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Search for Saint Guthlac’s hermitage reveals prehistoric henge



A team of archaeologists from Newcastle University have uncovered a prehistoric henge during a search for Saint Guthlac’s hermitage.

Saint Guthlac was a Christian hermit and saint, who in AD 699-701, established a hermitage on what was a deserted island in the Fenlands at Crowland, England.

The biographer, a monk known as Felix, provides an account of Guthlac’s isolation in the Vita Sancti Guthlaci (Life of Saint Guthlac), and said that Guthlac built his hermitage into a robbed out prehistoric barrow mound.

According to tradition, Guthlac led a holy ascetic life and gave sanctuary to Æthelbald, future king of Mercia, who was fleeing from his cousin Ceolred.

After Guthlac’s death in 714, his uncorrupted body was discovered 12 months later that inspired a small monastic community and cult. This led to the establishment of Crowland Abbey in the 10th century to honour the saint, which survived until the Dissolution in the 1530s.

Archaeologists have previously tried to find the hermitage and barrow from Felix’s accounts, which have long been thought to be in Anchor Church Field to the north-east of Crowland.

Recent excavations at Anchor Church Field by archaeologists from Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield have uncovered a previously unknown Late Neolithic or early Bronze Age henge, a type of circular earthwork and one of the largest ever discovered in eastern England.

It is likely that during Guthlac’s time, the henge would have been a prominent feature above the marshes of the Fenlands, and would be seen by hermits as a unique landscape with a long and sacred past.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the henge was reoccupied during around Guthlac’s lifetime, indicated by large quantities of ceramics, bone combs, and fragments of high-status drinking vessels from the Anglo Saxon period.

Unfortunately, any traces of structures from this period have been destroyed through later activity.

“We know that many prehistoric monuments were reused by the Anglo-Saxons, but to find a henge—especially one that was previously unknown—occupied in this way is really quite rare,” said Dr Duncan Wright, Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology at Newcastle University.

“Although the Anglo-Saxon objects we found cannot be linked with Guthlac with any certainty, the use of the site around this time and later in the medieval period adds weight to the idea that Crowland was a sacred space at different times over millennia,” added Dr Wright.

Excavations also uncovered the remains of a 12th century hall and chapel, built by the Abbots of Crowland probably to venerate St Pega, Guthlac’s sister, who was herself an important hermit in the region. The hall would have been used for elite accommodation, perhaps for high-status pilgrims who were visiting Crowland.

Header Image Credit: The Anchor Church Field Project

Sources : Newcastle University | Sacred Landscapes and Deep Time: Mobility, Memory, and Monasticism on Crowland’ by Duncan W. Wright and Hugh Willmott. Journal of Field Archaeology DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2024.2332853

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”




Excavations of the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, nicknamed the “German Stonehenge”, has revealed new insights into domestic life from prehistory.

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is a late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age henge from the late third millennium BC. The monument features seven concentric rings made of palisades, ditches, and raised banks, each containing a series of wooden posts.

The site was discovered in 1991 through aerial photography near the present-day village of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

From 2018 to 2022, archaeologists have excavated nearly 140 ancient dwellings dating from 2,800 BC to 2,200 BC. The older dwellings are linked to the Corded Ware and the Bell Beaker culture, while the more recent ones are associated with the Únětice Culture.

In a recent study conducted by the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) of Saxony-Anhalt, archaeologists are employing various scientific methods to offer new insights into the site’s ritual and settlement landscape.

The study has identified house locations of the Corded Ware culture (26th to 23rd century BC), and an associated settlement pit containing ceramic sherds, an axe head and flint blades. Until now, Corded Ware settlement could only be attributed to individual finds that had been relocated, and not to actual structures on the site.

Also associated with the Corded Ware culture is a storage area with 78 grain silo pits that held various types of gain, including wheat, barley, and spelt. Archaeologists already know that Corded Ware people lived on a balanced diet with animal products, further indicated by drinking vessels from burials at Ringheiligtum Pömmelte that contained traces of dairy products.

While the scientific analyses and the interpretation of the results with various specialists continue, excavations at Pömmelte will last until mid-July 2024.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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3,400-year-old shipwreck found with cargo mostly intact




Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit have discovered a 3,400-year-old shipwreck with the cargo mostly intact.

The site was first identified during an underwater survey by Energean, an energy company searching for natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea Floor.

This led to the discovery of the shipwreck and its cargo at a depth of 1.8 kilometers, along with its cargo that consists of Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels.

IAA archaeologists, in collaboration with Energean, have used the deep sea exploratory vessel, “Energean Star” to conduct a visual inspection of the wreck site. This has revealed hundreds of ceramic vessels on the seabed, and a muddy layer which likely conceals a second layer and the wooden beams of the ship.

Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit, explains, “The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or to an attempted piracy attack – a well-known occurrence in the Late Bronze Age. This is both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometres from the nearest shore.”

Image Credit : IAA

Only two other ships from this period have been found – the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast. Both ships were found near the shore, suggesting that shipping routes followed the coastline between ports. However, this new discovery changes the understanding of ancient marine trade, demonstrating that ancient shipping also extended into deep waters.

“The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster – its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand (divers, fishermen, etc.); nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters,” added Sharvit.

Header Image Credit : IAA

Sources : Israel Antiquities Authority

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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