Archaeologist hails ‘extraordinary’ Viking village find in Dublin

Archaeologist hails ‘extraordinary’ Viking village find in Dublin

Researcher excavations have modified our understanding of the oldest Viking settlement in Dublin with a black pool or Dubh Linn which was considered to be much larger than originally expected.

The excavation alongside Dublin Castle has also revealed the oldest police cells in the city and a grave of punishment.

The excavation is taking place on Ship St near where the remains of one of Dublin’s oldest churches – St Michael le Pole that was founded in the 6th century – are known to be.

The dig is taking place beside Dublin Castle

Archaeologist Alan Hayden from University College Dublin said the work has uncovered the cells from a police station on Chancery Lane built-in 1830, and beside it are walls from a medieval farm.

There are 12th Century quarries that provided the stone to build Dublin Castle and its walls.

The most important discovery yet is that Dubh Linn – the pool on the River Poddle where the Vikings first settled – was much bigger than originally thought.

At present, a garden inside Dublin Castle marks what was thought to make up most of the original Dubh Linn.

However, this excavation has established it was nearly 400 meters wider extending to the present dig site and where St Michael le Pole church stood.

Mr. Hayden says this solves two questions that have puzzled historians – why St Michael’s Church referred to ‘le pole’ or the pool and how reports that the Vikings had up to 200 ships on the Dubh Linn.

Evidence of the settlement in the 12th Century

Niamh Donlon of the One Le Pole Square project says a development planned for the site will consist of a two-story convention center below six floors of office space.

It will incorporate the history of the site in its name.

The remains of the original St Michael le Pol church will be visible below a screen in a new public square and a tile from the church will be used in a new spa area.

A map of the site in the 14th Century

Tom Wilson, the senior civil engineer with builders JJ Rhattigan, said the archaeological dig was already factored into the development and has not caused delays.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hayden says there was one unusual find – a burial of a man found outside the church cemetery with his hand and feet cut off. He said this was a medieval punishment for insulting a lord or king.

19th-Century Railway Turntable Unearthed in England

19th-Century Railway Turntable Unearthed in England

Birmingham’s former HS2 station was dug by archaeologists who uncovered what could be the ‘world’s oldest railway roundhouse’.

The find was made on the site of the original Curzon Street station, which opened in the 1830s

On-site of the original station Curzon Road, which served from the 1830s to the 1960s, the red house was designed on Robert Stephenson’s plan.

One of the buildings destroyed between 1860 and 1870 is thought to have provided for the expansion of the station. Historians say it was first operational as early as November 12 1837, meaning it predated a similar building in Derby by almost two years.

This 19th-century illustration of the Curzon Street railway station shows the roundhouse building – not uncovered by HS2 archaeologists – right in the centre
The turntable was used to turn around engines so locomotives could return back down the line

Among the surviving remains of the Curzon Street roundhouse is evidence of the base of the central turntable, the exterior wall and the 3ft deep radial inspection pits which surrounded the turntable.

Final archaeological excavations on the city centre site are about to take place, ahead of work to build the new HS2 Curzon Street terminus.

The terminus is at the centre of a 141-hectare regeneration project in the city. Jon Millward, historic environment adviser at HS2 Ltd, said: ‘HS2 is offering us the opportunity to unearth thousands of years of British history along the route.

‘The discovery of what could be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse on the site of the new HS2 station in Birmingham City Centre is extraordinary and fitting as we build the next generation of Britain’s railways.’

Built to a design by Robert Stephenson, the London and Birmingham Railway building was operational as early as 12 November 1837.

This makes it what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse, predating the current titleholder in Derby by almost two years. The site was visited last month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hailed the decision to go ahead with HS2 as ‘fantastic’ for the whole country.

The original railway linking London with Birmingham’s former Curzon Street station, built between 1834 and 1838, saw journey times of almost five hours. It takes up to two hours to get from Birmingham to London now – depending on the station you leave from – and the government says HS2 will cut that to under an hour. 

This isn’t the first major discovery found as a result of stations and tracks being dug up for the new high-speed rail network. 

Last year a team of 70 archaeologists spent a year excavating a 19th-century Victorian burial ground in Park Street, Birmingham where a station on the high-speed route is set to be built. 

Forensic combing of the burial ground also found a treasure trove of historical artefacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces inside the coffins.

Along with the thousands of skeletons, these items will now be examined and informed by historical documents, such as parish records and wills, to develop detailed biographies of the individuals. At the London end of the line, a ‘once in a generation dig’ in 2018 unearthed everything from the body of a bare-knuckle fighter to neolithic tools.

Researchers dug up a graveyard next to London Euston station where Bill ‘The Terror’ Richmond, a fighter who also earned the favour of King George IV, was buried. Neolithic tools, medieval pottery and Victorian time capsules were discovered in the early stages of the dig which organisers say was a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to explore British history. 

A hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London, a Roman British town near Aylesbury and a World War II bombing decoy in Lichfield are among the historic sites which fall along the route of the new high-speed line. 

HS2 trains will have a top speed of 225mph, but only on relatively straight stretches of the track – around 60 per cent of the line from London to Birmingham. The first HS2 trains, between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham, could be running by 2029. 

A Government-commissioned review led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Doug Oakervee leaked earlier this week stated that the project’s bill could reach £106billion. But HS2 was only allocated £56billion in 2015. 

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

The Beijing Youth Daily revealed that a 9-year-old primary school student from Heyuan, South China’s Guangdong province, accidentally discovered what he suspected to be a dinosaur egg fossil while playing with his mom on the downtown riverbank.

Third-grade Zhang Yangzhe (pictured) made the extraordinary discovery while playing on the embankment of Dong River in Heyuan, southern China’s Guangdong Province

Huang Zhiqing, deputy director of the research department of Heyuan Dinosaur Museum, said they rushed to the scene with police after receiving the news.

A total of 11 “stone eggs” each about 9 centimeters in diameter were excavated, later verified as dinosaur eggs all dating back to the late Cretaceous age, according to the local museum.

Huang Zhiqing said houses were built at the place where the dinosaur eggs were discovered, so the soil softens as time flies. Dinosaur egg fossils that remain in good condition despite water and erosion are extremely rare.

Huang Zhiqing said the museum will organize manpower to clean and repair these dinosaur egg fossils. They will also find an appropriate time to re-examine and further excavate the abutment.

“Maybe we will discover new things,” Huang Zhiqing said.

Li said the child’s recognition of the dinosaur egg is inseparable from his education.

“Maybe because of the city’s environment, he is full of curiosity about everything related to dinosaurs,” she said, adding that he goes to libraries and museums to search for information he is curious about.

Greek Farmer Accidentally Discovers 3,400-Year-Old Minoan Tomb Hidden Under Olive Grove

Greek Farmer Accidentally Discovers 3,400-Year-Old Minoan Tomb Hidden Under Olive Grove

Sometime between 1400 and 1200 B.C., two Minoan men were laid to rest in an underground enclosure carved out of the soft limestone native to southeast Crete.

Both were entombed within larnakes—intricately embossed clay coffins popular in Bronze Age Minoan society—and surrounded by colorful funerary vases that hinted at their owners’ high status. Eventually, the burial site was sealed with stone masonry and forgotten, leaving the deceased undisturbed for roughly 3,400 years.

When a farmer was parking his truck under some olive trees on his property when the ground beneath him started to give way. After the farmer moved his vehicle to a safer location, he saw that a four-foot-wide hole had opened up in the ground. When he peered inside, he realized this was no ordinary hole.

The hole in the ground led to a Minoan Bronze Age tomb.

The farmer called in archaeologists from the local heritage ministry to investigate, and they began excavating what turned out to be an ancient Minoan tomb, carved into the soft limestone, which had been lying hidden for millennia.

Two adult Minoan men had been placed in highly-embossed clay coffins called “larnakes” which were common in Bronze Age Minoan culture. These, in turn, were surrounded by funerary vases which suggest that the men were of high status.

The ancient chamber tomb was entirely intact and undamaged by looters.

The tomb was about 13 feet in length and eight feet deep, divided into three chambers that would have been accessed via a vertical tunnel that was sealed with clay after the tomb’s occupants were laid to rest.

One larnax was found in the northernmost chamber, with a number of funerary vessels scattered around it.

The chamber at the southern end of the tomb held the other larnax coffin, along with 14 amphorae and a bowl. The tomb was estimated to be about 3,400 years old and was preserved in near-perfect conditions, making it a valuable find.

The skeletal remains were found inside two larnakes (singular: “larnax”) – a type of small closed coffin used in the Minoan and Greek Bronze Age.

Kristina Killgrove, a bioarchaeologist, wrote for Forbes that the ornamentation on the artifacts found in the tomb suggests that its inhabitants were men of wealth.

The fanciest tombs from the same period, however, had massive domed walls in a “beehive” style, which this tomb doesn’t, so they probably weren’t among the wealthiest.

The find dates from the Late Minoan Period, sometimes called the Late Palace Period.

In the earlier part of that era, the Minoan civilization was very rich, with impressive ceramics and art, but by the later part of the period, there is an apparent decline in wealth and prestige, according to Killgrove.

It’s believed that civilization was weakened by a combination of natural disasters, including a tsunami triggered by an earthquake, and the eruption of a nearby volcano. This made it easier for foreigners to come in and destroy the palaces.

The ornate pottery vessels found inside the tomb were all in good condition. 

Locals don’t anticipate the discovery of any more tombs of this type, but the area is known to be the home of a number of antiquities, and a great deal of them have been found by coincidence, as with this find.

The Deputy Mayor of Local Communities, Agrarian, and Tourism of Ierapetra pointed out that the tomb had never been found by thieves, and went on to say that it would probably have remained undiscovered forever, except for the broken irrigation pipe that was responsible for the softened and eroded soil in the farmer’s olive grove.

Minoan fresco is commonly known as the ‘Prince of the Lilies.’

He went on to say how pleased they were with having the tomb to further enrich their understanding of their ancient culture and history, and that the tomb was proof for those historians who didn’t think that there had been Minoans in that part of Crete.

Previously, it had been thought that the Minoans only settled in the lowlands and plains of the island, not in the mountains that surround Ierapetra, although there was an excavation in 2012 that uncovered a Minoan mansion in the same area.

Killgrove will be analyzing the skeletons, to see what further information can be gleaned from them. She said, “As a bioarchaeologist, I routinely pore over the skeletons of ancient populations so that I can learn about their health, diet, and lifestyles.” It’s also hoped that analysis can contribute more information to the research on Minoan and Mycenaean origins.

Rabbit hole leads to incredible 700-year-old Knights Templar cave complex

Rabbit hole leads to incredible 700-year-old Knights Templar cave complex

An outstanding discovery was made when a 700-year-old Knights Templar cave was found beneath a farmer’s field in Shropshire, England, in a complex known as the Caynton Caves network.

The Knights Templar was a major catholic order which was popular during the Crusades and their name comes from Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The Knights Templar were first created in 1129 according to the order of the Pope, and it was their first duty to help religious pilgrims who visited the Holy Land and Jerusalem.

The photographer Michael Scott, from Birmingham, saw a video of the 700-year-old Knights Templar cave in Shropshire and decided to visit the Caynton Caves network to witness them for himself.

Some of Scott’s photographs of the cave have been published, including those in The Mirror, and these show an exotic candlelit labyrinth which Fox News note looks extremely similar to scenes straight out of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Templars at Pope Francis’ weekly audience in Rome on November 26, 2014. A secret cave used by the Knights Templar 700 years ago has been found in Shropshire.

Michael Scott explained that as you walk through the farmer’s field in Shropshire, you would have no idea that there was a Knights Templar cave directly beneath it if you didn’t know it existed in the first place, which would have made it the perfect meeting place in the past.

“I traipsed over a field to find it, but if you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it. I had to crouch down and once I was in it was completely silent.”

The inside of the cave
The untouched caves, in Shropshire, apparently date back 700 years when they were used by the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar cave was carved out of sandstone, and the Caynton Caves network is found in woodland by Shifnal, and the entrances to the caves are so small they could almost be mistaken for rabbit holes.

Some of the chambers of the caves are also so narrow that visitors have to get on their hands and knees to move around inside of them.

The history of the Knights Templar is such that once the Holy Land was lost, the influence that the Knights Templar once held waned, although they remained extremely wealthy.

In 1307, King Philip IV of France decided that he wanted to expunge the debts that he owed to the order and plotted to bring about the end of the Knights Templar.

He did this by accusing members of many false things like heresy and had them locked up or burned at the stake. In 1312, Pope Clement V made the decision to permanently disband the Knights Templar.

The Caynton Caves network in Shropshire where the Knights Templar cave is also has a darker history, and it is alleged that there were once ceremonies involving Black Magic here, the Birmingham Mail reported. 

The Shropshire Star note that at one point the caves were filled with graffiti, rubbish and other debris and because of this, the owners of the caves sealed off the entrance in 2012.

The Knights Templar cave, along with the entire Caynton Caves network, is said to be extremely popular with Pagans and Druids and is also frequently visited during times like Halloween and the Winter and Summer Solstices.

There is much history to be found in this part of Shropshire, and the Knights Templar cave isn’t the only place in this area that is linked to the Templar.

For instance, the Norman temple inside Ludlow Castle may have also been used by the Knights Templar.

There is also Penkridge Hall in Leebotwood, where Lydley Preceptory once stood. This was used by the Templars in 1158 and shut down in 1308 at the end of their order.

Eggshell beads made by hunter-gatherers 33,000 years ago used as a social network

Eggshell beads made by hunter-gatherers 33,000 years ago used as a social network

New U of T Scarborough research offers physical evidence that ancient hunter-gatherers were exchanging ostrich eggshell beads in order to form large-scale social networks. 

The exchange of ostrich eggshell beads is thought to be the earliest example of social networking among humans. While it’s been theorized for decades this was the case, this study offers the first hard evidence supporting the claim.

“This is evidence of a very early social innovation humans were using to help adapt to their physical environment,” says Genevieve Dewar, associate professor in the department of anthropology and one of the authors of the research.

“The exchange of ostrich eggshell beads, some dating back to the late middle stone age, offers proof that humans were using cultural tools to develop these large networks in order to reduce the risk of living in harsher environments.”  

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the research looked at the archaeological evidence of ostrich eggshell beads in two sites within highland Lesotho in southern Africa.

Ostrich eggshell beads have been used to cement relationships in Africa for more than 30,000 years.

Through isotopic analyses, Dewar and colleagues at the University of Michigan found that the practice stretched back at least 33,000 years ago, the age of the oldest beads found at the archeological sites.

Genevieve Dewar is an associate professor in the department of anthropology at U of T Scarborough and an expert on the origins of modern human behaviour

The exchange of ostrich beads, which persists even today among hunter-gatherers in southern Africa’s the Kalahari Desert, is part of a system of delayed reciprocity known as Hxaro.

The purpose is to solidify relationships among groups, so if one suffers a lack of resources through drought or lack of food, they can rely on other groups living in areas of relative plenty.

“It’s a form of reciprocity that strengthens social bonds,” explains Dewar, an expert on the origins of modern human behaviour.

“If I give you a gift of an eggshell necklace, you are socially obliged to give me one in return. It works best if it’s not done right away, as it establishes a trading relationship between the two parties. Part of the social obligation includes allowing me to come and stay with you when my resources are low, and vice-versa.”

Through further isotopic analyses, the researchers found that beads were originating from at least 350 km, showing that this type of social networking was taking place on a large scale.

Since hunter-gatherers will forage up to 10 km per day looking for food, Dewar says committing so much time and resources to create a tool with no immediate practical purpose show how important the beads were to forging social bonds. 

Archeologists work at rock shelters at Sehonghong and Melikane in southern Africa to uncover beads and the evidence of their origin.

Ostrich eggshell was used by hunter-gatherers to make beads because it’s a fairly common raw material. In fact, the beads are found in archeological sites across southern Africa. 

Dewar says it offers some clues into how Homo sapiens were able to leave Africa and essentially colonize the planet rapidly.

“Previous species, like Homo erectus, were able to leave Africa, but they didn’t adapt as successfully to very diverse environments as humans, so there are important innovations that allowed us to do this.”

She adds that anthropologists are trying to unpack these specific social innovations that humans used in order to move into areas of the world lacking in abundant resources.

“If you have a lifeline back to a place that you know is predictable and plentiful, then you are probably more willing to push on into the unknown.” 

Scientists identify ‘mummy juice’ in an Egyptian sarcophagus

Scientists identify ‘mummy juice’ in Egyptian sarcophagus

In Alexandria, Egypt, there was opened a mysterious black granite sarcophagus that dated back to the time Alexander the Grand invaded the city in 331 B.C., has been opened.

This 2,000-year-old black, granite sarcophagus was found in Alexandria, Egypt. Inside, archaeologists found a mix of sewage and skeletons.

The finding was believed that the huge sarcophagus contained Alexander’s remains at the beginning of this month and that opening the sealed and foreboding-looking box would unleash a curse. Neither seems to be true … unless stinky sewage causes some sort of torment.

Archeologists discovered inside the sarcophagus the bones of three skeletons along with the waste. These may be those of soldiers, Egypt’s antiquities ministry said in a statement.

Pictures released by the ministry show the sarcophagus full of the liquid sewage, which must have seeped in at some point.

Analysis of the skeletal remains is ongoing, but initial results suggest that one of the individuals found in the sarcophagus suffered a blow from an arrow, the ministry said in the statement.

No inscriptions or works of art have been found on the outside or inside of the sarcophagus so far. It’s also unclear what artifacts, if any, were buried with the skeletons, the researchers said. An alabaster head of a man was found near the sarcophagus when it was discovered.

Archaeologists with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities prepare to open the black granite sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus, which is nearly 9 feet long, 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall (2.7 by 1.5 by 1.8 meters) — the largest found in Alexandria — was discovered with a thick layer of mortar covering much of it, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in a statement released by Egypt’s antiquities ministry.

The mortar led Waziri to suggest that the sarcophagus was never opened after it was buried in Alexandria. It’s uncertain if that suggestion is accurate.

The sarcophagus was discovered by archaeologists from the Ministry of Antiquities who were inspecting an area of land in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria before construction took place. Researchers opened the sarcophagus at the site where it was discovered.

The opening of the sarcophagus creates a series of new mysteries for Egyptologists to tackle: Who were these three people? When exactly did they live? What killed them? Why were they buried in such a giant sarcophagus? What were they buried with (if anything)? And how did so much liquid sewage get into the sarcophagus?

Three skeletons and liquid sewage were found inside the black sarcophagus from Alexandria, Egypt.

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., a line of pharaohs descended from one of Alexander’s generals ruled Egypt for centuries. Once the last pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, killed herself in 30 B.C., the Roman Empire took over Egypt.

These pharaohs were involved in numerous wars and conflicts, and it’s possible the three individuals found in the sarcophagus were killed in one of these squirmishes. One of the skeletons shows signs of an arrow injury, suggesting the three may have died in battle. The exact age of the skeletons is unclear.

Why three skeletons, which may be those of soldiers, were buried in a sarcophagus so massive — Waziri said it may be the largest ever found in Alexandria — is also unknown. In ancient Egypt, it was not uncommon for a sarcophagus to be reused, the bodies of its former occupants removed and new occupants put inside. Whether that occurred with this sarcophagus is unknown.  

It’s also unclear what artifacts, if any, were buried with the skeletons. Any objects placed in the sarcophagus could have been destroyed by the sewage or may be found later when the object is studied in more detail.

After the sarcophagus was opened, it was transferred to Alexandria National Museum for conservation and further study.

S. Korea identifies 4 Korean War soldiers from remains found in DMZ

S. Korea identifies 4 Korean War soldiers from remains found in DMZ

The bones of the soldier and its relics were excavated in arrowhead ridge in the central section of the inter-Korean border in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, a region of heinous battles in the 1950-53 Korean War that is now inside the Demilitarized Zone.

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on March 9, 2020, shows the remains of a South Korean soldier who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War. The remains were found at Arrowhead Ridge inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas during an eight-month government excavation project that ended in November 2019.

The Ministry for Defense, on Monday, has just named four soldiers killed in a war that has been identified.

A sergeant first class, a staff sergeant and two sergeants are believed to have died in the fourth battle that took place on Arrowhead Ridge, now inside the DMZ, about two weeks before a truce ending the Korean War was signed July 27, 1953.

A National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification (MAKRI) taskforce conducted excavation work on the ridge, a central section of the inter-Korean border in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, between April and November last year.

The team identified another three soldiers last year.

“Numerous items were found with the remains of the four soldiers, such as water bottles, ammunition, identification tags, insignias, certificates, bayonets, combat shoes, and helmets,” the team said in a press release.

“The four soldiers participated in the Korean War at the age of twenty. Among them, three were married and each had a child left behind with their wives.”

The team said the identification of the dead soldiers was possible thanks to genetic sampling conducted on around 40,000 bereaved family members. But it said it still needs to collect more samples.

Through the excavation conducted last year, the team found about 2,000 bones believed to be from over 260 soldiers as well as 67,000 war items in the DMZ area.

It is estimated that there the remains of over 10,000 war dead are in the area.

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