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Ghosts of the past: 3 haunted royal Medieval residences of Britain

Ghosts of the past: 3 haunted royal Medieval residences of Britain

From the chilling apparition of a royal pageboy who haunts Glamis Castle, to the tragic Jane Seymour who carries her severed head about Hampton Court Palace, Caroline Taggart explores 3 of the most haunted sites in Britain…

3. Hampton Court Palace, London

One of the joys of Hampton Court is that it is two palaces for the price of one: there’s the Tudor construction and also the palace built by William and Mary two centuries later. So it’s fitting that you should also find there two royal ghosts.

Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – one of them more peacefully than the other. The wife said to have been Henry’s favourite – number three, Jane Seymour – died here in 1537, shortly after giving birth to the longed-for son, the future Edward VI.

In Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal, you might start by admiring the exquisite ceiling, vaulted and painted in striking midnight blue with a repeating pattern of stars and the royal motto ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’ picked out in gold. Then if, having been dazzled by looking up, you care to look down, you can contemplate the peculiar rumour that Jane Seymour’s heart and other organs may be buried beneath the floor.

The rest of her body is in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where she lies next to her husband. She was the only one of Henry’s wives to be given a queen’s funeral. But Jane may not entirely have left Hampton Court.

It is suggested that a ghostly lady in a long white gown has been seen carrying a lighted taper down the so-called Silver Stick Staircase and out into the Clock Court, and that she may be Henry VIII’s third queen. If it is indeed Jane, she isn’t alone in her wanderings.

Tradition has it that Katherine Howard – wife number five – upon learning that she was to be charged with adultery, ran along the processional route that leads from Henry VIII’s quarters to the chapel, screaming and begging her husband for mercy. The royal guards seized her and forced her back to her own apartments. She never saw Henry again, but her ghost, still screaming, is regularly seen and heard in what is now called the Haunted Gallery.

Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – his third wife, Jane Seymour, and his fifth, Katherine Howard.
Two of Henry VIII’s wives are said to haunt Hampton Court – his third wife, Jane Seymour, and his fifth, Katherine Howard.

2. Glamis Castle, Angus

Widely recognised as the home of William Shakespeare’s Scottish nobleman Macbeth, Glamis is now better known as the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; and as the birthplace of the late Princess Margaret in 1930. It is also said to be the most-haunted castle in Scotland.

One of its most appealing ghosts is a mischievous pageboy. The story goes that this naughty boy was frequently punished by being told to sit on a stone seat just outside the room that is now styled as the Queen Mother’s sitting room. One freezing cold night, everyone went to bed and forgot about him. The pageboy, doing what he was told for once, obediently sat there all night and froze to death.

Today, visitors still occasionally trip over as they enter this room, supposedly because the boy sticks out his foot as they pass by. It’s tempting to imagine he sticks out his tongue, too.

The nearest Glamis has to a royal ghost, though, is the so-called Lady in Grey, Janet Douglas (c1498–1537), who was widow of the sixth Lord Glamis. Douglas’s clan had a long-running feud with the royal Stuarts and, in order to be avenged on the family and claim Glamis for himself, in 1537 James V accused Janet of witchcraft and put her on trial in Edinburgh.

Even in the superstitious times of the 16th century, the charges were so obviously trumped up that there was rioting in the streets.

But it made no difference: Janet was burned at the stake on Castle Hill in Edinburgh on 17 July 1537.Some 150 years later her ghost found its way back to Glamis, where today’s castle guides make macabre mileage from warning visitors that she occupies a specific seat in the chapel – perhaps the one being occupied at that very moment

Glamis Castle, Angus

1. Nottingham Castle

After 20 years of foolish decisions, the disastrous monarch Edward II was deposed in 1327 by his queen, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Visitors to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire can still see the dungeon where Edward died in what one historian has described as a “suspiciously timely” manner.

Although the official account said that Edward had died of natural causes, many theories abound as to how he may have been murdered, including death by the intimate administration of a red-hot poker or, as the 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe had it, by being forced to lie on a bed while his executioners put a table on top of him and stamped on it.

Isabella and Roger briefly controlled the kingdom in the name of her teenage son, now Edward III, but the young Edward soon decided to take power into his own hands. On 19 October 1330, still a month short of his 18th birthday, the king launched a dramatic coup against Isabella and Roger at Nottingham Castle. He took his mother and her lover prisoner and hauled Mortimer off to the Tower of London. On 29 November, after a token trial, Roger was hanged ignominiously at Tyburn.

Hanging was, at this time, the form of capital punishment used to punish common criminals. Given Mortimer’s rank, it would have been more respectful to have beheaded him on Tower Hill.

Mortimer’s ghost supposedly made its way back to Nottingham and it is said that the apparition can sometimes be seen in one of the man-made caves in the labyrinth under the castle. If you stop for a drink at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the centuries-old pub set among the caves, you may just see him.

The caves at Nottingham Castle, where the ghost of Roger Mortimer has supposedly been spotted.
The caves at Nottingham Castle, where the ghost of Roger Mortimer has supposedly been spotted. 

Roman Army Camp Uncovered in Scotland

Roman Army Camp Uncovered in Scotland

The remains were uncovered during building work
The remains were uncovered during building work

A marching camp used by the Legions as they made their way along the coast was found by a team carrying out work prior to the building of the new Ayr Academy.

It is thought to date back to the 1st century AD, when an army under Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britain, fought its way up to Aberdeenshire and defeated an army of Caledonians at the battle of Mons Grampius.

The only two known routes for the Roman invasion were previously thought to be further east; these same routes are followed by the current M74 and A68 roads.

But the new marching camp at Ayr reveals another route down the west coast towards the south-west tip of Scotland, from where Ireland is readily visible.

The discovery was made during archaeological excavations undertaken by GUARD Archaeology but only became apparent upon post-excavation analyses and radiocarbon dating.

Iraia Arabaolaza, who directed the excavation, said: ‘There was a ford across the river Ayr just below the Roman marching camp while ships may have been beached on the nearby shoreline.”The Ayr marching camp is 20 miles from the nearest Roman camp to the south at Girvan, which corresponds to a day’s march for a Roman soldier.”

There is a little more distance to other Roman camps to the north-east near Strathaven. Altogether this suggests that this site was chosen as a strategic location for the Roman conquest of Ayrshire.”

Roman marching camps have been described as the temporary bases of a tented army on campaign. While most Roman camps are usually recognised by the regular linear ditches which enclose them, landscaping or ploughing at the Ayr Academy site appears to have destroyed any such remains.

The camp at Ayr Academy, however, shares other similarities with Roman camps in Scotland, which have also revealed similar formations of fire-pits or camp-ovens. Ms Arabaolaza said: “The Roman features comprised 26 large, often double, fire-pits that were distributed evenly in two parallel rows 30m apart.

The arrangement and uniformity of these features implies an organised layout and the evidence suggests that they were all used for baking bread.”The location of the oven was recognised by the scorching of the subsoil base, stone slabs and burnt clay fragments, some with wood imprints and with dome moulding.

Ash pits were identified at the opposite end to the ovens within these figure-of-eight features, filled with burnt and charcoal-rich soil comprising the raked-out material from the clay-domed ovens.”It is also possible that the archaeological remains only represent a portion of the camp, which may have extended into the flat land to the north, where the modern racecourse is situated.

Archaeologists said that the Romans were not the first people to occupy the site. Traces of the local Iron Age population were recovered during the excavation, including a fragment of a shale bracelet, along with pits and post-holes that date to much earlier times.

Evidence of Bronze Age ritual activity from the late third and second millennium BC, a Neolithic settlement from the fourth millennium BC and a Mesolithic hunter/gatherer camp from the sixth millennium BC was also discovered, revealing the area to be one of the earliest and most complex prehistoric sites in this part of the west coast of Scotland.

This indicates the earliest occupation of the Ayr Academy site goes back to around 5200 BC, roughly twice as old as the Roman Marching Camp.

After defeating the Caledonians, Agricola returned south. Scotland would be invaded by the Romans again a century later when the Emperor Septimus Severus ventured north to put down raiding tribes.

Wooden Shield Dating to Iron Age Discovered in England

Wooden Shield Dating to Iron Age Discovered in England

 The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths.
The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths.

In Leicestershire, the only example of its kind ever found in Europe, a “surprising and unparalleled” 2,300-year-old shield made of tree bark was discovered.

Archaeologists say the discovery of the shield, made between 395 and 250BC, has completely overturned assumptions about the weapons used in the iron age, sparking breathless reactions among experts of the period.

“This is an absolutely phenomenal object, one of the most marvelous, internationally important finds that I have encountered in my career,” said Julia Farley, curator of British and European iron age collections at the British Museum.“So often it is gold which grabs the headlines, but this bark shield is much rarer.”

The shield was discovered in 2015 by archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Service in a site close to the River Soar.

Organic objects from the period very rarely survive, but the shield was preserved in waterlogged soil and may have been deposited in a water-filled pit, according to Matt Beamish, the lead archaeologist for the service. 

Bark shields of the period were entirely unknown in the northern hemisphere, and the assumption was that the material may have been too flimsy for use in war. However, experiments to remake the weapon in alder and willow showed the 3mm-thick shield would have been tough enough for battle but incredibly light.

It was likely that, contrary to assumptions, similar weapons were widespread, Beamish said. The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths, described by Beamish as “like a whalebone corset of split hardwood”, and surrounded by a rim of hazel, with a twisted willow boss.

“This is a lost technology. It has not been seen before as far as we are aware, but presumably it is a technique that was used in many ways for making bark items.”

The malleable green wood would then tighten as it dried, giving the shield its strength and forming the rounded rectangles into a slightly “waisted” shape, like a subtle figure of eight.

That was significant, said Farley, because it was exactly the shape of the ornate Battersea shield, which was dredged from the Thames in the mid-19th century and dates from the same period.“So it is possible this incredibly rare organic object is giving us some little hints about why we see what we see when we look at the metal objects.

The Battersea shield might be pretending to be a shield like this.”Because so little organic material survives from the period, she said, “we are left with the earthworks, the shiny metal work, some of the ironwork, but we don’t really see the everyday world of these people: the wooden houses they lived in with their thatched roofs, their clothing … and so really the visual world of the iron age is lost to us.

But something like this is just a little tiny window into that, which for me is fabulous and so exciting.”The shield has been donated to the British Museum where Farley said she hoped it would go on display next year.

Large Roman Building Uncovered in England

Large Roman Building Uncovered in England

Archeologists celebrate the scale of a 150-ft-long, uncovered Roman building in Faversham.

The structure — the largest of its kind in the county — was uncovered by the Kent Archeological Field School (KAFS), which has now undertaken final excavation work on the Abbey Farm site off Abbey Fields.

Its location had been identified several years ago during a field walk from Canterbury to Rochester, but only now has the building realized its scale and complexity.

An idea of what the building would have looked like
An idea of what the building would have looked like

Dr Paul Wilkinson, of KAFS, says it would have had several uses.“What we found on stripping the topsoil off was a profound and amazing building – the largest Roman agricultural building found so far in Kent,” he said.“It is absolutely enormous at 150ft long by 50ft wide.

“It was divided into zones of activity, so the west end was a bath house with the furnace, and then as you moved to the east it turned more into the agricultural activity.

The site was investigated by more than 20 students
The site was investigated by more than 20 students 

“The work has shown that the survival of the building was amazing, with stone walls, polished terracotta floors, underfloor hypocaust heating, all untouched, and covered by tons of ceramic roof tiles and the collapsed stone walls covering huge amounts of box flue tiles, which were used to direct hot air up the interior walls.

Painted plaster from these walls is mostly white but the hot sauna room on the north side of the building had plaster walls decorated in green, red and yellow panels.

“In the 5th century, it had been extended another 15 meters, with what could be an internal Christian altar.”

An idea of what the building would have looked like
An idea of what the building would have looked like

The building was investigated by more than 20 students, in what has been described as a “unique experience” by Dr Wilkinson.

The team’s next step will be to write a report, which will join documentation for other Roman villa estates in the historic environment record kept by Kent County Council.

“It’s an extremely exciting building,” Dr. Wilkinson added. “It was in the landscape for at least 400 years and had a variety of purposes.

The team on site
The team on site 

“We are finding that because of investigation of the landscape taking place now prior to the building of housing estates that the Romans were very thick on the ground indeed, and this was almost unknown of 20 years ago.“We have found they had profound activity in the countryside and it was densely populated.”

Viking imported finds discovered in cemetery works

New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts

New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts
The finding took archaeologists by surprise

Archeologists expected beer or other brewing materials to be found, but they found something more valuable.

It was supposed to be a simple, routine expansion work at Byneset Cemetery, adjacent to the medieval Steine Church in Trondheim, Norway.

As in several other European countries, Norwegian law requires archeological studies to precede such works — and in this case it paid off in spades.

Archaeologists have discovered a trove of Viking artifacts, including one which is of a foreign origin: they come from Ireland, researchers say. 

Jo Sindre Pålsson Eidshaug and Øyunn Wathne Sæther, both research assistants at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum, say that what really drew their attention was a small brooch — a Celtic, gold-plated silver fitting from a book.

“This is a decorative fitting,” Eidshaug said of his discovery. “It almost looks like it’s gilded. It’s a kind of decorative fitting, I would guess.”

A fitting, probably from a book. The style is typical of Celtic and Irish areas and dates from the 800s. Traces of gilding can be seen in the recesses.

It might have been part of a bigger, religious ensemble, or a stand-alone book fitting. Right now, any such claims are little more than speculation. But what’s interesting is how it got there.

It’s no secret that Vikings roamed Europe’s seas, plundered the coast of England for centuries. Crossing over to Ireland, while not easy, was certainly possible for the skilled seamen. But even so, finding Celtic items in Viking sites is not common, with only a few similar sites previously discovered.

In archaeology, this is technically called an import. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bought or traded for, and again — taking into consideration the well-known habits of the Vikings.

“Someone very politely called this an Irish import, but that’s just a nice way of saying that someone was in Ireland and picked up an interesting item,” said museum director Reidar Andersen, who was also at the site.

This isn’t to say that the item was definitely stolen. Whether or not the Vikings’ voyages to Ireland were peaceful or not is anyone’s guess right now.

“Yes, that’s right. We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back. But how peacefully it all transpired, I won’t venture to say,” he said.

Erecting tents at the excavation site with Steine Church behind.

The site itself holds great promise for the future. Archaeologists also came across a belt buckle, a key, and a knife blade, so they have high hopes for upcoming digs.

The church itself dates from the 1140s and used to be connected to a large, old farm estate from the time of the Vikings, which will also be studied next year.

Source: heritagedaily

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden
Team member Clara Alfsdotter arranges the remains of one victim

On the south-eastern island of Oland, Swedish archeologists found evidence of a massacre of the 5th century.

The team writes about the 1,500-year-old attack on Sandby borg in a paper published in the journal Antiquity.

Dozens of corpses have been found in the walled fort, their bodies left to rot where they fell.

All of the victims were killed with “brutal force”, team leader Helena Victor said. Some victims were found inside houses, others in the streets.

The archaeologists discovered decapitated bodies, blunt force trauma wounds to victims’ heads, and even one person who seemed to have fallen into a fireplace in his final moments.

Even the corpse of a newborn was found among the dead, suggesting nobody was spared, the authors say.

The perpetrators of the massacre are not known, but it took place during a turbulent period of intense migration when the Western Roman Empire was collapsing and the Huns invading. The Baltic island of Oland was never under Roman rule.

The walled fort at Sandby Borg

Local authorities asked staff at the Kalmar Lans Museum to examine the area after treasure hunters found items at the site. The first dig lasted only 3 days, but after the discovery of the walls of houses, the team quickly found human remains.

Ms Victor says the bodies in the houses raised alarm bells, as historically corpses were usually cremated – and certainly were not left in people’s homes.

“You don’t find people lying around in houses,” Ms. Victor told the BBC. “[People] don’t do it today, and didn’t do it then.

Examining some of the victims of the 5th-Century massacre
Examining some of the victims of the 5th-Century massacre

“While villagers normally lived outside the walled fort, they would shelter there in times of danger. Between 200 and 250 people are thought to have lived in the fort, and Ms. Victor says it does not look as if they defended themselves.

“People seem to have been killed without defending themselves,” said team leader Helena Victor. “It seems like treason.”She suggests someone may have left a door open and “let them in at night”.

Source: history

Rare Roman Coin Uncovered in England

An extremely Rare Roman Coin Uncovered in England

Dr Julian Bowsher examines the rare coin.
Dr Julian Bowsher examines the rare coin.
Archeologists working on the upgrade of the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge discovered an extremely rare coin showing a Roman emperor who reigned only for two months.
This is only the second coin of Emperor Laelianus to be discovered in England.

This is only the second coin of Emperor Laelianus to be discovered in England.

Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus ‘ “radiate” coin is only the second to be found and is named after the emperor’s radiate crown.

The find is important because Laelianus, who was killed in the siege of Mainz, ruled a breakaway empire from Rome for only a short spell in the 3rd century and there is little evidence of his reign.

Archaeologists believe the coin only arrived in Britain after the emperor’s demise.

Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead for the A14 on behalf of Highways England, said: “Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare.

This is one of many coins that we have found on this exciting project but to find one where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor really is quite significant.

This Celtic coin dates back to around 57 BC, and would have likely helped fund the resistance to Caesar’s legions.

This Celtic coin dates back to around 57 BC, and would have likely helped fund the resistance to Caesar’s legions. 

“I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find, along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project, help us better understand our past.”The coin was found in a ditch on a small Roman farmstead.

Julian Bowsher, a coin specialist at archaeology firm MOLA Headland Infrastructure, said: “Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins.

Laelianus reigned for just 2 months, which is barely enough time to do so. However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania.”

The fact that 1 of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain demonstrates remarkable efficiency and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”

An even older coin, dating back to 57 BC has been found on the A14 dig and it is believed to have come from France where it was thought to have been minted to help fund resistance to Julius Caesar.

Pioneering work on the A14 upgrade, which has seen archaeological excavations its 21 mile length, won the rescue project of the year award at the Current Archaeology Awards. Thousands of items of interest have been discovered.

The upgraded road is expected to open to traffic in December 2020.

Source: bbc

Playing Viking Chess with Whale Bones

Viking Chess Pieces May Reveal Early Whale Hunts in Northern Europe

Researchers discovered hnefatafl game pieces made of whale bone in upper- and middle-class Vendel graves.

In central and eastern Sweden from 550 to 793 CE, just before the Viking Age, members of the Vendel culture were known for their fondness for boat burials, their wars, and their deep abiding love of hnefatafl.

Also known as Viking chess, hnefatafl is a board game in which a centrally located king is attacked from all sides. The game wasn’t exclusive to the Vendels—people across northern Europe faced off over the gridded board from at least 400 BCE until the 18th century.

But during the Vendel period, love for the game was so great that some people literally took it to their graves. Now, a new analysis of some hnefatafl game pieces unearthed in Vendel burial sites offers unexpected insight into the possible emergence of industrial whaling in northern Europe. For most of the game’s history, its small, pebble-like pieces were made of stone, antler, or bone from animals such as reindeer.

But later, starting in the 6th century CE, Vendels across Sweden and the Åland Islands were buried with game pieces made of whale bone.

In the new research, Andreas Hennius, an archaeology doctoral candidate at Uppsala University in Sweden, and his colleagues traced the source of the whale bone by following a trail of evidence that led them to the edge of the Norwegian Sea about 1,000 kilometers north of the Vendels’ heartland in central Sweden.

Hennius thinks the whale bones used to make the game pieces were the product of early industrial whaling. If so, the pieces would be evidence of the earliest-known cases of whaling in what is today Scandinavia, and a sign of the growing trade routes and coastal resource use that paved the way for future Viking expansion.

To come to this striking conclusion, Hennius and his colleagues first had to find out where the whale bone was coming from. The Vendels weren’t whalers, Hennius says, so the pieces must have been imported. But from whom? The researchers also needed to confirm that the bone was the result of deliberate whaling, not just scavenged from stranded whales. To answer these and other questions, Hennius drew on genetic analysis, other archaeological finds, and ancient texts.

The first clue that the game pieces were indeed a sign of early industrial whaling emerged from genetic analysis of the whale bone. Though several whale species swam in Scandinavian waters, most hnefatafl pieces were made from North Atlantic right whale bones. This suggests the bones were the result of systematic hunting rather than opportunistic scavenging, Hennius says.

Other clues came from the Vendel graves. Whalebone game pieces first were only in the graves of a few wealthy people. But later, a flood of whale bone hnefatafl pieces appeared in the graves of regular folks. “Not the poorest graves, but the middle-class graves,” Hennius says. To him, it seemed like a rare, prestigious commodity suddenly became available to the mass market. And that implied regular, reliable imports—an industry.

Illustration by Mark Garrison
Illustration by Mark Garrison

Illustration by Mark GarrisonEarly texts hinted at where that whaling industry might have been located, since it almost certainly wasn’t in the Vendel lands of central and eastern Sweden. The first known written record of whaling in Scandinavia describes a ninth-century Norwegian tradesman named Óttarr.

In his travels, he visited the royal courts of England, where records describe him bragging about his whaling prowess. Óttarr claimed that he and his friends caught 60 whales in two days near what is now Tromsø, Norway. Though Óttarr’s exploits date several centuries after the appearance of whale bone in Vendel graves, it suggests whaling may have been well established in northern Norway by the 800s CE.

It isn’t clear who was actually doing the difficult work of catching the whales, though it could have be any of the several groups of people living in northern Norway at the time, including the Sami. As for who was turning the whale bone into game pieces, that is also unknown. According to the researchers, it could have been the Sami or anyone along the long trade route south.

Hennius says further archaeological evidence also supports the idea of early whaling in northern Norway. Recently, other researchers discovered blubber rendering pits in the region, associated with the Sami, that date from about the time whale bone game pieces appeared farther south. The existence of these pits, Hennius says, implies the Sami were processing a steady supply of whales and not just the occasional stranding.

Hennius says all of this together—the Sami’s rendering pits, Óttarr’s exploits, the predominance of one species, and the presence of whale bone in middle-class graves—is “strong evidence that active whaling took place in northern Norway at this time,” and that the Vendels had established long-distance trade routes to ferry the material south.

Vicki Szabo, a historian at the University of North Carolina who studies medieval whaling across the North Atlantic, says Hennius and his colleagues make a good case for the existence of pre-Viking whaling in Scandinavia. “They’re linking ideas and trends that haven’t clearly been linked before,” she says.

Szabo’s own research suggests whaling in northern Norway was definitely feasible around 550 CE. After the collapse of the Roman Empire during the fifth century CE and the period of economic disruption that followed, it took time for societies across Europe to rebound. Szabo says whaling fits with a larger pattern of economic resurgence at the time.

As for the logistical challenges, Szabo says it’s unlikely these early whalers were out on the open ocean hunting whales from boats. Instead, hunters could have used poison-tipped spears, netted off narrow fjords, or driven whales onto shore.

Hennius is continuing to study the imported Vendel hnefatafl game pieces to see what else they can tell us about their origin and the trade routes on which they traveled. If the game pieces do, in fact, tell the tale of expanding coastal resource use in Norway, it is one of the first chapters in the dawning saga of Viking maritime dominance.

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