‘Oldest Roman library Discovered Beneath German City’ unearthed by Cologne archaeologist
A team of archeologists who digged near the church of Antoniter, a Protestant church in the center of Cologne, Germany, found a puzzling discovery.
Beneath the foundations of the church were Roman walls—Cologne (then called Colonia) was founded by the Romans in 50 AD—with a series of niches measuring about 31 inches by 20 inches.
Initially, archaeologists thought that the niches used to host statues. But soon enough it became evident that they must have served some other purpose.
“It took us some time to match up the parallel—we could see the niches were too small to bear statues inside,” Dr. Dirk Schmitz, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne told The Guardian.
After more research, Schmitz and his team noticed how the niches were similar to those found in Roman-era libraries such as the 117 structure discovered in Ephesus, Turkey.
They concluded that the niches served as “cupboards for scrolls” and that the building used to be a library containing an estimated 20,000 scrolls.
According to the area excavated so far, the library used to measure 65 feet by 30 feet and was probably two stories tall—a monumental building for Roman times.
Its location, right in the center of the city, provided further evidence about the nature of the building.“It is in the middle of Cologne, in the marketplace, or forum: the public space in the city center,” Schmitz told The Guardian.
“It is built of very strong materials, and such buildings, because they are so huge, were public.”
Roman-era libraries are rare finds for archaeologists, making this an important discovery.
As Schmitz explained, it is probable that Roman towns had libraries but they are not usually part of excavations’ findings, partly because there is no distinctive sign that can identify a building as a library.
But what made a difference this time was the presence of niches in the walls.
“If we had just found the foundations, we wouldn’t have known it was a library,” Schmitz added.
“It was because it had walls, with the niches, that we could tell.”
Archaeologists unearth Roman road in the Netherlands
Archeologists in the Netherlands have discovered a 2,000-year-old stretch of Roman road and the remains of a Roman village in the town of Katwijk, which once marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.
The road is 125 meters (410 ft) long and lies close to a busy highway in the Valkenburg suburb. The Roman village comes complete with a canal and burial ground, the Omroep West regional broadcaster reports.
Province of South Holland asked archeologists to examine the entire area where the new RijnlandRoute bypass is to run, aware of the local Roman legacy and anxious to preserve any finds.
At the mouth of the Old Rhine River, which still flows through Katwijk, Emperor Claudius built the city of Lugdunum Batavorum, and ships would sail to Britain from there.
But no one expected to find such well-preserved remains in Katwijk itself.
‘ Great surprise’
“The extent to which the Roman road is complete is a great surprise”, the province says on its official website.
Even the tall oak piles that stood alongside the road to stop it from subsiding are in remarkably good condition. Archaeologists reckon the road was built in about the year 125 CE, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
The dig also uncovered pottery, leather footwear, coins, a fish trap and other household objects, but the rarest find is a piece of building material with fragments of plaster and paint still intact after two millennia.
The excavation will take another few weeks, and the archaeologists should complete their study of the site by end of the year. The public will be allowed to visit the dig on 13 October – Archaeology Day in the Netherlands.
Work on the new road is due to start in the second half of 2019 but will not disturb the site, the provincial authorities promise. The most important finds from the dig will go on display at the RijnlandRoute’s information centre, and this may not be the end of the story.
The excavations are part of the Lower German Limes – the old northern border of the Roman Empire – which the Netherlands has nominated for special UN international status, the Rheinische Post reported earlier in the year.
If the application is successful, the old boundary that runs from Bad Breisig in Germany to Katwijk – including the Roman road – will become a World Heritage Site.
The UN’s World Heritage Committee is to consider the bid in 2021.
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.
‘Extraordinary archaeological find’: Last known US slave ship found in Alabama
The last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda, was finally located at the bottom of the Mobile River in Alabama after a lot of searching.
The announcement comes one year after the release of the lost interview with a survivor of that ship by Zora Neale Hurston, and only a month after a scholar discovered that the last survivor of Clotilda lived until 1937.
It holds special significance for the residents of Africatown, Alabama, many of whom are descended from the Africans illegally trafficked on the Clotilda in 1860.
“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says Sylviane A. Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America.
“This is the only one so far that has been found which came directly from Africa to the Americas with people on board.” (The recently-discovered São José was on its way to Brazil but crashed in South Africa near Cape Town.)
The discovery is also significant because the Clotilda is already the most well-documented slave ship story in the Americas. “If it had only been a ship without the story, then that’s interesting,” Diouf says. “But we have the entire story.
So this is the first time that we have the entire story of what happened to the people who were on the ship and we have the ship as well.”The research initiative that found the Clotilda was partly motivated by the discovery of another ship in January 2018 that some thought might have been the Clotlida.
Afterward, the Alabama Historical Commission funded further efforts to find the Clotilda, which a slave trader had burned and then sunk to the bottom of the river to hide the evidence of its illegal journey.
Excavators ended up combing through a section of the Mobile River that had never been dredged before. Among the many sunken ships there, they found one that historians could confidently say matched the description of the Clotilda.
The more than 100 African children, teenagers and young adults on the Clotilda arrived in Alabama just one year before the Civil War.
When the U.S. officially abolished slavery in 1865, these young people had no means to travel back home, so some created a community called “African Town” in Alabama. The town helped preserve the stories of these people, some of whom carried their memories of capture and enslavement into the 20th century.
Unlike most slave ship survivors in history who remained largely undocumented, we have pictures and interviews of people who came over on the Clotilda. We even have film footage of the last known survivor, a woman born with the name “Redoshi” who went by “Sally Smith.”
When Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis, a founding member of African Town in the 1920s and ‘30s, he could still remember the disorienting trauma of being captured and enslaved at age 19.
“We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis,” said Lewis, originally named “Kossula.” “Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say.”
It’s not clear what will happen to the Clotilda’s remains, but residents of Africatown hope to highlight it in a way that draws tourism and business.
Africatown is home to a low-income community that has survived Hurricane Katrina and dangerous levels of industrial pollution, including from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
One option is to create a water memorial that people can visit, like the one commemorating the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor.“As a symbol, I think it’s crucial,” Diouf says of the discovery. “And I think for Africatown today, which is really a community that is struggling very much, it really puts Africatown on the map. And hopefully some good will come out of it.”