Sensational find in Herad

Archeologists were ecstatic after discovering what may be a 2000-year-old grave in Herad, Farsund in southwest Norway.


Archeologist Wenche Helliksen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the grave, which included a person in a coffin roughly 2000 years old, was very special.


"This is a find that you make just once in a lifetime. I have been digging for 20 years and have never made such a find," Helliksen said.


The special ingredient in the find is the presence of textiles.


The Herad find is from the year 300 at the latest, and archeologists believe it may rewrite the history of the area. A 1500-year-old boat house has also been found during the Herad excavations, NRK reports.


The boat house is so large that it is likely that it has been part of a regional effort, perhaps as part of a pre-historic naval defense.



Quarry yields homes older than Stonehenge

Maev Kennedy

Thursday November 3, 2005

The Guardian


Archaeologists have for the first time unearthed the homes of Neolithic henge builders, in a set of dwellings, some older than Stonehenge, excavated from a Northumberland quarry.

The two settlement sites, each about the size of a football pitch and probably inhabited by a few related families, are dated to between 4,000BC and 3,000BC. The remains of the modest buildings are among the most extensive Neolithic dwellings ever found in Britain. The site is near the village of Milfield, in an area with a rich archaeological history, dominated by the enormous Yeavering Bell hill fort, built 1,000 years after the huts and henges on the plain below. The dwellings are surrounded by timber and earth bank henges so close in date it is assumed they must have been built by the same people.


The Neolithic Britons left some of the most spectacular prehistoric monuments in the world, but there have been only scraps of evidence showing where and how they lived. House sites are so rare that some archaeologists believe most people lived a semi-nomadic existence.

"Neolithic habitation sites are as rare as hens' teeth anyway, but this is the first time we have found them in association with henge sites," David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage, said yesterday.



New archaeological work at henge site

FRESH archaeological survey work is under way at a proposed quarry site close to an ancient monument that has become known as 'The Stonehenge of the North'.

And a rigorous standard of investigation, evaluation and scoring used to categorise remains found at the other Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, are being adopted by archaeolgists at the Ladybridge Farm site, near Bedale.

The latest archaeological work at the site - just half a mile from the Thornborough Henges - covers almost four per c

Consultant archaeologist Steve Timms, of MGA Associates, said: "In line with our initial investigation of the site, we are using the same methodology, principles and evaluation system as applied by the consultant archaeologists who advised English Heritage on proposed developments at Stonehenge. We call it the 'Stonehenge Standard.'"


He added: "We hope that this additional work will provide North Yorkshire County Council with the extra information that it needs to make a decision on the planning application next year."


In September, the county council's planning committee unanimously agreed to a request from Tarmac to defer a decision on its controversial application to extend quarrying operations on to Ladybridge Farm.


The request followed advice from English Heritage that the application be refused because it considered that 'insufficient archaeological characterisation' had been carried out.


Mr Timms said: "Using the 'Stonehenge Standard' as the benchmark, it is our professional opinion that the thin and scattered Mesolithlic and Neolithic material that we found in the initial investigation at Ladybridge does not meet the criteria of 'national importance' as set out in the government's planning guidance (PPG16). We now wait to see what the further investigation will reveal."


Progress of the work is being recorded on the website http://www.archaeologicalplanningconsultancy.co.uk/mga/projects/noster/pages/ladybridge.html and updates posted in the Information and Education Centre at Nosterfield Quarry.


* Tarmac is holding an open morning on Saturday, November 5, for anybody wanting to see the excavations and meet with the archaeologists on site.


This will run from 8am until noon and those wishing to visit are asked to call 01677 470209 so that arrangements can be made to transport them to the site.


01 November 2005


Dig near henges site under fire

NEW archaeological work at a proposed quarry site near the ancient Thornborough Henges has come in for criticism from heritage campaign group TimeWatch.

The further examination of the site at Ladybridge Farm follows North Yorkshire County Council's recent decision to defer a quarrying application by Tarmac for more detailed analysis of the site's archaeology.


But the chairman of TimeWatch, George Chaplin, is unhappy with the way it is being conducted.


"This newest digging will not produce the eight to ten per cent sample required by English Heritage and, in fact, is focused on an area where artefacts have already been found," he said this week.


"The researchers appear to be focusing only on Neolithic archaeology in one location while additional important archaeology is likely to be located where they are not looking.


"We are concerned that the current digging is being done in a hurried manner, in bad weather, using heavy equipment, and without the constant supervision of an outside group of archaeologists who have no vested interest in the outcome."


But archaeologist Steve Timms, who is heading the team conducting the additional archaeological investigation at Ladybridge, has dismissed the group's claims


"The additional archaeological investigation at Ladybridge Farm has been designed by English Heritage, North Yorkshire County Council and ourselves," he said.


"The work is being undertaken by a team of highly qualified professional archaeologists and is being monitored on a weekly basis by a representative from English Heritage, the County Archaeologist and the Heritage Manager from North Yorkshire County Council. Mike Heyworth, president of the Council for British Archaeology was also invited to monitor the work but declined stating: 'We have every confidence in the monitoring process which will take place through NYCC and EH staff and do not see any need for further "independent" monitoring on top of this'."


Mr Timms added: "In accordance with the wishes of the CBA and planning committee we are doing everything possible to ensure that the investigation is being undertaken in an open and transparent manner. Details of the work are published daily on our website and anyone wishing to visit the site while the excavation is in progress is welcome to come and have a look.


"If TimeWatch would like to come and see the work for themselves I would be more than happy to show them around personally"


There is an open morning at the site tomorrow between 8am and noon.


04 November 2005




By Gavin Foster

THE LARGEST hoard of Iron Age coins ever found on the Island has been unearthed by metal detectors.

The haul of nearly 1,000 base silver coins was dug up over two weeks at a secret West Wight location by members of the IW Metal Detecting Club.

But this week it also emerged the find is unlikely to be bought by the IW Museums Service for local display.

County museums officer Dr Mike Bishop said his budget was empty and unless new funding was found, the service could not afford the many thousands of pounds at which the haul would inevitably be valued by the British Museum.

The coins were originally buried in a primitive clay pot and then scattered over the site by successive years of ploughing.

Frank Basford, IW Council finds liaison officer, said 940 pieces made of a silver and copper alloy had been unearthed.

"It is an important, significant find. Iron Age coins themselves are common but it is very unusual to find them in this quantity," he said.

"This is certainly the largest hoard of its kind ever found on the IW.

"It is impossible to say how the coins came to be buried. They could have been some sort of community savings and Iron Age people would sometimes bury their wealth in times of stress or trouble."

IW Metal Detecting Club founder and chairman Dave Clark said the first of the coins was discovered by Shanklin member Albert Snell.

More were subsequently uncovered by other members in what became a team effort. A quarter of the coins were found scattered over a large area of agricultural land away from the main hoard, he said.

"It was recovered over the course of a week by 16 of our members. They were all given an opportunity to dig.

"It was such a wonderful occasion seeing these coins popping up everywhere," said Mr Clark.

He said he did not want to speculate on the value of the find.

"We are not in this for the money. Our club motto is 'pleasure not profit'. We just get a thrill from playing our part in helping discover the IW heritage."

He said the location of the find was being kept a closely guarded secret to respect the wishes of the landowner, who did not want unauthorised or unscrupulous treasure hunters on his land.


04 November 2005




A METAL detector enthusiast has uncovered a hoard of Tudor coins.

Andy Whewell made the discovery of the 22 silver coins on farmland in the west of the Island. He turned them over to Manx National Heritage and a date will be set for an inquest to establish whether it is classed as 'treasure trove'.


MNH curator of archaeology Allison Fox said: 'The discovery is interesting and some conservation work and research will be done on the coins.'


It is 41-year-old Mr Whewell's second big find in three years, first hitting the headlines in March 2003 when he discovered hundreds of Viking and Anglo-Saxon coins on farmland in Glenfaba.


His latest find came on October 5.


'There are lots of people metal detecting all their lives and don't ever find one hoard, but I have found two in just less than three years now,' said Mr Whewell, of Peel.


'I think there is still plenty more out there to be found.'


The field in which he made this discovery had recently been ploughed, which Mr Whewell said helped churn up the coins.


He said it took him three days to uncover and gather the coins, which he predicts could date back to Henry VIIth and Henry VIIIth.


'I think it will go as treasure,' he added.


The law requires such finds to be reported to MNH for an inquest to find if it is treasure trove, an ancient law which allows the British Crown to claim an item of value whose owner cannot be traced. However, in the Isle of Man the Manx Government, through the agency of MNH, takes the place of the Crown.


Mr Whewell has always been interested in metal detecting, but only took up the hobby months before his first big find.


'I had a metal detector lying in the loft for years and I didn't find much with, it so decided to invest in a new one and fared better with that,' he said.


Ms Fox praised the prompt actions of Mr Whewell and the landowner for their co-operation.

04 November 2005



Giant crabs invade Rome excavation

By Hilary Clarke in Rome

(Filed: 01/11/2005)


Hundreds of "giant" crabs have invaded the ancient heart of Rome, threatening to interrupt the work of archaeologists excavating the city's subterranean treasures.


Zoologists discovered the colony of freshwater crabs when they examined water quality in a channel running under the Imperial Forum. After their initial surprise at the unlikely discovery of about 550 potamon fluviatile scuttling around the centre of the Italian capital, they also found that the crabs so enjoy their urban environment that they are growing larger than they would in their natural habitats in Sicily and Tuscany.


The size of the average fully grown male is 5cm, but the Roman crabs grow to a "giant" 7cm. Scientists attribute this to good quality water and a lack of natural predators in the water channel that runs under the Palatine Hill and surfaces in the Trajan Market.


Negotiations are now under way with Rome's archaeological authorities excavating the Forum site to find a way to preserve the colony without halting their work.



Prisoners find 'oldest church'

From Stephen Farrell in Armageddon


Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Christian church in the Holy Land, dating back to the 3rd or 4th century.

The find was at the most incongruous of sites, inside a high-security Israeli prison holding Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners near the biblical site of Armageddon, now Megiddo.


Israeli prisoners brought in from other jails to help out on a five-month exploratory dig found the first evidence of an important ancient place of worship three weeks ago, and finally uncovered the mosaic floor last week on a site earmarked by the prison for a new wing.


The ruins include a mosaic bearing the name of Jesus Christ in ancient Greek and images of fish, an ancient Christian symbol.


The most significant is a well-preserved black and white mosaic for which the Israel Antiquities Authority has given the provisional translation: “The God-Loving Aketous has offered this table (altar) to the God Jesus Christ as a memorial.“ The discovery will inevitably be subject to intense scrutiny.


But the team is excited by the discovery, which includes two other clear inscriptions. One refers to a Roman named Gaianos, believed to be a centurion, who “from his own money has made the mosaic“.


“We knew that there were churches at this time but we didn’t know what they looked like,“ said Yotam Tepper, the authority official heading the dig.


“In Israel for sure it is the earliest church we know.“


Mr Tepper’s team concedes that there is no inscription dating the site precisely, but dates a jug of wine and cooking pot to the late 3rd or early 4th century Roman period.


He believes the church dates from one of two periods between the middle of the 3rd century and start of the 4th when Christians were not persecuted by Romans.


His team insists that the 10m by 5m building is not a domestic dwelling, but does not belong to the later Byzantine period because there is no sign of a Cross and its shape is different from the basilica layout used then. Experts have also dated the mosaic to the 3rd century, they say.


However the Israel Antiquities Authority is likely to raise eyebrows by yesterday allowing journalists and camera crews to clamber over the site’s perimeter and outlying mosaics, even before outside experts have examined them.


Guard dogs barked furiously as the blue prison gates swung open to admit visitors to the 1,200-inmate jail, whose watchtowers lie beneath the ancient hill where the Book of Revelation prophesies the final battle between good and evil.


Sceptics question whether the construction is a church. These were banned until Constantine, the Roman Emperor, permitted the practice of Christianity early in the 4th century.


Joe Zias, a former curator with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “I think what is important here is the size, the inscription and the mosaics.“


However, Monsignor Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s Ambassador to Israel, praised the find as a “great discovery.“


“Of course, all the Christians are convinced of the history of Jesus Christ,“ he said. “But is it extremely important to have archaeological proof of a church dedicated to him? Certainly.“



'Body of Copernicus' identified 


Police experts produced a reconstruction of the man's face

Scientists say they have probably solved the mystery of where the father of modern astronomy was buried.

Nicolaus Copernicus' 16th century theory that the Earth orbits the Sun was a key scientific development.


A skull and partial remains were discovered two months ago in Frombork Cathedral in north-eastern Poland.


A computer-generated reconstruction of the man's face bears a strong enough resemblance to portraits of Copernicus to convince the scientists.


The remains were examined by specialists at the central crime laboratory in the Polish capital, Warsaw.


They found it was the skull of a man who had died aged 60-70. Copernicus died in 1543 aged 70.


Their computer-generated reconstruction shows a white-haired man with a large nose and a small scar above one of his piercing eyes.


Copernicus lived and worked at Frombork cathedral. For many years he was canon there and only carried out his astronomical studies in his spare time.


But despite several archaeological searches, his grave was never located - until last summer's apparent breakthrough.



Copernicus' Grave Found in Polish Church

Friday November 4, 2005 1:01 AM


WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Polish archeologists believe they have located the grave of 16th-century astronomer and solar-system proponent Nicolaus Copernicus in a Polish church, one of the scientists announced Thursday.


Copernicus, who died in 1543 at 70 after challenging the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth, was buried at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Frombork, 180 miles north of the capital, Warsaw.


Jerzy Gassowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in Pultusk, central Poland, said his four-member team found what appears to be the skull of the Polish astronomer and clergyman in August, after a one-year search of tombs under the church floor.


``We can be almost 100 percent sure this is Copernicus,'' Gassowski told The Associated Press by phone after making the announcement during a meeting of scientists.


Gassowski said police forensic experts used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled the features - including a broken nose and scar above the left eye - on a Copernicus self-portrait. The experts also determined the skull belonged to a man who died at about age 70.


The grave was in bad condition and not all remains were found, Gassowski said, adding that his team will try to find relatives of Copernicus to do more accurate DNA identification.



Ancient hall 'saved by lottery' 


The hall is one of the town's main tourist attractions

A 14th century guildhall in Lincolnshire that has been used as a courtroom, museum and jail is being restored with a lottery award.

The 877,000 grant to upgrade St. Mary's Guildhall in Boston brings the total lottery funds allocated to the project to 1m.


The building was used during the trial and imprisonment of the Pilgrim Fathers in September 1607.


It was closed recently after a section of the first-floor ceiling collapsed.


The project will see the roof tiles removed to enable treatment of the timbers, conservation of brickwork, stone and stained glass.


The guildhall already has a collection of more than 5,000 museum artefacts and provides space for educational workshops.


The renovation project will take over a year to complete.



Riddle of the Hindu relics in the Thames

Over the past two years, archaeologists from the Museum of London have been puzzling over seemingly well-preserved finds such as urns, wall plaques and statuettes of Hindu gods found along the foreshore

Mark Gould

Wednesday November 2, 2005

The Guardian


At first sight, the gravy coloured waters of the river Thames would seem to have little in common with the Ganges.

But over the past two years, archaeologists from the Museum of London have been puzzling over seemingly well-preserved finds such as urns, wall plaques and statuettes of Hindu gods found along the foreshore.


They initially thought the urns were Roman, since the Thames has given up everything from prehistoric axes and Viking swords to Roman curses and medieval pilgrim badges, which all bear witness to the peoples and cultures that have played their part in the capital's history.


Yet according to Hindu priests, these latest artefacts are either ceremonial water carriers used in purification ceremonies or containers for the ashes of dead relatives. Soapstone and metal statuettes of the elephant god Ganesha and the monkey god Hanuman have been washed up from Bankside in the City right down river to the East End. Other objects include ghee lamps used during recent Diwali celebrations and an intricately painted copper Yantra plaque - a talisman to ward off evil spirits.


Faye Simpson, community archaeologist at the Museum of London, believes the findings, which are currently on show at the Museum in Docklands, were either placed in the Thames in the hope that they would find their way back to the source waters of the Ganges, "or more likely the Thames has become a surrogate for the Ganges and has a religious significance of its own, and part of the spiritual life of Hindu communities".


But Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Great Britain, disagrees with the Museum of London's interpretation. When a household deity gets chipped or broken, Kallidai says, it cannot be used for worship and must be buried, burned or immersed in water.


"I don't think [the river] is being used as a surrogate for the Ganges, which is specifically associated with many important events in the lives of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. I think a lot of these artefacts are being disposed of in a sensitive way by being immersed in the river."


Sacred River is at the Museum in Docklands until November 11 and at the Museum of London until November 26.



Mummified cat under house to ward off witches


02 November 2005


Andy Shallowe may sell the 110-year-old mummified cat on eBay 

A MUMMIFIED cat discovered under the floor of a Highbury house was probably buried there more than 100 years ago to ward off witches, say experts.


The bone-dry moggie was brought into Islington Museum, Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, Islington, by Andy Shallowe.


He has had the cat in his home in Sotheby Road, Highbury, for nearly three years after being given it by his disgusted neighbours who discovered it below their house.


Museum experts - who have nicknamed the cat Thierry - reckon it was buried under the house in 1894 to ward off witches.


They say the cat was probably dead before it was buried but there is a chance it may have been pinned down and buried alive.


It was found lying next to a Lloyd's weekly newspaper article dated June 3, 1894, suggesting it was buried that day.


Trainee tree surgeon Mr Shallowe, 39, said he had grown very attached to the 111-year-old dead cat. "I think it's fantastic, I really love it," he said. "I just think it's fascinating and over the years I've become very attached to it.


"I tried to think of a name but I couldn't come up with anything so I just call it the mummified cat.


"People either love it or hate it. It has a bit of a musty smell which can be a bit off-putting but it's in perfect nick."


According to experts from the British Museum, Mr Shallowe is the only person in the country to own such an old mummified cat. He is considering selling it on online website eBay but wants to find out more before he does that.

"If any Gazette readers have any more information about the practice of burying cats under homes to ward off witches I'd love to hear about it," he said.

The cat will be on display at the Islington Museum until the end of next week.



Tarmac chalks up more national heritage destruction

Brian Bolton | 03.11.2005 12:07 | Culture | Ecology | Social Struggles | Leeds Bradford | Scotland


Yesterdays news told us that Archaeologists have unearthed what is thought to be the largest Neolithic settlement in Britain in Northumberland. What nobody was saying was that the site will be quarried in just a few short months.


It seems only the best will do for Quarry company Tarmac, Readers already know that they have been destroying the most important ancient site in Yorkshire, the Thornborough Henges (see www.timewatch.org). But viewers of yesterdays BBC news might have missed that Tarmac are also quarrying Northumberland’s most important ancient site: Milfield.


Yesterdays news told us that Archaeologists have unearthed what is thought to be the largest Neolithic settlement in Britain.


English Heritage said: "To find the remains of so many buildings from the Neolithic period grouped together is incredibly important.“


Archaeological site director Dr Clive Waddington said: "This is one of the most important sites of its kind to be discovered."


What nobody was saying was that the site will be quarried in just a few short months, meaning there will be no opportunities for archaeologists to study this site in depth (the archaeology will have to be taken out in a matter of weeks) no going back to apply new research techniques.


They did not mention Tarmac’s statement “when we find a site of national significance on our quarry we preserve it in situ and keep the quarry equipment away“.


Neither did they mention UK government guidelines that demand such important remains be protected from development.


Milfield is Britain’s densest concentration of henges: 16 of them cluster round a small area of the Cheviot Hills. It is Northumberland’s most important ancient site and clearly, like Thornborough, Tarmac think its important to destroy it.


It Tarmac destroying your heritage? Check out your local Tarmac Quarry and see what they are destroying on the quiet.