Archaeologists are conducting a search for the legendary elephant beast from the Bostock and Wombwell’s menagerie travelling ‘beast show’.
Menageries featuring wild and exotic animals were a fashionable form of entertainment throughout the Victorian era and early 20th century. The animals were imported to the UK to join animal exhibitions, performing circus acts, and travelling shows.
Dr Steve Ward, Circus Historian, said: “During the 19th century, the fascination with the natural world allowed both travelling and static menageries to flourish. People wanted to experience exotic and strange animals. Seeing these creatures was seen as educational, indeed the government actively encouraged families to take their children. But merely viewing them was not enough; the public also wanted to be entertained. In some menageries, animal keepers began to perform tricks with their beasts, especially with the large carnivores and elephants.”
The Bostock and Wombwell menagerie travelled the country and boasted a “magnificent zoological collection – too numerous to detail”. Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie showed for the last time at the Old Sheep Market in Newcastle on December 1931 with many of their animals ending their days in zoos and museums across the country.
As part of South Gloucestershire Council’s Kingswood regeneration project, archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology have been commissioned to conduct a geophysical survey to see if they can locate the fabled burial site of the elephant that died in 1891 in the area of Whitefield’s Tabernacle or Holy Trinity Church in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire.
Alan Bryant, Curator at Kingswood Museum, said: “I first heard about the Kingswood elephant burial in the 1970s when I was doing my rounds as a local milkman. Since then, I have had countless conversations and debates with local people about it. I remember a new mains sewer pipe was installed in the 1980s and I made a point of having a look to see if there were any anomalies in the ground. Alas, nothing to report but I for one am delighted at the potential of discovering the legendary Kingswood Elephant burial.”
Lorrain Higbee, Zooarchaeologist at Wessex Archaeology, said: “This initial archaeological investigation aims to locate the elephant burial but should we do so, you may be surprised at what we could learn about the life of this animal from studying its skeletal remains.”
“In the case of a menagerie elephant, as well as understanding where the animal came from and its age, we may be able to see the impact of its life as an entertainer, this may include evidence of confinement including trauma from shackling the animal or arthritis. It may also be possible to detect injuries or strains resulting from its performance duties, such as repetitive movements,” added Higbee.
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
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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