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Archive for April, 2013

New excavations indicate use of fertilizers 5,000 years ago.

cheery Monday everyone!

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Excavation set to shed new light on London’s Victorian past.

 

i forgot to post this last feb, so here goes.

 

 

 

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Slightly off topic but interesting, and well it’s more on England.

Proof of Bronze Age activity can be found throughout the whole of the Norfolk Broads, archaeologists claim.

The Middle Bronze Age field system at Ormesby St Michael in 2010 is not unique to the area, Nick Gilmour said.

Mr Gilmour, who will feature in The Flying Archaeologist on BBC One, said aerial photos suggest clear signs of life well before the Broads were dug.

“The more you look the more you start seeing Bronze Age everywhere,” he will say on the programme, at 19:30 BST.

Mr Gilmour was involved with the discovery of the complex field systems, which date back to about 1,500 BC.

It was previously thought the systems had not existed further east than the Cambridgeshire Fens.

‘Lost underwater’
The presenter of the Flying Archaeologist, Ben Robinson, said the area had proven a “real challenge” for archaeologists due to the landscape being flooded to create the broads in the 9th or 10th Century.

“Traces of settlement are lost underwater or flattened by the plough,” Mr Robinson said.

“But they don’t disappear completely because history leaves a footprint.”

The programme explores how these footprints, crop marks which were spotted by archaeologists ahead of the Ormesby dig, were best viewed by air.

“An ancient ditch or pit that has been filled in long ago will show up as different colours across the fields – crop marks,” he said.

Mr Gilmour said the Ormesby dig had revealed evidence of settlers’ activities, such as weaving, and objects including a whetstone.

‘Crop marks’
“If you’ve got a whetstone you need something to sharpen on, which means in this case bronze.

“In order to get bronze you need copper and tin so that must have come from somewhere as well.

“So you start putting in these links to other settlements much further afield across potentially the whole of Britain.

“It’s really the beginnings of the mass altering of the landscape.”

Mr Robinson said hundreds of archaeological sites in the Norfolk Broads could now be re-evaluated.

“We’ve got other crop mark sites that look similar,” he said.

“Maybe there’s an extensive pattern – a Bronze Age world out there that we are only just beginning to understand.”

bbc.co.uk
April 19, 2013

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Topic: Stonehenge settlement

Where there is a settlement there is hunting, gathering and the possibility of early farming. Besides I could never resist anything where Stonehenge was involved!

New archaeological evidence from Amesbury in Wiltshire reveals traces of human settlement 3,000 years before Stonehenge was even built

An excavation funded with redundancy money shows Stonehenge was a settlement 3,000 years before it was built.

The archaeological dig, a mile from the stones, has revealed that people have occupied the area since 7,500BC.

The findings, uncovered by volunteers on a shoestring budget, are 5,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Dr Josh Pollard, from Southampton University, said the team had “found the community who put the first monument up at Stonehenge”.

Archaeological blind spot’

The small-scale project has been led by Open University archaeologist David Jacques, who had to plough his redundancy money into it to make it happen.

The first aerial photograph of Stonehenge was taken in 1906
He first spotted the Amesbury site in aerial photographs as a student.

The photographs, in an archive at Cambridge University, showed a site known as Vespasian’s Camp just a mile from Stonehenge.

Assumed to have been completely landscaped in the 18th Century, Mr Jacques realised the area had not been and decided to investigate.

“The whole landscape is full of prehistoric monuments and it is extraordinary in a way that this has been such a blind spot for so long archaeologically,” he said.

“But in 1999 a group of student friends and myself started to survey this area of Amesbury.”

The site, which contains a natural spring, is the nearest source of fresh water to Stonehenge.

And Mr Jacques, with the theory it may have been a water supply for early man, believed there could be pristine and ancient archaeology waiting to be discovered.

“I suppose what my team did, which is a slightly fresher version, was look at natural places. Places in the landscape where you would imagine animals might have gone to, to have a drink,” he said.

“My thinking was where you find wild animals, you tend to find people, certainly hunter gatherer groups coming afterwards.”

And he was right.

Over the past seven years, the site has yielded the earliest semi-permanent settlement in the Stonehenge area from 7,500 to 4,700BC.

And carbon dating of material found at the site show people were there during every millennium in between.

“Here we are in this little nook at the bottom of a hill with a river running round it and it probably had more people coming to it in the Mesolithic period than it’s had people coming ever since,” he said.

‘Tip of iceberg’

For a project that has had limited funding it is already generating excitement amongst other leading archaeologists.

Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy, from Durham University, said: “The site has the potential to become one of the most important Mesolithic sites in north-western Europe.”

And Dr Pollard, from the Stonehenge Riverside Project, said “being able to demonstrate that there were repeated visits to this area from the 9th to the 5th millennia BC” was significant.

“I suspect he’s just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of Mesolithic activity focussed on the Avon
around present day Amesbury,” he said.

The Flying Archaeologist – Stonehenge is broadcast on Friday, 19 April at 19:30 BST on BBC One West and South. The series is broadcast nationwide from Monday, 29 April at 20:30 BST on BBC Four.

bbc.co.uk
April 19, 2012

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Topic: Early cookbook

A 12th-century manuscript contains the oldest known European Medieval food recipes, according to new research.

The recipes, which include both food and medical ointment concoctions, were compiled and written in Latin. Someone jotted them down at Durham Cathedral’s monastery in the year 1140.

It was essentially a health book, so the meals were meant to improve a person’s health or to cure certain afflictions. The other earliest known such recipes dated to 1290.

NEWS: Early Human Ancestors Ate Grass

Many of the dishes sound like they would work on a modern restaurant menu. Faith Wallis, an expert in medical history and science based at McGill University, translated a few for Discovery News:

“For “hen in winter’: heat garlic, pepper and sage with water.”

“For ‘tiny little fish’: juice of coriander and garlic, mixed with pepper and garlic.”

For preserved ginger, it should kept in “pure water” and then “sliced lengthwise into very thin slices, and mixed thoroughly with prepared honey that has been cooked down to a sticky thickness and skimmed. It should be rubbed well in the honey with the hands, and left a whole day and night.”

Re – the “hen in winter” dish, Giles Gasper from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies said, “We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying ‘hen’ rather than ‘chicken,’ meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year.”

Gasper added, “The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander, which I suspect may give them a Mediterranean feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This shows the extent to which international travel and exchange of ideas took place within the medieval period. And what more evocative example of cultural exchange could there be than food?”

NEWS: Iron Age Feast Found in England

Gaspar and colleagues are recreating some of the dishes for a workshop to be held on April 25 at Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle, U.K. A lunch the following Saturday will feature the same dishes. The researchers are also putting together a translation of the cookbook under the title “Zinziber” (Latin for ginger).

While much of the food is still tasty to modern palates, not all of the medical cures would work today.

Gaspar explained, “Some of the medical recipes in this book seem to have stood the test of time, some emphatically haven’t! But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered food recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi — or Quidditas, to use the Latin.”

(Image: Samuel Woods, Jacqueline Pankhurst, Samantha Ellis, Lydia Harris, Andy Hook, Daniel Duggan and Giles Gasper preparing one of the Medieval dishes; Credit: Durham University)

discovery news
APR 17, 2013 12:05 PM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS

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Topic:ancient pots for oohing fish

Hunter-gatherers living in glacial conditions produced pots for cooking fish, according to the findings of a pioneering new study led by the University of York which reports the earliest direct evidence for the use of ceramic vessels.

Scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan carried out chemical analysis of food residues in pottery up to 15,000 years old from the late glacial period, the oldest pottery so far investigated. It is the first study to directly address the often posed question “why humans made pots?” The research is published in Nature.

The research team was able to determine the use of a range of hunter-gatherer “Jōmon” ceramic vessels through chemical analysis of organic compounds extracted from charred surface deposits. The samples analysed are some of the earliest found in Japan, a country recognised to be one of the first centres for ceramic innovation, and date to the end of the Late Pleistocene – a time when humans were adjusting to changing climates and new environments.

Until quite recently ceramic container technologies have been associated with the arrival of farming, but we now know they were a much earlier hunter-gatherer adaptation, though the reasons for their emergence and subsequent widespread uptake are poorly understood. The first ceramic containers must have provided prehistoric hunter-gatherers with attractive new ways for processing and consuming foods but until now virtually nothing was known of how or for what early pots were used.

The researchers recovered diagnostic lipids from the charred surface deposits of the pottery with most of the compounds deriving from the processing of freshwater or marine organisms. Stable isotope data support the lipid evidence, and suggest that the majority of the 101 charred deposits, analysed from across Japan, were derived from high trophic level aquatic foods.

Dr Oliver Craig, of the Department of Archaeology and Director of the BioArCh research centre at York, led the research. He said: “Foragers first used pottery as a revolutionary new strategy for the processing of marine and freshwater fish but perhaps most interesting is that this fundamental adaptation emerged over a period of severe climate change.

“The reliability and high abundance of food along shorelines and river-banks may well have provided the initial impetus for an investment in producing ceramic containers, perhaps to make the most of seasonal gluts or as part of elaborate celebratory feasts and could be linked to a reduction in mobility.

This initial phase of ceramic production probably paved the way for further intensification in the warmer climate of the Holocene when we see much more pottery on Japanese sites.

“This study demonstrates that it is possible to analyse organic residues from some of the world’s earliest ceramic vessels. It opens the way for further study of hunter-gatherer pottery from later periods to clarify the development of what was a revolutionary technology.”

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The study also involved researchers from Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford; Division of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University; School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool; Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen; Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University; The Archaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University and Arctic Centre, University of Groningen, Netherlands; and Niigata Prefectural Museum of History, Niigata; Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto and Wakasa History and Folklore Museum, Fukui, in Japan.

Original article:
eurekalert.org

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Topic: cultivating wetlands

A medieval monastery in Belgium went to major effort to drain wetlands on its land, building structures on artificially raised soil, a new study finds.

Archaeologists excavated the Boudelo Abbey, once part of the medieval county of Flanders, in the 1970s. Until now, however, they had no idea that an extensive drained wetland surrounded the site.

“They placed these abbeys in all sorts of marginal areas to cultivate,” said study researcher Philippe De Smedt, a soil scientist at Ghent University in Belgium. In the High Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries, Europe’s population was growing, De Smedt told LiveScience. Monk labor provided a solution to the crowding by making the land livable.

“The former rulers of Flanders then handed out those territories to the abbeys to make the areas more habitable and more profitable,” De Smedt said. [See Images of the Medieval Wetlands Site]

Surprise wetlands

De Smedt and his colleagues weren’t looking for medieval work projects when they stumbled across the wetlands find. They were searching for buried geological features, such as lost riverbeds, using a technique called electromagnetic induction (EMI).

With this technique, researchers transmit an electromagnetic field to generate currents in the soil. The currents create their own, secondary electromagnetic field, which is detected by an aboveground sensor. Comparing the two fields allows researchers to determine the electrical conductivity of the soil and the magnetic susceptibility (how easily it can become magnetized).

Knowing the electrical conductivity in turn provides information about the soil texture, organic matter content and water content, De Smedt said. Magnetic susceptibility tells researchers about soil minerals, organic matter and other features. In particular, magnetic susceptibility can reveal if soil has ever been heated — and a handy way to reveal buried bricks, which are made of baked clay.

Early investigations of the area turned up unnatural-looking variations in elevation. A full survey revealed an extensive ditch system and signs of brick structures.

“We were in for quite a surprise, because previously we had no idea if there was going to be something there,” De Smedt said.

Studying Stonehenge

A three-dimensional reconstruction revealed that the ditches (detectable because they’d been refilled with lots of organic matter and clay soil) linked up to modern-day drainage ditches, suggesting they were used to turn the marshland into something more suitable for cultivation and building. Two small excavations at spots where bricks were detected turned up foundations dating back to the 13th and early 14th centuries. The purpose of one of the buildings is unknown, the researchers write today (March 21) in the journal Scientific Reports. The other appears to have been a monastery barn.

The project would have been a major undertaking, given the saturated soil, De Smedt said. The research team had to drain the area themselves for several days before excavating.

“Imagine what it must have been like for those people to do with just a shovel,” he said.

The barn was built on a naturally high spot, but the medieval builders also created a higher elevation area with sand to build the second building. The abbey itself sits on a nearby sand ridge, out of the swamp, but military struggles and repeated floodswould eventually drive the monks out in 1578.

The EMI technique is a useful tool for archaeologists, because it can provide lots of information about what’s underground without anyone lifting a shovel, De Smedt said. It also allows for investigation without destruction of a site by excavation. And it helps put human structures in their environmental context.

Along with scientists from other institutions, the researchers are using the same technology in Austria, in the Roman town of Carnuntum, which boasted its own gladiator school, and in Stonehenge in England.

“There, we try to see if there is landscape variability related to the prehistoric monuments, if there is a connections between the archaeology and the landscape,” De Smedt said.

Original article:
livescience

By Stephanie Pappas march 21, 2013

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