Lottery wins and axeheads: The month's top ten archaeology discoveries

By Ben Miller | 01 July 2014

Ten of the best discoveries from Culture24's archaeology coverage in June 2014

A photo of a box
© Dr Tamar Hodas
Tomb food offerings in Bristol

Institutions in London, Pennsylvania and Baghdad sponsored the excavations leading to food offerings from a 4,500-year-old royal tomb, carried out by Sir Leonard Woolley in southern Iraq during the 1920s and 1930s. Their appearance in Bristol is, as Dr Tamar Hodas, who contacted the British Museum after finding them during a university lab clearance puts it, a mystery.

A photo of two gold Roman coins
© Vindolanda Trust
Long-awaited Roman gold coins at Vindolanda

“You actually have more chance of winning the lottery than finding a gold coin on a Roman military site,” said Dr Andrew Birley, the Director of Excavations at Vindolanda, along Hadrian’s Wall, flummoxed at a miraculous discovery in Cumbria. The lucky finder was volunteer French archaeologist Marcel Albert.

A photo of a woman in a lab coat looking at a skull
© Lincolnshire County Council
Saxon skeletons within Lincoln Castle

Medieval Lincoln Castle’s current £22 million restoration unearthed a booted Saxon buried in a wall, preserved in a limestone sarcophagus and wrapped in linen. Four men, three women and three children were also found, one of whom – a teenager – may have been killed by a stab wound.

A photo of an ancient circular pot
© Petrie Museum
A Flinders find in a Cornish garage

The link between TV documentary The Man who Discovered Egypt, a 1950s taxi driver, a Cornish garage and a late 19th century Egyptian cemetery excavation by Flinders Petrie turns out to be a cracked vessel. “The pot is particularly significant as it marks the discovery of a new era in Egyptology,” said Alice Stevenson, a curator at the Petrie Museum who is intent on discovering more of the explorer’s hidden finds.

A photo of two people looking at an archaeological muddy plot in a field
© Courtesy University of Wales Trinity Saint David
An incredibly rare medieval abbey in Wales

One of only two known medieval examples in Wales, this nunnery left behind glazed floor tiles indicative of lavish decoration and building designs. Perhaps more intriguing is the amount the wetland site could reveal about the nuns, who were farm owners, the subjects of poems and the recipients of post-conquest compensation awards, among other things.

A photo of a patch of concrete and mud terrain with archaeological measuring sticks
© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
Condiments at a Scottish Prisoner of War camp

A substantial Prisoner of War camp fence, marked out by 24 postholes around a square originally used for training the Tank Corps, set this Scottish site out as the place where Germans and Italians would have been held before it became a Polish repatriation centre. The discoveries suggested they enjoyed ketchup, fish paste, preserves and tea.

A photo of a hand holding out various shards of archaeology
© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
Pottery from a pub on haunted Scottish lands

A drover left behind the horse harness here, clad in copper alloy having slipped off his horse during a visit to a rural Scottish pub 200 years ago. This was a place of ghostly sightings and new roads, with archaeologists consulting old ordnance survey maps and pondering whether a 19th century coin could represent the demise of the inn which once stood there.

A photo of a dark red axehead
© Oxford Archaeology Ltd
Viking grave accompaniments in Cumbria

Axeheads, horn handles and more were left at the graves of these generations of 10th century Vikings, found in six burials on farmlands in a small village south of the border. Spurs, knives, beads and a wooden box of textiles are now being examined as part of the English Heritage investigation into discoveries with national importance.

A photo of five green roman coins
© Adam Slater
Coins from a Roman mint in Leicester

The Blackfriars site in Leicester, as archaeologist Chris Wardle observed, is “quite complex”: an industrial hub, it contained rubbish pits during the Middle Ages, had buildings half-completed upon it and was plundered for stone by later townsfolk. These coins came from the important Roman mint which once stood there.

© Aberdeen City Council
4,000-year-old pottery in Aberdeen

Small pits, post-holes and the residues of metal working and pots revealed the Bronze Age beginnings of a relatively undisturbed site which remained in use until the 19th century. On grounds producing 4,000-year-old pottery and roundhouses, the plans for future excavations are full of potential.

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