Neolithic homes reconstructed for Stonehenge visitor centre
Tuesday 16th April 2013
A small housing estate of deceptively spacious detached dwellings, with excellent rural views and many period features – including central hearth and convenient smoke hole – is under construction in Wiltshire.
Strictly speaking it is a brownfield rather than a greenfield site, but there have been no nimbys to complain since the city of Salisbury upped sticks and moved from the windy hilltop of Old Sarum to the plain below, more than 700 years ago.
The wattle and daub reed thatched houses, based on excavations of the dwellings believed to have been occupied by the Neolithic tribes who built the later stages of Stonehenge 4,500 years ago, are being reconstructed by volunteers for English Heritage, and will be rebuilt as an outdoor gallery for the long-promised new visitor centre for the world's most famous prehistoric monument.
Significant find on Dartmoor
Monday 18th February 2013
A rare and "amazing" burial discovery dating back 4,000 years has been described as the most significant find on Dartmoor and has given archaeologists a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there.
The discovery of a bronze age granite cist, or grave, in 2011 in a peat bog on White Horse Hill revealed the first organic remains found on the moor and a hoard of about 150 beads.
As the National Park's archaeologists levered off the lid they were shocked by what lay beneath.
The hunt is on for Alfred the Great
Wednesday 6th February 2013
The granddaughter of Alfred the Great came back to England yesterday – or at least fragments of a body returned, more than 1,000 years after the Wessex princess was packed off by her brother as a diplomatic gift to a Saxon king.
Tests in Bristol are expected to provide further proof that Eadgyth (roughly pronounced Edith) was indeed the woman found wrapped in silk and sealed in a lead coffin, inside a magnificent stone sarcophagus at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.
"Her brother Athelstan was the first king of a unified England, her husband became the first Holy Roman Emperor and her blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe," said Professor Mark Horton of Bristol University.
"Alfred's body disappeared long ago, bones of other members of her family are all jumbled up in Winchester Cathedral after [Thomas] Cromwell got his hands on them, so this may prove to be the oldest complete remains of an English royal."
Remains confirmed as Richard III
Monday 4th February 2013
In an announcement that rewrote history, archaeologists confirmed that "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton was found in the resting place of the Plantagenet king.
They said that long-awaited DNA results on the bones proved beyond doubt that they belonged to the king, more than 500 years after he was killed in battle.
Speaking before more than 140 journalists from all over the world, the University of Leicester team described their find as "truly astonishing".
They said the skeletal evidence "provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III". They said that the skeleton was the king as far as all scientific tests could prove.
Avebury named second best World Heritage site
Monday 21st January 2013
Avebury in Wiltshire has been named the second best heritage site in the world for visitors by a panel of experts in Which? Travel magazine.
It came second to Mexico's Monte Alban, but outscored sites such as Peru's Machu Picchu and India's Taj Mahal.
The sites were judged on 25 criteria, including visitor experience, the preservation of the site and the holiday appeal of the local region.
Crossrail dig unearths ancient London
Wednesday 2nd January 2013
As a team of archaeologists digs through layers of history beneath London, the thought of the next find is never far away.
"Just about any new discovery is thoroughly exciting," says Jay Carver, the lead on what is currently the UK's largest archaeology project.
His team has been working alongside engineers building stations and digging two giant tunnels under central London as part of Crossrail since 2009.
On the journey so far, finds include rare amber, hundreds of skeletons and a Bronze Age track.
Man fined for destroying Priddy Circle
Monday 29th October 2012
Penny, from Litton, Somerset, admitted causing or permitting works to a scheduled monument without consent.
He was ordered to pay £37,000 for restoration work, fined £2,500 and told to pay costs of £7,500. Prosecutor David Maunder told Taunton Crown Court: "These circles are regarded as among a small group of the country’s most important prehistoric monuments, with enormous potential to inform us about the Neolithic period, and in archaeological terms are internationally significant."
Richard III's remains uncovered
Thursday 13th September 2012
For centuries historians have debated Richard III and whether his reputation as a ruthless hunchback king was a true reflection of his reign or just a figment of Shakespeare's imagination.
Now it would seem that at least some of that legend may be true, after archaeologists unearthed a fully intact skeleton that they believe is that of the medieval king which, crucially, has a deformed spine.
The remains were found three weeks into an archaeological dig by a team from Leicester University, which recently pinpointed the site of Grey Friars church, where Richard was believed to be buried after being killed in the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485.
Silchester reveals secrets of pre-Roman Britain
Wednesday 1st August 2012
By the gap in a hedge bordering the entrance off a muddy lane in Hampshire, the young diggers on one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Britain have made a herb garden: four small square plots. The sudden blast of sunshine after months of heavy rain has brought everything into bloom, and there's a heady scent of curry plant and dill, marigold and mint.
Many of the plant seeds are familiar from Roman sites across Britain, as the invaders brought the flavours and the medical remedies of the Mediterranean to their wind-blasted and sodden new territory, but there is something extraordinary about the seeds from the abandoned Iron Age and Roman town of Silchester.
The excavation run every summer by Dr Amanda Clarke and Professor Michael Fulford of the archaeology department at Reading University, using hundreds of volunteer students, amateurs and professionals, now in its 15th season, is rewriting British history.
The banal seeds are astonishing because many came from a level dating to a century before the Romans. More evidence is emerging every day, and it is clear that from around 50BC the Iron Age Atrebates tribe, whose name survived in the Latin Calleva Atrebatum, the wooded place of the Atrebates, enjoyed a lifestyle that would have been completely familiar to the Romans when they arrived in AD43.
Their diet would also be quite familiar to many in 21st-century Britain. The people ate shellfish – previously thought to have been eaten only in coastal settlements – as well as cows, sheep, pigs, domesticated birds such as chicken and geese as well as wild fowl, and wheat, apples, blackberries, cherries and plums. They ate off plates, again previously thought a finicky Roman introduction, and flavoured their food with poppy seed, coriander, dill, fennel, onion and celery. They had lashings of wine, imported not just in clay amphorae but in massive barrels, and olive oil.
And they had olives. One tiny shrub in the herb garden represents the recent discovery, news of which went round the world: a single battered, charred olive stone excavated from the depths of a well, the earliest ever found in Britain. All the Atrebates needed for the perfect pizza was tomatoes to arrive from the new world.
Stonehenge visitor centre and road closure project starts
Thursday 12th July 2012
A £27m project at Stonehenge to build a new visitor centre and close the road alongside the monument has begun.
The centre will replace existing buildings. After the closure of the A344, a shuttle service taking visitors to and from the stones will start.
The existing car and coach park next to Stonehenge will also be removed.
English Heritage said the work would "restore the dignity" of the stones' setting and "minimise the intrusion of the modern world".
The 3,500-year-old World Heritage site receives more than one million visitors a year.
English Heritage said the closure of the A344 would reunite the monument with The Avenue - its ancient processional approach. The stretch of road to be closed will be grassed over.