Archeologists find 60 Roman British skeletons buried in a field
On the site of a Roman cemetery in Lincolnshire, archeologists found the remains of 60 human burials.
Men, women and children were discovered and a tomb even included a lamb leg for the deceased to take them to the afterlife.
Grave goods found by Lincoln-based Allen Archaeology also include pots, bracelets, and bangles. The burials are believed to date from the 2nd to the 4th century AD and some were in coffins and others wrapped in shrouds.
Three Roman villas or farmsteads have previously been found near the dig site off North Street, Winterton, which is just outside Scunthorpe. And it was Roman tradition to place burial grounds outside of towns and villages to avoid pollution.
The Romans founded a settlement nearby called Ad Abum, at modern-day Winteringham on the south bank of the River Humber.
This was where the Roman Road between London and Lincoln – Ermine Street – ended.
Travelers in Roman times would have crossed the river at low tide or by ferry to Brough for the road to York and as far north as Hadrian’s Wall.
The cemetery site is set to be developed as 135 homes by house-builder Keigar Homes, pending planning permission.
Natasha Powers, senior manager at Allen Archaeology, said: “In the previous phases of work, we did the geophysical survey and a trench evaluation in 2014/15.
“We could not tell the extent of the cemetery. We found it seemed larger than we expected.”We know some of the burials were in coffins. One of the skeletons was buried with a whole leg of lamb.”We have men, women and children out of these graves. We have found a little pot and some bracelets and bangles.
We have two different types of burial rites – a lot of substantial coffin burials and people in shrouds.”Does this represent different dates, personal choice or different groups of people? We think it is date-related as the rites have changed.
“It’s very organized burials in rows, it’s an enclosed area and it’s clearly a cemetery.”The team will be on site for a few more weeks. Finds will be fully analyzed and a report produced.
Natasha added: “Where the people buried here related and where had they come from? We have a chance to look at some of the population of the area in Roman times and we now have some information on what would have been growing in the fields around here.”
Archaeologists uncover ancient Viking camp from the 870s in the village of Repton
Archeologists uncovered a Viking camp dating back to the 870s in the small village of Repton in Derbyshire.
The new discoveries were located at a campsite in the village, which has been known about since the 1970s.
To reveal evidence for workshops and ship repairs over a much larger area, techniques including ground penetration radar were used.
A team from the University of Bristol also discovered structures, dating from the winter of 873-874, such as paths and possible temporary buildings.
Excavations showed these to be gravel platforms that may have held temporary timber structures or tents.
There were fragments of Saxon millstones and across fragment from the monastery, as well as broken pieces of weaponry including fragments of battle-axes and arrows.
Evidence for metal working was discovered, as well as a substantial number of nails, the archaeologists said. Two of the nails had roves, a particular feature of Viking ship nails, as well as several lead gaming pieces.
These were similar to those found in large numbers at the camp in Torksey, Lincolnshire, and appear to be connected to the early Viking armies.
Cat Jarman, a PhD student at the University of Bristol, said: “Our dig shows there was a lot more to the Viking Camp at Repton than what we may have thought in the past.
“It covered a much larger area than was once presumed, at least the area of the earlier monastery, and we are now starting to understand the wide range of activities that took place in these camps.”According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Great Army moved to Repton in 873, driving the Mercian king Burghred from his kingdom.
Repton was partly chosen because of its location on the River Trent, but also due to a monastery that housed the remains of several Mercian kings.
In 1975, archaeologists uncovered a D-shaped enclosure measuring 1.5 hectares on the banks of the river, believed to be the Viking camp.
Some experts have recently considered the enclosure too small to house the Great Army as another Viking camp at Torksey covers around 26 hectares.
The research also confirmed that a grave of almost 300 people fits a date of 873, and is consistent with the remains being Viking war dead.”The results of the work will be featured in Digging For Britain on BBC Four at 9 pm on Wednesday, presented by Professor Alice Roberts.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
“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.”
New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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”.