Saturday, January 23, 2021

New Stone Age: Discovery of massive island ritual site where people gathered 5,500 years ago

The previously unknown large Neolithic ritual site has been found on the Isle of Arran.

The discovery of a cursus monument site at Tormore on the Isle of Arran, which is more than a kilometre long, is helping to reshape Neolithic history in Scotland with such landmarks usually associated with the east coast.

Cursus monuments were often defined by long lines of timber posts, forming a long rectangle, and were amongst the most spectacular features in the Neolithic landscape. The posts may have served as a procession route, perhaps to honour the dead. Some were burned to the ground in an almighty display which is believed to have been part of the ceremonies associated with these huge monuments.

Dave Cowley, Rapid Archaeological Mapping Programme Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, who discovered the site following a laser scan of Arran, described the cursus monument as a “cathedral of the day”.

Rare 5,000-year-old crystal dagger is uncovered in Prehistoric Iberian megalithic tomb that may have been used by a high-ranking person to gain 'magical powers'

Ancient tools that once belonged to prehistoric civilizations have been found all over the world, but a discovery in Spain is unlike those traditionally made of stone or flint.

A team excavating the megalithic tomb of Montelirio tholos in 2007 through 2010 uncovered a dagger formed from rock crystal that experts say is the ‘most technically sophisticated’ ever to be uncovered in Prehistoric Iberia and would have taken enormous skill to carve.

The artifact, which is about 5,000 years old, is nearly 8.5 inches long and was found along with 10 arrowheads, four blades and a core for making weapons, all of which were rock crystal.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Burial practices point to an interconnected early Medieval Europe

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Early Medieval Europe is frequently viewed as a time of cultural stagnation, often given the misnomer of the 'Dark Ages'. However, analysis has revealed new ideas could spread rapidly as communities were interconnected, creating a surprisingly unified culture in Europe.

Dr. Emma Brownlee, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, examined how a key change in Western European burial practices spread across the continent faster than previously believed—between the 6th—8th centuries AD, burying people with regionally specific grave goods was largely abandoned in favor of a more standardized, unfurnished burial.

"Almost everyone from the eighth century onwards is buried very simply in a plain grave, with no accompanying objects, and this is a change that has been observed right across western Europe," said Dr. Brownlee.

Georadar Reveals 15 Burial Mounds And 32 Viking Age Mysteries In Northern Norway

The ground was frozen and the field was covered with a fine layer of snow – 
ideal conditions for this type of archaeological research
[Credit: Arne Anderson Stamnes, NTNU University Museum]

GPR sends electromagnetic signals down into the subsurface, and some of these signals are reflected back when they encounter structures deeper down in the ground. This is how archaeologists obtain a kind of X-ray of objects two to three meters below the surface.

Stamnes quickly finds that the ground here is content rich, to put it mildly.

"The results are astonishingly good and they whet your appetite for more, says Nordland county archaeologist Martinus A. Hauglid.

One of the region's largest burial mounds

"Our findings included traces of 15 burial mounds, and one of them appears to contain a boat grave. Both the size and design of the burial mounds are typical of the period 650 to 950 CE—that is, what we call the Merovingian Period and Viking Age," says Stamnes.

"A lot of the mounds are big. The largest burial mound has an inner dimension of 32 meters and must have been a towering presence in the landscape," he says.

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Perfectly Preserved Roman-Era Wine Barrels Found In Reims Reveal Ancient Coopers' Art

The barrel used as casing for the Pts 378 well in situ
[Credit: Inrap]

The three barrels were discovered in 2008, along the right bank of the river Vesle which runs through Reims, as part of an archaeological excavation.

Dating from the 1st century AD to 4th century AD, the three barrels were in an “outstanding state of preservation” and were being used as water butts at the end of their working lives.

Trace analysis of the barrel staves, however, revealed the tell-tale remains of malic and tartaric acids which are common indicators of alcoholic fermentation.

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Objects suggest Europeans used standardized money 4,000 years ago

Bronze ribs, pictured, as well as rings, axe blades and other objects, suggest people in Central Europe were using standardized currency at the end of the Early Bronze Age.
Photo by M.H.G. Kuijpers

New research suggests groups of farmers living in Central Europe were exchanging standardized money -- in the form of bronze rings and ribs -- during the early Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago.

According to the latest archaeological analysis, described Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the use of standardized money in Central Europe may have developed independently from money systems that emerged in the Far East and Mediterranean. 

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Iron Age Village Discovered In Essex

Aerial view of the site showing the roundhouses [Credit: Oxford Archaeology East]

The remains of an Iron Age village have been found at Tye Green. Members of Oxford Archaeology East have been investigating the four hectare area for Countryside Properties and RPS Consulting, ahead of work to create new housing.

Their fieldwork suggests the site was important in the late Iron Age and early Roman periods, but could have come to harm - possibly as a result of Boudiccan reprisals

The site has a large defensive enclosure dug in the late 1st century BC, with 17 roundhouses and 17 semi-circular shapes which could have been screens or windbreaks. Smaller semi-circular structures are also associated with hearths.

The depth of the roundhouse gullies has suggested that the buildings were up to 15m in diameter. Archaeologists said the enclosure had an avenue-like entrance and aligned with the central roundhouse. Structures similar to medieval granary stores could have been stored grain taxes.

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Birka: The Mysterious Demise of a Majestic Viking Trading Center

Hill fort in Birka. Part of Birka and Hovgården world heritage site. (Arild Vågen/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Viking Age in Europe brought a lot of key events and innovations, and greatly shaped the future of things that were to come. But there is a popular misconception that the Vikings were all about raiding and pillaging as they sailed to the West and the East. While they did sail all over and raided, traded, and brought kingdoms to their knees, the Vikings were also proficient in many other regards. Their major ports and settlements around Scandinavia were in many ways the hubs of trade and wealth - and Birka was one of the major settlements. An influential trading emporium, Birka was the place where all the goods from Eastern Europe and the Orient were handled, as well as goods from Scandinavia and Finland. Today, its remains lie just 30 kilometers outside of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. What is the story and the fate of this rich Viking city? 

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

New Insights From Original Domesday Survey Revealed

A new interpretation of the survey behind Domesday Book—the record of conquered England compiled on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1086—has emerged from a major new study of the survey's earliest surviving manuscript.

Research published in the English Historical Review shows historians now believe Domesday was more efficient, complex, and sophisticated than previously thought. The survey's first draft, which covered England south of the River Tees, was made with astonishing speed—within 100 days.

It was then checked and reorganised in three further stages, resulting in the production of new documents, each carefully designed for specific fiscal and political purposes. The iconic Domesday Book was simply one of several outputs from the process.

Lead researcher, Dr. Stephen Baxter, Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford, said: "Domesday Book is at once one of medieval England's best known and most enigmatic documents. The reasons for—and processes behind—its creation have been the subject of debate among historians for centuries. This new research, based on the earliest surviving Domesday manuscript, shows the survey was compiled remarkably quickly and then used like a modern database, where data is entered in one format and can be extracted in other formats for specific purposes."

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Iron Age skeletons uncovered during Navenby dig

Two Iron Age skeletons have been discovered during excavation works in Lincolnshire.

The bones were uncovered at separate archaeological sites near Navenby, as part of preparation work for a water pipeline project.

Other finds included parts of small buildings and fragments of pottery.

Anglian Water's heritage assessor Jo Everitt said the finds would help archaeologists understand more about the region's past.

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The ancient Orkney site where Picts and Vikings settled now under threat from pandemic

The rich 5,500-year-old site at Swandro on the Orkney Island of Rousay holds remains from the Neolithic, Iron Age, Pictish and Viking periods but is under constant attack from storm surges, rising tides and now lockdown which is preventing archaeologists returning to the site to retrieve valuable material. PIC: Contributed.

The pandemic has stopped the race to save archaelogical remains at Knowe of Swandro on the island of Rousay, Orkney, which are being eaten away by rising tides and storm surges.

The site holds a timeline of thousands of years of history and houses a 5,500-year-old Neolithic burial chamber, the remains of a large and unusual high-status Iron Age roundhouse, Pictish dwellings, a smithy, and a grand Norse Hall.

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Hidden secrets revealed in microscopic images of ancient artifacts

As seen under a microscope, a basalt inclusion in a ceramic tile from Gordion, an ancient site in what is now Turkey.
(Image: © Courtesy of Penn Museum)

Highly magnified views of archaeological artifacts display their extraordinary hidden beauty and reveal intriguing clues about how they were crafted and used long ago. 

For example, a 17th-century Persian textile contains fibers of silk thread that were individually wrapped with thin strips of metal. And the microstructure of a needle from Cyprus retains the touch of the person who shaped it, in traces of dark corrosion that emerged as the needle was rotated and hammered.

These and other zoomed-in archaeological images are showcased in a new exhibit called "Invisible Beauty: The Art of Archaeological Science," which opens at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia on Jan. 16. 

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Grave goods including weapons found at large Anglo-Saxon cemetery uncovered in Northamptonshire

Archaeologists uncovered the site during pre-construction planning requirements.

More than 150 burials were found and many contained grave goods including weapons, beads and brooches

A burial site that could be up to 4,000 years old has been found on housing development land in Northamptonshire.

Archaeologists have called the site in Overstone ‘by far the biggest’ Anglo-Saxon cemetery ever found in the county.

The site was excavated as part of pre-construction planning requirements at Overstone Farm where Barratt and David Wilson homes intend to build two to five bedroom homes, a school and amenities, as part of a new housing development.

Jahrhundertdürre im Mittelalter – mit Parallelen zum Klimawandel heute?

Leipziger Forschende identifizieren aus historischen Quellen bisher unbekannte Dürreperiode

Der Übergang von der mittelalterlichen Warmzeit zur Kleinen Eiszeit wurde offenbar von starken Dürren zwischen 1302 und 1307 in Europa begleitet, die der feucht-kalten Phase der 1310er Jahre und der damit verbundenen großen Hungersnot von 1315-21 vorausgingen. Die Wetterlagen 1302-07 seien vergleichbar mit der Wetteranomalie 2018, als in Kontinentaleuropa eine außergewöhnliche Hitze und Dürre herrschte, schreiben die Forschenden der Leibniz-Institute für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa (GWZO) und für Troposphärenforschung (TROPOS) im Fachjournal Climate of the Past.

Searching for the people of Doggerland

This hammerstone was recently found off the coast of Norfolk. CREDIT: University of Bradford

Around 8,150 years ago, a sudden shift in the seabed created the Storegga tsunami in the North Sea. With all known evidence pointing towards this event greatly affecting, but not completely inundating, Doggerland (the strip of land that once connected Britain to continental Europe – see CA 367), the search is now on for evidence of human occupation. While it is thought that there must have been significant Mesolithic groups living here during the period, without knowing just how populated the area was likely to be it cannot be determined how catastrophic the tsunami may have been. 

As part of the ‘Europe’s Lost Frontiers’ project, researchers from the University of Bradford have been analysing the evolution of Doggerland, tracing its gradual inundation. At the end of the last Ice Age, c.11,700 years ago, Doggerland probably stretched all the way from Yorkshire to Denmark, but by 9000 cal BC the North Sea had begun to flood in, creating an archipelago that predominately included ‘Dogger Island’ (an upland area in the northern reaches of Doggerland) and Dogger Bank off the eastern coast of Great Britain. By the time of the Storegga tsunami, this landmass had shrunk even more, greatly reducing the size of both areas to shallow sandbanks. (More information on this process, along with the full impact of the tsunami, was recently published in Antiquity journal:

Mysterious Cornwall shipwrecks re-emerge for first time in decades

Many locals cannot remember ever seeing the wrecks at Porth Kidney Sands near St Ives (Picture: Cornwall Live/BPM Media) 

New pictures show wooden structures that are barely intact visible on the beach. 

Elsewhere, there are other remains of ships nearby that are more familiar to locals, including the jagged fragments of the steam collier Bessie, one mile away at Carbis Bay. 

That was wrecked along with various other ships during a raging storm named Cintra, in November 1893. 

Those wrecks also occasionally reveal themselves after winter storms when there are low tides.

Caligula’s Gardens, Long Hidden Beneath Italian Apartment Building, to Go on View

The infamous Roman emperor’s extravagant tastes included opulent marble and exotic animals

By the time of his assassination in 41 A.D., the Roman emperor Caligula was infamous for his violent streak and extravagant amusements, including a huge compound featuring a bathhouse adorned with precious colored marble and space for exotic animals. Now, reports Franz Lidz for the New York Times, the remains of this pleasure garden—known as Horti Lamiani—are set to go on public display beneath the streets of Rome.

Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism plans to open the subterranean gallery, dubbed the Nymphaeum Museum of Piazza Vittorio, this spring. Visitors will be able to see a section of the imperial garden, complete with artifacts including a marble staircase and elaborate frescoes.

A warty pig painted on a cave wall 45,500 years ago is the world's oldest depiction of an animal

The world's oldest known figurative artwork has been discovered in a cave in Indonesia -- an endearing image of a warty pig.

Archaeologists working on the site on the island of Sulawesi said the cave art was at least 45,500 years old. It is also thought to be the oldest surviving image of an animal. Painted using red ocher pigment, the animal appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs.

This region is home to many intriguing limestone caves where other discoveries have been made. Cave art depicting a hunting scene dating to 43,900 years ago was also found in Sulawesi in late 2019. The same team of archaeologists in 2014 found human hand stencils, which were dated to 40,000 years ago. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2021


Data are at the core of what we do as archaeologists, so facilitating the effective interrogation, interpretation and understanding of those data is vital. As part of a new digital strategy, Oxford Archaeology has overhauled core internal workflow systems by developing a series of digital modules designed to enhance the value of is large range of field data.

OA WebMap

The OA WebMap module was envisaged as a means of providing a modern yet familiar interface to the spatial and contextual data collected within our fieldwork projects. A web-based approach was chosen to reduce the need for specialist software.

In the field our survey methodology was adapted to a more attribute-driven approach, allowing more consistency in data capture and quality control. The underlying data schemas are more tightly defined as the data moves from GPS to GIS to WebMap. This means that survey data sent back from the field can be uploaded into the WebMap database as soon as it is processed and checked, often before the surveyor is back in the office.

There are many benefits once a site is uploaded into the OA WebMap system. Current site survey and related information can be easily viewed on any internet-enabled device by any member of staff. Site information is presented as categories of styled layers which can be turned on and off as desired to allow the user to visualise just the data they need.

Read more at In Touch Issue 54 pp 14-15

Archaeologists discover ancient snack bar in Pompeii in ‘extraordinary’ find

Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved snack bar from the ancient city of Pompeii which was destroyed in a volcanic eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

The “extraordinary” find will be open to the public for viewings in 2021.

The frescoed hot food and drinks shop, also known as a termopolium, was discovered last year in Pompeii’s archaeological park to the south-east of Naples, Italy.

It would have served the equivalent of modern day street food to Roman customers.

The park is currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions, but the Pompeii site hopes to reopen for visitors by Easter.

Massimo Ossana, director of the Pompeii archaeological park, told the Reuters news agency: “This is an extraordinary find. 

Roman road remains uncovered in Northumberland

The remains are part of The Stanegate - a Roman road which ran east-west south of Hadrian's Wall Northumbrian Water

Remains of a Roman road which pre-dates Hadrian's Wall have been uncovered in Northumberland.

The find, which is almost two thousand years old, was made during work on the water network near Settlingstones.

They are thought to be from the road's foundations and built by Agricola or his successors about AD80, although no evidence of its exact date was found.

Archaeologists said given its location it was an "important part" of the early northern Roman frontier.

The ancient remains were discovered by Northumbrian Water when it began improvement works at the site of The Stanegate road, which linked Corbridge and Carlisle.

Philippa Hunter, from Archaeological Research Services Ltd, which worked on the site, said: "While monitoring the excavation pit, our archaeologist identified a deposit of compacted cobbles thought to be the remains of the Roman road's foundations."

Following the Roman Army between the Southern Foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains and the Northern Plains of Castile and León (North of Spain): Archaeological Applications of Remote Sensing and Geospatial Tools

Sixty-six new archaeological sites have been discovered thanks to the combined use of different remote sensing techniques and open access geospatial datasets (mainly aerial photography, satellite imagery, and airborne LiDAR). These sites enhance the footprint of the Roman military presence in the northern fringe of the River Duero basin (León, Palencia, Burgos and Cantabria provinces, Spain). This paper provides a detailed morphological description of 66 Roman military camps in northwestern Iberia that date to the late Republic or early Imperial eras. We discuss the different spatial datasets and GIS tools used for different geographic contexts of varied terrain and vegetation. Finally, it stresses out the relevance of these novel data to delve into the rationale behind the Roman army movements between the northern Duero valley and the southern foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains. We conclude that methodological approaches stimulated by open-access geospatial datasets and enriched by geoscientific techniques are fundamental to understand the expansion of the Roman state in northwestern Iberia during the 1st c. BC properly. This renewed context set up a challenging scenario to overcome traditional archaeological perspectives still influenced by the cultural-historical paradigm and the pre-eminence of classical written sources.

Iron Age Settlement With Large Roundhouses and Roman Trinkets Found in the UK

The footprints of some of the Iron Age roundhouses (vans at top for scale).
Photo: Oxford Archaeology East

Over the course of 2020, a patchwork of circles were dug out from below the topsoil of Tye Green, Cressing in England. The circles—each a ring of polygonal depressions—were the footprints of large structures, all that remained of a settlement that began in the late Iron Age and lasted through the Roman conquest of Britain. The site was recently excavated by Oxford Archaeology East for Countryside Properties with RPS Consulting in advance of residential development there.

The archaeological work, carried out with social distancing and other measures to avoid the spread of covid-19, turned up the remains of at least 17 wattle-and-daub roundhouses, some nearly 50 feet (15 meters) across, and semi-circular structures that the archaeological team say may have served as windbreaks, which would have protected hearths, furnaces, or other fiery elements of life at the time.

Monday, December 21, 2020

£1m grant to investigate secrets of Viking-age Galloway hoard uncovered by metal detectorist

pieces from the 10th-century treasure trove, known as the Galloway Hoard, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow to examine the objects in detail.

The 10th-century treasure trove, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

The research will involve precise dating of the items and, it is hoped, identification of their places of origin, which are thought to range from Ireland to the Byzantine empire and perhaps beyond.

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A mystery woman dressed in silk and gold found buried under the London streets was from the elite of the Roman Empire, researchers say

An artist's reconstruction of the burial of the Spitalfields Roman woman.
Museum of London Archaeology

    A woman who lived in the 4th century AD and was buried in a stone sarcophagus under a market in London, England, was part of Rome's elite, researchers have said. 

    The woman was first discovered among rows of graves in March 1999 under London's Spitalfields market.

    While the researchers were aware that she came from a lavish background, recently published books revealed the extent of her wealth. 

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Early humans may have survived the harsh winters by hibernating

The site at Sima de los Huesos was a mass grave 400,000 years ago. Photograph: César Manso/AFP/Getty Images

Bears do it. Bats do it. Even European hedgehogs do it. And now it turns out that early human beings may also have been at it. They hibernated, according to fossil experts.

Evidence from bones found at one of the world’s most important fossil sites suggests that our hominid predecessors may have dealt with extreme cold hundreds of thousands of years ago by sleeping through the winter.

The scientists argue that lesions and other signs of damage in fossilised bones of early humans are the same as those left in the bones of other animals that hibernate. These suggest that our predecessors coped with the ferocious winters at that time by slowing down their metabolisms and sleeping for months.

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Researchers win £1m grant to unlock secrets of Viking-era treasure trove

The Galloway Hoard has been acquired by National Museums Scotland.
Photograph: National Museums Scotland/PA 

Researchers in Scotland hope to unlock the secrets of a stunning Viking-age hoard after a receiving a £1m grant to examine the provenance of the 10th century haul that lay undisturbed for a thousand years before being unearthed by a metal detectorist.

The incredible discovery of the Galloway Hoard, comprising more than 100 objects including silver jewellery and ingots, was made in September 2014 in a field in Dumfries and Galloway. It has since been acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS).

NMS will carry out a three-year project, “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow, to examine in detail the objects, due to go on display in an exhibition next year.

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