Stone Age Camp Found In Germany


Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 120,000-year-old Stone Age hunting camp in a coal mine in Germany. It is a find of great European importance, researchers say.


Open-cast coal mines may get a bad press, but in Germany they're still big business -- the country is the world's largest producer of lignite, or brown coal. Now another advantage of open-cast mines has been discovered -- they can conceal a rich seam of archaeological sites.


Archaeologists have discovered over 600 stone tools at the 120,000-year-old site.


Archaeologists have found the remains of a 120,000-year-old Stone Age hunting camp in an open-cast lignite mine near Inden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.


"We'll never find such a camp ever again," archaeologist Jürgen Thissen from the Rhineland Commission for Historical Sites said in Bonn Monday. "There isn't another one in the whole of Germany."


He added that the find was the first of its kind in the region, and was of European importance.


Thissen and his assistants came across postholes of three shelters in the open-cast mine last August. Two fireplaces with traces of fires were also found, as were over 600 stone tools and the stone chips left over from their production. Among the stone tools found were a stone knife, serrated blades, and so-called "blanks" (pieces of stone ready to be shaped into tools).


A hand ax was discovered in the mine in December 2005, prompting a full excavation. The team of archaeologists used the mine's mechanical shovel to remove 30,000 tons of soil, laying bare 3,000 square meters of ground that had last been exposed during the Eemian or Sangamon interglacial era which lasted from 128,000 to 117,000 B.C.E. approximately.


According to Thissen, the camp would have been used temporarily by one or more groups of hunters and gatherers during a summer hunting expedition. The climate in northern Germany at the time would have been similar to the Mediterranean today.


News of the sensational new find comes just a week after the announcement that a prehistoric village had been found near Stonehenge in southern England. That village dates back only to 2,600 B.C.E., however -- practically newly built in comparison to the Stone Age camp.



Women have played major role in history -- from the start, authors assert

Contact: Andrea Lynn



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Hold on to your bearskin hats and your macramé snoods, readers: You are in for a wild verbal ride through your deep, deep past.


The authors of a new book have fashioned a 16-chapter prehistory theme park worthy of Disney, but in their confection, lame, even egregious, past assumptions about our past are hunted down and slain, and stars – in the form of womankind – are born.


"The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in History" (Smithsonian Books/Collins) is a roller coaster ride through Homo sapiens' unsteady past. No stone tool is left unturned to bring us up on what is – and what is not – probable about our long and miraculous journey.


The authors are archaeologists J.M. Adovasio, the founder and director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute; Olga Soffer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Jake Page, a freelance writer. Adovasio is an expert on perishable prehistoric artifacts; Soffer is an expert on the Paleolithic Period and peoples of the Old World.


Of greatest import in this book is the idea that women have always been major players – not simply baby-machines who tended to the children, rustled up roots, collected nuts and berries and relied on macho male hunters to bring home the bacon.


In fact, the authors' spadework led them to a striking conclusion: that "female humans have been the chief engine in the unprecedented high level of human sociability; were the inventors of the most useful of tools – called the String Revolution; have shared equally in the provision of food for human societies; almost certainly drove the human invention of language; and were the ones who created agriculture."


Upfront they assert that the stereotypical image of early woman comes mainly from modern males who until the last few decades "have dominated the fields of anthropology and archaeology," fixated on stones and bones and "assumed that it was a man's world back in the Pleistocene and earlier."


The consequence: "Women were largely ignored," the authors wrote, conceding that "the bias was, in a sense, self-fulfilling, but it was more an unconscious bias than a deliberate and nasty plot against women."


Over recent years, new archaeological techniques and technologies have emerged that make perishable artifacts and other "womanly" items more accessible to researchers. "But what is far more decisive," the authors wrote, "is that women have recently joined the archaeological and paleontological workforce in far greater numbers than ever before."


In their investigation of the "grand procession of evolution," including the role of women, the authors draw on evidence from the fossil record, including artifacts and ecofacts; today's primates in general and the great apes in particular; the behaviors of hunters and gatherers who are still with us, such as the San or !Kung of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa and the Aboriginals in Australia; and genetic and molecular biology.


Their paleo-analyses are anything but bone dry. Rather, they're sprinkled liberally with humor, wit, jaunty writing and puns. The chapter on "The Importance of Being Upright," for example, begins: "In which we look back from present conditions to early human evolution and find that the female pelvis may well have saved all us humans from a life of bowling alone as well as letting us become super smart."


Writing about the theoretical possibility of inbreeding between "archaic folk" and modern humans, they write: "Modern humans will copulate with virtually anything, even barrel cacti, so one can assume that nothing with two legs would have been out of bounds."


One of the stereotypes the authors chip away hardest at is the picture of Upper Paleolithic society and economics "dominated by the mighty hunters setting out to slaughter mammoths and other large animals."


It turns out that "there is no evidence of Upper Paleolithic assemblages of enough hunters – 40 or so – to take down a mammoth, much less the number needed to wipe out a herd. Only the foolhardiest would attempt to kill an animal that stands 14 feet high and has a notoriously bad temper when annoyed."


Because most of the animal remains strewn around places like Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic consist of the bones of small mammals like hares and foxes, "The picture of Man the Mighty Hunter is now fading out of the annals of prehistory."


It is more plausible that men and women and even children and the elderly in places like Dolni Vestonice as far back as 27,000 years all contributed to the work of living communally. There is plenty of evidence that immense nets, probably made by women, were tossed over large areas to trap Sunday dinners.


The evidence for master weaving comes from fiber artifacts and from 200 "Venus" figurines and figurine fragments found across Europe – "the most representational three-dimensional images made in the Gravettian period some 27,000 to 22,000 years ago. Nothing is their equal before this period from anywhere in the world, and thousands of years go by before anything comparable appears again," the authors wrote.


Yet many observers, male and female, amateur and professional, have missed the fact that many of these stone babes were partly clad.


In 1998, Adovasio and Soffer began their scrutiny of the Venuses, and found that what others saw as braided hair on the Venus of Willendorf, for example, actually was an exquisitely carved hat, constructed similarly to many American Indian baskets today.


So precise is the carving that "it is not unreasonable to think that, among the functions involved in this Upper Paleolithic masterpiece, it served as a blueprint or instruction manual showing weavers how to make such hats."


Adovasio and Soffer also discovered that other Venuses wore carved woven hats and also bandeaus, belts and string skirts – items far too flimsy for daily wear.


The clothing suggests that "such apparel was a 'woman thing,' not worn by males, and that it served to immortalize at some great effort the fact that such apparel set women – or at least certain women – apart in a social category of their own."


One can conclude, the authors wrote, that the clothing on the Gravettian Venuses symbolized achievement or prestige. Moreover, the precision with which the woven items were carved "leads almost inevitably to the conclusion that they were created by the weavers themselves, or at least under the sharp-eyed tutelage of the weavers."


"That it was almost surely women who did most of this fine weaving and basketry is one matter to which the ethnographic record appears to be a reliable guide."



Museum combines DNA, fossils to show human ancestry


February 08, 2007

By Tom Hals


NEW YORK (Reuters) - The traditional museum showpieces of human evolution, Lucy and Peking Man, are being nudged aside at the famed American Museum of Natural History by a newcomer that appears to be an empty test tube.


Curators say a display of microscopic 38,000-year-old Neanderthal DNA, which seems to be nothing but a vial in a glass case, marks a symbolic start to a new permanent exhibit which breaks with a tradition of relying on fossil research to educate.


Ellen V. Futter, the museum's president, called it "the first major exhibit hall of its kind to present the fossil and genomic record side by side, offering new and compelling evidence that tells a grand and sweeping story of man."


Organizers of the exhibit hall wanted to incorporate genetic research because they said it illustrated links between organisms in ways that are often difficult with fossils.


"There are certain things you can't do with fossils. DNA can reinforce things and amplify things," said Rob DeSalle, co-curator for the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins which opens on Saturday at the museum.


Almost half of Americans believe that humans were created by God in the last 10,000 years, according to a 2006 Gallup Poll, and critics of evolution have focused in part on the relatively thin fossil record.


In the exhibit next to the Neanderthal DNA, for example, a display of a series of primates shows the percentage of genetic material they share with humans, which ranges up to 99 percent for chimpanzees.


"That's what this hall is all about. It's about understanding we have common ancestry with other organisms," said DeSalle.


The exhibition hall still has the dioramas and extensive archeological discoveries for which the museum is famous, such as casts of Lucy and Peking Man.


Lucy, a 3 million year-old fossil discovered in 1974, is considered one of great discoveries of human origins because it showed she walked upright. Peking Man, a fossil at least 300,000 years old, is considered the first to use tools based on nearby discoveries.


Other highlights include a reconstructed skull of a tiny hominid that has been dubbed the Hobbit after it was discovered in a cave in Indonesia in 2003.


DeSalle said the 9,000-square-foot hall was designed to allow for regular updates with recent genetic discoveries, such as the Neanderthal DNA which was sequenced only a few months ago. A video will provide updates every few weeks on the latest research, including work done in the gene sequencing labs on site at the museum.


While a recent exhibit at the museum on the work of Charles Darwin touched on creationism, the new hall avoids the subject -- a hot-button political issue in recent years.


Science and religion are not necessarily in conflict, said Ian Tattersall, co-curator of the exhibit. "We're telling the scientific story."



Ten-year clean for iron age boat


A 2,000-year-old log boat discovered buried in mud is to be put on display after a 10-year restoration project.


The Iron Age vessel was found in 1964 during dredging work in Poole Harbour and members of York Archaeological Trust restored the water-logged timber.


The log boat, which is thought to have been used for continental trade, is estimated to have weighed 14 tonnes.


A glass case has been designed to house the ancient timber, which is due to be displayed in Poole museum in June.


The final cleaning of the vessel has been scheduled to finish this month.


The log boat, which carried up to 18 people, would have been based at Green Island in the harbour.


After it was found it was kept submerged in water for 30 years while archaeologists decided what to do with it.


As part of the conservation project, the boat has spent a decade soaked in a sugar solution before being dried out at Poole's Scalpel's Court museum.


Councillor Elaine Atkinson said: "The log boat has international and major historical importance.


"It is more than 2,000 years old and represents an important part of Poole's maritime history."


Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2007/02/09 15:34:52 GMT




Eternal embrace? Couple still hugging 5,000 years on

Tue Feb 6, 2007 6:28 PM GMT31

ROME (Reuters)


Archaeologists in Italy have discovered a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, hugging each other.


"It's an extraordinary case," said Elena Menotti, who led the team on their dig near the northern city of Mantova.


"There has not been a double burial found in the Neolithic period, much less two people hugging -- and they really are hugging."


Menotti said she believed the two, almost certainly a man and a woman although that needs to be confirmed, died young because their teeth were mostly intact and not worn down.


"I must say that when we discovered it, we all became very excited. I've been doing this job for 25 years. I've done digs at Pompeii, all the famous sites," she told Reuters.


"But I've never been so moved because this is the discovery of something special."


A laboratory will now try to determine the couple's age at the time of death and how long they had been buried.



Moroccan capital rebuilds, uncovers past

Rabat rebuilds its seafront, uncovers vast treasure trove of relics, watercourse linking twin cities of Rabat, Sale.

By Sammy Ketz - RABAT


Morocco's capital Rabat is rebuilding its seafront and in so doing uncovering a vast treasure trove of relics, artefacts and ruins.


"We have made some fantastic discoveries not only for the history of Rabat but of the kingdom," said archaeologist and historian Mohammed Essemmar.


Essemmar, 43, heads the heritage department of the agency in charge of redeveloping the Bouregreg valley, a watercourse linking the twin cities of Rabat and Sale.


Roman columns and capitals, 12th-century enclosing walls, Islamic ceramics and coins have emerged from the sands.


The prize discovery in the 2,500 square-metre (27,000 square feet) site is the enclosing wall of the Tachfin "ribat,"or military camp, attached to the Oudayas casbah, dating from the 12th century and completed during the brief reign of Almoravid dynasty King Tachfin ben Ali (1143-1145).


The base of the wall was unearthed in late 2006, made up of the "ribat's" two corner towers and a central tower.


"The old texts mention its existence but we did not know here it was, because at the end of fierce battles the founder of the Almohad dynasty Abdelmoumen ben Ali (1130-1163) rased the camp to build the Oudayas casbah," said Essemmar.


"It is great, because outside Marrakesh Almoravid remains are very rare," said Essemmar, who hold degrees from both French and Moroccan universities.


But there have been other pleasant surprises. Archaeologists have uncovered a chamber that must have been used as an armoury and at the end of last year found an arched passage dating from the 17th century and linking the Street of the Consuls, a famous commercial street in the Medina, or old quarter, with the seafront.


The excavations, which have cost 110,000 euros (143,000 dollars) provided by the agency, have disrupted the plans for development work.


"For the first time developers and archaeologists are on the same wavelength: my town-planning and architect colleagues have changed their plans to reconstitute history," said Essemmar.


Work will begin next month to restore to the road the appearance it had at the start of the Alawite dynasty founded by Moulay Cherif (1631-1636), ancestor of the reigning monarch King Mohammed VI.


The plan to redevelop the Bouregreg estuary began in January 2006 and has six phases. It seeks to rehabilitate and transform the two banks into major tourist and urban centres.


Partner investors in the United Arab Emirates have contributed to the 2.75 billion dollar cost of the two first tranches of the work.


In July Essemmar was woken by a pre-dawn phone call from workmen who had found in a creek three large marble Roman columns with their capitals.


"The river has in its belly hundreds of treasures and when we drag it we shall make some terrific discoveries, because with its 2,500 years of history it is a real archaeological museum, " said Essammar.


In any case, said the agency's information officer Omar Benslimane, efficiency has to go hand in hand with heritage.


"It is a building site which we have to complete, but we are certain to come across other ruins: we shall then suspend the work to call up archaeological expertise.


"We shall carry out rescue excavations. If we find that it is something important we shall change our plans. One thing is certain, nothing will be ignored as in the past."



Fisherman nets rare medieval cooking pot

07 February 2007


A FISHERMAN at Drumdowney Point has found more than the catch of the day in his fishing nets – you might even call it the catch of six to eight centuries.


Sean Doherty, who lives on the opposite shore in Waterford, was fishing at the south Kilkenny spot about 40 metres from the shore line a year and a half ago, when he noticed in his net what he thought was a flower pot.


On second glance he saw that the pot was unusual in that the bottom was rounded rather than flat like a typical pot of today.


His keen eye for observation has been honed over many years picking up different pieces, and his interest in archaeology has been boosted from watching documentaries and other such programmes.


But little did he know that his discovery would end up on display in the National Museum in Dublin.

He initially brought the pot to the Waterford Treasures museum, and they in turn passed it on to the National Museum.


He still can't believe his luck, as the area has been well fished over the years. "Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time," he said.


Dr Andy Halpin, assistant keeper of the Irish antiquities division in the National Museum, says the pot is an extremely rare find.


The type of cooking pot is referred to by archaeologists as 'Leinster cookware' and this particular pot is a significant find for the museum.


"The type of pottery that it is practically never turns up in one piece, so it's really remarkable," Mr Halpin said. "This is effectively the only intact piece of Leinster cookware that we have."

"How it managed to survive intact lying on the sea bed for hundreds of years and then being brought up in a net, is just amazing."


The pot is about eight or nine inches high and 10-11 inches in diameter, and dates from the 12th to 14th century.


"I couldn't say exactly how old it is but the type of pottery that it is would date it sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries, so it's about 600 to 800 years old," Mr Halpin explained.

"The fact that it's intact is really the main thing about it. Otherwise as a pot it's pretty simple."

The basic pot is a fairly coarse type of pottery, not very refined or well made, he said. It looks slightly like a flower pot and is a pale red terra-cotta colour.


One characteristic feature of Leinster cookware is that quite a large amount of gravel and quartz is included in the pottery, Mr Halpin noted, and the tiny pieces of quartz dazzle when light shines on them.


Such a pot would have been hand-made rather than thrown on a wheel, and was probably fired in a very simple kiln, according to Mr Halpin.


"It is not very technically advanced even for that period," he said. "It's a very humble object. It was probably used by fairly simple people, not the wealthy."


The pot will now be put on display as part of an exhibition on medieval Ireland in the National Museum building on Kildare Street in Dublin.


That exhibition is currently on display and this latest pot will be added to it within the next two months, Mr Halpin said.



Angel dig may have found lost church

Published on 09/02/2007



ONE of Corbridge’s lost churches may have been unearthed by archaeologists working on what has been called Northumberland’s most important medieval site.


In recent weeks, archaeologists from North Pennines Archaeology Limited, based in Nenthead, have been working against the clock to record every aspect of the site behind the Angel Inn.


Wednesday was the last day of working on the site for the team and the remains are now due to be covered over.


Having already uncovered two skeletons, archaeologists this week found evidence of medieval bronze and iron working on the site, as well as what they say could be one of Corbridge’s lost churches, dating back to before the 13th century.


Archaeology supervisor Tony Liddell explained: “We have found a number of substantial walls on the site, which we are dating back to the 13th century because of pottery remains on the site.


“Several of the walls cross over each other and are from different buildings; some are quite slight but others are very sturdy.


“It seems as if the older, sturdier building fell in to disuse and a new building was put up over the top of it, but slightly off centre.


“We have found iron working and bronze working associated with these structures, including a bronze cauldron handle.


“There are distinct burning areas with metal slag, all of which gives us an important view on what life was like during the period.


“We then have evidence, through domestic waste and domestic pottery, that suggests that the site was reused for domestic purposes shortly after this time.


“There are only about 30 sites across the whole country for medieval bronze working, and only two of these are in Northumberland. That makes this one of the most important medieval sites in the region.


“These are certainly the most important mediaeval remains found in Corbridge.


“We have taken some samples for carbon dating, but we would need additional funding to carry that out, so it may have to wait.


“One of most important things we have found is an even older and thicker wall, dating back before the 13th century.


“It’s the oldest l we’ve found on the site and the most substantial. It’s pre-13th century because some of the other walls we have dated cut across the top of it.


“Although we may never be able to determine the exact period the wall was built in – due to a lack of artefacts relating to it – we are speculating that it could be a lost church.”


The revelation, however, has not cast any new light on the two skeletons found on the site, as they date from a later period and at least one did not show signs of a Christian burial.


With the site due to be covered over, field archaeologist Kevin Mounsey has drawn a detailed plan of the site – mapping it stone by stone – and numerous photographs have been taken to record a part of Corbridge not seen in over 700 years.



Castle's secrets yet to be fully uncovered

06 February 2007


The remains of some strange old building features have just been unearthed, quite by chance, inside Bodiam Castle.


One of most beautiful and spectacular castles in the country, Bodiam was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385 and is now owned and managed by The National Trust.


The exciting discovery happened on Friday February 2 when some earth was being cleared away in the Great Hall ruins. The ground was being made ready for a new gravel base when suddenly the mini-digger struck stone. As the earth was carefully cleared away, with an archaeologist on hand to observe the proceedings, more stonework appeared along with some clay tiles and pieces of rubble. It soon became apparent that this was something substantial: a wall of some kind. Further down the Hall something else appeared, a strange circular construction.


National Trust staff were puzzled and immediately got on the phone to East Sussex archaeology department. Casper Johnson, the County Archaeologist, agreed with the Castle's staff about the rubble and tiles; they might well have fallen onto the ground and been subsequently buried at the time the Castle was 'slighted', or semi-demolished on the inside, by Cromwell's troops at the end of the English Civil War. The wall and circular feature, however, were a mystery. Could they be the remains of a gardener's cottage built inside the ruins in the eighteenth century (illustration attached)? Or perhaps part of Sir Edward Dalyngrigge's medieval hall?


There is now a race against time for the National Trust and the archaeologists and historians, as the remains will have to be covered over again rather than being more fully excavated.


It's a wonderful discovery for the Castle and the staff there are very excited, but it couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. It's all happening at the moment, as the Castle staff make preparations for full time opening (7 days a week, 10.30am – 5pm) from 10 February. There are the children's events for half term to get ready, some new wooden stairs and decking are being installed on one of the towers, and two massive trees are being cleared from the moat. They were blown over by the recent storm winds and in falling they dug out large chunks of the moat bank – some more 'unearthing' at the Castle, which has certainly opened up the view across the romantic moat to the battlements and towers.




DNA clue to presidential puzzle

By Paul Rincon

Science reporter, BBC News


DNA tests carried out on two British men have shed light on a mystery surrounding the ancestry of Thomas Jefferson, America's third president.


In the 1990s, DNA was taken from male relatives of Jefferson to see if he fathered a son with one of his slaves.


They found the president had a rare genetic signature found mainly in the Middle East and Africa, calling into question his claim of Welsh ancestry.


But this DNA type has now been found in two Britons with the Jefferson surname.


Professor Mark Jobling, from the University of Leicester, and colleagues discovered the two British Jeffersons possessed the same rare male (or Y) chromosome type as the third US president.


Genetic analysis showed the British men shared a common ancestor with Thomas Jefferson about 11 generations ago. But neither knew of any family links to the US.


The unusual lineage has not been found in white Britons before. This discovery scotches any suggestion that Jefferson - who was president between 1801 and 1809 - must have had recent paternal ancestors from the Middle East.


Last month, Professor Jobling's group reported the discovery of seven white men from Yorkshire carrying a West African Y chromosome.


The Y chromosome is a package of genetic material passed down from father to son, more or less unchanged - just like a surname.




Y chromosomes can be classified into broad groups (haplogroups) which, to some extent, reflect a person's geographical ancestry.


Certain haplogroups might be common in, for example, East Asia but rare in Europe. In Britain, sharing a surname raises the likelihood of sharing the same Y chromosome type.


The two men in the latest study had paternal ancestry in Yorkshire and the West Midlands respectively.


Thomas Jefferson's haplogroup - shared with the two men from Britain - is known as K2.


K2 makes up about 7% of the Y chromosome types found in Somalia, Oman, Egypt and Iraq. It has now been found at low frequencies in France, Spain, Portugal and Britain.


Of the K2s looked at by the study, Jefferson's Y chromosome was most similar to that of a man from Egypt. But genetic relationships between different K2s are poorly understood, and this may have little significance.


Instead, say the researchers, their study makes Jefferson's claim to be of Welsh extraction much more plausible.


Professor Jobling told BBC News: "Finding that Jefferson's Y chromosome was one mutational step away from an Egyptian type makes you think 'crikey, could he have a relatively recent origin in the Middle East?'


"Our point is that we find, at lower frequencies, French, British and Iberian K2s and they are jolly diverse. His fits into that picture of a west European sub-population of K2."


The DNA sequences of individual K2s - including those from Europe - are quite different from one another.


This "genetic diversity" has to accumulate over time, supporting the idea that Jefferson's haplogroup is not a recent introduction into Europe.


The haplogroup has probably been present for centuries in the "indigenous" population of western Europe, says Professor Jobling, and is not exclusive to the Middle East and Africa.


It could have been introduced to Europe by the first modern humans to colonise the continent 40,000 years ago.


Another theory concerns the Phoenicians, an ancient maritime trading culture that spread out across the Mediterranean from their home in what is now Lebanon. K2 is relatively common in Lebanon, leading to suggestions that European K2s may be descendents of these ancient traders.


In 1998, Jobling and others completed an investigation looking at whether Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, fathered a son with Sally Hemings, a slave he owned.


Rumours had long existed that they had one or more children. Since Jefferson had no legitimate surname-bearing progeny, the team used samples from descendents of his paternal uncle.


They compared these with descendents of Eston Hemings Jefferson, Sally's last son. The Y chromosomes matched, suggesting Jefferson, or one of his paternal relatives, was Eston's father.


Details appear in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2007/02/06 19:18:04 GMT




From the latest edition of the magazine British Archaeology:

Child's boot and bible found in chimney

A child’s ankle boot holding a miniature bible has been found in a chimney cavity in Ewerby, Lincolnshire, likely placed there to protect the child from evil spirits. The book – said to be an example of the smallest complete bible ever printed – was published in Glasgow by David Bryce and Son in 1901, making this an unusually recent anti-witchcraft deposit.


From the latest edition of the magazine British Archaeology:

Police station had old rifles in foundations


A remarkable haul of 74 guns, including rifles of the type used in the Anglo-Zulu war and one that may have come home with the allied withdrawal from North Russia in 1919, has been found in the foundations of an old Suffolk police station. It offers a chilling insight into the types of weapon in public circulation in the 1920s.


Suffolk county council Archaeological Service had its eye on the site of the former prison and adjacent station in Ipswich, planned for residential development, as some Anglo-Saxon pottery kilns had been found nearby; urns and human bone were recorded when the prison was built in 1786.


"I was visiting the site", says Mark Sommers, "to see how deep the foundations of the police station were, and to assess how much damage was being done by their grubbing out. The rifles had been recovered by the machine operator the previous day".


Taff Gillingham says that several guns were probably destroyed before the driver realised what was happening. "That¹s not the half of it boy", one local told him, "there's much more there".


The guns were all much corroded. They fall into two distinct groups. The first contains some 30 Martini-Henrys from the 1870s and 80s, classic armaments from the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war; several show two Board of Ordnance arrows head-to-head, a government disposal mark. Gillingham thinks these may have come from an armoury in the prison, demolished when the police station was rebuilt in the 1930s. Some of the rifles were in concrete from the station foundations.


The rest, says Gillingham, are ³a real mixture²: a variety of 19th century Martini-Henry carbines (used by police and cadets), Winchesters (³wild west guns²), Boer war souvenirs, an 1850s three band Enfield musket, a first world war German carbine, a Canadian Ross and others including a Mosin Nagant rifle which Gillingham suggests was brought back from Russia in 1919.

This second group, he says, may consist of guns handed in by the public and buried during the years after the government illegalised "war trophies" in 1926.


The Suffolk Archaeological Service will further evaluate the site. As part of the development the old county hall, a listed building which was set against the front wall of the former prison, will be converted for residential use.



From the latest issue of Current World Archaeology:

On the Balearic islands of Mallorca and Menorca, the Balearic “mouse-goat” spent five million years evolving in relative isolation. However these tiny goat like creatures are now extinct. Their extinction appears to be linked to the arrival of humans on the Balearics around 5000 years ago. But why?