Sunday, 19 May 2019

The riddle of Winchester Cathedral's skeletons

A reconstruction of Queen Emma's bones is on display but her skull is not completely intact making it too difficult to create a 3D model of her
Image copyright WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

For centuries bones believed to be the remains of Anglo-Saxon and early Norman rulers and bishops have been kept in mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral.

Over the years the skeletal remains have been mixed up and moved around, resulting in some confusion over whose they are.

Fresh research has now dated the contents of the chests and established that the only bones from a mature female are likely to be those of Queen Emma of Normandy.

But that is only the first piece in a puzzle researchers from the University of Bristol are now trying to solve.

They will use DNA extracted from the bones to try to establish the identity of the other 22 people whose remains were in the wooden caskets.

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Friday, 17 May 2019

The Prittlewell Princely Burial Treasures go on show at Southend Museum

Gold crosses from the earliest dated princely Anglo-Saxon burial believed to have been placed over the man’s eyes © MOLA

Ellie Broad, Assistant Curator of Archaeology at Southend Museums, on the Prittlewell Anglo-Saxon princely burial going on permanent display at Southend Central Museum from May 11 – for the first time since their discovery 15 years ago
The Prittlewell Princely Burial is the earliest evidence of Anglo-Saxon Christianity ever found in England. Compared with the princely burials at Sutton Hoo and Taplow, Prittlewell has a beautiful and exotic array of artefacts, with many of the most impressive objects going on permanent display from May 11 2019.

In 2003, archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) began excavating land in Prittlewell, Essex ahead of a road widening scheme. The discovery of a chamber grave came as a great surprise to the archaeologists as they uncovered incredible objects buried under centuries of earth.

A small, wood-lined chamber had been buried under a mound, which had collapsed over time, concealing its location and protecting its contents from robbers.

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UK's 'Tutankhamun' tomb: Your questions answered

The tomb contained 40 artefacts including treasures from other kingdoms
MOLA

Treasures discovered in an Anglo-Saxon royal burial site have gone on display for the first time. The site, discovered between a pub and an Aldi supermarket in 2003, has been described as the UK's answer to Tutankhamun's tomb.

Here we answer your questions on the astonishing find at Prittlewell near Southend.

How was it discovered?

The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) was commissioned by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to perform an archaeological investigation on the site ahead of a proposed road widening scheme.

The small verge between the road and rail line was known to be in the area of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery,

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Southend burial site 'UK's answer to Tutankhamun'

The Prittlewell burial site was discovered in 2003
MOLA

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK's answer to Tutankhamun's tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their "best guess" is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend to go on permanent display for the first time at the Central Museum.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were "astounded" to find the burial chamber intact.

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'Queen's bones' found in Winchester Cathedral royal chests

The six chests have been found to hold the remains of at least 23 individuals
JOHN CROOK / WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

Bones held in mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral could include those of an early English queen, researchers have found.

The contents of six chests have been analysed and radiocarbon-dated.

University of Bristol biological anthropologists found they contained the remains of at least 23 individuals - several more than originally thought.

One is believed to be that of Queen Emma who was married to kings of England, Ethelred and Cnut.

Although the chests, originally placed near the high altar, had inscriptions stating who was supposed to be within them, it was known the names bore no relation to the actual contents.

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Thursday, 16 May 2019

Bones unidentified for centuries may belong to one of England’s most historically important queens

Anglo-Saxon bones dating back 1,000 years ( Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral )

Early England’s forgotten monarchs are set for a high-profile comeback – more than 1,000 years after they died.

Scientists are investigating the remains of up to 18 Anglo-Saxon kings and queens to try to determine their identities, potentially including the pivotal figure of Queen Emma. Emma of Normandy was the wife of two kings and the mother of two others, and one of the most significant figures of late Anglo-Saxon England.

The trove is believed to be the largest assemblage of medieval royal skeletal material ever scientifically analysed anywhere in the world.

For hundreds of years, some 1,300 royal and other high status bones have been kept in elaborate wooden caskets in what was, back in Anglo-Saxon times, England’s de facto capital city, Winchester.

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Monday, 18 March 2019

Anglo-Saxon gold pendant found in Norfolk declared treasure

The gold pendant would have belonged to a "high status woman", like the famous Winfarthing Pendant
COURTESY OF THE PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME

An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant, found near a site where a similar item worth £145,000 was dug up, probably belonged to a woman of "high social status".

The Winfarthing Pendant was found in 2014 near Diss in Norfolk.

The latest pendant, with a central cross motif, was found in 2017 and it has been declared treasure.

Julie Shoemark, Norfolk's finds liaison officer, said it made a "valuable contribution to our understanding of Saxon society".

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Home of 7th Century princess unearthed in Coldingham

The dig concentrated on ground around Coldingham Priory in the Borders
DIGVENTURES/AERIAL-CAM

Archaeologists believe they have found remains of the long-lost home of a 7th Century princess in the Borders.

A monastery was founded near the village of Coldingham by Princess Æbbe nearly 1,400 years ago.

It was destroyed by Viking raiders in the 9th Century and previous attempts to pinpoint its location have failed.

However, excavations led by DigVentures have found traces of a large, narrow ditch which they believe was the boundary of the religious settlement.

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Thursday, 6 December 2018

Burial sites from 5th and 6th centuries yield unexpected treasures

Some of the artefacts discovered during excavations in Lincolnshire. 
Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Archaeologists have uncovered lavish burial sites for women in Lincolnshire from the fifth and sixth centuries, which illustrate how women of the time made themselves resplendent.

Items recovered from the previously unknown Anglo-Saxon cemetery include jewellery made from amber, silver and glass as well as personal grooming items such as tweezers.

Dr Hugh Willmott, senior lecturer in European historical archaeology from Sheffield University and a dig leader, said: “These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing.

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Lincolnshire Anglo-Saxon cemetery burials unearthed

Experts said a "significant proportion of very lavish burials" belonged to women

Burials of richly-dressed women interred with their jewellery and personal items have been unearthed at an Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

About 20 graves dating to the fifth and sixth centuries, including one containing a woman cradling a baby, were found in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The cemetery was discovered after a metal detectorist uncovered artefacts at the site in Scremby, near Skegness.

Experts said there was a "rich array" including necklaces and brooches

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Chirk Castle dig tries to unearth origins of Offa's Dyke

Archaeologist Ian Grant said some suggest King Offa's predecessor may have started the dyke


An archaeological dig at 13th Century Chirk Castle is trying to determine the age of Britain's longest ancient monument.
Offa's Dyke runs 177 miles (285km) from Chepstow to Prestatyn and takes its name from the 8th Century Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia.
It is believed Offa built the dyke as a border between his kingdom and Wales.
However, opinion is divided about the actual age of the dyke, part of which runs through the castle's grounds.
previous examination of part of the dyke by experts suggested work may have started between 430 and 652 AD - more than 200 years earlier than the widely-accepted date of construction.

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Friday, 27 July 2018

Soldiers find skeleton of Saxon warrior on Salisbury Plain


This 6th century Saxon warrior with spear and sword, was found underneath a military trackway, frequently crossed by tanks and huge military vehicles. 

Afghanistan war veterans helping out with archaeological dig on military grounds found scores of Saxon burials complete with weapons and jewellery

On the last day of an excavation by soldiers within the military training lands on Salisbury Plain, they found a comrade in arms: the grave of a 6th century Saxon warrior, buried with his spear by his side and his sword in his arms.

His bones and possessions, which included a handsome belt buckle, a knife and tweezers, were remarkably well preserved despite his grave lying under a military trackway on which tanks and massive military vehicles have been trundling across the plain. Pattern welded swords, high status objects, are rarely found intact: his was lifted in one piece, complete with traces of its wood and leather scabbard.

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Thursday, 19 July 2018

These burial treasures open a window into early Anglo-Saxon East Anglia

The Winfarthing Anglo-Saxon burial treasures. Courtesy Norwich Museums

Dr Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, on the recently acquired seventh century Winfarthing burial treasures and what they tell us about Anglo-Saxon East Anglia

Everyone goes “wow” over the pendant, but it is actually one component of a fascinating burial assemblage from the grave of a wealthy female dating to the seventh century. As much as the wonderful pendant stands out, the real story is as much about what we didn’t know about the Anglo-Saxon period at that date in East Anglia.

The find is also an example of really good metal detecting practice. A history student from UEA had been doing a lot of metal detecting on this particular farm in the parish of Winfarthing and in December 2015 he heard a fantastic signal. He dug down and realised that the bronze bowl he had found was beneath the plough soil.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Archaeologists in Cambridgeshire find graves of two men with legs chopped off

‘Somebody really, really didn’t like these guys,’ says Jonathan House, archaeologist with the Mola Headland Infrastructure team. 
Photograph: Highways England, courtesy of Mola Headland Infrastructure

Exclusive: men believed to be from late Roman or early Saxon period were found in pit being used as rubbish dump

The graves of two men whose legs were chopped off at the knees and placed carefully by their shoulders before burial have been discovered by archaeologists working on a huge linear site in advance of roadworks in Cambridgeshire.

The best scenario the archaeologists can hope for is that the unfortunate men were dead when their legs were mutilated. It also appears their skulls were smashed in, although that could be later damage.

“Was it to keep them in their graves and stop them from running away?” said Kasia Gdaniec, the senior archaeologist with Cambridge county council. “Or had they tried to run away and was this a punishment – and a warning to everyone else not even to think of it?”

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How to decorate like a Viking

Grand Designs, Viking edition. A new report recreates some of the colours used by Vikings to decorate their houses, including ochre and charcoal pigments. (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

To begin with you will need a handy Viking paint chart. Luckily, archaeologists in Denmark have just made one.
Green is the colour of hope, white symbolises surrender or innocence, and black binds the living to the dead.

Colour has always carried meaning for people, including the Vikings, for whom it symbolised power and wealth.

But what colours did the Vikings use?

Archaeologists and chemists have now studied colour use in the Viking Age based on the chemical analyses of pigments from a number of objects and a review of existing information on the topic.

These colours are now available to all in the form of a colour palette: A Viking paint chart.

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DNA study reveals fate of Irish women taken by Vikings as slaves to Iceland

The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a reconstructed Viking ship [Credit: Eric Luke]

The mapping of DNA from some of the settlers who colonised Iceland more than 1,000 years ago offers an insight into the fate of thousands of slaves – mostly women – who were taken by Norse Vikings from Ireland and Scotland before they put down roots on the North Atlantic island.

Anthropologist Sunna Ebenesersdóttir, of the University of Iceland and the company deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, analysed the genomes of 25 ancient Icelanders whose skeletal remains were found in burial sites across the island.

Sequencing using samples from teeth revealed the settlers had a roughly even split of Norse (from what are today Norway and Sweden) and Gaelic ancestry. It is the first in-depth investigation of how a new population is formed through a genetic process known as “admixture”.

When the researchers compared the ancient genomes to those of modern people in Iceland and other European countries, they found contemporary Icelanders, on average, draw about 70 per cent of their genes from Norse ancestry.

This suggests that in the 1,100 years between settlement and today, the population underwent a surprisingly quick genetic shift in favour of Norse genes, the researchers report in the journal Science.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Inscribed seventh-century window ledge unearthed at Tintagel

The slate ledge was found during excavations of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, a site associated with the stories of King Arthur. Photograph: Nigel Wallace-Iles/English Herit/PA

A seventh-century slate window ledge inscribed with an intriguing mix of Latin, Greek and Celtic words, names and symbols has been unearthed at in north Cornwall.

The discovery adds weight to the view that the rugged coastal site, which is most often , was home in the early middle ages to a sophisticated and multicultural port community.

Put together with other finds including Iberian goblets and bowls from what is now Turkey, the slate ledge suggests Tintagel may well have been an important royal base with trade links stretching from Europe’s Atlantic coast to the eastern Mediterranean.

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Bedfordshire's first Roman town wall unearthed in Sandy

Items discovered by Les Capon and his team include the skeleton of a woman, a funeral pyre, Roman rubbish and a pottery kiln

Archaeologists excavating a former allotment site in a market town have made the "absolutely brilliant" find of a previously-unknown Roman wall.

The dig in Sandy, Bedfordshire, has uncovered about 200 items dating from the Iron Age in 500 BC to the Saxon period in 800 AD.

Among the finds is the remains of a Saxon house.

The site, in Stratford Road, is to be turned into a cemetery, car park and council depot.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Hidden writing in ancient desert monastery manuscripts

Fr Justin is helping to share online the historic manuscripts in an ancient Sinai monastery

For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world's oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.

It should come as no surprise: the Greek Orthodox monk is in charge of hauling the library at St Catherine's into the 21st Century.

This ancient collection of liturgical texts, including some of the earliest Christian writing and second in size only to the Vatican, is going to be made available online for scholars all over the world.

The manuscripts, kept in a newly-renovated building which was opened to the public in December 2017, are now the subject of hi-tech academic detective work.

East meeting West
A team of scientists and photographers working alongside Fr Justin has been using multi-spectral imaging to reveal passages hidden beneath the manuscripts' visible text.

These include early medical guides, obscure ancient languages, and illuminating biblical revisions.

Among the researchers is Michelle P Brown, professor emerita of medieval manuscript studies at the University of London.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

South Downs skeleton 'executed 1,000 years ago'

The well-preserved skeleton, thought to be from the 11th Century, was found during excavations in the South Downs

A man whose remains were unearthed by construction workers was executed about 1,000 years ago, archaeologists believe.

The well-preserved skeleton, thought to be from the 11th Century, was found during excavations in the South Downs.

It is thought the man, found in a grave on Truleigh Hill near Shoreham, West Sussex, was aged between 25 and 35.

Bone analysis put the date of his death between 1010 and 1023, while cuts to the neck pointed to a violent end.

The skeleton was found intact, but with no signs of a coffin, with only a few bones missing from his hands and feet in 2015.

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