Thursday, July 19, 2018

These burial treasures open a window into early Anglo-Saxon East Anglia

The Winfarthing Anglo-Saxon burial treasures. Courtesy Norwich Museums

Dr Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, on the recently acquired seventh century Winfarthing burial treasures and what they tell us about Anglo-Saxon East Anglia

Everyone goes “wow” over the pendant, but it is actually one component of a fascinating burial assemblage from the grave of a wealthy female dating to the seventh century. As much as the wonderful pendant stands out, the real story is as much about what we didn’t know about the Anglo-Saxon period at that date in East Anglia.

The find is also an example of really good metal detecting practice. A history student from UEA had been doing a lot of metal detecting on this particular farm in the parish of Winfarthing and in December 2015 he heard a fantastic signal. He dug down and realised that the bronze bowl he had found was beneath the plough soil.

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Lessons From A Real Atlantis

Before it was lost to the bottom of sea, Doggerland was made up of woodland, meadows, marshes and rivers,  as shown by simulations [Credit: Philip Murgatroyd]

The discoveries, both on land and underwater, are helping to fill in some of the blanks about Europe’s prehistory and are offering insights into how our species responded to global climate change in the past.

Around 8,500 years ago, after the end of the last ice age, global warming triggered huge rises in sea levels due to the melting of glaciers and ice sheets that had covered much of the northern hemisphere.

An area of land twice the size of the European Union was lost to the rising seas, prompting mass migration across the continents.

Much of the human experience of this cataclysm, however, has remained buried out of reach of even the most assiduous investigator, leaving a huge gap in the story of our ancestors.

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Old Theban port of Chalcis: A medieval maritime crossroads in Greece

Medieval ceramic article from Chalcis typical of main Middle Byzantine Production (MBP), 
in the collection of the Musée National de Céramique and the Manufacture de Sèvres 
(Cité de la Céramique) [Credit: S. Y. Waksman]

Showcased in museums the world over, Byzantine ceramics are the vestiges of an ancient empire that dominated the Mediterranean region for nearly ten centuries. One CNRS researcher, in cooperation with Greek colleagues, has focused her attention on a widely disseminated style of ceramics called the “main Middle Byzantine Production,” found in all four corners of the Mediterranean. Its origins had remained a mystery until these scientists traced it back to Chalcis (Khalkís), the former port of Thebes. They determined that the town had been a maritime hub from which goods were shipped to Marseille, Acre (in modern-day Israel), and beyond—as far as Chersonesus in Crimea. The team's findings have just been published online by the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

In the 12th century, the Byzantine Empire was flourishing and the city of Thebes--between Corinth and Athens--was a bustling center of commercial and cultural exchange. Its outlet to the sea was the port of Chalcis, part of a vast maritime trade network. In addition to agricultural products and silk, ceramic tableware was shipped from Chalcis throughout the Mediterranean. Most of this tableware has been assigned to the main Middle Byzantine Production (MBP) ceramic type.

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Archaeologists find remains of 'ancient church' on banks of Tiber in Rome


Archaeologists have been left at a loss by the discovery of some mysterious ruins in Rome, which could be the remains of one of the city's earliest churches.

The find was made at Ponte Milvio, a bridge along the River Tiber in the northern part of the city. And it came about completely by chance while electrical technicians, who were laying cables along the site, uncovered remains of buildings dating back to between the first and fourth century AD.

Rome's Archaeological Superintendency called the discovery "an archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery".

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Roman coins discovered at Apsaros in Georgia

The coins were discovered by a Polish-Georgian team of archaeologists conducting 
excavations in Apsaros [Credit: fb/Gonio - Apsaros Fortress]

Bronze and silver Roman coins have been discovered by a Polish-Georgian team of archaeologists conducting excavations in the Roman fort of Apsaros Georgia. According to the discoverers, this could be a small part of a larger treasure.

The oldest coins in the find were minted during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD); the youngest come from the last years of the reign of Septimius Severus (beginning of the 3rd century AD).

"All coins were found very close to each other in the Roman fort Apsaros", said Dr. Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, project leader from the Polish side. The Georgian side is led by Prof. Shota Mamuladze from the Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University and the Gonio-Apsaros Museum and Reserve.

Polish and Georgian researchers will search for more coins. The excavation season will continue until the end of July. According to the numismatics expert of the expedition, Dr. Piotr Jaworski from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, the coins might be a small part of a larger treasure. It could be scattered as a result of later earthworks and construction works in the fort. After the Romans, Byzantine, Ottoman and even Soviet garrisons were also stationed in the fort.

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Romans had whaling industry, archaeological excavation suggests

North Atlantic right whales, off Grand Manan Island in Canada. Photograph: Alamy

Ancient bones found around the Strait of Gibraltar suggest that the Romans might have had a thriving whaling industry, researchers have claimed.
The bones, dating to the first few centuries AD or earlier, belong to grey whales and North Atlantic right whales – coastal migratory species that are no longer found in European waters.
Researchers say this not only suggests these whales might have been common around the entrance to the Mediterranean in Roman times, but that Romans might have hunted them.
They add that Romans would not have had the technology to hunt whale species found in the region today - sperm or fin whales which live further out at sea - meaning evidence of whaling might not have been something archaeologists and historians were looking out for.

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New DNA sample could prove whether Richard III was guilty of murdering the 'Princes in the Tower'


New scientific research could finally solve one of Britain’s most controversial historical mysteries.

Geneticists have succeeded in obtaining a sample of DNA that could ultimately prove whether the medieval English King Richard III was guilty or innocent of murdering the two children of his predecessor, Edward IV – the so-called Princes in the Tower.

The discovery of the crucial modern DNA is revealed in a new book, The Mythology of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, published this week.

Richard III – whose skeleton was discovered in Leicester just six years ago and whose identity was confirmed through DNA testing, was portrayed as a villain by Shakespeare and the Tudors.

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Polish archaeologists discover medieval graves in Sicily


Polish archaeologists discovered over 800 years old burials during excavations near the medieval church of San Michele del Golfo near Palermo in Sicily. According to the scientists, the graves could belong to the Normans, descendants of the Vikings.

"Some of the dead buried in the cemetery were undoubtedly members of the elites or the clergy, as the form of some of the graves indicates" - says head of excavations Prof. Sławomir Moździoch from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wroclaw.

This year, archaeologists found a total of 10 burials, including three graves of women and two graves of children. The remaining skeletons were difficult to identify. According to the discoverers, the cemetery was associated with the church hospital mentioned in a document from the 12th century. Unfortunately, no equipment was found in any of the graves.

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Research on British teeth unlocks potential for new insights into ancient diets

Skeleton sampled for the study, dating to the post-medieval period in Britain. The analysis suggests the Victorians were partial to a bowl of porridge, while in modern diets potatoes, soybeans and peanuts are flavour of the day 
[Credit: Camilla Speller, University of York]

Dental plaque accumulates on the surface of teeth during life and is mineralised by components of saliva to form tartar or "dental calculus", entombing proteins from the food we eat in the process.

Identifying evidence of many foods, particularly plant crops, in diets of the past is a challenge as they often leave no trace in the archaeological record. But proteins are robust molecules that can survive in tartar for thousands of years.

Archaeological tooth tartar has previously been shown to preserve milk proteins, but the international study, led by researchers at the University of York and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, has proved for the first time that it can also reveal more precise information about a wider range of food proteins, including those from plants.

The discovery could provide new insights into the diets and lifestyles of our ancestors, adding to the value of dental remains in our understanding of human evolution.

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Hidden landscapes the heatwave is revealing


As the summer sun continues to beat down on the British Isles, ghosts are appearing in the yellowing fields.

Normally kept hidden by lush grasses and crops, old and prehistoric features are making themselves known through imprints on fields and lawns, some for the first time in known memory.

It's hard to see these features from the ground - but with the rise of drones for aerial photography, they can be captured where they may have remained unidentified in previous heatwaves.

The marks are revealed when grass or crops on top of wood or stone still in the ground flourish or deteriorate at different rates to surrounding material in the unusually hot weather.

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Warm weather reveals previously unknown archaeology

The dry weather has revealed ancient water courses buried under cultivated fields

Archaeologists say recent dry weather has given them the best chance since 1976 to detect new sites from the air.

Marks in crop fields across central and southern Scotland have revealed new Iron Age structures in the Borders, and a temporary Roman camp near Peebles.

Dave Cowley from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said: "We depend on dry years to bring out the buried remains in the crops."

He added that newly revealed sites "add to our ability to see into the past."

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The real cabbage soup diet: What Britons ate down the ages


Ancient Britons were eating dairy, peas, cabbage and oats, according to gunk trapped in their teeth.
Scientists analysed dental plaque found on the teeth of skeletons from the Iron Age to post-Medieval times.
They found evidence of milk proteins, cereals and plants, as well as an enzyme that aids digestion.
In modern samples, they found proteins that reflect a more cosmopolitan diet, including potatoes, soya and peanuts.
The research gives a picture of what people have been eating through the ages, including food that leaves no trace in the archaeological record.

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Brú na Bóinne: Megalithic tomb discovered in Meath

One kerbstone is heavily decorated with Neolithic carvings

The discovery of a 5,500-year-old megalithic tomb in County Meath has been described as the "find of a lifetime" by archaeologists.

Two burial chambers, six kerbstones and two suspected satellite tombs have been found during the dig.

The find was made at the 18th Century Dowth Hall, within the Brú na Bóinne complex, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The project is being carried out by the agri-technology company Devenish and University College Dublin (UCD).

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Unsere weitverzweigten afrikanischen Wurzeln

Artefakte aus der Mittleren Steinzeit, die im Norden und Süden des afrikanischen Kontinents gefunden wurden. Bild: Eleanor Scerri/Francesco d»Errico/Christopher Henshilwood

Während allgemein anerkannt ist, dass der moderne Mensch seinen Ursprung in Afrika hat, wurde der Frage, wie sich der Mensch innerhalb des Kontinents entwickelt hat, bislang wenig Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt. Vielfach ging man davon aus, dass die frühen Vorfahren des Menschen als eine einzige, relativ große Bevölkerungsgruppe entstanden sind, welche Gene und Technologien, wie die Herstellung von Steinwerkzeugen, mehr oder weniger zufällig untereinander austauschten.

In einer diese Woche in Trends in Ecology and Evolution veröffentlichten Studie eines wissenschaftlichen Expertenteams unter der Leitung von Eleanor Scerri, Wissenschaftlerin an der British Academy der Universität Oxford und am Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte in Jena, wird diese Sichtweise nicht nur durch die Untersuchung von versteinerten Knochen (Anthropologie), Steinwerkzeugen (Archäologie) und Genen (Populationsgenetik) in Frage gestellt, sondern auch durch neue und detailliertere Rekonstruktionen von Afrikas Klimazonen und Lebensräumen während der letzten 300.000 Jahre

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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Lincoln Developers Stumble Across Roman Burials


Three perfectly-preserved Roman skeletons, believed to be part of the same burial ground where 23 skeletons were unearthed in a 2015 dig, have been discovered at the site of a new student accommodation development in Lincoln.

They were unearthed at the former site of the Taste Of Marrakesh restaurant in the city centre where a development of 400 student flats is to be built. Among the discoveries were some from the Medieval era - including cellars, wells and a bone ice skate.

Network Archaeology and city archaeologist Alastair Macintosh have spent a month on the dig in collaboration with developer Jackson & Jackson.

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Power company project becomes one of Europe's largest archeological digs

The site included the skull of an auroch, an extinct species of cattle.

A Neolithic trackway dating to 2300 B.C. was uncovered in a nondescript field in Suffolk, on the east coast of England, thanks to a power company.

Among the findings at the site were the skull of an auroch -- an extinct species of wild cattle dating to about 4000 B.C. -- as well as pottery, building structures, bones, coins and poles to designate the route of the ancient trackway, the centerpiece of this particular excavation. Trackways are ancient roadways that formed when people or animals repeatedly tread the same path.

"Undoubtedly this is a site of international archaeological significance. It is exceptionally rare to find preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery," said Richard Newman, associate director at Wardell Armstrong, the company overseeing the dig.

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'German Stonehenge' Yields Grisly Evidence of Sacrificed Women and Children

A reconstruction of the 4,300-year-old Pömmelte enclosure.
Credit: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt” (State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt); photographer Juraj Lipták

The broken, battered bones of children, teenagers and women discovered at the newly excavated "German Stonehenge" may be evidence of ancient human sacrifice, a new study finds.

Archaeologists found the fractured skulls and rib bones buried in pits alongside axes, drinking vessels, butchered animal bones and querns (stone mills) at an archaeology site near Pömmelte, a village in Germany about 85 miles (136 kilometers) southwest of Berlin.

The victims' last moments were gruesome; it appears they were thrown or pushed into the pit, and that at least one of the teenagers had their hands bound together, said study lead researcher André Spatzier, an archaeologist at the State Office for the Preservation of Historic Monuments at Baden-Württemberg, a state in southwest Germany. 

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Archaeologists stumble on Neolithic ritual site in Suffolk

A 4,300-year-old stake discovered in a field in Suffolk. Photograph: Scottish Power

As diggers began to strip the daisies and buttercups and carve down through the parched clay of a field near Woodbridge in Suffolk that sloped down to a riverbank, with archaeologists watching over the pretty but apparently featureless site, something extraordinary began to emerge. Clear spring water came bubbling from the ground, and with it came massive timbers preserved so perfectly that tool marks were still visible and stake posts were sharply pointed.

The archaeologists first thought the timbers must be medieval or even Victorian, and were puzzled to find them so deeply buried. But as 30 metres of timber track were exposed, alongside other unexpected objects too, such as the massive horns and skull of an aurochs, an extinct breed of giant cattle, they realised they were dealing with something far more ancient. The timbers were 4,300 years old, according to the first carbon-14 tests, and underlying ones may be much older.

The Neolithic trackway, which had evidence of being repeatedly restored and renewed over decades and probably generations, seems to have led up to a level timber platform, with spring water deliberately channelled to surround it. From the platform, objects were dropped into the running water, including metal, pottery and the horned aurochs skull. The skull had been carefully shaped either to fix to a pole or use as part of a headdress – and as the archaeologists who had to lift and carry it down the hill could testify, lugging it to the site would have taken considerable effort.

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Ancient Roman ‘hand of god’ discovered near Hadrian’s Wall sheds light on biggest combat operation ever in UK

It is likely that the hand was ritually buried by one of the Roman commanders who took part in the conflict (Vindolanda Trust)

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman “hand of god” – but the story it tells is tragically anything but heavenly.

The hand – unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall and made of 2.3 kilos of solid bronze – was almost certainly a gift to a military deity for giving the Romans victory in the largest military combat operation ever carried out in Britain, before or since.

The operation – a relatively little-known Roman invasion of Scotland in 209-210 AD – was also probably one of the bloodiest events in British history.

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Mycenaean vessels among finds at Dromolaxia, Cyprus

Chariot krater from Tomb RR, Dromoloaxia-Vyzakia 
[Credit: Cyprus Department of Antiquities]

The Department of Antiquities in Cyprus announced that, during five weeks in April and June 2018, a Swedish team, headed by Professor Peter M. Fischer from the University of Gothenburg, carried out excavations at the Late Cypriot harbour city of Dromolaxia-Vyzakia (Hala Sultan Tekke). The team consisted of 27 students and specialists. Amongst the latter were those trained in osteology, botany, conservation, Aegean and Near Eastern ceramics, and geophysical prospecting.

In June 2017, the site was surveyed with a magnetometer with ten sensors mounted on a 5 m wide cart. This arrangement allowed the mapping of 23 hectares within a week, demonstrating stone structures and “pits” down to a depth of roughly 1.5 m.

The architectural remains point to numerous man-made structures in the entire area of the survey, demonstrating the vast extent of the city. In 2018, 0.6 hectares of the magnetometer-surveyed area were re-investigated with georadar in order to see details of the buried features which facilitates the subsequent excavations.

However, the results of the georadar survey were of limited value: the strong radar attenuation at the site, due to clay-rich soil, did not allow electromagnetic waves to penetrate deeper than a few decimeters from surface.

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Four hundred-year-old fort discovered in County Tyrone


A 400-year-old fort has been discovered in Brockagh, County Tyrone.

Students from Queen's University in Belfast have taken part in the dig over the past month.

Evidence of a settlement going back thousands of years has also been found.

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Ötzi – a new understanding of the holy grail of glacial archaeology

Reinhold Messner (right) looking at Ötzi after more ice had melted or been hacked away. Notice the wooden stick in his companion’s right hand. It was used during the first attempts to hack Ötzi out of the ice. It is in fact part of the frame for Ötzi’s backpack. In the upper right corner, we can see Ötzi’s bow resting against the rock. 

Ötzi the iceman is the holy grail of glacial archaeology, nothing less. The discovery of the 5300-year-old mummified body and the associated artefacts created a media frenzy and great public interest. Today, 250000 people visit the Ötzi Museum in Bolzano each year to get a glimpse of Ötzi and the exhibited artefacts. A wealth of scientific papers, popular books and documentaries have been published.

Ötzi was discovered in 1991 in a gully at the Tisenjoch pass close to the Italian/Austrian border. The original interpretation by the Innsbruck-based archaeologist Konrad Spindler was that Ötzi froze to death in the gully. He was quickly covered by a glacier and remained encased in ice until he melted out in 1991. How else could the body and artefacts be so well preserved?

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Archäologen entdecken mittelalterliche Steinarchitektur im Zentrum von Minden


Bei aktuellen Ausgrabungen im Zentrum von Minden haben Archäologen unter Leitung des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) die Mauern nobler Bürgerhäuser aus dem Mittelalter entdeckt. Wo ein Fundamentgraben für den Neubau entstehen sollte, stieß der Bagger unerwartet auf mittelalterliche Häuser. Dank der Umsicht der Mindener Denkmalbehörde untersuchen nun Wissenschaftler diese Gebäudereste.

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