King Richard III search in new phase after 'discovery has potential to rewrite history'

Public release date: 12-Sep-2012

Contact: University of Leicester Press Office



University of Leicester


Human remains uncovered by University of Leicester-led archaeological search reveal circumstantial evidence consistent with battle wounds –but not in keeping with the Tudor sources that portrayed the warrior king as a wicked hunchback


Historic findings of human remains- including a man with apparent battle wounds and curvature of the spine - have been revealed by an archaeological team from the University of Leicester.

The University of Leicester has been leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society. The dig, now in its third week, has yielded dramatic findings of human remains which the University will now subject to rigorous laboratory tests.

The stunning findings of human remains excavated by the archaeologists came from the Choir of the Grey Friars Church.

Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University and one of the prime movers behind the project, said:

"The University of Leicester applied to the Ministry of Justice under the 1857 Burials Act for permission to exhume human remains found at the Grey Friars site in Leicester.


"The work was conducted by Dr Turi King from the University's Department of Genetics and Dr Jo Appleby and Mathew Morris of our School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

"We have exhumed one fully articulated skeleton and one set of disarticulated human remains. The disarticulated set of human remains was found in what is believed to be the Presbytery of the lost Church of the Grey Friars. These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III.

"The articulated skeleton was found in what is believed to be the Choir of the church.

"The articulated skeleton found in the Choir is of significant interest to us. Dr Jo Appleby has carried out a preliminary examination of the remains. There are five reasons for our interest:

1. The remains appear to be of an adult male.

2. The Choir is the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III. John Rous, reports that Richard "at last was buried in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester".

3. The skeleton, on initial examination, appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with (although not certainly caused by) an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.

4. A barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton's upper back.

5. The skeleton found in the Choir area has spinal abnormalities. We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback and did not have a "withered arm".

"Both sets of remains are now at an undisclosed location where further analysis is being undertaken.

"I need to be very frank. The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory analysis before we confirm the outcome of the search for Richard III.

"We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III. What we are saying is that the Search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis. This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination.

"Clearly we are all very excited by these latest discoveries. We have said finding Richard was a long-shot. However it is a testament to the skill of the archaeological team led by Richard Buckley that such extensive progress has been made.

"We have all been witness to a powerful and historic story unfolding before our eyes. It is proper that the University now subjects the findings to rigorous analysis so that the strong circumstantial evidence that has presented itself can be properly understood.

"This is potentially a historic moment for the University and City of Leicester."

Leicester's City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: "This is truly remarkable news.

"Although further tests and investigation are needed, the location and condition of the bones suggest that Leicester University has uncovered a potentially staggering find.

"If the experts finally conclude these are indeed the bones of King Richard III, this will have enormous implications for our city.

"From Leicester Castle where he is known to have often stayed, to the Magazine Gateway, from where he rode off to the battle of Bosworth – Leicester has many sites of historical interest connected to Richard.

"We have recently seen renewed interest in these and other important heritage sites, which we opening up to the public once again as part of a new telling of the story of Leicester.

"The discovery of King Richard's final resting place – if this is what we have –will enhance the telling of that story in a way we could never have planned.

"I would like to thank the university and all of the staff and experts who have supported them for their tremendous work in finding this important historical site, which is of great value to the city in its own right.

"I would also like to thank the Richard III Society and Phillipa Langley for their determination, and perseverance in seeking out the King's burial place.

"Whatever happens next it is clear this site is worthy of further excavation, and for that reason I have given the university the go-ahead to continue with their work.

"We need to have further discussion about the long-term future of the site, but I will certainly be doing everything in my power to make sure the City of Leicester supports and celebrates this exciting discovery."

Commenting on the findings, Philippa Langley, a screenwriter and member of the Richard III Society, who conceived the idea of searching for King Richard III and instigated the project three years ago, said:

"We came with a dream –and if the dream becomes reality it will be nothing short of miraculous."

Philippa has worked tirelessly to bring about the partnership between the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council in association with the Richard III Society. She also secured the funding for the dig project and is now working with Darlow Smithson Productions and Channel 4 on the forthcoming TV documentary about the search for King Richard's grave that will be aired later this year.

"It's been a long, hard journey," she adds, "and has demanded unceasing optimism to pull together all the resources needed to find King Richard's last resting place. I am incredibly grateful to the University of Leicester for funding the project in association with the Richard III Society, and to Leicester City Council for agreeing to facilitate it and allow us to do all this excavation work. The University of Leicester Archaeological Services is one of the UK's leading archaeological teams and I cannot thank Richard Buckley enough for agreeing to come with me on this unique journey of discovery.

"If the impossible dream is now made possible, it is thanks to a group effort by a wonderful team."

Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society, said:

"This has been a momentous undertaking, and one that needed to happen. It represents a huge leap forward in terms of learning more about Richard III and his period, which is the Society's main goal. We hope it will encourage an upsurge of interest in this seriously undervalued king."

Richard Buckley, the University of Leicester archaeologist who led the search for Richard III, said:

"This is an historic and perhaps defining moment in the story of Leicester and I am proud that the University of Leicester has played a pivotal role in the telling of that story.

"From the outset, the search for Richard III was a thrilling prospect but it has involved many hours of dedicated research by our team that has led to the astonishing finds we have disclosed today.

"The search has caught the imagination of not only the people of Leicester and Leicestershire but beyond and has received global media attention. It is a measure of the power of archaeology to excite public interest and provide a narrative about our heritage."

"Whether or not we have found Richard III, this archaeological project has been exciting because of what it has uncovered about Leicester's rich and varied past."

The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester, said:

"The news from the excavation is very exciting and I congratulate Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society for her persistence and Richard Buckley and his team of archaeologists for their painstaking work. Leicester Cathedral, along with Leicester City Council, and the University of Leicester, has worked closely with the Richard III Society for many months on the current search.

"There has been a major memorial to King Richard at the heart of the cathedral and adjacent to the Herrick Chapel since 1980. This is the only cathedral memorial to Richard in the country and has been the focus for remembrance, particularly on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth. The memorial states that Richard was buried in the graveyard of the Church of the Greyfriars in the parish of St Martin (now the cathedral church).

"If the identity of the remains is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral will continue to work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure that his remains are treated with dignity and respect and are reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church."

If you want to discover the final chapter of this story, you will need to tune in to the forthcoming documentary being made by Darlow Smithson Productions for Channel 4.



Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology & Ancient History at the University of Leicester

As academics we deal in factual data, and today we are presenting the archaeological facts, as we see them at present. Of course much research and further investigation remains to be done before we can be sure of the identification of this individual, and we may never be entirely certain. But, on the basis of the data we have so far – the archaeological context and the osteological (skeletal) evidence, we have a man with what appear to be battle injuries who suffered from severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine), respectfully but modestly buried in a place of honour in the friary church. This appears to be consistent with some of the meagre textual evidence about Richard III from contemporary historical sources, but does not fit the exaggerated picture painted by later, Tudor sources which portrayed him as a wicked hunchback.

There was a long history from Greco-Roman times onward of associating disability with negative character traits, a belief that we do not share today, though it partially explains the later Tudor representation of Richard III. The individual we have discovered was plainly strong and active despite his disability, indeed it seems likely that he died in battle. If this person does indeed turn out to be King Richard III there is the potential for a new and different understanding of the fate of the last of the Plantagenet kings.

I would like to highlight the meticulous work of the ULAS and the scientific team, and to congratulate them on a brilliantly executed archaeological project. This work would not have been possible without the support of the University of Leicester, the Leicester City Council and the determination and support of the Richard III Society.

We now have the potential for a new understanding of the fate of the last of the Plantagenet kings on the basis of sound archaeological and scientific evidence. This discovery, shedding new light on a controversial period of British history, is of global importance.

Dr Turi King, leading the DNA analysis and academic in the University's Department of Genetics

In terms of what happens next, our plan has been to extract DNA from the skeletal material and compare the DNA with a known living relative of Richard III and see if it matches. Discussions are underway to enable this. In reality this will be a long process.

In the first instance we will be hoping that we can extract mitochondrial DNA of sufficient quality to be able to sequence it. Mitochondrial DNA is the piece of DNA of choice for this particular project for two reasons. Mitochondrial DNA is found in hundreds to thousands of copies in our cells so it's mitochondrial DNA that is the easiest to retrieve from ancient material. Whether we will be able to retrieve any DNA depends on the conditions of the burial - cold and dry is best for DNA preservation.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed down through the female line (in the ovum). As it's being copied to be passed down through the generations, little typos happen in the DNA sequence such that not everyone has the same mtDNA type. Siblings will all have the same mtDNA type that their mother gave them, which is the mtDNA that her mother gave her. Daughters will pass on their mtDNA type but sons will not. This means that if we have any female-line relatives we can test them to see if they match one another. Fortunately, we have this in the form of Michael Ibsen whose genealogy –it has been claimed -makes him the 17th great grand-nephew of Richard III. We hope to use the latest technologies to sequence the DNA from these skeletal remains and compare them with those of Michael Ibsen to see if the results are consistent with them being related.

Needless to say this is an extremely exciting project to be involved with and I'm very hopeful that we can bring DNA evidence to bear on the question as to whether or not this indeed Richard III.

Dr Jo Appleby, Lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology in the University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History

It was evident during the process of excavation that the skeleton exhibited several pathological features. The skull had a minimum of two injuries. The first was a small penetrating wound to the top of the head that had dislodged two small flaps of bone on the skull interior. The second was a much larger wound to the occipital bone (or base of the skull): a slice had been cut off the skull at the side and back. This is consistent with a bladed implement of some sort, but further laboratory-based analysis of the bones once clean will be needed to fully understand the nature of this injury. It should be noted that this did not cut through the neck and that the skull was still in its correct anatomical position when excavated. In addition to the injuries to the skull, there was evidence of an abnormality of the spinal column. This took the form of scoliosis, or a major sideways 'kink' in the area of the ribcage. A small piece of iron (as yet unidentified) was recovered behind and between two vertebrae towards the top of the ribcage.

The skeleton itself was mostly complete, although the feet had been destroyed at an unknown point in the past. The condition of the bone is moderately good. From the position of the bones on excavation it is possible to see that the body has not been moved, and it appears that it was originally buried in a shroud, although no physical traces of this remain.

Of course, we don't know that we've found Richard: he is not the only individual in history to have had scoliosis and not the only medieval man to have received head injuries. We won't be able to be certain until DNA analysis has been carried out, and perhaps not even then. What we do know is that we have excavated the skeleton of a man who bears a close resemblance to the historical accounts that we have been given of Richard and this is hugely exciting.

Dr Sarah Knight and Dr Mary Ann Lund, scholars of C16 & C17 English literature and academic in the University's School of English

The Tudor historians Thomas More, Polydore Vergil, Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed wrote highly critical accounts of Richard III: for More, he was 'ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher then his right', and Holinshed also mentions that he was 'of a readie, pregnant, and quicke wit'. Shakespeare wove these sources into his charismatic anti-hero who plots, seduces and murders his way to the crown, boasting that 'I am determined to prove a villain'. This find could make us re-assess the Richard III bequeathed to us by Tudor historians and dramatists and look again at their narratives in the light of the material remains.




A press pack with photographs and graphics is available at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii

View a video clip on the project here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRY0CLRCjM8

Additional background information is at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii/the-search-for-richard-iii-press-updates

For contact details for interviews, contact the University of Leicester Press Office.



Archaeologists uncover 'lost garden' in quest for Richard III

Contact: University of Leicester Press Office



University of Leicester


Archaeologists from the University of Leicester who are leading the search for the lost grave of King Richard III announced today that they have made a new advance in their quest.

They have uncovered evidence of the lost garden of Robert Herrick – where, historically, it is recorded there was a memorial to Richard III.

Now the 'time tomb team' as they have become to be known has discovered paving stones which they believe belong to the garden.

The University of Leicester is leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society.

In 1485 King Richard III was defeated at the battle of Bosworth. His body, stripped and despoiled, was brought to Leicester where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as the Grey Friars. Over time the exact whereabouts of the Grey Friars became lost.

The project which began two weeks ago has involved digging of two trenches at a council park- and this week a third trench was excavated. Earlier this week, the archaeologists confirmed they had found the church of the Grey Friars and now they have found the garden outside the church.

Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: "This is an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard's grave. Herrick is incredibly important in the story of Richard's grave, and in potentially helping us get that little bit closer to locating it."

In the early 1600s, Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester, bought the land of the Grey Friars and built a large mansion house with a garden on the site. In 1612, Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, was visiting Herrick and recorded seeing a handsome three foot stone pillar in Herrick's garden. Inscribed on the pillar was: 'Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England'.

This is the last known record of the site of King Richard's grave. Richard is historically recorded as being buried in the choir of the Church of Grey Friars.

Thereafter, in 1711, Herrick's descendants sold the mansion house and garden. After passing through various owners the mansion house was eventually pulled down sometime in the 1870s and the municipal buildings were built. However, Herrick's garden seems to have remained a garden, or wasteland, up until the 1930s - 40s when it was tarmacked over to become a car park.

Mrs Langley added: "The discovery of Herrick's garden is a major step forward and I'm incredibly excited. In locating what looks like one of the garden's pathways and, potentially, its central area which could have once held the three foot stone pillar marking the location of King Richard's grave, we could be that bit closer to finding the resting place of Britain's last warrior king."

Mr Buckley, Co-Director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said the area of paving was found at its southern end, composed of re-used medieval tiles laid in a haphazard pattern.

"The tiles were also extremely worn and of many different sizes. Although the date at which the paving was laid has yet to be confirmed, we suspect that it relates to the period of Herrick's mansion. Interestingly, the 18th century map of Leicester shows a formal garden with a series of paths leading to a central point.

"The paving we have found may relate to this garden, but it lies outside the church to the south. Inside the church in this third trench, further investigation has revealed some large fragments of window tracery which could well relate to the east window, behind the high altar. If so, this may show that we are in the extreme east end of the building –near the choir where Richard III is said to have been buried.

"Having overcome the major hurdle of finding the church, I am now confident that we are within touching distance of finding the choir – a real turning point in the project and a stage which, at the outset, I never really thought we might reach."

Work at the site will stop for a public open day between 11- 2 on Saturday September 8 and will resume next week. More details of the public open day here: http://news.leicester.gov.uk/newsArchiveDetail.aspx?Id=1671

The dig is being filmed by Darlow Smithson Productions for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary to be aired later this year.



Ipswich waterfront Saxon dig unearths 300 graves

8 September 2012 Last updated at 10:20


An archaeological dig at Ipswich waterfront has unearthed 300 skeletons and evidence of an old church.

The excavation is taking place before 386 homes are built on Great Whip Street by Genesis Housing Association.

It is believed the Saxons occupied the site in the 7th Century and burials are believed to have taken place there until the 16th Century.

Rubbish pits were also uncovered during the dig, led by Oxford Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology.

Paul Murray, senior project officer with Oxford Archaeology, said: "A certain amount of historical research was done before we got here, so we had a general idea of what to find, but this has exceeded our expectations.

Church 'robbed'

"We had evidence that a church was in the area, but we've uncovered its location, so it's a significant find.

The graves and burial mounds have revealed 300 skeletons so far

"Many churches fall into disuse, deteriorate, whatever's left is robbed for the materials and it falls out of living memory."

Seventh Century burial mounds have been found at one end of the 2.8 acre (1.15 hectare) site, while the 9th/10th Century church and its graveyard were found at the other end.

Helen Webb, who is overseeing the study of the skeletons, said: "We're got the full range of ages, but it's the normal cemetery population with lots of the very young and very old dying.

"Once they're excavated, the skeletons will be analysed to estimate age, sex and look for joint disease, scurvy, rickets and that sort of thing.

"Then they will be re-buried in consecrated ground as close to this site as possible."

'Paupers' cemetery'

The graves have already revealed cases of leprosy and syphilis, but no jewellery or other artefacts have been found.

Mr Murray said: "More commonly you'd have shroud pins, but we've not had them either, so we're assuming it's a paupers' cemetery."

Genesis, which is paying for the archaeological work, is due to begin building the new houses and apartments in October, covering up the former graves.

Mr Murray said: "There's a certain amount of disappointment, but archaeology is a process of preservation by record and the work will add to the overall knowledge of the history of Ipswich."



Ancient henge discovered in North Downs

by Chris Hunter

An ancient ceremonial site the size of Stonehenge has been discovered on the North Downs.

The exact purpose of the site - a neolithic “henge” near Hollingbourne - remains shrouded in mystery, but a large amount of burnt bone and pottery uncovered suggest it was used in a ritual capacity for almost 2000 years, as far back as 2500BC, the end of the Stone Age.

Dr Paul Wilkinson (pictured below) of the Kent Archaeological Field School, which led the investigation, said the first tantalising clue had come in the form of a circular mark spotted in satellite images of a tract of land called The Holmsdale, near the Pilgrims Way.

Digging began last month and has revealed a 50 metre wide henge - a large earthwork consisting of a circular area surrounded by a ditch and a perimeter bank - which has horn shaped entrances to the east and west.

 “I couldn’t believe the size of it,” said Dr Wilkinson. “When you saw it you knew it was special.

“It’s a magnificent monument which would have taken a lot of time to create. It’s a brilliant site.”

Also uncovered in the dig were antlers and cattle shoulder blades, which archaeologists believe could have been used as pick axes and shovels by the workers who first dug the henge out.

The lack of any sign of habitation within the circle further strengthens the theory that it had a ritual use.

The burnt remains of human bones are likely to have been from cremations, while its east-west entrances could have been aligned to mark the sunset and sunrise.

With the surrounding landscape blocked from view, those standing in the henge can see only the sky - so could the henge and its alignment have some astronomical or astrological purpose?

Dr Wilkinson says looking at prehistory is like “looking into a void” and any theories are speculative.

“With prehistory, it’s very enigmatic but really we have no idea,” he said. “We approach it from 21st Century mind-set but you have to put your head into the heads of those who built it, which is difficult.”

But the discovery is undoubtedly significant.

Previously discovered Bronze Age barrows, ancient springs and trackways nearby meant the area was long known to have prehistoric importance, but the discovery of a henge - rare in South East England and almost unheard of in Kent - makes the site doubly significant.



Ale, Caesar! Romans and Caledonian tribes went to pub together

By GEORGE MAIR Published on Saturday 8 September 2012 03:02


ARCHAEOLOGISTS surveying the world’s most northerly Roman fort have found an ancient pub.

The discovery, outside the walls of the fort at Stracathro, near Brechin, Angus, could challenge the long-held assumption that Caledonian tribes would never have rubbed shoulders with the Roman invaders.

Indeed, it lends support to the existence of a more complicated and convivial relationship than previously envisaged, akin to that enjoyed with his patrician masters by the wine-swilling slave Lurcio, played by comedy ­legend Frankie Howerd, in the classic late 1970s television show Up Pompeii!.

Stracathro Fort was at the end of the Gask Ridge, a line of forts and watchtowers stretching from Doune, near Stirling.

The system is thought to be the earliest Roman land frontier, built around AD70 – 50 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

The fort was discovered from aerial photographs taken in 1957, which showed evidence of defensive towers and protective ditches. A bronze coin and a shard of pottery were found, but until now little more has been known about the site.

Now archaeologists working on “The Roman Gask Project” have found a settlement outside the fort – including the pub or wine bar. The Roman hostelry had a large square room – the equivalent of a public bar – and fronted on to a paved area, akin to a modern beer garden.

The archaeologists also found the spout of a wine jug.

Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, co-director of the project, said: “Roman forts south of the Border have civilian settlements that provided everything they needed, from male and female companionship to shops, pubs and bath houses.

“It was a very handy service, but it was always taught that you didn’t have to look for settlements at forts in Scotland because it was too dangerous – civilians didn’t want to live too close.

“But we found a structure we think could be identifiable as the Roman equivalent of a pub.

“It has a large square room which seems to be fronting on to an unpaved path, with a rectangular area of paving nearby.

“We found a piece of highquality, black, shiny pottery imported from the Rhineland, which was once the pouring part of a wine jug. It means someone there had a lot of money. They probably came from the Rhineland or somewhere around Gaul.”

She added: “We hadn’t expected to find a pub. It shows the Romans and the local population got on better than we thought.

“People would have known that if you stole Roman cattle, the punishment would be severe, but if they stuck to their rules then people could become rich working with the Romans.”

For the first time, archaeologists have determined the perimeter of the fort, which faced north-south. The team discovered the settlement and pub using a combination of magnetometry and geophysics without disturbing the site.



Buried but found: First images of a lost Roman town

September 5, 2012


An ancient Italian town whose remains are buried beneath the earth has been mapped by a team of researchers, revealing evidence of a bustling social and economic settlement 1,500 years ago.


An ancient Italian town, which disappeared after its abandonment 1,500 years ago and now lies buried underground, has been mapped by researchers, revealing the location of its theatre, marketplace and other buildings.


Originally founded as a Roman colony in the 4th century BCE, the site of Interamna Lirenas lies in the Liri Valley in Southern Lazio, about 50 miles south of Rome itself. After it was abandoned around the year 500 CE, it was scavenged for building materials and, over time, its remains were completely lost from view. Today, the site is an uninterrupted stretch of farmland, with no recognisable archaeological features. Now, researchers have successfully produced the first images of the ancient site, using geophysical methods that allowed them to look beneath the surface of the earth and map the layout of the entire settlement, which spans 25 hectares. The resulting pictures have already thrown up a few surprises. Earlier scholars had previously imagined that the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas was something of a sleepy backwater, but the large marketplace and theatre instead suggest that, in fact, it was a bustling economic and social centre in its own right. "Having the complete streetplan and being able to pick out individual details allows us to start zoning the settlement and examine how it worked and changed through time," Martin Millett, Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, said. "It shows that this was a lively and busy place, even though most scholars have reckoned that it was marginal and stagnating. We have also carried out research in the surrounding countryside which adds to the picture because it shows that the nearby farmland was thriving as well." The images are the result of a project which began in 2010 that aims to understand more about what happened in towns established by the Romans as colonies in Italy following her conquest. This research is led by Millett and Dr Alessandro Launaro (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and Fellow of Darwin College) in collaboration with Dr Giovanna Rita Bellini (Director of the Archaeological Area of Interamna Lirenas, Italian State Archaeological Service), the British School at Rome and the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton University. It has been generously supported by the British Academy, the Faculty of Classics (University of Cambridge), the McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge) and the town of Pignataro Interamna.


Interamna Lirenas is an enticing case study because, in spite of its size, it did not expand significantly during the high point of Rome's Imperial age, meaning that it retained much of its original colonial shape and features. Thanks to antiquarian research, archaeologists have long since known that a town existed on the site, but it has never been excavated. One reason is that until relatively recently, experts believed that all Roman colonial settlements followed the same template – something which the new pictures from Interamna Lirenas are now helping to question. Knowing that a full-scale excavation of such a large area would be impractical, the research team decided to carry out a systematic geophysical analysis instead. The main techniques they used were magnetometry and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Magnetometry measures changes in the earth's magnetic field caused by different features beneath the surface, and allowed the researchers to identify the town's overall layout, many individual buildings and a wide open area in the settlement's centre – its forum or marketplace. GPR sends electromagnetic radar waves through the soil to search for changes in its composition and the presence of structures. It does this by measuring the time in nanoseconds that elapses between a radar wave being sent and the reflected wave returning. This technique was applied after the initial survey revealed the existence of a large building at the northern corner of the forum that the researchers could not make out. GPR analysis revealed that the building had several walls arranged in a radial pattern, creating a semicircular seating area. This conclusively proved that they were looking at the remains of a Roman theatre. Judging by its structure, it is believed to date from some time around the turn of the First Millennium. Major public buildings of this type strongly suggest that, far from a backwater, Interamna Lirenas was in fact an important urban centre in its own right. In addition, the images add to growing evidence that Roman colonial settlements were more varied than some scholars have previously believed. As such sites are uncovered, it is becoming clear that even two colonial towns in close proximity to one another could often be quite different. The site of Interamna Lirenas itself, for example, lies close to the remains of another settlement, Fregellae. Both were built astride the Via Latina, the principal road running south-east from Rome. Yet despite certain similarities, the new results from Interamna Lirenas reveal important differences, including the position and plan of its market-place which includes a dominant temple and adjacent theatre. These features matter, Millett argues, because the traditional view was that each colonial settlement had a standard template so that Rome could project a certain image of itself for the benefit of a subject population. Yet the new pictures from Interamna Lirenas show how different towns were designed according to equally different ideas about how a colonial town should look, and what the community's priorities should be. The Cambridge team is now about to embark on a five-year project which will try to confirm this conjecture, and answer other questions, using further geophysical analysis. The first proper archaeological excavation at Interamna Lirenas is now also being planned. Further studies should also help to confirm how many people lived in the settlement at different times. "Part of our analysis involves trying to say which areas were used for housing and what types of houses they were," Millett said. "Until we have been able to do this it will be difficult to put a firm figure on the population. However, we are talking about a community of a few thousand people." Provided by University of Cambridge


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-images-lost-roman-town.html#jCp





A Roman period tomb containing vivid murals was found in January 2012 during excavation work on the new highway between Corinth-Patras in Greece, according to a report in Το ΒHMA newspaper.

“The intention is to transfer the entire monumental tomb to the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth in order to preserve it and allow it to be viewed by the public once conserved,” said the Central Archaeological Council director of  Conservation of Ancient and Modern Monuments, Nikos Minos.

The underground chamber tomb has been dated stylistically to the 3rd century CE and measures 2.40 x 2.30 metres internally. The roof, which has been partially damaged is barrel vaulted.

There are two decorated sarcophagi, one of which is not well preserved, but the other contains a picture of a beautiful young woman lying on a bed. Within the sarcophagus were two urns, one of which contained a female burial.

With large bright eyes, auburn hair carefully coiffured into the most fashionable of hairstyles and large red lips this is a lifelike portrait. She is wearing gold earrings and her body is covered with a red blanket decorated with yellow, blue and white stripes. It is designed to look as if she is merely resting.

The style of the work is exceptional and is reminiscent of the Fayum mummy portraits that date to approximately the 1st century BCE – the 3rd century CE.

The decoration continues on the walls with several motifs along the bottom depicting swags of garlands and above the niches (to hold other family members when they died) there are painted bows along with the image of a peacock  which dominates one side.

In July 2011, the same road project also uncovered elements of the old city walls of Corinth which is reported on Corinthian Matters website in their post;  Excavations unearth Corinth city walls (and other buildings).




Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:59 AM ET


Hungarian archaeologists have found what they believe may be an intact medieval shipwreck in the Danube river.

Partially buried in mud and gravel near the riverbank at Tahitótfalu, some 18 miles north of Budapest, the flat bottom river wreck has yet to be excavated.

A preliminary survey from the Argonauts Research Group in cooperation with the county museum of Szentendre, revealed that the ship is about 40 feet long and 10 feet wide. The archaeologists could distinguish oak floor-planks, floor-timbers, and L-shaped ribs. They also noticed that the junction piece of the bottom and the side wall of the wreck is carved from a single log.

"Only a few river ships of this kind have been found in Europe," Attila J. Tóth, associate of the National Office of Cultural Heritage, told Discovery News.

The ship most likely sank because of an accident.

"River navigation was dangerous. Downstream cargo ships floated using large rudder-oars, which made maneuvering very hard. Accidents happened very often," Tóth said.

The largest river of Central Europe, the Danube connected in the Middle Ages Hungary with the German Empire to the west and the Byzantine Empire to the south, serving as a waterway for intense commerce as well as a route for military campaigns.


The archaeologists hope to begin the first phase of the underwater ship excavation next year.

"The current and the low visibility makes research in the Danube extremely difficult. But the find looks promising: we suspect this is an intact wreck," he added.

Indeed, a medieval pot was found next to a floor timber, inside the wreck.

"We believe that the entire cargo could be preserved under the pebble-shoal," Tóth said.

Although many ships have sunk in the river, only a few wrecks have been retrieved from its waters so far.

Last year, the extreme dry winter exposed a 14th-century wooden wreck of a probable ship-mill at Dunaföldvár, about 58 miles south of Budapest.

"Watermills planted on ships were widely diffused on the rivers of Middle Danube Basin," Tóth said.

Most likely, the ship sank during a feudal conflict, as reported in a contemporary document.

In December 2011, another wreck was discovered near Ráckeve, about 30 miles south of Budapest. Possibly dating to the Middle Ages, the ship was pretty similar to the Dunaföldvár wreck.

"Unfortunately the finder destroyed the ship by cutting it into 5-foot-long pieces. He had planned to use the oak wood for heating his house. It was a heap of firewood, but we could detect the original construction from the shapes and other characteristics of the plank," Tóth said.

Photos: Top: A handmade nail, fixing an L shaped rib on the newly discovered wreck. Credit: Attila J. Tóth;  Middle: A pot recovered from the wreck. Credit: Attila J. Tóth.



Race to save Alaskan Arctic archaeology

7 September 2012 Last updated at 17:56

By Nick Crumpton

BBC News, Aberdeen


A recently discovered 500-year-old Alaskan settlement is rapidly disappearing into the Bering Sea.

The exquisitely preserved frozen site provides a spectacular insight into the Yup'ik Eskimo culture.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen are using isotope analyses on recovered Eskimo hair to investigate how humans adapted to rapid climate change in the Arctic village.

The research was discussed at the British Science Festival.

The Yup'ik culture was one of the last contacted Eskimo societies, but prevailed over an area three times the size of Scotland.

Although very little had been known about the archaeology of their society, a team from the University of Aberdeen was brought in to help rescue thousands of artifacts that were being eroded out of the ground near the modern village of Quinhagak.

“Storm periods are now lasting weeks longer because of the lack of ice cover”

Dr Rick Knecht

University of Aberdeen

"It's probably the most spectacularly well preserved and valuable site in terms of information content I've ever seen", Dr Rick Knecht, of the University of Aberdeen, said.

"In the first couple of years we found about 7,000 pieces, including items like ivory, woven grass, incredibly well preserved animal remains, animal fur and even human hair."

But the means by which the bounty of discoveries has been released from the soil is also the reason why the site is being eradicated.

"It's preserved by permafrost, and the permafrost is melting due to climate change. As it melts, it exposes the very soft soil to marine erosion: the shoreline retreats and the sites get damaged," explained Dr Knecht, who has been working in Alaska for more than 30 years.

"This year, we were shocked by the amount of destruction. There were artifacts as big as tables thrown up on the bank by a single storm on a high tide.

"These storm periods are now lasting weeks longer because of the lack of ice cover. The sea ice cover is at a record low right now and continuing to drop, and every time that happens the site is at more at risk," the researcher told the BBC.

Clues from climates past

Ironically, the artifacts released by the effects of sea ice reduction may help the scientists better understand how the Yup'ik people adapted to a rapidly changing climate.

The site, known as Nunalleq, was inhabited from around AD 1350 to AD 1650, during which time the area suffered through "The Little Ice Age".

By analyzing extremely well preserved hair found at the site, the team hopes to understand how the people of Nunalleq altered their behaviour with a changing environment.

"Chemical signatures, the isotopes in your food, become present in your hair. You are what you eat," explained Dr Kate Britton, also of the University of Aberdeen.

"By analysing strands of the hair of multiple individuals, we're getting this picture of a very mixed and generalized economy incorporating salmon, caribou and other animal species.

"This is in the earlier phase of the site and we're now working on the younger sites which will give us a clear idea of how the people's diet was adapting to changes in climatic conditions which would have affected species availability," she said.

"We can take this evidence and get an idea of what sort of changes were happening in the Bering Sea ecosystem and what sorts of changes were going on in terms of people's subsistence."

Dr Knecht added: "I think we'll be looking at a story of resilience in the face of very rapid climate change."

As the Arctic sea ice continues to decrease today, many indigenous communities are under threat from changes in the weather, but also from changes in the abundance of subsistence food stocks such as salmon and seals.

Dr Knecht underlined how important the protection of the site was for understanding both the past and how to deal with the future.

"This isn't just an area of cultural importance, but we could also create a predictive model about what to expect in the coming decades," he said.



Scientists sequence the genome of Neandertal relatives, the Denisovans

Public release date: 30-Aug-2012

Contact: Natasha D. Pinol



American Association for the Advancement of Science


A new report describes the complete sequence of the Denisovan genome, shedding light on the relationships between these archaic humans, who were closely related to Neandertals, and modern humans.

The results will be published online by the journal Science, in the 30 August 2012 edition of ScienceExpress. Science is the flagship journal of AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

Fossil evidence of the Denisovans is scanty; the existence of this group only came to light in 2010 when DNA from a piece of a finger bone and two molars that were excavated at Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia was studied.

Because they had only a tiny sample of material from the finger bone, Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and his research team developed a treatment that unzipped the DNA so that each of its two strands can be used to generate molecules for sequencing. This method allowed the team to generate an extremely thorough genome sequence (30X), similar in quality to what researchers can obtain for the modern human genome.

The researchers compared the Denisovan genome with those of several modern humans from around the world. The Denisovans share more genes with populations from the islands of southeastern Asia, including Melanesia and Australian Aborigines, than with populations elsewhere in Asia. Analysis of the Denisovan genome further illuminates the relationships of Neandertals with individuals from East Asia, South America and Europe.

The study reports several other findings. For example, the researchers generated a list of recent changes in the human genome that occurred after the split from the Denisovans, i.e. changes unique to modern humans. This list will help scientists understand what sets modern humans apart from Denisovans and Neandertals. They also show that the Denisovan individual whose genome was sequenced carried genetic variants that in present-day humans are associated with dark skin, brown hair and brown eyes, and that the genetic diversity of the Denisovans themselves was extremely low. Given the Denisovans' wide geographic range over time, it is likely that their population was initially quite small but grew quickly, without time for genetic diversity to increase.

If further research shows that the Neandertal population size changed over time in a similar way, that may suggest that a single population expanding out of Africa gave rise to both the Denisovans and Neandertals, the study authors say.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See www.aaas.org.