Prehistoric child is discovered buried with 'toy hedgehog' at Stonehenge

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 9:42 AM on 10th October 2008


A toy hedgehog, found in a child's grave at Stonehenge, is proof of what we have always known - children have always loved to play.


The chalk figurine was probably a favourite possession of the three year old, and placed next to the child when they died in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age, around 3,000 years ago.


Archaeologists who discovered the grave, where the child was laying on his or her side, believe the toy - perhaps placed there by a doting father - is the earliest known depiction of a hedgehog in British history.


The diggers were working to the west of Stonehenge in what is known as the Palisade Ditch when they made the remarkable discovery last month in the top of the pit in which the child was buried.


Archaeologist Dennis Price said: 'It is not difficult to envisage the raw emotion and harrowing grief that would have accompanied the death of this child.


'Amid the aura of gloom that surrounds Stonehenge, it comes as a beam of light to find a child's toy lovingly placed with the tiny corpse to keep him or her company through eternity.


'I'm not aware of hedgehogs having any significance in pagan tradition so the discovery must rank as yet another unique and baffling aspect of one of the most famous and instantly recognisable prehistoric monuments on Earth. To my mind, the hedgehog possesses a real charm and an innocent beauty. '


Dr Joshua Pollard, of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, said: 'Representational art from this period is very rare and so far as I'm aware, if the identification is correct, it's the only known prehistoric depiction of a hedgehog from Britain.'


Fay Vass, of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said: 'We are very excited to hear about this find. It shows humans have taken hedgehogs to their hearts for a very long time.'



Stonehenge 'was a cremation cemetery, not healing centre'

By Louise Gray Environment Correspondent

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 09/10/2008


Stonehenge was used as a cremation cemetery throughout its history, according to new evidence that divides archaeologists over whether England's most famous ancient monument was about celebrating life or death.


The origins and purposes of Stonehenge have eluded academics and historians for centuries and been the subject of much debate.


The circle of standing stones was originally through to have been erected in 2,600 BC, to replace an earlier wood and earth structure where cremation was carried out.


Recently a BBC documentary suggested that the standing stones were not erected until 2,300BC, when the site became a centre of healing.


Now a team behind the latest dig suggest the standing stones were erected much earlier than previously thought, in 3,000 BC, and used for cremation burial throughout their history and not for healing.


The latest evidence is from a team of archaeologists from a number of British universities who have been carrying out excavations over the past five summers.


The Stonehenge Riverside Project looked at remains found in an "Aubrey Hole", one of the pits where it was originally thought the wooden posts that predated the standing stones stood.


Crushed chalk was discovered leading the team to conclude that in fact standing stones had been erected in the holes much earlier than previously thought.


The report said: "We propose that very early in Stonehenge's history, 56 Welsh bluestones stood in a ring 285 feet 6 inches across. This has sweeping implications for our understanding of Stonehenge."


The second significant finding was from radiocarbon dating of human remains found on the site from between 2,300 and 3,000 BC. Researchers concluded that this meant cremation burial was going on long after the standing stones had been erected.


The report said: "Contrary to claims made in the recent BBC Timewatch film, which promoted a theory of Stonehenge as a healing centre built after the practice of cremation burial had ceased, standing stones and burial may have been prominent aspects of Stonehenge's meaning and purpose for a millennium."


Mike Pitts, one of the authors of the study and editor of British Archaeology, said that the study overturned previous theory over Stonehenge.


"This means there were earlier connections with Wales, where the standing stones came from, than previously thought and that Stonehenge was always about death and ancestors and burial and not healing," he said.


Geoffrey Wainwright, one of the archaeologists behind the BBC film, maintained that healing was one of the uses of the site.


"We do not claim Stonehenge was a single use monument," he said. "We think it was a multifunctional monument and part of its purpose was for healing."



Copper Age began earlier than believed, scientists say

Europe News

Oct 7, 2008, 14:47 GMT


Belgrade - Serbian archaeologists say a 7,500-year-old copper axe found at a Balkan site shows the metal was used in the Balkans hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.


The find near the Serbian town of Prokuplje shifts the timeline of the Copper Age and the Stone Age's neolithic period, archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic told the independent Beta news agency.


'Until now, experts said that only stone was used in the Stone Age and that the Copper Age came a bit later. Our finds, however, confirm that metal was used some 500 to 800 years earlier,' she said.


The Copper Age marks the first stage of humans' use of metal. It is thought to have started in about the 4th millennium BC in southeastern Europe and earlier in the Middle East.


Archaeologists at the Plocnik site also found furnace and melting pots with traces of copper, suggesting the site may have been an important metal age center of the Balkans.


'All this undeniably proves that human civilization in this area produced metal in the 5th millennium BC,' archaeologist Dusan Sljivar told Beta.


The Plocnik site was discovered in 1927 and first excavations began a year later when first neolithic items were found. It is part of the Vinca culture, Europe's biggest prehistoric civilization.


Vinca culture flourished from 6th to 3rd millennium BC in present-day Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Its name came from the village Vinca on the Danube river, some 14 kilometers downstream from Belgrade.



Archaeologists find bones from prehistoric war in Germany

Thu, 09 Oct 2008 17:00:36 GMT

Author : DPA


Schwerin, Germany - Archaeologists have discovered the bones of at least 50 prehistoric people killed in an armed attack in Germany around 1300 BC. The signs of battle from around 1300 BC were found near Demmin, north of Berlin. They are the first proof of any war north of the Alps during the Bronze Age, said state archaeologist Detlef Jantzen on Thursday.


One of the skulls had a coin-sized hole in it, indicating the 20- to 30-year-old man had received a mortal blow. A neurologist said he was probably hit with a wooden club and died within hours.


Scientists plan DNA tests on the remains, which were preserved in a peat bog, in a bid to establish if the victims were related or if they have descendants alive today.


Jantzen said most remains were of men of fighting age, but some were of women and children. That means it is possible the attackers had sacked a village or taken residents prisoner and killed them.




New method used to date cave art


Experts from the University of Bristol are to attempt to accurately date prehistoric caves.


The team from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology travelled to northern Spain to collect samples of paintings from more than 20 caves.


They will use a new method, based on the radioactive decay of uranium, to date the paintings.


Samples have been taken from the cave of Tito Bustillo in Asturias and La Pasiega Cave in Cantabria.


Dr Alistair Pike, the project leader said: "These cave paintings are one of the most intimate windows into the minds of people who lived more than 15,000 years ago, but have proved extremely difficult to date.


"Traditional methods of dating the pigments, such as radiocarbon, are destructive to the paintings, and the samples are prone to contamination.


"We are using a new method that can date thin calcite layers that have formed over the surface of the paintings."


In the course of the three year project, the researchers hope to more than double the numbers of dates on European prehistoric cave art.


They will then relate their findings to the expansion and contraction of human populations in response to the changing climate of the last Ice Age.


"Some of the paintings were deliberately done in the least accessible parts of the caves so there's often a lot of crawling," said Dr Pike.


"It's not unusual for us to spend 10 hours a day underground, but the paintings are so spectacular it's always worth it."


As well as representations of horses, deer and cattle, the caves also contain more than 100 abstract symbols and several series of isolated dots.



Archaeological site in Dresden called 'very significant'




A 7,000-year-old archaeological site in Dresden has emerged as one of the most significant finds in New England, and is shaping the way historians view the lifestyles of Archaic period Native Americans.


The state historic preservation commission is hoping to purchase the 14.2-acre waterfront site from Richard and Wanda Lang, using grant money obtained through the Land for Maine's Future Program.


"Since they've done some digging, they found that there was a village there, which changes their whole thought process on the early people of this area," said Richard Lang. "They used to think (Native Americans) were just passing through, and now they think there was a settlement here."


Arthur Spiess is a senior archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. He called the Dresden site "very significant for Maine."


"There are only two other places in New England with village-sized sites from this time period," said Spiess. "We thought (Native Americans) lived in small groups moving around the landscape, but it turns out that there's probably at least a seasonal large group."


According to documentation filed with Land for Maine's Future, the site in Dresden is the largest and most intensively occupied site of its age known in Maine.


The site also offered a different vantage point to 7,000 years ago. Since the end of the Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago, water levels have risen to conceal what was a distinct elevation drop on this Kennebec River location. When this site was home to a native village, experts suspect a major falls bridged what is now Dresden with Swan Island.


"When you're dealing with people that move around the landscape a lot, in order for them to get together in village-sized groups, they have to have a localized and intense food source, and in this case, the fishery at the falls provided that," said Spiess. "It's predictable in terms of season, and probably came in large quantity.


"We can certainly find out what they were eating, because their trash was discarded in fireplaces and burned bones can be preserved for thousands of years," he continued. "We already have found sturgeon and striped bass bones at the site, and something like beaver and moose or deer."


Spiess said determining the types of dwellings the natives used at this site would be more difficult, as any evidence of post holes was likely removed when the "top half foot" of ground was plowed during the property's subsequent use as farmland.


Instead, he said, state archaeologists would map the site using garbage pits and fireplaces, and collect bone remains and period-specific stone tools.


State officials were first tipped off to the site's bounty of artifacts nearly 20 years ago by amateur archaeologists, who stumbled upon stone tools there while hiking across the grounds. However, Spiess said the previous landowner at the time didn't give permission for professional archaeologists to dig.


Still, the stone pieces delivered to state researchers by their amateur counterparts were tantalizing. To the trained eye, it was clear that the findings dated back to the early to middle Archaic period, between 8,000 to 4,000 B.C.


"It's like looking at an automobile and telling a 1920s Ford from a 1980s Ford," said Spiess. "(Stone tools) change over time, and based on other tools found in places where there have been radio carbon dates, we know what to look for."


Spiess said that, in dating a particular stone artifact, experts look for subtle stylings, like "how you put the stem on the base of the spearpoint, stuff like that."


The Maine Historic Preservation Commission waited for its chance to investigate the site until the fall of 2007, when it approached the new and current owners, Richard and Wanda Lang.


"It's a beautiful piece of waterfront property," said Richard Lang, who said he didn't know of the property's significance when he bought it. "We were going to build on it and sell some parcels off, but I can't do that in good conscience without giving the state an opportunity to buy it. I'd dug a trench and I'd come across an ancient fire pit, so I knew what I had here. I started working with Arthur because it's something that needs to be preserved. It's of real significant value — it's irreplaceable."


The Dresden site stands to become the first property protected by Land for Maine's Future under the provision qualifying "significant, undeveloped archaeological sites."


Jim Connors, a senior planner with Land for Maine's Future, said the program has been distributing $117 million in bond money, largely for conservation purposes. But two years ago, the Legislature opened the door for that money to be used to acquire archaeological sites as well.


"The Legislature really elevated the priority of protecting significant archaeological sites," said Connors. "This is significant in that it's the first one under this new guidance by the Legislature. The fact that we can look at these projects with the historical commission gives them another tool to preserve these sites. This is a way of the state being able to secure protection and proper care and management for significant sites."


Connors said funding for Land for Maine's Future is drying up, and the program requires the upcoming Legislature to seek additional bonds to continue.


"The monies are allocated and Art is working his way through acquiring the (Dresden) property," said Connors. "What a round of new funding would do is allow him to bring forward future properties.


"If we miss a round, and we don't get funding on a regular basis, we do come to a grinding halt," he continued. "If you have a continuously funded program that people can count on from year to year, people will move forward with projects planning for additional funding in new funding cycles. These projects take years to unwind sometimes."



Ancient Roman stadium opens

Published: Oct. 10, 2008 at 6:22 PM


POZZUOLI, Italy, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- The Roman stadium where Emperor Antoninus Pius staged Rome's version of the Olympic Games will be open this weekend for the first time in almost 500 years.


Archaeologists have so far excavated half of the stadium, which was built of volcanic rock around 142 A.D. near Naples, and was buried by volcanic ash in 1538 following an eruption by Mount Nuovo, ANSA reported Friday.


''Like the great Italian culture capitals of Florence, Venice, Rome and Urbino, Pozzuoli can also take advantage of its illustrious past, which is reflowering from the bowels of the earth,'' said Pozzuoli Mayor Pasquale Giacobbe.


In 1931, a road was built through the middle of the ancient stadium, which complicated the excavation project, the Italian news service reported.



Archaeologists dig deep to shed new light on city's Viking heritage

Published Date:

09 October 2008

By Paul Jeeves


IT has long been acknowledged that York is an archaeological gold mine, but the true scale of the city's long history still remains buried underfoot.


However, one of the most significant discoveries in a generation has thrown up new evidence to provide a clearer picture of how far the city sprawled during the Viking era.


A thousand years ago York ranked among the 10 biggest settlements in Western Europe, but archaeologists have now found the remains of a Viking settlement at the Hungate dig close to banks of the River Foss.


The discovery is less than a mile from the remains of similar buildings found during the world-famous Coppergate dig 30 years ago, providing further clues as to the true size of the Viking town of Jorvik.


The Hungate excavation's project director Peter Connelly said: "For any archaeologists, this is a hugely exciting find. We are extremely privileged to be working on a dig like this, but we could only hope to find something as significant as this building.



"We now have definitive proof that people from the Anglo-Scandinavian period built settlements on this site, and this gives us more evidence that Jorvik was far bigger than many people thought.


"We knew that it was a large town of real significance and it was probably the biggest settlement in the north of England at the time, but now we have more vital evidence."


The excavations are being carried out ahead of the £150m Hungate development, and it is the biggest archaeological dig in the city since Coppergate in the 1970s and early 1980s which saw the creation of the Jorvik Viking Centre to house the finds.


The timber-lined cellar of a two-storey Viking age structure was unearthed more than 10ft below the current street level at Hungate last week, and it is thought the building dates from the mid to late 10th century.


While its exact use is still not known, the York Archaeological Trust's experts think the building could have been used as a workshop or for storing food and other perishable items.


However, shards of pottery, discarded animal bones, a comb and an amber bead dating from the Viking era have all been found buried in the soil in the building's cellar, indicating that it could well have been a domestic dwelling.


One of the most intriguing aspects of the find is that timber from a ship has been used in the building's construction – the first discovery of its kind in York.


The recycled timber provides further proof as to how valuable wood was during the Viking era as it has been re-used in the building and has thrown up clues that Jorvik was an important trade centre, with boats arriving on the nearby River Foss.


The York Archaeological Trust's chief executive John Walker claimed the fact that the building had a cellar showed land in Jorvik was at a premium, as the builders had taken the effort to hollow out the room from the ground.


He said: "They could quite easily have built a store further away, but the decision was taken to create the cellar. The discovery of this building is phenomenal, and does throw up so many questions as well as some answers.


"We always knew that Jorvik was big, but we never knew quite how big."


Archaeologists are nearing the half-way point in the five-year £3.3m dig on the 10-acre Hungate site to pave the way for more than 700 new homes, shops and offices.


The timber from the house will be taken away for scientific tests at the trust's laboratories in the hope of unlocking further secrets from the past.


The remains of the building will eventually go on display, possibly on the Hungate site once the development is finished.


More than 11,000 visitors have toured the site in the last 16 months, and the city's residents are able to help in community archaeology digs.


The York Archaeological Trust started work on the main part of the Hungate site in spring last year and the excavations have revealed a host of finds dating back more than 1,000 years.


Discoveries include traces of Viking age life such as bone ice skates, fragments of combs and a rare small glass bead.




13th February 2007


The archaeological investigation currently underway at Hungate is being funded by Hungate (York) Regeneration Ltd. (HYRL), as part of site preparation for the new Hungate urban neighbourhood.


Archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust have been employed to work alongside HYRL throughout all phases of the development programme, which is envisaged to last for five years.


Regeneration of the Hungate site will see the area transformed through a £150m mixed-use scheme involving 720 new homes, new offices for City of York Council, neighbourhood shops and bars, a focal building, new public open spaces and walkways across and beside the river.


Outline planning permission for the scheme was granted in July 2005 following the most detailed programme of community planning ever to take place in York.


The programme, headed by the internationally-renowned architectural practice of John Thompson & Partners, started in early 2002 and from the outset involved input from many citizens of York, whose ideas helped shape the Hungate masterplan.


A public exhibition staged on the site in January 2003 was visited by 2,000 people who saw the plans and gave them their overwhelming support.


Further details about the development programme are available from Tim Flanagan or Jim Wilson at Polo PR Partnership Ltd. Tel. 01423 870134



Underground World War II caves found below Caen in northern France

Underground caves in which thousands of civilians took shelter from one of the heaviest Allied bombings of World War II have been re-opened in northern France.

By Peter Allen in Paris

Last Updated: 1:19PM BST 05 Oct 2008


The time capsule labyrinth lies deep below the Normandy city of Caen, which was all but destroyed by British guns around D-Day, June 6th 1944.


Largely undisturbed since, the makeshift bunkers still contain numerous reminders of a terrified population whose only thought at the time was survival.


They include packed suitcases, tins of syrup, decaying maps and official passes, and even lady's make-up bags including nail varnish and lipstick.


There are also children's magazines and toys, shoes, carbon lights, prayer books, and makeshift beds where people would try and rest despite the barrages.


Many spent more than a month deep below the constant shelling from Royal Navy ships and RAF bombing. Some 2000 died, with thousands more injured.


Caen Memorial historian Marc Pottier said the lost world was a hugely moving testament to what ordinary people went through during the war.


He said: “During the summer of 1944 here, in Caen, 15,000 Caen refugees experienced some of the most terrible conditions imaginable. By visiting these galleries we can better understand what they went through.”


Despite what was happening up above, Caen University archaeologist Laurent Dujardin said the caves were well organised.


“The atmosphere is remarkably healthy - there's always a temperature of twelve degrees,” said Mr Dujardin.


Describing a cave accessed from a tiny manhole in a garden in Rue des Roches in the suburb of Mondeville, Mr Dujardin said: “On June 6th the first refugees arrived here. They stayed here until July 12th .


“In one cave alone there were between 500 and 600 people. Underneath the whole of Rue des Roches there were 5000 people. Each gallery is organised around a family enclosure.


“We only re-discovered this tunnel recently, and it is one of the most interesting.”


Many of the so-called 'carrières' were forged out of around 300 subterranean medieval quarries in Caen.


The galleries - undoubtedly carved out of the soil by civilian and military diggers - are around 36 feet high and 300 feet longs, and divided into separate family units.


On D-Day Caen was the principal objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and was the scene of intense fighting right up until August.


The old city, including many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, was largely destroyed, with 75 per cent of buildings reduced to rubble.


Reconstruction went on until 1962, with most of the underground shelters largely forgotten.


Caen University hopes that at least some of the caves might one day be opened to members of the public.