Grass stalks fit bill for earliest toothpicks

12:05 06 November 03


Even early humans knew a thing or two about dental hygiene. Our ancestors used grass stalks as tooth picks, experimental findings suggest.

The teeth of ancient hominids commonly have curved grooves on their roots. It has been suggested that these marks were made by an implement used to pick teeth. But critics of this theory point out that the teeth of today's regular toothpick users have no such marks.

Resolving this conundrum has surprisingly wide implications. Similar grooves have been found on fossil teeth dating back 1.8 million years. If the individuals made them by using toothpicks, the habit would qualify as the oldest human custom yet recorded. It could also reveal details about ancient diets and oral health.

To help settle the debate, palaeontologist Leslea Hlusko of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hit upon grass stalks as likely to have left the mystery grooves.

Unlike wood, grass contains large numbers of hard, abrasive silica particles. This may explain the grooves seen on ancient teeth. And grass stalks are the right size to leave the marks, between 1.5 to 2.6 millimetres wide, that have been found on ancient teeth.

Hlusko spent eight hours grinding a piece of grass along a tooth taken from a baboon. She then replicated the experiment for three hours on a modern human tooth. In both, the grass left marks almost identical to those seen in scanning electron microscopic images of early hominid teeth.


Journal reference: Current Anthropology (vol 44, p 738)



Earliest Stone Tools and Bones Site Discovered

An assistant professor of anthropology has discovered the earliest direct evidence of stone tool manufacture and use in a controlled setting, in an excavation in Gona, Ethiopia. His research team dates the tools they found to 2.6 million years old.


Newswise — Michael Rogers, an assistant professor of anthropology at Southern Connecticut State University, has discovered the earliest direct evidence of stone tool manufacture and use in a controlled setting, in an excavation in Gona, Ethiopia. Rogers and his research team date the tools they found to 2.6 million years old. An article reporting their findings was published in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

Three years ago, Rogers was in Ethiopia working on a paleoanthropological research project in Gona, in an area that hadn’t been looked at before. He found a few flakes—tools that are pieces of stone chipped off of a larger stone—and began digging with a crew of experienced excavators. What they eventually discovered is a significant development in the field of paleoanthropology: the earliest stone tools and animal bones at the same site, clearly associated with each other, indicating early humans’ use of tools to provide food for themselves.

“This is the earliest site that really documents the two together,” says Rogers, adding, “There’s no question that they are associated with each other. Our ancestors were using the artifacts to process animal parts, which probably shows that humans were expanding their diets to include animals and were no longer largely vegetarians—they were becoming at least partly carnivorous.”

At the time of the discovery, Rogers was part of an international research team, the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project, led by Sileshi Semaw, Ph.D., an Ethiopian anthropologist working at CRAFT Research Center, Indiana University. Gona is in Ethiopia’s Awash Valley, nearly at sea level. This area was already known to have the earliest stone tools, and is adjacent to Hadar, where “Lucy,” probably the most famous hominid fossil yet to be discovered, was found in 1974.

Researchers on the Gona Project have found cutmarked bones before, says Rogers, but not in a controlled setting. The setting where he and his group made their discovery is an excavation area that is four meters wide by one meter deep. Several hundred artifacts were found in this area. “If this was the earliest site in the world, we expected things to be crude, but the tools appear to have been well made,” says Rogers. The tools they found “are incredibly fresh for their age,” he adds. “The condition of the site, for its age, is shocking.”

Rogers says the site is on the bank of a river and at one time was probably covered over when the river flooded and hasn’t been touched since. “This site is in pristine condition,” he says. “We know it hasn’t been moved.” The materials the researchers found are being kept at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.

Rogers and his colleagues found at the site diverse types of stone, indicating that the toolmakers were discriminating about the materials they chose to use. “Our ancestors had to know what kind of rock flakes the best,” says Rogers. “They chose only the rarest kinds of cobbles from the ancient stream bed nearby for their ‘flake-ability.’ They were being very selective.”

Rogers says that the group’s find shows the start of something that hasn’t yet stopped: human beings’ use of technology. “You can trace our technology use way back,” he says. “These stone tools show that our human ancestors were capable of creating something completely new and that they had an insight about what they were creating.”

In his anthropology classes, Rogers shows his students how flaking works, and then has them give it a try. To do it, one holds the core stone in one hand and a smaller stone in the other, and then hits the smaller stone against the core, with the goal of flaking pieces off. It’s not easy to do well, Rogers points out, so the earliest toolmakers must have had some kind of skill. “You have to make a glancing blow, at the right angle and with the right force. It requires good eye-hand coordination. And you have to choose the right kind of stone. All of this was abundantly evident at the site.”

In the field of the earliest archaeology, Rogers says, “everything is in Africa—there is nothing older anywhere else. People say it all the time: Africa is the cradle of humankind.”



Iraqi Ancient Treasures Found in Baghdad Cesspool

Thu 6 November, 2003 18:27

By Luke Baker


BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - Two priceless pieces of Iraq's ancient heritage, looted from Baghdad's main museum in the chaotic days after Saddam Hussein's fall, have been recovered from a Baghdad cesspool, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The Akkadian Bassetki, a copper statue of a seated man dating from 2300 BC, and an ancient Assyrian firebox that a king would have used to keep himself warm were recovered by police investigators, the authorities said.

The Bassetki statue is considered the most important of Iraq's ancient artworks after the so-called Warka Mask of a Sumerian goddess, recovered earlier this year.

"I would describe this as a spectacular find and we're extremely pleased," John Russell, an art expert who is helping to restore recovered artifacts, told Reuters.

"As far as I can tell their condition is OK, although they still need a bit of cleaning up," Russell said.

No further details were given as to how the pieces were found or who was involved in the investigation.

Investigators believe the Bassetki statue, a 330 pound cast depicting a man sitting with his legs crossed on the ground, was stolen to order, like other highly prized works.

When it was taken it was dragged across the display hall and down the Iraqi National Museum's main staircase, leaving deep gouges in the floor.

The Assyrian brazier, carved in wood and bronze dating from 850 BC, was also highly regarded in the art world and ranked 28 on the list of 30 most important items stolen in Iraq, U.S. authorities said.

While it was initially feared that thousands of ancient pieces of art were stolen during a days-long orgy of looting shortly after Saddam's regime was overthrown in April, experts believe the actual number was much lower.

Of the 42 pieces originally reported missing from the Baghdad museum's public galleries, most have now been recovered and only a very few were damaged.

Several of the most important works, including the fabled treasures of Nimrud, were removed from the museum and placed in the vault of the central bank ahead of the war.

Before they were discovered there, however, U.S. forces came under severe criticism for not doing enough to protect Babylon's ancient glories and other riches as they focused instead on guarding oil plants and other installations.

"The fact is, the looting of the museum was not nearly as bad as was feared immediately after the war," Charles Heatly, a spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, told a news conference Thursday.

"The number of artifacts left to be recovered are now few."

Cleaning of the Bassetki statue and Assyrian firebox is expected to be finished shortly and the works will be put back on display in a few days, Heatly said.



Lone security guard tells how he saved Bactrian treasure

By Hamida Ghafour in Kabul

(Filed: 03/11/2003)


An Afghan security guard has spoken for the first time of how he prevented a hoard of gold bullion and priceless 2,100-year-old treasure falling into the hands of the Taliban and their ally, Osama bin Laden.

The fate of the Golden Hoard of Bactria, an ancient collection of 20,000 artefacts, has been the subject of fantastic rumours: that it was stolen by Soviet troops or looted by the Taliban to be sold through antique dealers in Pakistan to fund a terrorist network.

But the treasure remained safe largely due to the efforts of one man: Askerzai, who has been guardian of the vaults for 30 years. Mr Askerzai, 50, an employee of the central bank, is one of the few people in history to have seen the 20,000 gold objects. "It's the best heritage of our country," he said.

The coins, medallions, plates, and necklaces set with precious stones were excavated in 1978 in modern Balkh province, northern Afghanistan, which was known as Bactria when Alexander the Great conquered the country.

"It is the biggest hoard of gold ever discovered," said Jim Williams at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation office in Kabul. "It was like finding King Tut's tomb."

Soon after the discovery, a guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation began, followed by civil war.

During those years, Mr Askerzai said, the treasure was kept in the Kabul Museum, which has since been looted. The day before the Russians fled Kabul in February 1989, the treasure was moved to the presidential compound, the safest place in the capital.

Mr Askerzai helped to seal the treasure in seven trunks and guarded it along with the assets of the central bank - gold bars the "size of your arm" worth about £50 million - also kept in the presidential palace.

It was hidden in a vault carved out of rock and protected by steel doors bolted by seven locks.

The keys were held by seven people, most of whom are now missing or dead. The German firm which built the vault is making another key so that the information and culture ministry can catalogue the treasure.

The real threat to the treasure came when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. A delegation of 10 mullahs arrived with a jeweller to inspect the vaults. A pistol held against his head, he opened the combination lock so they could inspect the gold bars. They had found the second prize, but did not realise the real treasure was in a vault above their heads.

The Taliban asked if there was any other gold, but Mr Askerzai remained silent. He was imprisoned for three months and 17 days, during which he was beaten and tortured, but he did not reveal anything. "I wasn't scared," he said. "I didn't care for my life. They were foreigners. They were not Afghans."

On the Taliban's last night in power, as coalition forces pounded the country with bombs, the Taliban stuffed the central bank's cash reserves into tin trunks and arrived at the vault for the gold bars. They spent four hours trying to open the vault. Mr Askerzai watched. Unknown to them, five years earlier he had broken the key and left it in the lock. The Taliban gave up and fled Kabul as Northern Alliance forces edged closer. That saved the bullion.

They did not think to ask about the Golden Hoard of Bactria, for a simple reason, Mr Askersai said. The uneducated mullahs were not schooled in Afghanistan's great archaeological heritage. They had never heard of Bactria.

The regime that destroyed much of the country's important antiques including the Bamian Buddha statues unknowingly saved the Bactrian gold. "Fortunately, in this case, the Taliban's lack of historical knowledge assisted us." The treasure remains for the moment locked up and beyond reach in case another invader tries to steal it.



Parliament on hold after citadel discovery

By Vu Quynh


Hanoi - Construction of Vietnam's new parliament building has been halted after archaeologists discovered the ruins of a royal citadel dating back to the 11th century on the proposed site, state media said on Thursday.


The Politburo, the ruling Communist Party's elite decision-making arm, has postponed further work on the new National Assembly pending further consultations, the party's Nhan Dan newspaper said.


The move follows an appeal by archaeologists and historians in September for the government to put back the October 1 deadline for the official ground-breaking ceremony.


The Nhan Dan said the Politburo will consider whether or not to find a new site for the legislature. The 15-member body also ruled that a national conference centre, which was planned for the same site, will now be built on the outskirts of Hanoi near the recently opened My Dinh National Stadium.


Land clearance on the site of the proposed parliament, located in the heart of the capital near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the existing legislature, began early in 2002.


However, archaeologists called in to conduct a mandatory survey of the site discovered in December a wealth of relics from five feudal dynasties dating back to the seventh century.


"It is a surprising and priceless discovery. We uncovered the foundations of a big palace, a number of architectural works and millions of artifacts from the Chinese Tang dynasty and the Vietnamese dynasties of Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen," said Professor Phan Huy Le, chairperson of the Vietnam History Association.


The prize discovery was the palace, the largest of its kind discovered in Vietnam, with foundations reaching 62m in length and 27m in width.


This, he said, belonged to the western part of the Thang Long royal citadel, which was built in the 11th century when monarch Ly Thai To moved the capital of Dai Viet state, now known as Vietnam, from Hoa Lu, outside present day Hanoi, to the northern city.


Human remains dating back to the Ly dynasty (1010-1225) were also unearthed, including the bones of two children believed to be aged eight or nine-years old. Their skeletal remains were discovered near the palace's main foundation pillar.


"We think they could have been buried alive to ward off evil spirits," said Le.


Although animals have long been substituted for humans, the practice is still believed to be carried out in remote, rural parts of Vietnam.


More than three million bronze, gold, porcelain and ceramic artifacts, some depicting dragon and unicorn heads, were also discovered, as well as a sophisticated drainage system, including some wells that still bear water.


Le said some of the artifacts appeared to have originated from China, Japan and the Middle East.


For the moment at least, archaeologists have won the opening round to preserve Vietnam's cultural heritage against certain elements in the government dismayed by the financial costs of finding a new location for the legislature.


But even Le acknowledges the enormous task he has on his hands to realise his dream of establishing an outdoor museum on the site.


"Even if we don't have the funding and technology to do this now, at the very least we should preserve this site for future generations. If we destroy our heritage we are committing a big crime," he said.



Discovery of oldest bridge recreated online

Wessex Archaeology - press release, embargoed until 0600 Thursday October 30


The thrill of archaeologists’ discovery of the oldest bridge ever found in England can now be relived through a series of web pages.

Wessex Archaeology has put up information on its website about how its staff found the timbers from a 3,500-year-old Middle Bronze Age bridge near Testwood, Hampshire. The pages can be seen at:



The site gives full details of how 143 wooden stakes that formed part of the bridge were discovered during the construction of a reservoir by Southern Water. Also found were a bronze rapier and part of a boat dating to the same time, c1,500BC.

The stakes were up to three metres (ten feet) tall and 25 cms (10 inches) wide and formed a bridge 26 metres (85 feet long) across a river which has since changed its course, possibly what is now the River Blackwater.

The stakes, which supported the bridge’s walkway, were preserved upright in mud and were so delicate that once exposed to the air they had to be sprayed with water three times a day. This kept them from crumbling into dust long enough for archaeologists to record them and remove them before the reservoir was built. Some planks that formed the bridge’s walkway were also preserved.

Carbon dating of the stakes, made from oak, alder and ash, date them to around 1,500BC, the oldest bridge ever found in England – another discovery of slightly older stakes in the River Thames is thought to be a jetty.


A cleat, a curved piece of wood used to fasten crossbeams to the hull of a sea-going boat, was also found at Testwood.


The rapier was 32 cms (13 inches) long without its wooden handle, which was not found. It was probably thrown into the water as part of a religious ritual.

“The bridge near Testwood is fascinating evidence for people’s early use of rivers,” said Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, who managed the project for Wessex Archaeology.


“We can image people in 1,500BC trading with other parts of Britain or the continent using sea-going boats similar to large canoes – the cleat we found was part of one of these.

“They would have brought their cargoes – including metalwork similar to the rapier we found, pots and people – to the Testwood bridge where they either went on by land or went further upstream in smaller boats.


“Finding evidence for the bridge, the boat and the rapier at Testwood adds to our understanding of our ancestors’ use of seas and rivers. Southern Water’s co-operation in funding our work was important in throwing light on our past.”

The website pages, launched this week, give details of the finds, and have photographs of the work carried out by Wessex Archaeology during the project, in 1999. They also have a reconstruction of the bridge, the river and plants based on the remains of plants and insects found during the project.

Some of the timbers found at Testwood have been chemically conserved and have been given to Hampshire Museum Service for display. Others will be on display at the new Southern Water education centre at Testwood Lakes. The rapier is usually on display at Totton and Eling Heritage Centre, and a replica of the rapier will shortly be on display at the Testwood Lakes Centre.


For further information, please contact:

Tony Trueman, Wessex Archaeology



Paula Jackman, Southern Water

01903 272028






09:00 - 04 November 2003


Archaeologists have discovered a previously unknown ancient settlement on a Westcountry island while carrying out a watching brief on the construction of a new playing field. Members of Cornwall County Council's environmental and heritage services made their exciting find on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly.


Commissioned by Tresco Estate, their excavation has so far uncovered the remains of five houses, other stone buildings and some walls which have survived for centuries just a few centimetres below the present ground surface.


The main buildings were circular and rectangular. Some contained remains of porches, hearths, quernstones for grinding corn and also internal partition walls.


Fragments of carefully recovered pottery suggest that the settlement, like others on Scilly, dates to the Bronze Age of about 3,500 years ago.


The form of the buildings is similar to houses of Bronze Age origin which were excavated on Nornour in Scilly's Eastern Isles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a council spokesman said.


Nornour's dwellings had displayed evidence of continuous occupation and modification throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages.


Some of those buildings had been used as a Roman shrine up until the fourth century AD.


The buildings that have just been unearthed on Tresco would have been destroyed if the construction of the playing field had continued.


Because of the importance of the site, Tresco leaseholder Robert Dorrien-Smith decided to move the new playing field almost 20 yards to the north in order to preserve the remains.


The features uncovered have been cleaned and recorded by the archaeologists from County Hall, Truro, before being reburied for posterity.


Charlie Johns, one of the county council's senior archaeologists, said: "We have been amazed to find these remains so close to the surface of the ground. It is great for the people of the Isles of Scilly that the Tresco Estate has decided to move the new playing field in an effort to preserve these historic findings."


A report on the findings is expected to be completed in two months' time.


Archaeologists say the earliest record of human habitation in Scilly comes from the Bronze Age. On nearly all its islands there can be found ancient barrows, passage graves and stone boxes in which the remains of the Bronze Age dead were laid.




By Corinne Field



Chelmsford Museum can now boast more bling than Basildon on a Saturday night following the acquisition of a hoard of rare Celtic gold coins.

The 23 coins, found in Essex in 1999 by a local metal detectorist, date from pre-Roman Britain. They were minted by tribal kings Dubnovellaunus and Cunobelin sometime around the late first century BC and early first century AD.

Their purchase means Chelmsford Museum now houses the largest collection of coins of this type in the UK.

Nick Wickenden, Chelmsford Borough Council's Museums Officer, says, "This find doubles the number of previously known coins of this type from Britain. They are in very good condition and Cunobelin's name actually appears below the famous Celtic two-horse chariot. On the other side is the word CAMV, an abbreviation of Camulodunum, the Celtic name for Colchester."

Photo: Nick Wickendon and Greg Newitt, the dedicated metal detectorist who made the incredible find. Photo: Paul Starr.

Cunobelin, an Essex boy who was immortalised in one of Shakespeare's later plays, Cymbeline, controlled a large part of the southeast from his capitol at Colchester. He was the most powerful king to rule in Britain before the Roman invasion and the Roman’s referred to him as Rex Britannorum, King of the Britons.

The coins, some of Cunobelin's first coinage, were found by metal detectorist Greg Newitt from Southend on farmland in Great Waltham in 1999. He carried out some amateur excavations and found pottery and metal work as well as the coins, which suggests that a settlement was once on the site.

But even so it is unusual to find such a large amount of money in one place. According to Nick Wickenden it is possible that the gold was a gift to the gods and never meant to be found or, based on evidence from similar finds, that it was a stash that its owner planned to use to pay mercenaries.

However it is more likely that, in the absence of banks, it is simply a Celtic form of safety deposit box.

It is not the first time that Mr Newitt has discovered treasure with his metal detector. Over the past few years he has found two other hoards of Celtic gold coins in the same area, both of which were declared under the terms of the Treasure Act and are already on display in Chelmsford Museum.

This latest hoard has cost the museum £12,000. The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed a large chunk and so did the Resource/V&A Purchase Fund. Chelmsford Borough Council, the Friends of Chelmsford Museums and the Essex Numismatic Society also donated.

The coins will go on permanent display as part of The Story of Chelmsford exhibition this month.



German Firm Hired to Save Easter Island Sculptures

Tue 4 November, 2003 17:24


BERLIN (Reuters) - UNESCO has awarded a German firm contract to preserve the world-famous but decaying Moai head sculptures on Easter Island, which are suffering the effects of the weather, tourism and past restoration attempts.

Stefan Maar, founder of Berlin-based Maar Denkmalpflege GmbH said Tuesday his company planned to begin treating the statues with chemicals in early 2005 in a project estimated to cost about 10 million euros ($11.5 million).

"Something has to be done," Maar told Reuters. "But with over 1,000 figures, it is a really big undertaking."

Maar's scientists are developing a chemical treatment for the unique volcanic tuff stone from which the heads are carved.

"The stone is not like anything else," Maar said.

The Moai statues are between 400 and 1000 years old and average 13 ft in height, weighing up to 82 tonnes.

The chemicals should prevent moisture passing through the stone and stabilize it, stopping the growth of large cracks now forming rapidly, said Maar, who gained experience in preserving historic monuments on German projects.

"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was money to research preservation techniques for monuments that the German Democratic Republic had not restored," he said.

Also known as Rapa Nui, the 166 sq mile Chilean-governed Easter Island is isolated from other land masses by thousands of miles of South Pacific Ocean.

The ancient Rapanui people, who sailed to the island either from Polynesia or South America, carved the heads and hauled them to the island's beaches. How they moved the massive statues with human power alone is one of archaeology's great mysteries. ($1=.8714 Euro)



All aboard for high speed link to distant past

Chunnel rail project yields archaeological 'string of pearls'

Martin Wainwright

Saturday November 1, 2003

The Guardian


The longest, narrowest and potentially richest archaeological dig in Britain is to go on worldwide show as an unexpected bonus of the new high-speed Channel tunnel rail link.

Hundreds of archaeologists, working over a period of 15 years, have salvaged vast stores of finds from the path of the 185mph trains, as well as recording scores of sites which will remain safe but buried beneath the tracks.

"One long string of pearls seems to be everyone's favourite description," said Helen Glass, archaeology manager for Rail Link Engineering, who at one stage juggled 12 separate excavations on a short stretch of the line through Kent.

On the first, 29-mile section of the line from the tunnel entrance to Gravesend, which opened to traffic in September, there were an average of almost two important digs a mile. The trove of data, including artefacts from some sites too shallow to be saved, is now to go on the internet in an accessible form pioneered by York University.

Staff at the campus's Archaeological Data Service have started loading pages of text, maps and thousands of photographs in an unprecedented project which will only be completed next autumn.

"There are so many major new findings," said Dr William Kilbride of the service. "You can never be sure what you're going to discover in archaeology and that's certainly been the case here."

The £5.2bn link project has unearthed, among many other finds, an exceptionally rare Neolithic longhouse, a Roman villa, a mediaeval moated manor house, and an unusual model farm from the days of Victorian "self-improvement".

The archive is the first to be made so widely accessible by a commercial research programme, with archaeological teams from Oxford, Wessex, Canterbury and the Museum of London wholly financed by "several million pounds" from the line's builders, Union Railways South.

Jay Carver, one of the archaeologists on the project, said: "There seems to be a 'knowledge gap' between developer-funded work like this and the public, as well as academic archaeologists.

"This should help fill that gap by making the results of all this work easily accessible."

The finds almost all come from the new line's slender transect across Kent, a 70-metre-wide slice through some of the oldest areas of settlement in Britain.

The oldest discoveries at a previously unknown Mesolithic flint "factory" date back more than 8,000 years, while other material is as recent as a camouflaged ammunition dump from the second world war.

Ms Glass's teams have also unearthed mummified cats, hidden in timber-frame buildings to deter evil spirits, and an ancient farm which was only just saved from a previous high-speed line, the South Eastern Railway Company's track - laid in 1840.

"One of our problems all along has been resisting the urge to go beyond the area of the new line," Ms Glass said. "The trouble is, that way we'd have ended up digging up the whole of Kent."

Archaeologists explored more widely at a limited number of sites, including Beechbrook Wood, Ashford, where 37 hectares (92 acres) of land disappeared under a temporary railhead.

Details of what the experts have classified as "enigmatic middle-Iron Age enclosures" were duly mapped and described for the database, along with two 1940s pillboxes at Tutt Hill, near Maidstone.

The dig was seldom able to turn the course of the high-speed link, but archaeologists managed occasionally to shift the line a few metres to the left or right to bypass particularly interesting sites. Banks of cuttings were also steepened in several places to protect buried buildings and grave goods.

George Lambrick, the director of the British Council for Archaeology, described the database as "extremely important."

Kent has the highest number of historically listed buildings of any county, and almost a third of its farms have buildings dating from before 1700.

"They did a very good job of getting the line tweaked here and there," he said.

"But it's an area of such archaeological interest that if you move the line to miss one thing, you may end up hitting another."

Finds and data from the second section of the Channel link, from Gravesend to King's Cross/St Pancras, are expected to provide an equally extraordinary hoard.


Research archive now arriving on Platform 5 ...

Joint press release (2-2003) from ADS (University of York) and Rail Link Engineering for release 28th October 2003, contact William Kilbride 01904 433954 or help@ads.ahds.ac.uk


Researchers around the world will soon have access to data from one of the biggest archaeological projects ever undertaken in the UK, thanks to a  collaboration between archaeologists at the University of York and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project. Their utilisation of the World Wide Web, will enable researchers to study the findings online and for free from anywhere in the world.

The CTRL is Britain's first major new railway for over a century, and will run between St Pancras Station in London, and the Channel Tunnel near Folkestone. The first section of the high speed rail link through Kent opened to commercial services on 28th September 2003. The full link will be completed to London St Pancras in early 2007.

For over ten years, archaeologists employed by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project have been investigating the archaeology of Kent, Essex and London. Work in advance of construction has revealed an impressively rich array of information which has generated a vast archive of archaeological data. The data produced will be placed on the ADS in phases. The first phase relates to Section 1 of the high speed rail link which opened the commercial service last month. Over forty excavations were carried out along this 46km stretch revealing a wealth of data including the first Neolithic longhouse to be found in Kent, a Roman villa, a Romano-British cemetery, two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and a medieval moated site. Later next year, you will be able to access the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Archaeological Archive via the ADS.

Though the ADS has been working with web-delivery of archaeological archives for several years, the CTRL archive is the first time it has worked with commercially-sponsored research.

Dr Julian Richards, Director of ADS, said: 'This is a big step for us. It's the first time we've become involved in a major commercial research contract. It shows the value of collaborating with private companies which will allow us to bring new discoveries to the attention of academic researchers.'

'Although increasing number of universities are active in archaeological research, the vast majority of archaeological research takes place for commercial reasons. Private developers are required to fund research when their works have an effect on archaeologically sensitive areas.'

'Thanks to electronic communications, we can make these records available to anyone who is interested.'

CTRL archaeologist Jay Carver says, 'There appears to be a knowledge gap between the academic and public archaeological community and developer funded work . the ADS makes it possible to attempt to fill that gap by making results easily accessible for private and professional researchers alike.'

'The CTRL Archaeology Project is pleased to place their electronic archive with the ADS and sees it as a key part of its dissemination strategy.'

Notes for Editors


1.         ADS is based at the Archaeology Department of the University of York and is a world-leading research centre on digital preservation and information exchange in archaeology.

2.         The CTRL archive will join a range of archives already supplied in this way, including excavations from the Royal Opera House and Christ Church Spitalfields in London, from the Danebury Hill fort in Hampshire, and from Eynsham Abbey in Oxfordshire. These are available online at: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/

3.         All ADS archives are available free of charge to users for educational and research uses.

4.         The ADS is funded by the JISC and AHRB and is part of the Arts and Humanities Data Service.



1.         The £5.2bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link is the UK's first high-speed railway and the first major railway to be built in Britain for over a century. Rail Link Engineering is the project manager and designer of the entire CTRL.

2.         Section 1 of the CTRL, the 46 miles between the Channel Tunnel and Fawkham Junction in north Kent was completed on budget and on time for client Union Railways (South) Ltd in September 2003. Section 2 - the 24 miles from north Kent into London.s St Pancras via new international stations at Stratford in east London and Ebbsfleet, north Kent - began in July 2001 and is now 60% complete. The client for Section 2 is Union Railways (North) Ltd, a subsidiary of London and Continental Railways.

3.         Once CTRL is operational at the beginning of 2007, journey times from central London to the Channel Tunnel will be halved and peak time capacity doubled. Paris will be around 2 hours 15 minutes and Brussels just 2 hours from St Pancras by non-stop Eurostar.

4.         CTRL will also provide for Kent commuters to benefit from new high-speed domestic services to London and release capacity for extra passenger and freight services to run on existing rail infrastructure. The new railway will act as a catalyst for regeneration, particularly in the Thames Gateway area but also around St Pancras and in east London.

5.         For further information on CTRL contact the press office on 020-7681-5119, or 0845 60 40 246 if calling outside office hours. Alternatively e-mail us at lxwise@ctrl.co.uk or visit our web site at www.ctrl.co.uk.

6.         For images supporting this story contact help@ads.ahds.ac.uk



Exciting discovery at Morwellham Quay

NEW research is throwing a fresh light on Morwellham Quay’s early history — with the pub floor possibly dating back to medieval times. It has long been known that a settlement has existed at Morwellham since at least the 13th century.

Research from the 1970s pointed to the Ship Inn as the oldest building still in existence, with a probable date of 1550.

But now a team of archaeologists believe that the ground floor may contain elements of‘The House on the Quay’ mentioned in a lease of 1240 when Henry lll was king.

For some 30 years visitors have ben drawn to Morwellham Quay. Most of the visitors have come to find out about the port’s Victorian hey-day when thousands of tons of copper ore were stored on the quays and ships from all around the world berthed in the docks.

The old port on the river Tamar has been operated as an open air museum and tourist attraction by the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust since the 1970s.

But now new research however, is throwing a fresh light on Morwellham’s early history.

Trust archaeologists Robert Waterhouse and Cynthia Gaskell-Brown have been looking again at the building and they have concluded that the roof structure and first floor should be dated to between 1450-1475 — with the exciting possibility that the ground floor may date back to 1240.

‘We believe we have here a building of immense regional and possibly national significance,’ said Mrs Gaskell-Brown.

The current priority is to raise funding to enable Mr Waterhouse to carry out a full architectural and archaeological survey.

The Friends of Morwellham are contributing a third to the cost and the trust is appealing for someone to contribute around £2,000.

The results of the survey will enable future funding bids to conserve and interpret this exciting and historically significant find.



Rude Britannia

Nov 3 2003

By Graeme Whitfield, The Journal


The secret history of Rude Britain has been uncovered by a North-East archaeologist.

Cathy Tuck, from Wylam in Northumberland, spent two years on a 30,000-mile trek around Britain finding hundreds of sexually symbolic landmarks, buildings and gardens for her book Landscapes and Desire.

From phallic ancient standing stones to womb-like burial chambers, her odyssey of the sexual takes in sites dating back more than 5,000 years and explodes the myth that Britain is a sexually repressed nation.

Instead, she says, Britain should be regarded as "wonderfully rude" - with the North-East among the country's hot-spots for bawdy buildings and licentious landscapes.

She said: "We've got a reputation for being prudish and repressed and I think that is really quite unjust.

"Britain is just packed with these sexually inspired sites - everywhere you go there is an undercurrent of sexuality.

"It's not something to frown upon or even to giggle at: it's a wonderful acknowledgement of human sexuality. Britain is a wonderfully rude place.

"I wrote the book in two years, which is fairly quick, because I couldn't believe no-one had done it before and I was racing against the clock to get it out.

"I did lots of research, then went to visit the sites and experience what their sexual symbolism would have meant."

Cathy, 33, a former pupil of Prudhoe High School who has worked on Channel Four's Time Team, began work on the book when she was asked to survey a park in Buckinghamshire for her job as a landscape archaeologist with English Heritage.

She stumbled on to a sexually explicit grotto, and began looking into how many similar sites there were around the country.

In the North-East, she found phalluses carved on to the foundation stones of the Roman bridge at Chollerford, Northumberland, and the fort at nearby Chesters which would have been a good luck charm to people of the time.

She also became interested in the 18th Century Seaton Delaval Hall where the notorious lothario Sir Francis Blake Delaval had the walls of the upper hall rigged with pulleys and ropes so he could pull them up and expose his guests in compromising positions.

She said: "When I was doing the book I plotted every single site that we found that had some sexual significance. There were certainly a few hotspots, and Northumberland is definitely quite a feisty place.

"All around Newcastle there are some wonderful surviving Roman sites and many of them have phalluses carved on them because they were good luck totems. If you go to the foundations of the Roman bridge at Chollerford, hidden amongst the leaf mould and grass is a wonderfully phallic carving.

"There's one at Chesters as well and at Vindolanda and Birdoswald. The Romans were just obsessed with phalluses."

Cathy's history of sexually symbolic sites comes full circle in the book's final chapter, which takes in modern-day landmarks such as the Julian Opie outlines of naked male and female figures on either side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

The book also has a gazetteer of sexually symbolic sites, with Cathy encouraging readers to explore the lusty locations for themselves.

"If people open their eyes and take a look around them," she said, "it's amazing what they will see."