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Archaeologists have discovered 81 “extremely rare” tree-trunk coffins at a “previously unknown” early Christian Anglo-Saxon community’s cemetery.

saxon-grave

Historic England believes the finds will “advance our understanding of Middle-Saxon religious beliefs”

Found at Great Ryburgh in Norfolk, their “remarkable preservation” was due to the waterlogged conditions of the river valley.

The Historic England excavation was carried out ahead of the construction of a lake and flood defence system.

Chief executive Duncan Wilson said the graves were “a significant discovery”.

Anglo-Saxon coffins seldom survive because wood decays over time.

James Fairclough, an archaeologist from the Museum of London Archaeology which led the dig, said: “The combination of acidic sand and alkaline water created the perfect conditions for the skeletons and wooden graves to survive, revealing remarkable details of Christian Anglo-Saxon burial practices.”

Archaeologist Matt Champion made the initial discovery.

Landowner Gary Boyce had asked him to put in trial trenches ahead of the planning application for the lake and flood defence system. These revealed high status Anglo-Saxon pottery and Roman Samian Ware.

He said it was all the more remarkable because prior to the dig “all the evidence suggested the field had never been developed”.

They decided to carry out a full excavation in January – and within an hour found the first of over 80 human burials. The dig was completed in June but its findings have only just been released to the press.

Historic England said other important finds included six “very rare” plank-lined graves “believed to be the earliest known examples in Britain” and evidence of a timber structure thought to be a church.

Historic England believes the burials date from between the 7th and 9th Centuries AD and were “the final resting place for a community of early Christians”.

Research is continuing to find out where the bodies came from, how they were related and what their diet and health was like.

Some of the finds will go on display at Norwich Castle Museum.

Article Source (BBC)

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Archaeologists have begun exploring two locations in Bath which have been hidden from view for more than half a century. (BBC WEBSITE)

roman-baths

The hidden baths will form part of a new interpretation centre at the Roman Baths

The dig, in part of the Roman Baths complex, was partly excavated in the 1960s but then sealed up and left.

Archaeologists will investigate the masonry and also examine the materials used to backfill the baths.

The site will eventually become part of an exhibition at the new Archway Centre which is expected to open in 2019

Archaeologist Simon Cox said it is a “really rare opportunity” to examine the world heritage site.

“We don’t get to do that sort of stuff everyday, a lot of what we do look at is fairly mundane…to come down and work in the heart of one of the most significant Roman bathing complexes is remarkable and exciting,” he said.

One of the baths will be given a protective lining and filled with earth so it can be used as a digging pit for school groups, where children can uncover a variety of replica Roman objects.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones said it was a milestone in the development of the Archway Centre and will provide “access to Roman remains that have never before been on display.”

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Two gold rings, possibly used as earrings or to hold hair in place, have been found in Rosset, Wrexham, Wales. Archaeologists say the rings date back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age.

The person who wore the rings was most likely wealthy or had status in the community in some other way, says ITV News.

Archaeologists are uncertain whether the gold rings were used as earrings or to hold locks of hair in place. ‘Lock rings,’ as hair locks are called, have been found in Wales in Pembrokeshire, Conwy, Gaerwen, Newport, Anglesey and the Great Orme.

ITV describes the concentric-ring pattern on the locks as a ‘coastal pattern’ that suggests trade and communication between Ireland and Wales.

‘Northeast Wales was a hotspot for the use and burial of gold ornaments during the Bronze Age. These small but exquisitely made lock-rings add further to this growing pattern, suggesting long lived connections with communities living in Ireland and other parts of Atlantic Europe. …We think that these complete and prized objects of gold were carefully buried in isolated places as gifts to the gods, perhaps at the end of the lives of their owners. – Adam Gwilt, Curator for Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

The Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives will take possession of the pair of golden rings after they are valuated independently.

Wales has had other spectacular gold finds from the Bronze Age. The Mold Cape is a 3,700-year-old solid gold artifact found in the 19th century within a Bronze Age burial mound at Mold, in Flintshire, Wales. It was finely crafted out of a single sheet of gold, then embellished with exceptional decoration designed to mimic multiple strings of beads amid folds of cloth.  The cape is regarded as one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working in Europe and perhaps the world. Its unique form and design demonstrates highly advanced craftsmanship in Bronze Age Europe.

Mold cape

Mold cape (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Bronze Age burial mound was found in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon (Fairies’ Hill) by workmen in 1833. It had been placed on the body of a person who was interred inside a cist (stone-lined grave) within a burial mound. Inside the mound, archaeologists also found the remains of woven textile, 16 fragments of sheet bronze, a bronze knife, fragments of a second gold cape, two gold ‘straps’, an urn with large quantities of burnt bone and ash, and the remains of hundreds of amber beads, which would have originally been on the cape.

Archaeologists and scholars were stunned. At the time and place this gold cape was made, people in Britain lived in temporary settlements and fluid communities, and they moved with their livestock and possessions through the landscape. They did not build cities or palaces, yet they were capable of creating incredibly sophisticated objects like the Mold Gold Cape.

Not far away, in England, archaeologists recently explained how intricate gold pieces like those found at Stonehenge could be fashioned by people with relatively crude technology. One piece alone was estimated to have taken 2,500 hours to complete. These pieces from near Stonehenge used a different gold-smithing process than the Welsh pieces.

Detail of the decoration of the dagger handle showing the zig-zag pattern made by the tiny studs.

Featured image: Detail of the decoration of the dagger handle showing the zig-zag pattern made by the tiny studs. (University of Birmingham and David Bukach photo)

According to Discovery News, the gold work involved such tiny components that optical experts believe they could only have been made by children or adults with extreme short-sightedness, and would have caused lasting damage to their eyesight.

In 1808, William Cunnington, one of Britain’s earliest professional archaeologists, discovered what has become known as the crown jewels of the King of Stonehenge. They were found within a large Bronze Age burial mound just a short distance from Stonehenge, known today as Bush Barrow. Within the 4,000-year-old barrow, Cunnington found ornate jewelery, a gold lozenge that fastened the owner’s cloak, and an intricately decorated dagger.

A report in The Independent explained the amazing process involved in creating the handle of just one dagger, adorned with up to 140,000 tiny gold studs just a third of a millimetre wide. The first stage involved manufacturing extremely fine gold wire, just a little thicker than a human hair. The end of the wire was then flattened to create a stud-head, and was then cut with a very sharp flint or obsidian razor, just a millimetre below the head. This delicate procedure was then repeated literarily tens of thousands of times.

“Next, a tiny bronze awl with an extremely fine point was used to create minute holes in the dagger handle in which to position the studs,” wrote The Independent. “Then a thin layer of tree resin was rubbed over the surface as an adhesive to keep the studs in place. Each  stud was then carefully placed into its miniscule hole – probably with the help of a very fine pair of bone or wooden tweezers,  because the studs are too small to have been placed in position directly by the artisan’s fingers.”

Featured image: Archaeologists are unsure whether a pair of gold rings found in Wales were used as earrings or hair locks. (Photo by Amgueddfa Cymru)
Read more: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/bronze-age-gold-rings-high-status-person-found-wales-002831#ixzz3VnGJYgJA

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I have just been up to Staffordshire to see the hoard with my own eyes – wow!  If you are visiting Britain this year make sure you allow time to visit the museum.
The largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold ever found, was discovered last summer by a metal-detectorist in a field in Staffordshire and is set to revolutionise our perceptions of life in the 7th and 8th centuries. With more than 650 items made from gold, and more than 500 in silver this is truly a king’s ransom!
Intricately carved with elaborate Anglo-Saxon art styles, some with fine garnet cloisonné, the hoard is not only dazzling but highly intriguing.  Most of the objects appear to have been deliberately broken prior to burial and, still more surprisingly, there were no brooches or pendants, no feminine dress fittings; moreover, there were none of the traingular three-rivet gold buckles or any belt fittings so often found in male graves of this period. These intricately decorated and bejewelled finds, martial and masculine in nature, appear to the trophy winnings of a mighty warrior or warriors: hilts from swords or fragments from helmets. Of the 84 sword pommels found, 68 are gold, 11 silver and five are copper alloy or base silver.

Most fragments come from the hilts of swords, pieces of helmets and at least two Christian crosses; five highly unusual and enigmatic small gold snakes were also found, unlike any finds so far discovered.
I would like to hear your comments on the use of metal detectors in Britian?

David – Stonehenge Tour Guide
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Visiting my local Tescos supermarket on a busy Satuday morning often feels more like a Viking raid.  Anyway heres one for our Danish friends…

They knelt and cowered together – a once proud and fearless band of raiders stripped and humiliated by their Saxon captors.

One by one, their executioners stepped forward, uttered a prayer and brought their axes and swords crashing down on the necks of the Viking prisoners.

The axes fell until the roadside was sticky with blood from the decapitated corpses of the 51 men, most barely in their twenties.

Enlarge   Burial site: The decapitated skulls were left in one part of a pit and the bodies in another Burial site: The decapitated skulls were left in one part of a pit and the bodies in another near Weymouth, Dorset, during excavations for a relief road

Life was tough and short for VikingsThe 51 executed would have been a captured raiding party

Soon the excited crowd joined in, spearing a couple of heads on stakes, placing the rest in a neat pile and tossing the bodies into a ditch.

For more than 1,000 years this bloody roadside act was forgotten, one of many atrocities in the long and violent struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse invaders.

Now, thanks to an extraordinary piece of luck – and detective work – the massacre has been uncovered by archaeologists in a discovery that sheds fascinating new light on life in Viking Britain.

The 51 beheaded skeletons were discovered last summer near Weymouth, Dorset, during excavations for a relief road.

Over the following two months, Oxford Archaeology removed the skulls which had been placed together in one part of a pit, and the bodies which had been thrown roughly into a heap a few feet away.

A chemical analysis of teeth from ten of the men showed they grew up in countries where the climate is far colder than Britain – with one individual thought to have come from within the Arctic Circle.

Carbon dating showed they were buried between 910 and 1030AD, a time when England was being unified under Saxon kings and when Vikings from Denmark had begun a second wave of raids on the South Coast.

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score said: ‘To find out that the young men executed were Vikings is a thrilling development.

‘Any mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual.’

Viking-Expansion.jpg

For researchers, there is no question that the victims were Vikings. And not the Vikings who had settled and lived in Britain for generations, but almost certainly a captured raiding party.

In the heart of Anglo-Saxon Wessex – the stronghold of Alfred the Great and his descendants – justice against rogue Vikings would have been violent and swift.

The blows to the back of their necks were so fierce that the swords cut into the jaws and collarbones.

 

 

One man had wounds to his hands – indicating that he grabbed for the blade in a futile bid to save himself. Others suffered blows to pelvis, stomach and chest.

There were more bodies than skulls, leading to speculation that three dismembered heads were displayed on stakes.

Oxford archaeology bone specialist Ceri Boston said: ‘It was not a straight one slice and head off. They were all hacked at around the head and jaw. It doesn’t look like they were very willing or the executioners very skilled.

‘We think the decapitation was messy because the person would have been moving around.

‘The location is a typical place for a Saxon execution site – on a main road and a parish boundary and close to prehistoric barrows.’

Enlarge   A researcher sifts through the bones found out the side of the road in Dorset

A researcher sifts through the Viking bones found by the side of the road

Enlarge   viking raiding fleet The first waves of Vikings to arrive were after loot – and they saw the undefended monasteries, with their silver chalices and gold crosses as a soft target

 

Osteologist Helen Webb from Oxford Archaeology with one of the skull fragmentsOsteologist Helen Webb from Oxford Archaeology with one of the skull fragments

Although a raiding party seems the most likely explanation, the men could have been caught in battle some distance away and taken to Weymouth for execution. Or they could even have been killed by a rival Viking party.

History suggests that the Viking raiders could be just as ruthless as their fearsome reputation.

The first to arrive in Britain were after loot – and they saw the undefended monasteries, with their silver-chalices, gold crosses and bejewelled books, as a soft target.

The raids – which started in Lindisfarne in Northumbria in 793AD, then one of Europe’s most holy sites – sent shockwaves through the country and signalled an era of terror that would last, on and off, for more than 200 years.

In 865AD a full army arrived to storm through Britain, taking three of the kingdoms of England – Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia – before finally attacking the remaining Anglo-Saxon stronghold of Wessex.

There, under the leadership of King Alfred, the Saxons organised themselves and pushed back – eventually dividing Britain into Wessex to the West and Danelaw to the East. By the time of the Weymouth massacre, the Saxons had regained most of their old territories and had created the first unified English kingdom.

But the birth of England was accompanied by a return of the Viking raiders, spurred on by Danish royalty back home.

Some involved a couple of boats and a few dozen men, but others involved 100 boats.

The raids ended in 1016, when the throne was taken by the Danish King Canute.

Life in Viking times would have been tough and short.

Dr Richard Hall, director of archaeology at the York Archaeological Trust, said: ‘Vikings would be the same build and height as us.

‘But there would be few women over 35 because so many died in childbirth. And if you lived to 50 you were doing very well.’

Vikings – and the Saxons that some came to live alongside – were riddled with parasites.

Worms, fleas and lice were common and Vikings kept their hair meticulously groomed to remove the steady supply of nits and fleas.

Water was rarely safe to drink in the ninth and tenth centuries, and Vikings would drink weak beer, or imported wine if they were wealthy enough. Mead made with honey was also popular.

Those who settled in Britain lived in wooden long houses, with thick walls to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter.

Families slept together in the centre of the hall around a fire pit.

They ate bread, cottage cheese, milk and cured meats and fish, supplementing their diet with wild fruits, honey and nuts.

Their bowls and plates were similar to our own but they ate with a sharp-pointed knife which doubled up as a fork.

Drink was taken in horns, while spoons were often ornately carved.

The Viking raids on monasteries created the impression to many Saxons that they hated Christianity. But in reality Vikings who settled in Britain adopted the native religion very easily.

Those who did not convert worshipped a pantheon of charismatic gods.

Their most powerful was the one-eyed Odin, but the most popular was Thor – a stupid but strong god who throws lightning bolts.

Despite the popular image of legend, there is no evidence that Vikings wore horned helmets.

The myth came from the discovery of ceremonial helmets in Scandinavia.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1257333/Decapitated-Viking-skeletons-Weymouth-ditch.html#ixzz0iEpL7Oar

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide
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