Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

Decorated Medieval Leather Found in Northern England

ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.
ENGINEERS from Northern Powergrid have unearthed a highly decorated fragment of leather in York, thought to be from medieval times.

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.”

Source: archaeology.org

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos

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.

The Body of Princess Ukok, who died aged 25, had several tattoos on her body, including a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The tattoos have been perfectly preserved for 2,500 years.

‘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. 

Researchers also found two warriors close to the Princess , and were able to reconstruct their tattoos. Here, one is shown with an animal covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

‘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.

Princess Ukok’s hand with marked tattoos on her fingers. She was dug out of the ice 19 years ago, and is set to go on public display in the Altai Republic.

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.  

The tattoos of one of two warriors found on the 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
Tattoos are clearly visible on one of the warrior’s shoulders. The designs are similar to those found on the Princess.

‘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 Ukok plateau, Altai, Siberi, where Princess Ukok and two warriors were discovered. Their bodies were surrounded by six horses fully bridles, various offering of food and a pouch of cannabis.

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’

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.

Tales of vicious Vikings may be greatly exaggerated according to a Danish academic who believes disgruntled English monks spread ‘fake news’ about his ancestors. 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 aearlier 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 Sutton Hoo helmet is a decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet which was discovered during the 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial. This image shows a recreation made in the 1970s
This image shows a British Museum recreation of the Sutton Hoo helmet

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.

The Anglo Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th Century AD until 1066 when they were conquered by the Normans. This map shows where they invaded from

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

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.

Ancient Well With Stone Stairs Unearthed in Scotland
The well was discovered at the top of Mither Tap, on Bennachie

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.

British-French Interconector Brings Crashed WW2 Plane Back to Light

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.

Boats on water – Retrieval boat and dive barge for the operation

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.

Possible Viking Vessel Identified in Canada

Possible Viking Vessel Identified in Canada

Three views of the crucible from the Nanook site, Baffin Island, Canada. Image credit: Patricia D. Sutherland et al.

The ancient site, called Nanook, was first discovered in the 1960s by Dr. Moreau Maxwell of Michigan State University.

Dr. Maxwell identified it as a Dorset Paleo-Eskimo site although he noted anomalies in the architectural remains, and obtained a series of radiocarbon dates ranging from 754 BC to 1367 CE.

Among the artifacts recovered by the archaeologist in association with the unusual architectural remains was a small stone vessel.

Dr. Sutherland and her colleagues from the Geological Survey of Canada-Ottawa and Peter H. Thompson Geological Consulting Ltd have now discovered that the interior of the vessel contains fragments of bronze as well as small spherules of glass.

The object, according to the scientists, is a crucible for melting bronze, likely in order to cast it into small tools or ornaments. Indigenous peoples of northern North America did not practice high-temperature metalworking.

“The object is 48 mm tall and has a straight sloping base meeting the slightly convex lateral wall at an angle of approximately 140 degrees. The base of the complete object may have been keel-shaped,” Dr. Sutherland and her co-authors described the find in a paper published in the journal Geoarchaeology.

“The artifact appears to have been roughly circular in plan, with diameter expanding from >35 mm at the base to >48 mm at the rim. The base is 15 mm thick, with the walls tapering to a thickness of 6 mm at the rim.

The exterior is smoothly finished, but portions of the interior are scarred by scratching or scraping.”

“An irregular break cuts across roughly the center of the vessel, indicating that approximately half is missing.”

Three views of the crucible from the Nanook site, Baffin Island, Canada. Image credit: Patricia D. Sutherland et al.

According to the team, small ceramic crucibles were employed in nonferrous metalworking throughout the Viking world.

“We are aware of only one stone crucible, which was recovered from a Viking Age context in Rogaland, Norway.”

“Small crucibles with a circular plan and either flat or conical bases have been recovered from Early Mediaeval sites in the British Isles including one stone specimen from Garranes in Ireland.”

“The presence of bronze traces in the crucible from Baffin Island is notable, as brass (copper-zinc alloy) is more characteristic of finds from Scandinavia.”

Dr. Sutherland said: “the crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada.”

“It may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico.”

How The Black Death (Sort Of) Killed A Viking Colony And Transformed Europe

How The Black Death (Sort Of) Killed A Viking Colony And Transformed Europe

Throughout much of the European Middle Ages, the Norse were compulsive travelers.

These groups of people (who we often call “Vikings”) traded, raided and pillaged throughout Europe, settled in Constantinople and fought with and against the Byzantines, encountered Arab traders from Baghdad in modern Russia, and even settled for a short time in North America several hundred years before Columbus.

Recently, new scholarly research has turned up an unexpected reason one of those colonies may have disappeared – a declining demand for walrus ivory.

Most likely, Vikings had begun settling in southern Greenland by the end of the 10th century. The settlements grew over time but never got too big – topping out at a population of around 6,000 people at the most.

The settlement was, however, large enough to merit its own bishop and one was duly established in 1126 CE.  The settlements persisted into the 15th century but had disappeared by the late 16th.

Although not quite the same mystery as the lost colony of Roanoke, scholars have never been sure about why those Greenland settlements vanished.

A new scholarly paper, however, thinks it has the answer: walrus ivory. Specifically, the Greenland settlements built their economy around the trade in walrus tusks (ivory) and supplied maybe up to 80% of the ivory items for most of Europe between the 12th-15th centuries.

The trade made the colonies prosper through the 12th and 13th centuries as demand rose among the growing nobility throughout Europe for luxury items. Lavish combs, cases for mirrors, covers for books, etc. were used as status symbols and art objects in their own right.

But things changed rather dramatically during the 14th century. This was a century of calamities, beginning with repeated famines in the early part of the century and then culminating with the ongoing impact of the so-called Black Death beginning ca. 1347 CE.

By the end of the 14th century, up to 50 million people – 60% of Europe’s population – was dead. So, with these catastrophic population losses, demand began to dry up as well. The residents of these colonies on Greenland either slowly died off or simply left.

So, what does this all mean?

First, if the scholars are right about much of Europe’s ivory coming from walruses, we need to think differently about trade throughout the European Middle Ages.

Many medieval ivories were thought to have come from elephants, traveling into Europe via the Islamic world in North Africa or the Middle East.

What the recent article suggests, however, is that elephant ivory was a particularly rare and valuable commodity. Walrus tusks allowed the more middling nobility access to these luxury goods.

Second, the disappearance of the settlements might be further proof of just how transformative the Black Death really was for Europe.

In a book published after his death in 1991, Prof. David Herlihy suggested in broad outlines the tremendous long-term cultural and intellectual changes brought about by the Black Death. Much of his conclusions have been challenged in recent years but Herlihy’s genius was putting his finger on just how the massive scale of death changed the way people thought about themselves and their relationship to the world.

Established authorities were questioned since they had no good answers to ending the plague. Social class was upended as economic and cultural communities struggled to replenish their ranks. If the settlement in Greenland left the island uninhabited for a century or more, this would support Herlihy’s thesis about long-term change.

In other words, the findings of this research both challenges and confirms what medievalists have thought about their period for some time.

Inspired by the Black Death, The Dance of Death or Danse Macabre, an allegory on the universality of death, is a common painting motif in the late medieval period.

In other words, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the research being done on the Middle Ages is exciting precisely because it oftentimes both confirms how much we already know about the period, while paradoxically reminding us of how much about the past there still is to discover.

7 dead, 21 missing after South Korean tour boat in Budapest sinks in seconds

Billionaire-Owned Viking Cruises Involved In Collision, Leaving 7 Dead And 21 Missing

One of Viking’s river cruise ships was involved in a fatal collision on Wednesday night as it was traveling through Budapest on the Danube River, leaving at least seven dead.

The Viking Sigyn, a 95-room river cruise ship, collided with a smaller sightseeing boat, the Mermaid, as it was approaching the Margaret Bridge in the heart of Hungary’s capital

The Mermaid, which was carrying 33 South Korean passengers and two Hungarian personnel, capsized and sunk in about eight seconds, according to Hungarian authorities.

At least seven passengers on the Mermaid have been confirmed dead. Emergency crews were able to rescue another seven people from the water and another 21 remain missing.

A search party is continuing to scour the river for the missing passengers, according to authorities who spoke at a news conference on Thursday.

The efforts have been made more difficult by heavy rain, high water levels, and strong currents. The incident is also being investigated as a criminal matter, authorities said. The captain of the Viking Sigyn, a 64-year-old Ukrainian man identified just as Yuri C., was taken into custody.

A Viking spokesperson confirmed there were no injuries to Viking crew or guests and that the company will continue to “cooperate fully with the authorities” as they investigate.

An executive from South Korean tour agency Very Good Tour, Lee Sang-moo, reportedly said at a press conference in Seoul that the group aboard the Mermaid was nearing the end of a week-long European tour that had begun in Munich. Sang-moo said that the survivors include six women and one man between the ages of 31 and 66.

The collision follows at least two other incidents from Viking this year. In April, the Viking Idun river ship collided with an oil tanker off the coast of the Netherlands, causing five people to be injured.

In March, one of Viking’s ocean cruise ships experienced a loss of engine power off the coast of Norway and evacuated 479 passengers by helicopter before it was able to travel to shore under its own power.

That episode prompted a lawsuit from a New Jersey couple, who claimed that Viking “negligently sailed through notoriously perilous waters into the path of a bomb cyclone,” despite severe weather warnings.

Viking Cruises was started in 1997 by Tor Hagen, a Norwegian-born, Harvard-educated former cruise line executive who launched the company with four Russian riverboats at the age of 54.

Hagen went on to make European river cruises a popular vacation option among older Americans. Today, Viking has a fleet of 78 river and ocean cruise ships and generates $1.6 billion in net revenue.

The company is worth $3.4 billion after the most recent private equity injection, and Hagen owns three-fourths of it.

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