Category Archives: ENGLAND

17 people found in a medieval well in England were victims of an antisemitic massacre, DNA reveals

17 people found in a medieval well in England were victims of an antisemitic massacre, DNA reveals

The remains of at least 17 people killed in the medieval period were found in 2004 during excavations to build a shopping centre in the English city of Norwich.

The remains of 17 people, mainly children, found in 2004 during a construction project in Norwich, England, are probably those of medieval Jews massacred for their religion, according to a new study.

Genetic analysis of the remains indicates the dead were all Ashkenazi Jews — that is, the descendants of Jews who had established communities in northern Europe, mainly in what is now Germany and France, during the early medieval period. (Many Ashkenzai later moved from these regions to eastern Europe, after the 11th to 13th centuries.)  And other research suggests the dead people in Norwich were murdered during an antisemitic massacre in the city in 1190, by crusaders who had pledged to campaign against Muslims in Jerusalem.

The study gave researchers a rare opportunity to analyze Jewish remains — religious laws usually prohibit disturbing Jewish graves — and reveal that a “genetic bottleneck” among Ashkenazi Jews probably happened centuries earlier than thought.

And the findings finally offer a solution to the mystery of just who the people were and why they were murdered.

“They weren’t known to be Jewish when they were unearthed,” Mark Thomas, a professor of human evolutionary genetics at University College London, told Live Science. “The only reason we strongly believe they were Jewish is that we did the genetic analysis.”

Thomas is one of the senior authors of a study published Aug. 30 in the journal Current Biology that describes the latest research into the remains. The first bones were found in 2004 during excavations for the construction of a shopping centre in Norwich. The discovery led to a full archaeological investigation of the site, which resulted in the unearthing of a medieval well that held the commingled remains of at least 17 people.

For a while, the remains were stored by the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. But following growing suspicions the victims might have been Jewish, based on historical accounts of antisemitic massacres, they were reburied in 2013 in a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Norwich, BBC News reported. Anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson, a professor at Liverpool John Moores University, used the remains to create reconstructions of two of the victims’ faces.

Many of the victims of the massacre were children. This face of a young child was digitally reconstructed from an analysis of their remains.
Massacres of Jews were unfortunately common in mostly Christian medieval Europe. This face of a man was virtually reconstructed from his remains in the well at Norwich.

Christians massacre Jews

Initial radiocarbon dating indicated the bones were from the 11th or 12th centuries, study senior author Ian Barnes, an evolutionary geneticist at the Natural History Museum in London, told Live Science. Scientists initially believed the remains came from victims of an epidemic outbreak of disease or a mass famine, and that the bodies had therefore been disposed of quickly, he said.

But the latest research suggests they all had similar genetic ancestry to today’s Ashkenazi Jews. And historical research links their murders to a massacre of Jews in Norwich in 1190 by crusaders that was described by a chronicler of the times, a churchman called Ralph de Diceto.

“Many of those who were hastening to Jerusalem determined first to rise against the Jews before they invaded the Saracens [a term medieval Christians used for Muslims],” Diceto wrote in his Imagines Historiarum(opens in new tab), which was published in about 1200. “Accordingly, on 6th February [in 1190 AD] all the Jews who were found in their own houses at Norwich were butchered; some had taken refuge in the castle.”

Medieval Norwich had been home to a thriving community of Jews since 1137, many of whom lived near the well where the victims were found, BBC News reported; and the latest study reported the historical finding that they were likely to be descended from Ashkenazi Jews from Rouen in Normandy who were invited to settle in England by William the Conqueror after 1066, supposedly so he could obtain their taxes in coins rather than in the agricultural goods usually given as taxes in his new kingdom.   

Research suggests the people were killed in a medieval massacre of Jews in the city, and that their bodies were thrown down this well.
Scientists initially thought the dead may have been victims of an epidemic outbreak of disease or famine, but the latest research suggests they were Ashkenazi Jews.

The researchers now think the 17 people found in the well were victims of this outbreak of violence, perpetrated on Jews who lived in medieval England by crusaders pledged to campaign in the Holy Land of what’s now Israel.

During the First Crusade, Christian armies conquered Jerusalem in 1099 after defeating the city’s Muslim rulers; and several more crusades were launched from Europe to the Holy Land in the years that followed, the last of which ended in the 1290s.

Such antisemitic massacres were relatively common in England and other parts of Europe in the medieval period, according to Britannica(opens in new tab); and the massacre of Jews at Norwich in 1190 was brutal. At least 11 children were among the victims found in the well, and three of the victims were sisters — one aged between 5 and 10 years, another aged between 10 and 15 years, and a young adult. Barnes said that the people found in the well seem to have been dead before they were thrown into it, as there was no sign that any of them tried to break their fall. 

Genetic bottleneck

The researchers were able to conduct a full genomic analysis of the DNA from six of the individuals found in the well.

There’s no “genetic test” to determine whether a person is Jewish or not, but analysis of the genomes of those six people shows they shared the same genetic ancestry as many Ashkenazi Jews living today, which suggests they were also Ashkenazi Jews, Thomas said.

The modern Ashkenazi population has a greater-than-usual incidence of certain genetic disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease and some hereditary cancers, he said; and the genetics of four of the people in the well in Norwich showed the same frequency of such disorders, although there’s only a very limited number of victims from which to draw such conclusions.

The cause of these disorders was thought to be a “genetic bottleneck” probably caused by a drop in the population between about 600 and 800 years ago, he said. But their frequency in the victims meant the genetic bottleneck must have happened much earlier, possibly as early as the late stages of the Western Roman Empire from the fifth century, he said.

The findings are important not only because of the historical questions about the remains but also because there is so little historical genetic data about modern Jewish populations and the particular genetic disorders they face.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a flood of ancient Ashkenazi or Jewish genomes in the future, but I think that where more data does become available, it will be probably through a similar route to what we’ve done,” he said. 

“That is, they identify human remains where there is no evidence to suggest that they are Jewish or anything else, and then somebody does the genetic work and gets an indication that they are,” he said.

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia
Construction crews working on the Cogswell Interchange project in Halifax have uncovered a coal chute from the 1800s used for storing heating fuel.

When digging began on the Cogswell Interchange project near downtown Halifax, some unique discoveries were bound to be found. The British established the Town of Halifax in 1749 and that history resurfaces from time to time. Recent excavations to add a new detour road in the area revealed a small part of daily colonial life.

“It was discovered at the time of us finding an old building foundation made of brick and stone,” said Donna Davis, project manager with the Cogswell District project. 

“Basically it is a cavity that was used to store coal, so it’s called a coal chute or coal port.”

Davis said coal chutes were common in the 1800s to provide heating fuel and it’s believed coal was dumped into the chute through a grate at road level.

“We don’t know if the building would have been residential, commercial or industrial,” said Davis. “There were a mix of buildings in that area and our archeologist is continuing to find out more about the structure and what its origins might have been.”

An archeologist working with the Cogswell Interchange project is researching the history of the site where the coal chute was discovered. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

It’s believed the coal chute would have been built in the mid- to late-1800s.

Davis said there are old maps that show the area near the Halifax waterfront was populated with numerous industrial and commercial structures in that era and some residential properties, too.

The work on the Cogswell Interchange is still in its infancy as the expected completion date is still four years away. Davis said there will likely be more interesting discoveries to come.

More underground discoveries are expected to be made before the Cogswell Interchange project is completed in 2026.

“When we come across something like that, construction stops and we have the archeologist come in to tell us what we’ve uncovered and to tell us how to proceed,” said Davis. “In most cases, we have to properly catalog what it is that we’ve found.”

Davis said a number of old, large brick storm sewer tunnels have also been discovered. 

A new construction project app will be rolled out this fall where pictures and information on the discoveries will be shared with the public.

The proposed redevelopments for the Cogswell District will include more green space.

The Cogswell Interchange was built in the late 1960s to early 1970s and officially opened in 1972. 

Much of the interchange is being demolished to make way for a new Cogswell District neighbourhood, connecting Halifax’s downtown and waterfront with the north end. It will convert the existing road infrastructure into a mixed-use neighbourhood.

Remains of up to 100 children were found during a dig at a holy site in Wales

Remains of up to 100 children were found during a dig at a holy site in Wales

Remains of up to 100 children were found during a dig at a holy site in Wales
The remains were found in a long-lost holy site in Pembrokeshire.

The bodies of 100 children have been discovered in what is believed to be an ancient burial ground.

Archaeologists in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, made the grim discovery.

They had been excavating an area surrounding the mysterious St Saviours, a suspected friary which dates back more than 600 years.

Archaeologists found hundreds of skeletons at the historic site. Experts explained that ‘extraordinarily, one-third of these remains are infants under the age of four.’

A strange puncture wound was even found in one of the skulls excavated, the Western Telegraph reported.

The injury could have been caused by ‘projectile fired’ which could indicate ‘the first suggestion of medieval warfare in the town’.

St Saviours itself was stumbled upon by builders digging foundations for a new bar in Haverfordwest.

Archaeologists made the gruesome discovery

Head of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Fran Murphy, says financial transactions recorded by a local church indicate the existence of the friary.

There could be around 300 corpses at the ancient burial ground, but the Trust is hesitant on putting an exact finger on the total just yet.

‘We know it’s there because of a series of monastic references, mainly records about money,’ said Miss Murphy.

‘At its height, there were apparently eight friars who were part of the friary before it was dissolved and passed into private hands.

‘It was dissolved in the 1530s with one of the friars scrubbing his name from the list of friars at the priory which is peculiar and might have been a protest to its closing.’

The medieval friary is thought to date back more than 600 years

The friary of the Dominican Order is believed to have stood in Haverfordwest for about three centuries.

The Dominicans, or Black Friars, had a different agenda than most monastic orders in that they went amongst the population, preaching, praying and teaching.

DAT Archaeological Services started work at the site known as Ocky Whites in February and is scheduled to be at the site until next January.

The old Ocky Whites building is currently being redeveloped into a three-storey local food and beverage emporium with a bar and rooftop terrace.

Remnants of Ancient Roman Turret Discovered at Hadrian’s Wall in England

Remnants of Ancient Roman Turret Discovered at Hadrian’s Wall in England

Remnants of a turret from Hadrian’s Wall were unearthed by archaeologists during construction work for student accommodations in Ouseburn, near Newcastle, England.

Turret 3a at Hadrian's Wall in Ouseburn, near Newcastle, England, 2022.
Turret 3a at Hadrian’s Wall in Ouseburn, near Newcastle, England, 2022.

Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification that spanned 73 miles across Roman Britain. Sixteen stone forts were built every 1,000 paces, with 80-mile castles, turrets and 6 supply forts set in between.

Construction along the Stonegate Road route began in 122 CE and took seven years to complete.

The turret is the only known example of its kind found east of Newcastle. Additionally, the team uncovered a walled ditch and six berm obstacle pits. The finds were announced on Wednesday in a press release by Pre-Construct Archaeology.

Turret 3a, as the structure is now known, is roughly 39 feet long, with foundations that run as long as 8 feet wide.

No remnants of clay or flagged floor surface were found within the structure, and the archaeologists said this loss may have resulted from construction or levelling undertaken during the 19th or 20th century.

They did, however, find a single fragment of a tegula, a tile used in roofing by Romans, among the foundations of the northern wall. 

Six shallow pits recorded within the berm, the area between the wall and the wall ditch, would have held cippi, or sharpened branches.

Scott Vance, the site director for the find, said the discovery “has demonstrated that the potential for significant archaeological remains relating to Hadrian’s Wall can survive in the more built-up areas of urban Tyneside.”

The proposed student accommodations will be designed around the turret, which will be preserved.

Neolithic culinary traditions of ancient Brits uncovered

Neolithic culinary traditions of ancient Brits uncovered

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, has uncovered intriguing new insights into the diet of people living in Neolithic Britain and found evidence that cereals, including wheat, were cooked in pots.

Pottery Yields Molecular Traces of Neolithic Meals
One of the first pots to be discovered, an Unstan Bowl from Loch Arnish. Previously published in: Garrow, D., & Sturt, F. (2019). Neolithic crannogs: Rethinking settlement, monumentality and deposition in the Outer Hebrides and beyond. Antiquity, 93(369), 664-684. doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.41

Using chemical analysis of ancient, and incredibly well-preserved pottery found in the waters surrounding small artificial islands called crannogs in Scotland, the team were able to discern that cereals were cooked in pots and mixed with dairy products and occasionally meat, probably to create early forms of gruel and stew. They also discovered that the people visiting these crannogs used smaller pots to cook cereals with milk and larger pots for meat-based dishes.  

The findings are reported today in the journal Nature Communications.

Photo reconstruction of one of the pots from Loch Langabhat

Cereal cultivation in Britain dates back to around 4000 BCE and was probably introduced by migrant farmers from continental Europe. This is evidenced by some, often sparse and sporadic, recovery of preserved cereal grains and other debris found at Neolithic sites.

At this time pottery was also introduced into Britain and there is widespread evidence for domesticated products like milk products in molecular lipid fingerprints extracted from the fabric of these pots. However, with the exception of millet, it has not yet been possible to detect molecular traces of accompanying cereals in these lipid signatures, although these went on to become a major staple that dominates the global subsistence economy today.

Previously published an analysis of Roman pottery from Vindolanda [Hadrian’s Wall] demonstrated that specific lipid markers for cereals can survive absorbed in archaeological pottery preserved in waterlogged conditions and be detectable through a high-sensitivity approach but, importantly this was ‘only’ 2,000 years old and from contexts where cereals were well-known to have been present. The new findings reported now show that cereal biomarkers can be preserved for thousands of years longer under favourable conditions.

Another fascinating element of this research was the fact that many of the pots analysed were intact and decorated which could suggest they may have had some sort of ceremonial purpose. Since the actual function of the crannogs themselves is also not fully understood yet (with some being far too small for permanent occupation) the research provides new insights into possible ways these constructions were used.

Aerial view of the crannog at Loch Langabhat. Previously published in Garrow, D., & Sturt, F. (2019). Neolithic crannogs: Rethinking settlement, monumentality and deposition in the Outer Hebrides and beyond. Antiquity, 93(369), 664-684. doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.41

During analysis, cereal biomarkers were widely detected (one-third of pots), providing the earliest biomolecular evidence for cereals in absorbed pottery residues in this region.

The findings indicate that wheat was being cooked in pots, despite the fact that the limited evidence from charred plant parts in this region of Atlantic Scotland points mainly to barley. This could be because wheat is under-represented in charred plant remains as it can be prepared differently (e.g., boiled as part of stews), so not as regularly charred or because of more unusual cooking practices.

Cereal markers were strongly associated with lipid residues for dairy products in pots, suggesting they may have been cooked together as a milk-based gruel.

The research was led by Drs Simon Hammann* and Lucy Cramp at the University of Bristol’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Dr Hammann said: “It’s very exciting to see that cereal biomarkers in pots can actually survive under favourable conditions in samples from the time when cereals (and pottery) were introduced in Britain. Our lipid-based molecular method can complement archaeobotanical methods to investigate the introduction and spread of cereal agriculture.”

Dr Cramp added: “This research gives us a window into the culinary traditions of early farmers living at the northwestern edge of Europe, whose lifeways are little understood. It gives us the first glimpse of the sorts of practices that were associated with these enigmatic islet locations.”

Crannog sites in the Outer Hebrides are currently the focus of the four-year Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded ‘Islands of Stone’ project, directed by two of the paper’s authors (Duncan Garrow from the University of Reading and Fraser Sturt from the University of Southampton) along with Angela Gannon, Historic Environment Scotland.

Professor Garrow said: “This research, undertaken by our colleagues at the University of Bristol, has hugely improved our knowledge of these sites in many exciting ways. We very much look forward to developing this collaborative research going forwards.”

The next stage of the research at the University of Bristol is an exploration of the relationship between these islets and other Neolithic occupation sites in the Hebridean region and beyond as well as a more extensive comparative study of the use of different vessel forms through surviving lipid residues. These questions form part of an ongoing Arts and Humanities Research Council/South-West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership-funded PhD studentship.

* Dr Hammann is now based at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Erlangen, Germany.

A couple discover over ₹2 crore gold coins in the kitchen during the renovation

A couple discover over ₹2 crore gold coins in the kitchen during the renovation

A life-changing event occurred in a UK couple’s life when they decided to renovate their house. According to a report by The Times, a UK-based couple found 264 gold coins under the floor of their kitchen.

A couple discover over ₹2 crore gold coins in the kitchen during the renovation
The stash of coins dates back more than 400 years.

The North Yorkshire couple has decided to sell these ancient gold coins, which are worth 250,000 pounds ( ₹2.3 crores).

The collection, which is reportedly more than 400 years old, will be sold through an auction, which is being handled by Spink & Son.

The surprising discovery was made when the couple lifted the floorboard of their 18th-century detached property in the village of Ellerby.

Initially, the couple thought they had hit an electric cable when they lifted the floor. But they found a stash of coins inside a metal, about the same size as a coke can buried just six inches under the concrete.

The couple has been staying in that house for the past 10 years.

When the couple inspected the stash, they found, that the coins were dated from 1610 to 1727, during the reigns of James I and Charles I.

n a separate incident, 86 gold coins were found in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district in August this year. Eight labourers allegedly stole 86 gold coins worth about ₹60 lakh found by them during the demolition of an old house in Madhya Pradesh.

The labourers then distributed the ‘ginnis’ (gold coins), which may be of archaeological importance, among themselves without informing local police following which they were arrested, Additional Superintendent of Police Devendra Patidar said.

He said the labourers found the coins while removing the debris of an old house a few days back. Following a tip-off, the police came to know that the eight labourers distributed the coins among themselves, he said.

The police arrested these labourers and seized 86 coins collectively weighing around one kilogram.

The price of those coins is about ₹60 lakh, but it may go up to ₹one crore after ascertaining their archaeological significance.

Ancient roman sarcophagus found at London building site

Ancient roman sarcophagus found at London building site

An ancient Roman sarcophagus has been excavated from a building site in central London. The 1,600-year-old coffin found near Borough Market is thought to contain the remains of a member of the nobility.

Archaeologists have been unable to identify the body as the stone coffin has been left filled with soil after being robbed, experts believe.

The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis. The coffin was found several metres underground with its lid slid open, which indicates it was plundered by 18th-century thieves.

Experts discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search
The coffin was found on Swan Street last month

Gillian King, senior planner for archaeology at Southwark Council, said she hoped the grave robbers “have left the things that were of small value to them but great value to us as archaeologists”.

The grave owner must have been “very wealthy and have had a lot of social statuses to be honoured with not just a sarcophagus, but one that was built into the walls of a mausoleum” Ms King said.

She added: “We always knew this site had the potential for a Roman cemetery, but we never knew there would be a sarcophagus.”

The location is a prime spot for historical finds
The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis

The coffin was found on Swan Street last month after the council told developers building new flats on the site to fund an archaeological dig.

Researchers discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search.

Experts at the Museum of London will now test and date the bones and soil inside.

Anglo-Saxon Trade Hub Found at Monastery Site in England

Anglo-Saxon Trade Hub Found at Monastery Site in England

Anglo-Saxon Trade Hub Found at Monastery Site in England
The site excavated lies next to Cookham’s Holy Trinity Church

Archaeologists have unearthed a long-forgotten trading hub that researchers say would have enjoyed comparable status to London in the Middle Ages.

The find on the banks of the Thames in Cookham, Berkshire, has been hailed as “a once in a generation discovery” by the University of Reading.

It includes infrastructure that suggested the area was used extensively for importing and exporting goods.

The university said the site was abandoned in the late 9th Century.

University students and staff spent four weeks excavating the site

Archaeologists began work on the land next to the Holy Trinity Church after evidence pointed to it being the site of a “lost” 8th Century monastery.

The excavation team said what it went on to find “ranks alongside the most extensively preserved early medieval monastic sites ever investigated in Britain”.

They found evidence of a waterside loading area, workshops for industrial activities like metalworking, and bread ovens to feed the local population.

The university said the area “could have enjoyed similarly important status as a trade and production centre to larger towns like London and Southampton”.

Archaeologist Gabor Thomas said the discoveries would lead to a better understanding of daily life at the monastery

Gabor Thomas, the excavation’s lead archaeologist, said: “This is a once-in-a-generation archaeological discovery.

“We have not just rediscovered the location of this monastery but shown that it’s in a remarkable state of preservation.

“We have uncovered a densely occupied riverside trading and production zone, complete with streets and loading areas.

“This level of infrastructure and planning is surprising and compares with larger trading and production sites known as ‘wics’ that were the only towns of the period.”

The excavation was part of a summer field school project run by the university

He said Cookham’s population would have been considerably smaller than London but similarities in the way the monastery was organised reflected “its importance as a place of trade and production on the River Thames”.

“The discoveries at Cookham will enable us to build a detailed picture of daily life within a monastery of this period, including Cookham’s role as an economic hub for the Middle Thames region,” he added.

The monastery is believed to have thrived in the 8th and early 9th centuries, reaching its peak under the control of powerful Anglo-Saxon queen Cynethryth.

Cynethryth was the only Anglo-Saxon queen known to have been depicted on a coin and had been married to King Offa, who ruled one of the era’s main kingdoms, Mercia, until his death in 796 AD.