Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Melting ice and a high altitude dig reveal Viking secrets in Norway

A proposed digital reconstruction of one of the ancient Viking homes,
featuring Secrets of the Ice team member Elling Utvik Wammer.
Credit: Secrets of the Ice. Illustration: Espen Finstad/Hege Vatnaland

The summer of 2011 was unusually hot for southern Norway. Where high mountain passes had been choked with snow and ice in previous years, surveyors and team members of the acclaimed Secrets of the Ice project found only jumbled talus and meltwater. Picking their way through the boulders that covered the ice-free Lendbreen pass, the crew soon realized they had walked into a vast archaeological treasure, one that had stayed frozen for a thousand years. They began to collect countless tools, artifacts and weapons—items that had once been in the possession of Vikings.

After receiving international attention for their discovery, the crew decided to return to Lendbreen this summer in search of deeper answers. Questions remained, such as what purposes had occupied these alpine travelers and where they had been traveling. In search of understanding, team members ventured across and beyond the Lendbreen pass, which over the years has revealed clothing, household items, sleds and animal remains, among other artifacts.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

DNA Testing Just Revealed That This 1,000 Year Old Finnish Viking Was Likely A Well-Respected Intersex Warrior

A depiction of the Viking warrior as they would have been laid in the grave.

The Viking remains, which date to between 1050 and 1300, were buried with both male and female objects, suggesting a highly-regarded member of society with a non-binary gender identity.

In 1968, ditch-diggers in Suontaka, Finland, came across a puzzling mystery. They found a 1,000-year-old skeleton buried in women’s clothing — next to two swords. Archeologists speculated that they’d found a double burial, or perhaps evidence of a woman warrior.

In fact, DNA testing has shown that the skeleton was likely intersex, according to a study recently published in the European Journal of Archeology.

“According to current data, it is likely that the individual found in Suontaka had the chromosomes XXY, although the DNA results are based on a very small set of data,” explained Elina Salmela, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Helsinki.

For decades, the grave has confounded archeologists. The warrior, who likely died around 1050 to 1300, wore women’s clothing and had been buried with furs and jewelry. But its grave also contained two swords, including one laid at the skeleton’s hip, usually associated with male Viking burials.

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Spanish cave art was made by Neanderthals, study confirms

.
A general view (left), medium close-up (middle) and extreme close up of a partly coloured stalagmite tower in the Spanish cave of Ardales, southern Spain.
Photograph: Joao Zilhao/ICREA/AFP/Getty Images

Study says pigments on cave stalagmites were applied through ‘splattering and blowing’ more than 60,000 years ago

Neanderthals, long perceived to have been unsophisticated and brutish, really did paint stalagmites in a Spanish cave more than 60,000 years ago, according to a study published on Monday.

The issue had roiled the world of paleoarchaeology ever since the publication of a 2018 paper attributing red ocher pigment found on the stalagmitic dome of Cueva de Ardales to our extinct “cousin” species.

The dating suggested the art was at least 64,800 years old, made at a time when modern humans did not inhabit the continent.

But the finding was contentious, and “a scientific article said that perhaps these pigments were a natural thing”, a result of iron oxide flow, Francesco d’Errico, co-author of a new paper in the journal PNAS, told AFP.

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Long-Lost Fragment of Stonehenge Gives Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Ancient Monument

Sample of the core from Stone 58 (British Geological Survey)

"We have CT-scanned the rock, zapped it with X-rays, looked at it under various microscopes and analyzed its sedimentology and chemistry," said study lead author David Nash, a professor of physical geography at the University of Brighton in England.

"With the exception of thin-section analyses and a couple of the chemical methods, all of the techniques we used in the study were new both to Stonehenge and the study of sarsen stones in the UK," Nash told Live Science in an email.

Stonehenge's central circle of pillars was erected during the Neolithic period, about 2,500 years ago, according to English Heritage, a nonprofit organization that manages historic monuments in England. 

"Sarsens were erected in two concentric arrangements – an inner horseshoe and an outer circle – and the bluestones [smaller monument stones] were set up between them in a double arc," English Heritage said on its website.

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New findings unveil a missing piece of human prehistory

IMAGE: GEOGRAPHICAL AND TEMPORAL DISTRIBUTION OF NEWLY SAMPLED INDIVIDUALS

A joint research team led by Prof. FU Qiaomei from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences sequenced the ancient genomes of 31 individuals from southern East Asia, thus unveiling a missing piece of human prehistory.

The study was published in Cell on June 24.

Prof. FU's team used DNA capture techniques to retrieve ancient DNA from Guangxi and Fujian, two provincial-level regions in southern China. They sequenced genome-wide DNA from 31 individuals dating back 11,747 to 194 years ago. Of these, two date back to more than 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest genomes sampled from southern East Asia and Southeast Asia to date.

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Carpenter’s Rude Carving In Church Is Exposed Hundreds Of Years Later

@clashboy23/Twitter

A carpenter’s rude carving on a church ceiling has been exposed hundreds of years later. 

The x-rated carving has been discovered at Hereford’s All Saints Church, due to the construction of a new cafe taking place.

The carving was spotted when a light was shone at the ceiling of the church, due to the cafe building an extra floor with bright lights for the restaurant area.

The carving depicts a naked man holding his legs in the air, exposing his genitalia for the world to see. A controversial choice for such a religious location.

The carving was never picked up on by visitors, having lain in the darkness, a secret from unassuming passersby below for over 800 years.

The saucy image went viral on Reddit, with the original post describing the carpenter as ‘skillful’ despite the controversial position of the man in the art.

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And here is the uncensored version of the picture:


Viking ‘amulet factory’ discovery forces rethink of enigmatic artifacts

Figurine motifs from Ribe, Denmark reveal a variety of designs were manufactured at the site.
MUSEUM OF SOUTHWEST JUTLAND, CC-BY-SA

Archaeologists long assumed Valkyrie figurines represented Norse mythical beings. A new study of how and where they were made challenges that.

Mysterious, ancient female figurines have been found by the dozens all over Denmark, and as far afield as England and Russia: inch-long bronze depictions of long-haired women, often wearing crested helmets and long dresses, and armed with shields and swords. The small amulets date back more than a thousand years, to the height of the Viking Age.

But because Viking women weren’t typically buried with weapons—unlike their male counterparts—researchers reached into sagas and mythology to explain the armed female figurines and concluded that they represented Valkyries, the  mythical warrior women ancient Scandinavians thought were responsible for transporting slain warriors to the afterlife.

“The images had always been understood in terms of what we know of Norse mythology,” says Pieterjan Deckers, an archaeologist at the Free University of Brussels.

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Anglo-Saxon Sword Pyramid Found in England

(Norfolk County Council/Portable Antiquities Scheme)

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—According to a BBC News report, a metal detectorist in the the Breckland area of Norfolk in eastern England has found a so-called sword pyramid dating to between A.D. 560 and 630, a time when the area was part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. The object, which would have been part of a pair and whose fellow has not been found, was designed as a decorative fitting to keep a sword attached to its scabbard. Researchers have speculated that one of the sword pyramid's functions was to delay hasty unsheathing of a warrior's sword in anger.

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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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Monday, May 31, 2021

Help our profession or UK’s shared history will be lost, say archaeologists

An archaeologist excavates the Saxon ‘Prince of Prittlewell’ grave site before developers move in. Photograph: Mola

Brexit has led to a serious shortage of senior archaeologists, sparking fears that controls on developments could be lifted and undiscovered treasures and untold stories about our past will be lost for ever.

“There’s a hiring crisis in archaeology,” Lisa Westcott Wilkins of DigVentures, an archaeology social enterprise, told the Observer. “We’ve lost a tranche of skilled workers from Europe and [there’s been] the instability of the pandemic.”

“One of our real terrors is that the government is going to use the shortage of archaeologists as an excuse to reduce our role in the planning system, just as it’s being redesigned with a white paper, paving the way for development at the expense of our history. Imagine this country without finds, such as the Viking and Roman discoveries at a development at Hungate in York. That is terrifying to me.”

Under planning regulations, developers fund excavations ahead of construction work. It has led to discoveries as significant as the so-called “Prince of Prittlewell”, a royal Saxon grave in Essex, which might never have survived if it weren’t for archaeological work ahead of a road scheme.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

University of Sheffield archaeology department set to close after management takes decision to cut courses despite 34,000 people signing a petition to save it


A member of the University of Sheffield's archaeology department has confirmed that staff have been told the majority if its current functions will be cut.

Medieval archaeologist Dr Hugh Willmott said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I have to report the university's executive board had decided to press ahead with their plan to close the department and move only two small elements of our teaching into dispersed departments where they shall surely wither and quickly die."

The university management had been consultating on three separate outcomes for the department - complete closure of all programmes, allowing it to continue with fresh investment, or a third option of subsuming a small number of taught Masters courses into other departments. The latter was chosen by board members, who identifed these areas of research and teaching as key departmental strengths.

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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Great Army of Viking warriors used Northumbria camp to launch raids on Picts

The Great Army landed in Kent in 865 and overran much of England in the 860s and 870s

A massive camp of the Viking Great Army discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop is the first physical evidence for chroniclers’ accounts of raids by the commander Halfdan against the Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley was identified by archaeologists after metal detectorists reported numerous finds of gaming counters, coins and other artefacts typical of Viking encampments. According to excavators the discovery appears to confirm written accounts that say that, when the Great Army split into two forces after its conquest of Mercia, an army under Halfdan ravaged the territories of the Picts and the Britons of Strathclyde, in today’s Scotland and Cumbria, in 875AD.

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Viking Great Army launched devastating raids on Celtic Picts from massive hilltop camp in Northumbria, experts say

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years

A Viking Great Army camp discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop gives physical backing to early chroniclers' accounts of raids against the Celtic Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years.

They have found artifacts including gaming counters, coins and other items which indicate the presence of the Vikings.

Now, archaeologists currently working at the site say the finds confirm written accounts describing what happened after the Great Army split in two following its conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Oxford University archaeologist Dr Jane Kershaw said it adds physical evidence to a sole written account describing how an army under the Viking commander Halfdan ravaged territories including those of the Picts in today's Northumberland

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cerne Abbas Giant may have been carved into hill over 1000 years ago

The Cerne Abbas Giant
National Trust Images/Mike Calnan/James Dobson

A mysterious chalk carving of a huge, naked man on an English hillside was made in the 10th century, according to the first attempt to archaeologically date the giant. The finding is unexpected because the earliest mentions of the Cerne Abbas Giant are from just over 300 years ago, suggesting it was forgotten for centuries.

Historians and archaeologists had many ideas about when the giant was constructed, says team member Mike Allen, an independent geoarchaeologist at Allen Environmental Archaeology in Codford, UK. “Everyone was wrong.”

The giant is carved into a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in southern England. It is a figure of a man with a large, erect penis, holding a club. It was made by digging trenches into the hillside, then filling them with white chalk.

The earliest known reference to the giant is from 1694, from the records of the church in Cerne Abbas. The giant is absent from earlier records, notably a 1617 survey of the area by John Norden, who was famously thorough,

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Cerne Abbas Giant: Why the Anglo-Saxons created England’s most macho hillside chalk figure

The giant, carved in solid lines from the chalk bedrock, measures in at 55 metres high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 37 metres in length
(Getty/iStock)

Scientists have begun to solve one of Britain’s greatest archaeological mysteries – the age of one of the UK’s largest and most enigmatic artworks.

Until now archaeologists and historians had thought that a 55-metre tall figure, cut into a hillside in Dorset, the so-called Cerne Abbas Giant, was prehistoric or Roman – or that, alternatively, it had been created in the 17th century,

But new dating tests, organised by the National Trust, suggest that the giant hails from none of those periods and was instead constructed by the Anglo-Saxons.

The tests indicate that the massive hill figure was either fully or substantially created at some stage between the mid-7th century and the 13th century. The new dating evidence has potential implications for understanding some of England’s other surviving and lost giant chalk figures.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Unique Bronze Age find just south of Alingsås

Credit: Mats Hellgren

A unique Bronze Age find was made on 8 April in a wooded area just to the south of the town of Alingsås. Following an archaeological examination by among others Johan Ling, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Gothenburg among others, it has emerged that this is one of the most spectacular finds ever made in Sweden. It comprises around 50 artifacts that are all largely intact. These exclusive objects would have belonged to one or more high-status women in the Bronze Age. 

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Viking remains lost for more than a century rediscovered in a museum

Woven wrist cuffs found at a Viking burial site

Antiquity Publications Ltd/Rimstad et al/R. Fortuna, National Museum of Denmark

The remains of a Viking have been rediscovered after being missing for more than a century. They were safely stored in a museum the whole time, but had been mislabelled.

The individual had been buried with expensive grave goods, suggesting they were an elite person or even royalty. They also seem to have been wearing long trousers with elaborate decorations.

The story of the Viking’s remains begins in 1868, near the village of Mammen in Denmark. A landowner named Laust Pedersen Skomager enlisted local farmers to help him remove the topsoil from a mound on his estate.

They found it concealed a wooden Viking burial chamber, now called Bjerringhøj. The farmers dug up the contents and shared them out, so when academics arrived on the scene soon after, they had first to recover the remains from their new owners.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276409-viking-remains-lost-for-more-than-a-century-rediscovered-in-a-museum/#ixzz6tuLEBnaw

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Study: Cancer Rate in Medieval Britain Higher Than Expected

A cancer cell (white) being attacked by two cytotoxic T cells (red), part of a natural immune response triggered by immunotherapy. Photo: Reuters

Cancer isn't just a modern-day affliction. A new archaeological analysis suggests malignant growths in medieval Britain were not as rare as we once thought.

Even before widespread smoking, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern surge in life expectancy, it seems cancer was still a leading cause of disease.

Scanning and X-raying 143 medieval skeletons from six cemeteries in and around the city of Cambridge, archaeologists have predicted cancer cases between the 6th and the 16th century were roughly a quarter of what they are today. That's 10 times higher than previous estimates, which had put cancer rates at less than one percent.

"Until now it was thought that the most significant causes of ill health in medieval people were infectious diseases such as dysentery and bubonic plague, along with malnutrition and injuries due to accidents or warfare. We now have to add cancer as one of the major classes of disease that afflicted medieval people," archaeologist Jenna Dittmar from Cambridge University said in a report published by the Science Alert website.

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Archaeology and the climate crisis: how the past could save the future

"Archaeology bridges the gap, as it combines a scientific understanding with the cultural exploration of past human life."
Unsplash/Hulki Okan Tabak

Ask most people what archaeology is and you’ll get a mixture of responses involving fossils, funny hats, digging, and bones. It might surprise you to know that archaeology isn’t the tomb raiding that Indiana Jones made it out to be, and that there is much more to it than just finding old things. Even if you are in fact a keen amateur archaeologist, you may never have considered how studying the human past could help preserve its future.

Aside from accepting our fate or waiting for a technological breakthrough that radically alters the way we exist, we have two options in confronting the issue of climate change. The first is that we colonise a new planet. Without overlooking the imperialist undertones of this concept, some archaeologists have studied island colonisation in the past as a model for human exploration beyond our planet. Lessons from the past emphasise that this solution would still require us to adopt a much more sustainable way of life to avoid facing the same threats just a few centuries down the line.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Citizen archaeologist discovers ancient ‘logboat’ in the Boyne Valley

Citizen archaeologist Anthony Murphy (pictured) appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley - a logboat that could date back to Neolithic times. Photo Ciara Wilkinson

A citizen archaeologist who discovered the world famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, county Meath during the heatwave of 2018, appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley using a drone - a logboat that could date to Neolithic times.

Anthony Murphy said, “I went looking for a dolphin. I didn’t find him but I did find a logboat.”

Made by hollowing out a tree trunk, such logboats or dugout boats have, according to Dr Stephen Davis, UCD School of Archaeology, “an immensely long history of use in Ireland, with examples known from the Neolithic right the way up to Medieval times.” 

“Closer investigation will be able to show more - for example tool marks would be able to tell whether it was made with metal or stone tools, and radiocarbon dating give an approximate age,” he added.

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'Miracle' cave in South Africa may be the earliest known human dwelling EVER found, 1.8million-year-old stone tools suggest

The team explored layers deep within the ancient cave and were able to successfully establish the shift from Oldowan tools, sharp flakes and chopping tools, to early handaxes (pictured) over one million years ago 

Ancient tools found in a 'miracle' cave in South Africa suggest our earliest ancestors set up camp there more than 1.8 million years ago, according to palaeontologists. 

Experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, delving down to ancient layers within the historic site.

Few places in the world preserve a continuous archaeological record spanning millions of years, but this is one such site. Its name means 'miracle' in Afrikaans.

The new study, including work by geologists and archaeologists, confirms the existence of human-made stone tools dating back 1.8 million years. 

This marks it as the earliest cave occupation in the world and the site of some of the earliest indications of fire use and tool making among prehistoric humans. 

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