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York Minster, St Paul’s Cathedral, and other bits and pieces

7 April 2012

At www.stuff.co.nz/science/6700701/Ancient-skeleton-linked-to-polynesia … road construction has come across a burial going back 8000 years on Taiwan and believed to be of direct descent of the people that eventually became the Polynesians.

A geophysical survey on Skomer Island, a former Viking stronghold just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, has revealed the island was settled over thousands of years, from the Neolithic to Roman times – see www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-17644413

Popular Archaeology has a report on an ancient Canaanite and later, Phoenician port and city in what is now northern Israel. There is a substantial amount of remains under the ground and also beneath the sea, offshore. Excavations are at an early stage but one to watch – by revisionists of all flavours (see http://www.popular-archaeology.com/issue/march-2012/article/archaeologis…

Meantime, in The Guardian, www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/05/york-minster-archaeology-saxon-fi… (see also www.bbc.co.uk for the same story) … archaeologists think they have discovered the remains of a Saxon era building. In 627AD King Edwin of Northumbria and his family were baptised by St Paulinus in what is thougt to have been a wooden church on the site of York Minster. Two post holes have been found and are the centre of attention.

In Current Archaeology 266 (April/May issue) a University of Kent study into Levallois flakes, the preferred tool kit of Neanderthals, has revealed they required cognitive skills on a par with modern humans. The same issue has an article on St Pauls Cathedral as it was before the Great Fire of London and the Wren masterpiece. The report provides some nice history too. For example, the medieval cathedral had a steeple that rose 400 feet above the ground, over 200 feet above the body of the cathedral itself, and it was struck by lightning in the 15th century and reduced to a stump. It had stood since 1220AD and a depiction of it can be found on the Great Seal of London (13th century). Another early depiction is etched into a chalk stone wall of Ashewell church in Hertfordshire (14th century). Chalk stone was quarried at Totternhoe near Dunstable since Roman times and was used in lots of local churches (in Bucks, Beds and Herts), mainly inside. Chalk stone came from a specific hard layer that outcropped on a chalk spur to the north of Dunstable Downs and was popular in the medieval period, and again, in the 18th century. It is still quarried nowadays, but to order, mainly for repairs to buildings. It was of course a suitable material for carving ornate designs – and was used on fonts for example, with fluted patterns.

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