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Rediscovered : Lost reliquary of Stavanger’s patron saint

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Archaeologists have rediscovered the remains of the reliquary of St Swithun in a crypt beneath Stavanger Cathedral.

St Swithun was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester (England), raised to the position by Æthelwulf, King of Wessex.

His importance in the church is overshadowed by his reputation for posthumous miracle-working, the most famous being the restoration of a basket of eggs that workmen had maliciously broken.

St Swithun’s death is recorded in the Canterbury manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 861, where in the centuries that followed, his body was split between a number of shrines. More than forty churches dedicated to St. Swithun are located across southern England and western Norway, including Stavanger Cathedral in the city of Stavanger.

Image Credit : Annette Øvrelid

According to historical sources, Bishop Reinaldl, Stavanger’s first bishop, founded Stavanger Cathedral around 1100. He is said to have brought the arm bone of St Swithun from England, which was placed on the high altar in a decorated gold casket following the cathedral’s consecration.

During the Reformation, idols of Catholic “superstition” were removed and destroyed. It is thought that St. Swithun’s reliquary was taken to Denmark and melted down.

In 2023, a 700-year-old ivory figurine of Melchior, one of the three wise men, was discovered in the crypts beneath the cathedral. This led to an excavation by archaeologists from the University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology.

The excavation uncovered a gilded copper plate measuring 5 by 10 centimetres, a gilded silver medallion with an animal motif, and several decorative glass gems.

“We were very surprised when we carried out an X-ray examination of the copper plate. The image clearly reveals a church building with tower and roof, columns and windows,” says conservator Bettina Ebert.

According to the researchers, this discovery is likely the remains of the reliquary of St Swithun.

The excavation also found gilded fragments of liturgical objects, pieces from the cathedrals stained glass windows, the papal seal of Boniface VIII (1294–1303), hundreds of coins and bracteates, and a woven gold band from the fine vestments of a church official.

Header Image Credit : Annette Øvrelid

Sources : University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology

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

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Archaeology

Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”

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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 www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

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

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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 www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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