Saturday, July 24, 2021

Ancient Roman road and dock discovered in Venice lagoon

A digital reconstruction of the Roman road submerged in the Venice lagoon, which seems to have been part of a road system in the Veneto region.
Photograph: A Calandriello and G D’Acunto/SWNS

Find could prove there were human settlements in area centuries before city was founded

The discovery of the remains of a Roman road and dock submerged in the Venice lagoon could prove there were permanent human settlements in the area centuries before Venice was founded, researchers say.

Scuba divers discovered what appeared to be paving stones beneath the lagoon in the 1980s, but only after more recent research were the relics confirmed to have formed part of a road system.

“After speaking to those who first found these stones in the 1980s, I understood that it was something significant that could be anthropic,” said Fantina Madricardo, a researcher at the Venice-based Institute of Marine Science (Ismar) whose study was published this week in the Scientific Reports journal.

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Why could Stonehenge be stripped of world heritage site status?

Unesco says Stonehenge will be put on its danger list unless plans for the A303 road tunnel are changed. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Unesco has confirmed that Stonehenge could be stripped of its world heritage site status, over its concern that a road tunnel, backed by the government, would irreversibly damage an area of “outstanding universal value”.

A report to Unesco’s world heritage committee setting out concerns about the £1.7bn A303 road tunnel was approved unchanged on Thursday. Unless the designs for the two-mile (3.3km) tunnel are extended and changed, the committee recommends placing Stonehenge on Unesco’s list of world heritage in danger next year.

One of the two Beaker-period burials found near the site of the proposed Stonehenge road tunnel
Archaeologists unearth bronze age graves at Stonehenge tunnel site
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Last month the high court was told that a decision by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to approve the tunnel last November was unlawful because it did not properly consider damage that would be done to a string of prehistoric sites and many thousands of ancient artefacts.

Unesco’s committee found that if the high court confirms planning consent for the tunnel, Stonehenge should be placed on its danger list. It said that despite minor improvements to the original plan, the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel would irreversibly damage an area of “outstanding universal value”.

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Deposed Ninth-Century King May Have Called This Cave Dwelling Home

Researchers previously thought the cave was an 18th-century folly, or decorative structure
constructed to enhance the natural landscape.
(Mark Horton / Edmund Simons / Royal Agricultural University)

An early medieval cave structure in Derbyshire, England, may be the former home of a ninth-century king—and the United Kingdom’s oldest intact domestic interior.

As Mark Brown reports for the Guardian, new research conducted by experts from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Wessex Archaeology suggests the 1,200-year-old dwelling once housed Eardwulf, an exiled ruler of the medieval English kingdom Northumbria. The team published its analysis in the Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society.

“Our findings demonstrate that this odd little rock-cut building in Derbyshire is more likely from the 9th century than from the 18th century as everyone had originally thought,” says lead author Edmund Simons, a research fellow at RAU, in a statement. “This makes it probably the oldest intact domestic interior in the U.K.—with doors, floor, roof, windows etc.—and, what’s more, it may well have been lived in by a king who became a saint!”

Per the statement, researchers previously believed the cave was an 18th-century folly (a type of decorative building constructed to enhance the natural landscape). Though the structure is classified by Historic England as a “[n]atural cave, enlarged and formed into a folly,” Simons tells the Guardian that he “can’t think of a natural process that makes walls, doors and windows, let alone pillars.”

The sandstone-chiseled building features narrow openings characteristic of Saxon architecture, notes BBC News. A nearby ninth-century crypt boasts a comparable rock-cut pillar, perhaps suggesting that the two buildings date to the same period.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Archaeologists baffled as Viking discovery in UK 'predates' Scandinavian artefacts

Professor Judith Jesch, from the University of Nottingham (Image: BBC)

Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham, detailed how experts were stunned after uncovering a series of these artefacts known as the runestones.

She told the History Hit podcast: "The most amazing body of Scandinavian runic inscriptions in Britain is actually the runestones of the Isle of Man which are from the core Viking Age – the 10th, possibly early 11th century.

"There are around 30 of them commemorating the dead and they are early hybrid monuments that have runic text with Scandinavian language.

"They are clearly a local product, they are made with local stone, the dating is a bit difficult, but they seem to be earlier than similar monuments in Norway.

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Cock of the north: Roman stone-carved penis uncovered during Yorkshire archaeological dig

Roman stone-carved penis discovered near Catterick
(Northern Archaeological Associates)

A Roman stone-carved penis is one of thousands of artefacts discovered during half a decade of excavation work around the town of Catterick, it has been revealed.

The 11in phallus – complete with line of ejaculate – is believed to date back to the early years of the ancient empire’s occupation of Britain, which began in the first century AD.

It is among more than 62,000 historical objects unearthed during five years of archaeological digs undertaken as part of work to upgrade the A1 around the North Yorkshire town – which was founded by the Romans.

Other treasures include a 2,000-year-old pistachio nut – the oldest ever found in Britain – as well as pottery, incense burners, brooches and works of art which were probably brought from the Mediterranean.

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‘Spectacular And Unexpected’ 1,500 Year Old Visigoth Sarcophagus Unearthed In Spain

The visigoth sarcophagus unearthed in Mula, Spain.

As they knelt in the dust and the heat, searching the former Roman settlement of Los Villaricos for history’s treasures, archeologists came across an incredible discovery. There, buried in pale yellow dirt, they found a 1,500-year-old Visigoth sarcophagus — complete with human remains.

“We weren’t expecting this spectacular discovery,” said Professor Rafael González Fernández, of the University of Murcia, who led the excavation.

The sarcophagus, about three feet long and in remarkably good condition, likely dates to the 6th or 7th century A.D. It features elaborate designs across its top, including a coiled geometric pattern, ivy leaves, and the Chi Rho sign. That sign appears frequently in Christian artwork to signify the victory of the Resurrection.

Archeologists came across the sarcophagus during an annual excavation of the former Roman settlement. As González explained:

“This year’s campaign was focused on finishing excavating the last three burials of the necropolis and continuing with the excavation work of the complex located to the north of the town, where in the last few years we had documented a new set of pools.”

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The final meal of the famous 'bog man' revealed: Tollund Man feasted on porridge and fish before being killed as a ritual sacrifice 2,400 years ago, study reveals

The amazingly well-preserved head of the Tollund Man - a man who lived during the
4th century BC

Tollund Man's gut contents had been analysed forensically when he was discovered in 1950, uncovering traces of cereals and wild plants. 

When Tollund Man was autopsied in 1950, his intestines were still preserved, and the alimentary canal from the stomach to anus was removed in one piece with its contents still in place.  

Now, experts from Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, say they have been able to reconstruct the last meal of Tollund Man in greater detail than ever before – right down to how it was prepared. 

The researchers used a few millilitres of material from the large intestine for analyses to give the 'most detailed study' yet on the gut contents of a bog body. 

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Exiled Medieval Anglo-Saxon King May Have Lived as Hermit in 9th-Century Cave Dwelling

Anchor Church cave may have belonged to a 9th-century king turned saint.
COURTESY ROYAL AGRICULATURAL UNIVERSITY

Archaeologists have identified an Anglo-Saxon cave house that may have belonged to a 9th-century king of Northumbria named Eardwulf. The discovery was made by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Wessex Archaeology, which recently published their findings in the Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society.

The series of sandstone caves in Derbyshire, central England, were once believed to be follies—a popular 18th-century trend that involved elaborate structures with no real purpose, built mainly for decoration. New evidence, however, shows they were likely constructed or enlarged in the 9th century, after erosion from the River Trent had created natural caves at the site.

Anglo-Saxon architecture is featured throughout the rock-cut dwelling, with narrow arched windows and doors, as well as a pillar that resembles the nearby Repton crypt from the same period. “Using detailed measurements, a drone survey, and a study of architectural details, it was possible to reconstruct the original plan of three rooms and easterly facing oratory, or chapel, with three apses,” Edmund Simons, principal investigator of the project and research fellow at RAU, said in a statement.

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University of Sheffield to Close Archaeology Department Despite Protests

The University of Sheffield's Firth Court, 2020.
PRESS ASSOCIATION VIA AP IMAGES

The University of Sheffield, a public university in South Yorkshire, England, has decided to shut down their internationally renowned archaeology department. The executive board at the University first proposed the closure in late May.

Despite protests from students, faculty, staff, and cultural institutions, the University Council decided to go forward with the plan put forward by the executive board to close the department down. The University alerted faculty to this decision in a 13 minute presentation in which faculty were not able to respond as their microphones and cameras had been disabled by the meeting hosts.

The archaeology program at Sheffield is highly respected and is ranked 13th best in the world. The department heads numerous projects in Sheffield, Stonehenge, and other sites in Britain as well as international digs. Yet, the University executive board claimed the program was obsolete, citing that only 10 undergraduate students had committed to taking archaeology courses in the coming academic year.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

2,000-Year-Old Sarcophagus Found in England Reveals Roman Burial Practices


The north-facing orientation of the grave suggests it was a pagan burial.
(L-P Archaeology via Bath & North East Somerset Council)

Archaeologists in the city of Bath in southwest England have discovered an approximately 2,000-year-old Roman sarcophagus containing two bodies. The limestone coffin holds the preserved remains of one person in a prone position, with the partial remains of a second individual laid at their feet, the Bath Echo reports.

The north-facing orientation of the grave suggests it was a pagan burial. Nearby, researchers found a small pot containing food remains, as well as artifacts including small red and blue glass beads, possibly left as votive offerings. These types of donations to the gods were common in ancient Roman religion and represented a gift of thanks or payment, according to the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

“This is an amazing find,” says Sylvia Warman, science advisor for Historic England, in a statement. “Although several Roman stone coffins have been found around Bath in the past, none have been excavated and recorded by professional archaeologists using modern methods until today.”

Jesse Holth of ARTnews reports that the grave was buried beneath the grounds of Sydney Gardens, a Georgian pleasure garden once frequented by Jane Austen. Workers renovating and landscaping the garden for the Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Sydney Gardens Project discovered a Roman wall at the border of Bathwick Cemetery. When a team from L-P Archaeology excavated the site, they found the newly revealed burial. The archaeologists also uncovered cremated remains—the only known example of a cremation burial at the cemetery.

‘Hugely significant’ discoveries made on final day of excavation to find Shetland’s ancient Viking capital



Archaeological discoveries are getting closer to revealing the ancient Viking capital of Shetland.

The Skailway project, which has been underway since May when more than £20,000 was raised to fund an excavation, has reported findings of “huge significance”.

Kristian Leith has been hunting for the ancient capital ever since he found five round house structures and 26 human remains while digging foundations for a garden shed  last year.

After his successful crowdfunding appeal, Mr Leith brought in Orkney archaeological  experts, ORCA,  to carry out geophysical surveys in the land between the Mill Brae road and his home in Upper Scalloway.

The first nine trenches came up with nothing – but the last day of the investigation uncovered a structure, which is thought to be part of the ancient settlement.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Campaign hopes to shore up Offa’s Dyke against future threats

‘It’s not the most glamorous of monuments.’ A tree clinging to Offa’s Dyke near Oswestry, Shropshire. Photograph: Rob McBride


It is Britain’s longest monument and one of the most extraordinary: a 1,200-year-old earthwork that snakes through moor, mountain, field and back garden, crisscrossing the modern incarnation of the Welsh and English border.

But concerns are being raised that Offa’s Dyke is suffering serious damage through a combination of neglect, carelessness or, in some cases, land grabs and vandalism.

This month, to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 177-mile Offa’s Dyke path, a campaign is being launched to highlight the jeopardy the earthwork faces and to raise money to begin repairing sections of it, a task that will take years.

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Skeletons of twin infant Vikings discovered in Sweden

This close-up shot shows one of the burials found in the tombs in Sweden. They are believed to be Christianized Vikings who lived about 1,000 years ago.
(Image credit: Photo courtesy Uppdrag arkeologi) 

Seven Viking tombs holding well-preserved skeletons, including possible twin infants, have been discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. 

The archaeologists discovered the 1,000-year-old remains of eight people — four adults and four children — inside the tombs; they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity. "The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out," said Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag arkeologi, a cultural resource management company, which led excavations of the site. 

Most of the people had been buried flat on their back in an east-west position, whereas people who followed traditional Viking beliefs in this area of Sweden at this time tended to be cremated, Runer said. 

They also found deposits of charcoal and in some cases partially burnt caskets, suggesting fire rituals were involved in at least four burials. "Such phenomena are rather common in Christian Viking period graves, but previously rather rare in Sigtuna," Runer told Live Science in an email. 

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Twin Viking Babies Found in a Surprisingly Christian-Looking Burial in Sweden

Remains of a stone cairn were found over this tomb. (Uppdrag arkeologi)

Seven Viking tombs holding well-preserved skeletons, including possible twin infants, have been discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. 

The archaeologists discovered the 1,000-year-old remains of eight people - four adults and four children - inside the tombs; they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity.

"The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out," said Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag arkeologi, a cultural resource management company, which led excavations of the site. 

Most of the people had been buried flat on their back in an east-west position, whereas people who followed traditional Viking beliefs in this area of Sweden at this time tended to be cremated, Runer said. 

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Monday, July 05, 2021

Ancient Roman Sarcophagus Containing Two Skeletons Unearthed in Bath, England

 An ancient Roman sarcophagus containing two burials, unearthed at Sydney Gardens, Bath, England, 2021.
Courtesy the Bath & North East Somerset Council

A 2,000-year-old stone coffin with two skeletons inside has been discovered on the grounds of Sydney Gardens in Bath, England. The Bath & North East Somerset Council announced the find on Monday, calling it a “rare glimpse into local burial practices” during the Roman era.

Sydney Gardens, once an 18th century Georgian “pleasure garden,” frequented by famed novelist Jane Austen, had been undergoing renovations and landscaping when a Roman wall was uncovered on the border of Bathwick Cemetery.

As a team from L-P Archaeology began to excavate the site, they discovered the 6½-foot-long coffin. The sarcophagus, made of limestone from the region, held two sets of human remains with one partial skeleton laying at the other’s feet, and faced north, indicating it was likely a pagan burial.

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Archaeologists excavate King's Quarter redevelopment to find Roman artefacts


Archaeologists have descended on the £85million King's Quarter redevelopment after discoveries were made below the ground.

They're hoping to find ancient Roman artefacts, underneath the ground being developed in to digital hub The Forum.

Last year, remnants of Whitefriars, a 13th century friary founded by the Carmelites, one of the Roman Catholic Church’s four great mendicant (living by charity) orders, was discovered underneath a city centre car park.

Whitefriars was one of several important religious houses in medieval Gloucester along with Llanthony Priory, the Blackfriars and the Greyfriars. 

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Broxmouth Hillfort: Study reveals clues ancient people kept loved-ones mundane keepsakes

One of the graves at the site Pic: Broxmouth Project Archive

 They were a people who lived almost two thousand years ago, who would have been on nodding terms with the legions of Roman Britian and who may have decorated their homes with the severed limbs and heads of their enemies. 

Yet despite the gulf of time and taste in interior decoration which separates the ancient inhabitants of Scotland and its modern population today, it appears that holding onto mementos of loved ones was just as important then as it is now.  

A fresh analysis of artefacts uncovered at the Broxmouth hillfort site, near Edinburgh, has raised the tantalising prospect that everyday items were kept by iron Age people as an emotional reminder of those no longer there, and a ‘continuing bond’ with the deceased. 

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Scientists found fossils from a new species of human that’s 130,000 years old


Scientists from Israel stumbled upon an unexpected discovery while studying fossilized pieces of bone dug up near a cement plant. The fragments from a skull and lower jaw with teeth belonged to a person who lived in the area some 130,000 years ago, but the human is unlike anything we’ve known so far.

The researchers gave it a new name since we’re looking at a different species of human that has never been seen before. They’re calling it Nesher Ramla Homo, after a location southeast of Tel Aviv where it was discovered. This human had particular characteristics unseen in other skeletal findings from the same period. The researchers found that Nesher Ramla Homo had a flat skull, very large teeth, and a jaw bone with no chin. The species may have lived alongside Homo sapiens for more than 100,000 years, and they’re believed to be the precursor to the Neanderthal, the skull of which is seen above. The discovery might upend everything we knew about human evolution on Earth.

“The discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance,” Tel Aviv University’s Israel Hershkovitz said in a statement. “It enables us to make new sense of previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of human evolution, and understand the migrations of humans in the old world.”

The Nesher Ramla might have had unusual skull anatomy, but the study says they resembled pre-Neanderthal groups in Europe.

“This is what makes us suggest that this Nesher Ramla group is actually a large group that started very early in time and are the source of the European Neanderthal,” Tel Aviv University physical anthropologist Hila May said in a statement. She added that science has never been able to explain how Homo sapien genes were present in the earlier Neanderthal population in Europe. The Nesher Ramla may be the missing link, as the species may have interbred with Homo sapiens.

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Massive human head in Chinese well forces scientists to rethink evolution

Chinese researchers have called the skull, found in Harbin in the north, Homo longi, or ‘Dragon man’, but other experts are more cautious about naming a new species. Photograph: Wei Gao
Ian Sample Science editor

The discovery of a huge fossilised skull that was wrapped up and hidden in a Chinese well nearly 90 years ago has forced scientists to rewrite the story of human evolution.

Analysis of the remains has revealed a new branch of the human family tree that points to a previously unknown sister group more closely related to modern humans than the Neanderthals.

The extraordinary fossil has been named a new human species, Homo longi or “Dragon man”, by Chinese researchers, although other experts are more cautious about the designation.

“I think this is one of the most important finds of the past 50 years,” said Prof Chris Stringer, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, who worked on the project. “It’s a wonderfully preserved fossil.”

The skull appears to have a remarkable backstory. According to the researchers, it was originally found in 1933 by Chinese labourers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin, in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang, during the Japanese occupation. To keep the skull from falling into Japanese hands it was wrapped and hidden in an abandoned well, resurfacing only in 2018 after the man who hid it told his grandson about it shortly before he died.

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New mystery human species discovered in Israel

Archaeologists also found tools, butchered animal bones and evidence of a campfire at the Nesher Ramla excavation site. Photo / Yossi Zaidner

An international group of archaeologists have discovered a missing piece in the story of human evolution.

Excavations at the Israeli site of Nesher Ramla have recovered a skull that may represent a late-surviving example of a distinct Homo population, which lived in and around modern-day Israel from about 420,000 to 120,000 years ago.

As researchers Israel Hershkovitz, Yossi Zaidner and colleagues detail in two companion studies published today in Science, this archaic human community traded both their culture and genes with nearby Homo sapiens groups for many thousands of years.

The new fossils

Pieces of a skull, including a right parietal (back of the skull) and an almost complete mandible (jaw) were dated to 140,000–120,000 years old, with analysis finding the person it belonged to wasn't fully H. sapiens.

Nor were they Neanderthal, however, which was the only other type of human thought to have been living in the region at the time.

Instead, this individual falls right smack in the middle: a unique population of Homo never before recognised by science.

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New prehistoric human unknown to science discovered in Israel

Skull found at the site among other items at Nesher Ramla.
(photo credit: DR. YOSSI ZAIDNER)

Hebrew U and Tel Aviv University researchers found remains of a new type of ‘Homo’ who lived in the region some 130,000 years ago.

A new type of early human previously not known to scientists has been discovered in Israel, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University researchers announced Thursday as their extraordinary findings appeared in the prestigious academic journal Science.
Researchers believe the new “Homo” species intermarried with Homo sapiens and was an ancestor of the Neanderthals.

Tens of thousands of years ago, the busy central region of what is now a densely populated and traffic-jammed part of Israel, was a landscape that very much resembled the African savanna. It featured rhinos, wild horses and cattle and other large animals that were perfect game for ancient hunter-gatherers.
The site of Nesher Ramla, a few kilometers from the modern-day city, was probably close to a water reservoir where early humans could hunt animals. Today, the dig site is filled with many animal bones, stone tools for making fire and butchering, and human bones, including skulls, TAU anthropologist Prof. Israel Hershkovitz said.

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Thursday, June 03, 2021

Looking for Viking ship burials with a 17th-century illustration


New detailed surveys of Viking age ship settings in Hjarnø, Denmark have been completed by archaeologists examining the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene grave field, a renowned site in Scandinavian folklore.

The archaeologists from Flinders University conducted detailed surveys to determine whether a 17th-century illustration of the site completed by the Danish antiquarian, Ole Worm, was accurate, as part of the first survey since the National Museum of Denmark discovered and restored 10 tombs on a small island off the eastern coast almost a century ago.

The burial site is made up of monuments which, according to legend, commemorate a king named Hiarni who was crowned after writing a beautiful poem on the death of the old king and who was defeated in battle on the island.

The research, published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, shows the design of the famous Kalvestene grave field is unusual when compared to other Danish sites of the same period which typically incorporate circle, oval or triangle stone settings in addition to the ship shaped settings. Instead, there are strong parallels with Southern Swedish sites, raising questions about links between the two regions.

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