Sunday, 5 February 2017

A trip to see the Castle... Our Edinburgh getaway!

A few days away…

In December, I travelled to Edinburgh with my boyfriend for a short get away before Christmas, and it was magical. Edinburgh was lit up beautifully, distracting from the cold, icy breeze which swept through the city. The architecture I found to be very similar to that in London, where every building could tell you a story. Our journey didn’t go as smoothly as planned, due to the dense fog in London that weekend, causing our flight to be cancelled. But! Plan B came to the rescue, and we travelled to St Pancreas via the virgin train service making our way slow but steadily to the north… just like Harry Potter.

Bambi on ice!

Day one, we had booked to do ice skating in St Andrews square, something Oliver had never tried before. Despite the painful skates I flew around the doughnut shaped course, weaving through the crowds on the ice. Oliver however, found ice skating tricky and took a slower route round the ice staying close to the sides. Ice skating at Christmas is a must but I would recommend skating all year round if you can!

Up and up we go!

After ice skating, we started our trek up to Edinburgh castle which turned out to be further than either of us had expected. Walking up the hill from Princes street and over Princes street garden, the views which surrounded us were phenomenal! Edinburgh is truly a beautiful city and once at the castle entrance you can really start to take in the amazing city below. Taking a few minutes to really look around at the view is well worth it! The Castle itself is still a working military base, with many areas being closed off due to modern day usage. However, St Margaret’s chapel, the royal household, the prisons, the museums and the Scottish national war memorial really highlight the castles military history and make your trip a memorable one.
The View from Edinburgh Castle, looking towards Princes street.
The entrance to the Castle
The view from the entrance of Edinburgh Castle, facing St Arthur's seat, a popular hiking trail in the city.

One of the prisons in the Castle. 

The Castle! 

The museums I especially loved due to the work which has gone into every single exhibition. Scotland’s history comes to life with the variety of artefacts, clothing, guns and imagery used in the exhibitions which will excite both young and mature audiences.

Down the rabbit hole

One evening, Oliver and I decided to chance getting into the restaurant across the road without a booking. It was the best decision we made that entire holiday! Every night there had been a queue to get in. With women dressed in glorious gowns and men wearing tuxedos our combination of Jeans and t-shirts felt out of place when walking past this grand scene, but we decided on our last night to wing it! With there being no queue we were welcomed into the building straight away… and I was left speechless by the beautiful interior.

Taking our eyes away from the main rooms, we ventured into the side dining room which felt like a grand study or an expensive library. After a long day of walking I decided to order “mince and tatties” a Scottish version of shepherd’s pie, which tasted absolutely incredible and warmed you up from the inside out!

For pudding we both decided to share a trifle and a cheesecake, both of which tasted incredible!
The Dome, at night the lights were beautiful!
The drinks room at the Dome, decorated so beautifully for the festive period!

The buildings beauty as well as the tasty food made this night my favourite part of the holiday. 
The side dining room where we had our dinner in the Dome.

Our puddings at the Dome, both were so delicious!!
Beauty is pain

What can I say about the hotel we stayed at? It was beautiful, well decorated, lots of space, and had great Wi-Fi, all of which are great aspects for any hotel room … but fire alarms at 12am and drilling at 9am two days running, causes the suite to lose its magic.

The George Street Hotel room
The George Street Hotel
Edinburgh is a beautiful place and I cannot wait for my next visit to Scotland. When I visit again I hope to stay longer to visit the museums, art galleries and do some of the walks like Arthur’s seat which I used to do with my mum as a little girl. Hopefully it will not be long until I hear the beautiful bagpipes play again!
St Giles Cathedral, we decided to visit the Cathedral in order to light a candle.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Discovery of the Homo Naledi

Discovery of the Homo Naledi
On Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of listening to professor Lee Berger talk about the discovery of the Homo Naledi in Africa. As an Ancient History student I have never sat in a lecture that discussed the remains of human ancestors, never mind see real life bones and casts of bones. The experience was truly incredible and inspiring.

Homo Naledi reconstruction
 The Homo Naledi is a fairly new discovery of another branch of our human ancestors. Berger discussed his career and the steps which took him to his incredible discoveries. After discussing his early career Berger started to discuss his use of mapping devices in the early 21st century which he used to compare known sites in order to find the unknown. On August 15th 2008, Professor Berger, his 9-year-old son Mathew and a graduate student headed to a site, later called Malapa. Whilst wondering round the site Berger’s son, Mathew discovered a fossil, a hominid clavicle, which had become embedded into the hard rock. When looking at the hominid remain Berger realised his son had found not just a clavicle but a hominid skeleton. The skeleton took 22,000 preparation hours to extract from the hard rock. The site also offered a vast array of organic material such as fossilised skin and hair which was seen as a massive breakthrough for the paleoanthropologist community. These kinds of finds were very rare in palaeoanthropology with teeth being seen as a major discovery. Hence Berger had just “won the lottery”.  


A construction of the cave system at Rising Star
After Malapa, Berger didn’t explore again until 2013. Whilst showing us a picture of the African landscape Berger stated that he saw the African landscape as “a large block of Swiss cheese.” This was due to the network of caves that reside underneath the surface. Thus Berger began exploring into the caves, resembled “small narrow trenches” instead of large open spaces. During the 90’s Berger had been caving before with little success thus his challenge arose in the prospects on how he moved the project forward. When a former student called Pedro, walked through his door Berger decided to join forces. This began the process of expanding the team. Rick Hunter and Steve Tucker were recruited to join their team as they could go deeper into the cave systems due to the physiognomy. After visiting numerous caves, it wasn’t until the pair went into the Rising Star cave system, one of the most well-known cave systems, that they discovered anything. After going through a 12m crawl, climbing up dragons back, crawling through a 7 ½ inch slot and then down a 60ft drop the pair entered into a small chamber that contained a variety of bones. The bones were lying on the ground, not embedded in to hard rock, which in Africa was unusual and made it easy to take pictures. Tucker and Hunter took pictures of the bones for Berger to see and identify as the remains of a Homo Naledi.

On November 7th 2013 a 60-person excavation began with 6 female scientists being chosen for their skill and size to go into the chamber and record and transport the evidence.  It was on the 10th November 2013 the first fossils reached the surface. More than one hominid skeleton had been found in the chamber with 15 individuals ranging from foetal to elderly in age being brought to the surface. 1, 800 remains were uncovered by the 1m by 20cm2 trench inferring that “this small trench had not even scraped the surface, the chamber has a lot more to offer”.  

Homo Nadeli, Rising Star Cave, South Africa
The state of the bones provided a controversial hypothesis that the Homo Naledi disposed of their dead, unlike any other hominid known. Humans differentiate themselves from animals by disposing their dead, hence this new information presents a new outlook on what it means to be human. In the next few months more information is going to be released on the findings from Rising Star. I am particularly interested in the dates of the bones, despite that not being essential to our understanding. It was also inferred that through using 3D virtual reality technology we will be able to experience being in the Rising Star chamber, without taking the risk of climbing through the cave system. Which to someone like me with a passion for history but with a fear of confined spaces, it would be an incredible experience. This excavation is a prime example of modern archaeological techniques which is always evolving, expanding our knowledge of history in the process. This lecture was truly incredible and I am so grateful for being able to have had the opportunity to listen to the discovery of the Homo Naledi and have gone away with a new perspective of modern methods in archaeology.

At the talk there was also an exhibition, present was a variety of bones ranging from apes and orangutan's to the bones of our early human ancestors. I had never seen human bones before, never mind such a collection of bones from our early ancestors, so it was very interesting to see real authentic and replicated bones.   
Homo floresiensis, "the Hobbit" 100-60,000 years ago, Indonesia

Homo Erectus, 1.7 million years old, 'Turkana boy'
A display of skulls (replicas)
For extra information and videos regarding the discovery visit the National geographic website.

1.     National Geographic (2013) Discovering Homo Naledi: Journey to find a human ancestor, part 1. Available at: (Accessed: 9 November 2016).
2.     Berger, L. (2016) Discovery of the Homo Naledi November.


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