You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.

The 2010 excavation of a Roman site showing one of two trenches in a water meadow below Silbury
©
The Heritage trust

A conference exploring recent archaeological work in Wiltshire will be held at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum from 9:30am on Saturday, 16 March 2013. The conference is organised by the Archaeology Field Group of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.

The conference fee is £25 and includes refreshments and lunch. Details here.

 

 Magatamas
 
Japanese magatama (曲玉). Source Wikipedia. Image credit Kakidai
 
China Central Television reports on the 24 January that –
 
A team of Japanese archaeologists has found a bronze comma-shaped bead, which is believed to be the oldest of its kind in the country’s history, in the western Japanese city of Tottori, local press reported on Thursday. The metal curved bead, dating back to the early sixth century, was excavated from one of the tombs built in the early sixth 6 century at the Matsubara No. 10 Mound in the city according to the daily Mainichi Shimbun.
 
The city said the team has uncovered an area of about 1,100 square meters in the site since May 2012, adding that its members discovered the greenish colored artifact, which weighs 1.6 grams and is 1.71 centimeters long and 0.6 centimeters wide, together with about 20 glass beads during the excavation work for the tomb. After the discovery, the research institute for cultural properties in Nara Prefecture confirmed that the bronze comma- shaped bead at the tomb was made decades earlier than the one hitherto had found in western Japan.
 
Full story here.
 
 

 

Timbuktu manuscripts showing mathematical and astronomical observations. Source Wikimedia

Writing in The Guardian today, Luke Harding reports on the torching of a library in Timbuktu containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts.

Islamist insurgents retreating from the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu have set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts, some dating back to the 13th century, in what the town’s mayor described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage. Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings where the manuscripts were being kept. He added: “This is terrible news. The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage. By destroying them they threaten the world.”

The manuscripts were being kept in two different locations – an old warehouse and a new South Africa-funded research centre, the Ahmed Baba Institute. Both buildings were burned down, the mayor said. Asked whether any of the manuscripts might have survived, he replied: “I don’t know.” The manuscripts survived for centuries in Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara hidden in wooden trunks, boxes beneath the sand and caves. The majority are written in Arabic, with some in African languages, and one in Hebrew, and cover a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights. The oldest dated from 1204.

Full article here.

 

The 5,000 year-old Poulnabrone dolmen, Burren, County Clare, Ireland
Source Wikipedia. Image credit Kglavin

Ashleigh Murszewski, writing in The Heritage Daily at the end of last year, asks –

What was the significance of Megalithic Monuments in Atlantic Europe?
 
The construction of megalithic monuments in Atlantic Europe is not restricted to a single purpose, nor do they reflect one aspect of the community that built them. Contrarily, they give well-rounded evidence for practical and symbolic components of the early agricultural lifestyle within the Neolithic. Depictions in the architecture of these structures explore complex symbolism and the socio-ritual interactions where monuments offer places for gatherings. Furthermore, megaliths demonstrate understandings of geometrical and astronomical knowledge in society that was not thought to be established for centuries.
 
Megalithic monuments of Atlantic Europe have long attracted attention from those who are interested in the early past of mankind. The word megalith originates from the Greek, meaning ‘great stone’ and is used when describing stone structures set upright in the Earth dated from 5000 to 500 BC in Atlantic Europe (Balter, 1993).
 
These massive stone structures consist of some of the most famous and visually spectacular archaeological discoveries in the world and signify extensive technical ingenuity and organisation that would be essential to their construction. Their significance is also connected with the development and establishment of the first farming communities in the Neolithic, where their craftsmanship reflects the establishment of territorialism and community identity.
 
Full article here.
 

DW (Deutsche Welle) reports that –
 
The Celts were long considered a barbaric and violent society. But new findings from a 2,600-year-old grave in Germany suggest the ancient people were much more sophisticated than previously thought. The little Bettelbühl stream on the Danube River was completely unknown, except to local residents. But that changed in the summer of 2010 when a spectacular discovery was made just next to the creek.
 

Not far from the Heuneburg, the site of an early Celtic settlement, researchers stumbled upon the elaborate grave of a Celtic princess. In addition to gold and amber, they found a subterranean burial chamber fitted with massive oak beams. It was an archeological sensation that, after 2,600 years, the chamber was completely intact.

Full article here.

 

The 5th-4thbce reconstructed farmstead at The Hochdorf Celtic Museum in Baden-Württemberg, Germany
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The Hochdorf Celtic Museum in Baden-Württemberg, Germany was opened in 1991 and is –
 
…dedicated to the “Celtic Prince of Hochdorf”, his times and his culture [see our feature on the Hochdorf Tumulus below]. An early Celtic settlement from the 5th to 4th century BC was uncovered during the 1990’s in the area of the Celtic Museum and the building area immediately to the south. The excavations revealed the outlines of several farmyards. The reconstruction of a Celtic farmstead in the open area next to the museum was based on these finds.
 
Sadly, this fine, reconstructed farmstead next to the Celtic Museum is now threatened with demolition as developers plan to build a housing complex on the site. If you feel that the farmstead should be preserved, please email your support to the Hochdorf Celtic Museum here.
 
Update
 
We heard today the good news that the farmstead is no longer in danger of being demolished. Many thanks to those who may have emailed the Celtic Museum with their support. At the same time, however, we hear of another Celtic site in Baden-Württemberg that is threatened with closure and will be publishing more details of the situation when we have them.
 
 

 
The reconstructed Hochdorf Tumulus, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
©
The Heritage Trust
 
When the  550bce Hochdorf Tumulus was discovered in 1978 in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, it had been almost completely ploughed out except for a slight elevation in the ground. After its reconstruction in 1987 the mound now measures 60m (200ft) in diameter, is 6m (20ft) tall, and with a volume of 7,000 cubic metres (9,200 cubic yards) of earth and 280 tons of stone, is once again an imposing landmark in the surrounding countryside.
 
More here.
 

Promotional video for the Viking exhibition now showing at The National Museum of Scotland

Opening today, stv news reports that, “An exhibition of more than 500 Viking objects will be shown in Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland is the only UK venue for Vikings!, a collection of artefacts which are rarely seen outside of Scandinavia. The jewellery, weapon fragments, carvings, precious metals and household items are from the collections of the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. The objects, along with archaeological evidence, hands-on displays and innovative interpretation, show a different side to the Vikings. The term Viking refers to an activity rather than a group of people. Men would go “out on a Viking”, which could refer to both pillaging raids and peaceful trading expeditions.”

The exhibition runs until 12 May 2013. Details on The National Museum of Scotland website here.

Stonehenge
©
The Heritage Trust

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire England announces an exhibition of pictures from the Museum’s art collection which has, “…an extensive collection of paintings, drawings, engravings, prints and photographs of Stonehenge, dating from the 18th century to the present day.” that will be on display from 25 May until 1 September 2013 in the Museum’s Art Gallery. The exhibition will include works by Frederick Nash, A V Copley Fielding, George Richmond, James Bridges and Henry Moore.

Details here.

 

Conservation of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste fresco in Famagusta, Cyprus. Produced, directed, and narrated by Dan Frodsham
©
Dan Frodsham

The World Monuments Fund reports on the conservation of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste fresco in Famagusta, Cyprus –

For five hundred years, an exquisite Renaissance fresco depicting the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste has remained hidden, forgotten, and neglected on the wall of a fourteenth-century church in Famagusta, Cyprus. The Forty charts the painstaking work of rescuing the fresco from obscurity and ruin, as part of a pioneering project that puts heritage above politics to begin, after decades of neglect, the work of saving Famagusta’s forgotten frescos.

Full feature here.

 

Sacred Aboriginal sites at Walmadany in Western Australia. Image credit SBS

WORLD NEWS AUSTRALIA reports yesterday that –

The West Australian government has sparked immediate protests after granting resources giant Woodside the right to disturb Aboriginal sacred sites as part of the proposed $40 billion James Price Point gas hub near Broome.
 
Locals, environmentalists and Australian Greens leader Christine Milne have all condemned the granting of Woodside’s application under the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Act, which allows work in sand dunes at Walmadany. As far back as 1989, the state’s Department of Aboriginal Sites identified the site as an area of “major” heritage significance, dense with archaeological material, including hearths and bone remains. The area was controversially described as an “unremarkable beach” by Premier Colin Barnett in 2010.
 
Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier confirmed on Tuesday that Woodside could work in the area, after an application hearing in late December. “The minister has agreed with a recommendation from the Department of Indigenous Affair’s Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC) that section 18 approval be granted for site investigation activities associated with the development of the Browse LNG precinct,” a spokesperson for Mr Collier said.
 
It is understood the application has been granted on the condition local elders be present to monitor the work. Senator Milne immediately called on Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to intervene.”I’m shocked that the West Australian government is allowing such destructive acts to happen,” she said.” Tony Burke has to step in immediately to protect this priceless heritage.”
 
Locals from the No Gas campaign said the sand dunes and monsoon vine thickets at James Price Point had been recommended for protection by the WA Environmental Protection Authority twice in the past 20 years, but were now deemed suitable for Woodside works. “The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee accepted it then. It has been ignored by the minister now. They are trying to rewrite history,” said Phillip Roe, law boss of the Goolarabooloo people.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
Jōmon Dogū from Shakadō, Yamanashi Prefecture. Circa 3,500bce
 
The Sainsbury Institute announces a lecture by Taniguchi Yasuhiro, Professor of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology at Kokugakuin University, Tokyo entitled How Jōmon People Perceived the Cosmos.
 
The Jōmon people of prehistoric Japan had fertile imaginations and skillfully expressed their distinctive thinking through rich material culture including pottery and architecture. This lecture introduces the fascinating archaeological remains which illustrates how the cosmos was perceived in Jōmon people’s world view.
 
The lecture will take place at The Sainsbury Institute in Norwich on 17 January 2013. Details here.
 
 
 
 

A guest feature by Roy Goutte.

King Arthur’s Hall (SX 1296 7765)
©
Roy Goutte

On the 8th of May 2012 I made my first visit to King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Downs to the north-west of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. I was actually out on a field trip to Leaze stone circle on the day which is on the southern end of Emblance Downs which adjoins King Arthur’s Downs, when I decided to have a casual look along the way. I say casual, because I’d never felt the need before as it never seemed to get much press and didn’t seem to be a place I’d be much interested in. How wrong could I have been and it was to make my day and ultimately my year!

This is stone circle country plain and simple with the large ‘ceremonial’ circles of Fernacre, Louden and Stannon to the north; the double stone circles to the east of King Arthur’s Hall and the two circles to the south-east, one being on Emblance Downs and the other, Leaze stone circle, on private land. I know of at least one other unrecorded one directly south of the Hall. In the middle of all of this lies King Arthur’s Hall.

Basically, to the eye, it is a rectangular 140’ X 60’ banked enclosure formed by digging out the central area of soil and banking it up on all four sides to an approximate average height of two metres and a base extending to six metres. It didn’t end there however, because the interior faces of the banks were then lined with granite standing stones and is today protected by an enclosing fence with a gate and stile access. But what actually is it because nobody seems to know with certainty and I have personally never seen or heard of anything like it in my life before and know of no other in the UK?

With stones ranging in height from 2 feet to 2 metres and either standing up, prostrate or angular, it is believed by many to be Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, whilst to others, a simple medieval animal pound! The truth is that very little excavation has been carried out here and no positive dating obtained, so, until that has been done its age and purpose will have to remain obscure. This has to change though I feel because my gut feeling is that this is a special place with its position in the landscape indicating this possibility. It has 56 stones still showing with the majority of the believed 140 in total now lying buried by the collapsing banks caused in the past by horses, sheep and cattle roaming free over the moor prior to the protective fence being erected.

As you can imagine, the ‘tanked’ appearance formed due to its construction method, created a natural collection point for water but there is the possibility that an outlet point in the south-west corner was discovered but because of the lack of concentrated research and archaeology carried out here it was undecided if it was part of the original build or more recent. As it stands today, the inner ground level virtually matches that of the exterior as it has now completely silted up, due no doubt to the banking slowly becoming washed back, although, on saying that, if that is the case why is there so much banking left? Could some have been imported from elsewhere originally I have to ask?

On that first day I visited we’d had a fair amount of rain over the moor in the area after a dry spell but that silted up base was remarkable dry for this time of the year I thought. I had my usual partner Chief the Border Collie with me who was splashing about in the central area which did have a small amount of lying water showing but he was not sinking into it which surprised me somewhat. I stepped onto the sides of the central area a couple of times to negotiate fallen stones and it was rather spongy and soft but I’m sure gets much worse after prolonged and heavy rain and would become extremely dangerous toward the main central area. As it was I was prodding the surface with my hiking stick and it was going in with very little resistance.

On my second visit to the Hall I took measuring rods and a friend with me whose knowledge of grasses and fauna was quite extensive and was to enlighten me as to what one can achieve by simply being observant and using ones head instead of just taking at face value what others claim.

On arriving at the site my friend took a position up on the southern bank and simply observed for some minutes taking in what the vegetation indicated. Looking at the photograph it can be seen that something like a quarter to a third of the central area between the stones from the southern end is covered profusely with a harsh type of sedge grass suited to a shallower wet environment. This is also quite clearly the case with the north, west and east perimeters. The area beyond this leading up to the stones is of normal grassland. This indicated that the entire central area where dug out had been ‘shelved’ to the southern end predominantly with the sides and northern end to a lesser extent with the remaining wet central area suggesting a deep flat base indicated by the surface plants and other water plant life.

And that’s exactly how it was as far as I could determine with my measuring rods. The heavily sedged area to the southern end and perimeters to the remaining three sides was no more than 2-3ft deep but as I gingerly stepped closer to the more central area the depth increased significantly until it was no longer possible for me to probe directly downwards as to move further out onto the silted-up area was extremely unwise. So, by my crude measuring technique I could concur that it is indeed shelved with a firm base. Whether or not the shelving was purposely formed or quite natural I was of course unable to determine but felt nevertheless that a solid base had been reached.

Throughout my visit and whilst in the ‘bowl’, I had a wonderful feeling of calm and security like I was in a sanctuary. In look it reminded me of an un-kept churchyard where the headstones had been removed and placed against the perimeter walls but were now tumbling and often lying buried. Without a doubt it personally gave me a feel of the ancestors and a shrine to the dead while at the same time a ceremonial ‘gathering’ place. Either way this is without doubt a special place which in my opinion should be sympathetically investigated and equally sympathetically re-instated to its former glory before it succumbs to nature further rather than the moorland animals that it did previously. I would recommend a visit here at your earliest opportunity. A wonderful, wonderful place that I am re-visiting over and over.

But what are the reasonable alternatives… could it simply be an animal pound?

Obviously without serious investigation by qualified people one is limited to the obvious visual content of the site. Moving around it I quickly perceived that there is predominantly a two feet gap between most of the stones but on occasion two would be touching and I thought at one point possibly three. The eastern banking in particular is densely covered by gorse with many of the stones hidden within it so difficult to make a firm conclusion on this spacing. What is very obvious is the selection of stones and why I believe this is at least a Bronze-Age construction. All the stone circles I have visited on Bodmin Moor in this area (I am yet to visit Leaze circle close up) have as a feature one or two triangular cut stones. Some have obviously been knapped into shape whilst others are natural, these mainly being in the shape of an isosceles triangle, while the real prize is the equilateral triangular stones which look magnificent in position. King Arthur’s Hall has both, with some taking some finding due to the collapsing banks! These are those in the settings of Fernacre, Stannon, Louden to the north of the Hall and the un-named circle to the south-east of King Arthur’s Hall. And here are the ones I have discovered to date within the Hall itself. I don’t buy into the animal pound theory as the ‘escape route’ for enclosed animals is far too easy. If all the stones were 2 metres high, rectangular and touching each other, then just maybe, but they aren’t, with many just two feet of less high making for an easy escape route.

All in all I am very excited over ‘finding’ King Arthur’s Hall as it has opened up my already all consuming love of antiquities on Bodmin Moor and I shall continue to push for investigative work and dating to be carried out there until the truth finally reveals itself. Meanwhile, here is a full range of photos of the site.

 

Silbury after heavy rainfall last year. Image credit and © Willow

BBC News Wiltshire reports today that –

Trespassers on a rain-soaked monument in Wiltshire are causing “spectacular” damage, an archaeologist has warned. Heavy rain has led to standing water around Silbury Hill in Avebury and very soft ground which is being eroded by people climbing the monument.

Jim Leary, an archaeologist for English Heritage, said that illegal climbers on the sodden hill were “leaving some really rather hideous scars”. The hill dates back to 2400 BC and is the largest man-made mound in Europe. Mr Leary said access to the mound had been prohibited for a number of decades and people should not be attempting to climb it. “They are going up and it is very wet and they are eroding the side of the hill,” he added. “I would really ask people not to go up the hill. It is leaving some really rather hideous scars and eroding our beautiful monument.”

Full story here.

 

 
 
The Payvand Iran News reports on the Persepolis Ruins that –
 
Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site.
 
This historic and grand site deserves much attention and protection, but it has been ignored by the officials. And so over the years nature, thieves and vandals have left their mark on Persepolis causing significant damage…
 
More here.
 
 

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