Medieval Child Skeletons Unearthed in Northern Ireland
Among 14 skeletons uncovered in an ancient burial ground within meters of St Patrick’s grave, the remains of a young child and a teenager.
The medieval skeletons were Discovered beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, in August 2018.
Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of Thirteenth-Century Benedictine monks.
But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or 6-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.
The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429. Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have traveled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.
A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross.
Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.
‘Rich picture of medieval life’
In the buried kitchen of a 13th century Benedictine Abbey, as well as a flint tool dating back to about 7,000 BC, ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered. Also found were blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones, and bread-making charred wheat grains.
Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of 3 of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.
He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.
Mr. Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.”We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.”
The large pottery shards have been painstakingly pieced together at Queen’s University Belfast giving an idea of the shape, size, and decoration of the vessels.”A rich environmental picture is being established through the processing of the soil samples taken during the excavation.”
Metalwork recovered from an ancient pit has also been analyzed and include fine copper alloy dress pins, a socketed arrowhead, a horseshoe, a pair of iron shears and a length of chain with a suspension hook still attached.
A number of items are now on display in the High Cross Gallery at Down County Museum in Downpatrick, in two new cases funded by the British Museum Trust, while research work continues on the collection of artifacts, dating from the Mesolithic (c. 7000 BC) period.
Mr. Sloan added: “This is fantastic as Downpatrick has almost been ignored from an archaeological and historical point of view.”It has got my blood flowing. I believe there is more to be found.”
An oldest hand-written Roman document discovered in London
Archeologists announced the findings of a dig in London as the first ever written roman record in a recent discovery. The record is handwritten and is Britain’s oldest written roman document discovered.
The nature of the contents of the documents was revealed after The Museum of London Archaeology undertook the project of deciphering the document; the record is dated January 8, AD 57. The discovery was made in a dig at Bloomberg’s new headquarters.
MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) has also claimed that a team of experts has successfully translated the documents with oldest reference to the modern city of London.
The dig at the Bloomberg’s produced some 700 big and small artefacts; including financial transactions and some schooling referencing. All artefacts and their translation will go on display by the Museum of London Archaeology.
The significance of the documents is paramount; according to MOLA these writings shed light on the early life of the London city. These documents also provide a detailed understanding of the mindset of the early inhabitants of the city who worked, lived and practically made the early London.
The recent findings containing the earliest reference to the city of London beats the Tacitus’ mention of London which was written some 50 years later from the Bloomberg’s documents.
The director at MOLA Sophie Jackson said that the findings far exceeded the earlier expectations by the experts. She added that archaeologists now have a plethora of documents to form a framework of understanding about the early Roman Britons.
One of the most talked about and perhaps the most readable of all tablets, is thought to have been produced between 43-53 AD according to MOLA experts. It is also highly likely that it is from the first decade of the Roman’s rule over Britain and provides a glimpse into people’s behaviour towards financial transaction.
The documents is an excerpt of a letter perhaps written to a lender in which the scribe is warning the lender to be more mindful of the fact that he has given some loud mouth people loan for their business in the market; and that those people are now boasting around exposing his status.
Unlike the other ancient tablets, these tablets are mostly made of wood, which are then covered with blackened beeswax. The beeswax did not survive the wear and tear; however it did serve as a protection over the wooden tablets and leaving the marking of the writings over the wax on the wooden surface below.
Another factor that highly contributed towards the protection of the tablets was the fact that these were mostly buried under the mud created by the water from Walbrook River.
After the initial excavation was finished, the tablets were kept in water for some period before they were thoroughly cleaned and freeze-dried; in order to get the better sight of the etching on the wood.
The head of the translation project at MOLA Dr. Roger Tomlin who translated most of the tablets expressed immense gratitude on eavesdropping on the lives of the earliest Brits. Members of the public could see these tablets on display along with their translation in The London Museum Exhibition in autumn 2017.
Burials of Africans slaves found at the old rubbish dump in Portugal
Portuguese explorers such as Henry the Navigator started sailing to Africa in the early 15th century, bringing both goods and enslaved people back.
A new archeological study of more than 150 skeletons dumped in Lagos, Portugal, reveals that there were no proper burials given to many of the enslaved Africans and that several of them may even have been tied to death.
The skeletons come from the site of Valle da Gafaria, which was located outside the Medieval walls of the port city of Lagos along the southwest coast of Portugal. Used between the Fifteenth and Seventeenth centuries as a dumping ground, the site also offered up remains of imported ceramics, butchered animal bones, and a few African style ornaments.
When the human skeletons were first analyzed, their shape and unique dental style suggested that they might have been of African origin, and subsequently, genetic analysis confirmed ancestry with Bantu – speaking populations of South Africa. Due to the archaeological and historical information, it is likely that all of these people were enslaved.
In a new research article published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Maria Teresa Ferreira, Catarina Coelho, and Sofia Wasterlain of the University of Coimbra dug further into the bone data in order to understand how the 158 enslaved Africans came to be buried in a trash pit in Lagos.
Specifically, they investigated the position of each burial, whether or not the burial was made with care, and whether they could identify any evidence that the person’s body had been bound.
The Medieval Catholic concern with burial meant that the church was important in handling deaths in Portugal. A body would be ferried to the church in a funeral procession, and a grave would be chosen as close to a religious building as possible.
Elites and nobles were usually buried in an area protected by walls, while more marginal people were located outside. Those people who were further stigmatized by disease, condemned, or otherwise considered not to be deserving of care would be placed far outside sacred spaces.
Enslaved occupants of Medieval Portugal would not necessarily have been prevented from a proper burial. Many were baptized on arrival to Portugal and therefore had a right to a Christian funeral if the slave owner decided to do so.
However, due to the poor conditions aboard the ships, many people arrived so weakened that they died without being baptized. “In such cases,” Ferreira and colleagues explain, “as their humanity was not recognized, the corpses were treated as animal remains: summarily buried in any free field or dumped in the garbage.”
More than half of the people “seemed to have been buried without care,” Ferreira and colleagues note. “Moreover, six individuals showed evidence of having been tied when inhumed.” This suggests that several people had been tied up has intrigued other scholars, although it is unclear from the published research whether the bound limbs were related to the people’s enslaved status or to a more functional method of disposing of bodies.
Biological anthropologist Tim Thompson at Teesside University praised the “sound research” but also told me that “it is difficult to truly assess the examples of tied individuals because there are so few, and no figures are presented.” He suggests that comparing “the anatomical positioning with examples from modern mass graves would allow for deeper analysis. There are many examples of binding and blindfolding in these modern mass violence settings, along with disrespectful deposition of bodies.”
Ellen Chapman, a bioarchaeologist and cultural resources specialist at Cultural Heritage Partners, also told me that she looks forward to further work on this site and this collection of skeletons because “this site is an incredibly disturbing one, and one that clearly illustrates the pervasive mistreatment of enslaved people by the architects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
In particular, Chapman notes that “this skeletal collection is indicative of the high mortality associated with slave ships and the Middle Passage.” Thompson adds that “this work has the potential to contribute to our understanding of both ancient and modern forced slavery contexts.”
In the end, Ferreira and colleagues conclude that “Valle da Gafaria’s osteological collection is extremely important for slavery studies. Not only are there few cemeteries of enslaved people in the world, but also, Lagos is the oldest sample to be discovered and studied in the world.”
3000-year-old trousers discovered in Chinese grave oldest ever found
That’s right–1000 years before Christ’s birth these were worn. Archeologists say the two men whose remains have recently been excavated from tombs in western China put their pants on one leg at a time, just as the rest of us are doing today.
With straight-fitting legs and a wide crotch, the ancient wool trousers resemble modern riding pants, says a team led by archaeologists Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin.
The discoveries, uncovered in the Yanghai graveyard in China’s Tarim Basin, support previous work suggesting that nomadic herders in Central Asia invented pants to provide bodily protection and freedom of movement for horseback journeys and mounted warfare, the scientists report May 22, 2014, in Quaternary International. So not much changes – these highly decorated pants must have been someone’s pride and joy as a great deal of work has gone into them.
The two men were around 40 years old when they died, and they were buried along with a decorated leather bridle, a decorated horsetail, a wooden horse bit, a battle-ax, whip, bow sheath, and a leather bracer for arm protection. Their trouser design comprised three pieces of wool cloth, one for each leg and one for the crotch, which was stitched together and fastened at the waist with strings. They were finished with woven designs on the legs.
Beck and Wagner described the trousers as “a ground-breaking achievement in the history of cloth making.”This new paper definitely supports the idea that trousers were invented for horse riding by mobile pastoralists, and that trousers were brought to the Tarim Basin by horse-riding peoples,” remarks linguist and China authority Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania.
Previously, Europeans and Asians wore gowns, robes, tunics, togas or — as observed on the 5,300-year-old body of Ötzi the Iceman — a three-piece combination of loincloth and individual leggings. A dry climate and hot summers helped preserve human corpses, clothing and other organic material in the Tarim Basin. More than 500 tombs have been excavated in a graveyard there since the early 1970s.
Earlier research on mummies from several Tarim Basin sites, led by Mair, identified a 2,600-year-old individual known as Cherchen Man who wore burgundy trousers probably made of wool. Trousers of Scythian nomads from West Asia date to roughly 2,500 years ago.
Mair suspects that horse riding began about 3,400 years ago and trouser-making came shortly thereafter in wetter regions to the north and west of the Tarim Basin. Ancient trousers from those areas are not likely to have been preserved, Mair says.
Horse riding’s origins are uncertain and could date to at least 4,000 years ago, comments archaeologist Margarita Gleba of University College London. If so, she says, “I would not be surprised if trousers appeared at least that far back.”
The two trouser-wearing men entombed at Yanghai were roughly 40 years old and had probably been warriors as well as herders, the investigators say. One man was buried with a decorated leather bridle, a wooden horse bit, a battle-ax and a leather bracer for arm protection. Among objects placed with the other body were a whip, a decorated horse tail, a bow sheath, and a bow.
Beck and Wagner’s group obtained radiocarbon ages of fibers from both men’s trousers, and of three other items in one of the tombs.
The Yanghai Tombs (also spelled Yang-Hai) are located in the desert Turpan Basin of Shanshan County, Turpan District, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of northwest China. Yangshai lies at the base of the Fire or Flaming Mountains (Huoyan Shan) and the foothills of the Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan), on the edge of the Turpan Oasis, that has drawn people for thousands of years. Yangshai is about 30 km southeast of the main site of Turfan or Gaochang.
The tombs are grouped into three localities: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. The localities are really artificial: the cemetery is one big location, measuring some 54,000 square meters (or about 600,000 square feet) in the area.
The people buried in the tombs were nomadic pastoralists of the Subeixi culture, one of many Steppe Societies who roamed the deserts and steppes of central Eurasia from Ukraine to China. The Yanghai Tombs were discovered in the early 1970s by local Turpan villagers who were repairing a karez, and the tombs were excavated through the early 21st century.
Much of the publication in English has been focused on the analysis of the hundreds of mummies and thousands of artifacts recovered from the tombs. More than 500 tombs were excavated in 2003 alone, under the direction of E.G. Lu, with support from the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and the Bureau of Cultural Relics of Turpan Prefecture.
The trousers were sewn together from three pieces of brown-colored wool cloth, one piece for each leg and an insert for the crotch. The tailoring involved no cutting but included side slits, strings for fastening at the waist and woven designs on the legs.
In the ruins of a 3rd Century B.C house, Turkish archeologists came across an incredible find: a mosaic that features a skeleton with a large loaf of bread and a pitcher of wine.
Besides, the imagery of a skeleton having a blast with the bread and the wine.
one section of the three-panel also features an optimistic message written in Greek that reads: “Be cheerful and live your life.”
The extremely well-preserved ancient mosaic was discovered in a house in Turkey’s southern state, Hatay Province, in the provincial capital of Antakya.
The 3th-century “meme” was discovered during construction of a cable car system.
An archaeologist from the Hatay Archaeology Museum, Demet Kara explained that the mosaic entitled “skeleton mosaic,” was an elaborate centerpiece of a mosaic floor in the dining room of the house.
There are three scenes on glass mosaics made of black tiles. Two things are very important among the elite class in the Roman period in terms of social activities: The first is the bath and the second is dinner.
In the first scene, a black person throws fire. That symbolizes the bath. In the middle scene, there is a sundial and a young clothed man running towards it with a bare-headed butler behind.
The sundial is between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. 9 p.m. is the bath time in the Roman period. He has to arrive at supper at 10 p.m. Unless he can, it is not well received.
There is writing on the scene that reads he is late for supper and writing about time on the other.
In the last scene, there is a reckless skeleton with a drinking pot in his hand along with bread and a wine pot.
The writing on it reads ‘be cheerful and live your life,’” explained Kara“[This is] a unique mosaic in Turkey.
There is a similar mosaic in Italy but this one is much more comprehensive.
It is important for the fact that it dates back to the 3rd century B.C.,” “Antiocheia was a very important, rich city. There were mosaic schools and mints in the city. she added.
Mehtab Bagh and the Baby Taj Mahal: Mughal Gardens Restored in India
Long overshadowed by the Taj, two neglected spots in Agra have now been restored to their original splendour
Tourists Christine and Martyn Andrews, first-timers to Agra, would have visited Agra Fort and Taj Mahal and been on their merry way back to their hotel, had it not been for a guide who directed them to what the locals call ‘Baby Taj Mahal’ — the tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah.
The tomb is the marble precursor to its more famous sibling across the Yamuna, and its English-style gardens and charming ivory-tinted facade are a lovely surprise for the rare tourist or history buff who gets here. And now, after four years of dedicated restoration, the monument is slowly finding its rightful place on the tourist circuit, along with the other famous garden here, Mehtab Bagh.
The restoration of the two Mughal gardens was carried out jointly by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the World Monument Fund (WMF) and the Ministry of Culture, under the Mughal Riverfront Gardens of Agra (MRGA) project, and opened up in January this year.
The tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah — loosely translating to ‘pillar of the state’ — was commissioned by Empress Nur Jahan for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg in the early 1620s in the typical Mughal ‘charbagh’ style.
It consists of four equal square-shaped gardens (hence ‘char’ and ‘bagh’) with the mausoleum sitting smack in the middle.
Fruit for monkeys
A typical Mughal garden also meant lush, chaotic gardens, filled with colorful flower beds and trees heavy with fruit for monkeys and birds, says Lakshmi Narayan, ASI’s junior foreman for horticulture at the site.
Imagine a cross between the secret garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett and the exquisite visuals in Lewis Carroll’s literary masterpieces. But that is also an unfortunate comparison because, under the British Raj, the gardens of I’timād-ud-Daulah were transformed to the exact opposite — stately, manicured lawns with not a tree in sight.
The MRGA project aims to correct that. “The idea behind these gardens at Mughal tomb sites was that if the dead were to wake up from their eternal sleep, they would want to stroll in a garden full of flowers and birds, maybe enjoy a fruit,” says Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI-Agra Circle. The British revived what had turned into agricultural land after Nur Jahan’s time, but in doing so they also removed many markers of the Mughals.Trees were removed, walkways were relaid, the ground was leveled.
Very little recorded
Armed with research papers, paintings, and historical records, conservationists took a stab at restoring the gardens to their former glory.
“There is a very little actual record of how the garden looked during its heyday,” says Swarnkar. “But we’ve tried our best with the information we found.”It’s a cloudy, ozone-heavy afternoon when the photographer and I visit. We can hear the cacophony of birds right from the gates. There is a fair number of visitors lining up at the ticket counter, much more than before, says Sonvir, an ASI supervisor.
“On an average, we get about 700 visitors per day,” he says. The walkway from the main gate is lined on both sides with flower beds, while the pathway to the tomb itself, from the inner gate, is lined with cypress trees, in typical Mughal garden style. On either side of the trees are flower beds, hibiscus plants, and pomegranate trees symmetrically planted in order of increasing height. “Beyond that, we’ve planted amla trees, amaltas, mango trees, guava trees, and others like it,” says Narayan.
The tomb’s traditional water system has also been restored. Irrigation systems were modernized in 1958, but they needed more work. “An integrated water management system was designed to address the needs of the project as well as ensure there would be no discharge or waste. Today, clean water is again flowing in the channels and the gardens,” says a statement from WMF.
The project also created an information and ticketing center, an office for ASI, and a toilet for visitors. Just three kilometers away, along with the banks of the Yamuna, lies Mehtab Bagh, the ‘moonlight garden’. This one is quieter, perhaps because of its size.
Even though we’re surrounded by people, we are easily lost within the symmetrically planted trees and pathways. A quick stroll from the entrance and the Taj Mahal is suddenly upon us, breathtaking as always, but even more special when seen from this distance and without the teeming crowds one always experiences.
Packed with more
The flora at Mehtab Bagh is pretty much the same as that at I’timād-ud-Daulah, only much more. Spread over 22 acres, there are 20 plots packed with flowering shrubs and fruit trees. The trees are laid out with near-military precision, not one of them out of place. Excavations in 1979-80, originally undertaken to confirm whether this was the site of the famed ‘Black Taj Mahal’, revealed a rectangular garden and its foundation walls.
Further excavation in 1993-94 revealed the octagonal pond, the terracotta pipes connecting it, and the 25 fountains around it.“The remnants of the traditional system indicate that water was drawn from the river to a series of wells and carried into the complex via an aqueduct and fed into the pools through a network of underground terracotta pipes,” reads an information slab.
Even though the traditional aqueduct cannot be revived, the idea is to restore the octagonal pool at least so that the reflection of the Taj Mahal can be seen in it. Mehtab Bagh is also in the same ‘charbagh’ layout, but there is one crucial difference, says Swarnkar.
“The Yamuna cuts through the garden, so parts of the charbagh lie on either side of the river,” he says. The garden could be conceived thus because of the unusual layout of the Taj, he says. “Since the Taj is located at the end of the garden, instead of in the middle, the Mughals might have planned a garden across the river.”
At the boundary wall, there’s a mini photoshoot going on. We can’t resist either, what with the Taj in the backdrop. Meanwhile, the Andrews are finished with their tour of the tomb of I’timād-Ud-Daulah and have reached Mehtab Bagh.“I’m glad we came here first instead of heading to the Taj first,” says Christine. Just then it begins to rain and the sky turns a brooding grey. The Taj doesn’t dim one bit though.