Monday, 13th May, 2013
Archaeologists map lost medieval Suffolk town of Dunwich under the sea
The streets, churches, market place and town walls of Dunwich, a major town in Suffolk which vanished into the North Sea centuries ago, have been mapped using acoustic imaging to peer through the murky silt which now buries the remains.
A few houses, a museum, a pub and legends of the sound of drowned church bells still ringing from beneath the waves are all that remain today of a port which once rivalled London. However, over the past five years archaeologists, historians, local divers and scientists have joined forces, funded by English Heritage, combining hi-tech equipment, underwater exploration and study of old charts and navigation guides to trace the ruins of what has become the world’s largest underwater medieval town site.
In the Roman period the shoreline was at least 2,000 metres further out.
The town’s slow death began in 1286 when a three-day storm which started on New Year’s Eve wrecked much of the settlement and blocked the river mouth. Further storms silted up what had been an international port, destroying the town’s prosperity, and the erosion of the coastline was remorseless.
As recently as 1736 All Saints [pic 7]was a handsome church with a tall tower: by 1912 only the ruined tower remained teetering on the edge of the cliff, and now nothing remains on dry land.
Although the ruins are only between three and 10 metres (9.8ft to 32.8ft) below the water, visibility is atrocious. Prof David Sear, of the geography and environment department of Southampton University, who led the project, described the Didson acoustic imaging used as “like shining a torch on to the seabed, only using sound instead of light”.
3D visualisation Chapel of St Katherine: The survey revealed ten buildings of medieval Dunwich, including the location and probable ruins of Blackfriars Friary, St Peter’s, All Saints and St Nicholas[pic 2] Churches, and the Chapel of St Katherine.
The new map locates ruins including major churches and a large house which may have been the town hall, scores of other archaeological sites including several windmills, wooden port structures and a town wall which may have been Saxon in origin.
Friday, 10th May, 2013
The third volume of A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales has recently been published. This final volume focuses on the inscribed stones and stone sculpture of north Wales c. AD400-1150.
The first two volumes were published in 2007 by University of Wales Press. Volume I by Mark Redknap and John M. Lewis covers South-East Wales and the English Border. Volume II by Nancy Edwards covers South-West Wales. Each volume consists of a full analytical introduction and a catalogue of individual monuments with discussions and numerous illustrations, both photographs and line-drawings.
Volume III provides fresh insights and new interpretations of over 150 monuments, many of which have been found since V. E. Nash-William‘s Early Christian Monuments of Wales was published in 1950. The introductory discussion analyses the historical and archaeological context of the monuments, early research, geology, their form and function, ornament and iconography, and the language and lettering of the inscriptions, as well as their cultural connections, dating and chronology. The well-illustrated catalogue provides more detailed descriptions and analyses of individual monuments.
Nancy Edwards is Professor of Medieval Archaeology at Bangor University. Her research is focused on the early medieval archaeology of Wales and Ireland, particularly on stone sculpture and the Church.
Volume III is published in association with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and the University of Wales Institute for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. Research for Volume III has been generously funded by the British Academy through their grant of a Research Leave Fellowship to Nancy Edwards (2006–8) and a Small Research Grant to finance geological identification of the monuments. Financial assistance has also been received from the University of Wales Board of Celtic Studies and the Cambrian Archaeological Association. Nancy Edwards is also grateful to All Souls College Oxford for a Visiting Research Fellowship, Michaelmass Term 2007, during which time much of the more specialized comparative research was conducted.
Wednesday, 20th March, 2013
Crannog dig team gets one last reprieve
One of Ireland’s richest archaeological digs has won another week-long reprieve – but that’s it.
Roads Minister Danny Kennedy says there can’t be any more delays to work on the A32 Cherrymount Link Road near Enniskillen which has been held up by the treasure trove of historical artefacts discovered.
Archaeologists are working round the clock to excavate as much material as possible from the Fermanagh site, before the major roads project goes ahead.
Mr Kennedy had previously granted a week’s extension to the dig which was due to come to a halt at the end of March. It has now been extended again until April 15.
“I have given this issue very careful consideration and have had to balance my desire to complete the Cherrymount link before the G8 Summit, alongside the historical importance of the crannog,” Mr Kennedy said.
“I asked my Permanent Secretary to visit the site and speak to those involved on the dig in an effort to identify the timescale for completion.
“Following these discussions, he has advised me that the additional time should enable the excavation work to be completed. On that basis, I am prepared to allow the work to continue until 15 April.”
Archaeologist Jean O’Dowd, who has called for the crannog to be properly investigated, said: “There is the possibility that hundreds of years of history could still be uncovered.”
5 amazing finds:
1. A wooden bowl incised with a Latin cross – may have been a wine strainer or implement for communion or baptism.
2. Eighteen combs, including some made of antler with bone rivets.
3. An ornate stick pin, used to pin a cloak in place, but could have doubled as a stiletto-like weapon.
4. A pawn-like wooden gaming piece.
5. Parts of at least two different log boats and a wooden oar.
Many have expressed concern about this important site since it was discovered:
Friday, 9th November, 2012
During the excavation process we identified a big dark area behind the moat. Through careful excavation we realized this originally served as a well and was excavated down below the water table. Wet or waterlogged soils allow for preservation of materials which normally decay in a dry environment. This is due to the lack of air or ‘anaerobic’ condition. Once we got to the lower levels of the well the soil was extremely wet and lots of wood and a few scraps of leather were retrieved by the archaeologists.
Yesterday afternoon we found something really special near the bottom of the well– a complete leather belt which still retained its buckle and numerous metal studs along its length. This has been sent for conservation today in order to guarantee its preservation, but we will have more photos of it shortly once it has been cleaned up.
John’s initial thoughts are that it may be a scabbard belt of possible 14th or 15th century date, though analysis is at a very early stage so this interpretation may change. The buckles have been cut down and reused on the object, which would undoubtedly have been a valuable item when it was discarded. It is unclear if the heraldic symbols represent a nobility affiliation or if they serve a purely decorative function, but it is hoped heraldic analysis will clarify some of these issues.
The first images of the newly conserved material proved extremely exciting, and it became immediately apparent that the leather strip was an artefact of extreme importance. It transpired that this object, which is a nearly 1m in length, in fact holds 36 surviving gilt, hinged, copper-alloy suspension-mounts and pendants, each of which portrayed a shield with a lion, counter-rampant, in relief. Each end of the leather strap retains gilt, copper-alloy buckles, suggesting it was designed to be attached to other leather fittings at either end. Each pendant was connected by a hinge to a fixed suspension-mount which also bore a lion counter-rampant; the hinge allowed the pendant to swing forward and back when in motion.
Leather specialist John Nicholl is currently in the midst of analysing this object, which he has identified as part of a horse harness, a probable chest-girth or breast-collar for a horse which was known as a Peytrel. Such collars could be of one-piece or, as is most likely in this case given its relatively short length, two pieces which connected to a breast plate on the horse’s chest. The decoration of horse furniture such as this with heraldic symbols was particularly popular in the 13th and 14th centuries, a date which is supported by the other finds from the well.
Damian Shiels, a Company Director with Rubicon Heritage described reaction to the discovery:
“This is a truly breathtaking find, perhaps the most impressive we have come across in over ten years of archaeological excavation across hundreds of sites. The remarkable preservation of the object may be unparalleled in Ireland and Britain- as such it offers us a unique window into both medieval horsemanship and the use of heraldic symbols.”
Although thousands of individual pendants from medieval horse harnesses have been discovered across the UK and Ireland, this is the first occasion where a piece of harness has been found intact, with pendants still attached to the original leather surface. This would suggest that the Caherduggan find is extremely important for the furthering of our knowledge of both medieval horse furniture and heraldic
Friday, 31st August, 2012
Staff and students from the University of Chester and fellow specialists from Bangor University, have started the third phase of Project Eliseg at Llangollen.
The team are hoping to unearth the secrets of a ninth-century stone monument on a prehistoric mound at The Pillar of Eliseg near Valle Crucis Abbey in Llangollen.
Professor Nancy Edwards of Bangor University’s School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology, said: ”The main aim of the project is to better understand this enigmatic monument and how it was used and reused over time.”
The Pillar of Eliseg was originally a tall stone cross but only part of a round shaft survives set within its original base.
It once bore a long Latin inscription saying that the cross was raised by Concenn, ruler of the kingdom of Powys, who died in AD 854, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg.
Phase one of the project, in 2010, focused on the mound, which was identified as an early Bronze Age cairn.
The archaeologists completed the second phase in September 2011, by revealing for the first time details of the cairn’s composition and evidence of many stages in its history.
The experts found possible cremated remains and bone fragments dating back to the Bronze Age and diggers found pieces of Roman pottery as well as shards of post medieval pottery and a spindle whorl at the top of the mound on which the pillar stands.
The undisturbed mound in this trench was then partially excavated revealing a likely early medieval long-cist grave in the section as well as evidence suggesting the interment of cremations during the Bronze Age.
This is now the focus of the third phase.
An open afternoon will be held on Saturday, September 9 between 2pm and 5pm at The Pillar of Eliseg to give the public an opportunity to find more about the third season of excavations.
The archaeologists are carrying out a third season of excavations at the site between August 26 and September 16.
Friday, 24th August, 2012
Historical records show that Richard III was buried in the church of a Franciscan friary in Leicester shortly after his defeat and death at the hands of Henry Tudor’s army in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
But the destruction of the friary as Britain’s monasteries were dissolved under Henry VIII and subsequent removal of its stone ruins meant that over the ensuing centuries the king’s exact burial site was forgotten.
Now the mystery of where his body lies could finally be solved after an examination of historical maps by archaeologists located the most likely site for the church, in the car park of a social services office in the centre of Leicester.
Leicester University said its excavation was the first ever attempt by experts to find the lost grave of an anointed King of England.
Richard III has gone down in history as a monstrous tyrant with a hunchback and a withered arm, but most historians now claim such an image is purely fictitious and down largely to how he was portrayed by Shakespeare*.
The only pictures of him showing signs of deformity were painted after his death and his reputation as an evil despot is blamed by many experts on Tudor propagandists.
Members of the Richard III historical society said the excavation forms one part of an ongoing attempt to end the “enormous disparagement” against his reputation and uncovering “the truth behind the myths”.
Archaeologists hope that the excavation of the council car park, due to begin on Saturday, will reveal the foundations of the historic church’s walls and possibly even lead them to the alter under which the body would have been buried.
Richard Buckley, the archaeologist in charge of the project, said: “It has been known for a long time that the Greyfriars friary was the final resting place of Richard III, but actually working out where its individual buildings were was pretty difficult.
“We still do not ultimately know what the layout of the friary was. What we are going to do is put in two very long exploratory trenches in the hope we will pick up some of the church to narrow it down a bit more.”
The car park lies on an eight to ten thousand square metre site where the friary once stood, and experts have long suspected the church may have been nearby.
But by comparing historical maps against modern ones over the past year, they have built up enough evidence to identify the car park itself as the most likely spot, and to warrant further investigation.
Mr Buckley emphasised that the dig, which will last two to three weeks, is “a bit of a long shot” because the church may not be found, and some legends even suggest Richard III’s corpse was dug up in the 16th century and thrown in a nearby river.
But members of the Richard III society dismissed the tale, insisting that the balance of historical evidence suggests that his corpse is still buried in its initial resting place.
Philippa Langley said: “We now know this story originated from a chap called John Speedie [ John Speed?], a map maker, who was recording landmarks in Leicester in 1611.
“He could not find the grave of Richard III because he was looking in the wrong place, in an area called Blackfriars, so he started the whole legend.”
The project comes two years after archaeologists announced that the field marked out for hundreds of years as the site of the Battle of Bosworth was in the wrong spot.
Ambion Hill had long been regarded as the precise location of the battle and was home to a thriving visitor centre, but experts discovered it was more likely to have taken place in a farmer’s field two miles away in Upton.
*RICHARD III: ACT ONE, SCENE ONE
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amourous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;…
Experts may have found part of church where it’s King Richard III was buried. [ITV's headline, not mine!][Also, he was King of England for two years from 1483 ].
Richard III excavation site open to the public this Saturday. (8th September 2012, between 11am and 2pm).
Updates: Richard III found?
Tuesday, 17th July, 2012
The Arbury Coffin, was an inspiration to the poetess, Sylvia Plath. Since that posting, I have received a picture post card which depicts the fourteenth-century table tomb, known as The Arundal Tomb, in Chichester cathedral. On top of the tomb lie the effigies of Richard Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, and his second wife, Eleanor (Plantagenet) of Lancaster, Countess of Arundel (1318 – 1372), holding hands. This is the tomb which inspired the poet Philip Larkin to write his poem, ‘An Arundel Tomb‘.
An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.
They would no guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigures them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
A plaque in the cathedral reads:
An Arundel Tomb
The figures represent Richard Fitzalan III, 13th Earl of Arundel (ca 1307-1376) and his second wife Eleanor, who by his will of 1375 were to be buried together “without pomp” in the chapter house of Lewes Priory.
The armour and dress suggest a date near 1375; the knight’s attitude is typical of that time, but the lady’s crossed legs, giving the effect of a turn towards her husband, are rare. The joined hands have been thought due to “restoration” by Edward Richardson (1812-69), but recent research has shown the feature to be original. If so, the monument must be one of the earliest showing the concession to affection where the husband was a knight rather than a civilian.
In his will Richard requested that he be buried “near to the tomb of Eleanor de Lancaster, my wife; and I desire that my tomb be no higher than hers, that no men at arms, horses, hearse, or other pomp, be used at my funeral, but only five torches…as was about the corpse of my wife, be allowed.”
Tuesday, 15th May, 2012
A “nationally significant” bronze medieval jug has been stolen from a Bedfordshire museum.
The Wenlok Jug was taken from the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton at about 23:00 BST on Saturday.
In 2005 it was nearly sold abroad, but a temporary export ban provided the opportunity for Luton Museum to raise the £750,000 needed to buy it.
Director of Museums, Karen Perkins, called the theft “extremely serious and upsetting”.
She said: “We are extremely proud that the Wenlok Jug is part of the collections at Stockwood Discovery Centre and are working extremely closely with police and investigators to do all we can to recover it.
“The Wenlok Jug is a nationally significant medieval object.”
The jug is a very rare example of metalwork that can be associated with royalty from the 1400s.
It is decorated with coats of arms and badges and is inscribed with the words “My Lord Wenlok”.
In May 2005 it went up for sale at Sotheby’s and was nearly sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
However its export was stopped in October of that year by culture minister David Lammy after experts ruled it was of “outstanding significance” for the study of bronze-working in medieval England.
It is thought the jug was made for either William Wenlock, who died in 1391 and was canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, or his great-nephew John (c.1400- killed at Battle of Tewkesbury,1471) , the first Lord Wenlock, who was a major figure in the 15th century.
The Making of the Asante ewer [and its relationship to the Wenlok jug]
Stolen Wenlok Jug from Luton ‘recovered in Surrey’
Of two people arrested in connection with its theft, the force said one has been charged with handling stolen property and the other has been released on bail.
Det Sgt Barry Townson, who is investigating the burglary, said: “We are, of course, delighted that the jug has been recovered and will be returned to its rightful home but the investigation continues into how it came to be in Surrey and who was responsible for the burglary. I would like to re-appeal to anyone with information about the burglary to come forward.”