Oakington Updates

Friday, 4th July, 2014

More excavation details of Oakington Anglo-Saxon cemetery on the website, including a 3D cruciform brooch scan.

Treasure Trove Scotland

Tuesday, 24th June, 2014

TT_154_13_Iron_Age_Strap_Mount (2)“A substantial strap mount cast in bronze and decorated with roundels of yellow and red enamel. Both in the casting and the enamelling, this object would require considerable technical skill and is characteristic of the 1st – 2nd centuries AD.

An object like this would have been part of a larger suite used to decorate the trappings of a horse and associated vehicle such as a chariot. It is a symbol of the wealth and power of the owner and symbolic of the warrior elites who were a significant part of Iron Age culture.

Allocated to East Lothian Museums Service.”

Treasure Trove Scotland 2013-14 report released

Viking king discovered?

Thursday, 12th June, 2014

East Lothian skeleton may be 10th Century Irish Viking king
A skeleton discovered on an archaeological dig in East Lothian may be a 10th Century Irish Viking who was king of Dublin and Northumbria.
King Olaf Guthfrithsson [Óláfr Guðfriðarson][Ánláf] led raids on Auldhame and nearby Tyninghame shortly before his death in 941.
The remains excavated from Auldhame in 2005 are those of a young adult male who was buried with a number of items indicating his high rank.
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They include a belt similar to others from Viking Age Ireland.
The find has led archaeologists and historians to speculate that the skeleton could be that of King Olaf or one of his entourage.
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A jaw bone was part of the remains found at Auldhame which may belong to King Olaf
Olaf was a member of the Uí Ímar dynasty who, in 937, defeated his Norse rivals in Limerick and pursued his family claim to the throne of York.
He married the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland and allied himself with Owen I of Strathclyde.
The theory that he could have been buried close to the Auldhame battle site was revealed as Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited a Neolithic monument in County Meath, Ireland.
The tour of Newgrange is being used to highlight archaeological links between Scotland and Ireland.
Ms Hyslop said: “This is a fascinating discovery and it’s tantalising that there has been the suggestion that this might be the body of a 10th Century Irish Viking king.”
Dr Alex Woolf, a senior lecturer in the School of History at the University of St Andrews and a consultant on the project, admits the evidence is circumstantial.
But he said: “Whilst there is no way to prove the identity of the young man buried at Auldhame, the date of the burial and the equipment make it very likely that this death was connected with Olaf’s attack.”

Leiston Abbey and ‘Black Shuck”

Wednesday, 21st May, 2014

 

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Are these the remains of the legendary beast known as Black Shuck?

Since the middle-ages, legend has spread of a fearful beast once said to stalk the region’s [East Anglia's] countryside and coastline. Despite tales of a fiery-eyed monster showing up in graveyards, forests and roadsides – and an account of claw marks appearing on the door of Blythburgh Churchthe giant dog’s existence has been reserved to the annals of folklore.

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Until now, perhaps, as archeologists have revealed evidence of huge skeletal remains unearthed by a member of the public in the trenches at Leiston Abbey last year.
The DigVentures team are set to return to the site this summer, and are again inviting amateur history hunters to take their place alongside the experts from July 8-20, with the prospect of coming across an equally exciting discovery.
Of course, the giant carcass is more likely to be what remains of someone’s beloved canine companion, and is currently being analysed to find out how long it was buried in the grounds of monastic ruins.

The site was left almost untouched until last year, when site managers, and chamber music academy, Pro Corda teamed up with DigVentures to run only the second ‘crowdfunded’ community project of its kind.
DigVentures managing director Lisa Westcott Wilkins said: “We’re still waiting for results from specialists but we believe the bones are from when the abbey was active – so they could be medieval.
“The dog is huge – about the size of a Great Dane – and was found near where the abbey’s kitchen would have been. It was quite a surprise. We’re all dog lovers and we have a site dog with us on our digs, so it was quite poignant. Even back then, pets were held in high regard.”
It is hoped the skeleton will be exhibited as part of this year’s dig, which has received financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow organisers to replace paper context sheets with a digital recording system, tailored to meet the needs of a worldwide community archaeology team.

Mrs Westcott Wilkins, whose team includes former Time Team archaeologist Raksha Dave, said: “There is evidence of a prehistoric age at the abbey, which even English Heritage had been unaware of. We’re really looking forward to going back. This year we can involve the public much more. They can get immediate online access.”

Worsley Man

Saturday, 17th May, 2014

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Groundbreaking scan reveals evidence of ritual human sacrifice…in Salford
Scientists and archaeologists at the University of Manchester  have uncovered evidence that our ancestors carried out ritual human sacrifice … in Salford.
The discovery, captured on camera for an upcoming Channel 5 documentary, was made during a ground-breaking CT scan of the 1,900-year-old remains of ‘ Worsley Man’ – whose head was found in a Salford peat bog [Chat Moss] in 1958.
Worsley Man, now kept at Manchester Museum but thought to have lived around 100AD when Romans occupied Britain, has been X-rayed before -  but never with such an advanced scanner .
The 3D scan at the  Manchester X-Ray Imaging Facility revealed a sharp, pointed object hidden deep within Worsley Man’s neck.
According to archaeologist Dr Melanie Giles from the University of Manchester this object appears to be a ceremonial spear tip that snapped off when thrust into him.
Forensic analysis has revealed that the Iron Age victim was also smashed over the head with a heavy blade, garrotted and decapitated – in a gruesome group attack.
Dr Giles said: “It’s revealing a completely new injury that hasn’t seen the light of day for nearly two thousand years. To see it on a computer screen is no less exciting than finding it in the soil and uncovering it with your trowel. It’s a modern way of making discoveries and that’s ground-breaking and very exciting.”
Remarkably, this vicious killing in a bog does not appear to be a one-off.
Worsley Man is one of dozens of Iron-Age bodies unearthed in peat bogs throughout Northern Europe that show signs of violent death*. Many of these iron-age victims have been incredibly well preserved by the bog.**
Cold, airless conditions prevent flesh-eating micro-organisms from destroying soft tissue whilst acid within the bog effectively tans the flesh turning bodies to leather.
Murdered: The Bodies in the Bog follows Dr Melanie Giles as she investigates Worsley Man and the rest of these bizarre human remains in an attempt to understand why they were violently killed and dumped in bogs.
Murdered: The Bodies in the Bog will be broadcast on Channel 5 at 7pm on Friday, May 23.

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*Lindow Man

**Bog bodies

Bog bodies

Anglesey tomb excavation

Tuesday, 22nd April, 2014

Copper-Artifact-Britain

Anglesey: Mysterious artefact discovered at Neolithic tomb
Find at  Perthi Duon excavation site near Brynsiencyn could prove existence of a British Copper Age says archaeology expert

The discovery of a mysterious copper artefact at a Neolithic tomb on Anglesey could help to answer one of  archaeology’s burning questions.
Dr George Nash, who led the excavation at Perthi Duon near Brynsiencyn says the find could lend  weight to the idea of a British Copper Age, which is currently being  debated by archaeologists.
Perthi Duon – described by Dr Nash as Anglesey’s “least known  Neolithic chambered tomb” – is believed to have been a portal dolmen,  a type of single-chamber tomb  mostly built in the early Neolithic  period, and dates to around 3,500BC or earlier.

The site was examined as early as  1723, when antiquarian Henry Rowlands visited and drew the tomb,  which then stood upright.
Dr Nash, of Bristol University, said  the monument was in a “ruinous”  state by the early years of the nineteenth century and had been incorporated into a boundary hedge.
An international team of archaeologists from the Welsh Rock Art Organisation recently excavated the  site and uncovered “several significant features”, said Dr Nash.
Among them was the “curious”  copper artefact, which could be a  piece of jewellery worn thousands  of years ago.
Dr Nash said: “This item could be  an important discovery which may  reinforce the notion of a Copper Age  in the British Isles. Copper items  from the British Neolithic (c. 4,000 – 2,000BC) and Early Bronze Age (c.  2,500 – 1,800BC) are considered  rare.”

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Perthi Duon in 1802, sketched by the Reverend John Skinner

The Copper Age followed the Neolithic Era and is considered a part of  the Bronze Age. The period is  defined as a phase of the Bronze Age  in which metallurgists had not yet  discovered that bronze could be  made by adding tin to copper.
While a Copper Age has long been  recognised in Europe, the question  of whether Britain experienced such  a period is still debated by archaeologists.
Dr Nash said: “The big question in  archaeology at the moment is  whether there was a Copper Age in  Britain.
“Did copper come to Britain before bronze?
“This discovery helps to suggest  that we did have a Copper Age.”
The copper artefact will be subject  to scientific testing in a bid to learn  more about its origins.
Ploughing around the monument  during the latter part of the 20th  century caused “a lot of disturbance”  to the archaeological remains, said  Dr Nash.
However, other finds made at the  site included areas of compacted  stone which would once have  formed a kidney-shaped mound  around the chamber, and a rare circular stone socket which would have  supported a kerbstone used to delineate the shape of the monument.  Shards of pottery were also found.
Dr Nash said: “These discoveries  clearly show this monument to be a  portal dolmen, one of the earliest  Neolithic monument types in  Wales.
“More importantly, the architecture of Perthi Duon appears to be a  blueprint for other portal dolmen  monuments within what is termed  the Irish Sea Province. From this  excavation, we now have a better  understanding of the burial and ritual practices that went on at this site  some 5,500 years ago.”
In Neolithic times, the dead would  have been deposited within the  chamber as a cremation or, in later  years, as disarticulated remains.

 

Silver Viking pendant

Monday, 7th April, 2014

Old news, but new exhibition.

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This pendant, found in 2002, has been on loan to the National Museum, Copenhagen for their Viking exhibition last year. It has since been returned to be one of the many exhibits in the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition which opened at the British Museum in March this year.

It was aquired by Ipswich Museum in 2003: Rare pendant added to collection
IPSWICH Borough Council has added a rare early Viking pendant to its heritage collection – thanks to financial support from The Friends of Ipswich Museums.
The silver pendant is probably an Anglo-Scandinavian product, dated to the time of the main Danish settlement in East Anglia after around 879.
It shows a male [! cf. images below and National Museum captions] warrior wearing a long dress-like tunic holding a shield and sword. It was found near Wickham Market last year [2002] by a local medal detector and declared Treasure Trove. Ipswich Museum has managed to purchase it with financial assistance from the Friends of Ipswich Museums.
The pendant can be compared with a series of similar, early Viking-period, usually female figures of the 9th century from Scandinavia and England.
Danish Vikings plundered eastern England from the 8th century onwards, before settling in East Anglia after around 879. This can be seen in local place names. Suffolk’s Viking place-names are Ashby, Barnby, Eyke, Lound, and Risby. Ipswich’s prosperity in the late Saxon period was probably responsible for the fact that it was frequently the target of Danish raiders; they plundering the town in 919 and again in 991. The town was among the last targets of Danish raids on East Anglia in 1069.
Viking metal-detector finds from East Anglia easily outnumber those from other parts of the country. Mostly from the late 9th, 10th and 11th centuries and are predominantly small objects of personal adornment – brooches, buckles, pins etc, manufactured both in Scandinavia and locally in Scandinavian styles.
Sally Dummer, Registration and Collections Manager at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is an exciting acquisition, as the archaeology collections has very few objects from the Viking period. The Museum is very grateful to the Friends of Ipswich Museums for their assistance with this purchase. The pendant is now exhibited in the Viking display in the Ipswich Story at the High Street Museum.

Some other Viking valkyrie pieces:

1ccb0b9e19Figure depicting a valkyrie. In Norse mythology the valkyries took fallen warriors to Valhalla. Photograph: The National Museum.

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Piece of jewellery depicting a valkyrie. Found at Tissø.

Four views of the Valkyrie, cleaned and to scale

3D Hårby  valkyrie figure

Anglo-Saxon royal site?

Thursday, 27th March, 2014

RLM
Archaeologists’ excitement at discovery of ‘exceptional’ royal site linked to Sutton Hoo
Fields on a Suffolk farm have yielded small but hugely significant finds which have led archaeologists to believe they have found a royal home and one of the most important settlements in Anglo-Saxon East Anglia.
A series of archaeological investigations over the past six years on land at Rendlesham have revealed items from around 14 centuries ago which show the site was inhabited by high-status Anglo-Saxons and used for international trade for around 300 years.
Archaeologists believe the site – covering more than 100 acres – was possibly home to a royal palace, a wooden hall surrounded by other buildings with a magnificent dining hall at its heart. This would be where travelling kings stayed, possibly including Raedwald, who is [believed to have been] buried atSutton Hoo.
It is thought the site was possibly home to those who carried out the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, where Raedwald –  head of the [Anglo-] Saxon kingdom across Suffolk and Norfolk – is thought to have been interred among his belongings, including precious and intricate gold jewellery.
Archaeologists who uncovered the internationally-important ship burial chamber in 1939 discovered metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield [fittings] and sword, and many pieces of  silver plate from Byzantium.
Findings at Rendlesham – where the investigations have been kept secret while archaeologists tried to gather their evidence – have been less dramatic in scale, but still highly significant, possibly the most significant since the burial ship.
One archaeologist described the site as “exceptional” and another told the EADT the site was “internationally significant” and would have been as big as Ipswich in the 7th Century.
By the 9th Century the Rendlesham settlement was in decline and Ipswich, by then an established trade and industry centre, took its place as the main town in the area.
No remains of any royal palace or buildings have been found but evidence of their existence has been proven. However, the fragments of jewellery and coins found have been enough to convince archaeologists that they may have found the site which the Saxon historian Bede cited as being a royal village.
Bede wrote about “the king’s country-seat of Rendlesham” and it has long been thought that King Raedwald’s hall stood in the village.
Mike Argent, chairman of the Sutton Hoo Society, said archaeologists working on the project were “very excited” about what has been unearthed.
The investigations are expected to carry on for at least another year, with much scientific work to be done and the detailed papers explaining the finds still to be written.
However, the National Trust, in conjunction with Suffolk County Council’s archaeological service, which has been carrying out the work, will be staging an exhibition of the finds at the Sutton Hoo visitor centre this spring*.
The Sutton Hoo Society helped fund some of the work and also contributed to the cost of purchasing some of the finds by the county museum service in order to keep them local.
The surveys began in 2009 after  nighthawks – treasure hunters using metal detectors illegally – began looting the fields.
Mr Argent said the finds suggested the area may have been a settlement, meeting place or trading station for a variety of Saxon people including those of high-status, probably kings.
Those who buried King Raedwald at Sutton Hoo around 625AD may have lived at the site, an elite inhabiting a place which is known to have Roman connections, reinforced by the discovery of coins and other artefacts, giving it a continuity of use – and of international importance – for more than 300 years.
Mr Argent said the investigations took place around the diary of the working farm, waiting until fields had been harvested, with a team of four authorised and responsible metal detector enthusiasts combing the fields in all weathers.
He said: “The finds are extremely interesting. They consist of mainly tiny pieces, not the big sparkly stuff discovered at the ship burial.
“But the finds show there has been human activity at the site over a long period, high status activity. It doesn’t confirm one way or another that there was a big royal palace – it doesn’t show there was and it doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.
“It shows there were high-status people at the site and there was trading with places that were very far away. It is fascinating and very exciting.”
Jude Plouviez, lead archaeological officer at the county council for the project, said there was an “exceptional Anglo-Saxon settlement here, and that it was flourishing at the time of Raedwald”.
Writing in the society’s newsletter, she said: “What has been lost from the field at Rendlesham is suggested by the finds that were recovered by the survey, such as a number of 6th Century copper-alloy items which (Time Team archaeologist) Helen Geake has helped identify.”

horse-harness-fitting

 

 

*The National Trust exhibition of the Rendlesham finds at Sutton Hoo opened on Saturday, March 15, and runs until October.

Also, related news:

Sutton Hoo HelmetSutton Hoo Helmet. Photograph: Trustees of the British Museum

British Museum’s revamped gallery casts light on Dark Ages
Room 41, which houses Sutton Hoo treasure, reopens after refurbishment to mark 75 years since its discovery in Suffolk
[video link]

Iron Age cauldron

Wednesday, 19th March, 2014

Chiseldon village’s replica Iron Age cauldron unveiled
A full-size replica of an Iron Age cauldron found in a Wiltshire field as part of “the biggest Iron Age find to date” has been unveiled.
The large cauldron is one of 17 found by a metal detector enthusiast near the village of Chiseldon in 2004.
 The cauldrons, described as “too fragile and important ever to return to Chiseldon”, are at the British Museum.
But in 2011, a local history group commissioned an exact copy to be made as a lasting memory of the find.
The bronze and iron vessels, excavated by the British Museum and Wessex Archaeology, were discovered “carefully placed” in a pit along with ox skulls.
“At first we thought there would only be one or two cauldrons but to find this many is without parallel, not just in Britain but across all of Europe,” said Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology.
“It’s a unique find – but they’re very fragile and aren’t really in a condition to go on display.”
With the Chiseldon cauldrons, never expected to return to the village, local residents raised £2,000 to commission local blacksmith Hector Cole to make an exact replica.
“The tools don’t change, the techniques don’t change, I did exactly the same as the original makers would have done,” said Mr Cole.
“There are 17, and the one they liked was one of the more expensive cauldrons.
“It’s a top of the range cauldron. Whichever tribe owned it, they were important.”
The replica cauldron was unveiled at the weekend and is due to go on permanent display at the village museum, next year.

©calyx_Pictures_Cauldron_5084

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6a00d8341bf67c53ef017d3eb5341c970c-800wiManufacture, wear and repair of the Chiseldon Iron Age cauldrons
Some other cauldrons:
 Bronze Age Cauldron from Shipton-on-Cherwell

Cauldron from Llyn Fawr

Iron Age metal cauldrons from Glenfield Blaby, Leicestershire
Late Iron Age ceramic cauldron found at Wick Avenue, Wheathampstead.

A Middle Iron Age cauldron, dating from around 200 BC. Only the La Tène II/III iron cauldron collar and rim are original. It was found in a ditch at the Iron Age settlement at Blackhorse Road in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire.

 The Lisdrumturk Cauldron

Also in the News:

 Iron Age woman’s footless body found near West Knoyle

A skeleton of an Iron Age woman with her feet chopped off has been discovered in a field in Wiltshire.
The remains were found along the A303, near West Knoyle, by archaeologists ahead of a new water main being laid.
Wessex Water said the woman’s feet were found “reburied alongside her” along with the carcasses of at least two sheep or goats “on her head”.
Peter Cox, from AC Archaeology, said: “We’re unsure why – but it must have some link to beliefs at the time.”
The female skeleton was found alongside the remains of a child aged about 10 and two males with sword wounds to their hips.
Wessex Water is currently building a 40-mile (64km) pipeline to carry water from a Dorset treatment plant into Wiltshire.
It was during a pre-work survey of the West Knoyle area that AC Archaeology unearthed the Iron Age burial site.
“Human remains from these periods are very rare and indicate the long period of settlement that has occurred in the area,” said Mr Cox.
“But we’re unsure why the female skeleton has been found without her feet or why she may have been buried with sheep, but perhaps it was to protect her soul from bad spirits.”
The bones have been removed from the site and will undergo radiocarbon dating to determine their age.

A20 Anglo-Saxon garnet brooches

Tuesday, 25th February, 2014

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Sheperdswell metal detector Greg Sweetman finds valuable Anglo-Saxon artefacts next to A20 near Maidstone

A rare collection of Saxon artefacts has been found by a man from east Kent.
The Anglo-Saxon findings could be part of a grave date back to the sixth century and are said to be worth more than £40,000.
Two Saxon pins, part of a buckle or belt and seven brooches were found on land next to the A20 towards Maidstone.
Greg Sweetman, of Westcourt Lane, Shepherdswell, was the first person to find one of the brooches when metal detecting.
Mr Sweetman said that the finds were made at his first club dig with the Medway History Finders.
On finding a large square-ended Saxon brooch,  Mr Sweetman [Link to his pics] and the group decided to dig further and discovered the hoard of artefacts including hair pins and circular and square brooches. The brooches are mostly silver with red garnet.
He added: “The first find was a broken Saxon pin at about six inches down. Not being too knowledgeable as to what it was, I showed Kevin Reader, the vice-chairman of the club, and he advised me to re-check the hole as it was not a common find.”
Pete Clarke, a member of the Medway History Finders, added: “It’s a very significant find. Chances are they might be able to find who is in there.”
Mr Clarke said that usually, with a Saxon burial of someone of high status, they would be buried with a spear, so the excavators will be looking for signs that will reveal whether or not the site is part of an Anglo-Saxon grave.
The group cut a metre by metre square hole, so the rest of the area will need to be searched.
The hoard has now been passed on to a coroner who will confirm the date of the artefacts and offer them to the British Museum.
Mr Clarke, 53, said that he didn’t want the first time the public saw the findings to be when they’re polished and cleaned in the British Museum.
He said: “It’s far more exciting to see them dug up from the ground.”