Newcastle University experts uncover Roman temple


An archaeological excavation team, led by Newcastle University's Professor Ian Haynes, has identified the most north western classical temple in the Roman world.


This is the third year of a five year programme of excavation commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust with in-kind support from Newcastle University and the permission of the landowners the Hadrian's Wall Trust.


Remains of a building adjacent to the Roman fort and civilian settlement at the site were discovered in the 1880s by local amateur archaeologist Joseph Robinson. The excavation this year has confirmed the building was a Roman temple from the second century AD, and information from the position of fallen roof stones is allowing a reconstruction image to be drawn. The building is calculated to have been 8.4 metres high to the tip of the roof.


Professor Haynes (pictured) said: "We can confirm the stone building first uncovered in the 1880s was a temple from its shape, characteristically rectangular with an apse at the southern end.  Foundations for columns at the entrance at the northern end of the building have also been identified.


"It is the north-western most classical temple in the Roman world.


"There is also what looks like a Roman military ditch beneath the temple which indicates an earlier phase of Roman presence at the site.


"In the area just outside the temple Joseph Robinson found material directly comparable to the cache of altars found by Humphrey Senhouse in the 1870s 100 metres further north. From our previous excavations here we know these altars were re-used in the foundations of a large timber building, having been moved from their original position. Part of the Temples project is establishing where they were placed originally and it's something we'll be looking at again when we come back next year."


The site team includes fellow dig leader Tony Wilmott, supervisors Dan Garner and David Maron, community archaeologist Hannah Flint and environmental archaeologist Don O'Meara with a group of other experienced excavators, working alongside archaeology students and volunteers.


Rachel Newman of the Senhouse Museum Trust said: "We'd like to thank everyone for their commitment and hard work again this year, particularly our volunteers who have given so much of their time to the excavation and as guides to the site. We'd also like to thank the Hadrian's Wall Trust for permission to dig here.


"Work certainly doesn't stop when the excavation team leaves Maryport. Indeed, in many ways, the hard work begins then, as all the records made on site during the excavation need to be studied to understand in detail the way the site developed and individual structures were built. Finds also have to be cleaned and conserved, and then studied, and a report written.


"Lectures here at the Senhouse Roman Museum will be given throughout the year to allow both the public and other archaeologists to hear about the exciting findings."


Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian's Wall Trust said: "The fort and civilian settlement at Maryport were a significant element of the coastal defences lining the north western boundary of the Roman Empire for more than 300 years. They are also part of the world heritage site.


"As this year's excavation season for the Roman Temples project closes, we're preparing for a separate and complementary excavation exploring the civilian settlement adjacent to the fort and the temple area. The Roman Settlement project is due to start on site in August, subject to scheduled monument consent."


The excavations are an important step towards the establishment of a long-term programme of archaeological research at Maryport, which is a key element in the development of the proposed Roman Maryport heritage and visitor attraction being taken forward in partnership by the Hadrian's Wall Trust and the Senhouse Museum Trust.


The 23 Roman altars dedicated to Jupiter and other Roman gods by the commanders of the Maryport fort provide information of international importance for the study of the Roman army and its religious practices. In some cases the career histories of the commanders can be established from the inscriptions on the altars, tracing their movements across the Roman Empire as they moved from posting to posting. The altars are now part of the display in the Senhouse Roman Museum.



Wooden waggonway built more than 200 years ago discovered near former colliery is 'oldest example of standard gauge railway ever found'

Archaeologists expected to find Roman remains under former shipyard

Instead they unearthed wooden waggonway running from collieries to Tyne

Tailways provided prototype for train network in Industrial Revolution


PUBLISHED: 16:59, 26 July 2013 | UPDATED: 21:10, 26 July 2013


Archaeologists looking for Roman remains have stumbled across an even more historic find - a wooden railway which was instrumental in the development of the Industrial Revolution.

An excavation on the banks of the Tyne unearthed a stretch of waggonway which is more than 200 years old, making it the earliest surviving example of the standard-gauge railway.

The discovery was originally part of a network which linked the ports of the North East with collieries in Tyneside and Northumberland in the late 18th century.


The railway was found by archaeologists digging on the site of the Neptune shipyard, which is currently being redeveloped.

Because the site is near the Roman fort of Segedunum, in Wallsend, lead excavators Richard Carlton and Alan Williams were expecting to find remains from the Roman period.


Instead, they stumbled across the 25-metre stretch of wooden rails, an early contributor to the mining industry which transformed the North East.

The waggonway is made up of a heavy duty 'main way' with two sets of rails laid on top of each other to preserve their longevity, with a loop from the main line descending into a dip.

That depression would have been filled with water where coal wagons' wooden rails were rested to stop them drying out and cracking. In the middle of the loop is a stone elevation where the horse pulling the waggon would have stood.


'The wooden waggonway uncovered by the excavation is the direct ancestor of the modern standard-gauge railway,' Mr Carlton said.

With horses and carts eventually replaced by steam trains, railways quickly became the fastest form of transportation the world had ever seen and facilitated the creation of the modern world.

In Newcastle and the surrounding areas, the railways allowed coal to be transported around Britain, leading to the rapid growth of the region.

Mr Carlton added: 'The coal industry was so vitally important for the North East, and there are so few signs of it left now.'

The archaeologists' find is remarkably well-preserved - Mr Williams said: 'It looks as if it has just been covered up and left yesterday.'

The discovery has revealed features which were previously known only from drawings and the notebooks of engineers such as John Buddle, who lived near the dig site.


'We have drawings describing what has been found by the dig but this is the real thing,' said local historian Les Turnbull. 'It is tremendous to be able to see these features rather than just looking at them in historic drawings and notebooks.

'Because the line is standard railway gauge, it is tremendously important as the earliest example in the world and this is of international significance. The waggonway complex is at the forefront of late 18th-century engineering.'

Mr Turnbull, who has written a book on waggonways, claimed that the discovery was more important than any Roman find could be.

'One of the gifts of the North East to world history is the development of the railways,' he said. 'Coal and the railways are Tyneside's heritage and this waggonway was part of that, because without the waggonways the coalfields would not have developed.'


In the late 18th century, hundreds of waggons ran from collieries to wharves on the Tyne, where coal would be loaded onto brigs for transport to London and abroad.

The excavated remains were part of the Willington waggonway, which took in collieries at Willington Quay and Bigges Main on the edge of Wallsend.

In 1801 the Killingworth waggonway, for which George Stephenson's first locomotives were built, joined the Willington line.

Stephenson and his son Robert went on to build locomotives at their works in South Street in Newcastle to the Willington gauge, which was 4ft 8½in wide - this became the standard width for railways throughout Britain and much of the world.



A waggonway was a timber track used for transporting coal in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

They were an ingenious solution to a problem facing coal barons in Northumberland and Durham - namely, how to efficiently get coal from pit-head to port.

The alternative, slower, option was via pack-horse or ox cart.

Where possible, the waggonway would slope gently downhill so that the waggons could roll under their own weight.

The driver sitting on the back would control the brake while the horse trotted behind on a tether.

After the contents were emptied, the horse would pull the empty cart back up the slope.

The rails on the Newcastle waggonway were made of wood, four or five inches thick and five or six inches broad.

Although the use of wood as a travelling surface was not new - Neolithic man had used it for carrying trackways across bogs - it was the use of the flanged wheel, which made all the difference, allowing the wagon to move snugly on the track.

By 1810, the wooden waggonways began to be phased out, replaced by iron.

Over the years, the wooden networks fell into disrepair.

In 2000, North Tyneside Council successfully bid for £2million worth of funding to transform more than 30 miles of routes as part of the Government's Liveability Fund.

The former haulage routes were made into a welcoming and accessible community leisure, travel and learning resource.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2379064/Wooden-railway-built-200-years-ago-discovered-near-colliery.html#ixzz2aNA0xOYX

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Viking Jewelry Unearthed in Denmark

Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor   |   July 24, 2013 08:45am ET


Several pieces of Viking jewelry, some of which contain gold, have been uncovered at a farm site in Denmark that dates as far back as 1,300 years.


Although the Vikings have a popular reputation as being raiders, they were also farmers, traders and explorers, and the craftsmanship seen in this jewelry demonstrates their artistic skills.


Archaeologists working with volunteers used metal detectors to find the jewelry in different spots throughout a farmstead on Zealand, the largest island in Denmark. The remains of the site, which is now called Vestervang, date from the late seventh to the early 11th centuries.


Finding such lavish goods at such a modest farm site poses a puzzle, the archaeologists said. The reason why the farm site would hold such treasure may lie in a legendary site located nearby.


The "most spectacular" example is 2.9 inches (73 millimeters) long and shows an image of a heart-shaped animal head with rounded ears and circular eyes, writes archaeologist Ole Thirup Kastholm, of the Roskilde Museum, in a paper published in the most recent edition of the Danish Journal of Archaeology. The piece, made of copper alloy, may be part of a necklace.


"The neck is covered by a beadlike chain," Kastholm writes. "Above the creatures forelegs, there are marked elbow joints and three-fingered paws or feet, which awkwardly grasp backwards to what might be hind legs or wings." The object probably had three similar images originally, but only one survives.


In addition to the animal image, the item, possibly a pendant, also shows three masked figures, each with a "drooping moustache." A "circular mark is seen between the eyebrows and above this, two ears or horns emerge, giving the humanlike mask an animal character," Kastholm writes.


He said that the animal image itself seems to be anthropomorphic, something not unusual in Viking age art. "Some of these anthropomorphic pictures, though, might be seen as representations of 'shamanic' actions, i.e. as mediators between the 'real' world and the 'other' world," Kastholm wrote in an email to LiveScience. He can't say for sure who would have worn it, but it "certainly (was) a person with connections to the elite milieu of the Viking age."


Another mysterious piece of jewelry found at Vestervang depicts a Christian cross and appears to have been created in continental Europe sometime between A.D. 500 and 750, predating the Viking-age farm site.


"The decoration consists of a central wheel cross in relief, with inlaid gold pressed into a waffle form. The waffle gold is in some areas covered with transparent red glass or semiprecious stones and forming an equal-armed cross," writes Kastholm in the paper.


How the artifact arrived at a pre-Christian Viking-age farm site is a mystery. A Christian traveler may have brought it to Vestervang, or a non-Christian person at the site may have acquired it through exchange. The item would have been used as a brooch, and Kastholm said a female of "high rank" perhaps wore it on her dress.


It "tells us about close relations and networks between Southern Scandinavia and the European continent in late Iron Age, before the time of Christianization," Kastholm wrote in the email.


Rich jewelry at a modest site


These discoveries leave researchers with a mystery. What is such rich jewelry doing at a modest agricultural settlement? 


The answer may lie in a legendary site, named Lejre, which is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) south-southeast of Vestervang, no more than three hours away by foot and boat.


"Legend has it that this was the place where the first Danish dynasty, the Scyldings, had its royal seat," writes Tom Christensen, also of the Roskilde Museum, in an article published in the book "Settlement and Coastal Research in the Southern North Sea Region" (Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2010). He notes that some members of this dynasty even appeared in the famous poem "Beowulf."


Archaeological research has revealed that Lejre appears to be a rich site. In 1850, a hoard consisting of "four silver vessels, a whetstone, a weight, a necklace and a disk-shaped silver ingot" was found in the nearby hills, Christensen noted. A monument 282 feet (86 meters) long made of rocks arranged in the shape of a ship was also reconstructed in later excavations.


The presence of this elite site close to Vestervang may explain the presence of the newly found rich jewelry, Kastholm writes. In the 1960s, there was vast residential development in the area of Vestervang, but maps that predate the development show two villages near the site with "Karleby" in their name, something that may signify that the area was given to retainers of Lejre's ruler.


"The old Scandinavian term karl, corresponding with the old English ceorl, refers to a member of the king's professional warrior escort, the hirð," Kastholm writes in the journal article.


Together, the rich jewelry finds at Vestervang, the site's proximity to Lejre and the presence of two nearby villages with the names "Karleby" reveal what life may have been like at Vestervang.


It "seems probable that the settlement of Vestervang was a farm controlled by a Lejre superior and given to generations of retainers, i.e. to a karl of the hirð," Kastholm writes. "This would explain the extraordinary character of the stray finds contrasting with the somewhat ordinary traces of settlement."



Richard III dig: And inside coffin is... another, lead coffin

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Leicester Mercury

By Peter Warzynski


Archaeologists have lifted the lid off a 14th century stone coffin buried at the Greyfriars dig site only to find a second coffin inside.

The University of Leicester team heaved the hefty masonry from the top of the 600-year-old casket yesterday morning.

Eight people were needed to lift the stone lid which covered the final resting place of a high-ranking member of the friary, or possibly a medieval knight, Sir William Moton.

However, as they hoisted away the top of the tomb a second lead coffin, with what seemed to be the mark of a crucifix on it, was revealed.

Site director Mat Morris, who was also in charge of the first Greyfriars dig last August, said: "For me, this is more exciting than Richard III.

"I think that's because there wasn't that expectation to find Richard – we never thought we would actually uncover him.

"Here, we have an element of mystery, we don't really know who's inside."


The team will now find a way to lift the heavy lead coffin from its medieval grave and transport it to the University for analysis.

However, traditional techniques, such as X-rays and Cat scans, will not work due to the lead casing and scientists will only discover who is inside once they cut it open.

Mat said it was the first stone tomb, with an interior lead coffin, that he had found.

"I'm not surprised by it," he said. "I just haven't come across one before.

"You can tell it's a high-status grave because of the expense of the lead and the effort of making the stone tomb."

The remains lie within a single sheet of 5mm-thick lead which has been folded around the body and then welded shut.

The archaeologists believe that the stone part of the coffin may have been opened in the past as there is damage to some of the lead.

The feet were exposed due to some of the metal decaying over time.

The imprint of a crucifix on the top half of the lead section might also indicate that there was a religious item placed in the coffin, but removed sometime later.

Mat said: "We can't really be sure about what's happened to the grave over the past 600 years, but the lid of the coffin doesn't match the rest of it and there's some damage to the mortar so it looks like it might have been opened."

The team discovered the tomb last August while hunting for the remains of Richard III.

They reburied the 600-year-old stone casket while they concentrated on excavating and identifying the remains of the last Plantagenet.

The grave was first thought to belong to a Leicester knight, Sir William Moton, buried in 1362.

However, two more likely candidates for the tomb's contents have emerged – Peter Swynsfeld, one of the friary's founders, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330.


Read more: http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Richard-III-dig-inside-coffin-lead-coffin/story-19560642-detail/story.html#ixzz2aNB5HFX2

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Walrus Bones Found In Old London Burial Ground

By Douglas Main, Staff Writer   |   July 25, 2013 12:46pm ET


During a recent excavation beneath the streets of London, archaeologists found a total of 1,500 human bodies, many buried hastily in a wave of epidemics that struck the quickly expanding city more than 150 years ago.


In one coffin, archaeologists came across a grisly mix of bones from at least eight human bodies, many of them cut up and showing evidence of autopsy. But nine of the bone fragments were decidedly not human. They were walrus.


"It came as something of a shock," said Phil Emery, an archaeologist with a company called Ramboll UK, who led the excavation. The nine bone fragments came from a Pacific walrus that was likely 13 feet (4 meter) long, Emery told LiveScience.


The bodies came from the old burial ground of St Pancras Church, and were interred there between 1822 and 1854, Emery said. During this time, London cemeteries were overwhelmed by the dead from a series of cholera, typhus and smallpox epidemics; the church and its burial ground, once outside greater London, have recently been engulfed by the burgeoning metropolis, he added.


Before 1822, the cemetery was characterized by small plots, as seen in most ordinary burial grounds, Emery said. But thereafter, ceremony fell to the wayside as the cemetery was overwhelmed — plots were replaced with mass graves, he said.


From 1822 to 1854, a total of 44,000 burials took place there, Emery said. "Under such conditions, one can understand that standards of decency and hygiene were difficult to maintain, to put it lightly," he explained.


But how did a tusked beast the weight of a small car make its way from the North Pacific to a cemetery in foggy London? Emery and his team can only guess how the walrus was brought there from its native lands, but they suspect the animal was dissected by curious medical students.


That hunch comes from the fact that several of the bones within the coffin showed signs of dissection, such as skull fragments with holes drilled in them, he said. In 1832, within the range of dates when the bones would have been laid to rest there, a law was passed that allowed medical students to legally dissect cadavers, Emery said. Before that, cadavers were obtained from the gallows, or illegally snatched via grave robbery, he added.


The walrus limbs were likely dissected as a matter of curiosity, Emery said, perhaps as an exercise in comparative anatomy.


At the time, "very few Londoners would have seen one of these alive," Emery said. "It was the archetypal sea monster, often depicted on early sea maps as a sort of exotic beast. The animal would have captured peoples' imaginations." 


The bones were first unearthed in 2003 by Emery and his team, during construction of the St Pancras International railway station. It was funded by High Speed 1 (also known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link), Emery said. But the findings haven't been released to the popular press until now.


This isn't the only case of strange beasts being found in London graves. A more recent excavation at the Royal London Hospital turned up numerous cases of buried human remains from dissection found along with animal parts, including the remains of a tortoise, rabbit, cat, dog, horse and two monkeys, Emery said.



Dig at Eastern Shore site, built by freed slaves, shows it may be U.S.’s oldest black community

By Michael E. Ruane, Published: July 25


EASTON — Some were the freed slaves of conscience-stricken Quakers. Others were freed by a sea captain in his will. Still others were freed by a slave midwife who bought freedom for herself and her family.


Together, here in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore, they may have given birth to what scholars suspect could be the oldest enclave of free African Americans, and possibly the oldest existing black neighborhood, in the country.


Digging into history:An excavation in Easton, Md., looks into the origins of what may be the oldest free black community in the United States.


“It’s the oldest free black, African American neighborhood in the country that has been continuously inhabited and still in existence,” said Dale Green, an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at Morgan State University.


The neighborhood is called “the Hill,” and for the past two weeks a team of archaeologists and anthropologists has been digging for its story in the back yard of the local women’s club.


Scholars think the Hill may predate, by several years, New Orleans’s famous neighborhood Treme, often described as the country’s oldest black community.


“In 1790, there were 410 free persons of color who lived on what we know as the Hill,” Green said this week — roughly twice the number who lived in Baltimore.


“The Hill had the largest concentration of free blacks in the Chesapeake region,” he said. “What you have in the name of the Hill is a real, rare, intact, continuously occupied and inhabited black neighborhood.”


Treme celebrated its bicentennial in 2012, though its founding is sometimes dated to 1810, and its roots likely go back further.


But Green said, “Treme is far younger than what we’re working with here.”


The project, a collaboration between, among others, Morgan State and the University of Maryland, started about four years ago with a study for the community of the history of the Hill’s black churches.


“When we finished that, they were like, ‘We hate to see you guys go,’” Green said. “That’s when they pull this card out, like, ‘You know, this neighborhood’s old.’


“What’s ‘old’?” Green said the researchers asked.


The community members responded: “We don’t know. We want you guys to define how old ‘old’ is.”


Green, who grew up on the outskirts of the Hill, and his colleagues began to look.


“The thing about Talbot County is, it’s rich in history,” said Carlene Phoenix, president of Historic Easton, who lobbied for the neighborhood research. “But when it comes to especially African American history, it was always about slavery. But now we’ve got another story.”


The project researchers found that many Talbot County slaves were freed after the abolitionist Quaker preacher John Woolman came through Easton in 1766, urging fellow Friends to abandon slavery.


Easton sea captain Jeremiah Banning, who personally bought his 21 slaves in Senegal, freed them in his will.


And the researchers came upon the story of a slave, Grace Brooks, who purchased her freedom and that of her children and grandchildren with money she earned as a midwife.


Many of these now-free blacks probably made their way to the Hill, which was fast becoming an island of liberty surrounded by plantations, Green said.



Treasure Trove worth £20m Discovered in British Ship Sunk By Nazis

By FIONA KEATING: Subscribe to Fiona's RSS feed | July 21, 2013 12:15 PM GMT


Discovery of buried silver treasure on the SS Gairsoppa. It is the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck. (Odyssey Marine Exploration)


Explorers have uncovered a silver treasure haul worth £20m in a British merchant ship sunk by a Nazi U-boat in 1941.


The lost treasure, which was found in two separate dives in 2012 and 2013, consists of 2,972 ingots of .999 silver, the purest and most valuable form of the metal.


The haul includes 462 bars of pure silver, which are engraved with the mark of 'His Majesty's Mint Bombay'


It's hailed as "the largest known precious metal cargo ever recovered from the sea", by the Odyssey Marine Exploration company which located the haul.


The 2,972 silver bars were hauled from the SS Gairsoppa and are now in Bristol.


The ship was sunk around 300 miles southwest of the Irish coast, in British waters.


When the silver goes on sale, the British Treasury will receive a 20% cut.


Odyssey Marine Exploration, a US marine archaeology company that discovered the shipwreck and paid for all the recovery costs, will take the remaining 80% of the net proceeds.


The Gairsoppa was carrying 7m ounces of silver when the ship broke away from a protective convoy and made for Galway Harbour.


Unprotected and alone in the Atlantic, the Gairsoppa was spotted by a German plane, and then torpedoed by a U-boat.


The British merchant ship took just 20 minutes to sink, with most of the mainly Indian crew of 85 losing their lives.


A handful of men managed to make their way to Cornwall in a lifeboat, but only Richard Ayres, the second officer, survived the journey.


Odyssey's principal marine archaeologist Neil Cunningham Dobson says: "Even though records indicate that the lifeboats were launched before the ship sank, sadly most of her crew did not survive the long journey to shore. By finding this shipwreck, and telling the story of its loss, we pay tribute to the brave merchant sailors who lost their lives."


The ship lay undiscovered on the ocean bed, at a depth of four miles, for 70 years. It was identified by Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2011.


Using remote controlled equipment, the hull of the Gairsoppa was carved open to reveal 1,200 bars. The ingots each weigh 80lb, are the shape of a loaf,  and engraved with the words "His Majesty's Mint Bombay".


The Odyssey Marine Exploration company is also hoping to explore the wreck of the HMS Victory this year. The ship was the forerunner to Lord Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalgar.


The HMS Victory sank in a storm off Guernsey in 1744. It lies at a depth of 320 ft, and carries around 100 cannons.


"After Mary Rose [Henry VIII's flagship], it is the most important of the historic shipwrecks," Sean Kingsley, a marine archaeologist told the Times.


"What's really significant is that this is an extremely rare example of an early Georgian Warship."