Sunday, September 29, 2019

Viking Age mortuary house found in central Norway

The construction style of the mortuary house is similar to that used for stave churches. 
Credit: Raymond Sauvage, NTNU University Museum

A Viking Age mortuary house was discovered during the excavation of the burial ground of one of the Viking Age farms on Vinjeøra in Hemne in Trøndelag. The house measured five by three meters. It had corner posts, and the walls were made of standing planks, in a building style similar to that used in early stave churches. Archaeologists could see that the building was solidly constructed, even though the only thing that remains is a rectangular ditch with a slight impression from the house and some retaining stones where the walls once stood.

Even though the style of building is typical of the Viking Age, this house was far from ordinary. Archaeologists think it was most likely home to a Viking grave. Hundreds of years of farming in the area have plowed away the grave that was likely found inside the structure.

"We can see that the house once stood in the middle of a burial mound. That's how we know that there probably was a grave inside the house," said Sauvage, who is project manager for the dig.

The burial mound itself is also gone, but the ring ditch that once surrounded the mound has been filled in, rather than plowed away, and is therefore still visible.

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Did a common childhood illness take down the Neanderthals?


BROOKLYN, NY - It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of anthropology. What killed off the Neanderthals, and why did Homo sapiens thrive even as Neanderthals withered to extinction? Was it some sort of plague specific only to Neanderthals? Was there some sort of cataclysmic event in their homelands of Eurasia that lead to their disappearance?

A new study from a team of physical anthropologists and head & neck anatomists suggests a less dramatic but equally deadly cause.

Published online by the journal, The Anatomical Record, the study, "Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction"1 suggests that the real culprit in the demise of the Neanderthals was not some exotic pathogen.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Roman fort accidentally discovered under bus station

Archaeologists called the find a ‘very important’ part of the history of the Roman empire
 (Picture: PA)

Builders were surprised to uncover a Roman fort underneath a bus station in Exeter. 
The military structure was unexpectedly discovered while archaeologists oversaw routine excavation ahead of the site’s redevelopment. 

Experts say find shows how much history has survived despite the city being pounded with bombs during WWII and plenty of construction work being carried out ever since. 

The present bus station was constructed in the early 1960s, back when there were no planning requirements for developers to record historical remains.

A Warming Climate Threatens Archaeological Sites in Greenland

The site of Brattahlid, the eastern settlement Viking colony in southwestern Greenland founded by Erik the Red near the end of the 10th century A.D. 
(Werner Forman / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In Norse mythology, there are many myths that once known, are now lost. But the Norse, of course, left behind more than their tales. They also left behind their things and, in places like Anavik, on the western coast of Greenland, their dead.

And long before Vikings came to Greenland, the indigenous Inuit people left behind mummies, as well as hair with intact DNA.

Elsewhere in the Arctic, on an icy island called Spitsbergen, there’s a place called the Corpse Headlands, where there are graves filled with the bodies of 17th and 18th century whalers. When archeologists excavated the site in the 1970s, they found down-filled pillows, mittens, and pants sewn together from pieces of other pants.

The Arctic’s ice helps preserve these snippets of human history. But snippets of organic material rot when it’s hot, and new research is finding that as the world warms, remains like those at Anavik and Corpse Headlands will decompose before archaeologists are ever able to unearth them.

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Somerset human remains 'as old as Cheddar Man'

The human remains were found to be as old as Britain's oldest complete skeleton, the Cheddar Man

Two boxes of human remains rediscovered after 55 years have been found to be as old as the Cheddar Man - Britain's oldest complete skeleton.

The bones were discovered in a cave in Cannington Park Quarry near Bridgwater, Somerset, in the 1960s.

Soon after they "disappeared", and were recently found at Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton, Cotswold Archaeology said.

Radiocarbon dating has shown them to be more than 9,000 years old.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Roman bronze cauldron unearthed in central Norway burial cairn

The cauldron has been uncovered, and Heidi Fløttum Westgaard, Ellen Grav Ellingsen 
and Kjell André Brevik carefully clean it off. 
Photo: Astrid Kviseth / NTNU University Museum

“Vessels like these were imported from the Roman Empire and confirm that this was an area of status and wealth during Roman times,” says archaeologist Merete Moe Henriksen.

Sometime around 150-300 CE a person died at the place now called Gylland in the Gaula River valley, in southern Trøndelag county. After the body was cremated, the remains were laid in a bronze vessel. This was then covered or wrapped in birch bark before being buried under several hundred kilos of stone.

And there it stayed – until this summer, when archaeologists from the NTNU University Museum lifted a stone slab and almost lost their breath from excitement when they saw what lay below it.

“We’d gone over the spot with the metal detector, and so we knew that there was something under one of the stone slabs in the burial cairn,” says archaeologist Ellen Grav Ellingsen, who filmed the discovery with her mobile phone when the rock was lifted away.

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Historic find suggests bottle-feeding not a modern phenomenon

A reconstruction of a baby being fed using a vessel. 
Photograph: Helena Seidl da Fonseca/PA

Babies from prehistoric cultures were fed animal milk in small ceramic pots, according to a study that suggests bottle-feeding is not a modern phenomenon.

The drinking vessels, which were excavated from children’s graves in Bavaria, date to between 450 and 1,200BC. They have teat-shaped spouts, appear designed to be easily held by an older baby or toddler and one is shaped as an imaginary animal, suggesting it may have doubled as a toy.

Julie Dunne, a chemist at the University of Bristol and lead author, said: “These very small, evocative, vessels give us valuable information on how and what babies were fed thousands of years ago, providing a real connection to mothers and infants in the past.”

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Prehistoric babies fed animal milk in bottles

Prehistoric family scene ARCHOLOGIEDERSCHWEIZ

Prehistoric babies were bottle-fed with animal milk more than 3,000 years ago, according to new evidence.

Archaeologists found traces of animal fats inside ancient clay vessels, giving a rare insight into the diets of Bronze and Iron Age infants.

The discovery suggests milk was given to infants to supplement breast feeding and could have contributed to a baby boom.

The type of milk is unknown, but goats or cows are likely suspects.

This is the first direct evidence for how prehistoric infants were fed, said Dr Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol, adding that the practice could have boosted fertility.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Neanderthal footprints found in France offer snapshot of their lives

The excavation site of the footprint layer in Le Rozel, France. 
Photograph: Dominique Cliquet/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists find 257 prints that were preserved in wind-driven sand 80,000 years ago

Scientists have found hundreds of perfectly preserved footprints, providing evidence that Neanderthals walked the Normandy coast in France.

The prints suggest a group of 10-13 individuals, mostly children and adolescents, were on the shoreline 80,000 years ago.

Neanderthals, the closest evolutionary cousins to present-day humans and primates, have long been thought to have lived in social groups, but details have been hard to establish.

The 257 footprints discovered at Le Rozel in western France give a snapshot of how Neanderthals lived and suggest they may have been taller than previously thought.

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Giving birth two million years ago was 'relatively easy'

Human childbirth can be a long, painful, drawn-out process, needing assistance 
and sometimes taking days. GETTY IMAGES

Human childbirth can be a long, painful, drawn-out process, needing assistance and sometimes taking days.

So why do close living relatives like chimps have an easier labour, giving birth in hours and on their own?

In an attempt to answer this evolutionary question, scientists have been looking at how ancient members of the human family tree gave birth.

Human-like relatives two million years ago had it "pretty easy", according to birth reconstruction in a fossil.

For Australopithecus sediba, which lived 1.95 million years ago in South Africa, we see "a relatively easy birth process", says study researcher Dr Natalie Laudicina.

"The foetal head and shoulder breadth have ample space to pass through even the tightest dimensions of the maternal birth canal," she says.

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Rare 800-year-old figure of Christ returned to York

The statue is embellished with stone settings on the crown, eyes and loincloth

An 800-year-old figure of Christ that once adorned St Mary's Abbey in York will be returned to the city after nearly two centuries.

The rare object, made in Limoges, France, in the 13th Century, was found in 1826 in the ruins of the abbey.

It disappeared for 100 years before it became part of a private German art collection in the 1920s.

It was bought by York Museums Trust and will be displayed at the Yorkshire Museum, on the site of the old abbey.

The 16cm figure would have been mounted on an enamelled cross and decorated a religious object, such as a manuscript cover or a casket.

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‘Ghostly outlines’ of woman who died 1,400 years ago discovered

Ghostly outlines of a woman who died 1,400 years ago have been discovered. (Picture PA) 

Archaeologists have discovered the ‘ghostly outlines’ of a woman who died around 1,400 years ago.

 The partially preserved remains were found during an excavation near Muir of Ord on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. 

The discovery was made on the final day of a three-week project at one of the largest Pictish cemeteries in Scotland and has left experts ‘astonished’. 

Dark patches revealed the stains of a skeleton that has been broken down in acidic soil of the ancient grave. Steve Birch, archaeological supervisor at the site, said: ‘After I found some blackened patches in the ground I decided to trowel back at that level and to my astonishment, the ghostly outlines of a skeleton started to appear.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Large '1,400-year-old cemetery' uncovered in Highlands

The possible Pictish cemetery is being excavated in a field in the Black Isle

What could turn out to be one of Scotland's largest Pictish burial grounds is being excavated on the Black Isle in the Highlands.

Archaeologists have confirmed the presence of a number of barrows, or burial mounds, near Muir of Ord.

Enclosures ranging in size from about 8m (26ft) to more than 40m (131ft) across have also been uncovered.

Archaeologists said the possible Pictish barrow cemetery could be about 1,400 years old.

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'Lovers of Modena' Buried Hand-in-Hand Turn Out to Be Men

Two men were buried holding hands in an ancient cemetery in Modena, Italy. (Image: © University of Bologna/EPA/Shutterstock)
The "lovers of Modena" — two 1,600-year-old skeletons found holding hands inside their grave — are both men, new research reveals. 

There are few known examples in the ancient world of skeletons buried holding hands and most of those found have been male-female and not same sex.

Unearthed in an ancient cemetery in 2009, the skeletons attracted media attention because of their seemingly romantic death poses, which earned the skeletons the amorous nickname. But archaeologists couldn't determine the sexes of the perished lovers because of the poor condition of the skeletons.

However, a team of scientists has now analyzed the skeletons' teeth enamel and identified both skeletons as male, they reported online Sept. 11 in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Earliest direct evidence of milk consumption

The evidence comes from dental plaque from Neolithic remains

Scientists have discovered the earliest direct evidence of milk consumption by humans.

The team identified milk protein entombed in calcified dental plaque (calculus) on the teeth of prehistoric farmers from Britain.

It shows that humans were consuming dairy products as early as 6,000 years ago - despite being lactose intolerant.

This could suggest they processed the raw milk into cheese, yoghurt or some other fermented product.

This would have reduced its lactose content, making it more palatable.

The team members scraped samples of plaque off the teeth, separated the different components within it and analysed them using mass spectrometry.

They detected a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) in the tartar of seven individuals spanning early to middle Neolithic times.

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Country diary: an old map provides new insight

Every detail of this field was captured by cartographers in 1882. 
Photograph: Sarah Niemann

Sandy, Bedfordshire: This single field illustrates one of the greatest mapmaking achievements of the pre-digital age
Some remarkable Victorians tramped over every foot of Britain to create precise pictures for posterity, though they used neither camera nor canvas. Even the unremarkable slopes beneath ancient Lord’s Wood came into focus on a certain day in 1882, when a team of men visited to grant it immortality.

They marked out the meadow’s boundaries, measured its area (14.738 acres), hand-drew its crescent-shaped pond and stippled a nearby “hoofprint” that was annotated with “Old Sand Pit”. And they plotted the trees. Every scattered tree in this meadow, all 31 of them, was faithfully and accurately represented by a miniature cloud on a stick.

In its attention to detail, this single field illustrates one of the greatest mapmaking achievements of the pre-digital age – the 25 inch to a mile Ordnance Survey series. And over the course of a morning, a printout of the old map in hand, I found that snapshot of the past sharpening my images of the present.

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New finds beef up case for redrawing map of Roman empire

The remains of a high-quality Romano-British butcher’s business and centre for crafts have been unearthed by archaeologists in Devon. Photograph: Handout

Dig at Ipplepen extends Roman realm of influence further south-west in UK than Exeter

The remains of a high-quality Romano-British butcher’s business and centre for crafts have been unearthed by archaeologists in Devon.

Experts believe the fourth-century abattoir was set up to prepare the best cuts of beef that were transported to customers miles away along a Roman road found at the site.

They suggest the butchers at Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot in south Devon, worked alongside a string of talented craftspeople specialising in deer antler, leather and textiles.

Previous digs at Ipplepen have unearthed Roman coins, a stretch of Roman road and the remnants of vessels from France and the Mediterranean once full of wine, olive oil and garum – fish sauce.

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Church of Scotland sues for share of $2.5 million Viking treasure trove unearthed on church land

Treasures from the Galloway Hoard are displayed at the National Museums of Scotland on 
October 26, 2017 in Edinburgh.

The Church of Scotland is suing a man for a share of a $2.5 million Viking treasure trove he discovered with a metal detector on church land in 2014.

Retired businessman and detectorist Derek McLennan uncovered the 10th-century hoard in a field in the Dumfries and Galloway region of western Scotland.

The treasure trove, known as the Galloway Hoard, is regarded as one of the richest and most significant finds of Viking objects ever found in the United Kingdom. It included rare silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, a bird-shaped gold pin and an enameled Christian cross.

"I unearthed the first piece, initially I didn't understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon and then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew instantly it was Viking," McLennan told the BBC at the time of the discovery.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish culture secretary, noted that the Galloway Hoard "is one of the most important collections ever discovered in Scotland," and "opens a window on a significant period in the history of Scotland," according to National Museums Scotland.

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Treasure hunter sued by Church of Scotland over record £2million haul of Viking relics he found on their land

Derek McLennan is being sued by the Church of ScotlandCredit: PA:Press Association

The metal detector buff now faces a legal challenge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh over cla­ims he hadn’t responded to church pleas for their share of the cash.

One source said last night: “There was an indication he was going to pay the church a finder’s fee. That’s why he is being taken to court.

“The church has been unable to get a hold of him. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything that would preclude him from being in touch, it appears to be a choice.

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Church sues metal detectorist for share of £2m Viking treasure trove unearthed on its land

The Church of Scotland is taking legal action for a share of a Viking hoard 

The Church of Scotland is taking legal action for a share of a Viking hoard worth almost £2 million found on land it owns.

Metal detectorist Derek McLennan uncovered the 10th-century hoard, which includes silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, an enamelled Christian cross and a bird-shaped gold pin, in a Dumfries and Galloway field in 2014.

National Museums Scotland raised £1.98 million to acquire the treasure trove of items for the nation.

Rules on discoveries in Scotland mean only the finder receives payment, differing from the rest of the UK, where awards are split with the land owner.

But it was reported at the time the church would share in the proceeds.

Church trustees are now taking legal action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

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