Category Archives: ENGLAND

‘World first’ intact Roman egg laid 1,700 years ago discovered by archaeologists

‘World first’ intact Roman egg laid 1,700 years ago discovered by archaeologists

‘World first’ intact Roman egg laid 1,700 years ago discovered by archaeologists
The egg is one of four that were found alongside a woven basket, pottery vessels, leather shoes and animal bone in 2010. Photograph: Oxford Archaeology

It was a wonderful find as it was, a cache of 1,700-year-old speckled chicken eggs discovered in a Roman pit during a dig in Buckinghamshire.

But to the astonishment of archaeologists and naturalists, a scan has revealed that one of the eggs recovered intact still has liquid – thought to be a mix of yolk and albumen – inside it, and may give up secrets about the bird that laid it almost two millennia ago.

The “Aylesbury egg” is one of four that were found alongside a woven basket, pottery vessels, leather shoes, and animal bone in 2010 as a site was being explored ahead of a major development.

Despite the experts extracting them as carefully as possible, three broke, producing an unforgettable sulphurous smell, but one was preserved complete.

Edward Biddulph, the senior project manager at Oxford Archaeology, which oversaw the excavation, said it had been amazing enough to find what is thought to be the only intact egg from the period in Britain. “We do often find pieces of shells but not intact eggs,” he said.

Discussions were being held last year about how to display the egg when Dana Goodburn-Brown, an archaeological conservator and materials scientist, suggested they scan it to help decide how best to preserve it.

Biddulph said: “The egg turned out to be even more amazing. It still contained its liquid, the yolk and the white.” The yolk and albumen appear to have become mixed together.

“We might have expected it to have leached out over the centuries but it is still there. It is absolutely incredible. It may be the oldest egg of its type in the world.”

Biddulph said the egg had been deliberately placed in a pit that had been used as a well for malting and brewing. “This was a wet area next to a Roman road. It may have been the eggs were placed there as a votive offering. The basket we found may have contained bread.”

The egg has been taken to the Natural History Museum in London. Biddulph said it had felt a little daunting riding on the tube and walking around the capital with such an extraordinary and fragile egg in his care.

Archaeologists made the discovery during a dig that took place between 2007 and 2016 (Oxford Archaeology)

Douglas Russell, the senior curator of the museum’s birds’ eggs and nests collection, was consulted about how to conserve the egg and remove the contents without breaking it.

There are older eggs with contents, such as mummified ones, but Russell said it was believed to be the oldest unintentionally preserved egg. A tiny hole may be made in the egg to extract the contents and try to find out more about the bird that laid it.

Goodburn-Brown said: “The egg ranks as one of the coolest and most challenging archaeological finds to investigate and conserve. Being the temporary caretaker and investigator of this Roman egg counts as one of the major highlights of my 40-year career.”

Roman Wooden Bed Unearthed in London

Roman Wooden Bed Unearthed in London

Wooden Bed
The funerary bed being excavated and a reconstruction. It is the first funerary bed ever found in Britain.

Archaeologists in London have made the “exceptionally important” discovery of a complete wooden funerary bed, the first ever discovered in Britain.

The remarkably preserved bed, described as “unparalleled” by experts, was excavated from the site of a former Roman cemetery near Holborn viaduct, central London, alongside five oak coffins. Prior to this dig, only three Roman timber coffins in total have been found in the capital.

Wooden remains from the Roman era in Britain (AD43-410) rarely survive to the present day but, because the waterlogged burial site adjoins the now underground river Fleet, its graves were well preserved.

The funerary bed is made from high-quality oak and has carved feet and joints fixed with small wooden pegs. It was dismantled before being laid within the grave of an adult male in his late 20s or early 30s.

Archaeologist excavating the funerary bed, in Holborn, London.

“It’s been quite carefully taken apart and stashed, almost like flat-packed furniture for the next life,” said Michael Marshall, an artefacts specialist with archaeologists Mola (Museum of London Archaeology) – although he stressed there was much about the burials that is yet to be studied. Excavations at the site continue.

Part of the site, outside the walls of the Roman city and 6 metres below the modern ground level, had been excavated in the 1990s. However, “the bed was a complete surprise, because we’ve never seen anything like it before”, said Marshall.

While there are accounts of people being carried on beds in funeral processions, and sometimes depictions of them on tombstones, he said: “We didn’t know that people were buried in these kinds of Roman burials beds at all. That’s something that there is no previous evidence for from Britain.”

Reconstruction of Roman London by Peter Froste with the location of the site circled.

No other grave goods were found with the bed burial, but it was almost certainly a high-status person, said Marshall. “It’s an incredibly well-made piece of furniture.

This is a piece of proper joinery, as opposed to something has been sort of banged together. It’s one of the fancier pieces of furniture that’s ever been recovered from Roman Britain.”

A Roman lamp, glass vial, and beads were also found from a cremation burial.

Personal objects were recovered from elsewhere in the cemetery, however, including beads, a glass vial apparently still containing residue, and a decorated lamp, thought to date to the very earliest period of Roman occupation between AD43 and 80.

Strikingly, it is decorated with the design of a defeated gladiator, “which is kind of a wonderful thing”, said Marshall. Similar images have previously been found in funeral contexts in London and Colchester.

“There’s something about the symbolism of the fallen gladiator that makes sense in a funerary context. A defeated gladiator is somebody who is dying, obviously – but they also fight against death.

“So there’s evidence that some really quite subtle choices about how people mourned their dead are starting to come through from analysing these burials.”

The Mysterious Origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant Finally Revealed

The Mysterious Origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant Finally Revealed

The Mysterious Origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant Finally Revealed

There’s a huge chalk image of a man with a powerful erection and no clothes on his butt located in the hills of Dorset, England. After centuries of speculation, the origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant may finally have been determined, according to a recent study.

The Cerne Abbas Giant is a large rural drawing carved into the chalk hillside in the village of Cerne Abbas, Dorset, England. Spanning approximately 180 feet (55 meters), this figure’s origins likely date back to ancient times, but its exact purpose remains uncertain.

Some interpret the figure as carrying natural symbolism related to fertility and sexuality, while others see it as purely symbolic of ancient beliefs.

Some even postured that the figure was meant to make a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, the 17th-century statesman who was jokingly dubbed “England’s Hercules” by his enemies.

According to this theory, the prominent phallus was to mock Cromwell’s Puritanism.

But now, after hundreds of years of debate, academics believe they have the answer to the hillside riddle and declared the figure probably depicts the Greek hero Hercules. Hence, he was probably created as a pagan idol during the Iron Age in Britain.

Historians suggest the hill the huge chalk carving is located on could have once been a mustering point for Anglo-Saxon troops, with the giant acting as a rallying symbol.

However, the story was later rewritten by meddling monks, perhaps hoping to secure the fortunes of the local patron saint.

In a paper published in journal Speculum, researchers say the giant was adopted by Christians who claimed it depicted their saint. It also argues the ‘British god’ idea was a myth which arose from a mistranslation.

The researchers note that Hercules is almost always depicted in artworks with a club, as well as other motifs seen on the Cerne Abbas Giant, such as nudity and prominent ribs.

Historians believe they have now answered the mystery of what Dorset’s Cerne Abbas carving is meant to depict – with academics suggesting it shows Greek hero Hercules.

“At first glance, an early medieval date seems odd for a figure which looks like the classical god Hercules,” Dr Helen Gittos and Dr Thomas Morcom write.

“The club is the clue. Hercules was one of the most frequently depicted figures in the classical world, and his distinctively knotted club acted as an identificatory label, like the keys of Saint Peter or the wheel of Saint Catherine. He was usually depicted in motion, as at Cerne, and the ribs, lower line of the stomach, and nakedness are all typical,” the study authors explain.

“Alongside his club, he was most often associated with his lionskin mantle, and it is likely that one of these originally hung from the giant’s left arm,” they add.

Despite the pagan imagery, the artwork is relatively recent and dates to the early Middle Ages, sometime between 700 CE and 1100 CE. Researchers say there are many references to Hercules in the British Isles during the time the giant was constructed.

Another theory came to prominence after the giant was dated, with people claiming it was a depiction of an Anglo-Saxon god called Helith. This has been discounted by modern theories.

Researchers Morcom and Gittos traced the root of this idea to one text, with the name Helith coming from a 13th-century mistranslation of the Latin word for Elijah, the Old Testament prophet. It seems that Helith never existed.

Even though the most recent study purports to have provided an answer to the giant’s origins mystery, scientists acknowledge that the real significance of the Cerne Abbas will likely remain a matter of debate for many years to come.

Medieval Lead Token Recovered at England’s Oxburgh Hall

Medieval Lead Token Recovered at England’s Oxburgh Hall

Medieval Lead Token Recovered at England’s Oxburgh Hall
One side of the ‘boy bishop’ token found at the Oxburgh estate in Norfolk depicts a long cross.

They are the last resort for the most challenging of recipients, such as moody teenagers or the eccentric uncle you see once a year – but gift tokens also came in handy at Christmas in medieval times.

National Trust archaeologists have discovered a token dating from between 1470 and 1560 that was probably given by the church to poor people to be exchanged for food.

It was found near Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, having probably originated at Bury St Edmunds Abbey, nearly 30 miles away in Suffolk.

One side of the token is very corroded, but would probably have shown the head of a bishop. The other side is well-preserved, depicting a long cross.

The token may have been doled out by a choirboy acting as the “boy bishop” during the Christmas period. In medieval and early Tudor times, on the feast day of St Nicholas – 6 December – cathedrals chose a choirboy to parody the bishop, leading some religious services and processions, and collecting money for the church.

Boy bishops also gave out tokens to poor people which could be spent between St Nicholas Day and Holy Innocents Day on 28 December.

A 16th-century depiction of a ‘boy bishop’.

Angus Wainwright, an archaeologist with the National Trust, said: “The token is not a thing of particular beauty, but it does have an interesting story. It was found by one of our metal detectorists who had been doing a survey of the West Park field at Oxburgh as part of our parkland restoration and tree planting.”

The trust’s efforts to find out more about the field’s history had yielded “fantastic” results, he said, “revealing not only part of a medieval village including horseshoes, handmade nails and tools but also part of a Roman village. This token most likely comes from Bury St Edmunds Abbey which was one of the biggest and richest in the country, St Edmund being one of the patron saints of England.

“Although tokens could be spent in the local town they may also have been kept as keepsakes, but the one we have found could also simply have been dropped and lost.”

The token was found in a field on the estate around Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.

The tokens, made of lead, came in equivalent sizes to a penny, halfpenny and groat (worth four pennies). The one found at Oxburgh is the size of a groat.

“We believe that one of the inhabitants from Oxborough village must have made the long trip to Bury St Edmunds, around 27 miles, to see the festive ceremonies in the massive Abbey Church where they may have acquired the token. As one of the biggest buildings in western Europe this must have been a mind-blowing experience for someone from a tiny village,” said Wainwright.

“This discovery shows how rich the cultural life of even the poorest folk could be in the middle ages. It’s also interesting that the Christmas period was a time for fun and celebration aimed at children, with a child taking on the role of the bishop, and St Nicholas as patron saint of children.”

Saints’ days gradually disappeared after the Reformation in the 16th century, including that of St Nicholas. Old Father Christmas was invented as a spirit of the season, but the name St Nicholas eventually became Santa Claus.

Oxburgh Hall was built by the Bedingfeld family in 1482 as a statement of power and prestige. The family suffered generations of persecution for their Catholic faith.

2,000-Year-Old Skeleton of Sarmatian Man Identified in England

2,000-Year-Old Skeleton of Sarmatian Man Identified in England

2,000-Year-Old Skeleton of Sarmatian Man Identified in England
DNA analysis showed that this young man travelled to Cambridgeshire from the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago

How did a young man born 2,000 years ago near what is now southern Russia, end up in the English countryside?

DNA sleuths have retraced his steps while shedding light on a key episode in the history of Roman Britain. Research shows that the skeleton found in Cambridgeshire is of a man from a nomadic group known as Sarmatians. It is the first biological proof that these people came to Britain from the furthest reaches of the Roman empire and that some lived in the countryside.

The remains were discovered during excavations to improve the A14 road between Cambridge and Huntingdon. The scientific techniques used will help reveal the usually untold stories of ordinary people behind great historical events.

They include reading the genetic code in fossilised bone fragments that are hundreds of thousands of years old, which shows an individual’s ethnic origin.

Dr Marina Silva extracted the ancient DNA and then made sense of its genetic code

Archaeologists discovered a complete, well-preserved skeleton of a man, they named Offord Cluny 203645 – a combination of the Cambridgeshire village he was found in and his specimen number. He was buried by himself without any personal possessions in a ditch, so there was little to go on to establish his identity.

Dr Marina Silva of the Ancient Genomics Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, in London, extracted and decoded Offord’s ancient DNA from a tiny bone taken from his inner ear, which was the best preserved part of the entire skeleton.

“This is not like testing the DNA of someone who is alive,” she explained.

“The DNA is very fragmented and damaged. However, we were able to (decode) enough of it.

“The first thing we saw was that genetically he was very different to the other Romano-British individuals studied so far.”

The latest ancient DNA analysis methods are now able to flesh out the human stories behind events that, until recently, have been reconstructed only by documents and archaeological evidence.

These largely tell the tales of the wealthy and powerful.

The latest research is a detective story which uses cutting edge forensic science to unravel the mystery of an ordinary person – a young man buried in a ditch in Cambridgeshire between 126 and 228 AD, during the Roman occupation of Britain.

At first, archaeologists thought Offord to be an unremarkable discovery of a local man. But DNA analysis at Dr Silva’s lab showed that he was from the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire, an area that is currently southern Russia, Armenia, and Ukraine. The analysis showed him to be a Sarmatian, who are Iranian-speaking people, renowned for their horse-riding skills.

So how did he end up in a sleepy backwater of the empire so far from home?

To find the answers, a team from the archaeology department of Durham University used another exciting analysis technique to examine his fossilised teeth, which have chemical traces of what he ate.

Analysis of his teeth showed that his diet had gradually changed since the age of five

Teeth develop over time, so just like tree rings, each layer records a snapshot of the chemicals that surrounded them at that moment in time. The analysis showed that until the age of six he ate millets and sorghum grains, known scientifically as C4 crops, which are plentiful in the region where Sarmatians were known to have lived.

But over time, analysis showed a gradual decrease in his consumption of these grains and more wheat, found in western Europe, according to Prof Janet Montgomery.

“The (analysis) tells us that he, and not his ancestors, made the journey to Britain. As he grew up, he migrated west, and these plants disappeared from his diet.”

A scene depicting the defeat of the Sarmatian army by Roman forces in 175 AD

Historical records indicate that Offord could have been a cavalry man’s son, or possibly his slave. They show that around the time he lived, a unit of the Sarmatian cavalry incorporated into the Roman army was posted to Britain.

The DNA evidence confirms this picture, according to Dr Alex Smith of MOLA Headland Infrastructure, the company that led the excavation.

“This is the first biological evidence,” he told BBC News.

“The availability of these DNA and chemical analysis techniques means that we can now ask different questions and look at how societies formed, their make-up and how they evolved in the Roman period.

“It suggests that there was much greater movement, not just in the cities but also the countryside.”

The remains were discovered as part of excavations undertaken as part of the A14 road improvement scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon

Dr Pontus Skoglund, who heads the ancient genomics laboratory at the Crick, told BBC News that the new technology is transforming our understanding of the past.

“The main impact of ancient DNA to date has been improving our understanding of the Stone and Bronze Ages, but with better techniques, we are also starting to transform our understanding of the Roman and later periods.”

The details have been published in the journal, Current Biology.

Possible 1,400-Year-Old Temple Excavated in Eastern England

Possible 1,400-Year-Old Temple Excavated in Eastern England

The discovery of the temple has been described as "remarkable"
The discovery of the temple has been described as “remarkable”

A 1,400-year-old “possible temple” has been discovered near Sutton Hoo. Suffolk County Council said the find was made at Rendlesham, in Suffolk as part of an archaeology project.

It is thought the temple could have been overseen by King Raedwald, who died in AD 625 and is believed to have been buried at Sutton Hoo.

Prof Christopher Scull, who is advising the project, said the find was “remarkable”.

The discovery comes a year after the remains of a large timber royal hall were unearthed. The Venerable Bede mentioned the “king’s village” at “Rendlaesham” in his 8th Century book An Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

The council said the scholar wrote that King Raedwald had a temple in which there were altars to pre-Christian gods alongside an altar to Christ, but did not specifically say that this was at Rendlesham.

Possible 1,400-Year-Old Temple Excavated in Eastern England
More than 200 volunteers took part in the excavation work this summer

Excavations this year have revealed the royal compound at Rendlesham was more than double the size previously estimated, with an area of 15 hectares – the equivalent of about 20 football pitches.

Evidence of fine metalworking associated with royal occupation, including a mould used for casting decorative horse harnesses similar to those known from nearby Sutton Hoo were also found during this year’s excavations.

The compound also had a 1.5km-long ditch around the perimeter and is thought to be part of a wider settlement covering 50 hectares, making it “unique in the archaeology of 5th to 8th Century England in its scale and complexity”, the council said.

Prof Scull added: “The results of excavations at Rendlesham speak vividly of the power and wealth of the East Anglian kings, and the sophistication of the society they ruled.

“The possible temple, or cult house, provides rare and remarkable evidence for the practice at a royal site of the pre-Christian beliefs that underpinned early English society.

“Its distinctive and substantial foundations indicate that one of the buildings, 10 metres long and five metres wide, was unusually high and robustly built for its size, so perhaps it was constructed for a special purpose.

“It is most similar to buildings elsewhere in England that are seen as temples or cult houses, therefore it may have been used for pre-Christian worship by the early Kings of the East Angles.”

Community dig

More than 200 volunteers, including primary school children, were involved in the dig this summer and more than 600 have taken part since it began three years ago.

This summer’s excavations revealed the foundations of three new timber buildings, including the temple.

The Anglo-Saxon treasures unearthed at Sutton Hoo have been described as one of “greatest archaeological discoveries of all time”

They also identified evidence of 7th Century metal working, two graves of unknown date and evidence of earlier settlement and activity from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods.

The project was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund through a grant of £517,300.

Conservative councillor Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro, the authority’s deputy cabinet member for protected landscapes and archaeology, said: “This year’s findings round off three seasons of fieldwork that confirm the international significance of Rendlesham’s archaeology and its fundamental importance for our knowledge of early England.”

Enormous 18th-Century Ice House Re-Discovered Under London Street

Enormous 18th-Century Ice House Re-Discovered Under London Street

Enormous 18th-Century Ice House Re-Discovered Under London Street
Archaeologists from MOLA record the interior of the Regents Crescent ice house (c) MOLA

Archaeologist in London have re-discovered a subterranean ice house near Regents Park. Dating back to the 1780’s, the egg-shaped cavern was used to store ice, which was imported from as far away as Norway.

Made from bricks, the structure would have been one of the largests of its kind at the time, according to the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

The egg-shaped chambers measures 25 feet (7.5 meters) wide and 31 feet (9.5 meters) deep.

Archaeologist with MOLA found the ice house, also known as an ice well, along with its entrance chambers and vaulted ante-chamber, during preparation for the development of the Regent’s Crescent residential project.

MOLA said the ice houses is in remarkable condition, given that building directly above it were destroyed during the London Blitz of the 2nd World War, and that a subway line runs about 32 feet (10 meters) underneath, as the Guardian report.

A MOLA archaeologist brushes off the exterior of the ice house.

It is hard to believe that a structure as large as this could have gone missing, but the entrance was buried during clean-up operations after the Blitz.

“There was always an understanding that there was an ice house here somewhere, but we were not sure where,” David Sorapure, the head of Built Heritage at MOLA, told the Guardian.

“Even after we found where the entrance was, we were not quite sure how big it was, or how you got in.”

MOLA is working at the site on behalf of Great Marlborough Estates, which is currently redeveloping Regent’s Crescent, which once boasted elaborate stucco terraces designed by architect John Nash, who also designed Buckingham Palace.

The ice well was built underneath the terrace in the 1780s by Samuel Dash, who had ties to the brewing industry. By the 1820s, ice-merchants and confectioner William Leftwich was using the Ice Houses to store and supply ice for wealthy Londoners, according to MOLA.

Schematic of the ice house.

While modern refrigeration had yet to be invented, that did not deter Englanders from wanting easy access to ice.

It was not possible back then to create ice artificially, so it had to be gathered from local waterways and stored in subterranean ice houses, of which there were thousands in London alone (though much smaller than the newly discovered ice house).

As the Guardian reports, workers at the ice house would descend into the chambers to collect pieces of ice when needed. The ice would have been delivered to customers, including restaurants and potentially doctors and dentists, via a horse-drawn cart.

While we may take access to ice for granted today, the frozen stuff was in high demand in Leftwich’s day. According to a MOLA press release:

Leftwich was one of first peoples to recognise the potential for profit in imported ice: in 1822, following a very mild winter, he chartered a vessel to make the 2000 km round trip from Great Yarmouth to Norway to collect 300 tonnes of ice harvested from crystal-clear frozen lake, an example of “the extraordinary the length gone to at this time to serve up luxury fashionable frozen treats and furnish food trader and retailers with ice” (as put by David Sorapure, our Head of Built Heritage).

The venture was not without risks: previous import had been lost at sea, or melted whilst baffled custom officials dithered over how to tax such novel cargo.

The newly re-discovered ice houses has now been designated a Scheduled Monument by Historic England. Restoration work is planned for the structures, along with the construction of a viewing corridor to allow public access.

Norwegian ice cutters handle blocks of ice harvested from frozen lakes, circa 1900.

Timbers of Fifteenth-Century Newport Ship Analyzed

Timbers of Fifteenth-Century Newport Ship Analyzed

Tree-ring analysis has been able to date a medieval ship found in a Welsh riverbank within a few months. The wreck of a 15th Century ship was found in the mud of Newport’s River Usk in 2002 and experts believe it is as significant a find as the Mary Rose.

Now researchers have found timbers from the hull of the former wine-trading vessel were made from oak trees that were felled in the winter of 1457-58.

“It helps us refine when the ship was built,” said ship curator Toby Jones.

It is another major development for the Newport ship conservation project who have been working for more than 20 years to conserve and ultimately rebuild the vessel, which is a century older than the Mary Rose.

Earlier this year, the team working on the £8m project finished the conservation process of the 2,500 pieces of wood uncovered in the banks of the River Usk by workers building Newport’s Riverfront Theatre. Experts believe the 30m (98ft), 400 tonne, medium-sized boat was having a refit in Newport in 1468 or 1469 following a voyage from the Iberian Peninsula to Bristol when its moorings broke.

After collapsing into an inlet of the River Usk, its 25-tonne hull was found more than 550 years later preserved in a wet, muddy riverbank.

Timbers of Fifteenth-Century Newport Ship Analyzed
The Newport ship was uncovered in 2002 when constructing a new theatre on the banks of the River Usk.

Archaeologists are planning the world’s largest attempt to put an archaeological ship back together which historians have called the the world’s largest 3D puzzle.

TV historian Dan Snow has said the Newport ship was “one of the most interesting and important shipwrecks found in British waters in a generation” and was of “global significance and interest”.

In another breakthrough, experts now know when the ship was built using oxygen isotope dendrochronology – an advanced study of tree-ring data – to determine an estimated date when it was built.

“We do know it came into Newport in 1468 or 1469 but we now know the ship was in existence for not quite a decade,” added Dr Jones.

This is how historians think the Newport ship may have looked as it docked in south Wales in the 15th Century.

“It allows us to really focus on that 1457-58 period for historical research but it shows this type of analysis has real potential to refine various parts of the construction sequence of the Newport ship.”

Research by University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University suggests the vessel was constructed soon after the oak trees were chopped down in the winter of 1457-58.

The research, published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, also suggested the vessel had a working life of about 10 years before coming to Newport for repairs in the late 1460s.

The ship would have been moored on the River Usk in Newport in about 1468

Previous research has shown that the ship timbers originated from forests in the Basque Country in northern Spain and that the ship was likely built along the Basque coast.

Tudor king Henry VIII’s flagship naval vessel the Mary Rose is perhaps the most famous 16th Century ship on display while the Vasa in Sweden is the 17th Century equivalent.

Now historians say the Newport ship could become the only 15th Century maritime exhibit on show anywhere in the world when it is restored. Historians have undertaken painstaking 20-year conservation work including drying out, freeze drying treating the oak timbers before beginning to focus on rebuilding.

Researchers used pioneering oxygen isotope dendrochronology to help date the timbers of the Newport ship

Archaeologists had thought the ship may been 10 years older than the new analysis proves – and the research may possibly help experts rebuild the vessel.

“It allows us to focus our resources on that specific season,” said Dr Jones.

“We can cut out anything from early 1450s now so narrow it down to a smaller window we can be more effective in our research to identify the ship.

“We can start to do this analysis on many of the timbers and if it gets really precise, we can start to determine the construction sequence and what timbers were harvested when and when they were added to the ship – so we can put dates on every timber.”

The 2,500 planks from the Newport ship were held in wax for four years as part of the restoration process

Dr Jones said the pioneering dating of the Newport ship was “stunning” because of what the wood has been through.

“The Newport ship has been through a lot,” he said. “More than 500 years underground, gone through cleaning, conservation, soaked in wax and freeze-dried – and yet these isotope signatures are still in the timbers.

“I wouldn’t have thought that was possible but this analysis has proved that information is still locked away in those tree rings.

“It’s great for us, it’s great for the Newport ship but also means we can do it on other vessels and timber structures that previously didn’t date with traditional ring dendrochronology can now potentially be dated with oxygen isotope or stable isotope dendrochronology.

A third of the Newport ship – coloured in brown in this image – remains

“It’s really exciting, not just for ships and ship archaeology but for anything made of wood that’s old.”

Experts used oxygen isotope dendrochronology to estimate when the timbers were harvested which has been called a “revolutionary” development in dating wood, like the advent of DNA technology in criminology.

“This process is only five to 10 years old and allows us to find answers today that we couldn’t get before,” said Prof Nigel Nayling, University of Wales Trinity St David’s chair of archaeology.

“It’s a complex process that takes a long time, days and days of work, and a lot of resource but it is a game-changer for archaeologists, it’s a significant innovation.”