Category Archive 'Archaeology'
02 Sep 2018

The Guttman Gladius

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A POMPEII-TYPE GLADIUS (SHORT SWORD), TINNED BRONZE SCABBARD AND IRON SPEAR HEAD

MID/LATE 1ST CENTURY A.D.

The gladius with parallel double-edged blade of piled construction, of flattened diamond section with raised rib at the point, and long tang, the forte with dot-punched inscription on both sides reading: “C. Valer(i) Pr[imi]/C.Valeri(i) Pri(mi)” and: “C. Valeri(i) P[rimi] C. Raniu(s)/C. Vale[ri] Primi”, mounted, 25 in. (63.6 cm.) long; the scabbard consisting of bronze mounts with remains of tinning, with cut-away and engraved motifs, comprising the locket with two pierced and engraved panels decorated with two helmeted figures, the upper with a warrior moving towards the right, his head turned back, holding spear and shield, and wearing muscled cuirass and crested helmet, two shields resting at his feet, the lower panel with figure of winged Victory writing on a shield hanging from palm tree, wearing drapery around her lower body, the chape with figure of winged Victory holding palm leaf, a separate palmette with scrolling pattern above, with modern collar attachment, mounted, 5¾ in. (14.5 cm.) long max.; and an iron spear blade decorated with circular and wavy line motif on both sides, with faint inscription on the shaft, 17¼ in. (44 cm.) long; and a modern replica of the gladius and scabbard, 26½ in. (67.3 cm.) long max. (4)

Provenance:

Found in Wiesbaden in 1971-1972 by Wolfgang Johe.

Read more: here

23 May 2018

2000-Year-Old Barbarian War Memorial Discovered in Danish Swamp

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Adult leg bones were gathered from the battlefield and arranged in the wetlands along with non-local stones.

National Geographic:

Archaeologists excavated 2,095 human bones and bone fragments—comprising the remains of at least 82 people—across 185 acres of wetland at the site of Alken Enge, on the shore of Lake Mossø on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. Scientific studies indicate that most of the individuals were young male adults, and they all died in a single event in the early first century A.D. Unhealed trauma wounds on the remains, as well as finds of weapons, suggest that the individuals died in battle.

The team didn’t dig up the entire 185 acres, but the researchers extrapolated that more than 380 people may have been interred in boggy waters along the lakeshore some 2,000 years ago, based on the distribution of the remains that were excavated. ….

An army of several hundred people far exceeds the population scale of Iron Age villages in the region, the new paper notes, suggesting that a war band of this many men required the right kinds of organization and leadership skills to recruit fighters from far distances. …

Here’s where it gets really interesting: Many of the human remains show animal gnaw marks consistent with bodies left exposed somewhere else for six months to a year before being submerged in the wetland. Others bones are deliberately arranged in bundles with stones brought in from other areas, and in one case, fragments of hip bones from four different individuals were threaded on a tree branch.

This leads researchers to suspect that after a period of time, the remains were collected from an yet-to-be discovered battlefield and ritually deposited in the marsh. However, the southern areas of the site also revealed many very small bones, which could easily be overlooked when gathering skeletonized remains. This may indicate archaeologists “could actually be very close to the actual battle site,” says study coauthor Mads Kähler Holst, an archaeologist at Aarhus University and executive director of the Mosegaard Museum.

Noting the millennia-long ceremonial and ritual importance of bogs and shallow lakes across northern Europe, Bogucki believes the removal of bodies from the battlefield after a period of time and their interment in the marsh may likely be the action of the victors trying to memorialize their triumph. …

Although they battled Germanic tribes across much of Europe in the first century A.D., Roman armies never made it as far north as southern Scandinavia, and the team didn’t find evidence for direct Roman involvement in this battle.

“The trauma [on the bodies] is also consistent with what we would expect from an encounter with a well-equipped Germanic army,” adds Holst.

Bogucki agrees: “This was barbarian-on-barbarian.”

RTWT

19 Apr 2018

Oldest American Domestic Dogs

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Science News reports recent analysis proves dogs have lived with humans in North America longer than previously supposed and that the genetics of some dogs kept by early inhabitants of North America have not survived to the present day.

A trio of dogs buried at two ancient human sites in Illinois lived around 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest known domesticated canines in the Americas.

Radiocarbon dating of the dogs’ bones shows they were 1,500 years older than thought, zooarchaeologist Angela Perri said April 13 at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The previous age estimate was based on a radiocarbon analysis of burned wood found in one of the animals’ graves. Until now, nearly 9,300-year-old remains of dogs eaten by humans at a Texas site were the oldest physical evidence of American canines.

Ancient dogs at the Midwestern locations also represent the oldest known burials of individual dogs in the world, said Perri, of Durham University in England. A dog buried at Germany’s Bonn-Oberkassel site around 14,000 years ago was included in a two-person grave. Placement of the Americas dogs in their own graves indicates that these animals were held in high regard by ancient people.

An absence of stone tool incisions on the three ancient dogs’ skeletons indicates that they were not killed by people, but died of natural causes before being buried, Perri said. …

She and her colleagues studied two of three dogs excavated at the Koster site in the 1970s and a dog unearthed at Stilwell II in 1960. These sites lie about 30 kilometers apart in west-central Illinois.

Perri’s team found that the lower jaws and teeth of the Stilwell II dog and one Koster dog displayed some similarities to those of modern wolves. Another Koster dog’s jaw shared some traits with present-day coyotes, possibly reflecting some ancient interbreeding.

A new genetic analysis positions the 10,000-year-old Illinois dogs in a single lineage that initially populated North America. Dog origins are controversial, but may date to more than 20,000 years ago (SN Online: 7/18/17). Ancient American dogs, including the Koster and Stilwell II animals, shared a common genetic ancestor, cell biologist Kelsey Witt Dillon of the University of California, Merced reported April 13 at the SAA meeting. That ancestor originated roughly 15,000 years ago after diverging from a closely related Siberian dog population about 1,000 years earlier, she said.

Dillon’s team, which includes Perri, studied 71 complete mitochondrial genomes and seven nuclear genomes of dogs from more than 20 North American sites, ranging in age from 10,000 to 800 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is typically inherited from the mother, whereas nuclear DNA comes from both parents.

Much of the genetic blueprint of those ancient dogs is absent in present-day canines, Dillon said. Only a small number of U.S. and Asian dogs share maternal ancestry with ancient American dogs, suggesting the arrival of European breeds starting at least several hundred years ago reshaped dog DNA in the Americas, she proposed.

RTWT

23 Dec 2017

Mellgren Coin: Real Evidence of Vikings in Maine?

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Atlas Obscura:

The story that Guy Mellgren told about the curious silver coin began on the shores of Maine, where he met a stranger named Goddard. In the fall of 1956, Mellgren and Ed Runge, a pair of amateur archaeologists, had come in search of the most basic of coastal dig sites—a shell midden—when they happened onto a more unusual discovery.

Goddard had invited them to explore his shoreline property, and there, on a natural terrace about eight feet above the high tide line, they found stone chips, knives, and fire pits, along with an abundance of other unexpected artifacts. Each summer for many years, Mellgren and Runge returned to excavate the “Goddard Site,” with little help from professional archaeologists. In the second summer, they produced the coin.

For two decades, based on an analysis by a friend in a numismatics club, Mellgren described it as a coin minted in 12th-century England, and no one questioned that identification. The discovery should have been noteworthy—there’s no good explanation for how a medieval English coin could have crossed the Atlantic—but Mellgren never sought wider attention for the find. It was a curiosity to show off to friends and his son’s classmates, until, in 1978, a scrappy regional bulletin published a picture of the coin and an article titled, “Were the English the First to Discover America?”

That picture found its way to a well-known London dealer, who recognized at once that the coin could not have come from England. Two weeks after Mellgren died, the coin’s reidentification swept into the news. It was a Norse penny, made between 1065 and 1093—evidence for Viking contact with North America centuries before Columbus.

All of sudden, experts from around the world began taking a careful look at the details of Mellgren’s story. Of many objects purported to prove a Viking presence in North America, only the artifacts painstakingly excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, have stood up to investigation. The rest—the Beardmore relics, the Vinland Map, the notorious Kensington Rune Stone—are all considered hoaxes.

Since 1978, no one has questioned that the Mellgren coin is an authentic Norse penny, made in medieval Scandinavia. But 60 years after Mellgren’s find, archaeologists and numismatic experts are still asking how in the world this small, worn coin got to Maine.

RTWT

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

03 Dec 2017

First Archaelogical Evidence of Caesar’s Invasion of Britain

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View of the University of Leicester excavations at Ebbsfleet in 2016 showing Pegwell Bay and the cliffs at Ramsgate.

Telegraph:

The first Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar in 55BC is a historical fact, with vivid accounts passed down by Tacitus, Cicero and Caesar himself.

Yet, despite a huge landing force of legionaries from 800 ships, no archaeological evidence for the attack or any physical remains of encampments have ever been found.

But now a chance excavation carried out ahead of a road building project in Kent has uncovered what is thought to be the first solid proof for the invasion.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester and Kent County Council have found a defensive ditch and javelin spear at Ebbsfleet, a hamlet on the Isle of Thanet.

RTWT

26 Nov 2017

Gold Richard III Half Angel Found Not Far From Bosworth Field

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Leicester Mercury:

A metal detectorist has tracked down a rare gold coin from Richard III’s reign near to the site of the Battle of Bosworth.

The Half Angel is one of just a handful of such coins that have survived from the king’s two-year reign.

It was discovered by Michelle Vall while she was taking part in a charity detecting rally in September at Monks Kirby, near the Bosworth Field. News of the discovery has just come to light.

The coin will be auctioned international coins, medals and jewellery specialist Dix Noonan Webb in London on December 13. It is expected to fetch up to £15,000.

Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb, said: “This is a very rare discovery that has miraculously survived in a field for more than five centuries.

“Its importance as a coin is enhanced by the tantalising possibility that it may have belonged to one of Richard’s army, whose defeat at Bosworth ended the Wars of the Roses and ushered in the Tudor dynasty.”

Michelle, a 51-year-old primary school teaching assistant, from Blackpool, said: “After detecting for two-and-a-half hours in a farmer’s field, I got a signal.

“The coin was deep down, about 16 inches below the surface, and the soil there is thick clay so it took a bit of digging out.

“I spotted this glint of gold in the hole, although I obviously did not know exactly what it was at first. I put it in the palm of my hand and then I went back to the organisers’ tent.

“One of them identified it and people became very excited. That was when I realised that it was a Half Angel.”

Michelle has decided to sell the coin as, she said, it is “too valuable to keep”.

She added: “I did not want to keep it in a locked cupboard.

“I feel very privileged that I have found something so precious and historic.

“The memory of that day, the excitement not just of myself but also of other detectorists, when I found that beautiful, tiny, piece of historic gold will live with me forever.”

The Half Angel gold coin was first introduced in 1472 and was half the value of the Angel coin.
The rare gold coin was discovered near the site of the Battle of Bosworth

Richard III issues of the coin are rare because his reign was so brief and there has always been a big interest in items from the controversial king’s rein particularly since his remains were discovered in Leicester in 2012.

It is possible that the coin might have belonged to one of Richard’s soldiers fleeing from the battle that changed the course of English history.

24 Aug 2017

In Sweden, Officials Are Simply Recycling Bronze and Iron Age Artifacts

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One of the amulet rings from the Iron Age that archaeologists are recycling. Previously, this type of object was saved, says archaeologist Johan Runer.

Rough translation from Swedish language article in Svenska Dagbladet:

While the debate about burning books is raging in the media, Swedish archaeologists throw away amulet rings and other ancient discoveries. It feels wrong and sad to destroy thousands of years of ritual arts and crafts, and I’m not alone in feeling so.

“What you do is destroy our history! Says Johan Runer, archaeologist at Stockholm County Museum.

Amulet rings from the Iron Age, like Viking weights and coins, belong to a category of objects that, as far as Runer knows, were previously always saved.

He tried to raise the alarm in an article in the journal Popular Archeology (No. 4/2016), describing how arbitrary thinning occurs. Especially in archeological studies before construction and road projects, the focus is on quickly and cheaply removing the heritage so that the machine tools can proceed.

He works himself in these kinds of excavations. Nobody working in field archeology wants to get a reputation as an uncooperative “find-fanatic” but now he cannot be quiet any longer.

“It’s quite crazy, but this field operates in the marketplace. We are doing business,” says Runer.

Often, especially in the case of minor excavations, there is a standing order from the county administrative boards that as few discoveries as possible should be taken.

If you think it seems unlikely, I recommend reading the National Archives Office’s open archive, such as report 2016: 38. An archaeological preamble of settlement of bronze and iron age before reconstruction by Flädie on the E6 outside Lund.

In the finds catalog, coins, knives, a tin ornament, a ring and a weight from the Viking Age or early Middle Ages have been placed in the column “Weeded Out”.

Current research about weights and measures focusing on the Viking era is underway, “says Lena Holmquist, archaeologist at Stockholm University.

But one puzzle piece is gone.

At another dig in the millennial culture village Molnby in Vallentuna, several amulet rings from the Iron Age were found. Amulet rings were ritual items used during the Vendel and Viking times.

Johan Anund, Regional Director of the Archaeology Staff at the State Historical Museums who made the thinning, says that archaeologists at all times have to make priorities in order to avoid drowning in objects.

It is the county boards that hire archaeology staffs to carry out archaeological investigations. An easy way to lower the cost is to reduce the number of items to be preserved.

Ceramics require no preservation and are usually saved. However, iron and metal must be treated after perhaps a thousand years in the ground. So if the staff puts funds for conserving two metal objects in its bid but finds twelve then they have to discard ten. To metal recycling.

The historical museum now only deals with objects that have been preserved.

Weeding out typically occurs in the field, usually by an individual who must quickly decide: save or throw away? As a result, familiar objects are preserved.

Last year a sensational little dragon was found in Birka. It looked the more like a lump of rust when it was picked up, but the archaeologists in Birka are among the few who have the time and capabilities to investigate. On a commissioned archaeological dig, the dragon would probably have been thrown away.

Archaeologists do not give away or sell finds because they do not want to create a market for antiquities and encourage robbers with metal detectors, says Runer. Thus: the bin.

“It is troubling when in other countries everything is done to preserve their heritage …,” says archaeologist Lena Holmquist.

Conclusion: If society no longer believes it can afford to take responsibility for Sweden’s history, county councils should stop builders and developers from excavating ancient sites. One alternative is to stop outsourcing the cultural heritage to the lowest bidder with the largest waste bin.

Now the question is what the National Antiquarian Lars Amréus, or the cultural minister, are thinking? They are responsible for the cultural heritage of Sweden and the destruction of history takes place during their shift.

Isn’t it typical of academics and state bureaucrats that they’d rather throw artifacts in the recycling bin than release them into the hands of private collectors? God forbid, some private citizen with a metal detector, lacking a badge and the right university credentials should find anything!

HT: Jean-Batave Poqueliche, at Return of Kings, who found the story and spun it in the direction of deliberate Multicultural malevolence.

15 Jul 2017

Reading University Excavating Long Barrow

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Telegraph:

A “House of the Dead” dating back more than 5,000 years could contain the remains of the ancestors of people who built Stonehenge, archaeologists believe.

A Neolithic long barrow burial mound at Cat’s Brain, in Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, is being excavated by the University of Reading in the first full investigation of such a monument in the county for half a century.

The long barrow, lies in the middle of a farmer’s field halfway between the two major stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge, and its existence has been known for decades after a geological survey found the evidence of deep trenches.

The inner building, however, was thought to have been ploughed flat, and it was not until a drone was sent up recently that anyone knew part of it still survives.

The barrrow would have originally consisted of of two ditches flanking a central burial chamber which was probably covered with a mound made of the earth dug from the ditches.

Experts said it was surprising to find lasting evidence of the building and believe it may contain human remains buried there in around 3,600 BC.

It is hoped the Reading University Archaeology Field School investigation will provide crucial evidence from the early Neolithic period, which saw Britain’s first agricultural communities and monument builders.

RTWT

08 Jul 2017

Copper of Iceman’s Axe Came From Hundreds of Miles Away From the Tyrol

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Telegraph:

New research has shown that a copper axe carried by a Neolithic hunter known as Ötzi the Iceman came from southern Tuscany.

The find has surprised experts because hundreds of miles separate Tuscany from the Alpine pass where the mummified body of Ötzi was discovered 25 years ago.

It is known that copper was mined in the Alps so it is a mystery why the Iceman’s blade should have come from so far away.

Nor do scientists know whether the copper was acquired as a raw ingot, which then had to be fashioned into an axe, or as a ready-made blade.

The hunter-gatherer, nicknamed Ötzi after the Otztal mountains where he was found, died 5,300 years ago on what is now the border between Italy and Austria.

He perished after being shot in the back with an arrow by an unknown assailant, in one of the world’s oldest murder mysteries.

His body was frozen forever in the snow and ice of the mountains.

“Our results unambiguously indicate that the source of the metal is the ore-rich area of southern Tuscany, despite ample evidence that Alpine copper ore sources were known and exploited at the time,” scientists said in a report published in the research journal Plos One.

The fact that copper was being traded between central Italy and the remote Alps was “surprising”, said the experts, who are from Padua University and the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where the mummified body of the Iceman is on permanent display.

RTWT

23 May 2017

Shrapnel From Monmouth Battlefield Tests Positive for Human Blood

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Asbury Park Press:

It’s a hexagonal piece of lead, maybe the size of a fingertip. Canister shot, it was called, and the Continental Army used it to shred British lines at the Battle of Monmouth in June of 1778.

When his team of volunteer archaeologists found this and other pieces of ordnance in the ground at Monmouth Battlefield State Park last summer, Dan Sivilich suspected they were not your typical artifacts.

“Two appeared to have fabric impressions on them which suggested they might have hit a uniform,” Sivilich said.

He sent them to PaleoResarch Inc. in Colorado for testing. Nine months later his hunch was proven correct — and then some. One of the pieces tested positive for human blood protein.

“In other words, it hit a soldier,” Sivilich said. “This is the only piece of Revolutionary War canister shot ever found that’s been positively tested for human blood.”

That’s not all. Based on where they were discovered, Sivilich believes the pieces probably were fired by Proctor’s Pennsylvania artillery. One of its cannon is associated with the legendary heroine Molly Pitcher, whose real name likely was Mary Hays.

“It could have been a round that Molly Pitcher handled,” Sivilich said. “We can’t say for sure, but it makes for interesting speculation.”

RTWT

01 May 2017

New Research on Bog Bodies

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In 1950, Tollund Man’s discoverers “found a face so fresh they could only suppose they had stumbled on a recent murder.”

Smithsonian has a major update on the latest scientific news on researching Bronze Age and Iron Age bodies found in Northern European bogs.

Archaeologists have been asking the same questions since [peat-cutters in 1950] first troubled Tollund Man’s long sleep: Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you live? Who murdered you and why? But the way the researchers ask the questions, using new forensic techniques like dual-energy CT scanners and strontium tests, is getting more sophisticated all the time. There’s new hope that, sometime soon, he may start to speak.

Scholars tend to agree that Tollund Man’s killing was some kind of ritual sacrifice to the gods—perhaps a fertility offering. To the people who put him there, a bog was a special place. While most of Northern Europe lay under a thick canopy of forest, bogs did not. Half earth, half water and open to the heavens, they were borderlands to the beyond. To these people, will-o’-the-wisps—flickering ghostly lights that recede when approached—weren’t the effects of swamp gas caused by rotting vegetation. They were fairies. The thinking goes that Tollund Man’s tomb may have been meant to ensure a kind of soggy immortality for the sacrificial object.

“When he was found in 1950,” says Nielsen, “they made an X-ray of his body and his head, so you can see the brain is quite well-preserved. They autopsied him like you would do an ordinary body, took out his intestines, said, yup it’s all there, and put it back. Today we go about things entirely differently. The questions go on and on.”

Lately, Tollund Man has been enjoying a particularly hectic afterlife. In 2015, he was sent to the Natural History Museum in Paris to run his feet through a microCT scan normally used for fossils. Specialists in ancient DNA have tapped Tollund Man’s femur to try to get a sample of the genetic material. They failed, but they’re not giving up. Next time they’ll use the petrous bone at the base of the skull, which is far denser than the femur and thus a more promising source of DNA.

Then there’s Tollund Man’s hair, which may end up being the most garrulous part of him. Shortly before I arrived, Tollund Man’s hat was removed for the first time to obtain hair samples. By analyzing how minute quantities of strontium differ along a single strand, a researcher in Copenhagen hopes to assemble a road map of all the places Tollund Man traveled in his lifetime.

Fascinating stuff. RTWT

10 Apr 2017

Roman Settlement of Cataractonium Discovered in North Yorkshire

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Silver ring in the form of a snake.

Live Science:

A rare silver ring shaped like a snake that wraps around the finger hints at the great wealth of the people who lived at Cataractonium.

Construction work to upgrade Britain’s longest road into a major highway has revealed a treasure trove of rare artifacts from one of the earliest and wealthiest Roman settlements in the country.

The findings include ancient shoes, cups, a rare silver ring, keys, a high-relief glass bowl and an elaborately carved amber figurine, archaeologists with the public group Historic England announced yesterday (April 6).

Archaeologists uncovered the artifacts in North Yorkshire along the A1, which stretches 410 miles (660 kilometers) from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, during a major project to improve the existing roadway.

“It is fascinating to discover that nearly 2,000 years ago, the Romans were using the A1 route as a major road of strategic importance and using the very latest technological innovations from that period to construct the original road,” Tom Howard, project manager at the government agency Highways England, said in a statement.

Indeed, the newly found artifacts include a plumb bob used to build straight roads, which was likely utilized in the construction of Dere Street, a Roman road following the course of the A1, the researchers said.

The excavations have also led to the discovery of a major Roman settlement at Scotch Corner, one of the best-known junctions in the country.

Taking its name from an old Roman road called Scots Dyke, Scotch Corner links Scotland with England and the east coast with the west coast.

Right there, the archaeologists with the professional consultant group Northern Archaeological Associates unearthed the remains of a large settlement dating back to A.D. 60, thus predating settlements in York and Carlisle by 10 years.

The discovery proves that the Romans “possibly began their territorial expansion into northern England a decade earlier than previously thought,” according to Historic England.

The settlement at Scotch Corner was unusually large compared to others in northern England, and stretched over 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) from north to south — roughly the length of 13 football fields positioned end to end, according to Historic England.

Artifacts unearthed there suggest that the people who lived at Scotch Corner were rather wealthy. High-status imported items include the figure of a toga-clad actor carved from a block of amber, which is believed to have been made in Italy during the first century A.D.

“A similar example was found at Pompeii. Nothing like this has ever before been found in the U.K.,” representatives with Historic England said.

The archaeologists unearthed more than 1,400 clay fragments of molds used for making gold, silver and copper coins, thus making the site the largest known and most northerly example of coin production ever found in Europe, the researchers said. Those findings suggest that the settlement might have served as a sophisticated industrial and administrative center, the archaeologists said.

“It shows that the Romans were carrying out significant industrial activity in this part of England and potentially producing coins of high value,” Historic England representatives said in the statement.

But it was a short-lived glory. The settlement was occupied for just two to three decades. Its demise seems to coincide with the rise of Catterick, a town south of Scotch Corner known by the Romans as Cataractonium.

Finds at Catterick abounded. The archaeologists unearthed several well-preserved leather shoes, along with large sheets of leather, perhaps used for producing clothes. The artifacts suggest that Cataractonium was an important leatherworking center that likely supported the Roman military, the archaeologists said.

A rare silver ring shaped like a snake, which wraps around the finger, and a number of keys of various sizes suggest that the people who lived in Cataractonium were wealthy and that they locked up their valuable possessions, the archaeologists suggested.

Moreover, the many styli (Roman pens) and a pewter inkpot found at the site indicate that most of these ancient people were able to read and write, the researchers said.

“The sheer amount of exceptional objects found on this road scheme has been extraordinary,” Neil Redfern, principal inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said in the statement. “This project has given us a unique opportunity to understand how the Romans conducted their military expansion into northern England and how civil life changed under their control.”

Photos

22 Mar 2017

Context 958 Lived in the 13th Century

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Facial reconstruction of Context 958 burial.

Gizmodo reports on the reconstruction of the face of a man who lived 700 years ago by Cambridge scientists.

[H]ere’s what we know about Context 958.

He was just slightly over 40 years old when he died. His skeleton showed signs of considerable wear-and-tear, so he likely lead a tough and hard working life. His tooth enamel stopped growing during two occasions in his youth, suggesting he likely lived through bouts of famine or sickness when he was young. The archaeologists found traces of blunt force trauma inflicted to the back of his head, which healed over before he died. The researchers aren’t sure what he did for a living, but they think he was a working-class person who specialized in some kind of trade.

Context 958 ate a diverse diet rich in meat or fish, according to an analysis of weathering patterns on his teeth. His profession may have provided him with more access to such foods than the average person at the time. His presence at the charitable hospital suggests he fell on hard times, with no one to take care of him.

“Context 958 was probably an inmate of the Hospital of St John, a charitable institution which provided food and a place to live for a dozen or so indigent townspeople—some of whom were probably ill, some of whom were aged or poor and couldn’t live alone,” noted John Robb, a professor from Cambridge University’s Division of Archaeology, in a statement.

Strangely, he was buried face down, which is rare but not unheard of in medieval burials.

Full story.

15 Feb 2017

The Middleham Jewel

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Vintage News had a feature article on a major historic find.

The Middleham Jewel is a late 15th-cenutry diamond-shaped gold pendant made by the finest medieval goldsmiths in London. It was found in 1985 near the Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire which was the childhood home of Richard III.

It is a remarkable piece of jewelry because of the engraving of the two scenes of the Trinity and Nativity.

There is a blue sapphire stone set on the front face which is connected with the Virgin Mary and it was believed that the jewel was made to assist childbirth. Another belief is that the jewel was providing protection against illness curing headaches and poor eyesight. Also, the sapphire may represent heaven or have acted as aid to prayer.

The circle of the sun surrounding the sapphire is in the shape of the letter “o” and it’s connected with the Greek word ”omega” which symbolizes the end, the completion. There are holes on the side of the jewel which indicate that there was a frame around it, possibly once decorated with pearls.

On the front side, there is a scene of the Trinity, including the Crucifixion of Jesus and there is a Latin inscription which was a common recitation by the priest in mass. There is one particular word ‘ananizapta’ for which it was believed that it is a magic word, intended to protect people from drunkenness or epilepsy.

On the back side of the jewel, there is an engraving of the Nativity, with fifteen saints around the Lamb of God. Only a few of the saints can be identified as St George, Catherine of Alexandria, St Peter, St Barbara, St Anne, Dorothea of Caesarea and St Margaret of Antioch.

There is evidence from the late 15-th century that this kind of jewel was worn by noble ladies. It may have been owned by Richard III’s wife, Anne Neville, his mother or his mother-in-law because they all spent time at Middleham.

When it was first found, the jewel was declared lost and was sold at Sotheby’s in 1986. In 1992, with support from many fundraisers, it was acquired by the Yorkshire Museum. There is a replica of the Middleham Jewel at Middleham and the original can be seen in the Yorkshire Museum.

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