Category Archives: EUROPE

Rare Bone Disease Detected in Medieval Skeletons

Medieval skeletons reveal an ancient and unusual form of bone disease that caused people to die as young as 35 Uncovered at Nottingham, England

Paget's disease of bone is a common disorder that interferes with the body's natural bone recycling process. It causes new bone to be generated faster than normal — but such is softer and weaker than it should be (Pictured: a collarbone showing visible signs of the condition)
Paget’s disease of bone is a common disorder that interferes with the body’s natural bone recycling process. It causes new bone to be generated faster than normal — but such is softer and weaker than it should be (Pictured: a collarbone showing visible signs of the condition)

According to a new archeological study, skeletons excavated from Norton Priory in England contain a rare and unusually aggressive form of bone disease similar to the disease of Paget.

Paget’s bone disease is a chronic disorder that gradually replaces old bone tissue with new bone tissue. The new replacement tissue, however, is weak, making some bones easy to fracture, break, and damage.

The earliest reports of Paget’s disease were found in ancient Roman remains, but little is known about the history, origin, and evolution of the disease.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham and a team of collaborators analyzed excavated remains from the priory dating back to the Medieval period. Six out of the 130 skeletons excavated contained a strange form of Paget’s.

As much as 75 percent of the skeletons of some individuals were affected by the disease.

The researchers also calculated an age of death as low as 35 for some of the individuals directly due to the disease.“We identify an ancient and atypical form of Paget’s disease of bone (PDB) in a collection of medieval skeletons exhibiting unusually extensive pathological changes, high disease prevalence, and low age-at-death estimations,” the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team sequenced DNA from the preserved remains and used RNA and protein analysis to identify an ancient protein similar to one called p62, which plays a fundamental role in Paget’s disease today.“

Detection of ancient p62 as one of the few noncollagenous proteins in skeletal samples (bones and teeth) based on a combination of peptide sequencing and Western blotting is strongly indicative of a diagnosis of PDB…,” the researchers wrote.

Paget’s disease is believed to have originated in Western Europe and the UK.

Viking sword discovery: Hunter finds a 1,100-year-old weapon on Norwegian mountain

Viking sword discovery: Hunter finds a 1,100-year-old weapon on Norwegian mountain

Viking sword discovery: Hunter finds a 1,100-year-old weapon on Norwegian mountain

Researchers were able to determine that the sword dates back to 850-950 AD, and was likely owned by a Viking swordsman.

Reindeer hunters in Norway were surprised to find an amazingly well-preserved Viking sword while they were hunting in a high altitude area.

Secrets of The Ice, a Norwegian glacial archaeology organization, reports that a 1,200-year-old Viking sword was discovered by reindeer hunters in Norway.

Reindeer hunter Einar Åmbakk and 2 friends were hunting in the high mountains of Oppland County, Norway, when they stumbled across this ancient sword. The sword was wedged between two rocks on a plain filled with the small rocks that pepper the Norwegian countryside, known as scree.

Researchers accompanied hunter Einar Ambakk, who found the sword, back to the site with a metal detector, but were unable to find any other artifacts nearby.
Researchers accompanied hunter Einar Ambakk, who found the sword, back to the site with a metal detector, but were unable to find any other artifacts nearby.

Though the blade was rusted, and any organic material that was attached to it like leather straps or bone and wood adornments had rotted away years ago, it was remarkably well preserved. The extreme cold and low pressure may have prevented further rusting or degradation from occurring.

The Viking sword.

He then posted a picture of this sword on social media, which spurred researchers to further investigate the sword, as well as the site of the find. Researchers were able to determine that the sword dates back to 850-950 AD, and was likely owned by a Viking swordsman.

Researchers also returned to the scree-covered mountains with the reindeer hunters, a local metal detectorist and a local archaeologist. This team investigated the site, but were unable to find any further artifacts.

However, they were able to determine that the blade had not been covered by any permafrost or had been buried under the rocks. Rather, they realized that the sword must have been simply left on the surface of the mountain thousands of years ago.

Why the Viking was traveling in this desolate countryside, and how the sword, an incredibly valuable tool, and commodity at the time, came to be left there, we will never know, but researchers theorize that it may have been left there after a Viking got lost during a particularly horrible blizzard.

Though we’ll never know exactly what happened, this sword provides us with a glimpse into the past, capturing a moment when a sword was abandoned on a barren hill over a thousand years ago.

Part of Hadrian’s Wall is discovered in Newcastle city center in England

Part of Hadrian’s Wall is discovered in Newcastle city center in England

It’s been 65 years since Hadrian’s Wall was last discovered in the city
It’s been 65 years since Hadrian’s Wall was last discovered in the city

During site investigations, Hadrians ‘ Wall was uncovered as part of a scheme to revive a historic building in downtown Newcastle.

The section of the wall has been revealed outside the Mining Institute on Westgate Road. It was reportedly last seen during an excavation on the site in 1952.

But Simon Brooks, acting general manager of the Mining Institute, said: “There was some controversy about whether the Wall had been found. A lot of people were sceptical but now we have proof positive and we are delighted.”Site investigations are being carried out by Newcastle-based The Archaeological Practice.

Archaeologist Alan Rushworth said: “Various people had cast doubts about what had been found in 1952 but this now adds a lot more precision about the course of the wall.”

Nick Hodgson, the author of the new book, Hadrian’s Wall on Tyneside, said: “It is wonderful to see the wall again in the center of Newcastle.”

Simon Brooks showing the section of Hadrian's Wall that's been found on Westgate Road outside the Mining Institute (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
Simon Brooks showing the section of Hadrian’s Wall that’s been found on Westgate Road outside the Mining Institute

The wall has also been previously located under the Coopers Mart building at the bottom of Westgate Road, now occupied by Ryder Architecture.

The remains of a milecastle – a small Roman fort – have also been found near Newcastle Arts Centre on Westgate Road. The investigations have also uncovered the 6ft wide foundations of Westmoreland House, which was demolished to make way for the Mining Institute building in Neville Hall, which opened in 1872.

The origins of the house, which was the property of the powerful Neville family, date from the 14th century and what has been revealed is probably the base of a wing from the 17th century.

A dig inside the institute has revealed a cellar of Westmoreland House, which had been filled in with slag to level the ground after the demolition of the building probably from industrial works in what is now known as the Stephenson Quarter.

Mixed with slag is waste such as animal bones, oyster shells and clay pipes.“It looks like they are using whatever they could get their hands on to fill in the cellars,” said Alan.

It was unearthed outside the Mining Institute in Newcastle
It was unearthed outside the Mining Institute in Newcastle

Last year, the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers won a £600,000 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pave the way for a bid next year for more than £4m for a project which involves:

1. The restoration of the exterior of the institute’s grade II-star listed Neville Hall along with the renovation of interior rooms, including the sumptuous Nicholas Wood Memorial Hall and the Edwardian lecture theatre 

2. The preservation and celebration of the institute’s industrial and engineering heritage and the genius of the early pioneers and entrepreneurs whose skill, knowledge and invention were exported around the world

3. Digitization of its unique archive, creating online access for research into one of the most important collections in the world for the study of the Industrial Revolution

4. Exploration and development of a programme aimed at ensuring that the institute and its heritage are better understood by the communities of the North, as well as the promotion of engineering careers and apprenticeships

5. Securing a future role for the institute through a proposed Common Room of the Great North to provide meeting spaces for the region and promoting – in the building and online – a programme of debates, conferences, seminars and events that contribute to the economic, social, environmental and cultural life of the North East.

5,000-Year-Old Copper Ax Found in Switzerland

5,000-Year-Old Copper Ax Found in Switzerland

Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged.
Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged.

Archaeologists discovered a copper blade in Switzerland that’s just like the ax Ötzi the famous “Iceman” was carrying when he died. Like Ötzi’s ax, this tool was made with copper that came from 100’s of miles away, in present-day Tuscany in central Italy.

The discovery could shed light on Copper Age connections across Europe. Bad fortune eventually made Ötzi the Iceman more famous. About 5,300 years back, he was shot with an arrow, struck in the head and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps.

Until 1991, when hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body, he was buried in a glacier. Ötzi is Europe’s oldest mummy, and scientists studied almost every aspect of his life and death, from his tattoos and tools to his diet and DNA.

Among the equipment Ötzi carried was an ax of almost pure copper, remarkable because its wooden handle and leather straps were still preserved. This past summer, researchers traced the source of the metal in Ötzi’s ax to southern Tuscany, which came as a surprise to them.

The huge mountains of the Alps were thought to be a “neat cultural barrier” separating the metal trade, the authors of that study wrote in the journal PLOS One; people living around the Alps at that time were believed to have gotten their copperlocally or from the Balkans.

Now, archeologists in Switzerland report finding another blade on the northern foot of the Alps with the same make as Ötzi’s.

A reconstruction of the village Zug-Riedmatt, where the copper ax was found, as it looked more than 5,000 years ago.
A reconstruction of the village Zug-Riedmatt, where the copper ax was found, as it looked more than 5,000 years ago.

The ax was discovered in Zug-Riedmatt, one of the many pile-dwelling villages around the Alps that are famous for their prehistoric wooden houses built on stilts on lake shores and other wetlands.”

It was a very efficient general-purpose ax, especially proper for woodworking,” said Gishan Schaeren, an archaeologist with the Office for Monuments and Archaeology in the Swiss canton (or state) of Zug. But in addition to chopping trees to build stilted houses, people could use this axs as lethal weapons, Schaeren added.

The newfound blade was between 5,300 and 5,100 years old and missing its wooden handle. It was about half the weight of Ötzi’s blade and shorter, but the same shape. By measuring the traces of lead in the blade, Schaeren and his colleagues could link the copper to the same source in southern Tuscany.”

Mainstream research normally does not consider the possibility of intense contacts between south and north in the Alps”

A view of the excavation where the blade was found in 2008.
A view of the excavation where the blade was found in 2008

Schaeren thinks that Copper Age people should be given more credit.” We have to consider that people who traveled in the Alps had a very profound knowledge of the landscape and its conditions due to their experience with hunting, herding and exploring natural resources in these areas,” he said.

Stronger links to southern Europe, Schaeren added, could explain certain styles of rock art, pottery, burial customs and other phenomena seen in the north.”It is one step to a much more connected worldview,” Schaeren said.

Europe’s Oldest Battlefield Yields Clues to Fighters’ Identities in Germany

Europe’s Oldest Battlefield Yields Clues to Fighters’ Identities in Germany

After decomposition, the bones were somewhat jumbled by the movement of the river.
After decomposition, the bones were somewhat jumbled by the movement of the river.

Europe’s Oldest Battlefield Yields Clues to Fighters’ Identities: It was one of the biggest and most brutal battles in the Bronze Age. Now archaeologist has shed new light on the mysterious people who fought in the Tollense Valley 3,250 years ago.

A study of the skeletons at the sites in north-eastern Germany suggests that more than 2000 people were involved in the battle. And while experts are yet to pinpoint exactly where the fighters were from, DNA analysis suggests that it was a large, diverse group of non-local warriors.

The reason for the war on Europes oldest battlefield remains unknown. Since the 1980s, several pieces of evidence of a battle have been discovered in river sediment at the site, including daggers, knives, and skulls.

A skull with a bronze arrowhead in it was found at the Tollense site.
A skull with a bronze arrowhead in it was found at the Tollense site.

In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep river bank with a flint arrowhead embedded in one end of the bone. A systematic exploration of the site began in 2007 after archaeologist unearthed an enormous battlefield, as well as 140 skeletons and remains of military equipment.

These included wooden clubs, bronze spearhead, and flint and bronze arrowheads. Now, an archaeologist from the Lower Saxony State Office for Cultural Heritage have analyzed the remains to learn more about the peoples who fought in the battle.

According to Science, in the Bronze Age, Northern Europe was long dismissed as a backwater, overshadowed by more sophisticated civilizations in the Near East and Greece.

They believe the battle was of a scale up until then, completely unknown north of the Alps. It suggests more organizations and violence in the area than once thought.

Speaking to Live Science, Professor Thomas Terberger, one of the archaeologists working on the excavation, said: ‘We are very confident that the human remain is more or less lying in the position where they died.’

While 140 skeletons have been found, Professor Terberger stated that this is likely only a fraction of the men involved. He estimates that more than 2000 people were involved in the battle. He said: ‘This is beyond the local scale of conflict,’ suggesting that the battle went beyond neighbors.

To understand more about the fighters, the researcher conducted a chemical analysis of the skeletons, looking for elements like strontium, which can leave a geographically specific signature in bones.

While the results showed that the fighter was a large, diverse group of non-locals, the archaeologist was unable to pinpoint specifically where they were from.

An analysis of the skeletons at the site in north-eastern Germany suggests that more than 2,000 people were involved in the battle
An analysis of the skeletons at the site in north-eastern Germany suggests that more than 2,000 people were involved in the battle

The analysis did suggest that many of the fighters came from the south – either southern Germany or Central Europe – a find that was in line with many pieces of evidence discovered at the site, including Central-European arrowheads and pins.

The fighters closely resembled the slain soldiers discovered in a nearby mass grave at Wittstock, dating back to 1636. While this is more recent than the battle at Tollense, Professor Terberger believes that it could have some important parallels for the Bronze Age.

In the battle at Wittstock, soldiers were known to come from all over Europe. If the fighters at Tollense were also multi-ethnic, it might mean ‘these were the warrior who was trained as warriors’, rather than locals, according to Professor Terberger.

One key question that remains to be answered is the motivation behind the battle. The researcher now hopes to look to the wider landscape near the battlefield to look for answers.

The Tollense River was known to be an important route for north-south trade, and the battle took place beside a bridge connecting two sides of the river.

Professor Terberger said: ‘It was probably an important crossing in the landscape.’ The time when the battle took place was also right in the middle of a huge cultural shift in Central Europe, as people arrived from the Mediterranean. Professor Terberger added: ‘It is not by accident that our battlefield site is dating to this period of time.’

Teenager’s Bones Recovered from Scottish Cave

Archaeologists find teenager’s bones in ‘Massacre Cave’ where up to 400 members of Scottish MacDonald clan were wiped out in 16th Century feud with rival MacLeods

Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke
Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke

Archaeologists have confirmed that bones found at Massacre Cave on Eigg are those of a teenager.

Tourists discovered in the cave about 50 bones, the scene of last year’s mass killing of Macdonald clan members in the late 16th century. The bones dated between 1430 and 1620 were suggested by initial tests, potentially placing them at the time of the massacre that wiped out almost the entire population of the island.

Dr. Kirsty Owen, senior archaeology manager at Historic Environment Scotland, said further analysis has now confirmed the bones belonged to a single skeleton of an adolescent aged under 16.

It has not been possible to determine their sex or stature, Dr. Owen added.

Further tests are to be carried out at Bradford University to shed more light on the diet and lifestyle of the person whose remains have been found.

Results of a post-excavation analysis carried out at the cave are now being finalized with further radio-carbon dates from materials due soon.HES plans to return the remains to Eigg once all investigations have been completed.

Dr. Owen added: “When the post-excavation analysis has been completed we will discuss what happens next with the community on Eigg. The decision will be made jointly with them.”

Police were called to the cave, also known as Francis Cave, last October following the discovery of the remains.No proactive searches have been made for further remain given the cave is now treated as a war grave.

The massacre on the island occurred around 1577, Up to 400 Macdonalds is said to have been killed by their Macleod rivals in one of Scotland’s most chilling episodes of clan warfare.

The feud between the two clans is thought to have wiped out almost the entire population of the island. Pictured above, a drawing of feuding clans in the 1600s.

According to accounts, the murders were carried out after 3 young Macleod men were expelled from Eigg and tied up on their boats after seemingly harassing a number of local girls.

After the men returned to the Macleod seat of power at Dunvegan on Skye, retaliation was planned with the clan organising a trip to EiggThe Macdonalds, aware of the approaching Macleods, hid in a large cave, now known as Massacre Cave, in the south of the island for some time.

The Macleods then lit a large fire of turf and ferns at the entrance of the cave with the smoke suffocating those insides. Only one family managed to escape, it is said.

Archaeologists at Bradford University now hope to find out more about the diet and lifestyle of occupants of the island at the time of the massacre before the bones are returned

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Archaeologists working at the site of Scotland’s largest Pictish fort have made an “incredible” discovery after unearthing part of the power center’s defensive wall.

The discovery has been made at Burghead in Moray, the largest known fort of its kind in northern Britain which is believed to have been occupied by the elite of Pictish society more than 1,000 years ago.

The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead
The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead

Around 10 feet of rampart wall has been unearthed with preserved pieces of timber lacing, which strengthens the structure, also found. It is now known that the wall dates to the 8th Century – putting it right at the heart of the Pictish period.

Dr. Gordon Noble, head of archaeology at Aberdeen University, who is leading the work at Burghead said it was an “incredible” find. He added: “What a sight to see the rampart revealed for the first time in over 1000 years.“It’s very impressive.

Probably one of the best-preserved ramparts of this type.“It really reinforces the huge investment in resources that was undertaken to construct the fort at Burghead.

The timber lacing is one of the best preserved in Europe.“Unfortunately, it is also under huge threat from coastal erosion with meters lost to the sea in the last few decades.

The Wallface now stands around a meter from an active erosion face.“Historic Environment Scotland is providing funding to help record as much as we can before the erosion gets worse.”

It is believed the site at Burghead may been one of the most important elite settlements of the Kingdom of Fortriu which was the Pictish overkingship from the 7th century onwards.

Dr. Noble, who has led excavations at Burghead since 2015, said the picture of life at the fort and village was “getting clearer” but that a lot of work still needed to be done.“We now know a little about the architecture of the buildings inside, but not how many there were and need to know more about the phasing of the site,” he added.

The stretch of the wall now unearthed at Burghead contains several beam slots that supported the wooden structure of the fort.Dr. Noble said “abundant charcoal” had been recovered during the excavation indicating that the fort was destroyed by fire.

It has long been thought the fort was razed to the ground around the time Vikings were launching raids along the Moray coast. However, the act of destruction has actually preserved some of the wooden remains with charcoal deposits helping to date the structure more accurately.

Important finds made at the site include the Burghead Bull carvings and an underground well, both which were found in the 1800sIt was thought that much of the site was destroyed when a new town was built on the site of the fort in the 19th Century but Dr. Noble and colleagues have since found remains of a Pictish longhouse, coins, and pottery.

Archeologists believe Norway find is rare Viking ship burial

Archeologists believe Norway find is rare Viking ship burial

This handout picture released on March 25, 2019 by Vestfold Fylkeskommune shows Funnplass, where a ship's grave probably originated from the Viking Age has been discovered on a plain among the burial mounds in Borreparken in Vestfold, eastern Norway
This handout picture released on March 25, 2019 by Vestfold Fylkeskommune shows Funnplass, where a ship’s grave probably originated from the Viking Age has been discovered on a plain among the burial mounds in Borreparken in Vestfold, eastern Norway

Archeologists believe they have found a rare Viking ship burial site in a region of Norway known for its Viking-era treasures, Norwegian officials said Monday.

Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), experts found a ship-shaped anomaly near other Viking burial mounds in the Borre Park in Vestfold county, southeast of Oslo.”

The GPR data clearly show the shape of a ship, and we can see weak traces of a circular depression around the vessel.

This could point to the existence of a mound that was later removed,” Terje Gansum, leader of the department for cultural heritage management in Vestfold county, said in a statement.

He said researchers would carry out further investigations to try and assess the size of the preserved find.

There are only seven ship burials dating from the Viking Age (800-1050) in Europe, including three located in Vestfold county.

Another Viking ship burial was believed to have been found in Jellestad in southeastern Norway last year.

During the Viking era, when Norse seafarers raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, high-ranking officials were sometimes buried in a ship on land, along with decorative goods and even oxen or horse remains, then covered with a mound of dirt.”

The discovery of a new Viking ship in Vestfold is a historic event that will attract international attention,” Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen said.

This handout picture released March 25, 2019 by Vestfold Fylkeskommune shows Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen posing at the place where a ship's grave probably originated from the Viking Age has been discovered
This handout picture released March 25, 2019 by Vestfold Fylkeskommune shows Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen posing at the place where a ship’s grave probably originated from the Viking Age has been discovered