Dr Jim Leary explores the prehistoric human experience of rising sea-levels

Footage of flooded houses and landscapes provide us with some of the most striking and immediate images of sea-level rise, bringing home the drastic consequences of modern climate change. Sea-level rise threatens humanity, but we have been through it before – many times. Sea-level rise happened in the past, particularly in the centuries after the last Ice Age.

In 1931, a lump of peat was dredged from the depths of the southern North Sea by the fishing trawler ‘Colinda’. Contained within it was a barbed bone point – an elegant artefact that was once one half of the head of a fishing spear, known as a leister. It is an archetypal implement of Stone Age hunter gatherers that lived in Britain after the last Ice Age.

With striking resonance for us today, these hunter gatherers lived through a singularly profound process. For this period saw rapid environmental change. During this time, sea-levels rose quickly, inundating vast tracts of the landscape, leading to the displacement of communities as land was lost altogether. One such area now lies beneath the North Sea – a prehistoric land larger than the United Kingdom, and which joined Britain with mainland Europe. It was an area that was lived in – people hunted in it, told stories, raised children, and we know from the leister, fished there. And yet this landscape became submerged and entirely lost; hidden now under a sea.

In a newly published book, Dr Jim Leary explores this process of sea-level rise. Not the recording of it, but the human experience – what it felt like, what affect it had on people’s everyday life. What were the consequences of sea-level rise and the loss of land, and what were people’s responses to it? What happened when their houses, hunting grounds and ancestral lands were lost under an advancing tide? And importantly for us, what can we learn from these past experiences as we face modern climate change. The book seeks to understand how these people viewed and responded to their changing environment, suggesting that people were not struggling against nature, but simply getting on with life – with all its trials and hardships, satisfactions and pleasures, and with a multitude of choices available. At the same time, this loss of land – the loss of places and familiar locales where myths were created and identities formed – would have profoundly affected people’s sense of being. This book moves beyond the static approach normally applied to environmental change in the past to capture its nuances. Through this, a richer and more complex story of past sea-level rise develops; a story that may just be useful to us today.


The Remembered Land. Surviving Sea-level Rise after the Last Ice Age.

By: Jim Leary

Bloomsbury Academic

10 bw illus

RRP: £14.99

ISBN: 9781474245906

Published: 22-10-2015


See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-remembered-land-9781474245906/

Read the first chapter here: http://bloomsburycp3.codemantra.com/widgets/9781474245937/Rememberedland.html

‘Monastic and Church Archaeology’ – new article by Professor Roberta Gilchrist

Professor Roberta Gilchrist has published a new article on ‘Monastic and Church Archaeology’, commissioned for Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 43: 235-250.
“This article calls for a more holistic approach to the archaeology of medieval Christian belief, one which moves beyond the focus on institutions and monuments that has characterized monastic and church archaeology and extends archaeological study to include the performative rituals of Christian life and death in the Middle Ages.”
Click here to read the article.

The Tale of William Westoby

Follow the story of William Westoby, a 14 year old apprentice in the city of York, in this brilliant new video!

A cartoon has been made to illustrate the life of a medieval teenager based on the research findings of Dr Mary Lewis’ project “Adolescence, Migration and Health in Medieval England“.

You can view the video on our Youtube channel here.

Glastonbury Revealed – Film Launched

A film launched today by the AHRC features research on Glastonbury Abbey led by Professor Roberta Gilchrist of the University of Reading and funded by the AHRC.  The research has re-evaluated the archaeology of Glastonbury Abbey and disentangled the rich but not always accurate myth from historical reality. Among the findings are: fresh evidence to confirm that the abbey site was indeed occupied in the 5th or 6th century, before the foundation of the Saxon monastery; identification of an early timber building with large post pits associated with fragments of imported Roman amphorae, dated c AD 450-550, and often associated with very high status secular (ie royal) settlement; analysis of glass and metal fragments suggesting that the glass-working furnaces at Glastonbury represent the earliest evidence for significant glass production in Saxon England; and a great deal more.

The project has worked closely with local groups and the general public and outreach activities have been crucial to its work and its findings.

This film examines the new evidence unearthed by the project and how researchers have worked with the Abbey Museum, conservators and the public to explore the history of this rich and extraordinary site. To watch the film please click here.

Dr Jim Leary Makes National News

Dr Jim Leary was interviewed by BBC Radio Wiltshire yesterday about his new book on Silbury Hill. The book is the final academic volume that sets out the results of the multi-million pound Silbury Hill Conservation Project. The full reference is: Leary, J., Field, D. and Campbell, G. (2013). Silbury Hill. Europe’s largest prehistoric mound. Swindon: English Heritage publishing.

Here’s the link to the radio show – scroll to 46min.

He was also interviewed for a news website.


Lyminge Project Report for 2012 Season Published

Harness mount uncovered in the 2012 excavations

Harness mount uncovered in the 2012 excavations

We’re pleased to announce that the interim report for the excavations that took place in the summer of 2012 on Tayne Field is now available for all to download on the Lyminge Archaeological project website: Lyminge 2012 – Interim report (PDF 3.43MB.

The report provides a detailed summary of the archaeology excavated last summer and summarises the major Anglo-Saxon discoveries, including the royal feasting hall, as well as the important Mesolithic and Norman-period archaeology. It is illustrated with detailed site plans and a wide selection of colour photos of finds and features and the site under excavation.

Work continues at the site over this summer and in 2014 in order to expand understanding of the development and extent of the archaeology under Tayne field. Work will be reported on the Lyminge blog: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/lyminge/

Further published reports and previous interim reports from the project are available on the website (www.lymingearchaeology.org).


Towns of Roman Britain Conference to be hosted at Reading

MITIGATION_EXCAV_CirencesteA day conference, aimed at academics, professional practitioners and others with an interest in all aspects of Romano-British urbanism, will focus on the contribution of commercial archaeology to the study of the major Romano-British towns (coloniae and civitas capitals) will take place at the University of Reading on 30 November 2013.

Discussion will look at historic towns of England which have seen significant commercial work, as opposed to the largely greenfield where this is not the case.

The papers will be published in a volume edited by Michael Fulford and Neil Holbrook in 2014.

The conference is organised in collaboration with English Heritage, Cotswold Archaeology and the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

Find out more about the conference

Book on-line

Web site launched for the Anglo-Saxon Lyminge Archaeological Project

Anglo-Saxon Lyminge Archaeological Project

The new web site dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon Lyminge Archaeological Project

Archaeologists from the University of Reading, along with local volunteers, archaeological societies and university students are working at Lyminge, Kent each summer until 2014 to uncover the area’s Anglo-Saxon past. The work is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The new website contains links to the Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB) where our records are being uploaded and archived digitally. The site also contains information about the history of Lyminge and past excavations, as well as photos from 2008-2012. Information on taking part in the excavations will be provided, as well as details of talks and events about the project.

Visit the site: www.lymingearchaeology.org

Read about the project leader: Dr Gabor Thomas