UK news in brief: Roman crucifixion, Tudor paintings, and Skara Brae

A brief look at some of the latest stories within the realm of UK archaeology, including evidence of crucifixion from Roman Cambridgeshire, the discovery of Tudor wall paintings at Old Hall in Yorkshire, and the creation of a 3D model of Neolithic Orkney's Skara Brae settlement.

Roman crucifixion

Rare evidence for a Roman crucifixion has been found at Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire, where Albion Archaeology excavated the remains of a 25- to 35-year-old man from a grave in one of five small cemeteries around a recently discovered Roman settlement in the area.

Off-site analysis revealed that the man’s right heel bone had been pierced horizontally by an iron nail, and osteologist Corinne Duhig (University of Cambridge) established that he must have been crucified, suggesting, based on other injuries, that he may have been a slave.

IMAGE: Albion Archaeology.

The man’s bones have been radiocarbon dated to between AD 130 and 360. Emperor Constantine (r. 306-337) is believed to have banned crucifixion, so he probably died between AD 130 and 337. The discovery (initially published in British Archaeology) is the first of its kind from northern Europe and the best physical evidence of a crucifixion in the Roman world.

Tudor wall paintings

The Landmark Trust has announced the discovery of a scheme of mid-16th-century wall paintings across three walls of a chamber in Calverley Old Hall in Yorkshire. The black, red, white, and ochre images run vertically along the walls’ timber studwork, which has been used as a framework.

The artwork is stylistically grotesque, and images include teethed birds (shown laughing in profile), as well as small male torsos in triangular hats (shown sitting on vases or balustrades). A frieze of Tudor roses and pomegranates runs around the cornice. The paintings were uncovered after 19th-century plaster was removed in preparation for restoration work, and the Trust has launched an appeal for £94,000 to conserve the images.

Explore Skara Brae

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has constructed a 3D digital model of the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae in Orkney. The model was created using ultra-fast, high-resolution laser scanners that capture 3D spatial data in the form of a point cloud. To make the model realistic, hundreds of overlapping images of the site were then combined with the spatial data.

As well as permitting virtual exploration of the settlement, the new model lets users see how Skara Brae has been affected by climate change. The model was published online by HES via Sketchfab.