Remains of a medieval child found with other skeletons just yards from St Patrick’s grave in Northern Ireland
The medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down.
Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of 13th Century Benedictine monks.
But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or six-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.
The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429.
Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have traveled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.
A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross. Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.
‘Rich picture of medieval life’
Ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered in the buried kitchen of a 13th Century Benedictine Abbey as well as a flint tool dating to about 7,000 BC.
Blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones and charred wheat grains from bread-making were also found.
Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of three of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.
Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.
He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.
Mr. Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.
“We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.
“The large pottery shards have been painstakingly pieced together at Queen’s University Belfast giving an idea of the shape, size, and decoration of the vessels.
“A rich environmental picture is being established through the processing of the soil samples taken during the excavation.”
Metalwork recovered from an ancient pit has also been analyzed and include fine copper alloy dress pins, a socketed arrowhead, a horseshoe, a pair of iron shears and a length of chain with a suspension hook still attached.
A number of items are now on display in the High Cross Gallery at Down County Museum in Downpatrick, in two new cases funded by the British Museum Trust, while research work continues on the collection of artifacts, dating from the Mesolithic (c. 7000 BC) period.
Mr. Sloan added: “This is fantastic as Downpatrick has almost been ignored from an archaeological and historical point of view. “It has got my blood flowing. I believe there is more to be found.”
The Irish Have Much More Viking DNA Than Previously Thought, Genetic Study Reveals
An Irish Viking. The concept has become more real and more captivating. Anyone who’s read even a bit about the history of the Vikings knows that their DNA is likely to be found in people living in the British Isles today.
New research shows that the Irish definitely have their fair share of Viking heritage–in fact, the Irish are more genetically diverse than most people may assume.
The Irish have Viking and Norman ancestry in similar proportions to the English. A comprehensive DNA map of the Irish has for the first time revealed lasting contributions from British, Scandinavian, and French invasions.
“By comparing 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 genomes from Britain and mainland Europe, genetic clusters within the west of Ireland, in particular, were discovered for the first time, leading the researchers to investigate if invasions from the Vikings and Normans to the east may have influenced genetics in that part of the country,” according to Irish Central.
Because of extensive Irish immigration to the United States and other countries, these findings have ramifications. There are 80 million people in the world who claim Irish heritage.
“This subtle genetic structure within such a small country has implications for medical genetic association studies,” said Trinity College Dublin geneticist Dr. Ross Byrne. In fact a number of American slang words have roots coming from the Irish:
Researchers found 23 distinct genetic clusters, separated by geography by comparing mutations from almost 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 from Britain and mainland Europe.
“These are most distinct in western Ireland, but less pronounced in the east, where historical migrations have erased the genetic variations,” said the Irish Mirror.
The researchers studied genes from Europe and calculated the timing of the historical migrations of the Norse-Vikings and the Anglo-Normans to Ireland, yielding dates consistent with historical records.
The Vikings invaded Ireland for the first time in the 8th century, raiding a monastery on Rathlin Island on the northeast coast. The Viking warriors were large in numbers and well armed.
They moved inland along river-ways, attacking the monastic settlements they came across. They also took captives to trade as slaves.
The Vikings in Ireland built wintering camps, known as longphorts (derived from the Irish words boat & fort), a ship port. This meant they could settle on the island longer. They used their longphorts as a base allowing them to perform further in-land raids.
Although longphorts were mainly built to only last one winter, some of them became major settlements, such as the one in Dublin, Dyflinn, founded in 841 AD. Excavations during the 1970’s discovered more than 100 homes from this early period and thousands of daily household objects in Dublin.
The Viking conquest in Ireland would continue for more than 200 years, until the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. In the late 12th century, the Norman lords who had already subjugated England came to Ireland to take large plots of land. In the 16th century, under Elizabeth I, many more English Protestant families arrived, often displacing the native Catholics.
It’s believed that the first group of Vikings to invade Ireland were from Scandinavia. They had also settled in Scotland and would later become known as Gallowglass, an elite mercenary warrior group. From the mid-13th to the early 17th centuries they fought for hire in Ireland itself. Their name is an Anglicization of the Gaelic word gallóglach (roughly pronounced GAHL-o-glukh), which translates as “foreign warrior.”
Gallowglass are descendants of not only Vikings but of Scots native to the western Highlands and Hebrides. As Scottish historian Fergus Cannan notes, the Gallowglass “lived for the war.…His sole function was to fight, and his only contribution to society was destruction.”
Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England
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.”
Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500-year-old tattoos
The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia.
The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.
But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.
‘I think we have not moved far from Pazyryks in how the tattoos are made,’ she told the Siberian Times ( SiberianTimes.com ). ‘It is still about a craving to make yourself as beautiful as possible.”For example, about the British.
‘A lot of them go on holiday to Greece, and when I’ve been there I heard how Greeks were smiling and saying that a British man’s age can be easily understood by the number of tattoos on his body. ‘I’m talking about the working class now. And I noticed it, too.
‘The older a person, the more tattoos are on his body.’ Dr. Polosmak added: ‘We can say that most likely there was – and is – one place on the body for everyone to start putting the tattoos on, and it was a left shoulder.
‘I can assume so because all the mummies we found with just one tattoo had it on their left shoulders.’ And nowadays this is the same place where people try to put the tattoos on, thousands of years on.
‘I think its linked to the body composition – as the left shoulder is the place where it is noticeable most, where it looks the most beautiful. ‘Nothing changes with years, the body stays the same, and the person making a tattoo now is getting closer to his ancestors than he or she may realise.
‘The tattoo patterns are from the ancient ‘princess’ who died at around the age of 25 – and from two warriors found on an ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.
The reconstruction of the tattoos in the images shown here was released to coincide with the moving of the remains of the princess, dug out of the ice 19 years ago, to a permanent glass sarcophagus in the National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk, capital of the Altai Republic.
Eventually, she will be displayed to tourists. Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, though experts are divided on whether she was a royal or a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman.
Next to hear body was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.
‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now if you like,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death.
‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.’ The tattoos were ‘used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position.
‘For example, the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos, as you see on the picture of his torso,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘Our young woman – the princess – has only her two arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’
The Siberian Times said: “The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’ show a mythological animal – a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. ‘The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. ‘And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.
The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep. ‘She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. ‘There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand. ‘On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.
‘The patterns mirror the tattoos on a much more elaborately covered male body dug from the ice in 1929 whose highly decorated torso in reconstructed in our drawing here.
‘His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has griffon’s head and an onager, is drawn on it.’
Anglo-Saxons were WORSE than the Vikings and carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’
According to a Danish academic who thinks disgruntled English monks spread ‘ false news ‘ about his ancestors, tales of vicious Vikings may be significantly exaggerated.
The earlier Anglo-Saxons carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’ against native Britons, while the Vikings ushered in Scandinavian multi-cultural society, he claims.
Traces of Viking influence on the language can be found in modern English, for example, the use of ‘bairn’ to refer to a child in the North.
However, the Anglo-Saxons worked hard to wipe out all trace of the earlier Celtic language in the same way American English replaced Native American dialects.
The claims are made by Mads Ravn, head of research at Vejle Museums in Denmark in an in-depth article for ScienceNordic. Dr. Ravn traces the beginnings of scholarly hyperbole over Viking raids to 793 AD.
In that year a Northumbrian monk named Alcuin described a raid on Lindisfarne, a holy island off the northeast coast of England.
He wrote: ‘The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.’
Despite this reputation for ferocity, Dr. Ravn believes it is undeserved. Writing in ScienceNordic, he said: ‘The reported plundering and ethnic cleansing are probably overrated.
‘The Vikings simply had worse “press coverage” by frustrated English monks, who bemoaned their attacks.’ Dr. Ravn claims modern studies of DNA, archaeology, and linguistics depict a more complicated Viking history.
‘They indicate that the Vikings were not the worst invaders to land on English shores at that time. That title goes to the Anglo-Saxons, 400 years earlier,’ he added.
The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th Century AD.
They were made up of Germanic tribes who emigrated from continental Europe, as well as indigenous Britons who adopted their cultural practices. The Anglo-Saxons were fierce warriors, and tribes often battled one another for territory.
Dr. Mavn says their reign, which he compares to apartheid against the celts, was far more brutal than that of the Vikings. Evidence of this can be found in their attempts to eradicate the languages they encountered.
‘In the 5th and 6th centuries, old English wiped out the earlier Celtic language in a similar way that modern English eradicated the language of the Native Americans in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries,’ he added.
‘The Vikings’ impact was significantly less. Linguists do see some influence from the old Norse of the Vikings in old English. But it doesn’t come close to the eradication of Celtic by the Anglo-Saxons.’
DNA studies also suggest that the Anglo-Saxons came over in large numbers and contribute a large part of the genetic inheritance of British people. The Vikings, however, settled in smaller numbers and likely married with Anglo-Saxons, rather than replacing them.
They also left their own mark on the language, with the word ‘bairn’ from the Old Norse barn, meaning child, still used widely in the North of England.
Other similarities include ’armhole’, from the Danish armhole, for armpit and ‘hagworm’ from the Danish hugorm, meaning adder, which can be found in Old English.
Ancient Well With Stone Stairs Unearthed in Scotland
An ancient well at the top of one of Scotland’s most iconic mountain peaks has been unearthed for the first time in hundreds of years.
Archaeologists from Aberdeen University’s Northern Picts projects made the incredible discovery this week at the Mither Tap, one of the summits of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.
The deep granite well would have served as a water source for the occupants of the impressive fort at the top of the hill, the remains of which can still be seen today.
Although it was previously discovered in the Victorian period, it was recovered and has lain beneath thousands of hillwalker’s feet ever since.
Gordon Noble, the head of archaeology at Aberdeen University, said: “We have been interested in this site for some time because Mither Tap hasn’t really been excavated in any scale since the 19th century.
“We received permission from Historic Environment Scotland – as it’s a scheduled monument – to open up a number of trenches in the area to get dating evidence from all around the fort at the top of Mither Tap.
“We were really expecting to find a pretty bog-standard well, but we uncovered these fantastic steps leading all the way down to the well chamber.
“It’s particularly sophisticated for the period and created a huge amount of excitement both in the team and online.
“It really gives you an idea of the efforts that would have gone into building this fort – the ramparts would have been huge.”
It is not yet known precisely what historic period the well belongs to.
Mr. Noble said a shepherd put a large rock into the well at one point to prevent his livestock from falling in, and it currently blocks access to its lower levels.
He added: “We’re hoping to try and get the stone out to look underneath, but we’ll see what happens.
“I hope we’ll be able to find intact deposits we can sample for dating, or do some pollen sampling to find out about the environment at the time the well was used.
“But even without that, it’s still an incredibly exciting sight to see.”
The team hope to conclude their initial excavations by the end of next week and could return to the Mither Tap in the future subject to funding.
Visitors are invited to go and see the well and the rest of the ongoing archaeology work on Sunday, from 11 am to 1 pm.
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.
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.