Meetings: 19:30, at Cottenham Village College, unless shown. 

All welcome.



Wednesday 16 January

‘Food for thought: evidence for diet in Anglo-Saxon England’ by Sam Leggett


Very little is known about Anglo-Saxon food and diet, with scarce medical texts and limited archaeological evidence of plant and animal remains giving small glimpses into what was eaten in Early Medieval England. However, stable isotopes from bones and teeth can help illuminate what everyday Anglo-Saxons ate and drank. This talk explores published and new stable isotope data from Anglo-Saxon people, looking at changes in diet and mobility through time, space and over individuals’ lives. This will demonstrate how and when the English started eating fish (either freshwater or marine), and consider why this wasn’t common before the Anglo-Saxon period.

Sam is a third year PhD candidate in the Dorothy Garrod Laboratory for Isotopic Analysis at the Department of Archaeology and Newnham College, University of Cambridge. She’s excavated in Australia, England and Scotland, and worked on material from all over the world. Before moving to Cambridge she studied in Australia at the University of Sydney and the University of New England, with a background in immunobiology, as well as in archaeology and medieval history.


Thursday 14 February

‘Shining light on an old treasure: the Iron Age hoards from Snettisham, Norfolk’ by Jody Joy

Over the past 60 years, astounding discoveries of precious metal objects, including torcs, bracelets and finger rings, have been made at Ken Hill, Snettisham, Norfolk. In total, 14 separate groups of objects, or hoards, dating to the second and first centuries BC have been discovered. Jody Joy is currently coordinating a major research project including a comprehensive scientific analysis of the objects and a reassessment of the site. He will discuss the results of the project, specifically the discovery of sophisticated metalworking techniques such as surface enrichment and mercury gilding.

Jody Joy is Senior Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, responsible for British and European Archaeology. He previously worked at the British Museum, where he was Curator of European Iron Age Collections for eight years. He specializes in the archaeology of northwest Europe during the first millennium BC but his research interests also include the later Bronze Age and early Roman periods.

Tuesday 5 March

‘The great gold torc: a ‘new’ Middle Bronze Age torc from near Ely’ by Neil Wilkin

(NB venue: Willingham Baptist Church)

A remarkable Middle Bronze Age twisted gold bar torc was discovered in East Cambridgeshire in 26 September 2015. Weighing 732 grams, measuring 126.5 cm in length, it is one of the largest found in Britain, Ireland and the near Continent, and is regarded as the best to be found in England in more than a century. It is much larger than usual examples and is made of 730g of almost pure gold. The find was made by a metal detectorist in a ploughed field in East Cambridgeshire and was reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer. It is now on display in Ely Museum.

In his talk Neil Wilkin will highlight the skill required to make this spectacular item. He will compare it to other examples from across Britain, Ireland, and France and will then consider where the torc fits into the story of the Bronze Age, with special mention of the way fashions and ways of dressing the body changed over the course of 1,500 years. The talk will then address the big questions we all want to answer: what was the function of such a large and ostentatious torc, and why was it made and deposited, seemingly on purpose at the edge of the fens?

Dr Neil Wilkin has been curator of Early Europe in the department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory at the British Museum, since 2012.

Thursday 11 April

‘All together now: taphonomic analysis of human-animal commingled interments in Neolithic Britain’ by Leah Damman

Fragmented, mixed assemblages of human and animal bones are common in archaeological deposits, particularly in prehistoric contexts across Europe and the British Isles. Leah Damman argues that standard approaches to studying human remains in these contexts yields an incomplete understanding of the burial context and its cultural values; and that the application of zooarchaeology techniques can contribute a more complex understanding of the human material found in these contexts. Utilising human osteology and zooarchaeology approaches, and combining these with specialised methods such as cut mark analysis and ZooMS, will allow for the identification (particularly of bone fragments), recording and analysis of human and animal material at a more detailed and complete level. This will enable a much greater understanding of the histories of human and animal remains in these complex deposits from a period where not much more than the skeletal evidence remains – Neolithic Britain (4000–2500 BCE). This project will advance taphonomic study and identification of all bone fragments.  Further the analysis will allow the human bones to be examined without the assumptions traditionally associated with human remains may generate new ideas about treatment of these remains.

Leah moved from her native Australia to the UK to study for a Masters in Osteoarchaeology in Edinburgh. After a short spell as a field archaeologist, she took up a managerial role at Natural History Museum. Realising she’d rather be doing research than managing the researchers, she came to Cambridge where she is now in the third year of her PhD, studying her passion – bones – and the human–animal relationship in (pre)history.


Wednesday 15 May

‘Archaeology along the East Anglia ONE cable route: changing the landscape of the River Deben Valley in east Suffolk’ by Andy Peachey

The excavation of a cable route to serve the East Anglia ONE off shore wind farm has allowed an unprecedented opportunity for archaeologists to investigate the landscape of the Deben Valley and its tributaries to the east and north of Ipswich.  Archaeologists have recorded remains of every period, including new evidence for late Bronze age settlement and enclosures, with field systems similar to those still present today; as well as Roman farmsteads that relate closely to a Saxon hall and village.  But most notable is a monumental prehistoric enclosure situated on a hill slope that contains a wooden trackway. The preservation of this trackway is exceptional due to the presence of springs that kept the vast ditch system waterlogged. The trackway may have acted as a platform within a monument that was designed to be viewed at the head of the river valley, with initial radiocarbon dates indicating it was established close to the beginning of the early Neolithic period, and re-laid subsequently in that period, coinciding with the establishment of agrarian communities in Britain. Prehistoric pottery is rare on the site, but other artefacts have suggested a hugely symbolic purpose.


Friday 14 June

‘Sites in a landscape: ongoing investigations at Northstowe’ by Alison Dickens

NB This meeting will be held at Rampton Village Hall, CB24 8QA

The Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavations are continuing at the New Town of Northstowe. Project leader Alison Dickens will update about the latest findings on the large Iron Age and Roman settlement site (almost 1km long) on the airfield, and give a brief preview of the newest areas of investigation. The site, which is larger than Roman Cambridge, has produced thousands of artefacts providing evidence of the settlement, its industry, trade, religion and domestic life.

Alison is a senior manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and has been investigating the archaeology of Cambridgeshire for over 25 years. She lives in Rampton.


NB: This meeting is at Rampton Village Hall, CB24 8QA

For details of how to find the hall, see http://www.ramptonvillagehall.co.uk/directions.html



Thursday 5 September


‘Searching for the Anglo-Norman criminal: how the Conquest affected capital punishment and deviant burial practices’ by Alyx Mattison

In this talk Alyx will present some of the highlights of her research on the archaeological and historical evidence for changes in judicial punishment and the funerary treatment of criminals evident around the time of the Conquest and explore the possible motivating factors.

Alyx Mattison is interested in the funerary archaeology and judicial history of early medieval England, in particular the Norman Conquest. She recently completed her PhD on this topic at the University of Sheffield, using evidence from both historical documentation and previously excavated cemeteries from the late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman periods.


Wednesday 2 October

‘Excavating Medieval cemeteries in Cambridgeshire: the After the Plague project and rural/village sites’ by Craig Cessford

NB This meeting will be held at Landbeach Village Hall, CB25 9FG

Craig Cessford has worked in archaeology in Cambridgeshire for over 20 years with a particular focus on medieval and later urban archaeology. He is currently both a senior project officer with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and a co-investigator on the After the Plague project at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. His current research includes a study of the excavations of a number of rural cemeteries in Cambridgeshire from the Early Anglo-Saxon to Post-Medieval periods.



Thursday  28 November

Egyptology talk by Melanie Pitkin

 This is a change of speaker and date. Venue to be confirmed.