Tag Archives: Iron Age

2013- Electric Puppet’s first 5 months in review

2014

Well- it’s New Year’s Eve, and time to reflect on what has gone on over the past year. For my family, this has been a big year, as we left the comfort and splendour of Oxford to return to our home city of Stoke-on-Trent; I graduated from university; I got my first job; we decided where we want to go with our life in the near and more distant future, thanks to an American man and his family on YouTube; I completed my first book of poetry, which had been languishing prior to this summer; I took the plunge and begun this blog, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; and have got back in contact with several family members that I haven’t seen for the best part of a decade thanks to Facebook. It has been eventful, and had also been emotional and tiring for all of us. Also, with any luck, next year should be just as eventful- beginning work; trying to get my book published; endeavouring to write the novel and short story collection that I’ve been planning for a month or so; and getting married. Yes: my partner and I are getting married next year!

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In terms of this blog, I will be getting up several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts for the books I have read recently- the first two Adrian Mole books, Penelope Lively’s ‘Heat Wave’, Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and Tove Jansson’s ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’- in the new year, and hopefully will get the first few up on New Year’s Day. For now, though, I thought that I would highlight a selection of posts from this blog that have proved popular, may have been overlooked, or are of relative interest for me.

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

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Lastly, here are a few fellow bloggers that I’ve come across in the past few months that you may find of interest:

Don’t Bend, Ascend

These Bones of Mine

Bones Don’t Lie

A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe (written by one of my Anglo-Saxon lecturers from Oxford; he has since moved on to work at Birmingham University)

Museum Postcard

Prehistories

Interesting Literature

I hope you have a very happy New Year, and that 2014 will be good for you.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

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LiDAR and landscape archaeology in the New Forest

LiDAR- Light Detection and Ranging- systems work by firing a pulsed laser beam from an aircraft many thousands of times a second. These pulses then pass through any vegetation or undergrowth and bounce off the ground, to be picked up by on-board detectors, and then converted into 3D CGI images. Such systems are used in the archaeological study of landscapes to build up a better and clearer ideas of the way sites in the past interacted with on another and fit into the topography of the landscape, showing the lines of sight and viewsheds available, as well as a plethora of other uses. One of these other uses is to find hidden and buried features, and this has been employed to spectacular effect recently by archaeologists in the New Forest, Hampshire. The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) has said that experts have surveyed a 350-square-mile region, with much being hidden under dense forest, but the really exciting thing about this is the fact that over 3,500 new sites and areas of interest have been discovered. Amongst the finds have been prehistoric field systems, Bronze Age burial mounds and an Iron Age hill fort, with the new surveys contributing to our knowledge of two Bronze Age barrows on Beaulieu Heath. All-in-all, this seems to have been a very profitable piece of landscape archaeology, and should produce fruitful study and research opportunities for many decades to come. I shall look out for further findings with interest!

LiDAR scan of Bratley Inclosure by the A31, showing the archaeology. Imahe: New Forest National Park Authority.

LiDAR scan of Bratley Inclosure by the A31, showing the archaeology. Image: New Forest National Park Authority.

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More Iron Age treasures from Norway.

It seems at the moment as though glaciers are becoming as prevalent for archaeology as car parks. A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about an Iron Age tunic and arrows that have been found due to thawing ice, and now the Lendbreen glacier near Lillehammer, Norway, has thrown up another Iron Age item of interest: a horse. This perhaps doesn’t sound too exciting in itself, but it is actually rather interesting as it is one of the only examples of a horse discovered from this period that is at such a high altitude. It is thought that this glacier was used from the Late Iron Age to the Early Medieval period as a short cut across the mountains, but the view proposed by Lars Pilø, the Head of Snow Archaeology* at Oppland council, is that this animal would once have been used to transport reindeer carcasses down the mountains. In the summer months, horseflies affect the deer and force them to higher altitudes where the insects cannot survive, which also makes the ice the perfect hunting ground due to its lack of cover and good visibility (i.e. dark animal on white snow). Personally, I am unsure how we can really say which theory is correct, as any load would have been removed from the horse once it had died and therefore there would be little to inform us of its original purpose in that location. However, it does show us again that this glacier (and presumably many more glaciers besides this one) have a vast number of secrets still to tell us.

iron age horse

Main image: Preserved Iron Age horse manure. Inset (L): A piece of the horse’s skull. Inset (R): An Iron Age horse-shoe. Image: Oppland County Council

* I’m intrigued! Snow archaeology? Is the study of features highlighted by the snow a distinct area of archaeology or does it come under landscape and reconnaissance? Or is it something different? I think I may need to do a bit of research!

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An extraordinary kurgan discovery

Now, until I studied A Level Archaeology, I had believed a kurgan to be a villain from the 1986 film ‘Highlander’: 

Very nice, but he doesn't look much like a burial mound...

Very nice, but he doesn’t look much like a burial mound…

However, I am now older and slightly wiser, and can see the fascinating insights that these kurgans in their archaeological sense can provide us with. I can across an article earlier today on a Sarmatian kurgan excavated in the Russian Southern Ural steppes by the Institute of Archaeology (Russian Academy of Sciences), and it is truelly amazing what has been discovered. Until this point, I did not really know anything about Russian (or indeed any European) nomads except that some actually practised tattooing several millenia ago, but this find from the 1st millennium BC is the Iron Age equivelant to our own dear Sutton Hoo. These Sarmatians and other nomads called Scythians interacted with both Persian and Classical Greek culture whilst managing to retain their own distinct style that can be illustrated in some of the amazing artifacts uncovered from this recently-excavated kurgan. The finds are believed to suggest that this burial contained a woman- assuming that you subscribe to the dated and gender stereotyped view of 1970’s archaeological theory that women can be identified in the burial record by jewellery and mirrors. Osteological indications suggest a man, however, and I would be more inclined to believe this, to be honest.

The burial chamber showing the body, and some of the grave goods. The mirror is visible to the middle right of the image, and the silver container on the top left.

The burial chamber showing the body, and some of the grave goods. The mirror is visible to the middle right of the image, and the silver container on the top left. Image: Leonid Yablonsky.

Apparently, this particular mound had been excavated 20 years ago and had revealed 26 “golden” deer statuettes, but the section unearthed this year had been left unexplored. In a passage near the enterance the team found a cast bronze cauldron with a diameter of 102 cm, with handles decorated in a Scythian-Siberian animal style showing two griffins beak-to-beak:

The bronze cauldron. Image: Leonid Yablonsky

The bronze cauldron. Image: L.Y.

Detail of cauldron handle showing beak-to-beak griffins. Image: Leonid Yablonsky

Detail of cauldron handle showing beak-to-beak griffins. Image: L.Y.

Within the intact burial chamber, which measured 4x5m and was 4m deep, there was found a skeleton, and near to the skull, a wicker chest. This may have been a ‘vanity case’, and was filled with items including: a cast silver container with a lid; a gold pectoral; a wooden box; cages; glass; silver and earthenware bathroom flasks; leather pouches and horse teeth containing red pigments. There was also a large silver mirror, as well as items of clothing decorated with several plaques that showed flowers, rosettes and a panther leaping on a saiga’s (antelope) back. Breeches, a shirt and a scarf were found to have 395 pressed pieces of gold leaf sewn onto them, with the shirt having its sleeves embellished with multicoloured beads, and a fringed shawl was held together with a golden chain. Also, two cast gold earrings were decorated in places with cloisonné enamel and found on the skeleton, suggesting that they had been worn on the corpse. Less ornate were two stone mixing palettes that were discovered, along with gold-plated iron needles and bone spoons and pens decorated with animals- but it is believed that these were used to carry out tattooing. In all, there were over 1000 artifacts uncovered, and a few can be seen below:

Silver mirror. Image: L. Y.

Silver mirror. Image: L.Y.

Silver container. Image: L.Y.

Silver container. Image: L.Y.

Gold plague depicting a panther catching an antelope- not a particularly Russian image! Image: L.Y.

Gold plague depicting a panther catching an antelope- not a particularly Russian image! Image: L.Y.

Earring with visible enamel cloisonné detailing. Image: L.Y.

Earring with visible enamel cloisonné detailing. Image: L.Y.

This excavation has certainly opened my eyes to a society that I previously knew next to nothing about, and has certainly excited me to find out more about these Iron Age peoples. A couple of days of research are in order over the next few weeks, I think.!

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Treasure from the Norwegian ice

tunic

The woolen tunic discovered, believed to date between 230 AD and 390 AD

The gradual melting of the world’s glaciers has proved interesting recently for archaeologists, with the Lendbreen glacier in Norway revealing a fantasticlly well preserved Iron Age tunic, and a number of Neolithic bows and arrows. The arrows were shorter than earlier Mesolithic shafts found elsewhere in Europe, and this is possibly due to the heavy weight of the points, made out of slate- an odd choice for such weapons. The tunic is one of only a number of such items that have been found from this period, and shows signs of wear, use and even repairs that have been made.

However, this melting of the ice may have proved fortuitous in this case (as it also did in the case of Otzi the Iceman discovered on the Austrian-Italian border), but it also highlights a growing concern that many more delicate items could thaw out of the ice and degrade or be destroyed before anyone has the opportunity to recover them, meaning that many artifacts could be lost forever. Oh, and there is also the small matter of the issues this raises concerning Global Warming…

Anyhoo- here is a link to two articles on the discovery from the wonderful ‘Antiquity’ journal, if anyone is interested:

http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/087/ant0870728.htm

http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/087/ant0870788.htm 

(The articles are also linked to the images, so alternatively, click on the pictures).

arrows

A selection of the arrowheads uncovered

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