The Heroic Age
Compiled by Michelle Ziegler
Genetics England Ireland Roman Britain Scotland Scandinavia
Did the Vikings Spread HIV Resistance?
The chemokine receptor CCR5 is one of two receptors on macrophages, an immune cell, used by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) early in the establishment of an infection. Individuals with two mutant copies of this receptor (homozygotes) have proven to have high, but not absolute, resistances to infection, while those with one copy (heterozygotes) have a delayed progression of AIDS.
A 32-basepair mutation in the CCR5 gene called allele 32 has attracted the attention of researchers because of its high prevalence in the European population. Approximately 10% of all Europeans are believed to have at least one copy of this mutation. This mutation is nearly absent in individuals of Asian, Oceanic, Native American or African decent (except African-Americans).
Mutation frequencies among Europeans point toward a Scandinavian origin. There is a statistically significant decreasing north to south cline in the frequency of this mutation. Highest frequencies were found in Helsinki Finland (15.8%), Iceland (14.7%), and Umea Sweden (14.2%). The mean Scandinavian frequency was 13.4% vs. 8.18% for all populations studied.
Areas where Vikings or Normans settled had a higher than average frequency: Northern France (Brest 13.5%, Paris 12.9%, Nancy 11.1%, Lille 10.8%, and Reims 8.7%), Copenhagen Denmark (12.3%), Moscow Russia (12.2%), Vilnius Lituania (11.4%), Britain (11.1%), Mulheim Germany (10.6%), and Oslo Norway (10.5%). The gradient is remarkable even within France, where the southern cities of Nice and Ajaccio turned in frequencies of 5.2% and 0.9% respectively. All other sites in Europe have a lower than 10% frequency. Surprisingly, Ireland had only a 4.5% frequency. Non-European border countries had a dramatically lower frequency: Turkey 6.3%, Greeks in Cypus 2.8%, Daghestan 6.3%, and Morocco 1.5%.
Studies such as this one are always subject to sampling error and the numbers of individuals tested is not constant in all sites. In all, 7328 individuals from fifteen western European countries, plus Cyprus, Turkey, Daghestan, and Morocco were tested. The number tested per site ranged from 1002 in Cyprus to 44 in Ireland. The combined number of individuals per country where cities were listed individually is France 1836, Italy 910, and Spain 437. In France, "Basques, French, and Spanish Catalans, and Brittons from the region of Brest were selected by ethnicity and family history; in all other populations concerned sampling concerned individuals born in the corresponding geographical regions" (p. 934). All major "ethano-linguistic" groups (Baltic, Celtic, Germanic, Romanic, and Slavic) in Europe were represented in the overall sample. Of the 7328 individuals tested there were 1023 heterozygotes and 76 homozygotes for the mutation.
Other disease mutations hypothesized to have originated in northern Europe include alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, Cystic Fibrosis-CF508, and hyperchromatosis - C282Y. Lucote hypothesizes that there was a Northern European "gene center" that was disseminated during historic times. He hypothesizes that the Vikings were the disseminators of at least the 32 allele of CCR5.
Source: Gérard Lucotte. (2001) "Distribution of the CCR5 Gene 32-Basepair Deletion in Western Europe. A Hypothesis About the Possible Dispersion of the Mutation by the Vikings in Historical Times." Human Immunology 62:933-936.
Gaelic and Norse Ancestry on the North Atlantic Isles
A new large study has been conducted to determine the Gaelic and Norse population admixture on Scotland's Western Isles, Orkney, Skye and Iceland. This study utilized new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) typing done on 891 mainland Scots including 91 from coastal north and north-west Scotland, 49 individuals from the Isle of Skye, 181 individuals from the Western Isles, 142 individuals of English matrilinear descent and 323 Norwegians. These results were analyzed with results previously obtained from Iceland, Orkney, and other European groups. Since both males and females obtain their mtDNA from their mother, analysis of the mtDNA control region can identify the ethnic origin of the matrilinear lineage.
The study was interested in determining the genetic contribution of Gaels (Irish and Scots) and the Norse on these islands in relation to their known settlement history. The Western Isles, Skye and Orkney had previous settlements of Picts and Scots before the advent of Norse immigrants. The Shetland isles and Iceland are believed to have been uninhabited. From c. 800 AD, Norse parties colonized the island groups of Shetland, Orkney, and the Western Isles. Iceland was discovered and colonized by the Norse (and their slaves) in c. 860 AD. The Western Isles were lost from Norse control in 1263, while Orkney and Shetland reverted to Scottish control in 1469. Settlers emigrated to the isles from Scotland soon after the transfer of power on all three island groups. Iceland is still today under the control of its original settlers.
Previous studies by the same group led by Agnar Helgason showed that the majority of Icelanders have a Gaelic matrilinear lineage (mtDNA lineage) in contrast to the approximately 80% Norse patrilinear lineage (Y chromosome lineage) of Icelandic men. This reinforces the notion that the majority of Norse immigrants in medieval times were young, unattached males who took women from the Isles. Some of these Gaelic matrilinear lineages could have been obtained during a period of settlement in Ireland.
The prolonged Norse control and lack of pre-Norse Gaelic settlers on Iceland and Orkney are evident in the analysis. Both had a similar Norse matrilinear contribution, 37.5% for Iceland and 35.5% for Orkney. On the Western Isles and the Isle of Skye, pre-Norse Gaelic survival and later Scottish immigration dropped the Norse matrilinear contribution to 11.5% and 12.5% respectively. The corresponding Y chromosome analysis for patrilinear ancestry on the North Atlantic isles has not been done yet.
Source: Agnar Helgason, Eileen Hickey, Sara Goodacre, Vindar Bosnes, Kári Stefánsson, Ryk Ward and Bryan Sykes. (2001) "mtDNA and the Islands of the North Atlantic: Estimating the Proportions of Norse and Gaelic Ancestry" American Journal of Human Genetics 68: 723-737.
Anglo-Saxon Lakenheath, Suffolk
During this last year of excavations by the Archaeological Service of the Suffolk County Council at the Lakenheath cemetery, two Bronze Age burials mounds were discovered. The arrangement of the Anglo-Saxon burials suggests that the mounds were visible in the early medieval period and became focal points for the Anglo-Saxon burials. The mounds yielded two crouched adult burials accompanied by shards of Beaker pottery. A bronze awl dating from approximately 2000 BC was also found in one of the mounds.
To date the fifth to seventh century cemetery has produced 437 burials, including 65 discovered this summer. All of the new graves produced the expected grave goods. Only one male grave possessed a sword; the rest contains shield bosses and spear heads.
The recent excavations have also unearthed a farming settlement within 500 m the cemetery. The settlement has produced evidence of timber halls and sunken floor buildings with pottery dated to the fifth to seventh century. It appears this settlement produced the individuals buried in the cemetery. The settlement awaits further excavation.
Source: Simon Denison (October 2001) " Lakenheath cemetery focused on Broze Age mound" British Archaeology Issue 61 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba61/news.shtml#item5
Saxon Cemetery Discovered in Buckinghamshire
A pre-Christian Saxon cemetery has been discovered in Buckinghamshire, northeast of Aylebury, during a highway construction project. The nineteen graves contain early artifacts such as necklaces and daggers. All the remains have been removed to the Buckingham County Council museum for further study allowing the construction project to continue.
Source: "Road builders find Saxon remains" (December 14, 2001) BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_1710000/1710492.stm
Anglo-Saxon Vengeance on Viking Leader
Pathological examination of a ninth century man buried in a Repton cemetery in Derbyshire vividly illustrates that Anglo-Saxons took vengeance on captured Vikings. The Viking was systematically mutilated before his death.
Pathologist Dr. Bob Stoddart from Manchester University discovered that the man had been stabbed in the thigh, arms, jaw and head. His heals and each toe was then split lengthwise. Lastly, his genitals were removed with an ax and he was disembowelled. Dr. Stoddart believes the attacker knew exactly what he was doing and was experienced in inflicting torture.
Martin Biddle and his wife Birthe Kjolby-Biddle originally discovered the skeleton in 1986 in the cemetery of St. Wystan's. A broken stone cross was discovered over the grave.
Source: Tom Leonard (November 6, 2001) "Viking skeleton shows Anglo-Saxons' thirst for blood" The Telegraph http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/11/06/nvikin06.xml&\sSheet=/news/2001/11/06/ixhomef.html
Anglo-Saxon Warrior's Grave Discovered near Sutton-Hoo
Another earlier cemetery has been discovered 500 yards north of the famous Sutton Hoo cemetery in East Anglia. The location of this cemetery may explain why the more prestigious Sutton Hoo isolated away from the medieval settlement. This new group of 36 graves, 17 of which were cremations, has been dated to the mid-sixth century. Excavations at the site were carried out prior to construction of the new Sutton Hoo visitor's center.
One of the inhumation graves belonged to an Anglo-Saxon warrior. The acidic soil claimed the body long ago, but its outline of remained stained into the soil. Over the stain of the head, the remains of a three-foot wide wooden shield were discovered. The leather-covered wood had long ago disintegrated but the silver and bronze applique metalwork remained. The shield decorations included a fish and bird of prey and gilded studs surrounding a dome shaped iron shield boss that had been gilded in copper. Dr. Evans of the British Museum considers this grave to be of high status warrior-class rather than royal or princely.
Among other finds in the cemetery were an iron spearhead, an iron pattern-welded sword, pottery and bronze hanging bowels with some of the cremations. It is hoped that fragments of feathers and textiles can be recovered from these remains. These objects will eventually go into the collection at the British Museum, although they will be displayed in the new visitor's center on the site for an undisclosed amount of time.
Source: Dalya Alberge. (Nov. 26, 2001) "Warriors weapons found in Saxon cemetery" The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001545142,00.html
Grave of an Early Saxon Nobleman Found
Two amateur archaeologists, David Derby and Steve Pulley, have found the grave of an early Saxon nobleman near Weedon. The grave contained a man approximately eighteen years old, buried with a sword. Swords are a rare find in early Saxon graves. Spears were the usual weapons placed in the grave of ordinary men. The only other artifact announced was a brooch. However, the position of the body suggests that a shield could have been buried with the man. A woman was also found buried next to him. The grave has tentatively been dated to the sixth century. The same two amateurs discovered a Roman villa in the region three years ago.
Source: "Saxon Gives Up His Sword" (May 8, 2001) Daventry Online http://www.daventryonline.co.uk/cgi-bin/daventry2/display.pl?s1=news&refn=N014518420
Archaeologists are attempting to save the invaluable archaeological remains on the Whibty headland from crumbling into the sea. Tons of rock has been placed around the cliff base to protect the Abbey and its environment from sliding into the sea.
At the same time archaeologists continue to excavate the headland. The excavations have revealed that a considerable size village grew up around the Dark Age abbey. So far homes and craft shops for leather and woodworking have emerged. A large rectangular encircled by stone on scortched ground may be a malting oven for beer production or a pottery kiln. Two "celtic" crosses have also been discovered in the town. Archaeologists are hoping to return next season.
Source: Ian Herbert (July 30, 2001) "Archaeologists at a Yorkshire abbey bring the Dark Ages to light" The Independent http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/story.jsp?story=86020
Lady Godiva Revealed?
Archaeologists working in the Coventry priory founded by Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia have found fragments of a stained window that may depict Lady Godiva. The window is approximately 660 years old and therefore, not nearly contemporary with Lady Godiva. Archaeologists believe the woman discovered with long flowing hair may be Lady Godiva because windows were often created of benefactors of the church. The fact that the woman depicted in the glass does not have a halo suggests that it is not intended to portray a saint.
Source: Nick Britten (August 23, 2001) "Archaeologists take the warps off Lady Godiva" The Telegraph http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/08/23/; "Lady Godiva: The naked truth" (August 24, 2001) BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/in_depth/uk/2000/newsmakers/newsid_1507000
Athelney Abbey's Cartulary Resurfaces
In the fifteenth century, a monk of Athelney Abbey collected together copies of all the charters and other archival documents of his abbey into a large cartulary describing the history of the abbey from its foundation by King Alfred the Great up to his own time. The last documented use of this book was in 1791, after which it seemed to disappear. In June 2001, Mrs. Alison McCann of the West Sussex Record Office discovered the valuable book at Petworth House in Sussex. Simon Keynes announced the discovery at a planned lecture given on July 21 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the raising of a monument on the site of the former Athelney Abbey.
Subsequent review has confirmed that a single scribe wrote the book in the fifteenth century, as reputed. It does contain some additions from later in the fifteenth century. The book is composed of 245 folios containing charters, some of which were previously unknown. The most famous charter is a fuller text of the original foundation charter of Athelney Abbey from King Alfred. A previously unknown charter from 962 that granted land at Ilton in Somerset from King Edgar to his thegn Godwine is one of the more significant findings.
Source: Simon Keynes (August 1, 2001) "The cartulary of Athelney Abbey" British Academy- Royal Historical Society: Anglo-Saxon Charters http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/sdk13/chartwww/athelneycart.html
Early Medieval Cemetery Discovered
A group of graves believed to date from the sixth century has been discovered on a coastal beach in Galway. The most significant discovery is a set of entwined skeletons in the same grave. Other remains found in the area suggest that there may be a larger burial ground in the area. The exact location is being kept secret for its protection.
Source: Lorna Siggins (December 28, 2001) "Musuem investingating ancient burial site" The Irish Times http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2001/1228/hom5.htm
Kells Market Cross Restored, Replicated, and Relocated
Centuries of weather have taken their toll on the famous 1100 year old Market Cross of Kells. Recent acid rain and commuter traffic has damaged the cross more in the last decade than in its first thousand years. While acid rain had dulled the inscriptions over the last century, in 1997 it suffered its most crippling blow when it was rammed by a bus.
Restoration has taken four years at the Duchas center in Trim. When returned to the town, it was relocated to the front yard of the courthouse and placed within a glass canopy. The courthouse is itself a heritage site. In addition to the restoration work, a £20,000 replica of the cross was commissioned. The replica will sit protected inside the heritage center, while the real cross is exposed out doors under its glass canopy. The cross had been relocated from the monastery of Kells to the town cross roads in 1688 by Robert Balf.
The Kells Market Cross depicts several biblical scenes. The main panel depicts the crucifixion. Other panels illustrate St. Anthony and St. Peter defeating a devil, the guarded tomb of Christ, Cain and Abel, the sacrifice of Issac, and the story of Christ feeding the masses, Adam and Eve, Daniel and the Lion, and another panel showing two wrestling figures that may be Jacob and an angel. Other panels are too worn to be deciphered.
Source: "In need of protection after an argument with a bus" (April 8, 2001) The Sunday Times http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2001/04/08/stipripri03021.html
St. Odhran's Monastery
St. Odhran founded a monastery at Latteragh near Nenagh in County Tipperary in the fifth or sixth century. The monastery was reputed to have as many as three thousand students at one point. There was also a church built on the site in the twelfth century. Annals and other sources suggest that there was a monastery at Latteragh throughout the medieval period.
A local committee charged with caring for the ancient cemetery commissioned a detailed landscape map from two local draftsmen. These results were unveiled this summer. Their results suggest that there is indeed an ancient cemetery with a circular enclosure and an earthen mound for a church on the site.
In1976, evidence of St. Odhran's monastery surfaced. Two pillow stones with inscribed crosses were turned up in the cemetery that year during the digging of a new grave. Pillow stones were placed under the heads of holy men. Since then, more stones that are suggestive of an ancient monastery have turned up during routine maintenance. Two more stones were found just last year.
The local committee is hoping that the funds and work they are investing in the site will encourage officials to begin an excavation on the site. They have already commissioned and received a report from an archaeologist suggesting maintenance guidelines.
Source: Peter Gleeson (September 22, 2001) "New questions about Latteragh's ancient holy site" The Guardian http://www.unison.ie/nenagh_guardian/stories.php3?ca=38&si=514064&issue_id=
Carlisle's Roman Armory
Excavations in Carlisle's Roman fort have unearthed a rare Roman armory. The fort at Carlisle was a vital western anchor point for Hadrian's Wall, built between the Solway Firth and the mouth of the River Tyne. The excavations uncovered a series of reconstruction projects on the site all preserved in a waterlogged condition. The fort and armory is believed to have been built for Hadrian's elite troops in c. 120-130 AD around the time the wall was built.
On the south side of the fort, two buildings have been identified as blacksmith sites based on deposits of charcoal and hammerscale dating to approximately the Trajanic-Antonine period. To the north, the headquarters building was discovered including caches of weapons. To the east of this building lay another building with a great deal of armor, some of which was still articulated by leather straps and cloth pads, and a neck guard articulated by bronze wire ties. These are the only finds of articulated Roman armor that have been found anywhere in the Roman world. In addition to the articulated armor, numerous pieces of fragmented armor and scrap metal were found. Archaeologists believe they were destined for recycling. The armor is being kept frozen until it can be determined how to best preserve the fragile leather and textiles associated with the armor.
Other finds on the site include spearheads, bolts and "clay-like rocks used in slingshots", iron projectile points, and ballista balls. All of these finds testify to the serious need for protection of the fort and the wall in this western zone.
Source: Mike McCarthy (May 4, 2001) "Roman armour find at Carlisle, Cumbria, England" Alpha Galileo http://www.alphagalileo.org/PrintRelease.cfm?releaseid=6255; Jennifer Viegas (May 2, 2001) "Gladiator-Era Armor Factory Found" Discovery News http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20010430/gladiator.html .
Roman London's Waterworks Discovered
Archaeologists have discovered two Roman water-lifting devices in London. These devices were composed of three feet wide water wheels, which had a series of chains and two-liter buckets to raise water. The iron chains have survived remarkably well due to the anaerobic environment of the mud and water. The oldest and best-preserved device was saved by being buried unused since the well head was destroyed by fire and the raising water table kept it waterlogged.
These water wheels were found inside two five-meter deep wells wide enough for two men to stand with arms outstretched near a Roman amphitheathre and bathhouse. The water wheels were turned by 10-foot high treadmills on which men would have walked. These devices are estimated to have been able to bring up approximately 60,000 gallons of water per day. Timber analysis from the water wheel has been dated to AD63 and AD108-109. Roman and Greek manuals describe the construction of devices like these but this is the first example found by archaeologists.
Source: Dalya Albrege (September 27, 2001). "How Romans built a washing machine" The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001333960,00.html; Maggie MacDonald (September 26, 2001) "Roman Water Works Unearthed in London" New Scientist.com http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991343 (photos).
Newly Discovered Roman Settlements and Towns
Aerial photography has indentified a new Roman settlement near the River Tees in County Durham. The settlement includes outlines of homes and other buildings, a lane, and rectangular enclosures. Brooches and coins dating from AD 120-200 have been found on the site by metal detectorists. The settlement seems to have been abandoned in the second century, perhaps when the region once again became a military buffer zone after the pull back from the Antonine Wall.
A new Roman homestead was discovered at Seamer in East Yorkshire this summer. The lack of artifacts indicating that the main stone building was roofed and lack of other luxuries suggests that it was abandoned before completion in the last decades of the second century.
A nearby British roundhouse settlement was also located in the same region. This settlement had long been occupied and provided the expected artifacts of daily life including a post-hole with human, sheep and horse bones ritually buried around it. In addition, the oldest kiln in Britain was found on the site. The kiln is believed to date from 20 B.C. to 40 A.D..
Two child burials were found on the Seamer site. One infant burial was found beneath the stone slab of the Roman era stone building. The other was a late Neolithic or Bronze Age child found buried under the floor of one of the roundhouses. The date of the second child's burial suggests to archaeologists that the owners of the roundhouse probably did not know that it was there. Otherwise, no human burials were reported on the site.
In Middlewich, Cheshire, an extensive semi-industrial salt making settlement has been discovered. The site dates to the Roman period and is near a recently discovered Roman fortress. Pottery and other artifacts suggest the settlement originated in the first century. The outlines of buildings has been identified by post holes and roof tile scatterings. Remains of salt-making equipment including brine pits, brine wells and possible industrial workshops have been located on the site. A local brine spring appears to be the source of the salt. The placement of the buildings suggests that the Roman street probably ran underneath the current road, suggesting the road remained in use, possibly as a route to Northwich, throughout the medieval period.
In August it was announced that a possible Roman farm has been discovered in East Lothian at Prestonpans. The settlement is believed to date to the second or third century. Further details have not been released.
In December it was announced that the original Roman port town of Rutupiae (Richborough) has been discovered by geophysical survey. The settlement is now located several miles inland, but was originally on the Wantsum Channel that seperated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. During the Roman occupation, Rutupiae was the most important port in Britain. An impressive arch was erected by the Romans of Carrara marble and bronze statues to mark the gateway into the Roman province.
Sources: Simon Denison (June 2001) "Unique Roman town indentified in hinterland of Hadrian's Wall" British Archaeology Issue 59 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba59/news.shtml#item4 ; Simon Denison (October 2001) "Mystery of 'old soldier's homestead' in East Yorkshire" British Archaeology Issue 61 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba61/news.shtml#item4; Simon Denison (August 2001) "Roman salt-manufacturing town uncovered in Cheshire" British Archaeology Issue 60 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba60/news.shtml#item4 ; David Derbyshire (December 26, 2001) "Geophysical survey finds huge city that was the Dover of its day" The Telegraph http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/12/26/ndover26.xml&ssheet=/news/2001/12/26/ixhome.html; Brian Connelly (August 14, 2001) "Dig finds point to major Roman farm site" The Herald http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/archive/14-8-19101-1-17-41.html
Romans in Wales
Builders in Carmarthen, Wales, discovered a first or second century Roman grave. The site contained a cremation urn, a pair of oil lamps, and other artifacts. The site is believed to contain the remains of two individuals. The artifacts are in such good condition the name of the potter can be clearly seen on the oil lamps. This find is a very rare piece of evidence of Roman activity in far West Wales.
Meanwhile at the Roman fort of Segontium near Caernarfon discovered a Roman carving depicting a carving of a Roman warrior with shield and spear, possibly representing the Roman god of war, Mars. The stone was found in a 19th century building where it was used for a reconstruction project. The fortress of Segontium was an extension of the Roman center of Chester. Control of North Wales was vital for because of its rich veins of gold, silver, and copper exploited by the Romans.
Source: "Roman burial unearthed in West Wales" (November 29, 2001) News Wales http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Culture&F=1&id=5006; "Roman carving unearthed at fort" (April 19, 2001) BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/wales/newid_1285000/1285204.stm
Roman Art Unearthed
Within the City of London, a life-size bronze arm has been discovered south of the Roman amphitheatre. It is believed to have come from a first century statue of the emperor Nero or Domitian. The arm is now displayed at the Museum of London.
Two Roman mosaics have recently been discovered. The first mosaic measuring 21 X 13 feet has been found in Dorchester. It has been dated to the fourth century and has a geometric design. The second mosaic site was discovered in Somerset approximately 1 mile from the Fosse Way. This 10 yard x 6 yard mosaic included unusual figures of dolphins, vines, and urns and two smaller mosaics that were each 15 feet by 9 feet. The design is believed to be from the Corinian School based at nearby Cirencester. This mosaic may belong to a large fourth century Roman villa. Medieval post-holes and Victorian era construction have damaged the mosaic. It has been claimed that this is the most significant mosaic found in Britain in the last fifty years. Unusual plaster fragments painted in purple and green were also discovered along with some roof slates and tiles from the heating system. Farmer John Osbourne owns the land.
Sources: Simon Denison (June 2001) "Arm and Armor" British Archaeology Issue 59 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba59/news.shtml#inbrief; Simon Denison (October 2001) "Roman mosaic" British Archaeology Issue 61 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba61/news.shtml#inbrief; Maev Kennedy (November 8, 2001) "Builder turns up Roman mosaics" The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,589468,00.html ; Simon DeBruxelles (November 8, 2001) "Roman floor mosaic discovered under farm" The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001385297,00.html; David Derbyshire "Bulldozer unearths fine Roman mosaic" The Telegraph http://news.telegraph.co.uk/core/Content/displayPrintable.jhtml;$NIYYOFQAAAE ; "English Heritage Sets up Rescue Package for Previously Unknown 4th Century Villa" (November 11, 2001) English Heritage. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/default.asp?WCI=NewsItem&WCE=122
Iron Age British Fortress Found in North Yorkshire
An extremely large Iron Age fortress has been found on a hilltop called Roulston Scar near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Mapping technology from global positioning satellites and the accumulated evidence of many finds over the years identified the site.
The fortress is believed to enclose 40 acres and has been provisionally dated to 400 BC. This fortress is now believed to be one of the largest in Britain. Archaeologist Alastair Oswald suggests that that the fortress may have been built by the Brigantes or the Parisi tribes as a symbol of power and perhaps as a center for regional assemblies.
Exploratory trenches dug into the ramparts suggest a timber palisade encircling a partly stone pathway. These surveys have already discovered two strongly guarded gates and a box rampart along the contour of the hill that stood four meters high fronted by a two-meter deep trench. Some of the defensive structures remain nearly three feet high. It has been estimated that the walls once stood twelve feet high. Medieval boundary ditches have also been found on the site.
To date, there is not much evidence of settlement within the fortress. This had led to suggestions that it was a huge livestock corral or a temporary shelter for the population. Further excavations are hoped for.
Parts of the ramparts have been damaged by the chalk White Horse of Kilburn created in 1857. Hang Gliders have also used the hill extensively and left damage to the site.
Source: Martin Wainwright (November 2, 2001) "Iron Age Fort reveals itself" The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,585203,00.html ; "Prehistoric hill fort unearthed" (November 1, 2001) BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_1630000/1630905.stm (better photos and a diagram); Mark Henderson (November 2, 2001) "Wartime photos led to Iron Age fortress" The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001381329,00.html .
Silurian Council Chamber Discovered
Archaeologists have discovered the council chamber of the the Silures at Caerwent in South Wales. The Silures were one of the few British tribes that the Romans allowed to self-govern themselves. The 40 foot by 25 foot chamber was reached by an antechamber. Coins from Emperor Trajan and pottery date the construction to around AD 120. Mosaic panels were also discovered that suggested the layout of the council room. Evidence of two rows of timber benches was found lining both sides of the room and the foundation of a dias on the eastern end. A "civic shrine" was found adjacent to the council chamber.
Other regions of Caerwent discovered recently include parts of the forum, a temple on its eastern region, and "the long hall of the basilica in the north". The newly discovered council chamber was found to the north of the basilica. The temple complex was constructed in c. 330 AD, only a century before the Romans abandoned Britain.
Source: Norman Hammond (August 17, 2001) "Emptying the chamber of an old Welsh assembly" The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,61-2001284481,00.html
Book of Aneirin on Loan to Edinburgh
The Book of Aneirin that contains the early medieval poem, Y Gododdin, believed to be the oldest early medieval poem in the Welsh language has been loaned to the Edinburgh City Arts Centre. Y Gododdin is considered Scotland's oldest peom, being composed in c. 600AD in Edinburgh. This poem records a collection of elegies to British heroes and the oldest reference to Arthur. It will be displayed in an exhibit called "The Quest for Camelot: The Arthurian Legend in Art" at the Edinburgh City Arts Centre from November 3 to January 26, 2002. This exhibition comes amid an increased public debate on the historical King Arthur and his geographic location: lowland Scotland or Wales.
Source: "Arthurian manuscript loaned to Scotland" (November 8, 2001) News Wales http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Culture&F=1&id=4890
St. Blane's Fort Discovered
An aerial photograph taken east of Dunblane Cathedral on Holmhill may have located the fort used by the seventh century St. Blane. The photograph shows the outline of a circular early settlement in an area called Ramoyle (Rath Maol), which means ruined fortification. Excavations are planned to confirm the site as St. Blane's Fort. Tradition claims that Dunblane was the saint's "chief seat".
Source: John Innes (June 27, 2001) "Saint's fort found after 1,400 years" The Scotsman http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/text_only.cfm?id=84712
Hilton of Cadboll Stone Base Unearthed
Colin Muir of Historic Scotland discovered the base of the famous Pictish carved stone of Hilton of Cadboll on Easter Ross, near Tain. The main shaft of the stone has been on display since 1921 in the National Museum of Scotland. Excavations since 1998 have turned up "hundreds" of more pieces and the back of the base from the stone. The discovery of the base in its original location will now inform archaeologists where the stone originally stood and provide more clues to the overall layout of the chapel site.
Source: "Earth gives up Pictish stone" (September 11, 2001) The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001313883,00.html
Seventh Century Christian Grave Discovered in Norway
Archaeologists in western Norway have discovered what they believe is the oldest Christian grave in Norway. The grave was found stratigraphically below tenth century graves, contained no grave goods, was aligned east-to-west and the coffin has been carbon dated to the seventh century. Since the carbon date is of the coffin rather than human remains the date of the individual remains in doubt. The coffin could have come from wood cut much earlier. The grave was found in Likness church in West Agder.
Source: "Oldest Christian Find in Norway" (July 10, 2001) Aftenposten http://rigg.aftenposten.no/english/local/d221316.htm
Viking Sword found in Oslo
A Viking sword, provisionally dated to c. 850, has been found in central Oslo, Sweden during the installation of a bike rake at an apartment building. The fragile sword was found standing upright in the mud. A shield had previously been discovered in the near vicinity and they may be part of the same grave. This type of sword is of a common design for the region. The date of c. 850 predates the period when Oslo came to be considered a city. No plans for further excavations have been made but groundwork at the apartment complex will be monitored.
Source: Jonathan Tisdall (October 31, 2001) "Viking sword found in central Oslo" Aftenpoften: News in English. http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article.jhtml?articleID=221701; " Builders find Viking sword in Oslo city centre" (November 2, 2001) Anaova http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_440085.html .
A Little Burial Mound with Immense Dimensions
Near Hasslöv, in the province of Halland (Sweden), can be found a bronze age burial mound, Lugnarohög. The grave with its unique ship-setting will now be publicized by, among other things, a visit by the Swedish king and queen in the autumn. The royal visit is seen as the first stage in attracting new visitors. Making the site into a tourist attraction is difficult as the ship-setting is buried under three metres of earth, within the mound. The unique site was first discovered in 1926, and was thought to be the cremation grave of a woman. Inside the mound, within the remains of the ship, was found a cremation grave with the burnt bones of a woman. Inside a ceramic urn were found a fragment of woollen cloth, an elegant bronze dagger, a pair of tweezers, and an awl. Outside the urn lay the remains of another person. After these discoveries, there were many visitors, but in time Lugnarohög was forgotten. Now, thanks to the Riksantikvarieämbet and the County Museum in Halmstad, there is a display near the site about the mound and the bronze age. The opening hours have been extended, and, with the royal visit in September, it is hoped many more visitors will be attracted to this unique site.
Summary and translation, Sara E. Ellis
Source: Erik Magnusson, "En liten gravhög med väldiga dimensioner", Sydsvenskan, 30 juni 2001, p. A28
Remarkable Bronze Find in Uppåkra
At this year's Uppåkra excavations, a unique find was uncovered. A bronze cup, 20 cm high and richly decorated with gold bands, was found together with a blue glass bowl, next to a fireplace, thought to be in the remains of a cult building. The find has been dated to approximately 500 AD. The bronze cup could have been made in Skåne (Sweden), but the glass must have been imported. Archeologists suggest its origins lie in the Rhine area or Byzantium. The well-preserved building remains also give a whole new insight into Skanian bronze age society. The excavations are ongoing, so many more exciting finds might be found in the next few years.
Summary and translation, Sara E. Ellis.
Source: Annika Johansson, "Sensationellt bronsfynd i Uppåkra", Sydsvenskan, 3 juli 2001, p. C3
8th Century Viking Grave Found in Egersund
They expected to find a minor plundered grave but instead they found a previously untouched two meter long 8th century Viking grave. There is no evidence of a funeral pyre on the site. The grave contains a complete funerary collection of weapons and other objects in bronze, glass and iron. It included three knives, two scythes, a glass pearl, spear, sword, axe, sickle, a bronze buckles, nails and rivets, plus impressions of textiles. The body is believed to be male, although DNA analysis will confirm this.
Source: "Major Viking find in Egersund" (August 8, 2001) Aftenposten http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/d226680.htm
Copyright © Michelle Ziegler, 2001-2. All rights reserved.
Return to Table of Contents Next Return to homepage This edition copyright © The Heroic Age, 2001-2. All rights reserved.