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Rare textiles, basketry and cordage discovered at submerged Neolithic settlement



Underwater archaeologists excavating at the submerged La Marmotta settlement near Rome, Italy, have uncovered textiles, basketry and cordage from the Early Neolithic Period.

La Marmotta was first discovered in 1989 beneath the waters of Lake Bracciano, a Circum-Alpine Lake of volcanic origin in the Italian region of Lazio. The lake owes its origin to intense volcanic and tectonic activity, resulting in the collapse of the magma chamber that created a depressed area now occupied by the lake.

During the Early Neolithic Period, a lakeshore settlement was established which today lies approximately 300 metres from the modern shoreline, submerged at a depth of 11 metres.

Underwater surveys of the settlement have documented several thousand wooden piles or support posts on the lakebed; the spatial distribution of these piles permits the identification of a minimum of 13 house structures arranged parallel to one another on the Neolithic shore.

The archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological finds indicate a community practising a well-developed farming economy, with previous studies finding remains of goats, sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs, and several wild mammal species including red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), aurochs (Bos primigenius) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

Excavations of the settlement is ongoing, and it is currently estimated that around 25 percent of the site has been explored. However, further investigation is required to accurately determine the complete extent of the remaining archaeological remains.

The potential cause for the abandonment of the settlement is believed to be linked to a rapid increase in the water level of the lake. Regardless of the exact reason, the inhabitants departed hastily, leaving behind their belongings, such as tools, food-preparation vessels, and even their canoes.

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists have uncovered a rare assemblage of basketry, cordage and textile remains, and some of the tools used to manufacture them. According to the researchers: “The assemblage paints a more complete picture of the technological expertise of Neolithic societies and their ability to exploit and process plant materials to produce a wide range of crafts.”

The textile fragments are currently being analysed by a team from the University of Copenhagen which are believed to have been made using plant fibres. A closer examination using a binocular microscope indicates flax fibres, a common material used by ancient cultures for making textiles until the 19th century AD.

In total, 28 fragments of cord and two lengths of thread have also been identified, in addition to 43 fragments of basketry, some of which still contain food residue.

Further evidence of textile production is present by the discovery of 78 loom weights, three spindle whorls, and 34 complete or fragmented wooden tools that were likely used during weaving to ensure that each new weft thread was tightly packed down.

The study authors concluded: “The limited extent of the picture that we can usually reconstruct is made clear by the settlement of La Marmotta. Here, the excellent preservation of wooden structures and objects of various perishable materials creates a much fuller understanding of the technical complexity of these early farming societies, perhaps even pointing to the existence of craft specialists.”


Header Image Credit : Museo delle Civiltà-Mario Mineo

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Maya tomb with funerary offerings found during hotel construction




A tomb with funerary offerings has been uncovered during the construction of the Tren Maya Hotel, in Palenque, Mexico.

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducted rescue excavations following the discovery, revealing skeletal remains associated with the Maya city of Palenque.

Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”), is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The city dates from 226 BC to AD 799, with most of the major construction works representing a rebuilding effort in response to attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in AD 599 and AD 611.

The population declined during the 8th century AD, instead becoming an agricultural population that led to the abandonment of the city zone. By 1520 following the Spanish conquest, contemporary Spanish accounts record the entire region being sparsely populated.

Excavations uncovered a stone lined funerary space sealed with limestone slabs, in which the researchers found the remains of a high-status individual who likely lived in the periphery of Palenque in a small settlement.

The burial is located at a depth of four metres, and also contained ceramic vessels and beads deposited as funerary offerings.

“The individual was placed face up with his legs extended and his head facing north,” said Diego Prieto Hernández from INAH.

The discovery was announced in a press conference reporting on the progress of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) in Palenque, Moral-Reforma and El Tigre, the three heritage sites that are served within Section 1 of the Mayan Train Project.


Header Image Credit : INAH

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Archaeologists unearth possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle




Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust may have discovered the possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Pembroke Castle was founded during the 11th century by Roger de Montgomerie, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1452, Jasper Tudor was presented both the castle and the earldom by his half-brother, King Henry VI. In 1457, Henry VII was born at the castle, the only child of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.

Following Edward IV’s ascension to the throne in 1471, Henry VII endured 14 years of exile in Brittany. He eventually claimed the throne after his forces, with backing from France, Scotland, and Wales, emerged victorious over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, marking the climax of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII’s reign is credited with many administrative, economic, and tax reforms, having ruled for nearly 24 years until his death in 1509 at the age of 52. Henry VII was succeed by his second son, Henry, Duke of York, who ascended to the crown as Henry VIII.

Historians have long assumed that a 13th century tower on the outer ward (known today as Henry VII Tower) was the birth place of Henry VII. However, a recent study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has uncovered evidence of a late-medieval winged hall-house, broadly dating to the 15th century.

The walls of the structure extend to around 25 metres, with comparisons being drawn to medieval buildings found in England and East Wales, such as Penallt Mansion in Kidwelly. Historically, Pembroke Castle was situated in the English-speaking portion of Pembrokeshire, often referred to as “Little England beyond Wales.”

Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Neil Ludlow, a consultant to Pembroke Castle, said: “All our indications are pointing to a late-medieval building which was clearly of high status within Pembrokeshire, and it looks as if it was at least two-storeys, which possibly makes it a better candidate for the birthplace of a king rather that the tower that currently bears his name.”

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