Thursday, February 5, 2004
Scientists win Kennewick Man ruling
Court rejects tribes' appeal to bury ancient bones
By TOM PAULSON
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
The scientific community should be allowed to study the 9,000-year- old human bones known as Kennewick Man, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled yesterday, rejecting an appeal by several tribes claiming kinship and seeking to rebury the remains.
"I'm absolutely thrilled that the court has affirmed the public's right to knowledge and rejected this attempt, on religious grounds, to limit scientific inquiry," said Jim Chatters, the archaeologist who identified the remains after they eroded out of the banks of the Columbia River in 1996.
"We're very disappointed," said Rob Roy Smith, a Seattle attorney who represented the Colville Tribe and some of the other Northwest Indian tribes in court, arguing that federal law gave them the authority to determine disposition of Kennewick Man.
The three-judge panel, with an opinion written by Judge Ronald Gould, upheld a District Court decision that the tribes have shown no direct kinship to the remains and have no such authority.
"The court has done the tribes a great injustice," Smith said. "Congress wanted to give tribes the right to decide if such studies should go forward. ... The court has now taken that right away."
Based on the court-authorized studies already done -- oddly enough -- to determine whether the tribes had the legal right to prohibit such studies, Kennewick Man has been determined by radiocarbon dating to be anywhere from 8,340 to 9,200 years old. Court-authorized DNA studies, done over tribal objections, were inconclusive.
Kennewick Man roamed the prehistoric Columbia Basin and, according to scientists, may hold clues to the many mysteries about how humans first came to the Americas. He has distinctive bone structure dissimilar to modern Native Americans and is believed to have died in his early 40s, though not from the stone spear point found embedded in one of his ribs.
"These are rare finds, rare individuals," said Robson Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University and a lead plaintiff-scientist who sued the federal government to prevent repatriation of Kennewick Man. "This is a win for science, for openness and against an attempt at censorship."
The Kennewick Man case challenges how the Department of Interior and other federal agencies had been interpreting a 1990 law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
According to the 9th Circuit opinion, Interior mistakenly had been giving the tribes authority over all prehistoric remains based on the "extreme" definition of Native American as any "persons predating European settlers" -- meaning even, say, the remains of a Viking who died here prior to Columbus' arrival.
"We cannot conclude that Congress intended to pursue an absurd result," Gould wrote. The law, the court decided, should be interpreted to demand that the tribes first must show a direct relationship to these human remains before they claim authority over them.
"That's the exact opposite of what Congress wanted," Smith contended. "It places the burden on the tribes to prove that the remains are Native American, making it a Catch-22. In order to stop the studies, the tribe will have do studies."
It's a Catch-22 situation either way, responded Alan Schneider, a Portland attorney representing Bonnichsen and the seven other scientists suing for access to study the remains.
"If the tribes were to prevail in their argument, it would effectively shut down the study of all early (archaeological or anthropological) sites in this country," Schneider said. To turn Smith's argument back on him, he said the tribes want to be given the right in all cases to decide whether the studies could be done to determine if they have the right in the first place.
"With this ruling, these remains have to be made available for study," Schneider said. If they are found related to modern tribes, he said, the tribal authority comes into play.
Smith said it will be up to the tribes -- the Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce, Colville and others -- to decide if they want to appeal to the full Circuit Court or perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court. They have 45 days to file such an appeal, he said.
"This law was passed as human rights legislation," Smith said. When it was passed, he said, nearly 200,000 Indian remains were held in museums across the country.
"Congress wanted to put a stop to that," Smith said. "They were looking to right the wrongs of centuries of abuse and illegal internment of Native American remains."
Pending resolution of the legal dispute, the remains are being held at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at 206-448-8318 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mummy tells tale of infection
Washington — Chagas disease, a deadly parasitic blood illness that recently has drawn attention in North America, has infected some South and Central Americans for at least 9,000 years, researchers said Monday.
The Red Cross, alarmed about reports of Chagas disease in the United States, announced last year that it expects to begin testing donated blood for the disease. Seven cases, spread by transfusions, have been reported in the United States and Canada since 1986.
Now a team of researchers led by Arthur Aufderheide of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Duluth reports evidence that the disease infected residents of the coastal Andes mountains as long as 9,000 years ago.
The team tested 283 mummies and found evidence for the DNA of the parasite that causes the disease on almost 41 per cent, they report in the on-line issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Chagas disease is caused by the trypanosome parasite, which burrows into its host's tissue and multiplies. There is no cure, and the disease eventually overwhelms patients' systems. The parasite is spread by insects that feed on blood.
The mummies were preserved naturally, dried out in the arid climate of the Andes around what is now Peru.
Humans began to populate the area about 7050 BC, and the team found evidence of the disease in about the same percentage of mummies, regardless of how old they were or the age or sex of the person.
The researchers point out in the paper that the insect-friendly thatch housing widely used in ancient times still is common in the area.
Thousand-year-old stone tablet recovered in Liaoning
A stone tablet that is nearly 1,000 years old and inscribed in different periods of history, 200 years apart from each other, has come to light in the northeastern China province of Liaoning.
A stone tablet that is nearly 1,000 years old and inscribed in different periods of history, 200 years apart from each other, has come to light in the northeastern China province of Liaoning.
The mammoth tablet, bearing some 5,000 Chinese characters, was first inscribed in the Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125) in commemoration of disastrous floods in Yizhou town, today's Tayingzi Town in Fuxin Mongolian Autonomous County, and the local residents' building of bridges and embankments to fight the floods.
The tablet was inscribed on four sides, including names of ancient villages, officials and civilians, but inscriptions on one side were removed and a head portrait -- probably of Liu Hong, thelast magistrate serving in Yizhou town in the Liao Dynasty -- was carved in its place.
Archeologists say they assume the portrait was carved in the Jin Dynasty (1115 - 1234) because the epigraph next to it was doneby Wang Ji, a Jin citizen.
The tablet was first discovered and carried in a horse cart to the county government by a local farmer in the 1960s, but was almost forgotten after it was buried by officials to protect it from being damaged or stolen.
No one knew the whereabouts of the tablet, though the local government tried several times to find it out in the 1980s.
In 2002, local archeologists started to see into the case again, and got clues that a huge tablet was spotted in 1994 at the construction site of a major department store. But unaware of its value, no one took the trouble to dig it out.
Early in January 2004, archeologists were finally able to retrieve the tablet close to the Global Shopping Center in the central areas of the old town.
Archeologists say its inscriptions are still largely legible, though some characters have blurred over the years.
Lu Zhenkui, an archeologist with Fuxin cultural heritage administration, said the tablet was a rare find. "It was a common practice in China's history to inscribe people's names and merits in stones, but this is the only one ever to be written over different dynasties."
The four coiling dragons on its crest suggested the tablet had been an important record even 1,000 years ago, he said.
Rock discovery causes excitement
An ancient rock covered in carved symbols has been discovered in a South American jungle by an archaeologist from Cornwall.
Julien Chenoweth, from St Mawes, said a date test showed the carvings were as old as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The rock was discovered by Mr Chenoweth after he led an expedition through the Darian area of the Panama jungle, with a party which also included medic Jo Lloyd-King, from Camborne.
A previous archaeologist had been told about the sacred stone by a native Indian, but until now attempts to locate it had failed.
Julian Chenoweth led an expedition through the Panama jungle
The rock has been dated to 3,000 BC. It weighs 30 tonnes and is about 17 feet (5.18 metres) high.
Mr Chenoweth, who works with the Scientific Exploration Society, said he would now write a report on the carvings for the government and he then expected it to attract international attention.
"There is nothing else like it in the area," he said.
"It raises all sorts of questions on what people were doing there, but until more research is done in this area and whether there is a possibility of more rocks like this being found, it is impossible to say what it means."
Mr Chenoweth said it was hard for him, as a Cornishman, to try and say what the Central American culture was saying, but he added: "I believe the rock is a ceremonial place or a boundary marker for a tribe's territory."
World's first bowling alley discovered
Egypt, Local, 1/29/2004
The Italian team excavating at Madi city in Fayyoum has unearthed an open structure dating back to the Ptolemaic age.
The floor is composed of a single large block of limestone with a groove 10 cm deep and 20 cm wide. In the middle there is a 12 cm-square hole.
The team found two balls of polished limestone, one of which fits the groove and the other the square hole. The structure is like no other found in the ancient world.
After study it was proposed that it might be a first attempt at the practice of bowling.
The presumed bowling track was found next to the remains of a number of houses each made up of two rooms with a large hall.
The team has recently found papyri scrolls dating back to the Ptolemaic period, pottery shards, glass utensils, copper tools and some pieces of faience in the area.
The archaeological site of Medinet Madi is one of the most complete. The oldest of its monuments is a 12th Dynasty temple dedicated to the harvest goddess Renenutet and the crocodile-god Sobek.
The temple is magnificently decorated with reliefs showing the kings of the 12th Dynasty worshipping the gods.
Thu 5 Feb 2004
Fabulous Finds as Saxon King's Tomb Is Unearthed
By Tony Jones, PA News
The tomb of an East Saxon king containing a fabulous collection of artefacts has been unearthed, it was announced today.
The burial chamber, believed to date from the early 7th century, has been described by experts as the richest Anglo-Saxon find since the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk – one of Britain’s most important archaeological locations.
The site in Prittlewell, Southend, Essex was filled with everything a King might need in the afterlife, from his sword and shield to copper bowls, glass vessels and treasures imported from the farthest corners of the then known world.
The remains of the nobleman’s body have dissolved in the acidic soil, but two gold foil crosses were found which suggest he was a newly-converted Christian.
Ian Blair, the senior archaeologist on the site who carried out the work for the Museum of London Archaeology Service, said: “To find an intact chamber grave and a moment genuinely frozen in time is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
“The fact that copper-alloy bowls were still hanging from hooks in the walls of the chamber, where they had been placed nearly 1,400 years ago, is a memory that I’m sure will remain with all of us forever.”
He added: “Two foil crosses, probably originally laid on the body or sewn to a shroud, suggest that the King had converted from paganism to Christianity.”
The tomb was discovered last autumn when Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s consultants Atkins Heritage and the Museum of London Archaeology Service began an evaluation survey in an area due for road improvements.
Saxon artefacts had been found at the site in the past, and on a verge between a road and a railway line they discovered the burial chamber, which measured about four metres square by one and a half metres high.
The contents of the tomb had been held in place because the sand from the mound sealing the grave gradually seeped into the chamber, silting up the air spaces and supporting the roof-timbers.
Most of the organic material on the site had been destroyed by the acidity of the soil, but fragments of wood from the burial chamber and from some of the vessels had survived.
A spokesman for the Museum of London Archaeology Service said: “The find is spectacular in its size and quality, but what makes it unique is that all the objects were in their original positions, just as they had been arranged on the day of the funeral.”
He added: “The burial is probably contemporary with the Sutton Hoo burial (c.AD 630) and it is quite possible that the two men knew each other.
“This is the period when royalty flaunted their wealth at extravagant feasts in smoky halls, and epic poems like Beowulf told of heroic feats of valour.”
The most exotic finds are a decorated flagon and at least one bowl that were both imported from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly Asia Minor.
Other highlights among the sixty or more finds are a hanging bowl decorated with metallic strips and medallions, and two cauldrons, one small and one very large.
There are also two pairs of coloured glass vessels, eight wooden drinking cups decorated with gilded mounts, buckets and the remains of a large casket that may have originally contained textiles.
A particularly unusual item is the frame of a folding stool, which could be from Asia Minor or Italy.
The dead man had also been provided with two Merovingian gold coins from northern France.
Conservation and study of the material that has been found is continuing but a selection of the objects found in the burial chamber will be on display free of charge at the Museum of London, from tomorrow, and at the Southend Central Museum from February 21.
Anglo-Saxon king's tomb is biggest find since Sutton Hoo
By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
05 February 2004
Archaeologists have unearthed the spectacularly rich tomb of a Dark Age Anglo-Saxon king - the most important discovery since the Sutton Hoo ship burial 65 years ago.
Excavations at Southend-on-Sea revealed the intact tomb of an early seventh century Saxon monarch - almost certainly either Saeberht or Sigeberht, both kings of Dark Age Essex.
Saeberht - England's second Christian king - died around AD617. His kingdom included London and St Paul's Cathedral was almost certainly founded in his reign.
His uncle was the king of Kent responsible for the introduction of Christianity into Anglo-Saxon England. Sigeberht was murdered in 653 AD because "he was too ready to pardon his enemies". The tomb and its contents were discovered in almost perfect condition. The spectacular grave goods were found still "hanging" from iron pegs which had been hammered into the walls of the tomb.
Originally the burial chamber had been lined and roofed with planks, but the wood has long since disintegrated, allowing the tomb to fill up with earth.
The grave goods - designed to enable the king to live well in the next world - include a 75cm diameter copper cauldron, a 35cm hanging bowl from northern England or Ireland and an exquisite 25cm diameter copper bowl, probably from Italy.
There is also a 30cm high flagon, almost certainly from the Byzantine Empire, two gold foil crosses, an iron-framed folding stool, a sort of mobile throne, a gold reliquary which would probably have contained a bone fragment from a saint, four glass vessels, two drinking horns, the king's sword and the remains of his shield, two gold coins from Merovingian France, the remains of a lyre, and several iron-clad barrels and buckets, presumably for alcoholic drink.
The king's skeleton has not survived due to the acidic nature of the soil.
The royal tomb is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Britain. It dates from the same period as the great Sutton Hoo ship burial, found in Suffolk in 1939, which contained the body of a king of East Anglia.
The excavations have been carried out by the Museum of London Archaeological Service and the objects will be on display at the Museum till 17 February and then from 21 February at Southend-on-Sea's Museum.
Repair clue links Kingmaker to medieval ship
By David Derbyshire
Britain's sole surviving medieval ship may have belonged to Warwick the Kingmaker, one of the most powerful figures of the 15th century, according to new evidence.
Historians working on the Newport ship, recovered in South Wales two years ago, believe it was owned by the Earl of Warwick during the War of the Roses.
A letter by the Earl reveals that he ordered repairs on an ocean going ship in Newport in 1469.
The date and place match repairs being carried out on the medieval boat, which is regarded as the most important maritime find since the Mary Rose.
Bob Trett, a historian and former curator of Newport Museum, who made the connection, said evidence linking the ship and Warwick was circumstantial but persuasive.
He believes the medieval boat is one of Britain's most important historical treasures.
"Not only was it found fairly intact, but it comes from a period where no other ships of this type have been recovered," he said.
The ship was found during the construction of an arts centre in the city in July 2002.
An excavation revealed a preserved oak ship around 100ft long and weighing between 100 and 200 tons.
A reconstruction for BBC2's Timewatch, to be shown on Friday, shows the ship with three masts and a large square rigged mainsail. The hull was "clinker built", with oak planks overlapping each other.
Using tree ring data, researchers discovered that one of the timbers was felled in 1465 or 1466.
Parts of the hull were catastrophically cracked, while others had recently been replaced when it was abandoned.
It is likely to have limped into Newport for repairs after a major storm. The discovery of Portuguese copper coins and pottery and a lump of cork showed that the vessel had links to the Iberian peninsula. But despite the Portugese artifacts, its design and wood suggest it was made further north.
It may have been built in Gascony, France, which was under English rule until 1451.
The link with Warwick emerged from a letter, found in Warwickshire's county archives. Warwick was a key player in the rapidly changing political scene.
In 1460 he captured Henry VI in London and put his Yorkist nephew Edward IV on the throne the following year. Over the next 10 years, Warwick remained a major influence in government, but increasingly came into conflict with his king.
In 1470 he was in danger from Edward IV, fled to France, made a deal with the French and returned to London where he ruled in Henry VI's name.
The following year he was killed at the Battle of Barnet and Edward IV regained the Crown.
The repair work appears to have been abandoned around the time of Warwick's exile and the vessel left to rot.
Timewatch, BBC2, 9pm, Last Friday.
February 05, 2004
A blaze of golden light into the Dark Ages
BY DALYA ALBERGE
A SAXON king’s spectacular burial chamber has been unearthed in a suburb of Southend.
The chamber, dating from the early 7th century, is remarkably intact. All that is missing is the body of the king, whose remains have dissolved over the centuries.
Among the treasures recovered are the copper buckles from his shoes. They were found alongside 60 beautifully preserved pieces, including gold buckles and brooches, glass vessels and copper bowls: all that a king needed to take him into the next world. Two gold foil crosses indicate that he was an early convert to Christianity.
The significance of the find is being likened by experts to Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, one of Britain’s most important archaeological sites. The quality of the grave goods, as well as their quantity, has astonished archaeologists. Bronze cauldrons and flagons, a sword and shield, drinking vessels and personal items such as a boardgame, were fastened to the walls of the chamber with the original iron nails.
What makes the discovery unique is that all the objects were found in their original positions, just as they had been arranged on the day of the king’s funeral nearly 1,400 years ago.
The wood-lined burial chamber on the Essex coast lies beneath a roadside verge near the railway line at Prittlewell. Archaeologists from the Museum of London archaeology service were asked by the local authority to evaluate the site before workmen began improving the road because, when the road was built in the 1920s, workmen found some Saxon spears, swords and bones.
Ian Blair, the senior archaeologist on the site, said: “To find an intact chamber grave and a moment genuinely frozen in time is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.”
Dave Lakin, the project manager, said that despite the king’s apparent conversion to Christianity he was also taking with him everything he might need to carry on his life of feasting and lavish display — “a vestige of previous pagan beliefs”. He added: “It contains incredible objects that are providing a fascinating glimpse into the life and death of the super-rich of the Dark Ages.”
The identity of the king is unknown. Speculation points to the rulers of Essex: Saebert, who converted in 604 and died in 616, and Sigeberht II, who adopted Christianity in 653. Little is known about either, although current research suggests that they lived at a time when settlements were beginning to consolidate and early tribal groupings were becoming more formal.
The chamber measures about 13ft (4m) square by 5ft and contained treasures imported from the farthest corners of the known world.
The most exotic finds are a decorated flagon and at least one bowl that were imported from the Eastern Mediterranean, possibly Asia Minor. There is a hanging bowl decorated with metallic strips and medallions, and two cauldrons, one small and one vast, measuring 29½ in (75 cm) across. There are also two pairs of coloured glass vessels, eight wooden drinking cups decorated with gilded mounts, buckets and the remains of a large casket that may have originally contained textiles. A particularly unusual item is the frame of a folding stool, which could be from Asia Minor or Italy.
The contents were held in place because sand from the mound sealing the grave seeped into the chamber, silting up the air spaces and supporting the roof timbers. Although the king’s body has dissolved in the acid soil, two bone dice from a boardgame that resembles backgammon survived.
Mr Lakin said: “There was an awful lot of stuff with him. The really exciting part is that we don’t have to reconstruct how it looked. It’s all there. The hanging bowl was still hanging on the nail. Glass vessels were stacked up by the side of the coffin. The cauldron was leant up against the wall. The assemblage as a whole is astonishing. We have a shopping list of what such a grave would contain: weapons, feasting paraphernalia, drinking horns, cups, personal items like a lyre and gaming pieces.”
The burial was probably carried out at about the same time as the Sutton Hoo burial. However, while robbers got to the Suffolk site centuries before archaeologists, so that a reconstruction had to be done from the remaining objects, the Essex chamber is complete. Mr Lakin said: “Those who have seen this so far have said this is not the sort of thing they’d expect to see in their lifetime. I’d wholly agree with that.”
Howard Briggs, the leader of Southend council, said: “It’s hard to believe that for hundreds of years a king has been lying in Southend, untouched by all the things going on around him. The opportunity for the public to see these spectacular finds is a real bonus.”
Conservation and study of the treasures is continuing, but a selection will be displayed at both the Museum of London, from February 6 to 17, and the Southend Central Museum, from February 21 to March 21.
The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Prittlewell is located close to Prittle Brook, an area that had been inhabited since prehistoric times. The full extent of this cemetery is still not known.
On-site video: finds including copper vessels and the north and east faces of the chamber. [.mov format, 3 mins 47 secs, 6.1mb]
On-site video: finds including the folding stool in the west face of the chamber. [.mov format, 3 mins 6 secs, 3.6mb]
Panoramic view of the site [QTVR .mov format, 500kb]
Format and requirements: If you do not have the plug-in please visit http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/ to download the plug-in for Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, Mac OS X or Mac OS 8.6/9.)
Over the years a rich collection of archaeological finds has come to light in this area. During the building of the Liverpool St to Southend railway line in the 1880s, and of Priory Crescent in 1923, road builders uncovered evidence of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery as well as Roman burials.
The Saxon grave goods from past digs have included a large number of weapons from male 'warrior' graves and two brooches from a smaller number of recognizable female graves. The objects suggest that the cemetery dates from between AD 500-700.
By the early 7th century a range of burial rites were practised in England, depending on status and wealth. The highest status form of burial was in a chamber grave beneath a mound. The finest known examples are at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, Taplow in Buckinghamshire and Broomfield in Essex. The Prittlewell discovery was of the remains of one of these chamber graves.
The accidental discoveries made in 1923 (right) alerted archaeologists to the potential of the site. [Enlarge photograph]
The newly discovered chamber grave
The range and combination of objects discovered in 2003 and how they were placed in the grave to create a setting for the dead king is unique. Weapons, equipment for feasting and personal possessions were found.
The coffin contained items that had been placed on the body as part of the burial ritual. These included two small gold foil crosses, two gold coins and a gold belt buckle.
The survival of the chamber and its contents is due to the mound above the grave collapsing into the open chamber as the roof timbers decayed. However, the high acidity of the sand filling the burial chamber has meant that no trace of a body survived.
The objects in the grave such as the sword tell us it was almost certainly that of a man.
The contents of the burial chamber, down to the 'king's' shoe buckles were still in placeThe reconstruction below shows how the chamber would have looked when it was sealed. Many of the objects are still being studied.
Kings and kingdoms of England c AD 600
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The earliest kings of England emphasised their power by displays of wealth. This continued after death with their richest possessions buried with them.
In the 5th century, during the chaos that followed the end of Roman power, new peoples arrived in Britain. They were Angles and Saxons from northern Germany and Denmark. They established kingdoms in eastern England, where names such as East Anglia, the South Saxons of Sussex and the East Saxons of Essex are preserved on modern maps.
Although the East Saxons were never a very rich or powerful people, their territory stretched far beyond the modern county of Essex to include Middlesex and the site of London. Later, Saxon London was called the East Saxons' 'metropolis'.
The excavation of the Taplow burial mound in 1883 uncovered one of the richest 7th century Anglo-Saxon chamber graves to be found in the country. Although a large and impressive assemblage of finds were recovered, the method of excavation of clearly quite primative and important detail was undoubtedly missed (British Museum). Drinking cup mounts (left) were found at both Taplow and Prittlewell.
The folding stool is the first example known from England. [Enlarge photograph]
The objects found in the chamber (some of which are displayed here) are from a variety of countries. Of those examined so far, the most exotic are a flagon and a bowl, from the eastern Mediterranean. This does not necessarily represent direct trade links - some of the items could have been received as gifts.
The gold buckle is of continental style, but was probably made in Kent. Hanging bowls are generally thought to have been made in Ireland or in northern England. The decoration of the wooden drinking vessels is Scandinavian in style, although they were probably made in England. The glass vessels are also English, possibly from Kent.
The folding stool is probably from either Italy or modern Slovakia/Hungary. The fashion for placing gold crosses in graves is typical of northern Italy and south-west Germany/northern Switzerland, while the Gold coins are from Merovingian France.
Read on to find out what the objects found can tell us about who was buried in the grave, and to find out more about the objects themselves, including photographs and 3D reconstructions.
Who was buried in the grave?
Many months of careful work are still required to provide clues to the possible identity of the grave's occupant. Although the richly furnished burial appears to be pagan, there are several objects with Christian connections.
It is possible that the flagon and the bowl were associated with a religious ritual such as the washing of hands or feet. However, the clearest indication that the deceased had converted to Christianity is the two gold foil crosses that had been laid on the body.
The first of the East Saxon Kings to be converted to Christianity was Saebert in AD 604 but, following his death in AD 616, his sons expelled the Christian missionaries and returned to paganism. It was not until AD 653 that Sigeberht II was persuaded to adopt Christianity by Northumbrian missionaries under St Cedd, who was sent to convert the people of Essex.
Q: Do we know who was buried at Prittlewell?
A: In the absence of any inscription naming the occupant of the chamber grave we will never know for certain. However, analysis of the grave goods will give us a good idea when the burial took place and may provide clues as to the identity of the occupant.
Q: How do we know that the occupant of the grave was a man?
A: As no skeletal remains survived we cannot be 100 per cent certain. The presence of weapons and feasting paraphernalia and the absence of beads, brooches or other items associated with female burials amongst the grave goods make it most likely that the deceased was male.
Q: How do we know that he was a king?
A: The richness and diversity of the grave goods buried with the deceased mark his high status. Our understanding of early Anglo-Saxon kingship is not well developed, however, an individual with significant wealth to be disposed of at burial and whose relatives felt the need to mark his status by doing so is clearly a member of a ruling elite, if not a king as we know it.
Q: Was the 'king' a Christian?
A: The practice of burial with grave goods is at this period (late 6th/early 7th Century) not incompatible with Christian belief. The presence of two crosses among the contents of the coffin, the possible ritual use of the 'Coptic bowl' and flagon and the potential interpretation of the gold buckle as a reliquary strongly suggest a degree of Christian belief. Of course we cannot know how much hedging of bets was involved.
Q: Is there another chamber grave on the site?
A: The evaluation of the site examined only a portion of the site by excavation, the remainder being examined by non-intrusive geophysical survey. Neither exercise indicated the presence of another chamber grave, and these are considered to be reliable evaluation techniques. However, other graves may be located in the vicinity.
Q: How important is this find?
A: Unplundered chamber tombs of this period are rare and this example is particularly rich. It is possibly unique in that the chamber and its contents were substantially undisturbed to the extent that many objects were still pegged into place on the walls of the chamber as they had been when the grave was sealed.
Q: Were there other burials on the site?
A: The chamber grave seems to have been located adjacent to an existing cemetery the remains of which were found in the evaluation and during earlier work. Burials of both Anglo-Saxon and Roman date have been found.
Q. Who owns the finds?
A. Subject to Coroner's Inquest/decision, it is assumed that the material belongs to Southend Borough; the find was made on Council owned property.
Q. Where will we be able to see the find?
A. The Museum of London and then Southend Museum are staging a temporary exhibition with a selection of the objects from the tomb. The options for the final display of the tomb are being discussed at the moment.
Q. Why will the tomb finds not be displayed at Prittlewell Priory?
A. Although photographs of the finds will be on display as part of our proposed redisplay at the Priory, (the story of Prittlewell), it is important that these finds are interpreted within the context of the archaeology and history of the whole of south east Essex. The importance and relevance of the tomb cannot be understood if it is divorced from such background, since it is an integral part of that archaeology and history. It is also at the Central Museum that the previous finds from the Prittlewell Cemetery are displayed. All options for the display of the material is being currently considered. We are not in a position to make a decision at present.
Q. Who is going to pay for the final display of the Tomb/How will it be displayed?
A. A final display of the tomb finds will have to await the complete conservation and treatment of all the finds together with research. This is going to take many months of very careful work. In the meantime we are investigating various options for the final display, which could include a complete reconstruction of the tomb. The display of the tomb, or finds from the tomb, will require extra funding which will be sought from external sources. We cannot say at this stage what form this funding will take, from whom it will be sought, or how much we would be seeking.
Q. How does the Tomb fit in with the archaeology of the area?
A. We knew from the finds of 1923 when the Priory Crescent was being constructed, and from other finds from 1930, made during the construction of railway sidings, that we were dealing with a Saxon cemetery of quite high status. This was because of the number of "warrior" burials, with sword, spear and shield, and the female burials with gold brooches and beads, and the glassware and imported pottery. It was still totally unexpected to find such a rich "princely" burial on the site.
Elsewhere in south east Essex there have been other cemeteries, many rather earlier than Prittlewell, such as Shoebury and a disturbed cemetery at Wakering. Evidence for Saxon settlements has been found in Southend, Wakering and Barling.
Q. Where did the king live, and where are the homes of the "warriors"?
A. In fact we do not know. Two Saxon buildings probably from a larger settlement were excavated during building work to the north east of the cemetery site, but there is no way of knowing whether this was the settlement associated with this cemetery. One would expect that the king would have lived in a rather grand hall, but this has never been found. Unfortunately, the chances of ever finding it are remote for several reasons. First, such buildings were constructed of timber, leaving only slight traces in the ground. Secondly, so much building has gone on in Southend, that such a settlement many already have been destroyed without trace. Thirdly, if the settlement lay under Priory Park it would, at least, be protected.
Q. Did this king found Prittlewell Church?
A. This is not known. It is believed that an archway on the north side of the church is a remnant of a Saxon building, perhaps a Saxon minster church. We are seeking expert opinion on the dating of this feature. We will never know for certain, of course, whether our king was connected in any way with the church.
Q. What does the name Prittlewell mean; is it a Saxon name?
The name Prittlewell probably means a sparkling spring. The fishponds in Priory Park are fed by a spring, and this may be the one from which the place got its name. Experts in place names tell us that places with the "well" element are normally not dated before the early 8th century.
Iron Age South African settlement found
Archaeologists in KwaZulu-Natal have unearthed human bones which they believe provide evidence of South Africa's first permanent agricultural community. The two arm bones, a leg bone and a shoulder blade were discovered at a site in Salt Rock, one of the richest Iron Age coastal sites to be excavated in KwaZulu-Natal. They were found in what seemed to be a shallow grave that had been trampled on and destroyed over time.
"This is by far the richest Iron Age coastal midden [mound of relics] excavated in KwaZulu-Natal to date," said independent Pietermaritzburg archaeologist Len van Schalkwyk. "Now we have something concrete to highlight the activity of black farming communities. It will change the way history in South Africa is understood and taught," he said.
Van Schalkwyk said people had lived along the coastline for centuries, using the ocean as one of their main food sources. "They obviously used the site to cook because the rocks we found were shattered with fire," Van Schalkwyk said. He also said that forensic tests would be conducted on the bones and relics to find out more about the activity of the early farmers.
"We will do an isotope analysis of the bone which will give us trace elements to show us what they ate. This could be of significance to our current health system because it will show the significance of a seafood diet." The findings and the collected material will be handed over to Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal.
Francis Thackeray, the principal researcher at the Northern Flagship Institution in Pretoria (formerly the Transvaal Museum), said the first discovery of ancient human remains in South Africa was at Border Cave in the Lebombo mountains, north of KwaZulu-Natal near Swaziland, in about 1960 and they were about 100,000 years old.
Source: Sunday Times - South Africa (25 January 2004)
Exhibitions at Marischal Museum in Aberdeen
'Carved Stone Balls - a Prehistoric Mystery' is a new exhibition at Marischal Museum (Aberdeen, Scotland) that explores a prehistoric mystery with the help of local children from Woodside School and of the sculptor Keiji Nagahiro.
Some 4000 years ago a series of decorated stone balls were painstakingly made - they are each about the size of an orange and have a number of regular bosses carved on them. As nearly 90% of the balls have been found in North East Scotland, archaeologists think they were made in this area. No-one knows what the carved stone balls were used for. Archaeologists look at the wear marks, the find spots and the associated finds. This does not solve the mystery. This exhibition suggests some possible ideas from archaeologists, from children from Woodside School and from the sculptor Keiji Nagahiro.
As over 70 stone balls will be on display from 19 January to 31 March 2004, this is a unique opportunity to see one of the largest collections of these enigmatic carvings.
At the same time another exhibition at the same museum, titled 'Spirit of Stones' is showing (until 19 February 2004) the batiks by Annabel Carey. The batiks are all of stone circles and standing stones, many of them in Scotland, including well known north-east sites such as Sunhoney, Cullerlie and Loanhead of Daviot. The title 'Spirit of Stones' sums up the feel of this exhibition: they are very evocative of the atmosphere which surrounds many stone circles and other prehistoric sites.
Source: University of Aberdeen - Marischal Museum (19 January 2004)
Makeover for prehistoric British cave
Britain's oldest home is having a £600,000 makeover to bring it into the spotlight as one of Torquay's world class history sites and all-weather leisure attractions. Kent’s Cavern (Devon, England), which has just celebrated its centenary, is well on the way to completing a privately-funded redevelopment, that will be finished in late spring.
The programme focuses on its world-class archaeological history and position as the most important prehistoric cave system in Britain. The work is the brainchild of Nick Powe; with the help of Business Link Devon and Cornwall, he devised a plan to move Kents Cavern away from its traditional role as a wet weather attraction and focus on its historical and geological heritage.
Mr Powe said: "With visitor numbers dropping I was faced with a huge challenge and needed to take a step back and think about strategy for the future." An 80-seater visitor centre and reception area, are scheduled for completion at Easter.
A team of experts from Exeter Archaeology has been monitoring ground excavations at the caves and found a number of artefacts. They include some prehistoric animal bones and a few human bones, which are currently being examined.
Mr Powe said: "All this material will be returned to the caves and we will be displaying it in our new exhibition galleries once it has been properly identified." Kents Cavern is also applying for charitable status for its activities providing education and research resources and stages Stone Age events featuring prehistoric technology.
Source: Herald Express (30 January 2004)
A great deal of finds for Scottish archaeologists
Last year turned out to be a bumper year of excitement for the Biggar Museum archaeologists (Lanarkshire, Scotland). Tam Ward, the project leader, said: "Every now and then, we get surprises to deal with, and these have been an Early Stone Age Settlement, near Coulter. The site was ploughed up and it proved to be the spot where some of the first farmers were living, and apart from a large collection of flints, hundreds of pieces of pottery were found in pits which will be dated and we expect them to be between 5000 and 6000 years old."
Work also resumed at a site on Weston Farm, near Newbigging. "We knew this was an early site because we found tiny flints here before, and which tell us that people were living here before any had actually settled on the landscape," said Tam. "These people were hunter-gatherers, perhaps camping for a single night before moving off again. We found pits full of hazelnut shells and when we date these, we will know exactly when these people were there."
The Weston sites have now produced some of the largest collections of early tools so far found in Scotland. Tam continued: "First we went into Daer, where we have been working for years, finding new sites every time, because they are being washed out constantly. Several arrow heads found now provide the first evidence of the stone age farmers so high in the hills."
While still working flat out in Daer, the group hurried into the Tweed hills to look at the Talla and Fruid reservoirs,where a host of never-before-seen sites were exposed. Said Tam: "In Talla, we have found perhaps the biggest Bronze Age ritual centre in our history. It seems to be a series of different types of burial sites, some of which we understand, but other circles of stone we have never seen before. Plans have been drawn for others to study and to try to throw some light on all of this."
The Talla sites appear not be under serious threat of being washed away, but that is not the case in Fruid. Here the water turbulence must be more aggressive, because the sites there are disappearing fast. Tam added: "We found a group of cairns showing where pre-historic people had their fields. But one site is a Bronze Age house dating over 3000 years ago. We managed to gather a lot of information, finds and soil samples from the site, but the water beat us."
Biggar Museum is setting up its own archaeology website. This will allow the world to be updated on their latest findings.
Source: Peebleshire News (29 January 2004)
Ancient earring found in Yorkshire
A gold earring found buried under a few inches of soil in a ploughed field in East Yorkshire (England) could be more than 3,000 years old. A metal detector enthusiast, part of a group from Durham, stumbled across the treasure near Driffield.
The late Bronze Age ring has narrow stripes of yellow and paler gold and when analysed by experts at the British Museum was found to be 73 per cent gold and 23 per cent silver. Tests showed that the precious metals covered a hoop of base metal. Weighing just 10gms, it was dated between 1150 BCE and 750 BCE.
There is no idea yet of the value, which will be settled by an independent valuation committee. Both the British Museum and local museums will be given the first chance to bid.
An inquest in Hull heard the earring was found by Gary Turnbull in around six inches of soil. After the ring was declared treasure, the landowner said she hoped it would go to a local museum. The farmer, who asked not to be named, said: "These metal detectorists have been coming for a few years but this is the first thing to come to light."
Source: Yorkshire Post Today (30 January 2004)
Excavations of a prehistoric Iranian settlement
Last year, excavations began at Toll-e-Bashi: a prehistoric settlement in the Marv Dasht Plain northwest of Persepolis (Iran). At almost eight hectares in size, Toll-e-Bashi was assumed to be one of the major Bakun period sites (5th millennium BCE) in the region. However, excavations focused on the smaller occupation of the Late Neolithic levels (late 7th to early 6th millennia BCE), as these early levels were easy to access.
So far, archaeological investigations have revealed no evidence for human occupation in the region between the Epipalaeolithic and the Late Neolithic periods. Was there a hiatus in settlement, and if so, from where and when did Neolithic settlers enter the plain? This occupational gap is suspect as other studies have identified evidence for the period in areas located on either side of the region.
Investigations at Toll-e-Bashi will potentially challenge traditional accounts of Neolithization that understand this economic transition as an almost irreversible process. Prelimininary impressions from excavated data suggest hunting, gathering, herding, and agriculture were not the only alternative modes of subsistence for the people at Bashi. They also used aquatic resources such as fish and crabs to a significant extent. This is surprising as the site was inhabited at a time when the experts presume increasing specialization on a few resources.
Judging by the limited data available, built space in the settlement decreased over time. In the early phases, at least one multi-room house was found, whereas the later layers contain mostly carefully treated exterior surfaces and multiple ovens. Again, ideas about Neolithization mostly include the expectation of the opposite development ? from open settlement plans to tightly packed villages.
A shift from hunting and gathering to an active manipulation of animals and plants likely brought with it new ways of perceiving 'nature.' According to ethnographers, modern-day hunters and gatherers often believe hunted game possess their own will; a successful hunt is a sign that the animal wanted to 'give' itself to the hunter. Intentionality of this kind may also be bestowed upon other natural phenomena; i.e. plants, wind, stones, etc. Nature is seen as a 'parent.' When moving toward more intensified agricultural practices, societies likely undergo changes in worldview characterized by a shift from a partnership with to a domination over nature in both daily praxis and ideology.
Similar changes in Neolithic societies' perceptions of the environment may be reflected in one type of item excavated at Bashi and elsewhere. These small clay objects with flat, circular bases occur in several distinct shapes and have often been called 'ear spools' or 'lip plugs' . These objects may have been memory tools, signifying a quantity or quality of some object or animal. If so, what is it that the inhabitants of Toll-e-Bashi needed to remember? A group undergoing a fundamental change in relations to its natural environment is likely to be preoccupied with such a process. The idea of memorizing something in nature means that the inhabitants at Bashi had "cut out" and categorized a category of natural species or objects. They made them countable. If so, it is likely that Bashi's inhabitants characterized their relationship with the natural environment partly as one of domination and manipulation.
People at Bashi may also have begun to imitate nature. The painted ceramics of the earlier phase are almost completely focused on one major motif. On hilly slopes, excavation members found a wild plant which, when bearing fruit, strikingly resembles these motifs. In addition, the strong focus on one motif may have served a social function, unifying members of the community and setting them apart from neighboring ones.
Source: The Daily Star (23 January 2004)
Migdale Hoard returned to the Highlands
The Migdale Hoard has been returned to the Highlands of Scotland for an exhibition at Inverness Museum. A priceless collection of Bronze Age jewellery - including a bronze axe head, bronze hair ornaments, sets of bronze bangles and anklets, and several carved jet and shale buttons - it was found in May 1900 in a rock crevice above Loch Migdale, Sutherland.
Although kept in Edinburgh at the National Museums of Scotland, the artefacts are being lent to Inverness Museum for an exhibition lasting until mid-June. Local Highland councillor Alison Magee said "I'm delighted that these highly important artefacts will be on display in the Highlands close to where they were found. I hope as many people as possible from the Kyle of Sutherland and the wider Highlands will be able to visit the museum and see for themselves this stunning example of our local Bronze Age history."
However, the collection may be incomplete, as Inverness Museum archaeologist Patricia Weeks explained "Intriguingly, some of the pieces found with the hoard never made it to the National Museum." Smaller artefacts were apparently picked up at the time of discovery by local children, and it's possible some of the missing pieces may still be in the area.
Later this year, Dr Alison Sheridan of the National Museums of Scotland will give a talk in the Highlands on the Migdale Hoard, but the time and place have still to be confirmed.
Source: The Northern Times (29 January 2004)
Axe found in England could be 500.000-year-old
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, stones were washed down to East Anglia with a vast river that cut through the middle of England. But what the experts are puzzling over today is where this river ran its course. If they can plot its course and date it accurately, they could prove there were humans living in Britain 500,000 years ago and fill a gap in the prehistoric knowledge. And a hand-axe discovered at Lakenheath in the 1800s could be the vital link they need.
This is part of an historical puzzle being pieced together by British archaeologists as part of the national Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) survey. Members of AHOB were at Maidscross Heath, Lakenheath in Suffolk, taking samples from the site of the ancient riverbed to help them track its course. The site was chosen mainly because antiquarian geologist RW Flower found a hand-axe on the heath in 1869. In three pits, scientists have already found gravel deposits, which prove the river ran from the West Midlands down through Suffolk and Norfolk.
Archaeologist Nick Ashton, the British Museum's senior curator in the department of pre-history and Europe, said they are trying to look at when humans were here and what kind of climate they were living in. The evidence suggests the hand-axe found at Lakenheath was probably carried onto the site by the river from somewhere else in England. "There is a huge gap in human occupation between 250,000 and 60,000 years ago. There seems to be a complete absence of humans in Britain - probably because of the creation of the English Channel" said Ashton. "We are looking at dating this site. The hand-axe found by Flower is slightly rolled smooth, caused by it rolling in river gravel. This (site) would not have been where it was made. The axe could have been eroded out of an even earlier deposit, which means it is at least 0.5 million years old, possibly even 600,000 years old," he added.
Simon Lewis, a lecturer at Queen Mary College of London, said this river bed was an exciting find. "Drainage altered beyond recognition during glaciation 450,000 years ago." At that time the River Thames flowed through Suffolk and Essex, but it was diverted to its present course by the pressure of the ice. At Lakenheath there is evidence of quartzite and quartz that has travelled from a very old deposit in the West Midlands. "Lakenheath is a fragment of this river's story. It flowed out across to Great Yarmouth and out to a massive delta where it met the Rhine and other large continental rivers," he said.
Source: EDP24 (28 January 2004)
Vestiges of the ancient Vietnam discovered
Archaeologists from the National Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities' Archaeological Institute have discovered vestiges of the ancient Viet in the Giong Noi archaeological site in Ben Tre province after a month of excavations.
Archaeologists found an 11cm-long stone axe, a 7cm-long and 2cm rectangular shaped chisel, two grinding tables, several potsherds and animal bones believed to date from the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age (around the 1st millennion BCE). The artefacts showed that there were ancient Viet people who lived in Ben Tre 2,000 years ago.
Source: Vietnam News Agency (24 January 2004)
Neolithic earthenware uncovered in China
Two farmers in the northwestern China province of Shaanxi have uncovered two earthen jars in white and brownish red that according tho the experts are at least 5,000 years old.
Wu Tao and his wife Zhao Caining, natives of Sunjiacun village in Meixian County, discovered the two jars when digging in their farmland. One of the jars was intact with a white coating and brownish red patterns on its upper part, and the other had been broken, with similar patterns still visible on its pieces, said Wu.
Liu Huaijun, a cultural heritage expert with the county's museum, assumed the two jars could have been sacrificial objects that had been buried with the dead during the Yangshao culture period, 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. "Sunjiacun village borders Baijiacun village, where archeologists have discovered ruins of the Yangshao culture over the past years," he said. Liu also said the white coating on the jars was similar to earthenware pieces unearthed in central China's Henan Province and northwestern Gansu Province.
The Yangshao culture was formed in the Neolithic period in China, and its relics were first unearthed in Yangshao Village of Henan Province in 1921.
Sources: China Daily, Xinhua (19 January 2004)