Mass grave in the centre of Oxford

Archaeologists now believe a dozen skeletons discovered in a mass grave in the centre of Oxford may have belonged to executed criminals from Saxon times.

A team of three archaeologists have been digging in the quadrangle of St John’s College in Blackhall Road, off St Giles, for nearly two weeks since the discovery was made.

The bones of 12 or 13 bodies have gradually been uncovered after a body part was discovered 80cm below ground level by diggers excavating the plot before a new quadrangle is built.

City archaeologists have labelled the find the most exciting in Oxford for nearly half a century, and predict more bodies could be found in the area.

But they cannot date the corpses exactly because the bodies were stripped of clothing before they were thrown into the mass grave.

Sean Wallis, project manager for Thames Valley Archaeological Services, said: “We were expecting to find evidence of Medieval activity, but we did not picture to find any bodies.

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“They look as if they were all young men in their late teens, and we are looking at Saxon times.

“We originally thought they could be Roman but now we think it could be more recent, based on the condition of the bodies, which survived very well.

“We have no idea how many we will find – they are still popping up.”

The archaeologists’ job has been made more difficult by the fact the bodies have been thrown on top of one another, rather than laid out neatly like a Christian burial.

Mr Wallis said: “It looks like a mass grave.

“The bodies have been chucked in, and it doesn’t look as though there was a pit dug deliberately.

“They could be executed criminals or they could be battle victims. Some of it does look grisly. It doesn’t look as if they met a particularly nice end.

“It is exciting. I’ve been digging for 10 years and I’ve not found anything close to this.”

Brian Durham, Oxford City Council‘s archaeologist, said: “This is certainly rare. I haven’t seen anything like it in the 40 years I’ve been digging in the city.

“The idea that they might be battle victims is possible, but I think we will only know that if we start finding war wounds on them as they remove them. They are all males of fighting age so it makes sense.”

He said the 12m by 3m spot could have been some sort of memorial, and added: “These people’s bodies were stored somewhere else until they had decayed a bit, and then buried quite roughly.

“There are limbs lying on their own, but they are whole limbs.

“There were occasions when young men might have got chopped up. There are a couple of occasions when Oxford was beseiged and it is a possibility they could be casualties of battle.”

Original article title “Experts bone up on grisly relicsby OXFORD MAIL’S George Hamilton

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Ancient city of Nessebar – Bulgaria

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Date of Inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: 1983

The Nesebur Peninsula – the ancient Mesambria, which was called Mesemvria in the Early Middle Ages and later – Nesebur, was populated more than three millenniums ago, at the end of the Bronze Age. The ancient Thracians named it Melsambria, what in their language means “the town of Melsa” – the legendary founder of the settlement.

About the end of the VI century BC, the first Greek colonizers arrived in the settlement – they were Dorians by origin. The settlement was gradually fortified; temples, gymnasium and theater were built. The settlement transformed itself in a classical polis – a town with the respective structure, functions and administration.

Ships were built in the town and a number of handicrafts were developed – mainly processing metal. Mesambria began making its own coins around 440 B.C.
The town has reached its boom during the III – II centuries BC when gold coins were also emitted. It maintained busy trade relations with the towns along the Black and Aegean Seas, as well as those on the Mediterranean coast.

In year 72 BC the town was conquered by the Roman army. After a short period of occupation, around the beginning of the first century AD, it was permanently included in the Roman Empire. Mesembria, as it was called at this time, has preserved its fortress walls and the big public buildings. It kept making own bronze coins and remained an important commercial and cultural center on the Black Sea coast of the Roman Thrace.

After the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople and Christianity was adopted as an official religion, favorable conditions for the revival of the Black Sea towns were created. In Mesembria new Christian temples – basilicas were built as well as new water – supply system and town’s thermae. All construction work was performed under the supervision of leading empire’s architects and builders, following the pattern of the capital’s prototypes… [Read more]

The Ancient Nessebar

NesebarWiki

Nessebar on UNESCO’S WHC site
See also:

Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
Date of Inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: 1985

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
Date of Inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: 1979

ZVARTNOTS – Armenia

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Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots

Date of Inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: 2000

Justification for Inscription

Criterion (ii): The developments in ecclesiastical architecture represented in an outstanding manner by the churches at Echmiatsin and the archaeological site of Zvartnots had a profound influence on church design over a wide region.

Criterion (iii): The churches at Echmiatsin and the archaeological site of Zvartnots vividly depict both the spirituality and the innovatory artistic achievement of the Armenian Church from its foundation.

The construction of Cathedral of Zvartnots or the Echmiadzin Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator began in 643, by the orders of Catholicos Nerses III Ishkhantsi [one of the most learned scholars of the era, versed in the sacred teachings of the still surviving currents of the ancestral k‛rmapetakan Wisdom Schools], and was completed in 652.

This unique edifice, composed of a three-tiered circular structure was the crowning glory of the central-domed motif in church construction. The design of Zvartnots is based upon a square cruciform plan containing four apses surrounded by the ring-like hall.

The Cathedral had been magnificently decorated with sculptured floral and geometric patterns and decorative pillars and arches. Historians and architects have praised the unique and beautiful design of the Zvartnots Cathedral. The triple-decker design of Zvartnots Cathedral was emulated in Armenia and neighboring countries and has had a significant influence on Armenian architectural design in general throughout the succeeding centuries. Zvartnots is considered a manifestation of masterpiece architecture and represents the synthesis and culmination of centuries of Armenian experience in the art of stone building.

The exterior as well as the interior of the Cathedral was covered by beautiful frescos and Armenian geometric symbols. One section in the interior of the Zvartnots Cathedral housed the Catholicosal seat, monks’ quarters and the chapel. The Grand Hall served the function for holding mass and other processions. The Cathedral complex also included a library and number of adjoining buildings that served various functions.

Armenian Highland

Zvartnots Cathedral

Zvartnost on UNESCO’s WHC site

BUTRINT – Albania

gr. Βουθρωτόν              lat. Buthrotum

Butrint occupies the small Ksamili peninsula between the straits of Corfu and Lake Butrint. Due to such a strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea, there were many military operations for the control of the area from the first Peloponese war (V century BC) until the Napoleonic wars (XIX century).

Butrint was controlled by the tribe which was part of the Greek Epirot Federation. Colonists from Corcyra settled in Butrint around the IV century BC. Within a century of the Greeks arriving, Butrint had become one of the ancient world’s major fortified maritime trade centres with its own acropolis

Butrint then came under the control of the Illyrians anxious to control the maritime trade and during the 3rd Macedonian war in 167 BC, the city was conquered by the Romans. The Romans used the port as a supply base for military campaigns in Epirus and Macedonia in the II century BC and area was afterwards “romanised”. With the creation of the Byzantine Empire in the East, Butrint was therein enveloped and remained part of the Empire until the latter’s fall at the hands of the Turks in 1453.

Barbarians, Vandals, Slavs, Goths invaded the city, the Slavs settling there from the VII century until the Byzantines expelled them in the IX century…[read more]

1990

Butrint was nominated as a World Heritage Site

1991

Butrint’s nomination was deferred

1992

Butrint designated as a World Heritage Site

1997

Butrint was put on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger

1998

Office for the protection of the World Heritage Site of Butrint created

1999

Extension of the Butrint protected zone

2000

Butrint National Park established

2003

Inscribed on the Ramsar

2005

Butrint removed from World Heritage Site in Danger list

In 1972 UNESCO adopted the Convention ‘Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’ and under its auspices introduced the World Heritage List. Butrint was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1990 but in May 1991 ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) recommended that its inclusion be deferred to await verification of various definitions and plans relating to its protection. By 1992 ICOMOS was satisfied that all the protective requirements were in place and they recommended that Butrint – the intramural area covering 16 hectares – be included on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion iii .

In 1997 civil unrest prompted ICOMOS to recommend that further action regarding the protection of the site was essential and Butrint was put on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. As a result a workshop for the definition of the past, present and future of the site was held in 1998 which led to the Albanian Government creating an office for the protection of the Butrint Site. In 1999 ICOMOS asked to extend the buffer zone of the site for fear of uncontrolled tourist development in a small area on the coast. The protected zone was therefore extended under the existing criterion (iii) on condition that the State Party withdrew plans for this development. The establishment of the Butrint National Park in 2000 gave the site new legal status and protected an area of 29 km², managed by the appointment of a director.

Official Butrint Website

Butrint on WHC site

The Butrint Foundation

Butrint rediscovered