Archive for December, 2016

This year has been memorable for many reasons – some bad, and some good. But in the world of archaeology, a veritable smorgasbord of discoveries have been unearthed over the last 12 months, allowing us to dig deeper into our history. As 2016 comes to an end, we took a look at some of the most interesting archaeological finds in Britain. (IB Times)


Remains of women at Stonehenge challenge assumptions about their role in neolithic times (Getty)

The women of Stonehenge

The origin and purpose of Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, is an enduring mystery – but scientists are gradually finding out more about the rocks. In April, archaeologists discovered the cremated remains of 14 women at the site, revealing more about the status of women in thousands of years ago.

A recent excavation of “Aubrey Hole 7″– one of 56 pits dug outside of the circle of stones – uncovered the bodies of the women, who were buried between 3100 BCE and 2140 BCE. Archaeologists believe anyone buried at the site had a high social status, so the find challenges assumptions about the role of women in neolithic times.

Lindisfarne monastery

An amateur archaeologist stumbled upon an incredible find in Northumberland in July: a rare grave marker from the mid 7th to 8th Century believed to be evidence of Britain’s most famous monastery, Lindisfarne.

One of England’s earliest Christian monasteries, it was originally founded by in 635AD but was was ransacked by the Vikings around 1,300 years ago. The Lindisfarne monastery is home to one the most beautiful books in Europe, the Lindisfarne Gospels, which incorporates Celtic, Mediterranean and Anglo-Saxon designs and is thought to be dedicated to Saint Cuthbert.

Black Death plague pit

An extremely rare mass grave of plague victims in was discovered at 14th century monastery hospital in Lincolnshire by University of Sheffield archaeologists in November. The 48 skeletons – 27 of which were children – show how the small community was overwhelmed by the Black Death, one of the worst pandemics in human history.

The Black Death, which was most likely bubonic plague, claimed the lives of an estimated 75 to 200 million people across Europe between 1346 and 1353.

One of the archaeologists on the dig, Dr Hugh Willmott, said: “The finding of a previously unknown and completely unexpected mass burial dating to this period in a quiet corner of rural Lincolnshire is thus far unique, and sheds light into the real difficulties faced by a small community ill prepared to face such a devastating threat.”

Earliest surviving fresco from Roman Britain

In February, archaeologists at the Museum of London found a wall painting dating back to the late 1st century AD – one of the earliest surviving frescos from Roman Britain.

The painting most likely to have been used to decorate a reception room where guests were entertained. Researchers are now studying the elaborate fresco further to find out more about the fashions and interiors favoured by London’s first wealthy citizens.

Oldest handwritten documents

In June, archaeologists discovered the earliest-known handwritten documents in Britain among a haul of more than 400 waxed writing tablets, used by Romans for note-taking. The artefacts were discovered during excavations for Bloomberg’s new London-based headquarters and reveal what life was like in the city under Roman rule. Some of the wooden tablets have been deciphered to reveal names, events and business transactions.

Latin expert Roger Tomlin, who translated the tablets, said: “The Bloomberg writing tablets are very important for the early history of Roman Britain, and London in particular. I am so lucky to be the first to read them again, after more than 19 centuries, and to imagine what these people were like, who founded city of London.”
Read the full story at the IB Times website

Wessex Guided Tours conduct guided tours of Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. These specialist tours can depart from Bath or Salisbury.

Wessex Guided Tours
Step into England’s History with HisTOURies U.K


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Freemasons and Stonehenge. The Masonic Connection.

Stonehenge Stone Circle News and Information

As you might expect for such an imposing stone monument, people have sometimes associated Stonehenge with Freemasonry.

Oddly there is actually not much in the way of direct evidence that the Brotherhood ever took much interest in it apart from the odd article in ACQ (“Ars Quatuor Coronatorum”) discussing various aspects of its construction and history.

Various attempts have been made down the years to find a link between Druidism and Freemasonry with some authors claiming that the Druids were the original basis for it – notably G.S. Faber (“Origins of Pagan Idolatry”, 1816), Winwood Reade (“The Veil of Isis”, 1861) and Dudley Cory-Wright (“Druidism – The Ancient Faith of Britain”, 1924).

masons-camberwellThere’s even some graffiti that refers to masons – on the southwest side of the tallest stone still standing these lines appear:

           (J.DAY           )

1802    (                       ) MASONS CAMBERWELL

            (W.LAW         )

… although it’s not clear…

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THE Netheravon Barrow Rescue project in Wiltshire has won the coveted Heritage Award from the MoD for its work to save important archaeological remains near Stonehenge.

Each year the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) which manages thousands of military sites in the UK and overseas, makes a series of awards on behalf of the MoD to recognise work that promotes environmental protection on the Defence Estate.

urnThe Netheravon Barrow Rescue saved an important early Bronze Age site close to Stonehenge, which was being destroyed by burrowing badgers.

The excavation team was led by Wessex Archaeology’s Jackie McKinley, Phil Andrews and Dave Murdie, and supported by the Bulford Conservation Group, Landmarc Services and veterans taking part in Operation Nightingale.

They discovered a wealth of items including a large collared urn dating back over 4,000 years. Wessex Archaeology described the Netheravon Barrow as yielding one of the most important Early Bronze Age discoveries of recent years – alongside the Boscombe Bowman and Amesbury Archer.

The team from Operation Nightingale – which helps injured military personnel with their recovery by working on archaeological projects – won a Historic England Heritage Angel award for their work earlier this year.

DIO senior archaeologist Richard Osgood said: “I am delighted that this award has recognised the efforts made to save a four thousand year old burial mound and some beautiful artefacts which are now on display to the public. I’m especially pleased this award also recognises the contribution made by Operation Nightingale which has made such a tangible difference to all those injured service men and women who have been involved in the project.”

Project director Richard Bennett said: “We are soldiers, sailors, airmen and women and marines and we have proved that we can turn our very unique skill sets to benefit our heritage and its preservation. Being on projects like this provides solace that there is life after the military no matter how hard the journey is along the way.”

Minister for Defence, Veterans, Reserves and Personnel Mark Lancaster, said: “Today is all about celebrating the men and women responsible for a remarkable and diverse range of sustainability, conservation and environmental projects and initiatives delivered across the Defence Estate on behalf of the MoD each year. The diversity of these brilliant projects is dazzling.”

You can read the full article in the Gazatte and Hereld newspaper.

Wessex Guided Tours conduct guided tours of Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. These specialist tours can depart from Bath or Salisbury.

Wessex Guided Tours
Step into England’s History with HisTOURies U.K

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New discoveries rewrite Stonehenge landscape

Stonehenge Stone Circle News and Information

Archaeologists have found new evidence that rewrites the history of the Stonehenge landscape.  One of the newly-discovered sites even predates the construction of the world famous monument itself.

arrow-stones FASCINATING FINDS: Flint arrow heads give a secure early Neolithic date

The remains, found at LarkhillandBulford, were unearthed during excavations being carried out before the building of a series of brand new Army houses.

At Larkhill, the discovery of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure – a major ceremonial gathering place some 200 meters in diameter – dating from around 3650 BC radically changes our view of the Stonehenge landscape. About 70 enclosures of this type are known across the UK, although this is only the second discovery in the Stonehenge landscape, with the other further to the northwest at Robin Hood’s Ball on the Salisbury Plain Training Area. In the Wessex region they occur on hilltops and, along with long…

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Cold stones

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

stonehenge gate.jpg

I was down at Larkhill this morning to visit a large excavation. The Ministry of Defence is building a new housing estate for soldiers and their families, and Wessex Archaeology has found all sorts of interesting things, among them the edge of a new causewayed enclosure, which you’ll be able to read about in the new British Archaeology, out next week.

_MP26303.jpgIt was cold, and there’d been a hard frost. Early at Stonehenge you could see scoring in the turf running parallel to the edges of the Avenue earthwork, most clearly between its banks, but also outside them. It’s a curious effect. The Stonehenge Riverside project excavated grooves that run like this in the soil, and interpreted them as natural periglacial structures left over from the ice age, that – because they are aligned on the solstice axis – were partly responsible for where Stonehenge is: neolithic people saw the…

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