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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UK mammals have 'Celtic fringe'

From the BBC News:

DNA tests on British populations of small mammals show a genetically distinct "Celtic Fringe", say scientists at The University of York.

Voles, shrews, mice and stoats in northern and western areas have different DNA from their counterparts in other parts of the British Isles.

The paper, in Proceedings B journal, says the different populations arrived at the end of the last ice age.

The authors say the work sheds light on the origins of the Celtic people.

The traditional view is that the ancestors of British Celts spread from central Europe during the Iron Age and were later displaced by the arrival of the Anglo Saxons.

However, recent genetic studies have challenged this theory, suggesting a much earlier origin, dating back to the end of the last ice age, 19,000 years ago.

This paper suggests that the study of small mammal populations could help resolve the controversy.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Contentious M3 is 90% complete, says NRA


THE CONTROVERSIAL M3 motorway in Co Meath, which has been the subject of several years of protests, is now almost 90 per cent complete, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has said.

At almost 60km of main motorway and a further 40km of link roads and interchanges, the it is one of the longest motorways under construction in Europe.

The M3 is not scheduled to open until July 2010. Work could still finish ahead of this scheduled date, but not before mid-spring next year, the NRA said.

Beginning at Clonee, north of the Dublin-Meath border, it runs to Kells where it switches to a motorway-grade dual carriageway for the last 10km to the Cavan border. It will have two toll booths, charging €1.40 for cars. Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells are bypassed along the route.

Controversially, the route runs just over 2km from the Hill of Tara, and adjacent to the Lismullin national monument and the hill fort of Rath Lugh.

Protesters have occupied these latter two sites, blocking the road’s construction at various times in recent years, most memorably in March last year when conservationist Lisa Feeney, known as “Squeak” shut herself inside a chamber at the bottom of a 33-foot tunnel at Rath Lugh for 60 hours.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Silchester dig hints at a larger Iron Age town

From the Times Online:

Renewed excavations at the Roman city of Silchester, near Basingstoke, have shown that the grid-planned Iron Age town discovered last year was much larger than initially thought.

Silchester, known as Calleva Atrebatum in Roman times, seems to have been at its largest and most densely populated before its destruction by fire in the later 1st century AD, possibly in the rebellion of Boadicea.

“Not only is there evidence of closely packed timber buildings . . . within our excavation trench, but there is also a great number of wells, greater than in any subsequent period,” said Professor Michael Fulford, of the University of Reading. “Indeed the total number of wells which predate the destruction is greater than the total number thereafter for the rest of the life of the town within our excavation trench.

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How did 2,000-year-old feet find their way to a Dublin attic?

From the Irish Times:

EXPERTS FROM the National Museum are still trying to explain how two human feet dating from 2,000 years ago were found in an attic in a house in the Terenure area of Dublin last December.

The human remains, a foot from a young child and the foot of an adult male with part of the lower leg attached, turned up during renovation work on the house in south Dublin.

The builders informed the gardaĆ­ who in turn called in the Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell, who ordered the remains be sent to Dublin City Mortuary for postmortem examination.

According to a report in the autumn edition of Archaeology Ireland to be published this week under the heading “Not One Foot in The Grave but two Feet in the Attic”, the mystery is unresolved.

During his examination, Dr Farrell and other scientists concluded the two mummified right feet had come from an adult and from a child. There were no signs of antemortem injuries or cut marks.

The foot of the male adult had part of the lower leg attached although the stretching and tearing of the muscle fibres suggest it had been pulled off a body, said the report.

“It closely resembled a bog body in appearance, as it had the dark brown, almost black colour seen in recent bog bodies such as Oldcroghan Man and Cloneycavan Man,” the report continued.

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Historic Scotland leads rare tour of Angus hill forts

From the Press and Journal:

VISITORS to two Iron Age monuments in Angus at the weekend had the rare opportunity of taking a guided walk of the sites.

The tour of the Brown and White Caterthuns, about four miles north-east of Brechin, was organised by Historic Scotland as part of Archaeology Month, which runs throughout September. The hill forts perch on top of two prominent hills between Brechin and Edzell and are protected by systems of earthworks and ditches.

Until recently they had been considered as two separate sites but a report, commissioned by Historic Scotland and published last year, revealed there are more similarities between them than was thought. Archaeologists uncovered evidence suggesting that they are part of a single unit.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

‘Rare and Significant’ find declared as treasure

Today, “TheComet” news for North Herts reported of a collection of Bronze, Iron Age and Roman artefacts that are considered both ‘rare’ and ‘significant’. Items dating back to the Iron Age include pieces of armour, but there are also a variety of other finds such as numerous coins, pottery and animal bone fragments.

You can read the article here

Archaeologists find remains of 2,000-year-old roundhouse

From The Press and journal:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered the floor and timber beams of a 2,000-year-old roundhouse in the heart of a Moray farm, it emerged yesterday.

Experts believe the structure unearthed at Dykeside Farm, Birnie, was once the multistorey-power centre of an Iron Age settlement.

Last night, the archaeologist leading the excavation said it was the best-preserved roundhouse discovered on the site.

National Museums of Scotland curator Fraser Hunter said the “huge, impressive building” had a diameter of 50ft and had stood nearly 30ft high and showed how sophisticated the Iron Age settlers really were. He added: “People tend to think they were scratching around living difficult existences and staying in huts, but this is no hut. This was a huge and impressive building.”

The archaeologist said he believed there had been lots of smaller structures around the roundhouse but this had been the major power centre. “It’s absolutely remarkable,” he said. “Each time we come here it throws up surprises. It just shows what an important place this was 2,000 years ago. It’s giving us completely new insights into the Iron Age.”

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Norfolk Boudicca site ‘of national importance’

From EDP 24:

The Boudicca temple

One of the county's most important Iron Age and early Roman sites has been recognised as being of national importance.

The Boudicca Temple site in Fison Way on the outskirts of Thetford has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, recognising it as a site of national importance and protecting it from the threat of future development.

Artefacts from the Iron and Roman age were first discovered at the site in 1973 when an aerial photograph recorded the cropmarks of an enclosure, just beside the A11 Thetford Bypass.

Six years later a hoard of gold jewellery and silver spoons dating back to the 4th century AD, was found during the construction of the Travenol Factory on Wyatt Way.

It is thought the treasure may have been associated with a late Roman temple and the god Faunus, a woodland deity.

Norfolk County councillor and cabinet member for culture, Derrick Murphy, said: “Recognition that this site is of national importance is long overdue, and it is really good news for Norfolk and Thetford that after a long and concerted campaign it will now be protected from future development or damage.”

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hill fort dates back 3,000 years

From the BBC News:

Archaeologists have discovered that a hill fort in Denbighshire may be almost 3,000 years old.

Experts excavated Moel y Gaer in the Clwydian Range after tests suggested the Iron Age settlement (700 BC to 34 AD) might be older than first thought.

Samples of metal slag and dry stone facing taken from an entrance suggest parts may date back to the Bronze Age (2,300 BC to 700 BC).

It is hoped carbon dating will identify the exact age of the samples.

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