Category Archives: EUROPE

Wooden Shield Dating to Iron Age Discovered in England

Wooden Shield Dating to Iron Age Discovered in England

 The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths.
The shield is made from green bark that has been stiffened with internal wooden laths.

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.

Large Roman Building Uncovered in England

Large Roman Building Uncovered in England

Archeologists celebrate the scale of a 150-ft-long, uncovered Roman building in Faversham.

The structure — the largest of its kind in the county — was uncovered by the Kent Archeological Field School (KAFS), which has now undertaken final excavation work on the Abbey Farm site off Abbey Fields.

Its location had been identified several years ago during a field walk from Canterbury to Rochester, but only now has the building realized its scale and complexity.

An idea of what the building would have looked like
An idea of what the building would have looked like

Dr Paul Wilkinson, of KAFS, says it would have had several uses.“What we found on stripping the topsoil off was a profound and amazing building – the largest Roman agricultural building found so far in Kent,” he said.“It is absolutely enormous at 150ft long by 50ft wide.

“It was divided into zones of activity, so the west end was a bath house with the furnace, and then as you moved to the east it turned more into the agricultural activity.

The site was investigated by more than 20 students
The site was investigated by more than 20 students 

“The work has shown that the survival of the building was amazing, with stone walls, polished terracotta floors, underfloor hypocaust heating, all untouched, and covered by tons of ceramic roof tiles and the collapsed stone walls covering huge amounts of box flue tiles, which were used to direct hot air up the interior walls.

Painted plaster from these walls is mostly white but the hot sauna room on the north side of the building had plaster walls decorated in green, red and yellow panels.

“In the 5th century, it had been extended another 15 meters, with what could be an internal Christian altar.”

An idea of what the building would have looked like
An idea of what the building would have looked like

The building was investigated by more than 20 students, in what has been described as a “unique experience” by Dr Wilkinson.

The team’s next step will be to write a report, which will join documentation for other Roman villa estates in the historic environment record kept by Kent County Council.

“It’s an extremely exciting building,” Dr. Wilkinson added. “It was in the landscape for at least 400 years and had a variety of purposes.

The team on site
The team on site 

“We are finding that because of investigation of the landscape taking place now prior to the building of housing estates that the Romans were very thick on the ground indeed, and this was almost unknown of 20 years ago.“We have found they had profound activity in the countryside and it was densely populated.”

‘Very angry badger’ invades Scotland’s 16th-century Craignethan Castle

A 16th-century fortified Scottish castle was invaded and ransacked by a tiny masked marauder—a badger

Never mind armored knights, mounted troops, heavy artillery, or massive cannons. A 16th-century castle in Scotland was recently invaded, ransacked, and held hostage by that most fearsome of modern foes—a “very angry badger.”

The tiny masked marauder entered a cellar tunnel at Craignethan Castle in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, in early April. Staff tried to lure it out with cat food, honey, peanuts, and bananas. They posited that the badger had become confused and lost in the castle’s network of tunnels, trying to seek a way out.

Craignethan Castle was a strong tower castle built in the 1500s to sustain heavy military bombardment, if not nibbles from the weasel family.

The Keep of Craignethan Castle in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Built in 1531 and, according to tradition, the inspiration for Tillietudlem Castle in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Old Mortality.

The land on which the castle was built was originally a property of the Black Douglases, but was granted to the Hamilton family in 1530. Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, a trained architect and the King’s Superintendent of Palaces, designed the castle on a knoll above a bend in the River Nethan to show off his talent for military architecture.

The last great private stronghold constructed in Scotland, it has steep downward slopes on three sides, but on one side it is overlooked by higher ground, a vulnerable flaw in design. The castle and ramparts sit on a traditional large rectangular keep.

In 1536, Hamilton of Finnart hosted King James V for his daughter’s wedding celebrations at the castle. Alas, this did not keep him in royal favor for long. Hamilton was beheaded in 1540 for treason, though his son still managed eventually to inherit the land.

The hall Hamilton of Finnart built for himself at Craignethan Castle.

Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have spent a night at Craignethan after her abdication and before she was forced to flee to England. Folk legend has it that her headless ghost haunts the hallways.

By 1579, the main towers of Craignethan were destroyed by royal decree to render it defenseless. The Hays bought the castle in 1665, and constructed a two-story house in the southwest corner, which still stands today.

Craignethan Castle was given over to state care in 1949, and turned into a tourist attraction. The surrounding ancient woodlands are home to kestrels and sparrowhawks, according to Castles of Scotland website.

Not to mention very angry badgers!“We’ve had to temporarily close Craignethan Castle’s cellar tunnel due to an unexpected guest,” a spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland told the Guardian. “The tunnel was closed around midday on 12 April.

The castle is surrounded by woodland and we believe the badger may have become lost. Staff have been in contact with local wildlife authorities.”

Craignethan Castle

Staff first noticed the tiny masked marauder’s path of destruction. It had dug through loose soil in the stonework, causing a mess.

They later saw the culprit. By the weekend, the badger had found its way out of the castle. But it had left enough damage to the stone masonry to cause concerned castle minders to keep the tunnel closed to public.

Historic Scotland reported on Twitter: “While our furry friend left the building over the weekend, we can confirm the CraignethanCastle cellar tunnel remains closed this week. Our work team on-site need to repair some of the stone masonry the badger damaged. The rest of the castle is open for visitors.”One of Craignethan’s large rectangular main towers still stands, as does the squat base of another alongside a gatehouse. Inner and outer courtyards are mostly surrounded by massive ramparts.

A ditch in front of the west wall—over which a drawbridge once lay—protected the original castle. In 1962, excavators discovered there a caponier—or a roofless below-ground fortification with firing steps and rifle portals that was connected to the castle via tunnels.

A badger

When you consider the badger’s natural proclivities, however, it is actually not all that surprising that one found its way to the castle tunnel.“Badgers have strong limbs and sharp claws that help them dig burrows and find food underground,” according to Live Science.

“They make their homes by digging tunnels and caves and use grass and leaves for bedding. A badger’s home is called a sett.”Badgers typically consume earthworms and spider larvae, which presumably a nearly 500-year-old castle tunnel would hoard in abundance. We might ask, what took the badger so long to call the castle its home?

Source: abc

Viking imported finds discovered in cemetery works

New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts

New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts
The finding took archaeologists by surprise

Archeologists expected beer or other brewing materials to be found, but they found something more valuable.

It was supposed to be a simple, routine expansion work at Byneset Cemetery, adjacent to the medieval Steine Church in Trondheim, Norway.

As in several other European countries, Norwegian law requires archeological studies to precede such works — and in this case it paid off in spades.

Archaeologists have discovered a trove of Viking artifacts, including one which is of a foreign origin: they come from Ireland, researchers say. 

Jo Sindre Pålsson Eidshaug and Øyunn Wathne Sæther, both research assistants at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum, say that what really drew their attention was a small brooch — a Celtic, gold-plated silver fitting from a book.

“This is a decorative fitting,” Eidshaug said of his discovery. “It almost looks like it’s gilded. It’s a kind of decorative fitting, I would guess.”

A fitting, probably from a book. The style is typical of Celtic and Irish areas and dates from the 800s. Traces of gilding can be seen in the recesses.

It might have been part of a bigger, religious ensemble, or a stand-alone book fitting. Right now, any such claims are little more than speculation. But what’s interesting is how it got there.

It’s no secret that Vikings roamed Europe’s seas, plundered the coast of England for centuries. Crossing over to Ireland, while not easy, was certainly possible for the skilled seamen. But even so, finding Celtic items in Viking sites is not common, with only a few similar sites previously discovered.

In archaeology, this is technically called an import. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bought or traded for, and again — taking into consideration the well-known habits of the Vikings.

“Someone very politely called this an Irish import, but that’s just a nice way of saying that someone was in Ireland and picked up an interesting item,” said museum director Reidar Andersen, who was also at the site.

This isn’t to say that the item was definitely stolen. Whether or not the Vikings’ voyages to Ireland were peaceful or not is anyone’s guess right now.

“Yes, that’s right. We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back. But how peacefully it all transpired, I won’t venture to say,” he said.

Erecting tents at the excavation site with Steine Church behind.

The site itself holds great promise for the future. Archaeologists also came across a belt buckle, a key, and a knife blade, so they have high hopes for upcoming digs.

The church itself dates from the 1140s and used to be connected to a large, old farm estate from the time of the Vikings, which will also be studied next year.

Source: heritagedaily

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden

Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden
Team member Clara Alfsdotter arranges the remains of one victim

On the south-eastern island of Oland, Swedish archeologists found evidence of a massacre of the 5th century.

The team writes about the 1,500-year-old attack on Sandby borg in a paper published in the journal Antiquity.

Dozens of corpses have been found in the walled fort, their bodies left to rot where they fell.

All of the victims were killed with “brutal force”, team leader Helena Victor said. Some victims were found inside houses, others in the streets.

The archaeologists discovered decapitated bodies, blunt force trauma wounds to victims’ heads, and even one person who seemed to have fallen into a fireplace in his final moments.

Even the corpse of a newborn was found among the dead, suggesting nobody was spared, the authors say.

The perpetrators of the massacre are not known, but it took place during a turbulent period of intense migration when the Western Roman Empire was collapsing and the Huns invading. The Baltic island of Oland was never under Roman rule.

The walled fort at Sandby Borg

Local authorities asked staff at the Kalmar Lans Museum to examine the area after treasure hunters found items at the site. The first dig lasted only 3 days, but after the discovery of the walls of houses, the team quickly found human remains.

Ms Victor says the bodies in the houses raised alarm bells, as historically corpses were usually cremated – and certainly were not left in people’s homes.

“You don’t find people lying around in houses,” Ms. Victor told the BBC. “[People] don’t do it today, and didn’t do it then.

Examining some of the victims of the 5th-Century massacre
Examining some of the victims of the 5th-Century massacre

“While villagers normally lived outside the walled fort, they would shelter there in times of danger. Between 200 and 250 people are thought to have lived in the fort, and Ms. Victor says it does not look as if they defended themselves.

“People seem to have been killed without defending themselves,” said team leader Helena Victor. “It seems like treason.”She suggests someone may have left a door open and “let them in at night”.

Source: history