The Site of Stonehenge

Over this whole semester, I have learned about many amazing archaeological sites and their cultures. Learning about the Great Pyramids of Giza, The Boy King Tutankhamun, Machu Picchu and the Inca and many more sites make me happy that I chose to take Great Discoveries in Archaeology as an elective for my major. Not only have I learned about all these amazing sites, I also learned the importance of Archaeology as a whole. I learned that it’s important to how we react to stress, its environmental impact, and its behavior over time.

Through all the sites that we have learned about, I found learning about Stonehenge to be one of the most interesting. I found Stonehenge to be captivating because I have always wanted to visit England and the mighty Stonehenge within Wilcher. Someday when I visit the megalithic site of Stonehenge, I will know all about the site and how it came to be because of this ANP 264 course.  I also learned even more information about it while researching the site of Avebury, just thirty miles north of Stonehenge, for my Archaeology project.

One reason I find Stonehenge to be so fascinating because there’s no direct answer to who created Stonehenge. There were four theories we learned in class of who could have possibly created the megalithic site. Theories of those creating it such as the Devil, Merlin from King Arthur, the Romans, and the Druids. When I first heard the Devil and Merlin could be the possible creators I couldn’t help hiding the shock on my face. When the Romans and Druids were mentioned, I thought they could be plausible creators. Mostly the Druids because it was John Aubrey who first linked Stonehenge to the Druids. And he became so involved in the Druid religion, that he became one himself.

I also find Stonehenge to be so captivating because not only do archaeologists not know who built it, but what it was used for exactly. Archaeologists know the history of its construction and that it was a source of unification and built in a ritual landscape. They believe that it was used for astronomical purposes, an observatory of some sort. I thought learning about the activity that happens at the Stonehenge during the summer and winter solstice to be so interesting. How during the summer solstice there’s a huge gathering of people who come together and experience the solstice. And how during the winter solstice some present day people who call themselves Druids witness the solstice together.

As a whole, it’s because of these reasons that I found the megalithic site of  Stonehenge to seem so exciting and intriguing. And learning that the Stonehenge is also known as the “Land of the Dead.” Once again, I am also happy that I had the chance to take this course.

Gold-Adorned Woman Skeleton

I was searching the internet when I came across this article about archaeologists who discovered a 4,400 year old skeleton of an upper class woman who so happens to be the earliest known woman adorned with gold treasures ever found in Britain. This skeleton of a princess or queen was discovered near the Royal Borough in Windsor. Archaeologists are able to tell that this woman at one time was a member of the local ruling elite. The archaeologist in charge of the excavation, Gareth Chaffey of Wessex Archaeology, believes that she may have been a person of power. From this evidence, it is apparent that Windsor was popular with royalty earlier than what was originally thought.

The woman was buried when she was around forty-years old. Scientists estimate that she was buried just a century or two after Stonehenge was created. The site is located sixty miles to the south-west of the quarry where she was found. She was buried wearing some of Britain’s oldest gold ornaments. Such as a necklace made of gold, amber and lignite beads, and a bracelet of lignite beads. Even the vanished buttons on her burial garment were made of amber. It is thought that the gold used to make the jewelry originally came from hundreds of miles to the west and that the amber came from Britain’s North Sea coast. And the lignite came from Britain as well. In the Copper Age, some high status men in southern Britain had gold possessions. But this is the first time archaeologists have found a woman of that period achieving the same sort of material status.

During her funeral rite, her family placed a beautiful pottery drinking vessel in her hands. The twenty-five centimeter vessel was decorated with geometric patterns. And significantly, she was buried with her head pointed towards the south.  During the Stonehenge era, heads of men were pointed north and the heads of women were pointed south in death.

The woman’s skeleton and jewelry was actually found eighteen months ago, kept under wraps until the analysis of her bones were finished. The discovery of the gold skeleton is still an ongoing excavation that started decades ago. This gold-adorned Copper Age woman is one of the most spectacular discoveries made at the site. The archaeologist, Gareth Chaffey, said the woman of the site “was probably an important person in her society, perhaps holding some standing which gave her access to prestigious, rare and exotic items. She could have been a leader, a person with power and authority, or possibly part of an elite family – perhaps a princess or queen.”

Neschers Antler

One of the first discoveries of Stone Age art is a 14,000 year old reindeer antler with an engraved horse from Neschers in France. This specimen of archaeology was discovered in the 1800s and has been kept in the Natural History Museum.The antler was found between 1830 and 1848 by a local village priest named Jean-Baptiste Croizet. Scientists are reporting today on how it was made and its importance.

It is known that the engraving of the horse was made by modern people near the end of the last ice age. There was no doubt that the stone age people were not only hunter-gatherers, but skilled artists and technicians as well. Since the Neschers antler was found in 1800s, the significance of its discovery went unrecognized at the time. Also in the 1800s there wasn’t much known about the early history of humans or Neanderthals.

The Neschers Antler has traveled to many museums. It was first placed in the Natural History Museum,then to the British Museum in 1848. In 1881, the antler was moved to a new building in South Kensington. A year later the antler was on display and put in a Museum gallery guide, but its great importance was still not recognized. It wasn’t until 1989 when it was rediscovered by by a mammal curator named Andy Currant and it was placed in secure storage. But it still was ignored and forgotten until an audit of possible worked bone and antler in the fossil collection began in 2010-2011. This is when the Nescher antler’s scientific importance became apparent over 160 years after its discovery.

Professor Chris Stringer, who is part of the research team, says: “The remarkable story of this forgotten specimen shows how careful study and detective work can belatedly give an important relic the significance it deserves.”

Results from a micro-CT scanner and 3D microscopy has revealed evidence that the antler had been prepared before being carved. The Museum scientists could see how the creator made an incision and then repeatedly scratched it to enlarge the engraving. The team could also tell that the horse’s head and body were carved out first and the other features were added afterwards. It’s nice because these methods of study are non-destructive and can be used to identify one ancient artist’s work from another one.

Researcher Dr Silvia Bello, lead author on both studies says, “The use of micro 3-Dimensional technologies allows for a more objective evaluation of the metrical characteristics of an engraving, thus facilitating the quantification, rather than the mere description, of the technical procedure adopted.”

Finally the 14,000 year old Neschers Antler is getting attention that it deserves in the Archaeological world.

Secret Inscriptions in Norwich Cathedral

Today, graffiti is thought of as distasteful and damaging, but this view doesn’t appear to be the same as the past. Especially on the walls of the Norwich Cathedral. A new archaeological project has discovered the secret inscriptions written on the Cathedral’s walls that have been inscribed there for many centuries.

The members of the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey began a survey of the Norwich Cathedral in the beginning of February this year. They began the survey to see what the early graffiti inscriptions would contain.  The project was headed by volunteer survey teams and the Cathedral Archaeologist Roland Harris. This survey is one of the very first surveys ever carried out in England. This survey is actually the first to be done on a large scale using modern digital technology.

According to the Project Manager Matthew Champion,“The initial results have been very encouraging and we have made a number of superb discoveries. The walls are covered in everything you can think of. Medieval ships, names, animals, windmills, figures and prayers – even musical notes.  Just about everything that would have been important to the citizens of Norwich during the middle ages”.

Majority of the inscriptions found seem to be prayers. And the fact that all the inscriptions were etched deep into the stone states to scholars that they were created with the cathedral authorities blessing. It seems that view of prayer and religion was more hands-on because they etched their prayers in the wall. The most interesting discoveries made so far in the cathedral are the names of people who are written upside-down. Some possibilities for this was if the names were carved into the stones before the stones were put in place. But these suggestions have now been castoff. It appears that the inscriptions were written upside down purposely. Even though the names of these individuals is still a mystery, it has been mentioned that they could be portrayed as curses. Because according to Champion, when names are written upside-down, it was thought that these were to bring affliction to the subject. The Archaeologists also found out that the cathedral was used as a stable for troops during the English Civil War. The graffiti ultimately dates all the way back to the 15th century.

The survey members from the Norfolk Graffiti Survey are going to continue this survey through the Spring and Summer. They believe that they will have over 5000 images of the inscriptions from the Cathedral when they are all done.

First Meeting House in Duxbury

As I was searching the internet, I came across an article about an archaeological recovery project that discovered what might be the First Meeting House in Duxbury, a historical building that centered an English settlement when Pilgrims William Brewster, Myles Standish, and John and Priscilla Alden settled a community on Duxbury. In the 1620s, the First Meeting House, which was served as both a church and government center, was built by the Pilgrims who left the Plymouth settlement to hold religious services close to their new homes rather than travel to Plymouth each Sunday. The archaeologist Craig Chartier of the Plymouth Archeological Recovery Project, did a ground radar scan in the Myles Standish Burial Ground that exposed straight-line trenches that showed an outline of the 20- by-32 foot structure of the First Meeting House. According to the local residents, this is where they believe the first meeting house was been built. The scan also found grave-sites that were close by to the First Meeting House. Chartier had hopes of excavating the site to back up his findings off the radar scan, but the property is both a  town-owned cemetery and a National Historic Register site. Since they didn’t want the graves to be disturbed, they only allowed the radar scan. Overall, the results of the radar scan was enough to call attention upon a very old New England community.

I found this article to be very interesting because last semester I wrote a paper about the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony in my history course. And I included how Myles Standish was the only soldier who traveled with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock. By knowing information about Myles Standish, it was interesting for me to read how Chartier found the First Meeting House in the Myles Standish Burial Ground.

I think it is very fascinating by just using a radar scan, you can find out about a lot of  ancient history that is right beneath your feet. Even though Chartier wasn’t allowed to excavate the cemetery, I still find it amazing that by the use of technology, he was able to see the outline of the First Meeting House structure. Reading about the radar scan reminded me of the different types of sensing you can use while surveying that we learned in class. For example, remote sensing reminded me of a radar scan because it allows you to look below the surface without having to excavate. Archaeology is so intriguing and exciting to me because you can find out so much about the past not only by excavating, but with satellite imaging, radar scans, lidar, and remote sensing as well. Archaeology makes learning more about human society in the past possible. The finding of the  historical building of the First Meeting House in Duxbury is an example of this.