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Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I’ve always been fascinated with archaeology. I love finding tangible connections to our past, whether far distant or more recent.
Two findings this month really excited me – one of them hit international headlines as it is from over 500 years ago, with regal connections. The other was quieter, probably known only by a few people and from far more recent history.
The  first one was the recent discovery, in my hometown of Leicester, in the U.K., of what is almost definitely the body of King Richard III . He was an arch  villain of the British monarchy, believed to have murdered his two nephews to protect his position on the throne of England, and whose burial place was always unknown.

At the moment the results of the DNA check against a direct descendent are not yet in, but there are multiple physical signs on the exhumed remains that indicate that this is indeed the hated king immortalized by William Shakespeare in his play of the same name.
Which  English literature student doesn’t remember the famous words “ Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York” spoken by Sir Laurence Olivier in that real old movie of the 1950s,  and just before his demise, wandering around unprotected  on the battlefield ….” A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse”
But we’ll all still have to wait patiently for another number of weeks for the final DNA results.
The 2nd discovery didn’t really involve archeology, it was found lying around in a field in Essex.
The field was in Thaxted, a small farming area where, in the 1940s, many Jewish children, refugees from Nazi Germany, were taken by “Bachad” the forerunners of today‘s religious youth  movement, Bnei Akivah, to live and receive basic agricultural training before going to live in Israel where they went on to be the founders of  several religious kibbutzim.
One of today’s Bnei Akivah youth was hiking in the area, and realizing he was close to the original farm site in Thaxted, decided to continue and walk through the fields which many of his predecessors had lived and worked, over 70 years ago .
Seeing something shining in the grass he bent down and picked up a piece of pottery.

What an amazing discovery. This must have been lying around in the field for  70 years.
What was it? Well a search online brought me to the site of the china manufacturers mentioned quite clearly on the shard……. and to this picture
The swastika, emblem of the Nazi party has clearly been deliberately blocked out. Are they ashamed of their past? Were they scared they would be prosecuted if they left it on the site? Was it just because it’s politically incorrect?
But this is definitely the same motif that is on the fragment that was found.
Why would a refugee from Germany have a piece of pottery with the hated swastika on it?
I have no idea.
I can only guess that maybe this was from an item the children  were given as they left  Germany on the kindertransport. Most  of these children would never to see their parents again. All they possessed were the things in their little suitcases.
Perhaps they were given a last drink to take with them on their journey to the unknown and this was the only glass / cup that was available. Did he/she keep it because it was one of the last things they received from their parents?
Did the owner maybe smash it and throw it away because of the hated symbol ?
I don’t know if we’ll ever know. There are some ‘kindertransport’ children still alive so maybe one of them will see the photo and recognize it.
As one ancient mystery looks like being solved, another recent  mystery is uncovered.