Another month has passed, and so far 2020 seems full of new archaeological discoveries. Here are some of our favourite picks from what news has come out in the history world this month.
Walls made from human leg bones have been found underneath a Belgian Church.
Just this week, excavations revealed an unusual discovery in Ghent, Belgium. Beneath Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, nine walls made from adult thigh and shin bones as well as partially shattered skulls have been uncovered. It is believed that the skeletons date to the second half of the 15th century, whilst the walls were probably built between the 17th and 18th centuries. This find is a first for Belgium, and more analysis will need to be done to understand its significance. Read more here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/walls-made-ancient-human-leg-bones-unearthed-beneath-church-belgium-180974255/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=socialmedia
The bone wall can clearly be seen in this photograph of the excavation. Photograph via Smithsonian, Copyright Ruben Willaert bvba.
An Early Medieval drawing of a Pictish warrior has revealed new information about Scotland’s past.
In 2017, archaeologists found a two metre high monolith in Perth whilst clearing for the construction of a road. Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen have taken thousands of photographs to study the monolith, uncovering greater detail of a carving of a warrior which is believed to date from the 3rd to 6th centuries. By comparing it with two similar stone carvings, it is believed that this figure is a generic sacred image, and could reveal more about the warrior ethos in the country which has little documentation. Read more about the stone and its meaning here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/13754/
The stone and its carving with a reproduced line drawing of the warrior. Image via University of Aberdeen.
A 2,600-year-old murder in Egypt has been uncovered.
Takabuti is an Egyptian mummy who has been at Ulster Museum for nearly 200 years. The use of new X-ray technology has shown that Takabuti was stabbed in the back, meaning her death was the result of foul play. It also showed that her heart was still in her body, and new DNA testing has suggested she may have been European rather than Egyptian. Learn more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-northern-ireland-51273757/it-s-astounding-to-find-out-she-died-violently?intlink_from_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fnews%2Ftopics%2Fc1038wnxyy0t%2Farchaeology&link_location=live-reporting-map
The remains of Takabuti, held at Ulster Museum. Image via LiveScience.
The diary of a Regency-period farmer shows attitudes to homosexuality in the period may have been more nuanced than thought.
It has generally been thought that in the 19th century, most people in the West were severely against LGBTQ+ people and their rights. It was also thought that those who did consider more lenient treatment were those in scholarly, bohemian circles. However, a newly studied passage from the diary of a Yorkshire farmer in 1810 shows not only his consideration that homosexuality may be natural, and thus should not be punished with the death penalty, but that he had been hearing and possibly partaking in debates around homosexual people. This discovery is made even greater by the lower class of the person writing, someone whose views would not normally be known. Read more here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-02-10-yorkshire-farmer-argues-homosexuality-natural-1810-diary-discovery
The cover of Matthew Tomlinson’s journal where the passage was found. Via BBC.
A medieval plague pit has been uncovered in Lincolnshire.
The Black Death was one of the worst outbreaks of plague, killing an estimated 1/3rd to half the population of Europe. A mass grave containing at least 48 men, women, and children was uncovered in Lincolnshire dating to the 14th century in 2013, and details of its analysis have been revealed. Despite the huge amount of deaths the Black Death caused, few plague mass graves have been found in the UK outside of London, making this a unique find. Despite it being a mass grave, there is evidence the bodies were still treated with respect, providing new information to how communities dealt with the plague. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/18/mass-grave-shows-how-black-death-devastated-the-countryside
The remains of some of the individuals under excavation. Via The Guardian.
A cave full of prehistoric carvings has been found in Northern Spain.
It has just been announced that last October archaeologists discovered a cave filled with hundreds of rock carvings in Catalonia. Some are thought to be up to 15,000 years old. They depict a variety of animals as well as abstract symbols but are extremely fragile as they are carved directly onto the soft rock made from sand. They were found in part of a two-mile-long cave complex called the Cave of Font Major. Read more here: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/prehistoric-cave-art-animals-1779519
One of the pieces of cave art at Font Major. Via ArtNet.
These are just some of the news articles that came out this month relating to history and archaeology. Which are your favourite? Are there any important ones you think we have missed?
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