The changing face of archaeology
In the decades since the mid 20th century, there has been a significant reduction in the number of research excavations. Most excavations are now rescue digs, intended to investigate sites before they are destroyed by development. In addition, there is much greater use of
non-invasive techniques, such as geo-surveying. This helps to preserve sites that could yield more information in the future than is possible with today's techniques. Working closely with the District Archaeologist, both the Society and individual members continue to participate in archaeological surveys and investigations, and to publicise the results.
In 1936, Anthony Lowther, an archaeologist who was a member of the Society, was invited to investigate a suspected Roman mausoleum or temple site within the then Rothamsted Experimental Station. His findings eventually led to the mausoleum becoming a Scheduled Monument.
Just off Cottonmill Lane stand the remains of a building known variously as the Sopwell Nunnery, Sopwell House or Sopwell ruins. Ruins they certainly are, but not of the nunnery, nor the precursor of the present Sopwell House about a mile away. Excavations carried out in the 1960s discovered more about how the site has been used over the last nine hundred years.
An excavation carried out in Wheathampstead in 2019 revealed evidence of considerable development from the mid-12th century onwards
GIven that excavation irretrievably damages an archaeological site, archaeologists have long faced a dilemma: to dig or not to dig? Now, new non-invasive techniques offer scope to investigate sites without excavation, and the Society has joined in using these across the county.
Society member Dr Norman Davey developed a ground-breaking method of lifting and restoring Roman wall plaster, the results of which you can see in the Verulamium Museum today.
Our Society was one of the first to commission air photographs to help plan archaeological excavations, as these Air Ministry photographs taken in 1929 show.
In the late 1960s, an enterprising group of young Society members formed what became the St Albans Archaeological Rescue and Research Group, which carried out a number of excavations in the city.
SAHAAS volunteers participated in a programme of geophysical surveys across the County, included one looking at Verulamium that helped to improve our understanding of the layout of the Roman city.
It's tempting to think that we should seek to unearth as many sites of archaeological significance as possible. But is that really so?
Apparently worthless archaeological finds such as bone and pottery fragments can tell us a surprising amount about the past, such as information about people's diets, the crops grown in a region, and trade routes.
What a Finds Liaison Officer does, and how the Portable Antiquities Scheme works.
Brief notes about archaeological excavations in and around St Albans