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Ivory bag rings found in Anglo-Saxon burials have origins in Africa

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Ivory bag rings found in more than 70 Anglo Saxon cemeteries in England have origins from African elephants according to a new study.

Bag rings are commonly found in high status female burials from the late-5th and 7th centuries AD, but the source of the ivory has long been debated since the 19th century, with walrus and mammoth ivory considered as possible contenders to elephantid ivory.

Recent excavations of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Scremby, Lincolnshire, have found elaborate female burials containing bag rings which have been subject to a study using radiocarbon dating and a Zooarchaeology study by mass spectrometry (ZooMS).

According to the study: “Strontium analysis was also used to identify the place of residence of the elephantids at the time of tusk formation. Through a multi-methodological approach, we have established that the ivory used for the Scremby bag rings came from elephants living in an area of young volcanic rocks in Africa at some point during the 5th and 6th centuries AD.”

The strontium isotope values indicates a region around Eastern Africa, with the ivory likely entering Northern Europe from the Kingdom of Aksum, located in modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.

The Aksumite Kingdom emerged in the former historical kingdom of Dʿmt, first documented in a trading guide called the ‘Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’ from around the mid-1st century AD. The Kingdom was centred on the capital of Aksum near the base of the Adwa mountains, situated to control both the highland and coastal regions of northern Ethiopia.

According to the Periplus text, the position of the Aksumite Kingdom in international terms, played an important role in the transcontinental trade route between Rome and India from an early stage.

The Kingdom played a prominent role in the supply of ivory until the 7th century AD. This coincided with the early Islamic conquests and expansion into North Africa, which established a trade monopoly between the region and the Mediterranean.

Perhaps related to the disrupted trade routes to the West was the marked decline in the occurrence of ivory bag rings in Anglo-Saxon graves dating from the 7th century onwards. This was also a time of flux in England that saw wider changes to burial practices in part due to the re-establishment of Christianity.

Science Direct

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2023.103943

Header Image Credit : Science Direct

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Archaeology

Archaeologists discover traces of Roman circus at Iruña-Veleia

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Archaeologists from ARKIKUS have announced the discovery of a Roman circus at Iruña-Veleia, a former Roman town in Hispania, now located in the province of Álava, Basque Autonomous Community, Spain.

The town was an important transit centre on the Ab Asturica Burdigalam (Roman road), with a peak population of around 10,000 inhabitants.

In a recent study using aerial photography and light detection and ranging (LiDAR), archaeologists have found a Roman circus and previously unknown urban areas of Iruña-Veleia.

A Roman circus was a large open-air venue used mainly for chariot races, although sometimes serving other purposes. Chariot racing was the most popular of many subsidised public entertainments, and was an essential component in several religious festivals.

Image Credit : Shutterstock

Chariot racing declined in significance in the Western Roman Empire following the fall of Rome, with the last known race held at the Circus Maximus in AD 549, organised by the Ostrogothic king, Totila.

According to a press statement by ARKIKUS, the circus is an elongated enclosure that accommodated up to 5,000 spectators, and measures 280 metres long by 72 metres wide.

Until now, only a handful of Roman circus’s are known in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula, emphasising the importance of Iruña-Veleia during the Roman period.

The study also revealed a Roman street system, evidence of buildings with porticoed areas, and a linear feature indicating the route of the Ab Asturica Burdigalam.

Header Image Credit : ARKIKUS

Sources : ARKIKUS

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Archaeologists make new discoveries at Bodbury Ring hillfort

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Bodbury Ring is a univallate hillfort, strategically located at the southern tip of Bodbury Hill in Shropshire, England.

Hillforts in Britain are known from the Bronze Age, but the main period of hillfort construction occurred during the Celtic Iron Age.

Hillfort fortifications follow the contours of a hill and consist of one or more lines of earthworks or stone ramparts, with stockades or defensive walls, and external ditches.

Archaeologists from Time Team and the Universities of Chester and York, recently conducted a study of Bodbury Ring using light detection and ranging (LiDAR).

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a remote sensing technique that employs pulsed laser light to measure distances to the Earth. By analysing variations in the return times and wavelengths of the laser pulses, this method can generate a detailed 3-D digital map of the landscape.

The study has revealed that Bodbury Ring is six times larger than previously thought and is part of a much larger hillfort which enclosed the entirety of the ridgetop on Bodbury Hill. This larger hillfort shares some characteristics with examples known to have originated in the Late Bronze Age.

Professor Ainsworth from Time Team said: “The earthworks of Bodbury Ring, it seems, were constructed to form a small, more easily defended fort at the southern tip of the original hillfort, possibly in the Middle Iron Age.”

“This prehistoric ‘downsizing’ may have resulted from increased tension in the region, reflecting possible changes in the geopolitical landscape of the times. Close by, on the northern side of Bodbury Hill, the remains of a probable Roman Iron Age enclosed settlement have also been identified for the first time,” added Professor Ainsworth.

Header Image Credit : University of Chester

Sources : University of Chester

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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