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The MuddyArchaeologist’s Blog

This Week’s

Archaeology in the News

13th March 2014

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.



17th January 2013


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’) ...

Archaeology is for ever being made new ...


Did you know ...

that when this (newly-discovered) menhir site in France was being torn down in 2,500 BC ...

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



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.



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!


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 Empire!

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.

See article in Yorkshire Post

9th September 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:


4th September 2013


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).

The 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 ...

He 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

Or, if you prefer a more scientific view, take a look at the report in the Lancet, where it was reported.


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 flurry!  

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’.

And there is undoubtedly more to come ...


19th July 2013

Rare Palaeolithic Burial found in France

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, 2013

Click here to link to the article


14th July 2013


Geordie God found


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.


He will be missed.





Oldest human DNA found

5 December 2013


Earliest Chinese Writing found

26 November 2013


Ancient Rome’s underground aqueducts mapped by hi-tech archaeologists

27 October 2013


Egyptian Mummies found in Yorkshire!

22 September 2013


Spy photos reveal Roman Empire’s Eastern Wall

9 September 2013


Richard III & Roundworm

4 September 2013


Richard III Reburial debate renewed

16 August


Mesolithic Flint factory found

8 August 2013


Neolithic art found on Ness of Brodgar stone

3 August 2013


Palaeolithic Burial found in France

19 July 2013


Geordie God found

14 July 2013


Mick Aston’s Death

June 2013

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