Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Medieval Graffiti Recorded in England’s Churches


NORFOLK, ENGLAND—A volunteer project to record medieval graffiti in Norfolk is spreading across England. More than 28,000 images, perhaps doodled by churchgoers, have been recorded in Norfolk, and only one-third of Norwich Cathedral has been searched so far. “[Medieval graffiti] was believed to be rare—turns out it’s not,” Matt Champion, a medieval archaeologist who started the program in 2010, told BBC News. Images of compass designs, windmills, sundials, circles, and ships have been documented. “Are they thanksgiving for a voyage safely undertaken, or a prayer for safe passage on a journey yet to come? Some of these ship images appear to show deliberate damage, begging the question whether they are prayers for long overdue ships,” he explained.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Suspected Roman ritual pit found in Ewell dig


A suspected ritual pit from Roman times, containing a cow's skull, horse bones and possibly puppy bones, has been uncovered during an archaeological dig. 


The archaeological dig in Church Meadow, Ewell  [Credit: Jeremy Harte] 

The exciting discovery was made during a three-week dig in Church Meadow at the site of an important Roman road, Stane Street, in Ewell. 

Nearby at the Roman ritual site of Hatch Furlong, archaeologists have previously excavated deep shafts containing the remains of cats and dogs.

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Ötzi's non-human DNA: Opportunistic pathogen discovered in Iceman tissue biopsy

A team of scientists from EURAC in Bolzano/Bozen together with colleagues from the University of Vienna successfully analysed the non-human DNA in the sample.
Credit: Frank Maixner (EURAC)

Ötzi's human genome was decoded from a hip bone sample taken from the 5,300 year old mummy. However the tiny sample weighing no more than 0.1 g provides so much more information. A team of scientists from EURAC in Bolzano/Bozen together with colleagues from the University of Vienna successfully analysed the non-human DNA in the sample. They found evidence for the presence of Treponema denticola, an opportunistic pathogen involved in the development of periodontal disease. Thus, by just looking at the DNA, the researchers could support a CT-based diagnosis made last year which indicated that the Iceman suffered from periodontitis. The results of the current study have recently been published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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Extensive remains of vast Mycenaean citadel revealed


A team of archaeologists is excavating the remains of a vast ancient Mycenaean citadel, known as Glas or Kastro (castle). Under the leadership of Associate Professor Christofilis Maggidis of Dickinson College and the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society, teams of specialists have been systematically surveying the imposing, island-like, flat-topped bedrock outcrop that rises 20-40 meters above a surrounding plain with a summit area stretching 49.5 acres at the northeastern edge of the Kopais basin in southeastern Greece. The area is estimated to measure ten times the size of the ancient citadel of Mycenaean Tiryns and seven times that of Mycenae. 


Aerial view of Glas showing the massive cyclopean walls enclosing and defining  the site of the ancient remains [Credit: C. Maggidis] 

“I first excavated at Glas in 1990 as a graduate student with my mentor, the late Spyros Iakovidis,” said Maggidis. “The unparalleled size of the citadel, its connection with the gigantic drainage project of Kopais, and the discovery of such important but few remains in the citadel indicating that the rest of the citadel was left vacant puzzled me since then.”

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Burgenland's 'Stonehenge' discovery

Reconstruction of circular ditches at Heldenberg, Lower Austria. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    The mysterious millennia-old sites are currently being surveyed by experts who believe they once served both as a giant calendar and a place for rituals. 
     
    It appears that circa 5,000 BC there was a large circular area in a field on the southern outskirts of Rechnitz, surrounded by wooden poles. It was only after aerial photographs were taken of the district that remnants of an ancient trench system became visible. 

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    Have archaeologists discovered an 8,000-year-old HUMAN BRAIN? Skull unearthed in Norway 'harbours fragments of grey matter'

    Archaeologists have found what they think is an 8,000 year old human skull in a dig in Norway. Shown here is the skull embedded in soil, but the team did not dare to scrape all the loose sand from it in fear of destroying the surface of it. It is thought to have belonged to a child of under ten years of age

    The investigation took place due to a planned building of a big conference centre called the Oslofjord Convention Center.

    The excavation project involves two sites from the same interval of the Mesolithic era, about 6,000 BC, approximately 8,000 years ago.
    Little is known of this period of the Stone Age in eastern Norway, making the sites of particular interest.
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    Romanian cave holds oldest human footprints


    Human footprints found in Romania’s Ciur-Izbuc Cave represent the oldest such impressions in Europe, and perhaps the world, researchers say. 


    Human footprints such as this, found in a Romanian cave almost 50 years ago,  are much older than originally thought, dating to around 36,500 years ago [Credit: D. Webb] 

    About 400 footprints were first discovered in the cave in 1965. Scientists initially attributed the impressions to a man, woman and child who lived 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. But radiocarbon measurements of two cave bear bones excavated just below the footprints now indicate that Homo sapiens made these tracks around 36,500 years ago, say anthropologist David Webb of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues.

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    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Golden Middle Ages


    This many-faceted exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities will change the gloomy image of the early Middle Ages once and for all. It is an exhibition for young and old, with new stories about the Netherlands during the Merovingian dynasty, AD 400–700. We now know that these were not dark days at all, but a golden age!

    Top Dutch archaeological finds and Merovingian glass

    Golden Middle Ages will show how life was in this part of the world some 1,500 years ago and what role the Netherlands played in the worldwide trade networks of early medieval Europe. One gallery will be dedicated entirely to the little-known beauty of Merovingian glass. Of course, the exhibition will also feature top archaeological finds from the period, such as the Rijnsburg buckle, gold neck-rings from Olst, the glass bell beaker of Bergeijk, and a new trove of medieval coins.

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    Iron Age house unearthed in Jersey


    An iron age settlement has been unearthed in Jersey after a two month excavation. The work on the site in St Clement has discovered objects dating back over 2,000 years. 


    After a two month excavation, a settlement site in St Clement has been discovered as well as  objects dating back more than 2,000 years [Credit: channelonline.tv] 

    Field Archaeologist, Robert Waterhouse, said the site had produced evidence of the first Iron Age house to be discovered on the island. 

    He said the site dates from the 2nd Century BC to the early 1st Century AD and was likely a private home.

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    Polish archaeologists discovered medieval bath in Albania


    Polish archaeologists discovered a fourteenth-century bath in northwestern Albania. This is the oldest object of this type studied so far in Albania - told PAP Prof. Piotr Dyczek of the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw.
    The greatest discovery this year was Turkish bath - hammam, with central heating system. Buildings of this type became common in the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. "Our object seems to be a hundred years older - believes Prof. Dyczek. - We know very few early hammams. This makes our discovery even more interesting, because it allows to see how the old Roman idea of hypocaust, which is a system of heating the floors and walls of buildings with hot air, was adapted by the Turks".

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    Dating the second timber circle at Norwich


    In the late 1990s two remarkable Bronze Age timber circles were discovered on Holme Beach. One of these – Seahenge – was excavated in 1998 and 1999. Since the excavations the second circle has been monitored and evidence of damage by coastal processes has been recorded. 


    The second timber circle uncovered 15 years after the first, dubbed Seahenge, was found along the Norfolk coast. The Bronze Age timber circle has been tested by archaeologists and  dates to the summer of 2049 BC.[Credit: © NPS Archaeology] 

    In the last year tree ring dating (dendrochronology) has shown the timbers used to build the second circle were felled in the spring or summer of 2049 BC. This means that the timbers were felled at exactly the same time as those used to build Seahenge. The felling date places the construction of both circles early in the Bronze Age.

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    French archaeologists discover an exceptional Gallic chariot tomb at Warcq in France

    The excavation has currently revealed only the upper levels of this 15 m² funerary chamber. 
    © Denis Gliksman, Inrap.

    PARIS.- A combined team composed of archaeologists from the Ardennes departmental archaeology unit and from Inrap is currently excavating a Gallic aristocratic tomb at Warcq (Ardennes). Curated by the State (Drac Champagne-Ardenne), this site is located on the route of the A304 motorway being constructed by the Dreal between Charleville-Mézières and Rocroi. 

    Starting on 3 June for a three week period, archaeologists and an anthropologist have been working to uncover this chariot tomb. This type of aristocratic tomb emerges in the 7th century B.C. – during the first Iron Age – and ends with the end of the Gallic period. The oldest chariots have four wheels (like that found at Vix), while those from the second Iron Age have only two. The deceased person – who could be male or female – was generally inhumed on the chariot, which was an object of prestige and a symbol of social status. Champagne-Ardenne is famous for such tombs (particularly at Bourcq and Semide in the Ardennes), which are generally dated to the start of the second Iron Age (5th-4th century B.C.). 

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    Dutch archaeologists find 1,300 year old silver bowl


    On an excavation site in Oegstgeest, in the western Netherlands, Leiden University archaeologists discovered a very rare silver bowl from the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an elite with a wide international network in Oegstgeest. 


    The gold ornamental plate in the bowl [Credit: Restaura, Haelen] 

    Rare and exceptional 

    Researchers are assuming that the bowl, which is 21 centimetres wide and 11 centimetres high, was buried as part of a ritual sacrifice. Such gilded discoveries are extremely rare. This one is exceptional because such bowls were usually made of bronze. In addition, they were not, as a rule, lavishly decorated with gold leaf. This means that we are dealing with an artefact that is unique, not only for the Netherlands, but for all of Western Europe. (Until the discovery of this bowl there were no indications of the presence of a local or regional elite on the Oegstgeest settlement. It may be that in this period some members of the elite lived on ‘simple’ farms.) 

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    Major Viking site discovery described as ‘mind-blowing’


    A tiny County Louth village has been confirmed as home to one of the most important Viking sites in the world.

    Carbon testing on trenches at a ‘virgin’ site in Annagassan have revealed that the small rural community once housed a Viking winter base, one of only two in Ireland.
    The other went on to become Dublin but the Annagassan site, 50 miles north of the capital, was believed to be the stuff of mythology and folklore until now.
    Geophysical tests funded by Dundalk’s County Museum have allowed scientists to make the big breakthrough.
    They have now confirmed that the Linn Duchaill site, beside the river Glyde and south of Dundalk Bay, was where the Vikings brought their long ships or longphorts to be repaired.
    It was also the base for inland raids as far as Longford and north to Armagh.
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    UNIQUE 7TH CENTURY SILVER BOWL FOUND IN SOUTH HOLLAND


    On an excavation site in Oegstgeest (South Holland), Leiden University archaeologists discovered a silver bowl dating to the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an Oegstgeest elite with a wide international network.

    Researchers believe that the bowl, which is 21 centimetres wide and 11 centimetres high, was buried as part of a ritual sacrifice. Such gilded discoveries are extremely rare. This one is exceptional because such bowls were usually made of bronze and were not, as a rule, lavishly decorated with gold leaf, making this is a unique artefact for the whole of Western Europe. Until the discovery of this bowl there were no indications of the presence of a local or regional elite on the Oegstgeest settlement.

    Composite symbols

    The bowl, which may have been used as a drinking vessel or washbasin, is composed of a number of elements dating from different periods. The oldest element, the bowl itself, probably dates from the Late Roman Empire and the figures seem to indicate that the bowl originated in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle East. The other decorations date from the first half of the seventh century and show signs of German cultural influences, while the bowl’s suspension rings are characteristic of England and Scandinavia. Together, these elements symbolise the international position of the Netherlands fifteen hundred years ago.

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    Colosseum was bustling bazaar in Dark Ages


    Its gory past as an arena for gladiatorial battles and gruesome public executions is well known, but archaeologists have discovered that the Colosseum later fulfilled a very different role - as a bustling medieval bazaar full of houses, stables and workshops. 


    Archaeologists have found the foundations of homes, terracotta sewage pipes  and shards of crockery [Credit Gabrielli / Toiati] 

    As the glory of Rome faded and the empire crumbled in the face of barbarian invasions in the fifth century, the giant arena was colonised by ordinary Romans, who constructed dwellings and shops within its massive stone walls. 

    Archaeologists have dug beneath some of the 80 arched entrances that lead into the Colosseum and have found the foundations of homes, terracotta sewage pipes and shards of crockery, dating from the ninth century AD.

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