Archaeologists have unearthed a tiny figurine of a Celtic god on the grounds of the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. The Lamp Hill site was being excavated before construction of a new visitor center and parking lot on the National Trust property. Oxford Archaeology East started the dig in July and over the next three months discovered a Late Iron Age to Early Roman (ca. 100 B.C. – 150 A.D.) settlement that was much more extensive than they expected. There were dense layers of remains — livestock enclosures, agriculture, pottery making, homes — representing the variety of uses the land had been put to in antiquity.
Even with 19th century coprolite mining having damaged the center of the settlement, towards the outer edge of it archaeologists found two roundhouses, a corn dryer and a broken pot indicating that pottery was produced there. There was also imported pottery, fragments of a glass vessel and metalwork that suggest there was a significant trading network supplying Wimpole with goods. Military objects seem to have been particularly desirable. The settlement was rural, but it was located close to the Roman road known as Ermine Street (a derivative of its Old English name; the Roman name is unknown), which ran from London’s Bishopgate through Lincoln to York.
Approximately 300 metal objects were found during the excavation, including coins, horse harness fittings, Roman army uniform fittings, weapons, jewelry and iron nails. The stand-out metal piece is a copper alloy figurine two inches high. While the face has worn off, the individual is posed holding a torc, a posture typical of figures representing the Celtic fertility god Cernunnos.
Similar figures of Cernunnos have been found carved in stone, but it is the first metal version to be discovered in Britain and shows strong links between the ancient people of Britain and the Roman legionnaires.
Stephen Macaulay, Deputy Regional Manager at Oxford Archaeology East, which carried out the excavation, said: “The face of the figurine has been rubbed away, but we see similar figures of Cernunnos, so it’s like finding a worn version of Jesus on a crucifix, it’s the shape you expect to see.
“He was an important God to the Celts, but this shows how accepting the Romans were of other religions, they often just merged the Gods with their own. The Romans really ran their empire like the British did, they would conquer and then reinstate the people who had already been in charge.
“The Wimpole story is interesting as it gives us a snapshot of local people living alongside the legionnaires as they travelled up and down the country along Ermine Street.”
The objects unearthed in this summer’s dig are being cleaned and conserved. They will be placed on display at Wimpole in future exhibitions.
Researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered a Byzantine-era lamp wick. At 1,500 years old, it is one of the oldest wicks of very few known to have survived. It was found at the ancient Byzantine site of Shivta south of Be’er Sheva, the flax material preserved by the arid climate of the Negev desert.
The wick was unearthed 85 years ago by American archaeologist Harris Dunscombe Colt who excavated Shivta in 1933-34. The ruins were first recorded in the 1860s and Leonard Woolley and his assistant T.E. Lawrence took detailed plans of the site in 1914-15, but Colt’s expedition was the first systematic archaeological exploration of the site. The city has elements of Nabatean influence, primarily their characteristic desert management irrigation and agricultural techniques found at a farm next to the urban site. Aside from a few 1st century B.C. Roman structures, the archaeological remains in the city itself — churches, wine presses, homes, government buildings — are Byzantine.
Only a brief report on the Shivta dig in the 1935 issue of Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly was ever published. The artifacts are now being studied for the first time as part of the Negev Byzantine Bio-Archaeology Research Program, a comprehensive examination of Byzantine settlements in the Negev led by University of Haifa professors. The wick was sent to the Israel Antiquities Authority laboratory for analysis last year.
Dr. Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who studied the wick says: “It seems that this rare find was preserved thanks to the dry climate in the Negev. Oil lamps played a key role in daily life in antiquity, illuminating homes and public buildings after sunset. Lamps made of pottery or glass are often found in archaeological excavations, but to find a wick from ancient times is rare. That’s because they’re made of organic fibers, which normally disintegrate quickly and disappear into the soil, as well as because they are so small and are usually consumed by fire.”
The wick was found in its holder – a small copper tube in which it was inserted when it was lit. Microscopic examination by Dr. Sukenik showed that the wick was made of linen, which comes from the flax plant and is known for its use in textiles and clothing as well as for wicks in oil lamps.
“The Mishnah [, the main book of Jewish legal theory], tractate Shabbat discusses what materials may and may not be used as wicks to light Sabbath lamps. There too, linen is mentioned as a high-quality material for wicks, because it burns long and beautifully. The Mishnah mentions other wicks, which were made of lesser quality materials and were therefore prohibited for use in Sabbath lamps. Among these were fibers made from the plant called Sodom’s apple, which to this day grows in the Dead Sea area. It seems that the inhabitants of Shivta also chose to light their public buildings with linen wicks. Because flax doesn’t grow in the Negev it probably came from farther north in the country through commerce,” Dr. Sukenik added.
This wick was made of lower quality flax fibers. It was just a few centimeters long and meant to be consumed by fire, so might as well use the cheaper linen. The longer, more expensive fibers were saved for making clothes. It would have been used in a glass lamp, a simple cup or bowl filled with oil that was slurped up by the linen and provide fuel for the light.
The wick in its bronze carrier and other artifacts unearthed by Colt and his team at Shivta will go on display at the Hecht Museum in Haifa staring January 24th, 2019.
A gold bulla discovered by a metal detectorist in the Shropshire Marshes was one of the stars of the Portable Antiquities Annual Report unveiled at the British Museum on Tuesday. About 3,000 years old, it is the most south-westerly example of Bronze Age gold ever found in Britain and is one of only eight extant bullae found in Britain and Ireland. The only other bulla ever discovered in England was dredged from the Irwell ship canal in the 18th century, was sold for a couple of pounds and disappeared from the record. It is an exceptional piece.
This kind of jewelry is known as a bulla after the Latin word for bubble because it’s hollow inside. It is crescent-shaped with wedge-shaped sides and was created using at least two pieces of gold sheet. The top edge has collars on either side that were filled with clay or compacted soil, either deliberately or over the centuries it was buried. Between them is a tunnel which would have been used to thread a chain or necklace through to hang it as a pendant. The front and rear plates that make the body of the pendant are a single sheet of gold plate fixed at the mid-point of the top edge. A base plate closes the two sides of the plate. The fixing points are concealed so the plates and tube collar look like a single piece.
The components were probably soldered together as the use of solder is well-established in metal objects from this period in Britain. The composition of the bulla was tested with XRF-analysis, but the presence of solder — which in Bronze Age objects is higher in copper or silver than the rest of the piece — could not be conclusively identified.
The most striking element of the bulla is the decoration. Every surface is engraved with geometric designs filled with cut parallel lines and concentric curves. They are so precise, so even that the maker must have used a compass or divider to mark them out and then cut them using a graver with a 45 degree cutting edge. There are no punched or repousse patterns as have been found on other bullae. The deep grooves carved all over the piece suggest the gold sheet is comparatively thick and that the decoration was done on the completed pendant rather than on the sheets before they were put together.
To top it off, the lines go in alternating horizontal, vertical, semi-circular and diagonal directions, creating a dynamic graphic look as well as an incredible play of light that makes the gold reflect in different shades that underscore the intricate shapes. This is work of the highest quality, the greatest possible workmanship, material and design that is all but incomparable in a British context.
A pattern of holes cut into the floor of a rock shelter at Gobustan National Park in southwest Azerbaijan were used as a board game 4,000 years ago. Known today as 58 Holes or Hounds and Jackals, the game spread like wildfire over the ancient Middle East. A set was found in the tomb of 12th Dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat IV who died in the late 19th or early 18th century B.C. The board game carved into the rock shelter is from around that time. It can only be generally dated based on the age of the rock art outside the shelter to the second millennium B.C. when the area was occupied by nomadic cattle herders. If it can be more precisely dated to that time, then it will be the oldest 58 Holes game board known.
It was identified by Walter Crist, research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, who was looking for instances of the game in Azerbaijan last year. He had seen a photograph in a magazine of a 58 Holes game at an archaeological site near Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, but when he arrived to examine it he discovered to his dismay that the site had been buried under a housing development. He went to Gobustan National Park, as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its more than 6,000 rock engravings carved over 40,000 years of human occupation in the area since the last Ice Age, instead.
Park archaeologists were aware of the pattern in the rock shelter’s floor, but they didn’t know about 58 Holes.
The holes are cut into the rock of the shelter in a distinctive pattern that shows how they were used, Crist said. “There is no doubt in my mind — the games played for about 1,500 years, and very regular in the way that it’s laid out,” Crist said.
Though the rules of 58 Holes are unknown, many think it was played a bit like modern backgammon, with counters, such as seeds or stones, moved around the board until they reached a goal.
“It is two rows in the middle and holes that arch around outside, and it’s always the fifth, 10th, 15th and 20th holes that are marked in some way,” Crist said of the pattern cut into the rock shelter. “And the hole on the top is a little bit larger than the other ones, and that’s usually what people think of as the goal or the endpoint of the game.”
Players may have used dice or casting sticks to regulate the movement of counters on the board, but so far, no dice have been found with any ancient game set of 58 Holes or Hounds and Jackals, he said.
Very few Western archaeologists have explored Azerbaijan’s Apsheron Peninsula and little is known about its connections to the societies of the Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Near East in the second and first millennia B.C. The discovery of the game board is more than just a new datum in the history of play; it could be evidence of far broader cultural exchange.
A rediscovered painting by Andrea Mantegna has been rejoined with its companion piece for the first time in centuries. The Resurrection of Christ is now on the wall above The Descent of Christ into Limbo at London’s National Gallery in its Mantegna and Bellini exhibition. The two works were originally the top and bottom parts of a single painting but were separated at an unknown time in the distant past.
The Resurrection of Christ panel painting has been in the collection of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo for more than a hundred years. It had been in storage since the 1930s after art historian Bernard Berenson assessed it to be a late 15th or early 16th century copy of the lost original. In March of this year, Accademia Carrara curator Giovanni Valagussa was cataloging works in the collection created before 1500 when he noticed the painting seemed to be of very high quality for a copy. He was also intrigued by the unusual placement of a horizontal strut. These wooden supports were common in panel paintings to keep the wood planks from separating and warping, but they’re typically placed at the top and bottom of a painting, not in the middle. That oddly applied strut gave Valagussa the idea that the The Resurrection may have been part of a larger piece. Even for famous painters like Mantegna, artist in residence at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, Renaissance collectors were far more cavalier about cutting up artworks to fit their spaces and decorative motifs better.
When he examined the painting more closely, Valagussa found a key clue. In the bottom center of the piece, disguised by the inky darkness of the cave, there was a thin gold cross. It was just there; not connected to anything, almost a reflection of the cross at the top of the staff Jesus holds as he emerges from his tomb undeceased. He also spotted tiny cut marks at the bottom which had never been noted before.
The clues of the gold cross, the cuts and the wooden strut inspired Valagussa to seek out other known works of Mantegna dealing with the subject matter. He also had the panel’s surface infrared scanned. The CT scanner found that the soldiers’ full technicolor armor was painted over nude figures, a method Mantegna employed all the time.
With the evidence of a Mantegna authorship piling up, Dr. Valagussa sought out a possible work that would have been part of a large original. Jesus’ long weekend in Limbo between his death and resurrection was a popular subject often paired with depictions of the resurrection. Mantegna had made several paintings of Jesus visiting Limbo. One of them, now in a private collection after having been sold at Sotheby’s in New York for almost $30 million in 2003, also included a long staff in Jesus’ hand. When The Resurrection of Christ and The Descent of Christ Into Limbo were lined up to together, the gold cross of the former was perfectly perched on the staff of the latter, and the arches stones of the cave entrance matched up exactly.
Dr. Valagussa contacted Dr. Keith Christiansen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department of European Paintings and the world’s foremost expert on Mantegna. Christiansen studied the work assiduously and conclusively attributed it to the master himself, not his workshop, not a copyist. It would be impossible for a copy to match the undoubted Mantegna work so precisely. It had to have been cut in half.
Since the painting’s true authorship was rediscovered, The Resurrection of Christ has been restored in preparation for display. The owner of The Descent of Christ Into Limbo, an anonymous private collector who is not keen to let his $30 million masterpiece out of his hands, was prevailed upon to loan it to the National Gallery so the two works could be reunited at long last.
Mantegna and Bellini runs through January 27th, 2019. Next March it will move to the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.
Excavations near the Yorkshire town of Pocklington have discovered two rather gruesome Iron Age burials. One of a younger man who was speared repeatedly in the grave. The other was a senior man buried in a chariot with two horses. Both burials date to the 3rd century B.C.
The young man was between 17 and 25 years old when he died which appears to have been from natural causes. What happened to him after his death was not so natural.
A detailed examination of his skeleton shows that, probably after his death, his body had been ritually pierced by nine spears (five with iron tips and four with bone ones). He had also received a potentially lethal blow to his forehead, delivered with a wooden club or other similar weapon.
It’s not clear why his body was treated in such a manner. His grave and goods indicate he was a respected individual, a warrior. It’s possible he was “killed” again by weapons of war to convert his natural death into a warrior’s one. He could also have been deemed a danger, so much so that his corpse needed rekilling as in the case of vampire burials. The spears were left in the body, a tactic common in revenant prevention practices. Lastly, he could have been actually killed by the spears, placed in the grave alive and then speared to death. Ritual murders are not unheard of in Iron Age Britain, but their victims are usually found buried in bogs. The distinctive blow to forehead could have been struck first to silence and still the intended victim.
Fourteen other speared corpse burials have been found in Yorkshire. They contain between four and 15 spear jabs. The Pocklington burial was in the middle as to the number of times the deceased was pierced with spears, but it is at the top of the heap when it comes to condition. It is one of the most complete speared-corpse burials ever discovered.
Less than 200 feet away from the young warrior’s grave, archaeologists found the burial of a man who was in his 60s or 70s when he died. He was buried in his chariot yolked to two adult ponies. They weren’t dead. Not yet.
However, it is likely the animals were put in the grave alive and then yoked to the chariot, as if in motion. It appears the grave was then filled up with earth around the two live ponies, the chariot and the dead man.
Probably when there was sufficient earth in the grave to prevent the animals from moving, they were killed and decapitated. Their heads were then removed from the grave, perhaps even to “stand guard” outside the mound that was then constructed over the elaborate burial.
The archaeological evidence shows the man was sent off to the next world, not only in his chariot pulled by his still-standing ponies, but fully clothed and wearing a fine bronze brooch.
He was lying in a foetal position on his highly decorated 35cm diameter bronze, wood and leather shield and surrounded by the bones of six piglets, whose flesh had almost certainly been devoured during the man’s funeral feast.
Researchers have discovered pieces of a 50,000-year-old headband made of mammoth ivory in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southwestern Siberia. Curved and pierced at the sides, the wide band of ivory was worn tied around the head. Only one of the two fragments found thus far still has the hole the tie was corded through. The wear and tear indicates the headband was used thoroughly before being discarded at the site, not broken in manufacture.
Named after a hermit who inhabited the cave in the 19th century, this is the type site for Denisovan hominids, the place where in 2008 the finger bone of a juvenile female was found that had neither Neanderthal nor modern human DNA. Osteological remains of Neanderthal and Denisovan people have been found there, as have artifacts and tools used by early modern humans. It is the only site known to have been occupied concurrently by Neanderthals, Denisovans and modern humans.
The Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography has a permanent camp in this uniquely important paleontological motherlode. Past excavations have unearthed numerous mammoth ivory artifacts — beads, rings, bracelets, arrowheads, pendants, a sewing needle so well-crafted it can still be used today — but this is the first diadem. The ivory itself is 50,000 years old. Ivory can be crafted for years after the mammoth’s death, however, so the headband has been tentatively dated to between 45,000 and 50,000 years old. To narrow down the date of its manufacture and use, researchers will radiocarbon date other organic remains found in the headpiece’s archaeological layer. They will also attempt a more precise technology called optical dating which determines when a layer was at the surface by analyzing its photons.
Even with the ballpark dating, the diadem is far and away the oldest of its kind known. Other mammoth ivory headbands have been discovered at Paleolithic sites in northern and eastern Siberia. Some are more elaborately designed with decorations carved on the ivory. Dates on those pieces range from 20,000 to 28,000 years ago.
This headband isn’t decorated and there’s no evidence it held any specific symbolic meaning. Its size indicates it was worn by a man, one with an impressive noggin, and researchers think it was a practical object, a means to keep the fellow’s hair out of his eyes.
[Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography researcher Alexander Fedorchenko] explained that some 50,000 years after it was made, it fitted his own temple and the back of his head.
Its diameter could have changed with years due to gradual straightening of the curved part, he said.
‘Mammoth ivory plates were first thoroughly soaked in water to become more ductile and not crack during processing, and then they were bent under a right angle,’ he said.
‘Any bent object tends to return to their original shape over time.
‘This is the so-called memory of the shape effect. We must remember this while trying to judge the size of the head of the tiara’s owner by its diameter.’ […]
The tiara is a gift for trace evidence experts as it shows all possible ways of processing mammoth ivory used by ancient men from the Denisova Cave, like whittling, soaking in water, bending, grinding, polishing and drilling.
‘These are all possible technologies from A to Z typically used in the Paleolithic time, but which are usually associated with activities of Homo sapiens.
‘Here we likely deal with another, more ancient culture, because there was not a single piece of bone belonging to a Homo sapiens found in the cave’, said Fedorchenko.
The team is hopeful that more fragments of the headband will be found as excavations continue. Ivory is durable and inedible. If there’s more of it to be discovered, chances are good that it will be.
Archaeologists excavating in the village of Hozelec in northern Slovakia have unearthed a unique trove of Bronze Age jewelry. The site was excavated from April to July of this year as part of a study of Hozeleck’s history, but nobody expected to find Bronze Age artifacts. The team discovered small fragments of bronze spirals, funnel-shaped pins and three bronze discs.
The funnel-shaped objects are highly unusual because they seem to be made of a white metal. It’s possible that it’s bronze with a high tin content in the alloy. Another possibility is that the alloy was treated by some means, perhaps etched with an organic acid or heated to the exact temperature necessary to raise the white metal to the surface. Either way, the whiteness of the funnel pins indicates advanced metallurgic techniques that were previously unknown in Bronze Age finds in Slovakia.
Rarest of all, remnants of leather were found attached to the spirals, funnels and discs. This is likely all that’s left of the bag the spirals and funnels were buried in, with the perforated discs used to sew the top of the bag shut. The organic remains were radiocarbon dated to approximately 3,000 years ago. That dates the metal artifacts to the Middle or Late Bronze Age. It’s also only the second time ever that Bronze Age hide has been found in Slovakia, and the last time was 40 years ago.
The Bronze Age pieces were discovered early in the dig. Artifacts of much younger age were discovered in subsequent weeks, including Celtic buckles, a spade, firearm and horseshoes from the Middle Ages, a 1616 solidus coin, a link chain, a copper hook, knives and assorted other objects that were likely accidentally lost.
The finds have been put on temporary display at the Spiš Museum’s Historical Town Hall. Museum experts will study them further before a permanent exhibition is arranged.
A marble sarcophagus in which a young Roman man and then a show business pug (retired) were laid to their putative eternal rest could not perform its duties. The remains of both are long gone, and the coffin sold for its handsomely stark design, good condition and its checkered past.
The sarcophagus was made in late 3rd, early 4th century Rome (the city, not the Empire in general). The vertical striggilations around a central tabula ansata (tablet with handles) were typical design elements for sarcophagi of the period. The tabula is inscribed with seven lines of Latin that translate to: “To the Spirits of the departed. To Gaius Messius Sequmdinus [i.e. Secundinus], who lived 17 years and four months.”
Young Gaius’ family could afford an expensive marble sarcophagus and a prime burial location. It was unearthed in 1828 on the Appia near the tomb of Cecilia Metella by Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. The grandson of one Prime Minister (George Grenville) and nephew of another (William Grenville), Richard Grenville was an Oxford alumn, Member of Parliament, Privy Councillor, Knight of the Garter and holder of a number of other sinecure positions granted by his uncle.
He’d already climbed the political ladder as far as he could be bothered and squandered absurd amount of cash on a variety of dissipated pursuits when he hit the continent for the Grand Tour. He was past 50, so not your usual British Grand Tourist. More like a fugitive from irate creditors. Still he spent, indulging his penchant for archaeology by excavating the burial sites outside the walls of Rome. Gaius Messius Sequmdinus’ sarcophagus was a good enough find to schlep all the way back to Buckinghamshire. His remains, on the other hand, were left behind.
In 1837, Gaius Messius’ coffin was pressed into service again when the Duke’s beloved pug Harlequin died of advanced old age. The Duke was inconsolable over the loss of his dog. Harlequin was placed in the sarcophagus and buried on the grounds of Stowe House, seat of the Dukes of Buckingham.
Unfortunately for the pug (and for the family, I suppose) the next Duke of Buckingham was as terrible with money as his father had been. He was such a spendthrift that by 1847 he was forced to take a page out of Daddy’s book and run to Europe to dodge the creditors he owed a million a half pounds. The next year there was nowhere left to run and the patrimony of the Grenvilles and of all those heiresses whose maiden names got integrated into the hyper-hyphenation was sold to the highest bidder in a much-celebrated auction at Stowe.
The sarcophagus is listed as a lot in the catalogue, but it’s almost incidental. The real star is Harlequin.
A Roman sarcophagus, found by the late Duke of Buckingham, in an excavation made by him at Rome, in 1828, near the tomb of Cecilia Metella. It then contained the skeleton of the Roman youth whose name it bears – the bones of which were carefully replaced in the earth. It recently stood in the flower-garden at Stowe, and in it were deposited the remains of the late Duke’s favorite dog, who died of extreme old age in 1837. This trifling circumstance is mentioned because to all the Duke’s numerous visitors and friends, this little dog Harlequin was well known as a most sagacious and intelligent little animal; and his attachment to his master was very extraordinary. He was a native of Bologna, of a very rare family called the red-nosed pugs. He was small in stature, but of the utmost symmetry of form. His latter years were embittered by the effects of a quarrel with a large poodle, arising from jealousy, and in this encounter, he lost one of his eyes, by a bite from his furious rival. When the Duke met with him at Bologna, he was a chief actor in a travelling showman’s company; but he could be seldom prevailed upon to display his talents in dancing, after he was purchased from his former master, and promoted into a higher grade of society.
It wouldn’t do to have an actor in the family donchaknow. Fortune-dissipating wastrels, sure. We’ll crank those by the score until there’s nothing left to squander, but a trained dancer is a step too far.
The sarcophagus sold at Sotheby’s Ancient Sculpture sale on Tuesday for £40,000 ($51,000) edging out the high side of the pre-sale estimate by £5,000.
The skeleton of a man wearing high boots have been found lying face-down deep in the mud of the Thames. The remains were unearthed by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) Headland Infrastructure archaeologists at the at Tideway’s Chambers Wharf site in Bermondsey, part of a construction project building a new “super sewer” for the city of London. The new Thames Tideway tunnel will be the first major update of London’s sewer system since the Victorian era and the first to conduct the excretions, filth and fatbergs of a city of nine million away from the river that runs through it instead of directly into it.
Digging on the Thames foreshore means going through layers of dense waterlogged mud, the kind of medium adept at preserving organic material that would otherwise decay. The soft tissues of the man decomposed, but his leather boots are still going strong. They date to the late 15th or early 16th century. The tops of the boots are folded down to the knees, but would have reached thigh height when pulled all the way up.
They aren’t the sexy pirate thigh-highs. These were practical garments, not fashion statements. Made of leather quarters stitched together with flax thread, the boots had no heels and the one flat sole was strengthened with “clump soles,” at the front and back. They were also stuffed with a plant material that hasn’t been identified yet (perhaps moss) to insulate and customize the fit.
So much leather was expensive and was often reused. That kind of investment clothing wasn’t likely to be deliberately included in a burial. The position of the body — face-down, with one arm above his head with the other bent back on itself to the side — suggests an accidental death. Osteological examination found no evidence of perimortem injuries or any cause of death. His bones did reveal that while he was a young man by our standards, less than 35 years old, he had worked hard during his short life.
“We know he was very powerfully built,” says Niamh Carty, an osteologist, or skeletal specialist, at MOLA. “The muscle attachments on his chest and shoulders are very noticeable. The muscles were built by doing a lot of heavy, repetitive work over a long period of time.”
It was work that took a physical toll. Although only in his early thirties, the booted man suffered from osteoarthritis, and vertebrae in his back had already begun to fuse as the result of years of bending and lifting. Injuries to his left hip suggest he walked with a limp, and his nose had been broken at least once. There’s eviden[ce] of blunt force trauma on his forehead that had healed before he died.
“He didn’t have an easy life,” says Carty. “Early thirties was middle age back then, but even so, his biological age was older.”
He also had deep grooves in his teeth caused by repeatedly holding something or pulling something over the biting surface of the teeth. Fishermen and sailors were known to have passed rope between their teeth. If he had a river-based job like fishing, sailing, dock work or mudlarking, that would explain the boots. They would have been waders, an important tool very much worth the expense for a worker who had to wade in the deep, sticky muck of the Thames day in and day out.