Thursday, 15 December 2011

Historical probe after Stirling Castle landslide

A section of wall below Stirling Castle that collapsed last week is now the subject of an archaeological investigation.

The wall was on a steep bank above the Butt Well and had been built to retain garden terraces created in the 1490s.

Archaeologists are using the collapse as an opportunity to investigate fragments of one of Scotland's oldest gardens, made for James IV.

Members of Stirling Local History Society (SLHS) are leading the work.

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Violent knights feared posttraumatic stress

Medieval knights are often depicted as bloodthirsty men who enjoyed killing. But that is a completely wrong picture, new research shows.

The knights did not kill just because they wanted to, but because it was their job – precisely like soldiers today. Nor were the Middle Ages as violent as we think, despite their different perception of violence compared to ours.

“Modern military psychology enables us to read medieval texts in a new way – giving us insight into the perception of violence in the Middle Ages in the general population and the use of lethal violence by knights,” says Thomas Heebøll-Holm of the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, who researches the perception of violence in the late Middle Ages.

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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Archaeology Courses at the Oxford Experience 2012

1 July to 11 August 2012

The Oxford Experience is a residential summer school held at the college of Christ Church, University of Oxford.

The programme consists of 6 weeks of courses and participants attend for one or more weeks.

It offers a choice of twelve seminars each week over a period of five weeks. Participants do not need any formal qualifications to take part, just an interest in their chosen subject and a desire to meet like-minded people.

You can also find details of the various archaeology courses offered at Oxford Experience here...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Archaeology works start at heritage centre site

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have begun preliminary investigations at the site of the new Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre.

Focused on the car park in the area of the proposed new centre, the dig hopes to uncover evidence of the ancient Roman road which is thought to travel through the site.

Derek Alexander, head of archaeological services at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Prior to the 1950s, this land was agricultural fields and earlier archaeological features may survive below the tarmac.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Nevern Castle ancient inscriptions to 'ward off evil'

Experts believe rare 12th Century slate inscriptions found on a castle were probably made to protect against evil.

The dozen scratchings were uncovered during a three-week excavation at Nevern in Pembrokeshire.
Archaeologists think the stars and other designs were made by a serf, labourer or soldier some time between 1170 and 1190 when the castle was built.

They say they also give an insight into the beliefs of medieval working men.

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Monday, 3 October 2011

Archaeologists dig test pits at Bannockburn ahead of new battlefield visitor centre

The work to improve the visitor experience and interpretation at one of Scotland’s most important historic sites took a step closer today as archaeologists began digging test pits on the site of the proposed new visitor centre at the Bannockburn battlefield site.

Due to open in 2014 in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle, the new centre will enhance the presentation and interpretation of the major clash of arms that saw the armies of Robert the Bruce defeat the English army of Edward II.

The victory in June 1314 paved the way for Scottish independence and strengthened the position of the Bruce as king of Scotland. 

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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

July issue of BBC History Magazine features the Crusades

BBC History Magazine, a leading monthly periodical on all things history, features an article about the Crusades and Christian-Muslim medieval interaction. “Traders and Crusaders”, by Thomas Asbridge of Queen Mary University of London, examines how relations between Europe and the Islamic Middle East “were about more than war and hatred.”

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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Heavy Metal Hardens Battle

The French may have had a better chance at the Battle of Agincourt had they not been weighed down by heavy body armour, say researchers.

A study published July 19 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that soldiers carrying armour in Medieval times would have been using more than twice the amount of energy had they not been wearing it. This is the first clear experimental evidence of the limitations of wearing Medieval armour on a soldier's performance.

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Monday, 18 July 2011

Digging into Henry V111's defences

Archaeologists are about to start excavating the site of a blockhouse thought to have been built by Henry VIII on the Angle Peninsula to defend against French invasion.

Clinging to the edge of a sea cliff in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the blockhouse is a crumbling reminder of a bitter feud between Britain and France.

It was probably built as part of Henry VIII’s coastal defences after his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, when Britain was left politically isolated by a treaty between France and Spain – and the King was determined to defend his country from attack.

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Key keeper sought for 12th Century castle near Bridgend

A key keeper is being sought to take care of a 12th Century castle in south Wales.

Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service, needs someone to look after Newcastle, near Bridgend.

The post, which comes with a "modest" fee, involves checking the monument on a daily basis and keeping it free of litter.

The key keeper will also report any damage, vandalism or anti-social behaviour at the site.

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Monday, 4 July 2011

Discoveries at a Templar abbey in Ireland

Mourne Abbey in County Cork, Ireland, has been the focus of an archaeological excavation to discover more about the history of this medieval religious center.

The abbey was built around 1199 by the Knights Templar. After the rulers of Europe turned on the Templars and destroyed the order in 1307, resulting in 700 years of conspiracy theories, the abbey was handed over to the Knights Hospitaller. This knightly order got its name because its original purpose was to care for sick pilgrims in Jerusalem after the First Crusade, but soon they acquired more land and more power to become one of the leading forces in the Holy Land and Europe. They owned some of the toughest castles in the world.

Their power waned after the Muslims reconquered the Holy Land but the order still exists today. The abbey was abandoned when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries as part of his break from Rome in 1541. It has since fallen into picturesque ruin.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Oystermouth Castle discovery exceeds expectations

Remnants of an ornate medieval painting dating back to the 14th century have been discovered at Swansea's Oystermouth Castle.The surviving painting is thought to be over 700 years old and was spotted during conservation work in the historic attraction's chapel area.

Exposure to the elements has taken its toll on the painting over time but expert Cadw analysis suggests it's a double-arched canopy that contains the figures of angels.

Some of the clear elements of the painting that remain include a wing with multiple feathers and circular shapes that form a head with yellow hair surrounded by a nimbus.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cadw to undertake Denbigh Castle revamp

Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government's historic environment agency, has confirmed that it is to undertake an upgrade of Denbigh Castle, which will feature a new visitor centre.

A total of £600,000 will be invested in the overhaul of the North Wales attraction as part of Cadw's £19m Heritage Tourism Project, which has received European Union support.

In addition to the new purpose-built visitor centre, town wall walks are to be opened up and the presentation and interpretation of the property improved.

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Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Tower and the Household

6th August 2011 - 7th August 2011

This conference, the second in the Towers series, shares new research from throughout northern Europe, and addresses both the most fundamental and most neglected aspect of towers – namely how were they used and how did that change?

Further information...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Stones stolen from Nunney Castle in Somerset

Vandals have removed more than 30 coping stones from the perimeter wall of a castle.

The 14th century Nunney Castle in Somerset was targeted sometime this week, the parish council said.

It is not known what happened to the stones, but it is thought they might have been thrown into the moat.

Parish councillor Jeremy Gaunt said while a few stones had disappeared in the past, thefts had been nothing on this scale.

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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Revamped Stirling Castle reopens

The royal palace at Stirling Castle has reopened following a £12 million refurbishment to restore it to its 16th century glory.

More than five years of research has gone into the restoration project, to return the palace to the way it would have looked during the 1540s when it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, after it was built for her parents James V and Mary of Guise.

The revamp includes four giant tapestries and the installation of replicas of the Stirling Heads, carvings which date from after 1530.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Environmental Crusaders

How Medieval Knights remade Poland’s ecosystems

In 1280, victorious Teutonic Crusaders began building the world’s largest castle on a hill overlooking the River Nogat in what is now northern Poland. Malbork Castle became the hub of a powerful Teutonic state that crushed its pagan enemies and helped remake Medieval Europe. Now, ancient pollen samples show that in addition to converting heathens to Christians, the Crusaders also converted vast swathes of Medieval forests to farmlands.

In the early-13th century, Prussian tribes living in the south-eastern Baltic became a thorn in the side of the Monastic State of Teutonic Knights, which was formed in 1224 in what is now Germany and Poland. To remove the thorn, and protect Christian converts in the region, the Teutonic Order launched a series of crusades. By the 14th century, the conquests had produced a state that ruled over more than 220,000 people, Alex Brown and Aleks Pluskowski of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom report in the Journal of Archeological Science, including new colonists who settled into fortified towns and castles.

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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Stirling Castle skeletons show signs of brutal death

Tests on the medieval skeletons of five people found buried at Stirling Castle have suggested they suffered "brutally violent" deaths.

Their remains were found along with those of four others during renovations of the castle's royal palace.

Scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine the nine people died between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

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Stirling Castle's Amazon warrior revealed

THE discovery of the remains of an aristocratic Scottish "Amazon", killed in battle during the Wars of Independence, is set to rewrite the history books.

Her skeleton was among the remains of five "high status" individuals - all of whom had suffered violent deaths - found beneath the paved floor of the "lost" Royal Chapel at Stirling Castle.

The woman - simply known as "skeleton 539" - was a robust and muscular female, standing 5ft 4in tall. Archaeologists had previously suspected she had been a courtier at the Royal palace during the reign of Alexander 11. But detailed forensic tests have now shown that she was ruthlessly killed by a warhammer during one of the key conflicts during the Wars of Independence.

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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Archaeology volunteers uncover ‘lost’ castle

A castle that was once one of the most important buildings in the North Pennines and the gateway to the Bishop of Durham’s great deer park of Stanhope, is now revealing its secrets after centuries as a forgotten ruin.

Fifty volunteers from the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Altogether Archaeology and backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage are busy uncovering the ruins of Westgate Castle in Weardale.

From the 13th until the early 17th century, Westgate Castle served as the ‘west gate’ into the Bishop of Durham’s great deer park, and functioned as an administrative headquarters for the Bishop’s extensive estate encompassing the Old Forest of Weardale.

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Monday, 11 April 2011

Hole in the head: How medieval soldiers survived after battle thanks to early day brain surgery

A massive haul of bones discovered in a medieval graveyard has given an insight into the medical capabilities of people 1,500 years ago.

The skeletons, found in central Italy, show that many soldiers buried close to one another survived after suffering blows to the head with maces and battle axes.

There are signs of medical interventions with one man going on to live despite having a two inch hole in his head, probably caused by a Byzantine mace.

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Farnham Castle appoints New Chief Executive

Farnham Castle has today announced the appointment of Phil Hackett as its new chief executive. Hackett takes over from Jim Twiss, the former chief executive at the Castle for ten years, who retired last month.

Previously Hackett has worked for some of the country’s finest cultural icons; having managed and promoted over 500 destinations and attractions including museums, galleries, sculpture parks, historic abbeys, castles, stately homes, heritage sites, ancient monuments; World Heritage Sites & areas of outstanding natural beauty. He joins Farnham Castle from Shakespeare Country, the tourist board for Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Royal Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, the Cotswolds and the quintessential English market towns and villages in the Heart of England, where he was chief executive for over three years.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Visitor centre planned for Denbigh Castle

A new visitor facility is to be created at Denbigh Castle, North Wales, after plans to improve the attraction's tourist experience received £600,000 from Cadw.

The funding has been made available through the agency's £19m Heritage Tourism Project, which is supported by £8.5m of European Union investment.

Plans for Denbigh Castle will also incorporate the opening up of wall walks, enhancements to the site's interpretation and upgraded links with Denbigh's wider historic landscape.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Medieval castle tower to be opened up to the public for the first time

THE last-standing remains of a medieval castle in Lincolnshire will be opened up to the public for the first time.

The South Kyme Tower once formed one of the four corners of a castle, which was built on a Saxon site.

It is believed that the 14th century castle was once visited by Robin Hood and was built by a knight whose signature is on the Magna Carta.

The tower stands on private land and for years has been closed.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Mass graves to shed light on Britain's bloodiest battle

More than 28,000 died at Towton, but the Tudors' PR machine almost wiped it from history. Until now...

It was one of the biggest and probably the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil. Such was its ferocity almost 1 per cent of the English population was wiped out in a single day. Yet mention the Battle of Towton to most people and you would probably get a blank stare.

Next week marks the 550th anniversary of the engagement that changed the course of the Wars of the Roses. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 soldiers took part in the battle in 1461 between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne. An estimated 28,000 men are said to have lost their lives.

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

13th Century castle badly damaged after fire

A 13th Century Scottish castle has been badly damaged after a fire broke out in its clock tower, its owners have confirmed.

About 50 firefighters battled the blaze at Blair Castle in Pitlochry, Perthshire, on Thursday evening and averted a “near catastrophe” by preventing it spreading to the main building.

Using breathing apparatus, they fought the fire for 90 minutes but had to withdraw when the 19th century roof of the clock tower collapsed.

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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Stirling Castle's 16th Century defences unearthed

Archaeologists have found fragments of Stirling Castle's 16th Century outer defences.

The discovery was made during work to extend the castle's main shop and ticket office.

Historic Scotland said the find would help establish exactly where the defences stood.

European experts are believed to have been used to apply the latest Italian military engineering techniques at the castle in the 1540s.

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Giant step for Raglan Castle

VISITORS to Raglan Castle can see its 'hokey cokey' staircase for the first time in more than 20 years, following restoration work.

The 15th Century grand staircase, once used by the guests of the Earl of Pembroke, has been restored at Raglan Castle. The staircase, nicknamed the Hokey-Cokey staircase because it was removed and put back at least three times over 550 years, took nearly a year to complete as part of a major conservation project carried out by Cadw.

The castle’s curator, Jill Cale, said: "It has been closed for more than 20 years so it’s fantastic to see that section of the castle open to the public again."

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Friday, 14 January 2011

Your Favourite Archaeological Sites in Europe

Which sites in Europe have you most enjoyed visiting? A new Archaeology in Europe website allows you to post descriptions and photos of archaeological sites that you have visited, and to give ratings and comments for sites that are already in the database.

The site is very much in its infancy at the moment, and I would welcome contributions and feedback. It is envisaged that the site will grow into a useful source of up to date information for those planning to visit sites in Europe.

You can find the site at:

The site runs on Phile – a brilliant application developed by Mike Schiff and Sho Kuwamoto. Phile can be best described as a combination of an online database and a social network site, and it allows people with similar interests to share much more detailed information than the usual social network sites.

I am sure that Phile has tremendous potential for archaeological societies, fieldwork studies and other work groups. Take a look at

Thursday, 13 January 2011

HLF confirms Sandsfoot Castle funding

Efforts to restore Sandsfoot Castle near Weymouth, Dorset, have been handed a boost after receiving £194,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (WPBC) and the Friends of Rodwell Trail and Sandsfoot Garden are working on the scheme to preserve the historic structure.

The HLF grant will be used to repair the castle and to provide a new walk platform around the interior walls to enable public access for the first time in years.

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Tower of London calls in team of scientists to investigate mysterious Medieval wall painting

The Tower of London has allowed scientists to use eye-scanning software and infrared laser technology on a mystery Medieval wall painting which has baffled curators at the royal landmark.

A team led by Nottingham Trent University’s Dr Haida Liang used a portable Optical Coherence Tomographer, which allows them to see layers beneath the surface of paintings, and multispectral scanning – known as PRISMS – to investigate areas of the 14th century Byward Tower wall painting.

“This is an incredibly rare Medieval wall painting of extremely high quality,” said Building Curator Jane Spooner.

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Welsh castles 'more popular than Buckingham Palace'

Premier League, Scotland and Stonehenge rate highly in poll of potential overseas visitors

They are more than 700 years old, and built to pacify the unruly – but the castles of Wales could soon be letting down the drawbridge for thousands of foreign tourists, particularly from Poland, Russia, Italy and Germany if a poll of more than 10,000 potential overseas visitors proves correct.

A combination of Prince William being based in north Wales and what may be an untapped market for the remains of Edward I's "iron ring" of fortresses is raising prospects of a tourist invasion in an area that currently attracts only a miniscule proportion of visitors to the UK.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Chirk Castle's medieval guards appeal

It may be 700 years since the last major recruitment drive but custodians of a castle near Wrexham are looking for medieval soldiers.

Chirk Castle keepers have appealed for more volunteers to swell the ranks of guards who dress up to greet visitors.

Joanne Jones, a visitors' manager, said: "We're looking for enthusiastic people who have a love of history."

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