Our venues

Blog

Posts tagged with 'archaeology'

20 years of the Treasure Act

18 September 2017 by Vanessa

Logo

24th September 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the commencement of the Treasure Act 1996 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This September marks 20 years of the 1996 Treasure Act coming into force. This important Act allows museums across the country to acquire Treasure items for their collection, curating them and protecting them for the nation. Read more…

Could World Museum have some of the oldest human remains in Europe?

16 August 2017 by Jen G

Dr Emma Pomeroy from Liverpool John Moores University reveals all about some exciting discoveries in World Museum’s collections.

We’re excited to announce a new collaborative project led by researchers from the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University and World Museum. The project will radiocarbon date five human teeth and part of a jawbone from World Museum’s collections. These all come from the same site that yielded the oldest known human remains from north-west Europe. These teeth and jaw could be important evidence for some of the earliest members of our species in

George Smerdon, site foreman for William Pengelly’s excavations, at the entrance to Kent’s Cavern in 1890. Photo from the British Geological Survey.

the UK.

Kent’s Cavern, near Torquay in Devon, has been known as an important paleontological and archaeological site since it was first excavated in the 19th century. Various people have excavated the caves, most notably William Pengelly who worked there from 1858-1880, and excavations continue today. As well as bones from Ice Age animals like rhinoceros, bears, hyenas and lions, and stone tools produced by early humans, various fragments of human bones and teeth were also found in this network of caves. Some of these human bones are relatively recent, dating to the Medieval period or later, while others such as the KC-4 maxilla (upper jaw bone) date as far back as 43-42,000 years ago.

Some of these finds found their way to World Museum in the 1940s, following the death of Willoughby Ellis. He had volunteered at the Torquay Museum where much of the Kent’s Material is still kept, and obtained a significant quantity of the finds from the excavations at Kent’s. During his life and after his death, these bones and artefacts found their way into museum and University collections around the UK and beyond.

The upper jaw bone and five loose teeth from Kent’s Cavern in the World Museum collections

After visiting the World Museum collections in April, Dr Isabelle De Groote and I, both human bone specialists from Liverpool John Moores University, realised that the Kent’s human remains at World Museum had not been described in scientific publications before. Recognising these could be important evidence of the earliest humans in this part of the world, we won a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council to radiocarbon date the specimens at the University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU). Professor Higham and his team dated the KC-4 maxilla from Kent’s Cavern, which is still the oldest evidence of our species in the UK.

While we’re very excited, we’re bracing ourselves for a real roller-coaster ride!

Radiocarbon dating will only work if the organic part of the teeth and bone are well enough preserved. While methods for radiocarbon dating continue to improve, it’s not been possible to date some remains from Kent’s in the past. The famous KC-4 maxilla from the site, the oldest human remains in north-west Europe, could not be dated directly, only by dating animal bones found above and below it.

But even if we can date the teeth, we already know that some human remains from Kent’s are very recent, so it’s possible that these are just a few hundred year old. Much of the material excavated by Pengelly was assigned a number so that its precise location in the cave can be identified to within less than a metre. This approach was really pioneering for archaeological excavations at Pengelly’s time. If we knew where in the cave the teeth and jaw came from, that would give us an idea of roughly how old they might be. Unfortunately, this information on the human remains from the World Museum collections must have been lost long ago.

Nonetheless, we do have a few clues. The oldest material from Kent’s Cavern (before 10,000 years ago) was found in a distinct red-coloured deposit (soil), and one of the WML teeth has traces of a similar coloured soil still stuck to it.

One of the teeth from Kent’s Cavern, a lower wisdom tooth (number LIVCM 44.28.WE.3), in the collections of World Museum (1). This has red soil sticking to it, similar to the soils found in the older layers of the cave. An example is shown in image 2, which is a carnivore tooth still embedded in the ‘red breccia’ from the cave. Similar red colouring can also be seen on the KC-4 maxilla in Torquay Museum which was dated to around 42-43,000 years old.

The other specimens have traces of a much more brown coloured soil on them, suggesting they might be younger. Several of the teeth have large cavities, which tend to be more common in people who lived within the last few thousand years than in people who lived much longer ago. The only way to be really sure how old the remains are though is to radiocarbon date them.

Even if the teeth and jaw prove to be more recent, that is important information too. Once we know how old they are, they can be used for research about people and their health at that particular time.

The sun always shines at National Museums Liverpool!

24 July 2017 by Megan

Six long weeks to fill and entertain the kids is looming. But National Museums Liverpool has a fun-filled summer of events and activities planned for the whole family so there is no excuse to feel bored!

Read more…

Festival of Archaeology

20 July 2017 by Liz

July is always an exciting time of year for the Museum of Liverpool archaeology team. It’s prime digging season, there are always lots of finds to catalogue, and it’s Festival of Archaeology! Read more…

Astonishing Anglo-Saxon artefact!

22 June 2017 by Mark Adams

This rare and exciting fragment of Anglo-Saxon sculpture was found on an archaeological excavation at Mark Rake, Bromborough, Wirral in late 2016! The carved sandstone fragment is part of a slab carved between 900 and 1100 AD, and is decorated with incised lines marking out a border around what is probably a cross. The site where it was found lies in the middle of Bromborough village, just to the north of the parish church which is dedicated to St. Barnabas, and until recently the plot of land formed part of the Rectory gardens. The site came to the attention of Museum of Liverpool’s archaeologists when a planning application was made to build houses on the site after it was sold by the church.

Little is known of the origins of villages on the Wirral, but there are hints that many of them have been occupied since at least the Roman period and possibly longer; earlier excavations at Thorstone Drive, Irby and Hilary Breck, Wallasey, had found evidence for Prehistoric, Roman and early medieval buildings and other features and Mark Rake’s location, immediately next door to a church mentioned in the Domesday Survey, suggested that it had the potential for similar finds. Read more…

Four funerals and a wedding

26 January 2017 by Liz

view of tightly packed city centre buildings

Aerial view of Pembroke Place c1930s © Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

An amazing team of volunteers have been delving into historic archives to reveal some of the secrets of Pembroke Place as part our current project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. And there are some very dark secrets indeed!

The annals of Liverpool reveal that the last ever duel fought in Liverpool took place in a field on the corner or Boundary Place and Pembroke Place on 20 December 1806. Major Brooks was killed by Colonel Bolton. It seems a year-long spat developed after Bolton had refused Brooks a pay rise in the regiment. Bolton eventually became fed up of insults being targeted at him and called Brooks to a duel. Read more…

1066 and all that!

13 October 2016 by Liz

Friday 14 October 2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the most famous date in British History: 1066, the Battle of Hastings. The event took place in East Sussex, near the town of Battle, where Battle Abbey was established to commemorate the clash between the Normans and the Saxons. The date 1066 is very well-known, and the battle is recorded in detail in the Bayeux Tapestry, but did the events of that year have any impact on people’s lives in Merseyside? 

Read more…

Happy birthday Merseyside Archaeological Society!

15 September 2016 by Liz

South Castle Street excavation

South Castle Street excavation, 1976

Merseyside Archaeological Society (MAS) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year!

In the winter of 1975-1976 local archaeologists, both professional and voluntary, began to feel that the new county of Merseyside (founded in 1974) should be represented by its own archaeological society.

There seemed to be a threat to buried archaeology from development, and lots of people keen to preserve the past, and learn more about it. Read more…

Celebrating our archaeology volunteers

12 September 2016 by Vanessa

woman at a desk with trays of coins

Volunteer Sophie Flynn starting to clean a hoard of Roman coins

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary recording scheme for archaeological objects found by members of the public. Every year thousands of objects are discovered, many by metal detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past.

As the scheme’s regional finds liaison officer, covering Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, I find that every week more and more finds make their way into the office to be recorded for the PAS database. In order to process them all I need help and that comes in the form of some fantastic people willing to give up their time to volunteer.  Read more…

Galkoff’s – find out more and get involved!

31 August 2016 by Kay

Tiled shop front with decorative hoarding

Galkoff’s butcher’s shop today – behind protective hoarding, courtesy of LSTM

We will be holding a public engagement event at the Museum of Liverpool on Sunday 18 September, 2pm, open to anyone who wants to discover more about the Galkoff’s and the Secret Life of Pembroke Place project, provide feedback or register as a volunteer.

As you may know, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and National Museums Liverpool recently received initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support us looking at two important heritage sites on LSTM’s campus – court housing and the former Galkoff’s butchers shop. Read more…



About our blog

Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

Subscribe

RSS RSS Feed

Disclaimer

We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.