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Rare Roman steelyard beam found at Milecastle 46 on Hadrian’s Wall

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Archaeologists excavating at Milecastle 46 on Hadrian’s Wall have discovered a rare Roman steelyard beam.

Milecastle 46 was a small fortlet north of Magna (Carvoran Roman Fort) on Hadrian’s Wall, located near the village of Greenhead in Northumberland, England.

Over the centuries, the stone from the fortlet and Magna were robbed for the construction of nearby Thirlwall Castle, a 12th-century castle built as the family home of the Thirlwall family and to guard against raids by the Scottish.

Very little remains of the fortlet today, except for a slight, turf-covered platform and earthworks visible via aerial photography.

Recent excavations of Milecastle 46 are part of a 5-year project by the Vindolanda Trust to study Magna and the surrounding landscape. The project has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with a grant of £1.625m.

Excavations of the top layers at the milecastle have revealed a rare steelyard beam made from copper alloy that dates from the Roman period. The steelyard beam measures 22cm’s and has a decorative integral central fulcrum hole to accommodate a suspension chain.

One end of the beam was finished with a typical triple bevel design and suspension hole from which a weighing pan was hung with chains, while on the other end were counterweights to be used as an official balance for weighing goods.

A feature of this steelyard is that from the fulcrum to one end of the beam are eleven evenly spaced, tiny circular silver inset points set 10mm apart, used as markers for moving the measuring weights along the arm.

According to the researchers: “A portable steelyard of this size and calibre could have been used by a proficient Roman tax official, trader or merchant for weighing small, high value items passing through the milecastle at Magna. Trading posts like this would have worked both ways, taxing goods entering and leaving the borders of the Empire. The Roman army and Emperor taking their own cut from this potentially lucrative trade.”

Not every milecastle was well-suited for the task, but milecastle number 46 at Magna proved to be an exceptional choice. It was strategically positioned at a junction where three major Roman roads intersected: the Stanegate, the Maiden Way, and the Military Road. This ideal location facilitated efficient tax collection and control while also providing convenient access to the northern regions beyond the Wall.

During the later Roman period, significant trade occurred as cut silver and glass artifacts were sent northward out of the empire to gain the loyalty of northern tribes. This practice might have unintentionally contributed to an increase in raids from beyond the frontier into the province of Britannia.

Roman Army Museum

Header Image Credit : The Vindolanda Trust

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

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

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New findings at world-famous Mesolithic site of Star Carr

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A recent study by archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Newcastle has revealed new insights into the domestic activities of the Mesolithic inhabitants of Star Carr.

Star Carr is one of the most significant and informative Mesolithic sites in Europe, which during prehistoric times was situated near the outflow at the western end of a palaeolake known as Lake Flixton.

Today, Star Carr lies at the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering near Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Using microscopic evidence from the use of stone tools, the researchers found that a range of domestic activities took place in three previously excavated structures. This includes activities related to working with bone, antler, hide, meat, and fish.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, used a combination of spatial and microwear data to provide different scales of interpretation: from individual tool use to patterns of activity across the three structures.

Dr Jess Bates, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology said: “We found that there were distinct areas for different types of activity, so the messy activity involving butchery, for example, was done in what appears to be a designated space, and separate to the ‘cleaner’ tasks such as crafting bone and wooden objects, tools or jewellery.

“This was surprising as hunter-gatherers are known for being very mobile, as they would have to travel out to find food, and yet they have a very organised approach to creating not just a house but a sense of home.

“This new work, on these very early forms of houses suggests, that these dwellings didn’t just serve a practical purpose in the sense of having a shelter from the elements, but that certain social norms of a home were observed that are not massively dissimilar to how we organise our homes today.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Bates J, Milner N, Conneller C, Little A (2024) Spatial organisation within the earliest evidence of post-built structures in Britain. PLoS ONE 19(7): e0306908. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0306908

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

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