Archaeologists from University College London (UCL) have uncovered “giant” prehistoric stone handaxes during excavations of an Ice Age site in Kent, England.
The discovery was made in advance of the development of the Maritime Academy School in Frindsbury, revealing Ice Age sediments preserved on a hillside above the Medway Valley. The sediments are from a filled in sinkhole and river channel, where the researchers found 800 stone artefacts dated to around 300,000-years-ago.
The Medway Valley at this time would have been a wild landscape of wooded hills and river valleys, inhabited by red deer and horses, as well as less familiar mammals such as the now-extinct straight-tusked elephant and lion. During this period, Neanderthal people were beginning to emerge in prehistoric Britain, and may have shared the landscape with other early human species.
Among the collection of finds are two “giant” hand axes made from flint, which according to a study published in the journal Internet Archaeology, are among the largest stone tools from the Palaeolithic period found in Britain.
Image Credit : University College London
The largest of the two handaxes measures 29.5 centimetres in length, comparable to similar examples previously found in the Thames and Medway regions. Letty Ingrey from the UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “These handaxes are so big that it’s difficult to imagine how they could have been easily held and used. Perhaps they fulfilled a less practical or more symbolic function than other tools, a clear demonstration of strength and skill.”
Dr Matt Pope, said: “A programme of scientific analysis, involving specialists from UCL and other UK institutions, will now help us to understand why the site was important to ancient people and how the stone artefacts, including the ‘giant’ handaxes, helped them adapt to the challenges of Ice Age environments.”
Excavations also uncovered a Roman cemetery from the 1st to 4th century AD, which may have been the burial site for a suspected Roman villa located 850 metres to the south. The team found the remains of 25 individuals, 13 of which were cremated, in addition to collections of pottery and animal bones. Nine of the buried individuals were found with goods or personal items including bracelets, and four were interred in wooden coffins.
Header Image Credit : University College London
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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