5,000-year-old pyramid destroyed in Lima
July 1, 2013
By Emily Culver
An ancient archaeological structure has been ruined by private construction companies.
Archaeologists blame two building companies for destroying part of ancient pyramid in the Lima district of San Martin de Porres.
The pyramid El Paraiso, located near the river Chillon, is one of the oldest structures constructed in the Americas, made up of 12 pyramids and covering over 64 hectares.
Archaeologist Frederic Engel said in a report that El Paraiso could have held between 1500 and 3000 inhabitants and required over 100,000 tons of rock to construct, which was taken from the hills surrounding the structure, and was likely used for religious and ritual purposes. Evidence shows the culture living there was from the Late Pre-Ceramic Age (2000-3000 B.C.E).
Despite its obvious importance to Peruvian culture, this pyramid was knocked down and later burned by several clandestine groups that entered the site on Saturday.
Archaeologist Marco Guillén Hugo was in charge of the research and excavation of this site and reported to El Comercio that he had reason to believe two private building companies, Compañía y Promotora Provelanz E.I.R.L and Alisol S.A.C Ambas, were behind the destruction.
“This isn’t the first time they have tried to take over this land,” Guillén told the daily. “They say they are the owners, even though this land is untouchable.”
The Ministry of Culture has said that although the companies claim to own the land, it is actually under state control.
The destruction of this pyramid, archeologists stated, was an irreparable loss for the culture and history of Peru.
Farming Started in Several Places at Once
04 July 2013 Universitaet Tübingen
Under embargo until 04 July 2013 18:00 GMT
Researchers from Tübingen document origins of agriculture in the Zagros foothills of Iran
For decades archaeologists have been searching for the origins of agriculture. Their findings indicated that early plant domestication took place in the western and northern Fertile Crescent. In the July 5 edition of the journal Science, researchers from the University of Tübingen, the Tübingen Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research demonstrate that the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran in the eastern Fertile Crescent also served as a key center for early domestication.
Archaeologists Nicholas Conard and Mohsen Zeidi from Tübingen led excavations at the aceramic tell site of Chogha Golan in 2009 and 2010. They documented an 8 meter thick sequence of exclusively aceramic Neolithic deposits dating from 11,700 to 9,800 years ago. These excavations produced a wealth of architectural remains, stone tools, depictions of humans and animals, bone tools, animal bones, and – perhaps most importantly – the richest deposits of charred plant remains ever recovered from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East.
Simone Riehl, head of the archaeobotany laboratory in Tübingen, analyzed over 30,000 plant remains of 75 taxa from Chogha Golan, spanning a period of more than 2,000 years. Her results show that the origins of agriculture in the Near East can be attributed to multiple centers rather than a single core area and that the eastern Fertile Crescent played a key role in the process of domestication.
Many pre-pottery Neolithic sites preserve comparatively short sequences of occupation, making the long sequence form Chogha Golan particularly valuable for reconstructing the development of new patterns of human subsistence. The most numerous species from Chogha Golan are wild barley, goat-grass and lentil, which are all wild ancestors of modern crops. These and many other species are present in large numbers starting in the lowest deposits, horizon XI, dating to the end of the last Ice Age roughly 11,700 years ago. In horizon II dating to 9.800 years ago, domesticated emmer wheat appears.
The plant remains from Chogha Golan represent a unique, long-term record of cultivation of wild plant species in the eastern Fertile Crescent. Over a period of two millennia the economy of the site shifted toward the domesticated species that formed the economic basis for the rise of village life and subsequent civilizations in the Near East. Plants including multiple forms of wheat, barley and lentils together with domestic animals later accompanied farmers as they spread across western Eurasia, gradually replacing the indigenous hunter-gather societies. Many of the plants that were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent form the economic basis for the world population today.
Mysterious Toe Rings Found on Ancient Egyptian Skeletons
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor July 5, 2013
Archaeologists have discovered two ancient Egyptian skeletons, dating back more than 3,300 years, which were each buried with a toe ring made of copper alloy, the first time such rings have been found in ancient Egypt.
The toe rings were likely worn while the individuals were still alive, and the discovery leaves open the question of whether they were worn for fashion or magical reasons.
Supporting the magical interpretation, one of the rings was found on the right toe of a male, age 35-40, whose foot had suffered a fracture along with a broken femur above it.
Unique rings in a unique ancient city
Both skeletons were found in a cemetery just south of the ancient city of Akhetaten, whose name means "Horizon of the Aten." Now called Amarna, the city of Akhetaten was a short-lived Egyptian capital built by Akhenaten a pharaoh who tried to focus Egypt's religion around the worship of the sun disc, the "Aten." He was also likely the father of Tutankhamun.
After Akhenaten's death, this attempt to change Egyptian religion unraveled, as his successors denounced him and the city became abandoned. Even so, Anna Stevens, the assistant director of the Amarna Project, said the newly discovered rings are unlikely to be related to the religious changes Akhenaten introduced.
The findings do appear to be the first copper alloy toe rings discovered in ancient Egypt. "I'm not aware of any, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Bear in mind that if we found something like this in a house, for example, we would have no idea of its purpose,"Stevens wrote in an email toLiveScience.
A gold toe ring was previously found on a mummy named Hornedjitef, a priest at Karnak more than 2,200 years ago. The mummy, which resides at the British Museum, has a "thick gold ring on the big toe of his left foot," writes anthropologist Joyce Filer in her book "The Mystery of the Egyptian Mummy" (British Museum Press, 2003).
A magical healing device?
The man whose right foot had been injured was likely in great pain when alive.
He "showed signs of multiple antemortem [before his death] fractures, including of several ribs, the left radius, right ulna, right foot (on which the toe ring was found) and right femur," Stevens wrote. "The fracture of the right femur healed at an angle and must have caused this individual considerable ongoing pain."
This copper alloy ring was found on the second toe of the male's right foot, the same foot that suff …The ring was placed on the toe of the injured foot, suggesting perhaps it was intended as a magical healing device of sorts.
"The act of 'binding' or 'encircling' was a powerful magical device in ancient Egypt, and a metal ring, which can be looped around something, lends itself well to this kind of action," Stevens said. "This is a possibility that we will look into further, checking through sources such as the corpus of magico-medical spells that have survived from ancient Egypt, to look for parallels."
However, the skeleton of the second individual with the toe ring, found in 2012, bore no visible signs of a medical condition. Stevens notes that this individual has yet to be studied in depth by bio-archaeologists and its sex is unknown.
Who were they?
The skeletons were wrapped in textile and plant-stem matting, and both burials had been disturbed by tomb robbers.
None of the skeletons in the cemetery were technically "mummified" so to speak. "There is no evidence from the cemetery as a whole of attempts to mummify the bodies, in terms of the removal of internal organs (we quite often find remains of brain within the skulls) or the introduction of additives to preserve tissue (the bodies survive largely as skeletons)," Stevens wrote. "But in a way the wrapping of the bodies within textile and matting is a step towards preserving the shape of the body, and a form of simple mummification."
Figuring out who these individuals were in life is tricky, Stevens said. This cemetery appears to represent a "wide slice" of the city's society. These people were not wealthy enough to get buried in a rock-cut tomb but could afford, and were allowed, the simple burials seen at this cemetery.
"They [the two individuals] probably lived, like most citizens of Amarna, in a small house adjacent to that of a larger villa belonging to one of the city's officials, for whom they provided services and labor in exchange for basic provisions, especially grain," Stevens said.
In the case of the male with multiple fractures, his life appears to have been especially difficult and he also has signs of degenerative joint disease. It "suggests a life [of] labor was more likely for this individual than, say, an existence as a scribe," Stevens said. In both cases, however, the individuals' lives ended with each having a copper alloy ring on one of their toes.
The case of the male individual with the toe ring was published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. More information on the Amarna Project can be found at www.amarnaproject.com.
Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.
How X-Rays Demystified a 2,500-Year-Old Battle Wound
Dr. Helise Coopersmith, North Shore-LIJ Health
SystemDate: 02 July 2013 Time: 06:58 PM ETinShare.3
Dr. Helise Coopersmith is a musculoskeletal and body imaging radiologist for the North Shore-LIJ Health System, assistant professor of radiology at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and a member of the Hofstra medical school's admissions committee. She contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
I have worked as a musculoskeletal radiologist for many years and have seen a wide range of bone injuries. But recently, I found myself for the first time using my X-ray table to look at a 2,500-year-old bone and a piece of an ancient arrow.
The bone, discovered in Northern Greece, was brought to me by Anagnostis Agelarakis, a professor and chair of anthropology at Adelphi University. It was a section of the ulna bone, which is the inner of two forearm bones.
My initial impression was surprise. Although the outer region of bone, the cortex, was thinned by time, and the inner region, the medullary cavity, had long since disintegrated, the girth and contours of the bone were quite similar to a human bone one would see today.
But, most notably, there was a turquoise-colored object jutting out from the bone, and according to Agelarakis, this was one of four sides of a bronze arrowhead. He proposed that this piece of the arrowhead was never removed by the field surgeons of the time because a barbed component anchoring it into the bone would have damaged the superficial soft tissues if removal were attempted.
Beside my X-ray table, I had a photograph of the re-assembled skull that was found with the ulna bone and a sketch by scientific illustrator Argie Agelarakis (Anagnostis's wife) of what the soldier's face may have looked like around the time of his eventual death, presumably at about 58 to 62 years of age.
My team and I took three X-rays of the ulna bone, and we found that indeed the films confirmed what Anagnostis Agelarakis had suspected.
There was a barbed component to the arrowhead that could not be seen with the naked eye. The full extent of the remaining arrowhead could now be seen and was seated superficially within the bone, located only within the cortex, or outer shell. This supported Agelarakis's notion that the arrowhead could have been removed if not for its barbed component.
There was a large bony (osseous) spur adjacent to the arrowhead, which make sense as the human body can form extra bone material in response to trauma. Such spurs take many months to fully mature, which implies that the soldier lived for a long time after the injury. Also, there was no bony erosion adjacent to the arrowhead, confirming that the arrowhead did not cause life-threatening infection. [The 7 Biggest Mysteries of the Human Body]
We also noted that the arrowhead and the osseous spur were in the region of the flexor digitorum profundus muscle, which means the injury would have made it difficult for the soldier to flex his fingers and grasp objects.
There was a story behind the objects we were seeing, the story of an ancient Greek warrior who was an injured veteran, like many who are celebrated today and served by the hospital I work in.
It is amazing to think that the same X-ray technology that we use to diagnose conditions for our patients can answer age-old questions and help solve historical mysteries.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.com.
Massacre dating back 2,300 years in the Crimea
Article created on Saturday, July 6, 2013
Chersonesos is an ancient city on the Crimean peninsula, which was founded by Greek colonists at the end of the 6th century BC in order to supply their homeland with grain and other strategic resources. The farmland in the Greek colonies was vital to the survival of the Greek city-states. Excavations by Aarhus archaeologists are exploring the development of the rural area from its peak until its decline.
One of the conclusions so far is that during a period of crisis in the early 3rd century BC a large proportion of the rural population was killed following a military invasion. The skeletons of these people can be found just 40 cm beneath the surface of the soil in a number of housing structures which the Aarhus archaeologists have excavated.
“We’ve learned things that have changed our view of what life was like in the Chersonesean countryside, which the Greeks called chora. The city’s rural territory, particularly on the Herakleian and Tarkhankut peninsulas, is incredibly well preserved. The houses of the rural population dating back to about 300 BC lie dotted around the untouched landscape in the form of ruins that are still visible. For instance, in one of the excavated ruins we have found the remains of a whole family. So we’re working on a murder scene dating back 2,300 years,” reports project director Vladimir Stolba, an archaeologist from Aarhus University.
Chersonesos and its rural area have just been added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites – the area is a unique example of the way the ancient Greek cities and surrounding landscape were organised.
“We’ve had several teams of students from Denmark and the host country Ukraine on our expeditions. It’s been a great experience and very fruitful collaboration. We are in a lucky and, in a sense, unique situation to work on short-lived rural sites which have never been re-inhabited since their destruction in the early 3rd century BC.
“The picture that emerges from the excavations is a snapshot of daily activities of the ancient peasantry, of its life and dramatic death. We’ve found answers to many of our research questions: for instance, who cultivated the Greek grain fields, how densely the area was settled and how it was organised, and how the ancient population adapted to changes in cultural and natural environment.
“The answers have given rise to new questions that we want to explore next. The world heritage status will hopefully help to preserve this unique area despite the increase in tourism and tourism infrastructure development, enabling us to continue our work,” concludes Vladimir Stolba.
Source: Aarhus University
Ancient Anchors from Punic Wars Found Off Sicily
Jul 3, 2013 10:31 AM ET // by Rossella Lorenzi
A key episode of the Punic Wars has emerged from the waters near the small Sicilian island of Pantelleria as archaeologists discovered a cluster of more than 30 ancient anchors.
Found at a depth between 160 and 270 feet in Cala Levante, one of the island’s most scenic spots, the anchors date to more than 2,000 years ago.
According to Leonardo Abelli, an archaeologist from the University of Sassari, the anchors are startling evidence of the Romans’ and Carthaginians’ struggle to conquer the Mediterranean during the First Punic War (264 to 241 B.C.).
“They were deliberately abandoned. The Carthaginian ships were hiding from the Romans and could not waste time trying to retrieve heavy anchors at such depths,” Abelli told Discovery News.
Lying strategically between Africa and Sicily, Pantelleria became a bone of contention between the Romans and Carthaginians during the third century B.C.
Rome captured the small Mediterranean island in the First Punic War in 255 B.C., but lost it a year later.
In 217 B.C., in the Second Punic War, Rome finally regained the island, and even celebrated the event with commemorative coins and a holiday.
Following the first conquer in 255 B.C., Rome took control of the island with a fleet of over 300 ships.
“The Carthaginian ships that were stationing near Pantelleria had no other choice than hiding near the northern coast and trying to escape. To do so, they cut the anchors free and left them in the sea. They also abandoned part of their cargo to lighten the ships and gain speed,” Abelli said.
Indeed, Abelli’s team found many jars in clusters of 4-10 pieces near the spectacular Punta Tracino, not far from where the anchors were found.
Two years ago, the same team found 3,500 Punic coins about 68 feet down. Dating between 264 and 241 B.C., the bronze coins featured the same iconography, suggesting that the money served for an institutional payment, possibly to sustain anti-Roman troops.
Carried on a Carthaginian ship headed to Sicily, the money was deliberately left on the bottom of the sea, in relatively low waters, with the hope of recovering it later.
“Near the coins we found a large stone anchor with three holes and a tree trunk. We believe they were signaling the point where the treasure was hidden,” Abelli said.
Underwater research is set to continue until mid-July. The project is founded by Arcus Spa and realized by Pantelleria Ricerche with the Sicily Region Sea Superintendency, the University of Sassari and Messina Coast Guard.
Archaeologists Excavate Jerusalem Cave and Tunnel Network
Fri, Jul 05, 2013
June 2013, Cover Stories, Daily News
Archaeologists excavating in the ancient Ophel area near the Temple Mount (or Haram Ash-Sharif) of Jerusalem have uncovered a plaster-lined cave with an associated system of subterranean tunnels that may tell a story about life there when the Romans besieged the city during the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE.
Under the overall direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University, excavators removed uncounted bucket-loads of dirt and rock fill from the cave, discovering in the process that its walls had been lined with a layer of plaster. The cave also appeared to be connected to a structure dated to the First Temple period (10th to 6th centuries BCE) above it, which featured water channels for directing water into the cave. This suggested to the archaeologists that they were actually exploring what was originally an ancient water cistern. Given the location, the water cistern, which was not an atypical feature of ancient Jerusalem during the centuries when Jerusalem was ruled by Israelite and Judahite kings before Babylonian captivity in 586 BC, may have been used by Jerusalem's royalty for collecting and storing water.
"There are three separate shafts that lead from the top of the cave all the way up to the surface of the structure above," says Brent Nagtegaal, the excavation team's Area B supervisor. "And what we have in the structure above are water channels cut out in the bedrock that lead into this cave. This suggests that this cistern was used during the First Temple period, at the same time that the Israelite house above was functioning."*
But the cave excavation revealed more surprises.
"We started to find a layer that related to the time just following Herod the Great during the Herodian Period. We were quite surprised that we would find stratified layers inside this cistern, and as we went underneath them we started to find walls, walls that indicate that there was some type of occupation or at least construction that took place inside the cistern after the cistern had lost its use for water."*
Excavators found that the Herodian Period walls related to yet another key feature of the cave or cistern -- a system of tunnels carved from the rock, large enough to accommodate the passage of individuals from one location to another.
Says Nagtegaal: "You can see many signs of life in here. You can see chisel marks that exist on the walls which really indicate the direction at which the tunnels were constructed, and you can see holes where candles would have been placed and their burn marks. You also see little foot steps and handholds in vertical shafts."*
The tunnels also revealed numerous shards of Herodian Period pottery, a ceramic type used to date the tunnels and shafts.
The project archaeologists suggest that the tunnels and shafts may possibly have been made and used by inhabitants of the city hiding or protecting themselves from the Roman siege of Jerusalem during the height of the First Jewish Revolt, an event well documented by the Jewish historian Josephus in his writing, The Jewish War. In it, he writes about the creation of subterranean caverns carved out of bedrock, used by individuals hiding or escaping from Roman soldiers as the city was being besieged. In the end, however, their efforts proved fruitless, as they were eventually discovered by their Roman pursuers and captured.
"It's amazing when you look at some of these tunnels", says Nagtegaal. "A lot of them are incomplete." He speculates: "This is probably the point at which the Romans broke through or the point at which the Jews realized they could do no more digging, there was no more time and they had to hide themselves." *
Archaeologists caution that much more work needs to be done before a more complete and accurate picture of the meaning of the cave and its tunnels can be reconstructed.
The Ophel excavations, of which the cave excavation is a part, have revealed finds dated to the Second Temple, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, and what Mazar and others suggest may be the remains of structures attributed to builders during the period of King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. Past remains have included a section of a massive wall of large, well-dressed stones 70 meters long and 6 meters high. Also uncovered with the wall was a structure interpreted as an inner gatehouse, a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse, and a section of a corner tower 8 meters long and 6 meters high, built of carved stones.
More information about the Ophel excavations can be obtained at the website, The Key to David's City. Excavations are being conducted with participation from archaeologists, students and volunteers from the Hebrew University and Herbert W. Armstrong College.
1,800-Year-Old Roman Legion Headquarters Unearthed
Ironclad Legion Ruled Region From Ancient Galillee Base
By Eil Ashkenazi (Haaretz)
Published July 03, 2013.
Israeli archaeologists have found ruins they believe are the site of one of the two Roman legions based in the country between 120 and 300 C.E.
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yotam Tepper had long suspected that the site in the Galilee was the base of the Legio Sexta Ferrata, the 6th Roman Legion, also known as the Ironclad Legion. The other legion in the country was the 10th, based in Jerusalem.
Over the past week, an expedition led by Tepper and archaeologist Matthew Adams found the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins and tiles. The legion’s symbol adorned a broken shingle.
The site sits between two other historical gems: Tel Megiddo, the ancient fortified city that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the oldest known Christian house of worship, which was discovered around seven and a half years ago about a kilometer south.
Tepper uncovered the Christian site during antiquities authority digs at Megiddo Prison in 2005. Now the legion site is in focus; it’s why the area became known as Legio. In Arabic, it was known as Lajun before early Zionists restored the name Megiddo. “We’re very excited,” said Tepper, who has been excavating the Legio-Megiddo area for 15 years
Archaeologists find ancient stone head which could be Roman Geordie god
Discovery at Roman fort near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, thought to be a local war god from 1,800 years ago
The Guardian, Thursday 4 July 2013
An 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a possible Geordie Roman god has been discovered buried in an ancient rubbish dump.
The discovery was made by a first-year archaeology student at Binchester Roman fort, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, as the team dug through an old bath house.
The 20cm sandstone head, which dates from the second or third century AD, is similar to the Celtic deity Antenociticus, thought to have been worshipped locally as a source of inspiration in war.
A similar head, complete with an inscription identifying it as Antenociticus, was found at Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1862.
Dr David Petts, a lecturer in archaeology at Durham University, said: "We found the Binchester head close to where a small Roman altar was found two years ago.
"We think it may have been associated with a small shrine in the bath house and dumped after the building fell out of use, probably in the fourth century AD.
"It is probably the head of a Roman god – we can't be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to the head of Antenociticus found at Benwell in the 19th century.
"Antenociticus is one of a number of gods known only from the northern frontier, a region which seems to have had a number of its own deities.
"It's possibly a Geordie god, though it could have been worshipped at the other end of the wall."
Antenociticus is not mentioned at any other Romano-British site or on any inscriptions from Europe, which is why it has been identified as a local deity.
Alex Kirton, 19, from Hertfordshire, who found the head, said: "As an archaeology student this is one of the best things and most exciting things that could have happened.
"It was an incredible thing to find in a lump of soil in the middle of nowhere – I've never found anything remotely exciting as this."
The find was made as part of a five-year project at Binchester Roman fort which is attempting to shed new light on the twilight years of the Roman empire.
The dig is a joint project between Durham University's archaeology department, Stanford University's archaeology centre, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, and the site owner, Durham county council.
White man's skull has Australians scratching heads
A centuries-old skull found in northern New South Wales in late 2011, in Canberra. The skull of a white man is raising questions about whether Captain James Cook really was the first European to land on the country's east coast.
Jul 01, 2013
The centuries-old skull of a white man found in Australia is raising questions about whether Captain James Cook really was the first European to land on the country's east coast.
The skull was found in northern New South Wales in late 2011, and police initially prepared themselves for a gruesome murder investigation.
But scientific testing revealed that not only was it much older than expected, but possibly belonged to a white man born around 1650, well before Englishman Cook reached the eastern seaboard on the Endeavour in 1770.
"The DNA determined the skull was a male," Detective Sergeant John Williamson told The Daily Telegraph.
"And the anthropologist report states the skull is that of a Caucasoid aged anywhere from 28 to 65."
Australian National University expert Stewart Fallon, who carbon-dated the skull, pulling some collagen from the bone as well as the enamel on a tooth, said he was at first shocked at the age of the relic.
"We didn't know how old this one was, we assumed at first that it was going to be a very young sample," he told AFP.
"When we first did it we weren't really thinking about people coming to Australia and things like until we started to look at the dates and say, 'Oh, that's becoming intriguing'."
He said the test used was quite accurate for dates after 1950 but for earlier samples it was more difficult, and the two samples yielded different dates—though both were within the error range.
"Using them (the dates) together we can do some modelling as to what we expect the calendar age to be ... and the way it works out by using those two dates is that we get about an 80 percent probability that the person was born somewhere around the 1650s and died somewhere between 1660 and 1700," Fallon said.
He said there was a 20 percent probability the skull, which was found well-preserved and intact but without any other remains near the Manning River, belonged to someone born between 1780 to 1790 who died between 1805 and 1810.
Historians were cautious.
"Before we rewrite the history of European settlement we have to consider a number of issues, particularly the circumstances of the discovery," archaeologist Adam Ford told the Telegraph.
"The fact the skull is in good condition and found alone could easily point to it coming from a private collection and skulls were very popular with collectors in the 19th century."
Cassie Mercer, editor of Australia And New Zealand Inside History, said the skull "could be an incredible find".
"I guess it's a very exciting find because it could open up a whole lot of avenues of history that we haven't been able to explore before," she told AFP.
Dutch explorers made the earliest European landings in Cape York in Australia's far north and western Australia in the 1600s.
Archaeologists find secret chamber at Drum Castle
By FRANK URQUHART
Published on 04/07/2013 11:59
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have discovered a secret medieval chamber and its ancient loo - hidden for centuries - during a conservation scheme to protect the oldest castle keep in Scotland.
The remarkable discovery has been made at the 700-year-old medieval tower at the National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle near Banchory
Drum Castle, the seat of the Chief of Clan Irvine for centuries, has the oldest keep in Scotland and is the oldest intact building in the care of the trust.
The trust is planning to bring in specialists to remove cement pointing on the ancient tower and replace it with traditional, breathable lime mortar to help preserve the historic keep.
And the hidden chamber - complete with its medieval toilet - was uncovered while initial archaeological investigations were being conducted by Dr Jonathan Clark from FAS Heritage.
Dr Clark explained: “We knew that there were hidden passages because there were window openings at first floor level, but we couldn’t see from the inside of the tower where the windows were because they are hidden by the bookshelves of the nineteenth century library.
“So we set out to unblock two window openings on the west face of the tower to establish the form and condition of these interior spaces. Before we unblocked the windows we wondered if the passages had been filled up with rubble at some point in the history of the evolution of the ancient tower and that there would be nothing to see.”
He continued: “We were surprised that when we carefully unblocked the windows and peered in, and through the dim light of a torch and the mists of dust and trapped for centuries, to find a perfectly preserved medieval chamber, complete with the remains of the guarderobe (toilet) including the remains of the original toilet seat and the original entrance doorway for the medieval hall.”
Dr Clark said: ““This adds greatly to our knowledge of how the interior of the Tower of Drum was used in the medieval period. In due course it should contribute to a greater knowledge of how fourteenth century towers were used in their heyday.”
The archaeologists also discovered a second secret chamber in the tower today as their investigations continued.
Dr Clark revealed: “As work continued this morning, we made another exciting discovery – a second chamber which legend says is where Mary Irvine hid her brother for three years after defeat in the Battle of Culloden. This is a huge discovery for Drum.
“We will now be carefully photographing and measuring what we have discovered so that we can add it to the plans that we have been preparing on the Tower of Drum as part of the bigger project of conservation and archaeological investigation on this important castle.”
Drum Castle, which also features a Jacobean wing and later Victorian remodelling, was developed by generations of Irvines from the 13th Century to 1975, having been given the land by King Robert the Bruce. Legend has it that the barony, and the holly on the Irvine crest, were awarded after William de Irwyn guarded the king sleeping under a bush of the spiky plant.