Category Archives: ENGLAND

Possible Medieval Graffiti Found at Church Site in England

Possible Medieval Graffiti Found at Church Site in England

Medieval graffiti associated with repelling evil spirits has been discovered by HS2 archaeologists. A series of lines radiating from a drilled hole was discovered on two stones at the remains of a church in Buckinghamshire.

Historians believe such markings are witches’ marks, created to ward off evil spirits by trapping them in an endless line or maze.

They can also be interpreted as early sun dials.

Possible Medieval Graffiti Found at Church Site in England
Medieval graffiti associated with repelling evil spirits has been discovered by HS2 archaeologists

The location of one of the stones at the medieval church of St Mary’s, Stoke Mandeville, suggests the markings could have been created for protection.

The route of HS2 will go through the site of the 12th-century church, which was abandoned in 1866 when a new church was built closer to the village.

Work by archaeologists to dismantle and excavate the church will continue into next year and include the removal and reburial of bodies in graves.

HS2 Ltd lead archaeologist Michael Court said: “The archaeology work being undertaken as part of the HS2 project is allowing us to reveal years of heritage and British history and share it with the world.

“Discoveries such as these unusual markings have opened up discussions as to their purpose and usage, offering a fascinating insight into the past.”

Archaeologists Discover London oldest theatre in an Excavation

Archaeologists Discover London oldest theatre in an Excavation

A team of archaeologists has discovered the oldest built theatre in London beneath a construction site in Whitechapel, UK.

Two beer cellars which were thought to be part of the complex were discovered
Excavations took place before housing development works began at 85 Stepney Way

The Elizabethan playhouse, also known as the Red Lion, was built in 1567, Archaeology South-East, part of University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, said in a press release.

A man named John Brayne built the Elizabethan playhouse outside the city of London to accommodate theatrical troupes that arrived in London in that year.  

University College London (UCL) archaeologists believe they found the original site at an excavation in Whitechapel that had many streets and pubs named the Red Lion (or Lyon) for centuries in the Tudor era.

The single-gallery multi-sided theatre is a historical famed global theatre with trap doors and a 30-foot (9.1 meters) turret for aerial stunts that also included Red Lion Inn.  

Archaeologists have created a map of what they believe the site looked like

However, according to the archaeologists from UCL, the theatre for the touring corps hadn’t survived very long as it witnessed only one play, The Story of Samson.

In 1576, Brayne partnered with his brother-in-law, actor, and manager James Burbage to build the iconic theatre, The Theatre, in Shoreditch after “London banned plays in 1573 because of the plague—16th-century social distancing—which is why these early theatres were built outside the city’s jurisdiction, in the so-called ‘suburbs of sin’,” as per the release.  

A late 17th Century tavern mug with a Royalist medallion of Charles II was found among beakers and tankards at the site

The strength of the combined evidence—archaeological remains of buildings, in the right location, of the right period—seem to match up with characteristics of the playhouse recorded in early documents, University College London archaeologist Stephen White, who directed the excavation, said in a statement in the release.  

Archaeologists unearthed the Museum of London foundation in 2008 which they believe were The Theater’s remains. 

Excavations between 2012 and 2016 were conducted by the Museum of London Archaeology team that revealed that the museum was “rectangular structure, rather than being round, and there was evidence of a tunnel under the stage, as well as first-floor galleries,” according to the release on the UCL’s site. 

Excavations also discovered the curtain, ceramic bird whistle, and several ceramic money boxes used to collect fees. Further, they also found evidence of the art in the early centuries with the discovery of beer cellars, including beakers, drinking glasses, and tankards. 

Remains of dogs found

Archaeology team’s historic buildings specialist, Michael Shapland was quoted saying that the Tudor period inns needed somewhere cool and secure to store their drink, as beer would have gone off much more rapidly than it does today.

Researchers also found the remains of dogs whose teeth had been filed down at the site.  

Iron Age chariot burial found in East Yorkshire with horses ‘leaping out of the grave’

Iron Age chariot burial found in East Yorkshire with horses ‘leaping out of the grave’

The Ancient Brits loved their wheels. Indeed they seem to have been so attached to the sports-car-style chariots that they may even have thought they could use them to get to the next world.

Academic knowledge about these elegant high status prehistoric British vehicles is now set to increase significantly, following the discovery of an ancient Briton buried inside his chariot in East Yorkshire.

Although around 20 other similar chariot graves have been found over the past century or so in the UK (mainly in Yorkshire), this new discovery, unearthed on the outskirts of the market town of Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, is the only example ever excavated by modern archaeologists in which the two horses, used to pull the vehicle, were also interred.

What’s more, the burial forms part of one of the most important Iron Age funerary complexes found in Britain over the past half-century.

The Pocklington chariot burial, excavated over the past two months, was the final resting place of an upper-class Iron Age Briton – probably a warrior – who lived in the third or fourth century BC. It is possible that he was a member of an ancient British tribe called the Parisi (or their ancestors) – a culture related to other Iron Age peoples in Northern France.

Excavating his grave, archaeologists from a Yorkshire-based company MAP Archaeological Practice – have found the stain ‘imprints’ left in the ground by the rotted wood of the 12 spokes of one of the chariot’s wheels; the iron tyre (which would have gone round that wheel); the stain imprint of the chariot’s central timber pole (which connected the vehicle to the two horses pulling it); the stain imprint of the box-shaped compartment that the driver (and potentially one companion) stood in; the two horses used to pull the vehicle; the bridle bit; the iron nave hoop band (which went around the axle); and the remains of the driver himself.

The only missing element (almost certainly destroyed by mediaeval ploughing) is the second wheel.

The Ancient Brits were unusually attached to their chariots. While in continental Europe, chariots had largely gone out of fashion (except for racing) by the mid-1st century BC, in Britain they persisted until at least the seventh decade of the first century A.D.- a generation or so after the Roman conquest).

The first chariots seem to have been invented in south-western Siberia (in modern Russia) and in northern Kazakhstan in around 2000 BC. By 1500 BC they had spread to Anatolia (what is now Turkey), Egypt, India and China. By 1300 BC they were being used in Europe – and by 500 BC they had been introduced into Britain

Now scientists are set to study DNA and isotopic evidence from the Pocklington chariot and other burials. The find will also enable archaeologists to compare this chariot to the other examples that have been discovered in Yorkshire in the past – and to definitively confirm the buried chariot drivers gender and possibly his ethnic origin.

“This discovery provides valuable additional evidence demonstrating how the Ancient Britons loved their chariots. As research progresses, it’s becoming ever clearer just how important these beautiful high status wheeled vehicles were to them. Indeed Roman historical sources even describe how the Iron Age Britons used their chariots to demonstrate driving skills, to show off and to intimidate their enemies”, said a leading chariot burial expert, archaeologist, Dr Melanie Giles of the University of Manchester.

“It is conceivable that the dead man’s family and his community believed that the chariot would help him to reach the next world or would be useful to him when he got there,” she said.

The burial forms part of a remarkable cemetery in which at least 142 Iron Age people were interred – mainly under a series of large earthen mounds.

Among the most significant graves, excavated over the past three years, is that of a warrior buried on top of his large roughly rectangular wooden shield (with the shield’s leather strap arranged around him, so that the decorative bronze strap fastener or other fitting was positioned on top of his torso).

An elaborate Iron Age shield, pictured, found in an impressive ‘warrior grave’ in Yorkshire

Another particularly interesting grave is that of a possible enemy warrior. He had died very violently and had sustained serious injuries (possibly caused by a club and a sword) and was buried at much greater than normal depth. Interring a person face down in an unusually deeply dug grave is believed to have been seen as a way of preventing an angry, bitter or evil deceased individual, perhaps even an enemy, from rising from the dead and haunting or hurting the living. It was, potentially, a measure to combat revenants.

A third particularly interesting burial was that of a warrior, interred with his sword, who had been subjected to a bizarre post-mortem ritual. While he lay in his open grave, the attendees at his funeral (perhaps even his warrior comrades) had ritually hurled six spears into his dead body. The grave was then filled up with earth – with the corpse still pierced by the spears. It seems to have been a very special funerary ritual of which only around a dozen other examples are known (perhaps reserved for individuals who had fought particularly bravely in battle or who had distinguished themselves in some other way).

The shield was found face down in the chariot, covered by a man’s skeleton who was likely once its owner. Experts believe that this ‘warrior’ was aged over 46 and was likely a higher respected member of his community, as he was buried with an offering of six pigs and adjacent to an additional grave of a younger, injured man

Other individuals whose graves have been excavated at the site include a woman wearing bronze bracelets and a bronze brooch with three Mediterranean-originating coral beads inlaid in it; a warrior, buried with his spear (and a large storage pot – probably for food or alcoholic beverage); and a young 17-20-year-old woman, afflicted with very severe pelvic and spinal arthritis, who had died at (or approaching) childbirth.

“This spectacular group of graves is yielding extremely important new information about Iron Age life and culture. It is one of the most significant Iron Age funerary complexes discovered in Britain over the past half-century,” said one of the archaeologists involved in the project, Dr Peter Halkon of the University of Hull.

Although almost all British chariot burials are from East Yorkshire, archaeological evidence clearly shows that these vehicles were used for transport in most parts of Britain.

It is known that at least 700 probable chariot fittings (mainly iron and bronze axel linchpins and the rings through which the horses’ reins passed) have been found by metal detectorists and archaeologists around the country. Indeed some of them – especially the linchpins – probably became separated from chariots when the vehicles crashed or rolled over on difficult terrain, despite them having a top speed of only around 30 mph.

6,000 Years Older then Stonehenge: Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

6,000 Years Older then Stonehenge: Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

It’s small, bulky and unlikely to win architecture awards. But according to archaeologists, this wooden hut is one of Britain’s most important buildings ever designed.

As our artist impressed, the newly-discovered circular structure is the country’s oldest known home. Built more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge, it provided shelter from the icy winds and storms that battered the nomadic hunters roaming Britain at the end of the last ice age.

The remains of the 11ft-wide building, discovered near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, have been dated to at least 8,500BC. It stood next to an ancient lake and close to the remains of a wooden quayside.

6,000 Years Older then Stonehenge: Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old
Ancient find: Manchester University student Ruth Whyte on the archaeological dig in Flixton near Scarborough which has unearthed an 11,000-year-old tree and remains.
Pictures from the dig where archaeologists believe that one of the first houses in Britain may have been buried

Dr Chantal Conneller, from the University of Manchester, said it was between 500 and 1,000 years older than the previous record-holder, a building found at Howick, Northumberland.

‘This changes our ideas of the lives of the first settlers to move back into Britain after the end of the last ice age,’ she said. ‘We used to think they moved around a lot and left little evidence.

‘Now we know they built large structures and were very attached to particular places in the landscape.’

None of the wood used to make the building has survived. Instead, archaeologists found the tell-tale signs of 18 timber posts, arranged in a circle. The centre of the structure had been hollowed out and filled with organic material.

The researchers believe the floor was once carpeted with a layer of reeds, moss or grasses and that there may have been a fireplace. Dr Conneller said the hut was used for at least 200 to 500 years – and may have been abandoned for long stretches.

‘We don’t know much about it and we don’t know what it was used for,’ she said. ‘It might have been a domestic structure, although you could only fit three or four people in it. It could have been a form of ritual structure because there is evidence of ritual activity on the site.’

Previous archaeological digs have unearthed head-dresses made from deer skulls close to the hut, along with remains of flints, the paddle of a boat, antler tools, fish hooks and beads.

Archaeologists have been excavating at the Mesolithic site Star Carr since 2003

The researchers also found a large wooden platform alongside the ancient – and long-vanished – lake at Star Carr. It was made from timbers which were split and hewn.

The platform, which may have been a quay, is the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe. At the time, Britain was connected to the rest of Europe. The occupiers of the hut were nomads who migrated from an area now under the North Sea to hunt deer, wild boar, elk and wild cattle.

Dr Nicky Milner, from the University of York, said: ‘This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time.

‘From this excavation, we gain a vivid picture of how these people lived. For example, it looks like the house may have been rebuilt at various stages.

‘It is also likely there was more than one house and lots of people lived here. And the artefacts of antler, particularly the antler headdresses, are intriguing, as they suggest ritual activities.’

Although Britain had been visited by hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, it was only at the end of the last ice age, when the glaciers finally retreated from Scotland, that the country became permanently occupied.

Thousands of miles away, in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of Mesopotamia, the earliest farmers were learning how to sow seeds and domesticate animals in a discovery that would transform the world – and herald the age of villages, writing and civilisation.

But in northern Europe, the hunter-gatherer way of life that had served prehistoric man for millennia remained unchallenged.

A depiction of a stone-age house in Ireland. The original building at Star Carr would have looked very similar to this, with thatched roof and circular shape

Possible Roman Salt-Making Site Discovered in England

Possible Roman Salt-Making Site Discovered in England

Spalding Today reports that excavations ahead of road construction in England’s East Midlands have uncovered Roman pottery, charcoal, two ditches, and holding tanks that may have been used by the Romans to make and transport salt. “Before this, it was believed that the area did not have much activity up until recent times,” said project manager Mick McDaid. 

A team of archaeologists have been running an excavation in Pinchbeck as part of the preparation work for the Spalding Western Relief Road.

Lincolnshire County Council and South Holland District Council are working on the plans to create the 6.5km road to link the A1175 and A16 to the south and east of Spalding, to the B1356 to the north, via the B1172 Spalding Common.

Archaeologists at work on the site off Spalding Road as part of the Spalding Western Relief Road

Two substantial ditches and holding tanks have been uncovered during the 16-week excavation.

Project manager Mick McDaid said that this site has been a surprise.

He said: “Nothing was expected from the site prior to evaluation. There was an aerial photograph which showed a crop mark but there was no indication of the quality of the archaeology.

Archaeologists at work on the site off Spalding Road as part of the Spalding Western Relief Road

“This has really added to the knowledge of the area. Before this, it was believed that the area did not have much activity up until recent times.”

During the Roman period, Spalding and the surrounding area would have been creeks which would provide the ideal location for creating salt.

Romans would use a hearth to evaporate tidal water intobrine to create salt.

Mr McDaid said: “There are no signs that this was any sort of settlement but was purely for industrial use.

“We have what appears to be holding tanks for the brine.”

Potential Royal Statue Fragment Unearthed in England

Potential Royal Statue Fragment Unearthed in England

The Guardian reports that a team of researchers led by archaeologist Julian Richards unearthed a carved stone head at the site of Shaftesbury Abbey, which was founded as a religious house for women in southwestern England in the late ninth century by Alfred the Great and dissolved in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII during the English Reformation.

At first, Julian Richards, who led the dig in Dorset, thought the head, caked in soil, was topped by some sort of cap. “I thought: ‘This is strange,’” he said. “Who could this be, wearing that sort of headgear? Then someone pointed out it wasn’t a cap, but a crown. There are raised bits around the headband representing jewels.”

Painstaking detective work has led to the conclusion that the head dates back to the 1340s and might – we may never know – be that of Edward II.

Potential Royal Statue Fragment Unearthed in England
Dr Julian Richards with the head at Shaftesbury Abbe

Richards said it was an exciting find. “It is definitely a royal figure. It might be Edward II, but we’re not sure. It could be a stylized image of a Saxon king, possibly even Alfred. The quality of the carving is absolutely stunning. You can even see the eyelids.”

The reign of Edward II from 1307 to 1327 is sometimes characterized as a failure. Lowlights included a defeat by Scottish forces at Bannockburn and being forced to relinquish the crown in favour of his 14-year-old son. He was also probably murdered. His close, possibly sexual, relationship with Piers Gaveston was depicted in the 16th-century Christopher Marlowe play Edward II.

For Richards, the identity of the figure is not the point. It is what the statue tells us about the history of the abbey that he is most interested in.

Shaftesbury Abbey was founded by Alfred the Great, the King of the Anglo-Saxons, in 888. It was the first religious house solely for women and Alfred installed his daughter Æthelgifu as its abbess.

The abbey prospered for centuries, but it was closed down in 1539 by order of Henry VIII and, over the next few years, it crumbled.

Archeologists have concluded that the stone head would have formed part of a previously unknown royal gallery of statues of monarchs, and would have screened the nuns from other worshippers.

When the abbey was destroyed, local people carried off stonework to build houses and walls. The head would have been useless to them. “They just wanted stone blocks to build houses. They didn’t want things like this head. It wasn’t any use to them,” said Richards.

It may be that the statue was deliberately targeted by Henry VIII’s people. “Somebody has taken a sledgehammer and smashed this up because it’s broken across the neck,” said Richards. “Or maybe they just pushed it over, it fell and the nose got broken.”

The head was found during a dig in 2019. Since then, the focus has been on dating and trying to identify it. The Covid-19 crisis has prevented the head from going on display, but it is hoped that members of the public will be able to visit it at the abbey museum in the spring.

Other objects that have been found ranging from clay pipes and industrially produced pottery of the last three centuries down to rare shards of late Saxon pottery, worked flints from 7,000 years ago, and three medieval silver pennies.

Another find close to the stone head that thrilled Richards just as much as a single large black bead made of a jet from Kimmeridge on the Dorset coast.

Richards said it was believed to have once been part of a nun’s rosary, worn smooth from years of pious handling. He wonders if the bead was lost when she was thrown out of the abbey during the dissolution.

“Think about it; it would have been one of this nun’s very few possessions. Was the rosary broken when she was evicted? She was living a life of quiet prayer, and then suddenly her whole world was destroyed and she lost everything. For me, that is a very powerful object.

Headless Vikings The “Most exciting & Disturbing” Archaeological Discoveries in Britain In Recent Years

Headless Vikings The “Most exciting & Disturbing” Archaeological Discoveries in Britain In Recent Years

Archeologists made a surprising finding in Dorset, England in June 2009, in the coastal town of Weymouth. During excavations in preparation for the planned Weymouth Relief Route, archaeologists discovered a mass grave containing 54 dismembered skeletons and 51 skulls in a pile within a disused Roman quarry.

This odd discovery prompted us to ask who these people were and why they were so tragically murdered. Through scientific testing and analysis, archaeologists concluded that the remains belonged to Scandinavian Vikings.

It is particularly shocking the sheer scale of this discovery, “as any mass grave is relatively uncommon, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual,” said David Score of Oxford Archaeology

A pile of heads was found separate to the rest of the bodies in a mass grave.

Although exact dating has not been confirmed, it is believed that the remains are those of individuals who lived sometime during the early Middle Ages, between the 5 th and 10 th centuries.

The deaths likely occurred during, and as a result of, the conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and Viking invaders. All of the remains are from males mostly aged from their late teens to 25 years old, with a few being somewhat older.

None of the remains show any sign of battle wounds, beyond wounds inflicted during the execution, so it is likely that these men were captives rather than members of the military. No clothing or other remnants were found within the pit, leading to speculation that the men were naked when they were executed.  

The bodies are believed to belong to Viking warriors, executed by Anglo Saxons

The men appear to have been killed all at the same time, and the executions appear to have been carried out hastily and rather chaotically. Some of the individuals showed multiple blows and deep cuts to the vertebrae, jawbones, and skulls.

Damage to the hand and wrist bones indicates that some of them may have braced against the execution with their hands.  When the remains were discovered, the skulls, leg bones, and rib bones were arranged into separate piles. It appeared that the pit had not been dug specifically for this purpose and that it just happened to be a convenient spot to dump the bodies.

One interesting detail is that there were three fewer skulls than the number of skeletons within the pit. It is believed that three of the heads may have been kept as souvenirs or placed on stakes. They may have been high-ranking individuals.

The mass grave of headless Vikings found in Dorset. 

There have been multiple theories as to who these men were and why they were executed. As a group, they appear to have been healthy and robust individuals. They were all of the fighting age, and they were far from home when executed.

Scientific isotope testing conducted on the men’s teeth indicates that they were of very diverse origins, and likely from Scandinavia.  Kim Siddorn, author of Viking Weapons and Warfare, has speculated “[t]hey had left their ship, walked inland, ran into an unusually well-organized body of Saxons, and were probably forced to surrender.”

This is corroborated by the fact that the location of their deaths was a central location in conflicts between native Saxons and invading Vikings.

It is also speculated that the executions may have taken place in front of an audience, as some sort of display of power, authority, and triumph. In a documentary by National Geographic, called Viking Apocalypse, Dr. Britt Baillie suggested a link between these executions and the St. Brice’s Day massacre, or that those executed were actually defectors or traitors killed by their own men.

A gruesome find such as this brings forth many questions. It is hoped that further archaeological discoveries in the area may help provide answers to what occurred on that fateful day.

Couple find £5,000,000 in one of biggest ever treasure hoards

Couple find £5,000,000 in one of biggest ever treasure hoards

In an area in Somerset, in the West of England, a pair of metal detectorists found their existence when they uncovered a hoard of ancient coins worth about 6 million dollars.

The historical discovery, which has been deemed to be one of the greatest hidden treasures in the UK, is to be revealed in the British Museum.

The 2,571 Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins were unearthed by Adam Staples ‘ and Lisa Grace Treasure hunters when they searched farmland with their trusty metal detectors. The couples have described the hoard as “stunning” and “absolutely mind-blowing” in an interview with Treasure Hunting Magazine.

Adam Staples and partner Lisa Grace unearthed the ‘once in a lifetime’ find of almost 2,600 ancient coins that date back 1,000 years. Their discovery came on a farm in the northeast of Somerset.

They reported their find to the authorities as required by UK law, and the coins were soon sent to the British Museum for evaluation.

The British Museum has been assessing the find for the past seven months and is due to reveal more information about the coins to the public next week.

A spokesperson for the institution confirmed to the Daily Mail that the “large hoard” was handed over as possible treasure and that it appears to be “an important discovery.”

Under the UK’s 1996 Treasure Act, if a find is officially declared treasure, it must first be offered for sale to a museum at a price set by the British Museum’s Treasure Valuation Committee. If no museum can raise the money to acquire the coins, they can then be offered for sale at auction.

The owner of the land where the coins were found is entitled to half of the proceeds. The metal detectorists are keeping the exact location of their discovery under wraps, although the trove is called the Chew Valley Hoard after an area in North Somerset.

William the Conqueror (left) and Harold II coins. Photo by Pippa Pearce. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

A coin expert at the London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb has valued the coins at around £5 million ($6 million).

They include mint-condition silver King Harold II pennies, coins from the reign of William the Conqueror, which could be worth as much as £5,000 ($6,000) each, as well as pieces minted by previously-unknown moneyers.

The King Harold II coins are particularly rare due to his short reign. The last Anglo-Saxon king was on the throne for just nine months before he died during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The expert said that the hoard may prove too pricey for museums, which might have to launch an appeal for sponsors to raise funds to acquire them.

The coins would have belonged to a wealthy person who probably buried them for safekeeping at some point after the Norman Invasion of 1066 and probably before 1072.

The biggest collection of buried treasure ever discovered in the UK was the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork, but this latest find could worth $1 million more, and have as great or even more historic value.