Friday, December 9, 2011

Knock knock

A remarkable find has been made in Barley, Lancashire, U.K. In advance of digging by United Utilities near Lower Black Moss reservoir, archaeologists brought in to survey the site unearthed a partially intact structure under a grass mound. "We rarely get the opportunity to work with something so well preserved. As soon as we started digging, we found the tops of doors, and knew we were on to something special.....The building is a microcosm for the rise and fall of this area....There are layers of local history right before your eyes," raves archaeologist Frank Giecco. Later layers contain a 19th c. kitchen range and Victorian artifacts including crockery, a tin bath, and a bedstead. Earlier layers date all the way back to the 17th c. and revealed the bones of a cat bricked up in the wall. Because mummified cats were sometimes entombed in this way to ward off evil, bad luck, or vermin - and because the Pendleton witch trial of 1612 was held in the immediate vicinity - there is speculation that the well-preserved cottage may have belonged to one of the Pendle witches. "Cats feature prominently in folklore about witches," says historian Simon Entwistle, who notes that the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trial is just a few months away. "It's not often you come across a fairytale cottage complete with witch's cat. The building is in remarkable condition. You can walk through it and get a real sense that you're peering into the past," says project manager Carl Sanders. The headlines are proclaiming that a "witch's cottage" has been found, but since I was chastised by a Wiccan years ago for making light of witches and neo-pagan religion, I am taking a tamer tack. The photos above show the condition of the house. Whatever its historical implications, the find has been compared to the excavation of Pompeii in the 1800s and the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1921.

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