Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Later Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Using parchment to reveal the ancient lives of livestock

A page from the York Gospels. Eraser rubbings left over from cleaning the pages of this manuscript revealed the ancient genomes of the animals used to produce the parchment. 
(Image: York Minster)

Innovative ways of utilising ancient protein and DNA analysis have revealed new information about medieval parchment and the animals from which they are made.

A group of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the University of York have taken eraser rubbings – left over from the cleaning of medieval manuscripts – and extracted DNA and proteins from the waste. This method means that parts of the manuscript no longer need to be removed for destructive testing.

The group recently used this technique to analyse the pages of the York Gospels, an Anglo-Saxon book (c.1000 AD) containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, a letter from King Cnut, and land ownership documents. The experiment yielded some interesting results.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Belgium's Grognon citadel and Medieval port resurfacing

The Grognon citadel, in Namur (in Wallonia, Belgium), continues to reveal its secrets, as rescue excavations began several months ago, with a view to building an underground car park at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers. Recently, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the ramparts, a watchtower and the Grognon Gate, which were used to enter the area by ship. 


The excavations of the Grognon citadel allow us to visualize the boundaries of the district 
as it existed until the 19th century [Credit: © SPW]

"We knew that the gate was there, and also the round tower," explains Dominique Bosquet, archaeologist at the Walloon Public Service,"but the exact state of preservation, the smaller buildings adjoining it, the complexity of a building built against the rampart, then demolished and reconstructed on larger scale - all these things can only be discovered and really clarified through archaeological investigation. So we knew we were going to find this kind of thing, but not to such a degree of preservation and complexity."

"In reality," adds Raphaƫl Vanmechelen, also an archaeologist at the SPW,"there are four types of fortification walls and four gates, all of which are interesting because they all reflect different architectural techniques, public space design and military techniques. But it is true that the second, which can be dated precisely to the end of the 12th century, is particularly spectacular. This makes it possible to fully understand the morphology of the old quarter".

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'Lost chapel' of Westminster Palace revealed in new 3-D model

St Stephen's was built by King Edward I to be a show-case of English royal splendor.
Credit: University of York

The first dedicated House of Commons chamber, destroyed in the 1834 Palace of Westminster fire, has been reconstructed with the help of 3D visualisation technology.

The House of Commons took shape in the medieval chapel of St Stephen, formerly a place of worship for the royal family. With few traces of the original building still remaining, echoes of the life of the chapel can only be found in centuries-old documents in parliamentary and national archives.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, art historians at the University of York have now brought St Stephen's Chapel and the Commons chamber back to life by pioneering a technique combining traditional archival research with digital reconstruction.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Medieval porpoise 'grave' on Channel island puzzles archaeologists

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Monday, 11 September 2017

Archaeologists uncover medieval village in mid-Jutland

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

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

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

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

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Medieval London was the most violent place in England

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

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

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

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

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