2022 - 2023 Lecture Programme

Lectures will be at 5 pm.


12 OCTOBER: 'Investigations at Smallhythe in Kent by the National Trust'
by Nathalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg

During two seasons of excavation at Smallhythe Place in 2021-2, a team of archaeologists has been uncovering the evidence for medieval royal shipbuilding documented at the site, previously investigated by Time Team and Archaeology South-East. This talk will present the interim results of the National Trust’s discoveries, which span a time period of over 2000 years of activity along the Kent / Sussex border.

9 NOVEMBER: 'Reconstructing Bury St Edmunds Abbey'
by Dr Steven Brindle

The famous monastery at Bury St Edmunds had one of the largest churches in Europe. However, it was comprehensively destroyed in the mid-16th century, apart from part of the shell of the west front. The site was partially excavated by the Ministry of Works c. 1957-64. However, the fragmentary state of the ruins has long presented a challenge, both in understanding this major monument of Romanesque architecture, and in interpreting and presenting the site to visitors. English Heritage has carried out new research and survey work, bringing together different strands of evidence to produce new reconstructions of the abbey church, for a new suite of graphic panels, that were recently installed. This paper presents the project, the evidence, and their new interpretation of this major site.

14 DECEMBER: 'Return to the Neanderthal site at La Cotte de St Brelade'
by Dr Matthew Pope

This year excavations recommenced at La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey, the first full scale investigation of the site since the 1970s. The project, funded by Jersey Heritage, and coordinated by the UCL Institute of Archaeology will see a previously unexcavated part of the site brought under investigations. The project combines modern research of the Neanderthal locality with a programme of engineering designed to stabilise Ice Age deposits remaining at the site and protect them from the erosive power of the sea. Combining these imperatives with the challenges presented by the site in terms of access and safe working has resulted in the development of a hybrid project team of Palaeolithic archaeologists and engineers. The first season has seen us excavating cold stage deposits of unknown age containing artefacts consistent with the technology of the Late Middle Palaeolithic levels recorded at the site. In this lecture we’ll consider the significance of the finds and their place in the Palaeolithic of north west Europe. In particular we will consider how we will approach learning more about the population of humans identified from teeth previously found at La Cotte which combine physical features of both Neanderthal people and Homo sapiens.


11 JANUARY: 'Recent excavations in the amphitheatre, fort and town of Richborough'
by Tony Wilmott

Richborough has long been regarded as a key site in the history of Roman Britain, due to the excavations by J.P Bushe-Fox, which were published in five volumes between and 1926 and 1968. These concentrated on the area within the walls of the late third century Saxon Shore fort, and this, combined with the discovery of features relating to the Claudian Conquest, has tended to the site’s interpretation as predominantly military. Geophysical survey has shown that it was actually an urban place, some 21 ha in extent; a port town developing after the conquest, and upon which the Saxon Shore fort was imposed.

Excavations have now revealed new evidence on the character of the town, the plan of the Shore Fort, and the relationship of the site with the sea. The amphitheatre, located on the edge of the town was one of the first to be recognised in Britain in 1776, and the very first to be examined by excavation in 1849. The new work undertaken in 2021 has resulted in an extraordinary insight into the structure, decoration and history of the building. This paper will summarise and synthesise the recent work, and how it has expanded our knowledge of this iconic site.

8 FEBRUARY: 'Circular building, circular economies and circular ecologies: Learning from Scottish prehistoric roundhouses'
by Dr Tanja Romankiewicz

Research into later prehistoric buildings in northwest Europe – and the Scottish roundhouse record in particular – has highlighted how much reusable, renewable building materials such as earth and turf influenced the character of dwelling spaces. What has emerged is a dynamic concept of prehistoric architecture as a metamorphosing process of circular building, embedded in circular economies and ecologies, interwoven with human lives.

This new research now takes a holistic, long-term, multi-disciplinary perspective, by applying these ancient concepts to modern low carbon architecture.

8 MARCH: 'Building Westminster Hall: modelling the original roof structure'
by Dr Gavin Simpson

Before building, the architect needs certain facts about the site, the overall cost, the materials required and where they can be obtained. Hanmer’s Chronicle, neglected in plain sight for several centuries, provides answers to some of these questions. It records that timber for the roof of Westminster Hall came from Ireland’s extensive forests following negotiations in 1098 between William II (Rufus) and Murchard the High King. The Westminster Hall roof had an estimated external span of 25m. Clearly William was unable to find timbers of the required dimensions in England. A reconstruction drawing has been completed based on the slightly later Romanesque roof frame of 16.8m external span at Ely Cathedral (1104-1140). About a century later, a further development of the gothic roof over St Hugh’s Choir at Lincoln Cathedral with a span of 14.21m saves timber by reducing the number of tie beams used to every third frame. This development was extended in 1292-93 by Margaret of Burgundy in building a hospital with a roof span of 21.10m using monoxylous timbers felled locally at Tonnerre (Yonne), of dimensions similar to those of Westminster Hall which may have been the model for her project.

12 APRIL: 'Settling Down, Moving on and Coming Back – Prehistoric Discoveries at Llanfaethlu'
'Ymgartrefu, Symud Ymlaen a Dod yn ôl - Darganfyddiadau Cynhanesiol yn Llanfaethlu'
by Catherine Rees & Matthew Jones

Archaeological excavations in advance of the construction of a new school at Llanfaethlu, Ynys Môn (Anglesey) uncovered Mesolithic and later Prehistoric remains of national significance, including a Mesolithic tree-throw containing a sizable lithic assemblage and disarticulated human remains, 4 early Neolithic long houses, middle and late Neolithic pit groups, an inhumation, and a burnt mound. We await the radiocarbon dates on the human remains from the tree throw, but if of Mesolithic date they will be the only remains from this period recovered from Cymru (Wales) found in non-cave locations. The group of four contemporary early Neolithic houses is also unique in Cymru, hinting further at strong similarities with sites in Éire (Ireland). As post excavation works near completion, we discuss the development of the site and the repeated use of the locale over millennia.

10 MAY: The President's Lecture 'My garden's part in Hitler's downfall'
by Lindsay Allason-Jones

When buying a house in Berwick-upon-Tweed seven years ago, the structure in the garden described by the vendor as an Anderson shelter was considered simply as something to be got rid of, albeit by sound archaeological methods. The excavations, however, revealed, not an Anderson shelter but a 'Wilmot's Fortress' shelter which proved to have played a previously unknown part in the Radio Security Service's activities during the Second World War.

Annual General Meeting at 4.45 pm.

Royal Archaeological Institute
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