Category Archives: SCOTLAND

135-Year-Old Message In A Bottle Found In Floorboards – Amazing Victorian Time Capsule

135-Year-Old Message In A Bottle Found In Floorboards – Amazing Victorian Time Capsule

A rather incredible discovery occurred in Edinburgh, Scotland, where a woman found a 135-year-old message in a bottle under her floorboards.

Everything started in October 1877 when two local workers left a note under the floorboards at a Morningside villa. The message was placed in a bottle and left untouched until now when Eilidh Stimpson, a mother of two found it in her Morningside home in Edinburgh!

“Stimpson couldn’t believe her eyes as she read out the hand-written message on the withered note, which had been rolled up inside an empty whisky bottle since the day the floor was laid.

The Victorian time capsule was discovered on Monday by local plumber Peter Allan who just happened to cut through the exact place in the floorboards where it had been left on October 6, 1887,” the Edinburgh Live reports.

The message in a bottle left mum Eilidh Stimpson stunned on Monday

“It’s pretty cool,” Eilidh, who works as a GP, told Edinburgh Live. “And so lucky as well, because we were meant to be moving a radiator from one side of the wall to the other. The plumber came and started cutting a hole and said it was going to be a bit of a nightmare as there was a floor on top of a floor.

“Then he came down the stairs going, ‘Look at what I just found in the hole I just made!’. It was quite exciting.”

Peter and Eilidh decided to until her children came home from school, and Eilidh’s partner returned from work before opening the bottle and reading the old message.

Together they tried to get the message out of the bottle, but it was easier said than done. There was no way to remove the old note without tearing it, so they had no other option than to break the bottle.

“Eilidh explained: “We were desperately trying to get the note out with tweezers and pliers, but it started to rip a little bit. We didn’t want to damage it further, so regrettably had to smash the Bottle.”

As reported by Edunburgh Live, “untouched for an astonishing 7,049 weeks and four days, the message written on the mysterious parchment was finally revealed.

Signed and dated by two male workers, the message read: “James Ritchie and John Grieve laid this floor, but they did not drink the whisky. October 6th, 1887. Whoever finds this bottle may think our dust is blowing along the road.”

Intrigued to find out more about the workers, a friend of Eilidh’s conducted a bit of research and found that there were two men registered as living in the Newington area by the same names in the 1880s.

Following his incredible discovery, plumber Peter Allan, who works with Bruntsfield firm WF Wightman, told us: “It’s all a bit strange, but what a find! Where I cut the hole in the floor, is exactly where the bottle was located, which is crazy and so random.”

On Wednesday, Eilidh took to social media to share her family’s incredible find with the community.

Eilidh added: “We’ve just been amazingly lucky, and I’m glad everyone thinks it’s as interesting as we do. It feels quite nice to have a positive news story amid all this doom and gloom that’s around at the moment.

The note contained a message from the two workers who laid the floor in 1887

“Now, I’m thinking we need to preserve the note and replace it with a message of our own for future generations to discover.”

Responding to Eilidh’s post on the I Love Morningside page on Facebook, Lucie McAus commented: “I don’t think they ever could have predicted when they wrote it that you would be able to take a photograph using a device no bigger than your hand and put it instantly on a platform that could reach the entire community in a few seconds. Incredible.

“If you place one for the next person who knows how it would be discovered and the information shared? What a lovely timeframe from the past.”

12,000-Year-Old Massive Underground Tunnels Are Real And Stretch From Scotland To Turkey

12,000-Year-Old Massive Underground Tunnels Are Real And Stretch From Scotland To Turkey

Mysterious tunnels have been discovered in Scotland that stretch all the way to Turkey, however, researchers are still unsure of why or how they were created. What makes them all the more mysterious, is how absolutely amazing they are, and ho meticulously hey were created.

These thousands of Stone Aged underground tunnels have left scientists completely perplexed. Dr. Henrich Kusch explained in his book entitled ‘Secrets of the Underground Door to an Ancient World’ that the tunnels had been dug under literally hundreds of Neolithic settlements throughout Europe.

The mere fact that they have survived for over 12,000 years proves that the original tunnels must have been all the more massive.

He further believes that the tunnels were to be used as highways, which allowed people to travel to distant places across Europe.

He explains that ‘Across Europe, there were thousands of these tunnels – from the north in Scotland down to the Mediterranean.

They are interspersed with nooks, at some places, it’s larger, and there is seating, or storage chambers and rooms. They do not all link up but taken together it is a massive underground network.’

‘In Bavaria in Germany alone we have found 700metres of these underground tunnel networks. In Styria in Austria we have found 350metres,’ he said.

‘Across Europe, there were thousands of them – from the north in Scotland down to the Mediterranean.

‘Most are not much larger than big wormholes – just 70cm wide – just wide enough for a person to wriggle along but nothing else.

‘They are interspersed with nooks, at some places it’s larger and there is seating, or storage chambers and rooms.

‘They do not all link up but taken together it is a massive underground network.’

While many have described the tunnels as ancient highways, others have explained that they were a method for protecting men from predators. In his book, Dr. Henrich explains that churches were often built by the entrances to the tunnels because the Church was afraid of the heathen legacy that the tunnels may have represented and wanted to stop their influence.

Other, similar tunnels have been discovered on other continents. And even throughout the Americas, a number of ancient tunnels have been found.

However, the big question is why were these passages constructed? Furthermore, how were they constructed? While there are a number of legends regarding them, researchers have yet to discover any solid answers.

“Nationally Significant” Bronze Age Treasure Sword Discovered in Scotland

“Nationally Significant” Bronze Age Treasure Sword Discovered in Scotland

The Bronze Age has been unearthed in Scotland. The land of Scots is famous for plenty of things – bagpipes, haggis, and some pretty fine whisky. But coming upon a cache of 3,000 year old antiquities? Not so much.

Big Bronze Age discoveries in Scotland

But that’s precisely what happened not long ago when 44 year old Mariusz Stepien went out into a field with a metal detector, on the hunt for perhaps some old coins or a bit of 20th century jewelry.

Much to his surprise, his device began vibrating and signalling him that something big was not far underground. Sure enough, when Stepien began digging, he came upon a treasure trove of antiquities that are about 3,000 years old, from the Bronze Age.

He knew better than to gather up the finds himself, and instead called in experts from Scotland’s Crown Office Treasure Trove Unit. Emily Freeman, the head archaeologist with the unit who went to investigate the find, recently told the BBC, “it’s a nationally significant find.”

Pieces of an ancient horse harness found

After spending 22 days digging deep with the archaeologists, Stepien and the group found a sword still in its scabbard, chariot wheel axle caps, and an entire horse harness, along with a decorative rattle pendant that would have been placed on the harness, the only one like it ever found in Scotland.

Freeman enthused, “so few hoards have been excavated in Scotland,” she explained to the BBC, “(that) it was an amazing opportunity for us not only to recover Bronze Age artifacts, but organic material as well.”

It was that very organic material, she went on, that enabled artifacts made of leather and wood to even stay preserved all these centuries.

As for Stepien – he is extremely pleased that his hobby has turned up such a significant find. “I was over the moon,” he said in an interview, “actually shaking with happiness…I’ve just discovered a big part of Scottish history.”

What happens to the artifacts now? According to Freeman, they must all be thoroughly cleaned, catalogued and examined to learn why they ended up in this spot near Peeples.

The question for experts now is, why was this collection placed in this particular spot near Peeples? That is going to take a lot of detective work, but Freeman is thrilled to have the chance to investigate.

Bronze Age Nordic sword (not the one found).

Right now, the experts suggest the sword dates back between 1,000 B.C. And 900 B.C. Other items need to be more thoroughly examined before dates can be affixed.

The Bronze Age is a period when man was quickly learning how to produce bronze and, more importantly, how to use it to make tools, weapons and other valuable items. Before it was the Stone Age; after it came the Iron Age.

In Britain, experts say the Bronze Age commenced about 2000 B.C., and lasted until around 750 B.C. Of course Scotland, England and other places that comprise the United Kingdom go back thousands of years, and plenty of history remains yet to be discovered under the soil in all those countries.

5,000-Year-Old Deer Carvings Discovered In A First for Scotland!

5,000-Year-Old Deer Carvings Discovered In A First for Scotland!

Lost for around 5,000 years, an amateur archaeologist has discovered deer carvings inside Kilmartin Glen’s Dunchraigaig Cairn in the west of Scotland. The Neolithic or Early Bronze Age carvings depict two male red deer with fully-grown antlers.

Two other deer carvings were also found, along with another engraving of an unidentified creature. Dr. Tertia Barnett, Principal Investigator for Scotland’s Rock Art Project at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) explained that until now it was thought that prehistoric animal carvings of this date “didn’t exist in Scotland.”

The 5,000-year-old deer carvings were discovered at Dunchraigaig Cairn in the west of Scotland.

Questing the Cups, Quizzing the Deer

The carvings were recently discovered inside Dunchraigaig Cairn by Hamish Fenton, an archaeology enthusiast visiting the area, who found the faint marks etched on the capstone of an Early Bronze Age burial cist .

HES explained that the illustrations represent “the first time that animal carvings of this date have been discovered in this area,” which was until now famous for its cup and ring marked stones .

The cairn measures 30 meters (98.4 ft) wide and includes three stone burial chambers, or cists. The deer were discovered carved in the third cist.

In an article published on the HES website, the archaeologists say the cist was “dug directly into the ground, lined with drystone cobbled walls and capped with an unusually large stone over 3.5 m (11.48 ft) long.”

The cairn was erected amidst a deeply-sacred landscape that was until now defined by cup and ring marked stones . The greatest mystery here is “why,” or maybe “how,” these two different art forms came to be used at one location, unlike any seen anywhere else at Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites in the United Kingdom.

Cup and ring marked stones are composed of a central cup mark surrounded by pecked concentric circles. The original function or purpose of the stones has been a subject of much debate.

Many historians read them like star charts, while others maintain they are local maps. In the north of Scotland, where I am from, we tell folk that the cups were filled with oil and lit so that ships at sea, overland traders and shepherds could have safe passage at night.

You could almost say cup and ring marked stones are “ten a penny” in comparison to the recent extremely rare discovery of deer carvings.

In fact, so unexpected was this set of carvings that their emergence “completely changes the assumption that prehistoric rock art in Britain was mainly geometric and non-figurative,” explained the HES article when discussing the find.

“This was a completely amazing and unexpected find and, to me, discoveries like this are the real treasure of archaeology, helping to reshape our understanding of the past,” highlighted Fenton in the Independent.

Dr. Tertia Barnett from Scotland’s Rock Art Project called the discovery of deer animal carvings “very exciting.”

Digital Technology Peers 5,000 Years Back in Time

The reason the carved deer have gone unnoticed for 5,000 years is because there is almost nothing for the human eye to see. Hamish suspected the lines might represent something.

His intuition was only ascertained after a structured light scan was carried out by HES digital documentation experts. A detailed 3D model with photographic textures revealed anatomical detail that was way beyond the capabilities of the human eye.

Dr. Barnett has concluded that “ digital technology is becoming increasingly important for archaeology, and particularly for rock art, and is a key to unlocking the hidden secrets of our past.”

As part of Scotland’s Rock Art Project, HES have now recreated “1,000 3D models of prehistoric rock art which are now available online for people to explore.”

Photograph of the deer carvings discovered in Scotland.
The deer carvings depict two male red deer with fully-grown antlers, and three additional carvings.

Realigning the History of the Kilmartin Valley

What is being regarded as the most remarkable aspect of the carved deer at Dunchraigaig Cairn is the high level of anatomical detail, according to Dr. Barnett. But don’t for a moment think this was achieved because hunters gazed at their prey while it roasted over a glowing cave fire.

The anatomical detail results from the fact that our ancestors were most often up to their elbows in torn animal carcasses. Through repeatedly chopping, carving, slicing and stripping, ancient hunters became highly tuned to how the muscles and bones of deer worked, and this knowledge was projected into their rock art .

HES are most interested in the fact that Neolithic communities in Scotland carved animals as well as cup and ring motifs. While to find both types of art together is relatively common at Scandinavia and Iberia Neolithic sites, until now, none were known of in Britain.

With both types of carvings present at Kilmartin Glen, big questions arise pertaining to the relationship between these distinct types of carving and their significance to the people that created them.

Missing Great Pyramid Artifact Found in Scotland

Missing Great Pyramid Artifact Found in Scotland

When British engineer Waynman Dixon came back from a trip to the Queen’s Chamber, deep within the Great Pyramid of Giza, in 1872, he brought with him a piece of wood that was thousands of years old, along with two other items.

Part of a collection of artifacts known as the “Dixon Relics,” two of the artifacts promptly went to the British Museum.

The shard of wood, however, somehow got lost in the vast collection of the University of Aberdeen’s Asia collection, after the daughter of Dixon’s friend, James Grant, donated it in 1946.

It was an absolute fluke that this vital – though small – artifact was found recently by an archaeologist who works at the university as an assistant curator, Abeer Eladany.

She is, in another delightful coincidence, from Egypt originally, and could not believe it when carbon dating tests revealed the age of the wood, which experts speculate predates the construction of the pyramid itself.

No one is sure, precisely, why the wood was put inside the pyramid – was it from a tree that was near by. Or an old tool for measurements– but experts are just as excited about its age as the find itself.

Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections for the university, told the Guardian, “Finding the missing Dixon Relic was a surprise, but the carbon dating has also been quite a revelation. It is even older than we imagined.” (The other two relics were a ball and a hook).

Tests show that the wood dates between 3341 and 3094 B.C. The pyramid, on the other hand, was built about 500 years prior. One thing is certain, Curtis added: “This discovery will reignite interest in the Dixon Relics, and how they can shed light on the Great Pyramid.”

One person who is particularly thrilled that the relic, lost for more than 100 years, has finally been discovered is Eladany herself, in no small part because she is from Egypt.

As an archaeologist and researcher, she is all too aware of how important the find is to her native country, but she also sees the humour and irony of finding an artifact in Scotland that is, in a sense, a part of the Great Pyramid.

She said that trying to find the lost relic has been like “…looking for a needle in a haystack. I couldn’t believe it when I realized what was inside this innocuous-looking cigar tin.”

Like so many archaeological finds – pieces of human teeth, bits of leather from the sheath of a sword – the find doesn’t look like much to the untrained eye.

The entrance of the pyramid.

In truth, the wood looks much like the remains of a campfire log, or what’s left after a small construction project made of wood. It’s clearly from a piece of wood that was once much bigger.

But to archaeologists, who are the finders – and keepers – of all kinds of knowledge about how human beings developed and evolved – the ancient shard is a breathtaking window into greater wisdom about the pyramid and its contents.

5,000-Year-Old Wooden Stakes Discovered at Neolithic Site in Scotland

5,000-Year-Old Wooden Stakes Discovered at Neolithic Site in Scotland

Archaeologists at the Ness of Brodgar ceremonial center in Scotland have discovered two pieces of wood dated to the Neolithic era, reports Craig Munro for the Press and Journal.

Researchers successfully recovered one of the two prehistoric timbers.

Found in two postholes in the floor of a structure at the Orkney site, the prehistoric wooden stakes survived for 5,000 years due to a dip in the floor, which may have funneled moisture into the holes and helped preserve the material.

“The wood is not in good condition, which is hardly surprising after thousands of years in the ground,” says the excavation team in a statement.

Initially, the researchers suspected the wood was too mushy to be lifted out. On August 3, however, archaeologist Jo McKenzie managed to successfully recover one of the stakes. (McKenzie documented the process in a “dig diary” video posted online.)

Next, the team hopes to identify the type of wood present and determine if the wooden stakes were sharpened before being driven into the holes.

“[T]he smaller of the two stakes had a beautifully square base and rested on a flat stone at the bottom of the post-hole, which presumably acted as a cushion,” note the researchers in a separate statement.

The Ness of Brodgar is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco World Heritage site. Since 2006, excavations at the site have unearthed a large sandstone building complex, pottery, bones, artwork and stone tools.

As the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna reported in 2016, the site’s builders carried its materials from different parts of the island, sometimes over several miles. This suggests that people from across the area may have used the buildings as meeting places for trade and ceremonial activities.

“I think we had always tended to depict our Neolithic ancestors as Stone Age hippies who frolicked around large stones in some herb-induced fugue,” the site’s director, Nick Card, told the Guardian. “But this settlement depicts a dynamic, skilled and creative people whose workmanship would bear scrutiny with 21st-century methods.”

In addition to the Ness of Brodgar, the World Heritage Site encompasses two stone monuments, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness; a burial site known as Maeshowe; and a settlement called Skara Brae. The area is known for its Grooved Ware pottery.

This ceramic style, featuring a flat bottom and intricate decoration, has been found in many parts of Britain and Ireland, but the earliest known examples are from Orkney.

The wood is in poor condition but could still hold valuable information for researchers.

Per Orkneyjar, researchers think the invention of Grooved Ware, along with some of the building innovations at Orkney, may have reflected the emergence of an elite group within the Neolithic society. The large amounts of labor that went into the complicated creations appear to have benefitted some people more than others.

The new find took place in the oldest part of the Ness, which dates to around 3100 B.C., according to the Press and Journal. The structure where the wood was discovered is near the complex’s eastern entrance. Archaeologists say it may be a particularly important part of the site because it features external upright slabs called orthostats.

Excavations at Ness Brodgar have been slowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which prevented work in 2020 and allowed only a limited number of researchers to be on site during the current season.

As BBC News reports, volunteers are helping to cover the site with tarps held down by tires, as they do each year. This technique protects the site from severe weather in the fall and winter.

“The tires serve two purposes—they hold down the protective covers that envelope each trench and offer a degree of support for more fragile areas,” Sigurd Towrie of the Archaeology Institute of the Highland and Islands tells BBC News.

“The site has to be covered over for its protection. Much of the stone used in the construction of the buildings back in the Neolithic laminates when exposed to the elements for any length of time.”

‘Lost’ 2nd-century Roman fort discovered in Scotland

‘Lost’ 2nd-century Roman fort discovered in Scotland

Archaeologists have discovered the buried remains of a Roman fort along Scotland’s ancient Antonine Wall.

Archaeologists have discovered the foundations of a “lost” second-century Roman fort in western Scotland — part of an ill-fated effort to extend the empire’s control throughout Britain.

The remains of the newfound small Roman fort are now underground. But it was one of about 41 defensive structures along the Antonine Wall, which stretched across Scotland for 40 miles. The defenses included 16 larger forts.

The fort was one of up to 41 defensive structures built along the Antonine Wall — a fortification of mainly earthworks and wood that ran for about 40 miles (65 kilometers) across Scotland at its narrowest point, according to Historic Environment Scotland (HES), a government agency.

The Roman emperor Antoninus Pius ordered the wall built in A.D. 142 in hopes of surpassing his predecessor Hadrian, who about 20 years earlier had built the fortification known as Hadrian’s Wall about 100 miles (160 km) to the south.

But his push was ultimately unsuccessful, in part because of the hostility of the Indigenous people. (At this time the Romans called them “Caledonians”; later they would call them “Picts,” from a Latin word meaning “painted people,” because of their body paintings or tattoos.) After 20 years trying to hold their new northern line, the Romans abandoned the Antonine Wall in A.D. 162 and retreated back to Hadrian’s Wall. 

Archaeologists detected the fort’s buried stone foundations with a non-invasive geophysical technique called gradiometry, which measures tiny variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.

“Antoninus Pius was effectively a bureaucrat,” historian and archaeologist John Reid told Live Science. “He had no military experience, and we think he was looking for a win that he could pretty much guarantee against the exotic Caledonian people.”

Reid explained that Roman emperors needed to claim a military victory, and so Antoninus Pius used his conquest of Scotland — while it lasted — to justify his rule.

Reid, who was not involved in the new discovery, is author of the book “The Eagle and the Bear: A New History of Roman Scotland” (Birlinn, 2023) and chairman of the Trimontium Trust, which investigates Roman archaeology in the Scottish Borders region.

“Lost” fort

Archaeologists from HES found the buried remains of the small fort, or “fortlet,” beside a school on the northwestern outskirts of the modern city of Glasgow.

The structure was mentioned by an antiquarian in 1707, but it had never been found since, despite efforts to locate it in the 1970s and 1980s.

The fort consisted of two small wooden buildings surrounded by a rampart of stone and turf up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) high, built along the south side of the Antonine Wall. The rampart had two wooden towers above gates on opposite sides — one at the north to let people, animals and wagons through the wall and one at the south.

None of the Roman forts along the Antonine Wall are now visible, although excavations have revealed evidence and its defensive ditch can still be seen in some places.

But there’s now nothing above ground to show that the fort was ever there; , and the archaeologists located its buried stone foundations using gradiometry, a noninvasive geophysical technique that measures tiny variations in Earth’s magnetic field to detect underground structures. 

About 12 soldiers — many of them local auxiliaries, or “auxilia,” who had signed on to fight for the Romans — would have been stationed at the fort for about a week at a time to keep watch over the area and prevent raids on the fortifications.

They’d then be relieved by a new detachment of soldiers from a larger Roman fort at Duntocher, about a mile (1.6 km) to the east, according to the HES statement.

Roman wall

The fort is mentioned in writings from 1707, but it hadn’t been seen since. No sign of it now remains above the ground.

There’s now little visible evidence of the Antonine Wall, and the newly discovered fortlet is a rare find.

Reid said it helped confirm a theory that the Romans first hoped to duplicate Hadrian’s Wall, with stronger and higher fortifications made of stone and a small fort, or “milecastle,” every mile of its length. “But then they thought better of it and decided they needed proper-sized forts,” he said. 

Roman fortifications in the Tayside region, north of the Antonine Wall, showed that the Romans planned to subjugate all of Scotland, but the Antonine Wall and any northern possessions seem to have been abandoned after A.D. 162, he said. 

Thereafter, Hadrian’s Wall became the northernmost frontier of the empire, seemingly until Roman rule collapsed in Britain in the early fifth century, he said.

Reid’s Trimontium Trust has conducted excavations at Burnswark Hill, the site of a Caledonian hillfort and a fortified Roman military camp built to attack it after Antoninus Pius ordered his legions to conquer Scotland north of Hadrian’s Wall. Among the finds there were whistling sling bullets that the Romans may have used as “terror weapons” against the defenders.

The reason for the Roman eventual withdrawal from the Antonine Wall and back to Hadrian’s Wall is not well understood. 

“There’s lots of debate,” Reid said. “Was it because the Romans got fed up? Was it because the Romans had trouble elsewhere? Was it because it was too costly to run two frontiers? Was it because Antonius Pius died [in A.D. 161]? Nobody’s really sure; I suspect it was a combination of all of those.”

Viking Sword Discovered On Papa Westray, Orkney Has Many Stories To Tell

Viking Sword Discovered On Papa Westray, Orkney Has Many Stories To Tell

A Viking sword found at a burial site in Orkney is a rare, exciting and complex artifact, say archaeologists.

The find, made in 2015 on the northeast coast of Papa Westray, is being carefully examined as part of post-excavation work.

Archaeologists have now identified it as a type of heavy sword associated with the 9th Century. The relic is heavily corroded, but X-rays have revealed the sword’s guards to be highly decorated.

Contrasting metals are thought to have been used to create a honeycomb-like pattern.

The sword was found at a Viking burial site on Papa Westray, Orkney

Archaeologists examining the weapon said it had “many stories to tell”.

The remains of a scabbard, a sheath for the blade, were also found.

AOC Archaeology’s Andrew Morrison, Caroline Paterson and Dr Stephen Harrison suggested there was more information still to be gleaned from the finds.

In a statement, the team said: “To preserve as much evidence as possible, we lifted the whole sword and its surrounding soil in a block to be transported to the lab and forensically excavated there.

The sword’s upper and lower guards are highly decorated

“It’s so fragile we don’t even know what the underside looks like yet, so our understanding is sure to change in the coming months.

“The iron in the sword has heavily corroded, with many of the striking details only visible through x-ray.”

The excavations at Mayback revealed a number of finds, including evidence of a rare Viking boat burial, and a second grave with weapons, including a sword.

Archaeologists said the graves may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney.

AOC Archaeology has been working with Historic Environment Scotland on the research.

Researchers Wonder if Rich Viking Boat Burial Found in Scotland was Made for a Warrior Woman

Researchers Wonder if Rich Viking Boat Burial Found in Scotland was Made for a Warrior Woman

A team of researchers who have been examining the horde of grave goods left in an amazing Viking boat burial have decided that the deceased individual was definitely an important person in their society.

While shedding light on the origins, diet, and social standing, the interesting mixture of artifacts has also raised new questions about who the person was. For example, archaeologists are uncertain if the grave held a man or woman.

Found near a Neolithic cairn in the Ardnamurchan peninsula in western Scotland in 2011, the Viking boat burial dates to the late 9th or early 10th century.  reports that it was the first to be found undisturbed on the British mainland and has provided some vital information on burial practices from the time. The researchers must have been delighted to unearth such a rich grave.

Some of the finds recovered from the grave (clockwise from the top left): broad-bladed axe, shield boss, ringed pin and the hammer and tongs.

Several of the goods were objects of daily life, items for cooking, working, farming and food production were all included in the grave. It also held a shield boss (domed part of a shield protecting a warrior’s hand); a whetstone from Norway, and a ringed pin used to close a burial cloak or shroud, possibly from Ireland. As the researchers wrote in their article published in the journal.

The sword (top); the sword in situ (below); the mineralized textile remains (right); detail of the decoration after conservation (left).

The burial also contained a sword, an axe, a drinking horn vessel, a broken spearhead (probably fragmented in a funeral ritual), a hammer, and some tongs – the researchers say that all these have suggest a warrior burial, likely male.

However, Oliver Harris, co-director of the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project (ATP) at the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, told Seeker “There is nothing female per se in the grave, though of course there are lots of objects — sickle, the ladle, the knife, the ringed pin — that are not male either.”

The ladle, sickle, spearhead, and knife.

And with just two teeth remaining for the person’s body, the researchers cannot confirm the individual’s sex. As Harris said “The burial is probably that of a man — but as we only have the two teeth surviving, it is impossible to be definitive. So it is possible, but not likely, that this was the burial of a woman.”

It would not be unheard of for a Viking woman to have an elaborate burial however, as Dwhty has written previously for Ancient Origins about the Oseberg Viking ship burial.

Oseberg ship, Kulturhistorisk museum (Viking Ship Museum), Oslo, Norway.

It has been suggested that the middle-aged woman may have been a slave who was sacrificed to accompany the older woman. This burial also contained the remains of 13 horses, four dogs, and two oxen, probably sacrificed as well to accompany the deceased into the afterlife.

Although the damp conditions within the mound allowed for the ship and its contents to be well-preserved, the mound had been broken into by robbers and any precious metal items were taken.

Returning to the present study, the researchers completed an isotopic analysis of the teeth found in the Ardnamurchan Viking boat burial and discovered that the deceased probably grew up in Scandinavia and had to change his/her diet for about a year during childhood.

 Harris explained , “The switch in diet probably shows there was some shortage in food for a period of time leading people to eat more fish.”

The Viking’s teeth.

As for the boat itself, well, all that remained was 213 of its metal rivets; the wood decayed, though an impression left in the soil suggests that it had measured 16 feet (4.88 meters) in length. This would be consistent with the size of a small rowing boat.

Perhaps the most elaborate (and disturbing) example of Viking ship burial practices was the 10th century chronicle of the violent, orgiastic funeral of a Viking chieftain . Holy man and jurist Ahmad Ibn Fadlan described the death rites of mourning Vikings in Bulgaria who had lost their chieftain.

‘The Funeral of a Viking’ (1893) by Frank Dicksee.

After these extreme burial practices, the Vikings built an earthen mound over the burned vessel. Miller writes that archaeologists are still searching for the location of this grave.

The oldest house in the UK is nearly 6000 years old and has stone furniture that is still intact today

The oldest house in the UK is nearly 6000 years old and has stone furniture that is still intact today

At Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney, Scotland, a Neolithic farmstead may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe.

Radiocarbon dating shows that it was occupied from 3700 BC to 2800 BC, earlier than the similar houses in the settlement at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland.

The front of the structures.

The farmstead consists of two adjacent rounded rectangular thick-walled buildings with very low doorways facing the sea. The larger and older structure is linked by a low passageway to the other building, which has been interpreted as a workshop or a second house.

They were constructed on an earlier midden, and were surrounded by midden material which has protected them. There are no windows; the structures were presumably lit by fire, with a hole in the roof to let out smoke.

Though they now stand close to the shore, they would have originally lain inland. The shore shows how the local stone splits into thin slabs, giving a ready source of construction material.

The main house now looks out over the sea.

The walls still stand to an eaves height of 1.6 metres (5 ft 3 in), and the stone furniture is intact giving a vivid impression of life in the house. Fireplaces, partition screens, beds and storage shelves are almost intact, and post holes were found indicating the roof structure.

Looking back through the low entrance doorway into the main house, a visitor’s backpack gives an idea of scale.

Evidence from the middens shows that the inhabitants were keeping cattle, sheep and pigs, cultivating barley and wheat and gathering shellfish as well as fishing for species which have to be line caught using boats.