Ancient Pictish fort found off the coast of Eastern Scotland

Pictish-Fort

An essential aspect of older forts was their inaccessibility to enemies. The harder it was for foes to get at those inside, the easier it was for defenders to hold out.

It appears that this need was recognized quite early on. A recently discovered fort off the coast of Scotland sits atop a sea stack and can only be accessed using ropes at low tide, according to the BBC.

The Pictish fort was uncovered during an archaeological dig on the Aberdeenshire coast and is believed to be Scotland’s oldest, dating back to as early as the third century AD.

Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen needed help from experienced mountaineers to scale the rugged cliffs in order reach the site, which is perched precariously on the top of a sea stack called Dunnicaer, with sheer drops on all sides, according to the Edinburgh Evening News.

“The team found evidence of ramparts, floors and a hearth on the small outcrop,” the publication added. “It is believed the fort would have comprised a timber house or hall, surrounded by an outer defensive rampart built from stone.”

The fort was especially impressive given the materials used in its construction.

“The stone is not from the local area so it must have been quite a feat to get it, and the heavy oak timbers, up to such an inaccessible site,” said lead researcher Gordon Noble, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.

Results of carbon dating suggest that use of the fort was relatively short-lived, and it is assumed the Pictish communities who inhabited it moved on to the larger site of Dunnottar Castle to the south.

The Picts were descendants of indigenous Iron Age people of northern Scotland.

“Pict” was a blanket term applied to an agglomeration of different people in the northern Scotland, probably with different cultures and languages, according to the website Orkneyjar, which details the heritage of the Orkney Islands.

The word “Pict” means “painted people,” likely referring to the Pictish custom of either tattooing their bodies or embellishing themselves with war paint.

Prior the arrival of the Romans in Britain the Picts were probably fragmented tribes who spent much of their time fighting among themselves.

The Roman threat appears to have forced them together. This allowed the tribes to resist the continental invaders, forcing cooperation in the face of invaders. By the time the Romans departed from Britain in the fifth century AD, the northern tribes had begun to form into what would later become the Pictish Kingdom.

By the 11th century the Pictish identity had been incorporated into the amalgamation of peoples known as “Scots.”

(Top: Researchers seen working atop Dunnicaer sea stacks off coast of Scotland, where an ancient Pictish fort was recently discovered.)

Oldest English cannonball linked to War of Roses clash

war of the roses

Researchers believe they have discovered the oldest surviving cannonball used in English warfare.

The damaged lead projectile, about three inches in diameter, was found at site of the Battle of Northampton, a War of the Roses clash fought nearly 555 years ago, in 1460.

The cannonball was actually discovered several years ago by Northampton resident Stuart Allwork and was only found in his house last year following his death.

Its significance was not realized until protests over plans to put sports fields on the battlefield site sparked demands for an archaeological survey, according to the BBC.

A study of the missile has led experts to the belief that artillery was used for the first time in conflict in England at the Northampton battle, fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, according to the media outlet.

The ball has been analyzed by medieval artillery expert Glenn Foard, who said the object suffered massive impact damage from at least two bounces and may have struck a tree.

It is not clear which side fired the cannonball, but some contemporary accounts suggest the Lancastrian guns failed to fire because of the rain – which means it most likely came from a Yorkist cannon.

Continue reading

Mysterious stone carving shows up at British yard sale

stone-garden-ornament

A British archaeologist and television producer, perusing a yard sale in Leicester, England, came across an item being sold as garden ornament that was unlike other objects being proffered.

Instead of a garden-variety garden ornament, the stone carving had a complex pattern that “may be some form of writing,” according to James Balme, who purchased the article.

Weighing approximately 60 pounds, the stone is about 18 inches long and 5-1/2 inches wide at its base.

The stone appears to have been used as “a keystone from an archway or indeed a vaulted ceiling,” according to Balme.

While its exact date is uncertain, Balme believes it’s from the Anglo-Saxon period, which began when the Romans abandoned Britain around 410 AD and ended with William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066, according to the online publication RedOrbit.

The sandstone carving has been used as a garden ornament for several years, Balme told the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten.

In an effort to identify the use and exact date of the stone carving, Balme is turning to social media such as Twitter to try to learn more about the stone.

(Top: Stone found by James Balme on sale as a garden ornament in Leicester, England.)

Boy unearths English Civil War cannonball

english civil war cannonball

An English schoolboy digging a hole in his family’s yard unearthed an eight-pound cannonball dating back more than 350 years to the English Civil War.

Jack Sinclair, 10, of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, continued tunneling after his father had dug down to remove a tree root and the lad came across what he at first thought was a rock.

Further work revealed that it was bigger and denser, and when Jack pulled it from the ground he had a heavy, rusty, muddy lump.

“His mother was concerned that it might be an unexploded bomb from World War II, but when they cleaned off the dirt, they saw it was an iron cannonball,” according to The History Blog.

Jack’s grandfather researched the artifact and took it to the nearby Museum Resource Centre in Newark, where experts verified with 90 percent certainty that it is a 17th century cannonball used during the English Civil War.

Its weight and dimensions suggest it was shot from a saker cannon, a medium-caliber long-range cannon widely used in the early 16th century and 17th century, according to The History Blog.

The find strengthens Southwell’s strong links with the 1642-51 conflict.

Continue reading

Mayan temple demolished for road fill

noh mul pyramid

A 2,300-year-old Mayan temple in Central America was recently razed for use as road fill, it was revealed late last week.

The construction company that demolished the temple, which was approximately 160 feet square at the base and 20 feet high, is owned by a local Belizean politician.

The temple was located 50 miles north of Belize City, near the border with Mexico, and was part of the pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site at Noh Mul, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.

“This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable,” said Tracy Panton, Belize’s Tourism and Culture Minister. “This expressed disdain for our laws is incomprehensible.”

The archeological complex, like all pre-Columbian ruins, was under the protection of the state even though it was located in a privately owned sugar cane plantation, according to Agence France-Presse.

Noh Mul was the center of a Mayan community of 40,000 that was initially occupied between 350-250 BC. It was inhabited off and on until about 900 years ago.

Authorities learned of the incident at the end of last week, blaming the D-Mar construction company, which is owned by Denny Grijalva, a candidate for mayor of Belize City.

Continue reading

Powder, ball found in 18th century cannon

central park cannon

A cannon that sat in New York’s Central Park for nearly 150 years was discovered last week to have been loaded with a cannonball and black powder the entire time, it was announced last week.

Parks workers came upon a live cannonball, loaded in a Revolutionary War-era cannon currently being refurbished, New York television station CBS 2 reported. The artillery piece was one of two British cannon being stored at a Central Park shed near the 79th Street transverse, according to the station.

Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy called police last Friday after opening up the capped artillery piece for cleaning and finding the cannonball, cotton wadding and 28 ounces of black powder wrapped in wool, still capable of firing, according to the New York Times.

The loaded cannon was on public display from the 1860s until 1996, when the Central Park Conservancy decided to bring it indoors to protect it from vandalism. It was donated to the park around the time of the War Between the States.

The cannon, believed to be more than 220 years old, was apparently donated after it is believed to have been salvaged from the HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank in the East River around 1780 during the American Revolution, according to the Associated Press.

Continue reading

Russian boy finds ‘mammoth of the century’

An 11-year-old Russian boy recently stumbled upon the best-preserved adult mammoth discovered in more than a century.

Zhenya Salinder discovered the frozen animal in the permafrost of northern Siberia while he was walking along the banks of the Yenisei River in late August, according to Agence France-Presse.

“He sensed an unpleasant odor and saw something sticking out of the ground – it was the mammoth’s heels,” said Alexei Tikhonov, director of the Saint Petersburg-based Zoological Museum.

Tikhonov rushed to the area after the boy’s family notified scientists of the find, described as the best such discovery since 1901.

“So far we can say it is the mammoth of the century,” Tikhonov said.

The mammoth is believed to have been aged 15 to 16 when it died around 30,000 years ago, according to Tikhonov.

Continue reading