Bronze age skull from Juniper Green, Edinburgh
Latest RC dating on skull reveals that the man died around 2150 BCE;
FOR more than a century the skull has lain in storage as part of the national museum collection.
But now radiocarbon testing has established the remains - discovered in a stone box grave in Edinburgh by 19th century workmen - are hundreds of years older than anyone realised.
It has become clear the skull belonged to a Bronze Age man who lived in the area which almost 4000 years later became Juniper Green.
The discovery has added a new dimension to the area's 300th anniversary celebrations this year.
The skull was found in a carefully-constructed cist, or stone box grave, during excavations in 1851. It was handed over to archaeologists at the time and ever since has been kept in a collection which became part of the National Museum of Scotland. However, no-one realised the significance of the find, until now, with little known about the precise age of the skull.
The discovery of its great age came after it was chosen to take part in a £500,000 international research project using modern dating technology.
Radiocarbon dating was carried out on the skull by the museum and the results revealed the man died between the ages of 40 and 55 around the year 2150BC.
Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis at Leipzig University in Germany has revealed more about the man, including that his diet was high in animal protein, although he didn't eat fish.
Work is continuing at the university in the hope of shedding more light on Bronze Age life in the area.
The discovery has already established the likelihood of a previously unknown settlement in the Juniper Green area.
Dr Alison Sheridan, head of early prehistory at the National Museum of Scotland's archaeology department, said: "It is fascinating that within all the celebrations of Juniper Green's past we have been able to confirm that there was life in the area long before the village was formed.
"We are certain that he lived in the area - he was bound to have. We know that Bronze Age cemeteries and settlements were pretty close but nobody has found the settlement yet."
It was one of 250 skulls being studied as part of the Beaker People Project being run between Sheffield and Leipzig universities and the Museum of Scotland.
It was originally found in 1851 in a house which is now the Scotts butcher shop on Lanark Road.
Professors at Leipzig are now awaiting results of strontium and oxygen tests on the enamel of the skull's back teeth to see whether the man was born in the area.
The revelation about Juniper Green's history is an important addition to the understanding of Edinburgh's Bronze Age past.
It means that it joins a growing number of sites where Bronze Age activity has been noted, including Cramond, Traprain Law, Broomhouse and Huly Hill.
Archaeologists date the earliest inhabitants of the Lothians - and Scotland - to 8000 BC following the discovery of a Mesolithic house in East Barns, near Dunbar.
The dating of the skull has left residents in Juniper Green taken aback, especially at the butchers shop that it was first found at.
Colin Hanlon, owner of Scotts, said: "It's a huge shock that there were people here all that time ago.
"The whole community is alive with all this at the moment - everyone's talking about it. We may arrange something to celebrate that it was here that the village's oldest resident was found."
Prof Cliff Beevers, who set up the Juniper Green 300 website and has been arranging many of the celebratory events, said: "We are all delighted to hear that there is evidence of people living here 4000 years ago - not just 300 like we thought. We are building up a living memory of the village and this discovery is a great help in doing that."
Dr Sheridan will present her findings in a presentation at Juniper Green Parish Church at 7.30pm on Thursday.
Roman skelton pre-dates city
OK, so not UK/Ireland news, but v interesting nonetheless- from the BBC news site;
Italian archaeologists digging in the Roman Forum have found a well-preserved skeleton of a woman who lived 3,000 years ago.
The astonishing fact about this discovery is that it dates back to at least 300 years before the traditional date of the founding of Rome, 753 BC.
It has long been known that Bronze Age people were living on the site where the ancient Romans founded their city.
But few traces of their society have ever been brought to light.
Anna De Santis, who took part in the dig, said the woman whose bones have been found was aged about 30 when she died.
She was evidently of high birth, for she was wearing an amber necklace with a gold pendant, a bronze hair-fastener and a bronze ring on one of her fingers.
The archaeologists also found four bronze clasps, two of which may have been used to hold her shroud in place.
It was the custom for most prehistoric ancestors of the ancient Romans to cremate their dead and place their ashes in funerary urns.
Experts in Roman pre-history are interested that the new burial site, not far from the forum where Caesar's body was burned after his assassination 1,000 years later, marks a transition in social habits, from cremation - the customary form of burial at that period of pre-history - to burial in the ground.
Brutal Lives of Stone Age Britons
From the BBC site;
By Paul Rincon, BBC News science reporter
A survey of British skulls from the early part of the New Stone Age, or Neolithic, shows societies then were more violent than was supposed.
Early Neolithic Britons had a one in 20 chance of suffering a skull fracture at the hands of someone else and a one in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.
Details were presented at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology and reported in New Scientist magazine.
Blunt instruments such as clubs were responsible for most of the trauma.
This is not the first time human-induced injuries have been identified in Neolithic people. But the authors say it is the first study to give some idea of the overall frequency of such trauma.
Rick Schulting of Queen's University Belfast and Michael Wysocki from the University of Central Lancashire looked at skulls spanning the period from 4000 BC to 3200 BC.
"We generally think of Neolithic people as living peaceful lives - they were busy looking after cereal crops and rearing livestock," Mr Wysocki told the BBC News website.
"But it was a much more violent society."
Nearly 5% of the skulls showed healed depressed fractures. They found unhealed injuries in 2% of the sample, suggesting these individuals died from their wounds.
But the true scale of the violence still remains unclear due to the nature of the evidence, say the authors. In other simple, small-scale societies, the incidence of death as a result of violence ranges from 8-33%.
"Our data shows 2% lethal cranial injuries, but these are just cranial. The data for other societies is for all lethal injuries, but ours is limited so we can't compare it," Mr Wysocki said.
"A lot of lethal injuries will be to soft tissues and that needn't affect bone."
The researchers suspect that what they are seeing is violence at the local and regional level rather than large-scale warfare involving large sections of the country.
"We could also be seeing raiding parties, cattle rustling, somebody suspecting the other tribe across the hill is practising witchcraft," the University of Central Lancashire forensic anthropologist explained.
"Some of the violence may be domestic, some of it may even be ritualised."
The majority of the trauma was caused by blunt instruments which may have included improvised clubs. But a handful of fractures look like they have been inflicted by flint arrowheads and spearpoints. One of the females in the sample appears to have been the victim of a brutal attack with a stone axe.
Another indivdual with a suspected projectile fracture appears to have had their ears slashed off - a possible instance of trophy-taking, the researchers speculate.
The research originally appeared in the the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society journal.
Concern as new flats could close in on standing stone
From the Peeblesshire News, Jan 20th 2006;
Concern as new flats could close in on standing stone
An ancient standing stone may be set to share its field with thousands of building blocks. Developers plan to build 21 new flats near the site of the rural relic at Cardrona. But local historical and environmental organisations have raised concern about the proposal. A representative from Historic Scotland, Lesley Brown, told the Peeblesshire News: "We have already written a letter to the council's planning department to object about this. The stone is listed as being of national importance. When we talk about conserving it as a historical monument we are not only concerned with the physical impact on the stone itself, but also on its setting. This is part of national planning policy. The only was we would concede is in exceptional circumstances, but there is no real cause for building here. Housing needs are already being met" she added. Plans for the new building development have been put forward by Renwick Country Properties and the modern flats would be built behind the old Station House. Local planning officer, Barry Fotheringham, said: "We have already had a number of objections to this. The building would be close enough to the stone to warrant concerns. This doesn't necessarily mean that the application will be refused, but these things will be taken into consideration." Little is known about the stone, but archaeological experts believe it could have been standing in the field from as far back as 3000 BC. One theory is that it was a marker for an ancient ford crossing through the nearby River Tweed.
Edinburgh and East Lothain Archaeology Conference 13th November 2004
From the East Lothain website;
Edinburgh & East Lothian Archaeology Conference
Edinburgh and East Lothian Archaeology Conference Saturday, November 13th 2004 0930-1700 Appleton Tower (Theatre 4), Edinburgh
Come and find out about the excavations on Traprain Law since the fire, prehistoric remains at Wedderburn House, Roman Crammond and Medieval Leith.
Get a latest update on work along the A1, recent digital mapping projects across both counties and the results of the first year of the Prestongrange Community Archaeology Project. Tickets £15 (£8)
To book in advance send cheques (made payable to East Lothian Council) to Culture and Community Development, John Muir House, Haddington
For more information contact Biddy Simpson on 01620 827158 or firstname.lastname@example.org , go to www.elh.info or www.eastlothian.gov.uk
Bas-relief sculpture overlooked
From the THES 9/7/04;
It's Brit Art, but not as we know it
Published: 09 July 2004
The cave engravings emerged first, then shadowy bas-reliefs. Steve Farrar reports
The finest collection of Ice Age bas-relief sculpture found on a cave ceiling is as elusive as it is beautiful. Indeed, the experts who will soon officially announce the discovery overlooked its existence during a preliminary survey.
A search of Church Hole, a cave in Creswell Crags, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, last year first revealed engraved - as opposed to bas-relief - images of horses, bison, red deer and possibly a wolf that are probably more than 13,000 years old.
Until then, the Ice Age residents of Britain were widely considered impoverished cousins of continental Europeans who produced rich cave paintings and carvings.
But even as that image crumbles, the team admits that the most astonishing achievements of the Creswellian artists initially evaded detection.
"We'd seen no bas-relief before," says Paul Bahn, an independent scholar and leading Ice Age art expert. "When we first saw the horse's head, we thought it was a trick of the light."
The oversight is forgivable. At first glance, only the natural cracks and bumps of the limestone are evident in the cave. But with expert guidance, a menagerie of animals can be espied in the gloom.
Chaotically aligned, overlapping figures peer out from every corner. First come the engraved outlines, which reveal a sophisticated understanding of the animals' physiology. Then comes the bas-relief, formed by chipping away rock to leave images proud of their background.
Many combine natural features suggestive of an animal with sculpted elements such as an eye, ear or muzzle. Among them is a large brown bear and the horse - a haunting image with a bas-relief mane - whose mouth is formed by a white chip of mineral in the rock.
Paul Pettitt, lecturer in human origins at Sheffield University, who organised the search for UK cave art with Dr Bahn 18 months ago, notes how a minimum of elaboration was often enough to complete the picture.
"They bring out the ghost of these animals' form," he says.
When the experts began the work, they dared not imagine they would enjoy such success. Dr Pettitt and Dr Bahn were joined by Sergio Ripoll, a leading Ice Age art specialist at the Spanish Open University, who is renowned for having "the eyes" to detect previously unrecognised cave art.
They started at Creswell Crags, where traces of Ice Age people had been found. Twenty minutes after entering Church Hole something caught Dr Ripoll's eye.
"I saw a line and suddenly a head was there. I then said a very big bad word in Spanish - it was so exciting," Dr Ripoll says. He had found the outline of what later turned out to be a red deer stag.
Since then, up to 81 possible pictures have come to light, most emerging since international experts descended on Creswell in April to discuss the discoveries.
The artists are thought to have been the first hunter-gatherers to return to Britain after the last Ice Age.
Dr Pettitt says the artwork suggests strong cultural links between the people of Creswell Crags and their counterparts elsewhere on the great plain that once linked Britain to Germany.
The experts admit they can only guess what the pictures meant to the artists, though their sheer number suggests they were intensely personal.
Dr Pettitt interprets boomerang-shaped figures found deep in the cave as highly stylised depictions of dancing women similar to those found on the continent. His colleagues are not convinced.
"We still argue for hours and bounce ideas about," Dr Bahn says.
The evidence is still coming in. It seems likely that Church Hole was completely covered in pictures, while the handful of images identified in other Creswell caves makes it possible that the entire gorge was decorated.
The pictures might even have been brightly painted - a possibility that infra-red imaging could soon confirm.
With more discoveries possible elsewhere in Britain, it seems the original exponents of Brit Art are finally getting recognition.
Perthshire Archaeology Week 29/5/04 to 6/6/04
Perthshire Archaeology Week will be held this year from 29/5/04 to 6/6/04.
Details can be found at;
This page will be updated as the programme is finalised (not much on there today). Details can also be obtained from Douglas Ritchie in the Tourist Board in Perth (01738 627958) or David Strachan, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (01738 447855).
ARP 2004 Conference- 29/5/04
This years Archaeological Research in Progress conference in Aberdeen on the 29th May will examine recent and ongoing projects in the North East of Scotland. The programme looks interesting including a talk entilted 'The moon and the bonfire: recent excavations at recumbent stone circles'.
Full details here;
Fife man keeps 'his' axe
From the BBC Scotland News site;
Sparks fly over rare axe head
The axe head was found in a field last year
A Fife man who discovered a rare Neolithic axe head while out walking near his home is facing prosecution for refusing to hand it over.
Under Scots Law such finds are Crown property but until now it is not thought anyone has faced court action.
Michael Kelly discovered the 6,500-year-old axe head, one of only 30 in the UK, in a field last year.
Mr Kelly, from Leslie, has been told that court proceedings will follow if he does not hand over the artefact.
The former film stunt man said he discovered the axe head while scouting locations for a movie script he is working on.
"I didn't know it was an axe to start with, I just thought it was a fancy stone," he said.
"I picked it up and took it to the archaeologist and he told me it was 6,500 years old."
Mr Kelly initially thought his discovery would help him fund his film project - but he was wrong.
Fife Council's archaeologist Douglas Speirs said that under Scots law such finds were claimed by the Crown.
The items were usually then given to a local museum or, in the case of finds of high importance, to the national museums.
"This is a system which benefits everybody," said Mr Speirs.
I didn't ask to find it, I didn't steal it from anybody
"It enables the shared cultural importance of Scotland to be shared and enjoyed by everybody."
The axe head is known to have been made at Killin on Loch Tay.
Mr Speirs said it was an "extremely exciting" find and that its real value was in its story.
"It adds to our knowledge of the number of axes produced at that site and it adds to our knowledge of how widely these things were circulated.
"In archaeological terms this is a significant find," he said.
The Crown has told Mr Kelly that he must hand over the axe head or face prosecution.
The deadline has now passed, but he said he would not budge.
He usually keeps the axe buried in a secret location and warned that he may even leave it there.
"At the end of the day I didn't ask to find it, I didn't steal it from anybody," he said.
Kettins stone needs a home
From Blairgowrie Advertiser a couple of weeks ago;
Pictish stone needs a home
AN ancient Pictish slab, which has been severely eroded after lying in an East Perthshire churchyard for decades, could soon be conserved in a museum.
Standing at around eight foot, the engraved Pictish cross-slab, which dates back thousands of years, was discovered in around 1865 before being moved to the Kettins churchyard.
Eroded after years of use as a footbridge across Kettins Burn, now government agency Historic Scotland is due to carry out tests on the ancient monument, while villagers help find an appropriate final resting place for the slab.
Coupar Angus and Meigle councillor Alan Grant, who has been in contact with Historic Scotland, hopes the historic and cultural wealth of the cross-slab will capture the imagination of local residents and so help in a bid to try and retain the stone locally.
The sheer size of the slab, however, is likely to make relocating it difficult Councillor Grant explained. He said: "The cross-slab is described as massive and indeed it is. This means that there are two principal problems in relocating it; first you have to find a big enough building to put it in and secondly you have to have a strong enough base to support it.
"That, of course, assumes you can actually move it in the first place but Historic Scotland advise me they have a specialist team which does this type of job and they seem confident they can handle the moving. So now our most important task is to find somewhere to set it up which is firstly, and most importantly, public, and if possible, local."
Part of a former Pictish settlement, Kettins and the surrounding area has been found to be rich in 7th to 10th century stone carvings over the last 100 years or so. The discoveries in the area are recognised worldwide as one of the most important examples of early medieval sculpture in Western Europe.
And despite showing signs of physical erosion from its use as a footbridge, from the weather and from the damaging effect of ivy, the carvings are still evident on one side of the stone. Although the symbolic cross much associated with Pictish carvings is very worn, four panels on the right of the shaft contain various carvings including a griffin or winged horse, three cloaked figures and a creature with the head of a Pictish beast and the body of a horse or dog.
Historic Scotland are due to carry out a specialist assessment of the stone to decide how best to conserve it and have stressed their sensitivity to trying to retain it locally. This forms part of the work of the agency's 7,000 monument wardens and the Kettins cross-slab was identified as being in need of conservation as a matter of routine checking.
Meigle Museum, which already contains 26 sculptured Pictish stones, is being considered alongside Perth Museum, as a possible permanent home for the slab. A spokesperson from Meigle Museum explained how the museum, which is largely visited by tourists from all over the world, was considered one of the best collections of Pictish stone in the country. She added: "The stone would certainly be one of the biggest in our collection but we've got the room for it and the more we have of these ancient stones the better."
Orkney Islands Council to replace Stone of Odin
This article appeared in the weekend Scotsman a couple of weeks ago (I've had to abridge it to fit within 4096 characters)- looks like a replica of the stone may stand once again. Liked the quote from the minister at Stenness- 'he was the god of war and bloodshed'!- aye- we'll all burn in hell for it ;)
'Orkney resident Morag Robertson has been at the forefront of a local campaign to
restore the prehistoric Stone of Odin for ancient handfasting ceremonies.
"People come from all over the world to see and touch the Neolithic stones,"
says Robertson. "Give them a marriage ceremony to go with it and you’ve got
a 21st-century goldmine."
The ancient site was where Neolithic people celebrated growth and newly wed couples prepared for a fruitful union by joining hands through the hole and swearing an oath.
The tradition was brought to an end a century ago by a farmer who smashed the stone in a fit of pique when couples refused to stop walking over his land
But in Orkney, where 5,000 years of history still influences everyday life,
tradition is not wiped out that easily. Couples still go to the Standing Stones.
Recently there has been a growing interest from abroad in
travelling to Scotland for handfasting ceremonies. Orkney Islands Council
have recognised the tourism potential. They recently agreed to put money
aside to replace the Odin Stone.
Councillor John Brown, the chairman of the committee in charge of the
county’s heritage is also a geologist. "This is a World Heritage site so we can’t
put in a replica because we have no definite proof of what we’re trying to
duplicate. There’s only an old sketch. The nearest we can get is a slab from
the original sandstone bedrock that the other standing stones came from, but
we’ll have to put a notice there saying ‘substitute’."
"Lets get on with it," says Robertson, who is envisaging a new craze for the
Stenness minister Tom Clark is appalled at the idea of oaths being taken in
the name of Odin. "He was a god of war and bloodshed. The Kirk certainly
wouldn’t be involved in wedding packages connected with any of this."
Local historian Peter Leith disagrees. "The folk who put up the stone were
prehistoric," he says. "The name Odin only came with the Vikings later, so the
ceremonies go back far further, and anyway, the Kirk must have been part of
it a couple of centuries ago, because oral tradition says to break the troth you
had to go into the Stenness kirk together and come out through separate
Niddrie Standing Stone Rediscovered!
I made a field visit to this site yesterday in the hope that this stone had not been destroyed in the process of the modern houses been built here- and found it- 26 years after the OS reported it gone! Contacted the RCAHMS as their database states that no trace of this stone can now be found;
Yesterday I took the opportunity to try and find Niddrie House Standing
Stone (NMRS Number: NT27SE 199). I noted from the CANMORE database that the
last entry for this stone states;
'No trace in an area of modern housing development'- OS report August 1975.
However, as fate would have it, I missed the bus stop and when turning into
the terminus, noticed the stone next to the pavement. It appears that the
map co-ords on the database are wrong- NT298715- I think it should be NT2987
7125 (using 1:25000 scale, not GPS unfortunately). I also had another set of
co-ords for this stone from Adam McLeans book 'The Standing Stones of the
Lothians'- however these were also slightly west.
The stone now stands at the corner of Greendykes Road and Niddrie House
Avenue, just a couple of metres from the main road and behind a utilities
buildings (electricity?) and just outside a small burial ground. The
dimensions on CANMORE are approx correct and I noticed the cupmarkings on
the right at the base of the stone- certainly at least one of them looks
natural, but there were around 5 others which looked classically megalithic.
I hope the above information is of some use.
The RCAHMS replied;
Thank you very much for taking the time to contact us about the Niddrie standing stone. We are delighted to hear that it is still visible and we will update the information in the database early in the New Year.
Caiy Stane Restoration
This is the reply I received from the NTS re the poor state of this grand monolith;
Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding the Caiy Stane. I have been asked to reply because, as the Conservator for the South region of the National Trust for Scotland, the Caiy Stane falls within my remit. The regional archaeologist, Robin Turner, and one of the regional surveyors, Bryan Dickson, also have an input into discussions regarding the Caiy Stane.
We are aware of the condition of the Caiy Stane and recently commissioned a stone conservator from Historic Scotland to undertake tests and produce a proposal for the removal of the graffiti and general cleaning. I am awaiting his proposal and once I have this we will press ahead with the work.
I agree with you that the Caiy Stane is of great importance and it is clearly lamentable that it has got into this condition. Following the conservation work we will be monitoring the Caiy stane regularly for signs of further damage, but, as you will appreciate, it is very difficult to stop this kind of thing from happening altogether.
Thank you again for your interest in this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any further comments.
National Trust for Scotland
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