Monday, March 10, 2008

Mysterious "witch pits"

Further to my post on "Witchcraft" today, comes an article from the Times Online regarding the discovery of 35 mysterious "witch pits" in Truro.

"Since 2003, 35 pits at the site in a valley near Truro have been excavated containing swan pelts, dead magpies, unhatched eggs, quartz pebbles, human hair, fingernails and part of an iron cauldron.

The finds have been dated to the 1640s, a period of turmoil in England when Cromwellian Puritans destroyed any links to pre-Christian pagan England. It was also a period when witchcraft attracted the death sentence.

Each of the feather pits, which are“ about 40cm square by 17cm deep (15 by 6in), have been carefully lined with the intact pelt of one swan and contain other bird remains.

There was a particularly macabre discovery in one of the feather pits: fifty-seven unhatched eggs ranging in size from a bantam to a duck. They were flanked by the bodies of two magpies, birds that have long been the subject of superstition in Cornish folklore. The organic remains survived because they were preserved in the water-logged ground. Although the shells of the eggs had dissolved, the membrane remained, revealing chicks shortly before they were due to hatch."

Archaeologist Jacqui Woods will deliver a paper on the feather pits at the World Archaeology Conference in Dublin in June.

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