The Sunday Times November 20, 2005

Scientists show we’ve been losing face for 10,000 years

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor


THE human face is shrinking. Research into people’s appearance over the past 10,000 years has found that our ancestors’ heads and faces were up to 30% larger than now.

Changes in diet are thought to be the main cause. The switch to softer, farmed foods means that jawbones, teeth, skulls and muscles do not need to be as strong as in the past.


The shrinkage has been blamed for a surge in dental problems caused by crooked or overlapping teeth.


“Over the past 10,000 years there has been a trend toward rounder skulls with smaller faces and jaws,“ said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.


“This began with the rise in farming and the increasing use of cooking, which began around 10,000 years ago.“


His conclusions are based on measurements from thousands of teeth, jawbones, skulls and other bones collected from prehistoric sites around the world.


Skulls from the site of a 9,000-year-old city in Turkey, thought to be the world’s oldest, show that the faces of city-dwellers had already begun to shrink compared with contemporaries who had not settled down.


Details will be reported at a forthcoming conference on the global history of health. Larsen will suggest that a typical human of 10,000 years ago would have had a much heavier build overall because of the hard work needed to gather food and stay alive.


He said: “Many men then would have had the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head while women might have looked more like Camilla [the Duchess of Cornwall]. By contrast, Tony Blair and George Bush are good examples of the more delicate modern form.“


Other studies are confirming Larsen’s findings. George Armelagos, professor of anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, has made extensive measurements on people from Nubia in modern Egypt and Sudan to see how their appearance has changed.


He found that the top of the head, or cranial vault, had grown higher and more rounded, a pattern also seen in human remains found at sites in other parts of the world.


Charles Loring Brace, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, said: “Human faces are shrinking by 1%-2% every 1,000 years.


“What“s more, we are growing less teeth. Ten thousand years ago everyone grew wisdom teeth but now only half of us get them, and other teeth like the lateral incisors have become much smaller. This is evolution in action.“


Softer food may not be the only cause. Some scientists blame sexual selection, the preference of prehistoric people for partners with smaller faces.


Dr Simon Hillson, of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, has studied humans living from 26,000 years ago to about 8,000 years ago. He measured 15,000 prehistoric teeth, jaws and skulls collected by museums around the world and found the same pattern of shrinking faces.


He said: “The presumption is that people must have chosen mates with smaller, shorter faces, but quite why this would be is less clear.“



Southern archaeologists revise history

Excavations suggest new human timeline in U.S.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 11/14/05


A wave of archaeological revisionism, fueled in part by unfolding discoveries in South Carolina, is challenging long-held views about the first Americans, who they were, where they came from, when they arrived, and even what happened after they got here.


Generations of students have learned that hardy hunters, ancestors of today's Native Americans, crossed a land bridge from Siberia into Alaska as the last ice age was ending 13,000 years ago and, within several centuries, had spread out across much of North and South America.


But increasing evidence from archeological excavations and new analyses of prehistoric human migrations is testing that once widely accepted view of "coming to America."


"I think we had human activity here 40,000 to 50,000 years ago," said University of South Carolina archaeologist Albert Goodyear, who has, over the last few years, found signs of prehistoric toolmaking from deeper and deeper excavations along the Savannah River in Allendale County, S.C.


"The old ideas on New World origins are based on informed speculation and not supported by evidence," said Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Dennis Stanford. "Through time and repetition, and in the absence of clear alternatives, the theory became dogma, and ultimately ideology."


New set of questions


As doubts about the "dogma" grow, Stanford and other scientists at a recent conference in Columbia are airing a host of emerging new theories. Did they come by land or sea? And if by sea, was it via the Pacific or the Atlantic? From Siberia, or Iberia? Or perhaps by way of Australia? Did they inhabit Alaska first or the American South? Might they have been here 20,000 years ago, or even 40,000 to 50,000 years ago? Did their hunting prowess drive the woolly mammoths and other ice age "megafauna" to extinction, or were human populations decimated by some global catastrophe that also extinguished other species in North America around 12,000 years ago?


For a half century, archaeologists have held that the first Americans were the people who made a distinctive style of stone tools, broadly fluted, carefully crafted blades and projectile points first found near Clovis, N.M.


Although Clovis points have since been found throughout the country, they always occur at sites generally dated to between 12,500 and 12,900 years ago, soon after the opening of an ice-free corridor through western Canada that is thought to have provided these "first Americans" with ready access to the interior of the continent.


"Like other archaeologists, I didn't believe there was anything earlier," said Goodyear, who found a Clovis "tool factory" on a hillside near Martin, S.C. "And we didn't look for what we didn't think was there so we didn't find anything earlier."


In recent years, however, several locations along the Eastern Seaboard, in Central America, and in southern Chile have yielded archaeological evidence, some persuasive, some disputed, that humans were widely distributed in America long before Clovis technology and the people who developed it.


Sites with simpler man-made tools have been unearthed in a cave at Meadowcroft, Pennsylvania, in a sand dune at Cactus Hill, Virginia, and in a river bottom in northern Florida.


Radiocarbon dates place the presence of humans at those sites somewhere between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago.


Spurred by such discoveries, Goodyear decided to dig deeper at his site, wondering if the large outcropping of flint-like chert might have attracted people to the banks of the Savannah River in an earlier time.


The deeper he went, the further back in time he went. Over the last several years, he has unearthed what may be the oldest hints yet of humans in North America, a thin strip of burned plant material that could be an ancient hearth, and chipped and flaked chert that he believes are the oldest tools ever found in North America.


"I think we had human activity at 40,000 to 50,000 years ago," he said.


Some archaeologists have attempted to explain such dates by suggesting that there were earlier waves of immigrants from Asia who trickled down the coast of Alaska and California, perhaps even to South America.


European origins?


Genetic and linguistic similarities between today's Native Americans and the people of Siberia strongly support the notion that, at whatever time they arrived, the first Americans came from Asia.


But Stanford and Exeter University archaeologist Bruce Bradley contend that archaeological evidence of Asian origins is less convincing. They say most of the prehistoric sites in eastern Siberia, the likely jumping-off point for immigration to America, are younger than Clovis sites in America. Even more perplexing, they say, is that stone tools found in Siberia have little in common with finely crafted Clovis points.


But Stanford and Exeter say made-in-America Clovis technology does resemble stone tools of the Solutrian culture, which arose in southern France and northern Spain 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.


How did they get here? Stanford said the ice age climate was so cold that Solutrian hunters in skin or wooden boats could have easily followed seals and other game along the ice front connecting northern Europe with Labrador, perhaps reaching the shores of North America by accident.


Stanford said his theory explains why Clovis archaeological sites in the eastern United States tend to be older than those in the western states and Alaska. He thinks Clovis people moved out of the Southeast into the west and north as the ice sheets covering North America retreated.


But Stanford conceded that while the "Solutrian solution" may reveal the origins of Clovis culture, it doesn't explain the primitive tools being found in South Carolina, which, if the dates are correct and the tools really are tools, reflect human activity thousands of years earlier.


While scientists ponder where Clovis culture came from, others are trying to explain where it went. Based on the tools by which we know them, Clovis people took the country by storm in a matter of a few centuries, and then faded quickly from the archaeological record.


Richard Firestone, a nuclear scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, thinks that the Clovis era may literally have ended with a bang: a supernova, a star that exploded somewhere in the galactic neighborhood 41,000 years ago and unleashed a rain of cosmic debris that reached the earth about 13,000 years ago.


He said heightened levels of radiation and microscopic magnetic spherules recovered from nine Clovis sites in North America, including the one in South Carolina, suggest a major impact of space debris at about that time.


Firestone said the impact, perhaps a large comet ejected by the supernova, wasn't as big a cataclysm as the one blamed for the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but he believes it was sufficient to disrupt human and animal life over a large part of North America.


Firestone's theory has been challenged by other physicists, but it also competes with more mundane explanations for the decline of Clovis culture.


Some archaeologists contend that the disappearance of mammoths and other big game at the end of the ice age left the hunters with nothing to hunt. Some suspect they may have failed to adapt to a changing climate, or been decimated by disease.


"The more we know, the more we realize how complex the situation is," said University of Tennessee archaeologist David Anderson. It's clear that we're going to have to start thinking of the peopling of the Americas as a process, not an event.


"The fact is that we don't have a simple story to tell, but that's what makes this an exciting time for archaeology."



Excavated Village Unlocks Mystery of Tribe's Economy

Willie Drye

for National Geographic News

November 14, 2005


A recent excavation by archaeologists has cast new light on how the Catawba Indians lived two centuries ago in a village near the North Carolina- South Carolina border.


The discovery of pottery fragments and other artifacts indicates that the Catawbas had found a niche in the early American economy.


"The perception of the Catawbas has been that they were in a perpetual state of decline," said University of North Carolina archaeologist Brett Riggs, who worked on the project.


"The archaeological record counters that view. They were a very vibrant society. They had a declining population, but they were meeting that challenge in very creative ways."


The three-year dig, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, was conducted on private property near Rock Hill, South Carolina.


The village consisted of small log houses on about 40 acres (16 hectares) where a few hundred Catawba Indians lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.


The archaeologists found clear indications that by the time this village was active, the Native Americans there didn't support themselves solely with the traditional occupations of hunting, fishing, and farming. Instead their livelihood also came from more modern sources.


"By now they were landlords, leasing much of their reservation to white settlers," said Steve Davis, another UNC archaeologist who worked on the dig.


In the 1930s Isabelle Baker was the first scholar to study the village as a student at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Baker visited the site in 1935 with Samuel Blue, a former chief of the Catawba tribe.


Blue related the description of the village that had been given to him by his mother. Baker wrote about her visit and interview with Blue in a 1935 letter to a UNC archaeologist.


The log cabins were about 12 feet by 16 feet (3.5 meters by 5 meters), with walls that were "about shoulder height," Baker wrote. "The roofs, also of logs, were gabled. The logs were covered with rough boards and the cracks daubed with mud. The huts had dirt floors."



Maya 'War Crimes Scene' Uncovered

Archeologists say bones and other items indicate a massacre that was key to the civilization's fall.

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer


Archeologists excavating the ruined Guatemalan city of Cancuen have stumbled across the remains of what they believe is one of the pivotal events in the collapse of the Maya civilization, the desperate defense of the once-great trading center and the ritual execution of at least 45 members of its royal court.


An enemy as yet unknown not only wiped out the royal dynasty about AD 800, but systematically eliminated religious and cultural artifacts, in effect, killing the city and leaving it abandoned to the elements, according to new research announced Wednesday.


The archeological team found dozens of remarkably preserved skeletons piled in mass graves, as well as other artifacts, indicating what the lead researcher described as "a war crimes scene."


After the siege of Cancuen, cities in the western Maya lowlands in what is now Guatemala were abandoned, most within 20 to 30 years, the researchers said. The displaced populations moved to the east and north, where they eventually depleted local resources and faded away.


"This was a critical historical moment, like the assassination of [Austrian] Archduke [Franz] Ferdinand [which triggered] World War I," said archeologist Arthur A. Demarest of Vanderbilt University, whose team discovered the charnel house this summer. "It set off the domino of Classic Maya collapse."


Added archeologist David Freidel of Southern Methodist University, "This is an effort not to try to subordinate the royal court to an overlord, but to absolutely wipe it out. It's a remarkable and very poignant example of the kind of violence that marks the collapse of the Maya civilization."


It might have been a nobles' revolt, a peasants' revolt or an outside attack, said Freidel, who was not involved in the discovery. "We just don't know."


But the city's occupants clearly were aware of the impending disaster. Demarest and his team found a system of hastily constructed and unfinished stone and wooden palisades that they say showed a desperate attempt to defend Cancuen.


Spearheads scattered throughout the city, abandoned construction sites and skeletons with markings of spear and ax wounds bear witness to the intensity of the battle and the finality of the defeat.


"Clearly, these defenses failed," Demarest said.


The Maya dominated Central America for more than 1,500 years, from well before the birth of Christ to late in the first millennium. They established a complex network of kingdoms dominated by "holy lords," building large cities with palaces and pyramids in the region, reaching their peak from AD 300 to 900.


Then, they disappeared.


The mysterious nature of that collapse has captivated at least two generations of scholars, provoking theories including environmental despoliation, drought and vicious warfare. Even the time frame is the subject of debate, with some arguing for a sudden collapse within a few years and others for a prolonged disintegration over 2 1/2 centuries.


The new discovery "supports Demarest's view that the Classic Maya civilization collapsed by endemic warfare," said archeologist Heather McKillop of Louisiana State University.


"The massacre is one of those rare events in archeology where an event is frozen in time," she added.


The site of Cancuen, at the headwaters of the Pasion River, has been known for more than a century, but it was generally regarded as an insignificant outpost until five years ago, when Demarest's team discovered a 170-room, three-story palace sprawling over an area the size of six football fields.


The palace was surrounded by workshops for jade, obsidian, pyrite and other precious goods.


Excavations in the last five years showed it was an unusually wealthy city because of its ability to supply other cities throughout the empire with trade goods used by the upper classes to signify authority, necessary for maintaining their position.


The city's kings maintained their position over four centuries through treaties, intermarriages and diplomatic missions without engaging in warfare. "They were not the greatest or most powerful dynasty, but they were the cleverest," Demarest said.


The dynasty reached its peak during the 50-year reign of Taj Chan Ahk. His son, Kan Maax, reigned for only about five years before the attack that ended the city's existence.


Demarest's team was finishing its dig for the summer when Guatemalan archeologists Sylvia Alvarado and Tomas Barrientos, tracing a system of water channels through the city, stumbled on a 90-square-yard cistern, filled with mud, directly in front of the palace.


When they began digging in it, Demarest said, they found "bones, bones, bones and more bones, more bones than I have ever seen."


Bones tend to degrade quickly in the jungle, but the mud helped preserve these.


"This is the strangest find I have ever made," he said.


With his team's season nearly finished and the rainy season approaching, Demarest called on the Forensic Anthropological Foundation of Guatemala for assistance. Formed in 1996 after the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords, the foundation excavated the mass graves of thousands of Guatemalan villagers killed in civil war. It has also been sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda and Afghanistan to investigate other massacres for war crimes trials.


"This was a war crimes scene," said Demarest, whose excavation was funded by the National Geographic Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Under the direction of Guatemalan archeologists Fredy Peccerelli and Jose Suasnevar, both former students of Demarest, the team found the remains of 31 people in the cistern. The bodies were those of men, women and children, including two pregnant women.


Subsequent excavations revealed the bodies of Kan Maax and his queen in a nearby shallow grave and a dozen other nobles in a grave north of the palace. Their identities were established by their jewelry, headdresses and other artifacts.


Some of the nobles may have been wounded or killed in the defense of the city, but most were executed by spear thrusts to the throat, "a quick way to kill someone," Demarest said.


After they were dead, the bodies were ritually dismembered and thrown into the cistern or graves along with the clothes they were wearing, ceremonial headdresses, jewelry and other artifacts.


"These were incredibly precious things" like jades, jaguar-fang necklaces and Pacific Coast shells, Demarest said.


The invaders also went through the city and chipped the faces off monuments, ritually "killing" them, he added. "They were not only terminating the dynasty, they were terminating the entire site."



Mass grave yields Mayan secrets 

By Neil Arun

BBC News 


A grisly discovery deep in the Guatemalan jungle may cast new light on one of the ancient world's most beguiling mysteries - the collapse of the Mayan civilisation.


A grave containing some 50 bodies, buried in royal finery and bearing the marks of a vicious death, has been perplexing experts since it was unearthed earlier this year.


These are not the victims of "random violence", says Arthur A Demarest, the US archaeologist who has spent the best part of a decade fending off drug lords and looters as he excavated the site.


He says most of the dead, who include men, women and children, have been killed by "pulling the head back and shoving a large spear through the chest into the spine".


"You find war captives decapitated but not mass executions like this," he told the BBC News website.


Most remarkably for Dr Demarest, the attackers chose to abandon the site - the ancient trading city of Cancuen, grown rich through its position at the point where the river Pasion becomes navigable.



Excavation site in Cancuen

Winners in Maya warfare, he says, "normally conquered a place, put somebody on the throne. You would also put up some monuments bragging about what you had done."


Whoever conquered Cancuen, however, simply moved on.


As a result, the city abruptly lost its status as a key trading post along the Pasion, the river regarded as the lifeblood of the Mayas.


"This trade route dies and never comes back," he said, adding that Cancuen's collapse foreshadowed the decline of other cities along the river.


However, he warns, the sack of Cancuen should not be seen as a trigger of the Mayan civilisation's collapse.


Rather, says Dr Demarest, it can at best be treated as a "symptom" of the forces that finished off the Mayas.


Dr Demarest's findings, financed by the National Geographic magazine and by Vanderbilt University, were released last week and have yet to be scrutinised by his peers.


Many experts have cited geological evidence to argue that the Mayan civilisation died out after a famine caused by a crippling drought.


For Dr Demarest, the discovery caps a nine-year involvement with Cancuen, which began in the mid-Nineties after a peace accord ended Guatemala's civil war.


Many of the forensic experts enlisted to decode the secrets of Cancuen's ancient corpses had honed their skills investigating the relatively fresh massacre sites of the civil war.


Some 200,000 people died in 15 years of conflict between leftist guerrillas and Guatemala's US-backed military government.


Digging up the ancient grave, Dr Demarest says he was struck by how little human nature had changed over the centuries.


For his forensic team, the dig was a welcome distraction from the harrowing disinterment of the recently deceased.


"This is the first time they've worked on a massacre that took place earlier than 1980," he said.


"For them, it was a relief to dig this stuff up and not have widows crying around them."


He recalls how the discovery of a particularly well-preserved body prompted one of the team to exclaim: "Now we have evidence that can stand up in court!"


"There must be some kind of statute of limitations that applies to crimes committed 1,200 years ago," Dr Demarest responded.


"We were not really expecting to find anything," says Dr Demarest, describing how the team stumbled upon the grave during a routine excavation of a pool at the base of a palace.


Dr Demarest has spent decades researching the Maya


He now expects the bodies to yield many clues about the way the Maya lived.


The corpses, he says, are remarkably well preserved, having been sealed for centuries in a muddy pool irrigated by the waters of a natural spring.


The precious jewellery buried respectfully with the corpses suggests they were "high nobles" but who killed them in this manner - and why - remains murky.


"It's a bit like an Agatha Christie mystery. There are simply too many suspects," says Dr Demarest, arguing that the most plausible of these is a tribe from the highlands, possibly tied to Cancuen by marriage.


Dr Demarest says there are plans to co-ordinate control of the site with the local Maya community.


With excavations in Cancuen set to continue, he hopes small groups of discerning tourists will begin visiting the region.


The attention the excavations have attracted from the Guatemalan media - and from the government - has already had a positive effect, he says.


The clandestine airstrips that had sprung up in the area after the civil war, serving as a transit point for Colombian drugs, have had to move elsewhere to avoid the publicity.


But Dr Demarest stresses he has had "no problems with anyone in the political landscape, only with the looters" - a gang of which he helped convict some years ago.


Now, he says, those looters are out for his blood. Watched over by freshly-hired bodyguards, Dr Demarest waits for the academic world's answer to his discovery.



1,700-year-old 'Roman Glass' Discovered in East China 


Glass remains over 1,700 years old, possibly imported from ancient Rome, have been discovered in an ancient tomb located in east China's Anhui Province, local cultural relic department said on Sunday.


The tomb was found during the latest road project in Zhulong Village of Dangtu County in Anhui. Archaeologists believed the tomb was built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420).


Covered with white mantlerock, the glass remains seem to have ancient Roman shapes and craftwork.


According to the local cultural relic department, the owner of the tomb was possibly from an eminent family of the Eastern Jin Dynasty.


Besides the "Roman glass," other rare articles including a gold bracelet, a silver ring, a bronze bowl and porcelain were also discovered in the tomb.


Currently, pieces of the "Roman glass" have been sent to the Anhui-based University of Science and Technology of China for further study and analysis, said the local cultural relic department.


(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2005)



Last update - 08:55 18/11/2005   

Rare seal bearing Jesus image found in Tiberias

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent


A rare seal bearing a picture of Jesus on one side was discovered at an archeological dig in the old city of Tiberias on Thursday.


The other side of the seal, which dates from the sixth century, depicts a cross and bears the inscription "Christos."


The seal was discovered by two volunteers, employees of the American and British embassies.


Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is directing the dig, said the seal apparently belonged to a high-ranking church official, and indicated that the church in Tiberias "was stronger than we had thought."



Region of Italy Mapped on Ancient Pottery

From Times Staff and Wire Reports


French archeologists have found the oldest known map showing locations in the Western world: a pottery fragment dating from about 500 BC that shows Apulia, the heel of Italy's boot.


The 13 towns of the map are located by points, as on maps today. The place names are inscribed in Greek, but other text is in a local tongue called Messapian. Many of the towns on the map still exist, including Otranto, Soleto and Leuca (now called Santa Maria di Leuca). The map is the first physical evidence that the Greeks drew maps before the Romans did. The Chinese made maps at an earlier date.



Ancient man's lost secrets on test

Paul Jeeves


TECHNOLOGY from the 21st century will be used to unlock the past to one of Yorkshire's most important archaeological finds from the Bronze Age.

Gristhorpe Man, one of the best preserved examples of human remains buried in a hollow oak tree trunk, will leave Scarborough's Rotunda Museum today in specially constructed boxes for Bradford University's Department of Archaeological Sciences.

The latest technology will be used to try to extract samples from the remains for analysis to establish how the Bronze Age man died as well as gathering more detail about his lifestyle and diet.

The skeleton still has some remains of the man's brain and teeth which have been preserved since he died 3,500 years ago.

Tests will also be conducted on an animal skin the corpse was wrapped in as well as a whalebone and bronze dagger and food which was buried in the coffin. Curator of museums at Scarborough Council Karen Snowden said: "He is one of the jewels in our crown, and because he has been here so long everyone remembers him if they visit Scarborough.

"While we will not be able to put a name to him, we are hopeful of finding out a great deal more about his past through this scientific research.

"It is wonderful to think that after all these centuries, we might be able to answer some of the questions which have remained unanswered up until now."

The remains were discovered on July 10 1834 in an ancient burial mound near Yorkshire's East Coast by members of the Scarborough Philosophical Society, which organised funding for the Rotunda Museum.

The bones were blackened by a reaction of iron in water with the tannin in the bark of the coffin, giving its distinctive appearance today.

The Bronze Age man is thought to have come from a wealthy background, as it was rare for someone to be buried in a tree trunk coffin and he was also almost 6ft tall, indicating that he had a good diet.

Dr Nigel Melton, an honorary research fellow at the Department of Archaeological Sciences, will be working alongside Dr Janet Montgomery and Dr Andrew Wilson to conduct the research.

Dr Melton said: "It was a sensation when he was found in the 19th century, and it is still such an important find even today.

"I am terribly excited because I am originally from Scarborough.

"I can remember coming to the museum as a boy and standing with my nose pressed against the glass looking in awe at the skeleton."

The museum will close on January 8 next year for a 3m redevelopment before re-opening again in the late spring of 2007.

The skeleton will remain at Bradford University until the revamped museum re-opens.


17 November 2005



Friday November 18, 2005 

'Exceptional find' of Iron Age warrior 

By East Lothian Newsroom 

The remains of an Iron Age warrior unearthed by building contractors at the old Empire cinema site


THE remains of an Iron Age warrior have been found in Dunbar, only the third grave of its kind in Scotland.  Archaeologists were called to the old Empire Cinema site, off the High Street, which is currently being developed into flats.  The well-preserved grave contains the remains of a warrior as well as an iron spearhead, sword and what is believed to be a pin.  Archaeologists believe an earlier burial had been moved from its original position to accommodate the warrior before being put back, to create a double burial. East Lothian Council heritage officer Biddy Simpson described the find as “extraordinary and exceptional“.


“Although similar multiple burials have been found in the vicinity of Dunbar, this burial was of very high quality and is the first one to be excavated using modern archaeological techniques.

“The quality of the grave construction and the items within the grave strongly suggest that it was a high status burial, the finding of which is incredibly important,“ she said.


Staff from Loanhead-based AOC Archaeology were drafted in to work on the site. Project officer Mike Roy said it was an extremely unusual site and unlike anything he had previously excavated.

He added that the findings suggested the occupants were of “considerable status“.


Ronan Toolis, senior project officer with AOC Archaeology, explained that the two other Iron Age warrior graves had been excavated in Alloway and Camelon, near Falkirk.

“The Dunbar site is a real treasure trove,“ he said. “It is rare for a prehistoric burial to be found in a town like this.“


The area has now been fully excavated and the remains will be analysed by specialists.


Mr Toolis added that they would know more once DNA analysis and carbon dating of the bones were carried out.


It may also be possible to establish the area from which the warrior came, by analysing his teeth.

Dental tests could reveal traces of chemicals which had been present in the water he drank at that time, which would in turn point to a certain geographical location.


A late medieval well was also discovered during the excavation.

Gordon Easingwood, from Dunbar Local History Society said that the warrior grave was “obviously a significant find“ and that he would be interested to find out more once the tests were completed.



During the 1980s, the remains of an Iron Age promontory fort were discovered during excavations in the town. It is believed that this helped to date the origins of Dunbar to at least the 1st-4th centuries AD.



Site of pagan well to be restored 


The well at present is little more than a pile of stones

One of Wales' oldest wells, thought to be a pagan site rededicated by early Christians, is to be restored.

Ffynnon Rhedyw in Llanllyfni, near Caernarfon, is believed to be older than nearby St Rhedyw's church, which dates from 600AD.


Gwynedd Archaeological Trust hopes the project will set a precedent for similar projects around Wales.


A public meeting will be held at Llanllyfni Memorial Hall on 17 November (1830 GMT) to show villagers the plans.


"This site is an interesting example of a class of little-understood monuments which are numerous across Wales, but which are often overlooked," said David Thompson, the trust's head of heritage management.


"We hope it will set a precedent for future, similar, projects which seek to record and present local heritage," he added.


The well's restoration is one part of plans by the community group Menter Llyfni, which hopes to create a network of footpaths in the area to commemorate important people or events from the past.


Ffynnon Rhedyw's footpath would run from the church, through the cemetery, to the well site on nearby land.


A notice board will provide information on the well's background.


Llanllyfni Church is dedicated to Saint Rhedyw. No early written history exists, but there is a strong tradition that either he was born in the area or that he founded the first Christian church there.


St Rhedyw's feast day is 6 July, when Llanllyfni Fair is still held each year.


"Llanllyfni was an important pagan site, and pilgrims used to stop here on the way to Bardsey island," said Menter Llyfni chairman O P Huws.


An artist's impression of how the restored well will look


"I only discovered where exactly the well was about two years ago. It was very moving seeing the water come up from the ground," he said.


Mr Huws thinks the well will be an attraction both locally and to the many tourists who visit the region.


"It is very exciting that we have secured the funds to, at least, begin the restoration of this site," he added.


Resident Julie Williams, 33, whose Glanaber Terrace home is close to the village church, said: "I think it's a lovely idea to create a footpath and refurbish the well.


"It's especially interesting for the children in the village to know more about the history of the place."


The village of Llanllyfni itself has many other less ancient wells.


Mrs Williams' parents' home in the village was originally a bakery which used water for the baking from its own well. The original village well, Y Pistyll Bach (small spring) was situated over the road from their house.


"Later on the route from Ffynnon Rhedyw could be extended to include these other smaller wells, to preserve the village history for future generations," said Mrs Williams.



Brits on 900-year binge 

Ye olde tavern ... image of monk typifies the tiddle ages


Chief Reporter


BRITONS were binge drinkers 900 years ago and swilled ale for breakfast, it was revealed yesterday.


Even children supped it by the gallon.


John Clark, curator of the Medieval London gallery at the Museum of London, said yesterday: “If you thought binge drinking was new, then think again.“


An exhibition about medieval boozing opens at the museum on Friday, the day after 24-hour-a-day drinking starts in Britain.


It reveals that in the 12th century there were 1,300 pubs in London, one alehouse for every 50 people.


Today the UK has one pub for every 750 people.


Mr Clark said: “Seven hundred years ago the alehouses of London were filled with idle, lewd, young and lazy customers.“


Ale was the most common drink in Britain because the water was unsafe. But it was consumed in vast quantities by many who “got hammered“ simply for fun.


And the average daily consumption of Londoners was EIGHT pints of ale. Mr Clark said: “People got through a gallon a day. At a penny a gallon, only the poorest were unable to indulge.“


Tubby jug ... Brits drank their belly-boosting ale from cups like this


Beer, brewed with hops, became more popular in the 1400s, replacing ale.


In 1542 a writer noted beer-drinking was “to the detryment of many Englysshe men since it doth make a man fatte, and inflate the belly“.


Tea and coffee were unknown.


Drinking vessels like the toby jug, above, show images of folk who got fat on ale. 



Mystery Saxon whip goes on display in London

Maev Kennedy

Monday November 21, 2005

The Guardian


A small leather whip found in a 1,000-year-old rubbish dump may be evidence of the brutal treatment of slaves in Saxon London.

Archaeologists at the Museum of London have been puzzling over it for 15 years since it was excavated just off Cheapside, one of the oldest continuously inhabited streets in the city.


Explanations have ranged from sexual sadism to religious fanaticism, but curator John Clark now believes it was probably kept for disciplining slaves. The whip will be on display for the first time at the Museum of London's new medieval gallery, which opens on Friday.




TV pioneer's home to be demolished

EFFORTS to retain a piece of the town's history faded in the light of English Heritage's decision not to give listed status to the last home of television inventor John Logie Baird.

Now Rother planners have given the go-ahead for Baird Court to come down and be replaced by affordable housing.

A decision on the fate of the building had been delayed to enable those people who had raised specific concerns over the development to respond after English Heritage declined to give the building listed protection.

The committee was told by officers on Thursday last week there had been no further response and members should deal with the application on the information before them.

The proposal not only included demolition of the inventor's last home but also neighbouring Maria Cottage, Villa Maria and Red Mays on the corner of Upper Sea Road and Station Road.

Councillor Helen Bridger backed the revised plans for including 15 affordable homes, a sentiment echoed by Cllr George Hearn.

Before the committee gave its approval to erase the town's historical link with the inventor, Cllr Eveline Armstrong made a plea for the development to include a small plaque to remember Baird.

18 November 2005