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Bog material reveals 11,500 years of Scottish history at prehistoric hillforts near Edinburgh
Evidence of prehistoric man and the woodland clearances of the Iron Age are found at the site of two hillforts near Edinburgh
Peat from a bog near Edinburgh contains 11,500-year-old vegetation and glimpses of the impact made by humans on the landscape from as far back as the Neolithic period, say experts who have foraged seven metres into the earth across parts of a site previously known for prehistoric settlements.
Ravelrig Bog, where an early Iron Age palisaded homestead was found during preparations for a quarry extension, contains two hillforts. Kaimes Hill offers evidence of human activity from the Mesolithic period, while the unexcavated Dalmahoy Hill is thought to have been occupied during the pre-Roman Iron Age and early medieval times.
Woodland resources for fuel and building material, found at the homestead, have been radiocarbon dated to between 400 and 800 BC.
“The bog started out as a small lochan [lake] within a rocky hollow that was formed at the end of the last glacial period,” says archaeobotanist Susan Ramsay, discussing pollen analysis on the Ravelrig core as part of a report concluding that there is “plentiful archaeological evidence” of the people who once roamed the region.
“Aquatic plants gave way to marshland and finally raised Sphagnum bog as natural succession progressed.
“During the early Holocene, the woodlands of the area were dominated by birch, hazel and willow but developed into mixed oak, elm and hazel woodlands by the mid-Holocene.
Most previous studies of the vegetation history of central Scotland have concentrated on the last 3,000 years of environmental history.
“This has tended to be because extensive industrial and agricultural activity in the central belt of Scotland, which was the industrial heartland of the country, has removed many potential sites of palaeoenvironmental importance over recent centuries, and so there have been few chances to construct a pollen diagram from this region that covers most of the Holocene period.
“The presence at Ravelrig Bog of an area of deep peat in an area that has a rich archaeological record and is also located close to agricultural land provided a unique opportunity to study the effects of human activity on the environment of this part of Scotland.”
An initial survey, in 2007, revealed the incredible scientific potential of a core deposit covering more than 10,000 years of history.
“Previous studies have suggested that the first major woodland clearances in central Scotland occurred in the pre-Roman Iron Age, with the cleared agricultural landscape being maintained throughout the Roman period,” says Ramsay.
“However, at Ravelrig, human impact on the landscape is recorded from the Neolithic period onwards, with increasing woodland clearance and agricultural activity in the Bronze Age and a peak in activity in the pre-Roman Iron Age.
“Pastoral agriculture was the dominant form of farming in the area, although there is evidence for the cultivation of cereals from the later Bronze Age onwards.
“These periods of agricultural intensification appear to correspond with known periods of occupation at the nearby hillforts.”
A slight decline in agriculture between 250 BC and AD 150 could have followed the abandonment of Dalmahoy and the Roman invasion.
“Birch pollen levels increased significantly, suggesting that land that was previously farmed was abandoned and was gradually colonised by birch woodland,” says Ramsay.
The birches gave rise to the oak and elm trees which later colonised the woods.
A slight increase in activity, between AD 400 and 600, could show that the hill fort was set for reoccupation during the early medieval period, although the subsequent 850 years saw alder and birch growth take over, chiming with evidence from other sites in central Scotland at the time.
“It is not clear what the cause of this agricultural decline might be but further work may be able to determine a more precise date range for this event,” believes Ramsay.
“It has been suggested that there were some reversions to a colder and wetter climate during the sixth to ninth centuries AD, which could explain why areas once suitable for agriculture perhaps became too wet to grow crops and agriculture had to be moved to sites with better drainage.
“This explanation could account for the significant increase in alder – a tree of wetter areas and river banks that is seen at Ravelrig during this period.
“The last major episode of woodland clearance began around AD 1450, with the cleared landscape continuing until the present day.”
The full results of the research, funded by Tarmac Ltd have been published at archaeologyreportsonline. com.
taken from: http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art503348-bog-material-reveals-years-of-scottish-history-at-prehistoric-hillforts-near-edinburgh
Posted by moss
28th October 2014ce
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
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