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Wolf skull deposited in grave to protect against deceased’s spirit



Archaeologists excavating a burial mound in Romania’s Dobruja region have suggested that a wolf skull was deposited by grave robbers to protect them against the deceased’s spirit.

The mound dates from around 2,000-years-ago and has been mostly ploughed out, however, a geophysical study indicates that it originally had a diameter of up to 75 metres.

A burial at the centre of the grave had a pit covered with wooden boards where the deceased was cremated inside a wooden structure. This is evidenced by small amounts of bone, a fragment of a clay lamp, and partially burnt wooden remains from the structure which was joined with nails and decorated with bronze fittings.

Excavations also revealed a large number of burnt walnut seeds, pine cones and other plant remains, which is common in cremation burials from the early Roman period. Barrows with similar cremation burials were discovered in the town of Hârșova, known in the Roman period as Carsium on the lower Danube.

The grave was robbed during antiquity, with the grave robbers depositing a wolf’s skull on a pile of stones which closed their robbery ditch. Dr. Bartłomiej Szymon Szmoniewski from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: “It was probably a ritual aimed at closing the looted space in order to prevent exit and the revenge of the plundered spirit.”

According to Dr Szmoniewski, the burial was likely robbed by the Getae, a Thracian-related tribe that once inhabited the regions to either side of the Lower Danube.

A second burial was also discovered in the barrow, where the researchers found a skeleton inside a wooden structure. Placed upon the skeleton is a glass unguentarium, a container for holding fragrances and perfumes, and a bronze coin from the reign of Hadrian (issued in AD 125-127) that was placed in the deceased’s mouth.

“Placing a coin in the mouth refers to the ancient custom of Charon’s obol, when a coin was used as payment to Charon for transporting the deceased’s soul across the River Styx in Hades,” said Dr Szmoniewski.


Header Image Credit : BSSzmoniewski & Șt. Georgescu

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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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