Stone Age House Found

Published admin on June 30, 2008


Archaeologists have found the site of one of England’s oldest houses. The Stone Age house at Horton, close to Windsor Castle, is thought by experts to be well over 5,000 years old.


The single story house at Horton was rectangular, some 10 metres long by 5 metres wide. Dr Alistair Barclay of Wessex Archaeology said ‘this house is not big by today’s standards. But it was a dramatically different from the tents that people had been living in before.’


The walls of the house were probably made of split logs and the pitched roof would have been of reeds or grass. Two partition walls either side of a central passage divided the house into two. These walls could have supported an upper story or attic in parts of the house.


There would not have been a chimney. Smoke would have seeped out through the roof which was high enough to avoid catching fire from sparks flying from the fire.


Other finds of Neolithic date near to Horton include a burial site and a ritual processional way known as a cursus that stretched for 2.5 miles. Because of their size, these burial and ritual sites have been easier for archaeologists to find.


In contrast only about a dozen Neolithic or Stone Age houses are known from England and the Horton house is one of the most complete examples yet found. Pending radiocarbon dating, the house is thought to date to about the 37th century BC. Pieces of pottery and flint tools from the house and some nearby pits are consistent with this dating.


Dr Barclay added ‘we used to think of the Neolithic as the time when people started to farm. The evidence we now have, shows that hunting and gathering wild foods was still important. Crops were grown, but on a small scale. We can also see that cattle, pig and sheep were herded. It may be that in the river valleys, clearings for grazing came to be used for growing crops.’


Andy Spencer of CEMEX, who are paying for the dig, said ‘we have just installed a high-tech ready mix concrete plant and overhead there are planes taking off and landing at Heathrow. But what these Stone Age people built all that time ago using just stone tools and natural materials is really impressive. They were innovators too.’



Prehistoric human skull found at Isle of Man Airport


A PREHISTORIC human skull dating back 5,000 years together with remains relating to a Neolithic house have been discovered during works on the runway extension project at Ronaldsway.


Experts from Oxford Archaeology called in to carry out the excavation have described the finds as being of 'national and possibly European significance'.


They include remains of a building, a rubbish dump and funerary and mortuary finds, including stone cairns built over the top of commemoration pyres, as well as flint flakes and tools and fragments of ancient pottery vessels.


Airport director Ann Reynolds said the discovery of the remains, found within a 60m stretch of a proposed parallel taxiway extension to the north east of the airfield was 'unlikely' to delay the runway project, scheduled for completion in December 2009.



Dig unearths Neolithic settlement

Page last updated at 05:56 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 06:56 UK


Archaeologists have found the remains of a 4,000-year-old Neolithic settlement in Wrexham.


The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) is excavating the site at Borras Quarry, and hopes to discover evidence of timber houses.


They began digging after cooking pits were discovered during work to expand the site, which is owned by Tarmac.


The mining and construction company said topsoil removal nearby had ceased to allow artefacts to be retrieved.


Nigel Jones, of the CPAT, said the discoveries were made as topsoil and subsoil was being removed in preparation for gravel extraction at the new Holt Estate section of the quarry.


He added: "We were monitoring them and we started to get a number of features come to light.


"We got in touch with Tarmac and alerted them to the fact they had something quite significant here.


"The area has been fenced off and there's a team of archaeologists there for several weeks."


He added: "Tarmac have been very good and very co-operative. They are paying for the work as part of their planning conditions.


"This is an important discovery as there is currently very little evidence for Neolithic settlement in this part of Wales.


"It is hoped that the excavations will reveal more evidence for occupation, possibly including the remains of timber houses."


Plans for Tarmac to extract more than 10m tonnes of sand and gravel from land between Borras and Gresford were approved in 2005.


Tarmac's estates and geology manager Richard Hulse said: "It appears that these are cooking pits typically used to heat water in order to prepare food.


"As a result we have ceased topsoil removal in the immediate vicinity in order to retrieve any further artefacts which may be present."



Archaeologists claim forest find


Archaeologists and volunteers working at a Perthshire forest claim to have uncovered a "very exciting" find.


Excavations have revealed a stone entrance to the Black Spout enclosure, which workers believe indicates an important local person lived there.


Radiocarbon dating has also shown the site dates back to about 200 BC - it was originally though such homesteads were from the early centuries AD.


It is thought a large extended family would have lived there.


The Black Spout homestead, near Pitlochry, features a heavily-built enclosing wall, which would have contained a timber building.


Archaeologist David Strachan told the BBC Scotland news website that uncovering the unusual stone entrance gave them more important clues about the people who lived there.


He said: "They are evidently quite high status or important big houses, you could make an analogy to the big country houses in that the vast majority of people living in the area would have been living in much less substantial timber buildings.


"The feature of these walls is really a status symbol to show the importance of these buildings in that they would have been very visible in the landscape.


"You can imagine them almost as sort of short, squat towers, which are perched along the straths and the edges of the lochs."


Three archaeologists and about 20 volunteers have been working at Black Spout.


The volunteers include retired people, IT workers and archaeology graduates looking for experience.


As well as the stone work, rotary querns for grinding oats and corn and loom weights used in weaving have been uncovered.


This is the fourth summer that excavations have been taking place at the site. It was supposed to be the final season, but it is hoped that the new finds will mean they will be allowed to return next year as well.


Mr Strachan said: "Every time you dig a whole you generally generate more questions for yourself, so we're trying to answer some of the outstanding archaeological questions."



Redating Caesar’s invasion of Britain

TxSt astronomers come to bury long-accepted date, not to praise it

Published: June 25, 2008 11:36 am


Julius Caesar landed an invasion fleet on the shores of Britain in 55 B.C., expanding the boundaries of the so-called “Known World” and inadvertently sparking a dispute between historians and scientists for centuries to come.


Now, astronomers from Texas State University have applied their unique brand of forensic astronomy to the enduring controversy surrounding the precise location of Caesar’s landfall, concluding that the historically accepted date for the event--Aug. 26-27, 55 B.C. – is incorrect.


The Texas State team’s proposed new date of Aug. 22-23, 55 B.C. reconciles all the conflicting evidence and offers both sides of the debate some measure of vindication in the process.


Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with University Honors students Kellie N. Beicker and Amanda F. Gregory, will publish their findings in the August 2008 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine, on newsstands now.


“Most history books say Caesar’s landing date was Aug. 26-27 and he sailed to the northeast of Dover to land on an open beach near Walmer and Deal,” Olson said. “That cannot be correct. The afternoon tidal streams could not have carried his fleet to the northeast on that date.”


The origin of the debate, ironically, lies in the strongest historical evidence: Caesar’s first-hand account of the landing and ensuing campaign, which mentions the phase of the moon and chronicles in considerable detail information regarding time of day, landmarks and distances traveled once his fleet reached the famed white cliffs near present-day Dover. Caesar’s narrative describes how, once the winds and tides were favorable, the fleet sailed seven miles along the coast before finding a suitable beach to put ashore. Unfortunately, the actual direction the fleet sailed is one detail Caesar omitted, and in that single oversight lies the bone of contention.


Because of specific coastal and inland land formations referenced by Caesar, historians such as classics scholar Thomas Rice Holmes and archaeologist Charles Francis Christopher Hawkes have long maintained that the fleet sailed northeast along the British coast, coming ashore near the present-day town of Deal.


The terrain to the southwest, they argue, simply does not match Caesar’s descriptions. On the other hand, men of science such as Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy and Admiralty Manual of the Tides coauthor Harold Dreyer Warburg insisted a northeast voyage was impossible since at the historically accepted date and time of Caesar’s landing the tidal currents would be flowing strongly to the southwest – carrying the Roman fleet in the opposite direction from Deal.


The Texas State researchers traveled to Britain in August of 2007 to study the problem first-hand. In a fortuitous set of circumstances, the equinox and lunar cycle coincided to closely replicate the tidal conditions Caesar experienced – such an alignment wouldn’t occur again until 2140. Extensive on-site research including the collection of tide gauge data, GPS tracking in a freely-drifting boat and a host of other factors confirmed that the tidal currents indicated a landing site southwest of Dover, while the topographical evidence supported a Roman landing at Deal.


The first break in unraveling the mystery came via an obscure account of the landing by Valerius Maximus, a Roman writing in the 1st century A.D. In Valerius’ work Memorable Deeds and Sayings: Of Courage, he recounts one Roman soldier’s bravery as the tide was falling during the fleet’s landing. The tide, however, would be rising during the fleet’s landing if the date of Aug. 26-27, 55 B.C. were correct.


The second break came from historian Robin G. Collingwood, who in 1937 identified a probable transcription error in a sequence of dates relating to Caesar’s landing, essentially rendering one of the Roman numerals for four (IIII) instead of seven (VII) or even eight (VIII). Applying Collingwood’s revisions to Caesar’s landing changes the date to Aug. 22-23--and reconciles all the previously conflicting evidence.


“If that’s the case, then everything falls into place,” Olson said. “Three things fall into place: the topography matches the ancient descriptions; it matches with respect to the direction of the tidal streams; and it matches with respect to the water level.


“Our new result is, essentially, the old result – we’re taking the Roman fleet up to Deal and the open beach, but what you read in the history books, that it was Aug. 26-27, that cannot be correct,” he said. “The scientists were right about the tidal streams, and so were the historians about the landing site. With our new result, our new date, everything is reconciled.”



Dig shows Paris is 3,000 years older than first thought

By John Lichfield in Paris

Thursday, 26 June 2008


Paris has long been known to be a very old city but its history as a settlement has just been extended by more than 3,000 years.


An archaeological dig, whose findings were revealed yesterday, moves back Paris's first known human occupation to about 7600BC, in the Mesolithic period between the two stone ages.


An area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone. The site, between the Paris ring road and the city's helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river. Once the dig is complete, the site will be occupied by a plant for sorting and recycling the refuse generated by the two million Parisians of the 21st century.


"You could say that we've come full circle," said Bénédicte Souffi, one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site. "Our ancestors were sorting rubbish from usable objects here in 7600BC. We are going to be doing much the same thing on a more elaborate scale. Maybe, there is a lesson there."


The oldest previous human settlement discovered within the Paris city boundaries dates back to about 4500BC – a fishing and hunting village beside the Seine at Bercy near the Gare de Lyon railway station. The new exploration – by Inrap, the French government agency for "preventive" archaeology on sites where new building is imminent – pushes back the history of the city to the mysterious period between the Old and New stone ages.


During the Mesolithic period, the "big game" of the Paleolithic, such as mammoth and reindeer, had disappeared from western Europe. The scattered human bands were still hunter-gatherers, and not yet farmers, but they lived in temperate forests and hunted with bows and arrows rather than spears.


The site in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, about a mile from the Eiffel Tower, has been preserved by silt from the frequent flooding of the Seine. Archaeologists believe that it was used for many centuries during the Mesolithic period, perhaps for periods of only a few weeks at a time, as a place to prospect for, and sort out, flint pebbles for cutting into arrowheads. The dig has also unearthed larger instruments made from granite. They include an almost perfectly round hand-held pounder the size of a billiard ball, and long stone blades, possibly used for making arrow shafts or scraping animal skins.


Evidence on the site suggests that it remained in use as a human settlement, on and off, until the iron age, from 800 to 500BC. Julius Caesar reported that the site of the capital was occupied by a Gaulish tribe called the Parisii in 53BC.


The Roman city of Lutece was established soon afterwards, beginning in what is now the fifth arrondissement, on the left bank of the Seine.



4,500-year-old mummies discovered in Chile

Saturday, 28 June , 2008, 10:55


Santiago: Eight perfectly preserved mummies, believed to be some 4,500 year old, were found by workers engaged in a restoration project in Chile's far north, Spain's EFE news agency reported on Saturday quoting media report.


"These mummies date back to between 2,000 BC and 5,000 BC." archaeologist Calogero Santoro told the daily El Mercurio.


The mummies are remains of individuals belonging to the Chinchorro culture, which was one of the first to practice mummification and the perfect condition in which the mummies were found is indicative of their advanced techniques.


Three of the eight skeletons have been kept on the site in the Morro de Arica site for visitors to see while the other five were taken to Tarapaca University in northern Chile, where other mummies found in previous years are preserved.


Morro de Arica is known for its mummies. Several hundred of them, some as old as 7,000 years, were discovered in 1983 in the area.


In 2005, University of Tarapaca archaeologists found 50 Chinchorro mummies, dating back to 4,000 B.C., during the demolition of a house.


The unusually large number of mummies found in the sector indicate that one of the oldest Chinchorro cemeteries may have been located there. The Chinchorros are presumed to have died out or migrated in the first century AD.


The mummies found in northern Chile date back even earlier than the ones discovered in Egypt, making them one of the world's oldest.


The Council of National Monuments of Chile seeks to have the mummies declared as archaeological patrimony of humanity by the UNESCO.



Medieval boat uncovered

24 June 2008


ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on the north Suffolk coast have unearthed an early medieval boat.


Excavations being carried out in Sizewell in advance of the onshore works for the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm unearthed the remains of the craft.


The boat, which was probably a small inshore fishing vessel, had been broken up some time between the 12th and 14th Centuries and parts of the hull re-used to create a timber lining for a well, experts said.


The waterlogged conditions has ensured that the planks are very well preserved and this will allow archaeologists a rare opportunity for study. Although much more modest, the boat was constructed using the same techniques as the great Sutton Hoo ships.


The excavations are being undertaken by Suffolk County Council's Archaeological Service and a council spokesman said: “It is clinker-built with the planks joined together along their edges with closely spaced iron rivets before being attached to the boat frame with wooden pegs; and there is evidence of luting, wool like fibres between the planks to seal the joints.


“It is hoped that tree-ring dating will provide an accurate date for the boat.”


Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for economic and cultural development, said: “This is an extremely exciting find and gives us a rare opportunity to find out more about life in our county during medieval times.”


The site would have been part of the property of Leiston Abbey and is located outside Sizewell, which was an urban centre during the medieval period.


The site follows the edge of a low-lying channel, which would have formed a fresh water lagoon and would have been the focus for industrial activities.


Evidence of timber buildings, hearths and wood-lined water pits have been found clustered at the channel's edge.


The spokesman added: “Hemp retting for the manufacture of linen and rope is known to have taken place in the area. This is a noxious process as there is documentary evidence of practitioners being fined for fouling the water.”


Finds include a wide range of pottery, dating from the 12th to 14th Centuries, part of a wooden platter, animal bones and various personal items such as buckles and clothing fasteners. Fishing hooks, weights and fish bones have also been found.


On the higher ground a large aisled barn, measuring 16m x 5m, and groups of external ovens suggest to archaeologists that the drying and storage of grain was also taking place.


The dig is being jointly funded by Greater Gabbard Off Shore Winds Ltd and South East Electricity Substation Alliance, a partnership between National Grid and construction companies AREVA, Skanska and Mott MacDonald.



Boat grave sheds light on Viking beliefs

Jun 27 2008 Chester Chronicle


RARE artefacts dating to the time of the Vikings have been put on permanent display in a Swedish museum after being excavated by a team led by the University of Chester’s Dr Howard Williams.


Working in partnership with archaeologist, Dr Martin Rundkvist, Dr Williams and the dig team excavated a boat-grave dating back to the 9th century AD at Skamby in Ostergotland, in South Sweden.


The excavation uncovered 23 very rare amber gaming pieces, which illustrates the lifestyle of the family buried there, as well as their pagan beliefs in relation to the afterlife. The only other dig to have uncovered such gaming pieces took place more than a century ago outside the Viking town of Birka.


Dr Williams, an international expert in mortuary archaeology within the university’s Department of History and Archaeology, said: “These were once-in-a-lifetime discoveries for Martin and myself. The boat-grave itself was poorly preserved, but these finds show the social aspirations of the burying community at Skamby.


“They also tell us that playing board-games, a popular pastime among the Viking warrior elite, was something the dead were believed to do, perhaps on their way to the afterlife.”


The set has now been incorporated into the new permanent exhibition at the County Museum in Linköping.


The final report into the discovery will be published shortly, containing insights into life and death in Scandanavia during the Viking period, in the journal, Medieval Archaeology.


Dr Martin Rundkvist, who partnered Dr Williams in the excavation, said: “I am very proud that our finds will be seen by so many museum visitors.”


Museum curator Lotta Feldt, who put together the exhibition, said: “The amber glows, they form a natural magnet for the exhibition.”