EurekAlert! Public release date: 8-May-2007

Contact: Jerry Barach



The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Tomb of King Herod discovered at Herodium


Jerusalem, May 8, 2007 -- The long search for Herod the Great's tomb has ended with the exposure of the remains of his grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum on Mount Herodium's northeastern slope, Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology announced today.


Herod was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 BCE, who was renowned for his many monumental building projects, including the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the palace at Masada, as well as the complex at Herodium, 15 kilometers south of Jerusalem. .


Herodium is the most outstanding among King Herod's building projects. This is the only site that carries his name and the site where he chose to be buried and to memorialize himself -- all of this with the integration of a huge, unique palace at the fringe of the desert, said Prof. Netzer. Therefore, he said, the exposure of his tomb becomes the climax of this site's research.


The approach to the burial site - which has been described by the archaeologists involved as one of the most striking finds in Israel in recent years - was via a monumental flight of stairs (6.5 meters wide) leading to the hillside that were especially constructed for the funeral procession.


The excavations on the slope of the mountain, at whose top is the famed structure comprised of a palace, a fortress and a monument, commenced in August 2006. The expedition, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was conducted by Prof. Netzer, together with Yaakov Kalman and Roi Porath and with the participation of local Bedouins.


The location and unique nature of the findings, as well as the historical record, leave no doubt that this was Herod's burial site, said Prof. Netzer.


The mausoleum itself was almost totally dismantled in ancient times. In its place remained only part of its well built podium, or base, built of large white ashlars (dressed stone) in a manner and size not previously revealed at Herodium.


Among the many high quality architectural elements, mostly well decorated, which were spread among the ruins, is a group of decorated urns (made in the form of special jars that were used to store body ashes). Similar ones are to be found on the top of burial monuments in the Nabatean world. The urns had a triangular cover and were decorated on the sides.


Spread among the ruins are pieces of a large, unique sarcophagus (close to 2.5 meters long), made of a Jerusalemite reddish limestone, which was decorated by rosettes. The sarcophagus had a triangular cover, which was decorated on its sides. This is assumed with certainty to be the sarcophagus of Herod. Only very few similar sarcophagi are known in the country and can be found only in elaborate tombs such as the famous one at the King's Tomb on Selah a-Din Street in East Jerusalem. Although no inscriptions have been found yet at Herodium, neither on the sarcophagus nor in the building remains, these still might be found during the continuation of the dig.


Worthy of note is the fact that the sarcophagus was broken into hundreds of pieces, no doubt deliberately. This activity, including the destruction of the monument, apparently took place in the years 66-72 C.E. during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, while Jewish rebels took hold of the site, according to Josephus and the archaeological evidence. The rebels were known for their hatred of Herod and all that he stood for, as a "puppet ruler" for the Romans.

An illustrated side view of Herod's sarcophagus, incorporating stone elements of the sarcophagus which were discovered at the site.


The search for Herod's tomb, which actively began 30 years ago, focused until the middle of 2006 at Lower Herodium, in an area which was, no doubt, especially built for the funeral and burial of the king - the "Tomb Estate." In order to reveal there the remains from Herod's days, the expedition was "forced" to first expose a large complex of Byzantine structures (including a church), an effort that demanded many years of digging.


The Tomb Estate included two monumental buildings and a large ritual bath (mikveh) as well as the large route (350 meters long and 30 meters wide) which was prepared for the funeral. When no sign of the burial place itself was found within the Tomb Estate, the expedition started to search for it on the slope of the hill, although there seems to be no doubt that the initial intention of the king was to be buried in the estate and that only in a later stage of his life - apparently when he grew old - did he change his mind and asked to be buried within the artificial cone which gave the hill of Herodium its current volcano-shape.


The main historical source of the Second Temple's days, the historian Josephus Flavius, has described the site of Herodium in detail, as well as the funeral in the year 4 BCE, but not the tomb proper. He wrote as follows:


"The king's funeral next occupied his attention. Archelaus, omitting nothing that could contribute to its magnificence, brought forth all the royal ornaments to accompany the procession in honor of the deceased. The bier was of solid gold, studded with precious stones, and had a covering of purple, embroidered with various colors; on this lay the body enveloped in purple robe, a diadem encircling the head and surmounted by a crown of gold, the scepter beside his right hand.


Around the bier were Herod's sons and a large group of his relations; these were followed by the guards, the Thracian contingent, Germans and Gauls, all equipped as for war. The reminder of the troops marched in front, armed and in orderly array, led by their commanders and subordinate officers; behind these came five hundred of Herod's servants and freedmen, carrying spices. The body was thus conveyed for a distance of two hundred furlongs to Herodium, where, in accordance with the directions of the deceased, it was interred. So ended Herod's reign." Jewish Wars, 1,23,9


Prof. Netzer started his archaeological activity at Herodium in 1972, at first on a small scale. The scope of his work widened with the decision to turn Herodium (the mount together with Lower Herodium) into a national park, which was due to occupy 125 acres. (Until that stage only the mount was proclaimed as a national park and was operated by the Nature and Parks Authority.)


The enlargement of the park started in 1980; unfortunately the activity at the site stopped as a result of the first Intifada, but not before the complex of tunnels from the days of Bar-Kokhba, within the mount, were opened to the public. The archaeological excavations at the site, which also stopped in 1987, were renewed 10 years later and continued until 2000, and after a second break, were renewed at the end of 2005.


Prof. Netzer gained his first "intimate" acknowledgement of Herodian architecture while joining Prof. Yigael Yadin (in 1963-66), in his expedition at Masada. Netzer's Ph.D. dissertation in archaeology, guided by Prof. Yadin, brought him to initiate excavations both at Lower Herodium and at Jericho – at the complex of Hasmonean and Herodian Winter Palaces. (The site at Jericho, following Netzer's excavations, includes three palaces of Herod and a hitherto unknown large complex of Hasmonean winter palaces). Additional Herodian structures in other parts of the country were also uncovered by him. He has written various books and articles on the topic of Herodian architecture.


Yaakov Kalman, archaeologist and farmer, participated in many excavations throughout the country and took an active part in Netzer's excavations at Masada, Jericho and Herodium. Roi Porath took an active part in the survey of the Judean Desert caves and has many significant finds in his record.


The current excavations benefited from donations of private individuals, and the assistance of the Israel Exploration Society and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.



In the enlightened world it's called robbery

By Benny Ziffer


The discovery of Herod's tomb, or to be more precise a few fragments of dressed stone that one archaeology professor has concluded are the remains of Herod's sarcophagus, have preoccupied television news and magazine programs since Tuesday. Amid the general zeal of the Londons and the Kirschenbaums and their talking-heads colleagues for demonstrating their mastery of the history of the Second Temple period, and to revive debates from their youth movement days over whether Herod was good or bad for the Jews, one important detail was forgotten, or almost forgotten: that the excavation of this tomb of Herod was carried out in occupied territory, where Israel has no moral right to dig and certainly not to remove archaeological artifacts. In the enlightened world, what Israel is doing is called robbery.


According to Israeli law, of course, the robbery is organized and supported by state officials bearing the title of junior staff officer for archaeology. Below them or alongside them in the hierarchy there are others, such as director of the Gush Etzion Field School. All these idealists expressed their happiness that day, in front of the television cameras, at the exciting discovery at Herodium, because it is another nail in the hold of the eternal Jewish people on its eternal land on the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the land, etc. etc.


The cameras did not conceal the fact that the excavation of the sarcophagus and the surrounding buildings was carried out on the territory of a populated Palestinian village. But when Prof. Ehud Netzer, the excavator who sought and found, appeared on Tuesday evening on the aforementioned news magazine "London and Kirschenbaum," (Israel Channel 10, 7 P.M.), or on Channel 1 news (9 P.M.), none of the interviewers thought to ask him about the legitimacy of the dig and about the egregious gap between the academic faculty ranks and physical coercion.


The only ones who exhibited a certain degree of sobriety among the general euphoria were (for a change) Gadi and Yonit on Channel 2 news, who rightfully mentioned the presence of a military force in the Herodium area. Even they could see that the armed soldiers strolling through the Palestinian village were not there out of scientific curiosity.


It would appear that the ideological bias flows almost naturally from the basic immorality of excavating in occupied territory: The rush to declare that this is Herod's grave recalls various vain attempts by local archaeologists to deceive the world with sensational discoveries that have little connection to reality and which dissipate like soap bubbles: beginning with the dubious Josiah inscription, which turned out to be a forgery; continuing with the fraudulent James Ossuary, reputed to be that of Jesus' brother; the family tomb of Jesus' family, that recently caused a baseless sensation; not to mention the cave discovered in the Judean Hills a couple of years ago, which, based on a few blurred carvings on its walls, was attributed to John the Baptist, with the same certainty and insistence that the same Jerusalem professor is now attributing four broken stones to Herod.


It is important to point out the accepted ritual, or quasi-ritual, that occurs on television when it is obliged to cover archaeology news. They are informed of a sensational find, and duly pass this information on to the audience, always with a festive announcement by the news anchor about something being discovered "after 2,000 years." In the case of Herod's tomb, the majesty of royalty was added to the proceedings, together with a longing for the days of splendor, as it were, of Herodian rule. And everyone was happy and proud to contribute information about the great king, who "as we know" murdered his wife and children, and worshiped his mother, as if to say: "Look, we had our very own King Henry VIII."


The scientific community used to mock Romanian archaeologists, who during the Ceausescu dictatorship were forced to describe every find that fell into their hands as Romanian-Dacian, in order to serve the national ideology that defined the Romanians as the direct descendants of the Dacians, who fought valiantly against Emperor Trajan. Archaeology was distorted in other ways in other unfree countries, but it was almost always distorted. Here in Israel there is ostensibly no dictatorship, but there is a great deal of motivation to grab at any straw in order to distort. On Tuesday, this straw was the remains of the tomb of an invented King Herod. How is that different from those same vain beliefs in the grave of this unknown tanna [Mishnaic sage] and that anonymous amora [Talmudic sage], when it is clear to any intelligent person that they are apparently nothing more than the graves of sheikhs that were Judaicized by officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry?



Work begins to uncover secrets of Silbury Hill

By Richard Savill

Last Updated: 2:26am BST 12/05/2007


Work began yesterday to save an ancient landmark in Wiltshire from collapsing.


Cutaway drawing through Silbury Hill


Silbury Hill, which at 130 feet high is the largest prehistoric man-made construction in Europe, continues to mystify archaeologists.


English Heritage is to spend £600,000 this summer trying to preserve the mound.


Specialist engineers will enter the mound through a tunnel which was dug in 1968 by a team led by the archaeologist, Prof Richard Atkinson. That tunnel was the last of three made over two centuries by archaeologists.


The original purpose and use of the hill, which is south of the village of Avebury, is still a mystery. Theories suggest it was either a burial mound, a solar observatory or a representation of a Neolithic goddess.


"It is very unlikely we will ever know why it was built," said Robert Bewley, English Heritage regional director for the South West.


"But this project may give us a better idea of when it was built and how it was built. That could provide us with further clues as to why it was built."


On Thursday archaeologists found the small end of an antler outside the tunnel. "This shows they could only use the antlers of deer and pickaxes," Mr Bewley said. "Their tools were very simple so it was a phenomenal achievement to build a mound like that.


"We know from Prof Atkinson's investigation there were at least two phases of construction. We hope to clarify how long it took to build the mound, which may have been a generation or more."


Engineers yesterday prised open the door of the 1968 tunnel. They will repack every inch of the 40-year-old tunnel as they withdraw to make sure it is stable. A number of craters on the hill will also be refilled.


Earlier this year, archaeologists found traces of a Roman settlement at the landmark. They believe the site may have been a place of pilgrimage 2,000 years ago.


Mr Bewley said: "The hill has been a stunning part of the Wiltshire landscape for 4,400 years and we hope the work we do this summer will stabilise its structure and keep it safe for many years to come."



China's Great Wall rediscovered

May 09 2007 at 02:57PM


Chinese archaeologists have discovered a section of the Great Wall straddling the Mongolian border that is the northernmost remnant of the landmark yet found, state media reported on Wednesday.


The remnants of the wall, found in the Bayannur district of China's Inner Mongolia region, measures 2,3m wide and about 1,15m high, the Beijing News reported.


Built 2 100 years ago during the Han dynasty, the section also would likely be one of the oldest sections of the wall, which was begun in the reign of the emperor Qin Shi Huang, which began in 221 BC


The wall, constructed of stones, was found by a joint team headed by the People's University's School of History, the paper said. No other details were provided.


Built and rebuilt over the centuries, the Great Wall was intended as a defence against northern barbarians.


Less than 2 500km remain of the original 6 300-km structure, one of China's top tourist attractions and a World Heritage Site. - Sapa-AFP



Archaeologists Discover Precious Chinese Antiques On Sunken Ship

May 9, 2007 2:18 p.m. EST

Shaveta Bansal - AHN Staff Writer


Haikou, China (AHN) - Archaeologists in China on Tuesday finished the excavation of a sunken 13th-century ship and recovered over 10,000 pieces of antique Chinese pottery and porcelain. The 55-day salvage plan started this year, more than a decade after a group of Chinese fishermen stumbled upon the shipwreck 10 feet below the surface of the water near Huaguang Reef.


"What we found from the shipwreck on Huaguang Reef No.1 are pearls of the ancient Silk Road on the sea," Zhang Wei, the lead archaeologist in the excavation mission, told the Xinhua new agency.


"It is first time we have found such precious antiques in the high seas," he said.


Experts believe the wooden merchant vessel belonged to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) in the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, and the discovery provides important evidence that there was an established trade route between China and the rest of the world even at that time.


"The fragments serve as a testimony that Chinese people lived and traded around the Xisha Islands during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) Dynasties," Zhang said.


According to Zhang, the ship had been subjected to damage by looters but its lower part is in good shape.


Scientists believe the ship might have set sail from present-day Fujian province along China's southeastern coast, but the destination of the ill-fated vessel remains unclear.



Spaniards search for legendary Tartessos in a marsh

By Sinikka Tarvainen May 11, 2007, 11:28 GMT


Madrid - Where was the capital of Tartessos, the legendary pre-Roman civilization which once existed on the Iberian Peninsula?


The culture which flourished from around 800 to 500 BC is believed to have been located mainly around the present-day cities of Cadiz, Seville and Huelva in southern Spain, but no traces of a major urban settlement have been found.


Now, however, scientists have discovered surprising clues to where a major Tartessian city may have been, the daily El Pais reported.


Its ruins could lie in the subsoil of a marsh area known as the Marisma de Hinojos in the Donana National Park near Seville, according to the daily.


Chief researcher Sebastian Celestino declined to comment on the report. His team will give details once the investigation is finished, a representative of the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.


For years, satellite and aerial images of the Marisma de Hinojos have revealed strange circular structures of different sizes - up to 200 metres in diameter - and rectangular forms.


The area is under water in wintertime, and until now, scientists had thought it had always been inundated.


That had made most of them skeptical of the possibility that the forms visible from the air could be remains of a human settlement buried in the subsoil.


Yet new evidence has now emerged, with electro-magnetic tests indicating that the area may have experienced long dry periods, according to El Pais.


In the bottom of the marsh, there are layers that appear to contain concentrated sand, the daily quoted researcher Antonio Rodriguez as saying.


If the area had always been submerged, the subsoil would only contain mud instead of sand.


Scientists think they stand a fair chance of finding archaeological remains in the marsh, though the link with Tartessos remains a mere hypothesis for the time being.


Knowledge about Tartessos had so far been based mainly on Greek and Latin literary sources, which described it as a civilization on the edge of the known world.


Often identified with Tarshish mentioned in the Bible, the kingdom traded profitably with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and may even have discovered a route to Britain.


Some researchers equate Tartessos with Atlantis, the utopia described by the Greek philosopher Plato, which is said to have sunk into the sea.


Tartessos disappeared mysteriously around 500 BC. Some believe it was destroyed by the Carthaginians, but the new geological evidence from the Marisma de Hinojos makes it look possible that two tsunamis wiped out the settlement located there, according to El Pais.


Some remains identified with Tartessos have been found, including a palace-sanctuary near Badajoz and a necropolis in Huelva, but no major urban settlement.


As the next step, scientists intend to make a hole 7 metres deep into the marshland to see what - if anything - lies underneath.


If the remains of a Tartessian city were found, that might bring invaluable information to historians divided over whether Tartessos had an identity of its own, or whether it was just an extension of the Phoenician civilization.



Ancient Romans built their towns based on astronomical grids

Washington, May 9


Ancient Romans built their towns using astronomically aligned grids, a recently concluded Italian study has revealed.


As part of the study, researchers examined the orientation of some 38 towns in Italy, and found that all of them followed strong symbolic aspects linked to astronomy.


"It emerged that these towns were not laid out at random. On the contrary, they were planned following strong symbolic aspects, all linked to astronomy," said Giulio Magli of the mathematics department at Milan's Polytechnic University.


While ancient Roman writers, including Ovid and Plutarch, have documented how the foundation of a new town took into account the flight of birds and other astronomical references, "however, the link between Roman towns and sky symbolism has never been fully investigated," Magli said.


The Romans founded many towns, or colonies, especially during Rome's Republican period and the first Imperial period, roughly from the 5th century BC to the 1st century AD, and their layout inspired by the so-called castrum (a military camp), was nearly always the same.


The city consisted of a rectangle bounded by walls, with streets organized in a grid to form various residential quarters (insulae). Two main roads, called cardus and decumanus, criss-crossed the whole city, their intersection forming what would be termed in today's architectural parlance as the city centre. Four main gates placed at their ends completed the structure.


Magli however, did not examine the orientation of Pompeii, since the Romans later modified the city's layout in such a way that the city's two main became inconspicuous.


"I did not take into consideration all the Roman towns, but only those in which at least the two main roads are still clearly discernible," Magli said.


However, among the towns with two clear main roads, Magli looked at the orientation of grids' axes in relation to the movement of the rising sun at the eastern horizon over the course of the year.


Extraction of this orientation from available archaeological maps, or by using a precision magnetic compass on site, revealed that only three towns oriented toward the north: Pesaro, Rimini and Senigallia, all of which lay relatively close to the west coast of central Italy.


Two towns in northern Italy, Verona and Vicenza, lay near the summer solstice sunrise line. Geographically close, they were founded in the same period, the study further revealed.


"It emerged that the majority of Roman towns in Italy are aligned to sunrise, in relation to important sacred festivals or to the cardinal points," Discovery News quoted Magli as saying.


All the other towns studied were also found to be oriented either within 10 degrees southeast of sunrise, or near the winter solstice sunrise.


"Given these results, we can say that Roman towns in Italy are not randomly oriented. This will help us understand what kind of astronomical knowledge the Romans had," said Magli.


"It is interesting research. It certainly opens the way to more extensive studies," added Manuela Incerti, of Ferrara University's architecture department.


The study is part of a wider research published in Magli's book "Secrets of the Ancient Megalithic Towns," on the physics Web site, www.arXiv.org, maintained at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.



Romans’ second fort a thrilling idea

May 10 2007

Western Mail


A SECOND Roman fort has been found in Monmouth, in what the town’s archaeological society describes as one of the most thrilling Roman discoveries in South-East Wales for many years.


Archaeologists have long known of the existence of a large, “vexillation” fort in the town centre, dating from about AD50, but excavations over the past 25 years have hinted at a smaller, later, second fort. Now its existence has been confirmed thanks to earthworks for a building on land owned by the chairman of Monmouth Archaeological Society, Steve Clarke.


The “auxiliary” fort may have housed up to 500 soldiers. It was built about AD100, after the Romans had suffered heavy casualties in a 30-year war against Welsh guerrillas. It may still have been occupied alongside the industrial town of Blestium (Roman Monmouth) in the 3rd century.



Bush tours Jamestown on 400th anniversary

Sun May 13, 2007 6:46PM BST

By Tabassum Zakaria


JAMESTOWN, Virginia (Reuters) - President George W. Bush toured Jamestown on Sunday to mark the 400th anniversary of the English settlement, saying the United States must continue to stand by countries struggling for freedom.


Bush and his wife Laura toured an archaeological site at Historic Jamestowne where exactly 400 years ago settlers from England landed along the James River after sailing across the Atlantic in 1607 and established the first permanent English settlement in America.


Excavators pulled out a sword hilt, which is the metal cover that protects the hand, dating from 1590-1600 while Bush was visiting the site and showed it to the president. He joked about the timing of the find.


"Just so happened we walked up and they found some artifacts," Bush said later in a speech at a celebration of the anniversary.


But Michael Lavin, senior conservator at the archaeology site, said it was coincidence and that four sword hilts had been discovered in the dig while the Queen was visiting, and two of those were freed from the ground the day of Bush's tour.


The Queen visited Jamestown earlier this month to mark the anniversary of the settlement, which was named after King James I.


Bush said the United States must continue to stand with those struggling for freedom and new chapters in the advance of freedom were opening every day. The president named Georgia, Ukraine, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.


"From our own history we know the path to democracy is long and it's hard. There are many challenges and there are setbacks along the way," Bush said.


But he added: "Liberty is the path to lasting peace."



Mystery of colony's 1st site unearthed

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Michael E. Ruane

Washington Post


Jamestown, Va. -- Once again, the three brave ships will sail the mighty James and moor by Virginia's fair shore.


But this weekend, it will be to the noise of a party -- the 400th anniversary celebration of the first permanent English settlement here in 1607. There will be feasts, music, re-enactments and a visit by President Bush on Sunday.


Yet lost, perhaps, amid the celebration of the famed landings, is an achievement of another kind -- one not of adventure, but of science.


Much that is new and exciting in the story of Jamestown is the result of discoveries made in the past 13 years by a white-haired 66-year-old archaeologist named William M. Kelso, who found something here no other archaeologist had been able to find in a century of looking: The long-lost site of Jamestown's fort.


Kelso's findings, unfolding quietly over more than a decade, take Jamestown's story back to its beginning, experts say, and rank among the greatest in North American archaeology in the past 50 years.


Kelso himself seems astonished. Last week he hosted the queen of England and Vice President Cheney. This week, the president.


On May 14, 1607, after a voyage of almost five months -- attended by what was probably Halley's Comet in the night sky -- a hundred or so colonists came ashore on Jamestown Island. It is now a low-lying 1,500-acre tract of loblolly pines, sweet gum trees and marsh grass on the lower James about 150 miles south of Washington, D.C.


New World was like paradise


They had been attacked by some Indians and befriended by others and had found the land brimming with wildlife, fruit and flowers, like a paradise.


The voyagers located one likely settling spot, but the water was shallow and their ships would have to anchor out in the river. At Jamestown, the river was "six fathom" deep near the shore, one of them wrote later, and the ships could be moored close and lashed to the trees.


The colonists started on the fort the day they landed -- eventually cutting timber and setting logs vertically into the ground side-by-side, according to their later accounts. The fort was "triangle-wise," George Percy, one of the expedition leaders, wrote, "having three Bulwarkes at every corner like a halfe Moone, and foure or five pieces of Artillerie mounted in them."


By mid-June, Percy wrote, the enclosure was complete.


Decades passed. Jamestown grew and became Virginia's capital. In the 1690s, the capital moved to Williamsburg, the fort crumbled, and the island was largely abandoned. As the tide of history swept inland, Jamestown reverted to farmland.


Archaeology here began in the late 1800s. The first dig, conducted from 1893 to 1903, was led by Mary Jeffrey Galt, co- founder of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.


In the mid-1950s, with the 1957 anniversary approaching, the National Park Service, which owns the rest of the island, dug for the fort in three different areas.


None of these efforts found any trace of the fort.


On April 4, 1994, with a new anniversary approaching, Kelso, now the APVA's director of archaeology, jabbed a shovel into the Jamestown turf to begin a new search.


Kelso retains an air of wonder at his good fortune at Jamestown. Archaeologists are seldom so lucky and seldom give tours to visiting foreign monarchs.


The story of his quest, however, is irresistible.


He said he thought: "By God, I'm not going to go to my grave saying, Why didn't I take a shot at that?' "


Kelso said most people thought the Jamestown fort must have been erected near the spot where the colonists tied their ships. That had to be in deep water where the river channel once ran close to the island. But 25 acres of that section had long since washed away, he said.


Among other things, Kelso said, he reread the account of the deep-water landing and thought: "They didn't say they put the fort there; they said they LANDED there."


Church proves key to the mystery


There also was an ancient Jamestown map, apparently drawn in 1608 by Spain's ambassador to Britain, which included a crude rendering of a triangular fort.


And there were remains of an old church about 50 yards from the river, which Kelso figured might be on the site of an earlier church that was said to have been in the middle of the fort.


"The whole key to digging here was the church," he said. Churches might be rebuilt over time, he reasoned, but they are seldom moved far from their original site.


He started digging between the church and the river, guessing that he might intersect with evidence of one wall of the fort.


Within weeks, he said, he had: a straight line of discolored earth that contained precise soil imprints probably made by the decayed wood of side-by-side vertical timbers set in a trench about 2½ feet deep.


Painstaking excavation over the next few years gradually revealed similar evidence of the other two walls and outlines of parts of the bulwarks at the corners, he said.


Not only was the fort site not lost to the river, Kelso said, but 90 percent of it survived -- undiscovered for 400 years.


As the digging expanded, Kelso found evidence of buildings erected within the fort, tens of thousands of artifacts the settlers left behind -- last week it was two ivory chess pieces -- and the remains of about 100 settlers themselves.



Sword, armor found buried inside remains of James Fort


By DIANE TENNANT, The Virginian-Pilot

© May 9, 2007 | Last updated 8:48 AM May. 10


JAMESTOWN - A cache of armor from the early 1600s has been discovered by archaeologists excavating a trash pit inside the remains of James Fort.


Queen Elizabeth II viewed the objects during her visit Friday, observing a broadsword with a basket hilt, an iron pole, the hilt from a rapier and armor pieces that would have protected the thigh.


"It may be like the tip of an iceberg," said William Kelso, director of archaeology for APVA Preservation Virginia, in a news release. "We'll see as we uncover more of it in the next few days."


The armor was partly uncovered last week, about 3 feet below what would have been ground level in the early 1600s.


The pit itself is 19 feet square. Because the layers slump toward the center, archaeologists think it might have been a well that went bad, and was then used for trash.


Glass trade beads, baubles, chess pieces, iron objects and pottery shards have also been found in the pit. Indian artifacts found there include a grinding stone, a bone needle and shell beads.


Animal remains include oysters, sturgeon, crab claws, fish, bird, turtle, deer and goat.


Kelso speculated that it could be the first well dug by colonist John Smith in 1608-09. Archaeologists can date it by the artifacts, which include a coin dated 1613 found near the top, and by the fact that the pit is under the foundation of a building constructed in 1617.


Furthermore, historical accounts mention that military equipment was buried in the fort in June 1610, when the colonists decided to abandon Jamestown after the "Starving Time" winter.


The day after they left, they were forced to return by Lord De La Warre, whose supply fleet coming up the James River met the dispirited colonists coming down.


Archaeologists also plan to work on a site this summer that they hope contains remnants of the first church built for the colony.



Jamestown's "starving time" reveals unsavory tales of cannibalism

By Michael E. Ruane

The Washington Post


The famished Jamestown colonists began by eating their horses. The horses were followed by rats, mice, dogs, cats, snakes and ... boots.


Then they began eyeing each other.


They would later call it the "starving time," winter 1609-10. Some colonists dug their own graves and lay down in them, resigned to death.


They boiled their fancy collars, or ruffs, for the starch. They ate their dead.


George Percy, one of Jamestown's early leaders, in about 1625 provided what is probably the best-known and most gruesome account.


He described a "worlde of miseries" that included hunger-crazed colonists digging up the dead, and one man who killed, "salted" and carved up his pregnant wife for food.


This story was repeated, and luridly embellished, over the years. "Whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado'd [barbecued], I know not," the colony's Capt. John Smith wrote in his version of events about the same time. "Such a dish as powdered wife, I never heard of."


Percy reported he had the unnamed killer hanged by his thumbs to extract a confession, then had him executed for the "crewell and unhumane" act.


By March 1610, more than half — by some accounts, 80 percent — of the settlers had died.


Archaeologists have been wary of the Jamestown cannibalism reports.


"That's tricky to prove," said William Kelso, director of archaeology at the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) and Jamestown's lead archaeologist.


Referring to Percy's story, Kelso said: "I think there was a sort of Jeffrey Dahmer-type guy that was there. Somebody that was insane ... somebody that's just totally twisted and they get under stress and they do something like that.


"But I don't think ... [the colonists] all sat around chowing down on each other."



Dig uncovers political intrigue


A corner of north Antrim near Torr Head has been uncovered as an unlikely site of 17th century political intrigue.


Archaeologists have been digging back through the layers of soil to establish the facts of a settlement on the site.


There are the remains of 100 homes on the site on which hundreds of people lived and was possibly an early warning system for Scotland.


The huts were crude and the only remnants now are lumps in the ground.


Little more than piles of turf for the walls and roof, a simple doorway on either side allowed entire families - complete with animals - to survive the winter.


With row upon row of the huts, the organised nature of the settlement led archaeologist Audrey Harding to believe that this was more than just a temporary summer settlement for Irish farmers.


She said the presence of cultivation ridges and the density of the houses suggested those on the site were not just there for part of the year.


"It was a very, very busy bustling kind of place with 500 to 600 people perhaps at times," she said.


"We don't know yet how long it was occupied but certainly there were a lot of crises in the 1630s and 1640s with crops and people going back to Scotland so that may be the end date for the site."


Across the sea from the site is the Mull of Kintyre - just 12 miles away.


When danger lurked huge signal fires would be lit to warn those on the Mull of an impending English attack.


An 18th century map shows the site with a giant flame on the location with the inscription "at this mark the Scots used to make their warning fire".


But eventually the Scots retreated back home.


Their turf huts, or booleys, melted back into the earth, leaving the archaeologists with an historic riddle to solve.