Roman gladiator school found in Austria


Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of a large school for Roman gladiators just east of the Austrian capital of Vienna. Radar imagery of the remains has revealed thick walls surrounding the compound, which contained 40 small cells for fighters, as well as a training section and a large bathing area. Radar scans have also revealed what archaeologists believe may have been a cemetery for those killed during training. It is thought that the school was once part of a major Roman military and trade outpost some 1,700 years ago, and home to around 50,000 people. One distinctive find highlighted by the radar images is a thick wooden post in the middle of the training area, thought to have been used by gladiators as a practice enemy.


Stone Age tools found in Kenya

Four teardrop-shaped hand-axes created around 1.76 million years ago have been discovered near Lake Turkana in northwest Kenya – dating back to around 350,000 years earlier than previous finds of the same ilk. Described by some scientists as the ‘Swiss army knife of the Stone Age’, the tools are thought to have been used for a range of tasks such as chopping wood and cutting up meat. Experts believe the tools were created by our human ancestor Homo erectus, a species that ranged across Africa and Asia until they became extinct around 70,000 years ago. The tools fall into the category of Acheulian technology, since they are larger and heavier than the pebble-choppers that would have been used previously, and also boast distinctive chiselled edges.

Ham Hill reveals town-like structures

Intensive excavation of Ham Hill in Somerset, Britain’s largest Iron Age hill fort, has revealed a main road and enclosures with round houses, suggesting that the site was a town rather than a defensive structure, according to archaeologists. Ham Hill stretches across 80 hilltop acres and was once home to the Durotriges tribe that was subdued by the Romans in AD 45, two years after the Roman invasion. An initial dig at the site this summer has uncovered human remains, including one full skeleton and the bones of a dog, as well as tools and pottery. Three more excavations at the site are planned over the next three years.

Henry VIII palace ‘recreated’

A huge model of Nonsuch Palace, Surrey, built by Henry VIII in 1538, has been created thanks to years of research by an Oxford professor. The palace was destroyed by a mistress of Charles II between 1682 and 1690, but painstaking analysis of contemporary illustrations, archaeological evidence, written sources, and surviving fragments of stucco and slate, has allowed Professor Biddle, emeritus professor of medieval archaeology at Oxford University, to create an accurate evaluation of what the building looked like.

Skeletons reveal health issues of Nelson’s navy

Examinations of 340 skeletons from three 18th and 19th-century Royal Navy graveyards have revealed evidence of scurvy and infected wounds, according to archaeologists at Oxford University. The bones, which were excavated from sites in Greenwich, Gosport and Plymouth, also revealed that more than six per cent of sailors in Nelson’s navy were amputees, many of whom had died as a result of operations that went wrong. Evidence of syphilis, ulcers, serious tooth infections and possible malaria were also revealed, while examination of the remains of an 11-year-old boy suggested that he may have been a ‘powder monkey’, transporting ammunition to gunners.


Tomb uncovered at Stonehenge quarry site

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered a tomb that once contained the remains of the original builders of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. The tomb was found at the Carn Menyn site in the Preseli Hills where it is believed the bluestones that were used to construct the first stone phase of the henge were quarried in around 2300 BC. The tomb, which contains no bodies, was built right next to the original quarry, and the remains of a ceremonial monument have been discovered, with a bank that appears to have a pair of standing stones embedded in it.

In related news, UK researchers believe they have recreated the sound of a ritual at Stonehenge, as would have been heard by Britons 4,000 years ago, and without the constant rumble of traffic from the nearby A303. The recording was created using an echo-free recording chamber and using the latest computer modelling techniques.

You can hear more about the recordings on Hearing the Past, BBC Radio 4 Monday 12 September at 11:00am

HMS Royal George ‘revealed the Mary Rose’

Experts have claimed that the wreck of the Mary Rose was located in the 1830s thanks to HMS Royal George, the largely forgotten flagship that sank in the Solent at Spithead in August 1782. More than 900 people were killed when the 100-gun battleship took in water through its open gun ports during repairs on its sea cock – a valve on the hull. According to Stuart Haven from the Royal Marines Museum, local fishermen asked divers who were trying to recover the wreck of the Royal George to check beneath the waters nearby as their nets kept getting caught on something. A subsequent dive just one kilometre north east of the Royal George revealed timber and guns from the Mary Rose.


Dig underway at the Pillar of Eliseg

Experts from Chester and Bangor universities have launched a new dig at the Pillar of Eliseg near Llangollen, a ninth-century stone monument sited on a prehistoric mound. The team hopes that the dig will reveal the relationship between the pillar and the early Bronze Age cairn on which it stands. The Pillar of Eliseg was originally a tall stone cross but only part of a round shaft survives, situated within the pillar’s original base. A local landowner in the 1700s claimed to have found a stone cist with a body in, and pieces of silver at the site, but some experts have debated his claim.