Early medieval shopping centre

Early medieval shopping centre

Archaeologists on Dunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, have found evidence to suggest that the island was a seventh-century international trade emporium.

According to Dr Philip MacDonald, who led the excavation, merchants from as far afield as modern day Russia, Germany, Iceland and France would have brought wine and other luxury products to Ireland to exchange at emporia for furs, seal skin, slaves and famed Irish wolfhounds.

The local dynasty whose royal centre was Downpatrick, County Down, was known as the Dal Fiatach. The trade in imported prestige items would have been important for the king of Dal Fiatach, to signify his status and power.

The particular kind of pottery found at Dunnyneil Island is believed to be evidence that luxury goods were imported in some quantity from the continent. The coast around Strangford Lough has the highest density of this type of pottery ever discovered in Ireland, suggesting the Kingdom of Ulster was relatively wealthy.



Gresham Ship’s new home


A wrecked Elizabethan ship is to be moved from Portsmouth to Leicester in order to allow full public access.

The Gresham Ship is a merchant vessel thought to have been built in the 1570s. On its discovery, the insignia of Elizabeth I’s advisor Sir Thomas Gresham, who owned a cast-iron cannon factory in Mayfield, Sussex, was found on the barrel of one of its guns. With its exact identity unknown, it has become known as the Gresham Ship. It was discovered in the Thames in 2003, and moved to Horsea Island Lake, part of the HMS Excellent navy base; there it stayed, six metres underwater, for nine years.

With public access to the military site limited, the ship will now reside at the Stoney Cove National Diving Centre, where it will be used as an underwater classroom to train nautical archaeologists.

A team of eight divers is working to raise iron bars, the ship's anchor and the 400-year-old pieces of timber, the largest of which is more than eight metres long and weighs eight tonnes. A large crane and lifting airbags are being used to lift the pieces out of the water, when they will be wrapped to avoid evaporation.



Forth Bridge bids for World Heritage status


The Forth Bridges Forum is preparing a bid to have the famous bridge designated a World Heritage site. A tentative list of 11 possible heritage sites in the UK was submitted to Unesco earlier this year, and an independent expert group recommended that prominence be given to the Forth bid.

Once the bids are submitted, they will undergo what has been termed 'a process of scrutiny and evaluation' by Unesco and its advisory body, the International Council on Monuments and Sites. A decision will be reached in 2015.

David Simpson, route managing director for Network Rail Scotland, said: “The Forth Bridge is one of the most recognisable bridges anywhere in the world and certainly the most cherished Scottish structure of the Victorian era. The bridge has become a source of pride and a symbol of Scotland's resilience and ingenuity, but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is first and foremost a working structure which still carries over 200 trains a day. This nomination should be regarded as a further tribute to the thousands of men who have contributed to building, maintaining and restoring the structure over the last 130 years.”



Humber boat’s jubilee reward


The Spider T, an historic Humber boat built in 1926, the same year as the Queen was born, has set off for London to represent the region in the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant. The vessel, built to transport cargo, will be among thousands gathered on the Thames on 3 June. Mal Nicholson, who bought and restored the Spider T after she fell derelict, said taking part in the flotilla would reward his crew’s hard work.

The 19-metre-long boat was originally built at Warren’s shipyard in New Holland and is now the Humber’s last surviving super sloop – a sailboat with one mast and two sails.



Historic tower opens to the public


The Panorama Tower, a Worcestershire landmark that overlooks the M5, has opened to the public for the first time. The tower, complete with spiral staircase, was designed by James Wyatt in the 1790s, working from drawings made by Robert Adam in the 1760s. The National Trust has said that thanks are due to Natural England, the Croome attraction and the Rowlands Trust, who restored the landmark.



Don’t mention the Tudors


An Oxford University historian says that his research suggests that the name Tudor was rarely used by Tudor monarchs, and may in fact have been downplayed due to embarrassment over its Welsh connections.

Dr Cliff Davies says that during the reigns of Tudor monarchs, from Henry VII to Elizabeth I, there was no contemporary recognition of any common thread or even any recognition of the term ‘Tudor’. After deciding to investigate whether the term was used in Tudor society, Dr Davies spent years examining contemporary documents, and could find only one reference – a poem on the accession of James I that mentioned the transition from Tudor to Stuart.

In Welsh documentation, the name is celebrated, but was downplayed in England, especially by Henry VIII, who preferred to play up his credentials as the embodiment of the union between the houses of York and Lancaster. Dr Davies suggests that the idea of a distinct Tudor period of history was first established in the 18th century by the historian and philosopher, David Hume. “The word ‘Tudor’ is used obsessively by historians,” he says. “But it was almost unknown at the time.”



Pink diamond fetches a fortune


The famous Martian Pink diamond, cut in 1976 to celebrate a US satellite landing on Mars, has sold in Hong Kong for £11.1 million.

The diamond was originally cut by US jeweller Harry Winston, inspired by his nations adventures on the Red Planet. The owner at sale was American, but the diamond was placed for auction in Hong Long due to the intensity of interest from China. It sold after a mere six minutes of hectic bidding.



Peru’s 1,000-year-old tomb


Archaeologists have discovered a 1,000-year-old tomb 20 miles south of the Peruvian capital Lima. The 60-foot-long grave is near the ‘Painted Temple’ where the Huari people used to pray to ‘Pacha Kamaq’, their God of Creation. Researchers suggest the position of the bodies is directly related to the Painted Temple, and have described the remains as ‘offerings’. The tomb contains the cloth-covered skeletal remains of over 70 people, most of them thought to be children.



Trained to protect the past


The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced a £2.2 million programme to provide training in skills relevant to the heritage sector, including the conservation of buildings and landscapes. There will be 231 new paid training posts created in Scotland. Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “HLF has been championing work-based placements for a number of years and we are pleased to be in a position to give even more financial support. It is great news for the heritage sector, which a decade ago feared that many key skills would be lost.”



Thames set for increased traffic


Crowds will line the Thames on 3 June for the Jubilee Pageant, mostly unknowing of the fascinating history of the river. Yet according to plans from the Mayor’s office, the Thames could once again be on the upsurge. Boris Johnson has promised to quadruple riverboat trips on the Thames from around three million to 12 million a year.

The Thames was once London’s principal transport artery, before it declined into what former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1858 described as “a Stygian pool reeking with ineffable and unbearable horror”.

Yet previously, according to Robert Blyth, a historian from the National Maritime Museum, London was a river city comparable to Venice. “The streets of London were narrow, dirty, rather mean streets and land transport wasn't very comfortable. So if you wanted to travel in style and in comfort and if you also wanted to be seen then it was the river for you.” Access to the principal royal palaces of Tudor England including Whitehall, Greenwich and Hampton Court, as well as the Tower of London, was primarily from the river.

London was also a huge trading port with ships coming up the Thames, right into the heart of the city. But with the Industrial Revolution, London's population rapidly increased, and the arrival of the flush lavatory led to human waste flowing directly into the river. To tackle the problem, Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed a sewer network for central London and massive embankments narrowing the river. His solution worked – but also left the Thames short of its former glories.


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