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Evidence of the 9th cohort of Batavians among new finds at Roman Vindolanda



Volunteer archaeologists excavating at Roman Vindolanda have uncovered evidence of the 9th cohort of Batavians.

Vindolanda (translated as “white field” or “white moor”) was a Roman auxiliary near Hadrian’s Wall that guarded a major highway called the Stanegate.

No less than nine forts were built of timber or stone at Vindolanda from between AD 85 to 370, creating one of the most complex archaeological sites in Britain and a unique cultural legacy of frontier life.

Today, Vindolanda is an ongoing active archaeological site, with previous excavations uncovering thousands of perfectly preserved shoes, textiles, wooden objects, and the Vindolanda tablets (the oldest surviving documents in Britain that date from the 1st and 2nd century AD).

Recent excavations have found a copper alloy lion head pommel that dates from AD 90 to 105 when the 9th cohort of Batavians were stationed at Vindolanda. The 9th cohort of Batavians were a mixed infantry-cavalry unit of about 1,000 men that came from a region close to the mouth of the Rhine near the modern day city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

Batavian soldiers were first brought to Britain during the conquest period in AD 43, and also fought at Ynys Mon in present-day Anglesey where they attacked the Druid stronghold in an amphibious assault.

Image Credit : Vindolanda Trust

Excavations at Vindolanda have also uncovered a bone handled knife that dates from around the same period as the Batavians, a sherd of a mortarium bow with indications that it was repaired using lead and copper alloy, a pit containing hundreds of nuts (mostly hazelnut) which dates from AD 105-108, and samian pottery depicting a hare.

This season has also seen the start of a groundbreaking five year project to excavate Roman Magna, a fort that predates Hadrian’s Wall which was constructed to guard the junction of the Maiden Way Roman road with the Stanegate.

Dr Andrew Birley, the Director of Excavations for the Vindolanda Charitable Trust said: “Magna has waited patiently for thousands of years to start to tell us its story and history and that time is now. The project is vital, as it comes at a time when the rapidly changing climate is having a devastating effect on the preservation of some of the most precious buried archaeological deposits. This threatens our future ability to explore and understand our past.”

Vindolanda Trust

Header Image Credit : Vindolanda Trust

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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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