Unique Stone Age burial items unearthed in central Sweden

Published: 29 Oct 09 08:06 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/22944/20091029/


Swedish archaeologists are marvelling over a collection of 9,000 year old artifacts recently uncovered at an excavation site central Sweden.


Parts of a bow, a paddle, and the wooden shaft of an axe are among the discoveries recently unearthed from the Stone Age settlement Kanaljorden outside of Motala, according to local media reports.


“Totally unbelievable,” project leader Fredrik Hallgren with the Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen (‘Cultural Preservation Society of Mälardalen’) told the local newspaper Motala & Vadstena Tidning.


All of the artifacts except for the axe blade are made of wood. The objects have been preserved for thousands of years because a layer of peat covered the mud in which they were found.


The discovery is unique for central Sweden, and the bow is the first of its kind ever discovered in Sweden.


Similar bows have, however, been uncovered in Denmark.


Archaeologists working at the site had previously unearthed a femur from a human who lived in the later Stone Age.


The wooden artifacts were found nearby and weren’t resting there by chance.


“They are part of a burial ritual,” Hallgren told the newspaper.


The Kanaljorden settlement excavation site it located about 500 metres from Motala’s central train station. It was used during a part of the Stone Age known as the Mesolithic period, at which time the area around Motala an almost perfect place to live.


There was no agriculture in the area, however, with settlers instead surviving by fishing, hunting, and gathering.


TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se/08 656 6518)



Divers probe Mayan ruins submerged in Guatemala lake

By Sarah Grainger Sarah Grainger – Fri Oct 30, 6:02 pm ET


GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Scuba divers are exploring the depths of a volcanic lake in Guatemala to find clues about an ancient sacred island where Mayan pilgrims flocked to worship before it was submerged by rising waters.


Samabaj, the first underwater archaeological ruins excavated in Guatemala, were discovered accidentally 12 years ago by a diver exploring picturesque Lake Atitlan, ringed by Mayan villages and popular with foreign tourists.


"No one believed me, even when I told them all about it. They just said 'he's mad'," said Roberto Samayoa, a businessman and recreational diver who grew up near the lake where his grandmother told him legends of a sunken church.


Samayoa dived for years at the lake, often stumbling across pieces of pottery from the Mayan pre-classic period. In 1996, he found the site, with parts of buildings and huge ceremonial stones, known as stelae, clearly visible.


He named it Samabaj, after himself, but only in the past year have professional archeologists taken an interest, mapping the 4,300-square-foot (400-square-meter) area with sonar technology and excavating structures on a raised part of the lake bed.


Researchers believe this area, 50 feet below the lake's surface, was once an island until a catastrophic event, like a volcanic eruption or landslide, raised water levels.


The rising lake drowned the buildings around 250 A.D., before the height of the Mayan empire, and ceramics found intact there suggest the inhabitants left in a hurry.


"We have found six ceremonial monuments and four altars and without doubt there are more, which means this was an extremely important place from a spiritual point of view," lead archaeologist Sonia Medrano told Reuters in an interview.


The Maya built soaring pyramids and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 A.D.


Medrano, whose work is funded by the U.S.-based Reinhart Foundation, says the island has ruins of small houses for about 150 people and is crammed with religious paraphernalia, leading researchers to believe Samabaj was a pilgrimage destination.


Worshippers probably flocked there from the surrounding area, hiring boats from the shore to row them out to the island for prayer and contemplation, Medrano said.


Excavating in the murky, green water is challenging, with artifacts hard to see and buried under thousands of years of sediment.


The exact location of the site is a closely guarded secret, since the archaeologists want to protect it from looters who fish in the ruins for artifacts to be sold, sometimes for thousands of dollars, on the black market.


(Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Jackie Frank)



Youngest Moche noble yet at Sipán site


Two thousand years ago, a young man was buried in the royal mausoleum next to a huge and brightly decorated Moche pyramid, now known as the Huaca Rajada, at the site of Sipán. Studies have been conducted on this recent discovery that have determined his age at time of death to be just 21, making him the youngest Moche noble yet found.


This is the important conclusion of scientific analysis conducted by physical anthropologist Luis Millones, who in the past weeks has studied the tomb of the mysterious youngster, determining his age and nobility, surprising considering his contemporaries died in their 40s.


Luis Millones and team had known about the tomb at the Sipán site, location of one of world’s archaeology’s most impressive discoveries in the form of the Lord of Sipán, since 2005. But due to budget restrictions they had never been able to complete the excavation.


However, in June this year they were able to resume work and were very surprised by what they found. Since then, studies have been frantic and ongoing by excited experts.


Millones has taken bone samples from the skeleton’s right foot, which have been sent to a lab in the US where they will undergo DNA analysis and Carbon 14 dating to determine both the exact age and the degree to which the young Moche was related to those in other tombs at the famous site.


For now though, the remains of the young noble have been excavated and removed from the tomb to determine locally whether the bones show any signs of violence, or any other kind of evidence to explain the cause of death.


Head of the Sipán site, Luis Chero Zurita, told reporters today that from the studies carried out so far, the team are ready to announce who they think the character was.


Based on the objects found in the tomb – two ceramic containers, two another owl-shaped ceramic items and a gold mask also of a owl – the team is lead to the conclusion that he served religious functions.


Speaking with a reporter from Peru’s El Comercio newspaper, he explained:


“Similar objects were found in tomb 14 of the warrior-priest, in which many details featuring owls are seen. There are other objects, like the tip of a metal club or spear, which also reveal that served military functions”.


Luis Chero explains that the age of the noble found is not the only aspect of the burial that makes this find important. What is known as ‘tomb 15′ reveals details about the Early Moche period and that the Huaca Rajada was indeed occupied during this period.


“The fine pottery found in the depths of the tomb shows that it is a foundational tomb. It is a tomb from the beginnings of the Moche dynasty”, he told reporters.


Site archaeologists have yet more reasons to be excited by the find. Many extrapolate from the position of the corpse that a “main burial” of an older and more important ruler could be found nearby. Dead Moche rulers were always followed into the afterlife by many of the court, sacrificed for this purpose.


The thought that this young man could be one of those nobles and that an early Moche king, undisrupted by looters in thousands of years, is waiting to be revealed would excite anybody. Could a much older Lord of Sipán soon make headlines around the world?


The tomb 15 finds will make their way into the site museum in 2010.



British holidaymaker discovers lost underwater 'city'

A British holidaymaker has uncovered what is believed to be a lost, ancient temple while snorkelling in the Mediterranean.

By Lawrence Marzouk

Published: 10:30AM GMT 28 Oct 2009


A British holidaymaker has uncovered what is believed to be a lost, ancient temple while snorkelling in the Mediterranean.


Michael Le Quesne, 16, was swimming off a popular beach in Montenegro with his parents and his ten-year-old sister Teodora when he spotted an odd looking 'stone' at a depth of around two metres.


It turned out to be a large, submerged building which may have been the centrepiece of an important Greek or Roman trading post, swallowed up by the sea during a massive earthquake.


A British team of experts led by Dr Lucy Blue, presenter of BBC Two show Oceans, is to investigate the significant find in this largely unexplored corner of south east Europe.


Dr Blue said that if the discovery is confirmed to be an underwater temple it would “put Montenegro on the map”.


She added: “Montenegro is largely an undiscovered underwater world.”


The discovery was made while Charles and Vera Le Quesne and their two children, from Princes Risborough, Bucks, was on a trip to their holiday home in the tiny Balkan country last month.


The family has been holidaying in Montenegro since 1994, but had never visited Maljevik, a small bay of sand and shingle, sheltered by pines, near the city of Bar.


Once his son reported the find, Mr Le Quesne, a professional archaeologist, fetched a snorkel and dived down to investigate. He discovered fluted columns, 90cm in diameter, on plinths, which appeared to form part of an ancient Greek or Roman temple, basilica or major public building, similar to those at other archaeological sites around the Mediterranean.


On a clear day, the columns are visible from the surface of the water, but it appears that the remains, which include ancient pottery, have stayed untouched for thousands of years.


Michael said: “When I first swam out, I thought they were just rocks, as most people would, but then I noticed that they were cylindrical and knew that they couldn’t be natural, so I called my dad over.


“I’ve been dragged around a lot of ancient ruins, so if it hadn’t been for that I wouldn’t have looked twice.”


The potential size of the structure and the discovery of other architectural remains nearby suggest the ‘temple’ could have formed part of a large Greek or Roman settlement, dating back as far as the 2nd century BC.


No historical records exist of a major settlement on the site, although the Montenegrin coast is dotted with ancient ruins yet to be documented.


The discovery has been described as “something that could rouse curiosity in the world of science” by Mladen Zagarčanin, the curator of the museum in Bar and archaeologist, who inspected the site the following day.


Work on site later this month as Mr Le Quesne returns to Montenegro as part of a team working for the University of Southampton’s Department of Maritime Archaeology.


Dr Blue and Professor David Peacock, both of the department, will join Mr Le Quesne to explore the underwater settlement next spring.


Mr Le Quesne, an archaeology expert and author on the subject, said: “If it is a monumental building it is not going to be part of a small hamlet, but it is not a missing Atlantis, as we would already know about it. It remains a bit of a mystery.”


“The area was an important, ancient trading route, so it may have been a port.


“There are ancient shipwrecks all along this coast which, unfortunately, are being damaged and looted and which need protecting.”


In recent years, Montenegro’s rich, unexplored ancient history has lured organised crime gangs, which have flourished in the region since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Valuable Roman and Greek pottery from shipwrecks is being plundered and sold to collectors in western Europe, it is believed.


So far, 2009 has proved an exciting year for underwater archaeology in Montenegro, which is promoting its stunning coastline as a tourism hot spot while building a reputation as a cut-price version of Monaco thanks to a relaxed tax regime.


Before the discovery of the ancient temple, a local team working alongside American experts discovered the remains of two Roman cargo ships at the bottom of Kotor Bay, one of Montenegro most popular tourist attractions.



City reveals 'Bronze Age site'


Archaeologists have unearthed what they say could be a prehistoric Bronze Age burial site in central Oxford.


Experts say important chiefs may have been laid to rest at the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary.


Land around the River Thames, known as the River Isis as it passes through Oxford, was often used for prehistoric burial, ritual and social monuments.


The Museum of London Archaeology Service (Molas) also revealed evidence of a later 6th Century Saxon settlement.


Finds from the dig are undergoing radio carbon dating.


The experts discovered traces of three large "ring ditches", which could have been Bronze Age burial sites.


A Molas spokesman said: "Ring ditches are, as the name suggests, circular ditches, which are often the remains of ploughed-out barrows, that may be associated with burials of high-status individuals in the later Neolithic or Bronze Age, about 4,000 years ago."


Saxon activity around the much earlier prehistoric barrows is not unusual and is found at other similar sites along the Thames.


The Radcliffe Infirmary site is being redeveloped as part of plans for Oxford University's new Radcliffe Observatory Quarter.


There are plans for a mathematical institute, a humanities building and a library on the site.



Bronze Age cattle travelled long distances

27 October 2009, by Sara Coelho


Show me your teeth and I'll tell you where you're from: archaeologists analysing tooth enamel from cattle buried at two Bronze Age barrows have found that at least some of the animals originated from elsewhere, revealing long-distance trading networks in ancient Britain.


The 4,000-year-old barrows at Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire and Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire are famous among Bronze Age archaeological sites for the unusual amounts of cattle remains associated with their central human burials. Archaeologists have been puzzled about their meaning since the sites were first excavated in the 1980s and 1990s.


At Irthlingborough the cattle bones comprised mainly of skulls. Were they tokens brought from far away as gifts to the deceased? Or did these cows come from local herds?


Jacqueline Towers, an archaeology PhD student at the University of Bradford, tried to solve the mystery by looking at the isotope composition of the cattle's teeth. Some chemical elements occur in heavier and lighter varieties, called isotopes. The proportion between heavy and light isotopes is closely related to environmental factors, such as geology or climate, depending on the element.


Older rocks will be richer in the heavier strontium isotope and this feature is passed on to soils, plants and water. When animals eat locally grown plants and drink water from nearby springs, strontium atoms make their way into the body and accumulate in teeth and bones, where the heavy/light isotope ratio will reflect the local geology.


'Isotope analysis is usually the only method available to determine the provenance of animal remains,' says Towers. Or, rather, to exclude areas where the animals certainly did not come from.


Towers and colleagues sampled several cattle teeth dug from the Irthlingborough and Gayhurst barrows and measured their strontium content at the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory in Nottingham. The team found that most of the cattle grazed and lived near their final resting place. Some of the teeth from Irthlingborough had strontium ratios so similar that they might have come from the same herd.


But the results published in the Journal of Archaeological Science are not entirely straightforward as Towers uncovered evidence that at least some of the animals recovered from both sites were not born locally.


The strontium ratio found in the second molar of one animal from Irthlingborough is higher than the characteristic range of values for the local area. This means that this cow or bull was born in a region with older rocks - for example the Malvern Hills, Wales, the Lake District or even Scotland. But analyses from the third molar, which develops later, reveal lower strontium ratio values. 'This animal probably travelled to the Irthlingborough neighbourhood during its first year, and spent several months there before it was slaughtered,' explains Towers.


For the Gayhurst barrow, Towers found a tooth with the lowest strontium ratio recovered during her research. A possible origin for this animal is an area rich in chalky rocks from the Cretaceous period, the closest one being about 25km southeast of Gayhurst.


While strontium isotopes cannot be used to pinpoint an exact location, 'they are useful to exclude Irthlingborough and Gayhurst as the original provenance of some of the cattle buried at the barrows,' says Towers. 'This means that the local inhabitants exchanged cattle and communicated with distant groups.'


The findings also suggest that the cattle at the barrows were not brought by non-local mourners as tokens to the deceased because the 'animals spent at least a few months in the area before slaughter,' says Towers.


Jacqueline Towers, Janet Montgomery, Jane Evans, Mandy Jay, Mike Parker Pearson. An investigation of the origins of cattle and aurochs deposited in the Early Bronze Age barrows at Gayhurst and Irthlingborough. 2009 doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.10.012



Battle of Bosworth: dig finally pins down long disputed site


Five centuries of searching for one of Britain's most significant battlefields has finally ended with the discovery of "extraordinary and unexpected" pieces of artillery in a Leicestershire field.


The finds near Market Bosworth at last pin down the notoriously "wandering site" of the battle that overthrew Richard III – the last English king to die at the head of an army – and established the Tudor dynasty and the modern state.


Surrounded by school parties still studying at least four wrong locations, a bevy of archaeologists unveiled 22 primitive pistol bullets and cannonballs, alongside soil surveys and data from metal detection over 2.7 square miles.


The revelations arise from an overlooked trough of rolling countryside two miles from the previously most widely accepted battlefield, below Ambion Hill.


The scale of the ammunition haul transforms the battle of Bosworth's significance from a national landmark (it is usually ranked with Hastings, Naseby and the Battle of Britain) to international importance.


Glenn Foard, who led the £1m three-year survey for the Battlefields Trust, said: "We are seeing here the origins of firepower which led to an empire spanning the globe. Now this needs to be explored on every battlefield of the period in Europe."


Pictures of stalwart yeomen with bows and arrows have been instantly outdated by the find, which shows how the battle, in 1485, was a change from previous encounters in the Wars of the Roses.


Foard said: "Only two bullets have been found in 27 years' work at Towton [Britain's bloodiest-ever battle, fought near Leeds in 1461]. We are sure that we will dig up plenty more here."


The lead used in the ammunition that was found, some of it mixed with pebbles and flints to save money, would be far less prone to rust than iron arrowheads.


The exact location of the site, between the villages of Dadlington, Shenton, Upton and Stoke Golding, will not be publicised until next year, when the survey ends. But the four villages have hotly disputed the issue for centuries, referring to post-mediaeval texts and place-name evidence, such as Crown Hill, renamed from Garbrodys Hill some time after 1485.


"Our discovery suggests that the Crown Hill story is probably right, that Henry VII placed the crown on his head there after one of his soldiers found it in a thorn bush. We will never know, but it would have been the obvious place," said Foard.


The artillery discovery occurred after nearly three years of false leads. There was one shock when the site of a marsh, mentioned by chroniclers as protecting Henry's flank, proved a dead end. Foard said: "We really thought we'd nailed it, but soil surveys showed that the marsh had dried up in Roman times. Thank goodness, we found another one."


The discovery ends a prolonged period of nerves at Leicestershire county council, whose Battlefield Centre, at Ambion Hill, includes reconstructed mediaeval houses and staff marching about in full armour with swords and pikes. "We're relieved and delighted that our battlefield hasn't gone wandering off into Warwickshire or the West Midlands," said Heather Broughton, director of community services. "OK, the centre [built in in 1974] isn't in exactly the right place, but we're planning a trail to overlook the real site which any ten-year-old 10-year-old will be able to manage from here."


The team's work was praised by English Heritage's regional inspector, Jon Humble, who said: "This is the second epic victory on Bosworth's history-steeped soil. It has taken more than 500 years to reveal one of Leicestershire's greatest and most elusive secrets, but this is a world-class example of what can be received through archaeological research."


Des Gallagher, of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which paid for the survey, called the results "groundbreaking stuff, altering our national history".


Axel Müller, director of the International Medieval Congress, which two years ago reconstructed early mediaeval cannon at Leeds University,said: "Scholars will be settling down from tomorrow to think about what this means for studies of firepower in the development of warfare."


The news absorbed visitors to the centre, including a party of teenagers from Soar college, Leicester, who set about trying to work out the location of the new site. Mark and Marianne Lester, a sales manager and civil servant from Hinckley, said: "We've been here before and we know quite a lot about the other battlefield sites. Now we'll have to start finding out about this one."


Meanwhile, the chair of the Battlefields Trust, Frank Baldwin, called for stronger protection of Britain's battlefields to deter treasure hunters. He said: "We face public spending cuts but these places are a potentially a huge revenue earner. Normandy alone has 10 times more battlefield centres than there are in the whole of the UK."


History lesson


King Richard III of England slept badly on the night of 21 August 1485 and so did his army commander, the Duke of Norfolk, who had received the anonymous message: "Jockey of Norfolk be not so bold, for Dickon thy master is bought and sold."


So it proved the following day when 10,000 loyal Englishmen were outwitted by an army half their size, mostly Welshmen and French mercenaries, ably commanded by the Earl of Oxford. For the last time in English history, a monarch died on the battlefield, after a last desperate appeal for a horse. So the chroniclers have it, but details of the engagement will be altered by today's finds. What is undoubted is that Bosworth was one of Britain's most important battles, ending and beginning an era.


As history stands now, Richard drew up his force on Ambion Hill, near Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, and bombarded the invading force of Henry Tudor (soon to be King Henry VII). It was a rash order to charge which undid Richard. The king almost reached Henry but the vacillating Lord Stanley, whose 6,000 men had stayed neutral, entered the battle on Henry's side.