Medieval Child Skeletons Unearthed in Northern Ireland

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.

Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is "more to be found" in Downpatrick
Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is “more to be found” in Downpatrick

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.

Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together
Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together

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.”

An arrow head from 12th or 13th Centuries is among other items found during the excavation.
An arrow head from 12th or 13th Centuries is among other items found during the excavation

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.”

Oldest hand-written Roman document discovered in London

An oldest hand-written Roman document discovered in London

This tablet was found in a layer dated by MOLA to AD 43-53 so is thought to have been from the Romans' first decade of rule.
This tablet was found in a layer dated by MOLA to AD 43-53 so is thought to have been from the Romans’ first decade of rule.

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.

he letters on this tablet show part of the alphabet: “ABCDIIFGHIKLMNOPQRST”

he letters on this tablet show part of the alphabet: “ABCDIIFGHIKLMNOPQRST” 

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.

Over 400 tablets were found at the site, 87 of which have been deciphered

Over 400 tablets were found at the site, 87 of which have been deciphered 

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

Burials of Africans slaves found at the old rubbish dump in Portugal

Adult female skeleton found at Valle da Gafaria, Portugal, suggests a careless burial.
Adult female skeleton found at Valle da Gafaria, Portugal, suggests a careless burial.

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.

Adult female from Valle da Gafaria whose positioning suggests she may have been tied up for burial.
Adult female from Valle da Gafaria whose positioning suggests she may have been tied up for burial.

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.”

Source: archaeologynewsnetwork

Egypt unveils 2,500-year-old mummy at forgotten cemetery

Egypt unveils 2,500-year-old mummy at forgotten cemetery

Egypt unveiled a high priest’s 2,500-year – old mummy at an ancient southern cemetery in Cairo.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and a team from Egypt opened three 26th Dynasty sealed sarcophagi.

One contained the well-preserved mummy of a powerful priest, wrapped in linen and decorated with a golden figure depicting Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess.

The remains of the second mummy found at the site. This person would have been a singer in a temple dedicated to the god Thoth

The remains of the second mummy found at the site. This person would have been a singer in a temple dedicated to the god Thoth

The team also opened two other sarcophagi, one containing a female mummy decorated with blue beads and another with a father in a family tomb.

The finds were revealed live on air on the Discovery Channel on Sunday.

At the burial site in Minya province, the team also found a rare wax head.

“I never discovered in the late period anything like this,” Hawass said.

The wax head of the high priest
The wax head of the high priest

Egyptian archaeologists discovered the site a year and a half ago and the excavation is continuing.”

I really believe that this site needs excavation maybe for the coming 50 years,”

Hawass told Reuters a day before the sarcophagi were opened. He expects more tombs to be found there.

In 1927, a huge limestone sarcophagus was found in the area and placed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but the site was then forgotten, Hawass said.

But two years ago an unauthorized digger was found at the site and stopped, he said. That’s what alerted archaeologists and excavation began.

Source: archaeologynewsnetwork

Decapitated bodies found in Great Whelnetham’s Roman cemetery in u.k

Decapitated bodies found in Great Whelnetham’s Roman cemetery in U.K

Archeologists excavating a Roman burial ground said it was a “rare find” to discover a series of decapitated bodies.

On a site in Great Whelnetham, Suffolk, a dig took place ahead of a planned housing development.

Of the 52 skeletons found, about 40% had their skulls detached from their bodies, many placed by their legs.

Archaeologist Andrew Peachey said it gave a “fascinating insight” into Roman burial practice.

The work has been undertaken on behalf of the Havebury Housing Partnership and was monitored by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service

The work has been undertaken on behalf of the Havebury Housing Partnership and was monitored by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service

The Roman cemetery, which dates to the 4th Century, includes the remains of men, women and children who had probably lived in a nearby settlement.

The fact that up to 40% of the bodies were decapitated represents “quite a rare find”, particularly having the “statistical anomaly of having so many decapitations there”.”

We are looking at a very specific part of the population that followed a very specific tradition of burial,” he said.

Roman Suffolk

The Mildenhall Treasure, a hoard of 4th Century Roman silver, including the Great Dish (pictured), was found in 1942
The Mildenhall Treasure, a hoard of 4th Century Roman silver, including the Great Dish (pictured), was found in 1942

The county of Suffolk was under the control of the Iceni tribe when the Romans invaded in the 1st century

From the mid 1st Century to the early 5th centuries AD it was an intensely populated area between the major Roman settlements of Colchester and Caistor, near Norwich

A hoard of 4th Century Roman silver, including the Great Dish, was found in Mildenhall in 1942.

One of the most significant Roman sites in Suffolk is the villa complex at Castle Hill in Ipswich, comprising several buildings, perhaps arranged around a courtyard

The Roman settlement Great Whelnetham may date back to the 1st Century

Mr. Peachey, of Archaeological Solutions, said he did not believe there had been executions.

The heads were likely to have been removed “carefully” after the individual had died, he added.

The team are analysing the bones to find out as much as possible about the population.

Great Whelnetham is a known Roman settlement and Roman burials were typically placed as we would place them, said Mr Peachey.

The skeletons will go to a museum archive.