Sunday, January 31, 2021

'Find of the century': medieval hoard of treasures unearthed in Cambridge

The human remains found at the Cambridge site are remarkably well preserved in the alkaline soil. Photograph: Albion Archaeology 

Graves found under demolished student halls are providing valuable insight into life in a post-Roman settlement

An early medieval graveyard unearthed beneath student accommodation at Cambridge University has been described as “one of the most exciting finds of Anglo-Saxon archaeology since the 19th century”.

King’s College discovered the “extensive” cemetery, containing more than 60 graves, after demolishing a group of 1930s buildings which had recently housed graduates and staff in the west of the city, to make way for more modern halls.

Around 200 items in the graves, including bronze brooches, bead necklaces, swords, short blades, pottery and glass flasks, have been systematically uncovered. Most date from the early Anglo-Saxon period (c400-650 CE), although evidence of iron age structures and Roman earthworks has also been found.


À Saint-Doulchard, l'Inrap a mis au jour une sépulture collective du Néolithique récent contenant une quarantaine de défunts, un type de structure jusqu’alors inconnu dans le département.

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Earth used to be cooler than we thought, which changes our math on global warming

Earth was cooler than we thought 6,000 years ago.Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

A long-standing mystery about the Holocene has a potential solution.

The last 12,000 years have been much cooler than previously thought, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature. And in contrast, human-caused warming of the atmosphere is even more anomalous than we’d realized. That’s because the study’s authors have found a new way to estimate historical temperatures which they say filters out seasonal shifts that had made past millennia seem warmer than they really were.

The findings offer a possible solution to an outstanding riddle about the recent history of climate change. The problem, called the Holocene warming conundrum, is that previous reconstructions of the historical climate showed a warm period from 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, followed by a period of cooling. Climate models of the same period, however, suggest that the planet would have been warming steadily.

By fine-tuning how we interpret the physical evidence of the changing climate, explains Samantha Bova, a paleoclimate researcher at Rutgers University and one of the study authors, “[the data] do show a warming that’s highly consistent with what is predicted by climate models.”

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Piercebridge Roman Bridge

The remains at Piercebridge are where Dere Street, the famous Roman road, crossed the River Tees. This was achieved by passing over a large bridge that allowed the road to link York with Corbridge, near Hadrian’s Wall. The bridge’s remains now reside on the south bank of the river and were discovered in 1972.

The current remains of the bridge appear to be the second reiteration of a Roman bridge constructed at this location. The bridge is only part of a much larger Roman site, which included a fort and various settlements. The ruins of the bridge provided archeologists with valuable evidence on the engineering prowess of the Romans. 

Only the lowest parts of the bridge remain, there is however a clearly recognizable abutment at one end of the old bridge. It includes some metal ties that held the stones together.  

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Unusual burial discovered in Leith

More than 350 skeletons were recovered during recent excavation in Leith.
CREDIT: City of Edinburgh Council

A recent excavation along Constitution Street in Leith, in advance of an extension to the Edinburgh tram line to Newhaven, has uncovered hundreds of human remains from a late medieval cemetery and, underneath it, a mysterious standalone burial.

The cemetery was first discovered back in 2008, during the initial construction of this section of the tram line, which was subsequently cancelled later that year. It came as a complete surprise to archaeologists, as previously no burials had been recorded under Constitution Street since its construction in 1790. Although the street was built through church property, the Leith Kirk session regarded the land as out of use and not part of the graveyard associated with the nearby St Mary’s.

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A stained glass graphic novel about medieval belief and the cult of Thomas Becket

Miracle window, Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. The first story in these panels concerns a man with leprosy called Ralph de Longeville. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.

From castration to leprosy, the Thomas Becket window going on show at the British Museum is like a medieval graphic novel

The British Museum’s long-awaited and much-delayed Thomas Becket exhibition promises a deep delve into the medieval world via a dizzying array of medieval objects, ranging from reliquaries and reliefs to illuminated manuscripts and ampullae.

But it is the extraordinary display of an entire medieval stained-glass window from Canterbury Cathedral that will provide the spectacular centerpiece of the exhibition, which marks 850 years since the former Archbishop of Canterbury was killed.

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Seahenge, Norfolk: The ancient Bronze Age circle that lay hidden for 4,000 years

The sacred 4000 year old site of Seahenge exposed briefly by the shifting sands on the Norfolk coast near Hunstanton. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Seanhenge lay beneath the shifting sands of the north Norfolk coast almost until the dawn of the 21st century.

In 1998, a man named John Lorimer was walking along the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea when he stumbled upon an extraordinary Bronze Age timber circle that had emerged overnight from East Anglia’s shifting sands.

Archaeologists and druids flocked to see the 55 posts circling an upside-down tree, roots in the air, a relic from 2050 BC.

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Society of Antiquaries fights for its home and its stunning collection

The home of the Society of Antiquaries of London is under threat from rent increases which may also threaten its stunning collection

From the Neolithic stone tool used by the builders of Stonehenge through to its three early copies of the Magna Carta, the collection of treasures cared for by the Society of Antiquaries of London has played an important role in the understanding of Britain’s past since the Society’s inception in 1707.

Yet this week it emerged that the future of this unique institution remains uncertain and, after eight years spent appealing behind closed doors, they have now gone public with a campaign to keep its collection and work intact by staying in their home of 145 years, New Burlington House.

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Metal detectorist finds £2million centrepiece jewel of Henry VIII's lost crown buried under a tree after it had been missing for 400 years

A metal detectorist has found the centrepiece jewel of Henry VIII's lost crown buried under a tree 400 years after it went missing. 

Kevin Duckett, 49, made the startling discovery while walking through a field near Market Harborough in Northamptonshire. 

The two-and-a-half inch jewel, which could be worth up to £2million, is now at the British Museum.

Mr Duckett said he first thought the jewel was some crumpled tin foil from the wrapping of a Mr Kipling cake. 

He told The Sun: 'It was lodged in the side of a hole just a few inches down. I carefully removed it and knew by its colour and weight that it was solid gold.'  

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Friday, January 29, 2021

HS2 dig finds 16th Century gardens in Warwickshire

Aerial photography first picked up the shape of what was once Coleshill Manor and an octagonal moat HS2 LTD

One of the best preserved ornamental gardens from the 16th Century has been found at an HS2 high-speed rail site, archaeologists said.

Once-sprawling flowerbeds and gravel paths have been uncovered at Coleshill, Warwickshire.

The huge formal gardens are thought to have been built by Sir Robert Digby to show off his wealth and status.

Experts said they compared to similar gardens at Hampton Court and Kenilworth Castle.

The shape of what was once Coleshill Manor and an octagonal moat were originally picked up by aerial photography during a site assessment of the rail route.

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Early Bronze Age Necropolis Unearthed In Brittany

View of the necropolis of rue du Plateau [Credit: S. Blanchet, Inrap]

From October 2020, a team from Inrap has been carrying out an excavation in the commune of Plougonvelin (Finistère) on westernmost tip of Brittany, as part of a future property project. The archaeologists have unearthed an important necropolis dating from the Early Bronze Age (between 2000 and 1600 BC). To date, some fifty burials have been excavated over nearly 1800 square metres. Although other funerary complexes of this type most probably exist in Brittany, this is the first time that the opportunity has been given to study a site of this scale. 

It is worth recalling that, at the regional level, work on Early Bronze funerary practices and architectural structures has, since the 19th century, focused mainly on the innumerable Armorican tumuli. Alongside these funerary monuments, burial tombs such as those at Bono in Morbihan (L. Juhel excavation) or Santec in Finistère (Y. Lecerf excavation) are nevertheless known but remain, in the current state of research, less frequent and less documented.

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Rare Scraps of Mineralized Anglo-Saxon Textiles Found in England

A fragment of 1,500-year-old cloth is still attached to a metal brooch found at the site.
 (Courtesy of the Museum of London Archaeology)

Last year, two companies developing land near the small village of Overstone in Northamptonshire, England, discovered a pair of subterranean surprises: a trove of 1,500 year-old Anglo-Saxon treasures and remnants of 4,000-year-old Bronze-Age burials and structures.

Barratt and David Wilson Homes had hired archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to excavate the area ahead of construction. The researchers announced their finds earlier this month following an extensive, year-long dig.

Altogether, reports Carly Odell for the Northamptom Chronicle & Echo, the 15-hectare (37-acre) tract of land boasts a rich deposit of artifacts that spans thousands of years. The Anglo-Saxon cemetery is likely the largest of its kind ever discovered in the East Midlands county.

Per the statement, the team unearthed two Anglo-Saxon sites side-by-side: a cemetery with 154 burials and the remains of a settlement made up of 22 structures. (Another 20 Anglo-Saxon buildings were scattered across the area.) Researchers extracted more than 3,000 objects total, from jewelry, including 50 brooches, 15 rings and 2,000 beads, to weapons, such as 40 knives, 25 spears and 15 shield bosses, or conical pieces placed at the center of shields. Other finds included combs carved out of bone and cosmetic kits.

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Astonishing Anglo-Saxon artefact!

This rare and exciting fragment of Anglo-Saxon sculpture was found on an archaeological excavation at Mark Rake, Bromborough, Wirral in late 2016! The carved sandstone fragment is part of a slab carved between 900 and 1100 AD, and is decorated with incised lines marking out a border around what is probably a cross.

The site where it was found lies in the middle of Bromborough village, just to the north of the parish church which is dedicated to St Barnabas, and until recently the plot of land formed part of the Rectory gardens. The site came to the attention of Museum of Liverpool’s archaeologists when a planning application was made to build houses on the site after it was sold by the church.

Little is known of the origins of villages on the Wirral, but there are hints that many of them have been occupied since at least the Roman period and possibly longer; earlier excavations at Thorstone Drive, Irby and Hilary Breck, Wallasey, had found evidence for Prehistoric, Roman and early medieval buildings and other features and Mark Rake’s location, immediately next door to a church mentioned in the Domesday Survey, suggested that it had the potential for similar finds.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Murder in the Middle Ages: British Museum to tell story of Thomas Becket

Reliquary casket showing the murder of Thomas Becket.
Photograph: Richard Davis/Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

London exhibition marks 850th anniversary of archbishop’s murder in crypt of Canterbury Cathedral

One of the most shocking chapters of medieval history, embracing royalty, power, sacrilege and bloodshed, is to be told through the UK’s first major exhibition on the life, death and legacy of Thomas Becket, opening at the British Museum this spring.

Its centrepiece is a stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral, the scene of the priest’s brutal murder by four knights loyal to King Henry II in 1170. The 6-metre-high window, originally one of 12 ”miracle” windows created in the early 1200s, has never before left the cathedral nor been seen at eye level by the public.

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Significant Anglo-Saxon Cemetery And Settlement Found In Overstone, Northamptonshire

Aerial view of the excavation at Overstone [Credit: MOLA]

A team from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have excavated the largest Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Northamptonshire at Overstone Gate. Excavations were conducted over the course of 12 months, in preparation for the construction of a housing development.

154 Anglo-Saxon burials were found, containing beautiful grave goods totalling nearly 3000 objects. These included jewellery (roughly 150 brooches, 15 rings, 2000 beads, 75 wrist clasps and 15 chatelaines), weapons (roughly 25 spears, 40 knives and 15 shield bosses), and everyday objects such as cosmetic kits and bone combs. Pieces of textile, which rarely survive in the archaeological record, were found preserved next to metal objects which had caused them to mineralise. All of the finds have now been removed from site for analysis by our specialists.

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Puppy and toddler found in 2,000-year-old burial

The burial pit holding the remains of the toddler, dog and grave goods measured about 3.2 feet (1 meter) by 6.5 feet (2 m).
(Image: © Denis Gliksman/Inrap)

Around Jesus' time about 2,000 years ago, a toddler in Roman-era Europe was laid to rest in a burial containing a funeral banquet and a pet dog wearing a belled collar, according to the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP). Researchers don't yet know whether the puppy died of natural causes or whether it was killed to accompany the toddler into the afterlife.

Archaeologists discovered the toddler's burial by the Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne Airport in central France, calling the find "absolutely exceptional."

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Archaeologists on HS2 line uncover grounds of perfectly preserved 16th-century manor gardens

The ornamental garden was completely unknown until excavators recently uncovered its 300-metre foundations. (SWNS)

One of the best-preserved gardens ever discovered in Britain has been uncovered by archaeologists working on the HS2 train line.

Historians have been left stunned by the ancient discovery near Coleshill, on the outskirts of Birmingham, which has been dubbed "Warwickshire's answer to Hampton Court".

The ornamental garden does not appear in any historical records and was completely unknown until excavators recently uncovered the 656ft foundations.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Archaeologists have discovered a beautiful white marble table from the 4th – 5th century AD, i.e. the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period, during excavations in one of the towers of the Petrich Kale Fortress near the Black Sea city of Varna in Northeast Bulgaria.

Even though the rare artifact, an ancient marble table signifying the presence of a high-ranking Roman official, has been found broken, almost all of its pieces are in place, allowing the restorers from the Varna Museum of Archaeology to put it back together.

Petrich Kale is a fortress which was in used for about 1,000 years by the medieval Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the medieval Bulgarian Empire, up until the region’s conquest by the Ottoman Turks.

The Petrich Kale Fortress is located in Avren Municipality, right outside of the Black Sea city of Varna (it should not to be confused with the modern-day town of Petrich in Southwest Bulgaria).

The Petrich Kale Fortress was established in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period, in the 5th century AD, and was destroyed by the end of the 6th century by barbarian invasions.

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Archaeology breakthrough as secret reason Romans never abandoned UK fort explained

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been stunned for years at the prominence of Vindolanda, the Roman structure that pre-dated Hadrian's Wall, with the reason for its strength revealed by the site's lead researcher.

Hadrian's Wall was built to mark the boundaries of the Roman Empire and to keep the Scots out. It was constructed after the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD by the Roman army, protected by those who built it, as well as the Roman soldiers who lived in the forts alongside it. The 73-mile wall - stretching from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea - was the furthest frontier of the Roman Empire.

While Hadrian's Wall is one of the more famous legacies left by the Romans, other, perhaps more significant sites, remain sprinkled around the North of England.

Vindolanda sits fairly landlocked in Northumberland, and was once a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian's Wall.

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Medieval Cambridge skeletons reveal injuries to manual labourers

The skeletal remains found at three cemeteries were X-rayed to determine injuries

X-rays of more than 300 graveyard skeletons have revealed the high levels of injuries suffered by medieval manual labourers.

Skeletons from three local graveyards were studied by archaeologists from Cambridge University.

They found 44% of working people in a parish cemetery had bone fractures, compared to 32% in a wealthier one, and 27% in a cemetery for the infirm.

The study had "helped gauge the hazards of daily life", the team said.

The burial sites were within what is now the historic city centre, and the 314 skeletons were at least 25% complete.

They dated from the 10th to 14th Centuries when Cambridge was primarily a provincial town of artisans, merchants and farmhands, with scholars arriving in 1209.

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Beyond Monuments: Ancient Maya Landscapes Revealed Through Technology

Walking through this lush, tropical forest, visitors may not realize at first that they are among the monumental remains of a large ancient Maya center. Where are all the great stone pyramids, ball-courts, temples, and other monuments so often attributed to great ancient Maya centers? Yet, one sees a tropical landscape that is anything but flat. There is a jungle-shrouded mound here, another one over there. A well-planned walking path winds through what a visitor might describe as the Maya version of the Garden of Eden. Like the very first 18th and 19th century explorers of the Maya world, one sees what could be ancient structures still hidden beneath their canopy shroud. Some of them here have now been partially exposed, betraying what might lie beneath and leaving the rest to the imagination. Visitors soon acquire the impression that this place is very different than any other encountered in the Maya world. Straddling the border between Guatemala and Belize, it is known as El Pilar. It has been explored and studied by archaeologist Dr. Anabel Ford of the University of California, Santa Barbara for decades.

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Friar crushed by cart: bone analysis hints at causes of medieval deaths

The remains of an individual buried in an Augustinian friary in Cambridge.
The study found a surprising absence of weapon-related injuries.
Photograph: Nick Saffell/University of Cambridge/PA 

A friar crushed by a cart, another the victim of an attack by bandits: it sounds like the plot of a medieval mystery. But according to new research these are some of the possible misfortunes to have befallen those in centuries gone by.

An analysis of bones from 314 individuals aged 12 or older, dating from around 1100 to the 1530s, and found in three different sites across Cambridge, reveals that bone fractures were common among those buried in a parish cemetery – where many ordinary workers would have been laid to rest. But the team also found evidence of horrific injuries among those buried in an Augustinian friary, suggesting the clergy were not protected against violent events.

“Medieval life was difficult for everyone,” said Dr Jenna Dittmar, study lead author from the University of Cambridge.

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Ancient Greek Statues Unearthed from Tomb East of Athens

Two ancient Greek statues depicting female figures were uncovered from inside a burial tomb east of Athens, the Greek Ministry of Culture announced on Sunday.

The discovery was made during the construction of the new City Hall of Paiania.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Culture, the tomb is preserved in fragments, and the full-sized female figures were uncovered with their heads missing.

One of the statues, presumably belonging to a wealthy and prominent individual, sits in an elaborate seat and rests her legs on a low footrest.

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How many early human species existed on Earth?

(Image: © Jose A. Bernat Bacete via Getty Images)

We Homo sapiens didn't used to be alone. Long ago, there was a lot more human diversity; Homo sapiens lived alongside an estimated eight now-extinct species of human about 300,000 years ago. As recently as 15,000 years ago, we were sharing caves with another human species known as the Denisovans. And fossilized remains indicate an even higher number of early human species once populated Earth before our species came along.

"We have one human species right now, and historically, that's really weird," said Nick Longrich, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. "Not that far back, we weren't that special, but now we're the only ones left."

So, how many early human species were there?

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Exploring the Stonehenge Landscape

The Stonehenge Landscape is an estate managed by the National Trust in Wiltshire, England, covering 2100 acres within UNESCO’s Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites designation.
The Stonehenge Landscape contains over 400 ancient sites, that includes burial mounds known as barrows, Woodhenge, the Durrington Walls, the Stonehenge Cursus, the Avenue, and surrounds the monument of Stonehenge which is managed by English Heritage.

DNA studies of the ancestors who built many of the monuments, suggests they originated in Anatolia on the Aegean coast of modern Turkey, and migrated west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain around 4,000 BC (details of the studies were published in 2019 in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution). During this period, Britain was already inhabited by small groups of hunter gatherers, that were almost completely supplanted by the migrations.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Historic 17th century seawall uncovered in Portsmouth after stormy weather

Historic seawalls uncovered in Southsea at Spur Redoubt

The remains of a wall and slipway west of Spur Redoubt at Long Curtain Moat in Southsea were uncovered during a storm swell in December last year.

It comes as work to create new sea defences to protect the city are under way, with the area around Long Curtain Moat being worked on first.

Principal consultant for Wessex Archaeology, Alex Godden, explained more about the find.

'Mortar samples taken from the structure appear to confirm that it is part of the late 17th century redesign of Portsmouth’s defences,' he said.

'The possible slipway may have originally flanked a series of steps to allow access from the defences on to the beach, while the wall's irregular construction indicates that it was never meant to be seen, unlike the actual defences themselves.'

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A New Archaeology For The Anthropocene Era

Archaeological studies of low-density, agrarian-based cities such as ancient Angkor Wat
in Cambodia are increasingly being used to inform the development of more
sustainable urban centres in the future [Credit: Alison Crowther]

A paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution aims to give pause to an audience that has been largely prepared to take such out-of-touch depictions at face value. It reveals an archaeology practiced by scientists in white lab coats, using multi-million-euro instrumentation and state-of-the-art computers.

It also reveals an archaeology poised to contribute in major ways to addressing such thoroughly modern challenges as biodiversity conservation, food security and climate change.

"Archaeology today is a dramatically different discipline to what it was a century ago," observes Nicole Boivin, lead author of the study and Director of the Institute's Department of Archaeology. "While the tomb raiding we see portrayed in movies is over the top, the archaeology of the past was probably closer to this than to present-day archaeology. Much archaeology today is in contrast highly scientific in orientation, and aimed at addressing modern-day issues."

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Burial practices point to an interconnected early Medieval Europe

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the region's largest burial mounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Objects suggest Europeans used standardized money 4,000 years ago

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

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

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

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Iron Age Village Discovered In Essex

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

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

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

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

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

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Birka: The Mysterious Demise of a Majestic Viking Trading Center

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

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

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

New Insights From Original Domesday Survey Revealed

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

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

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

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

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Iron Age skeletons uncovered during Navenby dig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hidden secrets revealed in microscopic images of ancient artifacts

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

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

Archaeologists uncovered the site during pre-construction planning requirements.

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

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

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

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

Jahrhundertdürre im Mittelalter – mit Parallelen zum Klimawandel heute?

Leipziger Forschende identifizieren aus historischen Quellen bisher unbekannte Dürreperiode

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

Searching for the people of Doggerland

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

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

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

Mysterious Cornwall shipwrecks re-emerge for first time in decades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 05, 2021


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

OA WebMap

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

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

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

Read more at In Touch Issue 54 pp 14-15