Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Good Book that turned the English language upside down

The King James Bible has been called the world’s most influential version of the most influential book in the most influential language. It is the Bible that travelled with British imperialism into the various dominions, and a newer version of that same Bible can be found in hotel rooms across North America.

When George Washington was sworn into office in 1789, he made an oath on the King James Version Bible. Every American president since – with the exception of John F. Kennedy who was a Catholic – has followed suit. And its influence on the English language is undeniable – Moby Dick and Martin Luther King’s speeches were infused with the language of the KJV, and when Linus takes to the stage to tell Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about in the holiday special, he quotes from the Luke Gospel in the KJV. (“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”)

It’s been 400 years since its first publication in 1611. And even if it’s not as prevalent a part of the lives of the younger generation in an increasing secular world, the English language owes a debt to the King James Bible.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mysterious Mass Sacrifice Found Near Ancient Peru Pyramid

An apparent ritual mass sacrifice—including decapitations and a royal beer bash—is coming to light near a pre-Inca pyramid in northern Peru, archaeologists say.

Excavations next to the ancient Huaca Las Ventanas pyramid first uncovered bodies in August, and more have been emerging since then from a 50-by-50-foot (15-by-15-meter) pit.

The pyramid is part of the Sicán site, the capital of the Lambayeque people—also known as the Sicán—who ruled Peru's northern coast from about A.D. 900 to 1100.

Perhaps more than a hundred bodies—buried nude and some of them headless—lie in the newfound pit, according to Haagen Klaus, a bioarchaeologist at Utah Valley University in Orem who is studying the finds.

The bodies are almost all adult males, with the exception of two children, each accompanied by what appears to be an adult woman.

Click here to read this article from National Geographic

Secrets of life on Newport's medieval ship revealed

In the summer of 2002, thousands flocked to the banks of the River Usk in Newport, to see a piece of history. In the middle of a building site, the mud had been cleared to reveal the 500-year-old remains of a trading ship.

Built in 1447, it is the world's best preserved example of a 15th Century vessel. Nearly ten years after it was uncovered, archaeologists are still making new discoveries about life on board. They hope that in the next decade the ship will be rebuilt and put on display in its own museum.

Charles Ferris, from the Friends of the Newport Ship group, remembers the excitement as news of the discovery spread. "It was amazing, it was absolutely palpable. I often think the Newport ship floats on a sea of goodwill," he said. "The Newport public did us proud and came out to support her in their thousands. People used to queue for two to three hours just to see her."

The timbers were uncovered during work to build the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre. After a campaign to ensure it was preserved, the ship was moved timber by timber to an industrial unit nearby.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Estonia: Archaeologists Discover Medieval Artifacts at Art Academy Site

Archaeologists digging at the site of the future Academy of the Arts have uncovered a trove of medieval artifacts, including several boxes of ceramic pottery, as well as silver coins, wooden dice, bone jewelry and a piece from a board game.

All sites for new buildings in Tallinn's downtown area must undergo archaeological excavations. The Academy of Arts property sits on the edge of an ancient suburb of Tallinn, and is one of the largest turfs archaeologists have had the joy to unearth, reported Postimees.

In many other archaeological sites, the more ancient cultural layers are often destroyed before researchers reach that deep. But diggers made it all the way to the medieval strata at the Academy of Arts. The plentiful ceramic findings are particularly useful for dating.

Click here to read this article from Estonian Public Broadcasting

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mysteries and Masterpieces: The latest stage in the “American conquest of the Middle Ages”

In 2011, Harvard University Press celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the Loeb Classical Library, the renowned series that presents accessible editions of ancient texts with English translations on the facing page. The covers of the Loebs—red for Latin literature, green for Greek—have become iconic, and generations of students and readers have found them the ideal way to access our classical heritage. In 2001, the press (HUP) launched a new series on the Loeb model, the I Tatti Renaissance Library, featuring Latin and vernacular texts from the fourteenth century and after. But between the latest Loeb—the works of the Venerable Bede, the English chronicler who lived in the seventh century C.E.—and the earliest I Tatti volume, there was a seven-century gap, representing an era of European history that is all too easily neglected: the Middle Ages.

The very term “Middle Ages,” in fact, implies that the period is significant merely as an interruption, or at best a transition, between the vital culture of the Greco-Roman world and the “rebirth” of that culture in the Renaissance. When the Middle Ages do come up in popular discourse, the terms are almost never complimentary. Last year, for instance, Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt published his widely acclaimed book The Swerve, which tells the story of the Italian Renaissance’s rediscovery of the Roman poet Lucretius. Central to Greenblatt’s argument is the idea that the Renaissance represented a long-overdue return to reason and sanity after the long religious delirium of the Middle Ages, a time of “societies of flagellants and periodic bursts of mass hysteria.”

Click here to read this article from the Harvard Gazette

Sandal Castle: Celebrations to delve into battle’s past

A battle that changed the course of English history will be remembered during celebrations at Sandal Castle at Wakefield on New Year’s Eve.

Medieval weapons, clothes and crafts from the era of the Battle of Wakefield will be used by the Frei Compagnie re-enactors to help bring 15th century history to life.

On December 30, 1460, Richard, Duke of York – the disputed king of England – and his small army of around 5,000 left the safety of Sandal Castle, pictured, only to be overwhelmed by King Henry VI’s Lancastrian forces estimated at 15,000 strong during the Wars of the Roses.

Richard and his 17-year-old son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in the slaughter and their heads infamously stuck on poles at Micklegate Bar in York.

Click here to read this article from the Yorkshire Evening Post

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

1,600 year-old bathhouse discovered in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered a 1,600 year-old bathhouse apparently used by the owners of a wealthy estate or an inn on an ancient road.

Remains of an ancient bathhouse dating to the Byzantine period were exposed during work being conducted on the modern water infrastructure near Moshav Tarum, west of Jerusalem. In recent months the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out an archaeological excavation that uncovered impressive finds as a new water supply system is being built to service Jerusalem.

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

Top 10 Medieval News Stories of 2011

The year 2011 will be remembered by Medievalists as the year we literally saw the face of the Middle Ages. Four different projects unveiled 3D facial reconstructions that show a Scottish knight, a Viking woman, an English archbishop, and a Welsh ruler. This year was also notable for the theft of an important medieval manuscript, new research on the origins on the Black Death and Viking archaeological discoveries on the British Isles.

Click here to read this feature from

Friday, December 23, 2011

Their Noonday Demons, and Ours

By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can’t seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and . . . five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you’re staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighed down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I’ll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around?

This probably strikes you as an extremely, even a uniquely, modern problem. Pick up an early medieval monastic text, however, and you will find extensive discussion of all the symptoms listed above, as well as a diagnosis. Acedia, also known as the “noonday demon,” appears again and again in the writings of the Desert Fathers from the fourth and fifth centuries. Wherever monks and nuns retreated into cells to labor and to meditate on matters spiritual, the illness struck.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Belgrade fortress under attack – from flowers

Serbian and French researchers have reported that the Belgrade Fortress, which was first built in the early Middle Ages is under threat – not only by the effects of coal burning, as was assumed until now, but also by flower beds! The deterioration of the fortress walls could be partially caused by the large quantities of potassium present in fertilizers used by gardeners and could be responsible for the formation of black crusts on the ramparts.

To preserve this heritage, the researchers recommend avoiding excessive use of fertilizers. Their conclusions are due to be published in the first quarter of 2012 in the Journal of Cultural Heritage and could prove to be of value to other historical sites across the world.

Click here to read this article from

The Canterbury Tales gets reinvented as a graphic novel

In The Canterbury Tales, American illustrator Seymour Chwast reimagines Chaucer’s poetic survey of medieval England. And, true to Chaucer's vision, each character featured in the original gets a chance to tell their highly visual story, from the Cook to the Wife of Bath.

As anyone who’s had to struggle through reading the original in Middle English (how many ways do you really need to spell eye, anyways?) can attest to, slogging your way through Chaucer’s ode to the life medieval can be a chore. Thankfully, all dialogue and description here are rendered in modern-day English, although in a somewhat pared-down version.

Click here to read this book review from

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deciphered Ancient Tablet Reveals Curse of Greengrocer

A fiery ancient curse inscribed on two sides of a thin lead tablet was meant to afflict, not a king or pharaoh, but a simple greengrocer selling fruits and vegetables some 1,700 years ago in the city of Antioch, researchers find.

Written in Greek, the tablet holding the curse was dropped into a well in Antioch, then one of the Roman Empire's biggest cities in the East, today part of southeast Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The curse calls upon Iao, the Greek name for Yahweh, the god of the Old Testament, to afflict a man named Babylas who is identified as being a greengrocer. The tablet lists his mother's name as Dionysia, "also known as Hesykhia" it reads. The text was translated by Alexander Hollmann of the University of Washington.

The artifact, which is now in the Princeton University Art Museum, was discovered in the 1930s by an archaeological team but had not previously been fully translated. The translation is detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience

History enthusiast reveals a hidden image in Broadstairs streets

A history enthusiast from Broadstairs says the image of a medieval boat is hidden within the town's roads – lending a cryptic clue to its naval history. Simon Gerrard has spent two years delving into the town's past to create a series of history boards about the area.

He says his most recent discovery is that the roads forming one of the oldest parts of the town could have been deliberately made into the shape of a ship.

He said: "It may be slightly abstract but I am confident that the shape of the roads represents the early kind of naval ship they were building in Broadstairs during the Medieval and Tudor periods. I think it is quite uncanny, I cannot see it as anything else."

Click here to read this article from This is Kent

Skeletons point to Columbus voyage for syphilis origins

Skeletons don’t lie. But sometimes they may mislead, as in the case of bones that reputedly showed evidence of syphilis in Europe and other parts of the Old World before Christopher Columbus made his historic voyage in 1492.

None of this skeletal evidence, including 54 published reports, holds up when subjected to standardized analyses for both diagnosis and dating, according to an appraisal in the current Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. In fact, the skeletal data bolsters the case that syphilis did not exist in Europe before Columbus set sail.

“This is the first time that all 54 of these cases have been evaluated systematically,” says George Armelagos, an anthropologist at Emory University and co-author of the appraisal. “The evidence keeps accumulating that a progenitor of syphilis came from the New World with Columbus’ crew and rapidly evolved into the venereal disease that remains with us today.”

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Was St Edmund killed by the Vikings in Essex?

Keith Briggs, a visiting research fellow in linguistics at the University of the West of England, has proposed a new site for the battle in which King Edmund of East Anglia was killed in 869. If confirmed, the new proposal would change our understanding of the early history of Suffolk and especially of the town and abbey of Bury St Edmunds.

The story of Edmund, king and martyr, has become a kind of foundation myth for the county of Suffolk, but contains at least one element of truth – in 869 there was a battle between the East Anglians and the Vikings; Edmund was captured and later killed. About 100 years later the story was written down – soon after, Edmund came to be considered a Christian martyr and the new abbey (founded about 1020) at Bury St Edmunds was dedicated to him. Edmund’s remains were believed to be housed in the abbey, miracles were attributed to him, and Bury thus became a major pilgrimage site and a rich and powerful abbey for the next 500 years.

Click here to read this article from

The Turin Shroud could not have been faked, say scientists

A new study suggests that one of Christianity's most prized but mysterious relics - the Turin Shroud - is not a medieval forgery and could be the burial robe of Christ.

Italian scientists conducted a series of experiments that they said showed that the marks on the shroud - purportedly left by the imprint of Christ's body - could not have been faked with technology that was available in medieval times.

Skeptics have long claimed that the 14ft-long cloth is a forgery. Radiocarbon testing conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona in 1988 appeared to back up the theory, suggesting that it dated from between 1260 and 1390. But those tests were in turn disputed on the basis that they were contaminated by fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.

The new study is the latest intriguing piece of a puzzle that has baffled scientists for centuries and spawned an industry of research, books and documentaries.

Click here to read this article from the Montreal Gazette

Monday, December 19, 2011

Euro Crisis Echoed in Renaissance History

As European leaders meet today in a desperate attempt to prevent a colossal euro collapse, a look back at history shows that we have learned little from the past.

Excessive debt accumulation, structural weakness and poor management were responsible for economic crashes and collapses since the medieval invention of banking by the Italians, who came up with the deposit account, double entry bookkeeping and the line of credit.

"The word bank comes from the Italian, named after the 'banco' or bench on which merchants traded. And bankrupt originates from the practice of breaking the bench of an insolvent banker," said art historian Ludovica Sebregondi, co-curator of "Money and Beauty," a perfectly timed exhibition which runs in Florence until January 22.

The exhibition also shows that words such as bankrupt and risk were pronounced in Italy centuries before the Occupy Wall Street movement took hold.

Three powerful 14th century Florentine banks, the Bardi, Peruzzi and Acciaiuoli, collapsed in the 1340s.

Click here to read this article from Discovery News

Search for Lost Da Vinci Gets Desperate

After 35 years of noninvasive research, art experts have turned to rather drastic methods to solve a longstanding Leonardo da Vinci mystery.

Putting aside the state-of-the-art technologies employed in the past decades, the researchers have simply drilled a hole into a frescoed wall that they believe hides a long-lost da Vinci masterpiece known as the "Battle of Anghiari."

"We are finally in the condition to put to an end a great research. In the next two-three months, one of art history's greatest mysteries will be solved once and for all," Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence, said.

Unfortunately, the drill wasn't performed on an ordinary wall. Standing in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's 14th-century city hall, in the imposing Hall of Five Hundred, the wall houses a mural known as the "Battle of Marciano." It was painted by the renowned 15th-century painter, architect and writer Giorgio Vasari.

Click here to read this article from Discovery News

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ancient war heroes' tomb reopens to public in Rome

The Roman tomb of the Scipioni, a family of war heroes and generals, the most famous being Scipio Africanus, who beat Hannibal, is set to open to the public again after twenty years of restoration.

The family’s sarcophagi are spread out along a series of underground tunnels dug out of a hill of volcanic tuff near the Baths of Caracalla on the outskirts of the eternal city, which criss-cross a site 11 metres across.

The tomb, which originally lay under a temple, was built at the beginning of the third century A.D by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato, whose elegant sarcophagus holds pride of place at the end of the central gallery.

The Scipio family held high political and military positions, but its most famous member, Scipio Africanus, is absent from the tomb.

Click here to read this article from the Ottawa Citizen

University Park author’s latest book dips into the Dark Ages

Anna Elliott is well versed in the lore and legends of the Dark Ages.

“Sunrise of Avalon,” the final book in the historical fiction and fantasy novelist’s Twilight of Avalon trilogy, was released in September. Elliott of University Park studied English and medieval history in college and has long been a devoted fan of the Victorian novel.

“I wrote a Victorian American novel for my senior thesis in college,” she says. “It was a natural pick for me to write a historical novel. It was a setting I knew well. [The novel] was nothing that I would want to publish, but I fell in love with the process. From there, I kept writing every day.”

Elliott says writing her first novel was a long, tedious process. “I had been shopping my novel around, and I got an agent, which was huge, but then she decided to quit being an agent,” Elliott says. “I was five months pregnant and we were living on my husband’s grad student stipend. I couldn’t really see [writing] as a career and felt I had gone back to square one.”

Click here too read this article from the Maryland Community News

Click here to visit Anna Elliot's website

Two medieval brooches discovered

Rare finds of two medieval brooches were revealed as treasure at a coroner’s hearing on Tuesday.

Sitting on a Treasure hearing at Selby Magistrates’ Court, Coroner Rob Turnbull said the two items, both livery brooches, were discovered at separate locations in Beal and Stillingfleet.

The first item, a silver guilt brooch depicting a stag’s head with three antlers (above left), is believed by experts to date from either the 14th or 15th Century.

Although the silver backed brooch, found with a metal detector at Beal, is damaged, Mr Turnbull said because of its age and the fact it contained a minimum of ten per cent precious metal, it was treasure.

Click here to read this article from the Selby Times

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Passion For The Past: 2011's Best Historical Fiction

By Sharon Penman

Historical fiction invites us to experience the exotic and the unknown while confirming our common humanity. I do not believe that human nature has changed much over the centuries and it is possible to identify with the emotions, passions, and fears of men and women long dead. But the past is also uncharted territory; it is like visiting a country where we do not speak the language. What did these people believe? What superstitions did they share? What demons did they see lurking in the dark? We want to be transported back to that foreign country, and we want the historical novelist to act as our translator. This is what good historical fiction does, what these five novels do. The authors allow us to empathize with their characters, to care deeply about their fates. But we never forget for a moment that they are not our neighbors, not ourselves, for their expectations and ethics and boundaries are not ours. Their lives are firmly rooted in alien soil.

Click here to see Sharon Penman's Top 5 Historical Fiction novels of this year from NPR

Scholar discovers 16th-century love poem written by an Englishwoman

A previously unknown poem dating from the mid-1500s has been discovered pasted into a rare edition of works by Geoffrey Chaucer. The erotic-love poem seems to have been by a Roman Catholic woman and sent to a Protestant scholar who was the tutor to Edward VI.

The poem was discovered by medieval scholar Elaine Treharne during a guest lecture at West Virginia University last summer .

She took several students to the Rare Book Room on the University’s main library where Treharne happened to open a 1561 edition of works by Geoffrey Chaucer that includes The Canterbury Tales. As Treharne opened it, she saw a Latin poem pasted in the back of the book.

The name in the front pages of the book and at the base of the poem is Elizabeth Dacre. And Treharne’s translation of the poem revealed another name – the person for whom the poem was written: Anthony Cooke, tutor to King Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII.

So Treharne searched for Elizabeth, from the U.S. and in England, and came up with a surprising story.

Click here to read this article from Early Modern England

Monk's poem is published 900 years on

A medieval monk’s poem which describes the natural beauty of Ely has been translated, published and is now available to buy.

In Praise of Ely is a six-page, hard-copy book which was the brainchild of Chip Coakley, Janet Fairweather and Andy English, all from the Ely area.

The Latin poem, which was written in the 12th century by Brother Gregory, a monk at the abbey in Ely, is part of a large manuscript in Cambridge.

A couple of years ago, Mrs Fairweather, a scholar who speaks fluent Latin, translated the poem for a flower festival in Ely.

Inspired by the poem, Mr Coakley persuaded her it should be published.

Click here to read this article from Ely Weekly News

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Viking Hoard discovered in England

In what is being described as a “very exciting find” over 200 items dating back to around the year 900 have been discovered near Silverdale, in north Lancashire. Now known as the Silverdale Viking Hoard, the collection cotnains a total of 201 silver objects and a well preserved lead container. Of particular interest is the fact that the hoard contains a previously unrecorded coin type, probably carrying the name of an otherwise unknown Viking ruler in northern England.

The Silverdale Viking Hoard was discovered in mid-September 2011 by Darren Webster, a local metal-detectorist, who reported it to the local Finds Liaison Officer that evening. The hoard comprises 27 coins, 10 complete arm-rings of various Viking-period types, 2 finger-rings and 14 ingots (metal bars), as well as 6 bossed brooch fragments, a fine wire braid and 141 fragments of chopped-up arm-rings and ingots, collectively known as ‘hacksilver’. The lead container is made of a folded-up sheet, in which the coins and small metalwork had been placed for safekeeping, while buried underground. The container is responsible for the excellent condition in which the objects have survived for more than ten centuries. The coins are a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Viking, Frankish and Islamic types, including coins of Alfred the Great (871-99) and his god-son the Viking leader Guthrum, who became king of East Anglia with the baptismal name of Athelstan.

Click here to read this article from

London built with the blood of British slaves

The Romans founded London as a centre of trade and business in about AD 50 - or so archaeologists have long believed.

But new evidence suggests the capital has a more chilling history, built as a military base by slaves who were then slaughtered. Hundreds of skulls discovered along the course of the "lost" river Walbrook suggest London may have been built by forced labour.

Dominic Perring, director of the Centre for Applied Archaeology at University College London, says the skulls could be those of Queen Boudica's rebel Iceni tribesmen who were brought to London to build a new military base.

In an essay published in this month's British Archaeology magazine, Mr Perring argues that some of the skulls had been de-fleshed, which suggests the slaves may have been executed after building work was finished.

Click here to read this article from the Evening Standard

Researchers puzzled as grave did not hold remains of medieval Swedish king

Earlier this year, researchers in Sweden excavated what they believe was the tomb of King Magnus Ladulås (1240-1290) at Riddarholmen Church in Stockholm, hoping to learn more about the medieval Swedish ruler and his family. But DNA tests have revealed that the bodies of nine people buried in the tomb actually died sometime between 1430 and 1520.

Records show that the King Magnus wished to have his remains buried in the church, and in 1573 the Swedish King, Johan III erected a sarcophagus with an effigy on top of what he believed was the location of the tomb.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Billericay author is on the trail of Essex's little green men

Hidden in the darkest corners of our castles and churches lurks a little known but strangely familiar face.

Known as the Green Man, he has been around for hundreds of years, yet his reason and purpose has been long since lost in the mists of time. Now a new book by a Billericay author seeks to discover more about the mysterious character.

Susan Hegedus, a freelance journalist, has been searching for the Green Man around Essex for several years, trying to track down examples of the leaf-covered countenance that appears in architecture.

She said: "I've been fascinated by the image for a while now – I saw something on television about it and it just caught my interest. At first I didn't set out to write a book about it, but I was soon finding so many I wanted to record them."

Click here to read this article from Total Essex

Click here for more information about The Hidden Green Man in Essex

One in a Million: The Amateur Egyptologist

Dominic Raina’s business card is a simple affair bearing his name, phone number and an equilateral triangle resting on one side. Written underneath the triangle is the service Raina offers: “PYRAMID CONSTRUCTION DEMO’S.” Above the triangle, his nickname — “NO-MOSS-NICK” — hints at Raina’s solution to the question of how ancient Egyptians transported huge blocks of stone and raised them in place to construct the great pyramids: A rolling stone, he says, gathers no moss.

In the living room of his Nepean home, he’s set out paving stones, wooden planks, ropes, cribbage boards and croquet posts to demonstrate his theories. Numerous books on Egypt and the pyramids sit on the coffee table, with scores of red ribbons marking pages of interest.

Raina turns to one with an illustration depicting dozens of workers dragging a massive stone block along the ground. A widely accepted theory holds that the 2- -ton casing blocks used to construct the pyramids were each dragged along the ground by as many as 45 workers, each one pulling approximately his own weight.

Click here to read this article from the Ottawa Citizen

14th-century timepiece fails to sell

A 14th-century quadrant discovered in a shed in Queensland has failed to sell at auction in London. The ancient brass timepiece, which is marked with the badge of King Richard II, had been expected to fetch more than $300,000.

But the reserve was not met and the quadrant was passed in at auction house Bonhams.

The quadrant had spent much of its recent life in a shed on a Queensland property where it was used as a toy by Christopher Becker in the mid-1970s. Mr Becker later kept it on a shelf as a memento of his childhood, but at the start of this year he decided to delve into the object's past.

He discovered the small artefact was actually the world's second-earliest known time instrument, dating from 1396.

Click here to read this article from ABC News

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

77,000 year old evidence for ‘bedding’ and use of medicinal plants uncovered at South African rock shelter

An international team of researchers, with the participation of the University of Tübingen, have discovered the earliest evidence for the intentional construction of plant “bedding”.

An international team of archaeologists, with the participation of Christopher Miller, Juniorprofessor at the University of Tübingen, is reporting 77,000-year-old evidence for preserved plant bedding and the use of insect-repelling plants in a rock shelter in South Africa. This discovery is 50,000 years older than earlier reports of preserved bedding and provides a fascinating insight into the behavioural practices of early modern humans in southern Africa.

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

A look at the lives of those who built Jerpoint Abbey

A new book about the religious order that created Jerpoint Abbey is being launched this Friday night.

A Monastic Landscape: The Cistercians in Medieval Ireland by Breda Lynch, who has worked as a guide and information officer at the abbey, will be launched at the NUI Maynooth outreach campus at St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny on Friday at 7.30pm. A launch will also be held on Sunday at noon in the John O’Donovan Parish Centre in Slieverue.

The 192-page book is a detailed study of various aspects of the Cistercian Order in medieval Leinster. It focuses on the lands that the monasteries held in the province, including the great houses of Mellifont, Baltinglass, Jerpoint, Duiske, Tintern and Dunbrody. The main content of the book deals with the identification of the lands held by the Cistercian houses of Leinster, with references to other provinces. The last chapter deals with the fate of these monasteries in the post-Dissolution period.

Click here to read this article from Kilkenny People

Click here to purchase this book from Xlibris

Pousadas of Portugal: What do you do with old monasteries, castles and palaces? Turn them into inns with character

As the porter led us to our hotel room, we passed through a hall covered in intricate tiles depicting life in Portugal in the 1700s. Above us was a magnificent wooden ceiling that had survived for 850 years. We continued down a majestic hall that once housed the monks' cells in this 12th century monastery and which is now home to the guest rooms.

Scurrying behind the porter, we arrived at our room awestruck, having just been transported through eight centuries of history - far too much to absorb in just one passing. This is a feeling we experienced over and over again as we toured the pousadas of Portugal this fall, staying in hotels housed in monasteries, castles and palaces.

While the mention of Portugal often brings to mind the beaches of the Algarve, the country is also home to some of Europe's oldest civilizations. Lisbon, for example, dates to 1200 BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world, predating London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. The pousadas marry this rich history with luxury to create a hotel experience like no other.

Click here to read this article from the Calgary Herald

Monday, December 12, 2011

Largest medieval armour collection on auction

A German octogenarian puts his lifelong fascination with armour under the hammer Tuesday when the largest private collection of medieval weapons goes on sale for millions of euros.

The collection, valued at between three and four million euros ($4-5.4 million), goes up for auction in Brussels and includes not only classical armour and weaponry such as shields, helmets and swords, but also crustaceans.

"Man does not have a shell, he had to make one," collector Karsten Klingbeil, from Berlin, told AFP, of his interest in the art of defence.

"You really can't move in it because we have a totally different morphology from the period," he said, explaining that when he was younger he used to try on the armour.

Click here to read this article from AFP

New trailer for Game of Thrones Season 2

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who made Carlisle Castle’s carvings?

The mysterious wall carvings of Carlisle Castle’s Keep have always been thought to be the work of prisoners that were held captive there during its turbulent past. Some recent research by English Heritage, however, suggests some very surprising results.

The stonework etchings, which include images of mermaids, horses and stags, could date as far back at the 15th century and were probably made by prison guards on duty. A special technique called ‘photogrammetry’ has been used to three dimensionally capture data, which will soon be analysed to discover what these strange and delicate carvings mean.

Dr Mark Douglas, Properties Curator at English Heritage said: “Our latest research suggests that these intricate and beautiful carvings were more likely to have been made by soldiers on duty at the end of the 15th century.”

Click here to read this article from

Worcester: Historic walls protected for future generations

Hundreds of years ago they helped to protect the city from invaders. But now work is taking place to protect and preserve Worcester's medieval city walls for the benefit of future generations.

Specialist stonemasons have been commissioned to clean up the surviving parts of the walls, which are made of medieval sandstone, as part of a joint project between the city council, English Heritage and the National Trust.

Worcester City Walls - photo by Philip Halling

The stonework is crumbling in places and needs repairing and repointing along with the clearing of vegetation and litter.

The work is part of the council's wider Conservation Management Plan to look after the city's medieval defences, which surrounded the whole city 500 years ago.

Click here to read this article from the Worcester Standard

Weir complex and medieval quay the latest archaeological finds in Galway bay

An extensive tidal weir complex close to Barna and a late medieval quay on Mutton Island have become the latest in a series of recent archaeological finds in Galway Bay.

The finds are “transforming our knowledge” of a “neglected aspect” of Connacht’s maritime history, according to Connemara archaeologist Michael Gibbons.

The tidal weir complex in Rusheen Bay, to the west of the city, is visible at low tide and appears as a series of stone rapids across a fast-flowing tidal race mouth, Gibbons says.

It is not far from the location of the earliest discovery to date in that area – the 6,000-year-old Barna boat which has been conserved for display at Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill.

A barrier of “granite erratics” at the weir complex has been adapted by hand, with several large channels cut through an 80-metre-wide band of rock.

Click here to read this article from the Irish Times

Friday, December 09, 2011

Archaeologists uncover early Christian community in Norway

The cathedral in Stavanger was built in the year 1125, and is one of the earliest pieces of evidence for permanent settlement in the Norwegian town. However, new analyses of medieval skeletons found beneath the cathedral suggest that Christians lived in Stavanger for several generations prior to this.

Over 15,000 human bone fragments lay helter-skelter in a wooden crate. This mess did not discourage the researchers at the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger, who are now resurrecting the dead.

“We are reassembling and analyzing individual skeletons in order to form a picture of Stavanger’s population before and around 1000,” associate professor Paula Utigard Sandvik and osteoarchaeologist Sean Denham said.

They are working on a taxing puzzle that sheds new light on Stavanger’s history.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Abbey Craig – a burning question

The hilltop of Abbey Craig is best-known as the site of the National Wallace Monument, which commemorates the 13th-century Battle of Stirling Bridge. But while the Scottish commander William Wallace reportedly watched the armies of Edward I massing from the rocky outcrop before his famous victory in 1297, the site might have witnessed another violent clash several centuries earlier.

A hillfort comprising a single oval bank with another rampart 30m further down the slope, was first recorded on the summit in the 18th century. Originally interpreted as the camp of Wallace’s troops, recent investigations revealed the structure was much older, as charcoal recovered from the inner rampart returned a radiocarbon date of AD 560-730.

Stirling Council Archaeology Officer Murray Cook, who in September led a community excavation at the site, said this means the fort could have been one of the main centres of the Gododdin, a Britonnic people who lived in northeast England and southern Scotland. Part of this tribe formed the kingdom of Manaw, which local place names such as Clackmannan and Slamannan suggest could have included the area around Abbey Craig. But this high-status settlement also appears to have come to a dramatic end, destroyed by a fire so intense that its stones fused together.

Click here to read this article from Current Archaeology

UNESCO and Italy agree to cooperate on the restoration of Pompeii

UNESCO and Italy have agreed to collaborate on the restoration of the Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997.

International attention turned to the World Heritage site in late 2010, when torrential rains led to the collapse of several vestiges including the Schola Armaturarum (Gladiators’ House) and the equally famous House of the Moralist.

According to the agreement, signed by Assistant Director-General for Culture, Francesco Bandarin on the morning of 29 November, UNESCO will provide expert advice to the Italian government on ways to improve the property’s conservation, in keeping with the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee. UNESCO’s contribution to the restoration will be financed by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

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

Reconstructed Aberlady Cross unveiled in Scotland

A hand-carved reconstruction of an Early Christian cross has been unveiled in the Scottish village of Aberlady to mark the medieval pilgrimage route used by the monks of Iona and Lindisfarne.

The pilgrimage route of ‘St Aidan’s Way’ – marks the culmination of an extensive and ambitious heritage project begun in 2007. Original research, archaeological surveys of four sites, the carving of the Aberlady Cross reconstruction and the development of interpretive panels, information leaflets and teaching materials has been carried out by the Aberlady Conservation and History Society.

Click here to read this article from

£1m plan launched to reinvent Coventry Cathedral ruins

A £1 million plan was launched on Monday night to reinvent the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. It includes opening up three underground crypts and displaying pieces of priceless medieval stained glass.

Two new statues will also be unveiled, one to the 32,000 civilians killed in the Allied bombing of Dresden and Hamburg. And the ruin itself, already a world-famous symbol for peace and reconciliation, will be rededicated to all civilians killed in conflict.

The plans were unveiled by cathedral officials and Dr Jonathan Foyle, of the World Monuments Fund, on the 71st anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

The £1million target includes the cost of urgent repairs, including stabilising and fixing a huge crack which threatens to destroy one of the ancient sandstone walls.

Click here to read this article from the Coventry Telegraph

"Auckland Castle Project is at an end”

The £15m deal to save the Zurbaran paintings is on the verge of collapse, The Northern Echo can reveal, and the project to turn Auckland Castle into a cultural tourist attraction may be in tatters.

Philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer is ready to withdraw his bid to save the 17th Century masterpieces because of the “obduracy” of the Church Commissioners, who own the paintings.

He says the Commissioners keep introducing conditions to the sale of the paintings and the takeover of the 12th Century castle.

He said last night: “Part of me is convinced that the project is going to happen, but if you look at the betting, it is stone dead.”

Click here to read this article from the Northern Echo

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Oldest surviving timber-framed house discovered in Ireland

Archaeologists in County Clare believe they have discovered Ireland’s earliest surviving example of a timber framed house. Dendrochronological analysis is expected to conclude that the timber structure at Chapel Lane, Parnell Street, Ennis, dates back to the late 16th century.

Ms. Irene Clune’s house, known as McParland’s is long understood to have been the oldest inhabited house in the Clare County capital. The building’s triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney has been an icon of medieval Ennis for centuries.

Click here to read this article from

Kazakh Film backs 'Arabian Nights'

Kazakh Film, Kazakhstan's state company, has boarded Chuck Russell's 3D adaptation of "1001 Arabian Nights," starring Liam Hemsworth, which will shoot in the oil-and-gas-rich central Asian state next year.

Russell, who directed "The Mask" and "The Scorpion King," has been scouting locations for the $70 million pic for the past year and will start shooting in June. Sets include a full-scale medieval period city 120 miles from Almaty, where Kazakh Film is based, that was built a few years ago for Russian director Sergey Bodrov's "Nomad."

Other locations are understood to include the sandy hills and gullies at Altyn Emel.

Kazakh Film is understood to be putting up some $10 million for the movie.

Click here to read this article from Variety Magazine

Medieval House sold to keep Rochester Cathedral free to visitors

A medieval house in the grounds of Rochester Cathedral in Kent is being sold to keep entry to the church free for visitors.

The annual cost to run the cathedral, which attracts 126,000 visitors per year, is £850,000.

The house is part of the Old Bishops Palace and has been home to many of the cathedral's greatest figures, including Bishop John Fisher who was beheaded in 1535 for defying King Henry VIII.

Click here to see the video report from the BBC

Violent knights feared posttraumatic stress

Medieval knights are often depicted as bloodthirsty men who enjoyed killing. But that is a completely wrong picture, new research shows.

The knights did not kill just because they wanted to, but because it was their job – precisely like soldiers today. Nor were the Middle Ages as violent as we think, despite their different perception of violence compared to ours.

“Modern military psychology enables us to read medieval texts in a new way – giving us insight into the perception of violence in the Middle Ages in the general population and the use of lethal violence by knights,” says Thomas Heebøll-Holm of the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, who researches the perception of violence in the late Middle Ages.

“Previously, medieval texts were read as worshipping heroes and glorifying violence. But in the light of modern military psychology we can see the mental cost to the knights of their participation in the gruesome and extremely violent wars in the Middle Ages.”

Click here to read this article from ScienceNordic

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jars of Plenty: Ancient Greek trading vessels carried much more than wine

Wine flowed freely from ancient Greece during its golden age, but new work suggests nuts and various herbs were also in demand.

With the help of DNA analysis, scientists are getting a present-day look at centuries-old trade in the Mediterranean. Such studies may help debunk some long-held assumptions, namely that the bulk of Greek commerce revolved around wine.

During the fifth through third centuries B.C., the Mediterranean and Black seas were major thoroughfares for ships loaded with thousands of curvaceous jars known as amphorae, thought from their shape to contain a drink made from fermented grape juice.

But only recently have researchers peered through the lens of 21st century genetics to identify the actual remnants of the jars’ long-disappeared cargo. Analyses of DNA fragments from the interior of nine jars from Mediterranean shipwrecks now reveal various combinations of olive, ginger, walnut and herbs in the rosemary family, along with the expected grapes.

Click here to read this article from Science News

Getty Museum Acquires Rare Late-Medieval German Sculpture

The Getty Museum were the successful bidders at auction earlier today for an extraordinary rare sculpture of St. John the Baptist dating from early 16th-century. The Getty, which is based in Los Angeles bought the piece for 313,250 pounds (about $487,000), which was more than double the estimated 150,000 pounds that was expected from the sale.

The sculptured was carved in limewood by the accomplished Master of the Harburger Altar in about 1515. Nearly 60 inches tall, it depicts St. John the Baptist standing on a small mound, painted to suggest a grassy hillock, cradling the Holy Lamb who turns toward the saint. St John wears a voluminous cloak over a roughly sewn shift made of a camel’s skin; the camel’s head can be seen resting between his feet. The limewood figure, which still retains considerable areas of original paint, very likely formed part of a carved winged altarpiece, perhaps flanking other saint figures, originally from the church at Schloss Harburg, a castle belonging to the House of Oettingen-Wallerstein, near Nördlingen in Swabia (southern Germany). It is part of a small, well-studied group of sculptures that may have made up the Harburger Altar and that all share the same distinctive sculptural treatment of billowing drapery and broken contours.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval mosque discovered in Oman

Oman's Heritage and Culture Ministry announced that the Omani-French Exploration Expedition managed to unearth new archeological findings for Qalhat city. The findings highlight the historic and economic role played by Qalhat during the Medieval Ages.

Byoba Ali al- Sabri, Director of Exploration and Archeological Studies at the Heritage and Culture Ministry said today in a press conference that the findings include the Al Jamea Mosque in Qalhat which was built in response to the order of Bibi Mariam at 1300. The Mosque was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1508.

She pointed out that the Mosque is located on the beach, opposite to the port. Beside the Mosque, a magnificent building thought to be the residence of the ruler of the city, was also found.

The findings also include clay items that date back to the 14th century, polished and unpolished clay ceramics.

Click here to read this article from the Oman News Agency

See also the article Qalhat Mosque ruins excavated

Monday, December 05, 2011

Japan to return medieval books to Korea

Some 1,200 Joseon Dynasty-era books looted by Japan during the colonial era will be returned to Korea on Tuesday afternoon, a government official said.

According to the official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the books will be divided and delivered on two flights, each carrying 600 books. The books will arrive at the Incheon International Airport at 3:35 p.m. and 4:35 p.m., respectively, said the official.

Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan and Japan’s ambassador to Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, will hold a simple ceremony at the airport to mark the books’ return, he said.

The ancient books include “Uigwe,” or royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Click here to read this article from the Korean Herald

Japan to send 1,200 Korean royal archives to S. Korea on Tuesday

Japan will send 1,200 volumes of ancient Korean archives to the South Korean government by air on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The archives were seized by Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The handover will take place ahead of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's expected visit to Japan in mid-December to hold talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Noda brought with him five volumes of historic Korean archives when he and Lee held talks in October in Seoul. The transfer of the 1,205 archives, including texts of royal protocols, known as "Uigwe," for the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), was promised by Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, last year upon the centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula.

Click here to read this article from The Mainichi Daily News

Humanities scholars study health, disease in the Middle Ages

What do the 2012 summer Olympics and medieval scholarship have in common? For both, London will be the site of extraordinary achievements.

Monica Green, professor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, and Rachel Scott, assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to co-direct “Health and Disease in the Middle Ages,” a five-week seminar for 16 U.S. scholars. Both are affiliated faculty of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS).

The seminar will be based at London’s Wellcome Library, the world’s premier research center for medical history. The applicants (including two advanced graduate students) will be chosen in a national competition based on their interest in questions of health, disease and disability in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, and will come from a variety of academic disciplines. They will receive stipends to support travel and living expenses from a total budget of $167,757.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval seal on display in Staffordshire

A medieval seal thought to have once belonged to Stone Priory in north Staffordshire has gone on display.

The copper object, which bears the image of the Virgin and Child, was found by a metal detector enthusiast in Cobham, Surrey, in September.

It will be on show at St Michael and St Wulfad's church in Stone as part of its Christmas tree festival.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Friday, December 02, 2011

Anglo-Saxon building discovered in Yorkshire

The flanks of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales National Park have given up one of their secrets to a team of amateur archaeologists.

Members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group spent weeks investigating a remote site on the side of one of the National Park’s famous Three Peaks to the west of Selside in Upper Ribblesdale.

And their work has resulted in the discovery of the first 7th century building to be positively identified in the National Park – and one of the first in the north of England.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dogs were first domesticated in East Asia, research finds

Researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology say they have found further proof that the wolf ancestors of today’s domesticated dogs can be traced to southern East Asia — findings that run counter to theories placing the cradle of the canine line in the Middle East.

Dr Peter Savolainen, KTH researcher in evolutionary genetics, says a new study released last week confirms that an Asian region south of the Yangtze River was the principal and probably sole region where wolves were domesticated by humans.

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

Man faces jail for demolishing ancient ring fort

A causeway man is facing a possible five-year jail term after he was prosecuted for demolishing an ancient ring fort on land belonging to his family.

In the first case of its kind to be heard in an Irish Court, John O'mahony with an address at Clashmealcon, Causeway appeared at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court last where he pleaded guilty to carrying out unauthorised work near a monument on his family's farmland in Causeway in 2008.

The court heard that the family of Mr O'mahony, a 64-year-old farmer, owned lands which contained a ring fort and a series of underground tunnels, or souterrains, which dated back to between 500 and 1000AD.

Click here to read this article from The Kerryman