Saturday, May 14, 2016

A kitchen story, a quarry, bones and gaming pieces: These medieval finds have been found at a Suffolk school


A school site in an 11th century road system in Suffolk has been excavated for medieval remains ahead of the creation of a new classroom and kitchen. The first cooking there, though, might actually have happened during the 14th century, according to the most unusual of the discoveries made during the dig: a small flint and mortar building which is thought to have been a kitchen or cold store.

Any fires during cooking wouldn’t have affected the main house, with the kitchen building set some distance from the street frontage and houses. Above ground, it would have been constructed of timber with a tiled floor and roof.

Bury St Edmunds’s Abbot set up the roads at the core of the old town, where a large medieval market thrived. Pilgrims to the abbey made the area an important and wealthy regional centre.


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'Stone Age Art' in Bavarian cave not carved by humans after all


The Mäanderhöhle cave near Bamberg was previously regarded as an archaeological sensation. It was thought to contain some of the oldest cave art in Germany. However, Julia Blumenröther, a former student at Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, has demonstrated in her Master's thesis that the markings discovered inside the cave in 2005 are not fertility symbols carved by humans as previously thought. In fact, these lines occurred as a result of natural processes, the archaeologist says.
One of the caverns in the 75-metre long cave is full of spherical deposits of minerals known as cave clouds that form on rocks in a similar way to stalactites and stalagmites. In 2005, cave researchers discovered a large number of lines that looked like they could have been made by humans on the rock-hard surface of these cave clouds. An archaeologist studied these lines several years later and published his interpretation of them in a preliminary report, in which he said that the between 14,000 and 16,000 year-old lines were made by humans and probably depicted a phallus and abstract female figures.
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Bronze Age Burial Found in England


EVESHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists surveying a future development site in England’s West Midlands region were surprised to find a Bronze Age burial, reports the Worcester News. The team was following up on an earlier excavation at the site that revealed ditches thought to date to the Iron Age. In broadening their investigation to include a larger tract of land, the archaeologists discovered ditches with artifacts dating 1,000 years earlier than they expected, to the early Bronze Age. “The really unexpected find was a ‘beaker’ burial,” said Laurence Hayes of the environmental consulting firm RSK. “This large burial pit contained a near complete Early Bronze Age vessel known as a beaker, covered with intricate patterns, and a polished stone archer’s wrist guard.” 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two finds in one at Harray chamber

County archaeologist Julie Gibson at the entrance to the underground chamber. (Archaeology Institute UHI)

A prehistoric underground structure has been rediscovered in Harray – rediscovered in that the archaeologists found it to be full of Victorian rubbish!
But although it had obviously been opened,  entered and used in the 19th century, the chamber appears to have gone unrecorded.
Martin Carruthers, of the Archaeology Institute UHI, and county archaeologist Julie Gibson made their way out to the site, near the Harray Manse, last weekend.
Martin explained: “It’s either a souterrain or a ‘well’ and, given similar examples elsewhere in the county, probably dates to the Iron Age.
“The site was discovered by the landowner Clive Chaddock, who, happily, also happens to be a colleague at Orkney College UHI!
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More Anglo-Saxons - including a warrior and a high-status woman - have been found by archaeologists in Wiltshire

A six-foot warrior and a high-status woman were part of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery excavated in south-east Wiltshire


Last month, archaeologists found an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, Neolithic monuments and spears, knives and bone combs at a proposed Ministry of Defence housing site on Salisbury Plain. In the nearby garrison town of Tidworth, they’ve now excavated a 1,300-year-old cemetery of 55 burials from between the late 7th and early 8th centuries, containing the remains of men, women and children representing a cross-section of a local community.

“The mid-Saxon cemetery is of particular importance in its own right,” says Bruce Eaton, the Project Manager for Wessex Archaeology, surveying one grave confining a six-foot tall warrior with an “unusually large” spearhead and conical shield boss. “But taken together with the excavation of the cemetery on MOD land at Bulford, which was of a similar date, we now have the opportunity to compare and contrast the burial practices of two communities living only a few miles apart. They would almost certainly have known each other.”

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Viking 'parliament' site uncovered on Scottish island


IT is an ancient meeting place where Vikings would gather to decide laws, settle disputes and make key political decisions.
Now archaeologists believe they have identified one of the Norse parliament sites – known as a ‘thing’ - on the island of Bute, which points to it being the headquarters of the powerful Norse King, Ketill Flatnose, whose descendants were the earliest settlers on Iceland.
The significance of the mound site at Cnoc An Rath, which has been listed as an important archaeological monument since the 1950s, has been unclear for decades. Some had suggested it could have been prehistoric or a medieval farm site.
However, the idea of the location being a Viking site had been raised through a recent study of place-names on the island, which suggested long-lost names in the area may have contained the Norse word ‘thing’.
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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Hominins may have been food for carnivores 500,000 years ago


Tooth-marks on a 500,000-year-old hominin femur bone found in a Moroccan cave indicate that it was consumed by large carnivores, likely hyenas, according to a study* published April 27, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Camille Daujeard from the Muséum National D'Histoire Naturelle, France, and colleagues.
During the Middle Pleistocene, early humans likely competed for space and resources with large carnivores, who occupied many of the same areas. However, to date, little evidence for direct interaction between them in this period has been found. The authors of the present study examined the shaft of a femur from the skeleton of a 500,000-year-old hominin, found in the Moroccan cave "Grotte à Hominidés" cave near Casablanca, Morocco, and found evidence of consumption by large carnivores.
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Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens had different dietary strategies

This is an image of a fossilized human molar used in the study of dietary habits of Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens. Credit: Sireen El Zaatari 
PLOS ONE—When fluctuating climates in the Ice Age altered habitats, modern humans may have adapted their diets in a different way than Neandertals, according to a study published April 27, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Sireen El Zaatari of the University of Tübingen, Germany, and colleagues.
The Neandertal lineage survived for hundreds of thousands of years despite the severe temperature fluctuations of the Ice Age. The reasons for their decline around 40 thousand years ago remain unclear. The authors of this study investigated the possible influence of dietary strategies using the fossilized molars of 52 Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens (modern humans). They analysed the type and degree of microwear on the teeth to attempt to draw conclusions about diet type and to establish a relationship with prevalent climactic conditions.
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Meta-Vikings: Runestone Long Thought to Honor Kings Actually Monument to Writing Itself

This is Per Holmberg, researcher at University of Gothenburg, with the Rök Runestone. 
Photo: University of Gothenburg

The Rök Runestone was carved in Sweden in the late 800s. Since it was discovered in the 1940s, interpretations of the writing honed in on supposed references to heroic journeys, battles and warrior-kings.
But a new interpretation says the Runestone is in fact referencing itself – and the power of writing, according to a new study.
“The riddles on the front of the stone have to do with the daylight that we need to be able to read the runes, and on the back are riddles that probably have to do with the carving of the runes and the runic alphabet, the so-called futhark,” said Per Holmberg, associate profess of Scandinavian languages at the University of Gothenberg.
The three-part “arc” of the stone concerns the daylight needed to write and read the stone, the carving of the stone itself, and the legacy that is produced by the writing, according to the paper, published in Futhark: The International Journal of Runic Studies.
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New Interpretation Of The Rok Runestone Inscription Changes View Of Viking Age

Per Holmberg, researcher at University of Gothenburg, with the Rok Runestone 
[Credit: University of Gothenburg]

The Rok Runestone, erected in the late 800s in the Swedish province of Ostergotland, is the world's most well-known runestone. Its long inscription has seemed impossible to understand, despite the fact that it is relatively easy to read. A new interpretation of the inscription has now been presented -- an interpretation that breaks completely with a century-old interpretative tradition. What has previously been understood as references to heroic feats, kings and wars in fact seems to refer to the monument itself.

'The inscription on the Rok Runestone is not as hard to understand as previously thought,' says Per Holmberg, associate professor of Scandinavian languages at the University of Gothenburg. 'The riddles on the front of the stone have to do with the daylight that we need to be able to read the runes, and on the back are riddles that probably have to do with the carving of the runes and the runic alphabet, the so called futhark.'

Previous research has treated the Rok Runestone as a unique runestone that gives accounts of long forgotten acts of heroism. This understanding has sparked speculations about how Varin, who made the inscriptions on the stone, was related to Gothic kings. In his research, Holmberg shows that the Rok Runestone can be understood as more similar to other runestones from the Viking Age. In most cases, runestone inscriptions say something about themselves.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

DNA secrets of Ice Age Europe unlocked

 
study of DNA from ancient human bones has helped unlock the secrets of Europe's Ice Age inhabitants.
Researchers analysed the genomes of 51 individuals who lived between 45,000 years ago and 7,000 years ago.
The results reveal details about the biology of these early inhabitants, such as skin and eye colour, and how different populations were related.
It also shows that Neanderthal ancestry in Europeans has been shrinking over time, perhaps due to natural selection.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

All aboard! Nordic Viking ship ready for Atlantic voyage


The world's largest Viking ship in modern times is about to set sail across the Atlantic.
Named after Harald Hårfagre, the king who unified Norway in the 10th century, the ship's Swedish captain Björn Ahlander was originally supposed to have ordered the great dragon vessel to weigh anchor from Avaldsnes in Norway's Haugesund on Sunday, but the departure was delayed by bad weather.
And time is of the essence. Following in the historical tailwind of Leif Eriksson, the Viking thought to have discovered America centuries before Christopher Columbus, the ship has a long journey ahead, taking a route via Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland before it finally drops anchor in the United States.
"We've got one month because the only gap, if you don't want to battle low pressure and harsh winds, is May. That's your chance to make it across," Ahlander told the Swedish news agency TT on Monday.
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Stonehenge may have served as a cremation cemetery


Towering above the grassy Salisbury Plain, its eerie rock monoliths are steeped in myth and magical stories, yet despite decades of research, the original purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery. 


Archaeologists excavated the burned bones that had been previously dug up from around  the site of Stonehenge during the 1920s. They say analysis suggests the site  was used as a cemetery
[Credit: Adam Stanford/Aerial-Cam Ltd] 

A new study by archaeologists, however, has suggested the imposing stone circle may have initially been used as a cremation cemetery for the dead. 

Charred remains discovered on the site were unearthed in holes - known as the Aubrey Holes - that have been found have to once held a circle of small standing stones. 

Fresh analysis of the burned bones has revealed they were buried in the holes over a period of 500 years between 3,100BC and 2,600BC.

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'Hugely important' haul of Roman coins found in Spain


Construction workers have unearthed 600kg of Roman bronze coins, a unique and "hugely important" discovery according to experts.

Routine building work in southern Spain unearthed a very unexpected find this week, when over 600kg of Roman coins were discovered.
The find is "unique in Spain and perhaps the world" experts said of the coins, which were stored in 19 Roman amphoras or containers.
"We have a team looking into the discovery right now, We believe it is hugely important and will have more information very soon," said a spokesman at Andalucia's Ministry of Culture in Seville told The Local on Thursday.
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The Viking Great Army in England: Torksey, treasure and towns


The Viking Great Army in England: Torksey, treasure and towns

Tuesday 3 May 2016, 5.30PM

Speaker: Julian Richards


From AD 865 to 879 a Viking army wreaked havoc on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, leading to political conquest, settlement on a substantial scale, and extensive Scandinavian cultural and linguistic influences in eastern and northern England. This critical period for English history led to revolutionary changes in land ownership, society, and economy, including the growth of towns and industry, while transformations in power politics would ultimately see the rise of Wessex as the pre-eminent kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England. 

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‘Lost’ songs from Middle Ages brought back to life


An ancient song repertory will be heard for the first time in 1,000 years this week after being ‘reconstructed’ by a Cambridge researcher and a world-class performer of medieval music. 


Detail from the Cambridge Songs manuscript leaf that was stolen from and then recovered by Cambridge University Library [Credit: Cambridge University] 

‘Songs of Consolation’, to be performed at Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge on April 23, is reconstructed from neumes (symbols representing musical notation in the Middle Ages) and draws heavily on an 11th century manuscript leaf that was stolen from Cambridge and presumed lost for 142 years. 

Saturday’s performance features music set to the poetic portions of Roman philosopher Boethius’ magnum opus The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the most widely-read and important works of the Middle Ages, it was written during Boethius’ sixth century imprisonment, before his execution for treason. Such was its importance, it was translated by many major figures, including King Alfred the Great, Chaucer and Elizabeth I.

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Rare statue could help unearth secrets of Long Melford’s Roman past


A rare find unearthed in a garden in Long Melford could point to the village being the “missing link” in a chain of Roman forts, it has been claimed.

A six inch tall figurine dating from the first or second century, known as a ‘pseudo Venus’, was dug up by volunteer archaeologists while they were working on a test pit at a property in the south of the village.
According to a county council archaeologist, the statue would have had religious significance and is a very “unusual” find.
Local heritage centre volunteers John Broughton, Kenneth Dodd and John Nunn came across the statue while they were carrying out a rescue dig in a garden that was due to be landscaped.
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Historic flint axes found in Denmark

The flint axes date back to the early Stone Age (photo: Viborg Museum)

A pair of old friends have found the largest flint axes in Danish history in a drained bog area near Tastum Lake just south of Skive in Jutland.
Archaeologists at nearby Viborg Museum theorise that the axes were placed in the bog as part of a ritual sacrifice sometime during the early Stone Age around 3800-3500 BC.
“It’s fascinating that they could master the flint and produce such a perfect axe,” said Mikkel Kieldsen, an archaeologist and curator at Viborg Museum.
“A lot of effort has been put into the axes, so the sacrifice must have really meant something.”
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Researchers investigate world’s oldest human footprints with software designed to decode crime scenes


Researchers at Bournemouth University have developed a new software technique to uncover 'lost' tracks, hidden in plain sight at the world's oldest human footprint site in Laetoli (Tanzania). The software has revealed new information about the shape of the tracks and has found hints of a previously undiscovered fourth track-maker at the site. 


The Laetoli tracks were discovered by Mary Leakey in 1976 and are thought to be  around 3.6 million years old. There are two parallel trackways on the site, where two  ancient hominins walked across the surface. One of these trackways was obscured  when a third person followed the same path [Credit: Bournemouth University] 

The software was developed as part of a Natural Environments Research Council (NERC) Innovation Project awarded to Professor Matthew Bennett and Dr Marcin Budka in 2015 for forensic footprint analysis. They have been developing techniques to enable modern footwear evidence to be captured in three-dimensions and analysed digitally to improve crime scene practice.

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DÉCOUVERTES ARCHÉOLOGIQUES À TIGERY (ESSONNE) : LE PLATEAU BRIARD DURANT LA PRÉHISTOIRE


Préalablement aux aménagements de la ZAC du Plessis-Saucourt par l’EPA Sénart sur la commune de Tigery (Essonne), une équipe d’archéologues de l’Inrap effectue, sur prescription de l’État (Drac Île-de-France), des recherches à Tigery (Essonne). 6 200 m2 sont ainsi explorés entre mars et juin 2016.

Les fouilles permettront de libérer le terrain pour les travaux d’aménagement. La construction du 1er bâtiment (6 500 m²) réalisé par Alséi pour l’accueil d’activités (bureaux et locaux de production) pourra ainsi démarrer dès la rentrée 2016.
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Rhind Lectures: Antiquaries, archaeologists and the invention of the historic town c 1700-1860 6th, 7th and 8th May


Rhind Lectures: Antiquaries, archaeologists and the invention of the historic town c 1700-1860
6th, 7th and 8th May
May 6 @ 6:00 pm - May 8 @ 5:00 pm

Professor Roey Sweet, Professor of Urban History, University of Leicester
The historic town today is a clichéd mainstay of tourism and place-branding; its credentials go back to the eighteenth century when antiquaries first began seriously to study the physical remains of the past and to single out towns as of particular historical interest. These lectures will explore how the antiquaries and archaeologists of the 18th and 19th century developed their understanding of the material and textual remains of the urban past and in the process  both invented the familiar category of the historic town and contributed to a distinctively urban narrative of British history.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

People power: how citizen science could change historical research


Crowdsourcing research by ‘non-specialists’ could help historians investigate big-data archives, and in the process make everyone an expert



Citizen science is a digital method, which has been applied to a range of big-data scientific problems. The Zooniverse is a key player in this; having first sought the help of the crowd in classifying galaxies almost a decade ago, it now boasts 47 different projects with well over a million users. The projects hosted on their site have been bringing to the forefront concerns over who exactly is allowed to participate in science.

Even though the hierarchical structure of professional science still remains within most citizen science platforms (with the exception of the extreme citizen science movement), they have had the result of giving everyone access to the raw data of research, and an opportunity to demonstrate and develop expertise.

The methods of citizen science are now starting to be used for humanities projects. Citizen Humanities is opening up the vast archives of history to the public. A repercussion of this development is that it leads to questions as to who gets to participate in researching history, and what it means to be an expert.

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Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’

Mass graves were replaced by individual burials for the elite in the Bronze Age showing a shift in social structure  CREDIT: PA 

Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown.
The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.
He was part of a new order which emerged in Europe following the Stone Age, sweeping away the previous egalitarian Neolithic period and replacing it with hierarchical societies which were ruled by a powerful elite.
It is likely his power stemmed from advances in technology such as metal working and wheeled transport which enabled organised warfare for the first time.
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11 reasons William Shakespeare was the original Shoreditch hipster


An archaeological dig is expected to find Shoreditch is the home of Shakespeare, putting Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Globe in the shade.
The Museum of London Archaeology is leading a project to uncover and explore the remains of the Curtain Theatre, the 16th and 17th century venue where Shakespeare is known to have first staged Romeo and Juliet.Heather Knight, the senior archaeologist leading the dig on behalf of MOLA, said: “People often go to Stratford-upon-Avon to take in Shakespeare’s birthplace and his grave.
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The secret life of an archaeologist: soil in your sandwiches and sexism on sites


ended up in archaeology as a result of a long-held romantic notion of making great discoveries and solving mysteries. As a kid I always had my head buried in books, lost in the realms of the great ancient civilisations of the world. I never had fantastical expectations of archaeology, though. I didn’t think that I would travel the world and be a globe-trotting treasure hunter. And you certainly don’t get to travel in archaeology unless you are somehow affluent, have magical powers to secure funding, or know the right people in all the right places.

None of the above apply to me, so I have been confined to archaeology in England and Northern Ireland. Don’t get me wrong, archaeology here is infinitely fascinating but let’s be honest, it’s not as grand and visually awe-inspiring as, say, the pyramids or Pompeii. Over here, at its most stellar, it can be just two different coloured soils side by side, but to the trained eye that tells us a great deal about what was going on thousands of years ago.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Archaeology of Anglesey


The Archaeology of Anglesey
1 to 5 November 2016
The island of Anglesey has a wealth of archaeological sites of all periods. This EMAS Archaeology study tour will visit the most important sites of the prehistoric, Roman and medieval periods.
Among the sites that we will visit are: the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age burial chamber, the rural Roman site and the 12th century chapel at Din Lligwy; the chambered cairn at Bryn Celli Ddu; the Neolithic burial chamber at Barclodiad Y Gawres; the Roman fort at Caer Gybi; the Roman watchtower and signal station at Caer Y Twr and the medieval priory at Penmon.
Click here for further details

Archaeologists have found a Roman child's stone coffin and a mosaic at a former villa site in Wiltshire

Rug designer Luke Irwin and Historic England Archaeologist Dr David Roberts on the incredible discovery of what could be one of the country's largest Roman villas near a house in Wiltshire


Rug designer Luke Irwin has discovered a Roman mosaic while laying electricity cables in Wiltshire.This stone coffin of a Roman child held geraniums until it was identified
© Jon Wilkes

Luke Irwin: “This is the most beautiful sort of unspoilt river valley and it’s sort of hidden away. On the hill which overlooks where we live there was a vast temple. Six miles away there was another vast temple.

We are a mile from a Roman road. You can see undulations in the landscape and the general guess would be that this is a medieval  building thing going on – until you find a mosaic. 

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‘Be cheerful, live your life:’ Ancient mosaic ‘meme’ found in Turkey’s south


What could be considered an ancient motivational meme which reads “be cheerful, live your life” in ancient Greek has been discovered on a centuries-old mosaic found during excavation works in the southern province of Hatay.

Demet Kara, an archaeologist from the Hatay Archaeology Museum, said the mosaic, which was called the “skeleton mosaic,” belonged to the dining room of a house from the 3rd century B.C., as new findings have been unearthed in the ancient city of Antiocheia.

“There are three scenes on glass mosaics made of black tiles. Two things are very important among the elite class in the Roman period in terms of social activities: The first is the bath and the second is dinner. In the first scene, a black person throws fire. That symbolizes the bath. In the middle scene, there is a sundial and a young clothed man running towards it with a bare-headed butler behind. The sundial is between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. 9 p.m. is the bath time in the Roman period. 


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Did volcano eruptions tip Europe into Dark Ages?


Back-to-back volcanic eruptions in the mid-6th century darkened Europe's skies for more than a year and may have ushered in the Dark Ages, according to finding to be presented Friday at a science conference in Vienna.
"Either would have led to significant cooling of Earth's surface," said Matthew Toohey, a climate modeller at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel Germany who led the research.
"But taken together, the two eruptions"—in 536 and 540—"were likely the most powerful volcanic event affecting the northern hemisphere climate over at least the past 1,500 years," he told AFP at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union.
Their combined impact lowered temperatures by two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) during what is probably the coldest decade in the last two millennia, he added.
This sudden drop, caused by a Sun-blocking blanket of sulphur particles in the stratosphere, had a devastating impact on agriculture, provoking famine throughout much of Europe and beyond.
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Romsey Abbey: The mystery of the hair in the coffin


For the past few months, archaeologists have been testing a full head of hair found in a coffin. Is it the hair of a saint?
In October 1839, the work of some gravediggers came to an abrupt halt when their tools hit something hard. It was a lead coffin. Inside they found some hair. Human hair.
In the year 2000, a seven-year-old boy called Jamie Cameron went on a school trip to his local parish church, Romsey Abbey in Hampshire. It was where the gravediggers had made their discovery more than a century and a half earlier.
He was taken to a display case and was immediately drawn to the full head of hair, which was still resting on the oak "pillow" on which it was found.

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