Hawker Hurricane fighter plane excavated by Winchester University archaeology students in the field near Wickham
The single-seater crash site, which went down near Wickham in November 1940, was effectively excavated by Winchester University Students.
The undergraduate’s recovered wreckage left behind following the wartime RAF recovery including elements of the cockpit instrumentation, control column firing button (found ‘set to fire’), armored glass and crucially one of the aircraft’s identification plates that confirmed it as P/O Hugh Desmond Clark’s Hurricane N2608.
In addition, rather poignantly, the harness release, which would have been the last item handled by the pilot before he parachuted to safety, was recovered.
10 archaeology undergraduates spent two weeks researching and excavating the site, led by Dr. Phil Marter, senior lecturer in Archaeology and an expert in WW2 aviation archaeology.
A geophysical survey was followed by three days’ excavation last Thursday through to Saturday at Frith Farm. The site has not been explored for nearly 80 years.
Dr. Marter said: “This project has provided a unique opportunity for students to explore the story of just one pilot and his aircraft that participated in the aerial combat taking place in the skies of Britain during late 1940.
We hope that their experience will help them to appreciate the value of this type of heritage and encourage them to play an active role in its future.
“We are extremely grateful to the landowners Mr. and Mrs. Arturi for allowing us to work on their land and making us feel so welcome.
We are also grateful to our project partner Gareth Jones and his team for their support and to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) at Innsworth for their advice during the licensing process.”
The Hurricane was being flown by P/O Clark while intercepting enemy aircraft on November 1, 1940, the day after the Battle of Britain officially finished.
P/O Clark retired from the RAF as a Wing Commander in 1960 and, as part of their project, the students are researching his military career and hoping to trace any living relatives in the hope that they can tell his story and add this to their excavation report.
The students will continue the cleaning and cataloging of material from the site in the coming week.
A new Viking site could rewrite the story of the ‘Great Heathen Army’
Some 40 years ago, archaeologists excavating the grounds of the English village of Repton stumbled upon a gruesome discovery: a mass grave containing the bodies of more than 250 men, women, and children, many bearing the scars of battle on their bones.
The find lined up with English historical records describing Repton as the location where the “Great Heathen Army” of Vikings hunkered down for the winter of 873-874 CE. It seemed the invaders who had once terrorized the country’s medieval Anglo-Saxon residents had finally been found.
There was just one problem. The only candidate for a fortified winter encampment at Repton was an earthwork enclosure spanning just a handful of acres—far too little to accommodate the thousands of militant Vikings believed to have comprised the Great Army.
Now, a team of researchers from the University of Bristol might have uncovered the solution to Repton’s clown car conundrum: a long-lost partner camp in the nearby village of Foremark, which boasts acreage aplenty. Excavations at Foremark are ongoing, but if the findings pan out, they could help resolve a long-standing debate in Viking history.
“Based on what others had dug up at Repton before, some people [suggested] the Great Army wasn’t as big as everyone thought,” says Mary Beaudry, an archaeologist at Boston University who was not involved in the excavation. “But with this work at Foremark…it could have been much bigger than anyone thought. It opens up an entirely new picture.”
Formal excavations at Foremark, a sleepy hamlet just two miles east of Repton, have only recently begun in earnest. But long before the arrival of a team led by Cat Jarman, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, a group of metal detectorists had unveiled hints of a Viking presence in Foremark.
One of these detectorists, Rob Davis, had already spent more than a decade amassing a trove of trinkets when he reached out to Jarman in November of 2017. Though his collection was by no means comprehensive, Jarman says, it already held what might be the “smoking gun” of a Great Army encampment: a handful of trademark lead gaming pieces—a common relic of Viking encampments strewn throughout Europe.
“In a way, these are the most important artifacts,” Jarman says. “They’re only associated with the Great Army. They’re not pretty or valuable, but they’re specific.”
Joining the gaming pieces were several Islamic dirham coins and trading weights—clear indicators of the Vikings’ global connections. These artifacts, in particular, Jarman says, should serve as reminders that the Vikings were more than the one-dimensional plunderers and pillagers of popular culture. In fact, there’s evidence that Vikings actually started out as merchants, and kept up some of these bartering practices even after taking up arms, trading in local and foreign markets alike.
“There was obviously a violent side to the Vikings,” says team member Mark Horton, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol. “But they were also bringing all sorts of things missing from Anglo-Saxon England at the time. They were the first medieval globalizing forces.”
In the years since Jarman and her colleagues have begun their own research at Foremark. The team hasn’t yet begun excavations at what they believe is the location of Foremark’s main camp, which is privately owned. But the researchers have already hit pay dirt in a neighboring plot of land—in the form of a large, valuable iron plowshare that dates back to the late 9th century. It’s not yet clear who the plowshare belonged to: It could have been hauled in by globe-trotting Scandinavians or abandoned by the unfortunate Anglo-Saxons whose homes they invaded. Either way, this particular find is “pretty amazing,” Horton says.
Many of the artifacts, including those in the metal detectorist’s collection, have yet to be dated more precisely than a ballpark century, however. As such, there’s not yet a guarantee of simultaneous occupation with Repton. But given Foremark’s proximity to Repton, Jarman and others are optimistic that the pieces of the overwintering puzzle could finally be falling into place.
“The findings at Foremark fit into our expectations,” says Doug Bolender, an anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston who was not involved in the work. “In lots of ways, this could allow us to put aside a whole series of caveats and asterisks of the interpretation of the material at Repton…it’s exciting to have a potential site.”
In many ways, Foremark might have been an obvious candidate for a Viking take over. Situated comfortably on the River Trent, the site would have been ideal for everything from docking boats to growing crops. It also carried the appeal of open land: Though the team hasn’t yet determined the exact boundaries of the Foremark camp, the site could have covered as many as 90 acres, vastly outstripping the known enclosures at Repton.
That amount of space could have accommodated the thousands estimated to be in the Great Army—or more. “The whole thing is a massive Viking landscape,” Horton says. “The sheer scale of what we’re finding could indicate that we’re talking about tens of thousands [of people].”
As excavations continue, Jarman is now toying with one last theory: that Foremark was so nice, the Vikings settled it twice.
Not long after leaving their station at Repton, the Great Army began to fragment. After a few final cataclysmic clashes with growing Anglo-Saxon forces, the remaining Vikings scattered. Over time, the two sworn enemies found peace and, eventually, began to integrate, braiding their disparate cultures together. Scandinavian words wove their way into English; Norse gods mingled into local lore.
Along the way, Jarman says, a few Viking veterans might have returned to a familiar haunt at an “old fortification”—perhaps, not by coincidence, the meaning of the root word for “Foremark.”
Even Foremark’s surroundings bear the echoes of encore. The names of nearby villages like Ingleby and Bretby contain similarities to old Norse words. And less than a mile away lies Heath Wood, the region’s only large-scale Viking cremation cemetery—an impractical investment for a single winter’s camp. “You don’t get those names, or a cemetery like that, unless you have a Scandinavian population putting down roots,” Jarman says.
“I think these Viking armies are the people who become the Scandinavian settlers,” she says. “They’ve been invisible in the archaeological record for a long time…but these armies eventually settled into the landscape. This might be how we find that missing link.”
Dark and Twisted – These Ancient Mysterious Trees are Older than the Pyramids
Considered the oldest of all trees in Europe, this tree which can be found in the yard of the church St. Cynog’s in Powys, Wales, is about 5,000 or more years old.
There are actually more than 250 such trees across the U.K. which are classified “ancient,” and which means that they were growing for more than 900 years.
According to the Woodland Trust, it’s in good company – there are over 250 yew trees in the United Kingdom that are classified as “ancient”, meaning that they have been growing for over 900 years.
Yew trees are notoriously difficult to date accurately, and so in 2014 the yew at St. Cynog’s was subjected to a number of different tests, including DNA analysis and ring counting. Janis Fry, an expert in tree aging, is confident that the tree is the oldest non-clonal tree in Europe, according to The Express.
The tests, conducted by the Forestry Institute, concluded that the tree had a ring count of 120 per inch, which would make it around 5,000 years old.
The oldest non-clonal tree in the world, according to official records, is a bristlecone pine in southern California, which has been accurately dated to 5,068 years old.
However, it is very difficult to precisely date yew trees, and there are a number of candidates, including the St. Cynog Yew, that may rival even this ancient being.
Until 2014, it was thought that the oldest tree in Europe was the Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, Scotland, which has been roughly dated to between 3,000 and 5,000 years of age. However, according to The Woodland Trust, the St. Cynog Yew maybe even older.
Part of the difficulty in dating yew trees is due to the fact that, with age, the central trunk often splits into two or several main stems, thus preventing accurate dating using the heartwood rings.
This is the case with both the St. Cynog Yew and the Fortingall Yew, which both have fractured trunks. Nevertheless, the trees are otherwise in excellent health and could live for centuries to come.
In addition to their broken, decayed appearance, ancient yew trees in the United Kingdom bear the marks of history. According to The Woodland Trust, a cannonball was found inside the trunk of the Crowhurst Yew in Surrey, England, which is thought to have become lodged there at the time of the English Civil War (1642–1651).
Indeed, if the dating of the St. Cynog Yew is correct, it would have been little more than a sapling at the time of the construction of Stonehenge, and already centuries old when the Great Pyramid of Giza was raised up from the desert. By the time the Romans set foot in Britain, it was already thousands of years old.
Yew trees are found in churchyards all over the United Kingdom, in part because of their ancient mythological significance. They carry strong associations with death and resurrection and often feature in Celtic and Greek traditions as symbols of decay and regeneration.
This may be due to their evergreen foliage and exceptionally long lives, in addition to their perceived regenerative powers. Yew trees appear to suffer extreme damage and decay, splitting open at the trunk, yet they continue to thrive.
Even before the advent of Christianity, they were planted in spiritually significant locations and used as part of pagan rituals, often involving death and sacrifice.
Later, the ancient traditions surrounding yew trees would become merged with Christian practice, and they were incorporated into Lenten and Easter celebrations, symbolizing the death and resurrection of Christ.
For similar reasons, they were often planted in churchyards, watching over the dead and ensuring their spiritual resurrection.
The twisted, tortured trunks of these ancient trees now stand watch over churchyards and graveyards all over Europe, and with luck, will continue to do so for many centuries to come.
Roman arcade found in England, the oldest building in the country
Although arcades are not around much anymore, they were once a major part of a child’s weekend. Arcades allowed friends to hang out and play endless games for hours on end.
Arcades have been around since the ancient Romans. Just recently, British archaeologists discovered a Roman arcade under an apartment block in Colchester, Essex.
Experts believe that the ancient walkway included more than 28 archways that were topped by a grand gateway. They also believe that it was once at the heart of the busy Roman town.
The ruins of the grand 393-foot structure have been used to create a computer model of what the arcade could have looked like over 1,800 years ago.
It is believed that it is on the same scale as the grand arcades of Rome. Some of the sections measure 26 feet tall.
Builders at the site stumbled across the Roman ruins 62 years ago, but now the Colchester Archaeological Trust has finally excavated parts of the arcade. The One Castle House apartment block was recently built on top of the arcade.
One of the archaeologists at the site said that the elaborately arched building would have provided a wonderful frontage to the Temple of Claudius that was built in 54 AD. Today, that temple actually forms the base of the town’s Norman Castle.
The Temple of Claudius was actually the only Roman temple dedicated to an imperial cult in Britain. Claudius had come to Camulodunum, which was the Iron Age precursor of Colchester during the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD.
Dr. Phillip Crummy, the Colchester Archaeological trust director, said that the discovery of the monumental arcade was originally made in 1954, but for some reason, it was left untouched. He added that it is the biggest Roman structure of its kind to be discovered in Britain.
The closest rival in terms of size is in Northern France. The two buildings also share some of the same architecture. A similar-looking arcade is actually being investigated in a small town known as Point-Sainte Maxence, which is about 25 miles north of Paris.
Crummy added that the original arcade and its grand columns are similar to the ones that visitors can see in Bath at the Roman Baths. He also said that it is quite an extraordinary find, which shows the history of Colchester.
The remains of the ancient building will go on display for the public in the summer. They will be put under three glass panels which will allow visitors to see and learn about Britain’s oldest building on record in the town.
Crummy and his team will also have an exhibition that will go on display. They will have computer graphics showing visitors what the arcade would have looked like centuries ago. A large photo will be projected on a wall behind the original ruins.
Crummy explained that he and his team have managed to work out the final dimensions of the columns found at One Castle House in Roman feet. He said that the calculations have allowed them to design a digital reconstruction that they will put on a projector. With this, they can show visitors what it was like to live in a Roman arcade over 1,000 years ago.
Historians are taking a particular interest in the arcade and Temple of Claudius. They think a large religious procession, also known as a Pompa, took place there. The pompa would have included chariots and horses and would have traveled from the temple to the town’s Roman circus before the start of the chariot races.
They also said that the temple precinct would have resembled the Forum in Rome, a busy place with people going to and from the temple. It would have been an area for people to socialize and shop at the market stalls. The people would have entered through the archways of the arcade.
The precinct of the area is thought to have been standing at the time of the Norman invasion of England and was only demolished when the castle was built. The settlement of Colchester dates back to almost 2,000 years.
The Roman military chiefs established a fortress there, shortly after conquering Britain in 43 AD.