Monday, February 23, 2015

1,500-year-old settlement unearthed in Poland

Numerous fragments of pottery and dozens of objects made of bronze and iron have been discovered during excavations in Skomack Wielki in northern Poland. 

View of the settlement and excavation  [Credit: Anna Bitner-Wróblewska] 

"The very fact of the discovery of so many valuable objects within a settlement, not a cemetery, is rare in the region" - told PAP Dr. Anna Bitner-Wróblewska, head of the research project. 

Archaeologists stumbled upon the remains of settlements from the fifth and sixth centuries at the foot of an early medieval castle town. Among the most valuable finds are ornaments, brooches and buckles made of bronze, as well as toiletries (tongs) and knives.

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Gallagh Man, a bog body from Co. Galway

In 1821 members of the O’Kelly family made a gruesome discovery as they dug turf near their home at Gallagh, Co. Galway. As they sliced through the dark peat, they suddenly came across the remains of dead body, which had lain there undisturbed for over 2,000 years. Remarkably, this ancient body was in a near perfect state of preservation.  The cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions of the bog had prevented the remains from decaying and had mummified the human flesh. They had found a bog body.
An enterprising,  if somewhat morbid family, the O’Kellys saw an opportunity to make some money.  They re-buried the bog body and then charged visitors a small fee to excavate and view it. The remains soon became a macabre  tourist attraction and the O’Kellys continued to exhume and re-inter the bog body for the next eight years. Unfortunately, this caused the corpse to deteriorate and explains why it is a relatively poor state of preservation today. In 1829 the Royal Irish Academy finally intervened and purchased the human remains, which were subsequently preserved.
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Hadrian’s Wall Monuments – 3D Scan No.4

Today’s blog on the 3D scans of Roman monuments associated with Hadrian’s Wall, products of our recent collaboration with University of Newcastle as part the NU Digital Heritage project ( One of the planned uses of these digital models will be for use as a teaching resource for initiatives such as their free online Massive Online Open Course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. Follow the links to see part onepart two and part three of our blog series. 
Today’s blog is a little bit early as we wanted to put something out on Terminalia, which was celebrated by the Ancient Romans on the 23rd of February in honour of the god Terminus. Terminus was the god of boundaries and Hadrian’s Wall is certainly one of the most significant boundaries in the whole of the Roman Empire! Terminus’ statue was merely a stone or post stuck in the ground to distinguish between properties. To celebrate Terminali the two owners of adjacent properties would crown the ‘statue’ with garlands and raise an altar, on which they offered up some corn, honeycombs, and wine, and sacrificed a lamb or a sucking pig. 

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Medieval battle site yields UK’s oldest cannon ball

A lead ball found at a medieval battle site could be the oldest surviving cannonball in England, an expert says. 

The lead cannon ball is believed to have bounced at least twice and possibly hit a tree  [Credit: Northampton Battlefield Society] 

The damaged ball was found at the site of the Battle of Northampton fought during the War of the Roses. 

Medieval artillery expert Dr Glenn Foard said: "It is highly likely the projectile was fired during the battle [10 July 1460]." 

It will be revealed to the public at a Northampton hotel in Eagle Drive close to the battlefield on Thursday night.

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Hampton Court's lost apartment foundations uncovered

A routine maintenance job at Hampton Court palace has uncovered the lost foundations of the splendid royal apartments of two ill-fated queens, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.
Just before Christmas, the squeaky floorboards in one of the Georgian rooms, used by the Royal School of Needlework at the time, had become positively bouncy. When the builders looked under them, they saw a maze of battered Tudor brickwork , realised they had stumbled on something exceptional, and called in the archaeologists.
“It was the best possible Christmas present,” said Dan Jackson, curator of buildings at Hampton Court. “It is really interesting and important evidence for a part of the building of which we know very little.”
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New film footage reveals potential 'killer blow' to King Richard III

New film footage revealing for the first time details of the potential killer blow that claimed the life of King Richard III has been released by the University of Leicester.
The sequence - showing the dramatic injury to the base of the skull as well as the inside of the top of the skull - is part of a package of films charting the scientific and archaeological investigations led by the project team from the University of Leicester.
It is among 26 sequences taken by University video producer Carl Vivian who is chronicling the key events in the Discovery, Science and Reburial of the last Plantagenet king. These sequences are accessible to the media by contacting Carl Vivian (details below).
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Ancient Orkney child remains excavated

Archaeologists have been excavating the site of a child's grave on an Orkney island.
The grave - which it is believed could be up to 4,000 years old - was uncovered on Sanday's shoreline by winter storms and high tides.
It is thought the skeleton could be that of a child aged between 10 and 12.
The find was made by Carrie Brown, of See Orkney tours, who called in local archaeologists.
Historic Scotland was alerted, and experts were sent to Sanday on Saturday.
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Roman cemetery: Fifteen skeletons found at Ipplepen dig

A "major" Roman cemetery has been discovered during an archaeological dig in Devon.
Experts found 15 skeletons during the excavation of a Roman road at Ipplepen, near Exeter.
Tests on one of the skeletons showed the settlement was in use up to 350 years after the Roman period ended, which has surprised experts.
Archaeologists said the discoveries were both nationally and regionally important.
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Islamic coins found in Viking grave from Norway

In August 2014 a hobby archaeologist found a Viking Age sword with metal detector in a field in Skaun, just south of Trondheim in Central Norway. Now, archaeologists have examined the finding and have some exciting news about the owner. 

The Viking grave [Credit: Ragnar Vennatrø/NTNU Museum  of Natural History and Archaeology] 

Having examined the grave, archaeologists at the NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim tell NRK that it is dated to about the year 950. In addition to the sword, researchers found the remains of a shield. 

"We have not managed to find out who owned the sword, but we know that he was a well travelled man", says archaeologist Ingrid Ystgaard. 

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Ancient shrines used for divination found in Armenia

Three shrines, dating back about 3,300 years, have been discovered within a hilltop fortress at Gegharot, in Armenia, according to an article published by Live Science. 

A shrine excavated at the entrance of a fortress' west terrace in Gegharot in Armenia.  The stone stele like would've been a focal point for rituals practiced there some  3,300 years ago 
[Credit: Professor Adam Smith] 

Local rulers at the time likely used the shrines for divination, a practice aimed at predicting the future, the archaeologists involved in the discovery say. 

Each of the three shrines consists of a single room holding a clay basin filled with ash and ceramic vessels. A wide variety of artifacts were discovered including clay idols with horns, stamp seals, censers used to burn substances and a vast amount of animal bones with markings on them. During divination practices, the rulers and diviners may have burnt some form of substances and drank wine, allowing them to experience “altered” states of mind, the archaeologists say.

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Viarmes retrouve son château médiéval

Dans le cadre de l'aménagement de la place de la mairie de Viarmes, une fouille archéologique a été prescrite en 2013. Les fouilles ont  permis de mieux comprendre  l'origine du centre ancien de Viarmes en révélant les vestiges oubliés d'un château médiéval et d'un manoir seigneurial détruit au XIVe siècle. 

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Monday, February 09, 2015

Northampton's medieval chess workshop 'first to be found'

The pieces were found in a large dump of antler off-cuts near the foundations of a timber-framed building

A workshop that produced early medieval chess pieces has been uncovered during an archaeological dig "for the first time" in England.
Similar chess pieces have been found at digs at manor houses but this find is evidence of their manufacture.
Archaeologist Andy Chapman said it was "the most interesting find" in a series of excavations in Northampton in the past two years.
The digs were carried out ahead of redevelopment work in the town centre.
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Norway’s Melting Snow Exposes Fragile Artifacts

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Scientists from The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) say that the Kringsollfonna ice patch and the Storbreen glacier are melting fast, and may not survive one or two more hot summers. Ground-penetrating radar has been used to measure the thickness of the ice, and GPS technology measures the barely perceptible movement of the glacier. Snow patches form when more snow accumulates in the winter than melts in the following summer, and they are ideal for preserving artifacts and organic materials, because unlike glaciers, snow patches are stationary. When the snow patches melt, the artifacts are exposed. “Then they’re lost forever.

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Remains of Bronze Age bowman found in Scotland

Archaeologists have discovered new artefacts suggesting a Highland village resident of 4,500 years ago fought with bow and arrow. 

Holes in the wrist guard could be for leather bindings  [Credit: AOC Archaeology] 

A Bronze Age burial cist in Drumnadrochit, near Inverness, was found last month, and researchers have now found shards of pottery and a wrist guard, for use when shooting using bow and arrow, at the same site. 

Now work is being done to glean as much information about the finds, and it’s hoped they’ll be able to determine the gender of the skeletal remains. 

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Un aqueduc médiéval en Côte-d'Or

Visite du site avec Gilles Rollier, archéologue responsable d'opération, Inrap

Watch the video...

Monday, February 02, 2015

Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age

Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.
“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.“
Membership in Asatruarfelagid has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from StatisticsIceland showed.
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Magna Cartas united at British Library to celebrate 800th anniversary

The four surviving 1215 Magna Cartas will be seen at the British Library by winners of a public ballot

The four surviving original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta have been brought together for the first time in London.
Magna Carta is one of the most important, well-known documents in history and this year marks its 800th anniversary.
More than 40,000 people entered a public ballot to see them, with 1,125 getting the chance to see all four at the British Library over three days.
The Magna Carta was authorised on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede.
The document was agreed by King John to appease rebel barons in the heart of battle.
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2,200 year old Iberian moat found in Valls

Students of the bachelor's degree in Archaeology at the University of Barcelona (UB) have discovered the remains of an Iberian construction during the fieldwork of the subject Archaeological Methodology I. On 28 and 29 October, students found a 2,200-year-old moat that defended the Iberian town of Vilar de Valls, the ancient city of Valls, in Tarragona. 

UB students of Archaeology on a practical sessions developed in the site  [Credit: Universitat de Barcelona] 

According to the directors of the archaeological excavation, Jaume Noguera, researcher in the Department of Prehistory, Ancient History and Archaeology of the UB, and Jordi López, expert from the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology, the site might have been destroyed by Romans during the Second Punic War (218-202 BC) that pitted Roma against Cartago for the hegemony of the Mediterranean. 

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Herculaneum scrolls unlocked using photon beams

A scientific breakthrough could make it possible to read papers from the only library to have survived from the times of ancient Rome.
The library was in Herculaneum which, like Pompeii, was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Hundreds of charred scrolls were found there but it has been impossible to read them.
Now scientists in France have found a way to peer inside the charred scrolls, seeing letters and words for the first time in almost 2000 years.

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Scientists recreate ancient Siberian brain surgery techniques for first time

Experts undertake pioneering tests on skulls to finally understand how doctors carried out remarkable operations more than 2,300 years ago.

General view of the tracks of the trepanation on the male scull from Bike-III
Picture: Aleksei Krivoshapkin

More details about the remarkable brain surgery techniques carried out by the earliest Siberians 2,300 years ago have been revealed by scientists.
Neurosurgeons have been working with anthropologists and archaeologists over the past year following the discovery of holes in the skulls of three ancient sets of remains in the Altai Mountains.
Evidence at the time suggested they were examples of trepanation – the oldest form of neurosurgery – with speculation it showed the early nomads had learned the skilful technique from the medical centres of the ancient world, or had uncovered it at the same time as prominent doctors in Greece and the Middle East.
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Face of Siberian tattooed princess finally revealed

Taxidermy expert uses painstaking techniques to create first ever replica of the ice maiden found preserved in the Siberian high altitude plateau.

'The face is very accurate to how Princess Ukok actually looked'
[Credit: The Siberian Times/Marcel Nyffenegger] 

The first replica face has been created of the famous tattooed Siberian princess found mummified and preserved after almost 2,500 years in permafrost. A Swiss expert has used special taxidermy techniques to build an accurate reconstruction of the ice maiden who was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993.

Known as Princess Ukok, after the high altitude plateau on which she was discovered, her body was decorated in the best-preserved, and most elaborate, ancient art ever found. While her discovery was exciting, particularly given how intact her remains were, her face and neck skin had deteriorated, with no real clue as to what she once looked like.

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Big-toothed fossil may be primitive new human

Penghu 1 mandible. Its morphology suggests the presence of a robust, primitive type of hominin so far unrecognised in the Pleistocene Asian fossil record (Y Kaifu)

The first known prehistoric human from Taiwan has been identified and may represent an entirely new species that lived as recently as 10,000 years ago, according to a new study.
The newly discovered big-toothed human, 'Penghu 1', strengthens the growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens was not the only species from our genus living in Europe and Asia between 200,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Anthropologists have learned that Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis (aka. the 'Hobbit') lived in Europe and Asia within that time frame.
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Large Roman necropolis in Poland to be studied

The largest necropolis from the Roman period in Karczyn in Kujawy is the object of detailed scientific research. Funds received from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will allow to complete the analyses, that will determine the diet, kinship and origin of the dead buried in the cemetery. 

Tomb of a warrior [Credit: Adriana Romańska] 

Excavations in Karczyn were conducted in 2002-2010 by the Archaeological Expedition of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. From the very beginning, scientists understood that they were dealing with a unique place. 

"It turned out that the necropolis existed continuously for over 300 years, from the first to the fourth century AD - told PAP says Adriana Romańska, head of the excavation. - We have found more than 120 burials with very diverse rites".

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