Broch, Crannog and Hillfort

Saturday, December 31, 2016





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Adze Axe-like wood-working tool, but with blade at right-angles to the handle, used with pick-like motion.
Awl A pointed tool of flint, bone or bronze, used for making holes in skins, etc.
Barrow An earthen burial mound, either circular or rectangular in plan.
Burin Engraving or piercing tool, used with rotary action.
Berm Flat platform separating a mound or bank from a quarry ditch.
Cairn A heap of stones, varying in size, usually covering a burial.
Carinated A shoulder or sharp change in direction in the profile of a pot.
Chape Decorative terminal of a sword scabbard.
Cist Small rectangular pit lined with stone slabs and covered with a capstone; often a grave.
Corbelling Roofing method in which successive layers of stone rise one above the other and overlap inwards until they meet.
Cursus Long, narrow parallel-sided enclosure of the neolithic period.
Dolerite Basaltic type rock used for making axes, also in the construction of Stonehenge.
Dysse Long megalithic burial mound found in Denmark.
Gabbroic clay Clay containing crystals of the igneous rock gabbro from the Lizard peninsula.
Graver Engraving tool made from pointed, longitudinal flake, used with a straight action.
Hafted axe Axe with a wooden handle.
Halberd Bronze Age dagger at right angles to a wooden handle with metal rivets.
Henge Later neolithic circular enclosure surrounded by a bank and internal ditch, broken by one or more entrances.
Hunebeden Long megalithic burial mound found in the Netherlands.
Inhumation An unburnt human burial.
Machair Gaelic word describing lush meadowland.
Mattock Heads Pick-like tool with chisel shaped blade.
Megalithic Constructed of large stones, e.g. Stonehenge.
Midden Rubbish dump, often composed of discarded shells, bones or charcoal.
Quern Two stones used for grinding corn, either by rubbing backwards and forwards, or revolving one upon another
Revetment A facing of timber, stone or turf intended to stop the sides of a bank or mound collapsing.
Scalene triangle Unequal sided microlith, probably used as an arrow tip.
Sherds Fragments of broken pottery.
Skeuomorph An imitation.
Spelt A species of wheat: triticum spelta.
Tanged Projection at base of dagger or arrowhead used to fasten it to a handle.
Temenos Spacious enclosure of ‘consecrated’ land, attached to a temple.
Trepanation A form of brain surgery practised in the Bronze Age.

Archaeologists Investigate Underground Pyramidal Structure Beneath Orvieto, Italy

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Excavation on the west wall of the hypogeum near the Etruscan tunnel that connects this pyramidal hypogeum (Room A) with an adjacent one (Room B). Courtesy Daniel George, Jr.

Archaeologists are scratching their heads about an underground pyramid-shaped structure they have been excavating beneath the historic medieval town of Orvieto in Italy. But it may not be a mystery forever. They hope to find answers as they continue to tease artifacts and architectural materials from the soil. 

"We discovered it three summers ago and still have no idea what it is," write Prof. David B. George of St. Anselm College and co-director Claudio Bizzarri of PAAO and colleagues about the site. "We do know what it is not.  It is not a quarry; it’s walls are too well dressed. It is not a well or cistern; its walls have no evidence of hydraulic treatments."* 

Calling it the "cavitá" ('hole' or 'hollow' in Italian), or hypogeum, the archaeologists have thus far excavated about 15 meters down. They marked their third year at the site in 2014. By then they had uncovered significant amounts of what they classify as Gray and Black bucchero, commonware, and Red and Black Figure pottery remains. They have dated deposits to the middle to the end of the 6th century BCE.

"We know that the site was sealed toward the end of the 5th century BCE," George, et al. continue. "It appears to have been a single event. Of great significance is the number of Etruscan language inscriptions that we have recovered – over a hundred and fifty. We are also finding an interesting array of architectural/decorative terra cotta."*



Por-Bazhyn from the air (looking northwest) before excavation in 2007.

3-D reconstruction drawing of Por-Bazhyn based on excavation results 2007/8 (by R.A. Vafeev)

 Vajnstejn's plan of the site (updated 2007 for the Por-Bajin Fortress Foundation)

Por-Bazhyn (Por-Bajin, Por-Bazhyng,) is the name of a ruined structure on a lake island high in the mountains of southern Tuva (Russian Federation). The name Por-Bazhyn translates from the Tuvan language as "clay house". Excavations suggest that it was built as an Uyghur palace in the 8th century AD, converted into a Manichaean monastery soon after, abandoned after a short occupation, and finally destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire. Its construction methods show that Por-Bazhyn was built within the Tang Chinese architectural tradition.

Por-Bazhyn is a 1,300-year-old structure of 7 acres that takes up most of the small island on which it sits. Containing a maze of over 30 buildings, its high outer walls sit only 30 kilometers (20 mi) from the border with Mongolia. But over a century since its discovery, archaeologists are no closer to understanding who built this structure or why.

At first, researchers thought Por-Bazhyn was an ancient fortress of the Uighur Empire, nomads who ruled southern Siberia and Mongolia from 742–848. It’s constructed with a Chinese architectural style from that time. However, it’s so out of the way of trade routes and other settlements that competing theories eventually arose. Maybe it was a monastery, a summer palace, a memorial for a ruler, or an observatory for the stars. Evidence is accumulating that a Buddhist monastery was at the center of the complex, although only a few artifacts have been unearthed.

The complex does not appear to have been inhabited for long. Archaeologists found indications of earthquakes that may have caused a fire that burned some of the original site. However, the fire appears to have occurred after the island was abandoned for reasons unknown.

The Legend of the Stone Circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters

Monday, January 25, 2016

Long Meg and Her Daughers

Despite their pervasiveness throughout the world, with thousands scattered across Britain and Europe alone, stone circles never cease to arouse awe and intrigue in those who gaze upon them. Perhaps it is the realization of the sheer effort that would have gone into their assembly, or the fact that, despite centuries of research, we are really no closer to unraveling their mysteries. Long Meg and Her Daughters, as it is curiously named, is one such stone circle, situated within a picturesque landscape in Cumbria, England, and steeped in centuries of folklore and legend.
While there are more than 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles, 18th century Cumbrian poet  William Wordsworth  wrote that after Stonehenge, Long Meg and Her Daughters “is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains.” His admiration for the stone circle is clearly expressed in his poem, “The Monument Commonly Called Long Meg and Her Daughters,” 1833:
A weight of awe, not easy to be borne,
Fell suddenly upon my spirit, cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past
When first I saw that family forlorn..
Speak Thou, whose massy strength and stature scorn
The power of years—pre-eminent, and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast.
Speak Giant-mother!
While Wordsworth may have been somewhat biased by his love for his native land of Cumbria, there is no doubt that the stone circle is something special. Long Meg and Her Daughters is the second largest stone circle in England, and the sixth biggest example known in Europe, and despite the fact that at least 3,500 years have passed since its construction, it has survived the passage of time extraordinarily well.
Read more:

The Sacred Prehistoric Neolithic Complex of the Thornborough Henges

Drawing of the Thornborough Henges and cursus.

The Thornborough Henges are considered one of the most important ancient sites in Britain.  Consisting of a  triple henge alignment, it is a complex of three circular mounds with ditches and banks that was once part of a larger Neolithic landscape in use for over a thousand years. Historians believe this man-made, prehistoric structure had an astronomical significance and was purposely built to mirror the stars of Orion. Often called the ‘Stonehenge of the North,’ it is the largest ritual religious site on the British Isles.

Description of the Thornborough Henges

The Thornborough Henges are located near the village of Thornborough, in North Yorkshire, England and are thought to be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.. 
They are part of an area known as the Vale of Mowbray which is a location known for its concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. There are no less than six giant henges, all almost identical in size and design, located within 10km (6.2 miles) of one other.
The design of the henges sets Thornborough apart from later Neolithic complexes. It is the world's only triple henge complex and the three henges follow the same off-centre alignment seen at other triple-circles across England.
The length of the entire henge is approximately a mile (1.6km) long with two large entrances situated directly opposite one other.
All three of the Thornborough Henges have two entrances which are aligned, like the henge alignment itself, Northwest to Southeast, and laid out at approximately intervals, 550m (601 yards) apart.  All are of similar size and shape, have a diameter between 240 and 275 meters (787-902 ft), and stand some 3 meters (9 ft) in height. 
The Northern henge is currently overgrown but is perhaps the best preserved of the three.  Covered by a small plantation of trees, it has a high bank with deep ditches and two entrances.  The southernmost of the three mounds had been damaged but is still recognizable as a henge structure.

The Cursus Monument

The banks of the central henge have also been damaged with little trace of the interior ditch left. The central henge lies on top of an earlier, Neolithic cursus monument. Cursus are large parallel banks that have been marked using stones or ditches and are among the oldest monumental structures of the British Isles.
The fact that Thornborough was built over pre-existing Cursus suggests that it was an important ritual site to the Neolithic residents who lived there.
Some think that Thornborough may have been a pilgrimage centre where people sought spiritual salvation and that it served an economic, social as well as an astronomical purpose. 
While it is unknown what kind of rituals were performed at Thornborough, the banks of the henges were coated in a brilliant white layer of gypsum or gypsum crystal (according to archaeological excavations that have been done at the central henge), which would have made the site visible for miles. Today the cursus are no longer visible above ground due to the continuous quarrying around the site.

Thornborough's Alignment with Orion

The Thornborough Henges are unusual in that the structure is in alignment with a well known constellation in the night sky. The lines joining the henges do not form a straight line but instead were intentionally shaped like a “dog leg” to reflect the stars of Orion’s belt. 
This same astronomical alignment can be found at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the pyramids of Xian, and also at the sites of the Hopi tribe in Arizona.
It is thought that the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed between 4000 and 3000 BC and the BBC makes note of the fact that Thornborough " may have been the first monument in the world aligned to Orion, predating the pyramids by 1,000 years. ” 
The structure was aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion which also meant that the eastern end aligned towards the midsummer solstice.
The southern entrances framed the rising of the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, and was also aligned on the midwinter solstice.

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