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DW reports on a new exhibition of the 2,600 year-old burial chamber of a ‘Celtic Princess’ which was first discovered near Stuttgart in 2010.
 
The burial chamber of the “Celtic Princess of the Danube” unearthed in 2010 remains one of the most important archeological finds of the past decades in Germany. A new exhibition in Stuttgart allows the public to contemplate the riches found in the 2,600-year old grave. Even in plain view, the princess holds on to many secrets which keep puzzling archeologists.
 
No one knows whether the mysteries preserved in this astonishing grave will ever be solved. Archaeologists expect to spend many more years on the case. Before the artifacts go back to the lab for research, the secrets of the Celtic princess are on display in an exhibition center in the courtyard of the New Palace in Stuttgart through December 14, 2014.
 
 

A guest feature by Littlestone.

William Stukeley’s 1758 plan of Caesaromagus (present day Chelmsford) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

After twelve years in Lancashire, eight in Wiltshire and thirteen in Japan, I finally ended up in the old English market town of Chelmsford (Essex, south-east England). That was thirty two years ago next month. Chelmsford is some forty miles from London and so was well within commuting distance of my new job in the capital. Houses in the town were affordable, schools for the kids looked good and that, basically, was all I knew about the place – other than the welcome signs as you entered the town which proudly (though somewhat inaccurately) claimed Chelmsford as ‘The Birthplace of Radio’ (the Marconi connection). All, that is, until I heard of an archaeological excavation undertaken by the British Museum back in the early 80s. The excavation was of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Springfield Lyons on a derelict piece of land just down the road from where I then lived. Sadly, after the BM’s excavation, the site was again abandoned and is now rapidly disappearing under a new business park.

The derelict site of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Springfield Lyons, Chelmsford before being developed into a business park

Little by little though I learnt that Chelmsford had a bit more of a history to it than just an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. The area had been occupied from Neolithic times and once boasted an impressive prehistoric cursus (the Springfield, or Chelmer, Cursus ) with a wooden circle at one end (now both sadly buried under a supermarket and modern housing development).

But here’s the interesting bit; two thousand years ago Chelmsford was (and still is) situated midway between Colchester and London – both important Roman towns. Perhaps that’s why it somehow earned the distinguished Roman place-name of Caesaromagus (Caesar’s Marketplace). Why it should have been called Caesaromagus is something of a mystery as it was, “…a great honour for a town to have the imperial prefix incorporated in its name, and no other town in Britain was so honoured…”* Although Caesaromagus is mentioned on a 3rd century Roman map (the Antonine Itinerary) its exact location puzzled scholars for centuries. It wasn’t until 1758 when William Stukeley (of Avebury and Stonehenge fame) correctly identified Chelmsford as the Roman town of Caesaromagus. Stukeley even drew a plan (top) of what he thought the town looked like; although the plan is purely fictions and Stukeley has incorrectly placed it on the north side of Chelmsford’s River Can and not on the south side where excavations show it was actually sited.

Artist’s impression of Caesaromagus’ 4th century octagonal Romano-Celtic temple Chelmsford Archaeological Trust

Sometime around 325ce however an impressive, octagonal stone temple (above) was constructed in Caesaromagus for the worship of a Romano-Celtic deity (or deities). The temple stood on what is now the Baddow Road roundabout, close to where the Roman town was then situated. Similar temples, of the same date and plan, have been found in London and on the continent; perhaps the most famous of which is Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel at Aachen in Germany. The Aachen Cathedral, which now envelopes the octagonal Palatine Chapel, is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. Constructed by Charlemagne around 796 it has seen the coronations of thirty German kings and twelve queens.

Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel AachenDomInsideOktogon by Maxgreene. Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

What is interesting, and what has recently been reported by Christopher Howse in the Daily Telegraph, is that Caesaromagus’ octagonal stone temple, “…was behind the design of the third most influential ecclesiastical structure in the history of the Latin Church, after St Peter’s Rome and the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In third place came Charlemagne’s palace church at Aachen. The Roman tradition that it was built in is represented by a temple from AD 325 unearthed in Chelmsford in 1970.” Howse goes on to say, “As an exemplar of the Roman tradition embraced by Charlemagne, Chelmsford is invoked by Professor Eric Fernie, the former director of the Courtauld, in his splendid new volume Romanesque Architecture, an addition to the Pelican History of Art published by Yale.”

So, from what I thought was little more than a convenient place to commute from, Chelmsford turned out to be a place of unassuming mystery, not to mention one with a long and intricate history. A timeline that begins in the Neolithic with a cursus and wooden circle, through the Roman period giving rise to a well-organised little town boasting an octagonal temple of impressive stone construction. Then on through the medieval to the more recent past and the ‘Birthplace of Radio’. And, lest it be forgotten, Chelmsford was the first place anywhere in the world to employ electric street lighting 🙂 Oh, and I almost forgot, it was from Chelmsford that the Quaker, William Penn, left England in 1682 to establish the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, and it was from Penn’s endeavours that the city of Philadelphia was later planned and developed.

No small accomplishment for a little marketplace on the fringes of the once great Roman Empire. That’s not quite the end of the story though. I mentioned at the beginning of this feature that I’d lived for thirteen years in Japan. A lot of my spare time was spent visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Japan boasts what is probably the oldest wooden building in the world – the Hōryū-ji (法隆寺) temple built in 607ce in Nara Prefecture, western Japan. Within the Hōryū-ji compound there’s a small wooden hall known as the Yumedono (Hall of Dreams). The Yumedono was built in 739ce to assuage the spirit of Prince Shōtoku (the prince was an Alfred the Great sort of figure who promoted Buddhism in Japan). The Yumedono stands on the site of a slightly earlier building commissioned by Prince Shōtoku himself. There is also, still in existence, a similar but slightly later building at the Eizanji-temple not far from the Yumedono in Nara Prefecture.

The octagonal hall at Eizan-ji temple in Nara Prefecture is thought to date from before 764ce

There are two things about Prince Shōtoku and the Yumedono. The first is that both the Yumedono and the Eizan-ji buildings are octagonal halls. The second is that legend has it that the Prince was born in a stable. The Hall of Dreams was built 414 years after the Romano-Celtic temple in Chelmsford so there would have been plenty of time for the idea for this style of building to reach Japan from the West, along with other goods and ideas via the Silk Road. Indeed, other aspects of temple building in Japan were influence by Greco-Roman styles of architecture and there are countless artefacts of Persian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian origin in the early 8th century Shōsō-in (正倉院) Imperial Repository in Nara (see also the Trust’s feature on Roman jewellery found in 5th century Japanese tomb). It would be fascinating indeed if the inspiration for Prince Shōtoku’s Hall of Dreams had its origins in Roman octagonal temples – perhaps even the one here in Chelmsford.

* Caesaromagus: A History and Description of Roman Chelmsford by Nick Wickenden, Keeper of Archaeology, Chelmsford Museums Service. A Chelmsford Museums Service Publication, 1991.

Full Telegraph article here. And for a light-hearted glimpse into the life and times of Chelmsford during the Roman period see Channel 4’s Chelmsford 123 situation comedy produced by Hat Trick Productions in 1988 and 1990.

 

 
40,000 year-old mammoth ivory figurine of a lion (right) and missing fragment (left)
Image credit: Hilde Jensen, Universität Tübingen
 
Phys.org reports last month that –
 
Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year-old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in south-western Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head…
 
The 40,000 year-old figurine is one of the most famous works of Ice Age art. It was on show at last year’s Ice Age art exhibition hosted by the British Museum. According to archaeologist Nicholas Conard of Tübingen University’s Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology, and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tübingen, the lion was originally thought to be a relief and was unique for this period. With the small fragment of one side of the lion’s head now reattached however it is clear that the figurine is, in fact, a three-dimensional sculpture. “The site has yielded a wealth of objects that illuminate the development of early symbolic artefacts dating to the period when modern humans arrived in Europe and displaced the indigenous Neanderthals,” says Conard, including evidence of the world’s earliest figurative art and music.
 
The lion figurine is now on show at the Tübingen University Museum.
 
Full Phys.org article here. See also our earlier How to make a thaumatrope… feature.
    
 
Deutsche Welle reports that –
 
Everyone should have access to Germany’s cultural heritage. That’s the goal of a new multimedia portal, the German Digital Library. It encompasses sources from 1,800 cultural and academic institutions.
 
The website is still in the trial phase and there are a few rough edges to smooth out, but that will soon be resolved. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB), or “German Digital Library,” is set to be an online collection of knowledge like no other.
 
The German Digital Library aims to be a network of culture and research, a unique archive of the cultural consciousness of Germany. And Europe, since the DBB constitutes another building block of the European online culture portal “Europeana,” a single access point to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitized throughout Europe.
 
More 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.
 

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