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Devon treasure hunter locates Bronze Age settlement using Google Earth
A Devon treasure hunter has stunned professional archaeologists by locating a Bronze Age settlement using Google Earth.
Howard Jones shunned the usual methods of finding ancient communities and relied on the internet instead.
He trawled satellite images for the sort of terrain that would have offered food, water and shelter for a prehistoric settlement.
Howard used Google's overheard mapping site to zoom in on fields and farmland before pinpointing a spot in the South Hams.
The former Royal Marine then sought permission from the local landowner before heading down there to scour for remains.
He soon unearthed old flint tools, pottery shards and scraps of metal thought to date back 5,000 years.
Howard called in Devon County archaeologist Bill Horner who carried out a geophysical survey using ground-penetrating radar equipment .
The two men found two large buried structures that they believe are farm buildings dating back to the bronze or iron age.
Howard, a commercial diver from Plymstock, said: "Night after night I looked at Google Earth asking myself the question 'if I was alive 3,000 years ago where would I live'.
"I would need food, water, shelter, close to Dartmoor for minerals, close to a river to access the sea and trade routes .
"After a few weeks I put an 'X marks the spot' on the map - that was where I would live."
Not knowing who the site belonged to, Howard was initially unable to test his theory until he tumbled across the landowner by chance.
He said: "At kids rugby training one night I remembered that one of the other coaches was a farmer and I asked him if I could field walk and detect on his land.
"As I didn't know where his farm was, I arranged for my family and I to meet him and he gave us a tour of his fields.
"It was then I found out that my 'X marks the spot' was on his land - it was unbelievable."
Howard has previously searched for ancient artefacts underwater and in 2010 he was involved in the discovery of the 300-year-old Dutch merchant vessel the Aagtekerke off the Devon coast.
But after deciding to switch his search inland because of this year's storms he hopes his latest find will prove his best yet.
Mr Horner has arranged for a series of trench digs, which could take place as early as February next year.
He says Howard's web-inspired find could offer new insights into Bronze Age trading outposts.
Mr Horner said: "The survey shows two or three probable farmsteads which look to be late prehistoric, bronze age to iron age.
"Other parts of the underlying settlement possibly continue to the Romano-British period, around 1,500-2,000 years ago.
"The images also show tracks and enclosures, as well as a number of pits, which alongside Howard's findings, looks like evidence of metal works."
"We know that Devon's mineral resources were being traded along the coast and along the channel in prehistoric times.
"While Dartmoor is famous for preserved historic sites, the same is not true of coastal areas. So this could be the missing link between those moorland sites and the evidence we have of trading."
Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd October 2014ce
Archaeologists make discovery of bronze remains of Iron Age Celtic chariot at hillfort
More fascinating discoveries.... by Richard Moss in Culture24
A hoard of rare bronze fittings from a 2nd or 3rd century BC chariot, which appears to have been buried as a religious offering, has been found at the Burrough Hill Iron Age hillfort, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
Students from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History found the remains during their ongoing excavation of the site while digging a pit near the remnants of a house within the hillfort.
A group of four students found a piece of bronze in the ground before uncovering a concentration of further parts very nearby.
The artefacts, which as a group are covered by the Treasure Act, were soon identified as a matching set of bronze fittings from a mid to late Iron Age chariot. They appear to have been buried in a box together with a series of tools and accoutrements.
After cleaning, decorative patterns became visible in the metalwork – including a triskele motif showing three waving lines, similar to the flag of the Isle of Man. It is thought the chariot would have belonged to a high-status individual, such as a “noble” or “warrior”.
One of the students, Nora Battermann, described the moment she and her colleagues found the remains.
“Realising that I was actually uncovering a hoard that was carefully placed there hundreds of years ago made it the find of a lifetime,” she said. “Looking at the objects now they have been cleaned makes me even more proud, and I can’t wait for them to go on display.”
The pieces appear to have been gathered in a box, before being planted in the ground upon a layer of cereal chaff and burnt as part of a religious ritual. The chaff might have doubled as a “cushion” for the box and also the fuel for the fire.
After the burning, the entire deposit was covered by a layer of burnt cinder and slag – where it lay undisturbed for more than 2200 years until the team uncovered it.
Dr Jeremy Taylor, Lecturer in Landscape Archaeology at the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History and co-director of the Burrough Hill field project, confirmed the finds were a matching set of highly-decorated bronze fittings from an Iron Age chariot.
“This is the most remarkable discovery of material we made at Burrough Hill in the five years we worked on the site,” he added. “This is a very rare discovery, and a strong sign of the prestige of the site.
“The atmosphere at the dig on the day was a mix of ‘tremendously excited’ and ‘slightly shell-shocked’. I have been excavating for 25 years and I have never found one of these pieces - let alone a whole set. It is a once-in-a-career discovery.”
The School has led a five-year project at Burrough Hill since 2010, giving archaeology students and volunteers valuable experience of archaeological excavations.
John Thomas, co-director of the project, added: “It looks like it was a matching set of parts that was collected and placed in a box as an offering, before being placed in the ground. Iron tools were placed around the box before it was then burnt, and covered in a thick layer of cinder and slag.
“The function of the iron tools is a bit of a mystery, but given the equestrian nature of the hoard, it is possible that they were associated with horse grooming. One piece in particular has characteristics of a modern curry comb, while two curved blades may have been used to maintain horses hooves or manufacture harness parts.”
The parts have been taken to the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History for further analysis and will be temporarily displayed at the Melton Carnegie Museum, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, from Saturday October 18 until Saturday December 13.
More information about the Burrough Hill project at www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/projects/burrough-hill
Posted by moss
14th October 2014ce
Short tunnel for A303??
The deputy Prime Minister has just said he wants the Government to sanction plans to rebuild the A303 before the next election. Since the 3 options just published for the Stonehenge section consist of 2 versions of a short tunnel plus an unrealistic northern bypass – and no long tunnel – it seems likely that what he is effectively pressing for is a short tunnel. As for the timing, he says he very much hopes we can see “diggers in the ground” well before 2017/18.
Here are a couple of questions about what’s some would see as a looming World Heritage Scandal:
First, we previously wrote to English Heritage asking what they meant when they said they’d argue for the tunnel “with all our strength” - a long one or a short one? In April they replied:
“It is not possible to comment on this, or provide documentation that supports a decision regarding which scheme English Heritage would support, for the simple reason that we have not yet been presented with scheme options to advise upon. When DfT presents us with their potential scheme options, then we will be able to advise upon their heritage impacts and relative merits.”
Well, the options have now been published (sans a “long tunnel”) and the Stonehenge Alliance, for one, has made a formal response. Will English Heritage now clarify their position and will they, like the Stonehenge Alliance has done, call for the “long tunnel” option to be reinstated as an option on the grounds that the other options are hugely damaging to the World Heritage Site they are charged with protecting?
Posted by juamei
13th October 2014ce
Archaeologists find prehistoric cattle tooth within mound of Iron Age stones on Skomer
The first excavations on Skomer, in Pembrokeshire, have revealed huge burn mounds made by hungry prehistoric settlers
A cattle tooth left in a cooking mound and fire-cracked stones used for boiling water have paved the prehistoric way to dating the sweeping settlement of Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, where archaeologists say the ancient, well-preserved field systems date from between 520 to 458 BC.
This was the first time archaeologists had been allowed to excavate on the island. Opening a trench, they aimed to explore the “long and complex” history of settlements and farming on Skomer, informed by three years of careful research by wildlife and science experts and universities.
“Already we have discovered previously unknown Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual stone settings, and demonstrated that the field systems may date back to at least the later Bronze Age.
“But despite half a century of modern archaeological interest, we still had no scientific dates for the roundhouses and fields on Skomer.
“It was decided to target a prehistoric burnt mound or cooking mound of fire-cracked stones, which stands immediately outside one of the paired roundhouses.
“This mound built up from numerous cooking episodes in the adjacent house. Our excavation discovered a cattle tooth from within the mound of stones, which has now been radiocarbon dated to the late Iron Age.
“Beneath the mound we found a sealed land surface containing Neolithic or Bronze Age worked flint tools.
“A second radiocarbon date from blackthorn charcoal, in the upper soil layers, gave an early Iron Age date, possibly from burning and clearance on the land, which showed our burnt mound and the houses it belongs to arrived after the early Iron Age.
“Both dates are accurate to within 62 years.”
The boiled water took around three hours to cook a joint of meat. The burnt mounds outside the roundhouse clusters are said to be “huge”, dominating the Iron Age landscape alongside the conical thatched house roofs.
“Skomer is a fragile protected landscape, and our archaeological research to date has focussed on non-invasive investigation of the prehistoric fields and settlements,” said Dr Driver.
“This has included new aerial photography, airborne laser scanning, ground geophysics and walkover surveys.
“These new dates confirm pre-Roman settlement on Skomer. Even so, the burnt mound covers a substantial earlier field wall showing that the island was already well settled and farmed in previous centuries.”
As well as its huts and fields from the prehistoric period, the island is well-known for its puffins and breeding seabirds.
Posted by moss
7th October 2014ce
Stonehenge's most intricate archaeological finds were 'probably made by children'
Some of the most high status pieces of prehistoric ‘bling’, prized by Stonehenge’s Bronze Age social elite, are likely to have been made by children, according to new research.
An analysis of objects, found near the ancient stone circle, shows that the ultra-fine craftwork involved such tiny components that only children or myopic (short-sighted) adults could have made them.
The research into the human eyesight optics of micro-gold-working in the Bronze Age has considerable implications for more fully understanding the nature of society in Western Europe some 4000 years ago.
“The very finest gold work involved the making and positioning of literally tens of thousands of tiny individually-made components, each around a millimetre long and around a fifth of a millimetre wide,” said David Dawson, Director of the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes where the world’s finest prehistoric micro-gold working achievements are on display as part of a major permanent exhibition of Bronze Age gold treasures.
“Only children and teenagers, and those adults who had become myopic naturally or due to the nature of their work as children, would have been able to create and manufacture such tiny objects,” said a leading authority on the optics of the human eye, Ronald Rabbetts, who has been assessing the human eyesight implications of Bronze Age micro-gold-working – implications that are examined in detail in a BBC Two documentary ‘Operation Stonehenge’, this evening, Thursday.
“The implication is that there would almost certainly have been a small section of the Bronze Age artisan class who, often as a result of their childhood work, were myopic for their adult life. They would therefore have been unable to do any other work apart from the making of tiny artefacts and would have had to be supported by the community at large,” he said.
The Stonehenge area object with the largest number of ultra-small gold components is a dagger made in around 1900 BC – and now on display in Devizes’ Wiltshire Museum. Crafted more than 1100 years before the invention of the first magnifying glass, the dagger’s 12 centimetre long handle was adorned with up to 140,000 tiny gold studs – each around a millimetre long and around 0.2 of a millimetre in diameter. Even the heads of each stud are just a third of a millimetre wide. They were set, with great manual dexterity and remarkable skill, into the surface of the wooden dagger handle - with more than a thousand studs neatly embedded in each square centimetre.
The prehistoric gold micro-working process appears to have had at least four stages. First, Bronze Age craftsmen manufactured lengths of extremely fine gold wire, almost as fine as a human hair. Then they flattened the end of a piece of wire to create the first stud-head – and cut the wire with a very sharp flint or obsidian razor a mere millimetre below the head. This delicate procedure was then repeated literarily tens of thousands of times – to decorate just one dagger handle! Next, a tiny bronze awl with an extremely fine point was used to create minute holes in the dagger handle in which to position the studs. Then a thin layer of tree resin was rubbed over the surface as an adhesive to keep the studs in place.
Each stud was then carefully placed into its miniscule hole – probably with the help of a very fine pair of bone or wooden tweezers, because the studs are too small to have been placed in position directly by the artisan’s fingers.
“We estimate that the entire operation – wire manufacture, stud-making, hole-making, resin pasting and stud positioning – would have taken at least 2500 hours to complete,” said David Dawson.
The dagger – and another probably less decorated similar weapon found with it – are believed to be the only such ultra-fine micro-worked artefacts to have survived from the prehistoric period anywhere in the world. But the high level of skill involved suggests that it was not a one-off creation, but was instead probably a product of a wider micro-gold-working tradition in at least part of Bronze Age western Europe. It is likely that the tradition was centred in Brittany in what is now western France.
It is also conceivable that Bronze Age craftsmen used comparable micro-working skills to create ultra-fine textiles.
The gold-studded daggers were discovered in 1808 inside Bush Barrow, a substantial Bronze Age burial mound, located almost a thousand metres from Stonehenge. However, it is only now that the eyesight and other human implications of its manufacture have been examined in detail.
Posted by moss
18th September 2014ce
Ancient remains found in Midlands bog
An ancient bog body has been discovered at a midland bog where a similar find was made two years ago.
The remains were found by a Bord na Móna worker at Rossan Bog on the Meath/Westmeath border on Saturday morning.
A Bord na Móna spokesman said: "The remains of a bog body were found in Rossan Bog two miles from Kinnegad on the Meath and Westmeath border."
The spokesman said the employee discovered the remains prior to beginning work and immediately put Bord na Móna's protocol in place.
Posted by ryaner
16th September 2014ce
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