Oxford medieval road discovered under a field near Willow Walk
A ‘REMARKABLY intact’ Medieval stone causeway with horseshoes still lying on top of it has been uncovered beneath a field in Oxford.
Made of rounded river pebbles, limestone and chalk rocks, the cobbled road still has ruts in its surface made by cartwheels more than 500 years ago.
The pathway, next to Willow Walk, between Oatlands recreation ground in Botley and North Hinksey Lane, is one of several surprising discoveries made by archaeologists working on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme.
Over the past three months, the team from Oxford Archaeology dug some 200 trenches along the three-mile route of the proposed £120m flood channel from Botley Road to South Hinksey.
Another of the most exciting finds which could change the history of Oxford was evidence of Iron or Bronze Age roundhouses in a field near South Hinksey – which could date back as far as 4,000 years.
Oxford Archaeology project manager Ben Ford said: “This was a totally unexpected find.
“There are a number of roundhouses suggesting a small settlement which probably extends under South Hinksey.”
Fragments of pottery and animal bones will be examined over the coming weeks using radiocarbon dating, which will confirm the age of the discoveries.
Mr. Ford said: “We’re very excited about the prospect of further work on these roundhouse findings – especially the possibility they indicate that there has been a settlement at South Hinksey from the Bronze Age – we didn’t know that before.”In another area, the digging revealed an ancient track which seems to point towards New Hinksey.
The investigations are the first opportunity archaeologists have had to study this area of the Oxford floodplain in detail, and Mr. Ford said: “This gives us an unprecedented insight into the history of part of Oxford.”
The team found 6,000-year-old Mesolithic flints which will help develop an understanding of hunter-gatherers who lived in what is now Oxford.
With excavations now finished, the archaeologists hope to produce a final report early next year.
The archaeology has been funded by the Environment Agency in preparation for constructing the three-mile Oxford flood alleviation channel.
Uncertainty still hangs over the funding for the scheme, after the EA warned in September that it still needed to find the final £4.35m ‘by November’ or the scheme may have to be scrapped
Two Ancient Egyptian Kingdom Tombs Opened in Luxor, Egypt
Two tombs of unidentified officials dated to Egypt’s New Kingdom era have been opened at Luxor’s Draa Abul-Naglaa necropolis years after they were initially discovered by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp in the 1990s.
The opening of the tombs was announced at an international conference attended by the governor of Luxor, the minister of social solidarity, the director-general of the International Monetary Fund, members of the international media, foreign ambassadors, members of parliament, and Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany.
“It is a very important discovery because both tombs contain very rich funerary collections, and one of them has a very distinguished painted statue of a lady in the Osirian shape,” with this most recent discovery being the third Draa Abul-Naga alone.
“It seems that our ancient Egyptian ancestors are bestowing their blessing on Egypt’s economy as these discoveries are good promotion for the country and its tourism industry,” El-Enany told Ahram Online.
Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and head of the Egyptian excavation mission, explains that both tombs were given special numbers by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp in the 1990s.
The first tomb, named “Kampp 161,” was never excavated, while excavation work on the second, “Kampp 150,” was undertaken by archaeologist Kampp short of entering the tomb itself.
The tombs had been left untouched until excavation started during the recent archaeological season.
Most of the items discovered in Kampala 161 are fragments of wooden coffins.
The most notable discoveries are a large wooden mask that was originally a part of a coffin, a small painted wooden mask, a fragment of a gilded wooden mask in poor condition, four legs of wooden chairs that were among the deceased’s funerary equipment, as well as the lower part of a wooden Osirian shaped coffin decorated with a scene of goddess Isis lifting up her hands.
“The owner of Kampp 150 is not yet known, but there are two possible candidates,” Waziri told Ahram Online.
He said that the first possibility is that the tomb belongs to a person named Djehuty Mes, as this name is engraved on one of the walls.
The second possibility is that the owner could be the scribe “Maati,” as his name and the name of his wife “Mehi” are inscribed on 50 funerary cones found in the tomb’s rectangular chamber.
The tomb has only one inscription on one of its northern pillars. It shows a scene with a seated man offering food to four oxen, with the first kneeling in front of the man, who is giving it herbs. The scene also depicts five people making funerary furniture.
The entrance of the long hall is inscribed with hieroglyphic text with the name of “Djehuty Mes.” The ceiling of the chamber is inscribed with hieroglyphic inscriptions and the cartouche of King Thutmose I.
The objects uncovered inside include 100 funerary cones, painted wooden masks, a collection of 450 statues carved in different materials such as clay, wood and faience, and a small box in the shape of a wooden coffin with a lid.
The box was probably used for storing an Ushabti figurine 17 cm tall and 6 cm large. Also found was a collection of clay vessels of different shapes and sizes, as well as a mummy wrapped in linen with its hands on its chest in the Osirian formStudies, suggest that the mummy, which was found inside the long chamber, could be of a top official or another powerful person.
Denmark barbarian battle: Archaeologists Just Discovered the Mangled Remains
A ragtag troop of about 400 Germanic tribesmen marched into battle in Denmark about 2,000 years ago against a mysterious adversary and were slaughtered to the last man. Or at least that’s the story their bones tell.
Exhumed from Alken Enge — a peat bog in Denmark’s Illerup River Valley — between 2009 and 2014, nearly 2,100 bones belonging to the dead fighters have given archaeologists a rare window into the post-battle rituals of Europe’s so-called “barbarian” tribes during the height of the Roman Empire.
In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark dug into the bloody details.
“The ferocity of the Germanic tribes and peoples and their extremely violent and ritualized behavior in the aftermath of warfare became a trope in the Roman accounts of their barbaric northern neighbors,” the authors wrote in the new study.
Despite these historical accounts, little evidence of these practices has ever been discovered in archaeological finds — until now.
In the Alken Enge find, archaeologists unearthed 2,095 human bones and fragments from the peat and lake sediment across 185 acres of wetlands in East Jutland.
These bones belonged to 82 distinct people — seemingly all men, most of them 20 to 40 years old — but likely account for just a fraction of the bones initially deposited in the area, the researchers wrote.
After analyzing the geographic distribution of the bones, the team estimated a minimum of 380 skeletons were originally interred in the water.
This population “significantly exceeds the scale of any known Iron Age village community,” the researchers wrote, suggesting the men were recruited from a large area to participate in a common battle.
Using radiocarbon analysis, the team dated the bones to between 2 B.C. and A.D. 54 — sometime between the reigns of the Roman emperors Augustus (27 B.C. to A.D. 14) and Claudius (A.D. 41 to 54).
During this time, Rome expanded its empire north into Europe but met fierce resistance from the scattered tribes who lived in modern-day Germany and Denmark.
Some tribes allied with the Empire, and infighting between tribes was common.
The bones of the men at Alken Enge are thought to be the casualties of one such tribal battle.
Ancient weapons like axes, clubs, and swords were found scattered about the site, and it was clear to the researchers that many of the skeletons had sustained critical battle wounds before dying.
“The relative absence of healed sharp force trauma suggests that the deposited population did not have considerable previous battle experience,” the researchers wrote. Indeed, the scrappy group of soldiers met “comprehensive slaughter.
“Ritual burial or hasty cleanup?
Finding boneyards of dead soldiers is no rarity in archaeology; what truly excited the researchers about Alken Enge was the seemingly ritualistic way in which the skeletons were buried.
For starters, it appears that the skeletons were deposited in the lake after they had decomposed in the wild for anywhere between six months and a year.
Nearly 400 of the bones were hatched with gnawing tooth marks probably left by scavenging animals such as foxes, wolves or dogs.
Moreover, the absence of bacterial decay on the bones suggests that the men’s inner organs were removed, decomposed or eaten by scavengers before their ultimate burial, the researchers wrote.
Whether it was a friend or foe who did the burying is still unclear. The man’s arm and leg bones were severed from their torsos.
Few intact skulls were present, but many cranial fragments appeared to have been smashed with a club or other bludgeoning tool, the researchers said.
Four pelvic bones hung around a single tree branch with deliberate intent.”Alken Enge provides unequivocal evidence that the people in Northern Germania had systematic and deliberate ways of clearing battlefields,” the researchers concluded.
The find certainly “points to a new form of postbattle activities” in Germanic tribes at the dawn of the current era — but what it all means is still a mystery.
London: Crossrail dig unearths 13,000 Victorian jam jars
When the London Archeology Museum (MOLA) investigated the site of a proposed new London train station, they did not expect to find a stash of over 13,000 smashed pickling pots and jam jars dating back to the 1900s.
The stash was discovered during the construction of the railway station under an old nightclub. The area used to be a dumping ground for rejection from a factory that stood on the site until 1921 in Crosse & Blackwell (a British specialty food company).
The find included over 13,000 various containers. They ranged from bottles of mushroom catsup (a popular Victorian condiment) Piccalilli pots, and jars for marmalade and jam. All of them were discovered in a cistern that stood beneath the factory’s warehouse.
Nigel Jeffries, an archaeologist with the Museum of London Archaeology, explained that the cistern used to be filled with water during the factory’s production.
It was built in order to power the steam engines in the factory, but when the building was redesigned in the 1870s, the cistern became obsolete. After that, the cistern was used as a landfill by the Victorians.
While it may seem strange that archaeologists would want to dig up the Victorian trash pile, a person’s trash can tell us a lot about how they lived. Trash piles are a historian’s treasure.
This discovery is helping researchers learn more about “the tastes and palates of the Victorians”, Nigel Jeffries pointed out.
Crosse & Blackwell were based in this area of London between 1830 and 1921, right smack dab in the middle of the industrial revolution and the Victorian era.
Records of the factory say it produced “a very distinctive pungency to the surrounding atmosphere”, which is saying a lot considering it was hard to smell anything during that time period through London’s notorious smog.
The find was originally made by London’s Crossrail Project, a government-funded project that’s revolutionizing London’s train system and building a new railway for the city.
Due to the nature of the project, they have to do a lot of digging, and they’ve dug up all sorts of archaeological finds recently, including several skeletons dating back to the Black Plague, an entire mass-grave dating back to the Dark Ages, and some history of Bedlam Hospital. They’re taking great pains to ensure that no British history is lost in the construction of the new rail line.
Roadside dig Reveals 10,000 Year Old House In Israel
Archeologists say that while digging at a construction site in Israel, they have uncovered some stunning finds, including stone axes, a “cultic” temple, and traces of a house 10,000 years old.
The discoveries provide a “broad picture” of human development over thousands of years, from the time when people first started settling in homes to the early days of urban planning, officials with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.
In preparation for the widening of an Israeli road, the excavation took place at Eshtaol, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.
The site’s oldest discovery was an 8th millennium B.C. building during the Neolithic period.
“This is the first time that such an ancient structure has been discovered in the Judean Shephelah,” archaeologists with the IAA said, referring to the plains west of Jerusalem.
The building seems to have undergone a number of renovations and represents a time when humans were first starting to live in permanent settlements rather than constantly migrating in search of food, the researchers said.
Near this house, the team found a cluster of abandoned flint and limestone axes.
“Here we have evidence of man’s transition to permanent dwellings and that in fact is the beginning of the domestication of animals and plants; instead of searching out wild sheep, the ancient man started raising them near the house,” the archaeologists said in a statement.
The excavators also say they found the remains of a possible “cultic” temple that’s more than 6,000 years old.
The researchers think this structure, built in the second half of the 5th millennium B.C., was used for ritual purposes because it contains a heavy, 4-foot-tall (1.3 meters) standing stone that is smoothed on all six of its sides and was erected facing east.
“The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages,” said Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors for the IAA.
Golani added that there is evidence of rural society in Eshtaol making the transition to an urban society in the early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago.
“We can see distinctly a settlement that gradually became planned, which included alleys and buildings that were extremely impressive from the standpoint of their size and the manner of their construction,” Golani explained in a statement.
“We can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement’s leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery.
The buildings and artifacts were discovered ahead of the widening of Highway 38, which runs north-south through the city of Beit Shemesh.
Throughout Israel, construction projects often lead to new archaeological discoveries. For example, during recent expansions of Highway 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, excavators discovered 9,500-year-old animal figurines, a carving of a phallus from the Stone Age and a ritual building from the First Temple era.
The surprising truth about the construction of the Great Pyramids
“It’s not my day job,” Michel Barsoum begins as he recounts his foray into the mysteries of Egypt’s Great Pyramids.
As a well – respected ceramic researcher, Barsoum never expected his career to take him down a path of history, archeology, and “political” science with mixed – in materials research.
As a distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University, his daily routine consists mainly of teaching students about ceramics, or performing research on a new class of materials, the so-called MAX Phases, that he and his colleagues discovered in the 1990s.
These modern ceramics are machinable, thermal-shock resistant, and are better conductors of heat and electricity than many metals — making them potential candidates for use in nuclear power plants, the automotive industry, jet engines, and a range of other high-demand systems.
Then Barsoum received an unexpected phone call from Michael Carrell, a friend of a retired colleague of Barsoum, who called to chat with the Egyptian-born Barsoum about how much he knew of the mysteries surrounding the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the only remaining of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
The widely accepted theory — that the pyramids were made of carved – out giant calcareous blocks that workers carried up ramps — was not only not embraced by everyone, but as important had quite a number of holes.
Burst out laughing
According to the caller, the mysteries had actually been solved by Joseph Davidovits, Director of the Geopolymer Institute in St. Quentin, France, more than 2 decades ago.
Davidovits claimed that the stones of the pyramids were actually made of a very early form of concrete created using a mixture of limestone, clay, lime, and water.
“It was at this point in the conversation that I burst out laughing,” Barsoum said. If the pyramids were indeed cast, he said, someone should have proven it beyond a doubt by now, in this day and age, with just a few hours of electron microscopy.
It turned out that nobody had completely proven the theory … yet.”What started as a 2-hour project turned into a 5-year odyssey that I undertook with one of my graduate students, Adrish Ganguly, and a colleague in France, Gilles Hug,” Barsoum said.
A year and a half later, after extensive scanning electron microscope observations and another testing, Barsoum and his research group finally began to draw some conclusions about the pyramids.
They found that the tiniest structures within the inner and outer casing stones were indeed consistent with a reconstituted limestone. The cement binding the limestone aggregate was either silicon dioxide (the building block of quartz) or a calcium and magnesium-rich silicate mineral.
The stones also had a high water content — unusual for the normally dry, natural limestone found on the Giza plateau — and the cementing phases, in both the inner and outer casing stones, were amorphous, in other words, their atoms were not arranged in a regular and periodic array. Sedimentary rocks such as limestone are seldom, if ever, amorphous.
The sample chemistries the researchers found do not exist anywhere in nature.
“Therefore,” Barsoum said, “it’s very improbable that the outer and inner casing stones that we examined were chiseled from a natural limestone block.”More startlingly, Barsoum and another of his graduate students, Aaron Sakulich, recently discovered the presence of silicon dioxide nanoscale spheres (with diameters only billionths of a meter across) in one of the samples. This discovery further confirms that these blocks are not natural limestone.
At the end of their most recent paper reporting these findings, the researchers reflect that it is “ironic, sublime and truly humbling” that this 4,500-year-old limestone is so true to the original that it has misled generations of Egyptologists and geologists and, “because the ancient Egyptians were the original — albeit unknowing — nanotechnologists.”As if the scientific evidence isn’t enough, Barsoum has pointed out a number of common sense reasons why the pyramids were not likely constructed entirely of chiseled limestone blocks.
Egyptologists are consistently confronted by unanswered questions: How is it possible that some of the blocks are so perfectly matched that not even a human hair can be inserted between them? Why, despite the existence of millions of tons of stone, carved presumably with copper chisels, has not one copper chisel ever been found on the Giza Plateau?
Although Barsoum’s research has not answered all of these questions, his work provides insight into some of the key questions. For example, it is now more likely than not that the tops of the pyramids are cast, as it would have been increasingly difficult to drag the stones to the summit.
Also, casting would explain why some of the stones fit so closely together. Still, as with all great mysteries, not every aspect of the pyramids can be explained. How the Egyptians hoisted 70-ton granite slabs halfway up the great pyramid remains as mysterious as ever.
Why do the results of Barsoum’s research matter most today? Two words: earth cement.”How energy intensive and/or complicated can a 4,500-year-old technology really be? The answer to both questions is not very,” Barsoum explains.
“The basic raw materials used for this early form of concrete — limestone, lime, and diatomaceous earth — can be found virtually anywhere in the world,” he adds.
“Replicating this method of construction would be cost-effective, long-lasting, and much more environmentally friendly than the current building material of choice: Portland cement that alone pumps roughly 6 billion tons of CO2 annually into the atmosphere when it’s manufactured.
“Ironically,” Barsoum said, “this study of 4,500-year-old rocks is not about the past, but about the future.”
Mass grave of Viking army contained slaughtered children to help dead reach afterlife, experts believe
A mass grave of Viking warriors found in Derbyshire was accompanied by slaughtered children in a burial ritual enacted to help the dead reach the afterlife, archaeologists believe.
Experts from the University of Bristol have reexamined a huge pit of bones uncovered in the 1970s and 80s in Repton.
Examinations at the time suggested the grave spanned centuries, but new radiocarbon analysis has revealed the skeletons actually belong to soldiers from the Great Viking Army, which drove Burgred, the king of Mercia into exile in 873AD.
The excavators also found four youngsters aged between eight and 18 buried together in a single grave with a sheep jaw at their feet, which they dated to the same period. At least two showed signs of traumatic injury suggesting they may have been sacrificed in a ritual to accompany the dead.
Bristol archaeologist Cat Jarman said: “The grave is very unusual. I don’t know of any examples of four young people buried in a single grave like this from anywhere else in England in this period.
“They are also placed in unusual positions – two of them back-to-back – and they have a sheep jaw placed at their feet.
“There are historical accounts from elsewhere in the Viking worlds suggesting human sacrifice may have formed part of Viking funeral.”
In the 10th century, an Arab Muslim writer named Ahmad ibn Fadlan described the funeral of Swedish chieftain, in which a female servant volunteered to join him in the afterlife. She was given ‘intoxicating drinks’ before being stabbed to death and laid to rest by her master.
The Great Viking Army, which was known to the Anglo-Saxons as The Great Heathen Army, was a coalition of warriors from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway who came together to invade the four kingdoms of England in 865AD.
They landed in East Anglia where they made peace with Edmund the Martyr in return for horses, before marching north to take York the following year.
Over the next decade, the Viking army spread to Wessex, where they were paid to leave by Alfred the Great, before marching on London and Northumbria.
By 873AD they had reached Mercia and overwintered at Repton where they drove King Burgred out of the country and installed Cleowulf to govern the kingdom.
The grave containing 300 people was first found by archaeologists Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle at St Wystan’s Church in Repton underneath a shallow mound in the vicarage garden.
Among the bones were Viking weapons and artifacts, including an ax, several knives, and five silver pennies dating to the period 872-875 AD. 80 percent of the remains were men, mostly aged 18 to 45, with several showing signs of violent injury.
Nearby a second double grave from the site contained two men, the older of whom was buried with Thor’s hammer pendant and a Viking sword. He had received numerous fatal injuries including a large cut to his left femur.
A boar’s tusk had been placed between his legs, and it has been suggested that the injury may have severed his penis or testicles, and the tust positioned to replace what he had lost in preparation for the afterworld.
But despite the evidence of Viking artifacts, initial radiocarbon dates suggested the bones spanned several centuries and so could not have been the remains of the army.
However, it turned out that the Viking’s high fish diet was responsible for the misleading results.
Mrs. Jarman added: “The previous radiocarbon dates from this site were all affected by something called marine reservoir effects, which is what made them seem too old.
“When we eat fish or other marine foods, we incorporate carbon into our bones that is much older than in terrestrial foods.”This confuses radiocarbon dates from archaeological bone material and we need to correct for it by estimating how much seafood each individual ate.”
Six skeletons with signs of cancer found in an ancient Egyptian cemetery
Bones with cancer signs found in an ancient Egyptian cemetery reveal that the frequently devastating disease is now much more prevalent than it was in people living near the Dakhleh Oasis.
Of the 1,087 skeletons buried between 1,500 and 3,000 years ago, only six were found with cancer — two younger women with cervical cancer, and a man with testicular cancer, all of which were associated with HPV ; and an older mummified man with colorectal cancer, an older woman with metastatic carcinoma, and a leukaemic infant.
That’s a rate of 5 cases in 1,000 – compared to today, where the cancer rate in Western societies approaches 500 per 1,000 people – a lifetime cancer risk 100 times greater than what it was in the ancient Dakhleh in Egypt’s Western Desert.
Because soft tissue doesn’t often survive millennia, the researchers looked for the traces cancer leaves on bone.Lesions found on the skeletons were consistent with carcinoma, and, although it’s difficult to diagnose based simply on bones, the researchers were able to determine the most likely types based on the distribution and types of legion, as well as the age and sex of the person.Three of them – two women and a man – fell outside the normal age range, dying in their 20s and 30s.
“When the Dakhleh cases were first presented at professional meetings a common comment against accepting the diagnosis of cancer was that ‘their ages were too young’!” the researchers, anthropologist El Molto of The University of Western Ontario and Ontario physician Peter Sheldrick, wrote in their paper.
But the 25-30-year-old male was likely afflicted with testicular cancer, since that age is the highest risk group, and the two young women were most likely afflicted by cervical cancer.
Both of these types of cancer are linked with HPV, recent research has found (although its implication in testicular cancer is rare) – and HPV has been around for a very long time, much longer than the age of the bones.And all strains of the virus evolved in Africa.
“The two female and the male burials from Dakhleh, all young adults, could have respectively developed cancer of the uterine cervix and testicular cancer,” Molto and Sheldrick wrote.
“We know from current cancer epidemiology research that both types of cancers peak in the young adult cohorts and the HPV risk factor would have likely been present the paleoecology of ancient Dakhleh.
“Interestingly, the older male mummy had soft tissue preserved, including a tumour. This meant that a full autopsy and tissue analysis could be performed, positively identifying rectal adenocarcinoma.The older woman most likely had ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer; and the child, in whom almost every single bone showed signs of a systemic disease, probably had acute leukaemia, given its prevalence among that age group.
There are some caveats guiding estimates of the prevalence of cancer in ancient Egypt.
Firstly, the average lifespan was shorter – only 7.7 percent of the ancient Dakhlans were estimated to be over 60 years of age, the researchers said.Given that a quarter of new cancer cases are diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74, according to the US National Cancer Council, this shorter lifespan could impact lifetime cancer risk.
Another factor that could affect results is the relative lack of soft tissue. Cancer doesn’t always leave a mark on bones, so there could have been some cases among the 1,087 skeletons that the researchers missed.
Even accounting for these caveats, however, Molto and Sheldrick believe that the prevalence of cancer was still at least 50 times lower in ancient Dakhleh.
“In our opinion, it is doubtful that even if the ancient Dakhlans had the same life expectancy as modern western societies the rate of cancer would have been equivalent,” they wrote in their paper.
“The carcinogenic load in their past environments would have been considerably less carcinogenic than modern western societies.”