All posts by Archaeology World Team

Archaeologists Sign Petition Protesting the Construction of a Machu Picchu Airport

Archaeologists Say New Airport Near Machu Picchu “Would Destroy It”

The Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru is one of the world’s most stunning pieces of engineering, and a hypnotizing, historical remnant of a mystical past.

Nestled in the Andes at around 8,000 feet, the government is now planning to boost the lucrative tourism it draws annually even more — by building a multibillion-dollar international airport nearby, which critics are adamant “would destroy it.”

The Unesco World Heritage Site is traditionally reached by taking a flight to the Cusco airport 46 miles away, which only has one runway. From there, visitors usually continue by train or by hiking through the Sacred Valley.

With more than 1.5 million visitors to the sacred site in 2017 — nearly twice what Unesco recommends to protect it — transportation to the ancient ruins is getting more crowded every year. Construction on the profitable corporate venture is already underway. Bulldozers are clearing millions of tons of earth in Chinchero, which is 12,500 feet above sea level and the gateway for the Sacred Valley.

Cusco airport has sufficed to facilitate Machu Picchu’s annual tourism, but some feel a multibillion-dollar airport could boost the economy. Critics argue it would merely lead to more risk of destruction of the site.

Archaeologists, historians, locals, and activists are in utter disbelief, however, as the airport would bring push the region even further beyond its visitor capacity and put a huge strain on the regional ecology.

“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University, told The Guardian. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”

Machu Picchu in 1912, after the site, was cleared and before major reconstruction work began. Hiram Bingham III, who rediscovered the site in 1911, took this photo

South Korean and Canadian companies are preparing to bid on the construction project, which would provide direct flight access from major American and South American cities. The tiny town of Chinchero is reportedly hurrying to build new houses and hotels in anticipation of the incoming flood of tourists.

But for critics — who seem to have nothing but the sanctity and protection of this 15th-century site in mind — there are far more important matters at hand. This area was once home to the world’s largest empire, and jeopardizing its integrity for profit is simply unacceptable to countless academics.

“It seems ironic and in a way contradictory that here, just 20 minutes from the Sacred Valley, the nucleus of the Inca culture, they want to build an airport — right on top of exactly what the tourists have come here to see,” said Pablo Del Valle, a Cusco-based anthropologist. Should the airport be completed and function as intended, planes would make low flyovers over Ollantaytambo — a 134 square-mile archaeological park — and likely cause priceless damage to the Incan ruins.

The 134-square-mile town and archaeological park of Ollantaytambo. The new airport would result in low flyovers, potentially causing priceless damage.

Other critics are more focused on the Lake Piuray watershed being depleted during the airport’s construction, costing the city of Cusco half its water supply. The petition, which Majluf took upon herself to start, asks Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra to re-assess this project — or choose a different spot.

“I don’t think there’s any significant archaeologist or historian working in the Cusco area that hasn’t signed the petition,” said Majluf. Chinchero was built as a royal estate for Incan ruler Túpac Inca Yupanqui, about 600 years ago. The area is extremely well-preserved and offers an unquantifiable wealth of direct contact with a time long gone. Many of the structures in Machu Picchu befuddle archaeologists to this day.

The Incas built storehouses at high altitudes in order to preserve their grain better. It’s theorized that grain was tipped in the uphill window, and retrieved from the downhill window. These were called Pinkuyllunas.

The economy here is largely dependent on tourism and farming. As such, it’d be surprising if those desperate for more customers would oppose a big modern airport next door — but they do. Alejandrina Contreras a blanket-weaver who lives in Chincero, said, “We live peacefully here, there are no thieves, there are no criminals. There will be progress with the airport but a lot of things will change.”

“Think of the noise, the air pollution, the illnesses it will bring,” said 20-year-old Karen Auccapuma.

This project has actually already been delayed, as the private company who had the winning bid became entangled in price-hike and corruption allegations. Unfortunately, arbitration on the current business model has been settled — and the government is eager to complete construction by 2023.

“This airport will be built as soon as possible because it’s very necessary for the city of Cusco,” Carlos Oliva, Peru’s finance minister, suggested. “There’s a series of technical studies which support this airport’s construction.”

Naturally, there is local appeal for the project. Citizens have been regaled with the promise of 2,500 construction jobs, while the local land has increased in value so much that some have begun selling their properties for a pretty penny. Peasant families have changed their lives by selling farmland. Cusco Mayor Luis Cusicuna claimed local leaders have been desperate for a second, larger airport for decades.

The Incan site is “so singularly dominant for the Peruvian tourism offering,” said Mark Rice, author of Making Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism in Twentieth-Century Peru. “The best way I can describe it is if people going to Britain only went to Stonehenge.”

Rice explained that there’s “legitimate concern that Cusco’s travel infrastructure is at its limit,” however. So while the proposal has a rational backbone — in terms of business, at least — it most definitely will cause a “lot of damage to one of the key tourism offerings of Cusco, which is its scenic beauty.”

The world-famous terrace steps at Machu Picchu were used for farming. They also ensured effective drainage, soil fertility, and protected the mountain from landslides and erosion. They appear simple, but are a stunning feat of Inca engineering.

Unesco recently threatened the Peruvian government that it was prepared to remove Machu Picchu from its list, and place it on the list of world heritage sites in danger, instead. In response, Peru narrowed entry requirements, such as limiting visits to certain times of the day.

At this very moment, however, the nascent airport project is causing new houses, hotels, and buildings to be constructed in the area. Everyone is preparing to make this a lucrative endeavor while throwing caution to the Incan wind.

Europe’s Oldest Mosque May Be Buried Underground in This Visigothic City in Spain

Europe’s Oldest Mosque May Be Buried Underground in This Visigothic City in Spain

A geomagnetic look at Reccopolis in 2015.
A geomagnetic look at Reccopolis in 2015.

Reccopolis,  a rural area outside of Madrid, has witnessed an extraordinary archaeological effort, with researchers arriving at an important finding using a geomagnetic instrument that helped map walls and other structures still buried underground.

The ancient, 1,400-year-old city was found to have housed much more than the ruins currently visible at the site would imply: the yet unexplored plots of land include hidden parts of a city palace and what may be one of the oldest mosques in Europe.

Archaeologists have detected long-hidden features of a Visigothic city in Spain, including unexplored parts of a palace and a building that may be one of the oldest mosques in Europe.

Without digging, the researchers used a geomagnetic instrument to reveal walls and other structures still buried underground at Reccopolis, which is in a rural area outside of Madrid. They found that the 1,400-year-old city was far more extensive than the ruins visible at the site today would suggest.

“In every space that we were able to survey, we found buildings and streets and passages,” study co-author Michael McCormick, a medieval historian and archaeologist at Harvard University, told Live Science. 

The Visigoths were Germanic people who established a kingdom in southwestern Europe in Late Antiquity, just before the Middle Ages began. They famously sacked Rome in the year 410.

In the second half of the sixth century, the Iberian Peninsula was the center of Visigothic power. King Leovigild made his royal capital in Toledo, Spain, and farther upstream along the Tagus River, he constructed a new town called Reccopolis in 578.

Reccopolis is located on the Tagus River in Spain.

Excavations have been ongoing at Reccopolis for a few decades, but so far, archaeologists have uncovered only about 8% of the area inside the city walls. When McCormick visited the site in 2014, he saw the remains of the palace, a chapel, and some shops. But he teased his friend, study co-researcher and excavation director Lauro Olmo Enciso of the University of Alcalá in Spain, asking, “Where’s the rest of the city?”

The researchers and a few other colleagues teamed up the next year to perform the first geomagnetic survey of the site. This noninvasive prospecting technique allows researchers to see structures underground by mapping magnetic anomalies beneath the Earth’s surface.

Their results quickly showed that empty spaces inside the city walls of Reccopolis were full of hidden streets and buildings. There was even a suburb outside the city’s monumental gate. The findings were published last week in the journal Antiquity.

“Thanks to this new geomagnetic survey, we have learned that the space encircled by the city’s walls was fully developed and that its population was large enough even to spill beyond the city’s walls,” said Noel Lenski, a professor of classics and history at Yale University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Just as importantly, this was happening in a period long thought to be characterized by urban decline and demographic collapse.”

This layout shows the ancient city of Reccopolis.

Reccopolis was indeed constructed amid the turbulence of the sixth century. From Western Europe to China, the era is associated with mass migrations, imperial collapse, food shortages, and famine, as well as the first known outbreak of the bubonic plague.

Researchers have recently defined a period of rapid climate change, called the Late Antique Little Ice Age — which lasted from 536 to about 660 and was brought on by a series of volcanic eruptions in the Northern Hemisphere — that may have been the catalyst for the widespread upheaval.

“It’s really remarkable to see the Visigothic monarchy coming together at this time and assembling the resources to be able to found a new city,” McCormick said.

The Visigothic rulers of the region were deposed during the Islamic conquest of 711, and the new geophysical evidence shows some signs of Muslim occupation before the city was abandoned around 800.

The researchers found one large building with a different orientation from all the other buildings on the site, toward Mecca.

The floor plan also resembles that of mosques in the Middle East. McCormick says only excavations will be able to confirm that the building is indeed a mosque. But if it is, it could possibly be the oldest remaining mosque in Europe.

Source: sputniknew

Bones Of Ancient Human Sacrifice Victims Found By Workers Laying Water Pipes

Workers Laying Pipe In Britain Discover Grisly Remains Of Roman-Era Human Sacrifice Victims

One of the victims, a woman, had her feet cut off and was buried with her hands tied behind her back.

When engineers were tasked with the routine laying of water pipes in Oxfordshire, England, they likely did not expect to find a nearly 3,000-year-old settlement, Iron Age and Roman-era tools — and dozens of Neolithic skeletons.

According to CNN, the remains of 26 people were found at the site, many of which were likely victims of ritualistic human sacrifice. One of the victims had their skull placed by their feet. Another, a woman, had her feet cut off and her arms tied behind her back.

Meanwhile, the tools unearthed ranged across a variety of historical periods but were certainly thousands of years old — before the Romans invaded Britain.

According to The Telegraph, evidence of animal carcasses and household items such as knives, pottery, and a comb, were also found.

This particular victim was buried with their head removed and placed by their feet.

As for the human remains, archaeologists are confident these unfortunate victims belonged to the same community that helped create the Uffington White Horse — a prehistoric sculpture made of chalk, found on a nearby hill.

“These findings open a unique window into the lives and deaths of communities we often know only for their monumental buildings, such as hillforts or the Uffington White Horse,” said Paolo Guarino, project officer at Cotswold Archaeology.

“The results from the analysis of the artifacts, animal bones, the human skeletons, and the soil samples will help us add some important information to the history of the communities that occupied these lands so many years ago.”

All of the unearthed evidence has since been removed and taken in by experts for forensic investigation. The engineers who stumbled upon this substantial find were conducting engineering work on behalf of a Thames Water project focused on protecting a local chalk stream.

Neil Holbrook, Cotswold Archaeology chief executive, said the discoveries “provided a glimpse into the beliefs and superstitions of people living in Oxfordshire before the Roman conquest.

Evidence elsewhere suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice.”

“The discovery challenges our perception about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago,” said Holbrook.

The Oxfordshire dig site.

This news follows that of an incident in which two Danish workers found a medieval sword in a sewer.

But as for this latest find, it’s certainly added substantial insight to our previous understanding of the time period in question. Human sacrifice and ritualistic burial practices, for instance, can now arguably be considered as a standard custom of that region during that time.

Fortunately, the right people are hard at work at extracting as much functional information from the discovered artifacts and human remains as possible. Hopefully, there will be even more illuminating data to share in the near future.

Meet The Megatherium: The Adorable 13-Foot Sloth That Ruled The Prehistoric Amazon

Meet The Megatherium: The Adorable 13-Foot Sloth That Ruled The Prehistoric Amazon

An artist’s rendering of a now-extinct Megatherium.

The year is 9,000 B.C. Humongous cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, and massive-antlered Irish elk roam the grasslands and forests of South America, but the biggest of all is the Megatherium, an elephant-sized ground sloth.

The Megatherium was one of the largest ground mammals ever to have existed. The Megatherium dominated the continent’s southern grasslands and lightly forested areas and was something of a king of the mammals for thousands of years before a mass extinction event wiped it from the planet.

Or did it?

Rediscovering The Megatherium

It would not be until 1788 that the Megatherium would be seen again after the mass extinction event that wiped out pre-historic animals like the wooly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, too.

It was then that an archaeologist named Manuel Torres discovered a rare fossil specimen on the banks of the Luján River in eastern Argentina. Though he did not immediately recognize it, he deemed it worth further study and sent it back to his base of study at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (The Spanish National Museum of Natural History) in Madrid, Spain. There, it was assembled into its most likely arrangement and mounted for display. A museum employee also created a thorough sketch of the animal to further study it.

The original specimen found by Manuel Torres on display in Madrid.

Before long, the fossil caught the eye of esteemed French paleontologist Georges Cuvier. Cuvier was intrigued by the sketch of the creature and used it to further explore its anatomy and taxonomy, and over time, he managed to create a more complete picture of the Megatherium’s history. In 1796, just eight years after the Megatherium had been discovered, Cuvier published the first paper on it.

In this paper, Cuvier theorized that the Megatherium was a giant sloth, perhaps an early ancestor of the modern equivalent. Initially, he believed that the Megatherium used its claws to climb trees as modern-day sloths did. However, he later amended his theory and hypothesized instead that the sloth was much too large to climb trees and likely used its claws to dig subterranean holes and tunnels.

With this explanation, a picture of the Megatherium as it existed began to form; a sloth the size of an elephant, with giant, powerful claws, that lived mostly on and under the ground. With further study, scientists began to discover its habitat, diet, and reproductive cycle, and the picture became ever clearer.

The Megatherium likely lived across the continent of South America, from southern Argentina all the way to Colombia. Full grown, individual creatures likely weighed upwards of four tons — the weight of the average male elephant — making it the largest land mammal second only to the wooly mammoth. It probably walked most of its life on four legs, though it is believed that it could stand on its hind legs in order to reach treetops and high foliage to feed its herbivorous diet. When it stood, the Megatherium would have been upwards of 13 feet tall.

Due to its immense size, it’s likely that Megatherium moved slowly like the sloths of today. It was likely one of the slowest creatures in its environment. In looks, it was quite similar to the modern sloth, though with facial characteristics of another one of its descendants, the anteater. In fact, it was in part Megatherium’s resemblance to more modern creatures that got Darwin thinking about his theory of evolution.

The Megatherium lived in large groups, though individual fossils have been found in isolated locations such as caves. It gave birth to live young, as most other mammals do, and likely continued living in familial groups while their young matured. Due to the lack of predators – they outweighed (and could likely kill) saber-toothed cats and other small carnivores – they lived a quiet and probably diurnal lifestyle.

Further, the Megatherium wasn’t much of a picky eater. The gigantic herbivores didn’t have to compete with smaller mammals for food as they had the advantage of height and procuring food from distances that smaller mammals simply couldn’t. They could tolerate and adapt to various types of plants as well as allegedly nibble on the occasional carcass, which allowed the Megatherium to migrate and thrive all over the continent — for 5.3 million years.

So what, or perhaps who, led to this resilient mammalian force’s extinction?

Another artist rendering of two Megatherium.

Extinction And Possible Survival

In roughly 8,500 B.C., the earth experienced a “Quaternary extinction event” during which most of the earth’s large mammals disappeared.

The Irish elk and saber-toothed tiger went extinct during this time as well as mammoths within the confines of continents, as some survived for several thousand more years in remote island areas. And, of course, the Megatherium went extinct during this time as well. These giant ground sloths were thought to have survived in more remote areas for at least another 5,000 years following this extinction, though.

Scientists are still not entirely sure what accounts for this mass extinctionas it does occur simultaneously with glacial-interglacial climate change. Instead, the extinction of the Megatherium seems more to have been the work of the emergence of mankind. Indeed, Megatherium fossils have been found with cut marks on them, suggesting that they were hunted by humans. Whatever the reasons for their disappearance, scientists have long believed that the elephant-sized sloths have been out of commission for at least 4,000 years.

However, rumors of giant sloths living deep in the jungles of South America have emerged. Those who live in and around the Amazon rainforest have long passed down stories of a dangerous beast they call the “mapinguari,” a giant sloth-like creature who is over seven feet tall, with matted fur and large, sharp claws. They claim it tramples foliage and brush and roars out of a giant, second mouth on its stomach.

Stomach-mouth aside, the description of the mapinguari is actually quite similar to descriptions of the Megatherium, and indeed several drawings of the mapinguari are hard to discern from those of the Megatherium. Some experts have theorized that the initial mapinguari sightings many years ago may, in fact, have been Megatherium that survived extinction by sequestering themselves within the shelter of the rainforest.

Artist’s rendering of what the giant sloth-like mapinguari could have looked like.

As many theorize that the mass extinction event was, in part, caused by a human invasion of their habitat, it would make sense that some could survive by avoiding populated areas. If the Megatherium truly did evade extinction, then the modern-day interpretation of the mapinguari is most likely an exaggerated report blown out of proportion through a generations-long game of telephone.

However, it could always be the case that the Megatherium truly did go extinct all those years ago and that the mapinguari, with its fetid breath and giant stomach-mouth, is truly roaming the Amazon and we are all in terrible danger.

Newgrange: The Massive Irish Tomb That’s Older Than The Pyramids

Newgrange: The Massive Irish Tomb That’s Older Than The Pyramids

Yep, 5,000 years. That’s older than Stonehenge. It’s older than the great Egyptian pyramids, too. And five millennia later, it hasn’t lost any of its wonders.

Newgrange was built around 3200 B.C. — hundreds of years before the Great Pyramid of Giza (2500 B.C.) and Stonehenge (3000 B.C.).

The massive hemispherical tomb is located in the Brú na Bóinne – Gaelic for the “palace” or “mansion” of the River Boyne. This 3-square mile area contains nearly a hundred ancient monuments, including two other large tombs, in addition, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

A map of megalithic monuments in the Brú na Bóinne

Arriving at the iconic tomb is a wow-moment, to say the least. Standing outside the 80-meter mound, shored up with spiral-engraved kerbstones and topped with white Wicklow quartzite, a guide reveals the myths and history behind the monument.

Newgrange could have been designed as a tomb or a temple – in reality, nobody knows which. The truth will be shrouded in mystery forever.

Let there be light…

Once the scene has been set for you as a visitor, you’ll step inside the passage tomb itself, squeezing through standing stones carved with spiraling rock art and graffiti dating back to the 1800s (before Newgrange was taken into State care).

Ducking under beams of wood, you’ll emerge into the cool confines of a cruciform-shaped chamber like a stony igloo squirreled away within a hill.

The engraved stone at the entrance to Newgrange.

This inner sanctum is where a lucky few (chosen by lottery from thousands of applicants annually) huddle together to witness the annual winter solstice illumination.

The illuminated inner corridor of Newgrange.

At this moment, when megalithic engineering and nature lock sensationally into sync, a shaft of light can be seen snaking 19 meters up the passageway, ultimately bathing the chamber in light. There are goosebumps, to say the least…

If you’re not one of the lucky ones, don’t fret. All visitors are treated to a simulated solstice, with an orange beam of light artificially showcasing the effect. It’s a tantalizing little taster – little wonder legend suggests that this was the site where mythological hero Cú Chulainn was Born.

Subterranean secrets…

A young girl stands in front of the entrance to Newgrange in about 1905
A young girl stands in front of the entrance to Newgrange in about 1905

Newgrange isn’t the only passage tomb in Ireland, of course. In fact, it’s not the only passage tomb at Brú na Bóinne. Together with nearby Knowth and Dowth, Newgrange has declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. Not bad for a site that once looked destined to become a quarry!

Not far away, near Oldcastle, County Meath, you’ll find a lesser-known cluster of passage tombs. Spotted around a handful of hills at Loughcrew are several cairns also dating from around 3,200BC. Because they’re more obscure and harder to get to, the Indiana Jones effect is all the more titillating.

If you get the sense that you’re being watched here, you may well be right. Some 60km away, atop of Slieve Gullian in County Armagh, the passage of another tomb points directly back towards Loughcrew.

Slieve Gullian’s two cairns lie on either side of a summit lake, with the southern tomb said to have a winter solstice alignment at sunset. On a good day, the views stretch as far as Dublin Bay.

Entire 18-acre Ancient Roman town discovered next to major motorway

Entire Ancient Roman Town Discovered Off A Highway In England

The site was found during the development of 124 new homes on an 18-acre plot near the A2 in Newington, Kent.

The remains of an entire ancient Roman town have been discovered close to a highway in southeast England.

Construction workers were preparing to build more than a hundred new houses when they came upon the nearly 2000-year-old ruins.

According to The Independent, a team of 30 archaeologists has spent 8 months excavating the site. They’ve found rare coins, pottery, and jewelry dating back to as early as 30 B.C., as well as the remains of an ancient temple.

The discovery of the 18-acre site off the A2 highway in Newington, Kent has proven to be a “massive” win in terms of contextualizing the region’s past.

“This is very exciting,” said Dean Coles, chairman of the Newington History Group. “The scale of this site, with the huge number and quality of finds, changes our knowledge of Newington’s development.”

Evidence of a 23-foot-wide road, sunken pottery kilns, and rare iron furnaces were also found at the site. Additionally, numerous costly items imported from other regions indicated that those who lived here at the time were of fairly high status.

Experts have called this find one of the most significant excavations in the region’s history. This remarkable discovery was made when housing developers were preparing to build 124 new homes.  In all corners of the world, it seems, building new tenements often unearths unexpected historical remnants and artifacts.

“We already had evidence of a Roman burial ground and Roman occupation in the immediate vicinity and this excavation shows there was a thriving manufacturing site in the heart of our village,” said Coles.

The current plan is to analyze the unearthed findings and collate all relevant data in a thorough scientific report. Once that is accomplished, experts will cover up the excavation site so the housing project can continue as planned. For now, though, the focus is on the amazing evidence that’s been found.

“The temple and major road are massive discoveries,” said Coles. “It proves the A2 wasn’t the only Roman road through the village.

As a group, we are keen to trace the route and destination of this new ‘highway’ which may have connected with another temple excavated 50 years ago on the outskirts of Newington and a village unearthed in 1882.”

In addition to pottery, jewelry, and a 23-foot-wide road, remains of an ancient temple were unearthed. Some of the items on the 18-acre site date to as early as 30 B.C.

With the Romans having taken over and occupied Britain for nearly 400 years after invading in 43 A.D., it’s no surprise that evidence of their time there remains scattered across the island. A significant portion of the 73-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall, for instance, still stands as a remnant of Ancient Rome.

Nonetheless, this new expansive, fruitful find has stunned archaeologists and historians alike.

“This is one of the most important discoveries of a Roman small town in Kent for many years with the preservation of Roman buildings and artifacts exceptional,” said Dr. Paul Wilkinson, archaeological director at Swale and Thames Archaeological Survey.

According to The Daily Mail, there’s much work ahead for the researchers involved. Finding the site, of course, was only the beginning. Archaeology project manager Peter Cichy, at least, is eager to commence the real work.

“This is one of the most significant sites in Kent but it’s only the beginning of months and months of work,” he said. “We will be analyzing and dating our finds, sorting and piecing together thousands of pottery shards, and writing up our report.”

As it stands, those waiting for their 124 new homes to finish construction may need to practice a little patience. One of the most valuable plots of Roman and British history has just been stumbled upon, after all — potentially holding answers to centuries-old questions of ancient life.

Remains of medieval child found with other skeletons just yards from St Patrick’s grave in Northern Ireland

Remains of a medieval child found with other skeletons just yards from St Patrick’s grave in Northern Ireland

Medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick

The medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down.

Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of 13th Century Benedictine monks.

But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or six-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is “more to be found” in Downpatrick

The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429.

Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have traveled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.

A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross. Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.

‘Rich picture of medieval life’

Ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered in the buried kitchen of a 13th Century Benedictine Abbey as well as a flint tool dating to about 7,000 BC.

Blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones and charred wheat grains from bread-making were also found.

Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together

Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of three of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.

Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.

He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.

Mr. Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.

“We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.

An arrow head from 12th or 13th Centuries is among other items found during the excavation

“The large pottery shards have been painstakingly pieced together at Queen’s University Belfast giving an idea of the shape, size, and decoration of the vessels.

“A rich environmental picture is being established through the processing of the soil samples taken during the excavation.”

Metalwork recovered from an ancient pit has also been analyzed and include fine copper alloy dress pins, a socketed arrowhead, a horseshoe, a pair of iron shears and a length of chain with a suspension hook still attached.

A number of items are now on display in the High Cross Gallery at Down County Museum in Downpatrick, in two new cases funded by the British Museum Trust, while research work continues on the collection of artifacts, dating from the Mesolithic (c. 7000 BC) period.

Mr. Sloan added: “This is fantastic as Downpatrick has almost been ignored from an archaeological and historical point of view. “It has got my blood flowing. I believe there is more to be found.”

The Irish Have Much More Viking DNA Than Previously Thought, Genetic Study Reveals

The Irish Have Much More Viking DNA Than Previously Thought, Genetic Study Reveals

An Irish Viking. The concept has become more real and more captivating. Anyone who’s read even a bit about the history of the Vikings knows that their DNA is likely to be found in people living in the British Isles today.

New research shows that the Irish definitely have their fair share of Viking heritage–in fact, the Irish are more genetically diverse than most people may assume.

The Irish have Viking and Norman ancestry in similar proportions to the English. A comprehensive DNA map of the Irish has for the first time revealed lasting contributions from British, Scandinavian, and French invasions.

“By comparing 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 genomes from Britain and mainland Europe, genetic clusters within the west of Ireland, in particular, were discovered for the first time, leading the researchers to investigate if invasions from the Vikings and Normans to the east may have influenced genetics in that part of the country,” according to Irish Central.

Map of Ireland in 950 showing Viking influence and Viking territory (in green)

Because of extensive Irish immigration to the United States and other countries, these findings have ramifications. There are 80 million people in the world who claim Irish heritage.

 “This subtle genetic structure within such a small country has implications for medical genetic association studies,” said Trinity College Dublin geneticist Dr. Ross Byrne. In fact a number of American slang words have roots coming from the Irish:

Researchers found 23 distinct genetic clusters, separated by geography by comparing mutations from almost 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 from Britain and mainland Europe.

“These are most distinct in western Ireland, but less pronounced in the east, where historical migrations have erased the genetic variations,” said the Irish Mirror.

Ireland in 1300 showing lands held by native Irish (green) and lands held by Normans (pale)

The researchers studied genes from Europe and calculated the timing of the historical migrations of the Norse-Vikings and the Anglo-Normans to Ireland, yielding dates consistent with historical records.

The Vikings invaded Ireland for the first time in the 8th century, raiding a monastery on Rathlin Island on the northeast coast. The Viking warriors were large in numbers and well armed.

They moved inland along river-ways, attacking the monastic settlements they came across. They also took captives to trade as slaves.

Ireland in 1450 showing lands held by native Irish (green), the Anglo-Irish (blue) and the English king (dark grey)

The Vikings in Ireland built wintering camps, known as longphorts (derived from the Irish words boat & fort), a ship port. This meant they could settle on the island longer. They used their longphorts as a base allowing them to perform further in-land raids.

Although longphorts were mainly built to only last one winter, some of them became major settlements, such as the one in Dublin, Dyflinn, founded in 841 AD.  Excavations during the 1970’s discovered more than 100 homes from this early period and thousands of daily household objects in Dublin.

The Viking conquest in Ireland would continue for more than 200 years, until the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. In the late 12th century, the Norman lords who had already subjugated England came to Ireland to take large plots of land. In the 16th century, under Elizabeth I, many more English Protestant families arrived, often displacing the native Catholics.

It’s believed that the first group of Vikings to invade Ireland were from Scandinavia. They had also settled in Scotland and would later become known as Gallowglass, an elite mercenary warrior group. From the mid-13th to the early 17th centuries they fought for hire in Ireland itself. Their name is an Anglicization of the Gaelic word gallóglach (roughly pronounced GAHL-o-glukh), which translates as “foreign warrior.”

Gallowglass are descendants of not only Vikings but of Scots native to the western Highlands and Hebrides. As Scottish historian Fergus Cannan notes, the Gallowglass “lived for the war.…His sole function was to fight, and his only contribution to society was destruction.”