Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Byzantine and Roman galleries open at the Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada will be opening a new set of permanent galleries tomorrow that will showcase its impressive collection of artifacts from the ancient civilizations of Rome, Byzantium and Nubia.

Highlights of the collection include an exceptionally rare Byzantine ciborium (altar canopy) dated to AD 550, a gladiator’s helmet that was found in the Colosseum in Rome and a marble bust of Emperor Lucius Verus, which was made during his reign in the second century AD.

“The ROM is pleased to bring these significant empires, which span more than 2,500 years of history from Europe, Africa, and West Asia, back to life for our visitors through notable artifacts and compelling video based on ROM research,” said Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO. “As we explore the ancient civilisations in these stunning new galleries, we can see their lasting influence on today’s architecture, language, theatre, law, religion, and, of course, art.”

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Luxury In Ancient Greece And The Medieval World

For some, it’s about fine wines, penthouses, exclusive clubs and designer clothes. For others, it can be as simple as settling down for the afternoon with a good book. Now a two-part BBC miniseries, presented by Cambridge University academic Dr Michael Scott, is to reveal how the ambiguous meaning of luxury is the very thing that has defined our often-troubled relationship with it throughout history – and thwarted multiple attempts to stamp it out.

Starting on Monday (June 27), as part of BBC Four’s Luxury season, Guilty Pleasures; Luxury In Ancient Greece And The Medieval World aims to trace the way in which human attitudes towards symbols of wealth, power and indulgence developed, from Ancient Athens to the time of the Black Death.

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Researchers Dig Down for Cesspits of Medieval Tallinn

The most significant archaeological excavations to take place in Tallinn this year will be conducted in the very heart of the city, at the grounds of the demolished Academy of Arts building.

Preparations for the work, to be undertaken on the academy's Tartu maantee grounds, started on June 13. Full-fledged excavations will begin in July, under the supervision of archaeologists Gurly Vedru and Guido Toos. In addition to the team of experts, undergraduates from three universities will be employed as volunteers.

Click here to read this article from Estonian Public Broadcasting

Monday, June 27, 2011

Archaeologists Unscramble Ancient Graffiti In Israel

Aramaic is the lingua franca of the ancient Middle East, the linguistic root of modern day Hebrew and Arabic.

"Once you understand Aramaic," says Karen Stern, "you can read anything. You can read Hebrew, you can read Phoenician. I always call it the little black dress of Semitic languages."

Stern, 35, is an archaeologist and an assistant professor in the history department at Brooklyn College. Her passion is the tomb graffiti of the ancient Jews in what was then Roman Palestine. Graffiti has been "published, but sort of disregarded," she says. "Whereas I think it is intimate, vocal and spontaneous, and adds to the historical record."

Click here to read this article from NPR

Miracle cures from the age of Hippocrates

From simple syrups, eye drops, balms and pills to suppositories combining a multitude of ingredients, pharmaceutics has been a precision science since antiquity.

Used through the ages to cure a vast variety of ailments and diseases, pharmaceutics has its roots in the combination of medicinal plants and roots. In fact, Hippocrates’ (ca 460 - ca 370 BC) writings mention at least 250 medicinal plants in his studies, while Galen of Pergamon (AD 129-199), the most accomplished of antiquity’s medical researchers, described in his so-called Galenic Formulations medicines that combine up to 100 different ingredients each.

In AD 1300, the Byzantine physician Nicholas Myrepsos compiled a compendium of more that 2,200 medicines, many of which concerned mixtures of three to five different ingredients.

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Teams search for Bredwardine Medieval village

Archaeologists are due to start a three-week dig in Herefordshire in search of a buried Medieval village.

Herefordshire Archaeology, the county's archaeological service, and The University of Manchester, will excavate trenches in The Knapp, in Bredwardine.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Are Vikings the next pop-culture fetish?

Is there room at the pop culture inn for Vikings? MGM sure hopes so. The formerly financially distressed studio has green lit an Irish-Canadian co-production of Vikings, a 10-episode drama series.

Produced by Michael Hirst and Morgan O’Sullivan, who have previously created The Tudors and Camelot, the series will focus on a Viking hero, Ragnar Lodbrok, who captured Paris, and be set in the 8th to 11th century.

Possibly building on the current twin pop culture successes of the recently-released film Thor and HBO’s adaptation of fantasy series, Game of Thrones, producers might feel that the warriors might get a chance in the sun. To be fair, Thrones is not exactly Viking-based, and Thor is definitely Marvel’s view of Norse mythology.

Click here to read this article from the Toronto Star

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grisly Relics, Gorgeous Art

The wonderfully ghoulish "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe" in the British Museum Round Reading Room is a spaciously installed group of sometimes ravishingly beautiful Christian objects of devotion—sculptural metalwork, precious gems, enamels, paintings and carvings—and most of them conceal bits of rotted wood or decomposed flesh.

n his introductory catalog essay Arnold Angenendt makes explicit the assumption that led early Christians to venerate their dead co-religionists' "nails and hair, their teeth, and above all their skulls": "the dead are not actually dead." He notes: "The Early Christians remembered and preserved only Jesus's words and miracles"; relic worship marked a return to pagan practices. The missing link with this actual, gorgeous exhibition, however, is the concept of the effect of magic on the primitive mind.

Click here to read this article from the Wall Street Journal

Bayeux Medieval Fair to celebrate all things Norman

As part of the pageant of events planned to celebrate the 1100th birthday of the French province of Normandy, the town of Bayeux will turn its 25th annual Medieval Fair, held July 1-3, into a celebration of all things Norman.

Descended from a band of marauding Vikings who founded the province, the Normans conquered Britain in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. A re-enactment of that battle will take place on the morning of July 3.

Click here to read this article from the Los Angeles Times

Nottinghamshire medieval manorial records now online

The records from over 200 Nottinghamshire manors are now accessible online thanks to Nottinghamshire County Council and the National Archives in the United Kingdom.

The Manorial Documents register was launched earlier this week at an event at Nottinghamshire Archives. The records date back to the fourteenth century.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bodies of 17 Jews from Medieval Norwich may have been mass-murder victims, scholars believe

Scholars from the University of Dundee believe that the remains of 17 people found in a well in Norwich were members of the medieval Jewish community who were murdered or committed suicide during anti-Jewish violence. The results are being presented on tonight’s episode of the BBC show History Cold Case.

The discovery of the remains of 17 people in a well in the centre of Norwich was made in 2004 when the Chapelfield Shopping Centre was being built. Archaeologist Giles Emery was called in and his team excavated the remains of the bodies which were discovered several metres down a well – the only burial of its kind to have been discovered in the UK.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Medieval mill to be excavated in Northumberland National Park

Lottery funding of almost £10,000 has enabled a local archaeology group to plan a summer excavation of a site in Northumberland National Park.

Thanks to a grant of £9,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), members of the Coquetdale Community Archaeology group will lead a survey and excavation work in the River Coquet near Barrowburn, around 10 miles west of Ingram, from mid-July.

The object is to uncover more remnants of what is believed to be a medieval fulling mill operated by local monks.

Click here to read this article from the Berwick Advertiser

Underground Crusader city revealed beneath streets of Acre

Archaeologists prepare to uncover entire compound built in medieval times and hidden for centuries under the rubble in northern Israel.

Off the track beaten by most Holy Land tourists lies one of the richest archaeological sites in a country full of them: the walled port of Acre, where the busy alleys of an Ottoman-era town cover a uniquely intact Crusader city now being rediscovered.

Preparing to open a new subterranean section to the public, workers cleaned stones this week in an arched passageway underground. Etched in plaster on one wall was a coat of arms — graffiti left by a medieval traveler. Nearby was a main street of cobblestones and a row of shops that once sold clay figurines and ampules for holy water, popular souvenirs for pilgrims.

Click here to read this article from Haaretz

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Durham Visitor Centre to be home of university’s Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies

The University of Durham has opened a new £1.25m visitor centre, which will highlight Durham Cathedral and Castle, and be home to its Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, based in the former Durham University Almshouses on Owengate, Durham City, will provide visitors with an overview of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Badge dug up in field is medieval treasure

A scrap of twisted silver found a few weeks ago by a metal detector in Lancashire will take its place among masterpieces of medieval art at the British Museum, in an exhibition opening this week of the bejewelled shrines made to hold the relics of saints and martyrs.

The badge made of silver found by Paul King, a retired logistics expert, is a humble object to earn a place in an exhibition called Treasures of Heaven, but it is unique. It will sit among gold and silver reliquaries studded with gems the size of thumbnails – or the sockets from which they were wrenched by thieves – once owned by emperors, popes and princes.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Monday, June 20, 2011

British Museum to host “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relic and Devotion in Medieval Europe”

The British Museum’s major summer exhibition explores the spiritual and artistic significance of Christian relics and reliquaries in medieval Europe. Featuring some of the finest sacred treasures of the medieval age, Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe will give visitors the opportunity to see objects from more than forty institutions, many of which have not been seen in the UK before, brought together for the first time.

The exhibition, which runs between June 23rd and October 9th, will largely draw on the pre-eminent collections of the British Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, and the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Rare loans from the Vatican, including from the private chapel of the popes, the Sancta Sanctorum, as well as from lesser-known European church treasuries will also be on display. A variety of objects such as manuscripts, prints and pilgrim badges will be exhibited alongside the relics and reliquaries themselves, adding depth and context to the exhibition’s examination of this critical aspect of European history.

Click here to read this article from

9th century Viking skeletal remains found in Dublin

Construction workers building Ireland’s largest energy project have discovered ancient skeletal remains on farmland in Rush, north county Dublin.

The discovery was made as EirGrid laid piping for a high voltage direct current underground power line.

Skulls and bones were found near Rogerstown estuary. Local historians believe the remains date back to the 9th century. The former post of Lusk, close by, was used by the Vikings.

Click here to read this article from Irish Central

How IBM is Enabling Smarter Management of ... Medieval Abbeys

Question:What does a rack of high-performance, network blade-servers have in common with the 15th century Flemish tapestry The Hunt for the Unicorn?

Answer: Both are being watched over by some of IBM's most advanced smart building systems.

Last week, as part of a roll-out of a broader suite of smart building technologies, I got to enjoy a dose of high culture and high technology, catching Big Blue's announcement of novel collaboration with New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

World fame of Worcester Cathedral library

Worcester Cathedral's library is ranked among the most important in the country for medieval studies. It contains nearly 300 manuscripts and archives dating from the 10th Century.

Librarian and archivist David Morrison said the cathedral's collection is invaluable and attracts scholars from all over the world.

He said: "Worcester's got the second best collection of medieval manuscripts in any cathedral in the UK and only Durham has a larger number."

Click here to read this article from the BBC

New book captures history of Tewkesbury's Medieval Festival

New history of Tewkesbury’s internationally renowned Medieval Festival through photographs has been captured in the form of a new book.

The publication, by professional Tewkesbury-based photographer Nigel Byde, includes everything from a selection of black and white images of the early days of the event, to exclusive pictures of last year’s battle re-enactment, and scenes from the authentic living history camps.

Click here to read this article from the Tewkesbury Admag

1500-year-old building discovered at Acre

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a 1500 year old building in the historic city of Acre (also known as Akko). The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the find earlier this month, which they believe may have been a Byzantine church.

According to Nurit Feig, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Until now, the city was known from Christian sources which mention its bishop who took part in formulating the new religion. Now, the first tangible evidence is emerging in the field. This is an important discovery for the study of Acre because until now no remains dating to the Byzantine period have been found, save those of a residential quarter situated near the sea.”

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Medieval painting discovered at Oystermouth Castle in Wales

Remnants of an ornate medieval painting dating back to the 14th century have been discovered at Oystermouth Castle, near the Welsh town of Swansea.

The surviving painting is thought to be over 700 years old and was spotted during conservation work in the historic attraction’s chapel area.

Exposure to the elements has taken its toll on the painting over time but experts from Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government, suggests it’s a double-arched canopy that contains the figures of angels.

Some of the clear elements of the painting that remain include a wing with multiple feathers and circular shapes that form a head with yellow hair surrounded by a nimbus.

Click here to read this article from

Lorraine Stock awarded the Bonnie Wheeler Summer Fellowship

From Camelot to Sherwood Forest, Lorraine Stock has taken students on a host of literary adventures. Now, the University of Houston associate professor of English will venture into new research territories with the aid of the Bonnie Wheeler Summer Research Fellowship.

Medieval expert Stock is the inaugural recipient of this award. Named for the noted scholar Wheeler, this fellowship honors female medievalists and provides support for research projects conducted between June 1 and December 31.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, June 16, 2011

National Trust for Scotland: trusting in change

It was a bit of a step up from stage-diving when rock stars The View threw themselves into the Highland air above the spectacular Killiecrankie gorge. They were among the first to try out a bungee-jumping attraction which is hoped to be worth £7.5 million to the local economy in Perthshire – and Scotland's biggest conservation agency is banking on cashing in on a large slice of that cake.

The Highland Fling Bungee was unveiled at the National Trust for Scotland site just months after Go Ape opened a high-wire treetop course at another of its sites, 16th century Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, complete with zip wires, rope ladders and Tarzan swings.

At nearby Fyvie Castle, staff are gearing up for the site's 800th anniversary, which will be marked by a lavish concert in its grounds, headlined by soul star Beverley Knight, before an anticipated 5000-strong crowd.

It all seems a far cry from the traditional image of the National Trust for Scotland, probably best known for its careful stewardship of country houses, manicured gardens and historic castles.

Click here to read this article from The Scotsman

Medieval Masons' Marks discovered in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall

A series of stonemason’s markings, thought to be over 600 years old, have been discovered by accident in Kirkwall’s St Magnus Cathedral, thanks to the installation of a modern lighting system in the ancient building.

The 12th-century Viking cathedral, situated in the heart of the Orkney capital, is the most northerly in Britain.

Dominating the Kirkwall skyline, the mediaeval building is a visible link to the Norse heritage of the islands and receives over 70,000 visitors a year.

Click here to see the video report from STV

Click here to read an article from The Scotsman

12th Century Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire to be re-excavated

A 12th Century abbey in Lincolnshire is being re-excavated almost 100 years after it was first uncovered. A grant of £48,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund is helping towards the costs at Bardney Abbey near Lincoln.

The work to uncover part of the refectory, where the monks ate their meals, will continue through summer with special events for the public.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to read more about Bardney Abbey

John Davey Research Grant for Medieval Studies

When it comes to history, especially medieval history, the awards and accolades are usually reserved for the professional scholar – those with multiple degrees of higher learning and long lists of academic titles and initials after their name. And deservedly so. Without their dedication and scholarship, much of what we know about history would have been lost to time. But it is often the local historian who provides just as valuable a contribution to unlocking the secrets of the past. Giving selflessly of their time and talents, their work has helped to foster a better understanding of the events and people who came before us. And this is just who The Richard III Foundation, Inc. is seeking to recognize with their new program, The John Davey Research Grant for Medieval Studies.

Click here to read this article from

Archaeologists to search River Coquet for lost mill

A team of amateur archaeologists has won lottery cash to fund an underwater excavation in Northumberland.

The £9,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund will allow Coquetdale Community Archaeology group to search the River Coquet for a 13th Century cloth mill.

Evidence of the submerged remains are already visible in a stretch of the river near Barrowburn. Work on the project, which has also received backing from English Heritage, is due to get under way next month.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Infrared Photography reveals new details in medieval art

Two medieval art historians from Arizona have been using infrared photography – utilizing the invisible rays just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum – to learn about the original preliminary drawings for the painting, layers of paint, changes in the artist’s focus and more.

Corine Schleif, professor of art history at Arizona State University (ASU), and Volker Schier, an affiliate of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, have been working since 2002 with this technology to better understand art works dating back to the Middle Ages.

Schleif, who spends her summers in Germany, often is asked to analyze paintings in the many churches in Nuremberg, most of which date back to the 1400s, and in fact, she already has studied a great many of them.

Click here to read this article from

Archaeological Dig begins for medieval hospital in England

Archaeological work is set to start in the northeastern English town of North Tyneside, which hopes to reveal the location of a medieval hospital.

Up to seven trenches are about to dug within Northumberland Park, which lies between Tynemouth and North Shields, as part of work to rediscover the medieval hospital of St Leonard’s. It follows work by around 30 volunteers who surveyed the area during three weekends last month.

The volunteers were trained by Alan Biggins, a professional archaeological surveyor, supported by the New Friends of Northumberland Park and North Tyneside Council.

Click here to read this article from

Medievalist awarded grant to research Mirror to Devout People

Paul Patterson, assistant professor of English at St.Joseph University, has been awarded $8,200 to pursue his personal project, an edition of the Mirror to Devout People.

The Mirror to Devout People, also known as the Speculum devotorum, was written by a monk at the Carthusian monastery of Sheen, in Surrey, England, for a sister of the Bridgettine Syon Abbey in Isleworth, Middlesex. It tells the story of Christ’s life, with an emphasis on the Passion, and was written at a time when the vernacular Bible was banned. Over the past several years, Patterson has examined a number of late-14th and early-15th century texts, and plans to complete a new edition of the Mirror to Devout People for the Early English Text Society this summer. Patterson will conduct his research at the Cambridge University Library, which holds one of the original manuscripts of the text. Both the Huntington Library and British Academy Fellowship for study in the United Kingdom and the NEH summer stipend will support the completion of this project.

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Lecture on “Place Names and Saints’ Cults: a window on medieval Scotland” to be given in Derry

In celebration of Colmcille Day, the Northern Ireland city of Derry is hosting a lecture by Gilbert Markus on “Place Names and Saints’ Cults: a window on medieval Scotland.”

The lecture takes place today at the Tower Museum and is organised by Derry City Council’s Heritage and Museum Service as its Annual Colmcille Lecture.

The lecture will begin with a study of the cult of St Serf moving onto place names referring to Columba and Columban saints. The lecture will focus on how place names, referring to saints and their cults, can tell us about history and historical evidence.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anglo-Saxon warrior burials – a link with late Roman Colchester?

Archaeological excavations on the site of the Hyderabad and Meeanee barracks off Mersea Road in Colchester have revealed a number of burials including two ‘spearmen’ likely to be of Germanic, possibly Saxon, origin. The two men had each been equipped with a round shield and a spear. One of them also had a dagger held in a belt around his waist. They were laid to rest on their backs with their shields on their chests and their spears by their sides. The wooden parts of the weapons have almost completely decayed away but the ironwork (mainly shield bosses, spear heads and the dagger) survived in situ. The men were not buried with metal helmets or body armour although they may have worn cheaper leather alternatives instead.

The burials are part of a cemetery of unknown extent only part of which as yet been examined. At least than eleven burials have been identified in the current phase of work. More are expected to be found when excavations resume later in the year.

Click here to read this article from the Colchester Archaeologist

Pattanam finds throw more light on early maritime trade

A litany of finds that include iron and copper nails, Roman glass, Chola coins, and terracotta and semi-precious stone beads that sheds new light on the life and times of the ancient Kerala port of Muziris surfaced in the latest archaeological excavations at Pattanam near here.

The excavations, carried out by the Kerala Council for Historical Research in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India, universities, and research institutions, unearthed more evidence of Kerala's brisk maritime trade with Mesopotamian and Mediterranean regions two millennia ago, according to P.J. Cherian who directs the digs at Pattanam.

The Muziris port, believed to have been located close to the present Kodungalloor, had a thriving urban culture and international trade around the beginning of the Christian era. The port that finds mention in the ancient historical and literary texts is believed to have lost to a massive flood in the Periyar river in the 14th century.

Click here to read this article from The Hindu

Hydropower Project in Turkey Breeds Controversy

The tranquility and mystery of this town on the banks of Tigris River will not last long. The millennia-old town will be destroyed once the nearby Ilisu dam, built for energy and irrigation, is complete.

"I don't want to be forced to move from here," said Nurten Kandemir, 27, who was born and has lived most of her life here. But Kandemir's family along with other residents of the town will have to evacuate the area in the coming months. "I feel a part of my body is taken away from me," she told IPS.

Hasankeyf is dotted with captivating architecture surviving from the Roman, Byzantine, Assyrian and Muslim empires.

The construction of Ilisu, part of the larger South-eastern Anatolia Project, started in 2006. After completion, it is expected to produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

Click here to read this article from Futures and Commodities Marketing News

Roman skeleton found in Gloucestershire

A skeleton, possibly dating from Roman times, has been unearthed by archaeologists from the University of Bristol during a dig in the garden of vaccination pioneer Dr Edward Jenner in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

The archaeologists, led by Professor Mark Horton and Dr Stuart Prior, have been excavating part of the garden of The Chantry, the former country home of vaccination pioneer, Dr Edward Jenner (1749-1823), during a series of annual digs since 2007. They have already established that Berkeley is an important Anglo-Saxon site with a mynster of the same scale and status as Gloucester.

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

Latin dictionary is a lifetime career

For 32 years, Dr David Howlett has been scouring medieval Latin texts, picking out unusual words and compiling them in one of the world’s most extraordinary dictionaries.

But, if that sounds like a lifetime’s work, it’s just a fraction of the time spent by scholars on a monumental effort to record the definitions of every Latin word used in Britain for more than 1,000 years.

A century after the idea was first floated to the British Academy, experts are only now compiling definitions of words beginning with ‘T’ for the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources.

Click here to read this article from the Oxford Mail

See also Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources project nears completion

HBO stands by controversial recent episode of hit series Game of Thrones

Just in case you haven't watched Sunday's (June 12) episode of Game of Thrones on HBO yet, you may want to not read any further because there are huge SPOILERS ahead. Not that they can really be considered spoilers since the episode has officially aired, but still don't read if you haven't watched yet.

Continue reading on

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How much meat did medieval people eat?

A recently published article has revealed some interesting new details about meat consumption in the Middle Ages, including how different regions in medieval Western Europe had their own preferences for these foods.

In the article, “Consumption of Meat in Western European Cities during the Late Middle Ages: A Contemporary Study,” Ramón Agustín Banegas López examines a wide range of evidence from England, France, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula to see what kinds of meat were eaten by its urban residents, including beef, mutton, pork and veal.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval Stained Glass in Wales image catalogue goes online

The University of Wales has launched an online catalogue containing over 5000 image of stained glass windows dating back to the Middle Ages.

A one-day forum is being held today to formally launch the new online resource, which can be found at:

The catalogue contains over 5000 images of stained glass drawn from 350 sites across Wales, together with descriptions and information about artists and manufacturers. Ranging from the fourteenth century up to the present day, windows are searchable by location, date, subject and maker.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval archaeological find in Gloucestershire

Archaeologists working in the historic Cotswold market town of Winchcombe have uncovered remains dating back to the thirteenth century.

A team from Cotswold Archaeology, based in Kemble, have recently completed a month-long archaeological excavation on the site in Cowl Lane. The site is to be developed into eight new Cotswold stone houses by local building firm, N J Smith Builders for the P. B. Royle Trust.

Click here to read this article from

Treasures of Heaven, Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, British Museum

Around 828, some Venetian merchants were in Alexandria on a mission. They made their way into the Coptic cathedral where the body of St Mark the Evangelist was preserved. Having somehow squared the custodians, the Italians slit open his shroud and carried the remains to a waiting ship. They covered them with pork to discourage Muslim customs officials from looking too closely, and sailed back to the Lagoon. “History records no more shameless example of body snatching, nor any,” as John Julius Norwich put it, “of greater long-term significance.”

In the Middle Ages, the dead were very powerful – not all of them, but those who had led exceptionally holy lives. This is the subject of a forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum: Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe. It will contain, among other sometimes grisly items, alleged fragments of the True Cross, the foot of St Blaise, the breast milk of the Virgin Mary, and the hair of St John the Evangelist (or at any rate, the sumptuously decorated objects made to house these things).

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

See also British Museum to host “Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relic and Devotion in Medieval Europe”

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Met Teams With IBM To Preserve Art, Avoid Going Medieval On Assets

Humans have, in general, done a decent job of preserving relics of the past in museums. But there is always room for improvement--especially when it comes to managing fragile, ancient works of art. A new indoor weather forecasting system from IBM may help.

IBM announced this week that it is teaming up with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to test a wireless environmental sensor network--dubbed, unsexily, the Low-Power Mote--in the museum's Cloisters, a section that holds 3,000 works of art from medieval Europe. The works, which include paintings, tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts, date from the 12th through the 15th century.

The art is already tightly guarded with controlled climates and sealed cases, but IBM is ramping up the protection even more with 100 Low-Power Mote sensors placed throughout the Cloisters.

Click here to read this article from Fast Company

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Embroideries 'worth millions' found during London house clearance

A house clearer brought in to remove "junk" from a messy flat discovered two beautiful embroideries believed to date back to medieval times and worth "millions of pounds". Ian Spencer paid £5,000 for the right to clear a wealthy American woman's flat in Mayfair, London, after her lawyer believed everything of value had been sold.

The woman, Judy Keele, had not lived in the flat for some time and it was dirty and disorganised. But in an Edwardian bedside cupboard Spencer came across a folded pink bedspread. When he opened it, the two embroideries fell out. He put them to one side, not realising what they were, and continued to clear the room.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Group Says California Textbook Hiding Truth about Islam

A group in California says history textbooks being used in San Diego school district are covering up the truth about Islam.

Michael Hayutin, San Diego chapter leader of the group ACT for America, says the controversial textbook called "World History, Medieval to Early Modern Times" teaches students a false view of the Muslim faith.

Click here to read this article from Christian Broadcast News

See also: History book causing controversy in Solana Beach

Monday, June 06, 2011

Well worth crowing about... a little piece of Hollywood magic in heart of Scotland

A replica medieval fort under construction in the heart of Scotland could be set to kick-start the country's film industry. Duncarron Fort in Stirlingshire has been earmarked as a location for a planned biopic of Columba, the "warrior-saint" who brought Christianity to Scotland.

Gladiator actor Russell Crowe, who visited the site yesterday, said he would promote it in Hollywood, adding: "This has definitely got film set written all over it."

Click here to read this article from The Scotsman

Russell Crowe returns to ‘medieval’ Scottish roots

He made his name playing period roles such as Robin Hood and gladiator Maximus but yesterday Hollywood actor Russell Crowe evoked the spirit of a Scots clan chief as he climbed to the summit of a medieval fortified village to pose for pictures and revealed his Scots lineage.

Standing atop the mound of the Duncarron village and gazing down the Carron Valley, the New-Zealand born actor appeared pleased with all he surveyed, admitting the surrounding sheep-filled fields reminded him of his birthplace.

Click here to read this article from The Herald

Medieval Nuns knew their fashion, historian finds

Recent research on medieval nuns shows that many of them were dressing in the latest fashions instead of simple religious habits. And while their were efforts by the church to make nuns dress more humbly, by the 14th and 15th centuries these rules were becoming less and less adhered to.

The article, “Best Clothes and Everyday Attire of Late Medieval Nuns,” by Eva Schlotheuber, appears in Fashion and Clothing in Late Medieval Europe, which was published last year in Switzerland. Basing her research on numerous sources from western Europe, such as reports on medieval nunneries by church officials, leads Schlotheuber to believe that “in the rhythm of daily life and feast days the nuns developed a great deal of creativity, and lived in a much more lively fashion than the morally and didactically coloured theological texts of the period want us to think.”

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Trinity College Dublin creates Masters programmes in Public History and Digital Humanities

Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan, launched two new postgraduate Masters programmes, in ‘Public History and Cultural Heritage’ and ‘Digital Humanities and Culture’ at Trinity College Dublin earlier this week, which will add a new dynamic to the development of country’s cultural heritage.

The programmes have been developed under the umbrella of Trinity’s Creative Arts, Technologies and Culture initiative and are an outcome of the new partnership between the university and some of Ireland’s leading cultural institutions located in close proximity at the centre of Dublin. The National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, Dublin City Gallery Hugh Lane, Dublin City Public Library and Archive Services and the Chester Beatty Library among others will collaborate with Trinity in the development of these new programmes.

Students will pursue courses in Trinity in established research areas such as History, English, Languages and Cultural Studies, and Computer Science while undertaking internships in the cultural institutions and gaining practical experience of working in the cultural heritage industry.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, June 03, 2011

Climate helped drive Vikings from Greenland

The end of the Norse settlements on Greenland likely will remain shrouded in mystery. While there is scant written evidence of the colony’s demise in the 14th and early 15th centuries, archaeological remains can fill some of the blanks, but not all.

What climate scientists have been able to ascertain is that an extended cold snap, called the Little Ice Age, gripped Greenland beginning in the 1400s. This has been cited as a major cause of the Norse’s disappearance. Now researchers led by Brown University show the climate turned colder in an earlier span of several decades, setting in motion the end of the Greenland Norse. Their findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval recycling: A historian looks at fifth century Britain to shed fresh light on ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’

Historian Robin Fleming’s recent lecture at Harvard was on economic calamity in early medieval Britain, and how people in desperate straits turned to “recycling” Roman ruins for what they needed.

The Radcliffe Fellow, on leave from Boston College, used dozens of slides — of knights in helmets, stone churches, iron fixtures, and more. But one picture was contemporary: a Haitian man, hammer poised in midair, scavenging rebar from post-earthquake rubble.

Perhaps fifth century Britain, thrown into abject poverty by the withdrawal of Roman power, offers a lesson to the modern world. In some countries, after all, culture, industry, and governance are fragile too, and await the fall of some modern Rome.

Click here to read this article from the Harvard Gazette

See also the interview we did with Robin Fleming in November 2010:

Treasure discoveries: Inquest completes on medieval brooch

A medieval brooch discovered on farmland has been declared as treasure. West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston opened a treasure inquest into the finding of the silver brooch at Dorset County Hall in Dorchester.

The inquest heard how David Cobb of Bournemouth found the brooch, which dates to between the 14th and 15th centuries. Mr Cobb made the discovery last May 12 while metal detecting on land near Blandford. It measures 17.34mm by 17.31mm.

Click here to read this article from the Dorset Echo

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Persistence of Hate: German communities that murdered Jews in the Middle Ages were more likely to support the Nazis 600 years later

From Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Ala., to the "Little Rock Nine," who defied school segregation in Arkansas, most of the civil rights clashes of the 20th century played out on the turf where the Confederacy had fought to preserve slavery 100 years earlier.

If a century seems like a long time for a culture of racism to persist, consider the findings of a recent study on the persistence of anti-Semitism in Germany: Communities that murdered their Jewish populations during the 14th-century Black Death pogroms were more likely to demonstrate a violent hatred of Jews nearly 600 years later. A culture of intolerance can be very persistent indeed.

Click here to read this article from

Click here to read the article Persecution Perpetuated: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany

Marvão, Portugal: Medieval Castle Renovation or Destruction?

Photo by Jose Porras
The tiny, walled-in, mountaintop village of Marvão—a medieval gem in Portugal’s Alentejo region—has sweeping views of the countryside (including some of Spain, just 10 miles away), a population of less than 200 people, and a spectacular 13th-century castle. The village is especially incredible for an overnight getaway, as you’ll get the town practically to yourself after sunset, when Lisbon daytrippers have fled.

Better get there quick, though, as it seems much of the flavor of Marvão may be about to slip away. That’s thanks to village officials’ bizarre move to renovate the castle—in ways that appear to have a grave lack of regard for its history.

Click here to read this article from Forbes

Volunteers dig up relics from medieval past

Medieval items were discovered as history enthusiasts held a Time Team-style dig during the Bank Holiday weekend.

Inspired by the Tony Robinson-fronted television programme, volunteers from the Llynfi Valley Historical Society teamed up with Celtic Wireless and Time Trackers films to take part in an archaeological survey on a site that had not been disturbed for 90 years.

The dig took place in Maes Cadlawr, Llangynwyd, between Friday and Monday.

Click here to read this article from WalesOnline

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill could take 20 years to complete


Windsor Castle and the Tower of London are both famous castles. They are also many miles away. However, thanks to the vision of a group of French investors, the Ozarks will soon be home to a similar structure with 45-foot-high towers, a drawbridge, and six-foot-wide stone walls.

The Ozark Medieval Fortress is old fashioned through and through.

"We're building a 13th century castle and we're using only 13th century tools and techniques," said Ozark Medieval Fortress Site Manager Jacob Atkins.

Click here to read this article from KY3

See also Medieval Castle begins to emerge in America's heartland

14th century Italian paintings to be sold at auction in England

Four hidden masterpieces that were hanging on the wall of a country church are to go on sale for up to £1.5 million.

The 14th century paintings were on display at the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Withyham after being donated by an artist.

But now the Church of England has given permission for the four Italian paintings to be sold off to fund refurbishment work on the building.

Click here to read this article from the Argus

Click here to see a video report from the BBC

Honouring one of Scotland's great heroes — 2011 Bruce Festival launched

Fit for a king — Dunfermline, the final resting place of Robert the Bruce, staked its claim as the modern home of his legend when the 2011 Bruce Festival was launched in front of its medieval abbey on Tuesday.

This year's line-up has some new additions that will bring the Bruce story to life in dramatic style, placing the event as the focal point for the celebration of one of Scotland's greatest heroes.

Click here to read this article from The Courier

Longthorpe Tower: City’s heritage has tower power

A hidden gem in Peterborough’s heritage has been named as one of the top 100 historic visitor attractions in the country.

Longthorpe Tower, in Thorpe Road, features in a book out this week called “100 Places That Made Britain”.

The building is described as a “non-descript tower” on the outside, but once visitors enter they are wowed by the 14th century paintings which are thought to be the most important examples of their kind in northern Europe.

Click here to read this article from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph