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http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051024/full/051024-1.html

Published online: 24 October 2005; | doi:10.1038/news051024-1

Y chromosomes reveal founding father

Did conquest and concubines spread one man's genes across Asia?

Charlotte Schubert

 

About 1.5 million men in northern China and Mongolia may be descended from a single man, according to a study based on Y chromosome genetics1.

 

Historical records suggest that this man may be Giocangga, who lived in the mid-1500s and whose grandson founded the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912.

 

The analysis is similar to a controversial study in 2003, which suggested that approximately 16 million men alive today are descended from the Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan2.

 

The male descendants of Giocangga, like Khan's sons and grandsons, ruled over vast swathes of land, living a lavish existence with many wives and concubines. The study published in this month's American Journal of Human Genetics suggests it was a good strategy for reproductive success.

 

All geneticists know we are living fossils. 

Steve Jones

University College, London

 

"This kind of male reproductive advantage is perhaps a more important feature of human genetics than we thought," says Chris Tyler-Smith, at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, who led both studies.

 

Documenting the immense fecundity of these conquerors involves overlaying historical records and genetic analyses. Most informative is the small Y chromosome, holed up in the cells of every man, and relatively resistant to change.

 

Other chromosomes furiously exchange genetic information with each other. But during mating, the Y pairs up with the X, a giant chromosome by comparison and a poor fit for gene swapping. This means that the Y chromosome passes along steadily from father to son through the generations, providing a relatively fixed marker for clues about ancestry.

 

In the recent analysis, Tyler-Smith and his colleagues in Britain and China examined the Y chromosome of about 1,000 men in eastern Asia. The researchers compared the DNA sequences at numerous locations along the Y chromosome, finding close similarities among 3.3% of the men. That genetic similarity suggests that these men shared a common male ancestor who lived about 600 years ago, give or take a few centuries.

 

To identify who spawned this prolific Y chromosome, Tyler-Smith and his colleagues turned to their history books. They found Giocangga, whose grandson led the Manchu conquest of China in 1644 and established the Qing dynasty.

 

A large class of noblemen, descended by law from Giocangga, then ruled the state until 1912. Even a low-rank noble had many concubines, and was presumably expert at spreading Giocangga's chromosome around.

 

Further supporting Tyler-Smith's theory, the Manchu in the army mixed with only certain ethnic groups, and today these groups have the highest frequency of Giocangga's Y chromosome.

 

Only Genghis Khan's Y chromosome approaches the prevalence of Giocangga's, popping up in about 2.5% of the men, says Tyler-Smith.

 

Getting a precise date for the origin of the chromosome is difficult, say geneticists, and pinning it to a historical figure is even less exact.

 

"But all geneticists know we are living fossils," says Steve Jones of University College London, who adds that the Giocangga hypothesis is "not unreasonable". Martin Richards, a human geneticist at the University of Leeds, UK, says that Tyler-Smith's analysis showing a common origin for the Y chromosome is among the most thorough he has seen.

 

However, others dispute the findings. The date for the origin of the Y chromosome is much too wobbly to pin on Giocangga, says Stanford's Luca Cavalli-Sforza. He also disputes the study on Genghis Khan and says both findings are overly sensational.

 

The investigators could help their case by examining the Y chromosome of known descendents of Giocangga. But that might be easier said than done.

 

Although the noble class had 80,000 members by 1912, the Chinese cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s caused people to hide their noble descent for fear of persecution, and many records were destroyed. Several men today who are known to trace their ancestry back to Giocangga would not yield their DNA, the scientists say.

 

If this study and the work on Khan are right, they suggest that winning Y chromosomes thrive on hierarchy, patriarchy and conquest. "They tell us that those who regard history as the record of human frailty, weakness and disaster are right," says Jones.

 

References

Xue Y., et al. Am. J. Hum. Genet., 77. published online Abstract (2005).

Zergal T., et al. Am. J. Hum. Genet., 72. 717 - 721 (2003).

 

30 October 2005

http://www.stonepages.com/news/#1567

Prehistoric observatory discovered in China

 

Chinese archaeologists said they have found the world earliest observatory, dated back to some 4,100 years ago, in north China's Shanxi Province. The ancient observatory in the Taosi relics site in Shanxi Province is at least 2,000 years older than the oldest observatory built by the Maya in central America, said He Nu, a research follow with the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said that the observatory, built at the end of the primitive society, "was not only used for observing astronomical phenomena but also for sacrificial rites."

     The remains of the observatory, in the shape of a semicircle 40m in diameter in the main observation platform and 60m in diameter in the outer circle, were made by rammed earth in three circles. Archaeologists inferred that 13 stone pillars, at least four meters tall, stood on the foundation of the first circle originally, forming 12 gaps between them.

     "Ancient people observed the direction of sunrise through the gaps and distinguished the different seasons of the year," said He. In order to test the conjecture, archaeologists spent a year and a half simulating the observations of the ancients at the site. To their surprise, the seasons marked by observation at the site were only one or two days different from the seasonal division of the traditional Chinese calendar, which is still widely used in rural China.

     A meeting on the function of the ancient site at Taosi was held recently in Beijing. More than 20 Chinese archaeologists, astronomers and historians attended the meeing. Most of them share the view that the site is an ancient observatory, and some of the astronomers believed that it might also be used to observe the moon and stars.

   The Taosi site, dated back to 4,300 years ago, is located in Xiangfen County, Linfen City of Shanxi Province, and covers an area of 3 million square meters. It is believed to be a settlement of the period of the five legendary rulers (2,600 BCE-1,600 BCE) in Chinese history.

   A historical document says that China had special officials in charge of astronomical observation as early as the 24th century BC. The discovery of the ancient observatory in Taosi confirmed the records. "We know very little about China's astronomy in the prehistoric period. The discovery will help the study of ancient astronomy," said Wang Shouguan, of the Chinese Academy of Science. Experts are looking forward to making plans to better protect the site and restore the ancient observatory.

  

Source: China View (30 October 2005)

 

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4312024.stm

Tsunami reveals ancient temple sites 

By Paddy Maguire

BBC News, Madras 

 

Archaeologists say they have discovered the site of an ancient temple in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

 

It is the latest in a series of archaeological discoveries in the area struck by December's tsunami, which desilted large areas of the coastline.

 

The brick temple dates back more than 2,000 years to the late Tamil Sangam period and was discovered on the beachfront near Saluvankuppam, just north of a famous World Heritage site at Mahabalipuram.

 

The discovery lends more weight to growing evidence that a huge tsunami hit the east coast of India during this period, obliterating large habitations along the coastline.

 

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) made the discovery while looking for a 9th Century Pallava temple.

 

  We are looking at the remains of a brick temple that was destroyed by a tsunami approximately 2,200 years ago

 

Badrinarayanan S, rtd director,

Geological Survey of India

"The tsunami exposed inscriptions on a huge rock that had previously been protected as a site of importance," said T Satyamurthy of the ASI.

 

"These inscriptions dated back to 935 AD and said that Krishna the Third, from the Rashtrakuda Dynasty in Karnataka, had given gold to a temple to pay for keeping an eternal flame alight.

 

"This led us to dig further. Near the surface we found coins, pottery, stucco figurines and bronze lamps and so we knew there must be something more. Soon we discovered the remains of the 9th century Pallava temple."

 

As they continued to excavate they came across the earlier Sangam temple. The distinctive shift from courses of brickwork to large granite slabs indicates the different periods.

 

"The Pallavas just built on the brick foundations left behind after the Sangam temple was levelled. The two periods are there, clear to see," said Dr Satyamurthy.

 

Tsunami deposits

 

But it is the question of how these two temples were destroyed rather than their age that has fired the interest of the teams involved.

 

Shift from brickwork to granite slabs indicates different periods

Layers of sea shells and debris in the sand show that tsunami activity had twice levelled the temple complex.

 

"The Pallava structure was destroyed by waves some time in the 13th Century and evidence suggests that beneath it, we are looking at the remains of a brick temple that was destroyed by a tsunami approximately 2,200 years ago," said Badrinarayanan S, a retired director of the Geological Survey of India.

 

Another archaeologist from the ASI, G Thirumoorthy, said: "We can see these tsunami deposits in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. We've found that devastation happened along about 1,200km (750 miles) of India's eastern coastline.

 

"The discovery of this Sangam temple will lead us to other geological sites along the coast and teach us more about the pre-Pallavan period."

 

Since the tsunami on 26 December, marine archaeologists have also discovered evidence of large structures on the seabed up to 1km out to sea.

 

They think the structures may be part of a former, legendary city of Mahabalipuram.

 

Myths state the city was destroyed by a flood sent by gods envious of its beauty.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20051026/lf_afp/indonesiaarchaeology_051026031453

Divers unveil exquisite treasure pulled from depths of Java Sea

Wed Oct 26,12:01 AM ET

 

JAKARTA (AFP) - In a nondescript warehouse in Jakarta, treasure-hunter Luc Heymans dips into plastic boxes and pulls out jewels and ornaments that lay hidden at the bottom of the Java Sea for 1,000 years.

 

An ornately sculpted mirror of polished bronze is one masterpiece among the 250,000 artefacts recovered over the last 18 months from a boat that sank off Indonesia's shores in the 10th century.

 

On a small mould is written the word "Allah" in beautiful Arabic script, on top of a lid sits a delicately chiseled doe.

 

Tiny perfume flasks accompany jars made of baked clay, while slender-necked vases fill the shelves of the hangar along with brightly colored glassware from the Fatimides dynasty that once ruled ancient Egypt.

 

A team of divers, among them three Australians, two Britons, three French, three Belgians and two Germans, excavated the vessel laden with rare ceramics which sank more than 1,000 years ago some 130 nautical miles from Jakarta.

 

Their finds, including artefacts from China's Five Dynasties period from 907 to 960 AD and ancient Egypt, are already causing a stir among archaeologists who say the cargo sheds new light on how ancient merchant routes were forged.

 

"It is a completely exceptional cargo," says Heymans, the Belgian chief of the excavation team.

 

"There is very little information about the Five Dynasties era and very few things in the museums. This wreck fills a hole," he tells AFP.

 

Close to 14,000 pearls and a profusion of precious stones were found in the wreck, including some 4,000 rubies, 400 dark red sapphires, and more than 2,200 garnets.

 

"On the second last day of diving, I spotted some broken ceramics. Under 30 centimeters of vase, I uncovered the handle of a golden sabre," says Daniel Visnikar, the leading French diver.

 

It took more than 24,000 dives to recover all the treasure from the boat which rests 54 metres below the surface. Material recovered from the site has whetted the appetite of overseas experts.

 

"A 10th century wreck is very rare, there are only a few," says Jean-Paul Desroches, a curator at the Guimet Museum in Paris, after seeing photographs of the early hauls.

 

He says the wreck and its cargo offers clues to how traders using the Silk Road linking China to Europe and the Middle East, used alternative sea routes as China's merchants moved south because of invasions from the north.

 

The variety of loot pulled from the depths is hard to imagine: dishes adorned with dragons, parakeets and other birds; porcelain with finely-carved edges; teapots decorated with lotus flowers; and celadon plates with their glaze intact.

 

"These porcelains come from a very special kiln, an imperial kiln, perhaps from the province of Hebei in the north of China," suggests Peter Schwarz, a German ceramics specialist.

 

Heymans insisted the treasure -- the subject of controversy when the divers were chased from their barge in the open-sea by the Indonesian navy last November -- was stored in a comprehensive and transparent manner.

 

"Every piece is indexed and we know which part of the boat it comes from. Every week we sent (the Indonesian authorities) a DVD with digital photographs of all the pieces," he says.

 

As well being chased by the Indonesian navy, an incident that began a long dispute over the booty, Heymans says another group of treasure hunters also tried to move in on the swag.

 

Cosmix, Heymans' Dubai-based corporation, was the force behind the five-million-euro operation, which was funded by unnamed private investors in Europe.

 

The divers say the treasures might be bought by a foreign museum or are expected to be shown between 2006 and 2007 in an auction, as the cargo is valued at several million dollars.

 

Indonesia will receive 50 percent of proceeds from the sale of the treasures.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5371154,00.html

King Tut Drank Red Wine, Researcher Says

Wednesday October 26, 2005 3:46 PM

By JENN WIANT

Associated Press Writer

 

LONDON (AP) - King Tutankhamen drank red wine, says a researcher who analyzed very dry traces of the vintage found in his tomb.

 

Maria Rosa Guasch-Jane, who briefed reporters Wednesday at the British Museum, said she had invented a process which gave archaeologists a tool to discover the color of ancient wine.

 

Guasch-Jane also discovered that the most valued drink in ancient Egypt, shedeh, was made of red grapes.

 

``This is the first time someone has found an ancient red wine,'' said Guasch-Jane, who earned her Ph.D. in pharmacy from the University of Barcelona in September.

 

Wine bottles from King Tutankhamun's time were labeled with the name of the product, the year of harvest, the source and the vine grower, Guasch-Jane said, but did not include the color of the wine.

 

Several clues had led scientists to believe that the wine may have been red: drawings from the time of grapes being pressed into wine were red and purple, for example. But the color of King Tut's wine was impossible to verify until Guasch-Jane invented a process to detect a color compound not found in white wine called syringic acid.

 

To test her method, Guasch-Jane scraped residue from wine jars owned by the British Museum and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Two of the jars came from King Tut's tomb, discovered by English archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

 

Winemaking dates to 5400 B.C., according to American molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, who discovered the earliest known traces of grape residue in northern Iran in 1994.

 

Grapevines are not native to Egypt, McGovern explained at Wednesday's presentation. Scientists believe the first wine discovered in Egypt, buried in King Scorpion's tomb in about 3125 B.C., was produced in Jordan and transported 500 miles (800 kilometers) by donkey and boat to Egypt, he said. Eventually, grapevines were planted in Egypt.

 

Research shows that ancient Egyptian kings and members of the upper class drank wine regularly, but common people consumed it only during festivals and special occasions, Guasch-Jane said. Wine was offered to gods in ceremonies, and kings were buried with jars of wine and food similar to what they consumed when they were alive, she said.

 

Guasch-Jane first reported her findings in the academic journal Analytical Chemistry last year.

 

http://www.fena.ba/uk/vijest.html?fena_id=FSA314092&rubrika=ES

OSMANAGAIC: WE HAVE ALREADY DUG OUT THE FIRST STAIR OF THE PYRAMID

 

VISOKO, October 26 (FENA) Archeological activities have began on hill Visocica near Visoko, which holds the remains of the medieval royal town of Visoki, and the aim is to confirm the existence of the first European pyramid.

 

Hill Visocica hides the first European pyramid of monumental proportions, claims author of the book “Bosnian pyramid of the Sun“ Semir Osmanagic, which was promoted yesterday in Sarajevo.

 

Osmanagic on Wednesday told Fena that this facility has an accession plateau wide 40 and long 200 meters built of stone plates. The access plateau is in the form of stairs leading to the pyramid.

 

The basis for the claim that Visocica holds a most valuable archeological monument is seen in a series of construction anomalies determined during research conducted in August. These anomalies indicate that the hill was not created naturally, but by man.

 

Apart from the “pyramid of the Sun“, Osmanagic claims that a smaller pyramid, which he calls “pyramid of the Moon“ is located in the area opposite to Visocica, which again confirms that pyramids were always built in pairs.

 

“We have already dug out one stair of the pyramid and we will continue working on the second stair“, says Osmanagic.

 

Osmanagic was unable to answer when the pyramid would see the light of day, adding that digging out of the wider sections of pyramid only would depend on additional funds.

 

http://www.inverness-courier.co.uk/article.tvt?_ticket=V59V38KACK3SMLDEIOQNBPZDALOLQEHFURUSKONFBNWFAMQIHQRGUU2901MAAQ6G9LLDNBF2TRRIVNNAHNSEASQ9CHYITRRLUNNAGWSEARO9CHVRCE73&_scope=Flow/Inverness%20Courier/News&id=67511&ARTICLECAT=News

Iron Age 'industrial estate' uncovered in Inverness  

 

 ARCHAEOLOGISTS are discovering how the nouveau riche of the Iron Age lived by excavating what they describe as "the most important site found in Inverness for decades".

 

The fresh insight into how our ancestors lived around 2000 years ago has come with the discovery of the remains of an entire village, "industrial estate" and trading centre at an undisclosed location near the city.

 

So far, a team of 20 diggers has discovered the remains of around a dozen huge Iron Age roundhouses at the site as well as evidence of metal and glass working.

 

Those heading the dig believe it is of national significance and may have been the stronghold of a Highland ruler with trading links to the rest of Europe.

 

"I don't know if there was a king here two thousand years ago or what, " excavation leader Mark Roberts commented. "That's why I just use the term the Big Cheese, but he was around here and he was the real thing."

 

The discovery was made after a routine archaeological inspection of a development site earlier this year.

 

That revealed the previously untouched remains of around a dozen Iron Age roundhouses and evidence of metal and glass working.

 

Fraser Hunter, the National Museum Of Scotland's curator of the Iron Age and Roman periods, has been working with the excavation team.

 

"This is the most important site dug in the Inverness area for a substantial time, " he said. "What we seem to have is a large-scale craft and industrial site producing enough to trade with the Romans.

 

"We are probably talking about the Iron Age nouveau riche rather than a king. He would have been the local power-broker around Inverness."

 

Mr Roberts said the metal and glass-working evidence pointed to the village's links with the Roman Empire.

 

"That type of technology was all high status Roman stuff and it is incredible to have it here in Inverness, way beyond the boundaries of the Empire, " he said.

 

"This was obviously a very important community and it was led by someone with access to all the goodies the world had to offer."

 

The archaeological team has been on the site for two months and expects to take another month to complete the research into the community and its way of life.

 

Tulloch Homes, which was ordered to carry out the dig as a condition of planning permission for the site, has funded the 250,000 cost of the meticulous excavation and recording of the site.

 

"This evidence of Iron Age settlement appears to be a major find in both local and Scottish terms, " a company spokesman said. "We were due to begin work on the development but, when our first digging - carried out with an archaeologist present - uncovered initial signs, it became clear we would have to delay infrastructure works to allow this full survey to proceed.

 

"What has been uncovered is something that may only be readily apparent to experts but it should add usefully to the knowledge of the Iron Age in Inverness area."

 

25/10/2005

 

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/la-me-met28oct28,0,4020906.story?page=1&coll=sfla-newsnation-front

Italy Says It's Proven Vase at Met Was Looted

By Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

Times Staff Writers

Posted October 28 2005

 

ROME: In their decade-long investigation of the illicit antiquities trade, Italian authorities have amassed the strongest evidence to date that the most prized ancient Greek vase in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art was looted.

 

The Euphronios krater, described as one of the finest antiquities ever obtained by the Met, has been a source of controversy since the museum acquired it 33 years ago.

 

  Italian authorities have long maintained that the vase was looted from a tomb north of Rome, but the Met has refused to return it, saying the Italians lack "irrefutable proof."

 

Italians prosecutors now believe they have it, according to previously undisclosed court records obtained by The Times.

 

The records include excerpts from the handwritten memoir of Robert E. Hecht Jr., the American dealer who sold the krater, a terracotta bowl, to the Met in 1972. At the time, he told museum officials that he had acquired it from a Lebanese man whose family purchased it well before a 1939 Italian law prohibited the unauthorized export of antiquities.

 

But in his memoir, seized during a raid of his Paris apartment in 2001, Hecht tells a very different story. Instead of buying the krater from a reputable dealer with a documented ownership history, he says he purchased it in 1971 from an Italian dealer, Giacomo Medici, who was convicted last year of trafficking in looted art.

 

Medici turned up one morning at Hecht's apartment in Rome and showed him a Polaroid photograph of a krater signed by Euphronios, a master vase painter of ancient Greece, the memoir says.

 

Within an hour, Hecht writes, the two men flew to Milan and caught a train north to Lugano, Switzerland, where Medici had the bowl in a safe-deposit box. Hecht says he offered Medici 1.5 million Swiss francs (about $380,000 at the time) for the krater on the spot, making a cash down payment of about $40,000. He then headed straight to Zurich, he writes, where he left the krater with a restorer before heading back to Rome to go on a family ski trip.

 

In this account, he makes no reference to documentation establishing that the object had been legally excavated and exported from Italy.

 

Thomas Hoving, who acquired the krater when he was the Met's director, said Thursday in an interview that Hecht's memoir is "a very important piece of evidence."

 

"It proves, as the final nail in the coffin, where it came from," Hoving said.

 

Hecht said Thursday that this version from his memoir involving Medici was a fiction. Medici, in a recent interview in Rome, also denied the account.

 

The Italians' new evidence about the krater's origins emerges at a time of heightened controversy over the ethics of antiquities acquisitions, with Italy, Greece and other source countries pressing claims for the return of rare items they say were illegally removed.

 

Hecht and Marion True, the J. Paul Getty Museum's former antiquities curator, are now facing trial in Rome for allegedly trafficking in looted art. Medici was convicted last year in the same case and is appealing a 10-year prison sentence. Italy is also demanding the return of 42 objects from the Getty.

 

Among the other new evidence cited by the Italians is a sworn deposition by True before an Italian prosecutor. In the document, also obtained by The Times, she said Met antiquities curator Dietrich von Bothmer showed her an aerial photograph and pointed to the exact tomb in a heavily looted necropolis north of Rome where the krater had been excavated.

 

The Italians say Von Bothmer could not possibly have learned this from Hecht's Lebanese dealer, who said he had inherited the vase from his father and did not know where it was originally found. Von Bothmer denies True's account.

 

Additionally, Italian officials said in recent interviews in Rome that two men from Cerveteri, site of the ancient necropolis, have told them that they helped illegally remove the krater from a tomb in 1971.

 

Finally, the Italians say in court records that they have photographs of Hecht and Medici posing next to the vase at the Met. Medici, the records say, has traveled the world, posing next to objects he has sold to major museums.

 

Toward the end of Hecht's memoir, he briefly restates the official version of how he acquired the Euphronios Krater from the Lebanese dealer, the court records show.

 

But Italian authorities dismiss this version in court records as "a story told to hinder penal and civil actions in Italy," citing contradictions in the account.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5379918,00.html

Looting Claims Under Review at Getty

Sunday October 30, 2005 1:16 PM

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The board of the J. Paul Getty Trust has formed a special committee to investigate claims that its world-renowned museum purchased looted art and its chief executive spent lavishly with tax-exempt funds.

 

The committee announced Saturday will include five members of the board but not the trust's chief executive, Barry Munitz, who pledged ``full support for this effort,'' the Getty said in a statement.

 

The special committee will examine the trust's policies and procedures and make recommendations to the full board.

 

The $9-billion trust and its J. Paul Getty museum are under intense scrutiny: The Greek and Italian governments have claimed the museum bought ancient artworks that had been smuggled out of those countries. The museum has denied wrongdoing but in 1999 it returned three pieces to Italy, including a fifth century B.C. drinking cup.

 

The creation of the committee reflects a commitment to meet ``all legal requirements as well as the highest ethical standards while carrying out the trust's mission,'' John Biggs, chairman of the trust's board and head of the new committee, said in a statement.

 

A trial resumes next month in Rome for the museum's former antiquities curator, Marion True, who is accused of helping the museum acquire about 40 archaeological treasures stolen from private collections or dug up illicitly. She has denied the charges.

 

Earlier this month, True stepped down from her job after museum officials determined she violated policy by failing to report details of her purchase of a vacation home on a Greek island. True reportedly secured a $400,000 loan for the home with help from one of the Getty's main suppliers of ancient art.

 

Meanwhile, the California attorney general's office is investigating the financial practices of the nonprofit trust.

 

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Munitz traveled extensively first-class - sometimes with his wife - at Getty expense. The trust also reportedly spent $72,000 on a Porsche Cayenne SUV for Munitz as it was laying off staff and cutting other expenditures.

 

State and federal law bar nonprofit organizations from using their resources for private benefit.

 

http://www.thisisdorset.net/dorset/purbeck/news/PURBECK_NEWS_NEWS1.html

Date Published: Friday 28 October 2005

A haunting discovery

by Emma Joseph

 

A SEALED bottle found on the Purbeck estate has been identified as an 18th century witch bottle.

 

It is believed the artefact, which was found by the National Trust, is a counter-witchcraft measure to ward off horned cattle distemper, the foot-and-mouth of the period.

 

The six-inch tall bottle with liquid inside was found buried upside down six inches below the ground under a wall on a parish boundary between the villages of Langton and Worth Matravers.

 

Its contents have undergone chemical analysis by Dr Alan Massey, of Loughborough University, an expert in witch bottles, and found to contain 30 different components, including decayed animal fat.

 

Many of the 200 witch bottles found in the UK to date are either opened and drained of their contents or broken. This is one of only four to conserve its contents.

 

The practice of concealing witch bottles appears to have started in the 16th century.

 

They are usually found concealed at entrance or exit points, beneath the hearth or threshold, beneath floors or in walls. The contents include something representing the victim, often urine, eyelashes or nail clippings.

 

Nancy Grace, National Trust archaeologist based at Corfe Castle, said: "What is fascinating about a find like this is that it offers us pointers to the way people felt about their lives."

 

The bottle will be on display at the Castle View Visitor Centre at Corfe Castle for two weeks.

 

First published: October 27

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/dorset/4376442.stm

Witch bottle 'used to save cows' 

 

The bottle was found on the Isle of Purbeck

A rare 18th Century "witch bottle" used to ward off evil spirits is to go on show at a Dorset castle.

The bottle, which is one of only four found in the UK with its contents still inside, is to go on show at Corfe Castle for two weeks from Wednesday.

 

It is thought the bottle discovered between Langton and Worth Matravers on the National Trust's Purbeck estate was used to protect cattle from distemper.

 

Witch bottles were generally used to protect people rather than animals.

 

'Nauseating smell'

 

The practice of concealing witch bottles in and around homes started in the 16th Century.

 

The contents would often include something representing the victim, often urine, eyelashes or nail clippings.

 

Nancy Grace, a National Trust archaeologist, said: "In this case, the contents of the bottle are rather unusual as it doesn't contain any human vestiges."

 

The bottle was found buried under a wall on the parish boundary between the two villages.

 

The contents of the bottle were analysed by Dr Alan Massey, an expert in witch bottles at Loughborough University.

 

Said to have a "nauseating" smell, they were found to be a mix of saltwater, nicotine and decayed animal fat.