Lost world warning from North Sea
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education
Archaeologists are uncovering a huge prehistoric "lost country" hidden below the North Sea.
This lost landscape, where hunter-gatherer communities once lived, was swallowed by rising water levels at the end of the last ice age.
University of Birmingham researchers are heralding "stunning" findings as they map the "best-preserved prehistoric landscape in Europe".
This large plain disappeared below the water more than 8,000 years ago.
The Birmingham researchers have been using oil exploration technology to build a map of the once-inhabited area that now lies below the North Sea - stretching from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia.
"It's like finding another country," says Professor Vince Gaffney, chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics.
Prehistoric rivers, hills and valleys are mapped off the east coast
It also serves as a warning for the scale of impact that climate change can cause, he says.
Human communities would have lost their homelands as the rising water began to encroach upon the wide, low-lying plains.
"At times this change would have been insidious and slow - but at times, it could have been terrifyingly fast. It would have been very traumatic for these people," he says.
"It would be a mistake to think that these people were unsophisticated or without culture... they would have had names for the rivers and hills and spiritual associations - it would have been a catastrophic loss," says Professor Gaffney.
As the temperature rose and glaciers retreated and water levels rose, the inhabitants would have been pushed off their hunting grounds and forced towards higher land - including to what is now modern-day Britain.
The rising water levels began to remake the coastline
"In 10,000 BC, hunter-gatherers were living on the land in the middle of the North Sea. By 6,000 BC, Britain was an island. The area we have mapped was wiped out in the space of 4,000 years," explains Professor Gaffney.
So far, the team has examined a 23,000-sq-km area of the sea bed - mapping out coastlines, rivers, hills, sandbanks and salt marshes as they would have appeared about 12,000 years ago.
And once the physical features have been established, Professor Gaffney says it will be possible to narrow the search for sites that could yield more evidence of how these prehistoric people lived.
These inhabitants would have lived in family groups in huts and hunted animals such as deer.
The mapping of this landscape could also raise questions about its preservation, says Professor Gaffney - and how it can be protected from activities such as pipe-laying and the building of wind farms.
North Sea yields secrets of early man's happy hunting ground
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday April 24, 2007
A lost landscape where early humans roamed more than 12,000 years ago has been uncovered beneath the North Sea. A map of the underwater world reveals criss-crossing rivers, giant lakes and gentle hills around which hunter-gatherers made their homes and found their meals toward the end of the last ice age.
The region was inundated between 18000 and 6000BC, when the warming climate melted the thick glaciers that pressed down from the north.
As the waters rose the great plain vanished, and slowly the contours of the British Isles and the north-west European coastline were established. Now the primitive landscape is submerged and preserved, tens of metres beneath one of the busiest seas in the world.
Scientists compiled 3D seismic records from oil-prospecting vessels working in the North Sea over 18 months to piece together a landscape covering 23,000 sq km, stretching from the coast of East Anglia to the edge of northern Europe. They identified the scars left by ancient river beds and lakes, some 25km (15mls) across, and salt marshes and valleys.
"Some of this land would have made the perfect environment for hunter gatherers. There is higher land where they could have built their homes and hills they could see their prey from," said Vince Gaffney, director of Birmingham University's Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, who lead the project with Ken Thomson, a geologist.
The recreation of the ancient landscape shows that the land beneath the North Sea was probably more than merely a land bridge. People moving north into Europe as the worst extremes of the ice age receded could have lived comfortably on the land, with what is now Britain marginalised and distant.
"People think this was a land bridge across which people roamed to get to Britain, but the truth is very different. The places you wanted to live were the big plains next to the water and the coastline was way beyond where it is now. This was probably a heartland of population at the time," Prof Gaffney said. "This completely transforms how we understand the early history of north-western Europe."
The northernmost point of the map falls just short of the south coast of Norway, where rising water levels swamped the land around 18,000BC.
"This is the best preserved prehistoric landscape, certainly in the whole of Europe and possibly the world," said Prof Gaffney.
Prehistoric playground found below the waves
Ian Sample in London
April 25, 2007
A LOST landscape where early humans roamed more than 12,000 years ago has been discovered beneath the North Sea.
A map of the underwater world reveals criss-crossing rivers, giant lakes and gentle hills around which hunter-gatherers made their homes toward the end of the last ice age.
The region was inundated between 18,000 and 6000BC, when the warming climate melted the thick glaciers that pressed down from the north.
As the water rose, the great plain vanished, and slowly the contours of the British Isles and the north-west European coastline were established. Now the primitive landscape is submerged and preserved, tens of metres beneath one of the busiest seas in the world.
Scientists compiled three-dimensional seismic records from oil-prospecting vessels working in the North Sea over 18 months to piece together a landscape covering 23,000 square kilometres, stretching from the coast of eastern England to the edge of northern Europe, just short of the south coast of Norway. The scientists identified the scars left by ancient riverbeds and lakes, some 25 kilometres across, and salt marshes and valleys.
"Some of this land would have made the perfect environment for hunter-gatherers. There is higher land where they could have built their homes, and hills they could see their prey from," said Vince Gaffney, director of Birmingham University's Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, who led the project with Ken Thomson, a geologist.
The re-creation of the ancient landscape shows that the land beneath the North Sea was probably more than merely a land bridge to Britain.
"The places you wanted to live were the big plains next to the water, and the coastline was way beyond where it is now. This was probably a heartland of population at the time," Professor Gaffney said.
"This completely transforms how we understand the early history of north-western Europe.
"This is the best preserved prehistoric landscape, certainly in the whole of Europe and possibly the world."
Neolithic burial site yields unique archaeological find
Budapest, April 23 (MTI) - Archaeologists exploring a Neolithic burial site in Tolna County, S Hungary, have discovered what may easily be the most exciting tomb ever unearthed in Europe, Professor Istvan Zalai-Gaal, who has been leading the diggings, reported on Monday.
The tomb is seven thousand years old and was the burial chamber of a tribal chieftain. There is a heavy upright log in each corner, believed to have originally held an aboveground structure over the two-metre by two-metre tomb. Inside, said Zalai-Gaal, archaeologists found polished stone axes and other stone tools typical of the late Stone Age, as well as the largest stone knife ever to be recovered from that period. They also discovered a decorated bullhorn, a marble war club and an axe head that though stone, bears the shape of a Bronze Age weapon. Scientists believe the tribe was aware of metal tools but did not have the metal to make any, leading them to copy the form. Also discovered was a necklace made of hundreds of bronze beads, combined with shells from the Mediterranean, the latter obviously traded goods, said Zalai-Gaal. One had to be extraordinarily wealthy to have a necklace like this, he pointed out.
Otherwise, some 14,000 square metres have been excavated on this site, probably the largest known Stone Age dig in Europe. Over one million artefacts have been uncovered, Zalai-Gaal added, saying that the exploration was ongoing, though the site was in the pathway of a motorway that was under construction.
Stone Age remains found in Gothenburg
Published: 26th April 2007 15:27 CET
Archaeologists in Gothenburg have found the remains of an early Stone Age house.
The discovery was made on a building site in the Kallebäck area of the city. Residents of the new apartments being built in the area will be living on a site inhabited 10,000 years ago.
Kallebäck now lies about 5 kilometres from the open sea, but in the stone age the area was a headland jutting out into the sea.
"They most probably fished, and would certainly have hunted for seal. This was right at the end of a headland, and this means that there was access to animals for hunting," said archaeologist Ulf Ragnesten.
The discovery is the first of its kind in the region. Gothenburg itself was founded in 1621, but people first came to the area around 12,000 years ago.
The site has also yielded comparatively recent archaeological finds, with Iron Age remains from between 600 BC to 1 AD.
"These are also interesting, but when we reached lower levels we found the Stone Age parts."
Among the discoveries are cooking holes, grates, an arrowhead, axes and postholes.
"We have known that there were ancient remains at the site since the late eighties, and now that homes are to be built here we have had to excavate the site," said Ragnesten.
Bronze age life by airport runway
Experts believe the finds are of great importance
Archaeologists have published findings of an important Bronze Age settlement at Manchester Airport.
The dig, which was part of the multi-million pound development of Runway 2, uncovered Early Bronze Age artefacts at Oversley Farm in Styal.
The finds - which include flint arrowheads, pottery and tools - will go on display at Chester Museum.
Experts at the dig said they had made a "significant discovery" about pre-historic life in Cheshire.
The site is the first excavated example of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age life in the county and the details have been published in a report by archaeologist Dan Garner.
The artefacts were discovered during runway redevelopment works
Speaking about the finds, Mr Garner said: "The building of the second runway at Manchester Airport created a unique opportunity to excavate a 3km long corridor.
"We made some exciting finds such as Bronze Age pottery, a tanged flint arrowhead and other tools and, of course, the footprint of the farmstead.
"We were very pleased to discover a prehistoric site of regional significance."
The artefacts have been radiocarbon dated to confirm their authenticity.
Manchester Airport supported the archaeological investigations as part of a £17m package of environmental works.
The report is available from British Archaeological Reports (B.A.R).
Novice tells of Bronze Age find
A metal-detecting novice who unearthed an "extremely important" hoard of Bronze Age artefacts has said his discovery was due to "sheer luck".
John Minns, from Arbroath, Angus, made the find during a holiday near Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, in 2005, just after starting his hobby.
The hoard includes gold hair rings, bracelets, weapons and a bronze razor.
It is going on display at Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities until the end of June.
It is intended that it will be exhibited to the public permanently from 2009 at the forthcoming Great North Museum.
A Bronze Age razor - the first to be found in the county - was among the objects discovered.
Hoards from the late Bronze Age containing such a variety of objects in such good condition are very rare in the north of England
This suggests men living in the area between about 1000 and 800BC were clean-shaven.
Gold lock rings, thought to have been hair decorations, as well as bracelets, rings, pins and axe heads were also found after Mr Minns was given permission by a local farmer to take the detector on to his land.
Mr Minns said: "The only reason I found the hoard was that I got a nice signal from the detector, but when I dug away the soil, all I found was a yoghurt pot with a foil lid."
However, his discovery arose after he re-checked the hole and discovered an axe-head.
Lindsay Allason-Jones, director of Archaeological Museums at Newcastle University, said: "Hoards from the late Bronze Age containing such a variety of objects in such good condition are very rare in the north of England, so this is an extremely important find."
And, on the issue of how the objects came to be buried together, she added: "It is hard to know whether it was meant as an offering to a deity, or whether it might have been a Bronze Age founder's hoard, which the owner hid, intending to come back for it later."
Following in the steps of a Trojan hero
Archaeologists have discovered the place where Aeneas is believed to have first set foot in Italy. Peter Popham reports
Published: 27 April 2007
It is the closest point on the Italian peninsula to Albania and, until efforts by the coastguard some years ago, was the destination of choice for Albanians fleeing poverty for the glamour and prosperity of their wealthy neighbour. But suddenly, the little town of Castro in the province of Lecce has something much more exciting to shout about.
Archaeologists at the University of Lecce have discovered that the modern town, with its 15th-century walls, sits on the ruins of the port that was the first landfall in Italy made by the semi-mythical wanderer of the ancient world, Aeneas. According to Virgil's epic, he fled Troy as the Greeks destroyed it and made his laborious way westwards finally to found a "new Troy", the imperial city of Rome.
In the third book of the Aeneid, according to John Dryden's 17th-century translation, the poet describes the hero's discovery of Italy thus:
"... And now the rising morn with rosy light
Adorns the skies, and puts the stars to flight;
When we from far, like bluish mists, descry
The hills, and then the plains, of Italy ...
The gentle gales their flagging force renew,
And now the happy harbour is in view.
Minerva's temple then salutes our sight,
Plac'd, as a landmark, on the mountain's height ..."
Minerva's temple is the key: the head of the Archaeology Department at Lecce University has found clinching evidence of the existence of a temple of Minerva, exactly where the poet describes it. "There is no doubt," Professor Francesco d'Andria said. "We have found fragments of a female divinity, and many iron weapons given to the goddess as offerings. In this temple a warrior goddess was worshipped. Minerva was worshipped."
Aeneas was first described as coming to Italy by the poet Stesichorus, writing around 600 BC. But it is the Roman poet Virgil, who died at sea in 19 BC aged 51 before he could complete his masterpiece, who defined him and his voyage for posterity. In the Aeneid, Virgil provided the rapidly rising Roman state with its own national epic in a deliberate effort to out-Homer Homer and the Greek culture of which his poems were a foundation.
Like the Illiad and the Odyssey, the background of the Aeneid is Troy and the 10-year war that culminated in its destruction. Like Odysseus, the poem's hero, Aeneas, the product of a fling between a noble of Troy and the goddess Aphrodite, wanders at length across the oceans with his devoted followers, seeking with increasing desperation the new Troy the gods have promised him. Is it Thrace? Might it be the island of Delos, home to the oracle of Apollo? Clearly not: in both cases the auguries are bad. For a long time he cherishes the idea that Crete is the place. But when he arrives there a pestilence is raging:
"Rising vapours choke the wholesome air
And blasts of noisome winds corrupt the year
The trees devouring caterpillars burn ...
My men, some fall and some in fevers fry."
So it's back on the boat, and the wanderings resume, to what is now Butrint, in the far south of Albania, then across to Castrum Minervae. But, even though they feel they are getting warm now - "Then, 'Italy!' the cheerful crew rebound" - Castrum is not the alotted place either: the apparently benign presence of "four white steeds that cropp'd the flowery field" sends Aeneas' highly superstitious father, Anchises, into a panic: "War, war is threatened from this foreign ground ..." And they are off again.
Following directly now in the wake of Homer's Odysseus, the fleet follows the coastline of southern Italy round to Sicily, risking the twin terrors of Scylla and Charybdis - a sea monster and a whirlpool - that mark the approach to the present-day Sicilian city of Messina. More bad luck with the auguries and it's across the Mediterranean to Carthage, on the coast of present-day Tunisia, for the most hectic and perilous stopover.
When Virgil was writing the Aeneid, the most fearful conflict in Rome's history was only a century past: the Punic wars, which lasted 120 years. The Carthaginian commander Hannibal, from his stronghold in Apulia, not far from Castrum Minervae, came closer than anyone - until the arrival of the barbarians centuries later - to destroying Rome.
The war ended, of course, in a Roman triumph, with the legions levelling Carthage. But despite that emphatic victory, more recent events reminded Rome that, for all the city state's martial prowess, Africa presented a menace to which it was vulnerable: "The beds i' the east are soft," as Shakespeare put it. Cleopatra, who died only 11 years before Virgil, was the lover first of Julius Caesar then, more famously, of Mark Antony. Her downfall and suicide marked the end of Hellenistic domination and the decisive rise of Rome.
So Aeneas's dalliance with Dido, Queen of Carthage, represents the critical moment in the epic, as the hero first commits himself to the passionate queen then, sternly reminded by the gods of his duty, sneaks away with his fleet, hoping to escape before she can find out. In this he fails - she watches them set off, then:
"mounts the fun'ral pile with furious haste;
Unsheathes the sword the Trojan left behind ...
and struck; deep entered in her side the piercing steel."
The discovery of Minerva's Temple, which has prompted Castro's mayor to suggest changing its name to Castrum Minervae, is a striking reminder of the story of Aeneas with its intertwining of Greek myth and historical fact, proto-nationalistic triumphalism and vivid poetry.
Iran dam unleashes torrent of controversy
by Hiedeh Farmani Thu Apr 26, 1:14 PM ET
Iran has overruled critics and started filling a new dam in the parched south of the country that will drown an ancient archaeological site and could threaten the tomb of Cyrus the Great.
Thousands of activists have rallied and petitioned the government not to flood the dam, which is only seven kilometres (four miles) from Pasargadae -- the first capital of the Persian Empire.
During a visit to the area earlier this month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the inauguration of the Sivand dam. Once operational, the dam will supply water for irrigation as well as provide hydroelectric power.
But it will also drown parts of the Tange Bolaghi area, a mountain pass with ancient settlements dating back to 5,000 BC.
And protestors are worried that increased humidity from the lake could damage the limestone tomb at Pasargadae of King Cyrus the Great, who founded the Achaemenid empire in 6th century BC.
Cyrus remains a revered figure for Iranians as the conqueror of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon and author of the Cyrus Cylinder, a declaration in cuneiform seen by some as the world's first assertion of human rights.
His tomb is an imposing construction rising 10 metres (32 feet) amid the ruins of the ancient capital with a base of six monumental stone steps leading up to his mausoleum.
Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and fellow human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah have lodged a complaint on behalf of 3,000 Iranians against Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO) head Esfandyar Rahim Mashai and Energy Minister Parviz Fattah.
"We demand that the flooding be immediately halted but despite the sensitivity of the issue the court has not taken a decision yet," Dadkhah told AFP.
"We have expert studies and documents that prove the dam will drastically change the ecology of the region and damage the tomb when flooded," he said.
"We have to choose wisely between flooding a dam which is useful for a limited period and cultural heritage that links the past, present and future of this land," said Dadkhah.
The lawyer won two lawsuits last year to prevent damage to sites in the historic city of Isfahan, which raised concern that the authorities were not paying enough attention to Iran's ancient heritage.
These involved the construction of a tall building in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which which was reduced by several floors, and a subway route under historic Chahar Bagh Street.
The conservative government has rejected any criticism that is is less than attentive to Iran's pre-Islamic past in Isfahan, Pasargadae or elsewhere.
It insists that flooding the dam will stop the moment there is any proof of a risk to Pasargadae, and points to the importance of its completion for the local community.
The lake produced by the dam will be 11 kilometres (seven miles) long and will hold 92 million cubic meters of water, increasing the amount of fertile land in an region by 9,000 hectares (22,239 acres).
The authorities are also hoping the water from the dam will help local communities stem a salinization process that has put 28,000 hectares (71,166 acres) of farmland in jeopardy.
Pasargadae lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the former Achaemenid capital Perseopolis, Iran's best known ancient site, which is visited by thousands of foreign tourists each year but is too far away to be threatened by the dam.
It will take takes up to a year to fully flood the dam, and the CHO says it could be halted if experts proved humidity posed a threat to the nearby sites.
"We have invited foreign specialists to join our own people currently working at the site and we hope to have enough data within a few months to decide whether flooding should stop," CHO research chief Taha Hashemi told AFP.
"The ministry of energy is obliged to halt the operation if we find the slightest evidence that the humidity is damaging to the tomb," said Hashemi, who was in charge of the CHO's legal affairs under reformist former president
After Pasargadae was recorded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the organization appealed to international archaeologists to join excavation operations on the site.
The teams discovered 7,000-year-old inhabited caves and pottery ovens, wine-making facilities dating back to pre-Islamic Sassanid era (224-651 AD) and remains of the Imperial Road connecting the Achaemenid capitals of Persepolis and Susa.
Despite scepticism voiced by critics, Hashemi insists that excavations in Tange Bolaghi have been completed and that there is nothing significant left to be unearthed.
"All the excavating teams wrote there is no problem to flooding the dam," he said, dismissing speculation that the current government prefers preserving Islamic heritage to pre-Islamic relics.
"We stand firm against any threats. There is absolutely no difference between pre-and post Islam.
"I am not surprised by the protests and I truly appreciate people's concern. Old civilizations were built by water; one must be careful with modern day dams."
Ancient mosaic of the real Gladiator found
By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 1:02am BST 29/04/2007
A chance discovery by archaeologists has brought to light a mosaic nearly 2,000 years old depicting what may have been a real-life version of the Roman combatant played by Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator.
The mosaic was found as Italian researchers carried out work on the spectacular Villa dei Quintili, south of Rome and home to the sports-loving Emperor Commodus.
The newly discovered mosaic, ancient mosaic of the real Gladiator found
In for the kill: The mosaic depicts Montanus, possibly a favourite of the sports-loving Emperor Commodus
Commodus, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the film, was known to enjoy gladiatorial combat and had a small amphitheatre in which fighters would train, near the villa, which Commodus had seized after having its owners executed on a trumped-up charge of treason. It was nearby that the mosaic was found - picturing a gladiator named Montanus holding a trident alongside a referee who appears to be pronouncing him the victor over a prone opponent.
Riccardo Frontoni, who is leading the dig, said: "Historically, this is a very significant and exciting discovery because of the location where it was found: the Villa dei Quintili, which we know was Commodus's residence.
"It's close to the area where there was a small amphitheatre, and his love of blood sports is well known.
"The mosaics are in excellent condition and show the figure of a gladiator with the name Montanus. It's possible that Montanus may have been a favourite of Commodus and that the mosaic was dedicated to him."
Commodus was emperor from AD180 to 192, when he was strangled in his bath by the wrestler Narcissus, at the age of 31. He is depicted in the film as a scheming, bloodthirsty megalomaniac who eventually murders the character played by Crowe, the gladiator Maximus.
The real-life Commodus occasionally dressed up as a gladiator himself and fought in the arena, a practice that scandalised polite Roman society, which regarded such fighters as occupying the lowest rungs on the social ladder.
But while his arena opponents frequently survived because they submitted to the emperor, he is known to have enjoyed killing his sparring partners.
Appreciation of the potential value of the new discovery has not been confined to the archaeological world. Just hours after it was shown to The Sunday Telegraph, thieves tried to prise the 10 sq m scene from the ground, damaging the mosaic.
Mr Frontoni said: "We are disappointed that someone has tried to steal it. However, the damage was relatively small and the pieces that were broken off have been recovered, so we should be able to restore it."
Roman paintings found in City
CITY OF LONDON A depiction of a goldfinch and luscious bunches of purple grapes painted 1,900 years ago for the home of a wealthy Roman have been discovered beneath an Italian restaurant in the City of London.
Experts have hailed the high-quality paintings, found beneath Lime Street in what was the most prestigious area of Roman London, as a sensational find and the most significant for two decades.
About a thousand fragments thought to date from around AD120 have been recovered. Experts hope that the entire decorative scheme, believed to have been part of a building demolished after a fire, may eventually be reconstructed.
The find will be published tomorrow by London Archaeologist, a quarterly magazine that focuses on the cultural heritage of the capital.
MYSTERIOUS ROMAN COFFIN LIDS GO ON DISPLAY IN HELMSLEY, NORTH YORKSHIRE
By Rose Shillito 26/04/2007
English Heritage is putting three rare coffin lids on display for the first time at its store in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, after solving a riddle that has defied archaeologists for the past three decades.
The heavyweight relics, excavated from Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village, near Malton, were used for the burial of a high-status Viking family, but experts have now discovered they entombed Romans up to 800 years earlier.
Unearthed at Wharram 30 years ago as part of Britain’s longest running dig (1950-1990), the re-used coffin lids concealed the burials of a child up to five years old, a female in her early twenties and a male aged between 40 to 50, found in the churchyard and dating between 1060 to 1160.
But puzzlingly, they are made of an unusual local limestone called Coral Rag – the only time such stone has ever been found on the site and more associated with Roman cemeteries than Anglo-Saxon England.
Short of clues, archaeologists recorded the slabs and re-buried them without their true nature being deciphered.
But now with the definitive volume on the church excavations at Wharram soon to be published, experts have re-studied the drawings, photographs and notes made at the time, along with the geology of other associated stones from the site. To aid the evaluation, English Heritage re-excavated the objects last year for detailed analysis.
“Although the use of Coral Rag is largely absent at Wharram, it is used in Roman burials in York and we also know there was Roman occupation of the Wharram site,” explained Susan Harrison, English Heritage Curator.
“One of the grave covers features a large carved crucifix, but the original design and tooling points to Roman times,” added Susan Harrison. “The re-use of Roman grave lids has been known before, but to find a family group like this is extremely rare.”
Illustration of medieval village, showing a settlement of brown huts and enclosures
Artist's impression of Wharram Village in as it would have looked in the 12th century. Courtesy of English Heritage
She continued: “Perhaps the lids were re-used simply because they were nearby and handy. But these graves are from an elite family group, perhaps the founders of the stone church, and to re-use Roman sarcophagi was considered prestigious. It would have made a political point establishing the family’s status.”
The relics are being shown along with objects from 12th century Middleham Castle, many previously unseen, at a series of free open days at the English Heritage centre – normally off-limits to the public.
The tours will take place monthly from May 30 to September 26 2007 and it is advisable to book early. For further details of dates and times of tours and to book in advance, contact the Tourist Information Centre at Helmsley Castle Visitor Centre, telephone 01439 770173.
Archaeologists bowled over by city discovery
By Jack Grove
THESE are the first pictures of an ancient warlord's treasure found at a city allotment site which has sent archaeologists into a spin.
It was a chance in a million which led forensic experts to dig up this rare seventh-century brass bowl, which has been hailed as one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries in the past decade.
The bowl was only unearthed when gardener Helen McGlashon (26) found a human skull while digging on her vegetable patch off Palmerston Road, in Woodston, Peterborough.
Fearing it was a murder victim, she called police who launched a full-scale excavation of the site on February 17. But forensic pathologists later concluded the bones actually belonged to an Anglo-Saxon man when the ancient bowl was found nearby.
Historians believe the valuable Coptic bowl, which was made in the Mediterranean 1,300 years ago, could have only been owned by an extremely rich prince or warlord from the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
They believe the ceremonial washing bowl was placed on the chest of the Anglo-Saxon as he was buried – a sign of extreme wealth in pagan culture.
Today, forensic pathologist Dr Corinne Duhig said the bowl was the talk of the UK's top archaeologists.
Dr Duhig, who has been examining the bowl in her Cambridge lab, said: "I mentioned the find during a lecture to the Council of British Archaeology and there was visible ripple of excitement throughout the hall.
"It's very rare to find something like this intact and people are quite excited about it.
"In academic terms, it is very valuable and it's fantastic that it hasn't been damaged over the years."
A dig team from Peterborough Museum later uncovered a near-complete skeleton from the allotment site, which was once an Anglo-Saxon burial ground
Dr Francis Pryor, an expert from Channel Four's Time Team programme and the city's Flag Fen Bronze Age centre, explained how the Coptic bowl was the equivalent status symbol of a Rolls Royce in today's culture.
"Only the richest people in Mercian society could afford such items – it's very rare to find something like intact.
"It's also a very significant find in terms of the city's history. At the time, most people in Peterborough were pagans, but there was an increasing move towards Christianity.
"This grave marks this significant moment in British history."
Helen McGlashon, of Belzie Avenue, who found the skeleton that led to the bowl's discovery, said: "The pictures are absolutely amazing – it looks like a really beautiful bowl.
"It's incredible to think it was found just a few yards away from where we were digging."
The bowl is set to come to Peterborough Museum next month, when it will go on public display for the first time.
Last Updated: 27 April 2007
Knights Templar secrets sought in Olympic dig
Thursday, April 26, 2007
A massive archaeological dig has started today on the site of the 2012 Olympics.
And experts hope they may uncover two water mills believed to have been built on the site by the Knights Templar in the 12th century.
'This is an opportunity to chart and record the unique history of an area back to the first Londoners,' said David Higgins, the Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
Teams of archaeologists will spend weeks examining the Lea Valley for its hidden past and any interesting remains will be recorded or removed to the Museum of London.
One of the possible finds could be the two 12th century mills believed to have been built by the Knights Templars, the sect which appeared in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, who were charged with protecting the Holy Grail.
They will also be examining Hennikers Ditch, a mediaeval waterway which follows the route of the ancient River Leyton and the Channelsea River, supposedly dug by King Alfred in the 9th century to divert Viking invaders.
'This investigation will tell the story of the changing landscape and exactly how human intervention has constantly influenced the environment,' said Kieron Tyler, senior archaeologist at the Museum at London.
'It is a unique opportunity to do it on such a huge scale.'
New dig starts at medieval castle
Archaeologists are hoping to shed more light on the origins of a 13th Century castle in mid Wales.
Historic monuments agency Cadw has started a week-long dig at Montgomery Castle to reveal more of its medieval entrance, known as the gatehouse.
Over the centuries earth has covered its lower sections, but Cadw hopes to reveal the base of it.
Archaeologists have investigated the castle site for decades, but this is the first dig since the mid 1980s.
The castle was built in about 1224 by Henry III.
It later survived attacks by Welsh noblemen Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in 1228, and 1231, and by Dafydd ap Llywelyn in 1245.
Montgomery Castle (picture: Cadw)
The castle was built on a hill in Montgomery
It last saw action under the Herbert family during the English Civil War, when it surrendered to the Parliamentarians in 1644.
Five years later it was demolished, along with a mansion built nearby.
Sian Rees, Cadw's inspector of ancient monuments in the area, said the castle dated back to the 13th Century.
She said she hoped to find the foot of the gatehouse under part of a demolished mansion built by the Herbert family.
During the dig, which started on Monday, access to the castle via the gatehouse will be restricted until 4 May.
Work to install a new footbridge to improve disabled access is also being carried out.
A spokesman for Cadw said: "While it will still be possible to access the monument by other routes some are not ideal for disabled visitors."
Ancient burial site found during work at development
By Sheldon S. Shafer
A burial site with the remains of at least 33 American Indians who probably lived around 3000 B.C. has been unearthed at the construction site of RiverPark Place residential development off River Road near Towhead Island.
The remains, including three or four skulls with partly disintegrated skeletons, will be reburied at an appropriate site to be determined by the Army Corps of Engineers in consultation with representatives of three tribes, corps officials said yesterday.
The discovery was not surprising, according to the corps or AMEC Earth & Environmental, a group with expertise in archaeological excavation under contract to the Poe Cos., the RiverPark Place developer.
"It was about what we expected to find," said Hank McKelway, an anthropologist and AMEC's lead resources manager at RiverPark Place.
The archaeological work on the burial site and the relocation of the remains will not delay construction of the $200 million project, which will include more than 600 condos and apartments, said Bob Bunnel, a partner in Peritus Public Relations, which is under contract to Poe to promote RiverPark Place.
Based on earlier work on this site, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Poe Cos. and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma entered into an agreement on the handling of any remains found at the site.
Army Corps spokesman Bob Faletti said the agreement restricts what can be said about what's found and also prohibits any photographs of any excavation. Contacts for the three tribes that signed the agreement either couldn't be reached or didn't return phone calls yesterday.
McKelway said that in addition to the human remains, a few primitive artifacts, including arrowheads, stone chips and pieces of what may have been tools, have been uncovered. They will probably be sent to the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville for analysis and storage, officials said.