Bronze Age Discovery: Amazing 3000-year-old settlement gives up wheel!

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Complete Bronze Age wheel believed to be the largest and earliest of its kind found in the UK has been unearthed

The 3,000-year-old artefact was found at a site dubbed “Britain’s Pompeii”, at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire. Archaeologists have described the find – made close to the country’s “best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings” – as “unprecedented”. Still containing its hub, the 3 ft-diameter (one metre) wooden wheel dates from about 1,100 to 800 BC. The wheel was found close to the largest of one of the roundhouses found at the settlement last month.

Its discovery “demonstrates the inhabitants of this watery landscape’s links to the dry land beyond the river”, David Gibson from Cambridge Archaeological Unit, which is leading the excavation, said. Historic England, which is jointly funding the £1.1 m excavation with landowner Forterra, described the find as “unprecedented in terms of size and completeness”.

“This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain,” chief executive Duncan Wilson said.

“The existence of this wheel expands our understanding of Late Bronze Age technology, and the level of sophistication of the lives of people living on the edge of the Fens 3,000 years ago.”

Must-Farm_digArchaeologists worked on a wooden platform as they uncovered roundhouses at the quarry

Historic England, which is jointly funding the £1.1m excavation with landowner Forterra, described the find as “unprecedented in terms of size and completeness”.

“This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain,” chief executive Duncan Wilson said.

“The existence of this wheel expands our understanding of Late Bronze Age technology, and the level of sophistication of the lives of people living on the edge of the Fens 3,000 years ago.”

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The dig site, at Must Farm quarry near Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, has been described as “unique”

It has proved to be a Bronze Age treasure trove for archaeologists who earlier this year uncovered two or possibly three roundhouses dating from about 1,000-800 BC. The timbers had been preserved in silt after falling into a river during a fire.

Wheel_completeThe Bronze Age wheel is said to be the largest, earliest complete example of its kind ever found in Britain.

Kasia Gdaniec, senior archaeologist at the county council, said the “fabulous artefacts” found at the site continued to “amaze and astonish”.

“This wheel poses a challenge to our understanding of both Late Bronze Age technological skill and – together with the eight boats recovered from the same river in 2011 – transportation,” she said.

The spine of what is thought to be a horse, found in early January, could suggest the wheel belonged to a horse-drawn cart, however, it is too early to know how the wheel was used, archaeologist Chris Wakefield said.

spine_horseThe spine of what is thought to be a horse was found not far from the wheel

While the Must Farm wheel is the most complete, it is not the oldest to be discovered in the area. An excavation at a Bronze Age site at Flag Fen near Peterborough uncovered a smaller, partial wheel dating to about 1,300 BC. The wheel was thought to have been part of a cart that could have carried up to two people.

The Must Farm quarry site has given up a number of its hidden treasures over the years including a dagger found in 1969 and bowls still containing remnants of food, found in 2006.

More recently the roundhouses, built on stilts, were discovered. A fire destroyed the posts, causing the houses to fall into a river where silt helped preserve the timbers and contents.

What does the wheel tell us?

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“We’re here in the middle of the Fens, a very wet environment, so the biggest question we’ve got to answer at the moment is ‘Why on earth is there a wheel in the middle of this really wet river channel?’,” says archaeologist Chris Wakefield.

“The houses are built over a river and within those deposits is sitting a wheel – which is pretty much the archetype of what you’d expect to have on dry land – so it’s very, very unusual.”

An articulated animal spine found nearby – at first thought to be from a cow – is now believed to be that of a horse.

“[This] has pretty strong ties if they were using something like a cart.

“In the Bronze Age horses are quite uncommon. It’s not until the later period of the Middle Iron Age that they become more widespread, so aside from this very exciting discovery of the wheel, we’ve also got potentially other related aspects that are giving us even more questions.

“This site is giving us lots of answers but at the same time it’s throwing up questions we never thought we’d have to consider.” Analyzing the data from samples found at Must Farm could take the team several years, he added.

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Artist’s  impression of what one of the roundhouses might have looked like

Other artifacts found inside the roundhouses themselves – including a small wooden box, platter, an intact “fineware” pot and clusters of animal and fish bones that could have been kitchen waste – have been described as “amazing” by archaeologists.

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Archaeologists said they were “thrilled” to find a well-preserved wooden box inside one of the roundhouses

At the time of this article, the team is just over halfway through the dig to uncover the secrets of the site and the people who lived there.*

Credit:  BBC News – Cambridgeshire     (02-16)

Bronze Age Necropolis Unearthed In Siberia

These compelling images show ancient burials in Staryi Tartas village, in Novosibirsk region, where scientists have studied some 600 tombs. Dozens contain the bones of couples, facing each other, some with their hands held together seemingly for eternity.

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

Russian archaeologists have uncovered the bones of dozens of couples buried facing each other in Staryi Tartas village in Siberia   [Credit:Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

Others show men or women buried with a child or children. But why? Archaeologists are struggling for explanations and believe DNA tests will provide the answers to these remarkable burials which one writer Vasiliy Labetskiy described poignantly as skeletons in ‘post-mortal hugs with bony hands clasped together’.

As eminent academic Vyacheslav Molodin, 65, told The Siberian Times there are a number of theories about these Andronovo burials  – for example that after the man died, his wife was killed and buried with him – but for now the true reason remains unclear. Another version even suggests that some of the couples were deliberately buried as if in a sexual act, possibly with a young woman sacrificed to play this role in the grave.

‘We can fantasize a lot about all this. We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death,’ said Professor Molodin, Director of Research of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

Along with the bodies were buried people’s belongings, some of the pottery, with ornaments including swastikas,.belonged to people who were very different from native Siberians’    [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

‘When we speak about a child and an adult, it looks more natural and understandable. When we speak about two adults – it is not so obvious. So we can raise quite a variety of hypotheses, but how it was in fact, we do not know yet.’

Another theory is that especially the couples buried between the 17th and 14th centuries BC signify the beginnings of the nuclear family as a unit, so that in death they demonstrate the importance attached by these ancient people to this form of relationship.

‘This could be the case. But, you see, we need to firstly establish unequivocally the kinship of those who were buried,’ said Professor Molodin referring to the necropolis close to the confluence of the rivers Tartas and Om. ‘Until recently archaeologists had no such opportunity, they could establish only the gender and age. But now as we have at our disposal the tools of paleogenetics, we could speak about establishing the kinship.’
Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

Some graves at the site in Novosibirsk region in western Siberia show adults buried with children   [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

He hopes that ‘in the nearest future’ his researchers ‘will have significantly more data’. In five to ten years the secrets of these remarkable burials maybe revealed.

‘For example, we found the burial a man and a child. What is a degree of their kinship? Are they father and son or….? The same question arises when we found a woman and a child. It should seem obvious – she is the mother. But it may not be so. She could be an aunt, or not a relative at all. To speak about this scientifically we need the tools of paleogenetics.

‘We have a joint laboratory with the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science,  and we actively work in this direction. We do such analysis but it is quite expensive still and there are few specialists. We are also solving other questions with help of paleogenetics.’

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

One writer described the scenes in the graves poignantly as skeletons in ‘post-mortal hugs with bony hands clasped together’   [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

With such couple burials, Professor Lev Klein of St Petersburg State University has proposed they are linked to reincarnation beliefs possibly influenced by deeksha rituals in the ancient Indian sub-continent at the time when the oldest scriptures of Hinduism were composed.

‘The man during his lifetime donated his body as a sacrifice to all the gods,’ he wrote. ‘The ‘deeksha’ was considered as a ‘second birth’ and to complete this ritual the sacrificing one made a ritual sexual act of conceiving.’

In other words, in death a man should perform a sexual act to impregnate a woman. ‘Perhaps in the pre-Vedic period relatives of the deceased often sought to reproduce the ‘deeksha’ posthumously, and sacrificed a woman or a girl (or a few), and simulated sexual intercourse in the grave’.

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

Professor Lev Klein of St Petersburg State University has proposed the coupled burials
are linked to reincarnation beliefs possibly influenced by deeksha rituals   [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

There has been theorizing that on the man’s death, his wife was sacrificed and buried with him for posterity in an act of intimacy. Or, as Klein suggests, could a young woman have been sacrificed for this purpose, used to fulfil the female part in this ritual?

Professor Molodin doesn’t rule out this version, yet makes clear it is only a hypothesis. ‘It is again a suggestion. As a suggestion, it could be. This idea of Klein can be extended to Siberia too, because significant part of the researchers think that Andronovo people were Iranians.

‘So this hypothesis can be extended to them. But, I will repeat, it is only a hypothesis.’
Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia

The ‘deeksha’ was considered as a ‘second birth’ and to complete this ritual the sacrificing
one made a ritual sexual act of conceiving’    [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

There are he says ‘a good number’ of these couple graves. ‘The number impresses. More that this, we see some interesting facts. For Andronovo culture, cremation is more typical, and here we can see such interesting combination like cremation and inhumation in one burial. Why it is so?

‘There is a version that they did not just pour the ashes into the grave, but made a doll and put the ashes in this. But we can not say for sure.  There are also burials with just several cremated remains. So it is more complicated than ‘They loved each other and died in one day’.’

He thinks that in most cases the couple graves were filled at the same time; so that it is not a case of a man dying and his wife being added to the grave when she died some years later. ‘It is very hard to say. I believe that all of them were buried almost at the same time, but on this necropolis we meet quite often robbed graves. And it turned out that one body was intact, and the second was damaged’.

 

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in SiberiaArchaeologists are struggling for explanations and believe DNA tests will provide the answers to these remarkable burials [Credit: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

The couples were buried together with care, this much is clear. These were no hasty funerals after battles.

‘Along with the bodies were buried people’s belongings; not everything has survived, but some of the bronze decorations, ceramic pottery and armaments was found by archaeologists,’ recounted historian and writer Labetskiy.

‘Some of the pottery, with ornaments including … swastikas … belonged to people who were very different from native Siberians. Archaeologists classify them as the Andronovo archaeological culture. Their burials are recognised by the position of the body, which is crouched on the side, while locals buried people lying on the back.’

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia
It is hoped that DNA analysis will establish if these ancient couple burials were related    [Credit: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences]

These incomers in western Siberia looked like Caucasian people, it is believed. They ‘bred cattle, were well acquainted with metallurgy and used the innovation of the times, carts and combat chariots drawn by horses’.

‘Grave goods consisted of pottery vessels, bronze ornaments, bronze daggers, ‘gaming pieces’ (horse phalanges and sheep astragals) and bone arrowheads, a special find was a four-sided stone mould for casting ear rings and pendants,’ states one account detailing co-operation between the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science in Novosibirsk and the the Eurasia-Department of the German Archaeological Institute.

‘Large ritual pits associated with the burials contained animal bones, bone and bronze artifacts, but also, for example, a well preserved casting mould for a large socketed axe.’

Bronze Age necropolis unearthed in Siberia
Professor Vyacheslav Molodin pictured at Staryi Tartas archaeological site.  [Credit: Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography]

As Labetskiy wrote: ‘Archeology can’t answer all these questions precisely, at least not yet. Behind Andronov burials lay extraordinary stories about travels and discoveries, about human destinies and the destinies of whole civilisations.’

There is, he argues, ‘a certain beauty in this unfinished story’ conjuring for him the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ classic ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’.

‘The best fairytales have always ended ‘They lived happily ever after, and died on the same day’.

‘It is quite astonishing how the fairytales become life, as the bronze burials tell us a story how some people were not divided even by death’.
Author: Anna Liesowska   Source: SiberianTimes.com

Submerged Greek Village Discovered off the Coast of Greece

A sunken Bronze Age village dating to perhaps 2,500 B.C. has been discovered by researchers diving off the coast of Greece.

diver_greece_c2b76711b4c017ddad47ad2e8438adfc.nbcnews-ux-600-480A diver picks through the ruins of the city at Lambayanna beach. University of Geneva

A team from the University of Geneva was undergoing diving training in 2014 at Lambayanna beach in Kiladha Bay, an area south of Athens rich in ancient settlements and artifacts. While training, they found evidence of an entire village hidden beneath the waves. They returned in force in 2015 to perform a serious inspection of the site.

The remains of a wall or street in the sunken village. University of Geneva

Several buildings are evident among the ruins, still prominent though of course extremely eroded by time. They match the type built in the Greek Bronze Age, although there are also defensive walls and towers of a “massive nature, unknown in Greece until now,” as lead researcher Julien Beck described them to Spero News. He called the site an “archaeologist’s paradise.” The expedition is being overseen by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece.

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