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Archaeo News 

It is often difficult to find some news about the most recent archaeological meetings, digs and breathtaking discoveries. As we are particularly interested in prehistoric and megalithic monuments, we are trying to collect every bit of information about them and to put it inside this website.
In these pages you can find the latest news about those special events, people and places mainly related to Europe's most ancient heritage.
Latest news:

Insights into the rituals of the Beaker people in Scotland
First humans in North America 10,000 years earlier
Neanderthals associated with Chatelperronian tool technology
Ancient eel traps in Australia
Go-ahead to road tunnel under Stonehenge
Prehistoric pottery figurines unearthed in China
Tibetans lived in the Himalayas up to 12,600 years ago
Neolithic pottery and flint tools found in Fife
£65m bill to preserve Scottish heritage sites
Check-up to 7,000-year-old mummies
DNA of human ancestors found in cave floor dirt
Polish archaeological research in Burkina Faso
Cypriot-style ceramics in Iron Age Anatolia
Ancient 'calendar rock' found in Sicily
Standing stones in Scotland linked to 1314 battle

  

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20 January 2017

  Insights into the rituals of the Beaker people in Scotland

There have been some recent interesting developments in the understanding of the lives of the Beaker people in the UK. Beaker people, so called from the distinctive fine pottery which they made, are first believed to have spread to the UK from Southern and Central Europe around 2,500 BCE. Now a combined team from Aberdeen University and the British Museum has been carrying out a detailed study of Beaker graves from a series of settlements in North East Scotland, stretching from Aberdeen to Inverness.
     They have noticed some specific rituals associated with the burials, in terms of position and orientation of the bodies, with apposing orientations depending on where the deceased was male or female. They also discovered that the already distinctive pottery in the graves had a local refinement found nowhere else. They were all decorated with a fine white powder which, on analysis, was found to be made from cremated bones, although it was not possible to determine whether they were from either animals or humans.
     The close attention they paid to the orientation of the bodies in the graves correlated with the particular type of stone circles that they built, examples of which have only been found in this area of Scotland and South west Ireland. The main feature of these circles is a centrally located recumbent large stone, within the circle, thought to be associated with the moon, as it is aligned with the arc of the southern moon. Does this explain the orientation of the burials, as part of a lunar ritual?
     The team also discovered, by analysing stable isotopes from the skeletons, that the population was fairly static in terms of spread or movement, not venturing far from the original settlements and strangely, considering the proximity to the coast, their diet contained very little sea food.

Edited from Mail Online (4 January 2017)

19 January 2017

  First humans in North America 10,000 years earlier

The earliest settlement date of North America, previously estimated at 14,000 years BP, is now estimated at 24,000 BP, at the height of the last ice age.
     University of Montreal Department of Anthropology researchers made their discovery using artefacts excavated between 1977 and 1987 from the Bluefish Caves, Canada, on the banks of the Bluefish River in northern Yukon near the border with Alaska. Their bold hypothesis is based on radiocarbon dating of animal bones.
     Doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon spent two years examining approximately 36,000 bone fragments culled from the site, revealing undeniable traces of human activity in 15 bones and probable traces in 20 other fragments. The oldest fragment - a horse jawbone showing the marks of a stone tool apparently used to remove the tongue - was radiocarbon dated to between 23,000 and 24,000 years BP.
     Professor Ariane Burke explains that: "Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals. These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans. Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada. It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age."
     Beringia is a vast region stretching from the Mackenzie River in Canada's Northwest Territories to the Lena River in Russia. Studies in population genetics have shown that a group of a few thousand individuals lived in isolation from the rest of the world in Beringia 15,000 to 24,000 years ago.
     Professor Burke adds: "Our discovery confirms the 'Beringian standstill hypothesis'. Genetic isolation would have corresponded to geographical isolation. During the Last Glacial Maximum, Beringia was isolated from the rest of North America by glaciers and steppes too inhospitable for human occupation to the West. It was potentially a place of refuge."
     The Beringians of Bluefish Caves were therefore among the ancestors of people who, at the end of the last ice age, colonised the entire continent along the coast to South America.

Edited from Phys.org (16 January 2017)

  Neanderthals associated with Chatelperronian tool technology

An international team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany has demonstrated that Neanderthals were responsible for the Chatelperronian, a transitional tool-making industry from central and southwestern France and northern Spain.
     Transitional industries are a key to understanding the process by which modern humans replaced Neanderthals in western Eurasia at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago. The older Mousterian industry of the Middle Palaeolithic in Europe can be clearly attributed to Neanderthals, and the later Upper Palaeolithic assemblages to modern humans. The makers of the Chatelperronian industry has long been disputed.
     Chatelperronian assemblages from the widely separated Grotte du Renne and Saint Cesaire archaeological sites in France have yielded well-identified Neanderthal remains. At the Grotte du Renne, 200 kilometres southeast of Paris, Chatelperronian layers also produced sophisticated bone tools and body ornaments.
     Using peptide mass fingerprinting, the team identified 28 additional hominin specimens among previously unidentifiable bone fragments at the Grotte du Renne. It is thought the bone fragments most likely represent the remains of a single, immature, breastfed individual, with radiocarbon dating consistent with Neanderthal ancestry.
     Study co-author and University of York Professor Matthew Collins says: "These methods open up new avenues of research throughout Late Pleistocene contexts in which hominin remains are scarce and where the biological nature of remains is unclear due to ancient DNA not being preserved."
     Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin, study co-author and Director of the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology says: "The process of replacement of archaic local populations by modern humans in Eurasia is still poorly understood, as the makers of many palaeolithic tool-kits of this time period remain unknown. This type of research now allows us to extract unrecognisable human fragments out of large archaeological assemblages and to revisit the mode and the tempo of this major event in human evolution with fresh material."

Edited from Sci News (23 September 2016)

14 January 2017

  Ancient eel traps in Australia

Traps built around a lake 6,000 years ago by the Gunditjmara people are among the earliest surviving examples of aquaculture anywhere. The traps are a series of canals and graded ponds running for some 35 kilometres around Lake Condah, 350 kilometres west of Melbourne, in southwest Victoria. Gunditjmara people manipulated water levels to encourage eels to swim into holding ponds, placing funnel-shaped baskets at spillways between ponds so that smaller eels could slip through and larger eels be harvested.
     The traps and other abundant wildlife provided by the lake allowed the Gunditjmara people to remain in one place, rather than following the nomadic lifestyle commonly associated with traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
     The site received national heritage status in 2004. The Gunditjmara were awarded native title over the area in 2007, and plugged the drain in the lake, allowing the fish traps to fill again. Work is in progress to improve the area for visitors, with proposed construction of interpretive signage, improved access and a traditional eel aquaculture interpretation centre. The traditional owners have requested that the features receive world heritage status, and are waiting to learn whether the Australian government has accepted their proposal.
     Monash University professor of Indigenous archeology, Ian McNiven, said that carbon dating of charcoal found during an excavation of one of the fish traps found it was 6,600 years old: "Muldoon trap complex is currently the oldest known stone-walled fish trap in the world and amongst the world's oldest known fish traps. It is also the oldest continuously used fish trap in the world. Indeed, the trap was still being used by Gunditjmara people at the Lake Condah Mission in the late 19th century."
     McNiven says the extensive network of traps were the "largest example of ancient freshwater fishing structures created by hunter-gatherers in the world" and were also important evidence in destroying the myth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did not farm or improve the land, which was part of the argument made by colonisers who claimed the land for themselves.

Edited from The Guardian (9 January 2017)

12 January 2017

  Go-ahead to road tunnel under Stonehenge

A tunnel is to be built under Stonehenge under plans announced by British ministers, in a move that will reignite the controversy over improving major roads around the ancient site.
     Chris Grayling, British Secretary of State for Transport, said he was taking a 'big decision' to turn the whole length the A303 road, which passes within a few hundred metres of Stonehenge, into a dual carriageway with a 1.8 mile long tunnel. More than 24,000 vehicles pass Stonehenge on the road every day, which campaigners have said disrupt the peace and tranquility of the World Heritage site.
     Grayling said the tunnel could enhance the Stonehenge site by removing traffic. The concept has been backed by its custodians, English Heritage and the National Trust. But others regard it as a scheme that could irreparably damage the world heritage site. Last year, the historians Dan Snow and Tom Holland attacked the proposals.
     "We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning. They sit at the heart of the world's most significant and best-preserved stone-age landscape. The government's plans endanger this unique site," said Snow, the president of the Council for British Archaeology.
     "There is so much waiting to be learned about how Stonehenge was built - if we decide, as a country, not to sacrifice it to road building. The battle to save our most significant neolithic landscape is an unending one," Tom Holland said. "It staggers belief that we can inject enormous quantities of concrete to build a tunnel that will last at best 100 years and therefore decimate a landscape that has lasted for millenia," he added.
     Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and president of the local chamber of commerce, says the "destructive" tunnel will "put a time bomb of irreversible destruction on one of the world's greatest untouched landscapes."
     Mike Heyworth, director at the Council for British Archaeology, said: "Ideally we would like a longer tunnel. There is no doubt there will be benefits to removing the A303 from the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge but there will be potential damage if the portals are in sensitive locations. It is a very sensitive archaological landscape. Ideally we want it to avoid sensitive areas and to make sure it doesn't have any impact on views or the setting. There was a plan for 2.7mile tunnel and everybody regarded that as the gold standard, but obviously we have to be realistic about the state of public finances."
     Up to £2bn ($2.4 billion, €2.3 billion)is being spent on the A303 and other works in the south-west as part of a £15bn road strategy announced in 2014. Proposals for a tunnel were first announced in 1989 but have since then been repeatedly shelved. The current plans will be put out to public consultation until 5 March. Following the consultation, the preferred route will be announced later in 2017 and will be subject to the completion of statutory procedures for development consent, with a view to starting work in 2020 and completing the new 'South West Expressway' by 2029.

Edited from The Guardian, The Telegraph, Council for British Archaeology, CNN (12 January 2017)

  Prehistoric pottery figurines unearthed in China

Pottery figurines have been unearthed in central China's Hunan Province, local archaeologists said. Among the pieces found in the Sunjiagang site of Changde City was a human-shaped figure that was about 4,000 years old. The statue is about the size of an adult's palm, and its face is well-preserved. Some pottery birds were found in the Tanglin relic site about 50 kilometers away.
     "These figurines were used in sacrificial rituals," said Wang Liangzhi, who headed the archaeological team. Guo Weimin, head of the Hunan provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology, said that the discovery is helpful for studying the prehistorical culture of central China.

Edited from Xinhuanet (12 January 2017)

  Tibetans lived in the Himalayas up to 12,600 years ago

Fossil human footprints found in 1998 high in the mountains of Tibet, in what was once the mud of a natural hot spring, have now been dated to between 7,400 and 12,600 years ago, making the ancient site of Chusang the oldest known permanent base of people on the Tibetan plateau.
     The 19 human handprints and footprints were found near Chusang, a village known for its hydrothermal springs, located on Tibet's central plateau at an elevation of about 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) above sea level.
     A previous attempt to date the prints estimated that they were 20,000 years old, but the region's complex geology prompted the new research, which combined three different dating techniques: thorium/uranium dating, optically stimulated luminescence, and radiocarbon dating of microscopic plant remains.
     The three methods gave the researchers a broad time range, showing that the prints could have been made anywhere between 7,400 years ago and 12,600 years ago. Genetic studies have suggested that a permanent population on the high central plateau dates to at least 8,000 to 8,400 years ago. Previous analyses of other sites suggested that the plateau's earliest permanent human residents had settled there no earlier than 5,200 years ago. Older known human camps exist in the region, dating to between 9,000 and 15,000 years ago, but they were likely short-term, seasonal sites.
     Round-trip travel times from a lower-elevation base camp to Chusang 11,500 years ago would have taken anywhere from 28 to 47 days, and crossed the eastern Himalayan range - impassable for much of the year. Another, more passable route would have taken 41 to 71 days. The remote location has led the researchers to conclude that the people would have been permanent residents.
     Chusang was likely a permanent settlement before people began using agriculture in the area. About 11,500 to 4,200 years ago, the region was wetter and more humid than it is today. Study co-leader and assistant professor of geology at the University of Innsbruck, Michael Meyer says: "There is a chance that there are older sites up here. I think we have to keep exploring."

Edited from LiveScience (5 January 2017)

11 January 2017

  Neolithic pottery and flint tools found in Fife

A hoard of Neolithic pottery and flint tools, which lay buried for over 4,000 years, has been uncovered during works to lay a pipe in Fife (Scotland). The find at Kincaple was made as engineers laid pipework to connect St Andrews University's green energy centre at Eden campus in Guardbridge with North Haugh in St Andrews.
     About 30 pieces of 'grooved-ware' pottery were excavated from a pit. Tools, made from flint - most probably from Yorkshire - were also found. Analysis of the flint showed the tools had been used for stripping bark and skinning animals, amongst other tasks, and probably represented a tool kit for someone.
     Archaeologist Alastair Rees, of archaeological and historic environment consultancy ARCHAS, said: "These finds provide yet another piece in the jigsaw to helps us reconstruct the mundane - as well as the more interesting - aspects of how societies interacted and travelled in Ancient Britain. The artefacts provide more evidence of long-distance trade, contacts and especially ideas across the country."

Edited from BBC News (9 January 2017)

  £65m bill to preserve Scottish heritage sites

It will cost £65m (about 79m US$ or €75m) to protect and restore Scotland's heritage sites over the next decade, according to a study on behalf of the Scottish government. The report by Historic Environment Scotland found more than half of the 352 sites it manages are at risk from hazards such as flooding and erosion. It also said climate change and extreme weather were putting 'additional stresses' on historic buildings.
     Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is responsible for managing and preserving buildings and monuments including Orkney's Neolithic sites. In its report, which was commissioned by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, it found that 89% of its sites were exposed to damaging environmental effects. Taking into account factors such as the presence of site staff and conservation teams, 53% were thought to remain at risk from hazards such as flooding and erosion, with 28 sites classified as very high risk and 160 as high risk.
     HES warned of 'resource challenges' as it estimated investment of £65m would be needed over the next ten years to ensure the "satisfactory condition" of its properties.
And it said an extra £2.1m was needed each year thereafter to sustain that condition.
     Ms Hyslop said: "Historic Environment Scotland's new conservation study gives us a detailed understanding of the impact on our own heritage sites and tells us what is required to protect and preserve them for the future." Dr David Mitchell, director of conservation at HES, said the report would "provide a basis for investment decisions over the next decade and determine how we will manage over 300 of Scotland's most cherished places and associated collections for future generations."

Edited from BBC News (9 January 2017)

  Check-up to 7,000-year-old mummies

More than 7,000 years after they were embalmed by the Chinchorro people, an ancient civilization in modern-day Chile and Peru, 15 mummies were taken to a Santiago clinic to undergo DNA analysis and computerized tomography scans.
     The Chinchorro were a hunting and fishing people who lived from 10,000 to 3,400 BCE on the Pacific coast of South America, at the edge of the Atacama desert. They were among the first people in the world to mummify their dead, at least 2,000 years before the ancient Egyptians. Now, researchers are hoping to reconstruct what they looked like in life, decode their genes and better understand the mysteries of this civilization.
     The 15 Chinchorro mummies, mostly children and unborn babies, were put through a CT scanner at the Los Condes clinic in the Chilean capital. "We collected thousands of images with a precision of less than one millimeter," said chief radiologist Marcelo Galvez. "The next phase is to try to dissect these bodies virtually, without touching them."
     The Chinchorro, who apparently had a complex understanding of human anatomy, would mummified their dead carefully removing the skin and muscles of the deceased. Using wood, plants and clay, they reconstructed the body around the remaining skeleton, then sewed the original skin back on, adding a mouth, eyes and hair. A mask was then placed over the face. The result looks like something in between a statue and a person - eerily lifelike even after thousands of years.
     Mummification was an intimate process for the Chinchorro, said Veronica Silva, the head of the anthropology department at Chile's National Museum of Natural History. "The family itself would make the mummy," she said. The earliest mummies were unborn fetuses and newborns, she said. The mummies were all made using the same basic process, but each one shows unique "technological and artistic innovations," she said. It was a process that evolved over time. The newest mummies are the most elaborate.
     Some 180 Chinchorro mummies have been discovered since 1903. All were found outdoors, placed near the beach. The Chinchorro apparently did not build pyramids or any other structures to house them. In fact, the Chinchorro civilization left no trace besides its mummies.
     Surprises have already begun to emerge from the CT scanner. The smallest mummy, it turns out, was not a mummy at all. "There was no bone structure inside. It was just a figurine, possibly a representation of an individual who could not be mummified," said Silva.
     Researchers also took skin and hair samples from the mummies to analyze their DNA, in hopes of identifying genetic links with the modern-day population.

Edited from Seeker (29 December 2016)

10 January 2017

  DNA of human ancestors found in cave floor dirt

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany think they may be able to extract the DNA of a human ancestor who's been dead for tens of thousands of years from dirt collected from the floor of Denisova Cave in Siberia. If they're successful, it could open a new door into understanding these extinct relatives of humans.
     Most ancient DNA is extracted from bones or teeth, but researchers hate to destroy precious bones.
     Anthropologist Matthias Meyer says other scientists have recovered DNA from a variety of species in the floors of caves: "You just take a shovel with some dirt, and then you look for DNA." Meyer has some of this ancient human DNA from cave floors, and begun analysing it, but he'll have to develop methods to be certain that the DNA came from an ancient human bone, and not a more recent human cave explorer or contaminating bacteria.
     A colleague of Meyer's, Janet Kelso reveals that: "We've initiated a project just this year to try and generate sequences from a large number of Neanderthals, to try to understand something about the Neanderthal population histories." If archaeologists can get DNA samples from Neanderthals at various time points in their history, Kelso says, "we can see how were they adapting to the environment. How did they differ over time? Can we understand what happened to them in the end?"
     Another question is how often Neanderthals and modern humans interbred.
     Kelso says most modern human populations have at least some genetic connection to Neanderthals, but there are many questions about when and where Neanderthals made their contributions to the modern human gene pool.
     The answers may come from dirt on the floor of caves.

Edited from NPR (4 January 2017)

  Polish archaeological research in Burkina Faso

Polish scientists have spent years studying communities in Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in West Africa, north of Ghana. During October and November, archaeologists chose locations to excavate in the north of the country, inhabited by the Kurumba - people that arrived there a few hundred years ago, perhaps from what is now Mali or Niger to the north or northeast.
     The Kurumba community numbers around 300,000 people, with a very extensive mythology. According to tradition, their ancestors arrived in the northern part of Burkina Faso in an "iron house". On arrival they subjugated the local Berba people and created their own kingdom. In the eighteenth century the Kurumba were dominated by the Mossi, but have maintained the old chiefly system headed by the king. Researchers know all the rulers of the Kurumba, but not for how many years each ruled.
     Surface surveys for objects such as fragments of pottery yielded artefacts including flint tools and waste resulting from processing flint, from between 50,000 and 15,000 years ago - one of the oldest known traces of human presence in the country.
     Archaeologists also focused on Damfelenga Dangomde, a long abandoned artificial mound formed from the accumulated remains of settlement. Until now it was only known that the site was inhabited until the end of the nineteenth century, when the Kurumba moved to the contemporary capital city.
     Archaeologists were surprised to discover a necropolis of burial mounds of stone and earth approximately 1300 years old in the vicinity of the settlement - the largest nearly 2 meters high - in a place previously thought to be an abandoned village. Scientists are hoping they will be allowed to carry out excavations within this royal necropolis, located next to the legendary "iron house" - an area closed to tourists and subject to local taboo.

Edited from Science & Scholarship in Poland (2 January 2017)

  Cypriot-style ceramics in Iron Age Anatolia

Cypriot-style ceramics were popular in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) during the Iron Age, but new research shows some were produced locally, and not imported from central and southern Cyprus, requiring a major revision of our understanding of economic interaction in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE.
     Steven Karacic from Florida State University and James Osborne from the University of Chicago analysed the chemical composition of ceramics found at three sites in southern Turkey's Hatay region. They found that imported and local Cypriot-style ceramics contained different chemical signatures, which helped them determine where they were produced. Their work suggests people from Chatal Hoeyuek and Tell Judaidah bought imported ceramics from Cyprus, while those in Tell Tayinat bought a mixture of locally made and imported Cypriot-style objects.
     To trace the ceramics' place of production without harming them, the researchers first fired high-energy X-rays at the objects. As atoms absorb the energy, they emit a small amount of energy. Different chemicals produce different energy emission signatures, providing clues to the objects' composition.
     Karacic and Osborne found that common ceramics from Tell Tayinet - produced locally, but not in the Cypriot style - had a certain emission signature, while Cypriot-style ceramics from Chatal Hoeyuek and Tell Judaidah had a different signature. Cypriot-style ceramics from Tell Tayinet were split between the two.
     To confirm their results, the pair used neutron activation analysis, bombarding a sample with neutrons, causing the elements within to form radioactive isotopes whose distinctive emissions and decay paths are analysed to expose the elemental composition of the sample.
     Analysed this way, the two found distinct differences between ceramics produced in Anatolia and those from Cyprus, confirming that some of the Tell Tayinat ceramics were produced locally.
     Karacic and Osborne suspect that feasting practices among the wealthy in Tell Tayinet drove demand for Cypriot-style ceramics, and that local potters may have copied the style, or Cypriot potters moved to Anatolia to be nearer their customers.

Edited from PLOS One (30 November 2016), Cosmos (1 December 2016)

7 January 2017

  Ancient 'calendar rock' found in Sicily

Italian archaeologists have found an intriguing 'calendar rock' in Sicily. Featuring a 3.2-foot diameter hole, the rock formation marked the beginning of winter some 5,000 years ago. The holed Neolithic rock was discovered Nov. 30, 2016 on a hill near a prehistoric necropolis six miles from Gela (Sicily, Italy) by archaeologists Giuseppe La Spina, Michele Curto, and Mario Bracciaventi while conducting surveys of WWII-era bunkers.
     "It appeared clear to me that we were dealing with a deliberate, man-made hole," La Spina said. "However, we needed the necessary empirical evidence to prove the stone was used as a prehistoric calendar to measure the seasons."
     Using a compass, cameras and a video camera mounted to a GPS-equipped drone, La Spina and colleagues carried out a test in December at the winter solstice. The idea was to find out if the rising sun at solstice aligned with the distinct hole in the rock feature. According to La Spina, "At 7:32 am the sun shone brightly through the hole with an incredible precision. It was amazing."
     The 23-foot high holed stone would have marked a turning point of the year and the seasons, anticipating some hard and cold time ahead. The moment likely had a ritual importance. In fact, further investigation of the area revealed the site was a sacred place at the end of the third millennium BCE. Not far from the holed stone, the researchers found several intact burials known as grotticella tombs. Excavated in the rock, these chamber tombs were the main form of burial for the Castelluccio culture that fluorished in the Sicilian early Bronze Age.
     Interestingly, on the east of the calendar rock, La Spina and colleagues found what appears to be a menhir, or upright stone. The 16.4-foot-tall stone lay on the ground, but the presence of a pit near its base suggests the megalith was originally standing upright. "It stood at a distance of 26 feet, right in front of the rock's hole," La Spina said. The geological composition of the calendar rock and the menhir are different, indicating the monolite was cut and brought to the site from elsewhere. "This obviously reinforces the sacrality of the site," La Spina said.
     At least two other holed stones have been found in Sicily in the past. "The newly found calendar rock appears to have been made by the same hand that carved the other two rocks," archeo-astronomy expert Alberto Scuderi, regional director of Italian Archaeologist Groups, said. Scuderi discovered the two holed stones near Palermo.
     According to Giulio Magli, professor of archaeo-astronomy at Milan's Polytechnic University, the finding is very interesting, especially when associated to two holed stones found in the past. "More research and scientific measurements must be taken," Magli said. "We should not consider the holed stones as a precise calendars or an instruments to observe the sun's cycle, but rather monuments that provided information on the solstices for practical and agricultural purposes."

Edited from Seeker (5 January 2017)

  Standing stones in Scotland linked to 1314 battle

Radiocarbon dating has revealed a pair of standing stones near the entrance to Police Scotland Central Division's Randolphfield HQ, in Stirling, are not prehistoric, as they were erected around the time of the first major victory of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It is now thought they mark the spot where Sir Thomas Randolph - Earl of Moray and a commander in Robert the Bruce's army - routed around 300 English cavalry on the first day of the battle.
     It was previously believed that the stones were positioned more than 3,000 years ago in alignment with an ancient burial ground nearby, and possibly used as landmarks in the battle.
     Dr Murray Cook, Stirling Council's archaeologist, first excavated the site ahead of the 700th anniversary of the battle two years ago, and this year obtained further funding to obtain a radiocarbon date of one of the stones' foundations. He said: "These stones have been linked to Randolph's skirmish, though I thought they were more likely to be prehistoric and possibly incorporated into the battle. This year I received funding and I have now obtained a radiocarbon date in association with the foundation of the stone. The date that came up is contemporary with the battle. It raises the very real possibility that the stones were constructed to mark the site of Randolph's victory on the first day."
     That victory not only prevented the English from achieving their aim of reaching Stirling Castle, but also set the Scots up for an historic victory over King Edward II's much larger army the following day. The stones, said to come from the city's Castle Rock, would have been made put in the ground to commemorate the event, like a modern day plaque.
     Police Scotland, who gave permission for the experts to investigate the stones on their property, said they could be made 'more accessible and visible to the public' following the new discovery.

Edited from The Herald Scotland (30 December 2016)

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