Category Archives: ENGLAND

17th-century Dutch merchant ship off southern England have recovered a 30-foot-long wooden carving of a mustachioed warrior

17th-century Dutch merchant ship off southern England have recovered a 30-foot-long wooden carving of a mustachioed warrior

Archeologists greeted a carving of the face of a moustachio warrior as they lifted part of a huge shipwreck in the 17th century in the English Channel The head was carved into the 28 ft long section of the rudder of a Dutch trading ship that sunk nearly 400 years earlier in Poole, Dorset.

Its accidental discovery by a dredger led to six years of underwater investigations, which prompted experts to hail the find as the most significant since the Mary Rose. Divers found the sizable carving covering the stern and bow castle of the 130ft-long merchant vessel, which would have been one of the largest of its kind on the seas at the time.

It was decked out with opulent carvings of mermen whose eye sockets would have been decorated with precious stones. Other baroque-style carvings, similar to the one on the rudder, were also found on parts of the ship including the gunports.

The head was carved into the 28ft long rudder section of a Dutch trading ship that sunk off Poole, Dorset, nearly 400 years ago

Marine archaeologists from Bournemouth University have already recovered scores of artifacts from the vessel that is known as the Swash Channel Wreck after the area of sea where it sunk.

And after being given a grant of £500,000 from English Heritage, the team completed the recovery of the five-tonne wooden rudder that had become separated from the main hull.

Divers spent seven days digging the rudder from out of the sea bed and placing a large steel frame around it, similar to the operation that raised the Mary Rose in 1982.

Marine archaeologists from Bournemouth University have already recovered scores of artefacts from the vessel that is known as the Swash Channel Wreck after the area of sea where it sunk. The black squares indicate the gunport locations

It was then towed four miles into Poole Harbour where today it was hoisted onto the quayside by a crane in front of the excited team of archaeologists.

The baroque facial carving at the end of the rudder shows a military man wearing a classical helmet. It will be constantly sprayed with special chemicals for the next two years to help conserve it.

The rudder will then put on display at Poole Museum alongside other artifacts recovered from the wreckage. Dave Parham, a senior lecturer in marine archaeology at Bournemouth University, said: ‘Before now we had just seen the rudder underwater where you could only make out a few feet of it at a time.

The rudder is being temporarily stored at Poole docks, before being transported to York. It was towed four miles into Poole Harbour where today it was hoisted onto the quayside (pictured) by a crane in front of the excited team of archaeologists

‘So to see it in daylight in all its glory is really quite spectacular.

‘It is a very large and impressive item itself so you can imagine how spectacular this merchant vessel would have looked.

‘Its discovery is an extremely significant one and has given way to one of the largest shipwreck investigations within the UK.’

Another carving previously discovered at the wreck of the Dutch trading ship near Poole, Dorset

Unlike the Mary Rose, little is known of the Swash Channel Wreck, including its identity. Tests on the oak wood from it have dated the felling of the timber to 1628 and from forests on the Dutch/German border. Analysis of some of the recovered artifacts dates to the middle of the 17th century.

This has led the experts to believe the vessel was an armed Dutch trading ship that was either going to or returning from the Mediterranean or the Far East. It is thought it hit a sandbank in the approaches to Poole Harbour and water flooded its bilges. The ship is then believed to have rolled over and sunk in 22ft of water.

Mr. Parham said: ‘It would have been a very big vessel for its day and the whole vessel would have been a spectacular work of art.

It was a sign of prestige and wealth. It was making a statement, showing how great and wonderful the owners were. They would have been a large Dutch conglomerate, similar to the East India Company.

‘It would not have been a million miles from a 17th-century version of the Titanic, although the Titanic was ornate for the passengers and not for those on the outside.

‘We think it was a Dutch trading ship and would have taken high-quality European goods like tweed to the Far East and traded them for things like exotic spices.

It was either going out or coming back when it sank outside of Poole Harbour. We have received a grant to fund the recovery of all the material that is at risk of erosion.

So far the team has brought up artifacts including five baroque carvings, ceramic pieces, leather shoes, copper and pewter plates and cups, and a bronze compass divider. They have also recovered animal bones of sheep and cows that would have fed the crew.

Mr. Parham said: ‘Last month we spent seven days excavating beneath the rudder in order to put strops around it and lift it into a steel frame.

It was then moved four miles to the quayside in Poole and lifted out of the water. We have no idea who the male carving on the rudder might be. It is a mustachioed man with a classical helmet on so it is depicting a military man of some sort. About 40 percent of the port side of the wreck lies intact on the sea bed but it will be too costly an operation to recover that.

900,000-year-old footprints of earliest northern Europeans discovered

900,000-year-old footprints of earliest northern Europeans discovered

Footprints left behind by what may be one of our first human ancestors to arrive in Britain have been discovered on a beach in Norfolk. The preserved tracks, which consisted of 49 imprints in soft sedimentary rock, are believed to be around 900,000 years old and could transform scientists understanding of how early humans moved around the world.

The footprints on Happisburgh beach are possibly those of a family in search of food

The footprints were found in what scientists have described as a “million to one” discovery last summer when heavy seas washed the sand off the foreshore in Happisburgh, Norfolk. The find has only now been made public and is thought to be the oldest evidence of early humans in northern Europe yet to be discovered.

Africa cave men settled in Norfolk Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists from around the UK have been studying the tracks, and believe they may have been related to an extinct form of human ancestor known as Homo antecessor, or “Pioneer Man”.

The tracks include up to five different prints, indicating a group of both adults and children walked across the ancient wet estuary silt. They are the earliest direct evidence of human ancestors in the area and may belong to some of the first ever Britons. Until now the oldest human remains to be found in Europe all come from around the far south of the continent, including stone tools found in southern Italy and a tooth found in Spain.

Skull fragments from that are around 780,000 years old hominid – the term used by scientists for early humans – were also found in southern Spain. Previously the oldest evidence of humans in Britain were a set of stone tools dated to 700,000 years ago from near Lowestoft in Suffolk, although more recently stone tools were also discovered at the site in Happisburgh.

Dr Nick Ashton, curator of the department of prehistory of Europe at the British Museum and an archaeologist at University College London, said: “These are the oldest human footprints outside Africa. It is an extremely rare and lucky discovery.

“The slim chance of surviving in the first place, the sea exposing it in the right way and thirdly us finding it at the right time – I’d say it was a million to one find. “Footprints give you a tangible link that stone tools and even human remains cannot replicate. “We were able to build up a picture of what five individuals were doing on one day. “The Happisburgh site continues to re-write our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed Europe.”

The discovery was unveiled at the British Museum in London and in the scientific journal PLOS One and will feature in a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum. There are only three other sites in the world that have older footprints, all of which are in Africa – a set is 3.5 million years old in Tanzania and some that are 1.5 million years old in Kenya. The Happisburgh prints were uncovered at low tide after stormy seas removed large amounts of sand from the beach to reveal a series of elongated hollows in the compacted ancient silt.

The prints were first noticed when a low tide uncovered them
The sea has now washed away the prints – but not before they were recorded

Scientists removed the remaining sand and sponged off the seawater before taking 3D scans and images of the surface. In some cases, researchers were able to identify heel marks, foot arches, and even toes from the prints. They found prints equivalent to up to a UK shoe size eight. They also estimate that the individuals who left the prints ranged from around two feet 11 inches tall to five feet eight inches tall. At least two or three of the group were thought to be children and one was possibly an adult male.

Dr Isabelle De Groote, an anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who studied the prints, said: “We have identified at least five individuals here.

“It is likely they were somehow related, and if they were not direct family members they will have belonged to the same family group. “The footprints were fairly close together so we think they were walking rather than running. Most were directly alongside the river in a southerly direction but also there were some going in all different directions like they were pottering around.

“If you imagine walking along a beach now with children then they would be running around.”

Unfortunately the prints themselves were quickly eroded away by the sea and have now been lost. Happisburgh is one of the fastest eroding parts of the British coastline. The Environment Agency and local authority decided some years ago to abandon maintenance of the sea defences there as it was no longer considered to be cost effective.

Scientists hope, however, that as further parts of the coastline are eroded more evidence of human activity and perhaps more footprints will be uncovered. From their analysis of the prints, researchers believe the group was probably heading in a southerly direction over what would at the time have been an estuary surrounded by salt marsh and coniferous forest.

At the time Britain was connected to continental Europe by land and the site at Happisburgh would have been on the banks of a wide estuary several miles from the coast. The estuary itself would have provided a rich array of plants, seaweed and shellfish. Fossils of mammoth, an extinct kind of horse and early forms of voles have also been found at the site Happisburgh.

The early humans could also have hunted or scavenged the grazing herds for meat. The discovery of the footprints is particularly significant as there are few surviving tracks of human ancestors elsewhere in the world. Scientists can glean large amounts of information about our ancestors, including the size of the groups they travelled in, how they walked, their size and weight.

The prints were discovered in deposits that have also revealed stone tools and fossilized bones dating to between 800,000 and one million years ago. Dr. Simon Lewis, a geoarchaeologist at the Queen Mary University of London, said: “Although we knew the sediments were old, we had to be certain that the hollows were also ancient and hadn’t been created recently.

There are no known erosional processes that create that pattern. In addition, the sediments are too complicated for the hollows to have been made recently.” Early primitive human ancestors first began to appear in Africa around 4.4 million years ago and are thought to have only left the continent around 1.8 million years ago and are not thought to have arrived in Europe until around 1 million years ago. Extinct species such as the Neanderthals appeared first appeared between 400,000 and 600,000 years ago, while modern humans – Homo sapiens – first began to emerge from Africa around 125,000 years ago but did not arrive in Europe until around 40,000 years ago.

It is thought that the footprints may have belonged to a relative of a Homo antecessor – an extinct hominid species that may have been a common ancestor to both modern humans and Neanderthals, although such theories are still highly disputed.

Remains from Homo antecessor were discovered in the Atapuerca Mountains in Spain. Professor Chris Stringer, an eminent anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London who worked with the team, said: “The humans who made the Happisburgh footprints may well have been related to the people of similar antiquity from Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor.

“These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal. They seem to have become extinct in Europe by 600,000 years ago and were perhaps replaced by the species Homo heidelbergensis.

“Neanderthals followed from about 400,000 years ago and eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago.”

Metal Detectorist Finds Rare Lost Roman Lead Ingot in Wales

Metal Detectorist Finds Rare Lost Roman Lead Ingot in Wales

In a field near Rossett, Rob Jones found the metal object, and a careful searching exposed the corner of a lead object with ‘writing’ on it.

The local find agent (NE Wales) has informed Mr. Jones who is from Codpoeth, Wrexham to the Wales Portable Antiquity Scheme (PAS Cymru) located in the Wrexham Museum. Archaeologists from both the Museum and the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust assessed what had been discovered.

The item discovered was a large lead ingot (approximately half a meter long and 63 kilograms weighed). The ‘writing’ reported by Mr. Jones was a cast Latin inscription confirming that it was Roman and about 2,000 years old.

The discovery is assessed alongside its finder, Metal detectorist Rob Jones.

The exploitation of Britain’s natural resources was one of the reasons cited by Roman authors for the invasion of Britain by Emperor Claudius in AD 43.

Lead ore or galena contains silver as well as lead, and both were valuable commodities for the Romans. Less than a hundred lead ingots of this type are known from the mines of Roman Britain.

The rare find is particularly significant for archaeologists and historians because of its potentially early date, the location of the findspot, and because of its unique inscription.

The lead was mined and processed in several areas of the new province including in north-east Wales where lead processing sites have been excavated near Flint, presumably smelting ores extracted from the nearby Halkyn Mountain.

A number of lead ingots of slightly later date are known from these works, often marked with the name of the local pre-Roman tribe called the Deceangli.

Susie White, the local Finds Officer (NE Wales) said: “It has been suggested in the past that similar exploitation took place in the Wrexham area around Minera and particularly Ffrith, where there is a known Roman site, although clear evidence is absent, probably as the result of more recent mining activity.

“We don’t yet know where this ingot has come from and we will probably never know where it was going to. However given the find spots of other ingots from Britain of similar date, it may have been destined for continental Europe, perhaps even Rome itself. The object could tell us a great deal about this important period of our past, a period which is still poorly understood in this area of the country.”

The inscription appears to mention one Marcus Trebellius Maximus, who was the governor of the province of Britannia under Emperor Nero from AD 63-69.

If genuine, the Rossett find represents the only example of an inscription bearing his name ever found in the UK and one of very few from the empire as a whole.

Trebellius was partly responsible for bringing stability to Britannia after Boudica’s revolt in AD 60/1, although he was ultimately forced out of the province by mutinous Roman soldiers who were dissatisfied with the lack of military activity under his governorship.

Councillor Hugh Jones, Lead Member for People at Wrexham Council commented “I’m delighted to be able to announce that Wrexham museum has acquired the ingot and I’d like to thank the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Headley Trust and the Friends of Wrexham Museums for their support with the acquisition which otherwise would not have been possible. Its acquisition will allow the ingot to be displayed in the town nearest to the place where it was lost and rediscovered.”

The museum together with the University of Chester is hoping to undertake archaeological work on the site of the discovery, as soon as the pandemic allows, to see if any further information can be gleaned as to the circumstances of its loss.

Massive Prehistoric Monument Detected Near Stonehenge

Massive Prehistoric Monument Detected Near Stonehenge

Two miles from Stonehenge, a series of ancient shafts excavated thousands of years ago has been found. Analysis of the 20 or more shafts suggests the features are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago – around the time the nearby ancient settlement of Durrington Walls was built.

The newly discovered circle of shafts surround the pictured Durrington Walls in Wiltshire

The shafts, around more than 10 meters in diameter and five meters deep form a circle of more than 1.2 miles around the Durrington Walls and Woodhenge monuments on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury in Wiltshire.

The research was carried out by a team of researchers from St Andrews, Manchester, Warwick, Sheffield, Glasgow and Trinity Saint David University in Wales.

Yellow dots mark the location of the finds, with Durrington Walls marked as the large brown circle and Stonehenge top left

The pits surround the ancient settlement of Durrington Walls, two miles (3km) from Stonehenge, and were discovered using remote sensing technology and sampling.

Prof Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said the discovery demonstrated “the capacity and desire of Neolithic communities to record their cosmological belief systems in ways, and at a scale, that we had never previously anticipated”.

“The area around Stonehenge is amongst the most studied archaeological landscapes on earth,” he added.

“It is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure.

“When these pits were first noted, it was thought they might be natural features. Only through geophysical surveys, could we join the dots and see there was a pattern on a massive scale.”

Prof Gaffney said a “proper excavation” was required to determine the exact nature of the pits but that the team believed they acted as a boundary, perhaps marking out Durrington Walls as a special place, or emphasizing the difference between the Durrington and Stonehenge areas.

The shafts surround the known location of Durrington Walls

He said it was difficult to speculate how long they would have taken to create, but using manual stone tools, there would have been “considerable organization of labour to produce pits on this scale”.

“The pits are massive by any estimate. As far as we can tell they are nearly vertical sided; that is we can’t see any narrowing that might imply some sort of shaft. Some of the silts suggest relatively slow filling of the pits. In other words, they were cut and left open,” added Prof Gaffney.

Dr. Richard Bates, from St Andrews’ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said it had given an insight into “an even more complex society than we could ever imagine”.

His colleague Tim Kinnaird said sediments from the shafts had allowed archaeologists to “write detailed narratives of the Stonehenge landscape for the last 4,000 years”.

Dr. Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, hailed the discovery as “astonishing”.

She said: “As the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted, Durrington Walls is key to unlocking the story of the wider Stonehenge landscape, and this astonishing discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.

“The Hidden Landscapes team has combined cutting-edge, archaeological fieldwork with good old-fashioned detective work to reveal this extraordinary discovery and write a whole new chapter in the story of the Stonehenge landscape.”