One of world's oldest sun dials discovered in Egypt


Researchers have unearthed one of the world's oldest Egyptian sun dials - possibly dating back to 13th century BC - used by the people to tell time with the position of the Sun.


The discovery was made during archaeological excavations in the Kings' Valley in Upper Egypt by a team of researchers from the University of Basel.


The team led by Professor Susanne Bickel made the significant discovery while clearing the entrance to one of the tombs.


During this year's excavations the researchers found a flattened piece of limestone (so-called Ostracon) on which a semicircle in black colour had been drawn. The semicircle is divided into twelve sections of about 15 degrees each.


A dent in the middle of the approximately 16 centimetre long horizontal baseline served to insert a wooden or metal bolt that would cast a shadow to show the hours of the day. Small dots in the middle of each section were used for even more detailed time measuring.


The sun dial was found in an area of stone huts that were used in the 13th century BC to house the men working at the construction of the graves. The sun dial was possibly used to measure their work hours.


However, the division of the sun path into hours also played a crucial role in the so-called netherworld guides that were drawn onto the walls of the royal tombs.


These guides are illustrated texts that chronologically describe the nightly progression of the sun-god through the underworld. Thus, the sun dial could also have served to further visualise this phenomenon, researchers said.


During this year's excavation in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities and with the help of students of the University of Basel over 500 mostly fragmentary objects that had been recovered in former seasons were documented and prepared for further scientific examination.


This also includes all the material of the lower strata of tomb KV 64 found in 2012. Inside the roughly 3500 year old tomb Basel researchers had discovered a sarcophagus that was holding the mummy of a woman named Nehemes-Bastet.



Cirencester Roman cockerel 'best find' in 40 years

12 March 2013 Last updated at 15:57


A restored Roman cockerel figurine is the best result from a Cirencester dig in decades, archaeologists have said.


The enamelled object, which dates back as far as AD100, was unearthed during a dig in 2011 at a Roman burial site in the town.


It has now returned from conservation work and finders Cotswold Archaeology said it "looks absolutely fantastic".


The 12.5cm bronze figure was discovered inside a child's grave and is thought to have been a message to the gods.


It is believed that the Romans gave religious significance to the cockerel which was known to be connected with Mercury.


Experts say it was Mercury, a messenger to the gods, that was also responsible for conducting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife.


The figurine had to be sent away for conservation work to be carried out which has taken four months to complete.


Archaeologist Neil Holbrook, from Cotswold Archaeology, said the work had "exceeded expectations", particularly for highlighting its fine enamel detail.


"It reinforces what a fantastic article this is and how highly prized and expensive it must have been," he said.


"This must have cost, in current money, thousands of pounds to buy and countless hours to make, and so to actually put this into the grave of a two or three-year-old child is not something that you would do lightly.


"It really shows that this was a very wealthy, important family, and signifies the love that the parents had for the dead child."


The cockerel was found during excavation work at the former Bridges Garage site on Tetbury Road in Cirencester - once the second largest town in Roman Britain.


A burial site was unearthed at the site including more than 40 burials and four cremations; something experts said was the largest archaeological find in the town since the 1970s.


This particular figurine is one of only four ever found in Britain, with a total of eight known from the whole of the Roman Empire.


Mr Holbrook added: "Without a doubt this is the best Roman cockerel ever found in Britain.


"This is the best find that I have seen come out of Cirencester in 30 to 40 years and is of national significance."


The object is believed to have been made in northern Britain, with evidence pointing to a workshop in Castleford, West Yorkshire, which made enamel artefacts.


Talks are under way for a permanent display of the cockerel, possibly at the Corinium Museum in Cirencester.



London rail workers find likely plague burial pit

(Update) March 15, 2013 by Danica Kirka


Workers digging a new railway line in London have uncovered what they believe is a burial ground containing victims of the Black Death—a plague that wiped out as much as half of London's inhabitants when it swept the city in the mid-14th century.

Workers involved in the Crossrail project located 13 skeletons lying in two carefully laid out rows on the edge of historic Charterhouse Square, an area where historical records suggest a burial ground was located. Project archaeologist Jay Carver said scientists will study the bones to establish cause of death, and hope to map the DNA signature of the plague bacteria. "This is a pretty rare find within London," Carver said Friday. It is the latest in a string of unusual discoveries that have been a byproduct of the Crossrail project, which has also uncovered amber that is 55 million years old, bison and mammoth bones 68,000 years old, the remains of a large manor house surrounded by a moat dating to the 1500s and remains from Roman times. At a time long before people moved quickly, the plague traveled fast. The bacillus spread via fleas on rats, cutting a swathe through populations ignorant of its cause. It began racing from Asia through Europe and North Africa in 1347, moving quickly among people who had no idea how to stop it. By 1348 it struck this island nation. While estimates vary, it is thought to have killed roughly 75 million people worldwide in a four-year pandemic.  Among the millions killed were thousands of Londoners, though the exact number is unclear because record-keeping was so poor, said Roy Stephenson, the head of the Museum of London's archaeological collections and archives. Still there was order in the Charterhouse site, and the regular spacing between the bodies suggests some sort of municipal control, Stephenson said. The way the bodies are laid out also corresponds to a similar Black Plague burial ground. The depth of the burials—2.5 meters below a road that surrounds the square—together with artifacts dating from the area, also add to the case that it contained the pandemic's victims. Historical records also suggest a burial ground had been located in the area of the dig. But the area —considered somewhat of a "no-man's land" at the time of the plague—sits at the edge of a historic square, and thus was never really pinpointed or excavated until the rail project.

Scientists have brought the remains to the Museum of London Archaeology for laboratory testing, hoping to map the DNA signature of the bacteria, which could be found in the teeth or bones. Radiocarbon dating could also be used to establish burial dates. But there's no chance that a new outbreak of bubonic plague might be ignited from the find. Stephenson said the bacillus is quite fragile and dies without a host. Researchers hope, simply, that the study of the bones might add to an understanding of the plague and the lives of the people who lived in the city at the time. Crossrail, an ongoing 14.8 billion pound ($22.4 billion) project to put a new rail line from west to east London, has been digging big holes all over the city—and adding to the understanding of London's past in the process. The mammoth project has involved more than 100 archaeologists. They haven't had to dig down far to find layers of the past in a city that traces its history back millennia. A vast array of treasures has been uncovered, including medieval ice skates, an underground vault filled with Victorian-era jars, three cannons, an 800-year old piece of ship and the foundations of an 18th century shipyard. And it has also found other bodies. Archaeologists uncovered more than 300 skeletons at the New Cemetery near the site of the Bedlam Hospital at Liverpool Street.

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Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-scientists-skeletons-black-death-bacteria.html#jCp



Medieval knight found in Scotland parking lot



The remains of a medieval knight found by construction workers in a Edinburgh, Scotland parking lot is gaining interest across the social networks today according to Thursday, March 14 reports on the UPI.


The medieval knight found on Wednesday by construction workers who stated that they called in the archaeologists, revealing that they found the medieval knight's remains in a sandstone slab that was carved with a cross and sword, a medieval sign of nobility.


The workers stated that they were working yesterday, clearing a former parking lot located behind the University of Edinburgh, when they made the amazing discovery.


Archaeologists quickly arrived at the location and discovered the medieval knight found is the 500-year-old remains of an adult man.


The medieval knight or nobleman, is believed to have been buried near the foundations of a 13th century Blackfriars Monastery. Archaeologists reveal that they will study the remains of the medieval knight found, by focus sing on the corpse's teeth and bones to determine more detail on the man's life and cause of death.


Along with the knight or nobleman's grave and skeleton, the excavation has revealed the exact location of the monastery, which was founded in 1230 by Alexander II (King of Scotland 1214-49) and destroyed during the Protestant Reformation in 1558.


"We obviously knew the history of the High School Yards site while we were studying here, but I never imagined I would be back here to make such an incredible discovery," Headland Archeology's Ross Murray, a former student at the University, told The Scotsman.


"We used to take breaks between classes just a few feet away from the building’s doorway – and all the time the grave was lying under the car park," he added.


Edinburgh city councilman revealed that it was a big surprise find and that "the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting archeological discoveries in the city for many years, providing us with yet more clues to what life was like in medieval Edinburgh."


"This find has the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting archeological discoveries in the city for many years, providing us with yet more clues as to what life was like in Medieval Edinburgh," he added.


In February, another team of archaeologists found a similar burial sit that contained the remains of England's King Richard III were found in a parking lot in Leicester, England.



Medieval Teutonic knights' remains found in Poland

Published: 12 Dec 08 08:23 CET | Print version


Polish archaeologists said this week that they had identified the remains of three leaders of the Teutonic Knights, an armed religious order that ruled swathes of the country centuries ago.

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"Anthropological and DNA testing has enabled us to back up the theory that these are the remains of the grand masters. We can be 96 percent certain," Bogumil Wisniewski, head of a team which found the skeletons, told AFP on Thursday.


Wisniewski said his team was convinced the men were Werner von Orseln, who led the knights from 1324-1330, Ludolf Koenig (1342-1345), and Heinrich von Plauen (1410-1413).


The three skeletons were discovered in May 2007 in a crypt under the cathedral in Kwidzyn in northern Poland - formerly known by the German name Marienwerder - along with pieces of silk and ornate brooches, which were a sign of high religious rank.


Studies of the wood of the coffins confirmed that they were from the right period.


The Teutonic Knights' order was founded in the Holy Land in 1190, during the Third Crusade. Despite its name, its members came from a handful of European regions, and not only German-speaking areas.


In 1226 the Polish Duke Konrad of Mazovia invited the knights to help him conquer the pagan population of neighbouring Prussia.


The order gradually took control of large stretches of the Baltic coast, establishing a state with its capital at Marienburg - today's Malbork in northern Poland.


The knights fought a string of successful military campaigns against their neighbours.


But their power declined after they were defeated by an army of Poles and Lithuanians in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, which is still seen as a key moment in the history of both peoples.


The order lost its religious character in the 16th century, and its domain was transformed into the Duchy of Prussia, which endured in various guises until Germany lost the territory to Poland and Russia after World War II.

AFP (news@thelocal.de)