September 10, 2007
Builder found Vikings washed up at pub
Archaeologists believe they have found the only intact Viking boat in Britain beneath the patio of a Merseyside pub. The 10th-century vessel was discovered in the 1930s by builders excavating the basement of the Railway Inn on the Wirral peninsula, but they covered it up because they feared an archaeological dig would disrupt their work.
The boat would have been forgotten had one of the builders not reported his discovery to his son, who passed the information on to academics at Nottingham University.
Stephen Harding, of the university’s archaeology department, used a ground-penetrating radar to investigate the claim and located a boat-shaped object buried in the soil where it had been found nearly 70 years ago.
Professor Harding said that he was confident from the builder’s description that it was a Viking transport ship and now hopes to prove it by raising up to £2 million for an excavation. If his theory is correct it will be the only Viking ship in Britain with a surviving wooden hull.
“The only ones in the British Isles we know about – unfortunately without any wood remaining - have been at Balladoole, Isle of Man, and Sanday, Orkney, with not much left to see apart from imprints in sand and some weaponry,” he said.
“Waterlogged blue clay, in which the boat is buried, is the ideal environment for preserving material almost indefinitely – especially wood. It is an environment where bacteria can’t grow. This is the same environment that the famous Viking ships in Norway – the Gokstad and Oseberg ships – were preserved in.”
John McRae, the builder who found the boat, uncovered the bow and excavated 5ft before his foreman arrived, said his son, also called John. “The foreman, who was called Alf Gunning, came along and said: ‘For God’s sake cover it up. We don’t want an archaeological dig to stop the build’.” The older Mr McRae eventually passed on details of his find to his son, who compiled a report and a sketch, which he gave to Liverpool University in 1991. It was filed, but no action was taken until Professor Harding heard rumours of the boat from a local policeman, who was able to put him in touch with the younger Mr McRae.
“People thought it was just a myth,” Mr McRae junior, 69, said. “But we went up there with this ground-penetrating radar. When the results came back it showed the shape of a boat.”
Professor Harding contacted Knut Paasche, a Viking ship expert in Norway, who said that the 30ft vessel resembled a transport ship. “If the boat had a keel and a sail it could have been used to go across the Irish Sea,” Professor Harding said. “If you had six blokes in there as well as the sail you would be able to shift it at quite a pace – up to 20mph.”
The depth and position of the boat suggest that it is very old, he added. “It is a clinker vessel, which means it has overlapping planks, a design that came from Scandinavia and of which the Vikings were masters. If it is not directly Viking or built by the original Norse settlers then it was constructed not long after by their near-descendants. It is probably not a burial vessel. It is probably too deep for that and there is no mound.”
Probe for 1,000-year-old Viking ship
Mon Sep 10, 8:20 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - An archaeologist using radar technology said Monday he has found the outline of what he believes is a 1,000-year-old Viking longship under a pub car park in north-west England.
Professor Stephen Harding used Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to trace the outline of a vessel matching the scale and shape of a longship, perhaps from the time Vikings settled in Meols, on the Wirral peninsula in Merseyside.
Meols has one of Britain's best preserved Viking settlements, buried deep beneath the village and nearby coastal defences.
Harding, from the University of Nottingham in east central England, is now seeking funds to pay for an archaeological dig to search for the vessel which lies beneath two-to-three metres of waterlogged clay.
"The next stage is the big one. Using the GPR technique only cost 450 pounds but we have to think carefully about what to do next," Harding said.
"Although we still don't know what sort of vessel it is, it's very old for sure and its Nordic clinker design, position and location suggests it may be a transport vessel from the Viking settlement period if not long afterwards."
The ship was first uncovered in 1938 when the Railway Inn was demolished and rebuilt further away from the road, with the site of the old pub turned into a car park.
Workers unearthed part of an old clinker-built vessel but were told by the foreman to cover it over again to keep construction on course.
Harding said he believes it might be possible to access the vessel from the pub cellar, where the public could eventually view it.
Viking queen exhumed to solve mystery
By Alister Doyle Mon Sep 10, 10:00 AM ET
SLAGEN, Norway (Reuters) - Archaeologists exhumed the body of a Viking queen on Monday, hoping to solve a riddle about whether a woman buried with her 1,200 years ago was a servant killed to be a companion into the afterlife.
As a less gruesome alternative, the two women in the grass-covered Oseberg mound in south Norway might be a royal mother and daughter who died of the same disease and were buried together in 834.
"We will do DNA tests to try to find out. I don't know of any Viking skeletons that have been analyzed as we plan to do," Egil Mikkelsen, director of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History, told Reuters at the graveside.
As rain pelted down, four men lifted an aluminum coffin containing the bones of two women after digging a 1.5 meter (5 ft) deep hole in the mound where the women were originally buried in a spectacular Viking longboat.
The women and the 22-metre (70 ft) longboat, with its curling oak prow still intact, were unearthed in 1904 in the 5-metre high mound, surrounded by cornfields, in one of the archaeological sensations of the 20th century.
The longboat, known as the Oseberg ship, is in a museum in Oslo but the bones were reburied in 1948 and have since lain undisturbed. About 200 people, including schoolchildren, watched the exhumation.
"We don't know who the women were," Mikkelsen said, adding that DNA tests could tell if they were related. "DNA analysis could prove if they were mother and daughter," he said.
"But I have always thought of them as the queen and her maid," he added. If the two women had widely differing DNA it could be a sign that the second woman was a servant.
A servant might have been the victim of a ritual killing, perhaps her throat slit to accompany her queen to an afterlife in Valhalla. In one Danish Viking grave, for instance, an old man lying by a younger man had been decapitated.
And new chemical analysis of bones can also tell what people ate. In Viking times meat, such as elk, was prized while poorer people ate fish.
"If they were mother and daughter they would probably have had the same food. If one woman was a maid they would have had different diets," Mikkelsen said.
The aluminum coffin will be driven to Oslo and opened for analyses, likely to last a year.
The archaeologists placed a Norwegian 20 crown coin -- dated 2007 and with a picture of the prow of the Oseberg ship on one side -- in the sarcophagus to show any future generations when the grave had been disturbed.
Among those at the graveside was a man dressed as a Viking with a sword hanging from his belt. "This is an experience you get once in a lifetime," said Leszek Gardela, 23, a Polish student of archaeology.
Mikkelsen said he saw no ethical objections to opening the grave, partly because the two were buried so long ago and no one even knew their names.
A New Palaeolithic Revolution
For decades archaeologists have rightly respected the Neolithic period c. 8500 BC as a revolutionary era of the most profound change, when the wiring of mankind’s brain shifted from transient hunter-gathering to permanent settlement in farming communities. Hearths, temples, articulated burials, whistling ‘wheat’ fields and security replaced the uncertain ravages of seasonal running with the pack. Or so stereotypes maintain.
Now, from the remote shores of Budrinna on Lake Fezzan in Libya, and Melka Konture on the banks of the River Awash in Ethiopia, a series of stunning discoveries are set to challenge the originality of the Neolithic Revolution. After 39 years of surveys and excavations, Professor Helmut Ziegert of Hamburg University presents his results as a world exclusive in Minerva (pp. 8-9). In both African locations he has discovered huts and sedentary village life dating between an astonishing 400,000 and 200,000 Before Present - if correct, literally a quantum leap in our understanding of man’s evolution. Near aquatic resources, and not alongside agricultural fields, Professor Ziegert contests that our ancestors settled down for the first time in small communities of 40-50 people.
This sensation just scratches the surface of one of prehistory’s most incredible revelations: from Choukoutien in China to Bilzingsleben in Germany, Ziegert claims to have identified 35 other Lower Palaeolithic villages with comparable huts and even cemeteries. A pattern prevails. After decades of fieldwork and contemplation, Helmut Ziegert is convinced that future discoveries will uphold his conclusions. His discoveries have nothing to do with luck, he maintains, but are a matter of applying problem-oriented research. Where evolutionary biologists have typically hunted ancestral humans bones exclusively to understand adaptations to mankind - missing links - as an archaeologist Professor Ziegert has asked more specific, holistic questions of the wider evidence.
At the heart of this new Lower Palaeolithic ‘out of Africa’ village theory are two world-changing ideas. First, that Homo erectus, Upright Man, had far more modernistic tendencies than previously believed; and second, that as unique as the farming villages of Jericho in the West Bank and Catalhoyük in Turkey are, their occupants were not the brains behind the origins of sedentism. The innovative capacity of Homo erectus has challenged scholars for decades and remains a scholarly cauldron. Anthropologists such as Richard Leakey have long insisted that Upright Man was socially more akin to modern humans than to his primitive predecessors because the increased cranial capacity coincided with more sophisticated tool technology. Other scientists contend that Homo erectus was sufficiently advanced to have even mastered maritime transport. Yet both this assertion and the very idea that he ever got to grips with controlled fire are still considered controversial.
Only three years ago, however, Nira Alperson of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered the oldest evidence of fire management at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov on the banks of the Jordan River in Israel’s northern Galilee. The team analysed over 50,000 pieces of wood and nearly 36,000 flints from two hearths associated with a Homo erectus settlement dating back 790,000 years.
More contentiously, Robert Bednarik is convinced that Upright Man ushered in the dawn of trans-ocean travel between 900,000 and 800,000 years ago as part of a wider revolution, usually attributed to the anatomically modern Homo sapiens, that included communicating with a spoken language and eventually carving and painting art 400,000 to 300,000 Before Present. To test his theory, Bednarik built a 17.5m-long, 2.8-ton bamboo raft, Nale Tasih 4, and crossed the 29km-wide stretch of sea from the east coast of Bali to the neighbouring island of Lombok. The results have convinced Bednarik that ‘Between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, hominins are also known to have crossed to at least two islands in Europe, Corsica, and Sardinia. This is soundly demonstrated, but in addition it is possible that much earlier they managed to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Unfortunately, that cannot be proved conclusively, because the alternative of reaching Europe by land has always existed’. Stone Age ‘seafaring appears to have been possible’, agrees anthropologist Tim Bromage of Hunter College of the City University of New York, who has identified 30cm-wide South-east Asian bamboo as providing a versatile material for building rafts with simple stone tools.
So, Professor Ziegert’s ‘Out of Africa’ aquatic model for the rise of village life in the Lower Palaeolithic does not emerge out of a cultural and intellectual void. As a veteran of over 81 archaeological surveys and excavations from Germany to Ecuador, ranging in date from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Islamic period, Ziegert is nothing if not scientifically cautious, which makes the current revelation all the more exciting. Between 2007 and 2010 he will be back in the field, returning to Budrinna and Melka Konture to fine-tune his life’s work. To delve in greater depth into the mystery of the ecology, function, structure, and economy of these villages, he plans to search out cemeteries (complementary signs of fixed settlement) and use potassium argon isotopic dating, stratigraphy, and tool typology to measure the ebb and flow of village life in this dizzy, distant prehistoric past.
Pig study sheds new light on the colonization of Europe by early farmers
Public release date: 3-Sep-2007
Contact: Alex Thomas
The earliest domesticated pigs in Europe, which many archaeologists believed to be descended from European wild boar, were actually introduced from the Middle East by Stone Age farmers, new research suggests.
The research by an international team led by archaeologists at Durham University, which is published today in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences USA, analysed mitochondrial DNA from ancient and modern pig remains. Its findings also suggest that the migration of an expanding Middle Eastern population, who brought their ‘farming package’ of domesticated plants, animals and distinctive pottery styles with them, actually ‘kickstarted’ the local domestication of the European wild boar.
While archaeologists already know that agriculture began about 12,000 years ago in the central and western parts of the Middle East, spreading rapidly across Europe between 6,800 – 4000BC, many outstanding questions remain about the mechanisms of just how it spread. This research sheds new and important light on the actual process of the establishment of farming in Europe.
Durham University’s Dr Keith Dobney explained: “Many archaeologists believe that farming spread through the diffusion of ideas and cultural exchange, not with the direct migration of people. However, the discovery and analysis of ancient Middle Eastern pig remains across Europe reveals that although cultural exchange did happen, Europe was definitely colonised by Middle Eastern farmers.
“A combination of rising population and possible climate change in the ‘fertile crescent’, which put pressure on land and resources, made them look for new places to settle, plant their crops and breed their animals and so they rapidly spread west into Europe.”
The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Smithsonian Institution also showed that within 500 years after the local domestication of the European wild boar, the new domestics completely replaced the Middle Eastern pigs that had arrived in Europe as part of the ‘farming package’.
Dr Greger Larson, who performed the genetic analysis said: “The domestic pigs that were derived from the European wild boar must have been considered vastly superior to those originally from Middle East, though at this point we have no idea why. In fact, the European domestic pigs were so successful that over the next several thousand years they spread across the continent and even back into the Middle East where they overtook the indigenous domestic pigs. For whatever reason, European pigs were the must have farm animal.”
The research is part of an ongoing research project based at Durham University which explores the role of animals in reconstructing early farming, ancient human migration and past trade and exchange networks around the world.
Ancient Human DNA Extracted From Yucca Leaves Spat Out
In a groundbreaking study, two Harvard scientists have for the first time extracted human DNA from ancient artifacts. The work potentially opens up a new universe of sources for ancient genetic material, which is used to map human migrations in prehistoric times.
Before this, archaeologists could only get ancient DNA from relics of the human body itself, including prehistoric teeth, bones, fossilized feces, or — rarely — preserved flesh. Such sources of DNA are hard to find, poorly preserved, or unavailable because of cultural and legal barriers.
By contrast, the genetic material used in the Harvard study came from two types of artifacts — 800 to 2,400 years old — that are found by the hundreds at archaeological sites in the American Southwest.
“Quids” — small fibrous bundles of stripped yucca leaves — are the spit-out remnants of a kind of ancient chewing gum. Cells from long-dried saliva yield usable DNA. And “aprons” were thong-like woven garments worn by women. They are stained with traces of apparent menstrual blood, a source of DNA.
The Harvard study, featured in the summer 2007 issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology, “opens up the possibility of utilizing a much larger variety of human-handled artifacts” for DNA evidence, said project co-director Steven LeBlanc, director of collections at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Among the likely future sources of ancient DNA, he said, are “sandals, textiles, and cane cigarettes,” a reedlike smoke favored by early humans. LeBlanc’s co-director in the project was Thomas Benjamin, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.
LeBlanc and others sampled 48 quids from four Southwestern archaeological sites — some of them on Harvard museum shelves for nearly 100 years — and 18 aprons found in Canyon de Chelly, a National Park Service site in Arizona still occupied by the Navajo Nation.
Aprons, and especially quids, are very common in archaeological collections, and are recovered from rock shelters or caves in the Southwest, Utah, Texas, California, and central Mexico. The DNA is preserved by the extreme dryness of such sites.
The Harvard study brings other good news for historians of ancient times. LeBlanc said the DNA captured from quids and aprons shows — in a preliminary way — that early farming populations in the Southwest descended from farmers in what is now central Mexico. That helps answer an old question among those who study the ancient Southwest: Was the idea of farming imported, or was it adopted by indigenous populations?
More broadly, archaeologists interested in migration patterns anywhere now have a new source for the DNA that can be used to track the movement of ancient people — though LeBlanc cautioned that the methods have to be retested and refined.
The origins of the earliest North American farmers are still officially a puzzle, and center on a now-lost tribe known as the Western Basketmakers. More than 2,000 years ago, these indigenous Americans started growing corn in what is now southeastern Utah and northern Arizona.
In what is now a boon to archaeologists who look at DNA, early farmers rested in the shade of rock formations, and spit out quids of chewed yucca leaves.
“The team was as surprised as everyone else that we could learn something about a possible migration over 2,000 years ago from ancient spit,” said LeBlanc. “Every artifact that we recover from such ancient sites now needs to be thought of in a new light, and handled in new ways, to ensure we preserve this DNA for future studies.”
To make sure the DNA was from ancient farmers and not from modern handlers, samples were taken from the cores of the quids and not from their surfaces.
Peabody Museum experts say future studies of ancient DNA from quids, aprons, and other appropriate artifacts are needed to test and refine Harvard’s preliminary findings.
The study was a collaborative project. Harvard researchers worked with genetic anthropologist Shawn W. Carlyle at the University of Utah; pathologist Lori S. Cobb Kreisman at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; curator Anna N. Dhody at the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; anthropologist Brian M. Kemp at Vanderbilt University; and Francis E. Smiley, an anthropologist at Northern Arizona University. Ancient DNA expert David Glenn Smith offered his advice and the use of his laboratory at the University of California, Davis.
Some of the artifacts used in the DNA analysis were from collections at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Southwest Museum, and Northern Arizona University.
The study was supported by the Provost’s Fund for Interfaculty Collaboration at Harvard University and by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Harvard University.
Archaeologists find remains of sky-disc people in Germany
Goseck, Germany (dpa) Archaeologists digging at the place where an amazing Bronze Age disc was found in Germany have turned up a body and remains of a Stone Age building, adding to the riddle around one of the world's biggest archaeological sensations of the past decade.
Andreas Northe, giving the results of this summer's dig on the remote hill in eastern Germany, said, "We found a child's grave, a cache of stone tools and some remains from a long-house."
The dig was done at a spot in a line of sight from the place where amateurs using metal detectors in 1999 found the Nebra celestial disc, a 3,600-year-old depiction of the sun, moon and stars which is believed to be the oldest extant calculator of the seasons.
Controversy has raged since 2001 about what the gold-and-green disc was for, who its owners were and whether it could be a scientific hoax.
Digs have revealed that the deserted hill in woods near Goseck may have been a town for millenia. The "temple of the sun" has been been reconstructed as a tourist attraction.
Northe dated the latest finds by his 13-member team to the Stone Age and said they included burned pieces of plaster wall.
Nothing comparable had ever been found before and it would be possible now to study how Stone Age houses looked from the outside. The house had had been 6 metres by 20 metres.
The grave was of a child aged between 1 and 3 who had been buried with a fired-clay bottle, "a provision for the after-life," Northe said.
Bog Mummies Yield Secrets: Prof's Research in National Geographic
Human remains yield secrets. “Tales from the Bog” in the September 2007 issue of National Geographic magazine uncovers some of those secrets, including those unlocked by NDSU’s Dr. Heather Gill-Robinson, assistant professor of anthropology.
Newswise — Human remains yield secrets. “Tales from the Bog” in the September 2007 issue of National Geographic magazine uncovers some of those secrets, including those unlocked by Dr. Heather Gill-Robinson, assistant professor of anthropology at North Dakota State University, Fargo. The article discusses discoveries of 2000-year-old mummies, preserved from the Iron Age with amazing detail in peat bogs of Europe.
Bog mummies, in particular, have interesting stories to tell. Physical anthropologists draw conclusions from the eerily preserved hair, leathery skin and other features that emerge from the bogs. During the Iron Age from approximately 500BC to 500AD, bodies were often cremated, often leading experts to believe that mummies uniquely preserved by the bogs were people who met their demise through particularly violent means or were used as sacrifices, although there are numerous possible other explanations. A violent demise was thought to be the case for a mummy known as Windeby Girl, studied by Dr. Gill-Robinson. Discovered in northern Germany in 1952, experts thought she may have been an adulteress whose head was shaved, after which she was blindfolded and drowned in the bog.
As noted in the National Geographic article, “the theory unraveled after Heather Gill-Robinson of North Dakota State University took a close look at the body … Windeby Girl was likely a young man” and may have lost his hair when archaeologists’ trowels dug up the body. The article further notes that physical examination of the mummy showed that growth interruptions in the bones of the specimen indicated a sick young man who may have died from natural causes.
The water and other substances in peat bogs create a natural preservative for the bodies found in them, though Dr. Gill-Robinson says researchers are still trying to determine why. The lack of oxygen, antimicrobial action and the sphagnum found in bogs seem to conspire to preserve the bodies tossed into them thousands of years ago. Bogs were once seen as homes for gods and outcast spirits.
But increasingly sophisticated computer programs and use of medical technology such as CT scans, radiocarbon dating and 3-D imaging have resulted in additional and potentially more accurate answers to the mysteries of the peat bog mummies. In her research, which includes the study of other mummies in addition to “Windeby Girl,” Gill-Robinson can also determine other details such as what they ate and their possible occupations.
The research being conducted at NDSU also gives students an opportunity to learn more about physical anthropology, according to Gill-Robinson. Two recent NDSU graduates, for example, analyzed CT scans of mummy specimens for a year and four more students are involved in image analysis projects this year. The mummies studied in Gill-Robinson’s research were found between 1871 and 1960. She has studied them for the past four years.
The “Tales from the Bog” article in National Geographic features exceptional photographs of the findings from peat bog mummy research around the world. The article can be found online at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0709/bog-bodies/bog-bodies.html
“Detailed analysis of the bog bodies provides us a window into cultures, heritage and the way people lived thousands of years ago,” says Gill-Robinson. “To be included in a prestigious publication such as National Geographic helps us to bring this research to a wide general audience. We might inspire a future generation of anthropologists or give a better glimpse into the Iron Age.” Gill-Robinson notes the continuing advance of technology allows physical anthropologists to discover new details about the subjects they study. “When we think we may have discovered something new about a mummy, we can re-visit it several years later and with new technology, refine our research results. In these cases, we need to present a revised interpretation to the public. Communities where discoveries are made have a high level of interest in what is found. Respectfully addressing folklore surrounding such discoveries in communities also plays a role.”
Gill-Robinson’s areas of research interest have focused on a collection of seven bodies (six mummies and one skeleton) from peat bogs in northern Germany. After a receiving a three-month research grant from the German Academic Exchange Service, Bonn, Germany, Gill-Robinson spent the summer exploring aspects of peat bog mummies in conjunction with Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloss Gottorf, a museum in Schleswig, Germany. Her research was previously cited in the article, “Rehabilitation of a Moorland Corpse,” in Abenteuer Archaeologie, a German popular press archaeology magazine.
With a reputation for excellence in teaching and multidisciplinary research, North Dakota State University, Fargo, links academics to real world opportunities. The Scientist magazine placed NDSU among the top 35 research institutions in North America for individuals pursuing postdoctoral positions. As a metropolitan land grant institution with more than 12,000 students, NDSU is listed in the top 100 of several National Science Foundation annual research expenditure rankings in the areas of chemistry, physical sciences, science and engineering, and social sciences. http://www.ndsu.edu
Royal grandmother's tomb unearthed
Sep 7, 2007, 12:00 GMT
Chinese archaeologists have concluded a large unearthed tomb belonged to the grandmother of the country's first emperor.
Zhang Tian'en, an expert with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute, claims the tomb in the Shaanxi Province was probably built on Emperor Qinshihuang's orders.
He said: "We are hoping that the excavation of his grandmother's tomb will help unravel the mystery about the first emperor's mausoleum, which still cannot be excavated. It will also contribute to research into Qin Dynasty burial culture."
Qinshihuang united seven warring states and founded the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC.
Zhang Tian'en said Qinshihuang's grandmother lived until the emperor was 20, and died in the seventh year of his reign
The tomb, which took over a year of excavation to uncover, is the second largest ancient Chinese tomb unearthed after King Jinggong's - who was head of the State of Quin, which ruled for more than 120 years before the Qin Dynasty.
The emperor's grandmother's tomb is 550 meters long and 310 meters wide, covering an area of 17.3 hectares.
Archaeologists unearthed two carriages designed to be driven by six horses, which could only be used by the Qin Dynasty's kings and queens.
Experts also found the seals of court officials responsible for running errands on behalf of queens, queen mothers and princes.
The emperor's mausoleum - a huge underground palace inside the monarch's burial place - is currently being left untouched for fear that it could not be properly preserved should it be excavated.
It is thought to be considerably bigger than any yet uncovered.
(C) BANG Media International
Roman skeletons unearthed at Prince's model village
Publisher: Jon Land
Published: 04/09/2007 - 15:13:42 PM
Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman coffin and skeletons at the Prince of Wales's model village, a charity said today.
The dig gives an insight into life in Poundbury, Dorset, from Neolithic times through to the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
A team of archaeologists from charity Wessex Archaeology has been working on the Duchy of Cornwall land near Poundbury Hillfort ahead of further development.
The coffin is believed to be made from Portland stone, dating back to the late Roman period, and has been removed from the site.
The skeleton, which was poorly preserved, will need to be examined at Wessex Archaeology's laboratory in Salisbury to determine the age and sex of the dead person.
Damian de Rosa, project manager for Wessex Archaeology, said: "We found iron hobnails in the coffin.
"These show that a pair of shoes had been put into the grave to help the dead person make their final journey."
Some rubbish pits unearthed at the site date back to Neolithic times, more than 4,000 years ago.
Remains of ditches, drainage systems and field layouts also give a glimpse of Bronze Age farming in the area 3,500 years ago.
Bronze Age pottery, including cooking pots, has also been uncovered as well as Neolithic flint tools.
The archaeological survey was part of investigation of the land before development takes place, possibly in three or four years as part of phase three.
The area was a Christian cemetery for Roman Dorchester. Most burials were in wooden coffins, some in lead, with the wealthiest residents making their coffins from stone.
The heavy stone coffin would usually be delivered by the mason to the grave and the body lowered in on site.
Copyright Press Association 2007.
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Roman ship found in Cartagena
A Roman boat in near-immaculate condition has been dredged up from the bay of Cartagena. Archaeologists say the find dates back to the first century B.C.
The team from Cartagena’s natoinal archaeological museum and underwater investigation centre (MNAM-CNIAS) reveals that this exciting discovery comes just after two boats and a number of anchors thought to be more than a hundred years old were found on the seabed.
The team worked in conjunction with the Aurora SP Trust, a US-led non-profit-making foundation based in Malta, which provided equipment and funds.
More underwater investigations are expected to be carried out in a bid to bring Cartagena’s maritime history, which dates back more some three thousand years, to the surface.
They believe the boat could have been used to transport wine, oil and various perishables, and had space for up to 1,500 amphorae – Roman bottles – in the hold. This suggests it was a ship of considerable dimensions.
It was discovered at a depth of about a hundred metres off the coast of Cartagena and is said to have similar characteristics to a vessel found off the coast of La Vila Joiosa a year ago.
Archaeologists reveal that wine was drunk in Rome in huge quantities over 2,000 years ago. The annual consumption for the city was in region of 1.5 million hectolitres.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Mummified Inca maiden wows crowds
A mummy of an Inca girl, described as "perfect" by the archaeologists who found her in 1999, has gone on display for the first time in Argentina.
Hundreds of people crowded into a museum in the north-western city of Salta to see "la Doncella", the Maiden.
The remains of the girl, who was 15 when she died, were found in an icy pit on top of a volcano in the Andes, along with a younger boy and girl.
Researchers believe they were sacrificed by the Incas 500 years ago.
The three were discovered at a height of 6,700m (22,000ft) on Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile.
At the time, the archaeologist leading the team, Dr Johan Reinhard, said they appeared "the best preserved of any mummy I've seen".
It is believed the Children of Llullaillaco, as they have come to be known, were sacrificed during a ceremony thanking the Inca gods for the annual corn harvest.
The mummy of la Doncella is on display in a chamber that is filled with cold air that recreates the sub-freezing conditions in which she was found.
Visitors told Argentine media they were impressed at the mummy's state of conservation.
"I'm amazed," one woman said. "You just expect her at any moment to get up and start talking."
But the exhibition has angered several indigenous groups who campaigned to stop the mummy from going on display.
Miguel Suarez from the Calchaquies valley tribes in and around Salta told the Associated Press news agency that the exhibit was "a great mistake", adding that he hoped visitors would show respect for the dead.
The Inca empire once stretched across much of western South America, including present-day Peru and Bolivia, and down to central Chile and parts of Argentina.
It collapsed in 1532 with the Spanish conquest.