Category Archives: EUROPE

Rare Roman Cavalry Swords And Toys Unearthed Along Hadrian’s Wall

Rare Roman Cavalry Swords And Toys Unearthed Along Hadrian’s Wall

Swords, arrowheads and ballista bolts amongst a cache of artifacts discovered during cavalry barrack excavations at Roman Vindolanda. Archaeologists at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have made one remarkable discovery after another in what has been an exceptional year for the research excavations.

Aerial view of remains of 4th century stone fort at Vindolanda

Test pit excavations, below the stone foundations of the last stone fortress, revealed a layer of black, sweet-smelling and perfectly preserved anaerobic, oxygen-free, soils in an area where they were completely unexpected.

Hidden in this soil were the timber walls and floors, fences, pottery and animal bones, from the abandonment of a Roman cavalry barrack. The excavated rooms included stables for horses, living accommodation, ovens and fireplaces.

While excavating the material from the corner of one of the living rooms a volunteer excavator made an outstanding discovery.

The earth surrounding the object was slowly pulled back under careful supervision to reveal the tip of a thin and sharp iron blade, resting in its wooden scabbard.

As the archaeologists excavated further the shape of a hilt and handle slowly emerged from the black soil and it became immediately clear that the Romans had left behind a complete sword with a bent tip. It was the ancient equivalent of a modern soldier abandoning a malfunctioning rifle.

Dr Andrew Birley recalled the moment as “quite emotional” and went on to say, “you can work as an archaeologist your entire life on Roman military sites and, even at Vindolanda, we never expect or imagine to see such a rare and special object as this.

It felt like the team had won a form of an archaeological lottery.” Rupert Bainbridge, the volunteer who made the initial discovery described the moment as overwhelming, commenting, “I was so excited to excavate such an extraordinary artefact, especially something that resonated so much with the fort setting that we were digging in.”

A few weeks later, Vindolanda archaeologists accompanied by a new team of volunteers were finishing working on a room adjacent to the one in which the sword was discovered.

Here they remarkably discovered a second sword, this time without a wooden handle, pommel or scabbard, but with the blade and tang still complete and sitting on the floor exactly where it had been left thousands of years before.

Cavalry sword unearthed at Vindolanda

Dr. Birley commented, “You don’t expect to have this kind of experience twice in one month so this was both a delightful moment and a historical puzzle. You can imagine the circumstances where you could conceive leaving one sword behind rare as it is…. but two?” Both blades came from separate rooms, and are likely to have belonged to different people. One theory is that the garrison was forced to leave in a hurry, and in their haste, they left not only the swords but also a great number of other perfectly serviceable items that would have had great value in their time.

The swords are truly remarkable, but they form only part of an outstanding collection of artefacts left behind in those cavalry barrack buildings. In another room were two small wooden toy swords, almost exactly the same as those that can be purchased by tourists visiting the Roman Wall today.

Roman ink writing tablets on wood, bath clogs, leather shoes (from men, women, and children), stylus pens, knives, combs, hairpins, brooches and a wide assortment of other weapons including cavalry lances, arrowheads, and ballista bolts were all abandoned on the barrack room floors.

Copper alloy cavalry strap junction

Quite spectacular are the copper-alloy cavalry and horse fitments for saddles, junction straps and harnesses which were also left behind. These remain in such fine condition that they still shine like gold and are almost completely free from corrosion.

The swords and other objects form a remarkable discovery of one of the most comprehensive and important collections of this type of material from a Hadrian’s Wall site.

Visitors to Vindolanda will be able to see this cache of cavalry finds displayed in the site museum this autumn, just as a major Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition along the line of Hadrian’s Wall comes to a close another has arrived!

Dr Andrew Birley with sword

Historical facts

The Garrison at Vindolanda at this time (cAD120) was made up of a combination of peoples including the 1st Cohort of Tungrians who heralded from modern day Belgium.

They were joined by a detachment of Vardulli Cavalrymen from northern Spain. It is likely that the base held more than 1000 soldiers and probably many thousands more dependants including slaves and freedmen, representing one of the most multicultural and dynamic communities on the Frontier of the Roman Empire at the time.

The new finds give an intimate insight into the lives of people living on the edge of the Roman Empire at a time of rebellion and war before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in AD122.

Coin Cache Discovered Under Church Floor in Slovakia

Coin Cache Discovered Under Church Floor in Slovakia

Under the floor of a church in the town of Obišovce, near Košice, eastern Slovakia, a cache of 500 early 18th century coins has been uncovered. The trove of coins had been stashed in a ceramic mug covered with a slab or stone.

It was found in the foundations of the Renaissance church which was demolished in the 19th century and the current church built over it.

When the floor of the church was demolished, the foundations were built. Archeologists explored the structural remains and came across the hoard that had been stashed under the original stone floor near the western entrance.

The coins in what was then Upper Hungary are mostly salary plates issued by the many mines. Copper, iron, silver, and gems had been mined in the east Slovakian fields since the 9th-century arrival of the Hungarian tribes. In the 15th century, the five main mining towns including Košice had united to promote their interests.

They had mints that produced coinage and salary plates with which the miners were paid. The hoard also includes silver coins, believed to have been wrapped separately in a linen textile, and a few Polish coins. From the dates on the coins, the earliest the hoard could have been buried was 1702.

When the coins were cached, Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary ruled by the Catholic Habsburgs and under regular attack by the Ottoman Empire.

In the 17th century, Protestant Magyar nobles fleeing Turkish incursions moved to Upper Hungary, modern-day Slovakia, temporarily tipping the demographics of the region to majority Protestant.

They allied with Transylvanian prince István Thököly in the failed Magnate conspiracy to overthrow Leopold I in 1670, and again with his son Imre Thököly in his anti-Habsburg rebellion in 1678.

Imre, allied with the Ottoman sultan, took control of territories in eastern and central Hungary, creating the short-lived Principality of Upper Hungary which largely conforms to the boundaries of Slovakia.

By 1685 he had managed to be defeated in battle by the Habsburgs and to piss off the Turks so the putative principality was no more. The Great Turkish War between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League ended in 1699 with the Habsburgs in control of Hungary.

Thököly’s peasant army kept fighting against the Habsburgs, however, and in 1703, Hungarian prince Francis II Rákóczi led them in an uprising against the Habsburg Holy Roman Empire, then engaged in the War of Spanish Succession. The Rákóczi rebellion lasted until their surrender in 1711.

With the region mired in so much religious and political turmoil in the late 17th and early 18th century, hoarding and hiding coins doubtless seemed prudent.

Preservationists say it is probable that the priest from the local church and parish collected the money and hid it under the floor in times of unrest. It is probable that when he left, he omitted to say anything about the money under the floor and it was forgotten about.

The historic sources state that after the Thӧkӧly uprising was over, sometime between 1685 and 1687, a Catholic priest returned to Kysak parish. Obišovce at that time belonged to this parish.

The priest was a Pole, he was blind in one eye and sometime in the 1690s, he went blind completely. The church was under the administration of the Catholic church until 1705 when rebels plundered it and it was left as a ruin for three years. The Polish priest was expelled and he returned to Poland.

Irish DNA originated in the Middle East and Eastern Europe

Ancient DNA Reveals Irish Are Not Celts – Irish Ancestors Came From Biblical Lands – Scientists Say

The possibility that ancient bones were found in County Antrim under an Irish pub in the mid-2000s has cast doubt over whether the Irish people are really linked to ancient Celts.

Bertie Currie clearing the land in 2006 and made a driveway on Rathlin Island off Antrim for McCuaig’s Bar, when he noticed a large, flat stone underneath the surface

Currie realized that there was a large gap underneath the stone and investigated further. 

“I shot the torch in and saw the gentleman, well, his skull and bones,” Currie told the Washington Post. 

He eventually found the remains of three humans and immediately called the police. The police arrived on the scene and discovered that this was not a crime scene but an ancient burial site. 

McCuaig’s Bar, where the bones were found.

It turned out to be a hugely significant ancient burial site as well that, with DNA analysis, could completely alter the perception that Irish people are descended from Celts. 

A number of prominent professors at esteemed universities in Ireland and Britain analyzed the bones and said that the discovery could rewrite Irish history and ancestry. 

DNA researchers found that the three skeletons found under Currie’s pub are the ancestors of modern Irish people and predate the Celts’ arrival on Irish shores by around 1,000 years. 

Essentially, Irish DNA existed in Ireland before the Celts ever set foot on the island. 

Instead, Irish ancestors may have come to Ireland from the Bible lands in the Middle East. They might have arrived in Ireland from the South Meditteranean and would have brought cattle, cereal, and ceramics with them. 

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science said that the bones strikingly resembled those of contemporary Irish, Scottish and Welsh people. 

A retired archaeology professor at the highly-renowned University of Oxford said that the discovery could completely change the perception of Irish ancestry. 

“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford.

Radiocarbon dating at Currie’s McCuaig’s Bar found that the ancient bones date back to at least 2,000 BC, which is hundreds of years older than the oldest known Celtic artifacts anywhere in the world. 

Dan Bradley, a genetics professor at Trinity College, said in 2016 that the discovery could challenge the popular belief that Irish people are related to Celts. 

“The genomes of the contemporary people in Ireland are older — much older — than we previously thought,” he said.

Farmer looking for abandoned antlers stumbles upon largest EVER haul of Roman coins

Farmer looking for abandoned antlers stumbles upon largest Ever haul of Roman coins

It makes rather more sense as it was loot from the various ‘barbarian’ nations crashing around Northern Europe during the period of the decline and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire.

‘One of the largest ever hauls of treasure from the Roman period to be found in Poland and the largest ever in the Lublin region has been uncovered in Hrubieszów near Lublin.

‘Excited archaeologists think that the treasure of 1,753 silver coins weighing over five kilos was abandoned in the last stand of the Vandals before fleeing from the arriving Goths at the end of the second century AD when Europe was in upheaval as the Western Roman Empire was collapsing.

The coins were not in one place but were spread by agricultural machines over 100 m. In total, 1,753 coins were discovered.

Andrzej Kokowski from the Archaeology Institute in Lublin, who discovered the presence of the Goths in the region, is in no doubt as to the scale of the find. “This is an amazing phenomenon of an ancient culture that can be seen in one place. This treasure will be the crown of Polish archaeology,” he said.

The coins were dated to the second century as they bear the image of Roman emperors Nerva, who ruled 8 November 30 to 27 January 98, and Septimus Severus, 11 April 145 to 4 February 211.

The dinars are in the possession of the local museum in Hrubieszów, which released news of the find yesterday. However, the treasure was found in 2019 in a field near Cichobórz, south of Hrubieszów. They were spotted by local farmer Mariusz Dyl, who was looking for abandoned antlers.

Dyl immediately informed the staff at the museum in Hrubieszów about his discovery. Together they returned to the site and with a team of archaeologists and volunteers, they discovered another 137 coins.

Archaeologists think that the treasure weighing over five kilos was abandoned in the last stand of the Vandals before fleeing from the arriving Goths at the end of the second century AD.

The Local museum director Bartłomiej Bartecki said assessing the value of the find that the average pay for a Roman legionnaire at the time was about 300 dinars.

“You couldn’t buy a village for this, but it was not a small amount, especially for barbarian tribes,” he said

The coins were spread out over a field after being churned up by farm equipment.

The archaeologists believe that the coins were originally placed in a wooden casket or leather pannier. Although the remains of the container have not survived, it is known that it was decorated with silver-plated rivets made of bronze as eight of them were found among the coins. The coins were dated to the second century as they bear the image of Roman emperors Nerva, who ruled 8 November 30 to 27 January 98, and Septimus Severus, 11 April 145 to 4 February 211.

The area was inhabited by Vandals at the time, who were pushed out by Goths in the great wandering of peoples from Scandinavia to southern Europe at the end of the second century. Other finds in the region suggest that the departure of the Vandals was a time of great violence.

“It didn’t happen without fighting. From this period we know of numerous Vandal cemeteries where warriors were buried with ritually destroyed weapons were buried,” said Bartecki.

In his opinion, the burying of treasure is also a sign of great upheaval.

The Vandals were a Roman-era Germanic people who first appear in written records inhabiting present-day southern Poland. They were eventually driven out by the marauding Goths.

“Perhaps the Vandals hoped to return in the near future, so they decided to bury the coins. But they were mistaken in their assessment,” he said.

Andrzej Kokowski from the Archaeology Institute at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin believes that the buried treasure represents the last stand of the Vandals in the Lublin region.

“The situation was so bad for the Vandals retreating, or rather the fleeing from the Goths that they hid everything that was most precious,” he said.

“It seems that this is where the Vandals lost the means to continue fighting!” he added.

The archaeologist underlined how important the find is for understanding the downfall of the Vandals in the region.

“They had to get rid of huge financial resources that were necessary to wage war with the Goths, and therefore they ended up helpless. The hidden coins remained under Hrubieszów.

“They couldn’t come back for them and could not recruit soldiers. That is why the Goths peacefully spread to the whole south-east and occupied Ukraine,” he said.

The Vandals were a Roman-era Germanic people who first appear in written records inhabiting present-day southern Poland.

The Goths, meanwhile, were also German people probably from southern Scandinavia who played a major role in the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. The coins will now be analyzed by experts from the University of Warsaw, which will take about a year due to the size of the haul. In the meantime, the museum wants to show the treasure to the public, but it says that due to the current epidemic the exhibition will be available only online.