Stonehenge had huge 'stone religious sibling' just two miles away
Scientists say they had no idea massive henge of 50 stones was just two miles away
DAVID KEYS ARCHAEOLOGY CORRESPONDENT Wednesday 10 September 2014
Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, which can ‘X-ray’ archaeological sites to a depth of up to four metres, investigators from Birmingham and Bradford universities and from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna have discovered a 330-metre long line of more than 50 massive stones, buried under part of the bank of Britain’s largest pre-historic henge.
“Up till now, we had absolutely no idea that the stones were there,” said the co-director of the investigation Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University.
Investigators discovered evidence of dozens of new monuments close to Stonehenge Investigators discovered evidence of dozens of new monuments close to Stonehenge The geophysical evidence suggests that each buried stone is roughly three metres long and 1.5 metres wide and is positioned horizontally, not vertically, in its earthen matrix.
However, it’s conceivable that they originally stood vertically in the ground like other standing stones in Britain. It is thought that they were probably brought to the site shortly before 2500BC.
They seem to have formed the southern arm of a c-shaped ritual ‘enclosure’, the rest of which was made up of an artificially scarped natural elevation in the ground.
The c-shaped enclosure – more than 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long – faced directly towards the River Avon. The monument was later converted from a c-shaped to a roughly circular enclosure, now known as Durrington Walls – Britain’s largest pre-historic henge, roughly 12 times the size of Stonehenge itself.
The ground-penetrating radar can detect archaeological sites to a depth of four metres The ground-penetrating radar can detect archaeological sites to a depth of four metres As a religious complex, it would almost certainly have had a deeply spiritual and ritual connection with the river. But precisely why is a complete mystery, although it is possible that that particular stretch of water was regarded as a deity.
The discovery of the buried stones is part of a much wider archaeological investigation into Stonehenge’s sacred landscape.
A two-part special BBC Two documentary (Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath), being shown this Thursday evening and next Thursday, is set to reveal the details of many of the investigation’s new discoveries.
As well as revealing the previously unknown stones of Durrington Walls, the Anglo-Austrian-led investigation has succeeded in locating more than 60 other previously unknown pre-historic monuments.
“It shows that, in terms of temples and shrines, Stonehenge was far from being alone,” said Professor Gaffney.
Using ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry and other geophysical techniques to peer beneath the landscape’s surface, archaeologists have found around 17 other henge-like Neolithic and Bronze Age religious monuments, each between 10 and 30 metres in diameter. Some may well have consisted of circles of large timber posts – wooden equivalents of conventional prehistoric stone circles.
But the archaeologists have also discovered around 20 large and enigmatic ritual pits – each up to five metres in diameter.
They have also discovered more than half a dozen previously unknown Bronze Age burial mounds – and four Iron Age shrines or tombs, as well as half a dozen Bronze Age and Iron Age domestic or livestock enclosures.
In total, some 4.5 square miles of buried landscape has been surveyed by the joint Birmingham/Vienna team in an exercise that has taken four years to complete.
Now the archaeologists plan to analyse the new data – in order to work out how all the newly discovered prehistoric monuments related to each other.
Using avatar-based computer models, they are hoping to tease out exactly how Neolithic and Bronze Age people used Stonehenge’s landscape.
Initial results suggest that some of the newly discovered shrines and other monuments grew up along processional ways or pilgrimage routes in Stonehenge’s sacred landscape.
The 4.5 square mile survey is the largest of its kind ever carried out anywhere in the world.
The large variety of ‘x-ray’ style techniques used have included more than half a dozen different systems.
Magnetometry and electro-magnetic induction have been used to map underground features by firing electro magnetic energy into the ground and then measuring the inter-action of that energy with subterranean features such as buried pits, ditches and stones.
Earth resistance and electrical resistivity imaging have gathered data on underground features by firing electrical energy into the ground and measuring differences in sub-surface resistance to it.
A fifth technique, magnetic susceptibility analysis, helps archaeologists detect buried layers of burnt material, which often indicate ancient human activity. The system works because naturally occurring iron oxides in the ground can become magnetized through the process of being burnt. A final technique, microgravimetry, can also help detect subterranean features, especially cavities – by measuring tiny differences in local gravitational fields.
The four year investigation into what lies beneath Stonehenge’s landscape has been carried out jointly by four UK universities (Birmingham, Bradford, St. Andrews and Nottingham) and two continental European institutions – the University of Ghent in Belgium and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Austria.
NEOLITHIC NECROPOLIS CONTAINS TWENTY MONUMENTAL TOMBS
Article created on Friday, September 12, 2014
A team of archaeologists is currently conducting excavation work on 20 hectares of land in Fleury-sur-Orne (northwestern France), which is earmarked for residential development. This site has revealed an important Middle Neolithic (4500 BC) necropolis containing twenty monuments and some intact burials.
During the Middle Neolithic new types of monuments appear: constructions of earth and wood, varying in length from a few dozen to several hundred metres. These monumental tombs, the first of their kind are called “Passy” – named after the eponymous site found in Yonne (Burgundy).
Monumental funerary architecture
These large, elongated structures are bounded by ditches which may be associated with fences, and a mound entombs the deceased. In a break with past traditions, these large monuments suggest that a type of hierarchy has been introduced into society.
At Fleury-sur-Orne, twenty of these monumental tombs have been identified by archaeologists. Their size and morphology are varied from 12 m to 300 m in length, enclosed by ditches from 20 cm to more than 15 m wide.
Still intact mound
6500 years ago, these graves were covered with mounds of earth, but due to modern agriculture have now virtually disappeared. However, one of the tombs at Fleury was exceptionally well preserved and features the original constructional walls of stacked grass turves which would have been built up to at least 2 m in height. Such mounds were apparently still visible in the landscape of Fleury until the Second World War.
Each construction was designed to house a few burials, but often there is only one. The most characteristic burial mounds are very large – 3.50 to 4 metres long – and contain a male individual along with a number of arrow tips. Whole sheep were also interred; a good example being Monument 19 which had seven accompanying the deceased.
Contemporaneous with the large dolmens appearing on the shores of the Atlantic, the monumental tombs of Fleury mobilised considerable energy to benefit the few and therefore appears to signal the emergence of a social hierarchy.
These excavations will lead to a series of analyses which will include palaeo-genetic, isotopic, parasitological, in order to find out more about the lineage of these groups, their diet, and the illnesses they suffered from.
The first monumental cemeteries of western Europe : the „Passy type“ necropolis in the Paris basin around 4500 BC – Journal of Neolithic Archaeology
Cite this article
INRAP. Neolithic necropolis contains twenty monumental tombs. Past Horizons. September 12, 2014, from
Millennia-old sunken ship could be world’s oldest, researchers suggest
İZMİR – Anadolu Agency
The port at Urla is one of Turkey’s rare underwater excavation sites. There, experts say, a sunken ship estimated to be 4,000 years old is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean
Underwater excavations led by Ankara University’s Research Center for Maritime Archaeology (ANKÜSAM) have uncovered sunken ships ranging from the second century B.C. to the Ottoman period in İzmir’s Urla district.
A recent excavation uncovered a ship estimated to date back 4,000 years, which experts say would make it the oldest sunken ship to have been discovered in the Mediterranean.
Urla Port is one of Turkey’s rare underwater excavation sites. Professor Hayat Erkanal, the head of Limantepe excavations for the underwater ancient city of Klozemenai and director of ANKÜSAM, said the port dates back to the seventh century B.C. Klozemenai, he explained, was a coastal town, making it the home of many sunken ships from different eras. An earthquake in the eighth century left the city underwater.
He said the team is currently working to determine the features and correct age of its most recent shipwreck find.
There are two other sunken boats that compete for the title of the world’s oldest, Erkanal said. The Uluburun shipwreck, found off the coast of Kaş, is around 3,500 years old, while the sunken ship of Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty, is dated to be around 150 years older.
“If we confirm that the sunken ship [we have found] is 4,000 years old, it will be a very important milestone for archaeology,” Erkanal said.
HDNErkanal said materials removed from seawater must be cleaned of salt to prevent further decay. This process is conducted in a large restoration and conservation laboratory at the recently opened Mustafa Vehbi Koç Maritime Archaeology Research Center and Archaeopark. The process of removing a sunken ship from the water can take approximately seven to eight years, Erkanal said.
Erkanal said that through its discoveries, the team is working to make the sea map of the region. “We’re also working on a project to turn the region, which has a lot of important [information] for world maritime history, into an experimental archaeology center,” he said.
The team will also focus on removing and displaying an Ottoman ship from the site, planning to begin work in the next year. Citing only a few other Ottoman-era shipwrecks that have been discovered in Limantepe, Erkanal said there is a “significant deficiency” in the archaeological record.
“It is unfortunate that we don’t have even one example to show our sea forces that ruled the Mediterranean in the past,” he said.
Warrior's 3,900 year old suit of bone armour unearthed in Omsk
First pictures of 'unique' Bronze Age warlord's full battle dress may be a 'war trophy'.
By Kseniya Lugovskaya06 September 2014
Archeologists are intrigued by the discovery of the complete set of well-preserved bone armour which is seen as having belonged to an 'elite' warrior. The armour was in 'perfect condition' - and in its era was 'more precious than life', say experts.
It was buried separate from its owner and no other examples of such battle dress have been found around Omsk. Analysis is expected to determine its exact age but Siberian archeologists say it dates from 3,900 to 3,500 years ago.
Nearby archeological finds are from the Krotov culture, lived in forest steppe area of Western Siberia, but this bone armour more closely resembles that of the Samus-Seyminskaya culture, which originated in the area of the Altai Mountains, some 1,000 km to the south east, and migrated to the Omsk area. The armour could have been a gift, or an exchange, or was perhaps the spoils of war.
Boris Konikov, curator of excavations, said: 'It is unique first of all because such armour was highly valued. It was more precious than life, because it saved life.
'Secondly, it was found in a settlement, and this has never happened before. There were found separate fragments in burials, like on Rostovka burial ground.'
'We hope to reconstruct an exact copy'. Pictures of the site, and drawings of what the armour looked like: Polina Volf, Yuri Gerasimov, A.Solovyev
Currently the experts say they do not know which creature's bones were used in making the armour. Found at a depth of 1.5 metres at a site of a sanatorium where there are now plans to build a five star hotel, the armour is now undergoing cleaning and restoration.
'We ourselves can not wait to see it, but at the moment it undergoing restoration, which is a is long, painstaking process. As a result we hope to reconstruct an exact copy', Boris Konikov said.
Scientist Yury Gerasimov, a research fellow of the Omsk branch of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, said: 'While there is no indication that the place of discovery of the armour was a place of worship, it is very likely. Armour had great material value. There was no sense to dig it in the ground or hide it for a long time - because the fixings and the bones would be ruined.
'Such armour needs constant care. At the moment we can only fantasise - who dug it into the ground and for what purpose. Was it some ritual or sacrifice? We do not know yet.'
Gerasimov, who is engaged in the restoration, said: 'Each armour plate in the ground was divided into many small fragments, which are held only by this ground. The structure was removed from the excavation, in 'monolith' as archaeologists say - namely, intact with the piece of ground, not in separate plates, and taken to the museum.
'Now we need to clean these small fragments of bone plates, make photographs and sketches of their location, and then glue them in a full plate.'
He is certain that the armour belonged to a 'hero', an 'elite warrior who knew special methods of battle' and would have 'given good protection from weapons that were used at the time - bone and stone arrowheads, bronze knives, spears tipped with bronze, and bronze axes'.
Lots to do - Siberian archeologists have months to assemble parts of the armour together. Pictures: Maria Savilovitch, Yuri Gerasimov
The archeological site where the armour was found includes a complex of monuments belonging to different epochs. There are settlements, burial grounds, and manufacturing sites. Burials have been found here from the Early Neolithic period to the Middle Ages.
The site, beside the Irtysh River, is now owned by Popov Omsk Radio Factory which has supported the archeological research.
Konikov, who worked on the site as a researcher for many years and is now a representative of the plant, supervising the excavations, said: 'Our goal is to save the site, to research it and to promote it.
'We organise excursions for schoolchildren and draw the attention of citizens to this unique site.'
China: Ancient Tomb of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Grandmother Discovered in Xi'an
Mary-Ann Russon By Mary-Ann Russon
September 11, 2014 11:57 BST
A huge ancient tomb belonging to the grandmother of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang has been found in Xi'an during excavations to expand the Xi'an University of Finance and Economics campus in Shaanxi province, northwest China.
According to China.org.cn, the tomb complex covers an area measuring 173,325 square metres, stretching 550m in length and 310 meters in width, and is the second largest tomb to have ever been discovered in the country.
So far, archaeologists have excavated two carriages and 12 horse skeletons (each carriage would have been pulled by six horses) out of the tomb.
The carriages and horses are a symbol of high rank which is equal to that of an emperor or a member of the royal family.
The archaeologists also discovered elegantly engraved pottery inscribed with the Chinese characters for Qin Shi Huang's grandmother, together with fragments of jade, gold and silver, have confirmed the archaeologists' beliefs that the tomb belongs to Qin Shi Huang's grandmother.
They also believe that the first emperor commissioned the tomb to be built and it was completed in his lifetime, but there is no word yet as to whether they have found her sarcophagus.
The turbulent Qin family
Qin Shi Huang (260-210BC) was the first emperor to unify China and enact major economic and political reforms across the country. China had previously consisted of a multitude of warring states and kingdoms, each under the control of feudal overlords, leading to much instability.
Although history knows his parents, the concubine Lady Zhao and King Zhuangxiang of the Kingdom of Qin, not much else is known about his family.
After the death of Qin Shi Huang's father, he took the throne at the age of 13.
His mother took a lover Lao Ai and had two illegitimate children. Later, Lao Ai tried to stage a coup with the intention of killing Qin Shi Huang and placing one of the two children on the throne as a puppet ruler.
Qin Shi Huang ordered his half-siblings to be killed and his mother was placed under house arrest, while Lao Ai died during the coup.
Perhaps the first emperor might have had a closer relationship with his grandmother than with his mother.
In later life, he never chose an empress, but sired 50 children on numerous concubines, so he might have had issues with forming relationships with women.
The legacy left by Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang standardised units of measurement, the length of axles of carts and currency, creating the Ban Liang coin. He also created the first unified Chinese script to make one language and communication system.
Although he destroyed many books about the past so that scholars could not compare his reign to rulers before him, he has left the world a lasting legacy in the form of the Great Wall of China, a defensive wall system, and his mausoleum complex, which is also in Xi'an.
The first emperor's tomb complex took 38 years and over 720,000 builders to construct, and its location was deliberately lost, hidden under the man-made Lishan Mountain, with trees and vegetation planted over it.
Builders who sealed one tomb chamber were killed when they reported to their superiors, who would in turn seal the next chamber and then report to superiors who killed them in turn. It is also rumoured that his concubines were buried alive with him.
When the last builders and guards reported back to the capital that the task had been completed, they were killed too, and the location of Qin Shi Huang's tomb lay hidden for over two thousand years.
In 1974, the tomb was discovered by farmers digging wells, who stumbled on the garrison of 6,000 terracotta warriors.
The central tomb chamber housing the first emperor's sarcophagus has not yet been excavated as archaeologists currently lack the technology to adequately preserve the tomb's contents.
They believe that some ancient booby traps like rivers of mercury and rigged crossbows might still await them, thanks to probes inserted into the tomb discovering abnormally high amounts of mercury.
Archaeologists try to identify owner of Amphipolis tomb, as excavation continues
English.news.cn 2014-09-14 01:38:43
ATHENS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Archaeologists have been trying to identify the owner of the tomb in the Casta hill in the ancient city of Amphipolis in northern Greece this week, as the excavations at the massive Alexander the Great era burial site gradually continued.
Last weekend, when two beautiful Caryatids sculptures came to light, anxiety over the identity of the deceased buried in the monument scaled up.
Archaeologists continued methodically their work, by removing slowly the soil on the Caryatids and trying to enter the third chamber after adopting the necessary measures in order to prevent a cave-in.
The third chamber was believed to be the last section of the magnificent Amphipolis tomb that dates back to the early Hellenistic era.
All the exquisite discoveries made since August, from the sculpted 5 meter high lion sculpture, the two spectacular sphinxes to the two dazzling Caryatids recently unearthed, indicate that the owner of the tomb was very important and from Alexander's close inner circle.
Professor of History and Archaeology in the University of Cyprus Theodoros Mavraganis believes that the tomb belongs to Hephaestion, one of closest friends' of Alexander the Great, with whom he had been brought up.
Hephaestion was a Macedonian nobleman and a general in the army of Alexander and accompanied him to his ten-year campaign in Asia.
Another assumption implies that the burial place belongs to one of Alexander's admirals named Nearchos, who was associated with the ancient city and was exiled there by King Philip II.
He reached until the south coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean and after the death of Alexander the Great he sided with the camp of Antigonus.
The third scenario is that in the tomb were buried Alexander's Persian wife, Roxana, and his son, Alexander IV, who were banished to Amphipolis and murdered there in around 310 B.C.
According to historical records, two members of the royal family that died in Amphipolis in the late 4th century B.C. and possible owners of the tomb were Olympiad, the mother of Alexander, and his sister Kassandra who was murdered under General Kassandros' order.
Though Alexander the Great himself was believed to have been buried in Egypt in 323 B.C., there are also those who believed that this is his tomb.
"The monument shows that this tomb belongs to a prominent person. Who was more prominent than Alexander?" historian and author Sarantos Kargakos said to local media.
Until archaeologists give the final answer to the enigma of who is buried in the tomb, speculations are flying.
Hitting the jackpot on a dig in Gernsheim: Long lost Roman fort discovered
15 September 2014 Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) was stationed there between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Over the past weeks, the archaeologists found two V-shaped ditches, typical of this type of fort, and the post holes of a wooden defensive tower as well as other evidence from the time after the fort was abandoned.
An unusually large number of finds were made. This is because the Roman troops dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches when they left. In the process they disposed of a lot of waste, especially in the inner ditch. "A bonanza for us," according to Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology. "We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before".
Up until now, little was known about Roman Gernsheim, even though findings from the Roman era have been cropping up here since the 19th century. "Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or "vicus", must have been located here from the 1st to the 3rd century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg", explained dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer. He has been travelling from Frankfurt to South Hessia for years and has published his findings in a large publication about the North Hessian Ried during Roman imperial times.
"It was assumed", continued Maurer, "that this settlement had to have been based on a fort, since it was customary for the families of the soldiers to live outside the fort in a village-like settlement." "We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign", said a delighted Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel. "The results are a milestone in reconstructing the history of the Hessian Ried during Roman times." For almost 20 years now, von Kaenel has been studying this area with the help of his colleagues and students using surveys, digs, material processing and analyses. The results have been published in over 50 articles.
The Romans built the fort in Gernsheim in order to take control of large areas to the east of the Rhine in the seventh decade of the 1st century AD and to expand the traffic infrastructure from and to the centre of Mainz-Mogontiac. The fact that Gernsheim am Rhein was very important during Roman times is supported by its favourable location for travel: A road branches off from the Mainz – Ladenburg – Augsburg highway in the direction of the Main Limes. One can assume that a Rhine harbour existed as well, but this couldn't be verified during the course of this dig. "That was always unlikely on account of the chosen location", according to Maurer. Gernsheim continued to expand during the 20th century, and this expansion threatened to wipe out more and more of the archaeological traces. While the Roman remains were mostly still hidden under fields and gardens in the year 1900, they were gradually built over and thus lost to methodical archaeological research. The last plot of any measurable size where it might still be possible to make findings from the Roman era was an area in the south west of the city between the B44 and the River Winkelbach. But in 1971 the excavators moved in here as well. Maurer added: "At the time, a few volunteers from the Heritage Conservation Society were barely able to save a few Roman finds.
On August 4 of this year, the annual educational dig run by the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology began on one of the few remaining properties which had not been built on; a double lot at Nibelungenstraße 10-12. "According to my maps of those Gernsheim sites which could be located, we are at the far western edge of the area in which the finds are concentrated, right at the edge of the lower terrace, since the nearby River Winkelbach flows into the Rhine basin from here", explained dig leader Maurer. Isolated Roman finds were made on almost all neighbouring properties during the 1970s and 1980s. "Thus the site seemed to be a worthwhile location for a dig, which turned out to be very much the case."
Over the past five weeks, 15 students of the "Archaeology and History of the Roman Provinces" course carefully stripped away the soil, mapped and documented the finds, and recovered and packaged them by type. The work was supported by Frankfurt archaeologists from the Hessian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments (Hessen ARCHÄOLOGIE, Darmstadt branch) and by the Art and History Society of Schöfferstadt Gernsheim. Some members of this society, which also operates the local museum, supported the dig team on a daily basis. The documentation and the findings from this excavation campaign form the basis for a thesis at the University, work on which will start in the winter semester.
Archaeologists Discover 1,000-year-old Viking 'Parliament' in Scotland
27 OCTOBER, 2013 - 11:24 JOHNBLACK
Archaeologists in Scotland have discovered an 11th century Viking parliament underneath a parking lot in the town of Dingwall. It is a rare finding because most Viking assemblies took place in open-air fields so it is quite unusual to find a more permanent building that was used.
Viking gatherings carried out for legal disputes were known as ‘Things’, which came from the old Norse word ‘ping’, meaning assembly. Things were where political decisions were made, laws upheld and disputes settled. They acted as meeting places and were often the focus for trade and religious activity.
"It's a fantastic find, really," said Oliver J. T. O'Grady, the director of the site's excavations and an archaeologist who runs an archaeological consulting firm called OJT Heritage. "No one's had dating [information] from a Thing site in Scotland."
Thing sites can be found from Norway to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Historians had suspected that there may be a site of a Viking parliamentary gathering in Dingwall because the town’s name probably originates from the word ‘thingvellir’, which means ‘the field of the assembly’.
Using historical records, the team found a mound near the inlet of an estuary in Dingwall that was called the moothill, or assembly mound, in the 13th century. The team dug a small trench across the mound and used radioactive carbon isotopes, or atoms of carbon with different molecular weights, to date the charcoal found in the soil.
Digging down a few layers, the team found the soil that had been used to construct the mound, which was dated to the 11th century. By this period of history, the Vikings were no longer feared marauders sailing the seas and raiding Europe. Instead, the people who gathered at Dingwall were more likely subjects of Norse kings who ruled from the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
It is only the second time a “Thing” site has been uncovered in the UK. Yesterday historians said the discovery would help them learn more about the Norse Vikings, who battled for control of land across the north of Scotland.
Two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found by archaeologists in Leicestershire
By Leicester Mercury | Posted: September 10, 2014
By Cheslyn Baker
Centuries-old skeletons holding hands have been uncovered at a “lost” chapel by archaeologists.
The remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.
Tiles from a Roman building, were found underneath the chapel.
The dig, by Hallaton Fieldwork Group volunteers, has been taking place for two weeks a year for four years.
The skeletons were discovered this week. A condition of the licence for the dig is that no photographs can be taken of the bodies.
Leading the project is professional archaeologist Vicky Score, of the University of Leicester, who works on the project during her holidays.
She said carbon-dating on nine skeletons uncovered since the dig began had revealed them to be from the 14th century.
It is believed the pair holding hands are of a similar age.
The skeletons have been removed to the university for further investigation.
Vicky said some of the nine skeletons had stones placed on top of their bodies.
“This was a tradition popular in eastern Europe with the idea of keeping the dead down,” she said.
Vicky said the earliest mention of the chapel in Hallaton was in a will of 1532.
“What makes the discovery of the medieval chapel doubly exciting is to find the remains of a previous Roman building underneath it,” she said.
“It shows this ground has been used as a special sort of place by people for at least 2,000 years.
“It also seems to tie in with the fact this is where the ancient bottle kicking contest starts.”
The chapel was located after research by local historian John Morrison.
He said: “Antiquarians over the ages have referred to a chapel somewhere in Hallaton.
“It was a case of piecing evidence together and then getting in geo-physicists to take images of the land from above to locate the spot for our dig.”
Saint Morrell became the 4th Bishop of Anjou, France, in the year 430.
John said: “We think he was brought over in 1170 with the Anjou people, when that area of France became united under Henry II – the first of the Plantagenets.”
In 1622, a writer was noting that within living memory “multitudes came to Hallaton chapel to be cured”.
The Iron Age Hallaton hoard, including a Roman helmet and coins, was discovered 14 years ago about 500 metres away.
On the strength of that find, the heritage group received lottery funding, which has enabled the dig to take place.
Vicky said she was hoping it would eventually fill in the gap between the Roman and medieval periods.
“We are missing about 500 years,” she said. “We don’t know what happened here during that time.”
Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/1-000-year-old-skeletons-holding-hands/story-22904104-detail/story.html#ixzz3DI3R1aiW
Follow us: @Leicester_Merc on Twitter | leicestermercury on Facebook
How doomed British 'lost expedition' ship was found in Arctic
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grand-daughter describes desolate scene as Canadian team discover Royal Navy vessel that vanished in 1840s
Philip Sherwell By Philip Sherwell, Toronto4:03PM BST 13 Sep 2014
Ryan Harris pumped his arms aloft and shouted in delight as he saw the sonar images coming in from the robotic submersible vessel. Around him, his fellow archeologists, scientists and explorers hugged and exchanged celebratory high-fives.
The Canadian search team had just made one of the greatest marine discoveries in history, locating the wreck of one of two British vessels that vanished into the icy expanse of the Arctic with 129 men on board in search of the fabled Northwest Passage in the late 1840s.
The images of the remarkably well-preserved ship were ghostly in their clarity as it sat on the seafloor just 11 metres below the surface of the near-freezing waters of the Queen Maud Gulf.
Here, more than 160 years after they disappeared was one of the doomed vessels of Sir John Franklin’s “lost expedition” - a mission that ended in disaster, the ships strangled by a glacial noose of ice, the crew demented by lead poisoning, succumbing to cold and driven in desperation to cannibalism in a futile effort to survive.
Last week’s breakthrough, like so many, was the product of a serendipitous combination of state-of-the-art technology, human diligence and devotion and a heavy dose of old-fashioned luck.
But the dramatic news could not even be initially shared by Mr Harris, a senior underwater archaeologist, with all those aboard the flotilla of vessels led by Parks Canada, the federal agency co-ordinating the search.
First, it had to be relayed to Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister who has made the Franklin search a personal and political priority since 2008 as he stakes his country’s claim to its chunk of the resource-rich Arctic waterways now opening up as the polar ices melt.
And then it had to be delivered from Ottawa to Downing Street and Buckingham Palace as the missing vessels, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were Royal Navy ships that sailed from Britain in 1845 on an Admiralty expedition under the command of Sir John, a rear-admiral who first cut his teeth at sea in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Two small cannons among the scattered timbers of the shipwreck of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845-48 British Arctic Expedition on the sea floor in northern Canada
Mr Harper announced the discovery to the world in person on Tuesday, two days after the sonar images were seen by an exultant Mr Harris and his colleagues.
“It was all kept very hush-hush and rightly so,” Alexandra Shackleton, the grand-daughter of the great British explorer who was an invited guest on-board the flotilla, told The Telegraph.
Sir Ernest Shackleton was of course no stranger to the extreme bone-chilling vicissitudes the Antarctic and she has frequently visited that region, but this was her first trip to the Arctic.
“It really is a bleak and desolate place,” she said. “My grandfather once wrote that ‘you cannot imagine what it is like to tread where no man has trod before’.
“That’s what it feels like in this part of the Arctic. You look out at that terrain and you can only be impressed by the fortitude and courage of those men who were trapped and died there.”
Chriss Ludin and Joe Boucher look on as the deck crew of Canadian Coast Guard Ship, Sir Wilfrid Laurier hoist the R/V Investigator to the ship’s port rail preparatory for launching (Photo: Jonathan Moore, Parks Canada).
Queen Maud Gulf is indeed a forlorn place, an expanse of ice-clogged waters dotted with lifeless islands of gravel and shale - a far cry from the romanticised depictions of Victorian painters of the Franklin vessels sailing past towering icebergs.
The seven vessels and robotic underwater craft assembled this year by the Canadian government represented the largest mission to locate the missing ships since a series of search operations were launched in the decade after 1848.
Their initial target for the latest search was a northern area of the Victoria Strait, believed to be a more promising area based on remains and artifacts previously found on shore.
To the team’s frustration but ultimately good fortune, unseasonally early and heavy ice floes forced them south. Fate intervened again when two archeologists decided to survey one of the many barren islands, only for the helicopter pilot who ferried them there to happen upon a rusting iron fitting with Royal Navy markings.
That was a key indicator that they were in the right area as the davit was too heavy to have been carried far. The team deployed their underwater search technology, using the same sort of robotic devices that has been used in in the South Pacific to hunt in vain for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
And there, not far below the surface, they hit the jackpot as the distinctive images came through on the sonar feed.
Alexandra Shackleton with John Geiger on board the research boat
John Geiger, the head of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a Franklin expert, was also among those on the search flotilla.
“There was of course a sense of euphoria that after more than 160 years one of these vessels had been found,” said Mr Geiger, co-author of Frozen In Time: The Fate of The Franklin Expedition.
“But to see the final resting place for this vessel really brought home the full horrors that these men endured. It struck me profoundly now that there was such a finality to this and I said a prayer for those lives lost at sea.
“They must have truly felt doomed when the ice beset them,” he told The Telegraph. “This is a very grim part of the Arctic.”
The sunken ship is sitting upright on the seabed, largely intact except for the masts that were apparently sliced off by ice floes. Its dimensions and two bronze cannons – as well as a location that broadly matched accounts handed down through generations of Inuit tribal hunters – all left no doubt that this was one of the Franklin vessels.
They have not yet confirmed whether it is the Terror or Erebus, but the archeologists and divers are due to return to the scene this weekend the final weather window before the autumn gale season strikes and the waters ice over until next summer.
“The vessel is in such good condition that we are expecting to find plenty of artifacts and perhaps also more human remains,” said Mr Geiger.
The discovery means that the world is much closer to unravelling the final mysteries of the expedition. But Mr Geiger and Owen Beattie, his co-author, have already done much to establish the grisly fate of the crew.
From human remains recovered from some of the nearby islands, they established that the men’s bodies were contaminated with debilitatingly heavy doses of lead, apparently the result of poisoning by the new canning process that was supposed to provide food supplies for three years.
Sir John Franklin
They also found that the some of the skeletal remains had knife marks; others showed signs of butchering, with joints removed. It was evidence that confirmed reports of cannibalism by some desperate crew members given by Inuit hunters in the years after the disappearance.
A note dated1848 and found years later recorded the men’s plight. Nine officers, including Sir John, and 15 crewmen had already died. The ships were being abandoned as the survivors decided to try to walk south out of the barren wasteland, the writer recorded.
The expedition had been attempting to find a fabled a northern passage from the Atlantic to Pacific, a new route that could have opened up great trading riches.
But ice beset their vessels as the winter of 1846 set in. It carried the helpless ships for hundreds of mile and had not set them free by the spring of 1848 when, with supplies running low, the surviving crewmen set out on foot in hope of escape. They never made it.
When the Admiralty finally launched a search operation, it also offered a £20,000 reward. It was a huge sum in those days and attracted so many search ships that eventually more vessels and men were lost looking for the expedition than had set out under Sir John.
Mr Harper’s government announced the new search in 2008 as Canada sought to establish sovereignty over the disputed waters of the Northwest Passage. There the melting polar ice has finally opened the shipping route that Sir John’s doomed expedition was seeking.