Tag Archives: archaeologist

Opencast operation on land north of Newcastle reveals new prehistoric site

The Brenkley archaeological site
The Brenkley archaeological site

More evidence has emerged of what is described as a “dynamic” landscape of prehistoric settlements in the North East.

Excavations carried out by Headland Archaeology at the Brenkley Lane surface mining site to the north of Newcastle have revealed an Iron Age settlement across a five-hectare area which is centred on four roundhouses within a double rectangular enclosure.

The Iron Age dated from around 800BC to the Roman conquest.

The two month-long dig, on behalf of operators Banks Mining, has revealed a complex series of archaeological features spread across the site, with the remains being grouped into three main phases of activity.

Most of the remains uncovered relate to an extensive period of occupation during the Iron Age, with a series of large rectangular ditches enclosing several concentrations of ring gullies, which are the foundation trenches of the settlement’s buildings.

Pits and other features, such as boundary and enclosure ditches, have also been uncovered, suggesting that buildings had been rebuilt several times.

Objects uncovered include Iron Age quern stones for processing grain, a spindle whorl for weaving, ceramic vessels used in salt transportation and Bronze Age pottery, suggest that a mixture of domestic and food-processing activities were carried out in the area, with features nearby thought to relate to the management of livestock.

An early Bronze Age cemetery, dating from between 2,100BC and 750BC, is represented by three cremations, while a period of medieval activity between 500 and 1,500 years ago is shown by a grain-drying kiln and extensive rig-and-furrow agriculture.

In 2008, one of the most complete Iron Age settlements to be excavated in the North East, which comprised approximately 50 roundhouses in an enclosed two-hectare area, was unearthed at Banks’s now-restored Delhi surface mine on the Blagdon Estate near Seaton Burn.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said:

“It’s fascinating to see how this area was worked and inhabited through the ages.

“We’ve worked closely with archaeologists across many of our sites for several years to ensure that detailed investigations are carried out and proper records kept.

“These discoveries simply wouldn’t be coming to light without the surface mining work .

“We’re very pleased that our coal mining operations at Brenkley Lane have led to these latest discoveries which further enhance the understanding of our region’s history.”

Ed Bailey, project manager at Headland Archaeology, said:

“The results of our work have added to the growing body of Iron Age sites around Newcastle that have been excavated in recent years which suggests a dynamic landscape of interrelated settlements across the area during this period.”

Previous discoveries as the Dellhi and Shotton surface mining sites have included a regular system of prehistoric landscape division.

Pit alignments ran perpendicular to the south bank of the River Blyth, which archaeologist Jon McKelvey suggests may have marked off areas such as pasture, woodland and access to water for communities.

Three large Iron Age settlements have also been revealed at Blagdon Park and East and West Brunton, with substantial banks and ditches designed to illustrate the wealth and power of the occupants.

It is now thought that in the late Iron Age the coastal plain, for at least 25km north of Newcastle, was covered with settlements at 1km intervals.

An Anglo-Saxon settlement was also found at Shotton consisting of six halls.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  28 Nov 2014

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Mysterious hoard baffles cathedral experts

The discovery of a forgotten time capsule has baffled history buffs at Durham Cathedral.

Workmen dismantling a Victorian bookcase to make way for a new door were surprised to find two newspapers from 1880 hidden under the base – and names written on the timbers in pencil.

The discovery has puzzled historians who believed the towering bookcases were installed when the stunning Monks’ Dormitory was opened in the 1850s.

Cathedral archaeologist Norman Emery now believes the Dormitory, a library, may have been extended at a later date.

But even that theory raises questions, as Mr Emery explained:

“Perhaps the library was extended at a later date and the new bookcases made as exact copies of the existing ones, but they appear to me to have all been made at the same time, which is baffling.”

Meanwhile, Mr Emery and colleagues are investigating the graffiti, bearing the names John Milbanke, believed to have been a Victorian builder and joiner from Church Street, Durham, and Robert Robson , a builder, mayor, alderman and justice of the peace whose eldest son served as the cathedral’s clerk of works.

The newspapers unearthed were the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of July 13, 1880, and the London Weekly Times of June 17, 1880.

Stories of the day included parliamentary debates, imperial affairs and a Sunderland manslaughter trial, all featured alongside adverts for assorted miracle cures and agricultural show results.

The Times carries a name and address written in ink across the centre page: Mr R Yelloby, Berwick on Tweed.

“It would be fascinating to know the link between this man and the man who ended up with the newspaper,” Mr Emery said.

The mysterious find follows the discovery of Roman pottery and a single pre-historic flint under the cathedral’s Great Kitchen in April.

The cathedral is undergoing major renovation as part of the £10m Open Treasure programme, which will see the creation of a world-class exhibition space capable of hosting priceless artefacts from the cathedral’s collections and across the world.

For more information, visit durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure

Source –  Durham Times,  30 Oct 2014

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Medieval Monk’s Bones Eroded From Cliff

The remains of an 800-year-old monk have been uncovered, poking out of a cliff face in the Vale of Glamorgan.

They were spotted by walker Mandy Ewington at Monknash, which was a burial ground for Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages.

The leg bones are thought to belong to a monk from the 1200s. Credit: Wales News Service

Archaeologist Mr Langford said: “You can clearly see a grave has been eroded into the sea. What is fascinating is you can see the two femurs being slowly revealed as the cliffs are eroded away.”

“There was a monastic community close to the area and these bones indicate a male in their late 20s who was in good health.”

“I would say they belong to a monk from the 1200s, due to previous archaeological digs in the past, the depth of the bones in the cliff and the history of the area.”

“He would likely be buried with nothing except two shroud rings which would have held his burial shroud in place at the head and feet.”

He said the winter storms had caused large parts of the British coastline to collapse and archaeological sites were being revealed and lost to the sea.

Source –  ITV Wales,  10 March 2014

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Almanac – June 13

1381 – The Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler entered London and, joined by many local townsfolk, attacked the gaols, destroyed the Savoy Palace and the Temple Inns of Court, set fire to law books and killed anyone associated with the royal government.

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1884 – Gerald Gardner born. English Wiccan, as well as an author and an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist.

He was instrumental in bringing the Contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca to public attention, writing some of its definitive religious texts and founding the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca.

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Almanac – March 12

1507 – Cesare Borgia died. Italian nobleman, politician, and cardinal. He was the son of Pope Alexander VI and his long-term mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei, and  the brother of Lucrezia Borgia. He was killed  while fighting in the city of Viana, Spain.

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1626 – John Aubrey born.  English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer.  He was a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, and who is particularly noted as the discoverer of the Avebury henge monument.  The Aubrey holes at Stonehenge are named after him, although there is considerable doubt as to whether the holes that he observed are those that currently bear the name.

 He was also a pioneer folklorist, collecting together a miscellany of material on customs, traditions and beliefs under the title “Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme”.

He set out to compile county histories of both Wiltshire and Surrey, although both projects remained unfinished. His “Interpretation of Villare Anglicanum” (also unfinished) was the first attempt to compile a full-length study of English place-names.

He had wider interests in applied mathematics and astronomy, and was friendly with many of the greatest scientists of the day.

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1922 – Jack Kerouac born. American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.

All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Sea is My Brother, and Big Sur.

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1955 – Charlie Parker died. American jazz saxophonist and composer. Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.”

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and improvisation. Parker introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.

He acquired the nickname “Yardbird” early in his career and the shortened form, “Bird”, which continued to be used for the rest of his life, inspired the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as “Yardbird Suite” and “Ornithology.

Parker died in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City while watching The Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show on television.

The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack. The coroner who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker’s 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age.

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