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The 9th century Alfred Jewel depicting either Alfred the Great or Christ
Image credit the Ashmolean Museum
The Alfred Jewel was found in a peat bog in North Petherton, Somerset, England in 1693 but has been kept at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford since 1718. North Petherton is about eight miles from where King Alfred the Great founded a monastery at Athelney. The Jewel is made of rock crystal, enamel and gold and bears the inscription, in Old English, AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN (Alfred Ordered Me Made). It is thought to have been one of several commissioned by King Alfred and once formed the top of a pointer used for reading or translating manuscripts.
Now, for the first time in nearly 300 years, the Alfred Jewel will return to Somerset where it will be on display at The Museum of Somerset from 31 January to 28 February 2015. Talks by two leading Anglo-Saxon experts will take place during the exhibition period. One by Professor Simon Keynes of Cambridge University on 11 February and the other by Leslie Webster of the British Museum on 25 February.
Artist impression of the seventh century Koyamada Burial Mound Moat
Image credit the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara
Kazuto Tsukamoto, Staff Writer for the Asahi Shimbun, reports last week that archaeologists in Japan have unearthed the remains of a possible mid-seventh century imperial burial mound (kofun 古墳). The remains of the Koyamada Mound were discovered on the site of a school in the Askua area of Nara Prefecture, central Japan. Asuka was one of the early capitals of Japan before being relocated to Nara and then Kyoto (see our earlier feature, Asuka, Japan: An introduction to its megalithic sites).
“The mound is highly likely the first burial site of Emperor Jomei (593-641), described in the ‘Nihon Shoki’ (The Chronicles of Japan) as the place where his body rested until it was later transferred to another location,” said Fuminori Sugaya, the director of the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture. The researchers made the estimate based on the ruin’s location, size and unique construction method.
The excavation site contains what is believed to be part of a moat lined with boulders along one of its slopes, according to the researchers. The remnants of the moat measures 48 meters in length and 3.9 to 7 meters in width. While 40-centimeter quartz diorite boulders line the northern slope of the moat, the bottom is covered with stones measuring 15 cm to 30 cm. The southern slope is covered with flagstones made of two-step chlorite schist that are topped with special flagstones known as “Haibara,” a type of rhyolite stone, stacked in a staircase pattern. The total number of steps in some areas is 10.
Full Asahi Shimbun article here.
Six students from De Montfort University take part in the Crytek Off the Map project. The project involved building a 3D representation of 17th century London before The Great Fire.
Text and images © Roy Goutté
King Arthur’s Hall, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
After many previous visits to King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down to the North-West of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and a few Heritage Trust articles later, I thought a further visit, but this time with a Cornish group of dowsers, would be of interest to readers.
A very well-known group are the West Cornwall Dowsers led by Bart O’Farrell, a well respected and experienced Cornish dowser, so I knew if they accepted my invitation to make a site visit a thorough and enlightening investigation would take place. This was something I was really looking forward to with relish. Alternative views are something one should always take into account, or most certainly be prepared to consider at least on sites of particular interest and intrigue as one can get very set and focused in their ways and see only what you want to see or believe, rather than a fuller or somewhat different picture. Surely there is nothing worse than a closed or cynical mind not prepared to at least listen to what others may have to say, then when they do, ridicule their findings if they disagree.
I asked Bart if he would be prepared, along with a few of his members, to visit the Hall with myself and another well-known figure from Tintagel, Susan Hockey, as members of the TimeSeekers archaeological group to observe. Susan owns and runs the Cornish Heritage Safaris tour service and sometimes carries out tours to King Arthur’s Hall and other places on Bodmin Moor, and of course all interesting areas of Cornwall down to the far west. Having a passing interest in the art of dowsing herself, Susan was keen to gain more knowledge that she could maybe pass on to her tour customers. A pair of dowsing rods are always on hand during her tours, and in certain special locations even the most sceptical participant has been known to see and feel results.
And so, on the 2nd November 2014 we all met up and made our way to the Hall. Bart brought with him fellow members Andy Norfolk, Alan Gilbert, Bob Bailey and Peter Hartwell. All are experienced dowsers and I had one or two questions already lined up to ask them once they were underway.
Bart O’Farrell getting his first feel of King Arthur’s Hall
We gathered initially on the southern bank of the hall as it gives a good vantage point over the whole enclosure. The dowsers then stepped into the enclosure itself and moved around independently of each other. Without prompting, I was asked what I would like to know?
As my previous articles on King Arthur’s Hall written for the Trust suggest (please see King Arthur’s Hall, King Arthur’s Hall: A new discovery? and King Arthur’s Hall Update) I am convinced the enclosure is a special place and not as simple as just a medieval animal pound as suggested by others. The large upright stones and raised bank surrounding them are more complicated a structure than would be required for animals. The internal area is always wet. Could this tendency to flooding have happened after an animal pound had been built? It is much more than that, but what exactly, as no major excavations or dating has taken place here?
So, I began by asking if the enclosure was a mortuary enclosure that contained buried human remains, either in skeletal form or cremations? Without exception the answer was a definite NO by all of them, it was not a mortuary enclosure or graveyard!
Susan commented that tour participants were fascinated by King Arthur’s Hall. “They want to know why more is not known about it and will an archaeological excavation ever take place. But, I like the air of mystery. When I bring people here they always ask what it is. But I always ask people what they think, before suggesting possibilities and I don’t tell them immediately about the Arthurian name. Suggestions such as a swimming pool, sports arena, meeting place, place of judgement have come up.” Susan asked the dowsers if the two large stones in the middle of the West bank represented a ‘king’ and ‘queen’? They replied not, but that those stones were attracting energy, passing between them. When she asked the dowsers about the corners and the gaps between stones, they explained that they felt the North East corner was an important entry point, with a flow of people arriving from the Rough Tor direction.
Susan continued, “I read that the stones represent the back of the knight’s chairs, but of course we all know Arthur had a round table…and what if the name is significant? What if Arthur’s sword was offered to the spring, or found in the spring?” She also pointed out that she didn’t agree with the animal pound theory either! Bart explained about an energy flow that went around the site with the North South sides of the stones set in a regular pattern.
Peter Hartwell gets down to work
I asked if it was a ceremonial or ritual site. The response to this question was rather mixed, so they settled on it being for a more spiritual use. The other big puzzle here of course is the water that is always lying in the central area of the ‘pond’ whether it be winter or the height of summer. We have often wondered if the monument was purposely built over a rising spring and if so, was that the reason for its being? The reply was unanimous this time…it was! “Its reason for being was the spring which is still active.” replied Bart. “We noticed the behaviour of the two Labrador dogs (Susan’s Magic and Mystery)….they loved it, chasing each other over the energetic spring. It is toward the northern end…south is where the moss is and they didn’t go there.”
In some ways this supports what I was saying earlier, that you get your own ideas in your head and can easily overlook the obvious. Of course the dogs were tearing around like mad things, but only over the ‘wet’ end, the rest being totally ignored and I never considered that once even though I have always considered myself as being observant! On the other hand, like certain other breeds, Labradors are known for their love of water.
The boys walked over every inch of the site and it was fascinating to see how they went about their business. My knowledge of dowsing is very limited and I always assumed you had to walk over the area you were seeking things out to get a ‘reading’. This is not always the case as I noticed they often stood on a spot and ‘asked’ what lay ahead of them, not what was directly underfoot. Again, I always thought the rods reacted to ‘something’ underground as you passed over it, but it seemed to me that the rods reacted when a question was ‘asked’ in their heads, not audibly!
And boy oh boy didn’t the rods react as well. There didn’t seem to be any slow movements where the rods casually crossed over while you held your breath, they sort of snapped into place in an instant. Like a typical sceptic (which I’m not) I was watching their hands intently to see if the rods were given any ‘assistance’, but they weren’t. It was fascinating to watch and being inside the enclosure with the banks protecting us from any wind that was about, the possibility of wind moving the rods was kept to a minimum.
At the end of the day this is what the dowsers were able to reveal based on their findings:-
King Arthurs Hall, King Arthur’s Downs, Bodmin Moor (SX12967765). Visited 2nd November 2014.
This is a large rectangular enclosure at the top of a hill on a North-South alignment, with 56 flat slab stones on the inside of the banks still visible. The rectangular centre, due to a spring, is mostly wet with reeds and to the south it has rising sphagnum moss.
The view to the north-west is highlighted by Rough Tor and Brown Willy with the large Fernacre Stone circle beneath them. It was not an animal pound, neither would it ‘work’ as one. Sheep would suffer with foot rot and cattle would destroy the base, as would ponies after a short while. At least it’s safe to say that would be the assumption of a countryman.
It was not ‘a place for the dead’, i.e. a Neolithic graveyard. Neither was it ‘roofed’, or a ‘swimming pool’ or a ‘let’s eat and get drunk’ meeting hall. Its reason for being was the spring which is still active! We noticed the behaviour of the two Labrador dogs….they loved it, chasing each other over the energetic spring. The spring is more to the northern end, south is where the moss is, and they didn’t go there.
It was a happy, communal site. It was for families, not just the elders. ‘Meditation’, and ‘sanctuary’ came to mind. You would be ‘still’ and ‘safe’ here. A good spot is a good spot. Erected between 3,100-3,500 (earliest) BCE. (This depends on different dowsers and from which area they were doing the dating from). Nobody actually got 3,500 but 3,100-3200 BCE came up most. In active use for about 900 years, so, Neolithic to early Bronze Age.
Order of building. Scoop out the earth from the centre to form the banks would of course come first. Paving laid on southern end and you may have the bedrock floor on the north (there is a difference in the flora). The flat slab upright banking stones last. These stones were interesting in themselves, different heights, and where they were positioned. All were as dead as a gatepost, unlike stones in circles. Standing Menhirs all have ‘intention’ in them and energetically transmit at 7 levels. These didn’t, they are just flat brought-in moor stones. Possibly back-rests for sitting people? Well, it’s a thought. Why go beyond that? Largest for the elders, smallest for the children? Why not a simple explanation? If you were sitting there for a time, wouldn’t you like a back-rest? The clockwise energy of the site comes from the banking. People naturally walk around stone circles in a observable clockwise direction, i.e. following the sun. So do cattle feeding in a field. This was enhanced by the Megalithic builders, by using the stone`s magnetic North/South memory, and placing them N/S, N/S, N/S alongside each other. Much like a car “alternator”. You can tell when a restored circle has a stone wrongly placed back to front, because it breaks the rythym (e.g. Nine Maidens Circle on Penwith Moors, N/S, S/N, N/S…..it’s a break in the magnet field).
North side, the outside banking contained a number of later cremations (Iron Age?) only a few on the outer south side. The settlements the site serviced were to the North, and we have the North East corner as originally the main entrance.
We think that the area of low level water was never high, only ankle deep. Could have to do with sun and moon reflection and all of us got a strong September/October usage of the site. The Autumn equinox sunset acutely visible from there. The North/South alignment meant the Summer Solstice could be observed, sunrise, sunset from saddle ‘notches’ in the distant hills, plus the midday sun passing over the water, and we today now think they celebrated midday as well…..and what of the winter Solstice Moon, over that water?
The question was raised, was the site Ceremonial, Ritual, Religious, and/or Spiritual? Well, those words had different meanings to each us, so we settled for more Spiritual. And water was its reason for being. Also, a solstice/equinox observation site. Rather magical in its day.
The early Islamic scientists used to study the sun by observing it in water reflections…pools, ponds, oasis. Didn’t damage their eyes so much. What science did our ancients know that we have forgotten and are still forgetting? Water is also regularly used as a means of “Scrying” and “Divination”.
The Arthurian Connection, A comment worthy of passing on, although the site is much earlier than Arthur’s time (500 CE), that mirror of water and the seating, would have made a wonderful “Round Table”, and around that time, 530-540 CE, there was considerable Comet activity in the skies. Just a thought….a good site, is a good site.
Our Group will return to explore in the Spring of 2015 the sites to the south of KAH. Very strong energetic pull, if we had the time, that’s where we will go next. Not north, the Fernacre circle area, but south…..now isn’t that interesting!
It was a totally fascinating day out, and on behalf of the TimeSeekers group I would like to thank Bart and his own fellow group members for taking the time to journey up from West Cornwall and to share their personal views with us on this wonderful and mysterious site. We would certainly like to get together in the future and share and discuss our views once again. It may be that some readers may also like to know or learn more about dowsing, so why not contact Bart’s West Cornwall Dowsers group where I’m sure you would be made most welcome.
Smog enveloping the Taj Mahal
Image credit Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon
Tann, in The Archaeology News Network, reports on the pollution that’s turning the 366 year-old Taj Mahal yellow –
India’s white marvel, the Taj Mahal, is slowly turning brownish-yellow because of air pollution, says an Indo-US study which also identifies the pollutants responsible for the effect. It says the Taj is changing colour due to deposition of dust and carbon-containing particles emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and garbage. The study confirms what has been suspected for long – that Agra’s poor air quality is impacting India’s most celebrated monument.
The research was conducted by experts from US universities – Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin – as well as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Archaeological Survey of India. The paper was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in December.
The findings can lead to targeted strategies to curb air pollution in and around Agra and more effective ways to cleanse the marble surface of the 366-year-old mausoleum, which remains by far the most visited man-made structure in the country with footfalls of more than 6 million in 2013.