Scientists discover lost world


A prehistoric lost world under the North Sea has been mapped by scientists from the University of Birmingham.


The team used earthquake data to devise a 3D reconstruction of the 10,000-year-old plain.


The area, part of a land mass that once joined Britain to northern Europe, disappeared about 8,000 years ago.


The virtual features they have developed include a river the length of the Thames which disappeared when its valley flooded due to glaciers melting.


Professor Bob Stone, head of the Department of Engineering's Human Interface Technology Team, said they were working to ensure the visual accuracy of the environment.


"This is the most exciting and challenging virtual reality project since Virtual Stonehenge in 1996.


"We are basing the computer-generated flora on pollen and plant traces extracted from geological core samples retrieved from the sea bed."

Dr Vincent Gaffney, director of the University's Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity and lead investigator on the project said they still had a lot of work to do.


"We intend to extend the project to visualise the whole of the now submerged land bridge that previously joined Britain to northern Europe as one land mass, providing scientists with a new insight into the previous human occupation of the North Sea."



Road project strikes tomb


A new road project on the outskirts of Volos in central Greece has revealed what appears to be an intact, unplundered Mycenaean royal tomb, a report said yesterday.


The subterranean tholos tomb was found along with four or five small, box-like cist tombs during construction of a new Volos ring road, according to the Ethnos daily.


Archaeologists have not yet entered the tholos tomb — a monumental structure of the same type as the famous “Tomb of Atreus” at Mycenae, which would have contained the remains of a local ruler. The paper quoted local antiquities director Vassiliki Adrymi as saying the burial appeared to be unplundered by grave robbers.


“According to initial indications, this great funerary monument is sealed and has not been plundered,” she said. “We believe it is 6.5 meters high and 8 meters in diameter.” This would be about half the size of the Atreus tomb.


At nearby Dimini, some 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) west of Volos, Adrymi has excavated a Mycenaean settlement associated with Iolkos, city of the mythical hero Jason.



Why breast may not have been best for Iron Age babies

Amy Binns


ALL the experts agree breast is best for baby – but it may be less traditional than we think.


Yorkshire research suggests Iron Age infants were on the ancient equivalent of formula.


Molecular-level examinations of 2,000-year-old bones from the Wetwang burial site, near Driffield, East Yorkshire, have produced puzzling results, leading scientists to speculate that ancient people were even more concerned about food taboos than we are today.


Mandy Jay, of Bradford's archaeology department, has examined the bones of more than 50 adults and 25 infants, analysing isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the collagen to see what kind of proteins the Iron Age people ate.


All the adults, from wealthy warriors interred with chariots in burial mounds to paupers buried in ditches, seem to have eaten plenty of animal protein, which produces the same type of collagen, whether dairy or meat.


That should mean bones of breast-fed infants would have even higher protein levels, as they would be drinking milk from mothers who were themselves nourished with animal proteins.


But instead, babies' bones have levels comparable with a diet of cows' milk.

Ms Jay said: "It may be a society where they didn't want to breastfeed too long because they wanted to toughen the children up.

"If they were trying to feed their children cows' milk, the chances are they would have a higher mortality rate, which is something I would have to examine."


Alternatively, the low levels could also be due to women becoming vegan when pregnant or breastfeeding. A temporary change in diet wouldn't show up in the women's bones, as adult collagen is laid down over several years.


"It's very difficult to understand what a different society would think. To them, drinking milk while producing milk may have seemed strange. There are societies that do all kinds of things with pregnant and menstruating women," she said.

They certainly seem to have imposed plenty of other dietary restrictions. Bones more than 6,000 years old show Stone Age man suddenly stopped eating fish and shellfish, possibly because of taboos about wild food as people became settled farmers.


Fish wasn't back on the menu until the Romans arrived, 4,000 years later.

Perhaps the most intriguing finds are two human bones from Wetwang, whose owners appear to have been vegan, though Ms Jay is cautious as to what they mean.


She said: "They could have belonged to a class that was being fed differently, such as a slave class, or they could have had some kind of disease and had to become vegan. We can't really say, but I'm very excited about it."



16 February 2004



Suspected Viking burial fills a hole in English history

Martin Wainwright

Tuesday February 17, 2004

The Guardian


One of the great missing pieces of Britain's archaeological jigsaw may finally have fallen into place with the discovery of swords, ship nails and a silver Baghdad coin in a Yorkshire field.


Tight security has been put on the site since metal detecting enthusiasts came upon what is thought to be the first known Viking ship burial south of Hadrian's Wall.


An exploratory dig is being organised for traces of rotted timber and other fragments.


"I am 95% certain it is a boat burial," said Simon Holmes, archaeologist at the Yorkshire Museum in York where the initial finds went on show yesterday.

"If this is indeed the case, it will be the first discovered in England and therefore one of the most important Viking discoveries ever made in the British Isles."

The trove was found in a ploughed riverside field, whose location is not being made public, by detectors who followed the regulations designed to protect archaeological sites.


The 130 items were reported to the national Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum was told.


The hoard dates to the 9th century, when burying leading figures in their longships was a high caste ritual.


The finds are typical of the personal treasures for use in the afterlife found in Scotland, Ireland and mainland Europe but not previously in England.

The hoard has been designated treasure trove and will go to the British Museum.

The finders, who are remaining anonymous, will be paid compensation.

The hoard includes two silver pennies minted by Alfred the Great, seven other silver pennies, part of a silver dirham coin from Baghdad, swords, two sets of scales with weights, and a pile of small silver ingots.


A collection of clinch nails, used on Viking longships, is the strongest clue to a ship burial.


Mr Holmes said: "I believe this is a burial of a trader-warrior who when he wasn't fighting was involved in commercial activities across the Viking world.

"The coins are dated towards the end of the 9th century, a time we know comparatively little about.


"Previous finds have mainly related either to the earlier period when the Vikings were just raiding, or to later when they began settling."


The ship burial found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939 dated from the 7th century and contained the treasure of an Anglo-Saxon warrior, not a Viking.

"Experts in the period are salivating at the prospect of excavating the site," Mr Holmes said.


The finds will be on display at the Yorkshire Museum until the end of the month, when British Museum staff will take them to London for further study.




By David Prudames





Archaeologists in York believe a hoard of treasure recently found by metal detectorists could lead to the first discovery of a Viking boat burial in England.

Simon Holmes, Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Yorkshire, told the 24 Hour Museum that certain artefacts suggest this "awesome" find could be one of the most significant discoveries in the British Isles.


"Some of the finds are boats nails," he said. "95% of me is happy that we’ve got a boat burial. There is a very, very strong possibility that England has a first!"

The hoard of weapons and personal items was found by metal detectorists in December last year and has gone on display for the first time at Yorkshire Museum in York.


Dating from the late ninth century AD, the hoard includes silver coins, fragments of two swords, weights, a belt buckle, strap ends as well as the boat nails.

Also among the 130 artefacts is a complete set of folding scales with round lead weights suggesting that the individual buried alongside it was once a tradesmen.


This theory is also supported by the various coins found, which include silver Alfred the Great pennies and another coin, which may originate from Baghdad.

However, it is the existence of the nails that has caused the greatest excitement and has led experts to believe they might have found a Viking boat burial.

Such ceremonies, in which people were buried in a boat with possessions to take with them to the afterlife, are known to have taken place in both Viking and Anglo-Saxon societies.


Plans are now underway for a full archaeological excavation of the area where the hoard was found. Once complete, archaeologists will be able to confirm for certain whether it is a boat burial or not.


Despite previous discoveries of Viking boat burials in Scotland and Ireland this would, in Simon’s opinion, still be "one of the most significant Viking discoveries in the British Isles."


"The other exciting thing about this is the fact that normally Viking finds relate to the period before this discovery or after it," he added.


He explained that most artefacts we find tend to come from either the era when Vikings were stereotypical marauders, or after they had begun to settle in Britain and Jorvik is flourishing.


This hoard, he said, is from "exactly the time when the great Scandinavian army invades to conquer Britain. The nation as a whole is going to benefit tenfold because this is going to enhance our knowledge of that particular period in Viking history."

The metal detectorists, who wish to remain anonymous, contacted Simon through the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a voluntary recording scheme for archaeological objects found by members of the public.


On show at Yorkshire Museum until the end of February, the finds will then go off to The British Museum for further study.


With a selection of silver items, the hoard is likely to qualify as treasure under the Treasure Act 1996. Once valued it will be offered to local museums and the fee split between the finders and the owner of the land on which it was found.

While Simon couldn't predict how much the hoard might be worth, "from an archaeological point of view they are priceless," he said. And as for how thrilled he was at the discovery, "more than words," was the verdict.



The precise location of the find is a closely guarded secret but it is thought to be close to the confluence of the Ouse and Derwent. Both metal detectorists, neither of whom come from Yorkshire, are also remaining anonymous. The find has been given the fictional name the "Ainsbrook Hoard."


The metal detectorists reported their discovery to archaeologist Simon Holmes through the national Portable Antiquities Scheme, a voluntary recording scheme for archaeological objects which has its Yorkshire base at the Yorkshire Museum in York. It is financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


A selection of items from the collection, which contains a total of 130 artefacts, went on display to the public for the first time yesterday at the Yorkshire Museum during the city's Viking Festival.



FRIDAY 13/02/2004 09:12:34  

Viking settlement discovered in Cork city


Archaeologists have confirmed the discovery of a 1000 year-old Viking settlement off South Main Street in Cork.


The discovery has been described as one of the "most exciting" in the country.


Sections of mud walls, doorposts, the prow of a Viking boat and metal artefacts were uncovered.


It is, however, unlikely that the site will be preserved as it is earmarked for student accommodation, commercial units and a car park.



History under the car park?



THE remains of a Saxon town could be lying virtually untouched beneath the old cattle market in Barnstaple.


An archaeological report has shown defences of the Norman castle and much of the town’s Saxon heritage could be lying undisturbed under the car park.


The Exeter Archaeology assessment was commissioned by North Devon District Council and is seen as an important step before the site is turned over to redevelopment.


And local historians are anxious not to lose the chance to study such a rare find. There is even talk of famous television archaeologists Time Team paying a visit.


Earlier investigations uncovered 105 Saxon graves near Castle Mound and several artefacts have been found, but left many unanswered questions.


The town is proud of its Saxon past but there had been a question over its supposed “Royal Borough” status, size and link to King Alfred’s network of coastal defences.


“This is the best chance we have in Barnstaple of finding Saxon remains, and that is excellent as it was one of only four Saxon towns in the whole of Devon,” said Alison Mills at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.


“There is nowhere in North Devon where Saxon structures have been reliably identified and that’s got enormous ramifications for Barnstaple and how the town was founded.”


“If, under the cattle market, they found the foundations of Saxon houses, we would know what the first people here lived in, we might find their possessions and we could finally learn what this famous Saxon town was all about.”


The archaeological report has been welcomed by Councillor David Butt, who has been campaigning to bring Time Team to the town.


“What is interesting is this confirms what we have been saying about this important part of the town centre, which has a fantastic history,” he said.


“At least now it will give us some sort of official evidence to back up what we have said to Time Team about what is under there.”


“We have only a limited window of opportunity to do this and it won’t last, but we need to know how important this is before we get to the stage of developing it.”


Development plans for the site are not finalised, but suggestions have included some kind of commercial centre with shops, boutiques and possible a market.


Cllr Butt, however, said he believed the most should be made of an opportunity to maintain a true open space in the town centre.


“In this case we are talking about centuries of Barnstaple history and development, and once we have lost it we will never get it back again,” he said.


He added it could be maintained as a “continental-style” square bounded by shops and cafes.


A copy of the recent Exeter Archaeology report has been sent to Time Team, but in the meantime council officers will be evaluating it to decide which areas need investigating.



Oxford scientists make grim discovery


English archaeologists report the grisly discovery of about 70 executed criminals buried from the 16th to 18th centuries in a medieval moat surrounding Oxford Castle. In the March/April issue of Archaeology magazine, Oxford University scholars report that hanging appears to have been the criminals' fate. The find uncovers how executed criminals were treated in the Tudor and Stuart eras. Many were buried face down, a mark of disgrace. Sawed skulls and neck bones indicate that many of the victims apparently served as anatomical specimens for the school's medical students. Under a royal license granted by the reigning monarch, four executed criminals a year were parceled out to the school for academic purposes. Executions in that time were carried out for crimes ranging from theft to murder.



Special Report 2/23/04

Secret Voyage

Did Drake beat other Europeans to Alaska?

By Alex Markels


Francis Drake had plenty to crow about as he as sailed into England's Plymouth Harbor in the fall of 1580. After all, since setting out three years earlier, he had succeeded in circumnavigating the globe. But if a renegade historian is correct, the story of his accomplishment has been only partly told. In the recent book The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, Samuel Bawlf argues that Drake also explored the Alaskan coast, finding an inlet that he believed was the entrance to the Northwest Passage, a fabled trade route that would have opened up the Orient's riches to British ships.


It is no secret that upon Drake's return Queen Elizabeth ordered him and his men not to reveal the particulars of their voyage. Her fear was that Spain would fortify the route against the British Navy. But according to Bawlf, who spent seven years poring over period documents and maps, Drake couldn't keep himself from sharing his secret discoveries with cartographer friends, who recorded a chain of islands he had discovered off the coast of British Columbia and Alaska in privately published maps of the New World. "But to conceal the extent of his explorations, they placed the islands 600 miles south of their true location," says Bawlf.


Although controversial, Bawlf's theory has won some converts among historians who say a Drake landing on the coast may explain why forged steel, perhaps from knives traded by the explorer to natives, has been found in coastal Indian ruins from the same period. "All we need is one specimen that's English to prove Drake was here," says Grant Keddie, archaeology curator at the Royal British Columbia Museum.



British Archaeologists Believe They Have Found Darwin's Ship

VOA News

15 Feb 2004, 12:25 UTC


British archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the ship Charles Darwin used to sail across the world.


Marine archaeologist Robert Prescott of Scotland's University of St. Andrews told London's Observer newspaper that he is "quietly confident" that the Beagle has been located.


The ship's fate has been a mystery for more than a century.

Using advanced ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists believe they've found the Beagle under more than three meters of mud in a river estuary near a long-abandoned dock in Essex, England.


A radar image of the spot shows a vessel similar in size to the famous ship.

The evidence suggests the bulk of the ship is intact and could be raised and restored. Scientists are hoping the hull will have some remnants of Darwin's historic journey across the world, during which he developed his theories of natural selection.


Darwin's theories were published in 1859 under the title On the Origin of Species. It was attacked by Christians, but eventually became accepted as one of the most important scientific theories in history.


Darwin sailed aboard the Beagle for five years starting in 1831. He carried out detailed surveying of South America and the Galapagos Islands.