Wondering what 2017 has in store for archaeology? If the epic discoveries made in 2016 are anything to go by, there’ll be PLENTY to look forward to.
In the last year, archaeologists around the world have made some truly outstanding discoveries, but they weren’t alone. DigVentures’ crowdfunded excavations, which are supported and carried out by people who simply love archaeology, have also been pushing at the boundaries of what we know about the past. From a perfectly preserved Bronze Age flower, to an Anglo-Saxon name that had not been seen or heard for over 1,000 years, every contribution on this list was made by someone who joined in with one of our crowdfunded digs. If these discoveries are anything to go by, then getting involved in crowdfunded archaeology will provide plenty to look forward to in 2017!
1. Anglo-Saxon Namestone | Lindisfarne | Found by… John
If you’ve been following DigVentures over the last year (or happened to watch Episode 2 of Digging for Britain), you’ll already be familiar with this namestone, which was the first ever crowdfunded discovery to feature on the show. Dating to the 8th century, this rare namestone was found during our search for the long-lost monastery where the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced. It was later revealed to have been carved in commemoration of someone called Ythfrith – a name that was previously unknown to historians. It also hints that the excavation is closing in on more than just the buildings, but on the monastery’s original graveyard too, which crowdfunders will be able to help investigate in 2017.
2. Bronze Age Burial Urn | Morecambe Bay | Found by… Rita
You’d think that the opportunity to excavate a rare Bronze Age burial mound in Lancashire would be exciting enough, but things got even more delicate on this crowdfunded dig when the team unearthed an intact cremation urn. After carefully removing the urn and taking it to a specialist laboratory, the team carried out a micro-excavation of its contents, finding the remains of multiple individuals, pottery, and a flint tool inside. The entire process was livestreamed, allowing thousands of viewers to witness this delicate operation.
3. Perfectly Preserved Bronze Age Flower | Morecambe Bay | Found by… Stuart
While investigating the Bronze Age burial mound, DigVentures was asked to help out with a local metal detectorist’s discovery of a magnificent Bronze Age hoard, including weapons, jewellery, and metal ornaments. On closer inspection, the team found an even rarer 3,000-year-old thistle delicately pressed into one of the axe handles – a touching new insight into these offerings, and a significant addition to our understanding of Bronze Age life in northwest England.
4. Upper Paleaolithic Bone Harpoon | Yorkshire | Contributed by… Nigel
Made from reindeer antler, this hunting implement from Victoria Cave is about 12,000 years old and is one of the earliest pieces of evidence archaeologists have of the people who re-populated the north of England after the end of the last Ice Age. Although the original artefact was found during excavations in 1870, this virtual replica was created from a copy held at Craven Museum found when DigVentures went hunting through the archives with help from a willing crowd of digital participants in order to create a Virtual Museum and bring these marvellous artefacts back to national attention.
5. Anglo-Saxon Bone Comb | Lindisfarne | Found by… Sydney
The pattern on this delicately carved piece of bone comb is a style typically associated with combs dating from AD900-1000, decades after the monastery at Lindisfarne was supposedly abandoned. It provides brand new evidence that some people chose to stick it out against the Viking raids; a superb find by nine-year-old Sydney.
6. Post-Medieval Apple Corer | Reepham | Found by… Innegoe
This unusual, almost cultish-looking artefact is actually something much more mundane, but no less fascinating; it’s the handle of a bone scoop carved from the foot of a sheep or goat. Found during a community excavation at St Mary’s Churchyard in Norfolk, tools like this are known to have been in use from the 17th-19th century, and may have had multiple functions, like testing the ripeness of cheese, scooping out bone marrow, and coring apples.
7. Painted Medieval Window Glass | Minsmere | Found by… Jackie, Lyla & Greg
This shard of glass is of a type known as grisaille, made by painting black or brown pigment onto clear glass. The designs were often elaborate, and if you look closely at this piece you can just about make a swirling foliage design painted in a deep reddish brown. This one is an exact match for a piece DigVentures found last year at Leiston Abbey, suggesting that when the medieval ‘pirate priests’ moved from Minsmere to Leiston in 1363, they brought everything (including their beautiful windows) with them. We can just imagine what a logistical nightmare that must have been!
8. Silver Sceat | Lindisfarne | Found by… Ruth
This small silver coin, known as a sceat, was found amongst the stones of a floor surface at Lindisfarne. You can just about make out the outline of stylised stag; an animal strongly associated with the Kings of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. Minted under King Eadberht of Northumbria who reigned from AD737-758, it provides a very precise date for the building and suggests the team may be very close to finding the island’s original Anglo-Saxon monastery.
9. Medieval Hearth | Minsmere | Found by… Chris, Christine & Tayo
This hexagonal hearth is another wonderful piece of the now-disappeared abbey at Minsmere. It was probably part of the warming house, and picturing its famous resident ‘pirate priests’ huddling around it to keep warm really is a scene that really fires up the imagination. Its impeccable excavation was overseen by Chris who has been on nine DigVentures excavations – that’s a remarkable achievement.
10. Prehistoric Pottery Sherds | Marden Henge | Found by… Brian & Jess
Marden Henge is the largest Neolithic monument ever discovered in the UK, and yet compared to Stonehenge it is still relatively unheard of outside archaeological circles. This year, DigVentures went over to help Reading University investigate a new section of the monument, thought to be the entrance way and avenue. As we would have said on Time Team, these pottery sherds may look like little more than dog biscuits, but they’re actually a rare sample of Neolithic pottery.
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