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Archaeologists excavate experimental WWII catapult



Archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) have excavated an experimental WWII prototype catapult at Harwell in Oxfordshire, England.

Named the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Mark III Catapult, the system was developed to rapidly catapult bomber planes into the air over shorter runways.

Constructed between 1938 and 1940 in Harwell, Oxfordshire, the catapult had a rotating turntable for guiding aircraft toward one of the two short concrete runways, each measuring a mere 82 metres in length. To initiate the launch, the aircraft was connected to an underground pneumatic ram via a towing hook.

Beneath the turntable, a dozen Rolls-Royce Kestrel aero engines were deployed to pressurize air to 2,000 psi, which was channelled into a pneumatic ram causing it to swiftly extend along the guided track. The result was a literal catapulting action that propelled large bomber planes into the air.

The prototype encountered various design issues, such as engine wear and a design mismatch with the intended bomber planes. The project was subsequently abandoned, and by 1941 the structure was filled in and a conventional runway built across the end of the southern arm of the catapult system.

In preparation for the development of the land, archaeologists from MOLA conducted a detailed study of the WWII relic and faithfully recreated a 3D digital replica of the remains.

Susan Porter, MOLA Project Officer, says: “This fascinating structure reminds us of the rapid experimentation and innovation of the interwar years and WWII. Crucially, recording the location and appearance of every inch means that the catapult is preserved by record for future generations.”

The team also uncovered finds from a later runway in the vicinity, including large runway lights, roughly 1m square, and a previously unknown gun emplacement that defended the runway from attack.

Once the study is completed, all the information and discoveries will be preserved in an archive, creating a lasting archival monument of this unique relic from the early days of WWII.


Header Image Credit : MOLA

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Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica




Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation




Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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