Thursday, September 28, 2023

Oxford Was The Murder Capital of Late Medieval England, And It Was All Because of Students

Detail of a 14th century medieval miniature of Cain killing Abel. (British Library)

Oxford today is known as a place of learning and elite scholarship. Several hundred years ago, the university town had something of a darker reputation.

A deep dive into historical documents reveals that during the late medieval period in the 14th century CE, Oxford had a per capita murder rate four to five times higher than other high-population hubs like York and London.

And the reason? Bloody students.

Like, quite literally. Newly translated documents list 75 percent of the perpetrators of murders with known background as "clericus", a term most commonly used to describe students or members of the then-recently founded University of Oxford. And 72 percent of the victims were also classed as clericus.

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The interactive Medieval Murder Maps give unique insight into violence, and justice in late medieval London, York, and Oxford.

Discover the murders, sudden deaths, sanctuary churches, and prisons of three thriving medieval cities. Click on a pin to read the story based on the original record written down in the rolls of the Coroner. Learn more by listening to one of our podcasts or reading our background information.

For more information on how to use the maps, visit this page. If you are referencing our maps and using them for study or personal interest, please read our terms and conditions.

The original London Medieval Murder Map was launched in November 2018 to international acclaim. You can listen to the launch lecture here

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'Very rare' Iron Age arrow with quartzite tip uncovered from melting ice after 3,500 years

The newly discovered arrow has a quartzite arrowhead that was attached to a birch shaft. 
(Image credit: Espen Finstad/

Glacial archaeologists in Norway have found an arrow with its quartzite tip still attached after spending up to 3,500 years in the snow and ice.

Archaeologists in Norway's mountains have discovered a "very rare" ancient arrow that still has its quartzite arrowhead and feather fletching in place.

It's likely that reindeer hunters used the weapon up to 3,500 years ago, according to archaeologist Lars Pilø, who heads the Secrets of the Ice project in the Jotunheimen Mountains of central Norway's Oppland region.

While archaeologists with the project have previously found human-made hunting blinds where hunters hid while targeting reindeer, the newfound arrow wasn't unearthed near one.

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Shimmering item in dirt turns out to be rare 1,200-year-old treasure in Norway.

Thirty years ago, while driving along a highway in Norway, Harald Jacobsen noticed some peculiar-looking soil — and stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient pagan temple. 

Since then, archaeologists have uncovered 30 gold foil pieces at the temple of Hov in Lillehammer, but there has never been a full excavation. Now, due to construction on the road, an extensive survey of the remains is taking place.

Despite the success of previous archaeologists, the team conducting the current excavation prepared itself for the possibility that there could have been no more gold figures at the site. 

But their preparation was for naught. While on the site, archaeologists spotted something shimmering from the dirt and unearthed five more gold foil pieces, according to a Sept. 19 article from Sciencenorway shared by the Kulturhistorisk museum, which is overseeing the excavation.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Large Roman Public Latrine With 60 Wooden Seats Discovered In Bet Shean, Israel

Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeological excavations have revealed large Roman latrines located in Bet Shean, Israel. These latrines are the largest in the country, with 60 wooden seats available to the public. Being built in an open communal area, many people obviously used the latrines.

“In each of the four Roman and Byzantine-period public latrines that we excavated on the site, about 60 wooden seats were installed in one open communal area!” Dr. Walid Atrash, Israel Antiquities Authority excavator of ancient Bet Shean and author of a new book, Back to Bet Shean: Nysa-Scythopolis said in an interview.

The Roman latrine, partially preserved at the site, was a well-built structure, featuring wall paintings and ornate stairs with a railing. In the middle of the public building, there was a courtyard paved with mosaics and adorned with columns bearing capitals, and three rows of wooden seats with natural asphalt intervening blocks were arranged around three walls.

“The structure was partially roofed, and the central courtyard was left uncovered,” says Atrash.

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Impressive Textile Reconstruction Shows What Viking Age People Dressed Like

The finished outfits in the Viking Age exhibition, The Raid, at the National Museum of Denmark. Credit: Charlotte Rimstad

Some historical movies can give us a surprisingly accurate image of the ancient past. Still, when we want to gain a solid knowledge of ancient history, most prefer to rely on archaeologists, historians, and other specialized experts rather than movie producers. This brings us to the subject of this article – How did Viking Age people dress?

How Did Scientists Reconstruct Viking Age Clothing?

The impressive Viking Age project led by the National Museum of Copenhagen gives us an outstanding view of the Viking Age society.

The museum has collaborated with the Centre for Textile Research (CTR) at University of Copenhagen and leading Scandinavian textile experts from several universities to recreate the fashion of the Viking Age.

Scientists have successfully produced clothes our ancestors wore by analyzing archaeological finds of textile tools, textiles, skins, and fibers from graves and settlements.

Textile samples were taken from Hedeby, and the male and female cloth reconstruction was based on the content in two famous Danish Viking Age inhumation graves

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Talk about striking gold! Britain's oldest coin hoard is discovered in Buckinghamshire dating back 2,173 years - and experts say it could be worth £30,00

A metal detectorist has uncovered Britain's oldest hoard of gold coins dating back 2,173 years.

Stephen Eldridge found the 12 Iron Age pieces while searching farmland in Buckinghamshire.

Experts at the British Museum identified them as originating from a tribe in what is now Picardy in France and made in 150BC.

It is thought that the coins would have been exported to Britain probably in exchange for Celtic mercenaries going to Gaul in western Europe to fight the Romans.

While individual gold coins of this period have been found before, a hoard from this date is incredibly rare.

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Intact 1,800-Year-Old Roman Sarcophagus With Unexpected Treasures Found In France

It does not happen often archaeologists find an ancient unlooted Roman sarcophagus. When it happens, like it just did in France, it is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the past.

"It's quite exceptional, it's the first time that we have found a tomb intact and which has not been looted. It was sealed by eight iron staples, and we were the first to explore it," Agnès Balmelle, deputy scientific and technical director at Inrap Grand Est, told local news Le Parisien.

The 1,800-year-old sarcophagus was unearthed by a team of archaeologists from INRAP (France's National Institute for Preventive Archaeology) excavating in the vast ancient necropolis at Rue Soussillon. The ancient Durocortorum (Reims) was the capital of the province of Gaul Belgium, and one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire.

Scientists have excavated 1,200 m² on Rue Soussillon, which represents only a portion of a vast ancient necropolis. The high density of tombs is particularly interesting in this part of the city since it has long been considered a swampy area unsuitable for any settlement.

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British Museum asks public and experts to help recover stolen artefacts

The British Museum has asked the public to help identify and recover ancient artefacts that have gone missing from its collection.

Last month a member of staff was sacked and police launched an investigation after around 2,000 treasures were reported "missing, stolen or damaged" over a "significant" period of time.

The museum has now said most are Greek and Roman gems and jewellery, and shared pictures of similar items.

Sixty objects have been returned.

In a statement, the museum added that 300 more had been "identified and [are] due to be returned imminently".

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023



Excavations have found five tiny pieces of rectangular sheet gold decorated with motifs and stamped imagery depicting a man and a woman. The objects were discovered in the remains of a pagan temple, where previous excavations have uncovered thirty similar stamped gold objects in the vicinity over the past three decades.

The building measures around fifteen metres in length and was likely used for ritual drinking, however, it is unlikely that any feasting took place due to the lack of domestic archaeological evidence.

The latest objects were found beneath the structure in the wall runs and in adjacent postholes, suggesting that they were ritually placed as votive offerings in the form of a sacrifice or a religious act to protect the building before it was constructed.

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1400-year-old gold foil figures found in pagan temple

Archaeologists have discovered a votive gold hoard during road development works in Vingrom, south of Lillehammer on the shores of Lake Mjøsa Norway.

The 5 gold pieces are tiny, about the size of a fingernail. They are flat and thin as paper, often square, and stamped with a motif. Usually, they depict a man and a woman in various types of clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles.

The objects were discovered in the remains of a pagan temple, where previous excavations have uncovered thirty similar stamped gold objects in the vicinity over the past three decades.

Archaeologist Kathrine Stene was the project leader for the excavation, which has been ongoing along the road here all summer and into autumn, due to the upgrade of the E6 highway between Mjøsa Bridge and Lillehammer.

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Untouched 1,300-Year-Old Grave Of Merovingian Warrior With Complete Armor Found In Ingelheim, Germany

The grave of a Merovingian warrior richly equipped with swords, knives, spears, and a shield.
Credit: Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim

Jan Bartek - - An intriguing 1,300-year-old grave belonging to a Merovingian warrior has been discovered during an archaeological survey of an early Medieval cemetery in Ingelheim, Germany.

It is an exceptional and surprising find because the grave remains intact despite being between two looted graves. Somehow, looters must have missed this one. When archaeologists opened the grave, they found the remains of a Frankish warrior from the 7th century with complete armor.

Excavations at the site have been carried out by the Kaiserpfalz research team since 2015; this year is the last season. Numerous graves were already plundered in the Middle Ages, so finding an untouched burial as old as this one was naturally a wonderful surprise to all involved in the project.

According to a press statement issued by Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim, Merovingian graves on Rotweinstraße can usually be easily recognized by the darker filling of the burial pit. In this case, no color change was evident, and the entire area was heavily disturbed by adjacent graves and difficult to interpret.

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The warrior's grave was found at an early medieval cemetery in the German town of Ingelheim, which was later the site of one of Charlemagne's palaces.
(Image credit: Kaiserpfalz Research Center, Ingelheim)

Archaeologists in Germany have discovered the grave of a Frankish warrior who was buried with his weapons and shield more than 1,300 years ago.

The weapons include a spatha, a long sword based on cavalry swords of the late Roman Empire.

The deceased appears to be a man who died between the ages of 30 and 40, probably in the seventh century, the archaeologists found.

The warrior was also buried with a short sword for slashing, called a seax, with an iron blade and a bronze handle; a heavy iron knife; and a spear, of which only the iron point survived. The remains of a shield made mainly of wood were also found; only the metal "boss" at the center survived.

The team found the grave in June during a dig at an early medieval cemetery that archaeologists have been excavating since March. The site is in the town of Ingelheim, which lies beside the Rhine River and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Frankfurt.

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Friday, September 01, 2023

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

The 2013 Michaelmas Term of the University of Oxford online course “Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers” will begin on Wednesday, 27 September.

You can find further details of this course here…

What Viking Funerary Flatbread Teaches Archeologists About Ancient Baking

When most people think of the Vikings, they probably envision what the Vikings did way before picturing what they ate. But if food is fuel, then it's safe to say that the nomadic and infamously chaotic lifestyle of the Vikings needed lots of it. Most of what culinary archaeologists know about the Viking diet has been compiled from a combination of dig sites, the foods eaten by heroes in Norse sagas, and even a limited selection of ancient cookbooks. The Vikings as a people left behind precious few records and accounts. But one momentous archeological dig site uncovered a historical gem: Viking Funerary flatbread.

The loaves were uncovered in graves at Birka — a large, formerly hopping Viking trading post near Stockholm — earning this flatbread the name "Birka bread". Miraculously, the loaves were charred and therefore remained preserved through time. Whether the loaves were intentionally charred as a culinary choice or if they were burned in funeral pyres remains unclear.

The flatbread loaves found at Birka were made from a simple combination of salt, eggs, and flour, specifically barley and wheat. Other types of Viking bread used oats or spelt flour. For closest replication, curious home cooks should make their Birka bread over a campfire. But today's foodies don't value the loaves just for their recipe; the bread tells a much larger story than the sum of its parts.

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