Category Archives: ENGLAND

800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Discovered in UK

800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Discovered in UK

Archaeologists today announced the discovery of a series of footprints left by a group of adults and children about 800,000 years ago. The prints were first discovered and recorded on the foreshore at Happisburgh in Norfolk, England, in May 2013.

Human footprints, thought to be more than 800,000 years old, discovered at Happisburgh, England

“At first we weren’t sure what we were seeing, but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints,” said Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum, the lead author of a paper published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

Footprint surface.

Using a technique called photogrammetry, Dr Ashton and his colleagues recorded the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away. The analysis of images confirmed that the elongated hollows were indeed ancient human footprints, perhaps of five individuals.

The analysis showed that the prints were from a range of adult and juvenile foot sizes and that in some cases the heel, arch and even toes could be identified, equating to modern shoes of up to U.S. size 9-10 (European 39-41).

800,000-year-old human footprint.

“In some cases we could accurately measure the length and width of the footprints and estimate the height of the individuals who made them. In most populations today and in the past foot length is approximately 15 percent of height,” explained co-author Dr Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moores University.

“We can therefore estimate that the heights varied from about 0.9 m to over 1.7 m. This height range suggests a mix of adults and children with the largest print possibly being a male.”

Model of footprint surface produced from photogrammetric survey with enlarged photo of a footprint showing toe impressions.

Over the last ten years the sediments at Happisburgh have revealed a series of sites with stone tools and fossil bones, dating back to over 800,000 years. This latest discovery is from the same deposits.

“Although we knew that the sediments were old, we had to be certain that the hollows were also ancient and hadn’t been created recently,” said co-author Dr Simon Lewis from Queen Mary University of London.

“There are no known erosional processes that create that pattern. In addition, the sediments are too compacted for the hollows to have been made recently.”

Model of footprint surface generated from photogrammetric survey.

The age of the site, 800,000 years ago, is based on its geological position beneath the glacial deposits that form the cliffs, but also the association with extinct animals.

The site also preserves plant remains and pollen, together with beetles and shells, which allows a detailed reconstruction of the landscape. At this time Britain was linked by land to continental Europe and the site at Happisburgh would have been on the banks of a wide estuary several miles from the coast. There would have been muddy freshwater pools on the floodplain with salt marsh and coast nearby.

Deer, bison, mammoth, hippo and rhino grazed the river valley, surrounded by more dense coniferous forest. The estuary provided a rich array of resources for the early humans with edible plant tubers, seaweed and shellfish nearby, while the grazing herds would have provided meat through hunting or scavenging.

Fossil remains of our forebears are still proving elusive.

“The humans who made the Happisburgh footprints may well have been related to the people of similar antiquity from Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor. These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal.

They seem to have become extinct in Europe by 600,000 years ago and were perhaps replaced by the species Homo heidelbergensis.

Neanderthals followed from about 400,000 years ago, and eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago,” said co-author Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, UK.

The importance of the Happisburgh footprints is highlighted by the rarity of footprints surviving elsewhere.

Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are more ancient.

“These footprints provide a very tangible link to our forebears and deep past,” Dr Ashton concluded.

Archaeologists Uncover 2,000-year-old Wooden Bridge Linking England and Wales

Archaeologists Uncover 2,000-year-old Wooden Bridge Linking England and Wales

In the historic town of Chepstow, often referred to as the “gateway to Wales,” a team of archaeologists recently made a remarkable discovery.

Nestled beneath the shadow of a 950-year-old Norman castle and hidden within the muddy banks of the River Wye, this discovery has unveiled a fascinating piece of history that uniquely connects England and Wales.

Chepstow, with its 12th-century Norman castle and rich history, is known for its strategic importance throughout various periods. The town’s historical significance goes beyond its medieval fortress, as archaeologists have previously uncovered evidence of prehistoric, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon fortifications within its borders.

However, the most recent revelation has taken historians and archaeologists by surprise. During an “extreme low tide event,” researchers stumbled upon a remarkably preserved wooden bridge, believed to have been constructed by the Romans around 2,000 years ago.

This ancient structure, hidden beneath layers of mud for centuries, served as a vital link between England and Wales long before the modern boundaries of these two countries existed.

Simon Maddison, a member of the Chepstow Archaeological Society (CAS), described the discovery, saying, “The team was able to locate upright timbers in a tidal pool on the location of the Roman crossing.

Until the results come back, we won’t know for sure the period of the structure. We are thrilled with what we were able to achieve and await dating results with keen anticipation.”

The wooden bridge’s existence suggests that it was a critical passageway for travelers between Wales and England for centuries, facilitating trade, communication, and cultural exchange during a time when modern transportation networks were nonexistent.

This discovery was made possible due to a fortuitous two-hour “extreme low tide event,” during which the upright timbers of the bridge became visible in a tidal pool just off the riverbed.

The excavation process involved exposing substantial timbers and intricate joints, likely part of the original pier and cutwater structure.

Researchers collected timber samples for dendrochronological and potential Carbon-14 dating, which will provide more precise information about the bridge’s age.

Assisting the CAS team during the excavation were members of the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA), who played a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the researchers navigating the challenging and sticky mud of the riverbank.

Simon Maddison expressed gratitude for SARA’s assistance, stating, “The mud was very dense and very sticky, and we frequently got stuck in it. Without SARA, it would have been impossibly dangerous.”

This remarkable crossing, predating the existing Monmouth and Chepstow bridges, offers a unique glimpse into the region’s ancient past. Interestingly, it was first discovered and partially excavated back in 1911 by Dr. Orville Owen, an early pioneer in the field of archaeology.

Despite being recorded at the time and appearing on an old Ordnance Survey map, the bridge’s precise location remained a mystery, buried beneath layers of mud.

Chepstow’s rich history traces back to ancient times. Archaeological evidence indicates that the area was inhabited during the prehistoric period, featuring various ancient fortifications and settlements. During the Roman era, Chepstow was a significant settlement, serving as a key point along the Roman road network.

Subsequently, the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings left their mark on Chepstow before it was conquered by the Normans in the 11th century. The construction of Chepstow Castle by Norman lord William FitzOsbern marked the town’s transformation into a strategic stronghold, a legacy that endures to this day.

3,000-Year – old wooden wheel discovered in Doomed Bronze Age town

3,000-Year – old wooden wheel discovered in Doomed Bronze Age town

In the ruins of a prehistoric town in eastern England, a 3000-year-old wooden wheel was discovered. Archaeologists said the Bronze Age wheel is the largest and best-preserved of its kind, dating back to 1100-800 B.C.

The wheel was extracted during a dig at the Must Farm in Peterborough, measuring approximately 3 feet(1 meter) and with a hub still intact. According to an announcement from Historic England, a heritage organization that is partly funding the excavation.

“This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain,” Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said in a statement.

He added that the discovery expands the understanding of the technological sophistication of people living in the region 3,000 years ago.

Must Farm, which was first discovered in 1999, has been described as “Peterborough’s Pompeii.” Pompeii was a Roman city that was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

Ash from that volcanic eruption left the town extraordinarily well-preserved, with elaborate murals and graffiti still intact on the walls of its buildings. Like Pompeii, the Must Farm site was frozen in time through catastrophe.

The circular wooden houses of the Must Farm site were built on stilts above a river channel, the old course of the River Nene. But a devastating fire caused the dwellings to plunge into —and become preserved in —the sandy water below, archaeologists said.

In addition to finding the wooden houses, excavators uncovered some rare items that might not normally survive in the archaeological record: a wooden platter, wooden utensils, clothing made from the fiber of lime trees and even jars containing the remains of food, perhaps abandoned when the fire broke out, the researchers said.

The Must Farm was partially excavated in 2006, but the site is currently undergoing a larger, £1.1-million ($1.58 million U.S.), eight-month excavation.

The archaeologists said they plan to dig trenches across nearly 12,000 square feet (1,100 square meters) of the site. They’re about halfway done with the project, according to Historic England.

In another clue that people of this era were quite savvy about transportation, eight Bronze Age boats were recovered from the same river in 2011. The discovered wheel suggests the people at the Must Farm site traveled to and had ties with the dry land beyond the river.

Technically, the new find isn’t the oldest Bronze Age wheel found in Britain. That distinction still belongs to the Flag Fen wheel, which was found at a nearby site and dates back to about 1300 B.C.  However, that artifact is less complete than the newly discovered wheel and is smaller, at about 2.6 feet (0.8 m) in diameter.

Farmer Stumbles Onto Egyptian Pharaoh’s 2,600-Year-Old Stone Slab

Farmer Stumbles Onto Egyptian Pharaoh’s 2,600-Year-Old Stone Slab

A farmer in northeastern Egypt was preparing his land for crop planting when he discovered an intricately carved sandstone slab that appears to have been installed by the pharaoh Apries 2,600 years ago.

Archaeologists are working to decipher the slab’s 15 lines of hieroglyphs.

The standing stone—also known as a stele, or stela—measures 91 inches long and 41 inches wide. It features a carving of a winged sun disk and a cartouche, or oval enclosing Egyptian hieroglyphs, representing Apries, reports Owen Jarus .

Per Encyclopedia Britannica, stelae were used across the ancient world as tombstones or symbols of “dedication, commemoration and demarcation.”

After the farmer who found the slab reported it to government authorities, the director of the Ismailia Antiquities District and other archaeological experts confirmed its authenticity.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, says in a statement that the artifact appears to be connected to a military campaign the pharaoh was waging east of Egypt. The slab includes 15 lines of hieroglyphs that experts are now working to translate.

As the Jerusalem Post’s Aaron Reich writes, Apries was also known as Wahibre Haaibre, or, in Hebrew, Hophra. He was the fourth ruler of the 26th dynasty, reigning from about 589 to 570 B.C.

Apries unsuccessfully tried to help King Zedekiah of Judah ward off an invasion by Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the pharaoh welcomed Jewish refugees into Egypt after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.

The campaign mentioned may refer to the fighting in Jerusalem or separate a civil war in Egypt. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus described a coup against Apries in which a general named Amasis was declared pharaoh and Apries made a failed attempt to regain power.

Only a few artifacts, such as this fragment of a statue, offer clues about King Apries.

Apries’ rule took place during what’s known as Egypt’s Late Period (roughly 664 to 332 B.C.), around 2,000 years after the construction of the Pyramids of Giza and more than 200 years before Alexander the Great’s arrival in the region.

As Mustafa Marie reports for Egypt Today, much of what historians know about Apries comes from Herodotus and the Torah, as only a few artifacts from his rule have been found in Lower Egypt.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art notes that images of 26th dynasty kings are rare, but one known fragment of a statue probably depicts the enigmatic pharoah.

Archaeologists also attribute a structure in the ancient capital city of Memphis, where a gateway was decorated with scenes depicting the Festival of the White Hippopotamus, to Apries.

Thanks to the recent discovery of hundreds of coffins at the ancient site of Saqqara, researchers are now learning more about Late Period Egypt.

As Jo Marchant reports in Smithsonian magazine’s July/August cover story, many of the sarcophagi bear signs of animal cults that thrived during the Late Period, perhaps because they were seen as a symbol of national identity in the face of foreign threats.

Saqqara—the subject of “Tomb Hunters,” a new documentary series from the Smithsonian Channel—was not just a local cemetery, but a pilgrimage site that drew visitors from across the eastern Mediterranean.

“Saqqara would have been the place to be seen dead in,” Campbell Price, a curator at the Manchester Museum in England, tells Smithsonian. “It had this numinous, divine energy that would help you get into the afterlife.”

Metal Detecting Event Uncovers Significant Roman Hoard in UK

Metal Detecting Event Uncovers Significant Roman Hoard in UK

A ‘significant hoard’ of Roman items discovered in England last year by an amateur detectorist has gone on display, much to the delight of history enthusiasts and archaeologists involved in the dig.

The discovery included a collection of pewter plates, platters, bowls, and a cup. The manner in which these vessels were buried strongly indicates that they were deliberately placed, possibly for the purpose of safekeeping or as an offering, according to experts.

Starting from now until January 2024, these remarkable artifacts can be enjoyed by the public at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon village, located near Bury St Edmunds in the form of a temporary exhibition, according to a press release by the Suffolk City Council . 

This hoard has been traced to the late Roman period in Britain, towards the end of the 4th century AD.

Part of the hoard of Roman pewter found at Euston.

An Organized Metal Detecting Event, An Amateur To the Rescue

The uncovering of this hoard took place in September 2022 on the Duke of Grafton’s Euston estate, in Suffolk, England. Martin White, who was participating in an organized metal detecting event, stumbled upon this remarkable treasure.

Examining the Vessels: Plow Damage and the Late Roman Period

The vessels have endured heavy plow damage and advanced corrosion has fused several of them together, reports Arkeonews. The main stack contained five plates and platters nested on top of each other.

The main stack of pewter plates fused together due to corrosion.

It is worth noting that during the late Roman period , which is the era to which the vessels have been traced, Britain was a part of the vast Roman Empire , as aforementioned. This period extends from the momentous invasion led by Emperor Claudius in AD 43 until the early 5th century.

Councilor Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Protected Landscapes and Archaeology, said.

It is interesting to observe that, due to the hoard’s Roman origins and composition of pewter, it does not meet the criteria for classification as “Treasure” under the 1996 Treasure Act. Nonetheless, the historical and archaeological value of these artifacts remains undeniable.

Councilor Ian Shipp, also the Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture at West Suffolk Council, provides concluding words of wisdom. He explained that it provides an entryway for the local people to also participate in the history and culture of their region, along with adding a new historical strand to the Roman story of colonization in this part of the world. This was a critical juncture before the settlement at West Stow was beginning.

Anglo-Saxon Ivory Rings Found in Britain Came from African Elephants

Anglo-Saxon Ivory Rings Found in Britain Came from African Elephants

Unusual rings made from ivory have been unearthed in dozens of early Anglo-Saxon burials in England. The origin of the Anglo-Saxon ivory rings had remained a mystery for 200 years, but scientific testing carried out by a team of researchers from multiple universities in the UK has revealed that the ivory came from African elephants who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

The researchers, who have just published the results of their study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports , were even able to determine that the elephants lived in East Africa. This means that the ivory was actually sourced nearly 4,000 miles (6,400 km) away from the cemeteries in which the Anglo-Saxon ivory rings were found.

This is an extraordinary distance for ivory to have been transported, given what is known about travel and trade in the first millennium AD. Nevertheless, this remarkable discovery suggests that a trading network must have existed at that time that connected eastern Africa with western Europe, despite the incredible separation in distance.

Anglo-Saxon Ivory Rings of Honor and Status Unearthed in England

Anglo-Saxon ivory rings have been discovered inside excavated graves in approximately 70 cemeteries in central, eastern and southern England. They have been found exclusively in the graves of elite Anglo-Saxon women who lived between the late fifth and early seventh centuries. Archaeologists know these were women of wealth and importance, since their tombs were furnished with elaborate collections of valuable grave goods.

The rings themselves are somewhat enigmatic, as they resemble rings worn on fingers in shape but are much too large to have fulfilled that purpose. This indicates they were not jewelry and must have been used for something else.

The current working hypothesis is that they were bag rings, made to hold open small cloth bags that were worn around the waist. Presumably such bags were worn as a fashion statement, and the use of rings made from valuable ivory to keep them open suggests they were viewed as a luxury item.

Until now, researchers had only been able to speculate about the rings’ origins. They weren’t certain if the ivory used to make them had come from elephants, walruses or mammoths. Before this study, they didn’t know where it had been collected or purchased.

Burial of an Anglo-Saxon female unearthed in Scremby, Lincolnshire. The ivory ring bag was found at her left hip.

Analysis of Anglo-Saxon Ivory Ring Provides Answers

The team of UK researchers performed an extensive analysis of a single bag ring, which was taken from an early Anglo-Saxon burial found in an ancient cemetery near the village of Scremby in Lincolnshire. This cemetery was in use from the late fifth through the early sixth centuries, and the ring was one of seven removed from excavated Anglo-Saxon graves.

To discover which animal the ivory came from, the researchers removed a sample of collagen for chemical analysis. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the bodies of mammals, and it can be found in ivory samples even if they are several centuries old.

Using this methodology, the researchers were able to prove that the ivory came from the tusk of an African elephant. They also performed a radiocarbon dating test on the ring, and this showed that the elephant had lived in the fifth century AD.

With this information in hand, the research team then took measurements of the ivory’s strontium isotope ratios . Strontium is an element absorbed by animals from the surrounding environment, and by measuring its different forms in a biological sample it is possible to tell where an ancient animal lived before it died.

In this case, the strontium measurements showed that the ivory had come from an elephant living in a geological area with a lot of young volcanic rocks. According to Hugh Willmott, this indicates that the elephant lived in the Rift Valley region of East Africa—which is 4,000 miles away from the cemetery where the ivory ring was found.

Anglo-Saxon ivory ring bag and girdle hangers discovered at burial in Scremby.

Tracking the Long-Distance Ivory Trade in the First Millennium AD

Archaeologists unearthed the first bag rings in England more than two centuries ago. Hundreds have been removed from Anglo-Saxon burials over the years, and a few have even been found at gravesites outside the UK, in northwestern Europe.

The rings are large, measuring between four and six inches (10 to 15 cm) in diameter. They have only been found in the graves of wealthy Anglo-Saxon women, often right alongside curious collections of small artifacts. Archaeologists have concluded these items must have been stored in cloth bags attached to the rings, and when the bags decayed into oblivion the items spilled out in mixed piles.

Willmott noted that the objects that were once held in these bags “tend to be quite random. Broken Copper, Roman coins, things like that.” In other words, the bags were the equivalent of purses today, employed to hold items used on a daily basis. Ancient purses attached to ivory rings undoubtedly would have been coveted by Anglo-Saxon women rich enough to afford them.

Because no ivory workshops have ever been found at Anglo-Saxon sites, the researchers believe the ivory would have been carved into rings in Africa before being exchanged or sold as value-added items. Notably, excavations at Eastern African sites linked to the ancient Christian Kingdom of Aksum (modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia) have unearthed significant evidence of ivory working. Meanwhile, historical literature refers to the Aksumites as major dealers of high-quality ivory items from the third through the seventh centuries AD.

On the Anglo-Saxons end, previous excavations have already established that they were importing goods from elsewhere into England during the first millennium. Valued items that Anglo-Saxon elites acquired through trade included amber beads from the Baltic region, cowrie shells from India or the Red Sea region, amethyst beads from the eastern Mediterranean and glass containers from France.

Up to now, what has been missing is solid evidence relating to the specific trade routes that were used to bring these objects to the British Isles. But as this new study makes clear, the geographical range of available trade routes 1,500 years ago must have been quite impressive.

The Anglo-Saxon ivory rings were apparently imported into England for over 100 years. But their use seems to have stopped in the seventh century, possibly because the African ivory trade with Aksum was interrupted following the expansion of Islamic people into North Africa. The newcomers may have seized control of ivory resources in the region, ultimately changing the dynamics of ivory exchange not just in Africa but in the world at large.

Ancient Death Pit of Sacrificed and Butchered Humans Found in England

Ancient Death Pit of Sacrificed and Butchered Humans Found in England

Sometimes archaeologists happen upon discoveries that are stark reminders to our animalistic past and such was the case last week in Oxfordshire, England.

A team of Thames Water engineers laying water pipes in a chalk stream were shocked to discover an ancient death pit of “dozens of human skeletons”, many of which show signs of having been brutally sacrificed almost 3,000 years ago.

Some of the human remains found in the ancient death pit in Oxfordshire, England.

Discovering the Ancient Death Pit

Archaeologists were immediately called in and they soon began excavating what turned out to be artifacts from an ancient Iron Age settlement .

A selection of tools and animal parts, including a horse’s skull, were recovered along with body parts from 26 individuals dating to the British Iron Age and Roman periods .

One person was found with their skull placed by their feet and a woman was discovered with her feet chopped off and her arms tied behind her head.

One person was found with their skull placed by their feet in the ancient death pit found in Oxfordshire.

A CNN article quotes Paolo Guarino, Cotswold Archaeology project officer, who released a statement claiming that the team of archaeologists inspecting the human remains believe they were involved in creating England’s iconic ‘ Uffington White Horse’ , a vast prehistoric chalked geo-glyph located on a hill near the location where the bodies were recovered.

He said, “The results from the analysis of the artefacts, animal bones, the human skeletons and the soil samples will help us add some important information to the history of the communities that occupied these lands so many years ago.”

The White horse is a tribal symbol and archaeologist Joshua Pollard pointed out that the horse aligns with the midwinter sun, when it appears to overtake the horse, reflecting mythological beliefs that the sun was carried across the sky on a horse or in a chariot ; a motif known as the “ Solar Horse ” across ancient Europe.

And the recently unearthed remains of the people might also be evidence that they were sacrificed to assure the daily return of the Sun.

Satellite view of the Uffington White horse.

Human Sacrifice Wasn’t a Sport, It was Cultural

Neil Holbrook, chief executive of Cotswold Archaeology, told reporters in a statement “The discovery challenges our perceptions about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago.” And, according to Holbrook, the evidence “suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice .”

The archaeologists removed the remains from the site for deeper forensic investigation and hope to learn more about ‘the way’ in which people were sacrificed, which will lead to clearer understanding of ‘why’ it happened.

Way back in 2015 an Ancient Origins article titled, The practice of sacrifice in Iron Age Britain asked “How often were sacrifices made, for what reasons and what – or more interestingly, who – were sacrificed?”

All over the ancient world agricultural and fishing based communities made human sacrifices after floods, plagues, famines, earthquakes and landslides to improve their perceived favor with the gods, asking “for divine forgiveness or foresight, or to apologize for an event or task that might have angered them.” Alternatively, sacrifices were made to assure bountiful harvests and success in impending territorial battles and wars.

One of the skeletons found during the dig at Oxfordshire. ( Thames Water ) Archaeologists believe the bodies may be evidence for human sacrifice.

More Evidence for Ritualized Murder

While the recently discovered bodies were sacrificed 3000 years ago, there is an abundance of evidence for ritualized murder in Britain happening as far back as 5000 years ago.

A 2015 Daily Mail feature discusses findings in Wiltshire, the home of the famous Stonehenge stone circle. Archaeologists discovered that thousands of ancient people stood along great earthen walls surrounding an oval-shaped arena situated in Salisbury Plain and beneath these mounds were thousands of animal bones that had been sacrificed and eaten in huge feasts.

Archaeologists told reporters at the Mail that “When you dig in these areas, you often find pits with animal remains in them. Because the skeletons are intact or in large ‘chunks’, they were probably killed not to be eaten, but as some kind of offering to the gods and the bones suggest pigs were the animal of choice for eating, feasting and sacrificing in the Neolithic period, from 4000 BC to 2500 BC.”

Example of an animal skull, probably from a horse, placed in one of the Iron Age pits at Oxfordshire.

But the archaeologists in Wiltshire also “found humans with arrowheads embedded between vertebrae, and head injuries. They died violently and possibly in sacrifice.”

In contrast to medieval warriors who fell on battlefields and were buried in large groups, ancient bodies are more often found buried individually and within larger, custom built monuments, which suggests they were sacrificed in a religious ceremony.

As ancient hunter gatherers emerged from the wild wooded landscapes of Britain, throwing down their spears for farm tools, and began crafting England’s green fields, it would appear that everything possible was undertaken to assure agricultural success, including lopping the feet off of a woman, according to this new evidence. Ladies, you should be really thankful for pesticides and tractors!

10,000-Year-Old Crayon Found in Ancient Lake Was Used to Decorate Animal Skins

10,000-Year-Old Crayon Found in Ancient Lake Was Used to Decorate Animal Skins

Archaeologists have reportedly discovered a prehistoric, ochre crayon believed to have been used to draw on animal skins 10,000 years ago. The crayon was discovered near the site of an ancient lake in North Yorkshire, England.

Earliest Example of Crayon Discovered?

The area where the crayon was found is near one of the most famous Mesolithic sites in Europe, Star Carr. As the experts suggest, this could be a very important and historic discovery, as it may be the earliest example of a crayon ever found.

The crayon is made of a red mineral pigment called ochre and was unearthed near an ancient lake now covered in peat, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire as BBC News reported .

Archaeologists speculate that the crayon could have possibly been used by humans nearly 10,000 years ago for applying color to their animal skins or for artwork.

The Mesolithic Settlement Site Known as “Star Carr”

Star Carr is a Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) archaeological site, dating to around 9000 BC, just centuries after the end of the last Ice Age. It has become world famous in the archaeological world due to the preservation of artifacts found buried deep in the peat.

These incredibly rare finds include headdresses made from red deer skulls, thought to be used by shamans in ritual practices, barbed points (harpoons) used in hunting and fishing, the “oldest house in Britain”, and the earliest evidence of carpentry that we have in Europe.

The ancient archaeological site of Star Carr in Yorkshire, England.

The man who discovered the site of Star Carr was John Moore, a local amateur archaeologist who found 10 sites in the area from 1947. He carried out a small excavation at Star Carr in 1948 and found some flint, bone and antler.

Contact was made with Grahame Clark, lecturer of Prehistory at the University of Cambridge who was looking to excavate a Mesolithic site which preserved organic materials such as bone, antler and wood. From 1949-1951 Clark excavated Star Carr and published his findings in 1954.

Clark uncovered an amazing array of finds, including an engraved shale pendant which is considered the oldest Mesolithic art in Britain. On what would have been the lakeshore was a platform that appeared to have been made by people.

On top and within this platform the excavators found a range of animal remains: red deer, roe deer, wild boar, elk, auroch (wild cow), birds, beaver, pine marten, hedgehog, hare and badger. Finds of wolf were also made, later thought to be domesticated dog.

There were a lot of flint artefacts and waste including scrapers, probably used for cleaning hides of animals, axes for woodworking and ‘microliths’ which were used as the tips of arrows.

Cooperation between the departments of Archaeology and Physics, brought archaeologists from the University of York to the site again, where they discovered the crayon, along with other items as BBC News reports .

The ochre – a pigment made from clay and sand – crayon has a striped surface and a sharpened point that is considered to have been shaped and scraped in order to produce a red pigment powder.

Red ochre pigment

Dr. Andy Needham, lead author of the study, noted that the latest finds will help researchers to understand Mesolithic life better. “It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for colouring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork.

Colour was a very significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ochre gives you a very vibrant red colour,” he said via BBC News .“ And added, “One of the latest objects we have found looks exactly like a crayon, the tip is faceted and has gone from a rounded end to a really sharpened end, suggesting it has been used.”

More than a Dozen Mysterious Prehistoric Tunnels in Cornwall, England, Mystify Researchers

More than a Dozen Mysterious Prehistoric Tunnels in Cornwall, England, Mystify Researchers

More than a dozen tunnels have been found in Cornwall, England, that are unique in the British Isles. No one knows why Iron Age people created them.

The fact that the ancients supported their tops and sides with stone, suggests that they wanted them to endure, and that they have, for about 2,400 years.

Many of the fogous, as they’re called in Cornish after their word for cave, ogo, were excavated by antiquarians who didn’t keep records, so their purpose is hard to fathom, says a BBC Travel story on the mysterious structures.

The landscape of Cornwall is covered with hundreds of ancient, stone, man-made features, including enclosures, cliff castles, roundhouses, ramparts and forts.

In terms of stone monuments, the Cornwall countryside has barrows, menhirs, dolmens, cairns and of course stone circles. In addition, there are 13 inscribed stones.

The Cornish landscape is dotted with ancient megalithic structures like this Lanyon Quoit Megalith

“Obviously, all of this monument building did not take place at the same time. Man has been leaving his mark on the surface of the planet for thousands of years and each civilisation has had its own method of honouring their dead and/or their deities,” says the site Cornwall in Focus.

The site says Cornwall has 74 Bronze Age structures, 80 from the Iron Age, 55 from the Neolithic and one from the Mesolithic. In addition, there are nine Roman sites and 24 post-Roman.

The Mesolithic dates from 8000 to 4500 BC, so people have been occupying this southwestern peninsula of Britain for a long, long time.

About 150 generations of people worked the land there. But it’s believed the fogous date to the Iron Age, which lasted from about 700 BC to 43 AD. Though they’re unique, the fogou tunnels of Cornwall are similar to souterrains in Scotland, Ireland, Normandy and Brittany, says the BBC.

Carn Euny fogou in Cornwall

The fogous required considerable investment of time and resources “and no one knows why they would have done so,” says the BBC. It’s interesting to note that all 14 of the fogous have been found within the confines of prehistoric settlements.

Because the society was preliterate, there are no written records that explain the enigmatic structures.

“There are only a couple that have been excavated in modern times – and they don’t seem to be structures that really easily give up their secrets,” Susan Greaney, head properties historian of English Heritage, told the BBC.

The mystery of their construction is amplified at Halliggye Fogou, the best-preserved such tunnel in Cornwall. It measures 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) high. The 8.4 -meter-long (27.6 feet) passage narrows at its end in a tunnel 4 meters (13.124 feet) long and .75 meter (2.46 feet) tall.

Main chamber of the Halliggye Fogou

Another tunnel 27 meters (88.6 feet) long branches off to the left of the main chamber and gets darker the farther in one goes. There is what the BBC calls a “final creep” at the end of this passage that has stone lip upon which one could trip.

“In other words, none of it seemed designed for easy access – a characteristic that’s as emblematic of fogous as it is perplexing,” wrote the BBC’s Amanda Ruggeri.

Halliggye Fogou. One of the largest and best preserved of these fogou (curious underground passages) this one originally passed under the rampart of a defended Iron Age settlement.

Some have speculated they were places to hide, though the lintels of many of them are visible on the surface and Ruggeri says they would be forbidding places to stay if one sought refuge.

Still others have speculated they were burial chambers. An antiquarian who entered Halliggye in 1803 wrote that it had funerary urns. But others entered by the hole he made in the roof, and all the urns are gone.

No bones or ashes have been discovered in the six tunnels that modern archaeologists have examined. No remnants of grains have been found, perhaps because the soil is acidic. No ingots from mining have been discovered.

This elimination of storage, mining or burial purposes has led some to speculate that they were perhaps ceremonial or religious structures where people worshiped gods.

Iron Age ‘Mystery’ Murder Victim Found During Roadworks In England

Iron Age ‘Mystery’ Murder Victim Found During Roadworks In England

An Iron Age skeleton with his hands bound has been discovered by HS2 project archaeologists, who believe he may be a murder victim.

The remains of the 2,000-year-old adult male were found face down at Wellwick Farm near Wendover in Buckinghamshire.

Project archaeologist Dr. Rachel Wood described the death as “a mystery” and hopes further analysis will shed light on the “potentially gruesome” find.

A Stonehenge-style wooden formation and Roman burial have also been discovered. They are among a number of finds ranging from the Neolithic Age to the Medieval period unearthed ahead of construction work for the 225mph (362 km/h) rail line.

A ceremonial timber circle at Wellwick Farm

Dr Wood, who works for Fusion JV, said: “Discovering a site showing human activity spanning 4,000 years came as a bit of a surprise to us.”

A large Neolithic circular monument of wooden posts 65m (213 ft) in diameter and aligned with the winter solstice, “similar to Stonehenge”, was uncovered.

The site also has evidence of domestic occupation during the Bronze to Iron Ages (3000BC to AD43), including a roundhouse and animal pits.

During the Roman era it was used for burials and a “high-status” skeleton buried in an “expensive” lead coffin was unearthed.

Several archaeological discoveries have been made at Wellwick Farm, Wendover

Dr. Wood said the fascinating thing about the site was its “persistent use over centuries for the burial of specific, high-status people”. The only exception was the Iron Age skeleton.

Dr. Wood said: “The death of the Wellwick Farm man remains a mystery to us, but there aren’t many ways you end up in a bottom of a ditch, face down, with your hands bound.

We hope our osteologists will be able to shed more light on this potentially gruesome death.”

The HS2 high-speed rail link will connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

It is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe but has been delayed and faced concerns over the exact route and spiraling costs. Its official price tag in 2022 was £56bn but the latest figure was reported to be rising to £106bn.