Tuesday, March 29, 2011

English Heritage project: Are historic sites at risk of vanishing forever?

From grand canals and railways to humble harbour walls and overgrown lime kilns, the industrial history that is scattered across our landscape is a rich legacy that forms a vital part of our culture – but is the all-important heritage that tells the story of a nation at work falling apart at the seams?

It is the question English Heritage will be asking in a major project it has just launched to find out how much of our physical history is in jeopardy of neglect, decay or even demolition.

The organisation, which hopes to raise the debate about exactly what needs saving and how, will reveal the results of its Industrial Heritage at Risk research later this year.

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Archaeological Dig At UKCMRI Site Behind British Library

Construction work will soon begin on a world-class medical research centre behind the British Library. The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) will bring together scientists from Cancer Research UK, UCL, Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council in a brand new facility.

Before the builders are let loose, an archaeological dig will scrabble about on the site looking for remnants of yore. Public tours of the dig will be available on 16, 18, 18, 20 and 21 April. An on-site exhibition about the UKCMRI will also be open on 31 March.

So what might the archaeologists find? The land was most recently for industrial goods, including a fish shed and coal depot. Before that, dense rows of housing occupied the site. Perhaps more intriguingly, the area sits very close to the Saxon (possibly Roman) site of St Pancras Old Church, and beside the former banks of the River Fleet. It’s quite possible that ancient remains might lay beneath the top soil.

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£58,000 bronze age windfall for Wiltshire museum

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes has been awarded £58,200 to work on plans to create new Bronze Age galleries.

The money has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund and now the museum will progress to the second stage of the HLF application process.

The project will cost more than £200,000 and the museum, in Long Street, will have to contribute between £20,000 and £30,000.

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2,500-year-old intact human brain found

British archeologists have found that the human brain, which was found intact in a muddy Iron Age pit in the UK, dates back to 2,500 years ago.

Found in 2008, the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain has astonished scientists who could not believe that such a fragile organ had survived for so many years, LiveScience reported.

"It was just amazing to think that a brain of someone who had died so many thousands of years ago could persist just in wet ground," said Sonia O'Connor, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bradford.

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Scientists Trace Violent Death of Iron Age Man

An Iron Age man whose skull and brain was unearthed during excavations at the University of York was the victim of a gruesome ritual killing, according to new research.

Scientists say that fractures and marks on the bones suggest the man, who was aged between 26 and 45, died most probably from hanging, after which he was carefully decapitated and his head was then buried on its own.

Archaeologists discovered the remains in 2008 in one of a series of Iron Age pits on the site of the University's £750 million campus expansion at Heslington East. Brain material was still in the skull which dates back around 2500 years, making it one the oldest surviving brains in Europe.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Cornish stone circle damaged by cattle

Longhorn cattle introduced as part of a Higher Level Stewardship conservation grazing scheme onto Carnyorth Common near St Just (Cornwall, England) have destabilised a stone of the ancient Tregeseal Circle. Two years ago some 4 or 5 stones were loosened for the same reason. Clumps of cattle hair on many stones show that they are using them as rubbing posts. It is only a matter of time before this herd create more havoc.

These concerns were relayed to Natural England several years ago by the Save Penwith Moors group. According to the group, the presence of these animals will not only damage this important archaeological site but, as has been witnessed by local regular walkers of this moor, has also caused a dramatic drop in the number of walkers and horse riders over the past two years.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

2,500-Year-Old Human Preserved Brain Discovered

A 2,500-year-old human skull uncovered in England was less of a surprise than what was in it: the brain. The discovery of the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain prompted questions about how such a fragile organ could have survived so long and how frequently this strange type of preservation occurs.

Except for the brain, all of the skull's soft tissue was gone when the skull was pulled from a muddy Iron Age pit where the University of York was planning to expand its Heslington East campus. [Britain's Oldest Brain Found]

"It was just amazing to think that a brain of someone who had died so many thousands of years ago could persist just in wet ground," said Sonia O'Connor, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bradford. O’Connor led a team of researchers who assessed the state of the brain after it was found in 2008 and looked into likely modes of preservation. [Image of preserved brain]

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Archaeologists unearth 150 Roman graves in Canterbury

Canterbury - An ancient burial ground has been uncovered by archaeologists in the southern England county of Kent. The Roman cemetery dates back to around 290AD.
It was during the late era of the Roman Empire when around 150 men, women and children were buried along St Dunstan's Street, a Roman suburb of Canterbury. The site had been home to Halletts garage for several years before it was pulled down and the local authority prepared the land for housing. That was until a skeleton was discovered by workmen.

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X-ray technique peers beneath archaeology's surface

Striking discoveries in archaeology are being made possible by strong beams of X-rays, say researchers.

A report at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, showed how X-ray sources known as synchrotrons can unravel an artefact's mysteries.

Light given off after an X-ray blast yields a neat list of the atoms within.

The technique can illuminate layers of pigment beneath the surfaces of artefacts, or even show the traces of tools used thousands of years ago.

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Papers from the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium

A Symposium was held at the British Museum in March 2010. Twenty seven papers were delivered and there was much useful discussion. Summaries of many of the papers, together with some of the discussion and subsequent thoughts, will be added to this page over the next few months. In some cases, the embedded images have been processed to allow for a zooming image interface.

Records for the objects in the Hoard are being added slowly, in a skeleton format, which will be enhanced as more data becomes available following research, conservation and time being available to update them. These can all be accessed via our database record for the hoard. The current iteration of the Hoard's website, is going to be superseded shortly by one that has been in development by the Partnership since before Christmas. The old site will still be available via this page and we will shortly be pulling in Flickr images for the Hoard to these pages.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Visitor centre planned for Denbigh Castle

A new visitor facility is to be created at Denbigh Castle, North Wales, after plans to improve the attraction's tourist experience received £600,000 from Cadw.

The funding has been made available through the agency's £19m Heritage Tourism Project, which is supported by £8.5m of European Union investment.

Plans for Denbigh Castle will also incorporate the opening up of wall walks, enhancements to the site's interpretation and upgraded links with Denbigh's wider historic landscape.

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Roman quarry found in Barry, Wales

An archeologist says he has found the remains of a Roman quarry in the old harbor at Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan which provided the limestone for a Roman fort.

Karl-James Langford of Barry says the pottery remains show that the beach man-made walls might date back to 1,900 years ago, the state-funded BBC reported.

The quarry was used until the 19th century, but its origins were unknown.

"It's not in the records - it may have been completely ignored because it's too obvious," Langford said, adding that the quarry was the limestone source for the Roman fort whose ruins can be seen in the walls around Cardiff Castle.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Medieval castle tower to be opened up to the public for the first time

THE last-standing remains of a medieval castle in Lincolnshire will be opened up to the public for the first time.

The South Kyme Tower once formed one of the four corners of a castle, which was built on a Saxon site.

It is believed that the 14th century castle was once visited by Robin Hood and was built by a knight whose signature is on the Magna Carta.

The tower stands on private land and for years has been closed.

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Hoard of necessity coins discovered in Roman workshops

Archaeological excavations carried out in Autun, a suburb of Arroux, in France revealed an ancient quarter composed of craft workshops and fine residences. The workshop of the famous coroplath (figurine maker) Pistillus was discovered, along with a pottery kiln and moulds, complete figurines and failed ones, and signed with the name of the figurine maker.

More than 100,000 Roman coins

During the final weeks of the excavation the archaeologists also found a cache of Roman coins dating to the end of the 3rd century AD which were buried in a pit sealed with tiles.

The small bronze coins were of an ‘unofficial’ type, like many that circulated during the troubled period of the second half of the 3rd century/early 4th century. Internal wars and conflict between contenders to the emperor’s throne, epidemics, the financial burdens of sustaining a large army, pressures at the borders of the Empire, economic crisis, and a host of other troubles meant the Empire was in crisis at this time.

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Roman graves uncovered in Canterbury

Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient burial ground in Kent where around a hundred people were laid to rest.

The site - dating back to the late Roman era - is on the former Hallets garage site in Canterbury's St Dunstan's.

Experts have found hardly any grave goods and since most of the bodies are lying east/west they are believed to be mainly Christian.

The excavation is being carried by Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Archaeological Research To Reveal Hidden Secrets Of Daily Life

A new archaeological research project at the University of Kent will reconstruct urban life in cities such as Constantinople during a period of history that has long remained hidden from view.

Reconstructions of daily life in ancient Roman cities such as Pompeii are plentiful, thanks to centuries of archaeological research. But that is not the case for the later Roman or ‘late antique’ period (AD 300-650) that saw the long transition from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages.

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Neolithic stone axe on Tralee bypass route

THE discovery of a stone axe on the proposed route of the Tralee bypass proves that people lived in the area about 5,000 years ago.

The find was made by a 60-strong Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd group carrying out excavations along the route on behalf of Kerry County Council and the National Roads Design Office.

Senior archaeologist with Headland Archaeology, Patricia Long, said the axe was "fairly common" and dated from the Neolithic era between 3,500 and 2,500 BC.

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Project to record coastline’s history

THE Scottish history and heritage that could be lost to eroding coastlines is to be tracked by a major new project backed by National Lottery funds and hundreds of volunteers.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a £285,000 boost to the plan by the Scape (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) Trust which will manage coastlines and gather information of the heritage at the sea’s edge before it is lost to storm damage and erosion.

Scotland’s coastline is rich in heritage sites, from Neolithic settlements to Viking graves to 19th century fishing boats.

The first strand of the project, ShoreUpdate, will see 350 volunteers trained to become “custodians of our coastline” as coastal heritage stewards.

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Frome Hoard of Roman coins to stay in Somerset

The largest ever collection of Roman coins found in Britain in one pot will stay in the county where it was unearthed.

The Museum of Somerset has raised £320,250 to keep the Frome Hoard. There had been fears it would go to London.

The coins, which date back over 1,700 years, were found last April by metal-detectorist Dave Crisp from Wiltshire.

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‘Talking fires’ link iron age hillforts

A TEST to show how people in the Iron Age communicated using Welsh peaks was yesterday hailed a success.

Scores of volunteers flashed torches to each other from 10 hillforts in North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire. The furthest link spanned 15 miles, between hills at Burton Point on the Wirral and Cheshire’s Maiden Castle.

The experiment was designed to see how easily Iron Age communities could interact from their hilltop homes thousands of years ago.

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Hoard of Roman coins to stay in Somerset

The largest ever collection of Roman coins found in Britain in one pot will stay in the county where it was unearthed.

The Museum of Somerset has raised £320,250 to keep the Frome Hoard. There had been fears it would go to London.

The coins, which date back over 1,700 years, were found last year by metal-detectorist Dave Crisp.

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Money raised for Iron Age gold treasure find

A £1m Iron Age gold hoard found near Stirling by an amateur treasure hunter has been secured for the nation after a fundraising campaign.

The four neck ornaments - or torcs - were unearthed in a field by David Booth in September 2009.

Mr Booth will now receive a payment of £462,000 after National Museums Scotland secured the necessary funds.

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Early Roman site found in Gloucestershire

Cotswold Archaeology have unearthed the remains of the earliest known Roman settlement in the Five Valleys including more than a dozen human burials near Stroud in Gloucestershire, south-west England.

The excavations revealed evidence of some of the earliest Roman activity currently known in the area dating back to the mid to late 1st century AD – not long after the Roman invasion in AD43. There is also some evidence of much earlier activity from the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age and Late Iron Age periods, including a tree throw containing at least four individual Beakers (2600 BC-1800 BC).

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Rare Roman altar stones uncovered in Musselburgh

Two rare, carved altar stones found in East Lothian could shed new light about the Roman period in Scotland, it has been claimed.

The Roman stones were found during the redevelopment of a cricket pavilion in Lewisvale Park, Musselburgh.

Experts said they may help re-write the history books on the Roman occupation of Inveresk.

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The pre-Neolithic in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus

Archaeologists working at the pre-Neolithic site of Rhoudias, situated in the south foothills of the Troodos Mountains next to the Xenos river in Cyprus have recently revealed that this site was repeatedly visited by groups of hunter-gatherers.

The field season was conducted in late November 2010 by a group of postgraduate students from the University of Thessaloniki along with other Cypriot archaeologists and researchers. The director, Professor Nikolaos Efstratiou said the site was part of a route from the coast to the mountains and vice-versa where hunter-gatherers would stay for short periods of time on the journey.

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Mass graves to shed light on Britain's bloodiest battle

More than 28,000 died at Towton, but the Tudors' PR machine almost wiped it from history. Until now...

It was one of the biggest and probably the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil. Such was its ferocity almost 1 per cent of the English population was wiped out in a single day. Yet mention the Battle of Towton to most people and you would probably get a blank stare.

Next week marks the 550th anniversary of the engagement that changed the course of the Wars of the Roses. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 soldiers took part in the battle in 1461 between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne. An estimated 28,000 men are said to have lost their lives.

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Goldfund bei archäologischen Untersuchungen in Zug

Bei archäologischen Untersuchungen im Vorgeld einer grossen Wohnüberbauung im schweizerischen Zug hat die Kantonsarchäologie eine Goldmünze aus dem frühen 16. Jahrhundert gefunden. Die Münze wurde zur Zeit der Renaissance in Bologna geprägt und diente als stabile Handelswährung.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Experts knocked for six by cricket club Roman artefacts

THE secrets of two ancient Roman altars discovered beneath a cricket pavilion in Musselburgh have finally been revealed after painstaking efforts by archaeologists.

Boasting intricate craftwork loaded with religious symbolism, the significance of the stunning stone carvings - unearthed in March last year - could turn out to be so far-reaching as to rewrite the history of the Roman occupation in Scotland.

When discovered during a revamp at Lewisvale Park, the stones were so brittle that experts were unable to analyse them conclusively. Only the backs and sides were able to be viewed until now when it became safe to inspect them fully.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Science friction: Study questions how long ago ancient ancestors learned to use fire

WASHINGTON — A new study is raising questions about when ancient human ancestors in Europe learned to control fire, one of the most important steps on the long path to civilization.

A review of 141 archaeological sites across Europe shows habitual use of fire beginning between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago, according to a paper in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most archeologists agree that the use of fire is tied to colonization outside Africa, especially in Europe where temperatures fall below freezing, wrote Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands and Paola Villa of the University of Colorado.

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All bites are off - fleas did spread plague

COUNTY archaeologists have provided conclusive proof that the plague which wiped out about 60 per cent of the European population in the 14th century was caused by fleas.

Human skeletons excavated from pits near Hereford Cathedral helped scholars at Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service definitively confirm the plague’s origins.

The team were working as part of an international science project in partnership with the University of Mainz in Germany.

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Neanderthals were nifty at controlling fire, says CU-Boulder-led study

But Neanderthal predecessors pushed into cold regions of Europe at least 800,000 years ago without the use of fire

A new study involving the University of Colorado Boulder shows clear evidence of the continuous control of fire by Neanderthals in Europe dating back roughly 400,000 years, yet another indication that they weren't dimwitted brutes as often portrayed.

The conclusion comes from the study of scores of ancient archaeological research sites in Europe that show convincing evidence of long-term fire control by Neanderthals, said Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Villa co-authored a paper on the new study with Professor Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

"Until now, many scientists have thought Neanderthals had some fires but did not have continuous use of fire," said Villa. "We were not expecting to find a record of so many Neanderthal sites exhibiting such good evidence of the sustained use of fire over time."

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Medieval discovery: pottery and leather shoes found in dig

REMNANTS of what appears to have been a medieval mill, including “very well-preserved” timber beams, pottery and leather shoes, have been found underneath Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, Dublin.

The discovery by archaeologists came as part of the mandatory archaeological survey, as work got under way on the construction of a retractable rain-cover over the square. The building works have now been halted.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust is describing the discovery as “very exciting”.

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Neanderthals were nifty at controlling fire, says CU-Boulder-led study

A new study involving the University of Colorado Boulder shows clear evidence of the continuous control of fire by Neanderthals in Europe dating back roughly 400,000 years, yet another indication that they weren't dimwitted brutes as often portrayed.

The conclusion comes from the study of scores of ancient archaeological research sites in Europe that show convincing evidence of long-term fire control by Neanderthals, said Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Villa co-authored a paper on the new study with Professor Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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The Roman Ninth Legion's mysterious loss

The disappearance of Rome's Ninth Legion has long baffled historians, but could a brutal ambush have been the event that forged the England-Scotland border, asks archaeologist Dr Miles Russell, of Bournemouth University.

One of the most enduring legends of Roman Britain concerns the disappearance of the Ninth Legion.

The theory that 5,000 of Rome's finest soldiers were lost in the swirling mists of Caledonia, as they marched north to put down a rebellion, forms the basis of a new film, The Eagle, but how much of it is true?

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Removing bodies from display is nonsense

The removal of long-dead human bodies from view in museums for reburial is based on a warped notion of respect

WHEN I was 10 years old I saw the mummified body of the 4th Earl of Bothwell, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, on display in a church in Fårevejle, Denmark, during a school trip. I still have a clear memory of that day as it kick-started my interest in Scottish history. Some years later the body was removed from public display at the request of Bothwell's descendants, and recently there have been calls for its repatriation to Scotland.

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Iron Age road found in Shropshire by archaeologists

Archaeologists think they may have found evidence that Iron Age Britons were capable of building roads - before the Romans arrived.

Environmental consultants SLR examined a road, thought to be built in the 1st century BC, at Bayston Hill quarry, Shropshire.

Director Tim Malim said the age of the find suggested its construction was not a result of Roman influence.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

More antiquities revealed by Thessaloniki metro

A 4th-century A.D. chapel that may be the oldest Christian place of worship in Thessaloniki was discovered by archaeologists beneath an early Christian basilica, itself unearthed during construction of the Sintrivani metro station in the northern port city.

Among the highlights of the find is a mosaic floor uncovered when structures of the later basilica were removed. This was showed a white field with a clematis theme, dominated by a phoenix with a halo and 13 rays in the centre. On either side are a number of birds, of which seven still survive, two of the right and five on the left.

Archaeologists surmise that there were originally 12 birds, six on either side of the phoenix, and that the picture allegorically represents Christ and the 12 Αpostles. The mosaic is unique in Thessaloniki and is dated sometime toward the end of the 4th and start of the 5th centuries A.D.

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Marden Henge excavations opens window on Neolithic ritual

English Heritage archaeologists have uncovered a ceremonial building, thought to be 4,500 years old during a recent 6-week archaeological excavation at one of Britain’s most important but least understood prehistoric monuments, Marden Henge in Wiltshire, south west England.

The structure has been discovered on the site of a previously unknown smaller henge within the banks of the much larger Marden Henge and is one of the best preserved Neolithic buildings in Britain outside the Orkneys.

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New archaeological finds in El Salvador

Three renowned French archaeologists have been travelling through the country to document the existence of cave art. Their findings at Morazan and La Union shed new light on the ancient inhabitants of El Salvador.

French archaeologists Philippe Costa, Eric Gelliot and Simon Merci from the Sorbonne University in Paris have been travelling through eastern El Salvador to document cave art found in this part of the country and try to better understand who and when created this.

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Marmaray excavations earn İstanbul new museum

The world’s largest sunken ship museum will be established in İstanbul thanks to finds from the Port of Theodosius dating back to the fourth century, which was discovered in Yenikapı during excavations in the Marmaray project, an undersea commuter tunnel linking Asia and Europe.

Scientists studying the 36 sunken ships salvaged at the Yenikapı archeological site have been able to identify the trees used in building the vessels and their methods of construction.

Professor Ünal Akkemik from the forest engineering department at the forestry faculty of İstanbul University has said that the ships, dating back to the fourth century, were mainly made of oak. Noting that they are confident of uncovering the dates and methods of construction, Akkemik said: “So far 36 ships have been retrieved during the excavations, and I have conducted wood-related assays on 27 of them. We have completed our studies on 20 vessels. These ships were built mainly using oak trees as well as plane, chestnut, pine, cypress, common ash and beech. Some vessels were largely made of oak but had chestnut for the outer portions and oak for inner components. Others were mainly constructed using pine trees.”

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Schools failing on teaching of history

Textbooks tailored to A-level teaching have 'stultified' the subject, inspectors warn

History textbooks tailored to fit A-level exam requirements have "stultified" teachers' thinking and left children ill-equipped for the type of independent study needed at university, according to an Ofsted report on history teaching.

The school inspectors also found that the subject has slumped in popularity at academies, where just 20% of students take the subject at GCSE, compared with 48% in private schools.

The renowned historian Simon Schama has agreed to advise ministers on an overhaul of the national curriculum, a move which the education secretary, Michael Gove, says will ensure that no pupil leaves school without learning "narrative British history".

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To be or not to be…Irish?

Denmark’s most famous literary prince was probably from Ireland, according to a British expert. While scholars generally agree that William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet was based on the story of Amleth by 12th century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, a new theory suggests that the original inspiration for the work came from closer to home.

Saxo’s story in turn is also thought to have been based on the 10th and 11th century sagas of Icelandic author Snow Bear, with the name Amleth (an anagram of Hamlet) coming from the character Amlothi who appears in the earlier stories.

However, Dr Lisa Collinson from the University of Aberdeen claims to have clear evidence that Amlothi was in fact Irish, making reference to the story of Admlithi (with a silent ‘d’) from the eighth or ninth century. The tale tells of a taboo-breaking Irish king who kills his son in a bloody finale.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stonehenge Being Scanned With Lasers

Modern laser scanning is being implemented to study Stonehenge and to search for hidden clues about how and why the ancient wonder was built.

Researchers said they are surveying all visible sides of the standing and fallen stones. Some ancient carvings have been found in previous studies, including a famous Neolithic “dagger.” The work is expected to be completed by the end of March.

“The surfaces of the stones of Stonehenge hold fascinating clues to the past,” English Heritage archaeologist Dave Batchelor, told BBC News.

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Excavations at Banks Chambered Tomb, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

A team of archaeologists from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) recently undertook a rescue excavation on a newly discovered Neolithic chambered tomb at Banks, on the island of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. The tomb is located on the southern tip of the island overlooking the Pentland Firth, approximately 1.8 kilometres from the Tomb of the Eagles at Isbister. Whilst this new monument sits well within the rich archaeological heritage of the islands, the very fact that new examples are still being discovered underlines the remarkable prominence of this type of Neolithic burial monument.

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Complete neolithic pot found in Didcot

Archaeologists working on a housing development in Oxfordshire claim to have found one of the oldest complete pots in the country.

The neolithic find was discovered on a housing development in Didcot and is thought to be about 5,500 years old.

Archaeologist Rob Masefield said they could determine its age by the nature of the pot.

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What did the Romans ever do for us (if they didn't build our roads)?

Archaeologists have found Britain's oldest properly engineered road, and the discovery could change the way we look at a key aspect of British history. Now, many of the country's key A roads – long thought to be Roman in origin – could now turn out to be substantially more British than scholars had thought.

The discoveries, in Shropshire, suggest that ancient Britons were building finely engineered, well-cambered and skilfully metalled roads before the Emperor Claudius's conquering legions ever set foot in Britain in the middle of the 1st century BC.

"The traditional view has often been that Iron Age Britons were unsophisticated people who needed to be civilised by the Romans," said Tim Malim, an archaeologist from the UK environmental planning consultancy, SLR, who co-directed the Shropshire excavation. "It's an attitude that largely has its roots in the late 19th century when Britain saw itself very much as the new Rome, bringing civilisation to the rest of the world." The Shropshire road was built, the archaeologists believe, up to 100 years before the Romans conquered Britain. The archaeologists suspect that the road may have been 40 miles long.

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Shedding our penis spines helped us become human, DNA study hints

Genetic comparison with chimps suggests that losing chunks of DNA – including one associated with penis spines and facial whiskers – played a crucial role in making us human

Scientists have identified a clutch of subtle genetic changes that have shaped our minds and bodies into the unique form that sets humans apart from chimpanzees and the rest of the animal kingdom.

The work by researchers in the US represents a landmark in a search that has occupied philosophers and scientists for millennia and one that goes to the heart of understanding what it means to be human.

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‘Global warming destroying archaeological treasures’ frozen for thousands of years

Climate change is damaging archaeological treasures which have been frozen for thousands of years, according to British scientists.

Remains in some of the coldest places on earth are becoming exposed as warmer temperatures cause ice and hardened ground to thaw, research by experts at the University of Edinburgh's Business School has found.

Ancient relics at risk include tombs, artefacts and human remains

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Reunited after 2,000 years apart: The Pompeii husband and wife whose tomb was buried by Vesuvius

Nearly 2,000 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius broke apart a tomb inscription for a husband and wife, the couple's names have been reunited with the recovery of a missing marble fragment.

Pompeii, which had existed for 700 years, was snuffed out in just 24 hours when Vesuvius erupted on the morning of August 24, 79 A.D.
The volcano began spewing ash, mud and noxious gases without warning and a 12-mile high black cloud from the volcano blocked out the sun.

Now marble fragments from a tomb smashed apart and buried during the eruption have finally been joined together, uniting the names of the couple 2,000 years later.

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Ancient gold treasure found in field

GOLD coins which could date back more than 2,000 years have been found in a field in Harborough district.

The ten coins originate from the continent, in an area which is now in Belgium, and are believed to pre-date a hoard of more than 5,000 Roman and Iron Age coins found in Hallaton in 2000.

They were unearthed by 55-year-old Steve Bestwick, secretary of the Leicester Search Society metal detecting club.

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Crosby Garrett Roman helmet find prompts national treasure debate

Frustration surrounding the sale of a Roman helmet unearthed in Cumbria could be set to influence changes to how treasures are declared.

There was disappointment in the county when the uniquely well-preserved bronze mask was sold at auction to a mystery private buyer.

Historians at Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum launched a publicly-backed Keep It In Cumbria fundraising campaign and bid up to £1.7 million for the helmet. It sold for £2m.

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13th Century castle badly damaged after fire

A 13th Century Scottish castle has been badly damaged after a fire broke out in its clock tower, its owners have confirmed.

About 50 firefighters battled the blaze at Blair Castle in Pitlochry, Perthshire, on Thursday evening and averted a “near catastrophe” by preventing it spreading to the main building.

Using breathing apparatus, they fought the fire for 90 minutes but had to withdraw when the 19th century roof of the clock tower collapsed.

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Neolithic handbag, 3800-2500 BC

It looks at first like a piece of a rough, greenish mat from a 1970s student flat. In fact it is a 5,000-year-old handbag.

Found in a bog in Twyford, Co Westmeath, it was made by coiling long slivers of wood into spirals that were then bound together with lighter grass-like material. Next the two sides were woven together along a seam, and handles of plaited straw were added. This would have made for a circular purse-like bag, about 40cm in diameter, with a narrow opening at the top. It was probably dyed to give it a splash of colour. It gives us a glimpse into the everyday life of early Irish farmers. Though we cannot know for sure, there is every chance that it was made and used by a woman.

Similar bags have been found around the world: the technique goes back to the Middle East around 4800 BC and is still used by indigenous cultures. In fact, the best way to get a sense of the Twyford bag is to look at a very similar but intact specimen (right) that is also in the National Museum of Ireland. It comes from 19th-century Aboriginal Australia.

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Stonehenge in High Definition

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English Heritage - 11 Mar 2011 12:56

Stoehenge in High Definition
English Heritage is using a combination of modern 3D laser scanning and digital imaging technology to survey every inch of every stone that makes up Stonehenge to produce the most accurate digital model ever for the world famous prehistoric monument.

The survey includes all the visible faces of the standing and fallen stones of Stonehenge, including Station, Heel and Slaughter stones, as well as the top of the horizontal lintels which have never before been surveyed at this level of detail.

Despite the vast amount of archaeological activity and academic study into Stonehenge and its landscape over the centuries, relatively little is known about the lichen-covered surfaces of the sarsens and bluestones that make up the stone circle. The availability of high resolution laser scanners that can produce highly accurate surface models means that it is now possible to record details and irregularities on the stone surfaces down to a resolution of 0.5mm. It is also hoped that secrets hidden underneath the thick cover of lichens may be revealed in the analysis using sophisticated software.

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Northumberland's Vindolanda centre gets £6.3m revamp

A major tourist attraction in Northumberland has reopened to the public after a £6.3m revamp.

Vindolanda and the adjoining Roman Army Museum on Hadrian's Wall near Hexham, is home to the oldest surviving handwritten tablets in Britain.

New additions include an education centre and revamped galleries.

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How the Human Penis Lost its Spines

Somewhere between 7 million years ago – when we split from chimpanzees on our evolutionary journey – and 800,000 years ago – when we split from Neanderthals – humans lost the spines that chimps and many other animals have on their penises. In some cases these consist of small keratin hard nodules and in others actual sharp spines. The mystery of how this happened has just been unraveled in some research by Stanford and Penn State University scientists.

Chimpanzees are not very different to us genetically, but according to researchers, it is actually the missing parts of regulatory or non-coding DNA that make us human. In other words, it's about what we don't have in common rather than what we do. Another find was not only the lack of penile spines but the discovery that some regions of our brains are larger due to the same lack of DNA coding areas.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Archaeological dig uncovers Roman activity near Stroud

A study has begun into items found in an archaeological dig near Stroud.

The excavation at a site at Ebley Road in Stonehouse has revealed evidence of some of the earliest Roman activity known in the Stroud Valleys.

A large rectangular enclosure dating back to the 1st Century was found and more than a dozen human skeletons were unearthed from it at the end 2010.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Our ancestors lived on shaky ground

Scientists find link between tectonically active landscapes and ancient sites

Our earliest ancestors preferred to settle in locations that have something in common with cities such as San Francisco, Naples and Istanbul – they are often on active tectonic faults in areas that have an earthquake risk or volcanoes, or both.

An international team of scientists has established a link between the shape of the landscape and the habitats preferred by our earliest ancestors. The research, by scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, the University of York and the Institut de Physique du Globe Paris (IPGP), is published in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

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Roman hoard on show

A NEW exhibition will open at Rutland County Museum on Wednesday.

The Hallaton Hoard touring exhibition includes a selection of items found at one of the most important Iron Age sites in Britain.

In 2000, members of Hallaton Fieldwork Group came across Roman pottery, silver and gold coins and the remains of an ornately decorated Roman parade helmet in a field outside their village in southeast Leicestershire.

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Roman coin hoard found in north Suffolk to be auctioned

The 197 coins were found by Norman Howard and John Halles in a field in north Suffolk over April and May 2009.

Known as the North Suffolk Hoard the Roman denarii date from between 2nd century BC to 1st century AD and may have belonged to a retired Roman soldier.

The coins are to be auctioned by London specialist coin auctioneers Morton & Eden on June 9 at Sotheby’s and it is estimated the collection could lead to at least a £7,500 windfall for Mr Howard and Mr Halles and the farmer whose land the coins were found on.

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Long-lost marble fragments found in Acropolis walls

Archaeologists in Greece have located long-lost fragments from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon built into the outer walls of the Athens Acropolis, a supervising official said on Thursday.

The fragments were pinpointed after a vertical scan of the 20-metre (65-foot) walls using a camera mounted on a modified weather balloon, says Mary Ioannidou, head of the Acropolis Restoration Service.

"We have known for many years that elements from the Parthenon and other monuments have been built into the walls," Ioannidou told AFP.

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Academic helps ensure Roman film is correct

A NEW historical epic film about a lost Roman legion has the stamp of North East expertise.

The $25m movie The Eagle, inspired by Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth, opens in Britain on March 25.

And the film’s academic adviser is Newcastle University Roman expert Lindsay Allason-Jones.

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Somerset Roman mosaic revealed . . . for the second time in 2,000 years

One of the largest and most spectacular Roman mosaic floors ever found in Britain has been uncovered for only the second time in 2,000 years.

The 4th century mosaic attracted worldwide attention in October 2001 when resident George Caton unexpectedly discovered it while digging a new road on his family farm.

It was then covered with soil and turf to protect it from the elements.

But a section of the 40ft by 21ft floor has now been excavated and exposed again to mark the 10th anniversary of the discovery.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Alaska researchers discover rare remains of an Ice Age child

Researchers say they've uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America. The 2- to 4-year-old, found in central Alaska, is only the second Ice Age child discovered on the continent, according to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Archaeologists found the remains in a fire pit in an abandoned living area. The child probably died about 11,500 years ago, based on research by the university's Ben Potter and his team.

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Unearthed hidden treasure goes on sale in Eastbourne

A new shop full of unearthed hidden treasure is opening in the East Sussex town of Eastbourne.

The artefacts, some of which are thousands of years old, can be legally offered for sale under treasure trove rules.

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Was the great Dane Irish? That is the question

Medieval Scandinavian expert traces name Hamlet to Gaelic tale The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel

Not "O Hamlet" but O'Hamlet: Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark, according to literary research, derives his peculiar name from ancient Irish origins.

The identity of the Prince of Denmark has fascinated scholars for centuries, with disputes about the name's Jutish, Icelandic or Latin etymology jostling for academic pre-eminence.

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Medieval pond work starts

SURVEY work has started on clearing an old pond in Bar-rington which is expected to produce a treasure trove of Medieval artefacts.

The pond has long been filled in but older villagers in Barrington can still recall it being used in the 1920s for people to wash their clothes.

Claire Hart, who is organising the environmental project, said: “We’ve started to clear the site of the original medieval pond in Water Street.

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More parts of Roman fort revealed

PARTS of a Roman fortress archaeologists believe have never been seen before have been uncovered in a Welsh town.

The Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust carried out a dig at the site of a Roman fort in Neath as part of plans to establish new buildings for Dwr y Felin Comprehensive School.

Richard Lewis, head of projects at the trust, said: “It’s certainly of high importance in Wales and the UK because nobody has been able to expose as large an area as we have.”

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Treasure hunter finds Bronze Age founders hoard

A treasure hunter has found 18 Bronze Age items in a field near Newark in Nottinghamshire.

Maurice Richardson stumbled across the collection, which includes four socket axes, a spear head, a chisel and a fragmented sword, by mistake.

"I was on my way back to the car after being out all afternoon and wandered off the track," he said. "If I hadn't I wouldn't have found it."

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Stirling Castle's 16th Century defences unearthed

Archaeologists have found fragments of Stirling Castle's 16th Century outer defences.

The discovery was made during work to extend the castle's main shop and ticket office.

Historic Scotland said the find would help establish exactly where the defences stood.

European experts are believed to have been used to apply the latest Italian military engineering techniques at the castle in the 1540s.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Roman Cavalry Mask Found

A citizen in the island province of Gotland has submitted a Roman cavalry-officer's helmet mask to the County Archaeologist. It is said to have been in the family for some time. The state of the piece shows that it can't be from a ploughed field, which makes it unlikely to be a recent metal-detector find.

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Roman find on Cumbrian farm stuns visiting archaeologist

A freelance archaeologist and his wife came face to face with a chunk of unique Roman history as they walked across a Wigton farm.

Karl James Langford, 36, and his wife Lisa, 43, are over the moon with their chance discovery of a sandstone fragment which still bears part of a Roman inscription.

The couple had gone with their two children – a boy aged two and a five-month-old girl – to visit the remnant of the Maglona Roman fort near Wigton last week when Lisa spotted the stone on the ground. It had been exposed by a heavy rain storm.

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Slash and burn at the Museum of London

I may be in the USA but I still get word of terrible things going on in the UK. The latest bit of gossip to reach me is the plan to make most of the senior pre-modern curators at the Museum of London redundant.

Now I have a great soft spot for this Museum, and indeed have often taken students there. It has a wonderful Roman collection, and what used to be a state of the art display of Roman London ...now a bit in need of a revamp, but in fact I went to a meeting a year or so ago which was taking soundings about exactly how that should be planned. Anyway now it seems like the revamp is on hold, but even worse the senior curatorial staff are being "let go".

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