Monday, November 30, 2009

"Sensational" Archaeological Find

The Polar ice cap during the last Ice Age might not have been as extensive as previously thought, according to archaeologists looking at the remains of human settlements in the north of Sweden.

People may have lived in the northern region of Tornedalen as far back as 11,000 years ago, according to Olof Östlund, speaking to the Norrländska Socialdemokraten newspaper.

The 2 settlements were found in the area around Kaunisvaara, where a new mine is about to be built. Carbon dating of the finds show that they are much older than previously thought, and mean that previous theories that the area would be covered by the huge polar ice cap are wrong.

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Event: Vikings are coming to Peterborough Museum

VISITORS to Peterborough Museum this weekend will have a chance to see Vikings, warriors and soldiers come to life.

The museum is staging a free exhibition of militaria as part of an annual fair organised by the Soke Military Society.

The museum's own collections of arms and armour will also be on show.

Visitors will be able to enjoy displays and demonstrations by costumed re-enactors from local re-enactment groups.

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Dig to start at Shakespeare site

Archaeologists are preparing to excavate the site of Shakespeare's final home to find out more about the history of the building.

The New Place, in Stratford-upon-Avon, was built in 1483 and is thought to be where the playwright died in 1616.

The building itself was demolished in 1759, but it is thought remains of the old house are still underground.

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Swedish archaeologists celebrate ancient find

People lived in the Torne River Valley on the border with Sweden and Finland some 11,000 years ago, an important new archaeological find has shown.

The settlement, found near Pajala in the far north of Sweden, are the oldest known find in the county of Norrbotten, according to the archaeologist Olof Östlund.

The find was uncovered when archaeologists were searching for ancient remains in the area around Kaunisvaar near Pajala where a new mine is set to open, according to a report in local newspaper Norrländska Socialdemokraten.

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Birmingham archaeologists in search of Shakespeare's house

BIRMINGHAM archaeologists are to take part in their own Time Team dig when they go in search of Shakespeare’s house.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon has begun preparations for an archaeological excavation at the site of the Bard’s home, New Place, where he lived out his final years until his death in 1616.

The trust has teamed up with Birmingham Archaeology on a programme of trial trenching which will help to establish levels of deposit survival at New Place and quantify the potential for waterlogged conditions, which are favourable for preserving organic materials.

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The V&A's Medieval & Renaissance Galleries, review

The V&A has filled its new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries with the very best of its collection to show the birth of art as we know it. Rating: * * * * *

The single worst review I’ve given in 23 years as a critic was devoted to a show of modern furniture held in the V&A’s medieval treasury in 2000. Just to give you hint of its content, the headline ran “How was this disgrace allowed to happen?” If I was intemperate then, it was because the V&A had allowed some of its greatest treasures to be used as backdrop for a show of plastic stacking chairs and chrome-plated sofas.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

How seat fit for a king has cast new light on Scotland's dark ages

THE first Pictish throne to be built for a millennium has been unveiled by researchers investigating the lives of Scotland's most mysterious tribal people.

The team spent a year crafting the oak of five Scottish trees into a design modelled on ancient carvings in a project that cost around £10,000. Raised thrones were important symbols of Pictish power for church leaders and kings, but none survive. The project at the National Museums of Scotland (NMS) is part of a three-year research programme, sponsored by the Glenmorangie whisky company, and aims to improve understanding of Scottish history from 300AD to 900AD.

David Clarke, the NMS keeper of archaeology, said: "During the process of recreating this piece, we've learned so much about the design, manufacture and use of these thrones. It's very exciting to see this brought to life."

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'No tax cash' for treasure hoard

Birmingham council taxpayers will not have to pay to acquire a haul of 7th Century Anglo-Saxon treasure, according to plans by the city's authority.

The hoard, valued at £3.285m, was unearthed in Staffordshire.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent are both hoping to buy the treasure from the Crown.

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The tulip entered Europe through al-Andalus in the 11th century

A new study carried out at the University of Cordoba and the School of Arabic Studies provides information on the arrival of the flower to Europe. Contrary to what was thought up until now, the first bulbs could have arrived to Holland, where today the tulip is the country symbol, through 11th century al-Andalus, five centuries before what was believed.

Researchers attempted to reconstruct the diversity of the flora present in the medieval period in al-Andalus (territory which today would be divided between Andalusia, Castilla la Mancha and areas of eastern Spain and southern Portugal) through the study of all known texts by Andalusian agronomists. This was when they discovered what appeared to be, for Esteban Hernández Bermejo and Expiración García, directors of research and researchers at the University of Cordoba and the School of Arabic Studies (Superior Council of Scientific Research), "the first historic reference to tulips."

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Pictish throne built as part of new research project

A throne built to a design used by the ancient Picts has gone on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The seat was created by master furniture maker Adrian McCurdy who drew inspiration from stone carvings.

It was commissioned by distillers Glenmorangie and National Museums Scotland (NMS).

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Cavemen Roasted Birds, Too

Early modern humans and their predecessors in Europe were mostly big game hunters, but a pile of well-nibbled bird bones suggests that at least some prehistoric European cavemen enjoyed small prey too, according to a new study.

The 202 bones, belonging to the Aythya genus of diving ducks, were found at Bolomor Cave near the town of Tavernes in Valencia, Spain. The ducks date to around 150,000 years ago, and were not eaten daintily.

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Greece: Archaeologists to Restore Ancient Theatre of Dionysos

The ruined theatre under the Acropolis in Athens, considered as the birthplace of classical theatre, will be partially restored over the next six years, Greek authorities announced recently.

The project, worth 6 million euro, includes extensive modern additions to the surviving stone seats of the theater, where works of Euripides and other classical ancient playwrights were performed some 2,500 years ago, the Associated Press recently reported.

The theatre, located on the slopes of the Acropolis Hill, was first used in the late sixth century BC, with the performances of plays by the precursors of western theatre - tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Aristophanes’ comedies, according to the publication.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

History in the making: British Museum objects to tell tale of humankind

The British Museum and the BBC today announced what they called an unprecedented partnership for a project that cannot be said to lack ambition: they want to help to construct a history of the world using objects collected from 2 million years of human history.

Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, called it "the biggest thing we've ever done" while Mark Damazer, the controller of Radio 4, said it was the "most ambitious and most thrilling project" he had worked on in more than 25 years at the BBC.

Details of the collaboration, nearly four years in the planning, were released at a launch in the grand surroundings of the Enlightenment gallery of the British Museum. The aim is to get more people interested in history, get people thinking about their place in the world, and get more of them into museums across the UK.

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1,500-year-old girl is reconstructed

She was probably 16 years old and had a wide, flat Asian face, a long neck and a slim figure. The girl died 1,500 years ago. But now she’s reborn - well, partially, at least.

At the National Palace Museum of Korea yesterday officials from the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in Korea unveiled the restored model of the girl from the Gaya confederacy era (42-562).

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Anglo-Saxon gold is worth £3.285m

A haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure recently unearthed in Staffordshire has been valued at £3.285m.

The money will be split between metal detector enthusiast Terry Herbert, who found the hoard, and Fred Johnson, who owns the farm where it was discovered.

Mr Johnson said he had not made any plans for the money but did not think he would be leaving his farm.

The value of the 7th century hoard, the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard found, was set by a committee of experts.

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Staffordshire Hoard valued at £3.3 million as it goes on show at The British Museum

The Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, has been valued at £3.3 million by the Treasure Valuation Committee in a summit at the British Museum in London, where a selection of items from the find have gone on display.

Terry Herbert’s raft of sword fittings, helmets, religious jewellery and gold, dated to the late 600s or early 700s. The metal detectorist found them in fields in South Staffordshire and will net an equal split of the total with landowner Fred Johnson in a deal struck between the pair.

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Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard valued at £3.3m

The largest and arguably most beautiful hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found in Britain has been valued at nearly £3.3m by a panel of experts, a reward that will be shared between the amateur metal detectorist who found it and the Staffordshire farmer in whose pasture it lay hidden for 1,300 years.

Professor Norman Palmer, chair of the treasure valuation committee, whose members pored over 1,800 gold, silver and jewelled objects in a day-long session at the British Museum, said: "It was breathtaking – we all agreed that it was not only a challenge but a privilege to be dealing with material of such quantity, quality and beauty. It was hard to stop our imaginations running away with us."

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Underground Rome: Jewish Catacombs Under Villa Torlonia

Some say the Jewish catacombs under the Villa Torlonia just outside the historic center of Rome are the oldest in the Eternal City. We recently had a chance to visit them and were surprised at the state of preservation of the frescos. (The burial chambers themselves were not so fortunate, having been looted long ago.) Our guide, Rome archaeologist Simona Morretta, hoped the catacombs will be open to the public by 2010--or as soon as safety issues are worked out. For now, you'll have to be content with some pictures your intrepid scribe has taken of our excursion:

Pictures of the Jewish Catacombs under Villa Torlonia in Rome, Italy.

Paris rediscovers its first medieval fortifications

An excavation on the rue de Rivoli is currently uncovering the first Medieval city fortifications of Paris. This excavation by an Institut national des recherches archaeologiques preventives team has found a deep ditch on land isolated among a group of buildings. This earth and wood fortification comprised a ditch and a bank, which probably held in place a wooden palisade. The bank and the palissade were destroyed when the fortification was abandoned, and have left no traces. The ditch, however, was preserved under existing Paris buildings and has now been rediscovered.

Visible for about 20 metres, this V-shaped dry ditch is approximately 12 metres wide and 3 metres deep. Being the only fortification in the capital with no preserved built remains, it is the most poorly documented. Consequently it has sometimes been called the "Carolingian wall" and at other times the "11th century wall". It is the second city wall of Paris, situated between that built in Late Antiquity (early 4th century, on the Ile de la Cité) and that of Philip Augustus (around 1200, built on both banks). From the 10th century onwards, after the Viking invasions and particularly during the siege of Paris from 885-886, the right bank experienced significant economic and urban development and its protection thus became a necessity.

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Archaeologist Set to Recreate Palace of Greatest Bulgarian Tsar

Leading Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov has presented a project for recreating the palace of the greatest Bulgarian medieval Tsar.

The project is aimed at creating an exact 1:10 replica (i.e. ten times smaller) of the palace of Tsar Simeon I The Great (893-927 AD) in his capital Veliki Preslav.

“My father and I have dreamed of making Veliki Preslav as popular for tourists as are the Valley of Thracian Kings and Perperikon. The great destruction of the medieval Bulgarian capital has prevented us from realizing the actual magnificence of the medieval Bulgarian Empire,” Ovcharov said.

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Archive shedding light on Shakespeare's times goes online

A unique archive on the theatre of Shakespeare's times, revealing everything from the price of a ferry ticket across the Thames to the cost of a tumbler's breeches, becomes available free to the world today when the papers of the theatre owner and entrepreneur Philip Henslowe and his actor son-in-law Edward Alleyn go online.

Henslowe built one of the first theatres in London, the Rose, on the site of a bear-baiting ring and brothel. Shakespeare almost certainly worked as an actor there and some of his plays, including Titus Andronicus, were first performed there.

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New Website: Community Archaeology North West

Community Archaeology North West is an independent consultancy affiliated to the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit. It was established in September 2009 by Dr Robert Isherwood following the successful completion of his Arts and Humanities Research Council funded doctoral research into community archaeology.

Community Archaeology North West offers a range of services to groups and organisations that are seeking to develop and deliver community and educational dimensions to archaeological and heritage projects. The design and delivery of innovative learning experiences and programmes of study for schools based around archaeology and material culture is a speciality.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Website Launched on Medieval Monasteries in Wales

A new website was launched last month by the University of Wales Lampeter with information about medieval monasteries and nunneries founded in Wales between the coming of the Normans and the Dissolution of 1530s.

The Monastic Wales website is a work in progress and already contains detailed information about individual monastic sites. It is user-friendly and partly interactive, comprising searchable information on more than 50 medieval monastic sites across Wales. For each site, the monastic order, dedications, affiliations, ownership, public access, maps, main events, and important people are detailed, along with a bibliography, images, and links to other websites of relevance. The website is designed to be of use to both academic researchers and the members of the public interested in visiting these important historic sites.

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Bid to map out 7th-century abbey

Ancient ruins in Lincolnshire are to be uncovered as part of a plan to map out the history of a former abbey.

A team of archaeologists are currently at Bardney Abbey where they are carrying out trial excavations on the site, which dates back to 7th century.

Work on the Benedictine abbey, near the banks of the River Witham, is being carried out on behalf of The Jews' Court Trust. The aim is to find out if the ruins can be safely restored and displayed.

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Iron-age dig hitch for planned 1,200 homes in Scarborough

THE discovery of a possible Iron Age or Roman settlement could scupper plans on land earmarked for a massive housing estate.

A 13.5-acre section of land owned by Scarborough Council – part of the planned 1,200-home scheme at Middle Deepdale – may cover the remains of an early Iron Age or early-Romano British ladder village.

Archaeologists have said that there is a 20 per cent risk that the remains are of such high importance that the area would be unsuitable for development.

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Diggers aim to unearth secrets of town's past

ARCHAEOLOGISTS will return to a site in Grimsby next week hoping to uncover more secrets of the town's past.

Initial excavations began in May as part of a project that could offer the last chance to discover important artefacts before the construction of a £12m residential and retail development at the town centre site.

The trial trenches confirmed the presence of well-preserved archaeological deposits dating from the medieval period.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

So that's what the Romans gave us – more historic camps than anywhere

SCOTLAND already has more identified Roman camps than any other European country – reflecting Rome's repeated attempts to stamp its rule on the troublesome north.

Now the number is set to increase. The first comprehensive survey of Roman remains for 30 years will boost the total of officially recognised sites and give them greater legal protection, officials said yesterday.

Traces of at least 225 Roman military camps dot the Scottish countryside from the Borders to Aberdeenshire.

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Death certificate is imprinted on the Shroud of Turin, says Vatican scholar

A Vatican scholar claims to have deciphered the "death certificate" imprinted on the Shroud of Turin, or Holy Shroud, a linen cloth revered by Christians and held by many to bear the image of the crucified Jesus.

Dr Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican secret archives, said "I think I have managed to read the burial certificate of Jesus the Nazarene, or Jesus of Nazareth." She said that she had reconstructed it from fragments of Greek, Hebrew and Latin writing imprinted on the cloth together with the image of the crucified man.

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Dung helps reveal why mammoths died out

Mammoth dung has proved to be a source of prehistoric information, helping scientists unravel the mystery of what caused the great mammals to die out.

An examination of a fungus that is found in the ancient dung and preserved in lake sediments has helped build a picture of what happened to the beasts.

The study sheds light on the ecological consequences of the extinction and the role that humans may have played in it.

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Did We Wipe Out the Prehistoric Hobbit Man?

A race of intelligent, diminutive hominids co-existing alongside humanity in South-East Asia? In the year 2003, a creature from mythology stepped out of the shadows and into the cold, hard light of science when an archaeological dig revealed what appeared to be a new species of hominid that matched closely with local myths of a creature known as the Ebu Gogo.

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Ancient burial site to be moved

Remains of a burial site on Skye thought to date back to Neolithic times and uncovered during house building work look set to be relocated.

Flint tools and urns along with damaged skeletal remains were found at Armadale on the Sleat peninsula.

The artefacts along with stone slabs used in creating the graves have been removed.

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Sophisticated hunters not to blame for driving mammoths to extinction

Woolly mammoths and other large, lumbering beasts faced extinction long before early humans perfected their skills as spearmakers, scientists say.

The prehistoric giants began their precipitous decline nearly 2,000 years before our ancestors turned stone fragments into sophisticated spearpoints at the end of the last ice age.

The animals, which included mammoths, elephant-sized mastodons and beavers the size of black bears, were probably picked off by more inept hunters who only much later developed specialised weapons when their prize catches became scarce.

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Farmer fears treasure hunters are threat

A SUFFOLK farmer is leading calls for a new law to punish unscrupulous metal detector enthusiasts who he claims are “ripping apart” England's heritage for their own personal gain.

John Browning, who owns farmland covering a former Roman settlement in Icklingham, has been targeted by illegal treasure hunters - known as Nighthawkers - countless times during the past 30 years.

His frustration at what he describes as paltry fines and weak court action against offenders has forced him to take his cause to Westminster.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Early Humans May Have Been Hobbits, Scientists Say

In a strange case of science imitating art, one hobbit has again become the center of a heated and ongoing conflict.

Since its 2003 discovery on the Indonesian island of Flores, the Homo floresiensis (nicknamed hobbit because it only grew to be about three feet tall) has caused scientists across the world to debate whether the find is a new species or simply a variation of the modern human. The difference could signal a major paradigm shift in the study of primitive humans.

Although several partial H. floresiensis skeletons have been identified, the majority of the attention has been given to a specimen called LB1 (the first to be discovered) because it is the most complete skeleton and the only one that has an entire cranium.

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How Humanlike Was "Ardi"?

A second look a the 4.4-million-year-old primate that has sparked debate about upright walking and what it means to be in the human tribe

For such a petite creature, the 1.2-meter-tall "Ardi" (Ardipithecus ramidus) has made big waves in the paleoanthropology world. The momentous find—announced 15 years ago and formally described in Science this October—has deepened academic debates about when bipedalism evolved, what our last common ancestor with chimpanzees looked like, and how some ancient primates gave way to modern humans.

"This is a fascinating fossil no matter what side you come down on," says William Jungers, a professor and chairman of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at the Stony Brook University Medical Center in Long, Island, N.Y. The 11-paper Science analysis has, indeed, sharpened more differences than it has smoothed over.

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Roman military sites investigated

Greater protection could be given to Roman military sites in Scotland, a country with more Roman camps than any other part of Europe.

A team from Historic Scotland is seeking to identify significant remains which do not have scheduled monument status.

It will also update information on scheduled sites following new research.

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Scuba diving to the depths of human history

KITTED out with the latest scuba gear, Garry Momber peers through the murky water to the seabed below. It's dark - Momber is 11 metres below the water's surface and the black peat of the seabed absorbs what little light reaches the bottom. Then the tide turns, and as clearer water flows in from the open seas, the decaying remains of an ancient forest emerge from the gloom. Working quickly, he records details of the exposed material before the strengthening current forces him away from the site.

This is all in a day's work for Momber, who is director of the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology in Southampton, UK. His job is to search for clues to a prehistoric world lost beneath the waves in the channel that separates the Isle of Wight from the south coast of England - to be precise, at a location 300 metres off the port of Yarmouth.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cerne Abbas Giant: is he older than we thought?

Standing proudly on a hillside in West Dorset, the chalk outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant has perplexed visitors for centuries.

To the frustration of archaeologists there is no written record of the anatomically detailed chalk figure before the late 17th century, but clues that the giant was created earlier than that have emerged in the form of suggestive earthworks built nearby.

Rob Wilson-North, historic environment manager for the Exmoor National Park Authority, believes that the giant may date from the late 16th or early 17th century after he discovered a pair of man-made earth mounds and a long gulley protruding from them.

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Ancient Weapons Dug Up by Archaeologists in England

Staff at the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) have been excited by the results from a recently excavated major Prehistoric site at Asfordby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. The Mesolithic site may date from as early as 9000 BC, by which time hunter-gatherers had reoccupied the region after the last ice age. These hunters crossed the land bridge from the continental mainland -- 'Britain' was only to become an island several thousand years later.

The site was excavated during 2009 by ULAS in advance of a residential development for Jelson Homes Ltd. Initial trenching work identified several worked flint blades of characteristic Mesolithic type, and clearly in an unworn and undisturbed state. Further work confirmed that these rare flint finds were preserved in a Mesolithic soil, buried by a much later ploughsoil. Because this early soil had survived intact, it was thought possible that original features such as hearths and structures might still remain, and activities linked to the flint scatter could also be found.

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Giant is just a youngster

A new theory on the origins of the Cerne Giant has knocked centuries off his age.

The giant, whose outline is marked in chalk on a hillside in the village of Cerne Abbas, has long been considered the work of Celtic or Roman settlers.

But new research by historian, Rob Wilson-North, suggests that the giant may have been created in the 17th century in a gesture of defiance to Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell.

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Anglo-Saxon treasure found in Norfolk

A silver-gilded knob dating back to the late 6th or early 7th century has been declared as treasure at a Norwich inquest.

The knob has a cast animal head on it and was found by metal detector Vincent Butler on land belonging to the Diocese of Norwich in Fransham, between Swaffham and Dereham, on October 1, 2007, but the inquest was delayed for two years for various reasons.

Greater Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong said at yesterday's Norwich inquest that the finder had permission to be detecting on the land.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life after PPG 16

Kathryn Whittington, PR Coordinator, Institute for Archaeologists, on the major changes to the profession of the last 20 years

There has been a great deal of change over the past few years in archaeology with far reaching effects on the way archaeologists view themselves and work both with each other, other parts of the heritage sector and other industries.

The Institute for Archaeologists has been at the heart of these changes, and continues to work hard to set and maintain standards of archaeological professionalism and to make sure that archaeologists’ needs and concerns are addressed by government.

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Starvation 'wiped out' giant deer

The giant deer, also known as the giant Irish deer or Irish elk, is one of the largest deer species that ever lived.

Yet why this giant animal, which had massive antlers spanning 3.6m, suddenly became extinct some 10,600 years ago has remained a mystery.

Now a study of its teeth is producing tantalising answers, suggesting the deer couldn't cope with climate change.

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Odin at Lejre?

This Viking-Age figurine has already provoked quite a lot of interest on the net. Jonas Wellendorf brought it to my attention on norrø; it’s also been discussed in posts at Norse and Viking Ramblings and The Viking Rune. But is it really Odin, as people have already claimed?

Roskilde Museum is confident that this 2cm-high silver artifact represents Odin on his throne with his two ravens. It was found at Lejre, although not as part of the main excavations there.

It now probably won’t be long before the hall-complex at Lejre is claimed to be the prototype for Valhalla as well as for Beowulf’s Heorot … but how convincing do you find the identification with Odin? Do you have an alternative explanation for this intriguing little icon? Do you agree with Martin Rundkvist that it’s in fact a female figure–Freyja perhaps? Let the speculation begin!

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Archaeology - it's not what you know...

B&E hears from Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, head of communications at Wessex Archaeology.
‘Why?’ Dave said turning to me in exasperation, ‘why do you keep putting these archaeological sites in the way of my road?

His frustration was clear. In fact he had turned such a bright red that I was concerned for his health. But the lead-in to a sequence of closure orders and a traffic management system straight from the spaghetti factory was not the time to tell Dave what he already knew.

The archaeological sites were there long before the road was planned. Systematic archaeological trial works would probably have identified the sites. Pragmatic risk management would certainly have reduced the risk of delay to programme. But the risk hadn’t been designed out. Instead it had been left to the construction stage.

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Cerne Abbas Giant: is he older than we thought?

Standing proudly on a hillside in West Dorset, the chalk outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant has perplexed visitors for centuries.

To the frustration of archaeologists there is no written record of the anatomically detailed chalk figure before the late 17th century, but clues that the giant was created earlier than that have emerged in the form of suggestive earthworks built nearby.

Rob Wilson-North, historic environment manager for the Exmoor National Park Authority, believes that the giant may date from the late 16th or early 17th century after he discovered a pair of man-made earth mounds and a long gulley protruding from them.

Read the rest of this article...

Quest to find out what the Romans dropped down the drain

Britain’s oldest bath overflow is to be given its first thorough inspection nearly 2,000 years after it was built.

For two millennia the Great Drain has carried the mineral-rich waters of Britain’s only hot spring from the Roman Bath in Bath to the nearby River Avon. The drain runs for nearly half a mile under the city but although parts of it are large enough for a man to walk through, it has never been fully explored.

Archaeologists will have their first opportunity to get inside the previously inaccessible sections of the Great Drain this month when engineers open it up for repairs.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Archaeological Study Tour to The Peak District and the Fens 1 to 6 April 2010

The EMAS Easter 2010 study tour is to the Peak District and the Fen Country. This area of middle England contains some of the highest and the lowest land in the country, and this topographical variety is reflected in the varied nature of the archaeology.

The Peak District and the surrounding areas are rich in archaeological remains, from prehistoric sites such as the caves and rock shelters at Creswell Crags or the well-preserved henge at Arbor Low to medieval sites such as Peveril Castle or Wingfield Manor. The Fenland area offers a similar range of archaeological periods, with sites varying from barrows such as Hoe Hill to late medieval buildings, such as Tattershall Castle.

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5.000 Jahre Geschichte an der Porta Westfalica

In Porta Westfalica-Barkhausen (Kreis Minden-Lübbecke) haben die Archäologen des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) ihre diesjährige Ausgrabung beendet. Neben Funden aus dem 2008 entdeckten römischen Marschlager haben sie Spuren aus allen Epochen seit der Zeit früher Bauern vor 5.000 Jahren bis hin zum dreißigjährigen Krieg entdeckt.

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Iron-age village in Sidmouth?

The parents of 100 children living in Baker Close, Sidmouth, are now fighting archaeologists as well as developers in their battle to keep a field as a play area.

On Wednesday railings went up around two fields opposite Baker Close and Howarth Close, as workmen cleared the area ready for an archaeological dig, following findings during a survey on the land which has been earmarked for housing.

Building is scheduled to start next year and anomalies during a survey, believed to have been prompted by the discovery of Saxon finds, may dash hopes that the field would be retained as a play area until then.

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Archaeologists to study Bronze Age barrow at Stedham

Archaeologists are to study a Bronze Age barrow in a corner of a sand quarry site at Minsted, near Stedham.
West Sussex County Council has given consent for the scheme, submitted on behalf of the Dudman Group which operates the Minsted site.

Stedham with Iping Parish Council was told two other barrows had already been destroyed by operations at the quarry over the years, and this barrow was one of a series of five that extended to Fitzhall, on the Elsted road.

Clearance of undergrowth is due to take place this month in preparation for archaeological trenches to be dug and the findings assessed by experts in the spring of 2010.

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How Sweden conquered Finland in the Middle Ages

A new article is shedding light on how the Kingdom of Sweden was able to conquer and take control the lands of southern Finland between the 13th and 15th centuries.

In his article, "Sweden's Conquest of Finland: A Clash of Cultures," Philip Line examines how the kingdom of Sweden was able to impose their rule on Finland and convert its inhabitants to Christianity. The article appears in the book The Clash of Cultures on the Medieval Baltic Frontier, edited by Alan V. Murray.

Fine notes that many of the sources for this conquest "are both meagre and suspect," but that some information can be found from archaeological sources. Until the 13th century, the area of southern Finland seems to have been sparsely populated with just a small Christian presence. Both Sweden and the Russian state of Novgorod launched raids into the area, and Fine believes that one of the reasons for the Swedes making more aggressive moves into Finland was to prevent the territory and its trade routes from being taken by the Novgorodians first.

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Bid to bring Anglo Saxon gold hoard home

A CASH value could be placed on the Staffordshire Hoard by the end of this month giving Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery its first clear indication of how much it needs to raise to buy the treasure.

Archaeologists from the British Museum are currently casting their expert eyes over the 1,600 Anglo-Saxon gold pieces found buried in a field in near Burntwood earlier this summer.

It could be a tough job as the Staffordshire Hoard being the largest and most significant Anglo-Saxon find ever is completely unique and some would say priceless. The museum’s Treasure Valuation Committee is expected to meet before the end of the month to put its first cash figure on the largest ever Anglo-Saxon find and offer it to the Secretary of State for Media, Sport and Culture.

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The savage beauty of maligned marauders

WHEN we think of the Vikings, most of us probably conjure up images of Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis slugging it out in the famous Hollywood blockbuster.

The film was based on legendary tales from the sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons who are among the many colourful characters featured in Robert Ferguson's masterly book The Hammer And The Cross – A New History of the Vikings.

Tracing the history of the Vikings is notoriously difficult as they weren't literate and their culture was based on an oral tradition of sagas, eddas and the poetry of the skalds. As a result they're frequently portrayed as marauding hordes intent on little more than raping and pillaging.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Solar Chariot 3600 Years Old Unearthed in Saratov Region

The ancient find is a psalium, an element of harness. Experts state that it is just 200 years younger than the first chariot, invented in that very part of the continent, according to research.

The psalium is made of a bull’s hipbone. Amazing is the craftsmanship of the master who made this artifact, as well as the ideal state in which it has come down to us.

The swastika was once a symbol of the solar chariot. It is corroborated by archeological finds unearthed not far from the Nizhnyaya Krasavka Settlement of the Saratov Region. The site of the ancient settlement of the Arians has been examined by students and professors for three years already. Within this period the expedition acquired around 20 000 artifacts of various value.

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Possible Roman villa found in Ceredigion

ARCHAEOLOGISTS working for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales in Aberystwyth think they have discovered Ceredigion’s first Roman villa.

Unusual markings in summer crops first seen during aerial photography in the dry summer of 2006 showed a great rectangular structure, and footings of a simple rectangular building, buried below fields near Trawsgoed Roman fort.

This summer the site was investigated during filming for a second series of the highly acclaimed Hidden Histories television programme for BBC2 Wales, following the day to day work of the Royal Commission.

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Archaeologists discover Stone Age weapons factory in Leicestershire

University of Leicester archaeologists have discovered a Mesolithic Stone Age weapons factory on a building site near Melton in Leicestershire.

Thousands of tiny pieces of flint remained hidden and preserved by layers of soil for 10,000 years until property developers started excavations for a new housing estate.

Dr Patrick Clay and his team from the University of Leicester Archaeology Service (ULAS) now have the mammoth task of cataloguing around 8,000 finds.

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Roman ruins found under theatre

An ancient Roman ruin has been discovered by builders working on the £25.6m redevelopment of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.

The townhouse, thought to date from between the late second and early third Centuries, is believed to have belonged to a wealthy citizen.

Archaeologists found the remains of the building's under-floor heating, leather shoes, seeds and a plate.

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Time team star digs in for city's history event

TV'S Time Team star Paul Blinkhorm will be going back to his roots when he joins Milton Keynes Archaeology Day 2009 as its special guest.

Before his days on the screen pottery expert Paul began his career in Milton Keynes during the '80s and will be delving into the city's Anglo Saxon past and offering his expert views at the event to be hosted by Central Milton Keynes library on Saturday.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Balkan Heritage (BH) Field School

The Balkan Heritage (BH) Field School has just opened the application session for six projects in 2010 in Archaeology, Art History, Restoration and Conservation of artefacts and monuments, Fine Arts and Christian Theology:

Balkan Heritage (BH) Field School (est. 2003) functions as a legal part of Balkan Heritage Foundation – a Bulgarian public, non-profit, non-governmental organization. It implements various educative projects in the areas of Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Folklore, Art History, Restoration and Conservation of artefacts and monuments, Fine Arts and Theology Europe with participation of students, scholars and volunteers from all over the World.

Balkan Heritage Mission is to support study, protection, restoration and promotion of sites, artefacts and practices belonging or related to the cultural heritage of South-Eastern Europe.

Projects’ location: Bulgaria, Macedonia

Projects’ language: ENGLISH

Projects in 2010...

Bulgaria: Archaeologist Unearth More Valuable Finds in Nesebar’s Necropolis

Archaeologists discovered yesterday precious objects in three new tombs in the Necropolis in the Black Sea town of Nesebar.
The archaeological excavations are being carried out on an area, where the Nesebar municipality intends to construct a building, the municipality’s press centre told media on Monday.

Household objects, mirrors and gold particles were discovered in the three tombs, the press centre said. Their exact nature, value and period from which they date will be determined after a thorough examination.

The objects discovered are the latest of the 650 finds that the team of 25 archaeologists unearthed during excavations over the past 12 months of 950 tombs dating to various historical periods.

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One step closer to bringing our treasure hoard back home

Hopes of bringing the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure back to its home county and region have been given a boost after the British Museum said it would not try to buy it.

The news came at the launch of a temporary exhibition of the 1,662 pieces of gold and silver at the London museum.

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “The British Museum confirmed they are not interested in acquiring the hoard and said that once the valuation is made, there is no suggestion that it will go anywhere other than Staffordshire and Birmingham.”

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lewis chessmen may have been from different game

A new paper suggests the 12th and 13th century ivory sculptures may have been used to play an ancient Scandinavian game.

Some of the Lewis Chessmen may not have been chessmen at all according to new research.

The 12th and 13th century gaming pieces which were discovered in Uig on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 are considered to be Scotland’s most renowned archaeological find.

The paper by David Caldwell, Mark Hall and Caroline Wilkinson suggests a number of the 93 ivory pieces may have been used in a game called hnefatafl – an ancient Viking board game that pre-dates chess.

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Lewis Chessmen might not be Chessmen

Some of the Lewis Chessmen may not have been chessmen at all according to new research.

The 12th and 13th century gaming pieces which were discovered in Uig on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 are considered to be Scotland’s most renowned archaeological find.

An article in the journal Medieval Archaeology by David Caldwell, Mark Hall and Caroline Wilkinson suggests that many of the 93 ivory pieces may have been used in a game called hnefatafl – an ancient Viking board game that pre-dates chess.

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Czech archaeologists uncover Europe's largest rondel enclosures

After examining 40 hectares on land, the experts gathered hundreds of thousands of finds. The most important ones include the four rondel enclosures.

The enclosures, of a circle or oval shape and usually of 50 to 200 metres in diameter, appeared in Europe in the Neolithic period. Their inner space was not inhabited. Experts believe they might have served for cult, military or trade purposes.

Over 100 rondel enclosures have been uncovered in Europe to date, including several in the Czech Republic.

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This treasure stirs the West Midlands' Anglo-Saxon soul

The Staffordshire hoard has brought history to life in modern-day Mercia – and it is here that the collection has to return

From the Lindisfarne gospels to the Lewis chessmen, much of British heritage policy is about putting things back where they belong. Now we have a golden opportunity not to commit the original sin, and ensure the most fascinating find in a generation remains where it should.

The Staffordshire hoard, that stunning collection of 1,500 Anglo-Saxon gold and silver goods discovered near Lichfield, has just gone on display at the British Museum with the earth still on it – the hoard's final outing before the treasure valuation committee sets a price to be split between the finder Terry Herbert and the field owner. But once those experts have announced whatever millions are needed, the loot must be fast-tracked out of Bloomsbury back to the kingdom of Mercia.

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Sexuality in Late Medieval Iceland

Is there anything more private than sexuality? And more political? Sexuality has always been used for political purposes, and there are many examples of historical changes where political and sexual strategies of power have interacted. In his dissertation, historian Henric Bagerius at the University of Gothenburg, examines the relationship between politics and sexuality in late medieval Iceland. The results of his research show that sexuality was often used to mark boundaries of various kinds: between chivalrous and common, human and monstrous, and masculine and feminine.

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Donegal brain surgeon at work in AD 800, burial site reveals

BRAIN SURGERY was being carried out in Ireland more than 1,000 years ago – and patients survived.

People with disabilities were treated with compassion and respect within their communities in medieval Ireland but TB and other diseases, possibly including cancer, claimed many lives while others died by the sword.

A multitude of insights about life and death in Gaelic Ireland were gleaned following the discovery of an unknown medieval church and the graves of about 1,300 men, women and children who lived along the banks of the river Erne at Ballyhanna, Co Donegal, several hundred years ago.

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Novice metal detector man discovers 'stunning' treasure hoard

A Iron Age treasure hoard has been unearthed by a safari park keeper using a metal detector for the first time.

David Booth was “stunned” when he found several 2000-year-old gold neckbands in a field in Stirlingshire.

He had driven to the site and parked his car. Then, after taking only seven steps, he found the treasure.

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Doubts cast on Chessmen origins

New research has cast doubt on traditional theories about the historic Lewis Chessmen.

The 93 pieces - currently split between museums in Edinburgh and London - were discovered on Lewis in 1831.

But the research suggests they may have been used in both chess and Hnefatafl - a similar game that was popular in medieval Scandinavia.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Caesar rises: several millennia's artefacts from the bed of the Rhone

In a dark space in a new exhibition at Arles museum in southern France, underwater sounds play over looped video footage of scientists taking part in digs on the Rhone riverbed.

An intrepid team of archaeologists has been diving for 20 years, struggling with poor visibility, strong currents and flipper-nibbling bullhead catfish to bring up the 500 or so objects on displayed.

In 2007, just when these Indiana Joneses of the water were ready to hang up their wet suits, they bumped into intriguing column fragments, friezes and chunks of mausoleums.

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The Many Mysteries of Neanderthals

We are currently the only human species alive, but as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago another one walked the earth — the Neanderthals.

These extinct humans were the closest relatives we had, and tantalizing new hints from researchers suggest that we might have been intimately close indeed. The mystery of whether Neanderthals and us had sex might possibly get solved if the entire Neanderthal genome is reported soon as expected. The matter of why they died and we succeeded, however, remains an open question.

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Second 'royal' Iron Age burial mound in Oss

Archaeologists have found the Iron Age burial mound of a wealthy man in Noord Brabant, the second major find within a cluster of earthworks and other remains near the town of Oss.

The first mound was identified in 1933 and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the country.

The second is located just a few hundred meters away and is 40 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters high. Archaeologists found the ashes of the dead man in a richly-decorated pottery urn as well as fragments of bronze.

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Ancient papers saved in tax deal

Estate ledgers, royal edicts and personal correspondence are to stay at Bangor University after a deal with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The deal agreed with executors of the Penrhyn Castle estate will see the archives accepted for the British people in lieu of inheritance tax.

They reveal the history and politics of the families of the castle in Gwynedd.

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Archaeologists recover mediaeval shipwreck from Lake Constance

This "extraordinary" skeleton of a woman buried in a seated position was discovered during an archaeological survey before the planned construction of a high-speed train track in central Germany, scientists said in a statement.

The woman, who lived in the early Bronze Age (roughly 2200 to 1600 B.C.), was found near the town of Bad Lauchstadt and is one of several burials found so far during the dig, which runs from September 2008 to June 2010.

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Archaeologists mark anniversary of pioneering dig

One of Kent’s most important archaeological digs was Lullingstone villa, and last week saw a reunion of the men behind its discovery.

One of them was Brian Philp, an archaeologist who went on to establish the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, which specialises in saving important sites from developers.

On Friday he and several others who worked on Lullingstone met at the villa to reminisce.

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Medieval Cyprus landmark reopens after 5 year restoration project

The UNDP Partnership for the Future Programme has completed a five-year-long project on the restoration of the Bedestan, a historic monument located in the mathematical centre of the walled city of Nicosia, formerly known as St. Nicholas Church.

The Bedestan is a uniquely important building - it was originally a 12th century Byzantine church and later used as a covered market place and has thus incorporated throughout the centuries a variety of architectural restructuring.

The restoration and preservation of the monument is one of a number of initiatives within the wider framework of the “Rehabilitation of Old Nicosia”, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP Partnership for the Future, reflecting the multicultural life and many historical periods of the city.

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Archaeology firm wins €100,000 RPA deal

Headland Archaeology Ireland has secured a €100,000 contract with the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) to provide archaeological services ahead of the Metro North development in Dublin.

Due for completion this month, the three-month contract is for excavation works along the proposed 18-kilometre metro route from Bellinstown, through Dublin Airport, to St Stephen’s Green.

‘‘This involves thousands and thousands of metres of test trenches to identify if archaeology - whether structures, deposits, artefacts or eco facts - is present, the extent of it, and its age and significance. We will then provide proposals for dealing with the archaeology before construction," said Colm Moloney, managing director, Headland Archaeology.

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Archaeologists Uncover Prehistoric Landscape Beneath Oxford University, England

Archaeologists excavating the former Radcliffe Infirmary site in Oxford have uncovered evidence of a prehistoric monumental landscape stretching across the gravel terrace between the Thames and Cherwell rivers.

The work was carried out over the summer in preparation for Oxford University's proposed Radcliffe Observatory Quarter -- plans for which were revealed earlier this month.

In addition to these findings, the work has also uncovered evidence of a 6th century Saxon settlement, including a sunken featured craft hut known as a Grübenhauser and a pit containing unfired clay loom weights.

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Ancient Lance Pierces Hole in King Arthur Legend

Newly discovered miniature art on a Roman cavalry lance head is providing solid evidence that Roman cavalry and sailors were the inspiration for legends of King Arthur and his Knights.

Researcher David Xavier Kenney discovered the inscriptions on the 2nd to 3rd century artifact which was found on a hilltop in Norfolk County, England and is part of his collection.

Among the revelations on the lance head (or contos head) is that the real King Arthur may have been Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius, a 3rd century Belgic sailor from humble origins who rose up through the ranks to eventually become a Rogue Emperor of Rome.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Three arrested for Viking treasure theft

Three men, including the board member of an auction house, have been arrested on Gotland in connection with the plunder of hundreds of Viking-era silver artifacts from the Baltic Sea island, Sveriges Radio reports.

Island thieves bag Viking treasure (2 Nov 09)
The three men, 38, 44 and 45, all live on the mainland, though two also own homes on Gotland.

One of the men, a 44-year-old from Stockholm, is employed by an auction house specializing in the sale of old coins

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Island thieves bag Viking treasure

Two archaeologists employed by Gotland county were dismayed to discover the valuables had vanished when they arrived at a field in Alva in Gotland to follow up on a recent find.

"It's just as saddening every time it happens because it's our heritage that disappears," said Majvor Östergren at the Gotland County Administrative Board.

The methodical thieves dug some 250 holes in a bid to secure as much booty as possible. Östergren estimated that the impostors had made off with 500 silver pieces worth a combined total of 250,000 to 500,000 kronor ($35,000 to $70,000).

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Iron age gold treasure found in Scotland

A metal-detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 2,000-year-old treasure hoard worth an estimated £1m, it was revealed today.

Four gold neckbands dating to the iron age were discovered in a field near Stirling by the amateur hunter. The man, who has not been identified, informed Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit which sent a team to excavate the site, the Daily Record reported.

The bands, or "torcs", made from twisted gold, are thought to date from the 1st and 3rd century BC.

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A New History of the Viking Age

Penguin have just published The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of The Vikings by the UCL alumnus Robert Ferguson. Ferguson is something of a new name in Viking Studies — although he’s published widely on more modern Scandinavian topics — so it will be very interesting to see what new spin he brings to the subject (as it’s apparently forbidden to write a non-revisionist book about the Vikings these days).

Here’s how the blurb describes it:

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Diggers out at Norton Priory Museum in Runcorn

ARCHAEOLOGICAL investigations will soon begin at Norton Priory to establish the cause of its mysterious sinking floor.

The 12th century building is all that remains of the once vibrant and huge monastic complex at the historic site.

From Monday, November 9, it will be the focus for a team of field archaeologists from Earthworks Archaeology who have been commissioned by the Norton Priory Museum Trust to investigate the problems which have caused certain areas of the Victorian tiled floor to sink.

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Man finds treasure estimated to be worth of £1 million

A metal-detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 2,000-year-old treasure hoard worth an estimated £1 million, it was revealed today.

Four gold neckbands dating to the Iron Age were discovered in a field near Stirling by the amateur hunter.

The man, who has not been identified, informed Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit which sent a team to excavate the site, the Daily Record newspADVERTISEMENTaper reported.

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Anglo-Saxon treasures on display

A small selection of the most important Anglo-Saxon find since the discovery of the Sutton Hoo burial site has gone on display at the British Museum.

A total of 18 items, all taken from the Staffordshire Hoard, can be viewed by the public in London.

The hoard, made up of more than 1,500 objects, was first discovered in early July in a field in south Staffordshire by a man using a metal detector.

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Staffordshire treasure hoard goes on show at British Museum

Some of the most spectacular treasure finds made in Britain have gone on display at the British Museum, still caked with the clay of the Staffordshire field that hid them for 1,300 years.

Fred Johnson, the farmer on whose land near Lichfield more than 1,500 pieces of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver were found in July last year, paid his first visit to London to see the pieces safely installed in the museum, and had bought a new suit for the occasion.

"It's been an incredible experience. I'm overwhelmed by it all," he said, looking down on the jewel-studded gold that once ornamented swords, shields and helmets of princely quality. "They say this will change the history books; it's a strange thought that came from something lying in my field all this time. I'm trying to keep a level head about it. I'm trying not to think at all about the value of it."

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Monday, November 02, 2009

British holidaymaker discovers lost underwater 'city'

A British holidaymaker has uncovered what is believed to be a lost, ancient temple while snorkelling in the Mediterranean.

Michael Le Quesne, 16, was swimming off a popular beach in Montenegro with his parents and his ten-year-old sister Teodora when he spotted an odd looking 'stone' at a depth of around two metres.

It turned out to be a large, submerged building which may have been the centrepiece of an important Greek or Roman trading post, swallowed up by the sea during a massive earthquake.

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City reveals 'Bronze Age site'

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say could be a prehistoric Bronze Age burial site in central Oxford.

Experts say important chiefs may have been laid to rest at the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary.

Land around the River Thames, known as the River Isis as it passes through Oxford, was often used for prehistoric burial, ritual and social monuments.

The Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) also revealed evidence of a later 6th Century Saxon settlement.

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