An Etruscan well in Cetamura del Chianti, an archaeological site on the property of the Badia a Coltibuono wine-making estate in Tuscany, has proven a cornucopia of historical artifacts from 300 B.C. through the end of the Middle Ages. The well — which technically is a cistern rather than a well since it isn’t spring-fed but rather a rain catchment shaft — was dug more than 105 feet deep into the sandstone bedrock of the Cetamura hilltop. Over the centuries, a vast number of artifacts made from bronze, silver, lead and iron, plus ceramics, glass, bricks, tiles, wood, 70 bronze and silver coins, jacks-like game pieces (astragali), animal bones, antlers and grape seeds were thrown into the well, probably as votive offerings in antiquity and as simple discards in later eras.
The Cetamura settlement has been excavated since 1973, unearthing Etruscan remains including an acropolis and extensive artisan quarters, a Roman villa and baths and a medieval fort. The well is in Zone 1, the acropolis area on the top of the hill, and a team of archaeologists and students led by Florida State University Etruscan expert Nancy de Grummond have been excavating it since 2011. So far the team has unearthed 14 Roman and Etruscan bronze vessels, an impressive number of very rare Etruscan wood pieces and almost 500 grape seeds.
The bronze vessels, of different shapes and sizes and with varying decorations, were used to extract water from the well, which has been excavated to a depth of more than 105 feet.
“One of the Etruscan vessels, actually a wine bucket, is finely tooled and decorated with figurines of the marine monster Skylla,” de Grummond said. “Another was adorned with a bronze finial of the head of a feline with the mane of a lion and the spots of a leopard and, for handle attachments, had African heads, probably sphinxes.”
The grape seeds, found in at least three different levels of the well — including the Etruscan and Roman levels — are of tremendous scientific interest, according to de Grummond.
The seeds date to the third and second centuries B.C. (Etruscan) and to the late first century B.C., early first century A.D. (Roman). The waterlogged environment preserved them exceptionally well which will give researchers the rare opportunity to do DNA testing as well as radiocarbon dating. This has the potential to illuminate the viticultural history of one of the famous wine growing regions of the world, a history that is very little known. Genetic and morphometric analyses of the seeds will categorize the different grape varieties and, if all goes well, will determine if any of these ancient Chianti grapes are related to the ones used to make Chianti wines today. The Roman seeds discovered in the 2012 and 2013 dig seasons have already been sorted into three different types.
Interestingly, the grape seeds weren’t just thrown in to the well in handfuls. The team found most of them inside the bronze vessels, evidence that they may have been ritual offerings rather than garbage. The wood from the early Etruscan level also appears to have played a ritual role.
“Many of the pieces of wood were worked, and already several objects have been identified, such as parts of buckets, a spatula or spoon, a spool and a rounded object that might be a knob or child’s top,” [de Grummond] said. “The sheer amount of Etruscan waterlogged wood — with some recognizable artifacts — could transform views about such perishable items.”
To follow the news from the Cetamura del Chianti well excavation, keep an eye on their Facebook page.
Duchess Megan reports that Viscount Mikolaj de Bracy was the victor of the June 21, 2014 Crown Tournament in the Kingdom of the West. His Excellency was inspired in His endeavor by Countess Arianwem verch Morgan.
The last of the Pennsic war points were decided today with the armored castle battles, siege weapons competition, and the end of the populace archery war points. The East won the majority of the six points for the castle battles as well as six of the nine points of the populace archery war point. The Middle won the siege weapons war point.
Unofficial reports indicate that the East Kingdom won the war by 3 points.
EDITED TO ADD: The full points spread is now available at the Pennsicwar website. The East won with 25 points to the Midrealm’s 20.
Filed under: Pennsic Tagged: archery, heavy list, Pennsic, pennsic war points, siege weapons
Amandine Mérat and Emily Taylor of the British Museum recently completed the task of auditing, documenting and re-housing 1,800 textiles of the Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic eras. In an article on the museum's website, the two discuss the process of handling the spectacular artifacts in the collection. (photos)
Despite the continuing intermittent rain and resulting scheduling changes, Pennsic continued in full swing on Thursday, with the East continuing to fight valiantly and victoriously.
The Thrown Weapons war point took place in the morning, and won by the East.
Thursday’s scheduled Bridge Battles were replaced by a broken field battle worth 5 points, all of which were won by the East.
The Ruins battle for Rapier fighters was held as scheduled Thursday afternoon. All three points for this battle went to the Midrealm.
A siege weapons war point was also held on Thursday, which was taken by the Midrealm.
The East was also awarded two points toward the overall Service war point.
Friday’s scheduled events at Pennsic include the Castle Battle for armored combat, and the last day of the Populace War Point Archery. Closing ceremonies are scheduled for today at 2 pm.
Filed under: Pennsic Tagged: Pennsic, pennsic 42, thrown weapons, War Points
Experts found that the boulder, which is nearly five and a half feet long and weighs almost 1,500 pounds, is a Class I Pictish Symbol Stone, meaning it’s an unshaped stone incised with symbols but no cross. This is the earliest type of symbol stone, and the Dandaleith Stone may date to as early as 500 A.D. The symbols on one face are an eagle with a crescent and V-rod underneath it. On the adjacent face there’s a mirror case symbol (a circle atop a rectangle) with a notch rectangle and Z-rod symbol underneath.
The symbols have been typed and categorized from the 350 or so stones that have been found, but experts still don’t know what they mean or how the stones were used. One theory is that the symbols represent a kind of heraldry for important families. The stones could have been grave markers (although archaeological evidence of burials associated with Pictish Symbol Stones is sparse) or perhaps boundary markers. For more information about the Picts and the symbol carvings, see Historic Scotland’s dedicated website.
Dr David Clarke, former Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Scotland, said: “The presence of two sets of symbols on a single stone is itself a very unusual feature relative to the corpus of symbol-bearing stones, but the presence of two sets of symbols on adjacent faces may be unique. The corresponding orientation of the sets of symbols is also a very unusual feature.”
The stone was declared a Treasure Trove following its discovery, and was reported to Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service (ACAS), who act as the regional archaeology service for Moray Council. Claire Herbert, regional archaeologist at ACAS, said: “Members of the public regularly contact the Archaeology Service about artefacts they have found, but the reporting of the Dandaleith Stone was something truly unexpected, a real rarity. I would like to thank the ploughman and landowner for reporting their find to us, and for their continued help and cooperation.
“To our knowledge, this is a truly unique find which has the potential to alter our understanding of Pictish Symbol Stones. We are privileged to be involved in the continued protection of such a wonderful object.”
As per the Treasure Trove law, once an object is declared treasure, the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP) determines which of the interested museums will be allocated the artifact and what sum it will pay the finder as an ex gratia payment. The amount of the payment is determined by how much it would cost to purchase an equivalent object on the antiquities market. In March of this year, the SAFAP allocated the Dandaleith Stone to the Elgin Museum which is just 15 miles north of Dandaleith.
While the museum raises the funds for the payment, display and transportation of this large and heavy piece of granite, the stone is being conserved and documented at Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation in Edinburgh.
Professor Robert Bartlett of the University of St. Andrews believes that there should be a better ending to the reknowned Bayeux Tapestry than the death of King Harold and the defeat of his army. Now a community project from the British island of Alderney offers an alternative: the coronation of William the Conqueror. (photos)
Archaeological excavations at Człuchów castle in Poland have unearthed a 14th century lead bulla of Pope Gregory XI, a seal used to authenticate documents. The bulla is believed to have originated during the Teutonic Order's crusade against pagan Lithuania.
On the Chicago Now blog, B and P's Mama writes of her experience of attending an SCA event with her sister and two kids. An avowed snob about nerd activities, she found that her kids had a magical day and the SCA might not be exactly what she expected.
A skeleton kept in an old wooden box in the basement of Philadelphia’s Penn Museum has regained his history, and what an illustrious one it is. Curator of the museum’s Physical Anthropology Section Dr. Janet Monge knew the skeleton was there, one of 2,000 complete skeletons in the collection, but it had no catalog card or any other identifying marks. It might have remained a mystery skeleton forever had it not been for one of my favorite things: an ambitious digitization project.
In 2012, the Penn Museum and the British Museum embarked on a collaborative mission to digitize all the artifacts, photographs, archives, maps, notes and other documents from Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavations of Ur, now in southern Iraq, from 1922 and 1934. The 12 years of excavations were joint expeditions of the British Museum and the Penn Museum. As was common archaeological practice at the time, half of what they unearthed remained in country, while the other half was split evenly between the two institutions. Funded with a $1.28 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, Ur of the Chaldees: A Virtual Vision of Woolley’s Excavations will digitally reunite all the products of these seminal digs and make high resolution images of every pot fragment, cuneiform tablet, archaeological layer map, bull-headed lyre, etc. available for free in an online database.
Dr. William Hafford, Penn Museum’s Ur Digitization Project Manager, encountered in the course of his work some division lists recording which items were sent to Philadelphia and which to London. It was the list for the 1929-1930 dig season (a fateful season during which Katharine Woolley invited Agatha Christie to visit the dig where she met her future husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan) that caught his eye.
It said that the Penn Museum would receive, among other items, one tray of “mud of the flood” and two “skeletons.” Further research into the Museum’s object record database indicated that one of those skeletons, 31-17-404, deemed “pre-flood” and found in a stretched position, was recorded as “Not Accounted For” as of 1990.
Exploring the extensive records Woolley kept, Hafford was able to find additional information and images of the missing skeleton, including Woolley himself painstakingly removing an Ubaid skeleton intact, covering it in wax, bolstering it on a piece of wood, and lifting it out using a burlap sling. When he queried Dr. Monge about it, she had no record of such a skeleton in her basement storage—but noted that there was a “mystery” skeleton in a box.
When the box was opened later that day, it was clear that this was the same skeleton in Woolley’s field records, preserved and now reunited with its history.
The fact that he’s garnered the nickname “Noah” is a hint of that history. The skeleton is 6,500 years old, 2,000 years older than the remains found in the more glamorous Royal Cemetery of Ur. Woolley found it in Pit F, a trench he dug 50 feet deep under the surface of the archaeological site of Ur. When he reached 40 feet down, he countered a thick layer of water-lain silt that became known as the “flood layer.” This was the find that provided evidence of a great flood, not the world-destroying flood that would thousands of years later be described in the Biblical story of Noah, but a major local disaster that submerged Ur when it was an island surrounded by marshes. People regrouped after the flood, rebuilding Ur and burying their dead, but the story of the flood became legend and was incorporated in literature like the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Woolley kept digging underneath the flood layer and found 48 graves from the Ubaid period (5,500 B.C. to 4,000 B.C.). The Penn skeleton had been buried with ten pottery vessels at his feet in a grave dug into the silt, which indicates he had survived the flood.
Thanks to Woolley’s conscientious method of excavation and preservation — coating the skeleton and the soil around it in wax then covering it in plaster of Paris to keep it safe during the journey — Noah will be a great boon to research on this early period of Ur. Modern technology may be able to reveal much about his life, diet, health, perhaps cause of death, maybe even some DNA given the good condition of his teeth. Not much is known about the Ubaid period, so this research could fill in a great many blanks. And let’s not forget the silt. Archaeologists are learning amazing things from context soil nowadays.
The frequent rain and thunderstorms moving through Pennsic resulted in the cancelation of the armored and rapier woods battles scheduled for yesterday due to safety concerns. Armored bridge battles were fought in the morning instead with three points going to the East and two to the Middle. The rapier ruins battle was scheduled to take place in the afternoon but it and the siege weapon war point were canceled due to lightning. The rapier ruins battle will be fought at its originally scheduled time tomorrow. The siege war point may be rescheduled to occur at the same time as the rapier ruins battle.
The Archery Champions shoot occurred today with the point going to the East. East Kingdom court was held this evening. Among many other items of business, Their Majesties awarded the Tyger of the East to Duke Gregor von Heisler.
Filed under: Archery, Fencing, Heavy List, Pennsic Tagged: Pennsic 43, pennsic war points
Animator Chris Marshall has brought the past to life in a film which recreates Wales' Caerphilly Castle as it would have looked in the early 14th Century. The film was commissioned by Cadw who oversees the country's historic monuments.
Quivers and Quarrels, the SCA archery magazine, is accepting submissions for the October 2014 issue until September 31, 2014.
In 2009, preparatory work for the Edinburgh Trams project unearthed approximately 400 medieval and early modern burials under Constitution Street. The site had once been part of the South Leith Parish Church graveyard in the port town of Leith (incorporated into Edinburgh in 1920) but had fallen into disuse centuries earlier and was quickly forgotten. In 1790 the Church Council declared they knew of no bodies buried in that location when Constitution Street was built to provide better access to the harbor. The archaeological survey was done because the Constitution Street area was close to the city center of early medieval Leith and to the town’s defenses in the 16th and 17th centuries. The discovery of so many human remains outside the wall of the existing graveyard, therefore, was an unexpected and potentially important source of information about how people lived in died in medieval Leith.
A comprehensive study of the bones ensued, complete with forensic examinations, isotope analysis and facial reconstructions of all the bodies where there were sufficient remains to make it possible. In the final tally, there were 302 complete burials with partial remains of at least 100 more people discovered. Thirty-three of the bodies were dated. They all pre-date 1640 with the earliest dating to 1315. The South Leith Parish Church was founded as St Mary’s Chapel almost two centuries later in 1483, and 33% of the burials happened before that date, which means this church was built on the site of a pre-existing one.
The 1640 cut-off may be related to the Plague of 1645 which killed 2,700 people, half the population of Leith. The South Leith Parish Church played an important role in implementing sanitary measures and in the care of the sick during the plague, but its graveyard couldn’t handle the burial of half the city nor would the center of town be an ideal location for large plague pits. Then the Civil War happened. The church was occupied and used as a powder magazine by Parliamentary troops from 1650 until 1657. It was subsequently restored to ecclesiastical use, but the one-two punch of plague and war may explain why the burials stopped and were all but erased from memory.
Researchers determined that the people buried in this part of the churchyard were shorter than the UK average of 164cm for women and 171cm for men. The average height of the women was 155cm (5’1″) while the men averaged 169cm (5’5.5″). The overwhelming majority (90%) died before the age of 35 and 32% of the deceased were children, particularly older children aged 7-12. Isotope analysis on the remains of 18 bodies found that 80% were very much local having been raised in the Leith/Edinburgh area. The rest were only slightly less local, having been raised within a radius of 15-30 miles.
Most were buried in single graves, interred in wooden coffins or wrapped in shrouds. Three communal graves were found in which women were buried with children. One woman was found buried with a neonate across her pelvis, which means she probably died late in her pregnancy or in childbirth.
By using forensic modelling to determine the shape and depth of facial muscles and soft tissues, isotopic analysis to ascertain individuals’ origins and state-of-the-art computer programming, researchers were able to build up lifelike facial representations for the 400 to 600-year-old remains.
Amongst the reconstructions was that of a boy, aged between 13 and 17, who was thought to have lived around Leith and Edinburgh and to have died in the late 14th or early 15th century, an adult male aged 25 to 35 who lived in the mid 16th to 17th century and a woman also aged between 25 and 35, who died in the late 14th and early 15th century.
Manus MacDhai, Direttore Tecnico for i Firenzi, reports that the Commedia del' Arte company recently performed Arlecchino in Love at the Return to Crecy in the Barony of Sacred Stone (Kingdom of Atlantia.) The performance was recorded and is available to view on YouTube.
The National Centre for Stage Costumes in Moulins, France is playing host to an elaborate display of Shakespearean theatrical costumes entitled Shakespeare, l'étoffe du monde. The silk, satin and gemstone-studded costumes reflect designs from over a century of productions.
A group of boys seven to ten years old from Alston Primary School in Cumbria discovered a rare gold ornament from the Copper Age on an archaeological dig in Kirkhaugh, Northumberland. The ornament is a thin oval sheet of gold 1.3 inches long rolled into a semi-cylinder with two rows of repoussé dots along the outer perimeter and two parallel lines in the center crossing the width of the piece. On the rolled edge between the two lines is a long, thin tab also bordered in repoussé dots.
It’s not certain how they were meant to be worn. Called tress rings, they may have been hair tresses, worn wrapped around a braid or lock of hair. They’ve also been labeled “basket earrings” (because they look like the kind of curved edge basket ladies in period movies use to collect flowers from a garden) and may have been worn with the tab inserted into a piercing and then wrapped around the outside of the semi-cylinder. They would have hugged the outside of the ear like modern ear cuffs do.
Aidan Bell (10), Luca Alderson (8), his brother Sebastian Alderson (10) and Joseph Bell (7) learned about the area’s Copper Age history in school and through a brilliant program called Dreaming the Land that draws on local archaeology and folklore and involves the children through art work and performance. That inspired them to participate in a community dig organized by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Altogether Archaeology project (which also organized Dreaming the Land), and next thing you know, they struck gold.
Seven-year-old Joseph Bell, one of the four boys to make the discovery, said: “We were digging carefully in the ground and I saw something shiny, it was gold. Me and Luca started dancing with joy. It was very exciting.” His friend, eight-year-old Luca Alderson, added: “When I first saw it I felt happy but I thought it was plastic. When I found out it was gold, I was very happy.”
As well he should be. Not only is it gold, but at around 4,300 years old, it’s one of the earliest metal objects ever discovered in the UK and one of only 10 similar pieces known. One of those other nine was also unearthed at Kirkhaugh in 1935. It was found in a burial mound along with a decorated ceramic drinking vessel known as a beaker, the type artifact for and the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age Beaker Culture of western Europe, and a “cushion stone,” a flat-faced stone used as an anvil for crafting gold and copper.
The recently discovered piece was also found in a burial mound, this time accompanied by three flint arrowheads and a jet button. In a beautiful fluke of history, brothers Sebastian and Luca Alderson are the great-great-grandsons of Joseph William Alderson who worked on the 1935 dig. The newfound ornament and the 1935 one have the same decoration and dimensions. Archaeologists believe they are a matched pair and because of the cushion stone found in 1935, probably the work of professional metalworkers exploring the area for its mineable resources, the first in a long line of people who would seek to exploit the area’s richness in precious ores.
[Altogether Archaeology leader Paul] Frodsham said: “When the metal worker arrived in the area I’m sure he’ll have been seen as someone very exotic and special because the chances are that no-one here will have ever seen a metal object until he showed up. We can only assume he was buried here, alone, because he was a long way from home and died unexpectedly.”
Prof. Fitzparick Andrew added: “I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the grave it is on the edge of the Alston ore field. I think the man buried at Kirkhaugh was part of a small group that was prospecting for copper over 4,000 years ago.”
The ornament and other artifacts will be studied by experts, after which the gold piece will hopefully be reunited with its 1935 brother currently on display at the Great North Museum in Newcastle.
New research by archaeologists from UCL, Cambridge and UCLan shows that there was a sudden switch in the fish trade in London from local supplies to imported during the early 13th century. The paper, Fish for the city: meta-analysis of archaeological cod remains and the growth of London's northern trade, appears in the June 2014 issue of Antiquities Journal.
Today saw the armored and rapier combatants of the East, Middle and Allies take to the filed in the epic confrontation that is the field battle. The armored fighters fought a best of five scenario with the East taking three of the five. The rapier fighters engaged in a best of three scenario with the Middle Kingdom and allies taking all three battles.
Their Majesties knighted Ivan Valfrekr Hroereksson and Wilham de Broc on the battlefield. Following the rapier field battle They inducted Robert Earlson and Sorcha Dochair into the Order of the Silver Rapier.
Several Eastern fencers took the field this afternoon dressed as super heroes.
Filed under: Pennsic Tagged: Armored Combat, field battle, Pennsic, rapier
Readers of Shakespeare's Richard III know that the medieval king was a hunchback, but a new study of the king's remains shows that Richard actually suffered from scoliosis.