The remains of a banqueting hall unearthed in Kent, thought to date to the late 6th or early 7th century, represents one of the most important Anglo-Saxon discoveries in more than a generation, according to archaeologists. The structure, discovered by a team from the University of Reading, measured 21 metres by 8.5 metres and is thought to have held as many as 60 people. As well as piles of animal bones buried in pits, suggesting the building’s use for large feasts, researchers also found bone combs, pieces of jewellery and a gilded horse harness.
Gabor Thomas, director of the excavations, said: “This would have undoubtedly been the scene of many Beowulfy-type activities, great assemblies for feasts that lasted for days, much drinking and story-telling, rich gifts like arm rings being presented, all of that. There could have been no more visible sign of wealth and status than raising a hall like this.”
14th-century bishop’s seal goes on display on the Isle of Man
A silver bishop’s seal discovered by metal detector enthusiasts in a field on the Isle of Man earlier this year is set to go on display for the first time. The seal (pictured above), shows three figures together with a Latin inscription which translates as “Let the prayers to God of Germanus and Patricius help us”. Visitors to the Manx Museum in Douglas will be able to view the artefact at the new Forgotten Kingdom exhibition, which launches on Saturday.
New details emerge about Nottinghamshire ‘vampire burial’
The burial of a skeleton with metal spikes through its heart, shoulders and ankles may have been performed due to a belief that it would otherwise rise from its grave, according to a new report. The remains, which date from between 550 and 700AD and were discovered in the Nottinghamshire town of Southwell in 1959, have been explored by community group Southwell Archaeology and are thought to have been interred in a ‘deviant burial’ reserved for people renowned for supposedly dangerous, and possibly vampiric, behaviour.
Matthew Beresford, who carried out the study, said: “Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the punishment of being buried in water-logged ground, face down, decapitated, staked or otherwise was reserved for thieves, murders or traitors or, later, for those deviants who did not conform to society’s rules”.
Dunkirk lifeboat receives restoration grant
A project to restore a lifeboat used in the Dunkirk evacuation in the Second World War has been awarded £100,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The grant for the Lucy Lavers, which was used to rescue troops from northern France in 1940, will enable it to be restored in time for the 75th anniversary of the operation in 2015.
Bolivia returns stolen mummy to Peru
A 700-year-old mummy stolen by antiquities traffickers and seized by Bolivian police has been returned to Peru. The remains, which are 30 centimetres tall and of a child of approximately two years old, are thought to have come from a pre-Inca culture in a region of coastal Peru. Although confirmed as being authentic, one of the legs of the mummy is believed to have been added at a later date in an attempt to boost its sale value.
New project to gather details about Ireland’s First World War role
Information about the involvement of Ireland in the First World War is set to be collected as part of a new online initiative. The project, run by historians at Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Exeter, will collate resources, news and details of events to help academics and members of the public to share knowledge.
Jersey archaeologists find ‘medieval priory’
Archaeologists in Jersey have begun exploring the remains of a medieval priory unearthed in St Clements and thought to have been founded in AD 1150. Although documentary evidence pointed to the existence of the building, researchers accidentally uncovered a stone wall that formed part of the complex during an excavation looking for another settlement on the site.
Second World War carrier pigeon message discovered
The remains of a carrier pigeon, complete with the coded message that it was carrying in the Second World War, have been uncovered in a chimney in Surrey. Government code-breakers are working to decipher the text, which it is hoped could provide new information about British intelligence during the conflict.
Image credits: courtesy of Manx National Heritage (bishop’s seal); Rescue Wooden Boats (Lucy Lavers); Societe Jersiaise (medieval priory)