Seahenge set to be complete for the first time in 10 years


Last updated: 12/01/2010 07:00:00


An iconic ancient monument uncovered by the tides on a Norfolk beach will soon be complete for the first time in a decade.


Scientists have been studying and preserving the Seahenge timber circle since it was excavated at Holme, near Hunstanton, in early 1999.


There were protests after archaeologists decided to remove the upturned oak stump and ring of 55 posts from the sands.


But the 4000-year-old structure shed new light on how our ancestors lived, showing Bronze Age society was more advanced than had previously been believed.


Thousands have been to see the timbers, which went on show two years ago at King's Lynn Museum. Experts had spent nearly a decade drying out the posts and immersing them in special wax.


But the much larger central stump - an upturned tree which may have formed an altar - took a further two years to be preserved by maritime archaeologists at the Mary Rose Trust, in Portsmouth.


Now the stump is ready to be installed at the centre of the timber circle. Lynn Museum will close for four months from January 30 to allow the work to take place.


Derrick Murphy, Norfolk's cabinet member for cultural services, said: “Why our ancestors built Seahenge remains a mystery, yet we can state categorically that it is one of the most significant historical discoveries ever to be found in Britain.


“The installation of the central stump within the gallery at the Lynn Museum marks a fitting end to this chapter of the story of Seahenge. We are certain that the exciting display of this unique find will be of huge interest to both local people and visitors to the area.”


Following a major redevelopment, the Lynn Museum reopened to the public in April 2008, with a new gallery devoted to Seahenge. Since then thousands of visitors have flocked to view the timbers.


Archaeologists at Flag Fen, near Peterborough, dated the stump to the spring of 2049BC. Axe marks in the trunk showed metal tools were far more common than had previously been believed, while the number of people involved in building the circle showed society was more organised than had been thought.


The museum will re-open in early summer. During part of the closure, the nearby Town House Museum will be open and will offer free admission from February to March.



East Yorkshire gas storage facility making historic discoveries - Iron Age sword found at Centrica site, Caythorpe

Published Date: 11 January 2010


An East Yorkshire-based gas storage facility has been making some incredible discoveries after six months of archeological excavations in advance of construction work starting at the site.

A team from Humber Field Archaeology has been working on the Centrica Storage Limited (CSL) site at Caythorpe, carefully extracting and investigating remains of prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon date.


Perhaps the most amazing discovery made during the work on the pipeline at the site so far is that of a late Iron age (pre-Roman) iron sword and spearhead, recovered from the grave of what archaeologist's believe to be a warrior. This discovery is the first of its kind in the region for over 25 years (picture attached).


The sword and spearhead are contents removed from just one of five graves, which have been investigated. Some surrounded by distinctive square ditches, typical of burial of this period in East Yorkshire.


In addition, discoveries have been made along the route of the new pipeline, possibly dating from the Neolithic period, including a substantial circular monument 16m in diameter and defined by a ditch around 2m wide and 1m deep, within which large pits were recorded which appeared to have held upright timber posts. This may have been associated with religious ceremonies and burial rites with pits nearby containing evidence of ritual feasting, including numerous animal bones and burnt material.


A further series of pits had been cut into the infilled ditch, some of which contained the burials dating back to the Bronze Age, including one containing fragments of a decorated pottery vessel.


One of the more unusual discoveries was an Anglo Saxon skeleton buried not below ground but underneath large chalk rocks. It is difficult to draw precise conclusions about what happened in this poor person's case but the find leaves a lot to the imagination.


Don Reid, business owner of Centrica Gas Storage projects, said: "The work that Humber Field Archaeology has completed and the artefacts that they unearthed will help us to build upon our knowledge of how people lived during these time periods. The discoveries, dating back as far as the Neolithic period, are an incredible find and we are proud to have been involved in this groundbreaking work. Undertaking work of this nature is very important to us and we are delighted that it has unearthed some interesting finds that we are sure will be of interest to people ahead of work beginning at the site in 2010."


Peter Cardwell, a leading local archaeological and heritage consultant, said, "We've made several significant finds at Caythorpe. The excavations at the site will enable many important archaeological remains to be investigated, most of which were previously unknown or had been seen only via aerial photography.


"The date of these remains spans several thousands of years so the results of the excavations and the analysis of the finds recovered over the coming months, will enable a much more detailed history to be established and understood in this part of the East Yorkshire landscape."


The finds will be analysed once the work is completed in early January and exhibited at a later date for the wider public to view.



Archeologists discover 8,000-year-old building in Tel Aviv

By Haaretz Service


Remains of a prehistoric building, the earliest ever discovered in the Tel Aviv region and estimated to be between 7,800 and 8,400 years old, were recently discovered in an archaeological excavation in Ramat Aviv.


Ancient artifacts thought to be 13,000 and 100,000 years old were also discovered there.


Archaeologist Ayelet Dayan, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that "this discovery is both important and surprising to researchers of the period. For the first time we have encountered evidence of a permanent habitation that existed in the Tel Aviv region 8,000 years ago."


"The site is located on the northern bank of the Yarkon River, not far from the confluence with Nahal Ayalon. We can assume that this fact influenced the ancient settlers in choosing a place to live. The fertile alluvium soil along the fringes of the streams was considered a preferred location for a settlement in ancient periods," she said.


During the Neolithic period (also known as the New Stone Age) man went from a nomadic existence of hunting and gathering to living in permanent settlements and began to engage in agriculture.


Remains of an ancient building with at least three rooms were discovered at the site. The pottery shards that were found there attest to the age of the site, which dates to the Neolithic period. In addition, flint tools such as sickle blades were discovered, as well as numerous flakes left over from the knapping of these implements, which are indicative of an ancient tool-making industry.


Flint implements that are also ascribed to earlier periods were discovered at the site: a point of a hunting tool from the Middle Paleolithic period and items that date to c. 13,000 years ago.


Other interesting finds were also uncovered in the excavation, among them a fragment of a base of a basalt bowl and animal remains - hippopotamus bones and teeth that probably belonged to sheep or goat.




An altar dedicated to the king of the gods was used for ritual ceremonies by the ancient Greeks.

Fri Jan 15, 2010 05:35 PM ET

content provided by Bruce Bower, Science News


The Greek god Zeus was honored by the ancients at an open-air sanctuary atop Mount Lykaion, new research shows.


Excavations at the Sanctuary of Zeus atop Greece's Mount Lykaion have revealed that ritual activities occurred there for roughly 1,500 years, from the height of classic Greek civilization around 3,400 years ago until just before Roman conquest in 146.


"We may have the first documented mountaintop shrine from the ancient Greek world," says project director David Romano of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.


Ritual ceremonies were conducted in a part of the open-air sanctuary called the ash altar of Zeus. It now consists of a mound of ash, stone and various inscribed dedications to Zeus, the head god of Greek mythology. Romano's team has found no evidence of a temple or structures of any kind on Mount Lykaion.


Work conducted over the past two years at the ash altar of Zeus has unearthed material from many phases of Greek civilization. Finds include pottery of various types, terra cotta figurines of people and animals, and burned bones of sheep and goats.


Chemical analyses have revealed traces of red wine on the inside surfaces of some pottery fragments, Romano says.


His team reported initial evidence of ritual activity at the ash altar of Zeus in 2007. The new discoveries indicate that ancient Greeks kept returning to the sacred site for a remarkably long time.




Alexander's men wore linothorax, a highly effective type of body armor created by laminating together layers of linen, research finds.

By Rossella Lorenzi | Mon Jan 11, 2010 03:54 AM ET


A Kevlar-like armor might have helped Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.) conquer nearly the entirety of the known world in little more than two decades, according to new reconstructive archaeology research.


Presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Anaheim, Calif., the study suggests that Alexander and his soldiers protected themselves with linothorax, a type of body armor made by laminating together layers of linen.


"While we know quite a lot about ancient armor made from metal, linothorax remains something of a mystery since no examples have survived, due to the perishable nature of the material," Gregory Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, told Discovery News.


"Nevertheless, we have managed to show that this linen armor thrived as a form of body protection for nearly 1,000 years, and was used by a wide variety of ancient Mediterranean civilizations," Aldrete said.


Indeed, Aldrede and co-investigator Scott Bartell discovered that linothorax was widely mentioned in ancient records.


"Currently we have 27 descriptions by 18 different ancient authors and nearly 700 visual images on objects ranging from Greek vases to Etruscan temple reliefs," Aldrete said.


The main visual evidence for Alexander wearing linothorax is the famous "Alexander Mosaic" from Pompeii, in which the Macedonian king is depicted with this sort of armor.


Indeed, in his "Life of Alexander," the Greek historian Plutarch states that Alexander wore "a breastplate of folded (or doubled) linen" at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C. This battle a was a huge victory for the Greeks and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.


According to the researchers, there is further evidence that linen breastplates were standard equipment in the Macedonian army.


"When Alexander was in India, and received 25,000 new suits of armor for his army, he is described as having ordered the old worn-out suits of armor to be burned. This would only make sense if they had been made of fabric rather than metal," Aldrete said.


In order to determine how wearable this armor was, and how effective it would have been in protecting its wearer from arrows and other battlefield hazards, Aldrete and Bartell reconstructed several complete sets of linen armor using only material that were only available in the ancient world.


"The hardest part of the project was finding truly authentic linen. It had to be made from flax plants that were grown, harvested and processed, spun and woven by hand," Aldrete said.


The other key ingredient was glue, which was placed over various layers of linen. The researchers chose to work with two simpler glues that would have been available everywhere: a glue made from the skins of rabbits and another from flax seeds.


Tests included shooting the resulting patches with arrows and hitting them with a variety of weapons including swords, axes and spears.


"Our controlled experiments basically dispelled the myth that armor made out of cloth must have been inferior to other available types. Indeed, the laminated layers function like an ancient version of modern Kevlar armor, using the flexibility of the fabric to disperse the force of the incoming arrow," Aldrete said.


According to Heidi Sherman, linen expert and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the researchers have achieved some very convincing results.


"One cannot know with complete certainty how close the model is to the linen armor used by Alexander the Great's army, but several layers of fused linen can indeed withstand quite a rigorous battering. They would have provided ample protection under rather extreme conditions," Sherman told Discovery News.



Ancient Roam


A priceless ancient Roman statue has been discovered being used to decorate a flower bed in a housing estate.


The headless sculpture of an emperor is believed to have been stolen some time in the 1930s and then used during the construction of a posh private square in Naples, Italy.


It is thought to date back to the 2nd century BC and may once have stood in the grand gardens of a local palace.


Police have now restored the statue to the city's archaeological museum after a race against time to beat the Mafia to the treasure.


"We knew they were aware that this statue existed but neither they nor we knew where so we just kept searching until we found it," said one officer.



Medieval defences found at Edinburgh Castle


Archaeologists made the discovery during work to build new Tattoo stands

Late medieval walls and the foundations of what appears to be a military spur, which formed part of the outer defences at Edinburgh Castle, have been found.

The defences, which date from at least the 16th Century, were discovered by archaeologists during foundation works for new Military Tattoo stands.

Service trenches were opened which revealed two structures about 2m beneath the esplanade.

Archaeologists will record the remains before they are reburied.

The first trench, which was discovered earlier this week by experts from CFA Archaeology, revealed the remains of a wall about 2ft wide, which is thought to be part of the north perimeter boundary wall between the city and the castle.

The opening of a second trench uncovered what initially looked like a continuation of the boundary wall, but now appears to be separate remains, similar to the foundations of a spur, a 16th Century defensive bastion which protected the entrance to the castle.


Both appear in a 17th Century drawing by Gordon of Rothiemay, but until now the precise location had remained unknown.

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "Edinburgh Castle has a long and important role at the centre of the country's history.

"Finds of this kind are extremely valuable in terms of improving our understanding of the development of the castle, and its defensive needs during key periods in time, as well as showcasing effective modern day partnership working between the heritage and construction sectors."

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland's head archaeologist, said: "As the remains have effectively lain covered for over 250 years, this is a unique opportunity to learn more about the esplanade during this period in the castle's history.

"Until recently we have only had early drawings to go by, but we are now able to examine the archaeology and record and preserve as much of it as is possible for future generations.

"The remains are too deep down to be displayed, but to have this knowledge is a great step forward."

The esplanade was formed in 1753 to create a parade ground for the military. Large amounts of levelling was deposited on the area in front of the castle, covering up earlier buildings.



Salisbury Cathedral experts uncover hidden gothic text


Conservation experts have uncovered historic hidden text inscribed on the wall of Salisbury Cathedral.

The text in gothic lettering, thought to be more than 350 years old, was found behind the Henry Hyde monument.

Conservator Tom Beattie said: "We are used to uncovering information about the fabric of the building as we go about our daily work.

"But this has to be one of the best finds. We are all left wondering what the writing was for and what it says."

The discovery was made when the conservators moved the Henry Hyde monument from the south aisle wall to repair and clean it.

Biblical text

Tim Tatton Brown, the cathedral's archaeologist, said: "Sir Henry Hyde had been quietly buried in the cathedral in 1650 after his execution by Parliament for supporting King Charles I.

"There are several lines of a large textual inscription. Unfortunately it has subsequently been whitewashed over, making it difficult to read, but the good gothic lettering is clearly visible.

"It needs a specialist to confirm what it is but my guess is that it is a biblical text, put there in the Elizabethan period when the nave was fitted out with high pews for people to sit in to listen to the sermons preached there.

"Inscriptions of the bible would have been written on the inside walls of the building following the Reformation, having been translated into English in Cranmer's bible."

Canon Treasurer Mark Bonney said: "We think the best approach is to preserve the text in its present state and then carry out a comprehensive photographic record before it is covered up again when the monument is returned to the wall."



'Priceless' Amber Room of the Tsars, looted and hidden by the Nazis, is 'found' by Russian treasure hunter



The Amber Room of the Tsars - one of the greatest missing treasures of WW2 that was looted by the Nazis during their invasion of the Soviet Union - may have been found.

A Russian treasure hunter is currently excavating in the enclave of Kaliningrad where he has discovered a World War II era bunker that the local German high command used in the battle for the city in 1945.

If Sergei Trifonov is correct then he has solved one of the greatest riddles left over from the war - and will make himself into a multi-millionaire. 


A Russian treasure hunter claims he has found the original Amber Room in Kaliningrad

He anticipates that he will break into the bunker by the end of the month to find the treasure.

Crafted entirely out of amber, gold and precious stones, the room made of numerous panels was a masterpiece of baroque art and widely regarded as the world's most important art treasure.

When its 565 candles were lit the Amber Room was said to 'glow a fiery gold'.  It is estimated to be worth around £150million, but many consider it priceless.

It was presented to Peter the Great in 1716 by the King of Prussia.

Later, Catherine the Great commissioned a new generation of craftsmen to embellish the room and moved it from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to her new summer abode in Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city.


The room was seized by the marauding Germans during their onslaught on Russia in 1941.  Prussian count Sommes Laubach, the Germans' 'art protection officer' and holder of a degree in art history, supervised the room's transport to Koenigsberg Castle in what was then East Prussia.

In January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city, the room was lost.  Ever since the Amber Room has become the new El Dorado, a quest that enthralled the wealthy and the poor alike.

The Maigret author Georges Simenon founded the Amber Room Club to track it down once and for all. Everyone had a different theory of what might have befallen the work.

The German official in charge of the amber shipment said the crates were in a castle that burned down in an air raid.


Others think the room sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a torpedoed steamer used by the Nazis, or that it was hacked up by Red Army troops and sent home like sticks of rock as souvenirs of their conquest.

Historian Trifonov, however, believes he has solved the riddle and that the treasure lies in the bunker 40 feet down in the soil of Koenigsberg.

'Believe me or not, it's there, 12 metres down in the sub-soil,' he said, pointing to the entrance of a bunker that sheltered the Nazi high command in the last hours of the Battle of Koenigsberg.

'This place was built in February 1945 with two aims: accommodating the headquarters of General Otto Lasch and storing the treasures of Konigsberg, a city under siege.'

Königsberg, in what was then German East Prussia, is now Kaliningrad, the capital of Russia's westernmost region of the same name.


The gothic cathedral in Kaliningrad, near where the Amber Room of the Tsars may have been found

To test his theory, Trifonov has begun to probe the soil under the bunker using a ground-penetrating radar and has started to pump out water. He has already unearthed a brick-lined room.

The bunker is 1,000 yards from the site of the castle that demolished in 1967. He says he has 'information' from archives that this is the repository of the fabled room, but he isn't saying where his sources are.

The governor of Kaliningrad appears convinced and has provided financing for the dig.  But many remain sceptical.

'He's a good storyteller but he can't prove anything,' said Vladimir Kulakov, an expert at Russia's Institute of Archaeology, who has also dug in the soil under the bunker in the search for the Amber Room.

Anatoly Valuyev, deputy director of Kaliningrad's History and Art Museum, which takes in the bunker, was more hopeful.

'It's good that people think that the treasure is there. They have energy and the museum gains from this,' he said.

'We still hope that the Amber Room is somewhere in Kaliningrad,' he said. 'There are plenty of underground sites left to explore. If they don't find it here, they'll look elsewhere.'


Read more: http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1244140/Priceless-Amber-Room-Tsars-looted-hidden-Nazis-Russian-treasure-hunter.html#ixzz0czu1OVre