www.archaeology.ws/archive

 

http://www.physorg.com/news175415022.html

Ancient 'Lucy' Species Ate A Different Diet Than Previously Thought

October 22nd, 2009

(PhysOrg.com)

 

Research examining microscopic marks on the teeth of the "Lucy" species Australopithecus afarensis suggests that the ancient hominid ate a different diet than the tooth enamel, size and shape suggest, say a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues.

 

Peter Ungar, professor of anthropology, will present their findings on Oct. 20 during a presentation at the Royal Society in London, England, as part of a discussion meeting about the first 4 million years of human evolution.

 

“The Lucy species is among the first hominids to show thickened enamel and flattened teeth,” an indication that hard, or abrasive foods such as nuts, seeds and tubers, might be on the menu, Ungar said. However, the microwear texture analysis indicates that tough objects, such as grass and leaves, dominated Lucy’s diet.

 

“This challenges long-held assumptions and leads us to questions that must be addressed using other techniques,” Ungar said. Researchers thought that with the development of thick enamel, robust skulls and large chewing muscles, these species had evolved to eat hard, brittle foods. However, the microwear texture analysis shows that these individuals were not eating such foods toward the end of their lives.

 

The researchers used a combination of a scanning confocal microscope, and scale-sensitive fractal analysis to create a microwear texture analysis of the molars from 19 specimens of A. afarensis, the Lucy species, which lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago, and three specimens from A. anamensis, which lived between 4.1 and 3.9 million years ago. They looked at complexity and directionality of wear textures in the teeth they examined. Since food interacts with teeth, it leaves behind telltale signs that can be measured. Hard, brittle foods like nuts and seeds tend to lead to more complex tooth profiles, while tough foods like leaves generally lead to more parallel scratches, which corresponds with directionality.

 

“The long-held assumption was that with the development of thick enamel, robust skulls and larger chewing muscles marked the beginning of a shift towards hard, brittle foods, such as nuts, seeds and tubers,” Ungar said. “The Lucy species and the species that came before it did not show the predicted trajectory.”

 

Next they compared the microwear profiles of these two species with microwear profiles from Paranthropus boisei, known as Nutcracker Man that lived between 2.3 and 1.2 million years ago, P. robustus, which lived between 2 million and 1.5 million years ago, and Australopithecus africanus, which lived between about 3 million and 2.3 million years ago. They also compared the microwear profiles of the ancient hominids to those of modern-day primates that eat different types of diets.

 

The researchers discovered that microwear profiles of the three east African species, A. afarensis, A. anamensis and P. boisei, differed substantially from the two south African species, P. robustus and A. africanus, both of which showed evidence of diets consisting of hard and brittle food.

 

“There are huge differences in size of skull and shape of teeth between the species in eastern Africa, but not in their microwear,” Ungar said. “This opens a whole new set of questions.”

 

Ungar’s colleagues include Robert S. Scott, assistant professor of anthropology at Rutgers University; Frederick E. Grine, professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University; and Mark F. Teaford, professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University.

 

http://www.itwire.com/content/view/28773/1066/

Humans may call Karonga home

by William Atkins  

Sunday, 25 October 2009

 

According to a German-led excavation in the northern part of the African country of Malawi, in a township called Karonga, ancient evidence has been uncovered that may point to that area as to where humans originated.

 

Karonga is a township in the northern part of the country of Malawi, which is located near the border shared with the country of Tanzania.

 

The township is located, along the western shore of Lake Nyasa, about 380 miles (615 kilometers) north of the capital city of Lilongwe.

 

Malawi, formally called the Republic of Malawi, is a country in the southeastern part of Africa.

 

German paleoanthropologist Friedemann Schrenk, from Goethe University in Frankfurt, leads an excavation project near Karonga of European and African researchers.

 

In September 2009, two of Schrenk’s students discovered prehistoric tools near Karonga, along with a tooth of a hominid (a member of the family “Hominidae, or “great apes," which also includes humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and their ancestors), about six miles (ten kilometers) outside of Karonga.

 

Within the southern part of the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa, the Karonga area may be what Dr. Friedemann Schrenk calls “the cradle of humankind.”

 

Schrenk states, "This latest discovery of prehistoric tools and remains of hominids provides additional proof to the theory that the Great Rift Valley of Africa and perhaps the excavation site near Karonga can be considered the cradle of humankind.” [Reuters/NewsDaily.com: “Malawi could be the cradle of humankind,” October 23, 2009]

 

The site near Karonga also contains relics from some of earliest ancestors of modern mammals ever found on Earth (from 260 to 230 million years ago).

 

It also contains some of the earliest mammals and dinosaurs ever found, with some of them living about 140 to 100 million years ago.

 

The hominids found at the site are thought to have lived around one to six million years ago.

 

In fact, according to the October 1, 2009 article, by the General Information Center Pretoria, titled International Field School on Hominid Evolution in Africa held in Malawi, “The oldest remains of the genus Homo ever found, 2.5 million years old, were discovered there in the nineties by Prof. Friedemann Schrenk of the University of Frankfurt.”

 

The extinct species is called Homo rudolfensis, presumed to be the oldest species to be discovered and verified within the scientific community within the genus Homo.

 

For additional information on human evolution, check out the Archaeologyinfo.com website "The New Face of Human Evolution."

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/biology_evolution/article6888874.ece

Neanderthals ‘had sex’ with modern man

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

 

Modern humans and Neanderthals had sex across the species barrier, according to a leading geneticist who is overseeing a project to compare their genomes.

 

Professor Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the renowned Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, will shortly publish his analysis of the entire Neanderthal genome, using DNA retrieved from fossils. He aims to compare it with the genomes of modern humans and chimpanzees to work out the ancestry of all three species.

 

Modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa about 40,000 years ago to find Neanderthals already living there. The two species then co-existed for 10,000-12,000 years before Neanderthals died out — a fact that has caused endless academic speculation about whether they interbred.

 

Paabo recently told a conference at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory near New York that he was now sure the two species had had sex — but a question remained about how “productive” it had been.

 

“What I’m really interested in is, did we have children back then and did those children contribute to our variation today?” he said. “I’m sure that they had sex, but did it give offspring that contributed to us? We will be able to answer quite rigorously with the new [Neanderthal genome] sequence.”

 

Such an answer might ease the controversy over recent contradictory discoveries regarding Neanderthals. Some fossils seem to have both modern human and Neanderthal features, suggesting that the two species interbred. Yet DNA scans have shown that Neanderthal genes were very different from those of modern man.

 

Last week Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum, presented a conference at the Royal Society in London with an idea that could accommodate both sets of evidence.

 

“It’s possible that Neanderthals and humans were genetically incompatible, so they could have interbred but their children would have been less fertile,” said Stringer.

 

This phenomenon is seen in many other species such as when lions breed with tigers and horses breed with zebras.

 

“I used to believe Neanderthals were primitive,” said Stringer, “but in the last 10,000-15,000 years before they died out, around 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals were giving their dead complex burials and making tools and jewellery, such as pierced beads, like modern humans.”

 

Due to the length of time that has elapsed since Neanderthals became extinct, any trace of their DNA in modern humans could have been diluted below detectable levels. Paabo hopes to overcome this by scanning the Neanderthal genome for the genes of modern humans.

 

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-10/24/content_12317269.htm

DPRK unearths remains of Paleolithic Age

www.chinaview.cn 2009-10-24 21:00:53

 

PYONGYANG, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has unearthed more than 14,000 historical relics and remains dated back to the Old Stone Age, the official KCNA news agency said Saturday.

 

Two layers of culture were found in the natural limestone Chongphadae Cavern, Huangju County, North Hwanghae Province.

 

More than 30 pieces of stone tools, including a cutter, a hand-taking axe, a thrusting tool, and a scraper from the middle of the Old Stone Age were discovered in the first layer of culture.

 

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 pieces of stone tools, such as a pusher, a carving tool and a stone blade belonging to the latter term were unearthed in the second layer of culture.

 

Two upper jaw-bones and three lower jaw-bones of Modern men who lived nearly 20,000-60,000 years ago were also discovered, the KCNA added.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623150619.htm

World's Oldest Known Granaries Predate Agriculture

ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2009)

 

A new study coauthored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world's oldest know granaries. The appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.

 

Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and new social organizations. It has traditionally been assumed that people only started to store significant amounts of food when plants were domesticated.

 

However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra' near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.

 

"These granaries reflect new forms of risk reduction, intensification and low-level food production," Kuijt said. "People in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age (11,500 to 10,550 B.C.) were not using new food sources, but rather, by developing new storage methods, they altered their relationship with traditionally utilized food resources and created the technological context for later development of domesticated plants and an agro-pastoralist economy.

 

"Building granaries may, at the same time, have been the single most important feature in increasingly sedentism that required active community participation in new life-ways."

 

Designed with suspended floors for air circulation and protection from rodents, the granaries are located between residential structures that contain plant-processing instillations.

 

The new studies are a continuation of earlier research by Kuijt. As a graduate student from 1987-1995, he worked on and directed several field projects in Jordan that focused on the world's first villages during the Neolithic Period. As part of this research, he did several days of excavation at Dhra' with a Jordanian researcher. This was followed by several other field projects and by research from 2000 to 2005 with Finlayson.

 

"These granaries are a critical fist step, if not the very evolutionary and technological foundation, for the development of large agricultural villages that appear by 9,500 to 9,000 years ago across the Near East," Kuijt said. "In many ways food storage is the missing link that helps us understand how so many people were able to live together. And much to our surprise, it appears that they developed this technology at least a 1,000 years before anyone thought they did."

 

The Dhra' research was funded by grants from Notre Dame, the National Science Foundation and the British Academy.

 

Kuijt, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2001, has worked extensively on Old and New World research projects. His research interests include the emergence of social inequality, prehistoric mortuary practices, the origins of agriculture, paleoenvironmental change and human adaptations, and lithic technology, He is the co-editor of "Complex Hunter Gathers: Evolution and Organization of Prehistoric Communities on the Plateau of Northwestern North America" and "Life in Neolithic Farming Communities: Social Organization, Identity, and Differentiation."

 

Adapted from materials provided by University of Notre Dame. Original article written by William G. Gilroy.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091021115147.htm

The First Men And Women From The Canary Islands Were Berbers

ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2009)

 

A team of Spanish and Portuguese researchers has carried out molecular genetic analysis of the Y chromosome (transmitted only by males) of the aboriginal population of the Canary Islands to determine their origin and the extent to which they have survived in the current population. The results suggest a North African origin for these paternal lineages which, unlike maternal lineages, have declined to the point of being practically replaced today by European lineages.

 

Researchers from the University of La Laguna (ULL), the Institute of Pathology and Molecular Immunology from the University of Porto (Portugal) and the Institute of Legal Medicine from the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) have studied the Y chromosome from human dental remains from the Canary Islands, and have determined the origin and evolution of paternal lineages from the pre-Hispanic era to the present day. To date, only mitochondrial DNA has been studied, which merely reflects the evolution of maternal lineages.

 

Rosa Fregal, the principal author of the recently-published study in BMC Evolutionary Biology, and a researcher from the Genetics Department of the ULL, explains to SINC that "whereas aboriginal maternal lineages have survived with a slight downward trend, aboriginal paternal lineages have declined progressively, being replaced by European lineages".

 

Experts have also analysed an historic sample for La Concepción church (Tenerife), which dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. With these data, they have established the impact of European colonisation and the African slave trade, and have determined the evolution of paternal lineages in aborigines from the Canary Islands or Guanches, from the pre-Hispanic era to the present day.

 

Although contribution is now mainly European, scientists state that North African and Sub-Saharan contribution was higher in the 17th and 18th centuries. The explanation as to why there is a difference between the lineages of men and women from the Canary Islands stems from the diverse contributions of parental populations, and, above all, as a result of European colonisation.

 

During this period, most relationships between men and women were between Iberian men and Guanches women, "due to the better social position of the former [Iberian men] compared to aboriginal males" Fregel explains. In addition to this, there was a higher mortality rate among male aborigines, who were displaced and discriminated against by conquerors. "Not only during the Crown of Castile Conquest in the 15th century, but also thereafter," the scientist affirms.

 

The researcher adds that in the case of Sub-Saharan lineages, both sexes were discriminated against equally, "and both maternal and paternal lineages have declined to date".

 

A previous study of the Y chromosome in the current population of the Canary Islands demonstrated the impact of European colonisation on the male population in the Canary Islands, Fregal points out that "When estimating the proportion of European lineages present in the current population of the Canary Islands, it was found that they represented more than 90%." Nevertheless, mitochondrial DNA studies in the current population demonstrated a notable survival of aboriginal lineages, where European contribution is between 36% and 62%.

 

Iberian and European contribution to male genetic patrimony in the Canary Islands increased from 63% during the 17th and 18th centuries to 83% in the present day. At the same time, male aboriginal genes decreased from 31% to 17%, and Sub-Saharan genes, from 6% to 1%.

 

As for women, European contribution is more constant, having moved from 48% to 55%, and aboriginal contribution, from 40% to 42%. The only decline observed in genetic contribution, from 12% to 3% in the last three centuries, has been in the case of Sub-Saharans.

 

Despite these advances, there are still mysteries to solve, such as how to determine whether the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands arrived by their own means or whether they were brought by force, "as there are no signs to ascertain whether they were aware of the navigation or if they came in one or several waves," Fregal concludes.

 

Journal reference:

   1. Fregel et al. Demographic history of Canary Islands male gene-pool: replacement of native lineages by European. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2009; 9 (1): 181 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-181

 

Adapted from materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/6409312/Ancient-Greeks-introduced-wine-to-France-Cambridge-study-reveals.html

Ancient Greeks introduced wine to France, Cambridge study reveals

By Andrew Hough

Published: 7:00AM BST 23 Oct 2009

 

The original makers of Côtes-du-Rhône are said to have descended from Greek explorers who settled in southern France about 2500 years ago, it claimed.

 

The study, by Prof Paul Cartledge, suggested the world's biggest wine industry might never have developed had it not been for a “band of pioneering Greek explorers” who settled in southern France around 600 BC.

 

His study appears to dispel the theory that it was the Romans who were responsible for bringing viticulture to France.

 

The study found that the Greeks founded Massalia, now known as Marseilles, which they then turned into a bustling trading site, where local tribes of Ligurian Celts undertook friendly bartering.

 

Prof Cartledge said within a matter of generations the nearby Rhône became a major thoroughfare for vessels carrying terracotta amphorae that contained what was seen as a new, exotic Greek drink made from fermented grape juice.

 

He argued the new drink rapidly became a hit among the tribes of Western Europe, which then contributed to the French’s modern love of wine.

 

"I hope this will lay to rest an enduring debate about the historic origins of supermarket plonk,” he said.

 

"Although some academics agree the Greeks were central to founding Europe's wine trade, others argue the Etruscans or even the later Romans were the ones responsible for bringing viticulture to France.”

 

Archaeologists have discovered a five-foot high, 31.5 stone bronze vessel, the Vix Krater, which was found in the grave of a Celtic princess in northern Burgundy, France.

 

Prof Cartledge said there were two main points that proved it was the Greeks who introduced wine to the region.

 

"First, the Greeks had to marry and mix with the local Ligurians to ensure that Massalia survived, suggesting that they also swapped goods and ideas.

 

"Second, they left behind copious amounts of archaeological evidence of their wine trade (unlike the Etruscans and long before the Romans), much of which has been found on Celtic sites."

 

The research forms part of Professor Cartledge's study into where the boundaries of Ancient Greece began and ended.

 

Rather than covering the geographical area occupied by the modern Greek state, he argued Ancient Greece stretched from Georgia in the east to Spain in the west.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091021/ap_on_re_eu/eu_italy_hadrian_s_auditorium/print

Archaeologists unveil ancient auditorium in Rome

By MARTA FALCONI, Associated Press Writer Marta Falconi, Associated Press Writer Wed Oct 21, 11:33 am ET

 

ROME – Archaeologists on Wednesday unveiled the remains of an ancient auditorium where scholars, politicians and poets held debates and lectures, a site discovered during excavations of a bustling downtown piazza in preparation for a new subway line.

 

The partially dug complex, dating back to the 2nd century A.D., is believed to have been funded by Emperor Hadrian as a school to promote liberal arts and culture.

 

Known as the "Athenaeum" and named after the city of Athens, which was considered the center of culture at the time, the auditorium could accommodate up to 200 people, experts said.

 

"Hadrian, who was a cultured emperor, wanted to re-establish the tradition of public recitation, conferences and poetry contests, as it used to happen in classic Greece," Roberto Egidi, an archaeologist overseeing the digs, said during a tour.

 

Egidi said the identification of the auditorium as Hadrian's is "a likely hypothesis" due to the building's specific structure, as well as references in ancient texts. The digs have turned up two terraced staircases used for seating, a corridor and marbled floors, Egidi said.

 

Egidi also said the building's upper floors are believed to have crumbled during an earthquake.

 

The auditorium was discovered during excavations at Piazza Venezia, a busy intersection in the heart of Rome, just a few meters (yards) from the Roman Forum.

 

Archaeologists have been probing the depths of the Eternal City for months to pave the way for some of the 30 stations of the city's planned third subway line. Many of the digs are near famous monuments or on key thoroughfares and several archaeological remains — including Roman taverns and 16th-century palace foundations — have already turned up at Piazza Venezia.

 

Francesco Giro, a top official with Italy's culture ministry, said the entrance to the subway would be close to the auditorium, but in an area where digs turned up only ancient sewers.

 

The archaeological investigations are needed only for the subway's stairwells and air ducts, because the 15 miles (25 kilometers) of subway stations and tunnels will be dug at a depth of 80 to 100 feet (25 to 30 meters) — below the level of any past human habitation.

 

However, most of the digs still have yet to reach levels that date back to Roman times, where plenty of surprises may be waiting.

 

Rome's 2.8 million inhabitants rely on just two subway lines, which only skirt the city center, leaving it clogged with traffic and tourists.

 

Plans for a third line that would serve the history-rich heart of Rome have been put off for decades amid funding shortages and fears that a wealth of archaeological discoveries would halt work.

 

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/CultureAndMedia/?id=3.0.3900135192

Italy: Roman temple discovered in Tuscany

Parco della Maremma, 21 October (AKI)

 

A Roman temple dating from the fourth century AD was discovered inside the Maremma Park, located in the central Italian region of Tuscany. The rectangular-shaped temple was found by a group of archaeologists after three months of work about three kilometres from the beach of Marina di Alberese, in the province of Grosseto.

 

The rectangular-shaped structure measures 11.5 metres by 6.5 metres and was built using a Roman-building technique called 'opus testaceum'. A loose stone foundation covered by bricks which are then covered in slabs of marble.

 

According to archaeologists, the temple suggests there was once an important Roman settlement in the area, which served as a trading port that handled goods coming from Africa and from the entire Mediterranean basin.

 

The goods would then be transported north to the city of Siena and the Etruscan town of Roselle (Rosellae in Latin) or south towards the town of Heba (now called Magliano in Toscana) and the ancient town of Ager Cosanus, which is also located in Tuscany.

 

At the temple site, archaeologists found at least 50 Roman coins and a huge quantity of ceramic artefacts originating from all over the Mediterranean basin, but especially from Tunisia.

 

The team of archaeologists will be carrying out further excavations in the area, where they believe there is another temple, dedicated to the pagan goddess of hunting, Diana.

 

According to the group of archaeologists' Facebook page, the privately-funded project is directed by Elena Chirico, Matteo Colombini and Alessandro Sebastiani with the scientific co-direction of the Archaeological Superintendence of Tuscany.

 

"The archaeological project in the territory of Alberese, in the province of Grosseto, finds its aim in the comprehension and understanding of settlement patterns in the Roman and Late Antique period," said a statement on the group's Facebook page.

 

"The project will focus on the excavation of some key sites and on the preservation and valuing of the natural landscape of the Regional Park of the Uccellina."

 

http://www.beverleyguardian.co.uk/739/EXCLUSIVE--Ancient-Anglo-Saxon.5758141.jp

Ancient Anglo Saxon and Iron Age artefacts and human remains found between Rudston and Boynton East Yorkshire

Published Date: 22 October 2009

 

ANCIENT human remains have been unearthed during an archaeological dig at the Caythorpe Gas Storage site between Rudston and Boynton.

 

Five human burials have been recovered by experts.

 

One set of remains dates to the late Iron Age and had been buried with a simple iron brooch.

 

Another dates back probably to the Anglo-Saxon period and had been buried with an iron knife.

 

Archaeologists have also found evidence of a settlement at the site, including an Iron Age round house and at least one Anglo-Saxon building.

 

Other finds recovered include a Roman brooch, an Anglo-Saxon coin, large fragments of a millstone and numerous fragments of pottery and animal bones.

 

Gas supply company Centrica believed during the early planning stages for its development that it would come across certain archaeological finds as part of the project.

 

Allowances had been made in the timetable to unearth and share any remains.

Humber Field Archaeology was involved in the dig and is currently excavating the site on Centrica Storage's behalf before construction work begins.

 

The skeletons have been removed from the site by archaeologists but some of the first people to see other finds were pupils from Boynton Primary School.

 

Children from years five and six were invited to Centrica Storage Limited's site, which is just down the road from the school, to learn about an archaeological dig that has been taking place over recent months.

 

The children donned hard hats and high visibility vests so they could be taken on a tour of the excavated area on site before taking their seats back in the classroom to look at actual artefacts and photographs of finds.

 

Peter Cardwell, a leading archaeologist whose association with the site spans more than 15 years, took the children through what has been done, what has been found and what happens to the remains in the future.

 

Joe Dodd, headteacher at Boynton Primary School, said: "It was great to learn that such interesting artefacts have been found on our doorstep.

 

"The children were really excited and couldn't wait to go down to the site to learn about what had taken place and the things that the archaeologists have unearthed.

 

"It was a really enlightening experience for them and we're very pleased Centrica Storage offered the school an opportunity to be a part of it."

 

Pupil Megan, 10, said: "I loved looking at things from the olden days.

"I really liked seeing all the different types of bones they had found in the ground."

 

India, also 10, added: "I liked it in the classroom and on the site, as you got to look at lots of different archaeological finds.

"I've been on building sites before but never a site like this.

"I really liked some of the old pottery we looked at."

 

Justin Keynon, health and safety site manager at Centrica's Caythorpe site, said: "I am really pleased we've been able to get the local school involved looking at the archaeological dig.

"I think they will have found it very educational and something they can share with each other, their parents and with their younger classmates back at school.

 

"We started digging in July and plan to continue again in 2010 so the children will just be getting a glimpse of some of our first excavations. Hopefully there'll be more to come."

 

The school visit follows a tour by the Caythorpe Gas Storage project community liaison committee earlier this month.

 

Tony Ezard, chairman of Rudston Parish Council, said: "I attended the site visit with the community liaison committee and found it very interesting and informative.

 

"I am sure the school children appreciated being shown around and enjoyed the experience.

 

"We are really pleased with the way in which Centrica Storage has engaged with the local community since it took over the project and we would like to thank the project team for the opportunity to visit the site."

 

http://www.huntspost.co.uk/content/hunts/news/story.aspx?brand=HPTOnline&category=News&tBrand=HertsCambsOnline&tCategory=newslatestHPT&itemid=WEED22%20Oct%202009%2014%3A39%3A06%3A910

Details of St Neots lost priory revealed

15:01 - 25 October 2009

 

NEW details of one of St Neots most historically important sites have been revealed during an archaeological study in the town.

 

Outlines of walls belonging to the lost priory were found last week in the car park of Priory House and Waitrose. Ground penetrating radar equipment was used on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to identify some low bearing walls and a secondary wall.

 

The work also discovered outlines of some of the priory's rooms which could help the town's historians identify what they were used for.

 

The search for the foundations of the priory is part of St Neots Town Centre Initiative's plan to get more people interested in the town's history.

 

John Davies, chairman of the initiative, said: "The remains of the priory have been found where we hoped they would be following archaeological work in the 1960s.

 

"But the findings from the survey will be analysed and provide us with a lot more detail to back-up our previous guesswork."

 

The latest data will be used to build up a computerised picture of the priory as well as to update a leaflet on the building and form the basis of an exhibition to take place next year.

 

It was carried out by Peter Masters, a geophysicist from Cranfield University, and was the second phase of investigations into the priory which was built in the Middle Ages.

 

Historians believe it is possible there was a monastery located on that site before the Danish invasion in the ninth century. It is probable the building was destroyed by the Danes in 1010, but a few monks remained there until the Conquest.

 

What is known is that in the early 14th century there was a priory on the site, believed to have been home to between 12 and 15 monks.

 

Town historian Peter Ibbett said although the analysis of the results could take months, early indications suggest the outline of the building was larger than they first thought.

 

"The aim was to see if modern archaeological techniques can add to the work carried out in the 1960s to give a better understanding of the site which gave rise to the town of St Neots," he said. "Historians have long argued or tried to guess where the lost priory actually stood. There are some good estimates but we are looking for proof.

 

"From initial talks with the radar investigation team it seems the priory buildings were large then they originally thought. Once the results have been analysed we will be able to begin building up a picture of the interior of the building."

 

The next stage of the project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cambridgeshire County Council, St Neots Museum and St Neots History Society, will highlight the information discovered during the radar investigation