Earliest evidence of hominins in Northern Europe found at Pakefield, Suffolk
Britain's human history revealed
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, Norwich
The story has been filled out but human remains are scarce
Eight times humans came to try to live in Britain and on at least seven occasions they failed - beaten back by freezing conditions.
Scientists think they can now write a reasonably comprehensive history of the occupation of these isles.
It stretches from 700,000 years ago and the first known settlers at Pakefield in Suffolk, through to the most recent incomers just 12,000 years or so ago.
The evidence comes from the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project.
This five-year undertaking by some of the UK's leading palaeo-experts has reassessed a mass of scientific data and filled in big knowledge gaps with new discoveries.
The project's director, Professor Chris Stringer from London's Natural History Museum, came to the British Association Science Festival to outline some of the key findings.
What has been uncovered has been a tale of struggle: "In human terms, Britain was the edge of the Universe," he said.
Australian aboriginals have been in Australia longer, continuously than the British people have been in Britain
Prof Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum
The project has established that a see-sawing climate and the presence of intermittent land access between Britain and what is now continental Europe allowed only stuttering waves of immigration.
And it has extended the timing of what was regarded to be the earliest influx by 200,000 years.
More than 30 flint tools unearthed in a fossil-rich seam at Pakefield, Lowestoft, on the east coast, represent the oldest, unequivocal evidence of humans in northern Europe.
But the story from then on is largely one of failed colonisation, as retreating and advancing ice sheets at first exposed the land and then covered it up.
"Britain has suffered some of the most extreme climate changes of any area in the world during the Pleistocene," said Professor Stringer.
"So places in say South Wales would have gone from something that looked like North Africa with hippos, elephants, rhinos and hyenas, to the other extreme: to an extraordinary cold environment like northern Scandinavia."
THE HISTORY OF HUMANS IN BRITAIN
Graph shows history of human occupation
Scientists now think there were seven gaps in the occupation story - times when there was probably no human settlement of any kind on these shores. Britain and the British people of today are essentially new arrivals - products only of the last influx 12,000 years.
"Australian aboriginals have been in Australia longer, continuously than the British people have been in Britain. There were probably people in the Americas before 12,000 years ago," Professor Stringer explained.
Dr Danielle Schreve from Royal Holloway, University of London, has been filling out part of the story at a quarry at Lynford, near Norwich.
She and colleagues have found thousands of items that betray a site occupied some 60,000 years ago by Neanderthals.
The discoveries include the remains of mammoths, rhino and other large animals; and they hint at the sophistication these people would have had to employ to bring down such prey.
The oldest evidence of occupation comes from Pakefield, Suffolk
It seemed likely, she said, that the Neanderthals were picking off the weakest of the beasts and herding them into a swampy area to kill them.
"In the past, Neanderthals have been described as the most marginal of scavengers, and yet we have increasing evidence that they were supreme hunters and top carnivores," Dr Schreve told the festival.
One major piece of this great scientific jigsaw remains outstanding: extensive remains of the ancient people themselves.
What we know about the early occupations comes mostly from the stone tools and other artefacts these Britons left behind; their bones have been elusive.
Professor Stringer is confident, though, that major discoveries are still ahead.
Some of the earliest human settlements would have been in what is now the North Sea. Indeed, trawlermen regularly pull up mammoth fossils from the seabed, for example.
"There are very many promising sites in East Anglia where there is tremendous coastal erosion going on. That's bad news for the people who live there now; and we don't want it too happen to quickly either because we need time to get to grips with what's coming out of the cliffs."
18/9 Gibraltar Neanderthals
Life on the edge: was a Gibraltar cave last outpost of the lost neanderthal?
Fossil finds shed new light on our nearest relative
Home in sea cliff once overlooked teeming plain
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday September 14, 2006
The final resting place of the last neanderthals may have been unearthed by fossil-hunters excavating deep inside a cave in Gibraltar.
Primitive stone tools and remnants from wood fires recovered from the vast Gorham's cave on the easternmost face of the Rock suggest neanderthals found refuge there, and clung to life for thousands of years after they had died out elsewhere.
Carbon dating of charcoal fragments excavated alongside spear points and basic cutting tools indicates the cave was home to a group of around 15 neanderthals at least 28,000 years ago, and possibly as recently as 24,000 years ago. Previously uncovered remains lead scientists to believe the neanderthals died out in Europe and elsewhere some 35,000 years ago.
The discovery marks more clearly than ever before the time of death of our closest relative, and completes one of the most dramatic chapters in human evolution.
Today, Gorham's cave is perched on a cliff face lapped by the Mediterranean, but the view from the east-facing entrance was once of rolling sand dunes pocked with vegetation. A freshwater stream running down from the north led to the sea three miles away.
"For the neanderthals, this was a great place to be. The view would have been breathtaking, and they would have literally been able to see where their next meal was coming from," said Chris Stringer, a scientist on the project at the Natural History Museum in London. "The evidence supports the idea that this was one of their last survival spots, one of their final outposts."
The sea level was around 100m lower in neanderthal times as vast quantities of water were locked up in glaciers that encroached from the poles and smothered Scotland in sheets of ice two miles thick.
Clive Finlayson at the Gibraltar Museum said the neanderthals probably survived in the region because of the stabilising influence of the Atlantic on the local climate.
Elsewhere, glaciation caused violent lurches in climate that turned fertile pastures into barren wastelands.
But at Gorham's cave, and along the nearby coast, the climate would have been calmer, maintaining what Prof Finlayson calls a "Mediterranean Serengeti", with red deer, leopards and hyenas roaming between watering holes.
The discovery throws into doubt the theory that the arrival of modern humans was solely responsible for the demise of the neanderthals, by outcompeting them for food or even engaging in the earliest acts of genocide. More likely, the neanderthals were already struggling to adapt to rapid changes in crucial food resources such as vegetation and wild animals.
Modern humans and neanderthals split from a common ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, around 500,000 years ago when the power of fire was first harnessed.
From a foothold north of the Mediterranean, Homo heidelbergensis steadily evolved into the neanderthals, while in Africa, the same species embarked on a different evolutionary path, one that ultimately gave rise to modern-day Homo sapiens. Remains of neanderthals dating back as far as 400,000 years suggest a reasonably sophisticated species which crafted handtools and weapons and buried its dead.
The stone tools unearthed from Gorham's cave were discovered 2.5 metres beneath the soil towards the back of the 40m long cave where the neanderthals had created a hearth. The collection includes basic knife edges used for butchering carcasses and scraping tools for working skins and hides, according to the journal Nature today.
Many of the tools were preserved impeccably. "I saw one flake and went to touch it, knowing it was a tool left by a neanderthal, and it drew blood," said Prof Finlayson. "It can be very powerful being in the cave. You can get that feeling that a neanderthal was sitting in exactly the same spot, that the only thing separating us is time. It's like a connection over tens of thousands of years and it makes you want to know more. We're humans studying humans."
Gorham's cave is likely to yield yet more insights into the life and death of the neanderthal. The archaeologists have uncovered a low, narrow passageway at the rear of the cave that they discovered, by crawling along, stretches a further 30m back into the rock. They believe it may lead to another chamber, and speculate it may even be a burial site.
Exploration of the region has moved into the sea beneath the cave, to examine the now submerged land that once stretched out in front of the cave. Divers working with the team have recently identified nine further caves 20m beneath the sea surface. "We are going to attempt underwater excavations. We will go into it knowing the chances of finding anything are slim, but what if we were to find tools? That would be amazing," said Prof Finlayson.
The neanderthals were short and powerfully-built, with huge noses and receding foreheads, but there is no evidence that they had less brainpower than modern humans. Their brains were at least as big as ours, although there were differences: the frontal lobes were smaller, suggesting they may not have been as adept at planning, while the rear of the brain was larger, suggesting keener sight than modern humans.
Many scientists believe their stocky stature was chiefly an adaptation to the cold, a useful trait considering they lived through the last Ice Age. Being squat reduces a creature's surface area, and so less heat is lost from the body.
Climate may have played only a part though. Some scientists believe the Neanderthal's squat form favoured their lifestyle, of limited roaming with regular and physical wrestles with the animals that would become their prey.
The spear points and cutting edges unearthed in Gorham's cave in Gibraltar are known as Mousterian tools, named after the Le Moustier site in Dordogne, where the best examples of neanderthal archeaology were first uncovered.
Gibraltar has proved a treasure trove for modern neanderthal hunters. The first neanderthal bones discovered were those of a woman, found in a quarry in Gibraltar in 1848. And in 1997, archaeologists working in a cave on the Rock discovered the remains of what they believe was a neanderthal meal of mussels, pistachio and tortoise cooked up more than 30,000 years ago.
More recent findings have suggested neanderthals brought shellfish and other food to their caves before crafting simple tools to break them apart and prepare them.
21/8 Chinese chariot
The Chinese chariot (221BC)
A team of horses lay frozen at the gallop, revealed to the world after thousands of years. Archaeologists digging at Luoyang, in China’s central Henan province, were astonished to find the animals’ perfectly preserved remains laid out in eerie symmetry, still tethered to the chariot they had been pulling.
Historians believe the remains date from the Eastern Zhou dynasty, which ended in the year 221BC. If that is correct, it would make the chariot with its delicately spoked wheels, a marvel of engineering for its time.
Theories about how the horses came to be entombed include death on the battlefield or in a landslide.
However, some experts think the careful, almost ceremonial arrangement of the animals could indicate that they were laid to rest with care, possibly alongside their owner.
11/9 underground chamber Turkey Temple of Apollo
Fiery furnace? Temple of Apollo had secret death chamber
Posted 9/4/2006 11:18 AM ET
As the devout among the ancients knew well, nothing spices up a boring sermon like having your own sacrifice pit parked in front of your church. Throw in a secret tunnel to the death chamber, and you've got a churchgoing experience that no suburban mega-church, no matter how many good parking spots it offers, could ever match.
An ancient Temple of Apollo located amid the ruins of Hierapolis, the "sacred city," in Western Turkey suggests such attractions may have been something of a franchise among temples during the Roman era. Hierapolis was a Greek city famed for its hot springs that the Romans took over in 133 B.C. Apollo, the Sun god, was the chief deity of the city, and Italian researchers from the University of Lecce reveal some of the inner workings of the temple there in the current Journal of Archaeological Science.
The temple's ruins rest on a plateau running along the eastern side of the Menderes River, which itself runs along a geological fault. The fault produced Hierapolis' hot springs, popular with the bath-loving Romans, and also poisonous gases. Those poisonous gases, in this case it seems suffocating quantities of carbon dioxide, appear to be one of the secrets of the Temple of Apollo.
The temple, dating to the 3rd Century A.D, sat atop a monumental staircase and "near it there is an underground cavity called the Plutonion," says the study. A hole nearly 30 feet wide, surrounded by a fence, the Plutonion was "covered by a thick mist, making it impossible to see inside," study co-author Giovanni Leucci said by email. "The air outside the fence is quite clear, and when no wind is blowing there is no danger in approaching it, but any living creature that enters the hole dies instantly."
A tough place to do research, in other words. But starting in 2001, a team led by Leucci and his colleague Sergio Negri, along with the late Ivo Richetti, undertook a series of ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistance studies of the Plutonion and the temple. "The Plutonion was used in the past to perform animal sacrifices and only the eunuchs of the Temple of Cybele were able to spend time within the cavern without being affected," Leucci says. (Cybele was an Earth Mother-type goddess associated with caverns whose most devoted followers castrated themselves and were regarded as belonging to a third gender by the ancients. Cybele's cult also revolved around a theme of death and rebirth, which may explain the attraction of going spelunking in a poisonous death trap.) The eunuchs likely covered their heads with four sacks of cloth, Leucci says, which held a pocket of air that allowed them to survive for few minutes inside the Plutonion.
The Plutonion, named after Pluto, the god of the underworld, was known to widen as it descended. The researchers hoped to learn whether it was connected to the temple itself.
It does. "The survey carried out of the Temple of Apollo clearly suggests the presence of a man-made structure," Leucci says, namely a tunnel about 8 to 14 feet under the temple. And a room about 13 feet across seems to lie at a similar depth beneath the temple. The find suggests that priests likely retrieved sacrifices from the pit, prepared them in an underground room, and displayed them in the temple above as part of a religious ritual that may have resembled an elaborate stage magician's trick.
The search also turned up that an unsuspected geologic fault runs under the temple grounds. Such faults may be a hallmark of Apollo's temples, as well as the famed Oracle of Delphi, whose visions some suspect came from underground fumes. Other temples of Apollo in Turkey were home to oracles and they were built over active springs, such as those at Didyma and Claros.
So the key to temple success way back when may have rested on a rather earthly concern, access to a geologic fault, something even harder to find than a good parking spot is today.
28/8 Bronze Age canoe in Wales
Bronze age canoe stops pipeline
Archaeologists working on a gas pipeline near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire have unearthed what they believe to be a 3,400-year-old canoe.
Work has stopped on a section of the pipeline near St Botolphs to allow the Bronze Age oak relic to be recovered.
It is the first such discovery in Wales and only 150 exist across Europe.
Senior archaeologist Neil Fairburn said: "You could never have expected to find anything like this in this small wetland area, it's just awesome."
The team has also found evidence of a small settlement, a small amount of property and other items, such as polished stone rings.
Mr Fairburn, who works for the National Grid, said: "Everybody here is excited and it's unlikely they'll ever work on anything like this again."
It was found six weeks ago less than a metre below the surface in a marshy area of land, but archaeologists have only just had it confirmed what the find was. Work was stopped immediately.
A fragment was sent to experts in Miami, who radio carbon dated it to 1,420 BC.
If the gas pipeline had not been coming through here we would not have this
Senior archaeologist Neil Fairburn
The canoe is carved from a single trunk of oak, and measures 4.5m x 0.9m (15ft x 3ft).
It is being kept continuously wet to prevent it from rotting.
Mr Fairburn added: "The wet conditions have provided beautiful preservation conditions for the wood.
"If the gas pipeline had not been coming through here we would not have this."
It will take another two weeks before the team is ready to move the canoe, which will be handed over to the National Museum of Wales.
Contractors have been moved to work on other parts of the route, which will run the breadth of Wales.
The natural gas pipeline will link two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals at Milford with the UK's gas supply.
There have been protests against the LNG and pipeline project on safety and environmental grounds - and this was not the first time work had been stopped after an unexpected discovery.
Earlier this year work was stopped on a section of the route at St Clears after a human thigh bone and other fragments were unearthed by contractors.
The remains were later identified as specimens used by the medical profession or students.
31/7 Tay logboat
3,000-YEAR-OLD LOG BOAT TO BE RAISED FROM TAY ESTUARY
By Caroline Lewis 27/07/2006
One of the oldest boats discovered in Scotland is being excavated and raised from its site in the Tay Estuary.
The Carpow log boat, as it is known, situated near Abernethy, was discovered in 2000. Identifying it as a log boat, used for fishing and wildfowling, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust radiocarbon dated it to 1000BC - the late Bronze Age.
Archaeologist David Strachan of the Trust explained: “It was discovered in 2000 by a metal detectorist – half of it was sticking out of the mud.”
“The buried portion of it was very well preserved with intact transom boards [stern timbers], but the exposed part is deteriorating.”
There are records of 150 log boats from Scotland, yet only 30 survive in museums or in situ and these are often distorted by shrinkage or warping. Records show seven log boats found in the Tay estuary, but only one survives, in Dundee Museum. Found in 1860, it has been dated to about 500AD.
The Carpow log boat is not only one of the best preserved, but also the second oldest dated log boat from Scotland.
The Trust decided that although the half under the mud was in good condition, the boat needed to be excavated to save the upper half. When tides are at their lowest it is revealed, but the moving waters and fluctuating conditions are also eroding the wood. Until a strategy for its long-term preservation was devised, the vessel had to be sandbagged to protect it.
The log boat, which measures 9.25 metres (30ft) long and is made from a single piece of oak, is being lifted in two stages, with work due to be completed by August 12 2006. A specially constructed floating cradle is being used.
“It’s progressing well,” said David of the project. “We’re looking to lift the boat in three sections – it’s going to have to be cut into three parts anyway for conservation and as the lower part is buried at a very steep angle it would be extremely difficult to raise it otherwise.”
Excavations are taking place during the short low-tide windows, while the actual lifting on the cradle will happen at high tide. It will then be transported to the National Museum of Scotland.
“It will go through drip-drying conservation processes,” said David, “during which time it will go through further analysis that will continue for possibly two or three years.”
It is hoped that the boat will then be stable enough to go on show in Edinburgh and Perth, where visitors can admire the prehistoric workmanship.
The project is a partnership between Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and Historic Scotland.
9/1 Bog bodies Ireland
Iron Age 'bog bodies' unveiled
Archaeologists have unveiled two Iron Age "bog bodies" which were found in the Republic of Ireland. The bodies, which are both male and have been dated to more than 2,000 years ago, probably belong to the victims of a ritual sacrifice.
In common with other bog bodies, they show signs of having been tortured before their deaths.
Details of the finds are outlined in a BBC Timewatch documentary to be screened on 20 January.
My belief is that these burials are offerings to the gods of fertility by kings to ensure a successful reign
Ned Kelly, National Museum of Ireland
The first body dropped off a peat cutting machine in February 2003 in Clonycavan, near Dublin. The forearms, hands and lower abdomen are missing, believed to have been hacked off by the machine.
The second was found in May the same year in Croghan, just 25 miles (40km) from Clonycavan.
Old Croghan Man, as it has become known, was missing a head and lower limbs. It was discovered by workmen clearing a drainage ditch through a peat bog.
Although the police were initially called in, an inspection by the state pathologist confirmed that this was an archaeological case.
Old Croghan man was beheaded and dismembered
Both bodies were subsequently taken to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
A team of experts from the UK and Ireland have been examining the bodies to learn how they lived and died.
Radiocarbon dating, for example, would show that both had died at similar times - around 2,300 years ago.
One of these experts is Don Brothwell, the York University archaeologist who led the scientific investigation of Lindow Man, the bog body found in Cheshire in 1984.
Hundreds of bodies have been recovered from peat wetlands across Northern Europe. The earliest accounts date back to the 18th Century. The unique chemistry of peat bogs essentially mummifies bodies.
The peat-building Sphagnum moss embeds remains in cold, acid and oxygen-free conditions that immobilise bacteria.
"The way peat wetlands preserve bodies has been described as a process of 'slow-cooking' which tans them dark brown," Timewatch producer John Hayes-Fisher told the BBC News website.
Clonycavan man was a young male no more than 5ft 2in tall. Beneath his hair, which retains its unusual "raised" style, was a massive wound caused by heavy cutting object that smashed open his skull.
Chemical analysis of the hair showed that Clonycavan man's diet was rich in vegetables in the months leading up to his death, suggesting he died in summer.
It also revealed that he had been using a type of Iron Age hair gel; a vegetable plant oil mixed with a resin that had probably come from south-western France or Spain.
Old Croghan man was also young - probably in his early to mid 20s - but much taller than his counterpart from 25 miles away. Scientists worked out from the length of his arms that he would have stood around 6ft 6in tall.
He had been horrifically tortured before death. His nipples had been cut and he had been stabbed in the ribs. A cut on his arm suggested he had tried to defend himself during the attack that ended his life.
The young man was later beheaded and dismembered. Hazel ropes were passed through his arms before he was buried in the bog.
Food remains in his stomach show that Old Croghan man had eaten milk and cereals before he died. But chemical analysis of his nails showed that he had more meat in his diet than Clonycavan man.
This suggests that he died in a colder season than Clonycavan man, when vegetables were more scarce. It may also explain why his remains are better preserved.
The researchers used digital technology to reconstruct the distorted face of Clonycavan man.
From his studies on these bog bodies and others, Ned Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, has developed a new theory which explains why so many remains are buried on important political or royal boundaries.
"My belief is that these burials are offerings to the gods of fertility by kings to ensure a successful reign," Mr Kelly told the BBC's Timewatch programme.
"Bodies are placed in the borders immediately surrounding royal land or on tribal boundaries to ensure a good yield of corn and milk throughout the reign of the king."
Bog finds call for new view of our Iron Age ancestors
Early Irish history is being rewritten following the discovery of two 2,300-year-old bodies in Irish bogs. An intensive 18-month investigation since their recovery has revealed important new findings and has forced a revision of our understanding of Irish Iron Age society, writes Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor.
The National Museum of Ireland co-ordinated an international effort to study the two bog bodies since 2003 when they were unearthed in counties Meath and Offaly. The highly detailed forensic analysis was done by the State Pathologist, the Garda Technical Bureau, experts from the museum and up to 30 scientists from six countries.
The Irish Times publishes details of the research effort this morning in co-operation with the BBC's Timewatch programme, which filmed the work. The study showed the two bodies, Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man, were both murdered, victims of separate ritualistic killings before the disposal of their bodies in bogs.
The intensive analysis also provided remarkable insights into ancient society in Ireland. Clonycavan Man, for example, used an expensive "Iron Age hair gel" made from pine resin and imported from the Continent. Old Croghan Man was something of a giant, standing an estimated 198cm (6ft 6 in), but electron microscope examination of his finger nails showed he did no physical labour whatsoever.
Neither body was complete, but their exceptional state of preservation meant that a great deal could be learned from them, said the National Museum's assistant keeper of Irish antiquities, Isabella Mulhall, who co-ordinated the project.
Perhaps most importantly, an expert at the museum has developed a compelling new theory on late Bronze and early Iron Age Irish society that should also help point the way to new archaeological discoveries. The museum's keeper of Irish antiquities, Ned Kelly, noted that both bog bodies were discovered along ancient tribal boundaries. Looking back he found that 40 body discoveries in Irish bogland were made along boundaries.
He extended his search to include other late Bronze and early Iron Age material and horse bits turned up along with wooden yokes, weapons, cauldrons, personal ornaments, crowns and gold collars on tribal borders. "These, I believe, are items associated with kingship," said Mr Kelly.
Irish bog reveals secrets of Iron Age hair gel
By Elizabeth Grice
Hair gel is usually thought of as a product of our recent fashion-conscious age but, a new archeological find indicates that it was used by men more than 2,000 years ago to keep their prehistoric locks in place.
Scientists are about to unveil two exceptional Early Iron Age bog bodies, complete with hair, skin and fingernails.
One of them has the most complete set of internal organs ever found. The other has a carefully coiffed hairstyle. In the first known example of Iron Age hair treatment, the man had used a gel made from plant oil and pine resin.
Clonycavan Man, as he has been named, was found with his hair piled on top of his head, apparently in an attempt to make himself look taller and more important. However, at the time of his death, he was suffering from a bad case of nits.
The other body, Oldcroghan Man, was an immense, muscular 6ft 6in - the tallest Iron Age bog body recorded. The discovery of the bodies is one of the most exciting archaeological finds of the past 20 years.
Both were men in their early twenties who were ritually slaughtered 2,400 years ago and dumped in pools where the acid peat preserved them.
The prehistoric Celts were both young aristocrats, butchered by their communities between 392 and 175BC.
Diminutive Clonycavan Man was found on a peat factory conveyor belt in Co Meath in February 2003. He had been felled by an axe then cut in half and disembowelled.
The headless torso of Oldcroghan Man was scooped out of a drainage ditch by a mechanical digger in Co Offaly three months later.
The double find has caused a sensation among experts and the bodies will go on show at the National Museum of Ireland in May. The BBC Timewatch team filmed almost two years of investigations for a documentary to be shown on Jan 20.
31/7 Ireland medieval salter from peat bog
Medieval book of psalms unearthed
First millennium manuscript, open to Psalm 83, found in Irish mud
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Posted: 2228 GMT (0628 HKT)
The ancient book was found by a construction worker, who was removing peat with a backhoe.
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.
The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.
"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration. Researchers will conduct years of painstaking analysis before putting the book on public display.
"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out," Wallace said. "First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."
He said an engineer was digging up bogland last week to create commercial potting soil somewhere in Ireland's midlands when "just beyond the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something." Wallace would not specify where the book was found because a team of archaeologists is still exploring the site.
"The owner of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much in favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it," Wallace said.
Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, "it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away."
The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.
Wallace said several experts spent Tuesday analyzing only that page -- the number of letters on each line, lines on each page, size of page -- and the book's binding and cover, which he described as "leather velum, very thick wallet in appearance."
It could take months of study, he said, just to identify the safest way to pry open the pages without damaging or destroying them. He ruled out the use of X-rays to investigate without moving the pages.
Ireland already has several other holy books from the early medieval period, including the ornately illustrated Book of Kells, which has been on display at Trinity College in Dublin since the 19th century.
Bog discovery hailed as Ireland's Dead Sea scrolls
Sam Jones and agencies
Wednesday July 26, 2006
Irish archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of their own Dead Sea scrolls after a bulldozer unearthed fragments of a psalter that may have lain in a bog for more than 1,000 years. The book of psalms was found last Thursday when an engineer excavating bogland in the midlands noticed a bundle near his digger's scoop. It turned out to be the animal skin pages of an early Christian psalter that appears to date back as far as AD800. One psalm - number 89 - was still legible.
The National Museum of Ireland hailed the discovery as the "Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea scrolls" and the "greatest find ever from a European bog". The Dead Sea scrolls, found in the mid-20th century, contain some of the earliest known surviving biblical documents.
Specialists at the museum said it was impossible to know how the manuscript ended up in the bog, but believe it may have been lost in transit or dumped after a Viking raid, possibly 1,000 to 1,200 years ago.
"It is not so much the fragments themselves, but what they represent, that is of such staggering importance," said Dr Pat Wallace, the museum's director. "In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the early Christian civilisation of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland."
The 20 or so pages, which seem to be those of a slim, large format book with a wraparound vellum cover, were taken to the museum last Friday. After a long and painstaking process of restoration, they will be displayed in its Early Christian gallery alongside such treasures as the Ardagh chalice and the Derrynaflan paten.
Newfound Book of Psalms Doesn't Predict Doom, Experts Say
Blake de Pastino
National Geographic News
July 27, 2006
It's not the end of the world, experts announced today. The opening passage of a thousand-year-old Christian prayer book discovered in Ireland does not say that doomsday is near.
When the medieval text—a Book of Psalms dated to about A.D.1000—was unearthed by a construction worker in a bog last week, archaeologists described the find as a miracle.
(Read "Medieval Christian Book Discovered in Ireland Bog" [July 26, 2006].)
But the discovery has since met with some nervous speculation about its possible religious significance.
Doomsayers have focused on the passage that the 20-page text, written in Latin, was opened to when it was first uncovered: Psalm 83. (See photo at left.)
In the King James Bible, the psalm is a lament to God describing the attempts of nations to wipe out the name of Israel.
"Thine enemies … have said, Come, and let us cut [thy people] off from being a nation," the psalm reads, "that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.'"
Given the current conflict in Lebanon between Israeli troops and Islamic Hezbollah guerrillas, this detail struck some observers as particularly ominous.
(See "Photo Gallery: Hezbollah, Igniting Conflict" [July 14, 2006].)
"Mention of Psalm 83 has led to misconceptions about the revealed wording and may be a source of concern for people who believe Psalm 83 deals with 'the wiping out of Israel,'" officials at the National Museum of Ireland, where the manuscript is being kept, said in a statement today.
The true meaning of what the text reveals, they say, has been quite literally lost in translation.
"[We] would like to highlight that the text visible on the manuscript does NOT refer to wiping out Israel but to the 'vale of tears,'" the officials said.
The newfound prayer book, they explain, is an ancient Latin translation from the Greek known as the Vulgate. But the King James Bible, which was translated from Hebrew to English more than a thousand years later, assigns different numbers to the psalms.
So the Psalm 83 found in the Irish book, they say, appears in King James as Psalm 84, which is a song of praise and longing for godliness.
"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee," the passage reads, "… who passing through the valley of Baca [the vale of tears] make[s] it a well."
The museum officials say they expect the difference speaks for itself.
"It is hoped that this clarification will serve comfort to anyone worried by earlier reports of the content of the text," they said.
27/3 York Roman graveyard
The Sunday Times March 26, 2006
A cemetery of secrets
A Roman graveyard has been dug up in York. The skeletons all belonged to tall, strong men — and most are headless. Were they gladiators killed in the arena or victims of a deranged dictator? Richard Girling reports
Like nobody else before or since, Caracalla had it coming. On April 8, AD217, four days after his 29th birthday, appropriately on his way to a Moon Temple in modern-day Turkey, this irredeemable lunatic dismounted from his horse, pulled down his breeches and surrendered to the demands of diarrhoea. It was one of his own bodyguards who stepped forward and stabbed him to death.
Even for an emperor of Rome, it took some doing to inspire that kind of loyalty. The sculptors of his portrait busts found him as difficult to idealise as historians have done since, his face fixed in a stony scowl, prematurely aged by a lifetime of hate. He is chiefly remembered now for the Baths of Caracalla, the opulent bathhouse outside Rome that so inspired the imagination of the Victorian painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. To confront the true, unique awfulness of the man, however, it is necessary to do as Caracalla himself did in AD208, and make the journey northwards to York. It was here, in August 2004, that archeologists made one of the most disturbing finds in the entire Roman world. Beneath the former garden of an 18th-century mansion in Driffield Terrace, in the exclusive Mount area just outside the city wall, they dug up a large Roman cemetery of early 3rd-century date.
This in itself was no surprise. The site bordered an important Roman road, still the main route into York from the southwest. The existence of graves in the area was well known, and – though the cemetery was evidently of considerable size and importance – it was a routine sort of a dig, ordered by City of York Council to map the site and remove archeological finds before new houses were built. It did not stay routine for long. Ordinarily, Roman cemeteries are much like any other kind. They hold a roughly equal mix of men and women, with infants, children, adolescents, young and older adults all in their natural proportion. It soon became clear that this one was very, very different. Fifty-six skeletons or part skeletons were recovered, of which only seven were adolescent or younger. The rest were all prime-of-life adult males, none older than 45. More than this: by the standards of their time, they were giants, mostly around 174cm (approximately 5ft 10in) tall, at a time when the average was 5cm less. They were powerfully built, too, with arm bones showing evidence of extreme physical exertion. And they were not locals. Isotope analysis of minerals in their tooth enamel showed that they originated from every corner of the Roman empire – a couple from Britain, several from the Mediterranean, one from the Alps, one even from Africa. How could this be explained?
Legionaries killed in battle? But then you would expect their skeletons to show the imprint of war – shattered skulls, severed limbs, defence wounds on hands and arms where they had tried to ward off sword or axe. All these were conspicuously absent. For all the evidence to the contrary, you might suppose that they had died in their beds. Except…
More than half of them had had their heads cut off. In some cases the skull had been put back more or less where it came from. But in many others it lay in the shallow grave beneath its owner’s arm, between his knees or beside his feet. One had heavy iron bands forged around his ankles and lay alongside another man with whom he had exchanged heads. A couple had been buried face down. Others were crumpled as if they had been tossed or hastily crammed into the ground. Only a small minority had been accorded the dignity of coffins.
Although headless burials were not unknown, there was no precedent for so many to be found in the same place. And neither was this the end of it. Just a few yards away, in the summer of 2005, another 24 graves were found in a garden. All contained the remains of young or middle-aged men. Fifteen of these definitely, and another three probably, had been decapitated. Nothing like this had been found anywhere in the entire, intercontinental span of the Roman empire. Who were these men? What had befallen them?
One early theory, outlined in a BBC2 Timewatch programme due to be shown later this month, was that they had been subjected to some kind of pagan burial rite. A common belief at the time was that removing a person’s head would release magical powers that would speed them into the afterlife, or perhaps would prevent them rising to haunt the living. But there was a problem. Ritual beheading happened after death, using a thin blade that would cut down through the front of the neck and slice between the vertebrae. The result was surgically neat.
But the York bodies were not like that at all. The work on and around the necks looked more like the efforts of a lumberjack than of any kind of anatomist. Even a butcher would have done a tidier job. The executioners hacked again and again until, through sheer persistence, they smashed through the bone and the head rolled free. At the York Archaeological Trust’s (YAT’s) conservation laboratory near York Minster, bone expert Katie Tucker shows me their handiwork. One man has a deep, V-shaped slice missing from his jawbone. One had a molar sliced in half as the blade carved through his face. Another has had the back of his head lifted off like a lid. Others have cuts in as many as five of the seven neck vertebrae, with blows delivered mostly from behind but at varying angles as the victims twisted away from their killers. Most seem to have been face down on the ground, presumably held there, when they were killed, and one seems to have been felled by a swipe at the knee. In one case it took 13 blows to get the head off.
Archeology is often a matter of matching familiar evidence to known facts. The stuff that comes out of the ground is exactly like lots of other stuff that’s come out of the ground before. You know what it is. You can work out how, when and why it got there. If you’re lucky it may be a new chapter, but it’s seldom a whole new book. As the man in charge of the dig, YAT’s head of fieldwork, Patrick Ottaway, points out, these burials neither conform to precedent nor easily submit to analysis. Whatever happened here was driven by something stronger than the ordinary disciplines of army life. Humanity was set aside; calculation subsumed by fear or hatred into something close to derangement. Who would have ordained such an atrocity? And why?
Caracalla was not his real name. He was born Septimius Bassianus, later changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, at Lyons (Roman Lugdunum) on April 4, 188, though for reasons of his own he would later lie about his age. His father was the North African-born senator and future emperor of Rome, Lucius Septimius Severus. His mother, Julia Domna, came from what is now Syria. Eleven months after the birth of Antoninus, and with consequences that would ultimately horrify her, Julia gave birth to a second son, Publius Septimius Geta.
It is fair to say that the Roman military and political classes were not unaccustomed to the sight of blood. Spilling it was no big deal – in context, it was no more than the ultimate step in a recognised process of hard bargaining. Young Antoninus took to killing as naturally as others might have taken to poetry or music. By the time he made his fatal comfort stop in 217, he would bear direct responsibility for upwards of 20,000 deaths. He started young. At 14 he was pressed into marriage with a girl called Plautilla, daughter of a powerful friend of his father’s. “But,” says Professor Anthony Birley, a biographer of Septimius Severus and expert on the Romans in Britain, “he hated her. Not only did he refuse to sleep with her but he wouldn’t even eat with her, and he particularly hated his father in law.” His remedy, aged 16, was to frame the man on a false charge of plotting against the emperor and to have him killed by guards. The unwanted bride was then banished. If one were to plead mitigation on the young man’s behalf, one might point to the influence of his father, Septimius Severus, whose idea of statesmanship was to fight anyone who opposed him. He executed 29 political opponents in the senate and replaced the old praetorian guard with a new 10,000-strong elite unit recruited largely from the Balkans and the Danube. In 208, aged 60, he decided it was time to visit the north of his empire and kill the resistance of Caledonian tribesmen north of the Forth and Clyde.
Prominent among the imperial retinue were his sons Antoninus, then aged 20, and Geta, 19. No two brothers have ever hated each other more than these two. As the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio put it: “The sons of Severus… went to all lengths in their conduct. They outraged women and abused boys, they embezzled money and made gladiators and charioteers their boon companions, emulating each other in the similarity of their deeds, but full of strife in their rivalries; for if the one attached himself to a certain faction, the other would be sure to choose the opposite side…”
Always, up ahead, lay the ultimate point of collision – their father’s death and the inheritance of an empire. By the time they reached York, the gap between ambition and destiny was narrowing fast. Severus was in poor health, gout-ridden and unable to walk. To his sons nevertheless he continued to offer the same malevolent example. Enraged by the hit-and-run tactics of an enemy that would not engage his army, he resolved to make Scotland unliveable, destroying its crops and slaughtering without mercy. Cassius Dio records him quoting Homer: “Let no one escape sheer destruction, No one our hands, not even the babe in the womb of the mother…”
Unsubtle though he might have been, Severus well understood the basics of human nature. He knew where the raw enmity between his sons was leading, and tried to bring peace by making them co-emperors with himself. Yoking them in power, however, served only to sharpen their rivalry. It was at about this time that the elder son, Antoninus, became known by the nickname that would stay with him throughout history – Caracalla. It derived from the local style of hooded tunic – a bit like a duffel coat – that he wore while in Britain and later made fashionable in Rome. He also began to exhibit the behaviour that would forge his reputation as a monster. It began with a failure – failure, that is, to assassinate his own father, against whom he drew his sword while they were riding to negotiate the Caledonians’ surrender. Alerted by his guards, Severus faced the young man down.
For the younger son, Geta, however, there was to be no such escape. Severus’s last words before he died in 211 were to his sons: “Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers and scorn all other men.” Caracalla evidently took to heart the second and third of these injunctions but stopped his ears to the first. The flames from Severus’s pyre had barely died down before both heirs were heading back to Rome. For some time Caracalla had been lying about his age, advancing his birth date by two years to exaggerate the superiority of his birthright over Geta’s. But he was not going to rely on primogeniture alone. Within a year, Geta was dead. There was no subterfuge; no plot or alibi. Offering neither excuse nor apology, Caracalla chased his brother through the palace and stabbed him in the arms of their mother. The new emperor also put to death his estranged wife, Plautilla, and her brother, and continued as he had begun – purging the high command of everyone who had ever told him “no”.
In the Timewatch programme, Anthony Birley argues that the bloodshed began even before Caracalla left York, and that the cemetery at Driffield Terrace was the resting place of his victims. Among the first to go was his father’s chamberlain, Castor, who had made the mistake of barring him from the imperial chamber. His childhood tutor Euhodus – formerly his accomplice in framing his father-in-law – was killed for the crime of promoting harmony between the brothers. Even Severus’s doctors were murdered, for having denied Caracalla’s request to shorten the old man’s life. Also unwanted on the journey home, Birley suggests, were other courtiers and officers who had favoured Geta.
This would explain various things – the choice of an important burial place on high ground next to a main road; the method of execution (beheading was the privilege of Roman citizens, while lesser breeds were crucified, burned or thrown to animals); and the hasty disposal of the bodies. The executions would have been in public and, says Miranda Green, an expert on Celtic Britain, would have been “extremely theatrical”.
“The idea would have been a kind of performance, where maybe the entire community was there to see it happen. It would have been very bloody, but you mustn’t just think about things being highly visual. Sound and smell would have been very important as well.” One’s imagination here begins to do peculiar things to the stomach, especially when Green suggests that spectators would have made a day out of it with a picnic. A number of things still need explaining, however – most obviously the male exclusivity of the cemetery, the narrow age range and physical size of its denizens. There is also the awkward fact that many of the burials overlie each other, thus making it unlikely that the deaths all occurred in the same incident.
I try a theory of my own. Where in the Roman empire, outside the battlefield, might you find unusually large, physically fit young men being killed in batches? Is it possible that they were victims not of the executioner but of each other, as gladiators? Surprisingly, Birley does not dismiss the idea out of hand – funeral games, he says, might well have been staged after the old emperor’s death and, as Patrick Ottaway acknowledges, there must have been an amphitheatre somewhere in the city, though nobody knows where. In the end, however, Birley rejects it on the same grounds that Ottaway and Katie Tucker rejected the idea of deaths in battle – the absence of fresh bone fractures.
“All our sources, so far as I know them, ive the impression that gladiators were killed by the sword or in some cases trident of their opponents, or being gored by wild beasts, and the impression is that there was horrific wounding and lots of blood. So it seems to me very unlikely that they would have just soft flesh wounds. Besides, I can't think of any cases of gladiators being given the coup de grâce with the axe, let alone a few dozen of them.” Nevertheless, it is a subject that gives insight into the character of the new emperor. “For what it’s worth, Cassius Dio says that Caracalla killed large numbers of the elite at Rome after disposing of his brother Geta, then ‘veering from murder to sport, he showed the same thirst for blood in this field too. It was nothing, of course, that elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers etc were killed in the arena, but he took pleasure in seeing the blood of as many gladiators as possible. He forced one, Bato, to fight three men in succession on the same day, then, when Bato was killed by the last one, he honoured him with a brilliant funeral’.”
Miranda Green’s theory is that the executions might have been punishment for a military unit found guilty of cowardice, when “every 10th man is killed in front of their fellows”. It offers, too, an alternative explanation for the beheadings. “Their bodies might well have been treated in a humiliating way so that they wouldn’t actually enter the spirit world.”
Timewatch continues to favour Birley’s picture of an irascible and possibly unbalanced young dictator slaying his father’s favourites. Given that nothing is known of these people’s ages, and that their privileged diets would have made them tall, there is no reason why they should not have conformed to the physical pattern of the Driffield skeletons. Nevertheless, Birley proposes an alternative theory of his own. Given that pottery dating is accurate only to within ten years or so, it is entirely conceivable that the deaths occurred at a slightly later date – not in February 211, as everyone has assumed, but some time during 213 or 214. The Roman governor of Britain then was Gaius Julius Marcus, a self-proclaimed loyalist who advertised his devotion to Caracalla in numerous inscriptions along Hadrian’s Wall. Tellingly, however, he seems to have been worried that he and his men were suspected of having favoured Geta in 211, and his fears may have been justified. “This mass protestation of loyalty didn’t work,” says Birley, “since Julius Marcus’s name was systematically deleted from the inscriptions. But in some cases it is still legible, and they forgot to delete his name from a milestone. Clearly he copped it.”
In this scenario, the bodies in York are those of Julius Marcus and members of his bodyguard or singulares, an elite troop. “Roman history,” says Birley, “is full of examples of men who had fallen foul of an emperor being disposed of, usually by a centurion sent for the purpose. Equally, Julius Marcus’s successor could have turned up with a secret commission to kill him off.”
From a distance of nearly 1800 years, the truth lies tantalisingly half in and half out of our grasp. Some things are certain – the reality of these men’s horrible deaths; their age and stature; the chaos of their burials; the mix of nationalities. Some things are highly probable – that they were victims of execution; that they belonged to an elite group of some kind; that the group itself was military. Other things are educated guesses – that they were killed for disloyalty or cowardice; that they were loyalists of Geta. All are consistent in their depiction of nihilistic cruelty in the service of a man whose own murder was his only experience of justice.
Timewatch: the Mystery of the Headless Romans will be broadcast on BBC2 at 9pm on April 21.
20/2 Leicester Roman building and medieval cemetery
ROMAN HOME IS A BIG DISCOVERY
BY ANAS KASAK
10:51 - 14 February 2006
Experts believe they have discovered the remains of the largest-ever Roman building found in Leicester.
The dwelling, thought to be a second century town house is 230ft long - equivalent to 15 terraced houses.
Archeologists believe it could have been a hotel for Roman officials visiting the city.
Alternatively, it could have been a large home for a wealthy family.
The discovery was made in Vine Street, in the city centre - yards from the former St Margaret's Baths site, where archaeologists recently found the skeletons of 1,300 people in a medieval cemetery.
Evidence of Roman existence in the area was first reported in May last year, when experts thought they had found the remains of a wealthy family's townhouse.
But the excavation has proved much larger than originally thought.
Richard Buckley, director of University of Leicester Archaeology Services, said his team had not expected such a large discovery.
He said: "The surprising thing is that we didn't expect any Roman activity here in this side of the city. We certainly did not expect this sort of density of population.
"Until this development, this part of Leicester is blank on Roman history and this shows there was industrial, residential and commercial activity over this part of town.
"The good thing is that it remains in good enough condition for a good analysis."
The town house is at the junction of two streets with rooms arranged around a central courtyard, served by several corridors with some containing fragments of mosaic pavements.
One of the rooms is equipped with a hypocaust, an ancient central heating system, thought to be part of a small bath suite with a plunge bath.
Another large Roman building, 98ft long, from the third century was also discovered. The unusually thick walls, around 1.2 metres , suggests it could be a public building used for storage.
Mr Buckley said: "We also found two lead seals marked with the initials of the sixth and 20th legion in both areas.
"No doubt this will help us to understand the era and period a bit more and this is a significant find for the city.
"The site is still being examined and we believe it will still be a few months before we have finished our dig."
The area of the discovery is to form a new multi-storey car park for the £350 million Shires development.
Chris Wardle, a city archaeologist, said: "We knew Leicester was a Roman city but the findings suggests that part of town was intensely occupied.."
17/4 Roman cheese press in Stilton
Romans were big cheeses in Stilton
STILTON may have given its name to the famous blue cheese despite the fact it was never made in the village north of Huntingdon.
But now Stilton's claim to cheese-making fame has been given a boost by the discovery of a 2,000-year-old cheese press there.
The Roman press was found in a ditch by local potter Richard Landy. It is believed to have been used to make cheese from sheep's or goat's milk - a far cry from today (Saturday, 15 April)'s version of Stilton cheese.
Mr Landy said: "I was elated when I found the press.
I have already found extensive evidence of the Roman period from a number of sites around Stilton. I have also made pottery for the Stilton Cheese Makers' Association, so you could say it is a happy coincidence that I found the cheese press."
Philippa Walton, county archaeologist who identified the press, said: "This is a truly exceptional object found in a very apt spot. Its Third Century origin suggests Stilton's association with cheese may stretch back more than 1,800 years."
T he cheese press is one of more than 500 finds reported under the Portable Antiquities Scheme designed to encourage members of the public to report archaeological finds they make.
Stilton cheese comes from a handful of cheese-makers in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and acquired its name from the village where much of it was sold to hungry travellers.
T he village still celebrates the cheese and its annual cheese-rolling celebrations take place on Monday, May 1, this year.
19/6 Robin Hood’s house in Sheffield
19 June 2006
WAS ROBIN HOOD'S HOUSE IN SHEFFIELD?
REMAINS COULD BE A BLOW TO NOTTS
By Stephen White
IT won't go down well in Nottingham, but a pile of stones near Sheffield could be Robin Hood's home.
For centuries it has been thought the legendary archer was based in Sherwood forest while he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.
But now archaeologists claim they have found the remains of his house - 52 miles away in South Yorkshire.
And that could be a bit of a blow for Nottingham and Sherwood forest where visitor centres have been making a killing from Robin Hood merchandise. Experts from Sheffield University have started a preliminary dig at the site of an 11th century castle in the village of Bolsterstone.
Tourism chiefs and historians recently claimed that the green-clad outlaw lived in Yorkshire rather than Notts.
Hood's friend Little John was born and died in Hathersage, near Sheffield. And experts believe finding the castle remains backs up their story.
All right, we know Robin Hood was a mythical folk hero, but the scientists reckon the home found at the dig played a major part in creating the legend of the brave bowman - played by Errol Flynn in the 1938 movie The Adventures of Robin Hood.
They believe it is where Waltheof, the Earl of Huntingdon who fiercely opposed the Norman invasion, based his empire.
He started two revolts against the attackers and was executed at 30 for planning a third in 1076.
Waltheof was the father of Robert Fitzwalter, an archer who became known as Robin Hood.
One of the volunteers at the archaeological dig, Steve Moxon, said: "This site might have major historical significance.
"Robin Hood was mythical, however Waltheof inspired the key ballad about the death of Hood and the 15th century prose account of him."
The team will now seek further funding to carry out extensive exploration at the site in a bid to confirm the stone and wood building was the archer's home.
Nottingham folk won't agree, but Robin of Sheffield does have a certain ring to it.
1/5 Oldest football for World Cup
Oldest football to take cup trip
The ball is made from a pig's bladder
The world's oldest football is being sent to Germany for the World Cup.
The 450-year-old ball will form the centrepiece of an exhibition on the history of the sport.
Staff at its current home in Stirling's Smith Museum are preparing the delicate artefact for its trip to the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Hamburg.
The ball was once the property of Mary Queen of Scots and museum bosses in Germany were keen to display it after deeming it the oldest in existence.
"The Germans have decided, from all the evidence, that our ball is the oldest football in the world and it will be the centrepiece of this huge exhibition," said the Smith Museum's collection manager Michael McGinnes.
The 16th century ball is made from a pig's bladder and the cover constructed from pieces of thick leather, possibly deer, and tightly laced together.
Mr McGinnes added: "We can't prove that Mary Queen of Scots played with the ball but it is of that date."
Mr McGinnes will take the ball on a flight from Prestwick to Lubeck Airport, near Hamburg, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Once in Germany, the ball will receive a traditional Scots welcome by being piped into the exhibition.
It will remain overseas for the duration of this summer's World Cup and it is expected to be returned home in mid-September
Cold War-era survival supplies found at Brooklyn Bridge
NEW YORK (AP) — In 17 years of working on the city's bridges, Joe Vaccaro has made some unusual finds: a 100-year-old copy of a newspaper, sepia-toned photographs.
But none matched the discovery he and his co-workers made last week in the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge.
There, in the musty dark, the workers found a Cold War-era cache of provisions to have been used in the wake of a nuclear attack: some 350,000 packaged crackers, paper blankets, metal drums for water and medical supplies.
"I've never found anything as significant as this," Vaccaro, a carpentry supervisor, said Tuesday while standing in the attic-like room amid the stockpile.
The artifacts recalled a fearful period in U.S. history a half-century ago, when the country and the Soviet Union were sworn enemies and air-raid sirens and shelters were common.
"This is a treasure of modern history," said Vaccaro's boss, Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall.
Weinshall said she has contacted the Civil Defense Museum and the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about taking the items, which include syringes and Dextran, an intravenous drug.
The Office of Civil Defense, a unit of the Pentagon that coordinated domestic preparedness in the early 1960's, probably put the supplies there, Weinshall said.
It's also possible a city agency was responsible for the stash, first reported Tuesday by The New York Times.
Weinshall said right now there's no way to tell whether the supplies were intended to be used at the bridge in case of an attack or if the bridge was only a storage space.
"Until we get to the bottom — when it was put here, who put it here — we won't know fully," she said.
Some of the items were stamped with two especially significant years in cold-war history: 1957, when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban missile crisis seemed to bring the world to the precipice of nuclear destruction.
Fallout shelters were common around the country in the 1950s, but such finds are rare, said John Lewis Gaddis, a historian at Yale University.
"Most of those have been dismantled; the crackers got moldy a very long time ago," he said. "It's kind of unusual to find one fully intact — one that is rediscovered, almost in an archaeological sense."
The 17.5-gallon metal drums, presumably once filled with water, were labeled, "Reuse as a commode." The Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers were sealed in dozens of metal canisters. One of the canisters, however, had broken open.
Weinshall tasted a cracker.
"It tasted," she said, "like cardboard."
4/12 Early Christianity off Trafalgar Square
20/11 Spain Roman ship
16/10 Durrington buildings
25/9 Little girl 3.3mya found in Ethiopia
24/7 Fence posts on River Waveney
19/6 Mexico dentistry
5/6 Skeleton in Rome
15/5 Violence in ancient Britain
03/4 Trojan palace
27/3 Brooklyn Bridge
13/2 Floral tributes at Welsh burial mound
23/1 Roman forum old tomb