Shakespeare's first theatre found

Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009


Archaeologists believe they have unearthed the remains of Shakespeare's first theatre, the BBC has learned.


A team from the Museum of London found the remains of the theatre in Shoreditch last summer.


Built in 1576, it is thought the Bard acted there and that it also hosted the premiere of Romeo and Juliet.


Meanwhile, a portrait of Shakespeare, thought to be the only surviving image of him made during his lifetime, has been unveiled in London.


Taryn Nixon, from the Museum of London, said her team had found part of the original curved wall of the playhouse, which was believed to be polygonal in shape.


A metre and a half below street level, it has also uncovered the gravel surface, gently sloping down towards the stage, where the bulk of the audience would have stood.


But the archaeologists fear the stage itself may be buried underneath a housing development.


Ms Nixon told the BBC the theatre was built in what were known as "the suburbs of sin" just outside the city.


"The Lord Mayor actually passed a decree that there shouldn't be any theatrical performances in the city... so just on the edge of the city is actually, classically, where you find all the slightly wilder, slightly more fun activities going on," she said.


Finds made within the gravel yard include a fragment of 16th-century pottery featuring the image of a man with beard and ruff.


The theatre was constructed by James Burbage, possibly using bricks from an old priory.


It is thought to have played host to Shakespeare's theatre company, the Chamberlain's Men.


About 25 years after it was built, it was dismantled and moved timber by timber to construct the Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames.


In the 1990s the Globe was recreated on a site nearby.


Penny Tuerk, from the Tower Theatre Company, said Romeo and Juliet and an early version of Hamlet were thought to have been performed at the excavated site, as were some of Shakespeare's comedies, like A Midsummer Night's Dream.


"There was a huge appetite for theatre at the time," she said.


"People were flocking into the theatres and they would have grabbed anything that they could and put it on to please the crowds."


The site is now owned by the Tower Theatre Company. It plans to preserve the architecture in situ and construct a new playhouse around it which will open in 2012.


Ms Tuerk said it would be a 21st Century equivalent of the original playhouse - a "no frills, hard-working place of entertainment" - that would bring London theatre "back to its roots".


"Imagine actors in the future crossing the theatre and perhaps paying homage to Shakespeare as they go on stage for luck," she added.


Elsewhere on Monday, Professor Stanley Wells, chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, unveiled a newly identified portrait of the Bard.


The picture is owned by art restorer Alec Cobbe and is believed to have been painted in 1610, six years before the playwright's death at the age of 46.


There has long been controversy over the accuracy of some representations of him and many have been discredited in recent years.


Most experts generally agree that the most accurate posthumously made depictions are a bust in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon and an engraving made for the title page of the first collected edition of his work.


The portrait will go on display to the public in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday.



The Bard's 'first theatre' found

Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 11:44 UK


An archaeological dig has recovered what is thought to be the remains of the theatre where Shakespeare's plays were first performed.


The Theatre was found in excavations by the Museum of London at a site in Shoreditch, east London, being prepared for the building of a new theatre.


It was one of London's first dedicated playhouses when it opened in 1576.


It was dismantled and its timbers taken to the South Bank, where they were used to construct The Globe in 1599.


A spokesman for the Museum of London said it had long been known that an open air playhouse, called The Theatre, stood in this area, but traces of its exact location had proved elusive.


He said the open-air theatre was one of London's first dedicated playhouses and it was here that a young William Shakespeare performed as part of The Lord Chamberlain's Men company of players, and had his first plays performed.


The archaeological team found the footings of what appears to be part of a polygonal structure during their evaluation of the site at New Inn Broadway.


It is thought that they form the north-eastern corner of the building, which followed a design described in Henry V as "this wooden O".


Jo Lyon, senior archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology, said: "It's extremely exciting to be so close to the known location of The Theatre and then find remains that look to be associated with it.


"As well as allowing us to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare himself, the remains help us to start uncovering one of London's enduring secrets."


The site will be eventually be home to the Tower Theatre Company.


Its chairman, Jeff Kelly, said: "The discovery that we shall be building a 21st Century playhouse where Shakespeare and Burbage played and where some of Shakespeare's plays must first have been performed is a huge inspiration."



Archaeologists find earliest known domestic horses

Public release date: 5-Mar-2009

Contact: Sarah Hoyle s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk

44-139-226-2062 University of Exeter


An international team of archaeologists has uncovered the earliest known evidence of horses being domesticated by humans. The discovery suggests that horses were both ridden and milked. The findings could point to the very beginnings of horse domestication and the origins of the horse breeds we know today. Led by the Universities of Exeter and Bristol (UK), the research is published on Friday 6 March 2009 in leading academic journal Science.


The researchers have traced the origins of horse domestication back to the Botai Culture of Kazakhstan circa 5,500 years ago. This is about 1,000 years earlier than thought and about 2,000 years earlier than domestic horses are known to have been in Europe. Their findings strongly suggest that horses were originally domesticated, not just for riding, but also to provide food, including milk.


Through extensive archaeological fieldwork and subsequent analysis, using new techniques, the team developed three independent lines of evidence for early horse domestication. Their findings show that in the fourth millennium BC horses in Kazakhstan were being selectively bred for domestic use. They also show horses were being harnessed, possibly for riding, and that people were consuming horse milk.


Analysis of ancient bone remains showed that the horses were similar in shape to Bronze Age domestic horses and different from wild horses from the same region. This suggests that people were selecting wild horses for their physical attributes, which were then exaggerated through breeding.


The team used a new technique to search for 'bit damage' caused by horses being harnessed or bridled. The results showed that horses had indeed been harnessed, suggesting they could have been ridden.


Using a novel method of lipid residue analysis, the researchers also analysed Botai pottery and found traces of fats from horse milk. Mare's milk is still drunk in Kazakhstan, a country in which horse traditions run deep, and is usually fermented into a slightly alcoholic drink called 'koumiss'. While it was known that koumiss had been produced for centuries, this study shows the practice dates back to the very earliest horse herders.


Lead author Dr Alan Outram of the University of Exeter said: "The domestication of horses is known to have had immense social and economic significance, advancing communications, transport, food production and warfare. Our findings indicate that horses were being domesticated about 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. This is significant because it changes our understanding of how these early societies developed."


The steppe zones, east of the Ural Mountains in Northern Kazakhstan, are known to have been a prime habitat for wild horses thousands of years ago. They were a commonly hunted animal. This may have set the stage for horse domestication by providing indigenous cultures with access to plentiful wild herds and the opportunity to gain an intimate knowledge of equine behaviour. Horses appear to have been domesticated in preference to adopting a herding economy based upon domestic cattle, sheep and goats. Horses have the advantage of being adapted to severe winters and they are able to graze year round, even through snow. Cattle, sheep and goats need to be to be provided with winter fodder, and were a later addition to the prehistoric economies of the region.


This study was carried out by the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Winchester (UK), Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, USA), and Kokshetau University (Kazakhstan) and was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, British Academy and National Science Foundation of America.


The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. It is tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. NERC receives around £400m a year from the government's science budget, which is used to provide independent research and training in the environmental sciences.


Dr Alan Outram was awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant of £4640 for his project entitled 'Horse domestication in prehistoric Northern Kazakhstan' in December 2003.


The Academy's Small Research Grants are available to support primary research in the humanities and social sciences. Funds are available to facilitate initial project planning and development; to support the direct costs of research; and to enable the advancement of research through workshops, or visits by or to partner scholars. Further details are available from http://www.britac.ac.uk/funding/guide/srg.cfm or alternatively contact the Academy's Research Grants Department: grants@britac.ac.uk / 020 7969 5217.


The British Academy is the UK's national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in these disciplines throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value. More information about the Academy's work is available at www.britac.ac.uk.



Horse domestication traced to ancient central Asian culture

Bone and chemical analyses indicate horses were harnessed and even milked more than 5,000 years ago in central Asia

By Bruce Bower

Web edition : Thursday, March 5th, 2009


Central Asia’s vast grasslands hosted a prehistoric revolution in transportation, communication and warfare, thanks to the humble horse. Remains from Kazakhstan’s more than 5,000-year-old Botai culture have yielded the earliest direct evidence for domestication of these versatile beasts, scientists report.


The Botai people were hunter-gatherers who lived in large settlements for months or years. Their culture lasted from 5,600 to 5,100 years ago. Researchers have long suspected that the Botai rode domesticated horses while hunting for wild horses to eat but did not domesticate other animals or cultivate crops.


Butchered horse remains found at four Botai sites include two tell-tale signs of domestication: slender lower-leg bones like those of later domesticated horses and cheek teeth worn down by bits that attached to bridles or similar restraints, says a team led by archaeologist Alan Outram of the University of Exeter, England.


Chemical analyses of animal fat residue on the inside surfaces of Botai pottery fragments suggest that the vessels had once held mare’s milk, probably gathered in summer months, the researchers report in the March 6 Science. Modern Kazakh horse herders milk mares in the summer to produce a fermented, alcoholic drink called koumiss.


Milking of horses and other animals arose in areas, such as northern Kazakhstan, that lacked agricultural practices often regarded as precursors of milking, Outram and his colleagues propose.


“This is certainly the earliest culture by some margin with such compelling evidence for domesticated horses,” Outram says.


The new report presents the first evidence for horse milk in Botai pots and for Botai horses having domesticated-looking leg bones, remark David Anthony and Dorcas Brown, archaeologists who teach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., who study the origins of horse domestication. “If you’re milking horses, they are not wild,” Anthony says.


Outram’s group compared 18 lower-leg bones from Botai horses, excavated in 2005 and 2006, to corresponding bones already excavated by others at sites of the nearby, roughly 5,000-year-old Tersek culture. Comparisons were also made to leg bones from modern and 3,000-year-old domesticated horses and from wild Siberian horses that lived more than 20,000 years ago. Botai horses displayed the relatively slender legs of domesticated animals. Tersek horses’ legs looked more like those of wild horses.


Additionally, one Botai horse molar displayed deep, parallel grooves typically observed on the molars of domesticated horses that hold bits in their mouths, Outram says. Bits may also have produced less-pronounced tooth wear on two other Botai horses. Evidence of bone damage and regrowth appeared on four Botai horses’ jaws where bits or bridles would have rubbed through gums.


The evidence of bit use described by Outram’s team is interesting but preliminary, according to Anthony and Brown. Researchers are still debating whether other proposed signs of bit damage on Botai horses’ teeth, reported by Anthony and Brown in 1989, might instead have resulted from natural causes.


The Botai people didn’t invent horse domestication and milking, Anthony and Brown propose. These practices were borrowed from inhabitants of the nearby Russian steppes, who included possibly domesticated horses in sacrificial rituals with domesticated sheep and cattle by 6,500 years ago, they say. Those Botai neighbors probably domesticated horses after learning about cattle and sheep domestication from farming groups, in Anthony and Brown’s view.



3,500-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb Rediscovered

Ancient Pharaonic Official's Tomb, First Discovered In 1880, Was Lost For Decades

CAIRO, March 2, 2009


Belgian archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old pharaonic official's tomb that had disappeared under sand in southern Egypt after it was originally discovered 129 years ago.


Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement on Sunday that the Belgian team in Luxor uncovered the tomb of Amenhotep, the deputy seal-bearer for King Thutmose III who ruled Egypt in the 18th Dynasty.


The tomb was first discovered in 1880 by Swedish Egyptologist Karl Piehl, but it was later buried under sand until the Belgian team found it again this year.


Bavay said that because the tomb was first uncovered when archeological study in Egypt was in its infancy, the discovery and scientific analysis of a tomb such as Amenhotep's was likely haphazard.


"In the late nineteenth century at a time when Egyptology was not completely organized, and especially the study of this private necropolis, Theban necropolis, that is located between the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, the study was not really organized," bavay said. "And people, scholars were just coming there spending some time there discovering tombs, taking some notes, going back, publishing them, and then the tombs were forgotten."


On Monday, the head of the Belgian Archeologists team, Laurent Bavay, said he believed that properly excavating the tomb would be two or three seasons' work.


Bavay said the tomb had served multiple purposes throughout history. "These tombs were also re-used later in antiquity," Bavay said. "And especially in the late antiquity the tomb was re-used and transformed into a hermitage by Christians, by Coptic monks."


He said paintings on the walls themselves were in the most part destroyed but the ceiling inscriptions were in good condition.


"It seems that this destruction dates back to earlier in the 19th century, before the visit of this Swedish Egyptologist, and it was destroyed mainly by tomb robbers."


© MMIX The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



‘Royal granddaughter’s tomb’ found near Cairo

From The Times

March 4, 2009


Archaeologists have unearthed the 3,000-year-old tomb of an Egyptian noblewoman in the necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo. The Japanese team believes that the tomb belongs to Isisnofret, granddaughter of Ramses II, the 19th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned over Egypt from 1304BC to 1237BC.


The tomb contained a broken limestone sarcophagus bearing the name of Isisnofret, three mummies and fragments of funerary objects.


The archaeologists’ team leader, Sakuji Yoshimura, said that the find was made near the tomb of Prince Khaemwaset, a son of Ramses II. “Prince Khaemwaset had a daughter named Isisnofret [and] because of the proximity of the newly discovered tomb . . . it is possible that [it] is the daughter of Khaemwaset,” he said.


However, Zahi Hawass, who heads the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities, said he believed the tomb dated from the 18th dynasty because of the style of construction. (AFP)



T-shaped earthen structure preceded Moundville by more than 2,000 years

(Dan Lopez/ The Tuscaloosa News)

By Tommy Stevenson Associate Editor

Published: Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 at 11:20 p.m.



About 3,300 years ago, a group of archaic period Native Americans living in what is now northeast Louisiana decided to build a great mound.


Ninety days after the project was begun by the Stone Age hunters and gatherers, the T-shaped, earthen mound — 70 feet high, 1,000 feet long in one direction and 700 feet long in the other — was complete.


The site, near modern-day Monroe, La., is known today as “Poverty Point,” a name given in the 18th century by an owner of the property. On Friday, T. R. Kidder, chair of the anthropology department at Washington University in St. Louis, told the University of Alabama Anthropology Club it is one of the most mysterious sites in the country.


“It is the second-largest earthen mound in all of North America, second only to one in Illinois,” he said, in a lecture titled “The Poverty Point Paradox.”


“The paradox is, what was going on here at this time that led to this sudden creation of this great mound?”


Like Moundville in Hale County, where a large population of Native Americans constructed several mounds about 900 years ago, Poverty Point was one of the larger organized communities of its day, Kidder said in a Friday morning interview.


“It was probably the largest hunter-gatherer community in all of North America, say north of Mexico,” Kidder said. “But that was a very simple time of very little complexity — it was a literally a ‘stone age’ society — but all of a sudden and in literally a month and a half, they have organized themselves and built this great mound.”


Kidder said evidence shows that at the time there were between 1,000 and 2,000 people living in the community where the mound was constructed, “which means that to accomplish what they did in such a short period of time, they had to recruit workers from all over the Southeast.”


“The mound took the equivalent of 31,000 modern dump trucks of dirt to build,” he said. “That’s a lot of work by a lot of people.


“That is another paradox — how did they get all this organized and completed in only 90 days?”


Kidder said the time it took to build the mound was established by archaeological methods that showed no erosion between the layers in the dirt. He said one theory about the location of the mound is that it covers what was a low-lying swamp.


“We know swamps were associated with the underworld and were to be avoided,” he said. “And at the base of the mound is fine silt we believe was put there to seal off that underworld. But there are a lot of swamps and there were a lot of archaic Native Americans who didn’t bother to build mounds.


“Why here, why these people?” he said. “There is also no evidence that anything was ever built on it, as you find in Moundville, with the various ceremonial structures and houses for the chiefs — these people had no chiefs.”


The Native Americans who lived in the area flourished for more than 1,000 years, Kidder said.


“Then, shortly after the mound was built, there was dramatic climate change in the Southeast, with much flooding, which drove the hunters and gatherers who had been there so long away for good,” Kidder said. “All that was left was the mound.”


Kidder’s lecture was also sponsored by the UA Student Government Association, the anthropology department and Lambda Alpha service organization.



Surprising colonists of La Isabela

From The Times

March 4, 2009

Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent


Burials excavated at the earliest European settlement in the New World, established by Christopher Columbus in 1493, have surprised archaeologists by including women and children. It had been thought from documentary evidence that the settlers had all been men.


La Isabela, on the north coast of Hispaniola, in what is now the Dominican Republic, was founded by Columbus, pictured below, late in 1493 on his second voyage. The camp at La Navidad, now in Haiti, established on his first voyage in 1492, had been abandoned by the time he got back, and he moved eastwards along the coast of Hispaniola until he found a suitable location for a permanent settlement.


Substantial traces of La Isabela survive, including Columbus’s own house and the foundations of a church, all enclosed within a defensive wall. Next to the church, consecrated in January 1494, was a small cemetery in which the casualties of confrontation with the Taino were buried, together with those who had died of famine, diseases and exhaustion.


New excavations in the cemetery by a team of Dominican, Italian and Mexican archaeologists and biological anthropologists have recovered nearly 50 skeletons. What surprised the investigators was that the burials included at least five children of different ages, as well as four women.


One woman was clearly European, while a second seems to have been a Taino, because of her culturally shaped skull, modified by cradle-boarding in childhood. Metabolic diseases, broken teeth and physical stress due to heavy labour were noted in the skeletons, but there was no sign of syphilis or yaws: if any of the settlers had acquired such diseases, they had not yet progressed enough to show in the bones.


There was also no sign of battle wounds, suggesting that relations with the Taino had not produced early casualties.


DNA analyses and isotopic studies of diet are in progress, and the team hopes to find out whether Columbus’s crew included Africans: recent studies in Mexico have shown a surprisingly early African presence in early burial grounds in Yucatán.



Old soles: 800-year-old shoe soles yield clues about preservation of leather


Ancient garbage can be like gold to archaeologists. During excavation of an 800-year-old trash dump in Lyon, France, scientists discovered the archaeological equivalent of golden shoe soles: A trove of leather soles of shoes, which is helping scientists understand how leather stays preserved in wet, oxygen-free environments.


That knowledge could aid restoration of other leather artifacts, according to a report on analysis of the old soles scheduled for the current issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Analytical Chemistry.


In the article, Michel Bardet and colleagues point out that leather consists of collagen, a tough protein that can remain intact hundreds of thousands of years under ideal conditions. The French soles were buried in mud in the absence of oxygen — good conditions for preservation.


They used laboratory technology called nuclear magnetic resonance to compare composition of the ancient leather to modern leather. It turned out that tannin, which helps to preserve leather, had been washed out of the old soles and replaced by iron oxides. The iron oxides, which leached into the leather from surrounding soil, helped preserve the soles in the absence of tannins.


More information: Analytical Chemistry, “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Electron Paramagnetic Resonance as Analytical Tools to Investigate Structural Features of Archeological Leathers”



Find of Iron Age Treasure Wins Award


The team that joined together to recover the remains of unique find, a hoard of 2,000 year old cauldrons found at Chiseldon, near Swindon, Wiltshire, has been awarded a top archaeological prize.


The ‘Rescue Dig of the Year' award went to the team that recovered the Iron Age cauldrons at the "Archaeology Festival '09." The festival was organised by the leading archaeology magazine ‘Current Archaeology' and held at the National Museum and Galleries of Wales and the University of Cardiff, February 6-8th, 2009. The awards were decided by on-line voting by the magazine's readers.


Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology who led the excavation team said ‘this award recognises not just the importance of the find but also the way so many people with an interest in our past have worked together.'


When metal detector user Peter Hyams discovered a metal bowl at Chiseldon, he did not dig it up. He left it the ground and reported the find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). But this left Peter and everyone else with a puzzle. How old was the buried find?


Peter was convinced that further work was needed and local archaeologist John Winterburn and the Local History Society came forward to do a small excavation. This showed that the bowl was actually a cauldron, apparently of iron, and that there might be a second one. But the objects were too big to get out of the ground and their date remained a puzzle. There was not enough information for experts to be able to identify and date the cauldrons. Then scientific analysis of some of the metal at Oxford University suggested that the cauldrons were prehistoric, much earlier than had been thought. This would make them Treasure under the Treasure Act.


Realising the significance of this, Katie Hinds the local PAS Finds Liaison Officer then asked Wessex Archaeology, the largest archaeological organisation in the region, and who had already helped the PAS with a number of other discoveries, if they could help. The PAS had limited funds available but it was clear that this would not be enough so Wessex took on the excavation and donated their time. The British Museum sent a conservator, Alex Baldwin, to help with the difficult task of removing the cauldrons intact. With the help of Peter Hyams, the farmer - who lent a JCB digger, members of the Chiseldon Local History Society, the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, archaeologists from Cambridge University and the PAS, the cauldrons were excavated.


To everyone's astonishment there was not just one or even two cauldrons, but a dozen, all made from wafer thin metal. It was the largest hoard of Iron Age cauldrons found, not just in Britain, but in Europe. The Chiseldon cauldrons are a unique find, the remains of a great feast.


Wrapped in bandages stiffened with plaster of paris, and still full of soil, the cauldrons were carefully removed from the pit in which they had been buried and then taken to the British Museum. At a Coroner's Inquest the cauldrons were declared Treasure and an independent valuation committee determined the reward payable to Peter Hyams for reporting the find. This allowed the British Museum to acquire the hoard and in the autumn of 2008 Alex Baldwin started the next stage of work, micro-excavating one cauldron in the Research Laboratory as part of an exhibition ‘Conservation in Focus' while visitors asked questions. This work was also aimed at establishing how well-preserved the cauldrons were. It would also allow an accurate estimate for how long it would take to excavate and conserve all of the cauldrons. The scale of the work needed is beyond the Museums' normal resources.


Soon it was possible to see for the first time what one of the cauldrons looked like and it proved to be much better preserved than anyone had hoped. The date of the great feast can now be narrowed down to the second or first century BC. Reacting to the news of the prize, Alex said ‘it's great to see the collaborative work acknowledged by an award, especially when it was decided by the readers of the magazine.'


Dr Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, added ‘the Chiseldon cauldrons show both the strength and weakness of the current arrangements for reporting archaeological finds. The find, which is of international significance, was properly reported through the PAS. This shows how effective the scheme is but it has no funds available for follow up excavations. The significance of the find only became clear because Wessex Archaeology stepped into the breach and everyone donated their time. We are very grateful for this. And this still leaves the British Museum with the challenge of raising significant funds to be able to do the essential conservation that will unlock further secrets and allow the full story of this unique find to be told.'



Prehistoric axe and skeletons found at Olympic site in UK's largest archaeological dig

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 4:48 PM on 05th March 2009


A 4,000-year-old flint axe, four prehistoric skeletons and a 19th century boat have been unearthed at the Olympic Park.


Preparations for the London 2012 Olympics have seen over 140 trenches dug on the 1.5 sq-mile site in Stratford, east London, turning it into Britain's largest archaeological dig, according to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).


Archaeologists have unearthed finds from throughout Britain's history. The four skeletons were buried in graves around an area of Iron Age settlement, and remains from a Bronze Age hut have also been unearthed.


A Roman coin from AD 330-335 was discovered, alongside four Second World War gun emplacements and helmets. They formed part of London’s Inner Artillery Zone.


The most complete find was a 19th century boat used for hunting wild fowl on the lower River Lea. It may previously been used as a water taxi.


The Museum of London is documenting the finds.


Museum of London Archaeology senior archaeologist Kieron Tyler said: 'As our analysis progresses, an exciting new story is beginning to emerge.


'We now know that the Olympic Park area was settled and utilised continuously from the prehistoric period onwards. These people lived and died here.


'This new story of the Lea valley is London before London - a previously unknown London.'


Over 1,000 people from the five Olympic host boroughs have visited to see the finds first hand as part of a programme of talks, community events and roadshows.



Skeleton of village 'witch' to be re-buried

by Keyan Milanian


The medieval remains of a teenage girl who may have been suspected of witchcraft are to be given a Christian burial and funeral.


The skeleton, found by Faversham-based archaeologist Dr Paul Wilkinson, is thought to be from the 14th or 15th century.


It was found in unconsecrated ground under a holly tree, next to Hoo St Werburgh parish church, near Rochester.


The remains would normally be left in archives for future archaeological reference, but the vicar of Hoo, the Rev Andy Harding, has asked for the body to be returned so she can be re-buried in the church grounds.


Dr Wilkinson found the remains about six years ago after a dig requested by Simon Wright Homes, which they were obliged to perform before starting their development.


When they found the remains, the girl’s skull had been removed from the body and placed carefully beside it, meaning she may have either committed suicide or was suspected of being a witch or a criminal.


He said he had taken part in one other excavation, in Thanet, where discovered skeletons were "different".


He said: "The male and female there had been buried and their heads had been switched. She was buried facing east with her head very carefully placed beside her body."


Pottery found in the area dates back to medieval times and so it is suspected the body, which is currently being held at the University of Kent, was from the same period.


The bone structure of the skeleton indicates the remains are probably that of a female.


Mr Harding said: "We believe she was an executed criminal and so was not given the rights everyone else is. One of the things she could have been executed for is being a witch.


"We just want to give her a funeral that was denied to her at the time. At the end of the day, God will be our judge. She obviously came from Hoo so she will probably be buried close to the rest of her family."


Dr Wilkinson added: "It’s interesting that she will be rescued from a cardboard box and her journey will be finished in a manner that was not allowed her when she was first buried.


"I actually think it is rather wonderful."


The public funeral will be held at noon on Saturday, March 14.



Gladiator left covered in blood after Colosseum fight

By Peter Popham in Rome

Saturday, 7 March 2009


They may have been wearing breast plates of painted tin and brandishing wooden swords, but the injuries were real.


One of the "centurions" who haunts the Colosseum suffered head injuries this week in a fight with a colleague outside the arena. A police officer said he found the man sprawled on the ground "with his face covered in blood".


Officers said the centurions were fighting over tourists' attention but colleagues disagree. "It's not true he was beaten. He just fell over and hurt himself," one of the gladiators said.


In January, Rome's head of archaeology announced plans to bring realistic gladiator fights back to the Colosseum, with swords, nets, tridents and daggers. Until then the ageing freelancers provide the only whiff of period atmosphere around the elliptical amphitheatre.


The last recorded violence was in 2007 when a gladiator assaulted two American tourists claiming they had not paid enough.