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Archaeologists have unearthed the ancient remains of a man buried with a shield in England, which is characteristic of an Iron Age burial belonging to the Arras culture, a civilization that existed in what is now Yorkshire and is known for its impressive burials and grave goods.
Researchers discovered the skeleton, which dates back at least 2,000 years, during excavations for a housing subdivision of 77 houses to be developed in Pocklington. In many places around the world, whenever ground is broken authorities require the property developers to do archaeological excavations to determine whether there are human or cultural remains under the earth. Many valuable archaeological finds have been made because of excavations in advance of property development.
MAP Archaeological Practice said the man was of impressive stature. Eighty-two other burials have been unearthed at the site in 38 square barrows. Jewelry, a sword and now the shield have been found buried with bodies so far. Other valuable grave goods have been found at Arras culture burials in Yorkshire.
A bronze snaffle bit from an Arras culture burial in Yorkshire, now in the British Museum (Photo by Ealdgyth/ Wikimedia Commons )
Paula Ware, of MAP Archaeological Practice, said: “Naturally we’re still investigating our findings, so at present we aren’t able to share much more detail—however we’re looking forward to learning more and understanding what these new discoveries mean for the local area,” said Paul Ware of MAP. “Burnby Lane has unveiled some excellent prehistoric artefacts that are really unique. We are continuing to investigate the site and will work hand in hand with David Wilson Homes to preserve these historical discoveries so that they can be used to shed some light on the history of the area for generations to come.”
Archaeologists and preservation experts are conserving the artifacts for posterity and intend to put them on display in the future. Usually after scientists exhume bodies and artifacts of people buried in ancient or prehistoric times they re-inter the remains. Sometimes archaeologists will do DNA testing of remains. An article about the excavated man in the Pocklington Post on the shield did not say whether his DNA will be examined.
The Arras culture is thought to date from around 400 – 200 BC and may be associated with the Celtic Parsi tribe, who had links with Northern France.
The burials of the Arras culture of East Yorkshire are uncommon in England but are known in Continental Europe. The culture is named after a cemetery called Arras on a farm in East Yorkshire that was excavated from 1815 to 1817 by a group of gentry and later by another man.
Google Earth image from 2007, which shows the outlines of the Arras culture barrows.
More than 100 barrows were identified at Arras, four of which contained chariots. It has been suggested that the purpose of the chariots was to covey the deceased – presumably someone of high rank – to the afterlife. Other graves consisted of a skeleton along with grave goods such as metalwork, ceramics, and animal remains.
One of the most impressive finds to date was a warrior burial (a male inhumation accompanied by warrior’s weapons) containing “probably the finest Iron Age sword in Europe,” according to The British Museum. The 2,300-year-old iron sword, known as the Kirkburn sword, has an elaborate hilt, assembled from 37 separate pieces of iron, bronze, and horn, and decorated with red glass. Analysis of the skeletal remains revealed that three spears had been plunged into the warrior’s chest.
The Kirkburn Sword. ( The British Museum )
This latest find in Pocklington is considered an important one. “The information from the conservation in particular will provide a detailed insight into the lives and environment of the Arras culture in the area of Pocklington,” Miss Ware told the Pocklington Post . “These discoveries are truly fantastic for the local area, and are the largest archaeological works to have ever taken place in Pocklington.”
Featured image: Skeleton of a man buried on a shield in England (Pocklington Post photo)
By Mark Miller
Archaeologists find ancient skeleton of a man buried with a shield in England - History
Museum of London Archaeology The skeleton was discovered to have been buried in a ditch some 200 feet away from a formal Roman cemetery.
As workers in Rutland, England, cleared land for a conservatory, they came across an alarming find — a skeleton in shackles. Although the bones turned out to be over 1,000 years old, archaeologists call the discovery “desperately grim.” They say that the shackled skeleton is a rare example of slavery in Roman-era Britain.
After unearthing the bones, the builders called in the Leicestershire police. The police used radiocarbon dating to determine that the remains came from 226 and 427 A.D. Then, satisfied that they didn’t have a recent homicide on their hands, the police called in archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology to take a look.
The archaeologists were astonished by what they found. It appeared that the man, who died between the ages of 26 and 35 years old, had been unceremoniously dumped in a ditch, still wearing his iron shackles.
Museum of London Archaeology The iron fetters found around the skeleton’s legs.
In addition to the iron shackles around the skeleton’s ankles, archaeologists also noted his “awkward” position in the ditch. He lay on his right side, with his left side and arm elevated. And he was found just 200 feet away from a legitimate cemetery.
“We think that the body lies outside of a nearby Roman cemetery, and it looks almost like the body has been dumped into a ditch, which taken together with the shackles, implies mistreatment and quite a lot of disrespect of the body,” Marshall explained.
While the team of archaeologists that analyzed the remains is positive they will never learn his identity, they are certain that he was a slave — and very likely a mistreated slave, at that.
“To shackle somebody like this is probably quite a good indication that they’re a slave,” Marshall told The Independent.
“Not only that but they’re a slave who have been quite poorly treated because not all slaves live their lives in shackles, it seems to have been specifically a form of punishment, either a response to someone who tried to run away or in other ways had a bad relationship with their master.”
Museum of London Archaeology A diagram of the skeleton in the ditch.
He explained that shackles in ancient Rome were both a “form of imprisonment and a method of punishment,” noting that the binds could also be a source of discomfort, pain, and stigma.
There’s no question that slavery existed during the reign of the Roman empire. But archaeologists have discovered very little physical evidence of it.
In fact, archaeologists have found very few Roman-era skeletons buried in bondage at all. If a skeleton is found in shackles, it is usually because of a sudden natural disaster.
But that is not the case with this skeleton. For some reason, he was purposefully buried wearing the shackles that bound him in life.
“It could be the dead person was somebody who had earned the ire of other people,” said Marshall. “Equally it could be that the people who buried him were tyrannical and awful. We can’t really understand the moral dimensions.”
Museum of London Archaeology An x-ray view of the skeleton’s shackles showing the interior locking mechanism.
Marshall noted that Roman superstitions could help solve the mystery of why the man was buried with shackles. If he had been mistreated in his life, his masters might have worried that he’d come back to haunt them.
Some Romans believed that iron restraints could stop ghosts from walking. “They have some concerns about what the consequences of their actions might be and perhaps burying somebody with their feet shackled is a way to get around that,” Marshall speculated.
Archaeologists see the discovery as a priceless opportunity to better understand slavery in Roman Britain.
“To have the opportunity to study the body of a person who quite probably was a slave is really important,” Marshall said.
His colleague, MOLA archaeologist Chris Chinnock, agrees. He says that the discovery was grim but significant. The shackled skeleton “forces us to ask questions that we wouldn’t ordinarily ask.”
Bones with names: Long-dead bodies archaeologists have identified
Historians record biographies of the rich and famous: kings, queens, emperors and knights. Archaeologists, more often than not, dig up common people, who remain stubbornly anonymous in death.
Occasionally, however, the written record and the archaeological record collide. In rare situations, researchers are actually able to identify a collection of bones as a person in the historical record. Many of these identifiable, or "individualized," remains belonged to royalty or other high-profile people, the sort who tend to be buried in lavish graves stamped with their names.
The bodies of royalty are not necessarily more important to archaeologists, who can learn much about diet and lifestyle by examining the bones of commoners. But there's something thrilling about uncovering this concrete evidence of the past. Read on for seven skeletons that have regained their rightful names, and three more that are tantalizingly close.
1. Richard III
The last Plantagenet king of England set off an international fervor in 2013, when archaeologists announced the discovery of his bones under a parking lot in Leicester. The king, who died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, had been scrunched into a hastily dug grave. Researchers identified him by his battle wounds, which matched those the king was reported to have sustained during and after his death, and by his DNA, thanks to a pair of living descendants via his sister's line.
After the analysis of his remains, Richard III finally got a royal burial at Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015 &mdash 530 years after his death.
The older a skeleton, the less likely historical records survive to identify it. Fortunately, the ancient Egyptians and their carefully prepared mummies provide an exception to this rule. Although the boy king Tutankhamun died in approximately 1323 B.C., his identification was in no doubt after Howard Carter and George Herbert discovered his gold-laden tomb in 1922.
Tut's mummy revealed him to be a slight young man with a clubfoot. Having a positive ID on the young king is enabling researchers to tie together the dynastic family tree using DNA. In 2010, researchers announced they'd identified mummies belonging to Tutankhamun's father, mother and grandmother.
3. Queen Eadgyth
In 2008, German archaeologists opened a tomb in the Magdeburg Cathedral, expecting it to be empty. To their surprise, they found a lead sarcophagus inscribed with the words "EDIT REGINE CINERES HIC SARCOPHGVS HABET." This translates to: "The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus."
Slam dunk identification, right? Not so fast. Archaeologists knew that the bones of the Saxon queen Eadgyth, who died in 946 A.D., had been moved at least three times. They could have easily been lost and replaced.
So scientists set to analyzing the bones. They extracted isotopes, variations of certain molecules, from the skeleton's teeth. Isotopes are integrated into the body through the diet, so they can pinpoint what an individual ate during their lives.
The tooth isotopes pointed to a childhood in Wessex, England, matching the historical record of Queen Eadgyth. She also ate a high-protein diet and her skeleton bore signs of horseback riding, the archaeologists discovered, befitting her royal status.
One of the best-preserved bodies ever discovered by archaeologists belonged to Xin Zhui, also known as Lady Dai. Xin Zhui was the wife of the Marquis of Dai during the third century B.C., and when she died around the age of 50 in what is now Hunan, China, she was buried in style. Her tomb was full of her belongings, including cosmetic boxes, musical instruments, painted silk and tablets about health and medicine.
Tucked away in four nested pine boxes, Xin Zhui was so well-preserved upon her discovery in the 1970s that her skin was still moist and her limbs pliable. Her body is now kept in a preserved state at the Hunan Provincial Museum.
5. Ramesses I
The tomb of the first ruler of Egypt's 19th dynasty, Ramesses I, was discovered in 1817. Unfortunately, Ramesses I wasn't in it.
Years later, in 1881, a family of Egyptian goat-herders-turned-tomb-robbers revealed to archaeologists where they'd been getting the items they'd been selling on the black market for years: a cliff-side tomb above Deir el-Bahri, a mortuary complex across the Nile from the city of Luxor.
The tomb acted as a cache for royal mummies removed during the looting of tombs elsewhere, according to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. Inside was a coffin inscribed with the name of Ramesses I &mdash but inside that was nothing but loose bandages. So where was Ramesses? [In Photos: The Mummy of King Ramesses III]
Canada, as it turned out. Yes, the founder of Egypt's 19th dynasty and grandfather of the famed Ramesses the Great was acting as a sideshow exhibit for tourists at the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame. At the time, purchasing mummies from Egypt was as easy as walking down the right alley to find a street merchant selling looted tomb goods. The body of Ramesses I ended up in this trade. When the Niagara Falls Museum sold off its collections in 1999, Emory raised the money to purchase the suspected Ramesses I mummy in less than two weeks. Researchers there used computed tomography (CT) scans, facial reconstructions and detailed study of the mummification techniques to confirm that the roaming mummy was indeed the lost pharaoh. (The mummy was returned to Egypt in 2003.)
6. Ramesses III
Historical records, penned on papyrus, told of a palace plot to murder Ramesses III, but no one knew if that plot had succeeded. A CT scan of the pharaoh's mummy suggested that it did: Ramesses III's throat had been slit. The cut would have severed the trachea, esophagus and major blood vessels to the head, killing him quickly, the researchers reported in the British Medical Journal.
During his mummification, priests placed a healing amulet in the neck wound and bound it tightly with bandages.
The first astronomer to realize that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around, was buried in an unmarked grave in a Polish cathedral in 1543. But in 2009, Swedish and Polish researchers announced in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they'd positively identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus.
The identification took some doing. First, researchers created a facial reconstruction of a skull of a man of the proper age found under the church floor in 2005. The results were promising &mdash a mug that looked quite similar to contemporary paintings of Copernicus.
Next, the researchers turned to a few shed hairs found stuck in the bindings of a calendar owned by Copernicus. DNA testing revealed that two of the hairs matched the suspected Copernicus bones.
8. A Viking king?
Not everyone in history is considerate enough to leave DNA-bearing hair behind. In most cases, researchers have to take their best guess at an identification.
One such case is the discovery of a young man's skeleton buried near Auldhame in Scotland. The skeleton, which dated back to the 10th century, was found surrounded by expensive goods, including a Viking belt. This suggests that he was a high-status individual &mdash perhaps even the Viking King Olaf Guthfrithsson himself.
King Olaf died in A.D. 941. Shortly before his death, the king attacked Auldhame and the nearby hamlet of Tyninghame. The location of the grave, combined with the goods inside it, suggests that skeleton could be Olaf himself. Unfortunately, archaeologists said, the evidence is only circumstantial, and with no living relatives for DNA comparison, the identification will remain speculative.
9. An unknown soldier?
After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the mass graves of fallen soldiers were raided for bones, which were ground up and used to fertilize fields in what is now Belgium. As a result, few full skeletons from the battle have been found.
But in 2012, a construction crew discovered the complete skeleton of a Waterloo casualty. The musket ball that killed the man was still lodged in his ribcage. Nearby were 20 coins, a spoon and a piece of wood engraved "CB," according to The Independent.
It wasn't enough to identify the man. That is, until archaeologists noticed the traces of an "F" before the "CB" and a military historian named Gareth Glover took up the case. By cross-referencing records of German soldiers who fought in the battle, Glover was able to determine that only one German with those initials had died: a 23 year-old named Friedrich Brandt.
As of June 2015, the body identified as Brandt was on display at the Lion's Mound Museum & Visitor Centre in Belgium.
10. Which Philip?
But which relatives? The debate boils down to two camps: those who believe the male tomb occupant to be Philip II, the father of Alexander who set the stage for his son's unprecedented conquests, and those who believe the skeleton belongs to Philip III Arrhidaios, Alexander's less-illustrious half-brother who ruled as a figurehead briefly after Alexander's death. (The female skeleton is presumed to be the wife, or one of the wives, of these men.)
Examinations of the bones have yet to yield any firm proof either way. Archaeologists argue over whether the bodies were cremated right after death, or later &mdash Philip III was buried for more than a year before being exhumed for a royal cremation and funeral. They also bicker over whether the bones show signs of Philip II's known battle wounds. Ultimately, the bodies may not even provide the final clues, said Maria Liston, an anthropologist at the University of Waterloo who studies cremated remains.
"It's going to have to be, in the end, based a little bit at looking at the bones, but honestly on the dates of the pottery [in the tomb] and things like that," Liston told Live Science.
Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
INTRICATE BELONGINGS FOUND
The most “significant” find is a male skeleton buried inside a wooden coffin.
This chieftain’s head was raised as if it rested on a pillow and he wore a cape decorated with gold plagues.
Archaeologists found his collection of knives, items of gold, a small mirror and different pots, evidently signalling his elite status.
They collected a gold and turquoise belt buckle and the chief's dagger along with a tiny gold horse’s head which was buried between his legs, and other intricate jewellery.
Nearby was a woman with a bronze mirror who had been buried with a sacrificial offering of a whole lamb, along with various stone items, the meaning of which is unclear.
Another grave contained an elderly man, and buried with him was the head of his horse, its skull still dressed in an intricate harness richly decorated with silver and bronze.
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The burials date to about 2,000 years ago, a period when the Sarmatian nomadic tribes held sway in what is now southern Russia.
Govenor of the region, Sergey Morozov, said: “These finds will help us understand what was happening here at the dawn of civilisation.”
Excavation is continuing at the site.
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Archaeologists Unearth Celtic Warrior Grave Complete With Chariot, Elaborate Shield
An Iron Age chariot burial found in Yorkshire, England, is reshaping archaeologists’ understanding of Celtic art and weaponry.
As Mike Laycock reports for the York Press, researchers uncovered the Celtic warrior’s elaborate grave while conducting excavations at a housing development in the town of Pocklington last year. The soldier, who was at least 46 years old when he died, was laid to rest atop a shield placed in an upright chariot drawn by two horses.
Per Melanie Giles, an archaeologist at the University of Manchester, the shield—dated to between 320 and 174 B.C.—is “the most important British Celtic art object of the millennium.”
Experts unveiled the shield, which has been newly cleaned and conserved, earlier this month. The full results of the team’s investigation will be published in spring 2020.
Paula Ware, an archaeologist who worked on the project, tells Laycock the shield was made in the La Tène style typical of early Celtic art. It depicts organic forms like mollusk shells, as well as triskele, or triple spiral designs that draw the eye to the shield’s raised center. Unlike other Iron Age shields found across Europe, the artifact has a scalloped edge.
According to artnet News’ Caroline Elbaor, conservators spotted a puncture hole in the shield, which also shows signs of centuries-old repairs.
“The popular belief is that elaborate metal-faced shields were purely ceremonial, reflecting status, but not used in battle,” Ware says to Alex Wood of the Yorkshire Post. “Our investigation challenges this with the evidence of a puncture wound in the shield typical of a sword. Signs of repairs can also be seen, suggesting the shield was not only old but likely to have been well-used.”
The rest of the warrior’s grave is impressive, too: His horses, for instance, were placed with their hooves on the ground and rear legs positioned as if preparing to leap out of the grave. The researchers haven’t been able to determine if the horses were led into the grave and sacrificed or killed before burial, but Ware says the fact that the man was interred alongside food, weapons and transportation indicates the individuals who laid him to rest believed he would soon move on to another locale.
“This discovery provides valuable additional evidence demonstrating how the ancient Britons loved their chariots,” Giles tells the Independent’s Zoe Tidman. “It is conceivable that the dead man’s family and his community believed that the chariot would help him to reach the next world or would be useful to him when he got there.”
Ware tells Wood the researchers are unsure exactly how the warrior died.
“There are some blunt force traumas but they wouldn’t have killed him,” she says. “I don’t think he died in battle it is highly likely he died in old age. What his role was I can’t tell you. He has collected some nice goodies along the way—he is definitely not run of the mill.”
As Wood writes for the Yorkshire Post, the grave also contained a bronze brooch, a red glass dragonfly brooch, and the bones of six piglets—including a rib with a feasting fork stuck in it—likely sacrificed with the warrior.
The team found the remains of a 17- to 25-year-old man who had been ritually impaled with 10 iron and bone spears about 200 feet away from the warrior’s burial site. Pieces of a broken shield were scattered across this younger individual’s grave.
According to Tidman, archaeologists have unearthed some 20 chariot burials across the United Kingdom over the past 100 years, but none of the others boasted actual horses. Per Owen Jarus of Live Science, other significant chariot burials, including some featuring the remains of horses, have previously been found in Bulgaria, France and Georgia.
About Jason Daley
Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.
Hundreds of Roman graves have been found by archaeologists, some of which contain skeletons still bound by shackles on their necks and ankles.
A building site about 250 m west of the amphitheater of Saintes once used for fighting between gladiators and the wild animals is an incredible excavation.
Among the hundreds of graves found, five skeletons – four adults and one child – were found shackled or chained.
Dating back to the first and second centuries AD, the gravesite is thought to have been an important necropolis used for those massacred at the nearby stadium.
Construction on the Saintes amphitheater began during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) and was completed under Claudius (A.D. 41-54). In its finished state, the arena could hold around 18,000 people. Today, it is the largest remaining amphitheater in France, as well as the oldest.
Archaeologists began digging at the site of the necropolis—located 250 meters west of the Saintes amphitheater—last year. It was typical for Roman necropolises, used for burials and cremations, to be located in the countryside, outside major towns and cities.
The Saintes burial ground contains hundreds of graves, which archaeologists have dated to the first and second centuries A.D. Experts believe the necropolis may have been used for those who died at the nearby stadium, during the gladiatorial combats that were common during Roman times.
Among the hundreds of sets of human remains at Saintes, the scientists uncovered a particularly unsettling find: five skeletons wearing riveted iron shackles of various types, suggesting that the deceased might have been slaves.
Even more disturbingly, one of the skeletons belonged to a child. Three of the adults had their ankles bound by iron chains, while the fourth was shackled at the neck and the child had a chain attached to his or her wrist.This group of four people was buried head-to-toe in a small, trench-style grave
Archaeologists previously discovered shackled skeletons in the 2005 excavation of a cemetery in York, England, which also dated back to the days of the Roman occupation.
Researchers at the time proposed that the remains belonged to slaves, who were often forced to fight each other to the death in Roman gladiatorial contests. (Some of these gruesome battles pitted an armed man or woman against another combatant who was unarmed.) In the case of the York cemetery, some of the shackled bodies were found with bite marks, suggesting wild animals might have killed the victims in the gladiatorial arena.
The archaeologists now hope to determine a cause of death for the individuals found buried in the Saintes necropolis, as well as their status during their lifetime, and whether all those buried there were members of the same community.
Many of the skeletons were buried in pairs, laid out side by side with their heads and toes touching in rectangular pits that resembled trenches.
While some ancient Romans were buried with their possessions, the graves at Saintes contain almost no artifacts, except for several vases recovered beside the body of one man.
One skeleton—belonging to a child—was found with coins placed over the eyes, a common practice in Roman times.
Romans believed a river separated the world of the living from that of the death, and that the coins enabled the dead person’s spirit to pay the ferryman for safe passage across that river to the afterlife.
2000-Year-Old Skeleton Found at Ancient Shipwreck
Human remains are a rare find for sunken ships. Discovering a skeleton in one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world is even rarer. But that's what happened in late August in Greece, at the site of the Antikythera wreck, where the Antikythera mechanism, sometimes called the world's first computer, was discovered more than a century ago. The skeleton likely belonged to a young man who became trapped in the cargo vessel when it crashed into rocks and sank around 65 BCE.
The largest ancient sunken ship ever found, the Antikythera wreck was first discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. Located about 150 feet below the surface on a steep slope of the sea floor, the site has yielded some spectacular finds, including coins, pottery, glassware, marble statues, and, famously, the Antikythera mechanism, a unique device used to calculate dates and astronomical events.
A team of divers and marine archaeologists has been revisiting the site over the past several years to map what’s left of the wreck and look for other buried artifacts. They began their latest field season on August 31 with a rare discovery.
“On the first dive of this season, within the first few minutes of hitting the sea floor, we found bone,” the co-director of the project, Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), tells mental_floss.
Buried on the sea floor among a mix of sand, rock, and a jumble of broken pottery, the array of skeletal remains included arm bones, both femurs, teeth, and several fragments of different ribs. Most of the skull was also uncovered, though not fully intact it was fractured in different places and broke into several pieces once the sediment surrounding it was removed, Foley says. They believe the remains all belong to the same person.
Because the femurs were quite robust and the teeth were not worn down too much, the team thinks the skeleton might have belonged to a young adult male, perhaps in his mid-20s.
It might not ever be possible to say how this person died—whether he drowned or got crushed, for instance. But the researchers might be able to glean other information about this shipwreck victim if they can extract ancient DNA from the bones. Genetic sequences obtained from the skeletal remains could reveal ancestry of the individual, which could also shed light on the identity of the crew.
“We could even get an idea of what this individual would have looked like,” ancient DNA expert Hannes Schroeder, of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, tells mental_floss. “But I think more interesting for me is where he may have come from. That, I think, would add a lot to the Antikythera story.”
The skeletal remains of about four individuals had actually been found at the Antikythera wreck in the 1970s when ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau excavated the site. But it’s “exceedingly rare” to find brittle bones at shipwreck sites, especially ancient ones, Foley says: “As far as we know, this is the first skeleton discovered from a shipwreck since the invention of ancient-DNA studies.”
Skeletal remains have been found at more recent wrecks, such as the Vasa, a Swedish ship that sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm in 1628, and the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship that sank into clay seabeds during a battle off the coast of England in 1545.
Schroeder was brought to Greece to analyze the recovered remains earlier this month. The team is now seeking permission from the Greek authorities to get samples of the bones for a full suite of analyses, including an attempt at extracting ancient DNA.
“It’s hard to know what to expect, because it’s pretty unusual to find remains like this,” Schroeder said. Most ancient DNA studies thus far have been done on samples from terrestrial, temperate climates. “We won’t know until we’ve tried.”
‘Rare’ 2,000-year-old grave of Iron Age warrior discovered in West Sussex
The “incredibly rare” 2,000-year-old grave of an Iron Age “warrior” has been unearthed by archaeologists in West Sussex.The grave of a 2,000 year-old Iron Age ‘warrior’
The recently-revealed burial site, one of only a handful known in the south of England, featured an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard.
The grave was discovered during excavations ahead of the building of 175 new homes near Chichester.
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The team that made the discovery were from Archaeology South-East (ASE), the commercial branch of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.
ASE archaeologist Jim Stevenson, who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: “There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life.
“Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one?
“Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.”
The grave dates back to the late Iron Age/early Roman period (first century BC to AD50).
Archaeologists say it is “incredibly rare”, as only a handful are known to exist in the south of England.Several pots were unearthed during the excavation
X-rays and initial conservation of the sword and scabbard reveal beautiful copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was worn in life.
Dotted lines on the X-ray may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the occupant when buried.
This is particularly exciting for the archaeologists, as evidence of clothing rarely survives.
The grave also held the remains of a wooden container, preserved as a dark stain, probably used to lower the individual into the grave.The sword which was unearthed during the excavation of the grave
Four ceramic vessels were placed outside this container, but still within the grave.
The vessels are jars made from local clays and would usually have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage.
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It is likely that they were placed in the grave as containers for funerary offerings, perhaps intended to provide sustenance for the deceased in the afterlife.
Archaeologists are continuing to investigate this new discovery and hope to find out more about the identity and social status of the individual, and the local area and landscape around that time.
Archaeologists Have Discovered The Perfectly Preserved Remains Of A Roman Skeleton In Cumbria, England
While archaeologists were busy excavating a medieval site in Cumbria, they were surprised to discover the perfectly preserved remains of a Roman skeleton in a field very close to Bridekirk.
As Cumbria Crack reports, the skeleton was unearthed while archaeologists were studying an area where a new water pipeline had just been installed by United Utilities. While archaeologists fully expected to find nothing but medieval remains and structures at this location, they ended up finding not only the Roman skeleton but also large amounts of pottery, coins, heating tiles, and an ancient oven.
As CFA archaeologist Phil Mann described, "Literally as we took the grass off we exposed the foundations of the medieval building, but what we didn't expect to find underneath were the foundations for a very unusual large Roman structure containing the remains of a kiln or oven with evidence of burning still present."
Beneath a large amount of backfill very close to this medieval building, archaeologists noticed a skeleton placed carefully upon the floor. While grave cuts are normally visible at the start of excavations, nothing prepared archaeologists for the discovery of the Roman remains in Cumbria, which suggested to those involved that the body had been placed at the site sometime during the medieval era.
Grisly discovery as archaeological dig sheds new light on Cumbria’s Roman past https://t.co/qHz55H9Dcl pic.twitter.com/szb3xlG4XG&mdash Cumbria Crack (@CumbriaCrack) March 19, 2019
When archaeologists studied the Roman skeleton to ascertain whether foul play had been involved, they determined that a violent death had not occurred and that the individual in question had most likely endured some form of degenerative joint disease. While it is not yet known whether this disease may have played a role in his death, the man did die sometime between the age of 35 and 40 while still suffering from this ailment.
While Mann noted that archaeologists are still uncertain as to why the Roman man was buried at the Cumbria site, an investigation into his association with this location is currently ongoing, as is the work centered around the remains of the Roman building that was also found here.
Archaeologists discover man whose tongue was replaced by a stone
A gruesome and seemingly unique mutilation has emerged from a Roman Britain burial site in Northamptonshire – the skeleton of a man whose tongue had apparently been amputated and replaced with a flat stone wedged into his mouth.
The man had been interred face down, perhaps amid fears that his corpse would rise to threaten people once again, archaeologists believe.
The burial site, at Stanwick near the river Nene, dates from the third or fourth century, when people would have lived in small farming communities. It was discovered in 1991, but only now has research been conducted by archaeologists and other specialists at Historic England, formerly English Heritage.
Simon Mays, Historic England’s human skeletal biologist, told the Guardian that such a Romano-British mutilation was thought to be unique. He said: “This isn’t something that’s been identified so far in the archaeological records. So it’s identifying a new practice … The fact that he’s buried face down in the grave is consistent with somebody whose behaviour marked them out as odd or threatening within a community.”
The skeleton was found buried face down, which researchers believe may imply the man had been feared as a threat to the community. Photograph: Historic England
Ageing techniques are imprecise, but the man is believed to have been in his 30s at the time of his death.
One theory is that he had mental health issues and severed his own tongue. Another is that the amputation was a form of punishment.
Mays said: “There are Germanic law codes which talk about cutting people’s tongues out because they spread malicious accusations against other people. We’re looking into it at the moment, but I don’t know whether there are any Roman laws to that effect. Feedback I’ve had hasn’t indicated that there were … although that is of course still possible. We don’t know much about practices in Roman Britain as opposed to Rome itself.”
Asked how archaeologists know the tongue was amputated, Mays explained: “What gave us this idea is that there are other burials from Roman Britain where missing body parts in the grave are replaced by objects at the appropriate anatomical location. There are only about 10 of these that we’ve so far been able to identify. The great majority are decapitations, where you’ve got a stone or a pot placed where the head should be. We thought that, because of this, perhaps a stone could replace the tongue because it’s in the front part of the mouth where the tongue ought to be.”