Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK

Front garden yields ancient tools

307mm handaxe (University of Southampton)

Only one other handaxe of this type has been found that is bigger

The Britons of 250,000 years ago were a good deal more sophisticated than they are sometimes given credit for, new archaeological evidence suggests.


It comes in the form of giant flint handaxes that have been unearthed at a site at Cuxton in Kent.


The tools display exquisite, almost flamboyant, workmanship not associated with this period until now.


The axes - one of which measured 307mm (1ft) in length - were dug up from old sand deposits in a front garden.


"It is a site where there would once have been a slow-moving river," explained Dr Francis Wenban-Smith, from the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins at the University of Southampton.


"It would have periodically overflowed its banks; and there would have been occasional sand bars and islands that got exposed. Obviously, at some point, Palaeolithic man was doing something there, left his handaxes, and they got covered up."


Ancient butcher


The biggest of the tools - the second largest of its type found in Britain - is beautifully preserved and sharply pointed.


It was probably used to butcher prey, which at that time would have included rhino, elephants, large deer and an extinct type of cattle known as aurochs.


Map of Cuxton, Kent (BBC)

Another big implement was uncovered immediately beside the star find; this time a cleaver, 179mm (7 inches) long by 134mm (5 inches) wide.


The lands which are now the UK have been occupied on and off by human species since before 500,000 years ago.


When the retreat of great ice sheets permitted, people would move in from warmer climes further south; and then abandon the region when conditions turned harsh again.


But the period from about 400,000 to 250,000 years ago is known to have been one of intense occupation; not by modern humans (Homo sapiens), who were not in Europe at this time, but by what is now an extinct human form evolving into Homo neanderthalensis, the Neanderthals.


Mind matters


The culture at Cuxton is one that archaeologists refer to as Acheulian, to describe the type of stone tool manufacturing that was dominant at that time.


Dr Wenban-Smith says the latest finds hint that these people were more advanced in their cognitive and behavioural development than is normally assumed.


Cuxton cleaver (University of Southampton)

The tools were probably left by the side of a slow-moving river

"Both handaxes come from next to each other which is an important point because it shows they were making different designs," he told BBC News.


"This points to their mental capabilities. It shows that they could hold in their minds the idea of the shape they wanted to make. There are also technical traits in terms of how they were sharpened which would have to have been preconceived.


"To my mind, this helps prove that these people were not so far away from us as some would think and also that they were probably using language."


The Cuxton manufacturing techniques were soon supplanted by a different way of making stone tools, known as Levalloisian technology. Dr Wenban-Smith said it was unclear whether this knowledge was imported from further south in Europe or independently discovered by the Britons themselves.



Public release date: 22-Jun-2006

Contact: Judith H Moore



University College London

Earliest known 'bling' revealed

Fresh analysis of beads made from seashells by a team led by a UCL (University College London) researcher reveals that modern humans used jewellery at least 25,000 years earlier than previously thought.


Researchers from the UK, France and Israel report in the journal Science that they re-examined beads, originally excavated from a site in Israel and one in Algeria in the early half of the 20th Century, using elemental and chemical analysis. Results show the beads date from between 100,000 to 135,000 years ago – which is much earlier than a recent significant find of beads excavated in South Africa that date from 75,000 years ago.


Personal ornaments, along with art, are generally considered as archaeological proof of an aptitude for symbolic thinking and the findings have major implications for the debates about the origins of behaviourally modern humans.


Dr Marian Vanhaeren, of the AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour, UCL Institute of Archaeology, and lead author of the study, says:


"Symbolically mediated behaviour has emerged as one of the few unchallenged and universally accepted markers of modernity. A key characteristic of all symbols is that their meaning is assigned by arbitrary, socially constructed conventions and it permits the storage and display of information.


"The main challenge for paleoanthropology is establishing when in human evolution this ability developed. Archaeological evidence suggests that Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) from Africa were also behaviourally modern before 40,000 but until now evidence has remained scant.


"Given that the same shell species were unearthed at distinct geographical sites suggests that a symbolic tradition extended across the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean. It supports the hypothesis that a widespread tradition of beadwork existed in North Africa and the countries of Western Asia well before the arrival of AMH in Europe."


Human remains excavated from Ethiopia demonstrate that Homo sapiens in Africa were anatomically modern 160,000 years ago, but debate continues over when and where humans first became behaviourally modern.


In 2004 engraved ochre and Nassarius kraussianus seashell beads bearing human-made perforations and traces of use were discovered at the Blombos Cave, South Africa and were dated to 75,000 years ago. The finding suggests that humans became behaviourally modern much earlier than previously thought but it has been hotly contested because of a lack of corroborating evidence from other sites.


The seashell beads that have been re-examined were originally unearthed at a Middle Palaeolithic site at Es-Skhul, Mount Carmel, Israel and from the type-site of the Aterian industry, of Oued Djebbana, Bir-el-Ater, Algeria. The shells from Skhul are currently held in the Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum (NHM), London, and the specimen from Oued Djebbana in the Department of Prehistory, Musée de l'Homme, Paris.


Remoteness from seashore – up to 200 km in the case of Oued Djebban – and detailed comparison to natural shell assemblages indicates in both cases there was deliberate selection and transportation by humans of Nassarius gibbosulus seashells for symbolic use.


Dr Vanhaeren added: "Personal ornaments have many different – and often multiple – functions. They may be used to beautify the body, function as 'love letters' in courtship, or as amulets that express individual or group identity. The function of the oldest beads in Africa and Eurasia were probably different because in the first case we have only one bead type and in the second a rich variety of types.


"We think that the African evidence may point to the beads being used in gift-giving systems which function to strengthen social and economic relationships. The European evidence suggests the beads were used as markers of ethnic, social and personal identity."


The work was funded by the 'Origin of Man, Language and Languages' programme of the European Science Foundation, the French Ministry of Research and postdoctoral grants of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Fyssen Foundation.


Notes to editors


The paper, 'Middle Palaeolithic Shell Beads in Israel and Algeria' will be published in the June 23 edition of the journal Science. The authors are: Marian Vanhaeren (1), Francesco d'Errico (2), Chris Stringer (3), Sarah L. James (4), Jonathan A. Todd (3), Henk K. Mienis (5)


(1) Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H OPY, UK. Ethnologie préhistorique, CNRS UMR 7041, 21 Allée de l'Université, F-92023 Nanterre, France. (2) Institut de Préhistoire et de Géologie du Quaternaire, CNRS UMR 5199, Avenue des Facultés, 33405 Talence, France. Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington DC. (3) Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD. (4) Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD. (5) Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel.


For further information, please contact:


Judith H Moore

UCL Media Relations

Tel: 44-0-20-7679-7678 (int: 07678)

Mobile: 44-0-77333-075-96

Out-of-hours: 44-0-7917-271-364

Email: judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk


Dr Marian Vanhaeren

AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour

UCL Institute of Archaeology

Mobile: 33-0-614167010

Email: m.vanhaeren@ucl.ac.uk.


About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government's most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.


UCL is the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2005 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Mahatma Gandhi (Laws 1889, Indian political and spiritual leader); Jonathan Dimbleby (Philosophy 1969, writer and television presenter); Junichiro Koizumi (Economics 1969, Prime Minister of Japan); Lord Woolf (Laws 1954, former Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales); Alexander Graham Bell (Phonetics 1860s, inventor of the telephone); and members of the band Coldplay.



Shell Jewelry Said to Be 100,000 Years Old

Published: June 22, 2006


Archaeologists think they have found evidence that in one respect people were behaving like thoroughly modern humans as early as 100,000 years ago: they were apparently decorating themselves with a kind of status-defining jewelry — the earliest known shell necklaces.


If this interpretation is correct, it means that human self-adornment, considered a manifestation of symbolic thinking, was practiced at least 25,000 years earlier than previously thought.


An international team of archaeologists, in an article in Friday's issue of the journal Science, reported their analysis of small shells with distinctive perforations that appeared to have been strung together as ornamental beads. Chemical study showed that the two shells from the Skhul rock shelter in Israel were more than 100,000 years old, and the single shell from Oued Djebbana, in Algeria, was about 90,000 years old.


Three shells may not be much to go on, the researchers conceded. But they emphasized that the shells were from the same genus of marine snail and were worked in the same manner as those from the Blombos cave, near Cape Town, South Africa, which were reported two years ago as the earliest jewelry, dated at 75,000 years ago.


The Blombos find was hotly contested because of a lack of corroborating evidence from other sites.


The scientists also point out that the Israeli and Algerian sites are so far from the seashore that the shells were most likely brought there intentionally for beadworking. A study of modern shells of similar snails, they noted, determined that the chances that the holes occurred naturally are extremely small.


In the journal report, the research team led by Marian Vanhaeren of University College London and Francesco d'Errico of the National Center for Scientific Research in Talence, France, concluded, "These beads support the hypothesis that a long-lasting and widespread beadworking tradition existed in Africa and the Levant well before the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe."


The hypothesis challenges the traditional view that modern Homo sapiens underwent a significant behavioral change about 50,000 years ago, possibly the result of some genetic modification that afforded a greater capability for symbolic thinking and creativity in arts and crafts. The change might have prompted human migrations from Africa into Europe, where it underlay the burst of creativity that began about 40,000 years ago and can be glimpsed in human figurines, musical instruments and magnificent cave paintings.


Jewelry was probably one of the earliest ways people conveyed aspects of their social and cultural identities, Dr. Vanhaeren said.


Alison Brooks, an anthropologist at George Washington University who was not involved in the research, called the findings exciting.


"It shows that human behavior emerges slowly over a long period of time," Dr. Brooks said in an interview. "Not that there was no creative revolution 40,000 years ago, but it was a florescence that stems from much earlier developments in Africa."


In a separate journal article, Richard G. Klein, a Stanford archaeologist who is a proponent of the late, abrupt creative-explosion school, was quoted as saying the new shell evidence "seems weak to me" and the interpretation remained "debatable."


Fossils excavated in Ethiopia show that Homo sapiens were anatomically modern by 160,000 years ago, which accords with genetic findings. No such consensus has been reached on just how early they began behaving like humans.



World's oldest bling: two tiny 100,000-year-old shells

Alok Jha

Friday June 23, 2006

The Guardian


They may not compare with today's diamond-encrusted bling, but in their own way, they are of far greater value.


Two tiny shells have been confirmed as the world's oldest known items of jewellery, probably used on a necklace about 100,000 years ago.


It's more than just a pretty trinket: the shells have forced scientists to rethink their ideas on when human culture and language first developed.


"This research shows that a long lasting and widespread bead-working tradition associated with early modern humans extended through Africa to the Middle East well before comparable evidence appears in Europe," said Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum, who led the work.


Article continues

"The research also supports the idea that modern human anatomy and behaviour have deep roots in Africa and were widespread by 75,000 years ago, even though they may not have appeared in Europe for another 35,000 years."


The shells were excavated between 1931 and 1932 from the cave of Skhul in Israel. "Unfortunately, [the archaeologists] didn't realise the significance of the material they were digging up.


"These shells were found incidentally and have been in the collection for the last 70 years," said Dr Stringer. Genetic and fossil evidence suggests that humans who were anatomically similar to modern people existed in Africa around 200,000 years ago.


But evidence for modern cultural behaviour - art, symbolic language, musical instruments and complex burials - only appears in Europe around 40,000 years ago. This has led many researchers to pose the idea that modern human behaviour evolved long after modern human anatomy.


"I always thought that was a bit odd," said Dr Stringer.


The two shells push back the beginnings of modern human culture to at least 100,000 years ago.


"There is the implication that there was probably complex language there. If people are sending messages through shells or complex burials then the likelihood is they've got language," said Dr Stringer. "That's what they're doing with these shells - sending social messages."


Researchers do not know the specific significance of the shells, but propose that they could represent the same things as modern jewellery.


Dr Stringer said: "Looking at the range of things people use today for things like pendants and jewellery, it could be status, it could be wealth, it could be the sign of a marriage contract, it could be bling bling."


The research is published today in Science.



30,000-year-old Relics Reveal Pre-historic Civilization along Qinghai-Tibet Railway

2006-06-24 13:59:42      Xinhua


Chinese archaeologists claim that relics unearthed in the areas along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway proved that human beings lived there at least 30,000 years ago.


Archaeologists with the Qinghai Provincial Archaeological Institute said they collected large number of chipped stone tools including knives and pointed implements dating back 30,000 years in the Tuotuo River valley, Hoh Xil, a habitat for Tibetan antelopes, and Qaidam Basin, where the railway runs through, during recent excavations.


More than 30 stone implements were also discovered at the site of Sancha River bridge on the Qinghai-Tibet railway, located in Golmud, a city over 70 kilometers to the north of Kunlun Mountains, said Xu Xinguo, head of the Qinghai Provincial Archaeological Institute.


Xu said these stone tools might reveal an important link of the cultural exchanges between Hailar, a city of northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Nyalam County of the Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China.


"If we can find relics dating back to the same period at the stratum of the region, that will further prove that ancestors of the Chinese nation lived on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau 30,000 years ago and that the Kunlun Mountains is one of the cradles of the Chinese civilization," Xu said.


A Sino-U.S. joint investigation team also found ruins of the same age in the Kunlun Mountains several years ago, said Gao Xing, a research fellow with the ancient vertebrate and palaeoanthropology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


The 1,956-km-long Qinghai-Tibet railway starts from Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, crossing the Kunlun Mountains and ends at Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.


The range of the Kunlun Mountains runs for 2,500 km from west to east at an elevation of 5,000 meters. The Kunlun Mountains is the origin of many Chinese legendary stories and it is mentioned in Chinese classics such as "Pilgrimage to the West" and "Canonization of the Gods" as well as in numerous novels.


Additionally, archaeologists have unearthed many sites of historical interest in Xining, the starting point of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, and in the eastern part of Qinghai. These sites include Xiaochaidan Ruins and Layihai Ruins of the Old Stone Age (500,000-10,000 years ago), the Hulijia Ruins, Zongri Ruins and Lajia Ruins of the New Stone Age (10,000 to over 4,000 years ago), as well as Nuomuhong Ruins of bronze culture.



3000-year-old "pyramid" discovered in NE China

www.chinaview.cn 2006-06-21 14:15:40


    CHANGCHUN, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered a group of ancient tombs shaped like pyramids, dating back at least 3,000 years, in Jiaohe City of northeast China's Jilin Province.


    The tombs, covering an area of 500,000 square meters (1,000 meters long and 500 meters wide), were found after water erosion exposed part of a mountain, revealing two of the tombs.


    Six smaller tombs had eroded away leaving no indications of their original scale and appearance, but the biggest tomb, located on the south side of the mountain, could clearly be discerned as a pyramid shape with three layers from bottom to top.


    The pyramid's square bottom is about 50 meters long and 30 meters wide, about the size of a basketball court, with an oval platform on the top, about 15 meters long and 10 meters wide. The tomb was made of stone and earth dug out from the hill.


    A stone coffin, surrounded by four screen boards and covered by a granite top, was placed on the top platform.


    The coffin appeared to belong to the king of an early tribe based on the dimensions of the site, according to experts with the Jiaohe Archaeological Research Institute.


    The tombs are part of the Xituanshan cultural ruins site, which dates back 3,000 years to China's Bronze Age period. The ruins were excavated in Jilin in 1950.


    A lot of ancient hunting and domestic tools, including a stone knife and axe, as well as bronzeware and earthenware, have been unearthed from the stone coffin and other six smaller graves.


    The discovery will provide valuable clues on study of ancient funeral customs and the tomb structure and culture of ethnic groups in the area.



Massive mummy fraud discovered after 2,000 years

Maev Kennedy

Wednesday June 21, 2006


Modern medical science has exposed the villainy of the crocodile mummy sellers of Hawara, more than 2,000 years after they defied the edict of a Pharaoh and turned neatly bandaged bundles of rubbish into a nice little earner.


Before the reopening this month of the Egyptian Galleries at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, curators took their animal and human mummies to the city's Addenbrooke's Hospital, as part of a £1.5m re-display of the internationally renowned collection, which dates in part back to the founding of the museum in 1816.


Analysis continues after the mummies were run through a CT scanner and other tests, but the preliminary results are startling. The two baby crocodile shaped mummies were originally sold to worshippers at the temple at Hawara, to be buried in ritual pits as an offering to the god Sobek. There was clearly a history of problems with the animal sellers: a pharaonic decree a century earlier had ordered that each mummy should contain the body of one animal.


The museum's kitten mummy did indeed hold a very small cat, and there was a sacred ibis within the spectacularly elaborate wrappings of another. The crocodiles however were spectacularly lacking in crocodile: one held a minute vertebra, the other a handful of straw, rags and mud without a scrap of any animal content at all.


The museum's single human mummy, collected by Flinders Petrie in the early 20th century, is exceptional. It comes from the Fayum, where the cultures of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt met, producing Egyptian-style mummies, sometimes with inscriptions in Greek, decorated with hauntingly beautiful portraits painted in encaustic wax.


Archaeologists have argued since their discovery about whether the images of men, women and children were idealised types or true portraits. Although a reconstruction of the head of one woman for the British Museum showed a close resemblance to her portrait, the Cambridge tests reveal a sadder truth.


The Fitzwilliam's mummy has the image of a dazzlingly handsome young bearded man, with a wreath of gold leaves in his dark curly hair. The tests show the body inside is a disaster, his back and neck broken after death, head crushed onto the chest, and apparently left so long before mummification that only the skin on the inside thighs remains. Work continues to try to establish his age, what killed him - and how wide the gulf was between the real man and the beautiful image.


· The Egyptian Galleries at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, open free every day except Monday. www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk



Jun 20th, 2006 - 14:06:43

German Archeologists to Excavate Salt Men's Burial Ground in Iran

Jun 20, 2006


Following the visit of two Iranian archeologists to Germany and Austria, the condition for a joint cooperation between Iranian and German archeologists was prepared and a team of archeologists of Bochum Mining Museum of Germany is to come to Iran to carry out excavations in Chehr Abad historical salt mine, the burial ground of the discovered famous salt men in Zanjan province.


After signing a memorandum of understanding between Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) and Germany's Bochum Mining Museum and defining the budget for this project by ICHTO, this project will officially start, said Roustayi, an archeologist from Iran's Archeology Research Center who went to Germany on behalf of Iran to discuss the criteria for a joint archeological cooperation Iran and Germany.


According to Roustayi, considering that the German team is consisted of a number of skilled archeologists whose area of specialty include those branches of archeology in which few experts are involved, this cooperation is very important for Iran and would result in some great achievements.


"Based on the initial agreements, in addition to three German archeologists who will come to cooperate with the Iranian experts in excavations of Chehr Abad salt mine, a group of experts consisting of physical anthropologists, molecular archeologists, plant archeologists, and a restoration expert will also be dispatched to Iran who will join other experts in Chehr Abad salt mine later," added Roustayi.


During their visit to Germany and Austria, Roustayi, accompanied by another archeologist, Abolfazl Aali, visited many archeological sites and research centers and got familiar with the research methods of archeologists in Hallstatt historical mine in Austria, which according to them is very similar to Chehr Abad salt mine in Zanjan in many aspects. "Although there are some differences between them, we can use the experiences of its archeologists greatly in Chehr Abad mine," said Roustayi.


The news of discovery of four salt men in Chehr Abad mine was widely spread around the world and attracted the attention of archeologists and cultural heritage experts. The first discovery of salt men and their belongings in Chehr Abad mine of Zanjan province goes back to some ten years ago. They are among rare mummies discovered around the world that are mummified as a result of natural conditions. Samples of these salt men have been sent to Oxford and Cambridge universities to implement genetics studies and DNA analysis. The results showed that the first two salt men date back to the Parthian era (150 BC-226 AD) while the other two are believed to have belonged to the Achaemenid period (648-330 BC).




By Sarah Morley        23/06/2006


The Roman archaeological site, Venta Icenorum, at Caistor St Edmund just south of Norwich is to undergo a 10-year excavation project in an attempt to delve deeper into its pre-Roman history.


Excavations and surveys will commence around July/August of 2006 and will allow archeologists to find out more about the period of history just before the Romans. It may even change our view of Britain's ancient past.


Michael Bentley, Countryside and Heritage Manager for South Norfolk District Council explains: “We are hoping to discover the real history of Caistor Roman town. There have been many theories as to who inhibited the Roman settlement before the Romans themselves - hopefully this project will uncover the exciting truth.”


It is suggested there might have been an Iron Age settlement on the Roman grounds prior to the Roman settlement, which will hopefully be revealed by the excavation. All of the results will be posted on a website specifically for the Caistor dig.


“We are extremely excited about the upcoming project,” added Mr Bentley. “We have always wanted to discover more information about the settlement.”


Norfolk Archaeological Trust owns the archaeological site, which was once the captial of the Iceni tribes (a local Celtic tribe), led by Queen Boudicca. This connection was confirmed through finds such as Iceni coins.


After Boudicca’s revolt (around 60 AD) the Caistor area became the Roman capital of East Anglia; they named it Venta Icenorum which means, "The market place of the Iceni."


This Romano-British town is described by Bentley as “only one of three of its kind in Britain” - an accolade gained chiefly to the fact that, unlike many other fomer Roman towns, the site has has not been built on.


It is said by some that the town's demise led to the development of Norwich - at least according to a local rhyme which goes: "Caistor was a city when Norwich was none, Norwich was built of Caistor stone."


Today, Caistor's Roman town still boasts a 20ft town wall remarkably still in tact and visible above ground, having lost only 3ft since Roman times. The wall would have defended the town from attacks.


Caistor already receives many school trips to the archeological site, however Bentley said with the council’s current plans for the area, hopefully “More information than ever will be available to a wide range of students once we get underway with the excavation.”


“There are no intentions to restrict access to the public, whatsoever,” he added. So with the website and the easy access, the public can stay close to the action.


Find out more about Caistor and its archaeological heritage on the Norfolk Archaeological Trust website



Extensive study into Roman town


19 June 2006 07:45


A major archaeological project at the nationally-important Caistor Roman town in Norfolk is to be launched within the next few weeks.


Researchers hope the origins and development of the settlement at Caistor St Edmund, just south of Norwich, will emerge for the first time during eight to 10 years of work.


The town was once the regional centre of East Anglia and is one of only three Romano-British towns remaining undeveloped.


The site, owned by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and managed by South Norfolk Council, was also the market town for the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudicca.


Archaeological interest began in 1928, and excavations were made between 1929 and 1935 on the forum, a bath complex, the south gate, a house and two temples. Later work involved aerial photography and metal detector surveys, revealing cemeteries and other remains.


The new project aims to go further and look at whether the town, known as Venta Icenorum, was established on a new site or on an Iron Age centre.


Through surveys and excavations, it will look at the end of the town and the nature of the post-Roman occupation, as well as the significance of early and middle Saxon cemeteries in the area.


The research team wants to assess Caistor's regional context, whether the River Tas was navigable as far as the settlement and how levels within the valley have changed.


Michael Bentley, countryside and heritage manager for the district council, said it was looking forward to the start of the project, to be led by Dr William Bowden, lecturer in Roman archaeology at Nottingham University.


Mr Bentley said: "It's incredibly exciting because until now everything that's under the ground has been conjecture, more or less. There have been theories about what is there; what the history of the site was.


"The work that we are going to be doing will clear up all of that and some of the myths, whether the town was a success or not and its history before the Romans came.


"This is one of the most important Roman sites in the UK, and any project that is associated with it carries with it that kind of importance."


Information gleaned will be published on a website, to be hosted by the council and launched once work starts in late July or early August.


Preliminary geophysical survey work has just been done by Dr Bowden and Dr David Bescoby, a research fellow at UEA. This has already revealed another substantial building and the wooden drainage pipes that would have served the town's road network.


The project is the main part of a long-term scheme to develop the site.


In 1995, an advisory board made up of the trust, parish, district and county councils and the county museums service was formed to put together a strategy for the Roman town's future.


A study was conducted in 2003, and people were asked to vote on four possible options, ranging from doing nothing to turning it into a top-flight tourist attraction.


The latter narrowly topped the poll. But, with costs estimated at £1.4m, the board doubted whether the venture could pay its way. Instead, a revised plan was agreed that included an interpretation scheme and better public access to the remains.



Byzantine port unearthed in Turkey

Archaeologists say they’ve dug up millennium-old sunken ships


Turkish archaeologists and restorers work on the remains of a 10th-century Byzantine ship in Istanbul on Tuesday. The digging area is part of the Marmaray Project, which aims to build a tunnel under the Bosporus Strait.


ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkish archaeologists announced Tuesday that they have discovered an ancient Byzantine port in an area that was slated to become an underground station for a modern rail tunnel.


They're calling the find the "Port of Theodosius," after the emperor of Rome and Byzantium who died in the year 395, and say the items they're digging up here could shed significant light on the commercial life of this ancient city. Through the ages, the metropolis has been known as Byzantium, Constantinople and finally Istanbul.

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Like Romans, Athenians and other residents of the world's great historic cities, the residents of Istanbul can hardly put a shovel in the ground without digging up something important.


So far, archaeologists have found what they think might be a church, an old gate to the city and eight sunken ships, which archaeologist Cemal Pulak says he believes were all wiped out by a giant storm more than 1,000 years ago.



Rare sword had 7th Century bling

7th Century sword

The sword was excavated at Bamburgh Castle in 1960

An Anglian sword found at a castle in Northumberland has been declared the only one of its kind in the world.


Experts at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, say X-rays of the 7th Century sword prove it was made from a unique method using slices of carbonised iron.


The sword lay in a suitcase, after being unearthed in an excavation at Bamburgh Castle in 1960.


Archaeologist Paul Gething said the extremely rare sword would have had "serious bling factor".


After being "rediscovered" in a house clearance, the weapon was sent for a series of hi-tech tests.


They revealed the blade of the sword, which predates the Vikings, was made up of six, individual strands of carbonised iron bonded together.


Mr Gething, director of the Bamburgh Research Project, said: "This is an exceptional sword and a stunning find.


'Vastly superior'


"What makes it unique is that the billet is made up of six strands of carbonised iron, which have been micro-welded to bond them together.


"There have been swords found before which have been made of up to four strands, but none have ever been found with six.


"This is a vastly superior sword which, in its time, would have had serious bling factor."


Dr David Starley, Science Officer at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, added: "We see a lot of swords here, but have never seen anything like this before."


Bamburgh was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, which extended from the English Midlands to Strathclyde.


It is thought the sword may have been bestowed as an ostentatious gift upon a king's highest ranking warrior.



Thursday, 22 June 2006, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK

Experts seek to find famous wreck


Experts have expressed confidence that they can find the sunken wreck of the ship made famous by legendary Solway born sailor John Paul Jones next month.


The Bonhomme Richard went down in 1779 off Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire as Jones famously said: "Surrender - I have not yet begun to fight."


Several bids have been made to recover the ship captained by a man credited as the founding father of the US Navy.


Now underwater archaeology experts will use hi-tech methods to try to find it.


Dr Robert Neyland, head of the underwater archaeology unit at the US Navy Historical Centre, will head a team of six on a three-week search.


"We thought that one way to go about it would be to take the last historical information for locations of the fleet and the ship itself," he said.


"We put that together with the weather and tide information for that time period which have been recreated very well.


'Relatively deep'


"We then used modern computers to create a predictive model of where the ship went down," he added.


Dr Neyland is confident the wreck can be found despite the depth of waters involved.


"It is going to be in waters that are relatively deep - probably 150 to 200ft," he said.


"Divers are able to work in those waters - and archaeologists too."


Jones, a native of Arbigland on the Solway coast, engaged the British ship Serapis off Flamborough Head.


He captured Serapis but had to watch his own ship sink into the North Sea.


The battle on 23 September, 1779 is counted as one of the most memorable battles of the American Revolution