall

by Alison Taylor

Richard Relhan was an apothecary who worked in Cambridge in the early 19th century and was able to devote time to travelling around south Cambridgeshire in a horse and cart, making water colour record drawings of attractive sites and buildings in many villages. There are over 300 of these drawings, many illustrating church monuments and scenes of topographic interest. Unusual items include Barnwell Priory and the Cellarers’ Chequer, Anglesey Abbey and Bartlow Hills. As the drawings were made before Victorian repairs etc were made to churches, and when memorials were still comparatively fresh, the drawings are a valuable historic record. They now belong to Cambridge Antiquarian Society. The University Library has digitised the drawings on behalf of the Society, whose members will prepare notes on many of the monuments recorded, and all will be made publicly available.


Alison Taylor was the first County Archaeologist for the new county of Cambridgeshire,  responsible for creating a Sites and Monuments Record, protecting sites through the Planning process, management of important field monuments,  educational programmes and extensive excavations. She wrote two volumes on the archaeology of Cambridgeshire for the County Council and was Editor of the Proceedings of Cambridge Antiquarian Society from 1996 to 2006.


This is a change from the previously announced topic and speaker.


Thursday 22 November

‘Herculaneum: an archaeological postcard from the Edge’

by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

Followed by the AGM

Herculaneum was on the edge of the Bay of Naples, and on the edge of one of the most flourishing areas of the social life and commerce of Rome. But unlike its noisy neighbours, it was a quiet retreat, basking in the sun in a sheltered corner of the bay. It was also on the edge of the most dangerous volcano in Europe, and it is thanks to that that it now offers us an unrivalled window into Roman life.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, former Master of Sidney Sussex College, and before that Director of the British School at Rome, has written extensively about Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as other aspects of Roman society and culture, and contributed to various TV programmes, including The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum.