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Friday, 15 May 2015

Littlemore Priory: Oxford archaeologists find 92 skeletons at medieval church site

Ninety-two human skeletons have been found on the site of a medieval church in Oxford.

Archaeologists made the discovery near Abingdon during an evaluation which was carried out as part of a planning application for a new hotel.

Paul Murray, from John Moore Heritage Services, described the discovery of the burials as "amazing".

The Benedictine priory of Littlemore appears to have something of an uncertain early history, but was probably founded by Robert de Sandford, one of the knights of the abbot of Abingdon, in 1176.
Apparently by 1445 there were only seven nuns in the priory, the building was in a state of collapse and the nuns were not behaving as expected - they were eating meat every day, three lay women were boarding at the priory, and a Cistercian monk frequently visited and drank with the prioress!  Over the next 80 years a variety of other scandals were uncovered including unauthorised priestly visits, illegitimate children, embezzlement and violence. In 1525 the prior was dissolved.

History, of course doesn’t record details of the good things which were accomplished by the nuns during the Priory’s 400 years – but I imagine that, on balance, they out-weigh the bad things!

The priory became a farmhouse (Minchery farmhouse) and then a pub (The Priory), which closed in 2013.

Gillian Argyle, from Oxford Civic Society
Back in 2014 a campaign was launched to save the building which was once again in a state of near collapse with responsibility for the lease lying with the owners of a nearby football stadium.  It seems that a plan is now a-foot to develop the site.

According to the recent excavations, some of the burials are unusual and include a woman found in a face down position, another who was a victim of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, and a stillborn child – all of which matches with the descriptions above of inappropriate behaviour!

All of the skeletons will eventually be re-buried in consecrated ground.

Further information on Littlemore Priory can be found by following these links:

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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

British Insurance Brokers Association Conference 2015

We’re off to Manchester tomorrow to the British Insurance Brokers Association Conference 2015!  The main annual UK insurance broker conference of the year.  We are looking forward to seeing the exciting exhibition stands the bigger insurers have splashed out on this year. One year, one of them actually got all of their staff to dress as pirates and their stand was the shape of a ship!  Not sure what the public would have thought – ironic or true to character?

I’ll take some pictures this year and let you know what shapes and sizes there are!

Of course, all of our children and wider families are just as excited as we are as we are sure to bring back lots of branded stress balls, branded sweats, a mountain of pens and the occasional ‘quality’ note book and matching pencil.  My favourite insurer was handing out battery booster packs for mobile phones last year – which came in very useful during our family camping trip last summer.

Really I am looking forward to it as it is a great place to meet up with a whole bunch of people over a 48 hour period.  Generally it is enjoyable, but there is usually a part of me which thinks “..the same people saying the same things and nothing changes from year-to-year..” but, we have to accept that things do move slowly and insurance is a game of risk and nobody is going to jump into something new without understanding all of the facts.

I have a few new product ideas which I am going to share – some just to see what the reaction is! 

….insurers ‘touting’ their wares, brokers desperately trying to get interest in their latest weird and wacky schemes……  it is usually fun!

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Cognitive Demands of Lower Paleolithic Toolmaking

Dietrich Stout,  Erin Hecht,  Nada Khreisheh,  Bruce Bradley,  Thierry Chaminade
Published: April 15, 2015DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121804

[The neurophysiological demands of stone toolmaking. “For the first time, we’ve shown a relationship between the degree of prefrontal brain activity - the ability to make technical judgements - and success in actually making stone tools,” says Stout. Ed]


Stone tools provide some of the most abundant, continuous, and high resolution evidence of behavioral change over human evolution, but their implications for cognitive evolution have remained unclear. We investigated the neurophysiological demands of stone toolmaking by training modern subjects in known Paleolithic methods (“Oldowan”, “Acheulean”) and collecting structural and functional brain imaging data as they made technical judgments (outcome prediction, strategic appropriateness) about planned actions on partially completed tools. Results show that this task affected neural activity and functional connectivity in dorsal prefrontal cortex, that effect magnitude correlated with the frequency of correct strategic judgments, and that the frequency of correct strategic judgments was predictive of success in Acheulean, but not Oldowan, toolmaking. This corroborates hypothesized cognitive control demands of Acheulean toolmaking, specifically including information monitoring and manipulation functions attributed to the "central executive" of working memory. More broadly, it develops empirical methods for assessing the differential cognitive demands of Paleolithic technologies, and expands the scope of evolutionary hypotheses that can be tested using the available archaeological record.

A fascinating read.  Click here to read more

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THE Dorset Diggers Community Archaeology Group presented a cabinet of finds to the villagers of Nether Compton and Over Compton.

THE Dorset Diggers Community Archaeology Group presented a cabinet of finds to the villagers of Nether Compton and Over Compton.

The cabinet contains artefacts unearthed during the recent excavation of a Roman military camp in a nearby field.

Archaeologist Chris Tripp handed over the cabinet of items to Dr Joseph Puszet, chairman of the village hall committee at a recent coffee morning.

The site will the subject of continued survey and excavation by the Dorset Diggers.

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