Sifting Through Molehills

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2013

(Wikimedia Commons, Photo: Dave Dunford, iStockphoto)

No one can dig at Epiacum, one of the best-preserved Roman forts in Britain, without special permission, but moles have little regard for the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. The small mammals can dig dozens of feet of tunnels a day through farm, forest, or archaeological site. Volunteers working with Paul Frodsham, an archaeologist with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are now sifting through the molehills the critters leave outside their tunnels for pieces of pottery, glass, and other items from the second to fourth centuries. Frodsham wants to be able to learn how buildings were used at the fort, which has not seen archaeological investigation in more than 50 years. “I realize it sounds a bit ridiculous,” he says, “but it’s actually quite serious.” 

  • Artifacts September/October 2013

    Writing Tablet

    A tablet bearing a birthday party invite includes the earliest Latin script penned by a woman

    Read Article
    (© The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY)
  • Around the World September/October 2013


    Read Article
    (Courtesy Izumi Niiro)
  • Digs & Discoveries September/October 2013

    No Changeups on the Savannah

    Read Article
    (Private Collection/J.T. Vintage/The Bridgeman Art Library, Werner Forman/Art Resource, NY, Pat Benic/Copyright Bettmann/Corbis/AP Images)
  • Features September/October 2013

    Wolf Rites of Winter

    Archaeologists digging a Bronze Age site on the Russian steppes are using evidence from language and mythology to understand a remarkable discovery

    Read Article
    (Courtesy David Anthony)