Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Archaeology: Ancient stone baptismal vessel found at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site

A team of archaeologists coming to the close of a 10-month project at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site have found a stone baptismal vessel given to the basilica by a Bishop Makedonii, possibly dating from some time in the fifth century.
The 10-month archaeological excavations at the 2500 square metre site come to a close this week, and it is expected that early in the week beginning on July 31, the site will be visited by a commission from the Ministry of Culture.
Archaeological team leader Zheni Tankova expressed thanks to the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which together with Plovdiv municipality “gave the opportunity to reveal this truly amazing monument of architecture, culture, art and religion”.
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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Uncovering the Galloway Viking Hoard, layer by layer

Hold on to your Viking helmet; you’re about to dig, layer by layer, into one of the most extraordinary Viking hoards ever found on the British Isles – the Galloway Hoard – with Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland

The team of metal detectorists had been working this field in Galloway for some time, but what they eventually found was way beyond their expectations.

The top layer contained eleven ingots and eleven silver arm-rings that had been flattened into bullion. They would have been made from the type of ingots they’re buried with. There’s a nice variety of decoration, with lots of punched lines and hatches. This type of arm-ring is normally found in hoards in Ireland and there are some from North Wales and from Lancashire – all around the Irish Sea, but we don’t have a lot of this particular type in Scotland. This hoard completes the circle around the Irish Sea.

They’re called a Hiberno-Scandinavian type of arm-ring and obviously the Scandinavian is the new element added to the cultural mix at the time, but they’re given that Hiberno- prefix because they’re normally found in Ireland. For me it is always the hyphen between these cultural labels where the interesting things are happening.

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Archaeologists Return to Legendary Birthplace of King Arthur

Archaeologists have completed the first stage of a major five-year study of the archaeology of the Tintagel headland in Cornwall, in the southwest of England. In English folklore, the site is thought to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage

Archaeologists are back at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.

Last summer, researchers discovered traces of early medieval life at Tintagel in Cornwall, on England's southwest coast, where the legendary British monarch was said to have been born.

Now, they've returned to the site for another round of digging, to further explore buried buildings dated from the fifth to the seventh centuries. 

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1,100-year-old coin found in royal Pictish power centre

The 1,100-year-old coin found at an archaeological dig at Burghead Fort. Picture: PA

A 1,100-year-old coin is amongst a series of discoveries made at what experts believe was a royal power centre of a northerly Pictish kingdom.

The coin was found along with the remains of a longhouse at Burghead Fort near Lossiemouth, which was thought to have been largely destroyed by the development of a new town during the 19th century.

Now archaeologists from Aberdeen University hope further significant findings will be revealed at the site – a probable seat of power of Northern Pictland between 500AD and 1000AD, given the fresh discoveries.

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Casting light on the Dark Ages: Anglo-Saxon fenland is re-imagined

What was life in the fens like in the period known as the dark ages? Archaeologist Susan Oosthuizen revisits the history of an iconic wetland in the light of fresh evidence and paints a compelling portrait of communities in tune with their changeable environment. In doing so, she makes an important contribution to a wider understanding of early medieval landscapes.

Highland Cattle grazing in the Wicken Fen [Credit: © Wicken Fen]

The East Anglian fens with their flat expanses and wide skies, a tract of some of the UK's richest farmland, are invariably described as bleak – or worse. Turn the clock back 1,000 years to a time when the silt and peat wetlands were largely undrained, and it's easy to imagine a place that defied rather than welcomed human occupation.

Historians have long argued that during the 'dark' ages (the period between the withdrawal of Roman administration in around 400 AD and the Norman Conquest in 1066) most settlements in the region were deserted, and the fens became an anarchic, sparsely inhabited, watery wilderness.

A new interdisciplinary study of the region by a leading landscape archaeologist not only rewrites its early history across those six centuries but also, for the first time anywhere in Europe, offers a detailed view of the settlement and agricultural management of early medieval wetland landscapes.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Southampton Water fish trap dated to Saxon times

The trap was found by chance close to the Fawley oil refinery by archaeology students more than 10 years ago.

A timber fishing trap exposed on the Hampshire coast dates back to Saxon times, it has been confirmed.
The weir, built as a permanent wooden structure to catch fish as the tide ebbed, was found by chance on the shore of Southampton Water in 2005.
Radiocarbon dating has shown it was built in the 8th or 9th centuries.
Experts from Exeter University said the results were "thrilling" and provided new insights into the process of coastal erosion in the area.
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Archaeologists discover mound next to Slough car park is 'prestigious' Anglo-Saxon monument

Archaeologists have found that a 20-foot high mound in Slough, thought to be a Norman castle motte and for centuries the centrepiece of a bizarre Eton College ceremony, is actually a rare Saxon monument, built 1,500 years ago.
University of Reading archaeologists say that Montem Mound in the Berkshire town, now surrounded by Municipal buildings and car parks, dates roughly to the same time as the famous burial mounds of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the nearby burial  at Taplow. It is likely to mark the resting place of someone of high status and could contain artefacts.
The discovery of the 'Sutton Hoo of Slough' is a remarkable finding as only a handful of mounds from this period are known about. The findings go against the previous assumption that it was a Norman Conquest-era 'motte and bailey' castle.
Dr Jim Leary, the University of Reading archaeologist who led the investigation in December 2016, said: "Conventional wisdom placed the Montem Mound 500 years later, in the Norman period. But we have shown that it dates to between the 5th and 7th centuries, not long after the collapse of Roman Empire.
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Copper-covered baby-&-adult mummies unearthed in Russia’s Far North

A perfectly-preserved mummy of an adult bound in copper plates from head to toe has been dug up in Russia’s Far North, alongside the mummy of a “tiny” baby. The discoveries could shed unique light on medieval burial and medical practices.

The remains were found near Zeleny Yar archeological site in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, which was discovered in 1997, and has since been the source of dozens of rare finds.

The two preserved mummies were wrapped in birch bark and thick fabric. The adult, of a height of about 170cm (5ft 6in), was covered in copper plates from head to toe, while the baby, under a year old at the time of death, was “sprinkled” with small fragments of a copper cauldron, said Gusev.
The mummies have been sent to the Institute of the Development of the North, in Tyumen, 500km south from Zeleny Yar.
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Monday, 17 July 2017

Breakthrough in dating Viking fortress

In 2014 archaeologists discovered the previously unknown Viking fortress at Borgring south of Copenhagen. Since then the search has been on to uncover the life, function, destruction and, not least, the precise dating of the Viking fortress. Now a new find has produced a breakthrough in the investigation.

The carved oak timber object recently found in peat layers just outside the south gateway of the fortress. The piece has been cut and sampled for dendrochronological sampling (left). The function of the piece is unknown, but it may be a part of a door or building.

Credit: The Museum of South East Denmark / Nanna Holm

In the period 2016-18 a programme of new excavations is made possible by a grant from the A.P. Møller Foundation. The team from the Museum of South East Denmark and Aarhus University are joind by leading experts from the Environmental Archeology and Materials Research at the Danish National Museum and the National Police Department's Section for arson investigation. Prior to this year's excavations it was only known that the massive, 150m wide fortress dated to the tenth century. Experts suspected that it was built in the reign of Viking king Harold Bluetooth (c.958-c.987), but the association could not be proven.
On June 26, the archaeological team opened new trenches is the meadow next to the fortress to search for evidence of the landscape surrounding the fortress. Around 2.5 meters below the current surface of the valley was found a c. 1m long piece of carved oak wood with drilled holes and several wooden pegs in situ. The wood carries clear traces of wear, but it is not currently possible to say what function the wood piece has had.
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

One of the most important buildings in history of Christianity discovered off Scottish coast

Archaeologists have located one of the most important buildings in the history of Western European Christianity – but it’s not a vast cathedral or an impressive tomb, but merely a humble wattle and daub hut on a remote windswept island.
Using radiocarbon dating techniques and other evidence, the  scholars –  from the University of Glasgow – believe they have demonstrated that the tiny five-metre square building was almost certainly the daytime home of early medieval Scotland’s most important saint, St Columba.
Located on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, the unprepossessing hut was probably the first administrative hub of the monastic community he founded – and whose monks, over succeeding centuries, went on to establish similar monasteries in mainland Scotland, in north-east England, in Belgium, in France and in Switzerland.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of medieval settlers

 Archaeologists conducting the first research excavations at Tintagel in decades. 
Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English He/PA

Early Cornish kings feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, eating and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain, a new dig at Tintagel Castle has suggested.
Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.
Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of early Cornish kings

Tintagel is intricately bound up in the legend of King Arthur 
[Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage Trust]

Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.

Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.

The excavation also uncovered stone-walled structures on the southern terrace of Tintagel’s island area, with substantial stone walls and slate floors, accessed by a flight of slate steps.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Pearls, Viking swords, spears and shields among hundreds of items excavated in N. Iceland

THE SECOND SWORD Both swords were badly damaged by rust. 
Photo/Hildur Gestsdóttir, Twitter.

Archeologists working at Dysnes, a recently discovered Viking age burial site in Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland are still busy excavating invaluable treasures. Hundreds of items have been found at the site, among them two swords, three spears and three shields. 

2 out of 6 burials fully explored

A total of six Viking age graves have been found at the site, including two confirmed boat burials. Only two of the burials have been fully excavated and archeologists are currently exploring the third burial. The site is unusual for many reasons, not least that two boat burials have been discovered: Viking age boat burials are very rare in Iceland. 

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New discovery could rewrite Viking fortresses’ history

Someone brought ceramics through the gates at the Viking ring fortress “Borgring” after it had burnt down. The discovery reveals an afterlife at the fortress that archaeologists had not previously considered. (Photo: Screenshot from video by Archaeological IT Aarhus University)

While most archaeologists and historians can agree that Denmark’s five Viking ring fortresses were most likely built by Harold Bluetooth around 980 CE, they remain divided regarding their purpose.
Was it to defend the kingdom? A demonstration of power? Or to cement the Christianisation of the Danes?
Many archaeologists think that the fortresses were built with just one goal in mind, and then disappeared more or less as fast as they had appeared in the first place.
But newly discovered pieces of ceramic pottery found in the main gates of Denmark’s fifth Viking ring fortress, “Borgring,” are now challenging this theory.
The pottery belongs to the first half of the 11th century, which puts it well after the assumed construction of the fortress. Shards of the same type of pottery were discovered in 2016 at the fortress’ eastern gate.
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One of Britain’s oldest churches discovered on Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Archaeologists have discovered one of Britain’s oldest churches.
The find – on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast – is of great historical importance because the newly discovered ancient church may originally have been built in or shortly after the mid 7th century AD as part of the monastic spiritual epicentre from which much of northern and central England was eventually Christianised.
It’s also important because it is likely to have been a key site at the spiritual heart of the early 8th-century monastic community that made Britain’s most famous early medieval illuminated manuscript – the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The evidence suggesting that this could be the site of one of Holy Island’s original early Anglo-Saxon period churches – perhaps even one built by the founder of Lindisfarne, St Aidan – is complex but persuasive.
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