Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ancient British stone circles were used for ‘Neolithic parties’, study finds

The Ring of Brodgar originally had 60 stones, but now has 27 
Colin Richards, Historic England

Orkney is home to a host of Neolithic stone houses, stone circles and elaborate burial monuments, but a new study into the area has allowed experts to add a new purpose to the prehistoric communities’ use of some of these sites – partying.

New research led by Professor Alex Bayliss at Historic England has challenged the previously understood narrative for prehistoric life on the islands and painted a clearer picture of how communities farmed, gathered together at festivals and buried their dead.

The islands are home to renowned sites such as the Skara Brae settlement, Maeshowe passage grave, the Ring of Brodgar – which originally had 60 stones and is 104 metres in diameter - and Stones of Stenness circles, which were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999.

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Spanish researchers discover 30,000 year-old cave paintings


Cave drawings at Altamira.Museo de Altamira/D. Rodríguez

Researchers have discovered four new sets of cave paintings in Cantabria, northern Spain, the oldest of which was made nearly 30,000 years ago – making it one of the earliest known examples of prehistoric art in the world.

The team from the Museum of Prehistory of Cantabria, led by Spanish prehistorian Roberto Ontañón, used cutting-edge imaging techniques to identify the drawings.

Twenty years ago, a speleologist – a scientist who studies caves – had informed archaeologists of the possible existence of ancient paintings in various rock cavities in Cantabria. However, the techniques available at the time were not sufficient to confirm the existence of the art.

The paintings, like much prehistoric artwork, had degraded so much over time that they were difficult to identify with the naked eye. To overcome this, Ontañón and his team used a 3D laser scanning method, which reproduced the artwork on a computer.

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Secrets of ancient Irish burial practices revealed


Carrowkeel neolithic passage tomb in Co. Sligo.

A new analysis of bones taken from a century-old excavation at Carrowkeel in County Sligo has revealed evidence of the burial practices and death rites of the ancient people of Ireland.
The findings, which have been published in the journal Bioarchaeology International, are part of a project applying modern techniques and research questions to the human remains. 
The team of researchers includes Sam Moore, lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at IT Sligo, and the group’s work focussed on the 5300 years-old Passage Tomb Complex at Carrowkeel. This site is one of the most impressive Neolithic ritual landscapes in Europe.
“The bones were analysed from an original excavation of Carrowkeel in 1911, led by Prof R.A.S. McAlister,” explains Sam. “They were subsequently presumed missing or lost until a group of boxes with the name ‘Carrowkeel’ on them was discovered in the archive in the University of Cambridge in 2001. The bones date from between 3500 and 2900 BC."
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Medieval porpoise 'grave' on Channel island puzzles archaeologists

Dr Phil De Jersey, right, and Mike Deane alongside the skeleton of a medieval porpoise.
Photograph: Guernsey Press / SWNS.com
Archaeologists digging at an island religious retreat have unearthed the remains of a porpoise that, mystifyingly, appears to have been carefully buried in its own medieval grave.
The team believe the marine animal found on the island of Chapelle Dom Hue, off the west coast of Guernsey, was buried in the 14th century.
When they first spotted the carefully cut plot they were convinced it was a grave and would hold human remains, but they were taken aback when they dug further and unearthed the skull and other body parts of a porpoise.
Quite why the porpoise was buried so carefully on the island, which is thought to have been used by monks seeking solitude, is a mystery.
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'Exceptionally rare' crucifix found by metal detectorist in England

An "exceptionally rare" ancient crucifix has been unearthed by an amateur metal detectorist. The 2cm (0.78in) tall lead object, which depicts Christ on the cross, was found in the village of Skidbrooke, Lincolnshire, by Tom Redmayne. It is thought to date from between AD 950-1150.


The 2cm artefact depicts Christ on the cross [Credit: Adam Daubney]

Archaeologist Adam Daubney, from Lincolnshire County Council, said it is one of only three known examples in the country.

Mr Redmayne, who found the crucifix on Sunday, said he did not initially realise the significance of his discovery. He said he knew it was a crucifix, and was possibly old due to its crude design.

However, he said it was only when he researched the item online he realised it was something special. Despite the artefact having little monetary value, he said, it offers a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people at the time.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The enigma of early Norwegian iron production

Ancient Norwegians made top-quality iron. But where did the knowledge to make this iron come from? A professor emeritus from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology may have solved this riddle.


Where did the expertise to smelt iron ore come from?
And how did it actually get to Norway to begin with? 
[Credit: Colourbox]

For centuries, people in Norway’s Trøndelag region, in the middle of the country, made large amounts of first-class iron out of bog ore for use in weapons and tools. Production peaked at about 40 tonnes a year at around 200 AD. With production levels this high, it is likely that they exported iron to the European continent as well.

But where did the expertise to smelt the ore come from? And how did it actually get to Norway to begin with?

Arne Wang Espelund, a professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been interested in iron making since the 1970s.

He himself has helped to smelt iron with a method described in the 1700s by Ole Evenstad in Stor-Elvdal, just north of Lillehammer.

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Unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall: lost secrets of first Roman soldiers to fight the barbarians

Dig team stumble across thousands of pristine artefacts at ancient Vindolanda garrison site in Northumberland


Dig volunteer Sarah Baker with one of the rare cavalry swords. 
Photograph: Sonya Galloway

Archaeologists are likening the discovery to winning the lottery. A Roman cavalry barracks has been unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall, complete with extraordinary military and personal possessions left behind by soldiers and their families almost 2,000 years ago. A treasure trove of thousands of artefacts dating from the early second century has been excavated over the past fortnight.

The find is significant not just because of its size and pristine state, but also for its contribution to the history of Hadrian’s Wall, showing the military build-up that led to its construction in AD122. The barracks pre-dates the wall: the Romans already had a huge military presence in the area, keeping the local population under control.

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Breaking News: A Viking Sword Found at High Altitude

On Friday, we received the incredible news that a sword had been found at high altitude in our county. The discovery was made during reindeer hunting. The pictures accompanying the news were just stunning. One of them showed a hunter holding an extremely well preserved Viking sword.


The finder holding the sword, just moments after it was discovered. Photo: Einar Åmbakk.

Our minds were racing, but the immediate thought was that we had to inspect the find spot as quickly as possible. The question was whether this was an isolated find, or if there could be more artefacts here. After consulting with the Museum of Cultural History and the National Park authorities, two members of the Secrets of the Ice team visited the find spot yesterday, together with two of the reindeer hunters (including the finder Einar Åmbakk), a local metal detectorist and a local archaeologist. The group set out from a summer farm and reached the finds area after three hours of brisk walking up the mountain in strong wind.

The reindeer hunters had not taken a GPS position for the find, but we were able to access the exact coordinates through the geographical data stored in the photos. This was very important, as experience shows that it could otherwise have been difficult to relocate the exact find spot in a terrain with few landmarks. Using a GPS, the find spot was quickly re-discovered.

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Cache of Roman cavalry weapons found at Vindolanda

Swords, arrow heads and ballista bolts amongst a cache of artefacts discovered during cavalry barrack excavations at Roman Vindolanda.


Aerial view of remains of 4th century stone fort at Vindolanda 
[Credit: Sonya Galloway, Vindolanda Trust]

During the past few weeks archaeologists at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have made one remarkable discovery after another in what has been an exceptional year for the research excavations.

Test pit excavations, below the stone foundations of the last stone fortress revealed a layer of black, sweet smelling and perfectly preserved anaerobic, oxygen free, soils in an area where they were completely unexpected. Hidden in this soil were the timber walls and floors, fences, pottery and animal bones, from the abandonment of a Roman cavalry barrack. The excavated rooms included stables for horses, living accommodation, ovens and fireplaces.

While excavating the material from the corner of one of the living rooms a volunteer excavator made an outstanding discovery.

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UN VASTE DOMAINE ANTIQUE À CESSON-SÉVIGNÉ


À Cesson-Sévigné (Ille-et-Vilaine), en amont de l’aménagement des ZAC Atalante ViaSilva et Les Pierrins, une prescription de l’État (Drac Bretagne) conduit une équipe de l’Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives à réaliser une fouille sur une surface de près de 7 hectares.

Cette intervention, démarrée le 26 juin 2017, a actuellement permis de mettre au jour une partie d’un vaste domaine rural gallo-romain, de type villa, ainsi qu’une portion du fossé ceinturant une motte castrale du Moyen Âge. Ces occupations anciennes s’inscrivent dans un espace traversé par un faisceau de voies, depuis la ville antique de Rennes et desservant Avranches, Jublains et Angers.

L’emprise de la fouille permet d’étudier la quasi-intégralité du domaine foncier antique et son insertion dans son environnement naturel. Ces découvertes contribueront ainsi à la compréhension de l’organisation des campagnes à l’époque gallo-romaine et leur mutation durant la période médiévale.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade

One of the ancient Viking cod bones from Haithabu used in the study.
Credit: James Barrett

Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.

Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.

The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.

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Archaeologists uncover medieval village in mid-Jutland

The proof is in the pebbles (photos: moesgaardmuseum.dk)

Archaeologists attached to the Moesgaard Museum have discovered the remnants of a small village that disappeared nearly 400 years ago near modern-day Odder in mid-Jutland.

Records of Hovedstrup stretch back as far as 1300, though it’s speculated the village could be even older.

The remains of a stone paved road and three modest homes were uncovered through the discovery of their post holes in the earth – structural elements typifying the late Middle Ages.

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Medieval London was the most violent place in England

That’s one way to settle an argument
Museum of London

And you thought Game of Thrones was rough. Lower-class young men in medieval London were subjected to extreme levels of violence, far worse than other parts of medieval England.

“It appears that violence in medieval London may have been largely tied to sex and social status,” says archaeologist Kathryn Krakowka at the University of Oxford.

Krakowka analyzed 399 skulls from six London cemeteries dating from AD 1050 to 1550. Some were monastic cemeteries, which would have cost money and were more often used by the upper classes. Others were free parish cemeteries used by the lower classes.

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Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female


STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said

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A woman warrior from the Viking army in Birka


Illustration by Evald Hansen based on the original plan of the grave by excavator Hjalmar Stolpe, 
published in 1889 [Credit: Uppsala University]

War was not an activity exclusive to males in the Viking world. A new study conducted by researchers at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities shows that women could be found in the higher ranks at the battlefield.

Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, who led the study, explains: "What we have studied was not a Valkyrie from the sagas but a real life military leader, that happens to be a woman".

The study was conducted on one of the most iconic graves from the Viking Age. It holds the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, including a sword, armour-piercing arrows, and two horses. There were also a full set of gaming pieces and a gaming board. "The gaming set indicates that she was an officer", says Charlotte, "someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle". The warrior was buried in the Viking town of Birka during the mid-10th century. Isotope analyses confirm an itinerant life style, well in tune with the martial society that dominated 8th to 10th century northern Europe.

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Archäologen sichern Warendorfer Stadtgeschichte unter dem Marktplatz


Im Zuge von Bauarbeiten auf dem Warendorfer Markplatz legen Archäologen seit Jahresbeginn die mittelalterliche Vergangenheit des Ortes frei. Nun stießen sie auf Befunde, die Warendorfs frühe Stadtgeschichte beleuchten. Während der Marktplatz in Urkunden zum ersten Mal 1277 erwähnt wird, zeigen die Ausgrabungen, wie die Menschen hier schon Jahrhunderte früher gelebt haben.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Viking Borgring Fortress Discovered In Denmark

The Borgring fortress was discovered using airborne laser technology. It was built during the reign of the  Viking king Harald Bluetooth in the 10th century 
[Credit: Goodchild et al./Antiquity 2017]

A rare archaeological discovery has brought to light a historic 10th century Viking fortress to the south of Copenhagen.

The Borgring fortress is an incredibly accurate circular shape, measuring about 150 metres in diameter. It is the first of its kind to be found in Denmark for 60 years. The findings are published in a study in the journal Antiquity.

The structure is one of the Trelleborg-type fortresses that have a distinctive overall shape and internal structure. The earthworks, houses and other structures are meticulously arranged within the fortress. They have V-shaped ditches that are precisely circular, with four gates at the four points of the compass.

The Borgring fortress had been tentatively identified in the 1970s, but the technology was lacking then to verify whether it really was a Trelleborg-type fortress, study author Søren Michael Sindbæk of Aarhus University, told IBTimes UK.

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Bronze Age tombs unearthed during car park construction in Switzerland

The burial site of a Bronze Age warrior has revealed yet more treasures 
[Credit: SBMA - ARIA SA]

Workers digging the foundations for a new car park have unearthed the burial site of a Bronze Age warrior, revealing a rich source of artefacts including a sword, jewellery and other ornaments. 

The tombs were discovered in Sion, a town in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The artefacts were dated between 850 and 400 BC – a period when the Bronze Age was giving way to the second Iron Age.

A bronze sword with an ivory pommel was discovered among the remains of an adult male, along with numerous other ornaments, including a razor.

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13 million-year-old infant ape skull discovered in the Turkana Basin

Alesi partially excavated after careful removal of loose sand and rocks with dental picks and brushes. © Isaiah Nengo.

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature on August 10th, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of the Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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New 13-million-year-old infant skull sheds light on ape ancestry

Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050)
[Credit: Fred Spoor]

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of Stony Brook University-affiliated Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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Friday, August 11, 2017

home UK politics world sport football opinion culture business lifestyle fashion environment tech travel browse all sections Archaeology The bone collector: eccentric archaeological treasury to be digitised

Calvin Wells a GP and palaeopathologist whose work continues to be cited. His quirky sense of humour, however, was not to everyone’s taste. Photograph: University of Bradford

An archaeological treasury – the voluminous collection of papers, slides, research notes, recordings, jokey postcards, and miscellaneous bits of long-dead human beings collected by the late Calvin Wells – is to be digitised to make it available in its eccentric entirety to scholars for the first time.

The archive, for which the University of Bradford has won a grant of almost £140,000 from the Wellcome Trust, includes thousands of the “bone reports” for which Wells became famous. The reports were based on boxes of human remains sent by archaeologists to Wells’s home and studied on the kitchen table.

Wells, a Norfolk-based GP is regarded as a founding figure of the discipline of palaeopathology, the study of ancient diseases. Professor Charlotte Roberts, president of the British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, said the archive would be invaluable for researchers: “Calvin Wells remains one of the most prolific publishers from the UK in this field today, who studied a diversity of subject matter from artistic representations of disease in the past to mummified remains. In many instances his publications were ‘firsts’ and continue to be cited in our field today.”

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DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade


UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.

Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.

The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.

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'I've got some Viking': English villagers surprised by DNA test results

DNA testing of residents of ancient village of Bledington showed genetic heritage spanning 18 locations around the world. Photograph: Simon Pizzey/AncesteryDNA/PA

The residents of the Cotswold village of Bledington were entitled to see themselves as the quintessential English villagers, blessed with a village green, stream, medieval church, Kings Head pub, mention in the Domesday Book, even a Victorian maypole. However, a DNA survey, one of the most comprehensive attempts to capture an entire village, has revealed their surprisingly diverse origins.

The village was classified as white British in ethnic origin from census data, but the saliva samples contributed by almost 120 of the residents – including the pub landlord, a farmer, an artist, a marketing director and the village historian – told another story: not a single individual of those tested was 100% English.

Just 42.5% of their DNA was Anglo-Saxon in origin: other ancestry derived from Europe, from Finland to Spain, the Celtic nations, including Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Native American, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Melanesia.

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Christopher Kissane: ‘Historical myopia is to blame for the attacks on Mary Beard’

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ‘legitimises autocracy with historical myths’.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
2017 Anadolu Agency

On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the historian calls for an end to the trivialisation of the lessons of the past

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther sparked a movement of Reformation that would leave indelible marks on European history. While some have used this anniversary as an opportunity for reflection, and others a chance to heal old wounds, 2017 finds us in an age of intense historical myopia. Breathless news cycles and furious outrage are shrinking our horizons just as they need to widen. Public debate barely remembers the world of last year, “old news”, let alone that of a decade or few ago.

History’s expertise, and most dangerously its perspective, are being lost in our inability to look beyond the here and now. We stumble into crises of finance and inequality with ignorance of economic history, and forget even the recent background to our current politics. We fail to think in the long term and miss a growing environmental catastrophe. We refuse help to millions of refugees by turning away from our own history. As technology and globalisation bring the world closer together, we have narrowed rather than broadened our perspective. With challenges on many fronts, history needs to be at the heart of how we think about our ever-changing world.

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Engraved bones are 'evidence of cannibalistic rituals by early humans'

The researchers suggest the engravings may have been part of an elaborate post-death ritual carried that culminated in the deceased being eaten. Photograph: Bello et al (2017)
Engraved bones unearthed in a Somerset cave have revealed new evidence of macabre cannibalistic rituals carried out by early humans in Britain.
The latest analysis of the bones, which were first discovered in the 1980s in Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, show signs of having been filleted using sophisticated butchery techniques, decorated and gnawed by fellow humans around 15,000 years ago.
Previous investigations of the remains, belonging to a three-year-old child, two adolescents and at least two adults, already pointed to the grisly possibility that the individuals had been eaten by fellow early modern humans.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Mary Beard is right – ‘Romans’ could be from anywhere, from Carlisle to Cairo


Mary Beard has faced ‘unnecessary insult, misogyny and language of war’ for defending the BBC cartoon.

The classics professor’s naysayers refuse to believe ancient civilisations could have been anything but Caucasian, but there is evidence that proves them wrong.

The wonderful Mary Beard has been sucked into another Twitter row – where she faced, in her words, “unnecessary insult, misogyny and language of war”. This latest tussle has been about her defence (which, as usual, was measured, graceful and – above all – well-informed) of a BBC cartoon showing a Roman British family with a black father. For some people this was infuriating, disgusting: a politically correct piece of anachronistic nonsense, throwing modern multicultural values back on to the past. And yet, as Prof Beard has pointed out, of course it is perfectly possible, even pretty likely, that such families existed in Roman Britain, and an entirely reasonable thing for the BBC cartoon to have posited.

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Scientists uncover secrets of 12 Christian relics in Paris

Alexandre Gérard examines one of the apostle statues. Photo: AFP

Scientists in Paris are cracking the mystery of the 12 apostle statues that sat atop the Gothic marvel of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris for five centuries.

Having lost their heads, been pulled from their plinths, smashed and even buried, things are at last looking up for some of the unluckiest statues in Christendom.
   
For five centuries the 12 apostles looked down on the adoring hordes who marvelled at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, arguably the greatest Gothic edifice ever build.
   
Standing between its spectacular stained glass windows -- one of the wonders of the medieval world -- they could have been forgiven for feeling smug having survived the Reformation without a scratch.
   
But the statues were caught in the whirlwind of not just one French revolution but two, and since then history has been less than kind.

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Construction of a Luxury Hotel is Continuing in Sofia Despite the Discovery of an Ancient Roman Necropolis


Work was in full swing at the building site of the first Hyatt hotel in Bulgaria, in the centre of the capital, Sofia, on Monday, Balkaninsight reported. 

While numerous machines laid concrete and strengthened the foundations of the future 190-room five-star hotel, a team of archaeologists with an excavator was carefully digging a rare find out of the ground.

They recently discovered an ancient Roman tomb – part of the eastern side of the necropolis of the Roman city of Serdica, which lies under Bulgaria’s capital – which could soon be buried under the luxury new hotel.

The same fate has already befallen six other tombs discovered at the construction site in April.
They were recently covered up by the construction company, Tera Tour Service, sparkling public outrage.

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