Tuesday 14 January 

‘Under the fen, under the sand: excavating prehistoric land surfaces at Must Farm Quarry (UK) and Simon Sand Quarry (Jersey)

by Lesley McFadyen (Birkbeck, University of London)

NB This meeting will be held at Willingham Baptist Church, George Street, Willingham, CB24 5LJ

On low lying gravel terraces overlooking a floodplain on the western edge of the English fens, a Middle Bronze Age peat horizon obscures an old land surface dotted with small pits of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age date. Seven seasons of fieldwork by Birkbeck students and members of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire have test-pitted the buried soil to get at the density and distribution of material culture at a landscape-scale. What is remarkable is that, although the material culture is different, there are connections in the nature of occupation. There is duration too and a tenacity for a subtle and nuanced knowledge of that landscape.

In 2016, La Manche Prehistoric Research Group visited Simon Sand Quarry on Jersey and confirmed that a well-preserved prehistoric land surface with associated artefactual material lay exposed along part of the quarry face. Three seasons of fieldwork of test-pitting the buried soil have revealed Mesolithic and Neolithic artefacts. In particular, a concentration of Early Neolithic material culture of local (beach pebble flint and coarse stone tools) and imported wares (Cinglais flint blades and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain pottery from Normandy). A large pit, kitchen midden and associated finds (e.g. daub with round wood impressions) are evidence for the first Early Neolithic house on the island.

Dr Lesley McFadyen is a senior lecturer in archaeology at Birkbeck. Her research works across chronology and geography, and engages with evidence for the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age, particularly in Britain, France and Portugal.

Thursday 13 February

At the Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College.

‘Medieval northern journeys: From Arctic and mountain hunting grounds to Eastern England and beyond’

By James Barrett

This lecture will take us on a journey to the sources of Arctic and northern natural products that found their way to the east of England in the Middle Ages. It explores archaeological evidence for the trade of walrus ivory, fish and furs, gleaned from melting glaciers, excavated middens and dusty past finds on museum shelves. Ultimately it asks: who (and what) was responsible for major realignments of northern European trade in the High Middle Ages?

James H. Barrett is a Reader in Medieval Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, with particular interests in environmental history and ecological globalisation.

There is more information on Dr Barrett’s research at https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/norsewalrus


Wednesday 4 March

At the Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College

‘Conington: The excavation of a Mercian king’s enclosure’

By Richard Mortimer

Conington, excavated in advance of the A14 upgrade, is the first time an Early/Middle Anglo-Saxon ‘Kingston’ site has been excavated. Placed on the boundary between two early Middle Anglian territories, the site represents a border post on the main road into East Anglia from Mercia, a point of control during the 7th/8th century Mercian hegemony.

Richard Mortimer FSA MCIfA, works as a consulting archaeologist but oversaw the excavation at Conington for Oxford Archaeology and MoLAHeadland archaeology in 2017. The post-excavation works are ongoing.


Members free. Visitors £3.


Originally arranged for Wednesday 1 April

‘The South Georgia Archaeological project: Exploring Britain’s overseas territories’

By Marcus Brittain

NB This meeting will be held at Landbeach Village Hall

Cambridge is a hub of Polar research, though archaeology has only rarely featured in this, particularly in the Antarctic region. There is however a considerable heritage there, of discovery and exploration, prospection and exploitation, as well as a rich history of scientific endeavour. Archaeological traces of these come in varying forms, though are all equally sensitive to the extreme environment and changes therein. Their conservation, management and investigation are significant challenges. This is illustrated in this presentation by recent archaeological fieldwork on the island of South Georgia, designated as a British Overseas territory. There, exploitation of the islands’ seals for fur and oil (rendered from blubber) fueled a flourishing international market in the 18th and 19th centuries, but was devastating to the local ecology; the impact of whale hunting has incurred a similar legacy. What can archaeology say of this island’s history of human intervention and its uncertain future?
Dr Marcus Brittain is a Senior Project Officer at the University of Cambridge’s Archaeological Unit. A Cambridge ‘native’, Marcus’s studies and research began in Manchester, specializing in British prehistory, on which he completed a PhD there in 2007. Marcus leads commercial and community projects in the east and west of England, with research also in Africa, Southern India and the Antarctic Ocean, and has a growing and active interest in later historical pioneer communities.


Members free. Visitors £3.


Originally arranged for

Wednesday 13 May

‘Stepping into Britain: Happisburgh and the earliest occupation of northern Europe’

By Nick Ashton

The Norfolk coast holds the secrets to northern Europe’s deepest past. Excavations at Happisburgh have revealed stone tools associated with a rich array of plants and animals, and remarkably early human footprints that date to over 800,000 years ago. The talk will discuss the work at Happisburgh and how we reconstruct the climate and environment of this early human landscape. The evidence points to cold winters, prompting questions of how humans adapted to northern latitudes and whether they had the use of clothing, shelters and fire.

Nick Ashton has been a curator at the British Museum for 30 years, specializing in Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeology and helps curate the extensive stone tool collections from these periods. He has directed and published major excavation projects at the Lower Palaeolithic sites of High Lodge, Barnham, Elveden, Hoxne (all Suffolk) and Happisburgh (Norfolk).


Originally arranged for Monday 8 June

‘The old stones’

By Andy Burnham

NB This meeting will be held at Histon Baptist Church. Jointly with HIAG.

More details to follow


Friday 18 September

‘Medieval settlement and conflict on the fen-edge’

By Duncan Wright

NB This meeting will be held at Rampton Village Hall

More details to follow


Thursday 15 October

‘Vindolanda: a Roman fort and community constantly in transition’

By Andrew Birley

More details to follow


Wednesday November 25

‘The archaeology of Waterbeach New Town: A lost Roman settlement’

By Stephen Macaulay

More details to follow