World news: Swedish shipwreck, Kazakh lyre, and a Roman amphitheatre

Medieval shipwreck found off Sweden

Image: Staffan von Arbin/University of Gothenburg.

A previously unknown medieval shipwreck has been found by maritime archaeologists investigating the sea floor near the island of Dyngö, outside Fjällbacka, on the west coast of Sweden.

The team from the University of Gothenburg carried out a limited survey of the boat (identified as a cog) on its discovery, and analysis of its timber has revealed that it was built using north-west German oaks felled between 1233 and 1240. This makes the boat the oldest shipwreck known in the province of Bohuslän, as well as one of the oldest cogs found in Europe. The vessel had clearly suffered from fire damage, though, and the researchers have speculated that it could have been attacked by pirates, sunk in battle, or damaged in an accident.

The university’s Staffan von Arbin, a maritime archaeologist, said the find points to the importance of Bohuslän as a transit route for international medieval maritime trade.

Kazakh ‘cousin’ for Sutton Hoo lyre

Reanalysis of a wooden object, found in the 1970s during Soviet-era excavations at a medieval settlement in the Dzhetyasar territory of south-west Kazakhstan, has identified the artefact as a lyre.

Kazakh archaeologist Dr Azilkhan Tazhekeev interpreted the item in 2018 as a 4th-century stringed instrument – a Kazakh double-necked lute – but the latest study, published by Norwegian music archaeologist Gjermund Kolltveit in Antiquity (, indicates that the object resembles early medieval lyres from across north-west Europe, particularly the 7th-century lyre excavated at Sutton Hoo in the 1930s.

The discovery in Kazakhstan raises the possibility that this type of lyre could have originated further east and travelled into Western Europe, or vice versa. It is hoped that future research will shed further light on the origins and development of the instrument-type.

Roman amphitheatre in Switzerland

Excavations in the Rheinfelden district of the canton of Aargau in Switzerland have unearthed a previously unknown Roman amphitheatre in Kaiseraugst, a municipality named after the Roman town of Augusta Raurica, founded there in 44 BC.

Aargau Cantonal Archaeology made the surprising discovery, thought to date to the 4th century AD, during excavations in advance of the construction of a new boathouse at what was once a Roman quarry site. Indications of an amphitheatre emerged when the team identified a stone building c.50m long by 40m wide, with an oval ring of limestone walls, large sandstone entrance gates, and traces of a wooden post where the tribune would have stood.

The structure was built unusually late, after the quarry’s abandonment in late antiquity, and may be the youngest known amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. The boathouse project has been adapted to protect the ancient entertainment complex in situ.