Why Place Names are Important; The Antikytheria Mechanism; Damjili Cave

Why are Place Names Important?

Place names are important as they give us valuable clues as to what places may have been in the past, who may have lived there, or what they were used for. The study of place names is called Toponymy.

Names of places develop and change over time. Their origins form part of an areas cultural heritage, past languages and old meanings, and this is why some places will share the same name. For example, the name Cadbury is given to several places in southern England. The name Cad is that of a person, and the word burh means a fortified place. So we can see that the name Cadbury means the fortified place of a person named Cad. So he must have had many places named after him. Whether they all belonged to one person or a few with a similar name we may never know!

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ©Wiki Commons
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
©Wiki Commons

Name changes can happen when an area is settled by another group of people. The Romans renamed several places in Britain, but in some places kept the Celtic name, and extended upon it. Likewise, when the Normans invaded in 1066 they did the same, sometimes by renaming places in their own Latin style. This means that the original meanings of place names may have become obscured and lost through time.

We can find clues in names by breaking them down and looking at their meanings.

Roman names like Chester/Caster means camp or fortification as in Manchester, Chester, Lancaster, Doncaster, Worcester and Leicester.

Saxon names like burg, mean fortified place, as in Bury, or places ending in -burgh; tun means farm, as in Tunstead, and Luton; and hamm means enclosure or meadow near a river, as in Birmingham, Hambledon, and Debenham.

Some places can lose their names altogether, as in Constantinople. It was originally named after the Roman emperor Constantine, but when the Turks took the city in 1453 they re named it Istanbul.

America was named after the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci; New York was named after the Duke of York, who later became King James II of England; and Manhattan was named after the native Americans who once lived there, they knew it as Man-a-ha-tonh, which meant where one gathers bows, replacing the first name the Europeans gave to the site – New Amsterdam.

New Amsterdam ©Wiki Commons
New Amsterdam
©Wiki Commons

Researching old maps can open up a whole new world of place name changes over time, why their name changed, who changed it, and why it was changed. Take a look at your local area and find an old map at your library – make a note of the number of changes you can see and let us know!!!


      • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – By Mike Christie at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
      • Mills. A. D. 2011. The Oxford Dictionary of English place Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
      • Bright. W. 2004. Native American Place Names of the United States. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
      • New Amsterdam – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AMH-6740-NA_View_of_New_Amsterdam.jpg#mediaviewer/File:AMH-6740-NA_View_of_New_Amsterdam.jpg



Archaeology Wow!! –  The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient analog computer. It predicted the accurate movements of the stars and could also accurately predict when eclipses would happen.

Computer Graphic for back of the Antikythera Mechanism ©Wiki Commons
Computer Graphic for back of the Antikythera Mechanism
©Wiki Commons

Pieces of the mechanism were discovered in 1901 off the coast of the island of Antikythera, located between Greece and Crete. An ancient shipwreck was discovered by divers, but the most fascinating find was of the Antikythera Mechanism. Parts of the mechanism were still being uncovered in 2006 at the same location.

In 1901 there was no such thing as computers so people were not really sure what the mechanism was. It was not until 2006 that the complete mechanism was decoded and a replica made.

Watch this video to learn more about this amazing find!!




  • Marchant. J. 2009. Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer – and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
  • Computer Graphic for back of the Antikythera Mechanism – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Computer_graphic_for_back_of_Antikythera_mechanism.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Computer_graphic_for_back_of_Antikythera_mechanism.jpg.
  • Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpLcnAIpVRA.


Archaeological Site Guide – Damjili Cave, Azerbaijan

The Damjili Cave system in Azerbaijan was discovered n 1956 by archaeologist M. Huseynov.

Caves ©www.mct.gov.az

There are 30 caves altogether dating from the Stone Age. Stone tools excavated from the sites show that they were inhabited from the Mousterian Stone Tool period (300,000 – 30 thousand years ago), at a time when neanderthals and archaic modern humans inhabited Europe and Asia Minor. The Damjili Cave was inhabited from around 35,000 BC.

The main cave is semi-circular and measures 17m x 27 m. The original entrance has been destroyed over time. Water leaks through the cave and for this reason it was believed to have once been a very special place. The archaeological finds show that it was continually inhabited from the Mousterian period (300,000 – 30 thousand years ago), through to the Neolithic period (7,000 BC – 17,000 BC).

The archaeological finds from the main cave included over 8,000 stone tools (arrowheads and knives), animal bones, hearths and ochre. The hearths show that the people who lived in the caves had mastered fire and used them for warmth and possibly cooking their meat. During the Mousterian period flaked tools were becoming more common as humans started to settle more of what is now Europe and Asia Minor.

Tools found at Damjili Cave ©Wiki Commons
Tools found at Damjili Cave
©Wiki Commons

The ochre shows that they had an understanding of colour, and even though no cave art has been found, it demonstrates that the ochre was found and bought to the site for a specific reason. Other caves around the region do have rock art, so there may have been a connection between the different people living around the area, possibly with trading of ochre for art.

The cave is situated in an area that has a rich human history, and includes temples, settlements, graveyards and fortresses. It is well worth a visit and a place I will be putting on my travel list!!



Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….

One Comment on “Why Place Names are Important; The Antikytheria Mechanism; Damjili Cave

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