Coffin within a coffin found near Richard III site
Archaeologists have unearthed a mysterious coffin-within-a-coffin near the final resting place of Richard III.
|The coffin-in-a-coffin. (Photo from the University of Leicester)|
The University of Leicester team lifted the lid of a medieval stone coffin this week -- the final week of their second dig at the Grey Friars site, where the medieval king was discovered in September.This is the first fully intact stone coffin to be discovered in Leicester in controlled excavations -- and is believed to contain one of the friary's founders or a medieval monk.
Within the stone coffin, they found an inner lead coffin -- and will need to carry out further analysis before they can open the second box.
Archaeologists have taken the inner lead coffin to the University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and will carry out tests to find the safest way of opening it without damaging the remains within.
It took eight people to carefully remove the stone lid from the outer coffin -- which is 2.12 metres long, 0.6 metres wide at the "head" end, 0.3 metres wide at the "foot" end and 0.3 metres deep.
The inner coffin is likely to contain a high-status burial -- though we don't currently know who it contains.
Oldest European fort in inland America discovered in the Appalachian mountains:
|The uncovered fort (Photo from the University of Michigan)|
The remains of the earliest European fort in the interior of what is now the United States have been discovered by a team of archaeologists, providing new insight into the start of the U.S. colonial era and the all-too-human reasons spoiling Spanish dreams of gold and glory.
Spanish Captain Juan Pardo and his men built Fort San Juan in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in 1567, nearly 20 years before Sir Walter Raleigh's "lost colony" at Roanoke and 40 years before the Jamestown settlement established England's presence in the region.
"Fort San Juan and six others that together stretched from coastal South Carolina into eastern Tennessee were occupied for less than 18 months before the Native Americans destroyed them, killing all but one of the Spanish soldiers who manned the garrisons," said University of Michigan archaeologist Robin Beck. Beck, an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Anthropology and assistant curator at the U-M Museum of Anthropology, is working with archaeologists Christopher Rodning of Tulane University and David Moore of Warren Wilson College to excavate the site near the city of Morganton in western North Carolina, nearly 300 miles from the Atlantic Coast.
The Berry site, named in honor of the stewardship of landowners James and the late Pat Berry, is located along a tributary of the Catawba River and was the location of the Native American town of Joara, part of the mound-building Mississippian culture that flourished in the southeastern U.S. between 800 and about 1500 CE.
In 2004, with support from the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation, Beck and his colleagues began excavating several of the houses occupied by Spanish soldiers at Joara, where Pardo built Fort San Juan. Pardo named this small colony of Spanish houses Cuenca, after his own hometown in Spain. Yet the remains of the fort itself eluded discovery until last month.
"We have known for more than a decade where the Spanish soldiers were living," Rodning said. "This summer we were trying to learn more about the Mississippian mound at Berry, one that was built by the people of Joara, and instead we discovered part of the fort. For all of us, it was an incredible moment."
Using a combination of large-scale excavations and geophysical techniques like magnetometry, which provides x-ray-like images of what lies below the surface, the archaeologists have now been able to identify sections of the fort's defensive moat or ditch, a likely corner bastion and a graveled surface that formed an entryway to the garrison.
Excavations in the moat conducted in late June reveal it to have been a large V-shaped feature measuring 5.5 feet deep and 15 feet across. Spanish artifacts recovered this summer include iron nails and tacks, Spanish majolica pottery, and an iron clothing hook of the sort used for fastening doublets and attaching sword scabbards to belts.
Fort San Juan was the first and largest of the garrisons that Pardo founded as part of an ambitious effort to colonize the American South. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who had established the Spanish colonies of St. Augustine and Santa Elena in 1565 and 1566, respectively, spearheaded this effort. Of the six garrisons that Pardo built, Fort San Juan is the only one to have been discovered by archaeologists.
Today's featured reading:
- The Milk Revolution; How a single genetic mutation first let ancient Europeans drink milk, it set the stage for a continental upheaval.
- Archaeologists and modern day witch doctors, by Phillip Segadika, Chief Curator at the Botswana National Museum.