By David Prudames 16/12/2004


A Stone Age hand axe dating back 500,000 years has been discovered at a quarry in Warwickshire.


The tool was found at the Smiths Concrete Bubbenhall Quarry at Waverley Wood Farm, near Coventry, which has already produced evidence of some of the earliest known human occupants of the UK.


It was uncovered in gravel by quarry manager John Green who took it to be identified by archaeologists at the University of Birmingham.


"We are very excited about this discovery," enthused Professor David Keen of the university's Archaeology Field Unit.


"Lower Palaeolithic artefacts are comparatively rare in the West Midlands compared to the south and east of England so this is a real find for us."


Despite being half and million years old the tool is very well-preserved and will eventually go on show at Warwickshire Museum.


Amongst other things, the hand axe would have been used for butchering animals, but what is perhaps most intriguing about it is that it is made of a type of volcanic rock called andesite.


Andesite bedrock only occurs in the Lake District or North Wales and this is only the ninth andesite hand axe to be found in the midlands in over a century. Archaeologists are now trying to figure out how the tool might have got there.


Although it is possible the rock was transported to the midlands by glacial ice from the north west there is as yet no evidence for it, which suggests humans might have brought it into the area.


The lack of material for good quality hand axes in the midlands would probably have been known to our ancestors, therefore these tools could have been brought in ready made.


It may also be significant that all previous andesite hand axe finds have been made in deposits of the Bytham River, a now lost river system that crossed England from the Cotswolds via the West Midlands and Leicester to the North Sea.


This valley was destroyed in a later glaciation and seems to have provided a route into the midlands for Palaeolithic hunters.


Half a million years ago the area was at the edge of the human world, linked to Europe along the Bytham valley and across a land-bridge existing before the cutting of the Straits of Dover.


In addition to the hand axe the Smiths Concrete Bubbenhall Quarry has produced 18 other Palaeolithic tools, currently under investigation by the team at Birmingham Archaeology.


Other finds in the area include bones and teeth from a straight-tusked elephant, which are also set to be displayed at Warwickshire Museum.



Catastrophic Flooding from Ancient Lake May Have Triggered Cold Period



Newswise — Imagine a lake three times the size of the present-day Lake Ontario breaking through a dam and flooding down the Hudson River Valley past New York City and into the North Atlantic. The results would be catastrophic if it happened today, but it did happen some 13,400 years ago during the retreat of glaciers over North America and may have triggered a brief cooling known as the Intra-Allerod Cold Period.


Assistant Scientist Jeffrey Donnelly of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution presented the findings at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco today. Donnelly and colleagues analyzed data from sediment cores, walrus fossils and pollen to precisely date the discharge from Glacial Lake Iroquois down the Hudson River Valley at 13,350 years ago. The flood waters broke through a spot of land where the Verazanno Narrows Bridge now stands to reach the North Atlantic.


The discharge of glacial freshwater into the North Atlantic has long been thought to drive fluctuations in past climate because the huge volume of freshwater would alter thermohaline circulation in the ocean. Directly linking discharge events with individual climatic changes has been difficult because of the challenges in pinpointing the location, timing and amount of the discharge.


The Intra-Allerod Cold Period lasted only about 150 years and occurred just before the Younger Dryas, a sudden cold climate period lasting some 1,200 years and ending about 11,000 years ago. Many scientists believe the Younger Dryas was caused by the shutdown of the Gulf Stream in response to a sudden influx of fresh water from deglaciation in North America. Global climate would then have become locked into the new state until freezing removed the fresh water "lid" from the North Atlantic Ocean.


The team compared their evidence for the massive flood down the Hudson Valley with data from sediment cores taken from the Cariaco Basin off Venezuela in the Caribbean, which show a slowing of thermohaline circulation and heat transport into the North Atlantic at that same time.


Donnelly and his colleagues were able to determine the timing of this event by analyzing data from sediment cores from the Hudson River Valley and the continental shelf. Sediment samples collected near the Tappan Zee Bridge indicate that ocean water flooded the lower Hudson Valley just after the flood event occurred. Pollen data from the first marine sediments deposited near the Holland Tunnel correlate with those from radiocarbon-dated sediments from nearby Sutherland Pond in New York and provide further constraint on the timing of the flood. Walrus remains recovered from gigantic sediment lobes deposited offshore during the flood were carbon dated to further pinpoint a precise time period.


Large rocks the size of Volkswagens, also associated with these sediment lobes, have been photographed on the outer continental shelf off the mouth of the Hudson River, where sediments normally are the size of grains of sand or smaller. Donnelly says the large rocks most likely came from the melting glacier and were carried down to the Atlantic in the floodwaters.


Glacial Lake Iroquois, in the same location and about three times the size as modern day Lake Ontario, was formed as the Laurentide Ice Sheet receded from its maximum extent along southern Long Island, New York, and northern New Jersey to southern Canada from about 21,000 to 13,000 years ago. Several other glacial lakes, Glacial Lake Albany and Glacial Lake Vermont, existed for several thousand years and deposited thick layers of silt and clay in the Hudson River Valley and Champlain Lowlands.


Donnelly says a dam north of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York holding back the ancient lake collapsed, allowing lake water to drain into the Hudson River Valley and the North Atlantic, dropping the level of Glacial Lake Iroquois some 120 meters (about 400 feet). Following the collapse of Glacial Lake Iroquois, another lake, Glacial Lake Candona, formed in the Ontario, Saint Lawrence and Champlain Lowlands, controlled in level by a sill or rock dam near Fort Ann, Vermont.


Lake Candona existed only about 100 to 200 years before it drained to the Atlantic when the ice sheet blocking the St. Lawrence Valley collapsed. Following the drainage of Lake Candona, seawater invaded the St. Lawrence and Champlain Lowlands and formed the Laurentian Seaway and the Champlain Sea. Glacial Lake Candona dropped about 40 meters (125 feet) as it drained into the North Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence River Valley. This opening of the St. Lawrence Valley as a conduit for glacial meltwater about 13,000 years ago likely played a role in causing the onset of the Younger Dryas cold interval.


The team will publish the results of the complete study in the February 2005 issue of the journal Geology. Donnelly's research was funded by the Postdoctoral Scholar Program, The John E. and Anne W. Sawyer Endowed Fund, The J. Lamar Worzel Assistant Scientist Fund, and the Ocean and Climate Change Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, independent marine research and engineering and higher education organization located in Falmouth, MA. Its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institution operates the US National Deep Submergence Facility that includes the deep-diving submersible Alvin, a fleet of global ranging ships and smaller coastal vessels, and a variety of other tethered and autonomous underwater vehicles. WHOI is organized into five departments, interdisciplinary institutes and a marine policy center, and conducts a joint graduate education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



1,000-year Old Vessel to Be Salvaged Intact 


The Guangdong provincial government has decided to salvage an ancient boat which sank in the waters of this coastal city in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), according to Jing Lihu, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Culture.


The work will start before 2006. A special task force consisted of archaeologists from Beijing and Guangdong Province has been set up, Jing recently told a press conference in Yangjiang.


The vessel, discovered in the late 1980s by fishermen, has been named Nanhai No 1.


Preparations are well underway, Jing said.


Local archaeologist Wu Jing said the wooden vessel, which is still in good condition, is thought to contain 60,000-80,000 valuable pieces, more than the total number of historical relics that are now in museums in Guangdong Province.


The vessel is 24.58 meters long and 9.8 meters wide. It weighs more than 3,800 tons. The vessel is covered by 2-metre deep silt, Wu said. He believes Nanhai No 1 was made with timber painted or soaked with a special plant oil.


Wu intends the entire vessel to be brought up and put on show in the museum. The ship will be useful in studying ancient Chinese ship building and navigation technologies, Wu said.


Archaeologists removed more than 4,000 artifacts, plus many silver and bronze coins, from only a small part of the boat after a small-scale salvage was launched last year.


Most of the pieces are ancient ceramics and porcelain products produced in east China's Fujian, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces in the Song Dynasty.


Nanhai No 1 is believed to be a merchant vessel that operated between the southern Chinese region and the rest of the world.


The ocean liner sank in the western part of the mouth of the Pearl River while it was sailing to the Middle East and Europe.


Archaeologists estimate there are more than 1,000 sunken ships in waters around Guangdong, which mark the starting point of China's marine silk road.


(China Daily December 14, 2004)



Replica of Bronze Age boat ready to set sail on a 4,000-year-old journey

Alexandra Wood


A REPLICA of a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age boat found near Hull will set sail on the Humber in the new year – close to where the original was discovered.

The plank boat, the oldest of its kind found in western Europe, was one of three discovered at North Ferriby by Hull amateur archaeologist, Ted Wright, between 1937 and 1963.


Yesterday a half-scale replica, named Ferriby I, was unveiled at the Streetlife Museum, in Hull, where it will be used as a local focus for SeaBritain 2005, a celebration of the UK's maritime heritage.


The boat, built in Southampton, has been trialled successfully on the Solent, despite being only half the size of the original.


And it should be launched from the Humber foreshore in January to see how it fares on the perilous waters of a river, where its ancestor ferried people and cargoes in ancient times.


There are high hopes that a full-size replica of the boat can be built, possibly at Dunstan's Shipyard in Hessle, near Hull, where sail training ship Sir Winston Churchill was built in 1966.


One of the three shipwrights involved in the construction, Jeff Bird, was at yesterday's launch. He said: "Up to when Ted Wright found the boat we thought they were dugouts but this boat has been made sophisticatedly and complicatedly."


John Davis, former chairman of the local Sail Training Association, worked with Andrew Marr, of Hessle-based Andrew Marr International, to bring the replica to Hull.


He said there was already interest from a TV consortium in filming the building of a new full-size boat, adding: "It was always Ted Wright's wish to see a full-scale reconstruction of the ship. The awareness created by the replica and SeaBritain 2005 could yet see this happen."


The half-scale replica was funded by engineer Edwin Gifford, the naval architect who founded the international firm of consulting engineers which bears his name; naval architect John Coates; and Mr Wright's family, following his death three years ago.


Mr Marr said: "What we have here is the product of some of the greatest talent in the land.


"We have brought it here as a practical tool to continue Edwin Gifford's research, but it is by its nature also an icon.


"We see it above all as an inspiration and hope it will generate new awareness and a desire to discover more about this fascinating event in our maritime history."


Built in early Bronze Age Britain around 2030 BC, the 16-metre boat used sophisticated techniques and carpentry skills that experts believe would be difficult to match today.


The replica's planks are fixed together with polyester rope, rather than the yew stitches – or withies – used to sew the oak timbers on the original.


It is hoped more research can be done on the withies in partnership with the Water's Edge Country Park, at Barton-Upon-Humber.


There are also plans to do more research on the vessel's steering.


The replica boat has carried as many as 10 people, but the original had room for a crew of 70, or a load of 11 tonnes, possibly cattle.


It could even have been used to bring over settlers from Holland.


Intriguingly, a boat of the Ferriby type may have been used to transport stones to build Stonehenge, and it may help explain how jewellery from the Mediterranean and coral decorations from the Middle East turned up in the recent Iron Age chariot burial excavations in East Yorkshire.


A series of events for SeaBritain are taking place in Whitby, including the arrival in the port of five tall ships from July 19 onwards, who are taking part in the July 25 Tall Ships Race from Newcastle to Frederikstad.


For more details visit

www.seabritain2005.com or




Roman remains found by busy road


December 16, 2004 06:00


THE remains of a “waterfront” settlement dating from Roman times have been discovered in a Suffolk village.


Archaeologists have found pottery, brooches, coins and other items on a site at Stoke Ash, beside a tributary of the River Dove and close to the A140 road, itself Roman in origin.


Information gleaned from the site and from the adjacent Thornham Estate is adding to the academic understanding of the Roman occupation of Britain.


It also suggests the area has been a hive of human activity for many thousands of years, with evidence of early agriculture, industry and buildings.


However, the recent discovery of the waterfront settlement at Stoke Ash - sparked by the finding of a toggle made from a stone called jet – is considered the “icing on the cake”.


“You never think in a lifetime you'll get anything like this – it is very exciting and fulfilling,” said Mike Hardy, an independent archaeologist who has been working in the Waveney Valley for the past 35 years.


Finds from the riverside and the whole area may be displayed in a museum which is being planned for the Thornham Estate.


Mr Hardy, 65, said the waterfront settlement had probably been made up of workshops and the homes of people who operated the river trade.


“Grain would have been exported and olive oil, fish oil, crushed fruit and wine imported during Roman times.


“It is also clear that a large number of animals were butchered here, including cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs,” he added.


Among the fragments of imported pottery found is one carrying the manufacturing name of Marcelli, a name that had also cropped up on pottery found at nearby Scole and at Hadrian's Wall.


“From the evidence we have found, including the coinage and artefacts, local people did very well out of the Romans,” Mr Hardy added.


His fellow archaeologist, John Fairclough, 62, former education officer at Ipswich Museum, said the area between Stoke Ash and Scole could have possibly been the estate of the Villa Faustinus, a grand house mentioned in documents from the Roman period.


“The Romans built the road between their garrisons at Colchester and Caister, near Norwich, and they also brought with them higher demand for trade,” he said.


Mr Hardy was first given the opportunity to carry out field walking and excavations on the Henniker family's 2,000-acre Thornham Estate ten years ago when Lady Henniker was a student on one of his University of East Anglia courses.


Since then he and his team of volunteers - from the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology's field group - have found evidence of human activity dating back to Neolithic times, including prehistoric pottery, sharpened flints, metal workings and fragments of weapons such as the axe and rapier.


Mr Hardy estimates that between 400 and 500 people were living in the area in the Neolithic period and the population had grown to about 1,000 in Roman times.


“Very little was known about the archaeology of this area. It was an absolute backwater for us and Lord Henniker opened it up.


“There was a major expansion of human activity during the Bronze Age and the Iceni had a vast settlement in the area – we have found some of their coins,” Mr Hardy said.


He and Mr Fairclough are the authors of a book called Thornham and the Waveney Valley: An Historic Landscape Explored, due to be published by Heritage Marketing and Publications of Great Dunham, Norfolk, in January, cost £19.95.


It is expected to be widely available in bookshops but can be ordered direct from Unit F, Hill Farm, Castle Acre Road, Great Dunham, Kings Lynn, PE32 2LP, adding £2.75 for postage and packing.


The book is dedicated to Lord Henniker, who died earlier this year.



Stonehenge marks winter solstice 


A crowd of about 300 is expected for the winter solstice


About 300 people are expected to gather at Stonehenge to witness the winter solstice sunrise.


English Heritage, which runs the historic site, said visitors could go up to the stones from 7.30am on Tuesday in time for the sunrise at 8.09am.


They advise that visitors should wrap up warmly for the event.


A Met Office spokesman said it would be "very difficult" to say what the view would be like, and that there was a chance of low cloud.


Rebecca Milton from English Heritage said: "We're expecting 300, which is quite small. But it is going to be very, very cold and only the hardcore usually come out this time of year.


"It's always a nice event, it will be very small and informal."


More than 25,000 people usually attend the annual summer solstice celebrations.