Category Archives: EUROPE

The Largest Hoard of Viking Treasure Ever Found in Britain has Now Been Revealed to the World

The Largest Hoard of Viking Treasure Ever Found in Britain has Now Been Revealed to the World

The largest hoard of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has now been revealed to the world. In total, there are about 100 intricate pieces, dating to about the 9th and 10th centuries. These rare artifacts were found in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, by Derek McLennan, a metal detectorist.

When McLennan, 47, found the hoard in September 2014, he called his wife with the news of the discovery and was so emotional that she thought he had been in a car accident.

He had been painstakingly searching an unidentified area of Church of Scotland land in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year. McLennan is no stranger to finding treasure. He had been part of a group that discovered more than 300 medieval silver coins shortly before Christmas in 2013.

Derek McLennan, the discoverer of the hoard, holding ingots and arm-rings

Reverend Doctor David Bartholomew, a Church of Scotland minister of a rural Galloway charge, and Mike Smith, the pastor of an Elim Pentecostal Church in Galloway were with McLennan when he made the find.

“We were searching elsewhere when Derek [McLennan] initially thought he’d discovered a Viking gaming piece.” Rev. Dr. Bartholomew recalled that moment. “A short time later, he ran over to us waving a silver arm ring and shouting, ‘Viking!’.”

Now, two years after their discovery and 1,000 years after their burial, the artifacts have been revealed. A silver brooch from Ireland, silk from modern-day Turkey, gold and silver ingots, a bird-shaped pin, crystal, and silver arm rings are just a few of the items found. Interestingly, the oval shape of the arm rings suggests that they were actually worn before they were buried.

Top-level of the Dumfriesshire Hoard shows an early medieval cross with other silver and gold objects

Many of these precious pieces were stashed inside a silver Viking pot, dating from the Carolingian dynasty. At the time of its burial, it was likely already 100 years old and a precious heirloom. It is possibly the largest pot from the Carolingian dynasty found so far.

At the time of the discovery, McLennan noted, “We don’t know what exactly is in the pot, but I hope it could reveal who these artifacts belonged to, or at least where they came from.”

The treasure trove was buried two feet deep in the soil and was separated into two levels. Although all the artifacts found are rare and precious, it was the second, lower level that held the particularly fascinating items. It was the second level where the Carolingian dynasty pot was located.

The excavation was undertaken by Andrew Nicholson, the county archaeologist, and Richard Welander, from Historic Environment Scotland.

According to Welander, “Before removing the objects we took the rather unusual measure of having the pot CT-scanned, in order that we could get a rough idea of what was in there and best plan the delicate extraction process.

That exercise offered us a tantalizing glimpse but didn’t prepare me for what was to come. These stunning objects provide us with unparalleled insight into what was going on in the minds of the Vikings in Galloway all those years ago.”

He continued, “They tell us about the sensibilities of the time, reveal displays of regal rivalries and some of the objects even betray an underlying sense of humor, which the Vikings aren’t always renowned for.”

All the discoverers have been left reeling with their find. Rev. Dr. Bartholomew said, “It was tremendously exciting, especially when we noticed the silver cross lying face-downwards.

It was poking out from under the pile of silver ingots and decorated arm rings, with a finely wound silver chain still attached to it. Here, an archaeologist prepares the cross, which was found at the top level of the hoard, for removal. It was a heart-stopping moment when the local archaeologist turned it over to reveal rich decoration on the other side.”

Early medieval cross

Their excitement is well deserved. Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said of the hoard, “The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

It’s clear that these artifacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.”

An early medieval cross, made of gold, was among the largest artifacts found. Due to its size, it was not located in the Carolingian pot. The cross is engraved with decorations that experts say are highly unusual.

McLennan believes that the engravings may represent the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Richard Welland believes that the carvings “resemble the carvings you can see on the remnants of St Cuthbert’s coffin in Durham Cathedral. For me, the cross opens up the possibility of an intriguing connection with Lindisfarne and Iona.”

Gold bird pin

The Treasure Trove Unit, which is responsible for assessing the value of the find on behalf of the Office of Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, is now in possession of the Viking hoard.

The experts of the unit validated the claim that the find has significant international importance. After being fully examined, the hoard will be offered for allocation to Scottish museums. McLennan is eligible for a reward equal to the market value of the find – a cost that will be met by the successful museum.

Concerning money, an agreement between the landowners — the Church of Scotland General Trustees — and the finder, McLennan has been reached. David Robertson, Secretary to the General Trustees, said, “Any money arising from this will first and foremost be used for the good of the local parish.

Archaeologist Discovered Viking Ship Found Under the Ground in Norway

Archaeologist Discovered Viking Ship Found Under the Ground in Norway

Archaeologists in Norway using ground-penetrating radar have detected one of the largest Viking ship graves ever found. Archaeologists have found the outlines of a Viking ship buried not far from the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

The 65-foot-long ship was covered over more than 1,000 years ago to serve as the final resting place of a prominent Viking king or queen. That makes it one of the largest Viking ship graves ever discovered.

An image generated by ground-penetrating radar reveals the outlines of a Viking ship within a burial mound.  Experts say intact Viking ship graves of this size are vanishingly uncommon.

“I think we could talk about a hundred-year find,” says archaeologist Jan Bill, curator of Viking ships at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. “It’s quite spectacular from an archaeology perspective.”

The site where the ship grave was discovered is well-known. A burial mound 30 feet tall looms over the site, serving as a local landmark visible from the expressway just north of the Swedish border.

But archaeologists thought any archaeological remains in the nearby fields must have been destroyed by farmers’ plows in the late nineteenth century.

An image generated by ground-penetrating radar reveals the outlines of a Viking ship within a burial mound.

Then, this spring, officials from the surrounding county of Ostfold asked experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Research to survey the fields using a large ground-penetrating radar array.

They were able to scan the soil underneath almost 10 acres of farmland around the mound. Underneath, they found proof of 10 large graves and traces of a ship’s hull, hidden just 20 inches beneath the surface.

Knut Paasche, head of the archaeology department at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Research and executive of the recent work at the site, estimates the ship was at least 65 feet long.

It appears to be well preserved, with clear outlines of the keel and the first few strakes, or lines of planking, visible in the radar scans. The ship would have been dragged onshore from the nearby Oslo fjord. At some point during the Viking Age, it was the final resting place of someone powerful.

“Ships like this functioned as a coffin,” says Paasche. “There was one king or queen or local chieftain on board.”

The Viking ship was discovered by georadar at Jellestad next to the monumental Jell Mound in Ostfold.

Whoever was buried in the ship was not alone. There are traces of at least 8 other burial mounds in the field, some almost 90 feet across. Three large longhouses-one 150 feet long-are also visible underneath the site’s soil, together with a half dozen smaller structures.

Archaeologists hope future unearthings will help date the mounds and the longhouses, which may have been built at different times. “We can not be sure the houses have the same age as the ship,” Paasche says.

Paasche plans to return to the site next spring to lead more sophisticated scans, including surveying the site with a magnetometer and perhaps digging test trenches to see what condition the ship’s remains are in.

The ship burial forms a part of a larger mound cemetery and settlement site from the Iron Age next to the Jell Mound

If there is wood from the ship’s hull preserved beneath the ground, it could be used to date the find more decisively.

The chances of finding a king’s fortune are slim. Because they were so prominent in the landscape, many Viking Age burials were robbed centuries ago, long before they were leveled by Nineteenth-century farmers.

But “it would be very exciting to see if the burial is still intact,” says Bill. “If it is, it could be holding some very interesting finds.”

‘Rare and significant’ brooch found at site linked to King Arthur

‘Rare and significant’ brooch found at site linked to King Arthur

A copper brooch that could be up to 2000-years-old has been discovered close to a site linked to the legendary King Arthur.

The piece of jewellery is thought to date back to the Romano-British period while the country was under Roman rule.

Some reports have even suggested it could have even belonged to King Arthur’s wife Guinevere, but archaeologists say it is unlikely to have belonged to the queen.

A copper brooch has been discovered in Cornwall close to a site linked to the legendary King Arthur.

It is thought the precious brooch was dropped by a wealthy noble woman as she walked through the area.

Archaeologists stumbled across the piece of jewellery that is understood to be the first physical proof that the area was home to the rich and powerful during the time during excavations.

The brooch was found in a field known as Chapelfield, where developers are seeking planning permission to build 14 houses.

According to a public report by Cornwall council, the brooch ‘is a rare and significant find, suggestive of a reasonably “well-healed” Romano-British farmstead settlement.’

The Romano-British period dates from the Roman conquest in AD 43 to when the Romans left in AD 410.

The brooch was discovered in St Mabyn, Cornwall, less than a mile from a hill fort which has previously been suggested might have been the site of King Arthur’s Camelot.

‘Its location within the upper fill of the eastern enclosure ditch suggests that the piece represents accidental loss, perhaps as a result of it having been broken in antiquity’ the report says.

But others do not agree the brooch is rare.

‘It is a penannular brooch dating from the Romano-British period,’ Andrew Young, from the Cornwall Archaeology Unit told MailOnline.

He said the conditions in which it was buried mean it will not have been well-preserved.

‘Such brooches are by no means unusual, although in Cornwall the acid soils mean that survival of metal objects such as this is rather patchy.’

The brooch was photographed while in the soil and sent to the Royal Cornwall Museum to be prepared and conserved.

‘Once it has been cleaned and conserved it will be photographed again,’ Mr Young told MailOnline.

Pit from the south, showing in situ stones. The acid soils mean metal objects often corrode

Some reports had suggested the brooch might have belonged to the legendary King Arthur’s wife Guinevere, but Mr Young does not believe it could.

The facts around the real King Arthur are mired in myth and folklore, but historians believe he ruled Britain from the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

‘I should also point out that it is earlier than the legendary King Arthur by several hundred years,’ Mr Young said.

Roman Mosaic Re-Exposed by Archaeologists In Folkestone

Roman Mosaic Re-Exposed by Archaeologists In Folkestone

The Remains of a Roman mosaic reburied 65-years-ago has been re-exposed by Archaeologists from the canterbury Archaeologists trust

The mosaic is part of the central dining room from a large 2nd century villa complex situated on the cliffs overlooking Folkestone, England.

Beneath the Roman foundations are traces of an earlier Iron Age settlement, occupied by native Britons centuries before the Roman invasion.

Several rooms of a bath-suite have already been lost since they were first excavated due to continuing coastal erosion.

The complex was first excavated by archaeologists in 1924, however, the cost of maintaining the site led to the mosaic being reburied to preserve the monument.

Local accounts at the time reported the mosaic being in a poor state of preservation.

Excavations during the 1920’s found Classis Britannica tiles which suggests that the villa might have a connection to the Roman Navy in Britain, or that the villa was possibly some sort of signalling station.

For reasons that are unclear, the villa seems to have been abandoned sometime in the late third century. It was briefly reoccupied in the 4th century, before it was abandoned and buried under sediments.

Due to the threat of coastal erosion, the mosaic is now under threat of falling into the sea, evidenced by the loss of several rooms of a bath-suite which have already been lost since the 1920’s.

Beginning in 2010, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust has been recording sites under threat as part of a collaboration with local volunteers and university students.

The aim of the study at the Folkestone mosaic is to determine what still survives and how best to preserve the monument.

The team found that the southern part of the mosaic survives, thanks in part to the restoration works conducted in the 1920s to stabilise what remained of the Roman designs.

After documenting the remains, the mosaic will re-buried while discussions on whether it should be lifted and preserved for displaying in a museum are undertaken.

Stone Age Child May Have Been Buried With A Wolf

Stone Age Child May Have Been Buried With A Wolf

Considering Finland’s highly acidic soil, archaeologists were surprised to find animal fur and feathers buried alongside a child from the Stone Age.

A Stone Age burial in Finland holds the remains of a child, as well as an assortment of grave goods, bird feathers, canine hairs and plant fibers, giving archaeologists insight into burial practices from that time period.

A couple of teeth and arrowheads were found in the grave. First discovered in 1991 in Majoonsuo, an archaeological site near the town of Outokumpu in eastern Finland, the grave contains the teeth of a child, who, based on a dental analysis, died between the ages of 3 and 10.

An artist’s impression of what the child may have looked like. Researchers think a dog or wolf was buried alongside the deceased.

Archaeologists from the Finnish Heritage Agency, a cultural and research institution in Helsinki, determined it was a grave site based on red ochre — an iron-rich soil commonly associated with burial sites and rock art — that had stained a gravel roadway. The agency’s excavation team examined the site in 2018 and determined that it was “at risk of destruction,” according to a statement.

Oldest Feather Fragments Found in Finland

Based on the trapezoidal shape of two arrowheads made of quartz, the archaeologists determined that the grave dates to the Mesolithic period, or Middle Stone Age, roughly 8,000 years ago.

After analyzing soil samples, the researchers discovered barbules from the feathers of waterfowl that could have been used to create a bed of down feathers for the child; they also found a single falcon feather fragment. This falcon feather may have been fletching that helped guide an arrow, or perhaps a decoration on a garment, the researchers said.

Wolf Hairs

At the base of the burial lay 24 fragments of mammalian hair. While many of the hairs were badly degraded, the researchers determined that three came from a canine, possibly a wolf or a dog that may have been laid at the feet of the child as part of the burial.

It’s also possible that the canid hairs came from clothing, such as footwear crafted from dogskin or wolfskin, worn by the child, the teams noted.

The ochre-red stain on the roadway was what initially tipped off archaeologists about a possible burial site.

“Dogs interred with the deceased have been found in, for example, Skateholm, a famous burial site in southern Sweden dating back some 7,000 years,” Kristiina Mannermaa, a researcher and associate professor in the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki, said in the statement.

“The discovery in Majoonsuo is sensational, even though there is nothing but hairs left of the animal or animals — not even teeth. We don’t even know whether it’s a dog or a wolf.”

She added, “The method used demonstrates that traces of fur and feathers can be found even in graves several thousands of years old, including in Finland.”

Bright red ocher marked the spot of the grave, uncovered on a service road in a forest in Eastern Finland.

In addition, archaeologists unearthed plant fibers, possibly from willows or nettles, that might have been used to make clothing or fishing nets. Because the soil in this area of Finland is highly acidic, the archaeologists were surprised at how well some of the organic remains have lasted over the centuries.

Bronze Age Burial Site of Powerful Woman Discovered Under the Ancient Palace in Spain

Bronze Age Burial Site of Powerful Woman Discovered Under the Ancient Palace in Spain

Archaeologists in Spain have determined that the 3,700-year-old remains of a woman found beneath a Bronze Age-era ruin may well be the first case of an ancient female ruling elite in Western Europe.

The discovery at the La Almoloya site in Murcia, Spain, dates to around 1,700 B.C., according to newly published research in the British journal Antiquity.

The woman’s potential status as a ruler also means that the ruin her body was buried beneath is likely the first palace found in Western Europe dating from the Bronze Age, which lasted from about 3,200 -1,200 B.C.

The Almoloya site was first discovered in 1944 and is believed to be the cradle of the El Argar society, which flourished between 2,200 and 1,550 B.C. in the southeast part of what is now Spain.

They were one of the first societies in the region to use bronze, build cities, and erect monuments. El Argar is also considered to be an early example of a class-based state, with divisions in wealth and labour.

The woman’s remains, discovered in 2014, were buried with a man and several valuable objects, most notably a rare silver crown-like diadem on her head.

Further analysis of the remains and artifacts over the last few years led researchers to their conclusions about the significance of the find.

“These grave goods have allowed us to grasp the economic and political power of this individual and the dominant class to which they belonged,” researchers said in a press release.

The remains of the woman and man were found in a large jar located beneath the floor of a room. Researchers believe the woman was 25-30 years old and the man was 35-40 when they died around the same time in the mid-17th century B.C.

Genetic analysis indicates they had children together, including a daughter buried elsewhere on the site.

But it was the valuable objects, and the diadem, in particular, that suggested the political importance of the woman.

Also significant was the location of the remains beneath a room in a large building complex that seems to have had both residential and political functions, including a room with benches that could hold up to 50 people that researchers nicknamed the ‘parliament’.

This combination of residential and political use means the building meets the definition of a palace and would make it the first discovery that dates from the Bronze Age in Western Europe.

“The La Almoloya discoveries have revealed unexpected political dimensions of the highly stratified El Argar society,” the researchers said.

The building was destroyed by fire not long after the woman was interred, they said.

This Medieval Mother Had a Gruesome ‘Coffin Birth’ After Medieval Brain Surgery

This Medieval Mother Had a Gruesome ‘Coffin Birth’ After Medieval Brain Surgery

Italian archaeologists have uncovered a medieval grave containing the remains of a woman buried near Bologna, Italy, with a 38-week-old fetus lying between her legs, reports said. Researchers believe the fetus “extruded after the burial” and called it an example of a “coffin birth,” Forbes reported.

The team from the Universities of Ferrara and Bologna said that the child’s leg bones possibly never made it out of the pelvic cavity, however, the upper torso and head likely did, meaning “the fetus was likely partially delivered.”

The mother’s skull showed a small, circular wound, likely caused during primitive brain surgery called trepanation

The mother’s skeletal remains showed a forehead cut and a 5-millimeter hole adjacent to that, likely intentionally drilled during a primitive skull surgery, according to the researchers.

Coffin birth, which the researchers said was the case in this specific case, is a phenomenon that takes place when a deceased pregnant woman’s fetus is expelled from the grave.

Around two to five days after the death of the pregnant woman, the phenomenon, also known as “postmortem fetal extrusion,” occurs following a build-up of gas pressure inside the body thus forcing the fetus to be ejected from the vaginal canal. Researchers said, in this case, the fetus had already died when the mother was buried.

The case in point was first uncovered back in 2010, when archaeologists found the strange Middle Ages burial in Imola, Italy.

A closeup of the skeleton’s pelvis reveals the bones of a partially-delivered fetus. This “coffin birth” likely occurred after posthumous gasses built up inside the dead mother’s body.

It suggested a proper, intentional burial, however, they also discovered a pile of bones below the pelvis of the skeletal remains of the woman. The woman’s skull had a hole in it making the scene further complicated.

Further investigation was then conducted by the researchers, the results of which have currently been published in the science journal World Neurosurgery.

According to the new research, the buried woman is believed to be somewhere between 25 and 35 years old when she died and was buried. The fetus was at 38 weeks of development (just two weeks less than the time of being full term).

The baby’s legs were said to be still inside the mother’s body, however, its head and upper body had dropped below the pelvic cavity. The fetus was already in its head-down orientation (the cephalic position) and was thus positioned for birth, the researchers explained.

The five-millimeter circular hole across her forehead suggests that she had undergone a procedure called trepanation- an ancient surgical procedure, which involves creating a hole in the skull by either scraping or drilling away layers of bone.

Female burial from near Bologna Italy (c. 7th c AD).

Trepanation was said to be used in the treatment of eclampsia — a hypertensive pregnancy disorder. The researchers proposed that the woman might have undergone skull surgery for this purpose.

“Historically, trepanation was used for treating several symptoms and disorders, such as cranial injuries, high intracranial pressure, convulsions, and high fever — all three of which are also caused by eclampsia,” Alba Pasini, a co-author of the study and a researcher from the Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences at University of Ferrara, said in an interview with Gizmodo.

“Scientific literature — both medical and archaeo-anthropological — attests that [these symptoms] were treated through trepanation from prehistory to the contemporary era.

We are sure, as reported in the paper, that this treatment did not heal the woman, since there are only the first signs of osteological reaction attesting the beginning of the healing process of the bone, indicating that the woman survived one week from the surgery at most,” Pasini added.

The woman, according to the researchers, lived for around one more week following the surgery, and had been buried while still pregnant, and thus that led to her having a coffin birth while her body decomposed, researchers concluded.

Jaw-Dropping Discovery: 18th-Century Mummified Monks Revealed Suffering From Tuberculosis Infections

Jaw-Dropping Discovery: 18th-Century Mummified Monks Revealed Suffering From Tuberculosis Infections

Scientists recently examined tissue samples from tuberculosis-infected bodies that were naturally mummified in a church crypt in Vac, Hungary. Researchers found that tuberculosis that killed them in the 1700s derived from an ancestral strain of the bacteria dating from Roman times still circulating in Europe in the 18th century.

The bodies, excavated in 1994, were naturally mummified by extremely dry air and pine chips in coffins. The pine chips have natural antimicrobial agents and absorbed moisture.

The bodies had been buried in a church crypt between 1731 and 1838. They were Catholics, buried fully clothed, and many of them were rich, says an article in Their clothing too was preserved by the dry air.

The bodies and clothing of individuals placed in a church crypt in Vac were extremely well preserved.

Vac is just north of the Hungarian capital of Budapest. A construction worker in the Dominican church in Vac tapped on a wall and heard a hollow sound. He pulled out a brick and saw the caskets.

Experts found more than 200 bodies, 26 of which were tested because they had signs of tuberculosis infection. Eight of the bodies yielded tissue samples from which researchers were able to do genetic sequencing of the tuberculosis germs.

“What emerged is a tableau of a disease that fully lives up to its reputation in folklore,” wrote “TB was raging in 18th-century Europe, even before urbanization and crowded housing made it a killer on a much greater scale, the investigators found.”

Mycobacterium tuberculosis germs (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

The German microbiologist Robert Koch was the first to describe Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in 1882. Koch said consumption, as people called it then, killed one in seven people. The disease is still a serious problem, but the World Health Organization reports deaths from it have been decreasing in recent decades.

In the church in Vac, the dead people’s names and how they died were recorded in documents. said that makes the bodies a valuable resource for people who study diseases because the combination gives evidence about how TB and disease spread centuries ago.

The First and Last Communion, an 1888 painting of a TB victim’s last rites, by Cristobal Rojas

“Microbiological analysis of samples from contemporary TB patients usually report a single strain of tuberculosis per patient,” Mark Pallen of the England’s University of Warwick medical school, told

Pallen was the chief researcher in the new study. “By contrast, five of the eight bodies in our study yielded more than one type of tuberculosis—remarkably, from one individual, we obtained evidence of three distinct strains.”

All eight bodies were carriers of a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis called Lineage 4. Still today this strain infects more than 1 million people in the Americas and Europe per year.

“It confirmed the genotypic continuity of an infection that has ravaged the heart of Europe since prehistoric times,” Pallen said.

Researchers built a family tree of the TB bug and ascertained its bacterial ancestor dating to the late Roman period. This dating seems to lend credence to recent estimates that tuberculosis emerged in humans about 6,000 years ago, said. Previous research theorized tuberculosis emerged in humans tens of thousands of years ago.

The Mummies of the World exhibition, presently at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the U.S. state of Ohio, has several mummies from the church in Vac, Hungary. This photo shows the body of Veronica Orlovits.

The World Health Organization reports that about one-third of humans are infected with tuberculosis bacteria, but only a small percentage will become ill from it.

In 2013, about 9 million people became sick with the disease worldwide. Approximately 95 percent of TB deaths are in middle- and low-income nations. While the disease is a serious problem, the threat from it appears to be decreasing somewhat.

“The number of people falling ill with TB is declining and the TB death rate dropped 45 percent since 1990. For example, Brazil and China have shown a sustained decline in TB cases over the past 20 years. In this period China has had an 80% decline in deaths,” WHO reports.

Roman-era altar stone has been discovered under Leicester Cathedral

Roman-era altar stone has been discovered under Leicester Cathedral

The base of a Roman-era altar stone has been discovered under Leicester Cathedral, the first Roman altar stone ever found in Leicester. 

The area was previously believed to be a garden space in the Roman city, but archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS) uncovered the remains of a Roman building in the northwest quarter of the site. Inside the cellar of this building was the base of an altar stone.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester excavate a Roman cellar at Leicester Cathedral

This was not a plain subterranean storage room. The floor is concrete and the stone walls were painted. The quality of construction materials, the decorative paintwork and the presence of the altar indicates the room was a private shrine or otherwise devoted to religious worship.

The room dates to the 2nd century A.D. and was accessed by an external passageway with timber walls and a flagstone floor. The cellar was demolished and filled deliberately in the late 3rd or early 4th century.

The altar was found toppled face-down into the rubble layer. It was made of local sandstone from a quarry just one mile away and was decorated on three sides.

The back is plain, so it was probably originally placed against a wall. About half of it survives. Archaeologists estimate it would originally have been about two feet tall.

Mathew Morris, who led the dig, said the discovery of the Roman altar – the first to be found in Leicester – was “amazing”.

He added: “For centuries, there has been a tradition that a Roman temple once stood on the site of the present cathedral.

This folktale gained wide acceptance in the late 19th century when a Roman building was discovered during the rebuilding of the church tower.”

“Underground chambers like this have often been linked with fertility and mystery cults and the worship of gods such as Mithras, Cybele, Bacchus, Dionysius and the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Sadly, no evidence of an inscription survived on our altar, but it would have been the primary site for sacrifice and offerings to the gods, and a key part of their religious ceremonies.”

Leicester Cathedral was built in the heart of the medieval city at least as early as the 12th century and likely earlier than that.

The current building mostly dates to the 19th century when the church was extensively restored, but Leicester was a seat of a bishopric from 680 A.D. until the Saxon bishop was chased out of town by invading Danes in 870 A.D., so it’s likely there was a Saxon church predating the Norman cathedral.

As part of an ambitious restoration program complete with construction of a new Heritage Learning Centre, the old churchyard and gardens have been undergoing a comprehensive excavation since October 2021.

The excavation unearthed more than 1,100 burials dating from the end of the Saxon period in the 11th century to the middle of the 19th.

Radiocarbon dating of the earliest skeletal remains will narrow down the date range, and also confirm that the original parish church of St. Martin’s was founded in the late Saxon period.

Several pieces of Roman coins were also found

The remains are currently undergoing examination that archaeologists hope will shed new light on the lives and deaths of Leicester’s inhabitants over nearly 1,000 years. When the research project is concluded, all of the individuals will be respectfully reinterred by Leicester Cathedral.

Archaeologists have also discovered the remains of a structure believed to be from the Anglo-Saxon period. If the date is confirmed, this will be the first Anglo-Saxon structure ever found in this area of Leicester.

It will expand the known map of Anglo-Saxon occupation of the town after the end of Roman occupation. A silver penny from the period (880-973 A.D.) found near the structure is the first Anglo-Saxon coin found in Leicester in almost two decades.

Ancient DNA Reveals History of Hunter-Gatherers in Europe

Ancient DNA Reveals History of Hunter-Gatherers in Europe

A pair of studies offering the most in-depth look into the lives of Ice Age hunter-gatherers has revealed at least eight previously unknown groups of early Europeans. Until recently, much about the earliest humans to populate Europe remained unknown.

Because few human fossils from those cultures remain, archaeologists have primarily had to reference early human artifacts to try and understand our Ice Age ancestors. Still, artifacts alone could not paint a clear image of how these ancient cultures were related or how they migrated.

All of that is changing now, thanks to a pair of studies, published in the journal Nature, examining the largest known database of prehistoric European hunter-gatherer genomes.

In total, researchers analyzed the genomes of 357 ancient Europeans who lived between 35,000 and 5,000 years ago — including new data from 116 individuals.

Using this data, they were able to identify at least eight populations of ancient hunter-gatherers who migrated into Europe and coexisted for thousands of years. Some of these groups managed to survive the Ice Age, while others did not.

A 7,000-year-old human skull and tools were found in Germany, by an individual whose population lived alongside Europe’s first farmers.

“We are finally understanding the dynamics of European hunter-gatherers,” Vanessa Villalba-Mouco, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and an author of both studies, told The New York Times.

Prior to the emergence of DNA analysis, researchers identified ancient humans by the things they made — certain tools or art, for example. This is how Europe’s oldest modern human culture, the Aurignacians, earned its name, from the figurative cave paintings and sculptures it produced.

Then, around 33,000 years ago, Europe’s climate cooled and a new human culture is known as the Gravettian spread across the continent. These were the ancient humans known for hunting woolly mammoths with spears and crafting Venus figurines.

But as scientists analyzed Gravettian DNA from across Europe, they came to the startling realization that they were looking at two distinct genetic populations. The first population, named the Fournol, came from France and Spain; the other, the Vestonice, came from Italy, the Czech Republic, and Germany.

They observed that the Fournol people shared a genetic link with 35,000-year-old Aurignacian remains found in Belgium and that the Vestonice people likewise shared a link with 34,000-year-old populations in Russia.

And though these groups were genetically distinct, there is evidence that they interacted and shared tools and culture with one another. In fact, 30,000-year-old remains discovered in Belgium show a mix of Fournol and Vestonice ancestry.

These early Europeans, however, don’t have much, if any, of a genetic link to the younger hunter-gatherers who eventually split into the ancestors of living Europeans and Asians.

Until now, the general understanding of human migration suggested that modern humans arose in Africa and began to expand across other continents around 60,000 years ago. We can see the disappearance of Neanderthals about 40,000 years ago, with many believing they had been unable to compete with Homo sapiens’ superior tools.

But this new research suggests that story might not be entirely accurate. Modern humans may not have simply arrived in Europe, dominated and outcompeted Neanderthals, and continued onward. In fact, it seems as if the first modern humans in Europe, whose DNA dates back 45,000 years, disappeared along with the Neanderthals.

“It’s actually quite interesting that the very first modern humans also had a very hard time to actually survive,”said Cosimo Posth, a paleogeneticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany and an author on both studies.

When the Ice Age began around 26,000 years ago, these early human populations faced a massive threat — and as a result, they could not survive on much of the European continent. This is where we start to see other major splits in human populations.

“Right after the Last Glacial Maximum, the genetic makeup of the human groups living in the Italian peninsula changed dramatically,” Ludovic Orlando, a molecular archaeologist who wrote a perspective on the new study, told Live Science.

In southern regions, such as the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal), the Fournol found refuge from the massive ice walls that dominated the rest of Europe. DNA analysis of a 23,000-year-old human found in a Spanish cave shows that he belonged to the Fournal people residing there before the Ice Age.

As the Ice Age came to an end and much of the ice began melting away, some Fournol descendants left the Iberian Peninsula and spread out, while others remained. Post and his colleagues referred to this northbound population as the GoyetQ2.

There is no evidence, however, to suggest that the Vestonice survived the Ice Age. While they may have survived for a time in Italy, there is no Vestonice ancestry found in any Europeans after the Ice Age. Rather, a new population known as the Villabruna expanded into Europe from the Balkans and effectively replaced the Vestonice.

An artist’s depiction of a Vestonice hunter-gatherer.

For a time, the GoyetQ2 and the Villabruna were kept at a distance, in large part because of the Alps. Then, around 14,000 years ago, the Villabruna crossed the Alps and came into contact with the GoyetQ2 — and from this meeting, a new population emerged, known as the Oberkassel.

The Oberkassel then expanded across Europe and replaced the GoyetQ2. Post noted that this coincided with another major climate shift around 14,000 years ago that saw the continent warm and produce bountiful forests. It’s possible that the Oberkassel were better suited to hunting in these forests, which could explain why they replaced the GoyetQ2.

From the east, another group emerged, the Sidelkino, whose descendants lived in Ukraine and surrounding regions. The Oberkassel and the Sidelkino encountered one another, but the Iberians remained largely separate from other human groups. The Villabruna, meanwhile, ventured north and merged with the population of northern Spain, rather than replacing them.

Then, the first farmers arrived in Europe from modern-day Turkey around 8,000 years ago. Researchers found that the remaining populations of hunter-gatherers began mixing as they were introduced to agriculture, and were eventually absorbed into the agricultural communities that began dominating Europe.

This new research “considerably extends our knowledge of ancient genome human variation in the deep past of Europe,” Orlando said. “It unveils important changes in the genetic makeup of some regions following major climate changes.”