Over 700,000-Year-Old Artifacts Unearthed in South Africa


A paper published in the journal PLOS ONE this past July 24 announces the discovery of tens of thousands of artifacts dating back to the Early Stone Age in South Africa.


Archaeologists with the University of Toronto in Canada detail that, based on the condition in which they were found and their appearance, the artifacts must be somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million years old.


As detailed in a press release concerning this archaeological find, the Early Stone Age artifacts were discovered while exploring a site close to the town of Kathu in South Africa's Northern Cape province.


Due to the fact that this area has until now produced tens of thousands of hand axes and other tools left behind by our ancestors, archaeologists argue that the site is one of the richest to have until now been documented in South Africa.


Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Toronto specialists and fellow researchers explain that the site where these artifacts were found is part and parcel of a region of exceptional importance. This region is dubbed the Kathu complex.


Apart from the tens of thousands of artifacts whose discovery was announced just yesterday, the Kathu complex has until now coughed out fossilized remains of ancient elephants and hippos, together with spear-like tools dating back to at least 500,000 years ago.


Hence, archaeologists and historians say that, all things considered, humans must have been a fairly common sight in this part of South Africa thousands of years ago. This means that the region itself must have been more welcoming than it now is.


“We need to imagine a landscape around Kathu that supported large populations of human ancestors, as well as large animals like hippos. All indications suggest that Kathu was much wetter, maybe more like the Okavango than the Kalahari,” says researcher Michael Chazan.


The bad news is that this complex of archaeological sites in South Africa's Northern Cape province is in danger of being destroyed as a result of mining activities in its proximity and even within its perimeter. Researchers and developers are now trying to figure out how to best protect it.


“The site is amazing and it is threatened. We’ve been working well with developers as well as the South African Heritage Resources Agency to preserve it, but the town of Kathu is rapidly expanding around the site,” says study lead author Steven James Walker.


“There is no question that the Kathu Complex presents unique opportunities to investigate the evolution of human ancestors in Southern Africa,” Michael Chazan, the current director of the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, explains the need to safeguard this archaeological site.



Earliest Cranio-Encephalic Trauma from the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic: 3D Reappraisal of the Qafzeh 11 Skull, Consequences of Pediatric Brain Damage on Individual Life Condition and Social Care

Hélène Coqueugniot

Olivier Dutour,

Baruch Arensburg,

Henri Duday,

Bernard Vandermeersch,

Anne-marie Tillier


Published: July 23, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102822


The Qafzeh site (Lower Galilee, Israel) has yielded the largest Levantine hominin collection from Middle Palaeolithic layers which were dated to circa 90–100 kyrs BP or to marine isotope stage 5b–c. Within the hominin sample, Qafzeh 11, circa 12–13 yrs old at death, presents a skull lesion previously attributed to a healed trauma. Three dimensional imaging methods allowed us to better explore this lesion which appeared as being a frontal bone depressed fracture, associated with brain damage. Furthermore the endocranial volume, smaller than expected for dental age, supports the hypothesis of a growth delay due to traumatic brain injury. This trauma did not affect the typical human brain morphology pattern of the right frontal and left occipital petalia. It is highly probable that this young individual suffered from personality and neurological troubles directly related to focal cerebral damage. Interestingly this young individual benefited of a unique funerary practice among the south-western Asian burials dated to Middle Palaeolithic.


Relevant information about Middle Palaeolithic societies can be obtained from paleopathological investigations. Identification of skeletal abnormalities and degenerative joint disease, as well as evidence for bone lesions caused by trauma, can provide insights into the adaptation patterns and social behavior of these early nomadic hunter-gatherers. With regard to south-western Asia, the first pathological data, to our knowledge, were those brought in 1939 by McCown and Keith's original description of the Mount Carmel people. During the last three decades, new attempts emerged in the studies of near eastern fossil record, related to enrichment in the fossil hominin sample. In this perspective, fossil specimens have benefited from new paleopathological investigations.


Among Levantine Middle Palaeolithic hominins, evidence of cranial traumatic lesions was provided by McCown and Keith [1] in their description of the partial skeletons from the Skhul Cave. According to these authors, the Skhul 1 child exhibits a depressed area in the mid-line of the frontal bone nearby the glabellar region which was interpreted [1] (pp 309–310) as consequence of a blow. These authors also mentioned the presence of a perforation and fracture of the right temporal in the roof of the ear which could result from an impact. However, the paleopathological condition of these two cranial lesions remains unclear as the authors themselves concluded [1] that both injuries “.. were inflicted at death or not unlikely at some time soon after death”. In an unpublished study, three of us (AmT, HD and BA) were not able to conclude if frontal and temporal changes observed on this fossil were pathological or taphonomical. McCown and Keith [1] (p 281) also drew attention to the presence of an injury “caused by a glancing blow at, or soon after death” in the left parieto-occipital area of the Skhul IX adult skull.


Later, in his original study of the Shanidar hominins from Iraqi Kurdistan, Trinkaus [2] provided a description of several pathological conditions displayed by one of the individuals, Shanidar 1. This adult individual sustained, among several skeletal lesions, a crushing skull fracture which involved the frontal process of the left zygomatic bone and the lateral margin of the left orbit. This ante-mortem traumatic injury most probably caused blindness of the left eye [2].


Within the Qafzeh hominin sample from lower Galilee, the skull of the adult Qafzeh 6 shows a concave indentation of the outer table of the frontal bone, without a fracture, in the area of the left supra-orbital region [3]. Such a condition can result from either trauma due to an accidental self-hurt or a blow to the head due to inter-personal violence. One of the immature individuals from the site, Qafzeh 11, presents a skull lesion previously attributed to healed trauma [4]–[6]. The goal of this study is to reappraise the Qafzeh 11 impact wound using 3D imaging methods, to better understand the pathological condition that affected this young individual. Indeed, 3D reconstructions applied to paleopathology allow us to better explore inner bone lesions, to evaluate their impact on soft tissues and to estimate volumetric data contributing to fossil reconstruction and preservation [7]–[9].




The Qafzeh site has yielded the largest hominin collection (N = 27, including partial eight skeletons, isolated bones and teeth) from Middle Palaeolithic layers in south-western Asia (e.g. [6], [10]–[11]). The Middle Palaeolithic sequence (units XVII to XXIII) was dated by a combination of electron spin resonance and thermoluminescence methods to circa 90–100 kyrs BP or to marine isotope stage 5b–c [12]–[13]. Human remains were discovered at the front of the cave's entrance in layers that contain a low density of lithic artifacts, a huge assemblage of micromammals and a few hearths. Within the Mousterian lithic assemblage [14]–[16], centripetal and/or bi-directional preparations prevail and the typical products are side scrapers, large oval flakes and quadrangular Levallois flakes. The makers of the Mousterian lithic industries at Qafzeh are identified as early anatomically modern humans [6], [10], [17].


A majority of the Qafzeh individuals fails to attain reproductive adulthood and among them, Qafzeh 11 is of special interest. It represents a single specimen recovered from layer XXIII, at the bottom of the Mousterian sequence, while most of the fossil human sample originates from layer XVII. A large stone damaged the trunk, pelvic area and lower limbs. Age at death of Qafzeh 11 was estimated circa 12–13 yrs while the sex remains unknown [5]. The partial skeleton of Qafzeh 11 is characterized by a combination of morphological traits in which modern features prevail, in comparisons with other Palaeolithic children [5]–[6]. Cranial morphology shows changes affecting the vault symmetry and base angulation; however their interpretation in terms of peri- or post-mortem changes remains unclear [6].


Besides these changes, Qafzeh 11 presents a cranial lesion previously attributed to a healed trauma [4]–[5]. This lesion is characterized by an anterior depression on the right side of the frontal squama. It is limited forwards by a healed fracture line, which ends up to an oval shaped hole. The latter has been attributed to a taphonomical change [4]–[5]. Healing process led to small thin bone remodelling, the frailty of it explaining its post-mortem loss (figure 1). Regarding the overall shape of the bone lesion and x-ray examination, the diagnosis of traumatic skeletal injury indeed prevails over that of an epidermoid bone cyst [3]. Surprisingly, comparative analysis between Qafzeh 11 and another child from same site, Qafzeh 10 younger in individual age (circa 6 years old), reveals that Qafzeh 11 had the smallest endocranial volume, respectively 1273±48 cc and 1251±48 cc [6].




When a pathological condition is recognized in skeletal remains, the nature of the bone damage or injury is sometimes not easy to determine precisely. Peri-mortem trauma can be difficult to differentiate from skeletal post-mortem changes due to taphonomic processes (e.g. [32]). Cases of serious cranial trauma are seldom documented in the human Upper Pleistocene fossil record from south-western Asia (e.g. [2]–[5]) and Western Europe [33]–[34]. Zollikoffer et al. [33] asserted that the cranial injury displayed by the Neanderthal St-Césaire 1 resulted from an act “of intragroup, interpersonal violence” but did not cause the immediate death. Examining the pathological condition of Krapina 34.7 parietal fragment, Mann and Monge shared the same statement, i.e. the serious trauma “was not a mortal wound”; however they concluded that its cause “appears to one of an accident associated with life style of living and sleeping in caves” [34].


In his original description of the healed trauma which affected Qafzeh 11, Dastugue [4] mentioned that the skull fracture was not lethal, related to a minor trauma and only localized on the skull vault. According to him, this so-called “benign fracture” did not have significant repercussions and occurred when Qafzeh 11 was young. Furthermore, the healing response had probably not undergone its complete trajectory before the death of the adolescent [4]. Dastugue concluded that the cause of death was unknown.


3D reconstructions clearly show that the Qafzeh 11 skull fracture was not a simple one. Indeed, this frontal bone fracture appears to be compound, with a broken piece of frontal squama that is depressed, isolated forwards by a linear fracture and backwards by sutural diastasis. As previously mentioned [4], this fracture type generally results from a blunt force trauma (getting struck or kicked in the head by heavy and blunt material, accidentally or intentionally with weapon). This type of trauma can be interpreted as resulting from interpersonal violence, but as has been demonstrated by paediatricians, complex cranial fractures like this one can also occur accidentally [35]. Contrary to the assumption of a non-serious wound made previously [4], the depressed fracture of Qafzeh 11 skull that can be considered as at least a moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) [36], actually presents a high level of risk for brain damages (intra-cranial haemorrhages, diverse types of central nervous system lesions such as concussion, contusion, laceration, which can lead to destruction of brain tissue or cerebral scar). Besides the neurological damages due to focal brain lesion in the right frontal area, more precisely the areas 6 and 8. These areas are responsible for psychomotricity which may have led to troubles for controlling movement, difficulties for performing specific tasks, managing uncertainty, visual attention and eye movements and possibly the right area 44 (that seems also to be involved in oral communication as the left Broca's area, that is specialized in speech production). It is highly probable this young individual suffered also from personality changes due to traumatic brain injury. This personality disturbance is thought to be directly related to brain trauma and appears to be very frequent: 65% in severe to mild/moderate TBI, according to Max et al. [36]) but according to McAllister [37] “virtually all individuals who survive moderate and severe TBI are left with significant long-term neurobehavioral sequelae”. These troubles are characterized by a “distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” and manifested in children as a “marked deviation from normal development” [36].


Two methods have confirmed the small endocranial volume of Qafzeh 11. The virtual reconstructed endocranial volume provides an underestimated value due to the lack of anterior part of skull base which technically limits endocast segmentation and therefore makes its complete virtual reconstruction speculative. Recently, Kondo et al. [38] proposed a semi-virtual reconstruction of the Qafzeh 9 endocast. They obtained a EV value of 1411–1477 cc that is smaller than the initial estimation of 1508–1554 cc [10] and the mean value of 1531 cc provided by Holloway et al. [25]. Considering that (i) EV virtual values appear to be smaller than calculated ones for the base- damaged Qafzeh 9 and 11 skulls, (ii) virtual EV are not available for other specimens of the site (Qafzeh 10 and 6), we prefer using estimated EV value calculated from formulae.


As for Qafzeh 11, EV values are nevertheless consistent each other and corroborate a small endocranial volume related to individual age whatever the method used. This can be interpreted as growth retardation due to the trauma. Indeed, generalized atrophic changes resulting in reduced overall brain volume has been documented in moderate-to-severe pediatric traumatic brain injury [39]–[40]. In addition to this focal effect on brain, a general growth retardation due to post-traumatic endocrine disturbance [41] could be raised here.


Hemispheric asymmetry is present on Qafzeh 11. This feature has already been described on fossil hominins (e.g. [25], [29], [42]–[43]) including Qafzeh 9 [38] and among extant populations (e.g. [28], [44]). Therefore, despite the depressed frontal fracture that had probably impacted the underlying brain tissue of Qafzeh 11 frontal lobe, the physiological hemispheric asymmetric pattern was not affected.


As Qafzeh 11 has a PEV corresponding to a 4–6 years old modern child, we hypothesize that the trauma occurred at or before this age. Among skeletal indicators of growth disturbance and stress during childhood, is the manifestation of growth arrest lines (Harris lines) in the metaphyseal region of the long bones. These non-specific stress indicators usually vanish during life. Unfortunately, the preservation state of long bones does not allow any kind of investigation in the case of Qafzeh 11. Pathological alterations of the dental enamel, such as transverse linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), are also employed in the assessment of physiological stress events and growth disturbances during childhood (e.g. [45]–[48]). Presence of enamel hypoplasia on three lower teeth of Qafzeh 11 (right and left first molars, right second molar) was previously described by Skinner [49]. However, data collected on the specimen by one of us (AmT) point to the lack of LEH on the permanent upper and lower teeth and on the isolated germs of upper third molars as well [3]. Both lower right M1 and M2 indeed present a different enamel coloration above the cervix, located at the same height of the two crowns. This alteration is most probably of taphonomic origin and we suggest that the skull trauma didn't impact M1 and M2 complete crown formation, indicating that it probably occurred around 6 years of age.


In sum, the Qafzeh 11 child represents, to our knowledge, the oldest documented human case of severe cranial trauma available from south-western Asia, dated to 90–100 kyrs BP. The adult Shanidar 1 skull exhibits an indisputable evidence of trauma, that was sometimes interpreted as a consequence of interpersonal violence [2], [50] but the specimen is probably more recent [51]. For Qafzeh 11, the exact circumstances surrounding the injury remain unknown, although this kind of injury generally results from a blunt force trauma.


Whatever the origin and severity of a given pathological condition observed on human Middle Palaeolithic hominins, speculations were made with regard to its consequences on individual life conditions and social status, in terms of disability, impairment and social care. Consequently, these questions are widening the debate introducing notions of altruism and compassion in prehistoric human communities and their possible role in human life history (e.g. [2], [52]–[58]).


In this respect, it is crucial to assemble biological and pathological data with cultural observations and their subsequent interpretations. For the Qafzeh 11 subadult, it is now clear that severe cranio-encephalic trauma experienced during childhood, deeply impacted his/her cognitive and social communication skills. Interestingly Qafzeh 11 benefited from special social attention at his/her death, as shown from archaeological details. The Qafzeh 11 skeleton, recovered at the bottom of the Mousterian sequence in front of the entrance of the cave, revealed that the corpse was originally lying in a pit on its back, the head turned to the right with upper limbs flexed [59]. The hands maintained their anatomical configuration and were lying together near the face western-oriented. The pelvic region and the lower limbs extended to the south from the skull, were post-depositionally damaged by a large stone. Besides this, there was a complete lack of mixing or bone displacement with an absence of animal scavenging traces. Furthermore, two deer antlers were lying on the upper part of the adolescent's chest, near his/her face and they were in close contact with the palmar side of the hand bones (figure 5). Such a hand location, within the original body spatial arrangement, attested a funerary offering and not an accidental incorporation. All these observations strongly support the interpretation of a deliberate, ceremonial burial for Qafzeh 11.


At Qafzeh several other burials occur [59]–[62], but Qafzeh 11 represents a unique case of differential treatment with convincing evidence for ritual behavior. We interpret the Qafzeh 11 burial as resulting from a ritual practice applied to a young individual who experienced a severe cranial trauma most probably followed by significant neurological and psychological disorders, including troubles in social communication. These biological and archaeological evidences reflect an elaborate social behavior among the Qafzeh Middle Palaeolithic people.



Cuenca are tools used in a million years

Directory: Ares Archaeology Iberian Peninsula


BASIN, 27 Jul. (IRIN) -


   The company Ares Archaeology Cuenca , within their research project 'The Lower and Middle Paleolithic in the Province of Cuenca', launched in 2012 in the Alcarria Conquense , continuing its exploration work in twenty archaeological sites where they have come to find several types of materials , being the oldest - the so-called Mode 1 - of about a million years ago.


   Archaeologists Santiago Muñoz David Dominguez and Michel have told Europa Press that the materials consist of stone tools found in various types, and the oldest have to relate to the very first humans inhabited the Iberian Peninsula, as Homo ergaster or Homo antecessor.


   In one of the most ancient sites, called 'El Pino' in Carrascosa del Campo, where they found traces of use were given to these materials in prehistory.


   The most abundant lithic cores are quartzite flake removals, known as 'choppers'. Is quartzite flakes certifies that these are real tools and show that the first humans in the area carved stone knives for cutting and smooth or serrated edges for cutting through flesh and touch wood.


   Researchers have explained that by using a stone knife with wood or flesh wears characteristically and if a piece is preserved optimally without rolling or erode a soil layer, it can be seen that point with special microscopes .


   The traceológico project study on Paleolithic in Cuenca land is being developed at the University of Murcia and is run by specialist Ignacio Ruiz de Lerma.


   Within these research works are also conducting analysis to parts of Mode 2 and Mode 3 other yacimiemtos Huete and Valle de Altamira, Homo heidelbergensis works and Neanderthals.


   The first results on bifaces, as detailed archaeologists also portend important data for understanding the behavior of these human types.


   So far have published a book and a documentary on the results of research on Paleolithic Alcarria.


   They are records that have been defined this year two new archaeological sites in Mode 1 Carrascosa del Campo, and also within the project is studying the origin of man in La Mancha, with important new deposits found in El Provencio.


   The goal is to keep researching, publishing and teaching resources in generating the municipalities involved. The completion of all work, says Dominguez, "is and must be the genesis of interpretation centers where everything is explained to the general public and the importance of this part of the plateau is highlighted to discover human origin."



Hunsrück: first discovered rock carvings from the Paleolithic in Germany

They are the earliest known drawings in Germany: In the Hunsrück a hiker has discovered more than 20,000 year-old engravings in stone, they show four horses.


Gondershausen / Hamburg - For the first time rock engravings are in Germany have been discovered from the Paleolithic. Four animals can be seen on a hillside in the Hunsrück slate: 20,000 to 25,000 years ago, grabbed an artist to his tool made of hard stone, and smote images of two large and one small horse and of a not yet identified animal in a slate rock.


Why the artist who created the 25 to 50 centimeters tall horse, is not more to say according to archaeologists. "It may have something to do with hunting magic, the summoning of animals," suggested the Rhineland-Palatinate state archaeologist Axel von Berg.

Archaeologists of the Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate (GDKE) showed great enthusiasm about this find at Gondershausen (Rhein-Hunsrück-Kreis). The state archaeologist Axel von Berg and archaeologist Wolfgang Welker spoke of a "stroke of luck" that she had very surprised.


About two years they have been examined by other experts, according to Berg, if they can not be wrong with the dating yet. But now they are confident: "These are some of the oldest things we have in Germany," says Berg.


If it were the first discovery of Palaeolithic rock art in the Federal Republic. The fact that they remained in the very weather-prone shale, according to the archaeologists the chance to thank. From mountain believed that a kind of natural rock shelter has protected up to two inches deep engravings from the time of hunters and gatherers for many years from the weather.


And when the Romans from the second or third century after Christ began, transported stones of villas, they left the rock with art stand. According to Berg but it could be that they have processed rock with engravings to Bauquadern and the work was originally larger.


Was discovered by the engravings of Gondershausener Jürgen Weinheimer. "He is much in the woods and has seen it 22 years ago for the first time," said Arno Quirin from Gondershausen. Eight years ago, the finder had come to him, but because he was interested in the Romans and the local history.


"Around the corner were burial mounds from the Bronze Age, I've brought into the relationship," Quirin said. Eventually, he said, but to an archaeologist. "For us this is an absolute sensation," said mayor Mark Landrath.

A "sort of mass migration" to the engravings now feared Quirin. "We now consider how we can protect the site permanently," said state archaeologist of mountain and also referred to the risk of vandalism.


"Money is not the issue here, but it comes only once a matter of finding an appropriate solution," Culture Minister Doris ancestors (SPD), said during a tour of the engravings far from the paths on a steep slope in the woods. After all, the art should be made available to the public. From mountain a detailed cast brought centrally located in the city this week.



Peru: Primitive Astronomical Laboratory from 2000BCE Discovered in Licurnique Complex

By Hannah Osborne

July 28, 2014 14:52 BST


An astronomical laboratory dating back 4,000 years has been discovered at an archaeological complex in Peru.


Located in Licurnique, a few hours from the northern region of Lambayeque, excavators found rocks with astronomical engravings on them.


The archaeological site dates from between 2000BCE and 1500BCE and experts say the laboratory is in its formative stages, Peru's Andina news agency reports.


On the rocks discovered, archaeologists found the petroglyph of an altar, "an expression of religious superposition".


There were also astronomical observations carved onto a flat rock surface, used to track stars and forecast rainfall.


Juan Martinez and Manuel Curo told the news agency that their finding includes ancient Hispanic and Andean influences – an unusual combination.


They said the discovery provides important information about the inhabitants of Licurnique at the time and that further exploration is needed.



Ancient Roman Shipwreck Found in the Ligurian Sea

Silvia Donati | Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 08:30


An ancient Roman shipwreck has been discovered in the Ligurian Sea, 20 miles southwest of the island of Tino, at the western end of the Gulf of La Spezia.

The discovery was made by sonar engineer Guido Gay, who has located the ship at 500 meters deep. Renamed Dedalus 21, the vessel is estimated to be dating to the second century B.C. It is 15 meters long and has preserved many precious objects, including hundreds of amphorae of the Republican era, proof, says Gay, of the flourishing maritime trade between France, Spain and Rome, which imported wine, fish and other goods from those areas.

To protect the findings, the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Liguria has issued an order prohibiting fishing and diving activities in the area.

In 2012, again in the area of ​​the island of Tino, Gay had found another Roman shipwreck dated between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, containing numerous amphoraes as well. "Many of the amphoraes from that previous find were unfortunately reduced to fragments. This time, luckily, the site is better preserved."

- See more at: http://www.italymagazine.com/news/ancient-roman-shipwreck-found-ligurian-sea#sthash.LoBR2KWR.dpuf



Archaeologists find baths of "sociable" Romans and early evidence of Christianity

By Ben Miller | 22 July 2014


Archaeologists are calling Binchester Roman Fort "the Pompeii of the north" after finding a "spectacular" bath house with seven foot-high walls


Excavating two large trenches near Bishop Auckland, experts say a silver ring from the site evidences Christianity in Roman Britain.


The walls of the bath, where features such as a bread oven nod to an important social as well as recreational space, would once have been covered with brightly-coloured paint designs, with the original floor, doorways, window openings and an inscribed altar dedicated to the Roman Goddess, Fortune the Home-bringer, also surfacing.


 “The form of the ring and the shape of the stone seem to indicate a 3rd century date,” says Dr David Petts, who is co-ordinating a project which has entered a fifth week in its sixth year of investigations.


“This is a surprisingly early date for a Christian object in Britain, as it predates the accession of Constantine in York in AD306.


“The intaglio shows two fish hanging from an anchor. This has clear Christian connotations.


“It is found widely elsewhere in the Roman Empire, but this is only the second example from Britain; the other example coming from the colonia at York.


“It was under him that Christianity finally became a licit religion. Evidence for Roman Christianity is rare in Northern England, and evidence for pre-Constaninian Christianity is even rarer.


“This is a rather splendid find.”


An “exceptionally well-preserved” small plunge bath has been found in the second of the trenches, where eight courses of stonework and foundation stones represent a daunting depth of archaeology for a team only planning one more season of digging.


“There is also some really interesting evidence for the plumbing, including a drain in the base which seems to line up with some of the culverts we’ve picked out in the nearby floor, as well as some gaps within the wall which may well have originally contained lead piping or some other mechanism for channelling the water,” says Petts, calling it “a wonderful little feature”.


Although the second trench is better preserved, the first, more complex trench is of greater archaeological intrigue, containing a large rectangular Roman cavalry barrack for stables and troops.


“The earliest phase of the structure was a larger building, with two rows of rooms: one containing the rooms where the men slept, the other consisting of the stable areas for the horses,” says Petts.


 “At some point, perhaps in the 4th century, the entire structure was reduced in size to a smaller building only one room thick.


“At one end this had a separate block that appears to have formed quarters for an officer.


“In this latest phase, the entire structure was surrounded by large dumps of butchered animal bone. We are still working on the precise chronology for this building, but the final phase probably survived into the early 5th century.


“A series of features are built into the rampart, including a small bread oven and, more substantially, a well-preserved latrine.


“This was a communal facility and we reckon up to four toilet holes must have stood side by side – it was a sociable process.


“The latrine would have been regularly cleared out by water channelled through it from the roadside gutter nearby.


“The sewage would have been taken through a neatly formed arched conduit in the fort wall into the neighboring fort ditch.”


Painted plaster has been found during the past two days.


Petts’ favourite find is a “haunting” ceramic face from a late Roman head pot.


“The altar is a reminder that bath houses were about more than keeping clean and exercising and were actually social centres – a bit like our modern day leisure centres,” he points out, observing an inscription by a retired trooper who served with a unit of the Spanish cavalry and described his rank as “architectus”.


“The most unique feature of these remains is the sheer scale of their preservation.


"It is possible to walk through a series of Roman rooms with walls all above head height; this is pretty exceptional for Roman Britain.


“Our excavations have uncovered parts of one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Britain.


“The building itself and the wonderful array of artefacts we have recovered from Binchester give us an unparalleled opportunity to better understand life on the northern frontier in the Roman period.”


Durham County Council, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland and several American universities have helped research the site, where a first year student found a 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a Roman god last year.



Medieval letter seal discovered in archaeological dig at Lufton, Yeovil by Newcastle University lecturers and students

By WG_Sherborne  |  Posted: July 26, 2014


A SEAL used to decorate wax as it secured medieval letters has been discovered in the first week of an archaeological dig.


The artefact - thought to have been used between AD 1250 and 1400 - was discovered buried in a field off Thorne Lane as part of an excavation led by Dr James Gerrard, a lecturer in Roman archaeology at Newcastle University.


The inscription reads SOhOV ROBEN and the picture shows a hare riding a hound and blowing a hunting horn.


Mr Gerrard, formerly of Yeovil, said: “This is an exciting discovery and an example of medieval humour or wit. “Sohov is an Anglicised French hunting call like 'tally-ho' and Roben is a typical French name for a dog during the period - like Fido or Rover.


“The design ironically references the nobility's love of hunting. It mocks this favoured pursuit by reversing the normal order of things, with the hare being the hunter.”


It may have been used by women or members of the clergy.


A team of ten first and second year archaeology students, and South Somerset Archaeological Research Group volunteers, are excavating the site. On the first day of the dig ancient pottery was discovered.


The area focuses on land south to where a late Roman villa – dating from between AD 250 to 400 – was excavated by Leonard Hayward in the 1950s and 1960s.


A study also indicated the presence of an Iron Age settlement which pre-dates the villa.


The project was launched five years ago to discover more about Roman life in the town, and the history of the deserted medieval settlement at Lufton. It is the third year a dig has taken place.


Last year, the project unearthed cremated remains which were thought to be human as well as Roman and Iron Age pottery, including a rare pot possibly used in cheese-making during the Iron Age. Stone tools dating back to Neolithic times were also discovered.


The project will conclude on Saturday, August 2.


An open evening about the discoveries of the dig will take place in the Abbey Manor Community Centre, the Forum, Abbey Manor Park, on Saturday, July 26, from 7pm to 9pm. Entry costs £3 and refreshments will be available.


To track the team’s progress visit https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/luftonarchaeology/2014/06/22/x-never-ever-marks-the-spot/


Read more: http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/Medieval-letter-seal-discovered-archaeological/story-21938569-detail/story.html#ixzz38mG3SdoK



EMBARGO: Not to be issued before 00.01 Tuesday 29 July


Recent finds from the London that are being conserved can be downloaded here:



Finds recovered from the London wreck which mysteriously blew up in the Thames Estuary in 1665 off Southend-on Sea could potentially be similar in scope to those recovered from King Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose but just over a century later, English Heritage and Cotswold Acheology experts believe.


Over the past three months, a specialist diving team led by experienced Thames Estuary diver Steven Ellis, have undertaken 10 planned dives of one of England's most important 17th century shipwrecks. They have been mapping the ship and discovering and retrieving a series of objects such as musket shots and ingots as well as ship fixtures and fittings including a hand-made glass cabin window, tools and personal items including pewter spoons, coins and navigational dividers.


Mark Dunkley, Maritime Archaeologist at English Heritage said: “There are still five dives to go but what we have confirmed so far is that the well preserved and vulnerable remains of the wreck of the London are consistent with the historical records that she did in fact blow up.”


Steve Webster, Project Manager at Cotswold Archaeology said: “This two year project is the only ongoing excavation on an underwater wreck in England at the present time and the artefacts that we can recover may be similar in scope to those recovered from the Mary Rose, but 120 years later in date. This will allow us to better understand a whole range of changes that occurred between the first half of the 16th century and the second half of the 17th century, a period that saw the expansion of Britain's sea power and marks the start of the British Empire.”


Steven Ellis, who has been granted the Government licence to dive the wreck said: “Working underwater in the murky Thames Estuary has been challenging but we’re making real progress in understanding the nature of this fascinating 300 year old wreck site.”


Finds recovered from the site are being curated by Southend Museums Service which secured a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to develop the community project to record the finds as well as hosting a permanent display. There will also be a publication produced about the wreck.


“Luisa Hagele, Project Curator at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Museums Service said: “This project provides an incredible opportunity for local people to engage with their own heritage and a unique experience for the Southend community. The Museums Service has worked alongside the Nautical Archaeology Society to train some local volunteers to assist us with work on the finds and they are all extremely excited to be getting involved.


The London was one of only three completed wooden Second Rate ‘Large Ships’ that were built between1642 – 1660 and is the only one that survives. 


English Heritage commissioned Cotswold Archaeology to carry out this underwater excavation in order to find out just how much archaeological material survives. Divers are excavating three trenches in the bow of the wreck, designed to explore archaeological remains in the hold, the orlop deck where the anchor cables are, the main gun deck as well as carpenter and boatswains store rooms which would have contained tools and timber stores. 


The London was rediscovered in 2005 during works in advance of the London Gateway Port development in Thurrock, Essex. In October 2008, it was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) and immediately placed on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by shifting sediment levels on the seabed. The wreck is routinely monitored by professional diver Steven Ellis and his team.


Southend Museums Service and Steven Ellis with his dive team are a contender for this year’s English Heritage Angel Awards for their work on the London. The Angel Awards, co-funded by the Andrew-Lloyd Webber Foundation, celebrate local people who rescue heritage at risk and will be announced at a glittering ceremony in London on 3 November 2014.

 - Ends -

Further information from: Rosie Ryder, Communications, English Heritage Tel: 020 7973 3250 or email rosie.ryder@english-heritage.org.uk

Notes for Editors:

Designation details for the London may be found on the English Heritage website:


 The London Wreck Project http://www.thelondonwreckproject.co.uk/

Cotswold Archaeology http://www.cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/

Southend Museums Service http://www.southendmuseums.co.uk/

Twitter #LondonWreck1665



Rosie Ryder

Communications Assistant

English Heritage