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

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Bronze Age spearhead found at Cirencester sewage works

A rare Bronze Age spearhead has been found by workers while developing a wetland in Gloucestershire.

Experts discovered it at Cirencester Sewage Works, near South Cerney, earlier this year and on 10 May estimated it is about 3,500 years old.

Archaeologists said it appeared to be a family heirloom that was placed into a pit for a reason unknown.

Other items unearthed include a selection of prehistoric pottery fragments and flint tools.


Castilly Henge

Unknown stone circle found inside Cornwall Neolithic henge

A previously unknown stone circle has been found inside a Cornwall scheduled monument, a conservation group says.

The underground circle has been found inside Castilly Henge, near Bodmin, by Historic England (HE) and the Cornwall Archaeology Unit.

It was found during the site's first modern archaeological survey to better understand the area, HE said.

The site has now been fenced, allowing it to be grazed by animals without damaging the structure, it added.

The henge is one of 40 scheduled monuments protected by the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Callanish (Standing Stones)

Margaret Curtis obituary

Megalith enthusiast who did much to further understanding of the Calanais stone circle and other ancient sites of the Isle of Lewis

Mike Pitts

When Julian Cope, the musician and antiquary, met Margaret Curtis on the Isle of Lewis in the 1990s, he was impressed. Curtis, who has died aged 80, was a “living legend” and a “psychic queen”, said Cope, who filled him with “a real sense of awe”. He devoted a chapter in his bestselling 1998 book The Modern Antiquarian to her and to Calanais, one of the most extraordinary ancient monuments in Europe.

Near the Atlantic coast in the remote Outer Hebrides, Calanais (pronounced as in the anglicised spelling, Callanish) is a stone circle at the centre of five rows dating from around 3000BC. The tallest of nearly 50 megaliths is over five metres high, and all are made of a distinctive streaked gneiss that glows against stormy skies. Curtis did much to further understanding of this and other overlooked sites on Lewis, becoming the island’s unofficial archaeologist and sharing her enthusiasms with an appreciative visiting public.

She found many more stones under the peat as she walked the moorland, probing with a metal bar. One, at Calanais itself, was re-erected in 1982, and she spotted the broken tip of another in a wall.

Archaeologists sometimes followed up her suggestions. Patrick Ashmore, who led excavations at Calanais for what is now Historic Scotland in the 1980s, praised the fieldwork and record-keeping of Curtis and each of her two husbands. On one occasion, quartz pieces she found when a road near her house was straightened led to the discovery of a bronze age burial cairn.


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

‘Every year it astounds us’: the Orkney dig uncovering Britain’s stone age culture

Archaeologists excavating the windswept Ness of Brodgar are unearthing a treasure trove of neolithic villages, tombs, weapons and mysterious religious artefacts, some to be displayed in a blockbuster exhibition

If you happen to imagine that there’s not much left to discover of Britain’s stone age, or that its relics consist of hard-to-love postholes and scraps of bones, then you need to find your way to Orkney, that scatter of islands off Scotland’s north-east coast. On the archipelago’s Mainland, out towards the windswept west coast with its wave-battered cliffs, you will come to the Ness of Brodgar, an isthmus separating a pair of sparkling lochs, one of saltwater and one of freshwater. Just before the way narrows you’ll see the Stones of Stenness rising up before you. This ancient stone circle’s monoliths were once more numerous, but they remain elegant and imposing. Like a gateway into a liminal world of theatricality and magic, they lead the eye to another, even larger neolithic monument beyond the isthmus, elevated in the landscape as if on a stage. This is the Ring of Brodgar, its sharply individuated stones like giant dancers arrested mid-step – as local legend, indeed, has it.


France (Country)

Evidence of Europe’s first Homo sapiens found in French cave

Stone artefacts and tooth pre-date the earliest known evidence of the species in Europe by more than 10,000 years.

Archaeologists have found evidence that Europe’s first Homo sapiens lived briefly in a rock shelter in southern France — before mysteriously vanishing.

A study published on 9 February in Science Advances1 argues that distinctive stone tools and a lone child’s tooth were left by Homo sapiens during a short stay, some 54,000 years ago — and not by Neanderthals, who lived in the rock shelter for thousands of years before and after that time.

The Homo sapiens occupation, which researchers estimate lasted for just a few decades, pre-dates the previous earliest known evidence of the species in Europe by around 10,000 years.

But some researchers are not so sure that the stone tools or tooth were left by Homo sapiens. “I find the evidence less than convincing,” says William Banks, a palaeolithic archaeologist at the French national research agency CNRS and the University of Bordeaux.


Carrickgollogan (Wedge Tomb)

4,500-year-old Neolithic tomb collapses in South Dublin

The dolmen, located in Shankill, appears to have collapsed in late 2021.

A WEDGE TOMB located in Shankill, Co Dublin that is over 4,500 years old has collapsed.

The tomb, which dates back to the Neolithic period before the start of the Bronze Age, appears to have collapsed in late 2021, with photos showing the capstone having fallen in.

The tomb itself is located on farmland in Shankill, and is known as the Carrickgollogan wedge tomb.

Andrew Bambrick, who runs a heritage conservation community, says that the capstone appears had fallen in between the two supporting stones, and that it was sad to see it like this.

“It’s sad, it’s been in the country for over 4,500 years and it’s collapsed,” said Bambrick.

Photos taken of the monument in early 2021 show it surrounded by fencing and overgrown with brambles.

In more recent photos, there are fewer brambles surrounding the tomb, but the capstone has collapsed inwards.

Bambrick says that while wedge tombs have collapsed in the past, it is usually due to factors like tree roots displacing the tomb and over long periods of time, erosion.

Bambrick says that he has reported the collapse to the National Monument Service, but had yet to receive a response.


Hazleton Long Barrows

World’s oldest family tree revealed in 5,700-year-old Cotswolds tomb

DNA analysis of bodies in Hazleton North long cairn finds five generations of an extended family

An analysis of DNA from a 5,700-year-old tomb has revealed the world’s oldest family tree, shedding “extraordinary” light on the importance of family and descent among people who were some of Britain’s first farmers.

A research team has examined the bones and teeth of 35 people in one of Britain’s best preserved neolithic tombs, near the village of Hazleton in the Cotswolds. The results, said Dr Chris Fowler of Newcastle University, are nothing short of “astounding”.

The researchers have discovered that 27 were biological relatives from five continuous generations of a single extended family. The majority were descended from four women who all had children with the same man.

“It tells us that descent was important,” said Fowler. “When they were building these tombs and deciding who to include in them, certainly in this case, they were selecting people who were close relatives of the people who were first buried there. They have this close connection to their immediate ancestors and that extends over several generations.

“Family was important and you can see that with the inclusion of some very young children in the tomb as well.”



Knowth archaeologist Prof George Eogan dies aged 91

Meath man and UCD professor well known for his research of passage tomb builders

George Eogan, who was widely seen as one of the leading archaeologists of his generation, has died aged 91.

Professor emeritus of celtic archaeology at University College Dublin (UCD), he had a particular interest in the Neolithic and Late Bronze Age studies and was the director of the Knowth excavations for more than 40 years.

He was well known for researching the passage tomb builders of Ireland and Western Europe and authored and co-authored volumes of the Excavations at Knowth series as well as several other books.

He died on Thursday at Our Lady’s Hospice following what his family described as a long and happy life.

In a tribute, the UCD School of Archaeology said Prof Eogan’s contribution to his field and to people’s understanding of Ireland’s past was immeasurable.

Having begun his academic pursuits with a PhD on late bronze age swords, Prof Eogan would go on to lead activities at Knowth for decades.

“He used his extensive international travels and decades of connections with museums to develop a unique understanding and insights into the things of Bronze Age Europe in particular,” his former university said.


Hembury Castle (Hillfort)

An incredibly rare chance to buy your own Iron Age hillfort –

- with ‘significant archaeological, conservational and ecological value’

Lydia Stangroom

October 22, 2021

Your eyes do not deceive you. Upon first glance, the ancient monument known as Hembury Fort Cross could well be mistaken as just a verdant hilly slope coated in trees. However, there's a lot more to it than first meets the eye.

Granted, buyers searching specifically for an Iron Age hillfort may be scarce. Maybe you didn’t even know you were a buyer searching specifically for an Iron Age hillfort until now. Maybe you didn’t know what a hillfort (or ‘hill fort’ if you prefer— both terms are used) was until now; you wouldn’t be alone. Either way, Hembury Fort Cross is sure to cause intrigue.

It’s certainly not the normal sort of thing you’ll see on the property portals, not least because there is no form of dwelling included within the 38.8-acre area at Hembury Fort Cross, near Honiton, Devon, which is currently on the market via Savills at a guide price of £100,000. But digging a little deeper unearths a fascinating history.


County Cork

5,700-year-old Neolithic house discovered by archaeologists in Cork

IRISH ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made an incredible discovery in Cork, having unearthed the foundations of a house from the Neolithic era.

The ancient house is believed to be 5,700 years old, and was likely the home of a family from one of the earliest farming communities to have settled in the south of Ireland.

The house, dating back to approximately 3,700 BC, was unearthed following recent excavations by archaeologists after Cork County Council began two road realignment projects between Mallow and Mitchelstown in north County Cork.


Trellyffant (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Trellyffaint: Proof unearthed of Neolithic dairy farming in Pembrokeshire

Dairy farming could have been happening in Wales as early as 3,100BC, according to new research.

Shards of decorated pottery taken from the Trellyffaint Neolithic monument near Newport, Pembrokeshire, were found to contain dairy fat residue.

The residue could only originate from milk-based substances such as butter, cheese, or more probably yoghurt.

George Nash, of the Welsh Rock Art Organisation, said it was the earliest proof of dairy farming in Wales.


Spain (Country)

Neanderthal markings in Spain suggest cave art, study says

Red markings on a stalagmite dome in a cave system in southern Spain were created by Neanderthals more than 60,000 years ago, a new study says.

The staining was applied by a process of splattering and blowing about 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe, the research suggests.

An earlier study attributing the markings to the extinct cousins of modern humans was questioned.

Some experts argued the staining in the Cueva de Ardales occurred naturally.

But a new study published in the journal PNAS supports the view that the red ochre pigments discovered in three caves in the Iberian Peninsula are a form of Neanderthal cave art.

It states that the deposits stand out from other natural materials sampled in the caves because of their unusual colours and textures.



Bronze-age monolith discovered in Whixall 'of regional or national importance'

A BRONZE Age piece of artwork, suspected to be the oldest in Shropshire, has been discovered in Whixall.

The artwork, which has been carved onto a large Permio-Triassic new red sandstone block, shows markings that may connect it with burial chambers or sacred sites.

The discovery was made by James and Jasmine Dowley, of Whixall, while excavating a driveway.

The monolith is in a fine but weathered condition, and is thought to be potentially of regional and national importance.

Peter Reavill from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and local archaeologist Dr George Nash helped appraise the monolith, which is now up for auction later this year.


Loughcrew Complex

Security to patrol historic Meath site each evening

The Office of Public Works has said a security company will carry out a patrol of Loughcrew in Co Meath every evening, in light of recent vandalism at the historic site.

Earlier this week, it emerged that graffiti had been scratched into a stone at the Neolithic burial monument and an investigation was launched.

The OPW and the National Monuments Service said it is latest in a series of acts of vandalism at the national monument site.


County Louth

Citizen archaeologist discovers ancient ‘logboat’ in the Boyne Valley

Anthony Murphy, who discovered the famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, made the discovery using a drone

A citizen archaeologist who discovered the world famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, county Meath during the heatwave of 2018, appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley using a drone - a logboat that could date to Neolithic times.

Anthony Murphy said, “I went looking for a dolphin. I didn’t find him but I did find a logboat.”

Made by hollowing out a tree trunk, such logboats or dugout boats have, according to Dr Stephen Davis, UCD School of Archaeology, “an immensely long history of use in Ireland, with examples known from the Neolithic right the way up to Medieval times.”

“Closer investigation will be able to show more - for example tool marks would be able to tell whether it was made with metal or stone tools, and radiocarbon dating give an approximate age,” he added.

In the heatwave of 2018, a previously unknown henge was found near the Newgrange monument by Mr Murphy and Ken Williams.


County Kerry

Ancient 'untouched' tomb discovered on Dingle Peninsula

By Seán Mac an tSíthigh
Iriseoir Fise

An ancient tomb, described by archaeologists as "untouched" and "highly unusual" has been discovered on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry.

The tomb was uncovered in recent days during land improvement works being carried out by a farmer.

The National Monument Service has requested that the location of the structure should not be disclosed in order to prevent the possibility of disturbance.

The tomb was uncovered by a digger during land reclamation work when a large stone slab was upturned, revealing a slab-lined chamber beneath.

On closer inspection an adjoining sub-chamber was found at what appears to be the front of the tomb.

The tomb contained an unusual smooth oval-shaped stone and what is believed to be human bone.


North Yorkshire

Dig reveals 6,000-year-old salt hub in North Yorkshire

Archaeologist says neolithic discovery may be among oldest salt-processing sites in western Europe

Neolithic people were manufacturing salt in Britain almost 6,000 years ago, before the building of Stonehenge and more than two millennia earlier than was first thought, a new archaeological discovery suggests.

Excavations at a site at Street House farm in North Yorkshire have revealed evidence of the earliest salt production site ever found in the UK and one of the first of its kind in western Europe, dating to around 3,800BC.

The finds, uncovered at a coastal hilltop site near Loftus, include a trench containing three hearths, broken shards of neolithic pottery, some still containing salt deposits, shaped stone artefacts and a storage pit – all key evidence of salt processing.



From ringfort to ring road: The destruction of Ireland’s fairy forts

Some of these ancient mounds date back to 3000 BC, but many are buried under motorways

Manchán Magan

As our faith in fairies has receded in recent years, the fate of Ireland’s 32,000 remaining fairy forts has become increasingly perilous. Many of these circular earth mounds are over 1,000 years old, the remains of stone or wooden forts which housed an extended family in early medieval times. Others are remnants of underground passage tombs dating back to around 3000 BC.

In 2010 the environmentalist and author Tony Lowes first wrote about farmers destroying the forts on their land in the name of modernity and progress. A man on the Dingle Peninsula levelled a large part of the 3,000-year-old Dún Mór fort while the government was in negotiations with him to purchase it, and a farmer near Mallow in Cork destroyed the half of an extensive ringfort that lay on his own land, then tore down the other half when his neighbour was at a family funeral. There was also the story of a Cork dairy farmer who demolished two ringforts on his land, and whose family had previously destroyed three others.

The title of Lowes’ article in Village magazine was The Men Who Eat Ringforts, in recognition of the fact that these farmers (and developers and engineers) are invariably male. The title has been adopted for a volume of book art, Men Who Eat Ringforts, published by the conceptual artists Sean Lynch and Michele Horrigan of Askeaton Contemporary Arts. It’s a large-format book designed by Daly+Lyon, with thought-provoking essays by Sinéad Mercier and Michael Holly exploring the determined desecration of our ancient past.


Knockmany (Passage Grave)

Bikers ‘dig up ground' at prehistoric burial site near Augher

A prominent prehistoric burial site near Augher was ransacked by “40 bikers” last weekend, a Clogher Valley councillor has said.

Speaking at a meeting of Mid Ulster District Council’s environment committee, Councillor Sharon McAleer told “how up to 100 bikers” arrived at Knockmany Forest on Sunday.

The SDLP representative claimed 40 bikers were seen going over Queen Anya’s burial site at the summit of Knockmany Hill and branded this act “not acceptable”.

“I have just been made aware of an issue that happened at Knockmany on Sunday [March 7] where up to 100 bikers had come to the car park and taken up all the parking spaces,” said Cllr McAleer.

“Unfortunately at Queen Anya’s burial site 40 bikers were counted going over the burial site which is just not acceptable.

“They have dug up all the ground and then proceeded to go down through the forest and destroy the wildlife, nature and fauna along the way.

“Lots of people in the community are annoyed about this as the place is packed with walkers.”


Spain (Country)

Bronze age burial site in Spain suggests women were among rulers

Researchers in Murcia find exquisite objects at women’s graves later used as sites for elite warrior burials

A burial site found in Spain – described by archaeologists as one of the most lavish bronze age graves discovered to date in Europe – has sparked speculation that women may have been among the rulers of a highly stratified society that flourished on the Iberian peninsula until 1550BC.

Since 2013, a team of more than a dozen researchers have been investigating the site of La Almoloya in the southern Spanish region of Murcia.

Home to the El Argar, a society that was among the first to utilise bronze, build complex urban centres and develop into a state organisation, the site is part of a vast territory that at its peak stretched across 35,000 sq km.

Research published on Thursday in the journal Antiquity has documented one of the site’s most tantalising finds: a man and a woman buried in a large ceramic jar, both of whom died close together in the mid-17th century BC.

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