Category Archives: ENGLAND

Hoard of Viking coins worth at least £500,000 found during police raids

Hoard of Viking coins worth at least £500,000 found during police raids

A hoard of Viking coins has been confiscated by police investigating an illegal trade in historic treasures that could rewrite British history.

The collection of coins and a silver ingot, dating back to King Alfred the Great’s reign of the 9th century, were retrieved at households in Durham County and Lancashire by police.

Believed to be worth at least £500,000, a leading expert has told the MailOnline they could ‘add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s’ as they reveal a previously unknown alliance between King Alfred and his contemporary Ceolwulf II, King of Mercia.

Ceolwulf of Mercia was believed by historians to be simply a puppet of the Vikings  – a minor nobleman rather than a proper King.  But the recently discovered coins show the two rulers standing side by side, as allies suggesting a different story. 

While Alfred became known as a national hero who defeated the Vikings, Ceolwulf was written off as insignificant and disappeared without a trace, with experts now suggesting the Mercia King was later ‘airbrushed out of history’ by Alfred. If confirmed, the discovery could reshape our view of how England was united and those who made it happen.

Police, who have now handed over the haul to the British Museum, have arrested a number of people on suspicion of dealing in culturally tainted objects and the complex police operation – codenamed Operation Fantail – is said by Durham Police to be in its early stages. They refused to give further detail on the arrests.

The Coin show images of Alfred the Great 
Rare Kings of Mercia Offa, Light Coinage portrait 
 Shows King Alfred and Ceolwulf standing side-by-side, demonstrating their alliance .
Believed to be worth at least £500,000, a leading expert has told the MailOnline they could ‘add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s’ .

Detective Inspector Lee Gosling, Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Fantail at Durham Constabulary, said: ‘We believe the material recovered comes from a hoard of immense historical significance relating to the Vikings and we are delighted to have been able to hand it over to the British Museum.’

The British Museum believe the coins were in circulation at the time of King Alfred when he won a number of major battles in AD 878 that led to the defeat on the Vikings.    Dr. Gareth Williams, the curator of Early Medieval Coins and Viking Collections at the British Museum, called the latest find ‘nationally important’. 

He said: ‘This is the period in which Alfred the Great was fighting the Vikings, but which also led to the creation of a unified kingdom of England under Alfred and his successors.  ‘The hoard contains coins both of Alfred and of his contemporary Ceolwulf II, King of Mercia.

‘The coins I have seen so far add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s.  Around the time the hoard was buried, probably in AD 879, Ceolwulf mysteriously disappeared, and Alfred then took over Ceolwulf’s kingdom as well as his own.’ 

Dr Williams added: ‘I think that the coins show that Ceolwulf II was in an alliance with Alfred of Wessex, and not a puppet of the Vikings as suggested in sources written at Alfred’s court a few years later, by which time Ceolwulf had disappeared without trace from history and Alfred had taken over his kingdom. 

‘Sources from Alfred’s court, writing more than fifteen years later, describe as ‘a foolish king’s thegn’, who was only made king by the Vikings. ‘However, the coins show a working relationship with Alfred which the sources ‘forgot’ to mention, and his name suggests that he may well have been a legitimate descendant of earlier kings of Mercia.

‘Some of the coins show the name of Ceolwulf and the images on their back show two emperors standing side by side, and was almost certainly a deliberate choice to symbolize their alliance.’  This isn’t a completely new idea, but until recently coins of this period were too rare to prove the idea. 

‘The discovery of this hoard strengthens the case that Ceolwulf and Alfred were allies and that Alfred’s spin-doctors later re-wrote history to suit the political situation of the time.’  The iconic figure of King Alfred is widely believed to be the man who saved England from the Vikings and is currently being portrayed by David Dawson in the BBC epic The Last Kingdom. 

He spent several years fighting the Vikings, who were wreaking devastation in England, and won several decisive victories. Alfred ruled from 871 to 899 was instrumental in setting the foundations for England known nowadays without whom the English may have even spoken another language.

His defeat of the Vikings earned him the name Alfred the Great.  But in recent years, his role has been called into question by a number of archaeological finds.

More than 200 pieces of Viking silver including coins, ingots, and jewellery were discovered buried in a field in Oxfordshire in 2015 which Shedd fresh light on King Alfred and the little-known ally, Ceolwulf II.

A spokesperson for Durham Police has said the investigation is ongoing and a number of people have been arrested on suspicion of dealing in ‘culturally tainted objects’.  

Bones Of Ancient Human Sacrifice Victims Found By Workers Laying Water Pipes

Workers Laying Pipe In Britain Discover Grisly Remains Of Roman-Era Human Sacrifice Victims

One of the victims, a woman, had her feet cut off and was buried with her hands tied behind her back.

When engineers were tasked with the routine laying of water pipes in Oxfordshire, England, they likely did not expect to find a nearly 3,000-year-old settlement, Iron Age and Roman-era tools — and dozens of Neolithic skeletons.

According to CNN, the remains of 26 people were found at the site, many of which were likely victims of ritualistic human sacrifice. One of the victims had their skull placed by their feet. Another, a woman, had her feet cut off and her arms tied behind her back.

Meanwhile, the tools unearthed ranged across a variety of historical periods but were certainly thousands of years old — before the Romans invaded Britain.

According to The Telegraph, evidence of animal carcasses and household items such as knives, pottery, and a comb, were also found.

This particular victim was buried with their head removed and placed by their feet.

As for the human remains, archaeologists are confident these unfortunate victims belonged to the same community that helped create the Uffington White Horse — a prehistoric sculpture made of chalk, found on a nearby hill.

“These findings open a unique window into the lives and deaths of communities we often know only for their monumental buildings, such as hillforts or the Uffington White Horse,” said Paolo Guarino, project officer at Cotswold Archaeology.

“The results from the analysis of the artifacts, animal bones, the human skeletons, and the soil samples will help us add some important information to the history of the communities that occupied these lands so many years ago.”

All of the unearthed evidence has since been removed and taken in by experts for forensic investigation. The engineers who stumbled upon this substantial find were conducting engineering work on behalf of a Thames Water project focused on protecting a local chalk stream.

Neil Holbrook, Cotswold Archaeology chief executive, said the discoveries “provided a glimpse into the beliefs and superstitions of people living in Oxfordshire before the Roman conquest.

Evidence elsewhere suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice.”

“The discovery challenges our perception about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago,” said Holbrook.

The Oxfordshire dig site.

This news follows that of an incident in which two Danish workers found a medieval sword in a sewer.

But as for this latest find, it’s certainly added substantial insight to our previous understanding of the time period in question. Human sacrifice and ritualistic burial practices, for instance, can now arguably be considered as a standard custom of that region during that time.

Fortunately, the right people are hard at work at extracting as much functional information from the discovered artifacts and human remains as possible. Hopefully, there will be even more illuminating data to share in the near future.

Entire 18-acre Ancient Roman town discovered next to major motorway

Entire Ancient Roman Town Discovered Off A Highway In England

The site was found during the development of 124 new homes on an 18-acre plot near the A2 in Newington, Kent.

The remains of an entire ancient Roman town have been discovered close to a highway in southeast England.

Construction workers were preparing to build more than a hundred new houses when they came upon the nearly 2000-year-old ruins.

According to The Independent, a team of 30 archaeologists has spent 8 months excavating the site. They’ve found rare coins, pottery, and jewelry dating back to as early as 30 B.C., as well as the remains of an ancient temple.

The discovery of the 18-acre site off the A2 highway in Newington, Kent has proven to be a “massive” win in terms of contextualizing the region’s past.

“This is very exciting,” said Dean Coles, chairman of the Newington History Group. “The scale of this site, with the huge number and quality of finds, changes our knowledge of Newington’s development.”

Evidence of a 23-foot-wide road, sunken pottery kilns, and rare iron furnaces were also found at the site. Additionally, numerous costly items imported from other regions indicated that those who lived here at the time were of fairly high status.

Experts have called this find one of the most significant excavations in the region’s history. This remarkable discovery was made when housing developers were preparing to build 124 new homes.  In all corners of the world, it seems, building new tenements often unearths unexpected historical remnants and artifacts.

“We already had evidence of a Roman burial ground and Roman occupation in the immediate vicinity and this excavation shows there was a thriving manufacturing site in the heart of our village,” said Coles.

The current plan is to analyze the unearthed findings and collate all relevant data in a thorough scientific report. Once that is accomplished, experts will cover up the excavation site so the housing project can continue as planned. For now, though, the focus is on the amazing evidence that’s been found.

“The temple and major road are massive discoveries,” said Coles. “It proves the A2 wasn’t the only Roman road through the village.

As a group, we are keen to trace the route and destination of this new ‘highway’ which may have connected with another temple excavated 50 years ago on the outskirts of Newington and a village unearthed in 1882.”

In addition to pottery, jewelry, and a 23-foot-wide road, remains of an ancient temple were unearthed. Some of the items on the 18-acre site date to as early as 30 B.C.

With the Romans having taken over and occupied Britain for nearly 400 years after invading in 43 A.D., it’s no surprise that evidence of their time there remains scattered across the island. A significant portion of the 73-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall, for instance, still stands as a remnant of Ancient Rome.

Nonetheless, this new expansive, fruitful find has stunned archaeologists and historians alike.

“This is one of the most important discoveries of a Roman small town in Kent for many years with the preservation of Roman buildings and artifacts exceptional,” said Dr. Paul Wilkinson, archaeological director at Swale and Thames Archaeological Survey.

According to The Daily Mail, there’s much work ahead for the researchers involved. Finding the site, of course, was only the beginning. Archaeology project manager Peter Cichy, at least, is eager to commence the real work.

“This is one of the most significant sites in Kent but it’s only the beginning of months and months of work,” he said. “We will be analyzing and dating our finds, sorting and piecing together thousands of pottery shards, and writing up our report.”

As it stands, those waiting for their 124 new homes to finish construction may need to practice a little patience. One of the most valuable plots of Roman and British history has just been stumbled upon, after all — potentially holding answers to centuries-old questions of ancient life.

Skeleton of man who had his throat slit by Anglo Saxon executioners 1,000 years ago is uncovered during excavations for a new wind farm

Skeleton of man who had his throat slit by Anglo Saxon executioners 1,000 years ago is uncovered during excavations for a new wind farm.

During the excavation job for a wind farm, remains of a Man believed to be the victim of an execution that killed 1,000 years ago were discovered.

During a dig in preparing for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, archeologists discovered the adult guy, aged between 25 and 35, with deadly cut marks on his throat.

The skeleton was recovered intact with the exception of a few small bones missing from the hands and feet.

He was laid facing upwards with his arms at his side in an East-West alignment, with no sign of a coffin.

A vertebrae from the skeleton 

The remains were found during surveying work for the route for onshore cabling on the South Downs at Truleigh Hill, north of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Jim Stevenson, project manager for Archaeology South East, said:

“Specialist osteological assessment and radiocarbon dating have revealed that the skeleton is most likely to be an execution burial of the later Anglo Saxon period of around 1010 to 1025 AD.

“Most significantly, two cut marks made by a sharp blade or knife were found at the mid-length of the neck, which would have proved fatal for the individual.”

The skeleton was found during work for a wind farm 

The isolated burial was found along the ancient route of the South Downs Way in an area of known prehistoric graves recorded in the West Sussex Historic Environment Record.

It is believed some were once identifiable as visible surface burial mounds, were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries and sometimes coincide with isolated burials.

The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, 13km off the Sussex coast, is due to be fully operational later this year.

Once complete, it will provide enough electricity to supply almost 347,000 homes a year, equivalent to about half the homes in Sussex.

Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.
ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.

The artifact, which features a dragon or other mythical beast design, was discovered on Aldwark as part of the electrical distribution firm’s £300,000 investment in York’s power network.

Mike Hammond, Northern Powergrid’s general manager for the North Yorkshire region, said: “To find a piece of York’s past as we invest in the city’s future is really exciting.

“We’ve been working closely with the York Archaeological Trust as part of our work to replace high voltage cable on Aldwark, Goodramgate, and Deansgate.

The first scheme of work to improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity network but were not expecting to unearth anything quite so interesting.

We are working with the York Archaeological Trust to ensure the restoration and conservation of the leather fragment, which looks like it could be straight out of Game of Thrones, with its medieval dragon design.”

Northern Powergrid has completed the first of four schemes in York two weeks ahead of schedule, which will see some two-and-a-half kilometers of high voltage underground cable replaced across the city center during 2018/19.

The second scheme of work, which will take place on Grosvenor Road, Bootham Crescent and Queen Anne’s Road, has been brought forward and started on Monday ahead of schedule.

Toby Kendall, project officer from York Archaeological Trust, added: “Good early communication with the team from Northern Powergrid and the contractors completing the excavations has allowed us to archaeologically monitor and record the works without causing any delays.

The incredibly well preserved, and fantastically decorated, leather fragment had probably been disturbed from its waterlogged, deeper, burial conditions when the sewers were first installed over 100 years ago.

The recovery of the artifact shows the value of observing the works underway, even though they have not directly disturbed the waterlogged archaeology lower down.”

Source: archaeology.org

British-French Interconector Brings Crashed WW2 Plane Back to Light

Lost WW2 Aircraft lifted from the sea after more than 75 years

Specialist divers and archeologists finished an operation this week to recover the wreckage of a 1943 Fairey Barracuda Torpedo Bomber (thought to be No. BV739) – just in time for D-Day’s 75th anniversary.

The three-seater plane, part of 810 Squadron Royal Navy Air Station, based at Lee-On-Solent is believed to have got into difficulty shortly after taking off for its test flight before crashing 500m from the coast in Portsmouth.

It was found by National Grid engineers last summer during a seabed survey ahead of the construction of new subsea electricity cable between England and France.

The cable, called an interconnector, will be buried in the seabed and will stretch for 240km between Fareham, Portsmouth and Normandy, France and deliver cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy for UK consumers. The UK government has targeted 9.5 GW of additional interconnector capacity in its Clean Growth Strategy. This is because interconnectors are recognised as a key tool in enabling the flow of excess zero carbon energy from where it is generated where it is needed most.

The Barracuda wreckage is the only one to have ever been found in one piece and the last remaining aircraft of its kind in the UK.

Boats on water – Retrieval boat and dive barge for the operation

David Luetchford, Head of IFA2 for National Grid said: “Interconnectors are about bringing us closer to a zero-carbon future, but we must also respect the past. An important part of our job is to always have a thorough and sympathetic approach to archaeological finds.

Over the course of the project we’ve inspected over 1,000 targets of interest, many of which were found to be unexploded ordnance, not unusual given the history of this location. However, to have found a 1943 Fairey Barracuda torpedo bomber is incredible and such a key piece of British history.

It’s not every day you get the chance to play a role in an operation like this and it is very lucky to have found the plane in such a small search area. We surveyed a 180-meter-wide area along the cable route and if we had chosen a slightly different route, there is a good chance the plane would never have been found.”

Work to fully retrieve the plane is expected to take around three weeks in total as experts from Wessex Archaeology are carefully excavating the area around the aircraft and removing large amounts of silt and clay.

So far, one of the wings has successfully been lifted out of the waters and work on the second is currently underway. The remainder of the plane will be recovered by lifting it in sections over the coming days.

Wessex Archaeology lead archaeologist Euan McNeil said: “Our team has been working closely with all those involved to ensure that any risks to heritage assets on the seafloor are mitigated. This aircraft is a rare find and a fantastic opportunity to understand more about a piece of wartime technology.

“We have been undertaking the excavation under a licence from the MoD, and it has taken careful planning to ensure that we lift the remains and any associated material which may have been scattered as it sank – without causing its condition to deteriorate significantly. This has involved excavating the silt around the plane and sieving it for artefacts, then carefully dividing the remaining structure into manageable sections for lifting.

“The recovery of the Fairey Barracuda will aid an ongoing Fleet Air Arm Museum project to recreate what will be the world’s only complete example of this type of aircraft. This will give us a chance to examine a unique lost piece of aviation history”

Once retrieved, the parts will be taken to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset where it will be studied and used to rebuild a full-size Barracuda in the site’s aircraft hangar with the help of equipment like the b1 stand at Platforms and Ladders.

David Morris, Curator at The National Museum of the Royal Navy has been working on the project for several years and visited four other Barracuda crash sites to retrieve suitable parts.

He said: “This is an incredible find and a wonderful piece of British history. There are very few blueprints of the Barracuda plane design available so this wreckage will be studied to enable us to see how the plane segments fitted together and how we can use some of the parts we currently have.

“This find is a huge step forward for our project and we can’t wait to get it back to the museum and share our findings with the public.”

The plane’s pilot has been named as SUB LNT DJ Williams who managed to escape the crash and survived WW2.

London archaeology dig: Skeletons reveal noxious environs in early industrial Britain

Skeletons found in London archaeology dig reveal noxious environs

News reports and social media anxiety may make us feel that life is tough in Britain today but the extraordinary findings of a new archaeological excavation have provided a salutary reminder that, a couple of centuries ago, it was so much worse.

Archeologists working on a burial site at the New Covent Garden market in south-west London in the early 19th century, where about 100 bodies were found, said they contained evidence of arduous working conditions, a harmful environment, endemic diseases, physical deformities, malnutrition, and deadly violence.

Between the 1830s and 1850s, the burials offer an extraordinary glimpse of life in early industrial London. They show the hardness of life that Charles Dickens so acutely described in his classic novels for the industrial poor.

One of the skeletons’ hands showed signs of bare-knuckle fighting.
One of the skeletons’ hands showed signs of bare-knuckle fighting. 

The skeletal remains of those who might have been Dickens’ subjects, who could be deemed among the first “modern” Londoners, have been uncovered by Wessex Archaeology during the excavation of part of a cemetery originally situated on the site of New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms.

The skull of a female who died as a result of a stab wound to the head. Photograph: Wessex Archaeology
The skull of a female who died as a result of a stab wound to the head. Photograph: Wessex Archaeology

The cemetery was attached to the church of St George the Martyr.

The site had been partially cleared in the 1960s, just before the new market was built, having relocated from its original setting in central London.

Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, senior osteoarchaeologist at Wessex Archaeology, told the Guardian these were people who had led “a life of drudgery and just-about surviving”. This part of the capital saw a particularly dramatic change from rural market gardens to a heavily industrialized and urbanized environment over just a few years, she said.

“All of a sudden, the world changes and there [are] hideous factories and noxious gases … Gasworks, big railway depots, a lot of construction work.”She added: “The surrounding assortment of noxious, dangerous and labor-intensive industries would have made for very poor working and living conditions, although great numbers of people continued to flock to the area to take advantage of work opportunities.

Most of those trying to survive in and around the area would have been classed as poor or very poor.”The burials reveal high levels of chronic infections, including endemic syphilis.

Three burials in particular offer fascinating insights. One of them reveals a woman who had suffered lifelong congenital syphilis and had led a strenuous working life that involved heavy use of her upper arms and shoulders.

She had a broken nose and a wound to her skull, suggesting she had been murdered. Archaeologists believe that she was attacked, probably from behind, stabbed in the right ear with a thin blade, like a stiletto dagger.

In another burial, a man who was once nearly six feet tall was found. He would have had a distinctive look. A flattened nose and a depression on his left brow suggest “several violent altercations”, the archaeologists say. Bare-knuckle fighting was a popular pastime – he died before the adoption of Queensberry Rules that required boxing gloves – and his knuckles show signs of such fights.

Egging Dinwiddy said that “he would have had a less-than-winning smile” as both front teeth had been lost, probably due to an enormous cyst on the roof of his mouth. He also suffered from syphilis.

About 40% of the burials were of children under the age of 12, reflecting high infant mortality rates of the time. One of the burials has added poignancy because it has a coffin plate revealing the name of Jane Clara Jay, who died on 18 March 1847, just before her second birthday.

She was the daughter of Sarah Jay and her labourer husband, George James Jay, of Nine Elms. Archaeologists found signs of underlying malnutrition, but the exact cause of her death is unclear.

New Covent Garden market is the UK’s largest fresh-produce market. Its 175 businesses employ more than 2,500 people. In partnership with Vinci St Modwen, it is undergoing major redevelopment with new buildings and facilities.

Archaeologists were taken aback by the sheer number of burials beneath what was a car park. They thought that the site of the original cemetery had been completely cleared in the 1960s. Finds from the New Covent Garden project will be shown as part of Digging for Britain on BBC.

60,000 skeletons buried in a green area of ​​London have been excavated

Mass dig of 60,000 skeletons from 230-year-old cemetery set to expose London’s secrets

A mammoth dig is ongoing that is expected to Unearth 60,000 skeletons from a London cemetery that is 230 years old.

To date, 1,200 people’s bones have been exhumed from the burial ground near Euston Station to make way for the new high-speed railway between Birmingham and the capital.

The major dig show archeologists recently released photos clearing thick clay from coffins and brushing the dirt from remains. They are part of an archeological team on the 150-mile HS2 route that is currently delving into 10,000 years of British history.

Field archaeologists work on the excavation of a late 18th to mid-19th-century cemetery under St James Gardens near Euston train station in London, as part of the HS2 high-speed rail project. – Tucked behind one of London’s busiest railway stations, a small army of archaeologists shovel thick clay as they clear a vast burial site to make way for a new train line.  

Land at St James’s Gardens – the former site of a late 18th and 19th-century burial ground – is needed for Euston’s expansion. With tens of thousands of skeletons to be removed, protests and a memorial service have been held at the site where people were laid to rest from 1790 to 1853.

HS2 project bosses say that an estimated 60,000 people are buried there, including notable people such as Lord George Gordon, who in 1780 called for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act and a return to the repression of Catholics.

A field archaeologist uses a brush on a skeleton in an open coffin during the excavation of a late 18th to mid-19th-century cemetery under St James Gardens near Euston train station in London as part of the HS2 high-speed rail project. 

He led a 60,000-strong crowd from St George’s Fields to the Houses of Parliament, which prompted anti-Catholic riots. Also buried at St James’s Garden is Matthew Flinders, one of the world’s most accomplished navigators who was born in England, entered the navy at the age of 15 and served with Captain Bligh.

After sailing for Australia just five years later, he made detailed surveys of the country’s coastline and islands – becoming the first person to circumnavigate it.

Machines have been used to remove the topsoil, stopping once coffins or human remains are exposed. Archaeologists then carry out further excavation by hand.HS2 bosses said that “all artifacts and human remains will be treated with due dignity, care and respect.”

They have been working with Historic England, the Church of England and the local parish to “put appropriate plans in place for reburial”.

A London Inheritance said that it was “unusual for a public park and an old burial ground to disappear, however, this has been the fate of St James’s Gardens.“It will be a major task for the exhumation and reburial of such a large number of bodies.”

The website has photos of the gardens, to record “a historic space that will soon be lost from the landscape of London forever.”Research will be carried out into how cemeteries have developed, and the burial practice in terms of the treatment of bodies and coffins compared to other excavation sites.

A planning document on this and other planned digs said that: “St James’s seems to represent a typical late post-Medieval London cemetery… but on its own is unlikely to provide significant insights.”So far, sites along the rail route have revealed Neolithic tools, medieval pottery, and Victorian time capsules.

In total, more than a thousand archaeologists are set to explore more than 60 separate sites, from prehistoric and Roman settlements to those from the Industrial Revolution and the Second World War.

Mark Thurston, HS2 chief executive, said: “Before we bore the tunnels, lay the tracks and build the stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological research is now taking place between London and Birmingham.”This is the largest archaeological exploration ever in Britain, employing a record number of skilled archaeologists and heritage specialists from across the UK and beyond.”

Archaeological sites being investigated along the route include a prehistoric hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London, a Roman British town in Fleet Marston, Aylesbury, a 1,000-year-old demolished medieval church and burial ground in Buckinghamshire and a WW2 bombing decoy in Lichfield.