Bizarre French inspiration of Stonehenge as slab origins confirmed
Some experts believe that the ancient monument was used as a cemetery for more than 500 years, and some suggest that it may be of spiritual importance, due to the encompassing horseshoe arrangement being aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice.
Up until now, all that archaeologists knew with reasonable certainty was that the stones had been brought in around 2500BC from the Marlborough Downs by the great temple’s Neolithic builders.
Now though, scientists from the University of Brighton have traced the stones to a very specific two square mile part of that range of hills — a patch of woodland just south of the village of Lockeridge, Wiltshire.
But, they may have taken inspiration from overseas.
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests an ancient culture that emerged from what is now the Brittany region of northwest France may have begun building these structures and monuments some 7,000 years ago.
Study author Bettina Schulz Paulsson of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said that the megalith building probably began in France and spread from there via sea routes around Europe over the next 1,000 years or so.
For more than a decade, Dr. Paulson created a “megalith evolution” using radiocarbon dating of more than 2,000 historic sites across Europe.
She wrote: “The results presented here, based on analysis of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chronologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggest maritime mobility and intercultural exchange.
“We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age.”
These structures were originally thought to have their roots in Northern Europe, but Dr. Paulsson has long suspected they originated elsewhere since she excavated her first megalithic site approximately 20 years ago, in Portugal.
She added: “Everyone told me ‘you’re crazy, it can’t be done, but I decided to do it anyway.”
Michael Parker Pearson, an archaeologist, and Stonehenge specialist at University College London said: “This demonstrates absolutely that Brittany is the origin of the European megalithic phenomenon.”
One of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, Stonehenge is regarded as a British cultural icon. It has been a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882 when legislation to protect historic monuments was first successfully introduced in Britain.
Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
North sea reveals forest buried for 7,000 years and human footprints
The surge and flood of the North Sea have uncovered an archeological mystery of the Britain past – the remains of hunter-gatherers chasing wildlife through a long-lost wood. An ancient woodland, dating more than 7,000 years and submerged under the sand for centuries, is slowly uncovered by the ocean.
Tree stumps and felled logs, which have been preserved by peat and sand, are now clearly visible along with a 650 feet (200 meters) stretch of coastline at Low Hauxley near Amble, Northumberland.
Studies of the ancient forest, which existed at a time when the sea level was much lower and Britain had only recently separated from what is now mainland Denmark, have revealed it would have consisted of oak, hazel and alder trees.
The forest first began to form around 5,300 BC but by 5,000 BC the encroaching ocean had covered it up and buried it under the sand. Now the sea levels are rising again, the remnants of the forest are becoming visible and being studied by archaeologists.
Rather than a continuous solid landmass, archaeologists believe Doggerland was a region of low-lying bogs and marshes that would have been home to a range of animals, as well as the hunter-gatherers which stalked them.
But the relatively rapid change in the surrounding environment would have gradually confined animals and humans in the region to Europe and the UK as the bogs and marshes became flooded, making them impassable.
Doctor Clive Waddington, of Archaeology Research Services, said: ‘In 5,000 BC the sea level rose quickly and it drowned the land. The sand dunes were blown back further into the land, burying the forest, and then the sea receded a little.
The sea level is now rising again, cutting back the sand dunes, and uncovering the forest. The forest existed in the late Mesolithic period, which was a time of hunting and gathering for humans.
In addition to tree stumps, archaeologists say they have uncovered animal footprints, highlighting the diverse wildlife which would have roamed the ancient Doggerland forest.
Dr. Waddington, who says evidence has been discovered of humans living nearby in 5,000 BC, added: ‘On the surface of the peat we have found footprints of adults and children.
‘We can tell by the shapes of the footprints that they would have been wearing leather shoes.
‘We have also found animal footprints of red deer, wild boar, and brown bears.’
A similar stretch of ancient forest was uncovered in 2014 near the village of Borth, Ceredigion, in Mid Wales after a spate of winter storms washed away the peat preserving the area.
Peat is able to preserve trees and even the bodies of animals so well because it is so low in oxygen, effectively choking the microbes which break down organic matter, so preserving their organic contents for thousands of years.
But in coastal regions where ancient forests have been long preserved in peat, such as in Wales and Northumberland, the rising seas are washing away this layer and exposing remnants from Britain’s past.
Burscough, England —Ansa reports that the site of a first-century A.D. Roman fort in northwestern England has received official recognition from Historic England, a government body dedicated to historic preservation.
The ruins comprise a 30,000 sq m fort, roads, and a smaller fortlet and experts believe the find will unlock unknown details of how the Romans settled and travelled around the area.
Considered alongside other forts in the region, including those at Wigan and Ribchester, Burscough’s will provide great insight into Roman military strategy. It is believed that the area was occupied multiple times over the course of hundreds of years, a theory that is backed up by the variety of pottery found at the site.
Historic England says the lines of the fort’s defences are clearly identifiable on the geophysical survey and aerial photos, but the north-west and south-west corners are also visible as slight earthworks on Lidar, which uses laser light reflections to produce 3D images.
The north-west corner of the fort is visible as the slight earthwork of a broad bank about 12m wide, with a regular, broad and shallow external ditch; the latter is interpreted as a shallow quarry ditch dug during the construction of the rampart.
Several large depressions visible in the wider landscape are considered to be post-medieval extraction, probably marl pits: one of these pits sits within the angle of the north-west corner of the fort.
The number of ditches is considered to indicate more than one phase of occupation, and it is considered that a later, small fortlet overlies the eastern rampart of the earlier fort.
A number of internal features have been revealed by geophysical surveys including a well-defined eastern gateway with double gate towers, and numerous stone buildings interpreted as granaries or barracks. Limited trial trenching of the latter has revealed the presence of a large stone, buttressed building typical of a Roman granary.
The geophysical survey has also revealed the buried remains of a broad section of Roman road approaching the fort on the east side. A similar feature is thought to be associated with the fort’s southern entrance.
For several years, a non-profit archaeology group has been managing the site and allowing people to help with the excavation of the ruins but the location of the fort has largely been kept a secret.
Those interested in visiting were able to pay to take part in organized digs, while items of Roman pottery have been found in nearby fields by passing walkers.
The fort had survived regular ploughing through the years before the archaeology group took an interest in the site but concerned residents noticed diggers on the field in recent weeks and feared that the invaluable findings could be lost forever.
But, possibly partly as a result of those fears being raised with Historic England and then the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the ruins have now been classified as a Scheduled Monument.
That means it is a criminal offence to destroy or damage it; do any works to remove, repair or alter it; use a metal detector without prior consent, or remove any historic or archaeological object from the site without prior consent.
A spokesperson for Historic England said: “DCMS recently agreed with our advice that this site should be protected as a scheduled monument because it is a highly significant find of a Roman fort which has survived well.
‘‘We are actively in contact with the owners and local authority to offer advice and support on how best to manage this site to ensure its future.”
One of the discoveries of archeological work in Waterbeach Barracks was Roman pottery and coins, along with Bronze Age PalStave ax-head. Before work starts on the first phase of the new town development, Oxford Archaeology East has been working with developer Urban & Civic and Cambridgeshire County Council’s historic environment team at the site.
Comprehensive research was undertaken and three areas of Roman settlement, two areas of Roman industry and several parts of a medieval field system – called a ridge and a furrow – were uncovered
The land is at the junction of two important Roman regional transport links: the Car Dyke (Old Tillage) Roman canal which is one of the greatest engineering feats carried out by Romans in Britain – and the Roman road known as Akeman Street, which connects Ermine Street near Wimpole Hall and runs along the alignment of Mere Way joining the broad route of the A10 up to the north Norfolk coast.
The archaeology team has been investigating the site since 2016, and following desk-based research and geographical surveys of the key areas, they have opened nearly 140 archaeological trial trenches across the entire site to explore what has survived the more recent agricultural and military uses.
Over the last few weeks, approximately seven hectares – the size of 10 football pitches – have been dug in the northern corner of the airfield, with early evaluation identifying a potential Roman settlement.
Having stripped the topsoil with excavators, the team was able to delve deeper with hand tools to explore and interpret the layers of history beneath. This included a complex system of ditches, dating to the latest Iron Age and early Roman period (about 2,000 years old) as well as a lot of artifacts: from Roman pottery and coins to an amazing Bronze Age palstave axe-head.
A number of pottery kilns were also found that would have produced pottery during the Roman period.
Stephen Macaulay, deputy regional manager of Oxford Archaeology East, said: “Waterbeach Barracks is a fascinating site and the new development gives us a unique opportunity to capture the essence of its foundations and an understanding of how our ancestors lived and worked the land.
“The site is in a unique location and the historic role of Car Dyke and Akeman Street Roman road (the modern A10) and water connections need more celebration within Cambridgeshire. Hopefully, the approach at Waterbeach is the start of making that happen.”
Further archaeological excavations will take place in advance of each phase of development at Waterbeach. The first phase covers 1,600 homes, while 6,500 will be built in total on the site by Urban & Civic.
Rebecca Britton, of Urban & Civic, said: “Waterbeach Barracks is a historic place with rich layers of heritage that span millennia.
While the recent military past is something that we are all familiar with, this work enables us to dig deeper into the past, find out more about how our predecessors lived and what they did here.
“This is not only incredibly useful in informing our understanding of the past, but also provides a rich seam of inspiration for the future development: whether it’s street or park names, the design of public art, or part of connecting future residents with the history literally under their feet.
“History is a great way of establishing connections between people and is part of our wider commitment to working with Denny Abbey, the Tithe Barn at Landbeach, Wicken Fen, and other important local heritage assets to engage people with and celebrate the amazing history.”
Researchers left ‘speechless’ by ‘magical’ Iron Age treasure
Archaeologists were stunned when they unearthed Iron Age treasure owned by extremely wealthy figures from the time period. The amazing discovery was made in 2016 as two treasure hunters – Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania – found the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever found in Britain.
The collection included four twisted metal neckbands, called torcs and a bracelet. Experts concluded the jewellery would have been owned by wealthy powerful women who probably moved from continental Europe to marry rich Iron Age chiefs.
Mr. Hambleton was also delighted when he and his partner were told the find could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mr. Hambleton said at the time: “We weren’t expecting to find anything. I was just about ready to give up for the day when Joe said he thought he had found something.
“We both looked at it and were speechless.”
Mr. Kania added: “We have found the odd Victorian coin, but mostly it has just been junk.
“So I couldn’t believe it when I picked out this mud-covered item and on cleaning it off, I thought this might actually be gold.”
Mr. Hambleton also told of how he slept with the jewellery before taking it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme at Birmingham.
He added: “I kept the gold right next to my bed to make sure it was safe until we could hand them into the experts.
“I used to go metal detecting with my dad when I was young and he said to me ‘why are you bothering fishing? You should be back in those fields.’
“I am so glad we took his advice and pleased, of course, that he got the chance to see these amazing pieces and prove he was right all along.”
Dr. Julia Farley, Curator of British & European Iron Age Collections for the British Museum lauded the find.
She said: “This unique find is of international importance.
“It dates to around 400–250 BC and is probably the earliest Iron Age gold work ever discovered in Britain.
“The torcs were probably worn by wealthy and powerful women, perhaps people from the continent who had married into the local community.
The torcs were buried nested together and archaeologists believe they may have been buried for safekeeping. Others claimed they could have been buried as an offering to a God, or even as an act of remembrance for someone who had died.
The find was made about 45 miles north of Hammerwich, near Lichfield – the site of the 2009 Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard find, which was officially valued at £3.2 million.
Posh grave of Iron Age ‘warrior’ buried 2,000 years ago in Roman Britain uncovered
UCL archaeologists have uncovered a richly furnished grave belonging to an Iron Age ‘ warrior ‘ found 2,000 years ago in West Sussex.
In the grave were placed iron weapons, including a sword in a highly decorated scabbard and a spear. The burial was discovered during an excavation commissioned by Linden Homes, who are developing a site on the outskirts of Walberton, near Chichester, to create 175 new homes.
The team that made the discovery were from Archaeology South-East (ASE), the commercial branch of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.
ASE archaeologist Jim Stevenson, who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: “There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life.
Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one?
“Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.”
The grave is dated to the late Iron Age/ early Roman period (1st century BC – AD 50). It is incredibly rare, as only a handful are known to exist in the South of England.
X-rays and initial conservation of the sword and scabbard reveal beautiful copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was worn in life.
Dotted lines on the X-ray may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the occupant when buried. This is particularly exciting for archaeologists as evidence of clothing rarely survives.
The grave also held the remains of a wooden container, preserved as a dark stain, likely used to lower the individual into the grave.
Four ceramic vessels were placed outside of this container, but still within the grave. The vessels are jars made from local clays and would usually have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage.
It is likely that they were placed in the grave as containers for funerary offerings, perhaps intended to provide sustenance for the deceased in the afterlife.
Archaeologists are continuing to investigate this new discovery. By looking at other burials with weapons from the same time, they hope to find out more about the identity and social status of this individual, and the local area and landscape around that time.
Bronze Age time capsule: 3,000-year-old vitrified food found in jars in England
The life of the prosperous people of Bronze Age Britain could be “extraordinary proof” that remains under the ground of a 1,100-square meter site destroyed by the fire 3,000 years ago. They suggest that archeologists are about to dig in a brick pit near Peterborough.
Must Farm – part of the Flag Fen Basin, and the site where nine pristine log boats were famously unearthed in 2011 – was protected by a ring of wooden posts before a dramatic fire at the end of the Bronze Age caused the dwelling to collapse into the river.
Its submergence preserved its contents, creating what experts are describing as a “time capsule” of “exceptional” decorated tiles made from lime tree bark.
Rare small pots, jars complete with 1,200-year-old meals, and “sophisticated” exotic glass beads are expected to provide a complete picture of prehistoric life during the nine-month excavation, which is part of a four-year, £1.1 million project at the site.
“We think those living in the settlement were forced to leave everything behind when it caught on fire,” says Kasia Gdaniec, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Senior Archaeologist.
“An extraordinarily rich range of goods and objects are present in the river deposits, some of which were found during an evaluation in 2006.
“Among the items was a charred pot with vitrified food inside it and a partially charred spoon, suggesting that the site had been abandoned quickly.
“We anticipate that more of the timber structure, a range of organic remains and fishing equipment and the whole gamut of personal, work, and settlement paraphernalia will be found.
“But we are hoping not to find remains of people that may have suffered the impact of the fire, though this possibility cannot be ruled out.
“It’s an exciting excavation. The finds are well preserved due to the waterlogged sediments within this former river channel. The footprints of the settlement’s former residents still stand, although more discoveries are not expected to emerge until late summer.
“Usually at a Later Bronze Age period site you get pits, post-holes and maybe one or two really exciting metal finds,” says David Gibson, the Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
“Convincing people that such places were once thriving settlements takes some imagination. But this time so much more has been preserved.
“It’s a fantastic chance to find out how people in the Late Bronze Age lived their daily lives, including how they dressed and what meals they ate.”
The location of the site, at the edge of the quarry, meant attempts to preserve it in situ after it was discovered in 2006 proved unviable as a long-term historic record.
“The combination of sudden abandonment followed by exceptional preservation means that there is a real possibility of further exciting discoveries,” says Duncan Wilson, of Historic England.
“This could represent a moment of time from the Late Bronze Age comparable to the connection with the past made by the objects found with the Mary Rose.
“This site is internationally important and gives a fascinating insight into the lives of our ancestors.”
A rapier and sword were found at the clay quarry, now run by a building company, in 1969. The new discoveries will be displayed at the Peterborough Museum and other local venues.
Scans of Viking pot reveal hidden brooches, gold ingots, and beads
Since researchers conducted a CT scan of the old artefact, the mystery around the contents of a Viking pot has been resolved. Archaeologists had been unable to open the pot to see what was inside, but its weight suggested it was full of treasure.
After undergoing a series of scans, the 1,200-year-old pot was found to contain up to at least five silver brooches and an ornate bead. It was among more than 100 objects discovered by metal detectorist Derek McLennan.
Other items include solid gold jewellery, armbands, and silver ingots. The find was deemed one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in the UK, but the pot’s contents were a mystery.
Experts were concerned about damaging the 9th-century Carolingian pot when attempting to see what was inside. But now, the CT scanner at Borders General Hospital, Scotland, has revealed the ornate box contains around 20 silver, gold, and ivory items.
Mr McLennan, a retired businessman, said the latest discovery was ‘beautiful and exciting’.
‘It brought it all back to me when I saw what was inside the pot,’ he continued. I was like a kid looking in the sweet shop window unable to touch anything being on the other side of the glass.
‘Nothing else had been on my mind for two-and-half-months than seeing what was inside the pot, and then seeing it, there was a rush of emotion and was incredibly exciting. I was absolutely amazed by what was inside the pot. There seem to be 20 plus artifacts in the pot, while most of them seem to be broaches of some sort.
‘It’s a real mishmash of artifacts. Not everything comes across clear as there are different types of metal in there. There is hopefully something beautiful and exciting to look at when it comes out because [the owner] took the time to wrap these items.
‘I’m now waiting on the pot to be emptied, but I understand these things take time and it’s in the hands of the experts.’ A scan of the Carolingian pot was conducted by Dr. John Reid, a consultant radiographer at the BGH, who is also a keen amateur archaeologist.
He was approached by Richard Welander, head of collections with Historic Scotland, who was aware of the previous use of the hospital’s CT scanner for archaeological research. With the permission of hospital chief Calum Campbell, the pot was brought in for an evening scanning session.
‘This work takes place outwith normal hours and in no way impedes the important work we do for our human patients,’ said Dr. Reid. The scanner is both rapid and accurate, with the ability to produce 120 visual slices, and is accurate to within half a millimeter.’
The monitoring screen revealed the presence of five silver broaches, smaller gold ingots and ivory beads coated with gold – all wrapped in organic material, possibly leather.
Dr. Reid added: ‘The conservationists did not want to [grope] about and compromise this precious object. The discovery was made in early September by Mr. McLennan. Fellow metal detectorists Reverend Dr. David Bartholomew, who is a Church of Scotland minister of a rural Galloway charge, and Mike Smith, the pastor of an Elim Pentecostal Church in Galloway were also in the vicinity at the time.
Rev Dr. Bartholomew said: ‘We were searching elsewhere when Derek initially thought he’d discovered a Viking gaming piece.
‘A short time later he ran over to us waving a silver arm-ring and shouting ‘Viking’! It was tremendously exciting, especially when we noticed the silver cross lying face-downwards.
‘It was poking out from under the pile of silver ingots and decorated arm-rings, with a finely wound silver chain still attached to it.
‘It was a heart-stopping moment when the local archaeologist turned it over to reveal rich decoration on the other side.’
The hoard falls under the Scots law of treasure trove and is currently in the care of the Treasure Trove Unit. The law states that a reward must be made to the finder, and the reward is judged equivalent to the market value of the items. The Church of Scotland General Trustees, as the landowners, have reached an agreement with Mr McLennan about an equitable sharing of any proceeds, which will eventually be awarded.
The location of the find is not being revealed.
The Scottish Government, Treasure Trove Unit, and Historic Scotland are all involved in ensuring the area is properly protected while the full historical significance of the site is established.