Iron Age warriors point to glories of Gaul

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


French archaeologist Cecile Paresys stands next to the bones of two Gauls.

On a muddy field between a motorway and a meander of the Seine south-east of Paris, French archaeologists have uncovered an Iron Age graveyard they believe will shed light on the great yet enigmatic civilisation of Gaul.

The site, earmarked for a warehouse project on the outskirts of Troyes, has yielded a stunning array of finds, including five Celtic warriors whose weapons and adornments attest to membership of a powerful but long-lost elite.

Archaeologist Emilie Millet recently crouched at one of 14 burial sites that have been uncovered in the past few weeks after a nine-year excavation of the 260-hectare site.

At her feet were the remains of a tall warrior, complete with a 70-centimetre iron sword still in its scabbard.

"I have never seen anything like it," she said, gazing at a metal-framed shield whose wood-and-leather core has long rotted away.

Buried next to the warriors are several women, whose jewellery - twisted-metal necklaces known as torcs, and large bronze brooches decorated with precious coral - also speak of high status.

In one grave, a woman was buried next to a man, separated by a layer of soil.

"This graveyard is exceptional in more ways than one," said the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), which excavates sites of potential interest before the bulldozers are allowed in.

The jewellery suggests the dead were buried between 325 and 260 BC, in a period known as La Tene.
Another clue may come from analysis of the scabbards, whose decoration changed according to military fashion.

Designs in this period typically had two open-mouthed dragons facing each other, with their bodies curled.

La Tene, whose name comes from an archaeological site in Switzerland, ran from about the 5th century BC to the first century AD, marking the glory years of the Celts.

During this time, the Celts expanded from their core territory in central Europe to as far afield as northern Scotland and the Atlantic coast of Spain.

They clashed with the emerging Roman empire, whose writers recorded the invaders as pale-skinned savages, dressed in breeches with bleached hair, who cut off their enemies' heads, preserving those of high rank in cedar oil.

The barbarian image, though, has been dispelled by historical research in recent decades.

It has laid bare a complex civilisation that had a mastery of metal and a trading system which spanned Europe and generated great wealth.

The find at Bucheres raises several questions, for there has never been any trace of major Celtic settlement in the neighbourhood.

The graves were uncovered at a depth of about two metres but if they had any external markers, none remain.

An earlier civilisation, from the Bronze Age, left a line of burial mounds nearby, "which would have been visible for miles around," said Inrap archaeologist Cecile Paresys.

Just as intriguing, the excavation has yet to find any pottery or evidence of food, which were often added to Iron Age burials to sustain the dead in the spirit world.

No remains of children have been found, although this absence is common to Celtic necropolises - something that anthropologists are at a loss to explain.

Years of patient forensic work lie ahead to tease out clues about how these people lived and died. In the meantime, the remains are being recorded where they lie before being gently prised from the earth and preserved.

AFP

Archaeologists discover, virtually recreate Roman gladiator school in Austria


The archaeologists made a digital reconstruction model of the Roman school for gladiators.

A team of archaeologists say they have discovered the almost complete remains of a Roman gladiator school on the banks of the Danube River in Austria and virtually recreated the site.

The so-called ludus "is on a scale to rival the famous ludus magnus, the gladiatorial school behind the Coliseum in Rome," the archaeologists said in a statement.

The team, announcing their findings in the journal Antiquity, say the "spectacular" find at Carnuntum was mapped and virtually reconstructed using non-invasive techniques such as aerial surveys, electromagnetic induction and ground-penetrating radar.

"The resulting archaeological maps and plans of individual buildings, streets and Roman infrastructure allow the virtual reconstruction of the city layout and the development of ancient land and townscapes in two and three dimensions," they said.

"Although some 100 ludi are thought to have existed in the Roman Empire, almost all have been destroyed or built over," the Austrian, Belgian and German team said.

Excavations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries revealed many elements of the Carnuntum complex including a legionary fortress and town, but the ludus was only discovered in 2011.

Carnuntum was the capital of Upper Pannonia in Roman times and a major trading centre for amber.
Its archaeological park contains the ruins of amphitheatres, Roman baths and the remains of a monumental arch known as Heidentor.

AFP

800,000-year-old footprints found in Norfolk, Britain; oldest ancient human footprints found outside Africa

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Footprints left by ancient humans 800,000 years ago have been found in Britain, the earliest evidence of such markings outside Africa.

Researchers discovered the footprints, which were left by both adults and children, in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh in Norfolk in eastern England.

The only older footprints found so far are at Laetoli in Tanzania, at about 3.5 million years old, and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years, researchers said.

"This is an extraordinarily rare discovery," Nick Ashton of the British Museum, who led the research team, said.

The find came at an archaeological site that has yielded several previous discoveries of stone tools and fossil bones, including mammoth remains.

The researchers found the prints at low tide when waves washed away much of the beach sand to expose the silt below.

"At first we weren't sure what we were seeing but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away," Dr Ashton said.

The group of early humans that left the footprints appeared to have consisted of at least one male and several smaller people believed to be females and youngsters, the researchers said.

"They are clearly a family group rather than a hunting party," Dr Ashton said.

Footprint owners estimated to be about as tall as modern humans

Analysis of the prints found that they were from a "range of adult and juvenile foot sizes" equating to modern shoe sizes of up to British 7 or 8.

The researchers estimated that the height of the ancient humans who left the prints varied from about 0.9 metres to over 1.7 metres, not far off the height of modern humans.

They were dated at 800,000 years old partly on the basis of the site's geological position beneath glacial deposits, but also because the fossils there come from now-extinct types of mammoth and horse and early forms of vole that were alive at that time.

But the question of exactly what type of ancient humans left their footprints in the sands of time remains a mystery.

They may have been related to people of a similar period in history found in Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor, or Pioneer Man, said Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.

"These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal," he said.
Homo antecessor apparently became extinct in Europe 600,000 years ago and was perhaps replaced by the species Homo heidelbergensis, followed by the Neanderthals from about 400,000 years ago, and eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago.

AFP

 
Broch, Crannog and Hillfort - by Templates para novo blogger