Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 15:00 GMT

Stonehenge builders' houses found


The village would have housed hundreds of people (Image: National Geographic)

A huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge has been found, archaeologists have said.


Excavations at Durrington Walls, near the legendary Salisbury Plain monument, uncovered remains of ancient houses.


People seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.


In ancient times, this settlement would have housed hundreds of people, making it the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain.


The dwellings date back to 2,600-2,500 BC - according to the researchers, the same period that Stonehenge was built.


But some archaeologists point out that there are problems dating Stonehenge itself because the stone circle has been rebuilt many times.


Consequently, archaeological material has been dug up and reburied on numerous occasions, making it difficult to assign a date to the original construction.


But Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues are confident of a link.


"In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards," he explained.


The Sheffield University researcher said this was based on the fact that these abodes had exactly the same layout as Neolithic houses at Skara Brae, Orkney, which have survived intact because - unlike these dwellings - they were made of stone.


The researchers have excavated eight houses in total at Durrington. But they have identified many other probable dwellings using geophysical surveying equipment.


In fact, they think there could have been at least one hundred houses.


Animal bones were strewn on the floors of the houses (Image: National Geographic)

Each one measured about 5m (16ft) square, was made of timber, with a clay floor and central hearth. The archaeologists found 4,600-year-old rubbish covering the floors of the houses.


"It is the richest - by that I mean the filthiest - site of this period known in Britain," Professor Parker Pearson told BBC News.


"We've never seen such quantities of pottery and animal bone and flint."


The Sheffield University researcher thinks the settlement was probably not lived in all year round. Instead, he believes, Stonehenge and Durrington formed a religious complex used for funerary rituals.


He believes it drew Neolithic people from all over the region, who came for massive feasts in the midwinter, where prodigious quantities of food were consumed. The bones were then tossed on the floors of the houses.


"The rubbish isn't your average domestic debris. There's a lack of craft-working equipment for cleaning animal hides and no evidence for crop-processing," he said.


"The animal bones are being thrown away half-eaten. It's what we call a feasting assemblage. This is where they went to party - you could say it was the first free festival."


Pigging out


Durrington has its own henge made of wood, which is strikingly similar in layout to Stonehenge. It was discovered in 1967 - long before any houses.


Both henges line up with events in the astronomical calendar - but not the same ones.


Stonehenge is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunset, while Durrington's timber circle is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunrise - they were complementary.


Stonehenge Image: National Geographic


This seems to fit with the idea of a midwinter festival, in turn supported by analysis of pig teeth found at the site.


"One of the things we can tell from the pig teeth we've looked at is that most of them have been slaughtered at nine months. And we think they are farrowing in Spring," he said.


"It's likely there's a midwinter cull and that ties in with our midwinter solstice alignments at Durrington and Stonehenge."


Sacred monument


Professor Parker Pearson believes Durrington's purpose was to celebrate life and deposit the dead in the river for transport to the afterlife. Stonehenge was a memorial and final resting place for some of the dead.


After feasting, he speculated, people travelled down the timber circle's "avenue" to deposit their dead in the River Avon flowing towards Stonehenge. They then moved along Stonehenge's avenue to the circle, where they cremated and buried a select few of their dead.


Excavation at Durrington Walls Image: National Geographic

The researchers say they will find many more houses (Image: National Geographic)

The Sheffield University archaeologist said Stonehenge was a place for these people, who worshipped their ancestors, to commune with the spirits of the departed.


But not all archaeologists agree: "I see Stonehenge more as a living monument," archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richards told BBC News 24.


"So in terms of broad understanding of the landscape I'm not in total agreement."


Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, from Wessex Archaeology, who was not a member of the research team, commented: "There haven't been many excavations near Stonehenge in recent years and the new work will stimulate exciting new theories in coming years.


"But we shouldn't forget that Stonehenge became special when people brought the stones from Wales, 250km away. Some of the answers about Stonehenge aren't just to be found in Durrington, but further afield."


Stonehenge was the largest cemetery in Britain at the time, containing about 250 ashes from cremations.


In a separate area, further up the valley from Durrington Walls, Julian Thomas of Manchester University, discovered two other Neolithic houses. But these were free of rubbish.


The researchers think these dwellings were deliberately kept clean. They could have been home to community leaders, or they might have been sacred sites, where rituals were performed.


Ancient footprints found on Welsh beach

Feb 2 2007

Sally Williams, Western Mail


A BEACHCOMBER claims he has found ancient human footprints dating back 8,000 years, embedded in an ancient Welsh peat bed.


Steve Maitland Thomas was walking on Kenfig Beach, Porthcawl, with his friend John Blundell, when they found a number of ancient size-eight footprints.


He said, "We found the first on January 19, the day after storms had whipped up the sand revealing the bedrock below. The peat beds were formed from the floor of a vast forest, which once stretched right across the valley which now forms the Bristol Channel, until sea levels rose approximately 8,000 years ago."


The next day they found about 10 more footprints, going in both directions, along with smaller ones that could have been made by a child.


"The prints are deeply impressed into the surface, which illustrates their antiquity as the peat beds are now almost rock-hard, having been under tons of sand for the last 6,000 years.


"They have only recently been revealed and will be covered with sand again - hopefully - within the next month or so."



Historic site development fears


Experts and residents near an Anglesey archaeological site, earmarked for a hotel and commercial complex, claim it is in danger of being lost forever.


Enterprise Minister Andrew Davies has ordered the development of Ty Mawr on the outskirts of Holyhead, saying it is crucial to regeneration there.


But there are concerns that historical finds may still lie uncovered there.


The assembly government said the development was a "high priority" to counter job losses in the area.


Ty Mawr has a number of important scheduled monuments including the Trefignaeth Burial chamber.


An archaeological assessment is going on at Ty Mawr before development work gets underway.


Simon Mills, objector

Objector Simon Mills claims more " joined up government" is needed


Neil Johnstone, an archaeologist with the regeneration agency Menter Mon, said that significant finds have already been found in the area and there could be more.


He said: "On Anglesey, what they'll find, by and large, reflects the fact that it was a rural society for most of its existence so they're likely to find evidence of where people lived.


"Possibly prehistoric or even medieval remains of houses and possibly something about their religion and ritual. Burials have turned up in this part of Anglesey before now."


The main interest at Ty Mawr is a roundhouse settlement, probably dating from the later prehistoric/Romano British period.


Work on that has not yet started so its significance has not yet been properly evaluated.


Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, the site's supervisors, said "some interesting enigmatic features have come up which look to be prehistoric but will need confirming by scientific dating".


Work has already started

Work on developing the site is under way


When planning consent was granted for the site, one conditions was that an archaeological assessment be conducted.


This concluded that construction must be shown as "absolutely vital" to justify such a major archaeological loss.


But one local resident and objector Simon Mills said, in his view, the site was being "despoiled" and questioned the way the assembly government manages Wales' historic heritage.


He said: "It seems planning has been given and part of the requirement was to do the archaeological survey.


"If the archaeological survey was done beforehand then artefacts that are brought to light could help save the site and allow the development to go ahead on a non-important site."


A spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly Government said the development of Ty Mawr was a "high priority to counter job losses arising from the Wylfa closure, and the potential Anglesey Aluminium closure.


He said the site was part of an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) but it had been allocated for development around 20 years before the assembly became involved.


Enterprise minister Andrew Davies said the Ty Mawr development was crucial to the future economic well-being of Holyhead and that a management plan drawn up by a team of archaeological consultants would protect whatever was found.




08:00 - 02 February 2007

It was just another day at work for digger operator Bob Gaunt until he spotted something which resembled part of a shattered chimney pot.


But this was at Tidworth on the edge of Salisbury Plain, not far from Stonehenge, and he immediately realised its potential significance.


Eagle-eyed Mr Gaunt, of groundwork contractors Dean and Dyball, jumped from his excavator and told his boss who alerted experts from Wessex Archaeology, based in Salisbury.


Yesterday they revealed that the mysterious shards of pottery were burial pots or urns placed on the graves of three Bronze Age people cremated some 3,500 years ago.


Intriguingly, the pots had been placed upside down on top of the graves.


The remains of another person were found nearby not covered by a pot and instead may have been wrapped in a cloth that has long since rotted away.


The relics date from around the time when Stonehenge was at its peak as a magnificent cultural and religious centre.


They are the oldest archaeological finds from Tidworth and were discovered when Mr Gaunt was demolishing an old military building at the Bhurtpore Barracks in preparation for new Army accommodation.


The site was closed for two days, enabling Wessex Archaeology to remove the urns and the remains to a laboratory.


They are now being studied to establish the age and sex of the dead. Using radiocarbon dating on fragments of charcoal from the funeral pyre experts hope to get a close dating of the finds.


Lieutenant Colonel Mick Roberts, from the Defence Ministry project team, said: "The finds have now been confirmed as Bronze Age. The site itself has markings that appear to be an ancient ditch which ends next to the urns."


Nick Truckle, project manager at Wessex Archaeology, said: "As the graves are so close together, this small cemetery may have been a family one."


Peter Caddick, project manager for Aspire Defence, praised the way the find had been handled with minimal disruption or delay to the work.



Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 09:39 GMT

Ancient homes found in road dig


Ancient settlements from Roman times and the Iron Age have been found by the side of a major road development.


Archaeologists were called in to survey the A66 in North Yorkshire to ensure nothing valuable would be destroyed.


Their work has now uncovered the remains of a roundhouse, square buildings, ditches and pits by the Melsonby crossroads, by Scotch Corner.


The finds are thought to link to a larger settlement which would have been on the other side of the road.


The Highways Agency wants to upgrade the section of road, between Scotch Corner and Carkin Moor, from a single to dual carriageway.


The project is expected to cost £22m and should be finished by the end of the year.


Roman route


The present A66 follows an original Roman route, which dates back to the first century AD.


Experts using metal detectors in the nearby Black Plantation, in Co Durham, have also found a silver christening spoon dating back to the 17th or 18th century.


They said a summary of the findings would be released to the public when the investigations were complete.


Anything of importance would be saved and could be handed to a local museum.


Highways Agency project manager Lynne Biddles said: "It's fantastic that we've been able to uncover all these settlements and artefacts ahead of these schemes.


"We can now piece together the history of this area and preserve it for the wider community to enjoy."



Gilded youth


A sandstone lintel painted with gilded solar child deities was unearthed yesterday at the Temple of Mut in Luxor, reports Nevine El-Aref


Excavators from the Brooklyn Museum stumbled upon the unique lintel painted with five gilded deities during routine cleaning of the precinct enclosure wall of the temple. Topped with a cavetto cornice embellished with painted stripes, the lintel is well preserved. It is framed by rounded moulding and the decoration includes raised relief figures. The five gilded solar deities appear sitting on lotus blossoms against a blue backdrop, representing the sky, each with a finger in its mouth. The first and last are crowned with the sun disk, the second wears a double crown, the third a hem-hem crown and the fourth a two-plumed crown. The golden child gods sit before an offering table to the right of which are two figures, the first an ape, whose face still bears some gilding, wearing a modius and feather with his arms raised in a gesture of worship. Apes are often shown in connection with the sun. The second figure is of the goddess Taweret, crowned with cow's horns, a sun disk and two feathers.


Sabri Abdel-Aziz, head of the Ancient Egyptian Department at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says early studies suggest the lintel may date from the late Intermediate Period. The newly discovered artefact is now being cleaned and restored.



Majestic structure discovered in Ephesus

Friday, February 2, 2007

İZMİR - Turkish Daily News


A structure discovered in the historic site of Ephesus in Western Turkey is believed to have once been a palace inhabited by the governors of the ancient city, researchers said.


The recent excavation and restoration works in Ephesus, where signs of inhabitants go back to 6000 B.C., uncovered a structure near the ancient theater as archaeological works there entered their 111th year, the Anatolia news agency reported this week.


The ancient city was home to numerous restored magnificent huge structures, such as those in the region called Yamaç Evler II (Hillside Houses II), thought to have been inhabited by wealthy families, archaeologist Cengiz İçten said. İçten explained that the discovery of such houses had led them to question, If the rich families lived in such magnificent houses, where were the governors who used to rule the ancient city on behalf of the emperor living?


The supposed governor's house is to the east of the 25,000-capacity ancient theater, İçten added. The importance of the structure's inhabitants is reflected in the building itself, the archaeologist noted. The palace-like structure was built in a way that facilitated its defense.


Recent research by archaeologist Hilke Thur, together with the archeologists' latest findings, also suggests that Roman Emperor Hadrian was the first guest at the palace.


Ephesus was one of the great cities of the Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor, located in Lydia where the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes) flows into the Aegean Sea. It was founded by colonists, mainly coming from Athens. 


The original city of Ephesus was located on low ground and was later completely inundated by the sea. The city was rebuilt by Lysimachus, who destroyed the cities of Lebedos and Colophon in 292 B.C. and relocated their inhabitants to the new city. 


The city bore the title of the first and greatest metropolis of Asia. It was distinguished for the Temple of Artemis, who had her chief shrine there, for its library and for its theater, which would have been capable of holding 25,000 spectators.


The population of Ephesus has been estimated at being between 400,000 and 500,000 in the year A.D. 100, making it the largest city in Roman Asia and one of the largest cities of the day. Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various points while the city was under Roman rule. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes supplying different areas of the city, including four major aqueducts.


Although sacked by the Goths in 263, Ephesus remained the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople, in the fifth and sixth centuries. However, sackings by the Arabs in the year 700 and 716 spurred a quick decline: the city was largely abandoned when the harbor silted up, removing its access to the Aegean Sea. When the Seljuks conquered it in 1090, it was a small village. The Byzantines regained the upper hand in 1100 and kept control of the region until the end of the 13th century. After a short period flourishing under the new rulers, it was definitively abandoned in the 15th century.


The ruins of Ephesus are hugely popular domestic and international tourism attractions, due to their historic significance and easy accessibility from the İzmir airport and the port of Kuşadası.



International Herald Tribune

Rome subway planners struggle to avoid collision between past and future

The Associated Press

Friday, February 2, 2007, ROME


In a city where traffic rumbles past the Colosseum and soccer fans celebrate victories among the remains of the Circus Maximus, it comes as no surprise that relics of the glory that was Rome turn up almost every day — and sometimes get in the way of the modern city's needs.


The perennial tug-of-war between preserving ancient treasures and developing much-needed infrastructure is moving underground, as the city mobilizes archaeologists to probe the bowels of the Eternal City in preparation for a new, 25-kilometer (15-mile) subway line.


Eyesore yellow panels have sprung up over the past months to cordon off 38 archaeological digs, often set up near famous monuments or on key thoroughfares of the already chronically gridlocked historical center.


Rome's 2.8 million inhabitants can rely on just two subway lines, the "Metro A" and "B," which only skirt the center and leave it clogged with traffic and tourists. Plans for a third line that would service the history-rich heart of Rome have been put off for decades amid funding shortages and fears the work would grind to a halt amid a trove of discoveries.


Those discoveries may now be just a shovelful away as archaeologists dig through more than half a million cubic meters (17 million cubic feet) of earth, documenting finds that go from modern to Roman times. They will then sit down with planners of Rome's "Metro C" line to discuss the engineering nightmare of shifting stairwells and redesigning stations to preserve any relics of note.


"It's bit of a slalom to preserve the finds and still get the subway done," said Fedora Filippi, the archaeologist who oversees a dig in front of the baroque church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. "This is the daily life of urban archaeologists who must confront difficult and fascinating sites like this one."


In mid January, working amid the noisy traffic jam created by the dig, Filippi uncovered the massive cement foundations of a Roman public building dating back to imperial times.


Filippi said that further study is needed, but the 4-meter-thick (13-foot-thick) wall could belong to a swimming pool or to a temple dedicated to the goddess Fortune, parts of a monumental complex built in the area by Agrippa, trusted general and son-in-law of Rome's first emperor, Augustus.


Other finds emerging across the city include Roman taverns found near the ancient Forum; cellars of 16th-century palaces located in the middle of Piazza Venezia and Roman tombs found outside the walls containing the remains of two children encased in amphorae.


Under Italy's strict conservation laws, it will be up to the state's archaeological office for Rome to decide whether a find will be removed, destroyed or encased within the subway's structures.


Angry rows between conservationists and urban planners frequently erupt when state archaeologists descend on building sites where finds have been made, snarling or canceling projects.


Countless public and private works have been scrapped over the years in Rome and across Italy, and it is not uncommon for developers to fail to report a find and plow through ancient treasures.


In 1999, the government defied preservationists by going through with a parking garage that sliced through a Roman villa during hurried preparations for the Holy Year celebrations. The decision caused outrage especially due to the previous discovery of mosaics and ceramics from the villa in a garbage dump on Rome's outskirts.


Archaeologists and planners have since learned to work together, said Francesco Rotundi, project manager for Metro C.


"There is an increased awareness on everyone's part," he told The Associated Press during a tour Thursday of the archaeological dig in the historical Piazza Venezia. "Solutions are found, even if they require more time and money."


Pointing to a hand-drawn sketch of the site, Rotundi said planners had already moved a circular underground corridor to avoid destroying the remains of a Renaissance palace located by the dig.


The archaeological probes are needed only to clear the way for stairwells and air ducts, as the line's stations and tunnels in the center will be dug at a depth of 25-30 meters (80-100 feet) — below the level of any human habitation ever, Rotundi said.


The €3-billion (US$3.9-billion) project is due for completion in 2015, but parts of the 30-station line are scheduled to open in 2011, sporting high-tech automatic trains transporting 24,000 passengers an hour.


Locals and visitors say the new subway is painfully needed.


"There aren't sufficient lines to get to all the major attractions," said Steve Scanlan, a 48-year-old Londoner on vacation with his family. "You have to use taxis, buses, which are more troublesome."


But the delays may not be over yet. Archaeologists say no major finds have been unearthed so far, but most of the digs still have to reach the earth strata that date back to Roman times, where plenty of surprises may be lying in wait.


International Herald Tribune Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com



Discovered: Britain's very own Colosseum

Third-century fans flocked to watch gladiators fight in Chester's bloody arena

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Published: 04 February 2007


Archaeologists have discovered that what had been thought to be a relatively small, down-market amphitheatre in Britain was in fact a top-of-the-range, though admittedly more intimate, version of Rome's famous gladiatorial arena.


Indeed, this British Colosseum - in Chester - may well have been built as a replica of the one in Rome, possibly on the orders of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who was in Britain at the time.


Although it was much smaller than the Colosseum, its outer wall appears to have had a blind arcade of 80 arches, giving it a superficially similar appearance to the one in Rome. If the archaeologists' calculations are correct, Rome and Chester were the only places in the Roman world to have amphitheatres with that number of arches.


Chester's inhabitants appear to have been enthusiastic supporters of their Colosseum. Evidence suggests that the audience gorged on salmon, oysters, hazelnuts, venison, lamb, pork, beef and chicken. The "entertainers" did not have such a good time. The archaeologists - led by Dr Tony Wilmott of English Heritage and Dan Garner of Chester Archaeology - have not only found broken daggers and bits of shattered armour, but also fragments of body parts.


In all, the archaeologists found 10 pieces of human bone - a bit of jaw, a top vertebra, part of a leg and several fragments of skull (two of which show signs of fracture). In the centre of the arena, a large stone block was found with the remains of an iron tethering ring set in it. It is likely that victims were tied to it while trying to protect themselves against wild animals.


The gladiatorial contests must have been important for the local economy. Outside the building, traders built ovens to meet the demand for roast meat, and stalls almost certainly sold gladiator-related souvenirs.


The amphitheatre, built about AD100, was completely rebuilt about 100 years later to resemble a scaled-down version of Rome's Colosseum.


Culture Minister announces plans to list 3rd Century AD Roman Temple of Mithras in London

DCMS press notice

Date: January 25, 2007


Culture Minister David Lammy has announced that the Temple of Mithras, Queen Victoria Street in the City of London is to be listed at Grade II.


This mid 3rd century AD structure is the only known Mithraeum from Roman London and one of only a handful discovered in Roman Britain. It was one of the most important and popular archaeological discoveries of the immediate post-War era - crowds queued for hours for a chance to visit the site when it was excavated.


The temple was rediscovered and excavated in the 1950s due to the redevelopment of the City of London, which was badly damaged by a severe German bombing raid in 1941. It was then reconstructed in 1960s in its current location at Bucklersbury House. The Roman fabric is of definite historical and architectural importance notwithstanding the fact that it was reconstructed in the 1960s. The listing of the temple will confirm the significance of the structure in a national and local context, and it will also allow the measured assessment of the future display of the structure.


David Lammy, Culture Minister said:


"This temple is a highly significant remnant of Roman London representing the only known Mithraeum in the City. It has been a great archaeology learning tool in the heart of London and it will now be preserved for future generations.


"Listing is a tool for management of the historic environment not a tool for its absolute preservation and the proposal to relocate and reconstruct the Temple in its original site can now be considered in that context."


Notes to editors:


1. The main purpose of listing a building is to ensure that care will be taken over decisions affecting its future, that any alterations respect the particular character and interest of the building, and that the case for its preservation is taken fully into account in considering the merits of any redevelopment proposals.


2. Further details of English Heritage's recommendations can be obtained from Historic Environment Designation Branch, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH.


3. Details of the Roman Temple:


The Roman Temple was dedicated to the worship of Mithras.

Constructed circa AD 240-250. Probably dedicated to Bacchus from the early 4th century until falling out of use in the late 4th century.


MATERIALS: Rubble stone walling of Kentish Ragstone with tile banking.

Ashlar quoins, column bases, door cill and jambs. The foundations and the first few courses above ground have been reconstructed using modern mortar.


PLAN: Rectangular aisled plan with a projecting apse at the north end.

One entrance to the south through a central doorway. The reconstruction is some 6m above and 75m to the north west of its original site. The orientation of the reconstruction also differs from the original where the apse formed the western end of the Mithraeum. The temple as displayed is broadly that of the mid-3rd century.


EXTERIOR: Rubble stone walling with ad hoc tile banding; tile and ashlar quoins. The projecting apse is externally supported by three solid buttresses. INTERIOR: Raised side aisles separated from the nave by sleeper walls originally surmounted by seven stone columns, the locations of which are indicated by stone bases (not original). Raised dais which would have held the cult statue and Tauroctonos (bull-slaying scene). Stone slab in the floor south of dais (not original). Stone lined square well at the north end of the west aisle.


HISTORY: The Mithraeum was constructed in the mid-3rd century AD, continuing in use until the late 4th century although it had probably been converted to the worship of Bacchus from the early 4th century onwards. It survived as a standing ruin into the Anglo-Saxon period.

Rediscovered and excavated by Grimes 1952-1953 as a result of bomb damage clearance in preparation for the redevelopment of the Bucklersbury House site. Partially moved to its present site in 1962 where original fabric was used to form a reconstruction of the Mithraeum. The artefacts from the excavation, including high quality sculpture such as the head of Mithras, are now in the care of the Museum of London.


4. The criteria for listing are set out in Section 6 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15).


Public Enquiries: 020 7211 6200



Workmen uncover leper grave

Jan 30 2007 By Jane Stirland


HUMAN bones, thought to be from medieval lepers, have been found during renovation work at a Coventry pub.


The grisly discovery was made by builders during excavations at the Four Provinces in Allesley Old Road, Chapelfields.


Work has now been halted while archaeologists probe the site.


Publican Kieran Connolly said: "The builders were digging up the foundations of the gents toilets and kitchen when they found the bones.


"They are now in the hands of archaeologists at the city's Herbert museum and we have been told to stop work at the site until they have investigated.


"We understand the bones are about 900 years old and are likely to be from lepers.


"There are several leg bones, a jaw bone still with one or two teeth in it, a cranium bone from the top of a skull and femur and foot bones.


"We weren't too surprised when we found them as we knew there was once a leper chapel in Chapelfields.


"We knew they weren't recent bones as they were clearly very old and crumbling and must have been under the foundations of the building for a very long time."


George Demidowicz, who leads the conservation and archaeology team at the city council, confirmed that the bones are medieval and are likely to be from lepers.


He said: "It was a condition of planning consent for the building work at the pub that we should be able to investigate the site as we suspected finds were likely.


"It is exciting for us as this is the first real evidence we have unearthed to confirm what we have long expected.


"We know there was a leper colony in the area and that there was a leper chapel at what is now the junction of Allesley Old Road and Hearsall Lane.


"The last building on the site survived until the early 19th century when it was still in use as a barn.


"We will be carrying out further investigations and are hopeful of further finds."



New piece of Castle's history falls into place

ADRIAN MATHER (amather@edinburghnews.com)


FOR years it has lain forgotten, buried beneath the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.


Built after the Castle was seized twice in ten years, first by the Covenanters and then by Oliver Cromwell's forces, the two-metre thick defence wall became the impenetrable gateway to the stronghold for more than a century.


But after being built over in the 1700s and 1800s as the present Castle Esplanade started to take shape, it was thought to have been lost forever.


But archaeologists tunnelling beneath the Esplanade have been surprised and delighted to discover sections of the 350-year-old defences still intact. They have hailed the find as proof there could be more secrets left to unearth beneath the ancient landmark.


Peter Yeoman, senior archaeologist for Historic Scotland, which owns the attraction, said: "This discovery is very exciting because it shows just how much more history still remains beneath Edinburgh Castle.


"We knew that there had been an outer defence wall there between the 17th and 19th centuries, but we never expected to find any remains of it at all.


"It would have been built after the sieges of 1640 and 1650, when the Castle was taken by the Covenanters and Oliver Cromwell respectively, and would have been used as its main artillery defence.


"It would also have been heavily damaged during the three-month siege of 1689, when James II had fled from Britain and the Castle was his last remaining stronghold in Britain.


"But by the 19th century the Castle had no real practical use for those kind of defences and the new gatehouse was built in its place. We thought the old walls had vanished for ever, so we were amazed to find parts of them still deep underground."


At an impenetrable two metres thick, the walls would have replaced the previous Spur bastion which extended out on to the Esplanade, and heralded a shift in function for the Castle - as it became a garrisoned fortress and "the chief magazine for the arms and ammunitions of the nation".


The excavation site beneath the gatehouse is only accessible through a narrow tunnel, which makes it impossible to open up the dig as a permanent attraction.


However, the tunnels may remain open so visitors can be taken to see the remains on special occasions, such as the annual Doors Open Day.


The archaeological probe has been taking place since last September, as part of an ongoing, £2.7 million project to build a new visitor reception area at the Castle.


The project will include a new ticket office and terrace, effectively transforming the visitors' view of the Castle's main entrance by removing the existing ticket office from the Esplanade.


Barbara Smith, executive manager at Edinburgh Castle, said: "We are thrilled about the discovery. Edinburgh Castle is full of hidden treasures, and the latest investigations have shown we still have a lot more to find.


"It illustrates just how much the Castle has adapted over the centuries, altering its function to suit the changing times. The development of the new visitor reception area will assist the Castle in its present-day purpose and add another chapter to its story."


Previous archaeological excavations have found remains dating back as far as the late Bronze Age from around 900BC.



Shackled skeleton found in Ávila

By h.b. Wed, 31 Jan 2007, 14:05


A skeleton tied up with shackles and chains and thought to date from the Middle Ages has been found in an archaeological dig in Ávila, behind the city’s Church of San Pedro.


It’s the second such find in the city, although coming in a different place, and it has led experts to think that death occurred during some form of punishment.


Tomorrow, Thursday the latest find will be taken to the Provincial Museum where the skeleton will be studied and protected.


The Municipal Archaeologist, Rosa Ruiz, said it was from before the 16th century and after the 13th.


© typicallyspanish.com



Sunday, February 4, 2007

Last modified Tuesday, January 30, 2007 9:16 AM PST

Research team discovers village

OSU News Service


A team of researchers, led by Oregon State University anthropologist Deanna Kingston, has discovered a prehistoric village on a tiny island in the Bering Sea. The archaeological site, shown by carbon dating to be 800 to 900 years old, indicates that King Island, Alaska, was inhabited by Inupiat walrus hunters for at least a millennium.


The effort is part of a four-year study of the plants, birds, place names, dialect and culture of King Island, supported by two grants from the National Science Foundation, one for $540,000 and another for $23,000. Kingston — whose team includes an archaeologist, an ornithologist, a botanist, a linguist and 30 elder King Island volunteers — is working to preserve the traditional ecological knowledge of King Islanders, who today use their homeland only as a seasonal hunting camp.


“Like many other Alaska native communities, King Islanders possess deep and unique knowledge about the natural world upon which they have depended for centuries,” said Kingston, whose mother grew up on the island.


“They lived on the ice and the land for generations, but their culture is now threatened by a rapidly changing climate that is melting the ice and pushing walruses farther and farther offshore.”


Kingston last visited Alaska in December to work on a map with Inupiaq elder Teddy Mayac and a group of others who grew up on King Island. Together, they have mapped almost all 150 place names so far.


“My team (including brother Scott Kingston and graduate research assistant Kai Henifin) made audiotapes of the elders pronouncing some of the names of all the places,” Kingston said, noting that only about 100 native speakers are living today. “We would like to keep some aspect of the language alive, so having the pronunciation recorded is very important.”


Kingston plans to release a DVD for King Island community members in late 2007 documenting the data and knowledge gathered by the team.


One of Kingston’s biggest rewards was bringing elder community members back to the island to assist with the research. King Island has not been inhabited since 1966.


“Other than the hunters who still go back regularly, many of the elders had not been there in many years,” she said. “People noticed birds on the island that were never there before, which could be a result of climate change.”


The key, says Kingston, is to document as much of the knowledge of the King Islanders as possible before it is lost.




OSU anthropologist Deanna Kingston’s work with the King Islanders is the cover story of OSU research magazine Terra’s newest issue. For more, see http://oregonstate.edu/terra.



Island yields hidden secrets of yesteryear

By PHIL MCCARTHY - The Southland Times, Saturday, 3 February 2007


A team probing the hidden secrets of Codfish Island has come up trumps – finding remnants of an 1800s home built on top of what could be a 700-year-old Maori settlement.


Among other finds, the team also discovered penguin was a common menu item for settlers on the island, north-west of Stewart Island.


A team of 11 archaeologists, a botanist and geomorphologists headed to the island last month as part of a Department of Conservation and Whenua Hou Joint Management Committee initiated project.


Otago University archaeologist Ian Smith and former Australian National University archaeologist Athol Anderson led the team.


The focus was to excavate areas and learn about occupation in the past by Maori and sealers who settled there in the early 1800s.


DOC Southland spokeswoman Rachael Egerton said one site that had been settled both in the 1800s and seemingly several hundred years ago had provided plenty of excitement.


An auger had been used to remove cross sections of earth that had provided clues about activities down the years, she said.


Among significant finds were a greenstone pendant, smoking pipes and very old stone blades. Fragments of glass, ceramics, stones sourced from throughout New Zealand and remnants of bird and fish bones had also been uncovered, Ms Egerton said.


"We got much more than we were anticipating."


Mr Smith said the dig was among the best he had been on in.


The 1800s home still had a chimney partially intact, while a totara floor was uncovered about 15cm beneath the surface. The discovery of the older Maori settlement beneath included bird bones, which indicated the inhabitants had eaten penguins and other birds as well as fish and seals. The bones could reveal a lot about species present at the time, he said.


The island was one of two significant early contact points between Maori and pakeha in New Zealand.


The recovered items would take about six months to analyse.



Decrypting old bones

Archaeologists investigate St. Luke's church-floor grave for the information hidden in a wealthy colonist's bones.


January 30, 2007ISLE OF WIGHT


A Smithsonian Institution scientist shrugged off claustrophobic working conditions Monday to recover the remains of a late-1600s skeleton buried under the floor of America's oldest standing English church.


Scuttling into a shallow cavity under an ancient ledger stone, Brittney Tatchell of the National Museum of Natural History had to lie on her back as she passed dozens of bone fragments to a team of archaeologists and forensic anthropologists waiting inside historic St. Luke's Church.


But the discomfort she endured over a few hours' work could provide a crucial missing link in a landmark study about the physical lives of the early Chesapeake Bay colonists.


"There are a lot of things that you can't get at any other way besides looking at bones," said renowned Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, whose team has studied some 500 sets of skeletal remains over the past decade.


"We do have a few gentry from Jamestown. But most of what we have from Virginia are unidentified indentured servants - and that's where Joseph Bridger comes in. He was one of the 10 wealthiest men in the colony. He was the richest landholder south of the James. And it looks like he's going to provide us with a lot of information."


Born in England in 1628, Bridger came to Isle of Wight just before turning 30 years old. He quickly became a man of unusual political and military importance as well as great property and wealth.


Pious as well as prosperous, Bridger paid for St. Luke's well-appointed interior woodwork and the third floor of its distinctive bell tower. His generosity is still remembered by a late Victorian stained-glass window installed above the altar space of the church.


But it wasn't until more than 60 of his descendants began talking about organizing an archaeological study of Whitemarsh - the old family property located about two miles from the church - that Williamsburg-based archaeologist Merry Outlaw saw the potential for adding her prominent ancestor to Owsley's study.


She arranged a February 2006 meeting between her kin and the scientist, with whom she has been working for nearly two years. Then she helped obtain their near-unanimous decision to exhume Bridger's remains.


"There's one family member who thinks that we're unleashing the devil. But all the rest of us are on board," she says. "We were hoping that we would recover enough to do a facial reconstruction - and then we'd get to see him face to face."


Not long afterward, Historic St. Luke's Restoration Inc. gave its permission for the work to proceed. But when Outlaw's husband, Alain, began excavating in the floor of the church this past week, he quickly ran into problems. Heating pipes and concrete slabs blocked the path of the excavation beside Bridger's 1686 ledger stone, greatly reducing the team's working space while increasing the difficulty of its labors.


"We knew less about what was below the floor than we would have known doing an outside excavation," he said. "That was part of the challenge."


Still more problems cropped up when Tatchell finally slipped down under the mammoth black basalt tablet and began probing the small brick crypt Monday morning.


"The first bone that she handed up was an animal bone - not a human bone - and it shook me up a bit," Owsley admitted. "But it's clearly a chicken bone - and it probably represents some workman's lunch from many years ago."


Cranial bones, parts of a femur, pelvic bones and numerous other fragments followed, enabling Owsley and assistant Kari Bruwelheide to quickly determine that Bridger was "a big robust man" with a moderately protruding brow and a square, unusually prominent jaw. But because of the losses inflicted when the remains were moved to the church in 1894, it may be impossible to complete a full facial reconstruction.


"You can see the breaks in the bones from when they moved him here," Owsley said. "And it's clear that when they did it, they did it with a shovel."


Despite the damage, the surviving remains could contribute significantly to the data that Owsley and his colleagues have assembled from such historic 17th-century settlement sites as Jamestown and its Maryland counterpart, St. Mary's City.


Assessing the bones through a list of more than 1,500 variables, the scientist hopes to establish Bridger's height and stature as well as numerous elements of his diet and his medical history. He also believes he can determine the cause of the colonist's death and make some estimates about his facial features.


Bridger's identity and high social status will give those findings extra importance, Owsley said, because most 17th-century remains are those of anonymous working-class people. Incorporated in a massive National Museum of Natural History exhibit planned for 2008, they'll help illuminate the physical lives of the early colonists across a wider social spectrum.


"There's a lot written about him as a landholder. But there's not a lot written about him as a physical person," Owsley said. "Now we'll be able to get at that through the legacy written in his bones."