The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

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Highland (Mainland) — News

Rare Neolithic or Bronze Age rock art in Ross-shire

Seeing as nobody else has posted it... ;)

"A rare example of prehistoric rock art has been uncovered in the Highlands.

Archaeologists made the discovery while moving a boulder decorated with ancient cup and ring marks to a new location in Ross-shire.

When they turned the stone over they found the same impressions on the other side of the rock. It is one of only a few decorated stones of its kind.

John Wombell, of North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS), said: "This is an amazing discovery."

Susan Kruse, of Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), first discovered the stone at Heights of Fodderty several years ago when out walking.

The second set of cup and ring marks were uncovered recently when archaeologists were moving the stone to a new site at nearby Heights of Brae Neil Gunn Viewpoint.

From the Neolithic or Bronze Age, the art was created between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago."

Full story and pics:

Pen y Dinas (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Pen y Dinas</b>Posted by goffik

Great Orme and its Environs — Images

<b>Great Orme and its Environs</b>Posted by goffik

Kendrick's Cave (Cave / Rock Shelter) — Images

<b>Kendrick's Cave</b>Posted by goffik

Great Orme Mine (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Images

<b>Great Orme Mine</b>Posted by goffik<b>Great Orme Mine</b>Posted by goffik

Hengistbury Head (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Hengistbury Head</b>Posted by goffik

Bratton Castle & Westbury White Horse (Hillfort) — News

Westbury white horse to be cleaned for Queen's Jubilee

Not megalithic, I know, but part of the landscape, and I know some folk out there will be interested...

"A greying white horse hillfigure in Wiltshire is to be cleaned in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The Westbury white horse has "deteriorated substantially over the last 12 months" and is a "matter of local concern", said the local council.

It is maintained by English Heritage and last underwent a £20,000 refurbishment in 2006.

A £10,000 grant has been awarded by Westbury Town Council and Westbury Area Board to clean the "grubby" horse.

Area board chairman, Julie Swabey, said the horse had become "so grey and dirty" it was "hard to distinguish it as a landmark".

"It is sad to see her in such a poor state," she said.

"But, hopefully working together with the town council and groups who have offered to help with its brush up will see the horse finally white again."

'Natural weathering'

English Heritage was originally approached, and whilst appreciating the landmark had been affected by "natural weathering" said it was "not at risk of serious damage or disrepair".

"English Heritage continually monitors its condition and regularly removes graffiti from it," said Stuart Maughan, property manager for Wiltshire.

"We care for over 100 historic sites in the South West alone and, therefore, funding is limited.

"So we are delighted that Westbury Town Council has offered to raise funds to repaint the white horse. We are working closely with them to share our expertise to ensure this much-loved local landmark is continually cared for."

Once restored, the town council is planning to illuminate the carving with searchlights as part of Westbury's Jubilee celebrations.

Westbury's horse is said to be the oldest in Wiltshire. It was restored in 1778, but many believe it is far older than that.

It is thought to have been originally carved in 878 AD to commemorate King Alfred's victory over the Danes at the Battle of Ethandune."

Danebury (Hillfort) — News

Mainly Danebury Exhibition @ Andover Museum

Mainly Danebury; Paintings inspired by the Iron Age Hill Fort A collection of artwork by local artist Nat Lewis For many years I have been fascinated by Danebury, not only its history and the artefacts in the Museum, but also by the atmosphere inherent in the location... Ancient Danebury became relevant to the 21st century inspiring a series of Abstract paintings ..The paintings progress through various styles and represent my artistic development over a period of nearly ten years.

Ness of Brodgar (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

Another award for the Ness of Brodgar excavations

The excavation on the Ness of Brodgar has been named the winner of the 2012 Andante Travels Archaeology Award.

The Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology/Orkney College UHI project was runner-up in the international award scheme in 2008, and went on to take the Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year title last year.

Previous winners of the annual Andante Award include the Via Consolare Project in Pompeii; the Stonehenge Riverside Project and Kerkenes Dag, Turkey.

Excavation director Nick Card commented: “Once again, it is really wonderful for Orkney, highlighting that our archaeology is up there among the best in the world. Congratulations to the whole team.”


Stone Age Pebble Holds Mysterious Meaning

Slightly out of TMA's geographic remit, but some may find this interesting:

"The colorful pebble bearing a sequence of lines dates back 100,000 years and may be the first evidence of abstract art.

A colorful pebble bearing a sequence of linear incisions may be the world's oldest engraving.

The object, which will be described in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeology, dates back approximately 100,000 years ago and could also be the world’s oldest known abstract art. It was recovered from Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

“Associated human remains indicate that the engraved piece was certainly made by Homo sapiens,” co-author Riaan Rifkin of the University of Witwatersrand’s Institute for Human Evolution told Discovery News.

Rifkin and colleagues Francesco d’Errico and Renata Garcia Moreno performed extensive non-invasive analyses of the object. Methods like X-ray fluorescence and microscopic analysis enabled the researchers to examine every minute detail of the ochre pebble, which appears to have split off from a once larger piece."

Full story:

Sardinia (Island) — News

Prehistoric cybermen? Sardinia's lost warriors rise from the dust

An elite force of prehistoric
warriors – carved from solid rock in the western Mediterranean 2700 years ago –
is rising from oblivion.

Archaeologists and conservation experts on the Italian island of Sardinia have succeeded in re-assembling literally thousands of fragments of smashed sculpture to recreate a small yet unique army of life-size stone warriors which were originally destroyed by enemy action in the middle of the first millennium BC.

It’s the only group of sculpted life-sized warriors ever found in Europe. Though consisting of a much smaller number of figures than China’s famous Terracotta Army, the Sardinia example is 500 years older and is made of stone rather than pottery.

After an eight year conservation and reconstruction program, 25 of the original 33 sculpted stone warriors – archers, shield-holding ‘boxers’ and probable swordsmen – have now been substantially re-assembled.

The warriors were originally sculpted and placed on guard over the graves of elite Iron Age Sardinians, buried in the 8 century BC. The stone guardians are thought to have represented the dead individuals or to have acted as their eternal body-guards and retainers.

However, within a few centuries, the Carthaginians (from what is now Tunisia) invaded Sardinia – and archaeologists suspect that it was they who smashed the stone warriors (and stone models of native fortress shrines) into five thousand fragments. It’s likely that the small sculpted army - and the graves they were guarding - were seen by the invaders as important symbols of indigenous power and status.

The site was abandoned and forgotten. Carthaginian control of Sardinia gave way to Roman, then Vandal, then Byzantine, Pisan, Aragonese, Spanish, Austrian, Savoyard and finally Italian rule.

The thousands of fragments were rediscovered only in the 1970s – and were excavated in the early 1980s by Italian archaeologist Carlo Troncheti. Two of the statues were then re-assembled – but the vast majority of the material was put into a local museum store where it stayed until 2004 when re-assembly work on the fragments was re-started by conservators in Sassari, northern Sardinia.

Sardinia’s newly recreated ‘stone army’ is set to focus attention on one of the world’s least known yet most impressive ancient civilizations – the so-called Nuragic culture which dominated the island from the 16 century BC to the late 6 century BC. Its Bronze Age heyday was in the mid second millennium BC - roughly from the 16 to the 13 century BC, when it constructed some of the most impressive architectural monuments ever produced in prehistory.

Even today, the remains of 7000 Nuragic fortresses (the oldest castles in Europe) still dominate the landscape of Sardinia. Several dozen have stood the test of time exceptionally well – and give an extraordinary impression of what Sardinian Bronze Age military architecture looked like.

The re-assembled stone army is expected to go on display from this summer at southern Sardinia’s Cagliari Museum, 70 miles south-east of the find site, Monte Prama in central Sardinia.

Many of the stone warriors are armed with bows or protected by shields – and wear protective carved stone armour over their chests and horned stone helmet over their heads. Some of the fighters – those believed to portray boxers – carry shields in their left hands, held aloft over their heads. These ‘boxers’ may well have represented or embodied shield-bearers serving the high-ranking members of the Sardinian Iron Age interred in the adjacent graves.

There were also a series of at least ten model Nuragic castles of different designs – some single-towered and others sporting more elaborate ‘multi-tower’ fortifications.

It’s likely that the models represent the actual monumental buildings (Bronze Age fortresses transformed into Iron Age ‘ancestral’ shrines) associated with each buried individual’s immediate family.

The ruling elite of this part of Sardinia may well have been a relatively tightly knit group of closely related individuals. For scientific work carried out on the skeletal material at a laboratory in Florence, suggests that most of the dead individuals were from just two generations of a single extended family.

Orkney — News

'Orkney Held Me Close' Exhibition by Nicki MacRae.

Because she's too modest to post it herself... ;)

"‘Orkney Held Me Close’ is an exhibition of work created following my stay on Orkney in February 2011. I travelled to study the megalithic remains as part of my ongoing work, painting the ancient places of the UK - however Orkney enchanted me and inspired me into a hugely prolific period and I created a large body of work. I am delighted to have the chance to show a selection of paintings, landscapes and abstracts, at For Arts Sake, Kirkwall."


"9th March - 10th April 2012
'Orkney Held Me Close'
an exhibition of landscape and abstract paintings,
For Arts Sake Gallery, above the VAO, 6 Bridge Street, Kirkwall, Orkney. Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10am – 2pm."

Looks fab. I'd be there like a shot if it were at all possible... :)

G x

Avebury & the Marlborough Downs (Region) — News

EXHIBITION: Landscape with Stones: paintings and woodcuts by Nick Schlee

An exhibition of oil paintings and woodcuts by British landscape artist Nick Schlee, focusing on Avebury and the Ridgeway.

This new exhibition features some of Nick Schlee's most bold and vivid work portraying the ancient monument of Avebury and the nearby Ridgeway. 

80 year old Nick says of the exhibition: 

"More than half of the pictures in the exhibition feature those mysterious ancient stones that mean little to most of us, but must have meant a great deal to our forebears. 

Painting them, without being able to share the feelings they engendered for the people who erected them, is a problem. I can only describe their outside appearance. The spirit within is closed to me. It is as if I were recording the skin of a peach without any idea of its taste, its texture and delicious succulence. 

We are probably all aware of the difficulties and dedication that went into bringing these stones to where they stand today. This is what, to my mind, contributes to making them so unnerving. Their presence disturbs me in the same way the purposeful ditches of Avebury disturb me. 

When I paint their portraits, from close up or afar, I am trying to find a place for them in the powerful rhythms, space and colour of the natural landscape. The result is that they take on the role of rugged, weather-battered statues. 

Because I find it impossible to find an understanding of them that matches my own experience I deliberately inject a febrile nervous energy into my drawing of them. I hope that in this way I will convey to viewers the former power they held for early inhabitants of the area. I tremble. But at what I am not sure. 

In contrast, the vast panoramas along the Ridgeway move me more directly. Here I feel more confident that I do not miss anything important. What I see of the rolling landscape with its sky and clumps of trees resonates powerfully in way that reaches inside me today as they must have always done to others over the centuries. 

I use heightened colour and emphasised rhythmic line in my paintings to try make sure that those looking at them share the excitement the Wiltshire landscape creates in me." 

Although this is the first time Nick's work has been exhibited at the Museum, he has had many solo exhibitions, including at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Gallery 27 in London and the West Berkshire Museum. He has also participated in many group exhibitions including Templeton College, Oxford and the Modern Artists Gallery. His work is held in public collections, including the City of London Guildhall Gallery, the Wessex Collection at Longleat House and Southampton City Art Gallery. 

More information about the artist and his work can be found on his website

*Exhibition runs from 14 January to 2 September 2012.*Cost:   Usual Admission Charges Apply

G x


9,000-year-old stone tools found in Mexico

"The objects were found at an archaeological site known as El Coyote, located in the Los Cabos region, the INAH said, adding that they "bolster the hypothesis" that the first colonists of the hemisphere populated the region via watercraft migration, following coastlines from northeast Asia southward into the Americas.

The researchers found cut and polished seashells, fishing devices and stone tools used for cutting and scraping (choppers, percussive devices, planes, scrapers and knives) that date back between 8,600 and 9,300 years."

Article: (links through to full story on Fox News, which I didn't feel inclined to link to)

G x

Peloponnese (Region) — News

Pavlopetri – The City Beneath the Waves

This looks good!

"Just off the southern coast of mainland Greece lies the oldest submerged city in the world. A city that thrived for 2000 years during the time that saw the birth of Western civilisation. An international team of experts uses the latest technology to investigate the site and digitally raise it from the seabed, to reveal the secrets of Pavlopetri.

Led by underwater archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson, the team use the latest in cutting-edge science and technology to prise age-old secrets from the complex of streets and stone buildings that lie less than five metres below the surface. State-of-the-art CGI helps to raise the city from the seabed revealing, for the first time in 3,500 years, how Pavlopetri would once have looked and operated."

Full article:

Bit more with a link to the related podcast here:

Ring of Brodgar (Stone Circle) — News

Do survey results show a massive prehistoric monument under the water of the Stenness Loch?

This could be pretty exciting if anything comes of it!

"Survey work in the Loch of Stenness has revealed what could be a massive prehistoric monument lying underwater to the south of the Ring of Brodgar.

The underwater "anomaly" has come to light in a project looking at prehistoric sea level change in Orkney. The project, The Rising Tide: Submerged Landscape of Orkney, is a collaboration between the universities of St Andrews, Wales, Dundee, Bangor and Aberdeen.

But although it is tempting to speculate that the ring-shaped feature, which lies just off the loch's shore, is the remains of a henge — a circular or oval-shaped flat area enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork (usually a ditch with an external bank) — or perhaps a prehistoric quarry, at this stage the project leaders are urging caution."

Full article:

Alton Priors (Christianised Site) — News

Guided walk - the history of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors

Local Historian David Carson is starting local history walks of Alton Barnes and Priors – the first one is on Wednesday the 2nd of November, and then every Wednesday throughout November. This is something that David has done before, both for Devizes Festival and for local history societies, under the banner of 'A Tale of Two Villages'. You will learn a host of fascinating facts covering the two Ancient churches, what the villages used to look like, the Civil War, and the machinery riots. Full booking details can be found on the Barge Inn website, but here are some of the details. Booking is made by phoning The Barge (01672 851705) . The walks start from St Mary's Church in Alton Barnes (car parking is available at the church, and also at the Barge Inn) at 11am, and finish at about 12.30 at The Barge Inn. The cost of the 'walk and talk' is a modest £10 for adults, and £7.50 for the under 16′s (not really suitable for youngsters under 11) to be paid in cash on arrival at the church – lunch is an 'extra' and you should book a table at The Barge when booking your place on the tour. Numbers are restricted to 15 people on each walk, and may be subject to cancelation due to weather conditions.".

Full article:


Sada Mire: Uncovering Somalia's heritage

Another one slightly outside TMA's geographical remit, but may be of interest to some:

" Sada Mire fled Somalia's civil war as a child, and lived as a refugee in Sweden. But now she is back in the Horn of Africa as an archaeologist, making some incredible discoveries.

Sada Mire is only 35, but she has already revealed a dozen sites that could be candidates for Unesco world heritage status.

The most stunning of Ms Mire's discoveries is a vast series of rock art sites in Dhambalin, outside the seaside town of Berbera..."

Full article:

G x

Ness of Brodgar (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

Dig diary: Friday 29th July 2011

From Twitter:

@orkneyjar: "Pic now online. Behold the "Brodgar Boy" - Neolithic figurine unearthed at Ness of Brodgar dig."

Pic of the figurine -

Full article -

G x

Somerset — News

Oldest open-air cemetery in the UK found

Somerset was the site of the UK's oldest open-air cemetery, the county council says.

Recent radiocarbon dating of two skulls found at a sand quarry in Greylake nature reserve near Middlezoy in 1928 revealed them to be 10,000 years old.

The council said the find was made under its Lost Islands of Somerset project by a team investigating the archaeology of the Somerset Levels.


Germany (Country) — News

Stone Age erotic art found in Germany

"Researchers in Germany have discovered Stone Age cave art in the country for the first time including carvings of nude women that may have been used in fertility rites.
Archaeologists working for the Bavarian State Office for Historical Preservation came upon the primitive engravings in a cave near the southern city of Bamberg after decades searching, a spokeswoman for the authority said.
The spokeswoman, Beate Zarges, confirmed a report to appear in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit that the engravings were believed to be around 12,000 years old, which would make them the first Stone Age artwork ever found in Germany."


Goldherring (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Goldherring</b>Posted by goffik

Goldherring (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

Visited July 2004

We visited this completely by accident some years back, and for some reason it's been hovering around in my thoughts so I thought it about time I added it here!

Mrs G and I took a circular walk, starting from Sancreed Holy Well, via Boscawen-Un and associated standing stones, when I spotted the word "Well", in script, not far up the road, so we thought we may as well investigate.

Following the map, we were taken up the driveway of a private house, with "Goldherring" displayed in the wrought iron gate. We thought it just the name of the property, and thought nothing more of it, as we hadn't heard of the place until then.

We saw someone sitting in the garden, so we cautiously and politely approached to ask if they knew anything of the well. The man was vrey friendly, and before we could say anything, asked if we'd come to look at the ancient village! Well, yes please, we replied!

He very kindly took us on a guided tour of the site - which, to be honest, was largely unrecogniseable under the foliage, but every now and again, a large stone, or section of wall would appear through a gap. He showed me the location of the well, which was completely overgrown and unidentifiable, and was informed that it had been long since covered after a cow got trapped (and later freed) after falling in!

It was amazing to see the lumps and bumps, and trace the shapes into possible circular buildings

Craig Weatherhill, in his excellent book "Belerion", suggests the walls are actually later in date (Medieval). We didn't even think about referring to the book when we visited, due to not even knowing of it's existence, but would dearly love to go back and have a good explore.

Goldherring (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Goldherring</b>Posted by goffik


2,000-year-old Greek Antikythera mechanism rebuilt in Lego

I'm really struggling with this one! I'm *sure* it's within TMA's remit, but it just seems somehow a bit too out there! Ah well. It's within the timeline at least. There's been far less relevant stuff posted here, and it's REALLY interesting! So here goes! :D

"The world's oldest known computer, a 2,000-year-old Greek-built astronomical calendar, has been brought back to life in Lego form.

The Antikythera mechanism is a sophisticated, scientific instrument built in Ancient Greece around 100 BC. It was then lost for 2000 years in a Roman shipwreck below the seas off Antikythera island, until divers discovered it in 1901.

But while historians and archaeologists were fascinated by its complexity and precision, the amount of corrosion and number of missing parts meant its exact purpose was still unconfirmed for another century.

In 2006, archaeologists used high resolution X-ray tomography to peer behind the layers of filth and rust to read and translate more Greek inscriptions. The findings led historians to realise the computer was actually an incredibly accurate celestial calendar, capable of predicting solar and lunar eclipses.

And now Apple software engineer Andrew Carol has knocked up a faithful recreation of the machine out of Lego. He received the recreation request after building a Babbage Difference Engine in Lego.

The plastic Antikythera mechanism took just 30 days to design, prototype and build, and uses 1,500 Lego Technic parts and 110 gears. Slightly more than the original machine, but Carol had to work with the sizes that the Danish toy maker produced.

The final contraption is an incredible feat of engineering, with four separate gear boxes all linked up to a central pair of clocks that can tell you, to an accuracy of two hours, the exact time and date of upcoming solar and lunar eclipses. According to the machine, the next solar eclipse is due at 4:30 GMT on 8 April, 2024.

The remake is a fitting tribute to the relic, which remains as one of the forefathers of modern computing and mechanics. The ancient computer predated devices with such complexity and design by several centuries, as similar astronomical mechanisms didn't crop up again until the 14th century AD in Europe. The original Antikythera mechanism is kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens."

Goffik, if you are confused I suggest you read this page, particularly the 'primary concerns'.

Avebury (Stone Circle) — News

Summer Solstice 20 - 22 June

"The summer solstice observance at Avebury is expected to be very busy and there will be limited car parking as a result.

From Monday 20 June until mid afternoon on Wednesday 22 June there will be a temporary campsite alongside the car park, opening at 9am on Monday 20 June and closing at 2pm on Wednesday 22 June. There will only be 93 tent spaces, allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. They are expected to be in high demand.

There will be no camping available on the weekend before the Solstice.

We would advise anybody planning to come to celebrate the solstice at Avebury to consider both finding accommodation in official campsites nearby and to visiting by public transport. The main celebrations will take place on the evening of 20 June and at Sunrise on 21 June.

The National Trust is part of the Avebury Solstice Planning Group and works closely with police, the local councils, residents, the fire brigade and other safety groups to ensure that this is a peaceful and safe event for those who wish to celebrate the solstice here."

Full information:


Early Bronze Age battle site found on German river bank

"Fractured human remains found on a German river bank could provide the first compelling evidence of a major Bronze Age battle.

Archaeological excavations of the Tollense Valley in northern Germany unearthed fractured skulls, wooden clubs and horse remains dating from around 1200 BC.

The injuries to the skulls suggest face-to-face combat in a battle perhaps fought between warring tribes, say the researchers.

The paper, published in the journal Antiquity, is based primarily on an investigation begun in 2008 of the Tollense Valley site, which involved both ground excavations and surveys of the riverbed by divers."

Full article:

Orkney — News

Flint axe found on Orkney shore predates the Ice Age

"A flint axe, recovered on a stretch of shore in St Ola, looks like being the oldest man-made artefact found in Orkney to date.

Dating from the Palaeolithic period of prehistory, the axe could therefore be anything between 100,000 and 450,000 years old."

Full story:


Researchers replicate rare cuneiform tablets using 3-D scanning and printing

Slightly outside of TMA's geographical remit again, but thought this might be an interesting potential future use of technology in relation to rockart:


Today's Assyriology scholars study Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets with the help of digital photographs or handwritten copies of the texts, but ideally, they visit collections to see the tablets firsthand.

Technology could introduce a new way to connect researchers to these precious, unique artifacts by creating exact replicas.

Such an effort is under way at Cornell in the lab of Hod Lipson, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who specializes in the burgeoning field of 3-D scanning and printing of everyday objects.

Natasha Gangjee '12, a student in Lipson's lab, worked with six cuneiform tablets to try and replicate them exactly using optical scanning and layer-by-layer printing technology. A former student of Lipson's, Evan Malone, made an initial prototype.

"If we can create very accurate reproductions, this would be a great help to us," said David I. Owen, the Bernard and Jane Schapiro Professor of Ancient Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

Tablets can be copied using latex molds, but this runs the risk of damaging the original, Owen said. The most important recent technological development in the field was digital photography; this allowed millions of ancient artifacts to become instantly available to scholars everywhere. But it is nothing like the real thing.

"With a photograph you can see a lot and that's great, but oftentimes you can read even more if you can actually hold the tablet because of the angle of the light -- how it hits the signs can help you see it better," added Alexandra Kleinerman '03, a postdoctoral associate working with Owen.

The collaboration started because Owen and Lipson are neighbors and friends. Hearing Owen talk about his research got Lipson thinking about how 3-D printing could contribute to Owen's field. The challenge would be to find the right materials to color-match the tablets and give them an authentic feel, weight and texture.

Gangjee used a 3-D scanner in the lab to make files of each tablet. She then sent the files for fabrication at a ZCorp color 3-D printing service, averaging about $25 per tablet.

The first 3-D reproductions looked like the originals, but the smallest signs will require additional refinements before a completely accurate result is possible. Nevertheless, Lipson says they will continue with various techniques and may try using a CT scanner to improve performance.

Lipson thinks this is just one of a myriad of applications that these printers will bring to people's lives when they become more available to the general public.

"We are basically taking two existing technologies, scanning and 3-D printing, and trying to use them in a new way," Lipson said. "This will make tablet collections accessible to more scholars and students the world over."


Puzzling ancient rock carvings found in Sudan

Maybe not within the TMA remit geographically speaking, but still interesting:

"Some images date to 5,000 years ago, but no one is sure what they mean

An archaeological team in the Bayuda Desert in northern Sudan has discovered dozens of new rock art drawings, some of which were etched more than 5,000 years ago and reveal scenes that scientists can't explain.

The team discovered 15 new rock art sites in an arid valley known as Wadi Abu Dom, some 18 miles from the Nile River. It's an arid valley that flows with water only during rainy periods. Many of the drawings were carved into the rock faces — no paint was used — of small stream beds known as "khors" that flow into the valley.

Some of the sites revealed just a single drawing while others have up to 30, said lead researcher Tim Karberg of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany.

"We asked the local people about the rock art and they said that it would be very old, before their grandfathers," Karberg told LiveScience."

Full article:

Spain (Country) — News

25,000-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain

"Paintings depicting horses and human hands made by prehistoric humans around 25,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in northern Spain, regional officials said on Wednesday.

The red paintings, found by chance by archaeologists looking for signs of ancient settlements, were made around the same time as the Altamira Cave paintings -- some of the world's best prehistoric paintings discovered in northern Spain in 1879.

"It was a chance finding," archaeologist Diego Garate told Reuters.

"Although they were difficult to spot because they are badly deteriorated, our experienced eye helped us to identify them."

Experts will further explore the caves for evidence of prehistoric utensils or tools, officials said.

The first homo sapiens arrived in small groups in northern Spain around 35,000 years ago.

They cohabited for a time with the last of the Neanderthals and then developed a significant culture known as the Upper Palaeolithic, producing stone blade tools and decorating cave walls."

St. Michael's Mount (Natural Rock Feature) — News

New for 2011 - Bronze Age Hoard

"At the end of 2009, an exciting discovery was made on the Mount when parts of an axe-head, dagger and intact metal clasp were found. The British Museum has confirmed these dating back to the Bronze Age and this extraordinary find - evidence of life on the Mount for three millennia - will go on display in the castle this Spring."

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — News

Henge Hopper timetable announced

"We are testing the timetables for the service, and for the first few weeks we will be making constant changes. Please check here each week for confirmation of the timetable that we will be operating each weekend."


The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — News

Moon watch to be held at ancient stone circle

A SPRING "Moonwatch" is being held at the Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton on Saturday.

The Moonwatch 2011 is being held by Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group at the ancient stone circle from midday.

There will be displays of telescopes, astronomers to talk to, a display of model rockets by the Black Knights Rocket Society and a children's drawing competition.

At sunset there will be a talk by George Lambrick, head of the Rollright Trust, about the ancient monuments, a short talk about the night sky and , if conditions allow, an evening of star, Moon and planet observing through a wide range of powerful telescopes until midnight.

For further information visit or phone 07900 858 690.

Highland (Mainland) — News

Ancient Caithness site 'occupied for 1,000 years'

"The site of one of Scotland's most important mainland broch settlements may have been home to early people for up to 1,000 years, evidence suggests.

Archaeologists and volunteers have uncovered what could be the remains of walls dating back to 700 to 500 BC at Nybster in Caithness.

Andy Heald, of AOC Archaeology, said further investigations would need to be made to confirm the structure's age.

Evidence of possible Pictish and medieval occupation has been recorded.

A key feature of the site are the remains of a massive stone wall roundhouse, known as a broch.

Caithness has more brochs per square mile than any other part of Scotland, according to Highland Council."

Full story:

MOD Durrington (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

New site summary - MOD HQ, Durrington, Wiltshire

(I don't know how much of this is repeated/old news, but here goes!)

Page updated: 14/04/2011

"Excavations at the site of the former MOD Headquarters at Durrington have revealed deposits dating to the Late Upper Palaeolithic (Late Glacial) c. 12,000BC and evidence of human activity from the late Neolithic (2550-2200 BC) through to the modern period, with the main focus of activity dating from the Late Iron Age c.100BC to Romano-British period (AD43-410). The site is located within an archaeologically rich landscape just 1km north of the Neolithic Durrington Walls henge and between the Romano-British settlements at Figheldean and at the Packway enclosure to the north and south respectively.

Two monumental Neolithic posthole alignments, which appeared to follow the contours of high ground, contained Grooved Ware pottery. Potentially contemporary with these alignments was a natural swallow hole or sink hole 25m across which had been consolidated with a flint pebble surface which created a metalled platform covered with flint knapping debris and a broken late Neolithic flint axehead or chisel. In the Iron Age, the site comprised a number of paddocks and small fields, formed by shallow gullies and ditches."

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Marden Henge (and Hatfield Barrow) — News

A Henge Revealed: Recent work at Marden Henge

12 Apr 2011 19:30

Lecture Hall - Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum

A lecture by Jim Leary, English Heritage. The summer of 2010 saw excavations at one of the largest Neolithic Henge monuments in Britain: Marden. It is located in the heart of the Vale of Pewsey between Stonehenge and Avebury and although it does not have any surviving stone settings, its sheer size is astounding.

The excavation was the culmination of a two-year multi-disciplinary project and provided evidence for a now demolished mound – said to be the second largest in Wiltshire after Silbury Hill. More remarkable, however, was the discovery of an extraordinarily well-preserved Neolithic building – undoubtedly one of the best preserved in Britain outside Orkney. This lecture will discuss the findings from the project, and explore some reasons of why it was constructed and what it could have been used for.

A lecture in the Salisbury Museum Archaeology Lectures (SMAL) series. SMAL lectures are held on the second Tuesday of each month from September to April.

Booking: No booking necessary, payable on the door

Cost: Museum members £2.00; non-Members £3.50; payable on the door


Earliest evidence for magic mushroom use in Europe

"EUROPEANS may have used magic mushrooms to liven up religious rituals 6000 years ago. So suggests a cave mural in Spain, which may depict fungi with hallucinogenic properties - the oldest evidence of their use in Europe.

The Selva Pascuala mural, in a cave near the town of Villar del Humo, is dominated by a bull. But it is a row of 13 small mushroom-like objects that interests Brian Akers at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, Florida, and Gaston Guzman at the Ecological Institute of Xalapa in Mexico. They believe that the objects are the fungi Psilocybe hispanica, a local species with hallucinogenic properties.

Like the objects depicted in the mural, P. hispanica has a bell-shaped cap topped with a dome, and lacks an annulus - a ring around the stalk. "Its stalks also vary from straight to sinuous, as they do in the mural," says Akers.

This isn't the oldest prehistoric painting thought to depict magic mushrooms, though. An Algerian mural that may show the species Psilocybe mairei is 7000 to 9000 years old."

Stirling — News

Iron Age treasure goes on display

A hoard of Iron Age treasure which was unearthed by a novice metal-detecting enthusiast is being displayed at the National Museum of Scotland.

The four gold neck ornaments, known as torcs, date back to the 1st and 3rd century BC and were found by David Booth just six inches beneath the surface of a Stirlingshire field in September 2009. The treasure trove was allocated to the national collection in Chambers Street, Edinburgh - netting Mr Booth £462,000.

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Creswell Crags (Cave / Rock Shelter) — News

UK nominates 11 sites for Unesco world heritage status

Britain is nominating a judicious mixture of natural, built and industrial sites, including the slate industry of north Wales with its spectacular shale heaps still bearing witness to the days when Welsh slate roofed half the world, the Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire, Scotland's beautiful Flow Country, the endlessly repainted Forth railway bridge which had the longest single cantilever span in the world when built in 1890, Gorham's cave complex in Gibraltar, and Cresswell Crags, the limestone gorge honeycombed with caves which has some of the earliest evidence of human habitation in Britain and the country's only known Ice Age rock art.

Avebury (Stone Circle) — News

Time Travellers' Workshop: Avebury, the early years

Discover the secrets of the first farmers with Archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall and Museum Curator Dr Ros Cleal as they investigate Earlier Neolithic Avebury. The day includes a field visit to West Kennet Long Barrow and draws on finds from Windmill Hill. Tickets include lunch, refreshments and parking for non-members of the National Trust or English Heritage.

Date: Sunday, 03 April 2011
Time: 10am - 4pm
Price: All Tickets £35 (£30 if booking 3+ Time Travellers' Workshops)

More Information: The visitor services team, 01672 539250,

Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

Interim Links of Noltland report launched

"The interim report on the ongoing excavations at the Links of Notland, in Westray, has been published by Historic Scotland.

Shifting Sands: Links of Noltland, Westray presents an interim account of the excavation findings so far. It documents some of the most remarkable discoveries, including the Westray Wife and the "Cattle Skull Building" with its foundation deposit of skulls built into the walls.

The Links of Noltland site lies on the exposed coastline of Westray and was buried beneath sand dunes until recently. With the rapid onset of erosion, the prehistoric remains were exposed and at extreme risk of being lost forever. A major programme of fieldwork, commissioned by Historic Scotland, is now being undertaken by EASE Archaeology. Discoveries include a Neolithic farmstead, field walls, cultivation remains and artefact-rich middens, together with six Bronze Age buildings and a contemporary cemetery.

Written by Hazel Moore and Graeme Wilson, the archaeologists in charge of the dig, the report also describes the Bronze Age remains, which represent the largest and most complete settlement of this date in Orkney.

The report provides an up-to-date statement on the archaeological discoveries, together with specialist analysis of artefacts recovered during the excavation.

Shifting Sands: Links of Noltland costs £12.95."


Hands on History: Ancient Britain

"Hands on History helps you discover history on your doorstep - from ancient Britain to the history of the high street. Watch ep 2 of A History of Ancient Britain on Wed 16 Feb and have a look at our events and downloads."

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Legislation forces archaeologists to rebury finds

Bones and skulls from ancient settlements will be reburied and lost to science under controversial legislation that threatens to cripple archeological research

Human remains from Stonehenge and other ancient settlements will be reburied and lost to science under legislation that threatens to cripple research into the history of humans in Britain, a group of leading archaeologists says today.

In a letter addressed to the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and printed in the Guardian today, 40 archaeology professors write of their "deep and widespread concern" about the issue.


History highlights on the BBC

Martin Davidson, the BBC's commissioning editor for history, reveals what we can expect to see on TV in the year ahead.

... This year Neil Oliver delves further into the distant past while remaining closer to home when he presents landmark series A History of Ancient Britain. His epic quest through thousands of years of ancient history tells the story of how Britain and its people came to be. He journeys from the glacial wasteland of Ice Age mammoth hunters, through the glories of the Stone Age, to the magnificence of international Bronze Age society ...

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — News

Hundreds turn out for winter solstice at Stonehenge

SNOW and ice failed to keep people away from Stonehenge today as they gathered to see the sun rise on the winter solstice.

More than 2,000 people came together at the stones, which were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow.

The winter morning mist obscured the actual sunrise - which took place at 8.09am - but an eclectic mix of people celebrated the ancient festival.

Among the Druids, hippies and sun worshippers were those just curious to experience the spiritual event at the site, on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire.

Serving soldier of 15 years Lance Corporal Paul Thomas, who fought in Iraq, was ''knighted'' with a sword by Druid protester King Arthur Pendragon.

Formerly known as John Rothwell, King Arthur changed his name by deed poll.

Formerly of Winchester, Arthur stood as a parliamentary candidate for the city in 2005 and in Salisbury during this year's general election.

This morning, he also performed a handfasting - a Pagan marriage ceremony - inside the stones.

As well as the traditional Druid and Pagan ceremonies, a spontaneous snowball fight erupted as people enjoyed the cold weather.

The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21, but this year the Druid and Pagan community marked the first day of winter today because the modern calendar of 365 days a year - with an extra day every four years - does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.

During the winter solstice the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.

The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.

Maeshowe (Chambered Tomb) — News

Winter solstice: See the light on the darkest day

Ancient monuments become giant cameras, catching sunlight in a moment of mystery and wonder.

It is time to pray for the return of the sun. In this deep midwinter, we can start to imagine what the winter solstice meant to the ancient inhabitants of Britain who built Stonehenge and Maeshowe, and who aligned these mysterious buildings to receive the remote rays of the sun on the darkest day of the year.

This is the holiest time of the year – if you happen to share the beliefs of these ancient pagans, which, in fact, are obscure because they left no writings or even much in the way of figurative art. But the winter solstice must have been deeply important to them because on this day, and this day only, sunlight creates startling effects at Britain's late neolithic and early bronze age monuments. Most astonishingly of all, it enters the long narrow entrance passage of the burial mound of Maeshowe on Orkney's Mainland island and glows on the back wall of the inner chamber. The building becomes a giant camera, catching sunlight in a moment of mystery and wonder.

The architecture of Maeshowe is one of the marvels of these islands. Inside the earthen mound is a profoundly impressive chamber made of massive blocks of stone arranged in powerful lintels neatly layered, perforated by accurately rectangular openings. There is a precision to the stone construction and its plan, with symmetrical side chambers. When later Viking warriors broke into the chamber they wrote runic inscriptions on its stones, adding to the strange atmosphere. But it is at the winter solstice that Maeshowe consummates its mystery with the astronomical spectacle of the sun piercing its dark sanctum of death.

Light in darkness, life in death, the moment when the sun begins its return journey towards midsummer. Truly the pagan midwinter is a moving celebration. But, as we rush around buying presents, do we remember the true meaning of the winter sun festival?

Newgrange (Passage Grave) — News

Ireland's Newgrange: Countdown to winter's magic moment

On the morning of 21 December, a select group of people made their way through a dark, narrow passage and gathered in a small cross-shaped chamber at Newgrange in Co Meath, Irish Republic, to celebrate the winter solstice. Why?

Newgrange, located 40km north of Dublin and perched high above a bend of the River Boyne, is a prehistoric passage tomb, covered on the outside by a large grassy mound.

At over 5,000 years old it is the older cousin of Stonehenge and it predates the pyramids by about 500 years.

It is difficult to estimate how long it would have taken to build it.

"They were a very sophisticated society with a sound economic base as they were able to divert a large number of people to the building of passage tombs," says archaeologist Professor George Eogan.

"The ritual of the dead was very important in their lives and the site combines engineering, architectural and artistic skills."

Shaft of light

Newgrange is unique because the builders aligned it with the rising sun.

Just after sunrise, at 0858GMT, on the shortest day of the year, the inner chamber will flood with sunlight, which enters through a 25cm (9.9ins) high "roof box" above the passage entrance.

The phenomenon was discovered by archaeologist, Professor Michael J O'Kelly on 21 December 1967 during research on the site.

"He found the roof box when uncovering the roof chamber but wondered about its purpose," says his daughter Helen Watanabe O'Kelly.

Local people always said it was aligned to the sun but the measurements did not fit the summer solstice.

"My mother, who worked closely with him, suggested that it might be connected with the winter solstice. And that was how he discovered it in 1967."

Ms O'Kelly recalls how she experienced it with him the following year.

"There were just the two of us. It was cold and dark - no razzmatazz, like you have now. I still remember sitting in the cold and we just waited.

"Suddenly this shaft of light came into the chamber and hit the back wall. I remember being quietly moved - it was like someone was speaking to you from thousands of years before. I still see it like a picture before my inner eye - it was a golden light."

Since the discovery of the winter solstice alignment, Newgrange has been developed as a major tourist attraction and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Demand to attend the midwinter solstice is high and since 2000 it has been regulated by a lottery system. This year, more than 25,000 people applied but only 10 were selected to attend on 21 December. Each can bring one guest.

The lucky winners - drawn by primary school children from three local schools - include people from Ireland, the US, England, Scotland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

In addition, 40 other winners and guests can attend on the days around the solstice, when some light enters the chamber.

Clare Tuffy, the visitor centre's manager who has worked at Newgrange since the early 1980s, says that guests are kept outside for as long possible on the solstice morning.

Even though the passage way and chamber are only 24m (78ft) long, once you enter you are cut off from the outside world and lose a sense of time passing.

"When the sun clears the horizon you can hear a big cheer from those gathered outside.

"We have to wait four minutes after sunrise to experience the light entering the chamber because the earth's angle has changed since it was constructed 5,000 years ago. The light remains in the chamber for 17 minutes before retreating."

The centre's staff do not orchestrate what happens in the chamber. Sometimes people ask to sing a song, say a poem or chant, but any activity is done with the agreement of the group.

Those not lucky enough to get a place in the draw are welcome to gather outside.

People are motivated to come by the symbolism of the light and dark and the turning of the year. Some have made it a tradition and come year after year. Druids also assemble outside, chanting and singing.

Even though she is a veteran of the experience, Clare Tuffy is still moved by it and she is keen to make it special for the lottery winners.

"I get very excited and anxious every year that it will all go well. My husband calls it 'solstice fever'. It starts in early December and doesn't finish until Christmas."

Lunar eclipse

Irish weather is frequently inclement, but there will not be any drips inside Newgrange to dampen the enthusiasm of the solstice watchers.

The ancient engineers designed it to be waterproof, packing sand and burnt soil among the roof stones and even cutting channels into them to direct water away from the passage and chamber.

But the privileged few who will come to marvel at this masterpiece of human creativity are counting on "third time lucky".

The past two years have been cloudy and overcast on 21 December, which means the chamber remains in darkness. This year they hope for clear skies and a bright solstice sunrise.

To add extra excitement to this year's experience there will also be a lunar eclipse on the morning of the 21st.

The moon will start to brighten again just as the sun starts to enter the inner chamber.

It is the first time in over 450 years that a lunar eclipse and the winter solstice have coincided.

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — News

Stonehenge 'was built by rolling stones using giant wicker baskets'

It is one of the abiding mysteries of Britain's Neolithic past.
For all the awe-inspiring wonder of the standing stones at Stonehenge no one has ever worked out how our ancient ancestors were able to heave boulders weighing many tonnes over such huge distances.

But now an engineer and former BBC presenter believes he has come up with a theory which explains how the giant stones were moved.

Garry Lavin believes that the engineers who built Stonehenge used wicker basket-work to 'roll' the huge boulders all the way from Wales to their present location.

'I always thought that dragging these huge stones was physically impossible because of the friction on the surface. The key thing is the technology was always there around them,' he said.

It is the movement of the 60 famous Bluestones which causes historians such problems. Each stone weighs up to 4 tons and they originally came from the Preseli Mountains in Wales – some 200 miles away.

Mr Lavin has come up with a cylinder 'basket' to roll the massive and irregularly-shaped stones.

The basket is created by weaving willow and alder saplings to form a lightweight structure that can be easily moved by 4 or 5 men. To complete the rig and to ensure the best rolling and floatation conditions, the gaps between the basketwork cylinder and the irregular stone are packed with thin branches.

This spreads the load as the basket flexes in transit, much like a modern tyre, and creates buoyancy when transported down rivers and across the sea.

One of Mr Lavin's key discoveries during his earlier experiments was that the wicker cages that contained the stones were able to float. This would have enabled Neolithic man were able to get the huge stones across rivers on their journey, as well as making it easier to transport them over long distances without having to carry them the entire way.

The men would have been able to place the stones in a river, such as the River Wye, and then guide them on their way.

Mr Lavin said: 'Woven structures were everywhere at the time, there are even wells which they have discovered were full with woven basketwork. It's just taking that technology and using it in a new way.

'It is not without some foundation. It was staring us in the face the whole time.'

In the summer Mr Lavin tested out his theory near Stonehenge and succeeded in moving a large one-ton stone in a wicker cage that he had made himself.

Mr Lavin now wants to set out on his final mission to rewrite history by creating a supersize cradle capable of moving a huge five-ton stone.

To do so he has enrolled the help of an engineer, an ancient wood archaeologist and a professional willow weaver to help him with the final test and construction.

He hopes to run the test around the time of the summer solstice next year.

'The physics is there it's just so obvious. It's one of the things that when you think about it you say "oh yes, of course", ' he said.

He believes the original stones could have been moved by two teams of ten men each with one team resting while the others pushed the 'axles' containing each bluestone all the way from Wales their final destination.

George Oates, who works for the engineering company Expedition UK that recently designed the Olympic Velodrome as well as the Millennium Bridge, has looked at the new theory from a physics perspective.

He looked at the height and weight of Neolithic men as well as the stone's weight, the strength of the wicker basket and the inclines that would have to be negotiated.

Mr Oates said: 'We feel that it is possible that Garry's theory of a woven basket around the stone, moving these four-ton stones all the way from the Welsh mountains to Stonehenge is at least viable.'

Last week a competing theory from the University of Exeter was published which suggested that the stones may have used wooden ball bearings balls placed in grooved wooden tracks would have allowed the easy movement of stones weighing many tons.
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