Sunday, February 27, 2011

Norfolk Graffiti project wins national award

A local community archaeology project aimed at discovering and recording examples of medieval graffiti has won a prestigious national award. The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, which marks its first anniversary this month, was selected as joint winner in the ‘Awards for the Presentation of Heritage Research 2011’ at a ceremony held at the British Museum on Friday. These annual awards, sponsored by English Heritage, aim to encourage researchers to present their research on British and Irish archaeology, historic buildings and heritage conservation, to the wider public.

The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Project began in January 2010 with the aim of carrying out the first large scale study of surviving medieval graffiti inscriptions in Norfolk churches. Although the project has so far only managed to survey about 50 of the counties 650+ medieval churches the results have been a surprise to all involved. “When we began the project”, stated project director Matthew Champion, “we suspected that medieval graffiti inscriptions were far more common than previously thought. However, even we were surprised by the scale of the findings. To date, having surveyed only 50 churches, we have discovered significant medieval graffiti in over 30”.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, February 25, 2011

University of Minnesota conference to explore Islam and the humanities

Islamic developments in architecture, the arts, sciences and theater will be the topics of a federally-funded conference at the University of Minnesota, which starts today and runs through Saturday.

“Shared Cultural Spaces,” presented by the university’s religious studies program, will look at humanities and sciences in Islamic civilization and reveal the connections between the Islamic and western worlds. One purpose of the conference is to highlight the interactions of civilizations throughout history.

Click here to read this article from the Star-Tribune

Click here to go to the conference website

Book Review: Ibn Taymiyya and his times

The Wahhabi movement led by Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century Najd was inspired by Ibn Taimiyah. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab hailed Ibn Taimiya as a pioneer of Salafism which means following the salaf, the first three generations of Islam. Being a follower of the salaf, Ibn Taimiyah and his followers freed themselves from blindly following the fiqhi schools of thought which evolved in the second and third Islamic centuries.

Ahmad ibn Abd al-Halim, commonly known as "Ibn Taimiyah" (1263-1328), a jurist, philosopher, teacher and social reformer of the fourteenth century, remained for centuries an obscure figure until he was suddenly discovered some three decades ago by militant Islamic movements in the Middle East which were basically fighting against corrupt pro-West rulers in their countries. Until then, Ibn Taimiyah was popular only among the Hanbalis of the Arabian Peninsula. One reason which led to this sudden popularity may be that in the 1960s and thereafter, Saudis printed millions of copies of books by 'Salafi' scholars like Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, Ibn Taimiyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim, in Arabic and other languages and spread them all over the Muslim World.

Click here to read this review from the Milli Gazette

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alchemists, ancient and modern

In certain southern English universities of medieval foundation it is still common for those students and academics whose disciplines require no more than lots of books, brains and a means of writing to sneer at the activities of a certain tribe who are known as “northern chemists”. Such troglodytes, as their nickname suggests, often come from unfashionable parts of the country. Worse, they think nothing of engaging in actual manual labour in their pursuit of knowledge. That sort of chap is not, my dear, you know, really quite one of us…

In the view of Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, such thinking was also around in the 17th and 18th centuries. And it was, as he told this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, one of the main reasons why modern minds equate the word “alchemist” with “charlatan”.

Click here to read this article from The Economist

Getty Museum Displays Stories to Watch: Narrative in Medieval Manuscripts

The illuminators of medieval manuscripts found creative ways to tell stories through pictures. A sequence of illustrations was often linked on a page, or several parts of a tale were incorporated in a single image. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, February 22 - —May 15, 2011, Stories to Watch: Narrative in Medieval Manuscripts displays approximately 20 manuscripts and leaves with narrative illuminations from different periods and regions, presenting a fascinating variety of pictorial storytelling.

"Although medieval illustrators used various techniques to help convey a story, the viewer still needed to interpret certain clues and complete the stories using his or her imagination," say Kristen Collins, associate curator of Manuscripts. "In this way, fixed images came alive for the viewer."

Click here to read this article from Art Daily

Middle East Mirrors Great Inflation Revolutions Since 1200 AD

Inflation has led to political revolutions since Medieval times and we may be witnessing the fifth such great revolution in history unfolding in the Middle East and in our own country right now, said Dr. Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist of Yardeni Research.

Yardeni cites the work of historian David Hackett Fischer, who described civilization’s first four major inflation cycles in his 1999 work The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. The first price change wave was during Medieval times, culminating with The Black Death. The next three occurred in the 16th century, the 18th century and the turn of the last century. Each wave lasts about 100 years, according to Fischer’s work.

Click here to read this article from CNBC

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rick Santorum: The Crusades Get A Bad Rap!

If you were worried there wouldn't be a 2012 candidate touting the pro-Crusades platform, then today is your lucky day!

"The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told a South Carolina audience yesterday. "And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom."

Click here to read this article from TPM

See also Matthew Gabriel's view on this article from Modern Medieval

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe – now at the Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum has begun an exhibition offering visitors a glimpse into the Middle Ages, a time when art mediated between heaven and earth and wondrous objects of gold, silver and precious gems filled churches and monastic treasuries. Relics, the physical remains of holy people and objects associated with these individuals, play a central role in a number of religions and cultures and were especially important to the development of Christianity as it emerged in the Late Roman world as a powerful new religion. Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, will be open until May 15th and is the first exhibition in the United States to focus on the history of relics and reliquaries—the special containers to display the holy remains of Christian saints and martyrs. The exhibition is organized by the Walters Art Museum in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art and the British Museum.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Medieval Churches in England receive funding for repairs

Several medieval churches in England have received funding the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage as part of their joint Repair Grants for Places of Worship program. In an announcement made earlier this month, over 153 Grade I and II listed places of worship across England were granted £15.7 million to support urgent repair work.

The churches include St Peter’s, Wilburton, in the Diocese of Ely, which has a tower dating from the 13th century. It has been offered at grant of £105,000 towards repairs to the tower spire, which was last repaired in 1903, as well as timber repairs to the spire and louvres, reglazing and masonry repairs to the tower parapets and stairs.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, February 21, 2011

Living churches exhibition at Norwich cathedral

From 14-25 March, David White will be holding an exhibition in The Hostry of Norwich Cathedral illustrating the life today of those medieval churches still used for worship.

Many of the photographs were taken during normal services, and the exhibition also portrays the broader life of the churches.

Click here to read this article from the Norwich And Norfolk Christian Community Website

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Medievalverse - 2nd Video Blog

On this episode of The Medievalverse, we talk about the Anglo Saxon Studies conference we attended last week, how to review bad books, Game of Thrones, our 'Go Medieval' T-shirt, and what's coming up this week on the website.

Witan Publishing offers epublishing service for medieval scholars

Witan Publishing, a new service to the medieval academic community, was launched yesterday. It aims to provide e-publishing of peer-reviewed scholarship in the field of medieval studies.

Witan’s goal is not merely to be another academic publisher, but is instead something much more ambitious: to change the way scholarly research is produced, distributed, and received. This new service will benefit scholars the most, freeing their work from the old market restrictions, distributing scholarship more widely, and putting texts within the budgets of even struggling graduate students.

Click here to read this article from

Conservation Works Planned for St. Albans Medieval Clock Tower

The Grade 1 listed building, built between 1403-1412, will be shrouded in scaffolding for approximately 10 weeks so that a survey of it's condition, along with the replacement of wooden slats and some pointing work, can be undertaken.

Cllr Sheila Burton, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Heritage at St Albans City and District Council, said: “The Clock Tower is a wonderful medieval building that contributes greatly to our historic City. As the owner, the Council is making every effort to ensure that it is properly preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Click here to read this article from the St Alban's People

Friday, February 18, 2011

'Black Death' director Christopher Smith talks about making his medieval horror movie (and not making 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies')

You know those medieval-set films in which every golden-hued vista seems to have been shot by the British Tourist Board and the characters all appear to use copious amounts of ye olde hair conditioner? Well, Black Death is a far more gruesome and unhygienic-looking cup of tea. The movie stars a bedraggled-looking Sean Bean as a bishop’s envoy tasked with the mission of finding out why a remote hamlet has escaped the ravages of the titular plague which, in real-life, wiped out around half of Europe’s population in the 14th century. The twisty result often resembles a medieval reworking of Apocalypse Now as Bean and his band of decidedly un-merry men make their way through a countryside filled with all manner of unpleasantness from fields packed with corpses to an attempted witch-burning that ends in tears (or horrible gurgling sounds, anyway).

Click here to read this article from Entertainment Weekly

Medieval site in Qatar reveals signs of wealth

The residents of Ruwaydah, a historic site in northern Qatar believed to be inhabited from the medieval to the early modern period, were quite wealthy and led a good quality of life.

“The pottery excavated so far is generally good quality, an indication that people there were having a good life,” archaeological excavations team leader Dr Andrew Petersen told Gulf Times.

Click here to read this article from the Gulf Times

Medieval weir 'will be washed away'

One of the finest examples of a medieval fish trap in Europe is going to be washed away before its secrets can be recorded, scientists have claimed.

A 700-year-old giant wooden weir, once used by monks and to keep local lords in Co Clare trading, cannot be fully preserved because it is exposed to the forces of nature.

And with budget cuts hitting the Heritage Council there is no money to properly analyse and record the huge structure.

Click here to read this article from the Whitby Gazette

Click here to read Irish medieval fishing site will be ‘lost to the tide’ from

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Killing Kings: Patterns of Regicide in Europe, AD 600–1800

A new study by a Cambridge University criminologist reveals just how dangerous it was to be a monarch in Europe in the medieval and early modern eras.

On 30 January 1649 Charles I was executed on a balcony overlooking Whitehall in central London. A huge crowd, restrained by ranks of militia, gathered to witness his beheading. An eye witness reported that his severed head was thrown down and his hair cut off while soldiers dipped their swords in his blood.

As a royal meeting a ghastly fate, Charles I was far from alone. The astonishing number of European kings who met a violent end has been documented for the first time by a Cambridge University criminologist. Professor Manuel Eisner’s study reveals just how risky it was to be a monarch in an era when murdering those who stood in your way was a fast lane to power.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dozens of medieval finds reported in Scotland’s treasure trove

The government of Scotland has issued its annual Treasure Trove Report today, which lists the archaeological discoveries made between April 2009 and March 2010. The report notes the finds of dozens of items dating back to the Middle Ages and earlier.

Among the highlights of the report are:

Pictish carved stone from Strath of Kildonan, Highland. Although missing the top right hand side this stone retains the hindquarters of a stag above the Pictish ‘crescent and v-rod’ symbol. The findspot of this stone is of some significance, being only one of two Pictish symbol stones in Sutherland situated inland rather than on the coast. In both its distribution and stylistic attributes this stone fills a lacuna between the carved stones of the Northern Isles and those of the Moray Firth area.

Click here to read this article from

UTSA art department hosts symposium on Spain, medieval to early modern

The University of Texas at San Antonio's Department of Art and Art History will present the first Art History Symposium with the theme "Spain in Transition: Medieval to Early Modern." Free and open to the public, the symposium and related presentations will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb. 17-18 in the UTSA Art Gallery in the Arts Building on the Main Campus.

There will be presentations by three members of the UTSA art history faculty as well as architectural historians from the UTSA College of Architecture, visiting scholars from SMU and UCLA, graduates of the UTSA art history M.A. program and current graduate students.

Click here to read this article from the University of Texas at San Antonio

Queen Hereafter, by Susan Fraser King

Susan Fraser King of Damascus weaves together the tales of two medieval queens and a warrior king in her latest novel, "Queen Hereafter."

Published in December by Crown, a division of Random House, this is King's 20th novel. Most have been set in medieval Scotland.

"It's just something that interests me, that I enjoy doing," King said.

King, who is of Scottish heritage, has a background in medieval art history.

Click here to read this article from the

Monday, February 14, 2011

The battle for Valentine's Day

The development of Valentine's Day into the orgy of commercialised sentimentality we know today has been a long process, with Roman paganism and the poets of the middle ages both making a contribution to the day's current associations with romance, love and sex. But the reclaiming of the day by fundamentalist Christians to further the agenda of the religious right has added a new chapter to this long history.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

First Valentine: Lasting legacy of 500-year-old love

Love it or hate it, even the most hardened anti-Romeo will be hard pressed to avoid Valentine's Day this year. But as an exhibit at the British Library currently on show is testament to, there is a first for everything - even on Valentine's Day.

It is a letter, written from a young woman to her love, and is the first mention of the word Valentine in the English language. And, for the first time, the descendants of Margery Brews and her betrothed John Paston have been traced.

In 1477 Margery wrote a letter to her John pleading with him not to give her up, despite her parents' refusal to increase her dowry.

Addressing her "ryght welebeloued Voluntyne" (right well-beloved Valentine), she promised to be a good wife, adding: "Yf that ye loffe me as Itryste verely that ye do ye will not leffe me" (If you love me, I trust.. you will not leave me)

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Saturday, February 12, 2011

'Tolkien Professor' Corey Olsen brings Middle-earth to iTunes via podcasts

Corey Olsen had a lot to say about J.R.R. Tolkien. But it seemed a pity to consign his thoughts to a scholarly journal, to be read by a few hundred fellow academics who already knew more than enough about the author of "The Lord of the Rings."

So in spring 2007, the Washington College professor took his scholarship public, with a podcast called "How to Read Tolkien and Why" and a Web site called the Tolkien Professor.

A million downloads later, Olsen is one of the most popular medievalists in America. His unusual path to success - a smartly branded Web site and a legion of iTunes listeners - marks an alternative to the publish-or-perish tradition of scholarship on the tenure track.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

William Wallace's victory set to win iconic status

The ground where William Wallace won his most famous victory over the English is set to feature in Scotland's "Inventory of Historic Battlefields". Historic Scotland revealed in December the first 17 nationally important sites for inclusion, including Bannockburn and Culloden.

Now the site of the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge is under consideration to join them as part of a second batch to be revealed.

The battle would become the earliest date to feature in the inventory.

Click here to read this article from the Scotsman

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Medievalverse - The Vlog from

The first Video Blog from - we talk about some of things happening on our website this week, and about Social Media Week.

Mysterious Voynich manuscript dates back to the 15th century

Researchers from the University of Arizona have discovered that the Voynich manuscript, which has been called “the world’s most mysterious manuscript,” was written sometime between 1404 to 1438. The findings were aired on a special documentary on the National Geographic Channel.

The Voynich manuscript was written by an unknown author, and is about 240 pages long. Its wording is called an “alien language” – the lettering does not even resemble other languages, while most pages contain images that depict optical phenomena, mystical drawings and meticulous zodiac maps.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, February 10, 2011

William Brinner, scholar of Near Eastern studies, dies at 86

William “Ze’ev” Brinner, a professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who was known for his commitment to fostering understanding between Muslims and Jews, died at his Berkeley home on Feb. 3 after a lengthy illness. He was 86.

Brinner, who taught Arabic and Islamic studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies from 1956 until retiring in 1991, published extensively on subjects ranging from modern Arabic literature and medieval Islamic history and religion to medieval Jewish-Muslim cultural interaction.

Click here to read this article from the University of California Berkeley

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

From hagiography to Hitler: Medieval Research Centre public lectures at the University of Leicester

A series of public lectures on a wide variety of medieval topics this term presents a fine example of ‘Middle Ages spread’.

The Medieval Research Centre here at Leicester is an interdepartmental collaboration between four Departments within our College of Arts, Humanities and Law. In February and March the Centre presents a series of four public lectures by visiting speakers on topics that range from the influence of medieval thought on the Third Reich to the hagiographic work of Caesarius of Heisterbach.

Click here to read this article from the University of Leicester

Google Art Project brings viritual tours to world’s museums

Earlier this month Google launched a new online service which will allow art lovers to virtually explore hundreds of famous works found in seventeen galleries from around the world. The Google Art Project brings together some of the company’s unique technology, such as Street View that will allow visitors not only to look at various works of arts, but explore the rooms and places they are kept in. The galleries involved in the project include The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Tate Britain and The National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Click here to read this article from

Sensentional medieval sculpture discovery

A statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus venerated at the church in Strobierna (right) southern Poland, turns out to be a missing sculpture from Veit Stoss altarpiece in Krakow.

The discovery was confirmed by Professor Piotr Skubiszewski from the University of Warsaw, an expert in Veit Stoss art. “There are certain similarities between the statue of the Virgin Mary and the figure of St. John from St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow,” says Professor Skubiszewski.

Click here to read this article from Radio Poland

Medieval Tower Defense Game Migrates to the Mac

After wiping out small villages and kingdoms from your iPhone and iPad, you can finally go Medieval on your Mac. Brisk Mobile is bringing its tower defense game to the desktop via the Mac App Store.

Medieval mixes elements of a role-playing game with the action of a tower defense offering. Players spend gold on upgrading their weaponry and fixing their castle as they are bombarded by a seemingly endless barrage of knights and knaves on horseback and more "high-tech" weaponry such as catapults. Then when the battle lines are drawn, you fight back against the impending horde by launching a wave of arrows (flaming arrows sold separately) as they storm the castle. The enemy even employs attack from the air and brutish big bosses to bring the battle into overtime.

Click here to read this article from PC World

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

University of Otago holds workshop on medieval manuscripts

A University of Otago professor has discovered an unfulfilled academic need, after 36 people signed up for a workshop he expected to interest only a handful.

Last week, the university hosted the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies conference, held every two years in a different university centre.

Philosophy professor Peter Anstey decided to organise a workshop afterwards to teach participants practical skills about editing and transcribing manuscripts between 300 and 1000-plus years old.

Click here to read this article from Otago Daily Times

Monday, February 07, 2011

New Prize for Irish Medieval Studies

Scholars working on medieval history in Ireland can now compete for the best peer-reviewed essay/article in their field. Four Courts Press and the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies have launched the inaugural Four Courts Press Michael Adams Prize in Irish Medieval Studies.

This prize, which will be presented at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, will be awarded for the best peer-reviewed essay/article on Irish Medieval Studies published in a book or journal during the previous calendar year. For the first year’s prize, which will be awarded in May 2011, the prize will be awarded for the best peer-reviewed essay/article published in a book or journal during the period 2006–2010. It is only open to members of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies (ASIMS) and entries must be submitted by February 25th.

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Work suspended at 4,600 year-old Seila Pyramid in Egypt

Archaeological work has been suspended at the 4,600 year-old Seila Pyramid in Egypt. Excavation and research at the site has been going on for nearly three decades now by a team led by Professor Wilfred Griggs of Brigham Young University.

Seila is one of four pyramids constructed by the pharaoh Snefru. The father of Khufu, this ruler revolutionized pyramid building by constructing the first “true” pyramids, with flat sides that angle up towards the sky. There is a vast cemetery near the pyramid, estimated to hold nearly one million mummies. Most of the people buried there date to Graeco-Roman times (starting ca. 2,300 years ago) or later.

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World

Manuscripts bring history to life

For Dauvit Broun, there is nothing like touching and reading a medieval document up to 1300 years old, or reading a later reprint of something first produced that long ago.

Books, letters, charters and business papers enabled him to see beyond historical facts and connect to the past, the University of Glasgow history professor said yesterday.

"It is fantastic - awesome... When you are touching something like that, you are actually in contact with people from the past in a very direct way."

Click here to read this article from the Otago Daily Times

Ancient burials found under Lichfield Cathedral

Three ancient burials have been unearthed at Lichfield Cathedral. It follows an archaeological investigation in the Chapter House by Cathedral Archaeologist Kevin Blockley.

For the last 750 years, two of the skeletons have lain just below the floor of the Chapter House, which was originally built in the 1240s. The dig was in preparation for the Staffordshire Hoard Temporary Exhibition which is due to take place later this summer.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

New Trailer for the Sims Medieval

Friday, February 04, 2011

Legislation forces archaeologists to rebury finds

Human remains from Stonehenge and other ancient settlements will be reburied and lost to science under legislation that threatens to cripple research into the history of humans in Britain, a group of leading archaeologists says today.

In a letter addressed to the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and printed in the Guardian today, 40 archaeology professors write of their "deep and widespread concern" about the issue.

The dispute centres on legislation introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2008 which requires all human remains excavated at digs in England and Wales to be reburied within two years, regardless of their age. The decision, which amounts to a reinterpretation of law previously administered by the Home Office, means scientists have too little time to study bones and other human remains of national and cultural significance, the academics say.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wrexham Museum debut showing for medieval coin hoard

A hoard of medieval coins found near Llay is to go on display at Wrexham Museum for the first time. The hoard is made up of 31 coins and it is thought they were probably buried soon after 1412.

"The coins lay in the ground until December 2005 when they were found by two metal detectorists," said Jonathan Gammond, Wrexham Museum's exhibition officer.

The coins will be on display when the museum reopens later this month.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Byzantine church and mosaic floor uncovered in Israel

Archaeologists working for the Israel Antiquities Authority have announced they have discovered the remains of a 1500-year-old Byzantine church that was believed to have been the final resting place of an ancient Jewish prophet.

A large and beautiful mosaic floor and a church were uncovered in excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Hirbet Madras, which lies southwest of Jerusalem. In recent months an archaeological excavation was conducted at Hirbet Madras in the wake of an antiquities theft during which robbers attempted to breach and plunder an ancient underground complex.

Click here to read this article from

Vikings revered Stone Age objects

New archaeological findings suggest that the Vikings considered Stone Age objects to have magical qualities, and that such “antiques” were more important in Viking culture than previously understood.

Examinations of around 10 Viking graves found in Rogaland, southwest Norway, revealed Stone Age items, such as weapons, amulets and tools. Olle Hemdorff of the Archaelogical Museum in Stavanger told newspaper Aftenposten that he believes the items were buried so that “they would protect and bring luck to the dead in the after-life.”

Click here to read this article from Views and News from Norway

How Is New Media Reshaping the Work of Historians?

The recent AHA survey of research and teaching shows that while very few historians can be considered power users of digital software and tools, most are deeply immersed in new media and thinking critically about its effect on the way they do history.

The survey of history faculty at four-year colleges and universities asked an array of questions about the types of software and digital tools historians in academia were using, their publishing practices in print and online, and their general attitudes toward the technologies and opportunities of new media. But to provide a basic frame of reference, AHA staff classified the 4,182 respondents from U.S. institutions into four groups, based on their self-described patterns of adoption and use of new media.

Click here to read this article from the American Historical Association

Medieval Scholar Hot on Trail of Starbucks Logo Cover-Up

If you want the corporate take on why Starbucks recently deleted the green ring from its logo—and, in fact, the word Starbucks—you can listen to Howard Schultz, the company’s CEO, soberly explain, in a promotional video, why the “essence of the Starbucks experience” in the 21st century is better reflected by … an unadorned mermaid-siren.

But not long ago, before the branding rethink, the author of the blog Got Medieval, a graduate student in medieval studies at Yale, detected “something fishy” about the mermaid, specifically about the stories Starbucks was spinning about her.

Click here to read this article from the Wall Street Journal

Click here to go to the blog Got Medieval

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light?

A Viking legend tells of a glowing 'sunstone' that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day. It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic. A review of their evidence is published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B1.

The Vikings, seafarers from Scandinavia who travelled widely and settled in swathes of Northern Europe, the British Isles and the northern Atlantic from around 750 to 1050 AD, were skilled navigators, able to cross thousands of kilometres of open sea between Norway, Iceland and Greenland. Perpetual daylight during the summer sailing season in the far north would have prevented them from using the stars as a guide to their positions, and the magnetic compass had yet to be introduced in Europe — in any case, it would have been of limited use so close to the North Pole.

Click here to read this article from

Click here to read a similar article from MSNBC

Click here to read the article published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society

Lecture: The Job of a Philologist is Never Done: Translating and Editing Jónsbók, the Laws of Later Iceland

Western Michigan University's Dr. Jana Schulman will talk about her recently published bilingual edition of the Jónsbók, a late 13th-century legal text, Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. in Room 3025 of Brown Hall.

Schulman, WMU professor of English, will discuss "The Job of a Philologist is Never Done: Translating and Editing Jónsbók, the Laws of Later Iceland." The lecture is part of WMU's English Scholarly Speakers Series, and is open to the public free of charge.

Jónsbók's contents focus on land use, tenancy, personal rights, farming, maritime law, marriage and family law, and inheritance, in addition to poor and theft law. Schulman's is the first translation into English of any Jónsbók manuscript. It makes the text accessible to English-language readers, providing a more comprehensive history of medieval Icelandic law for scholars worldwide.

Click here to read this article from Western Michigan University