August has been another exciting month of archaeological and historical discoveries. From ancient stone age artwork, to historic graffiti, to a hoard of gold, and the impact of coronavirus, there has been plenty to talk about. Here is a pick of just eight pieces of news to have been announced last month.
The grave of a potentially left-handed Viking warrior has been discovered.
The majority of the world’s population is right-handed, but around 10% are left-handed. Now, a Viking grave found in Trøndelag, Norway, suggests that the buried warrior was left handed. Viking warriors were buried with their weapons, but the weapons are usually put on the wrong side of the body. Along with other evidence, this has led many to theorise that Vikings believed the afterlife was a mirror world to our own, and so their swords were being put in the correct place for the afterlife. This means their swords are usually buried on their right side, so that their left hand can take it out of its holster. This 1,100-year-old grave in Trøndelag, however, has the sword on their left hand side, in a break from usual burial practice. Read about the discovery and its analysis here.
A 3,200-year-old fort has been found in Israel.
Archaeological work near the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat has uncovered a citadel dating to the 12th century BC. The fort was built by the Egyptians, who ruled the area during this period, to defend it from the Philistines. The citadel is a significant fortification, measuring 8 meters long and 18 meters wide, with towers on each corner. Hundreds of pieces of earthenware have also been discovered inside the citadel, giving a great insight into the use of the site thousands of years ago. The site has now been opened for members of the public to visit. Read more about the discovery here.
Graffiti in the New Forest in England is being recorded for history.
The New Forest is one of the largest remaining areas of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England. It featured in the Domesday Book, and was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror. But many of the trees in the forest are covered in carvings of graffiti. From drawings, to dates, to initials, some of the graffiti is hundreds of years old – if not older. Carvings include witch marks to ward off evil spirits, as well as the King’s Mark to show that a tree was reserved for shipbuilding. A project is being launched to encourage visitors to record the markings before they fade due to time. Read all about the markings here.
The first National Trust Property that was bought in Wales has come under threat of closure due to Coronavirus.
The Kymin Round House in Monmouth was built in 1794 and once had Lord Horatio Nelson as a dinner guest. It was the first property the National Trust purchased in Wales back in 1902 and it has been a Grade II* listed building since 1952. Now, however, financial losses due to the closure of heritage sites during the Coronavirus lockdown means that the future of the site is under threat. Custodians have lived on site since its purchase in 1902, but the current custodians have been made redundant and forced to move out. The re-opening of the site has been paused and it may never open again. Read more here.
A new study reveals that stone structures found in Saudi Arabia may be some of oldest monuments in the world.
In 2017, around 400 stone structures in the shape of rectangles were discovered in Harrat Khaybar, Saudi Arabia. Initially called gates due to their appearance, a new study has been published researching the origins of the stones. It has been suggested that the stones were used for rituals, or perhaps were territorial markers, and analysis of charcoal on the site indicates that the stones may have been erected on the site in 5,000 BC. This means the stones predate the construction of Stonehenge by around 1,500 years. The largest of the stone structures measures just over 2,000 feet long and one also has painting on it. Read more about the fascinating discovery here.
A market set up during lockdown was forced to close due to a medieval charter.
It is not often that 800-year-old documents affect our lives today – many were superseded by later laws and documents. However, in August a pop-up market set up in Leicestershire, England, was forced to close due to a medieval charter which was issued in 1221, 799 years ago. With coronavirus lockdowns still in force, and members of the public discouraged from using public transport, many were not able to access their local market in the town of Loughborough. As a result, a local community started their own small market in the car park of a pub which became very popular. However, they were soon told by the local council that they had to cease trading as the market was breaching the rules of a charter granted to Loughborough by King Henry III which prevents any other markets from trading within 6 and 2/3rds of a mile. Read more about the market and its closure here.
Some of northern Europe’s earliest art has been discovered in the Channel Islands.
It was announced in August that archaeologists working to excavate an area at Les Varines on the island of Jersey have found some very early stone age art on the site. The site appears to have been a substantial encampment where hunting equipment was produced. Thousands of flint objects have been found, as well as evidence of cooking and feasting. However, one of the most exciting finds has been 7 pieces of stone covered in carvings of abstract art. Each piece is covered in etchings, with some pieces featuring several different drawings all on top of each other. They generally seem to depict the animals that the stone age people hunted, such as mammoths and horses. The site and its art dates to around 15,000 years ago, at a time where mainland Britain is not believed to have been inhabited. Read all about the finds here.
A large hoard of solid gold coins has been found in Israel.
A hoard of 425 coins made from 24-carat gold which date to the 9th century has been uncovered at a dig site in central Israel. Archaeologists have been working to excavate the site, which has been marked for development of a new neighbourhood, when teenage volunteers uncovered the golden hoard. Stored in a clay vessel, the hoard represents a significant amount of money which at the time would have been enough to have bought a luxurious house in the expensive Egyptian capital. Read about the find here.
As you can see, there were some exciting discoveries, new interpretations of historical data, and some disappointing impacts from the Coronavirus. Our knowledge of the past is ever developing, and hopefully some of these discoveries will continue to contribute to that! Are there any pieces of news you found interesting?
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