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Archaeologists find the site of the settlement of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of East Anglia
- and then it gets robbed
Earlier this week, Rendlesham was announced as the likely home of the king who was
buried with such splendour at Sutton Hoo. The dig had been kept secret for six years
- and rightly so, as it turns out. For, even as finds are being prepared for exhibition
at the Sutton Hoo visitor centre (and later transfer to Ipswich Museum) night-hawkers
have ransacked the archaeological site and stolen some finds, destroying their context
and losing the chance for us to glean irreplaceable archaeological knowledge which
would have been learned from them.
Human greed is a terrible and short-sighted thing.
Breaking news in the papers today ... A new Carnac discovered?
Kerduelland may become a world-famous site ...
France’s Ministry of Culture has designated a 30,000 metre area as one of overwhelming
historical importance; 60 (so far) ‘lost’ menhirs were toppled in c.2,500 BC and
have lain blissfully undisturbed and buried ever since. This gives an extremely
rare snapshot into the unheaval at the end of the Neolithic - maybe we’ll find clues
about why the great megalithic monuments fell from fashion (and were literally ‘felled’)
that when this (newly-discovered) menhir site in France was being torn down in 2,500
Otzi the Ice Man had already been dead for 700 years ...
Stonehenge had already been built with help from folk from as far afield as Orkney
... but Skara Brae on Orkney was now being deserted ...
The great passage tomb at Newgrange had been standing for 400 years ...
Neolithic art was being created in Anglesey's Barcloidiad y Gawres tomb ...
Silbury Hill was being built (but who knows why ...?) ...
The Great Orme in Wales was just starting to be mined for copper, dug only with
stone and antler tools, lit by animal fat candles and certainly involving children
as miners ...
The Epic of Gilgamesh was being written onto clay tablets in Mesopotamia, that cradle
of Mediterranean culture where the first code of laws were, even then, being drawn
up in Sumeria ...
New towns were springing up in the Indus Valley ...
Warrior Kurgens were heading south into Greece, armed with battle axes and a patriarchal
hierarchical society - they would give birth to the early Greek language and the
Mycenaean culture ...
The Beaker People would very soon be arriving in Britain with a new materialistic
culture of the individual ...
and a brave new era, the Bronze Age, was beginning in Europe ...
Times were a-changing ...
5th December 2013
The oldest human DNA has been found
in a 400,000 year old leg bone - yes, four hundred thousand, not forty thousand -
from the 'Pit of Bones' site in Spain. Links with the ancient 'Homo Heidelbergensis'
and the Neanderthals make for a fascinating insight into our very early evolution.
Another glimpse into what makes us human .. As ever, more questions than answers result
from the discovery More about this on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25193442
26th November 2013
Earliest Chinese Writing found
Some of you have seen the news that an ancient Chinese axe, dating back to 3,000
BC (5,000 years ago!) has been found - and it's covered in markings that may be the
earliest Chinese writing ever discovered. That will be 1,400 years old than any previously
known Chinese writing.
And some of you have asked me 'but isn't cuneiform that old?'. Indeed, in Sumeria,
there are pictographs from 3,100 BC (temple accounts mostly). Cuneiform images were
being impressed into damp clay tablets by 1,900 BC and the Phoenicians developed
writing that recorded sounds of the spoken word (instead of entire ideas with a symbol)
in c.1,000 BC; by the 600s BC the Assyrians were renowned for Ashurbanipal's stunning
library at Nineveh ...
So the find is particularly important for China - it gives them a literary heritage
as old as that in the West ...
To get the 'big picture' take a look at this link to an authoritative page on the
British Museum's website. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/themes/writing/historic_writing.aspx
27th October 2013(Sorry for the gap - I’ve been away traipsing around sites!)
Ancient Rome’s underground aqueducts mapped by hi-tech archaeologists
The Telegraph today carries a report on the new hi-tech mapping of Ancient Rome's
underground aqueducts ... Lasers I could manage, robots I could manage and scanners
I could manage ... but only archaeology and the chance to see all that stunning Roman
engineering would get me caving and wading underground! Both the Romans AND the archaeologists
have my admiration! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10406557/Lasers-and-robots-explore-ancient-Romes-hidden-aqueducts.html
22nd September 2013
Egyptian Mummies found in Yorkshire!
Egyptian mummies have been found in various places in Yorkshire! It was an accepted
custom by the Romans 2,000 years. In fact, those who came to Britain in the Roman
times were embalming their dead and wrapping them in linen in what is now modern
York, Pollington and Barnsley. Scientific analysis has revealed some of these ‘Romans’
who died in Yorkshire were born and raised in North Africa. It really was a cosmopolitan
The Romans are Coming is an exhibition that is now open until 5 Jan 2014 at the new
Experience Barnsley museum at the town hall. Go there and see a mummy cast that
would have encased a child’s body AD 300 - 400. There are also bronze figurines
of Egyptians gods Isis, Serapis and Apis which were found in the Barnsley area -
as well as Roman pottery, jewellery, clothing and coins ...
Dr Joann Fletcher will give a talk, Barnsley, Egypt and Beyond at Barnsley museum
on Saturday 19 October 2013.
Declassified Photos reveal Roman Empire’s Eastern Wall
You know about Hadrian's Wall in the north, and you may even have heard about a Hadrian's
Wall in Tunisia, but now archaeologists from Glasgow and Exeter university have used
recently declassified spy photography to reveal 'Trajan's Rampart' in the East. Built
in the second century AD, standing over 11ft/3.5m high, it ran 60km from the Danube,
through modern Romania, to the Black Sea, This was the 'limes', the Roman 'boundary',
and a very formal one at that. We tend to think of this area as being full of barbarians,
a fluid boundary, but this wall had at least 32 forts and 31 smaller forts (equivalent
to Hadrian's Wall milecastles?). While the remains on the ground have been suggested
as belonging to the Byzantine or Early Medieval period, these images have confirmed
that this wall was very Roman boundary. Find out more: http://phys.org/news/2013-09-declassified-spy-reveal-lost-roman.html?goback=.gde_157795_member_270840541#%21
Poor Richard III. As if being unceremoniously buried and then
covered by a car park wasn't enough. Now analysis of his remains show that he suffered
from roundworm - the eggs were found in his remains in the area of his intestines
(but nowhere else in his burial site - so it's not a later contaminant of the site).
roundworm didn't belong cows, pigs etc that he was eating, so his food appears to
have been cooked thoroughly. Instead, dirty hands may have been the cause ...
may not have felt any symptoms, but he might have been nauseous or breathless. And
he wouldn't have been alone - it appears that roundworm were a common parasite in
medieval times ...
Read about it on the BBC News website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23878424
if you prefer a more scientific view, take a look at the report in the Lancet, where
it was reported. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61757-2/fulltext
16th August 2013
Richard III’s Reburial Debate renewed
Permission has been granted for a judicial review of the decision to rebury King
Richard III’s remains in Leicester. The Plantagenet Alliance (a group including
15 of Richard III’s distant relatives) had petitioned for the king’s beloved York
to be his resting place. It is believed that he planned to build a chapel at York
Minster for him to be buried in.
Mr Justice Hadden-Cave granted the review because ‘the archaeological discovery of
the mortal remains of a former King of England after 500 years is without precedent’.
The decision to rebury the king at Leicester had been made in accordance with the
licence for the excavation which gave the University of Leicester the authority to
decide where to rebury the king. However, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said ‘in my judgement,
it is plainly arguable that there was a duty at common law to consult widely as to
how and where Richard III’s remains should appropriately be re-interred’.
The debate continues ...
8th August 2013
9,000 year old Mesolithic ‘factory’ found in London
Archaeologists working on the Crossrail site in North Woolwich in south east London
have discovered rare evidence of humans who lived on the Thames 9,000 years ago.
They lived in the Mesolithic ('hunter-gatherer' time, when people moved about and
lived in seasonal camps) and the most common archaeological finds of this era are
'microliths' (small flakes of worked flint), and the site has turned out to be a
‘tool-making factory’ with 150 pieces of flint, including blades.
Crossrail Lead Archaeologist Jay Carver said: “This is a unique and exciting find
that reveals evidence of humans returning to England and in particular the Thames
Valley after a long hiatus during the Ice Age. It is one of a handful of archaeology
sites uncovered that confirms humans lived in the Thames Valley at this time. The
concentration of flint pieces shows that this was an exceptionally important location
for sourcing materials to make tools that were used by early Londoners who lived
and hunted on Thames Estuary islands.”
This was reported in Heritage Daily and included news on a freshly discovered Roman
road made up of layers of rammed earth, clay and brush wood. Human bone was found
in the foundations and Roman horse shoes were found in the road too.
3rd August 2013
Neolithic Art found on stone at Ness of Brodgar
Having been away for a couple of days, I missed the great news from Orkney.
Just been chatting to the Ranger there and the excitement about the newly discovered
4,500 year old art on the stones at the Ness of Brodgar have the world media in a
Interconnecting triangles (like butterfly wings), many filled with cross-hatching,
and chevrons and small cup marks have been found on a wonderful stone.
It’s such an important find that the digging blog record that it has been removed
‘to a location of ultimate security that is guarded by several burly archaeologists’.
Burials from the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) are very rare indeed. Only 200 have
been discovered in Europe (Atlantic to the Urals).
The Late or Upper Palaeolithic began 40,000 years ago and continued to 20,000 years
ago. (This is the era of the art shown in the recent British Museum’s recent Ice
Age:The arrival of the modern mind exhibition.) and the burial we’re talking about
here dates to 12,000/11,000 BC.
Found at Cuges-les-Pins near the south west coast of France, associated flints and
evidence of structure indicate there was an ‘outdoor camp’ here at the time of the
burial. The flints suggest that the burial belongs to the Epigravettian (or Tardigravettien)
culture which stretched along the Mediterranean and into Central and Eastern European
culture but this is the first of this type to be found in France. The excavators
continue to search for tools, fauna and ochre that are usual with these burials.
Three small Mediterranean snail shells had been made into beads and were found close
by. These shells were Cyclops neritea, found in quantity in related burials in Italy- and the Latin students amongs you will know that Cyclops is the one-eyed giant
Odysseus blinded and neritea means ‘of Ithaca’, Odysseus’ homeland).
And, in case that wasn’t enough, a Neolithic settlement (4,500-4,000 BC, ie. More
than 7,000 years later) was found on this site too - pottery, flint, bone tools,
grinding wheels, grain pits, post holes for buildings and a unique fenced circular
(livestock?) enclosure ...
Rare finds that will undoubtedly reveal more as the excavations continue and give
rare information on this period of our distant past ...
Past Horizons reported on this discovery on 14th July 2013.
INRAP. Late Palaeolithic burial found in southeast France. Past Horizons. July 14,
The newspapers are carrying items about a small sandstone head found in the civilian
area at Binchester Roman fort in Co.Durham.
It resembles a 'Geordie God' Antenociticus found at Benwell (see pic on right) and
reinforces the evidence that Roman artwork blended with local beliefs.
Found in 6' deep rubbish associated with a Roman bath house, it dates from late Roman
centuries (3rd? 4th?).
Go to Binchester on Sat 13th/Sun 14th July if you want to see it - it'll be on display
during their Festival of Archaeology event
28th June 2013
The sad death of Mick Aston
I returned from our Orkney Tour to hear that this great stalwart of Time Team’s heyday
and inspirer of so many archaeologists and wannabe archaeologists had died.
He was passionate about archaeology and about education and informing folk as well
as entertaining them. I met and talked with him at length while we supported last
year’s Careers Day at Exeter University’s archaeology department.