Not-So-Dark Ages Revealed at King Arthur Site

King Arthur, Tintagel Excavation, Smithsonian

A view of the ruins of Tintagel castle, built in the 13th century by English royals eager to strengthen their ties to legendary King Arthur, who was said to be conceived at the site. Luxury goods unearthed at royal stronghold show that Celtic rulers thrived at the legendary site of Tintagel.

A recent discovery in southwest England is making headlines for its association with King Arthur, but archaeologists are hailing it as an incredibly important find regardless of any connection with Britain’s greatest legendary ruler.

Excavations at Tintagel, a rocky promontory on the coast of Cornwall, have revealed evidence of massive stone fortifications and luxury goods imported from as far away as modern-day Turkey, all dating to a poorly understood period in British history that began with the collapse of Roman rule on the island around 400 A.D.

The earliest mentions of a leader named Arthur in the historical record are tied to events that occurred between roughly 400 and 600 A.D., the period in which archaeologists believe the fortifications at Tintagel were built. According to an account written centuries later, the legendary king was conceived at Tintagel.

Luxury Trade During the So-called “Dark Ages”

Over the summer, archaeologists at Tintagel have found evidence for more than a hundred buildings that most likely date from the fifth to seventh centuries A.D., a period when the site is believed to have been an important royal stronghold of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia.

Initial evidence for the Celtic stronghold was first revealed during excavations in the 1930s. Unfortunately, the home of C.A. Raleigh Radford, lead archaeologist on the project, was bombed during World War II and the scientific results were never properly published. In the 1990s, archaeologists reopened Radford’s trenches at Tintagel and discovered fine ceramics and glassware from all over the Mediterranean world.

More than two decades later, researchers have returned to Tintagel for the beginning of a five-year project funded by the charity English Heritage to better understand what was happening at the site during a time erroneously referred to by some historians as the “Dark Ages,” and by others as “Sub-Roman” or “Post-Roman.”

Why were coastal trading posts like Tintagel mysteriously abandoned in the seventh century?  read more –>  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/…

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Bog Butter Anyone?

Bog Butter, Smithsonian

Recently, Jack Conway was “cutting turf,” the term for digging up blocks of moss in Emlagh peat bog in County Meath, Ireland, when he discovered a 22-pound lump of butter. The find, believed to be 2,000 years old, according to the Irish Times, isn’t an unusual occurrence in Ireland, where every year, people digging up peat moss to heat their homes encounter chunks of the dairy.

The discoveries, which are called Bog Butter, can be thousands of years old. In 2009, a 77-pound, 3,000-year-old oak barrel of the stuff was found in County Kildare. In 2013, a turf cutter in County Offaly found a 100-pound, 5,000-year-old chunk. Many examples of the butter are found in Irish museums, including the place dedicated to the golden spread, Cork’s Butter Museum.

So what is Bog Butter? It’s exactly what it sounds like—butter made from cow’s milk, buried in a bog. What makes it special is its age. After spending so much time in the cool, damp peat, it starts to take on the appearance and consistency of paraffin wax. According to a study on bog butter by researchers from the University of Bristol, some of the chunks are non-dairy. When analyzing carbon isotopes in nine samples of the butter, they found that six of them were indeed dairy products, while the other three were from animals, perhaps tallow (rendered fat) stored for later use.

In a paper published in the Journal of Irish Archaeology, Caroline Earwood explains that bog butter is usually found in earthenware pots, wooden containers, animal skins, or wrapped in bark and takes on a pungent, cheesy odor. Looking at over 274 instances of bog butter from the Iron Age to medieval times, Earwood concluded that early Celtic people probably sunk the butter in the bog simply to preserve it or protect from thieves. The cool, low-oxygen, high acid environment of the bog made a perfect natural refrigerator. Seeing as butter was a valuable commodity and was used to pay taxes, saving it for times of drought, famine, or war would have been a good idea … read more –>  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/…