Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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.
Posted by Mitch Williamson at 9:26 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The prehistoric discoveries they have made on the banks of a long-lost lake on the Parc Glyndwr development site off Rockfield Road, Monmouth.
The latest radiocarbon dates. It looks as though the site is teeming with prehistoric remains, especially Bronze Age ones (we have found another burnt mound 50 yards away, just outside the development site) . . .
We were particularly careful with the charcoal sample from one of the slots - taking it as far from the mound as possible and inside the lower anaerobic clay; of course it's not absolute proof that it's not from the burnt mound but we are sure that the slot was cut into the surface of the mound when there was little, if any, covering soil - this is also clear in the section which would clearly show if the slot was cut from higher up. The date from inside the slot is earlier than that from the mound but with the 35 years each way I suppose that it comes out near enough the same. So far, the evidence is that the slots could be Bronze Age with not a scrap of evidence for Roman, as published by someone from Cadw, following a 10-minute visit to the site!
Gordon MacDonald's suggestion that there was access to the River Wye in the Bronze Age via a large post-glacial lake may not be so dodgy as I first thought. We have a water-worn Beaker barbed & tanged arrowhead from river gravels at 24 Monnow Street and the Mesolithic camp site on what appears to be a river bank in St. James' Street, both of these sites are just above the alluvium which would apparently be the edge of such a lake. The alluvium does connect our site to the rivers and Gordon, who has studied the Wye and Severn for many years, is convinced that the remains are linked to the building of the known huge Bronze Age boats. However, perhaps I will hold fire on that for the moment as there has been rather a lot of theorising - for now. The little Neolithic hearth had a loose stone surround and contained charcoal and a flint.
Friday, December 28, 2012
In 1984 the body of a man preserved in peat was discovered in Cheshire, England. Conserved in his entirety, the body of Lindow man provided archaeologists with a wide range of information about his life and death more than 2,000 years ago.
Approximately seven hundred hundred human bodies have been discovered in the peat bogs of northern Europe, but few survive intact, primarily because of the circumstances of their discovery, usually as the result of peatcutting machinery. Peat bogs provide waterlogged, anaerobic, and antibacterial conditions that preserve human soft tissue. Bodies of men and women have been found, but no children's bodies have yet been found. Many have been dated to medieval times by their clothing and accompanying artifacts, but the most interesting and best-preserved bodies date between from 2,800 years ago (ca. 800 BC) to AD 200, from the period of the European Iron Age until the Roman Empire. The most famous of these intact bodies are the Tollund, Grauballe, and Lindow men, named after the peat bogs from which they were recovered. While some of the bog bodies were the result of accidental deaths, some are wetland burials, some are murder victims hidden in bogs, and some would have been suicide burials excluded from Christian graveyards. A few are thought to have been ritual burials and/or executions.
The conservation and analysis of these bog bodies was pioneered by Danish archaeologist Hans Helbaek, who worked on both the Tollund and Graubolle men, who were found in peat bogs in central Jutland in Denmark. Tollund man, discovered in 1950, died 2,100 years ago (ca. 100 BC). Based on the account of the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about the practices of the Germanic tribes of the north in his Germania, we know that "cowards, shirkers and sodomites are pressed down under a wicker hurdle into the slimy mud of a bog," while "traitors and deserters," he also noted, "are hanged on trees."
It is possible that Tollund man was a criminal or a victim of ritual sacrifice. He was naked except for a pointy leather cap, and he had been strangled by the noose around his neck before being thrown into the bog. His last meal was a gruel of barley, linseed, knotweed, dock, and camomile seeds. Graubolle man was discovered in 1952. His throat had been cut, and he had been hit on the head as well. His stomach contents comprised sixty-three varieties of seeds, such as rye, buttercup, nightshade, clover, and spelt, and he had died 2,070 years ago (ca. 70 BC).
Helbaek's analysis of food residues laid the foundations for their continued use and refinement by archaeologists. Unfortunately, techniques of preservation were not so successful in the 1950s, and only the heads of the Tollund and Graubolle men survive in museums today.
Lindow man was luckier to be unearthed later in the twentieth century- when techniques of freeze-drying had improved, and he survives as he was found, because of the work of the conservation staff of the British Museum. Lindow man, however, had one leg missing-probably because of peat-cutting machines, which destroyed another two to three bog bodies lying near his before they were turned off.
Lindow man was approximately twenty-five years old when he died from being struck on the back of the head twice, garroted, and his throat cut. Perhaps he too was a ritual sacrifice. He lived during the first and second centuries AD. He was found naked except for a fur armband. As with the other bog bodies, everything was analyzed, from the species of fur on the band and the leather of the garrotte down to his blood group, the insects and pollen in the peat surrounding his body, and the contents of his last meal. His stomach contents comprised the remains of cereals, such as emmer, wheat, barley, and oats.
The decline in wetland areas across northern Europe, and the wide use of peat-cutting machinery mean that there will be even fewer bog bodies to analyze in the future.
Further Reading Greig, J. 2001. Palynology in archaeological research. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: History and discoveries, ed. T. Murray, 988-991. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Stead, I., J. Bourke, and D. Brothwell, eds. 1986. Lindow man, the body in the bog. London: British Museum. Turner, R., and R. G. Scaife. 1995. Bog bodies: New discoveries and new perspectives. London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Press.
In 1990 Mayanists Linda Schele and David Freidel published AForest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya. Combining archaeological evidence with history deciphered from Maya inscriptions and glyphs, this popular book made the mysterious Maya more accessible to twentieth-century readers.
Linda Schele (1942-1998) had been deeply involved in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic writing and, by the 1980s, had developed a way of interpreting the essence of Maya society through the integration of studies of its art, archaeology, and hieroglyphic writing. This approach was exemplified in A Forest of Kings, which she cowrote with Freidel. Their story was one of war, territorial expansion, and the very great impact of ritual-particularly ritual associated with the passage of time. A Forest of Kings was structured around detailed discussions of each of the Maya centers that allowed Schele and Freidel to weave inscriptions, art, architecture, and archaeology into a persuasive tapestry of life among the classic Maya. Significantly, Schele and Freidel sought to maximize the impact of the deciphered inscriptions in the sense that they could "go beyond" the translated text and empirical evidence to produce plausible interpretations of Maya life.
Further Reading Coe, M. 2000. Breaking the Maya code: The last great decipherment of an ancient script. Rev. ed. London: Penguin. Proskouriakoff, T. 1960. Historical implications of a pattern of dates at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. American Antiquity 25 (4): 454-475. Schele, L., and D. Freidel. 1990. A forest of kings: The untold story of the ancient Maya. New York: Morrow. Solomon, C. 2003. Tatiana Proskouriakoff, interpreting the Ancient Maya. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.