Builders of Stonehenge found
As the summer solstice dawned over Stonehenge, archaeologists revealed that some of the men who built Stonehenge have been found.
Their grave, which dates to the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2,300 BC, was found at Boscombe Down near to Stonehenge. Many of the stones at Stonehenge were brought from Wales at about this time and chemical tests on the teeth of the men have shown that they were almost certainly born in Wales.
Archaeologists are calling the men 'the Boscombe Bowmen' because of the flint arrowheads in the grave. Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: "In medieval times, people believed that the stones could only have been brought to Stonehenge by Merlin the Wizard. For the first time we have found the mortal remains of one of the families who were almost certainly involved in this monumental task."
The grave is unusual as it contains the remains of not one, but seven people. There were three children, a teenager and three men. The skulls of
the men and the teenager are so similar that they must be related.
The Bowmen's teeth provided the clue to where they came from. As the enamel forms on children's teeth, it locks in a chemical fingerprint of where they grew up. Tests by scientists of the British Geological Survey on the strontium isotopes in the Bowmen's teeth show that they grew up in a place where the rocks are very radioactive. This was either in the Lake District or Wales. The men's teeth also all have the same pattern, showing that they migrated between the ages of 3 and 13. Dr Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey said: "This provides a remarkable picture of prehistoric migration."
The grave was found last year during road improvement works being carried out by QinetiQ, the science and technology company that operates the Boscombe Down airfield. Tests on the finds have just been completed by Wessex Archaeology. The QinetiQ employee and archaeologist Colin Kirby, who made the discovery said: "On the second day of the excavations, I noticed human in the side of a water pipe trench. On investigating the spoil from the trench, fragments of beaker pottery and an arrowhead emerged. This was very exciting as it showed that the burial was probably Bronze Age and may be linked to the Amesbury Archer. I immediately informed Wessex Archaeology."
Seven or eight pots were buried with the dead to hold food and drink for the journey to the next life. The pots are very similar to those found nearby with the Amesbury Archer, a man who was given the richest burial of the age in Europe. He is the earliest metalworker known from Britain, and his grave contained the earliest gold objects in Britain. Tests on his teeth showed that he came from central Europe.
The Archer and the Bowmen lived around the time of major building works at Stonehenge. The stones brought from the Preseli Hills 250 km away in south-west Wales are called the bluestones because of their colour. The huge sarsen stones were brought from the Marlborough Downs 30 km to the north.
Dr Fitzpatrick added: "The Boscombe Bowmen, a band of brothers, must almost certainly be linked with the bringing of the bluestones to Stonehenge. With the discovery that the Amesbury Archer came from central Europe, these finds are casting the first light on an extraordinary picture at the dawn of the metal age.
"Through the mists of time, we can start to see the very people who brought the building blocks of the greatest temple of its age. We can also glimpse the important people who were associated with that temple to the gods of the sun and the moon. It is an epic story.'
The finds will be on display in Salisbury Museum in the exhibition 'Changing Places' from Saturday 3rd July.
A Mass Grave
Most graves that date to the early in the Bronze Age (or the Beaker period) in southern England usually contain one, sometimes two, skeletons.
The Boscombe Down grave was different. A normal sized grave contained the remains of seven individuals. Three adult males, a teenage male and three children. The burial rite was unusual.
A man who had died between the ages of about 30-45 had been buried on his left side with his legs tucked up and with head to the north. His left thighbone had been broken so badly that when his leg healed it may have been shorter. But he survived, limping along. Buried close to his head were the remains of the three children.
One child, aged between about 2-4, had been cremated but there was barely a handful of their bones in the grave. This was the only cremation burial. Little survived of the remains of a child aged between about 5-6, perhaps because this inhumation burial had been disturbed. As the burial of the third child, aged between about 6-7, lay at a higher level, it would seem to have been inserted into the grave at a later date.
In contrast the remains of the teenager and the two men had clearly been rearranged. The teenager was probably a male and died between the ages of about 15-18. The two men had died between the ages of about 25-30.
Their remains had been placed around the corpse of the 30-40 year old. Some bones had been placed below his body, others on top, with similar bones being grouped together. The bones were mainly robust long bones, and parts of skulls. There were few smaller bones. The skulls were placed towards the feet of the articulated burial.
The surfaces of the loose bones were more worn. It seems likely that this was not their first resting place. The skulls of the men and the teenager were very similar in shape. All of them had distinctive small bones (called Wormian bones) that had grown between the individual parts of the skull. It seems highly likely that the males were all related.
This is a typical Stone Age rite of collective burial. But this collective burial was in a single grave, something typical of the metal ages.
High-resolution images are available for press use.
Matching the seven individuals were eight pots. This is the greatest number of people from a single Beaker grave in Britain and it is also the greatest number of Beaker pots from one grave. This is not likely to be a coincidence.
Four of the pots were placed near the head of the articulated burial. Above his face were two pots. Behind his head, and close to the burials of the children, was a matching pair of pots. The smaller pot of the two had been placed inside the larger one.
Parts of one pot lay by the manís feet but the remainder of it had already been disturbed. The remaining four vessels were all retrieved from the spoil heap. It can only be said that it is likely that they had been placed behind the man.
Seven of the eight pots are decorated all over, six with cord, one with plaited cord. The eighth pot is fragmentary but it too may have been decorated all over this time in horizontal zones with a mixture of cord decoration and combed decoration.
Such a large number of pots decorated in this way is a very unusual find. Plaited cord is an extremely rare form of decoration on Beakers in Britain. It is much more common in continental Europe. One of the very few British finds is in the nearby grave of the Amesbury Archer.
The similarity between the pots in these two graves suggests that they are about the same date. The radiocarbon dates for the Bowmen are not yet available, but on the basis of the dates from the Archer, the Bowmenís grave is also likely to date to between 2,400-2,200 BC.
The other finds include five barbed and tanged arrowheads - giving the name the Boscombe Bowmen Ė some other flint tools; scrapers and flakes, a boarís tusk and a toggle.
In continental Europe tusks are often found in the same grave as stones used for metalworking, like the one found in the grave of the Amesbury Archer. Sometimes the tusks and stones have been found next to each other together. Are the boarís tusks metalworking tools?
Only one other bone toggle has been found in Britain. It comes from a later, and rich, Bronze Age burial at Barnack, Cambridgeshire. Most toggles have been found in continental Europe. These finds usually have a central perforation rather than a loop. They have mainly been thought of as decorative pendants but they may have fastened clothing or a hair ornament.
Both the decoration of the plaited cord beaker and the bone toggle point towards continental Europe, from where the Amesbury Archer came. Some of the objects buried with him also came from there. But the Boscombe Bowmen came from Britain.
Men from the West
Like the Amesbury Archer, the enamel on the Bowmenís teeth has provided the clue as to where they grew up. As different teeth form at different times in childhood every tooth preserves a chemical fingerprint of the local environment at that time.
Pre-molars form after the milk teeth have dropped out, between the age of 3 and 6. Third molars are the last teeth to erupt and form between 9-13.
When the tooth enamel is fixed, the oxygen and strontium isotopes in it are locked into the chemical fingerprint. For pre-molars, this is in early childhood. For the 3rd molars, it is what may be early adolescence.
Although the oxygen isotopes of the Amesbury Archer showed that he came from continental Europe. Other Beaker age people buried near to Stonehenge have been shown to be local. These are burials Stonehenge itself, from Normanton Down, and the Amesbury Archerís Companion.
Analysis by the British Geological Survey showed that the Boscombe Bowmenís teeth have a particularly high proportion of the strontium isotope, which shows that grew up in a place with a very high radiogenic, or radioactive background. The radioactivity from the underlying rocks passes into the soils and from there into the food chain.
Such high strontium levels can only be matched in a few places in Britain. In Cornwall, the Isle of Man, the north-west of England, parts of the Scottish Highlands, and Wales.
The oxygen isotopes in our teeth come from drinking water. The character of the isotopes varies according to a number of factors including distance from the sea, height above sea level etc. Because of this, oxygen isotopes are good indicators of the climate a person was living in when the enamel on their teeth formed.
The effect of climate change on oxygen isotopes has to be considered but the changes since the last Ice Age have been too small to make a significant difference.
The Bowmenís oxygen isotopes are not compatible with the environments of Cornwall and the Isle of Man as they are too warm. Most of Scotland is too cool. The only areas that agree with the strontium levels are the Lake District and north Wales and south-west Wales.
But not only it is possible to show that the Bowmen were in one of these places when they were very young, it can be shown that they migrated. The chemical fingerprints of each Bowman have exactly the same differences between their premolars and their 3rd molar.
The men were in one place up to the age of 6 and in another up to the age of 13. The second place may also have been in Wales. It was not in Wessex. The chemical fingerprint of both of these places is different to that of the chalk geology of Wessex.
Either the Bowmen all moved at the same time over a number of years, or their society regularly moved children between the age of 6 and 13 to live in a different place. They moved nearer to Stonehenge later in their life.
Further tests on the teeth of the children buried with the Bowmen are in progress, but this is already a remarkable picture of prehistoric migration. It is a picture that is entirely consistent with the close similarities in the shape of the menís skulls that suggests that they are all related.
The Bluestones of Stonehenge
The stone circles of Stonehenge are built from two main types of rock. The massive sarsens that are a sandstone, and a variety of smaller igneous rocks known as the bluestones. It has been known since the 16th century that the sarsen stones came from near to Marlborough, 30 km north of Stonehenge.
It was only 350 years later that the source of the bluestones was pinpointed. The three main types of bluestone come from the Preseli Hills in north Pembrokeshire. On Carn Menyn some of the stones could simply have been collected from the surface.
It has been argued that the stones were transported from Wales by glaciers. However, comprehensive geological studies have shown that there is no evidence for a glaciation in Wessex that could have transported these rocks and left no other trace.
When the stones were transported to Stonehenge and added to the temple that already stood there is less easy to establish. The stones helped to transform the layout of the monument so that it was aligned on the sunrise on the longest day of the year; and sunset on the shortest day.
The bluestone settings at Stonehenge are thought to have been re-arranged at least four times within a period about 400 years between 2,400 and 2,000 BC. There may have been plans for a fifth arrangement that was not completed.
The date at which the bluestones first arrived at Stonehenge is not known. It can only be said that the first bluestone setting (Phase 3i: the Q and R holes) is earlier than the completion of the setting of great sarsen stones, which is radiocarbon dated to 2,440-2,100. Pieces of beaker pottery found in the backfill of one of the stoneholes of this first bluestone setting show that Beaker pottery was in use when that stone was removed.
It is not known whether all the bluestones arrived at the same time. Richard Atkinson, who with Stuart Piggott, was the most recent excavator at Stonehenge, favoured this option. But Ros Cleal, Karen Walker and Becky Montague who published those excavations, preferred to see the bluestones as having arrived in two major episodes. The second episode being after the sarsen settings had been erected and when the Bluestone Circle and Bluestone Oval were built. The Bluestone Circle is radiocarbon dated 2,280-2,030.
Strontium Isotope Analysis
The strontium isotope composition of tooth enamel can provide information about where an individual spent their child hood.
Strontium isotopes provide a fingerprint for different rock types and, as the distribution of rocks is well mapped in Britain and around the world, the geology provides the key to geographic location.
87Sr is formed by radioactive decay of 87Rb and it accumulates slowly through geological time. The 87Sr is normally expressed as a ratio against the stable 86Sr isotope as the 87Sr/86Sr ratio. In rocks that are old (>100 million years) and particularly if they also contain high levels of rubidium, the 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratio is high. This is typical of old granite and gneiss terrains. In rocks that are geologically young (<100 million year) and have low rubidium content the 87Sr/86Sr ratio is low. Rocks of this type tend to be recently erupted basalts. These values are transmitted, through the weathering of rocks to form soil, into the biosphere via plants and in drinking water. The range of 87Sr/86Sr ratios may seem very small, a typically low value would be 0.704 whereas 0.720 would be considered high, but such differences are easily measured to high levels of precision. The Bowmenís teeth have a very high 87Sr/86Sr ratio.
Ideally, as with the Boscombe Bowmen, strontium isotope analysis is used in conjunction with other lines of evidence such as oxygen isotope analysis to constrain possible areas where an individual could have spent their childhood and/or rule out areas where the tooth data does not match environmental values.
Dr Jane Evans
British Geological Survey
Stonehenge creators' remains found
Jun 21 2004
Remains found near Stonehenge are almost certainly of an ancient people who built the monument, excited archaeologists have revealed.
Researchers investigating the origins of the seven 4,500 year-old skeletons found buried on Salisbury Plain last year have run chemical tests to trace their origins and age.
They have concluded they are of people from south-west Wales - the same region from where bluestones forming the world-famous iconic monument originate.
Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: "In medieval times, people believed that the stones could only have been brought to Stonehenge by Merlin the Wizard.
"For the first time we have found the mortal remains of one of the families who were almost certainly involved in this monumental task."
The seven skeletons were found by workmen digging trenches for a housing development at Boscombe, Wiltshire, and have been dubbed the Boscombe Bowmen because of the flint arrowheads found in the graves.
Scientists say the bones of the three children, a teenager and three men are so similar they must be related.
They have tested the enamel on their teeth which as it forms in developing years, provides a unique fingerprint of where they grew up.
Tests by scientists of the British Geological Survey on the strontium isotopes in the Bowmen's teeth show that they grew up in a place where the rocks are very radioactive. This was either in the Lake District or Wales.
The finds will be on display in Salisbury Museum in the exhibition Changing Places from Saturday July 3.
Farming origins gain 10,000 years
Humans made their first tentative steps towards farming 23,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought.
Stone Age people in Israel collected the seeds of wild grasses some 10,000 years earlier than previously recognised, experts say.
These grasses included wild emmer wheat and barley, which were forerunners of the varieties grown today.
A US-Israeli team report their findings in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The evidence comes from a collection of 90,000 prehistoric plant remains dug up at Ohalo in the north of the country.
The Ohalo site was submerged in prehistoric times and left undisturbed until recent excavations by Ehud Weiss of Harvard University and his colleagues.
This low-oxygen environment beautifully preserved the charred plant remains deposited there in Stone Age times.
Archaeologists have also found huts, camp fires, a human grave and stone tools at the site.
Most of the evidence points to the Near East as the cradle of farming. Indeed, the principal plant foods eaten by the people at Ohalo appear to have been grasses, including the wild cereals emmer wheat and barley.
Grass remains also included a huge amount of small-grained wild grasses at Ohalo such as brome, foxtail and alkali grass. However, these small-grained wild grasses were to disappear from the human diet by about 13,000 ago.
Anthropologists think farming may have started when hunter-gatherer groups in South-West Asia were put under pressure by expanding human populations and a reduction in hunting territories.
This forced them to rely less heavily on hunting large hoofed animals like gazelle, fallow deer and wild cattle and broaden their diets to include small mammals, birds, fish and small grass seeds; the latter regarded as an essential first step towards agriculture.
These low-ranking foods are so-called because of the greater amount of work involved in obtaining them than the return from the foods themselves.
Investigations at Ohalo also show that the human diet was much broader during these Stone Age times than previously thought.
"We can say that such dietary breadth was never seen again in the Levant," the researchers write in their Proceedings paper.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/06/23 12:51:49 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Ancient hair gives up its DNA secrets
ABC Science Online
Tuesday, 22 June 2004
Analysing DNA from ancient strands of hair is a new tool for learning about the past, molecular archaeologists say, including whether hair samples belonged to Sir Isaac Newton.
Until now, scientists had thought analysing the hair shaft was of relatively little use as it contained so little DNA.
Dr Tom Gilbert of the University of Arizona led an international team that reported its work in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.
The researchers said they had extracted and sequenced mitochondrial DNA from 12 hair samples, 60 to 64,800 years old, from ancient bison, horses and humans.
The researchers said their results confirmed that hair samples previously thought to belong to Sir Isaac Newton were not his, a finding that backed previous isotopic analysis.
But the focus of their research was to explore the potential of extracting ancient DNA from hair samples.
The most common samples used for ancient DNA analyses are taken from bone, teeth and mummified tissue.
Until now, when the hair root hadn't been available for analysis, scientists had thought analysing the hair shaft was of relatively little use as it contained so little DNA.
But isolated strands of hair are often the only clues to human habitation in ancient times.
Now Gilbert's team said it had developed a method to extract and sequence ancient DNA from hair shafts.
The researchers said the ancient DNA in hair was much less degraded than DNA from other tissues.
They argued this was because it was protected from water by the hair's hydrophobic keratin, the protein polymer that gives hair its structure.
The team also found that hair DNA had a low level of contamination and argued that keratin may protect the DNA from contamination with modern DNA sequences, like DNA from human sweat.
The scientists also said that analysing hair DNA, and potentially DNA from other keratin-containing samples like ancient feathers and scales, would minimise the destruction of valuable archaeological samples caused by sampling teeth or bones.
"It's a nice development," said Dr Tom Loy, an Australian expert in ancient DNA from the University of Queensland.
He said that molecular archaeologists had generally ignored extracting DNA from hair.
"[But] on the basis of their article it looks as if it's quite, quite feasible," he told ABC Science Online.
He said the method may be useful in shedding light on the origin of strands of ancient hair discovered a decade ago at the Pendejo Cave site in New Mexico.
"It would be very important to find out whose hair it was," said Loy, who said previous attempts had been unsuccessful.
He was enthusiastic about the idea of being able to extract ancient DNA from feathers.
"Often times feathers are found in caves and in some cases as residues on artefacts," he said.
But Loy was sceptical about using the method to extract ancient DNA from scales and was not convinced by the argument that keratin protected ancient DNA from contamination.
"People still don't fully understand how things get contaminated," he said.
Genghis Khan: Father to Millions?
By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
June 22, 2004 óGenghis Khan left a legacy shared by 16 million people alive today, according to a book by a Oxford geneticist who identified the Mongol emperor as the most successful alpha male in human history.
Regarded by the Mongolians as the father of their nation, Genghis Khan was born around 1162. A military and political genius, he united the tribes of Mongolia and conquered half of the known world with a cavalry riding on grass-fed ponies.
By the time Genghis died in 1227, his empire stretched from the Pacific coast of China to the Caspian Sea.
Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University and author of "Adam's Curse," a study of the Y chromosome, believes Genghis's "super Y" chromosome survived and proliferated as far as the British Isles. He has just begun to check it at Oxford Ancestors, a leading provider of DNA-based services for use in personal ancestry research.
"We will offer British men genetic tests to see if they are Genghis's descendants. It is possible that the Mongol emperor's Y chromosome spread as far as the U.K. through gradual immigration from further East over the centuries," Sykes told Discovery News.
The genetic testing follows another Oxford study, which involved a survey of the Y chromosome ó which is passed unchanged from father to son ó from all over Central Asia.
The researchers found one Y chromosome fingerprint that was identical in eight percent of the male population.
"This was highly unusual and suggested that they may all have descended from one man living in the fairly recent past. By seeing what small changes had occurred, it was possible to estimate the time at which this common ancestor lived, and it was consistent with an origin in the 12th or 13th century," Sykes said.
Matching that evidence with the overlap between where the chromosome was abundant and the geographical extent of the Mongol empire established by Genghis Khan in the 12th century, the researchers concluded it was Genghis' chromosome.
The Mongol emperor's habit of killing the men and inseminating the women when his army conquered a new territory, coupled with handing the Empire and other wealth to his sons, and their sons, would explain how the chromosome came to such prevalence today, said Sykes.
The final piece of evidence came from the Hazara, a hill tribe in Pakistan who had a strong oral history of being descended from Genghis Khan.
"The Y chromosome was present in the Hazara, but not in the surrounding tribes, who did not have this oral history. Though the evidence is circumstantial, it is, I believe, very strong," Sykes said.
Finding Genghis Khan's tomb, one of the great secrets of all time, could provide the definitive evidence, leading to a direct comparison of Genghis' Y chromosome with those of modern men.
Sykes' hypothesis seems to be consistent with history, according to David Morgan, a Mongol history specialist at the University of Wisconsin.
"There's no reason to doubt that Genghis Khan fathered a good crop of children, if one is to believe the testimony of contemporaries," Morgan told Discovery News.
Intact Bronze Age burial bowls found in Donegal
SeŠn Mac Connell
Two 4,000-year-old Bronze Age burial bowls have been recovered intact
from cist graves on a Donegal farm.
Also found on the site were the intact remains of a young man and the
cremated remains of another person, probably a woman in her early 20s.
Burial bowls have been recovered from about 100 sites in the country,
but intact examples of such bowls are quite rare and the discovery of
two in such good condition is rarer still.
The discovery was made on Mr David Patterson's farm in Liscooley,
Castlefinn, Co Donegal when he was excavating the foundations for a
Mr Patterson contacted the archaeological section of the Department of
the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the investigation
was carried out by senior archaeologist Mr Victor Buckley.
He said the two cist, or stone-lined graves, had been covered with
massive stone capstones which were removed. "When we lifted the first
capstone, we found an intact bowl of a highly decorated type
accompanying a cremation."
He said that the second cist contained another bowl, again, highly
decorated, which had been buried with unburnt human remains.
The bowls, he explained, had been made from strips of clay which had
been pressed together and then individually decorated in vertical and
diagonal bands. "They were made from local clay and fired in an oven.
Intact examples of these bowls are quite rare and less than 100 bowls,
most of them in poor condition, have been recovered."
He said the skeleton was that of a young man whose genes were those
inherited by 3.7 million Irish people. At nearly 12 years of age, he
would have been a father in a time when 35 years of age was old.
He said the 4,165 fragments of bone from the cremation were deemed to
be those of an adult, probably a woman aged between 20-25 years.
The find went on display for a day at the Customs House, Dublin
Outrage over destruction of Celtic fort
Heritage experts today condemned the destruction of part of a 3,000-year-old Celtic fort in Co Kerry.
The 700 metres of earthen works that surrounded the ancient Dun Mor Fort on the Dingle Peninsula were levelled at the weekend by an excavating machine. An entrance and a standing stone with an ogham (Celtic writing) inscription were also removed.
Heritage Ireland spokeswoman Isobel Smyth said it was a dreadful act.
"This is a very important site and we want to see an investigation carried out," she said.
The 80 acre Dun More fort overlooks the Blasket Islands and the Skelligs. The Ogham stone which was removed contained an inscription to Dhuibne, a deity of the Corca Dhuibne tribe which lived in the area from around 1,000 BC to 600 AD.
GardaŪ visited the site yesterday and have begun an inquiry into the incident.
"There is no preservation order but it is listed as a National Monument and should not have been interfered with," said a spokesman.
The destruction was uncovered at the weekend by local walking tour guide and amateur archaeologist Con Moriarty.
"Someone has to be held responsible for this outrageous behaviour. People are lamenting the loss of historic sites and artefacts in wartime Iraq but here it is happening in peace time Ireland," he said.
It is understood the man responsible is from the local area. The Dingle Peninsula, which is part of the famous Ring of Kerry route, contains nearly 40 national monuments and around 2,000 other archaeological sites.
Dun Mor was one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Europe, according to Galway-based archaeologist Michael Gibbons.
"The average ring fort was around 30 metres in diameter. This was 500-600 metres. This is vandalism on an unbelievable scale," he said.
According to a Heritage Council survey, around 10% of all national monuments have been lost in the last 10 years. The vast majority of this destruction is carried out by farmers who are reclaiming land. Mr Gibbons said that changes in Irish farming had accelerated the process.
"As farm sizes increase and smaller farms decline, farmers are gobbling up land they have no connection with. We are losing a lot of monuments, especially in Munster," he said.
Under the new National Monuments Bill being prepared by Environment Minister Martin Cullen, the fines for destruction of a national monuments will increase from a maximum of Ä62,000 to Ä10m.
Dig reveals Roman relics in town
Roman artefacts have been discovered in a new archaeological dig in the centre of Shepton Mallet.
Experts working on the largest project for 10 years in Somerset say they have found relics left behind by residents of the town nearly 2,000 years ago.
The dig is next to the site of a similar excavation in 1990 on the Fosse Lane Industrial Estate, which revealed the remains of a Roman town.
The project is being carried out before a retail unit is built on the site.
A Somerset County Council spokesperson said members of the public would be able to visit the dig on Saturday, 17 July and Saturday, 24 July.
There are also a limited number of spaces for volunteers who want to help with the excavation.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/06/18 05:38:49 GMT
© BBC MMIV
First published on Wednesday 23 June 2004:
Long Man is not as old as he looks
by our news team
The Long Man of Wilmington may be much younger than originally thought.
The familiar chalk figure of a man, drawn on a downland hillside near Eastbourne, has baffled generations of experts.
Investigators thought the figure might date from anywhere between 4,000 years ago, in the Bronze Age, and the first known drawing of it in 1710. The favoured guess was about 700AD.
However, a year-long examination of material unearthed at the bottom of the hill led researchers to conclude he is probably from the 16th or 17th Century.
Professor Martin Bell, from the University of Reading's archaeology department, said: "There are various pieces of evidence that point to the 16th Century."
At that time there was an episode of instability and erosion indicating the figure may have been cut then.
Prof Bell added: "The mystery now is why he was created."
The 67m giant is depicted standing and holding two poles. People have suggested these could represent anything from twin spears to the gates of the netherworld.
Prof Bell's research is published in this month's edition of British Archaeology magazine.
Archaeologists plan search for lost Roanoke Settlement
The search for the settlement site of Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke colonies of the 1580's, including the mysterious "Lost Colony," will resume later this year if plans now being made by archaeologists and historians are realized.
Feb. 7, First Colony Foundation, a non-profit incorporated in North Carolina in 2003, held an organizational meeting at the Sir Walter Raleigh Rooms at Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An initial board of directors was formed and bylaws were adopted. The board discussed developing and securing funding for a multi-year archaeological and historical research program. The First Colony Foundation will hold its first annual meeting June 26, at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island.
First Colony Foundation hopes to build on research performed by pioneer historical archaeologist Jean C. Harrington, surveys by National Park Service archaeologists John Ehrenhard and Lou Groh, and excavations by Ivor Noel Hume, former chief archaeologist of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Harrington's excavations resulted in the reconstruction of an earthwork fort at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. In the 1990's Noel Hume and his team discovered the site of a science center, perhaps America's first, which was used by English scientist Thomas Hariot and European metallurgist Joachim Ganz during the period of the first Roanoke colony from 1585-1586. The discovery that both the fort and the science center have been found on the same site raises further questions about what really happened. No archaeological evidence of the town mentioned by first colonial governor Ralph Lane or the houses mentioned by John White, the second governor and grandfather of Virginia Dare, has yet been found. One of the primary objectives of First Colony Foundation is to search for this domestic side of the settlement.
The core research team consists of board members Dr. Eric Klingelhofer, Mr. Nicholas Luccketti, and Dr. Gordon Watts. Both Klingelhofer and Luccketti were part of the Noel Hume team in the 1990's.
Dr. Klingelhofer, a professor at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, adds field research on sites associated with Sir Walter Raleigh in both Ireland and the Caribbean to his involvement with the excavations on Roanoke Island in the 1990's. Mr. Luccketti, principal archaeologist of the James River Institute for Archaeology in Williamsburg, Virginia, brings a reservoir of experience in excavation of early English colonial sites, including the rediscovery of the original 1607 settlement at Jamestown. Dr. Gordon Watts, a retired professor from East Carolina University and director of the International Institute for Maritime Research, adds an underwater dimension to the search for the first time.
Also on the initial board are William C. Friday, retired President of the University of North Carolina, William S. Powell, retired UNC professor of North Carolina history, Jon Kukla, director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation in Brookneal, Va., Robert Davis of Washington, DC, Alastair MacDonald of Williamsburg, and Phillip Evans, former National Park Service ranger at Fort Raleigh, now of Durham.
The board voted noted Roanoke scholars David Stick and Ivor Noel Hume as honorary members.
The archaeological team is currently putting finishing touches on their research proposal for the first three seasons of fieldwork. Once this is completed, board members will work on securing funding and coordinating the research with the National Park Service and the State of North Carolina,