Heroic Age Logo The Heroic Age, Issue 2, Autumn/Winter 1999  

Archaeology Updates

Compiled by

Michelle Ziegler,
Belleville, Illinois

The Anglo-Saxons Denmark Roman Britain Scotland Wales

The Anglo-Saxons

An Early Anglo-Saxon Noblewoman found at Newark

Earlier this year the barrow grave of an early Anglo-Saxon noblewoman was found at Newark overlooking the Trent River. She was originally laid to rest in an isolated barrow encircled by a ring ditch in a prominent position in respect to the River Trent and the Roman Fosse Way. Her remains indicate that she was a strong, tall (5 ft.8 in.) woman for the period and in her late 30s or early 40s. The artifacts buried with her suggests a 6th to early 7th century date. Although the grave had been disturbed in the past, remaining artifacts included jewelry (silver wrist clasps, and 47 glass and amber beads from a necklace), an iron knife, a decoated urn and a bronze trimmed bucket containing three Roman coins, and a sacrificed lamb. There is no indication of Christianity among the artifacts. It is being suggested that the location of Bede's Tiowulfingcaestir should be revised from previous locations to Newark in light of the recent discoveries. Previous excavations at Newark Castle has uncovered signs of Anglo-Saxon defensive settlements as early as the fifth century.

Source: Simon Denison (September 1999) "Grave of a early Saxon 'princess' found in Newark." British Archaeology 47 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba47/ba47news.html.

The Quest for King Alfred the Great

This summer excavations were underway at Hyde Abbey, Winchester, in search of the remains of King Alfred who is believed to have been reburied in front of the High Alter in the 12th century along with his queen Ealhswith and his son King Edward the Elder. The site of the abbey and the graves were lost after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII in 1538. Previous excavations have revealed the structural plan of the abbey and identified the region where the High Alter would have stood. However, the site has been disturbed many times in the last 400 years by peoples searching for Alfred's remains. This summer excitement was created when a pit was discovered in front to the High Alter but it proved to date from c. 1900. On the side of the pit a partial human pelvis was discovered. The pelvis was found in association with the bones of cattle, making its identification as Alfred's suspect. This bone fragment is currently undergoing a battery of scientific tests. This year's excavations were conducted by the Winchester Museum Services with the help of volunteers from the American Earthwatch conservation group.

Sources: Rees, Alun. (Sept. 8, 1999) "Forsooth, be this a relic of old King Alfred, long-term parker?" The Express (Microedition) http://www.lineone.net/express/99/09/08/news/n2640afred-d.html.

Lorenzi, Rossella. (Sept. 16, 1999) "Bones of King Alfred found?" Discovery Online http://www.discovery.com/news/archive/news990913/brief3.html.

Denison, Simon. (Sept. 1999) "Alfred's grave." British Archaeology. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba47/ba47news.html.

Anglian Whitby

In recent years, evidence of the early Anglo-Saxon monastery of Streonaeshalch, later known as Whitby, has been found 120 meters south of the remains of the Benedictine Whitby Abbey. The Anglian period remains were found on a region bounded by the River Esk and Whitby harbor to the west and the North Sea to the north and east. According to Bede, the name Streonaeshalch means "the haven of the watchtower" or "bay of the beacon" suggesting to modern scholars that there was once a Roman lighthouse or watchtower on the headland. However, remains of such a structure have not been found.

The double monastery gained renown under its early abbesses Hild, Eanflaed and Ælfflaed who were all considered to be saints by the early Anglian church. The monastery became the burial site for the seventh-century Northumbrian royal family with King Edwin, King Oswiu, Queen and Abbess Eanflaed, and Sts. Hild and Ælfflaed, daughter of Oswiu and Eanflaed, all being specifically mentioned as resting there along with many other nobles. Whitby is best known as the site of the Synod of 664 where King Oswiu decided that Lindisfarne and its dependent churches in Northumbria, Mercia, Lindsey, and Essex would follow Roman custom rather than the Irish practices established by the missionaries of Iona. The monastery was also renowned as a place of scholarship producing five bishops in the seventh century (plus Tatfrid who died before he could be consecrated) and the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon hagiography (e.g., the Life of St. Gregory the Great) and poetry (e.g., Caedmon's Hymn).

There have been several periods of excavation at Whitby. The earliest was in the 1920s by Radford and Peers, who found several building foundations and two inscribed memorial stones believed to record the deaths of St. Ælfflaed, Abbess of Whitby, and Cyneburgh, queen of King Oswald. In 1958, further excavations were carried out by Rahtz identifiying some Anglian artifacts as well as medieval and post-medieval evidence. More recent excavations by Wilmott in 1996 and Northern Archaeological Associates in 1998 discovered much more Anglian evidence.

The most significant discovery was evidence of a cemetery with at least one internal stone wall division. The cemetery was in use for a long period of time and showed some intercutting of the graves. A sceatta from c.700-740 from a late grave and the ritual use of quartz pebbles, typical of Celtic monastic practice, suggest an early date for the cemetery. More evidence also surfaced in additional buildings including a metal working site. The discoveries found in the 1990s indicate that the map of the Anglian monastic site must be completely redrawn in light of the new evidence, and it is clear that the Anglian site was much larger than previously believed.

A new excavation project, which is to run until 2002, was undertaken this spring in the Anglian area. By June of 1999, 18 graves had been uncovered in the southern half of the Anglian cemetery. The graves were well organized and tightly packed, suggesting burial without coffins. No evidence was found of any grave markers. Due to soil conditions, the bones being discovered are in a poor state of preservation. The boundary of the southern section of the cemetery has not been found since graves extend beyond the excavation area. A series of post holes was found within the cemetery but an overall pattern has not emerged yet. Because these are Christian graves, very few artifacts have been found. Several more graves have been found with the quartz pebbles, a practice associated with graves in Scotland and Ireland. A surprise from this year's excavations was the discovery of Neolithic or early Bronze Age artifacts that may be four thousand years old.

The Benedictine abbey, the ruins of which are still visible, dates from around 1078. The land was granted to a monk named Reinfrid by William de Percy to found a Benedictine house in honor of St. Peter and St. Hilda. The abbey refoundation occurred during a period of reintroduction of monastic orders to former Northumbrian monasteries that had been abandoned during Danish rule. Based on architectural evidence, it appears the present Abbey church was constructed in c. 1220. Excavations are ongoing at the site of the Benedictine abbey.

Sources: Whitby Abbey Headland Project--Southern Anglian Enclosure: "Project Design--Summer 1999." http://www.eng- h.gov.uk/projects/whitby/wahpsae/pd99v1/intro.htm and "Update: June 1999." http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/projects/whitby/wahpsae/update01/update01.htm. Both downloaded June 29, 1999.

Bede:Ecclessiastical History of the English People. 1994 edition. Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Viking Longship to be Reconstructed

The Viking long ship known as Skuldev 2 is to be reconstructed in the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark with funds amounting to DKr 10.5m (EUR 1.41 m) donated by the Tuborg Foundation and Carlsberg's Memorial Bequest, both divisions of the Carlsberg A/S, a Danish brewing company. When completed the Skuldev 2 will be the largest replica of a Viking ship ever built.

The remains of the Skuldev 2 were found in 1962 along with four other ships in Roskilde Fjord where they had been intentionally sunk to build a protective barrier for the port of Roskilde. Only 10% of the Skuldev 2 survived the recovery process but there was enough of the crucial sections of the ship for an accurate 1:10 scale model to have been built.

This model will aid in the full size reconstruction of the ship. According to archaeological analysis, the Skuldev 2 was built in the Viking stronghold of Dublin, Ireland, ca. 1040, repaired again in Dublin in the 1060s and sunk in the Danish Roskilde harbor by the end of the century. The ship was, therefore, built during the height of Viking power in Ireland and Britain but also saw the Danes loose control of England in 1066 at about the same time the ship was being repaired in Dublin. The ship's impressive specifications call for a 29 m by 3.8 m oak hull, supporting a 14 m mast and a 12.5 m yardarm for a 118 m2 (11.2 m X 10.5 m) sail. The Skuldev 2 was equipped with 60 oars (30 rowing benches) and a crew compliment of 80-100 men. It is estimated that its average speed under oar-power was around 5 knots (10 km/hr) and up to 20 knots (35 km/hr) under sail. The Skuldev 2 was designed for long ocean voyages such as the one it must have made from its home port of Dublin, Ireland to Roskilde, Denmark.

The ship is to be reconstructed in the open air of the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum to allow the public to watch the construction process. In January 2000, the boat builders will begin the search for suitable trees and the consturction will commence the following autumn, using authentic Viking era tools, mainly axes. The ship is planned to be first launched for testing in September 2004 and sea trials in 2005. Once fully tested with a trained crew, the Skuldev 2 the Skuldev 2 should embark on its maiden voyage across the North Sea from Denmark, around Scotland to Dublin in 2005.

Sources: "Danish Brewer Carlsberg Donates DKr10.5 m to Build Viking Longship." (October 20, 1999) Excite News. http://news.excite.com/news/pr/991020/carlsberg-donates. Downloaded October 22, 1999.

Carlsberg Info--The Viking Ship Project: "'Carlsberg Donates DKr10.5m to build a Viking Longship." http://www.carlsberg.com/info/viking.html. Downloaded October 22, 1999.

"The Reconstruction." http://www.carlsberg.com/info/Viking/reconstruction.html. Downloaded October 22, 1999.

"The Skuldev 2." http://www.carlsberg.com/info/Viking/ship.html. Downloaded October 22, 1999.

Roman Britain

Roman London, Chester, and Carlisle

Three Roman cities have either provided new archaeological evidence or have been reassessed recently. London, Chester, and Carlisle were all very important cities in Roman Britian. London was the diocese capital. Chester was the largest fortress in Roman Britain near the Rivers Dee and Mersey. Carlisle was the civitas captial of the Carvetti and perhaps a city that played a vital role in the maintainence of Hadrian's Wall.

London has continued to provide more clues to the Roman era. The Roman woman who was discovered in a lead coffin within a stone sarcophagus (reported in issue 1 of The Heroic Age) has provided enough usable DNA from a molar to allow comparisions with a database from 11,000 individuals worldwide. Her DNA provided one perfect match from someone in Spain. However, it should be remembered that the Visigothic, Moorish, and other folk migrations into the Iberian pennisula over the last two millennia may mean that the Roman era ancestors of the modern individual that matched the Roman woman may not have come from the Iberian pennisula. In other news from London, another cemetery has been discovered west of the city, on the western shore of the Fleet near the Newgate entrance to the city. The site has yielded 20 inhumations and 29 cremations. The most significant find was the discovery of two complete wooden coffins, preserved by waterlogged clay and silt from the River Fleet. The waterlogged nature of the coffins soon after burial is confirmed by impressions of the spine and ribs of one of the deceased Romans. These impressions could only be caused by the weight of the body on waterlogged wood. Both coffins have been tentatively dated to the third or fourth century. The last recent significant find from Roman London is the discovery of a rare signet ring in the River Thames. The ring holds a "deep-red carnelian gem" that was carved with the image of a Roman warship carrying four men. This is only the fourth gem stone to be found in Great Britain with a similar decoration.

Sources: "In Brief." 1999. British Archaeology 49 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba49/ba49news.html.

"Excavations at Atlantic House, Holborn, 1999: The Roman wooden coffins." Museum of London web site. http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/MOLsite/menu.html. Downloaded September 13, 1999.

"The Gem in the Thames: Roman Signet Found." 1999. Research & News. Discovering Archaeology 1/6:14.

Archaeologists at Chester, known to the Romans as Deva, have reassessed the importance of the fortress and city after a review of recent finds in the area. Chester was the largest military fortress in Britain and was used as a base of operations in the conquest and dominion of the western and northern British tribes. Based on a recent survey of the Roman walls, archaeologists from Chester are proposing that Emperor Hadrian had ordered the city to be rebuilt not only as a fortress but also as a grand Roman city and as a possible home for the Roman Governor of Britain or a provincial governor. New work suggests the Roman walls were built from unusually large stones with great ornamental gateways designed to impress. The style of the wall and gateways has been shown to be similar to Roman sites in Spain near the birth place of Emperior Hadrian. Archaeologists also suggest that an unusual elliptical building with twelve wedge-shaped rooms was designed to be a representation of the Roman empire based on the Mediterranean represented by a pool in the courtyard of the building. Unfortunately most of the Roman ruins were destroyed by developers in the 1980s. For a virtual reconstruction of the Roman barracks, bath house and the unique elliptical building, see "The Chester Project: Reconstructing Roman Chester" (http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/julianbaum/tcp.shtml). For further online information on the Roman and medieval walls at Chester, see "Chester: A Virtual Stroll Round the Walls" (http://homepages.enterprise.net/knowhowe/chester.walls.index.html).

Source: Jenkins, Russell. (June 17, 1999) "Chester 'built to the glory of Rome.'" The Times. http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/99/06/17/timnwsnws01007.html?1306516. Downloaded July 13, 1999.

Luguvalium, modern Carlisle, was was the northwesternmost confirmed civitas capital in the Roman Empire. It was the civitas capital of the Carvetti, and it has been suggested that Carlisle had a major role in the administration of Hadrian's Wall. The fortress and city are located near the western end of Hadrian's Wall, a couple of miles behind the wall and across the River Eden. Recent development in Carlisle has uncovered new evidence of the Roman city and fortress.

In 1997, excavations in the southern region of the city at Botchergate, south of the medieval walls, uncovered new evidence of the Roman town. Walls around the Roman city have not been found, if they ever existed, but it had been assumed that they lay under the medieval walls. This area had been expected to yield a roadside cemetery. Instead they found a second-century bank, which extended beyond the area of the excavations. The bank had been a free-standing feature with a stake-and-wattle fencing at the core of its construction. The bank had supported a significant timber building, suggested by the discovery of rows of large post holes, running down both sides of the clay core of the bank. The archaeologists' best suggestion for the function of this feature is that it may have supported an aquaduct. Across Botchergate, remains of early Roman wooden buildings, several pits, and a cremation burial, suggesting this may represent the cemetery. The archaeologists also found evidence of multiple rebuilding phases of some possibly industrial buildings. Dating evidence is so far elusive but nothing typical of the third or fourth century has been found. Surprisingly, this may indicate that the settlement may have been reduced in size at about the same time it is believe to have become the civitas captial of the Carvetti.

The other area of excavation is at the site of the Roman fortress. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was determined that the Roman fortress lay directly underneath the current castle. Excavations have shown that the Roman fortress was considerably larger than the current castle and may extend under the northern section of the medieval town of Carlisle. Recent excavations in the Castle Green have located part of the twelfth-century city wall, which was built directly over the Roman defenses. These excavations located the original turf and timber fort and signs of its destruction to build the Flavian fort ca. 103/5. In addition, they found evidence that the second fort was also built of wood and was only replaced with a stone building in the late second or early third century. Remains of several Roman buildings including some badly disturbed ruins of the Roman barracks have been found. Excavations at the fortress site are ongoing in front of a proposed development for the city's millennial project.

Source: Zant, John, and Frank Giecco. 1999. "Recent Work in Carlisle." Current Archaeology 164:306-309.

Roman Treasure

Minutes into his very first day of learning how to use a metal detector, thirty-three year old Kevin Elliot made the discovery of a lifetime on land his family has farmed in Shapwick, Somerset for thirty six years. Under only one foot of soil his metal detector came across the largest hoard of Roman silver ever discovered, 9,377 silver denarii. Subsequent excavations have discovered that the hoard was buried in the corner of a stone-walled room that was part of a complex of Roman buildings, possibly a large villa. The hoard is believed to have been buried ca. AD 230. At the time, this hoard was approximately equivalent to ten years salary for a Roman legionary.

This find is over three times the size of the largest previous find. The denarii range in date from the time of Mark Anthony (31 BC) to Severus Alexander (AD 222-235). The find was declared "treasure" and is currently being held at the British Museum where the coins will be cleaned and studied.

It is likely that the hoard will eventually be transported to a museum closer to the site of the discovery.

Source: "Beginner's luck digs up a silver treasure." (November 10, 1999) The Times. http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/99/11/10/timnwsnws02002.html?999.

Northern Fortifications

South Shields

The Roman fortress Arebia, now known as South Shields, was an important supply base for the northern Roman forces. The fortress is sited at the mouth of the River Tyne, four miles from the Wallsend fortress and the end of Hadrian's Wall. Archaeological evidence suggests the fortress was continually occupied from the second to the fifth centuries and was completely rebuilt at least three times. However, human occupation at the site extends back to an Iron Age settlement and further back to a Neolithic or Early Bronze Age settlement suggesting that control of the mouth of the Tyne River has been important for several millennia. Although the occupation of Hadrian's Wall is tradtionally viewed as dwindling in the third and fourth centuries, Arebia continued to maintain a large garrison thoughout this period.

The earliest phase of the fortress appears to have been important in Emperor Septimius Severus's campaigns in Scotland in 208-211 AD and the renovations of Hadrian's Wall ca. AD 205-207. Several lead sealings, dating to 198-209 with the likeness of Septimus Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta, have been discovered. Arebia has produced the most sealings of any fortress in the Wall zone. Archaeologists suggest that Arebia was an important fortress in the adminstration of the court of Septimus Severus while he and his sons were in Britain from 208-211. During this first phase, Arebia boasted 15 granaries.

Other excavations at the fort have established that a fire destroyed substantial sections of the Arebia's second phase of development in AD 273-318. At the time of the fire, the fort had been expanded to hold 24 granaries. Six of the barracks have shown the most conclusive evidence of the deliberate nature of the fire. All six barracks were most severely burned on their eastern ends with little evidence of debris from the fire in the roads between the barracks. Among the ruins of the barracks several valuable finds were discovered, including a gold signet ring and a complete shirt of ring-mail. The position of the ring-mail shirt was exactly where it had fallen when the wall it was hanging on collapsed in the fire. It is the first complete ring-mial shirt found in Britain and, along with the copper alloy greave (leg armor) decorated with the Roman figure Victory, must have been valuable possessions. The burn pattern of the barracks and the valuable artifacts among the ruins suggest the buildings had been deliberately torched and that the inhabitants did not return for their possessions. The owner of the ring-mail shirt would have been expected to hunt throught the ruins to find such a valuable object if he had been able to do so. During this phase, the fort is believed to have been occupied by the Fifth Cohort of Gauls, who disappeared after the burning of their barracks.

The Fifth Cohort of the Gauls was replaced by the Numerus of Tigris Bargemen after the fire. It is believed that the bargemen not only maintained the fortress and supply base but also may have been a light naval unit that patrolled the Tyne River and the nearby coast. The posting of this partially naval garrison may indicate that the previous fire had been set by sea-borne raiders. Based on the size of the rebuilt fourth-century barracks the unit should have had about 300 men in 10 sub-units. The rebuilt fourth-century commander's house was unusual in that it is architecturally similar to Mediterranean townhouses, supporting the identification of the bargemen as the next unit to garrison the fortress. This new commander's house in Mediterranean-style illustrates that the late Roman occupants of the fortress were of high social status.

Recent archaeological excavations have focused on the late fourth and fifth centuries. The discovery of two young adult skeletons in a burial pit in the courtyard of the commander's house have been dated to the early fifth century. The bodies were not buried immediately after their deaths but were left for unburied for animals to prey upon before they were thrown into the burial pit. The bodies of the young man and young woman have been radiocarbon dated to 140-430 AD cal. and 340-660 AD. Archaeologists believe that the commander's house was already in ruins at the time of their deaths, and the burial in the pit suggests the Roman community was no longer present at Arebia. The end of the occupation can be tentatively dated by two coins dated to AD 388-402 found on the floor of the commander's house. These coins are the latest Roman coins to be found anywhere along the northern Roman defenses. This last period of Roman occupation was active, with the fort's garrison and defenses consistently maintained. The fortress was remodeled or repaired in the same period since another coin dating to 388-402 was found in the resurfaced road of the rebuilt west gate. This combined data suggests that the fortress was occupied by the Romans until the end of the fourth century and that the end came rapidly. As an important supply base for Hadrian's Wall we might expect that Arebia would have been one of the last fortresses to have been abadoned by the Roman army.

Source: Bidwell, Paul, and Nicholas Hodgson. 1999. "Arebia--Death and Destruction at the Roman fort of South Sheilds." Current Archaeology 164:313-317.


Recent excavations by the Tyne and Wear Museums at Wallsend near Newcastle have revealed much more of the Hadrianic Roman fortress on the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall. The new excavations from 1997-8 showed four timber Roman horse barracks, which served as housing for the calvary troopers, their mounts, and their commander. Wallsend is the first time a complete set of building plans has been discoverd for a equestrian unit. The plans indicate that each cavalry barrack should have held 27 troopers, their mounts and an officer. This is close to the projected 30 troopers for a cavalry unit called a turma. The fortress also had 6 infantry barracks. It is suggested that the original complement of the fortress was a partially mounted cohort of approximately 500 men. The barracks were eventually rebuilt in stone on the same plan, but the date is uncertain. The cavalry barracks, disused by the mid-third century, are believed to have been the home of the Fourth Cohort of Lingones, part mounted.

Significant parts of the Wall have also been discovered. In one region, in front of a suggested annex region of the fortress, three rows of post holes were discovered in a quincunx, or "figure of five" pattern. These post holes may indicate that this region was protected by crippi, poles with sharpened ends set up to form a barrier to protect the wall. The site is currently being renovated to create a new archaeological park, which is scheduled to open in May 2000. The new park will contain a new museum, reconstructed baths and a length of Hadrian's Wall, and a new observation tower and study center.

Source: Hodgson, Nick, and Bill Griffiths. 1999. "Wallsend: Where did They Keep the Horses in Roman Forts?" Current Archaeology 164:284-289.

High Rochester

The Roman fortress of Bremenium, modern High Rochester, commanded an important postion guarding Dere Street north of Hadrian's Wall. Recent geophysical surveys and excavations have revealed new information about the northern outpost. For the first time, it was discovered that the fortress was built very near a pre-Roman British hill-fort. The D-shaped hill-fort with earthwork is similar to others found in Northumberland such as the hill-fort found at Manside Cross, 10 miles south of High Rochester. According to James Crow of the Archaeology Department at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, this is the "first time in the north of England the direct association of a Roman fort site with a pre-exisiting regional centre." He suggests that this pre-Roman settlement may explain why Bremenium was listed on Ptolemy's map. Revelations about the Roman fortress include, not surprisingly, that it served a very utilitarian military purpose, and there doesn't appear to have been a civilian settlement near the fortress. The fortress also contained extra granaries near the commander's building and an internal bath house rather than the usual external one. An aquaduct bringing water into the fort's bath house from a spring to the south was also discovered. The geophysical survey also revealed the building plan for the fortress. In the third century, the First Cohort of Vardullians, a mixed infantry and mounted cohort originally raised in Spain, held the fortress with over 1000 troopers and frontier scouts. According to Crow, the buildings now known to have existed could have accomodated a cohort of over 1000 men. Based on coin evidence, it is believed that the fortress was abandoned in the 320s, although structural features may suggest a slightly later date.

Source: Crow, Jim. 1999. "High Rochester--Life Beyond the Wall." Current Archaeology 164:290-294.


Portmahomack's Pictish Monastery, Easter Ross

Martin Carver's team at Portmahomack in Easter Ross on the north shore of the Moray Firth has discovered an early Pictish monastery. They have discovered the foundations of several rectangular buildings, fragments of many memorial stones and the lid of a sarcophagus. One of the memorial stones had a Latin inscription and was ingraved with twelve figures, possibly the apostles, on one side and a dragon on the other side. Some of the sculpted stones still contain traces of red and black paint.

Among the artifactual finds are an eighth-century coin, and pins and combs dating to the ninth-eleventh century. This is the most northern find of a Frisian coin and is a significant indication of trading contacts between the monastery and the south. In 710, Pictish King Nechtan requested instructions for building Roman-style churches from the Northumbrians. This monastery may have been among the first to be built in the new style. The team also discovered that the monastery was destroyed by a fire that has not yet been dated.

Source: "Pictish Monastery found in Easter Ross." (October 1999) British Archaeology 48. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba48/ba48news.html.


Early Christians and their Prehistoric Ancestors

Recently discovered early Christian cemetaries near Holyhead and Capel Eithin, both on Anglesey, and Tad Dderwen in southwest Wales have been found to center around prehistoric standing stones and barrows. Many of the Christian graves are of the stone-lined cyst type found at very early Christian sites. The cemetery near Holyhead is suggested to date from the sixth-eighth century. In several cases the Christian graves were dug into the Bronze Age barrow mound, which is believed to have been visible at the time of the Christian burials.

Source: Denison, Simon. (September 1999) "Christian graves around 'adapted' barrow." British Archaeology 47. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba47/ba47news.html. Downloaded September 7, 1999.

Wat's Dyke Redated

Wat's Dyke has recently been redated to the fifth century. The dyke runs parallel to the eighth-century Offa's Dyke in the Welsh Marches. This area marked the border between the British kingdom of Powys and Mercia in medieval times. Excavations at Maes-y-Clawdd near Oswestry have discovered a site along the dyke that contained the remains of a small fire and Roman-British pottery. The charcoal from the fire had been radiocarbon dated to AD 411-561. It has been suggested that the dyke was associated with the Romano-British kingdom based on the city of Wroxter.

Source: "In Brief." (October 1999) British Archaeology 49. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba49/ba49news.html.

Viking Victims at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey

In the first issue of The Heroic Age, we reported the evidence of settlement at Llanbedrgoch on Anglesey. During the summer, three skeletons were discovered in a roughly built burial pit on the site. Last year, two other skeletons had been discovered in the same burial group. The five skeletons represented three adults, as yet unsexed, and two infants, all dumped in a shallow grave located in a ditch outside the defensive wall of the settlement. The presence of the infants and the disordered array of the bodies suggests they were members of the settlement who were not buried by their families but rather by raiders or invaders. At least one of the victims appears to have had his hands tied behind his back at the time of his death. The adults, ranging in age from 25-35, do not show signs of violent deaths but Redknap suggests that their throats may have been slit, which would not leave a mark on the skeletal remains. The bodies have been radiocarbon dated to 770-950, a timespan that includes the Viking raiding period that began in the 850s. It is being suggested that the Vikings temporarily captured the settlement after a raid. This complicates the analysis of Viking-style artifacts dated to the tenth century found at the site.

Source: "'Victims of a Viking raid' on Anglesey." (October 1999) British Archaeology 49 http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba49/ba49news.html.

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