Saturday, December 29, 2012

Twelve community projects receive almost £115,000 of South Norfolk Council funding

Community groups across south Norfolk are celebrating after almost £115,000 was dished out for renovation projects.

 Two churches received funding with £14,070 going to the historic church at Flordon for a project to preserve it’s 13th century timber roof to turn it into a community centre. The money will pay for work to remove pews and install a level timber floor, to improve heating and lighting, restore the Victorian vestry, and install a kitchen.

 Wymondham Abbey was awarded £10,000 towards the Abbey Experience Project and in particular to enhancements to the church yard. This includes funding for a medieval herb garden with seating, picnic benches, hard standing and display panels explaining the history of the Abbey.

 Click here to read the full article from EDP24

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 News Stories of 2012: Ancient and Medieval

We have created our list of the ten biggest news stories of the last twelve months - which includes how the world did not come to an end, and why we now know a lot more about medieval underwear.

Click here to read the Top 10 Medieval News Stories

Click here to read the Top 10 Ancient News Stories

The secret race to save Timbuktu’s manuscripts

By Geoffrey York
The Globe and Mail

As rebels searched the bags of the truck passengers at a checkpoint near Timbuktu, one man was trying to hide his nervousness. Mohamed Diagayete, an owlish scholar with an eager smile, was silently praying that the rebels would not discover his laptop computer.

Buried in his laptop bag was an external hard drive with a cache of thousands of valuable images and documents from Timbuktu’s greatest cultural treasure: its ancient scholarly manuscripts.

 Radical Islamist rebels in northern Mali have repeatedly attacked the fabled city’s heritage, taking pickaxes to the tombs of local saints and smashing down a door in a 15th century mosque. They demolished several more mausoleums this week and vowed to destroy the rest, despite strong protests from UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency.

 With the tombs demolished, Timbuktu’s most priceless remaining legacy is its vast libraries of crumbling Arabic and African manuscripts, written in ornate calligraphy over the past eight centuries, proof of a historic African intellectual tradition. Some experts consider them as significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls – and an implicit rebuke to the harsh narrow views of the Islamist radicals.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

See also: The Manuscripts of Timbuktu

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hadrian's hall: archaeologists finish excavation of Roman arts centre

Archaeogists who have completed the excavation of a 900-seat arts centre under one of Rome's busiest roundabouts are calling it the most important Roman discovery in 80 years.

 The centre, built by the emperor Hadrian in AD123, offered three massive halls where Roman nobles flocked to hear poetry, speeches and philosophy tracts while reclining on terraced marble seating.

 With the dig now completed, the terracing and the hulking brick walls of the complex, as well as stretches of the elegant grey and yellow marble flooring, are newly visible at bottom of a 5.5 metre (18ft) hole in Piazza Venezia, where police officers wearing white gloves direct chaotic traffic like orchestra conductors and where Mussolini harangued thousands of followers from his balcony.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Greek court gives life sentences to 2 convicted of dealing in illegally excavated antiquities

A Greek court has imposed life sentences on two men convicted of dealing in ancient treasure worth an estimated €12 million ($15.85 million), which had been illegally excavated from a cemetery in northern Greece.

 The court in the northern city of Thessaloniki jailed two more men for 20 and 16 years, respectively, after finding them guilty of digging up and transporting the antiquities.

 The severity of Friday’s sentences was due to the high market value of the loot — more than 70 artifacts from the 6th century B.C.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Scientists to unravel centuries-old mystery of King Canute as they examine skeletal remains

A centuries-old mystery surrounding the bones of King Canute could soon be solved by forensic experts.

They are to examine the skeletal remains of Anglo-Saxon royalty that have lain in wooden ‘mortuary chests’ at Winchester Cathedral for more than 350 years. Canute, the 11th Century king who famously tried to command the tides, was buried in the cathedral but his remains and those of his family were scattered when Roundheads ransacked it during the English Civil War.

 The remains of Canute, Queen Emma and their son Harthacanute, along with other kings, including Egbert, Ethelwulf and the Norman King William Rufus, were gathered up and placed in six caskets. But identifying and separating the jumbled bones has proved impossible for historians.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

Tourtiere's deep roots traced to 1,600-year-old cookbook

Quebec has two basic tourtieres, and many variations for each type, gastronomy historian Jean-Pierre Lemasson told the McCord Museum conference. There is the shallow style, filled with pork and/or other meats, and a deep-dish Lac St. Jean, or Saguenay, style that contains cubes of meats with vegetables.

 Marcus Gavius Apicius, credited with writing the recipes in what is believed to be the first cookbook (about AD 400), gave us what might be the earliest written recipe for the deep-dish version, he said. It's a pie called La Patina that was made in a bronze pot with four layers of pastry, the top crust with a hole in the centre.

 Medieval predecessors of the tourtiere described by Lemasson include Italy's tourte parmesane, pasticchio, timballo, and timpanno. France has a tourte parmenienne, he said, followed by the timbale and the casserole. British meat pies included the Parmesan and Battle Pye, the raised pie, and the Yorkshire Christmas pie.

Click here to read this article from the Montreal Gazette

Friday, December 21, 2012

Medieval pendant found by boy, 4, on show at British Museum

A 500-year-old gold reliquary, beautifully engraved with the names of the Magi and images of Christ and St Helena, which was found by a four-year-old playing with his father's metal detector, has gone on display for the first time at the British Museum.

It would once have been brilliantly coloured, with enamel work filling in the letters and decoration, and may once have contained a relic of the cross. It probably dropped from the neck of some wealthy and pious person, and lay undiscovered in the field for half a millennium.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion

While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled.

 And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.

 The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac.

 Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

“In the beginning”...bringing the scrolls of Genesis and the Ten Commandments online

A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

Today, we’re helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before. The texts include one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world; and hundreds more 2,000-year-old texts, shedding light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.

Click here to read this article from Google

Denmark’s only medieval rowboat dated

Researchers have now assigned a date to the sensational find of a rowboat. The dating cements the small vessel’s position as Denmark’s only preserved medieval rowboat.

Archaeologists in the Danish town of Vordingborg have every reason to be excited.

During a recent excavation of the moat surrounding the Vordingborg Castle ruins, they came across a fallen castle tower and a rowboat from the Middle Ages. The latter has never previously been found in Denmark.

Lars Sass Jensen, who headed the excavation, says that a dating of the boat’s wooden planks reveals that the little vessel was in its prime around the year 1400.

“A tree-ring dating of the rowboat reveals that the wood that the boat was built of was felled around the year 1390. So a good estimate would be that the boat has been sailing around in the moat around the year 1400,” he says.

With this dating, the soon-to-be-opened Danish Castle Centre in Vordingborg can boast of housing Denmark’s only preserved medieval rowboat.

Click here to read this article from ScienceNordic

Bosch and Bruegel: Four paintings magnified

Art Historians and scientists from the University of Glasgow have completed an international research project to trace the origins of four previously misattributed paintings.

The two year study which was funded by the European Culture Fund and the British Academy traced the paintings, which were previously thought to be by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, back to workshops in 16th-century Antwerp.

The project, entitled ‘Bosch and Bruegel: Four paintings magnified’, involved the collaboration of conservators, conservation scientists and art historians from around Europe. Researchers used state of the art infra-red imaging, X-radiography, dendrochronology, pigment and binding-medium analysis to investigate the works, which all depict Christ driving the Traders from the Temple.

The groundbreaking technology used on the project gave the team a rare glimpse inside the artist’s studio of the era by allowing the experts to look through the layers of paint to see the secrets of composition. This close analysis yielded a greater understanding of materials, techniques and studio practice of the time.

Dr Erma Hermens, Senior Lecturer in Technical Art History, who led the project at the University of Glasgow, said: “Dr Erma Hermens, Senior Lecturer in Technical Art History, who led the project at the University of Glasgow, said: “The theme of Christ driving the Traders from the Temple was popular in the 16th-century merchant and bankers' city of Antwerp and works by Bruegel and Bosch were widely admired, imitated, copied and faked.

“This unique interdisciplinary and international research project made full use of the University of Glasgow's state of the art scientific research facilities, its unique strength in technical art history, and collaboration with colleagues from Copenhagen and Tallinn, to unlock  the many secrets in this intriguing story of the making and meaning of these four paintings, and what a great story it is.”

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life said: “Everyone loves a good detective story, especially one with such an international flavour. Working with other international museum organisations on this world class research project and using state of the art techniques, many of the mysteries of this painting are revealed in this exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The exhibition represents a detailed examination of the most up to date methods there are of learning even more about objects in Glasgow’s collection.”

The findings are showcased in a book ‘On the Trail of Bosch and Bruegel: Four paintings under cross-examination’, and a multimedia exhibition, ’Art Detectives: Investigating Bosch and Bruegel’, organised together with Glasgow Museums, which will open in the Kelvingrove Museum on Thursday 22 November 2012, following exhibitions in Tallinn and Copenhagen.

The research used specialist technical art history facilities in Denmark, Estonia and Scotland, including Scanning Electron-Energy Dispersive X-ray Microanalysis at the University of Glasgow’s Imaging Spectroscopy and Analysis Centre (ISAAC).

See more at Four Paintings Magnified

Source: University of Glasgow

Monday, December 17, 2012

Norwegian Vikings grew hemp

Cannabis was cultivated 1,300 years ago at a farm in Southern Norway

The Sosteli farmsted, in Norway's southermmost Vest-Agder County, offers strong evidence that Vikings farmers actively cultivated cannabis, a recent analysis shows. The cannabis remains from the farmsted date from 650 AD to 800 AD.

This is not the first sign of hemp cultivation in Norway this far back in time, but the find is much more extensive than previous discoveries. “The other instances were just individual finds of pollen grains. Much more has been found here,” says Frans-Arne Stylegar, an archaeologist and the county's curator.

Sosteli is also further away from current-day settlements than other sites where cannabis finds have been made. Hemp is the same plant as cannabis, or marijuana. But nothing indicates that the Vikings cultivated the plant to get people high.

Most likely it was grown for making textiles and rope.

Click here to read this article from Science Nordic

Greenland’s Viking settlers gorged on seals

Greenland’s Viking settlers, the Norse, disappeared suddenly and mysteriously from Greenland about 500 years ago. Natural disasters, climate change and the inability to adapt have all been proposed as theories to explain their disappearance. But now a Danish-Canadian research team has demonstrated the Norse society did not die out due to an inability to adapt to the Greenlandic diet: an isotopic analysis of their bones shows they ate plenty of seals.

“Our analysis shows that the Norse in Greenland ate lots of food from the sea, especially seals,” says Jan Heinemeier, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University. “Even though the Norse are traditionally thought of as farmers, they adapted quickly to the Arctic environment and the unique hunting opportunities. During the period they were in Greenland, the Norse ate gradually more seals. By the 14th century, seals made up between 50 and 80 per cent of their diet.”

The Danish and Canadian researchers are studying the 80 Norse skeletons kept at the University of Copenhagen’s Laboratory of Biological Anthropology in order to determine their dietary habits. From studying the ratio of the isotopes carbon-13 and carbon-15, the researchers determined that a large proportion of the Greenlandic Norse diet came from the sea, particularly from seals. Heinemeier measured the levels of carbon isotopes in the skeletons, Erle Nelson of Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, Canada, analysed the isotopes, while Niels Lynnerup of the University of Copenhagen, examined the skeletons.

Click here to read this article from

Oops! Brain-Removal Tool Left in Mummy's Skull

A brain-removal tool used by ancient Egyptian embalmers has been discovered lodged in the skull of a female mummy that dates back around 2,400 years.

Removal of the brain was an Egyptian mummification procedure that became popular around 3,500 years ago and remained in use in later periods.

Identifying the ancient tools embalmers used for brain removal is difficult, and researchers note this is only the second time that such a tool has been reported within a mummy's skull.

Located between the left parietal bone and the back of the skull, which had been filled with resin, the object was discovered in 2008 through a series of CT scans. Researchers then inserted an endoscope (a thin tube often used for noninvasive medical procedures) into the mummy to get a closer look and ultimately detach it from resin to which it had gotten stuck.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Human remains found in Leicester car park DO belong to Richard III...

Human remains found in Leicester car park DO belong to Richard III... but scientists are holding back findings until Channel Four documentary is aired, claims insider 

 The skeleton found in the resting place of Richard III has been confirmed as belonging to the king - but scientists are holding the news back for greater publicity, it has been claimed. The human remains were uncovered in September in what is now the car park of Leicester City Council’s social services department. Since then, a number of tests have been taking place to determine if the bones belong to the Plantagenet king, including DNA tests.

But, according to The Daily Telegraph, even if long-awaited DNA results prove inconclusive, the archeologists will still announce that the remains belong to Richard III. A source, who has knowledge of the excavation, told the newspaper that additional evidence which was not revealed at a press conference following the discovery of the remains demonstrates beyond doubt that the skeleton is Richard III.

Another source said that new evidence will not be revealed until a Channel Four documentary is shown in January. It is believed a number of people working on the project have become frustrated that emerging evidence has not been revealed to the public. 'Unfortunately, an awful lot of stuff is being kept from the public', the source told the newspaper.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

See also this video about the search for Richard III

A ‘City of Gold’ unearths new educational opportunities at Princeton University

At the beginning, surrounded by verdant farmland, the archaeological secrets of two ancient cities lay dormant below the surface on a Mediterranean island. That changed when William Childs, Professor of Art and Archaeology Emeritus, arrived at that rustic spot on the northwest coast of Cyprus in the early 1980s to explore the possibility of establishing an archaeological expedition for Princeton.

 Childs brought with him a handful of graduate students who, under hardscrabble conditions, worked with basic tools — pickaxes, shovels, trowels, brushes and wheelbarrows — while all along taking notes. Little did they know that their efforts would unearth a Cypriot “City of Gold” that would lead to decades of educational opportunities for Princeton students.

 Since a course called “Archaeology” was introduced on campus in 1843, the University has challenged students in the classroom and on excavations abroad to experience the culture, history, art, architecture and politics of the ancient world. In 1883, a formal Department of Art and Archaeology was founded.

 A century later, the Princeton University Archaeological Expedition at Polis Chrysochous — that scrap of land in Cyprus — was established with Childs as director. The excavation set the stage for hands-on learning experiences for hundreds of Princeton students; new academic courses; and a major loan exhibition, “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus,” on view until January 20, 2013, at the Princeton University Art Museum.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Videos on The Hobbit - news and interviews

Ian McKellen's Expected, New Tolkien Journey Ian McKellen is back as Gandalf in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,' the 1st in Peter Jackson's new trilogy from J.R.R. Tolkien's writings. McKellen says Jackson uses Tolkien's style and notes to join 'The Hobbit' to 'The Lord of the Ring.'

 Simon Tolkien: "I don't think JRR would have enjoyed watching the films" Simon Tolkien shares his view on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the latest adaptation of his grandfather's books The Hobbit on 5 live Breakfast with Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden.

 NZ hit by Tolkien fever as Hobbit premiere nears Stars from the new Hobbit movie have joined die-hard fans in New Zealand ahead of the world première of the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

 JRR Tolkien estate to sue Warner Bros over The Hobbit The estate of The Hobbit author JRR Tolkien is to sue the studio behind a new film adaptation of the novel, over claims of copyright infringement. The suit, filed in California, says film-makers licensed the Hobbit brand for online casino slot machines and other forms of gambling, damaging the author's legacy. The family is claiming $80m (£50m) in damages.

 Tolkien Reaction and Bilbo Baggins Casting Interview

 Theresa Russ on Tolkien and The Hobbit With the much-anticipated premiere of The Hobbit coming on Friday, we offer this video interview with Theresa Russ, a Ph.D. student in English at UC Santa Barbara. Russ discusses the evolution of the Tolkien fantasy genre. 

Hobbit's Peter Jackson on bringing Tolkien classic to screen Interview "The Hobbit" director Peter Jakson. Jackson talks about the roots of his imagination and pioneering film making, and reveals secrets about the upcoming "Lord of the Rings" prequel.

 The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Interview - Richard Armitage Richard Armitage talks about playing Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit

 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Christopher Lee Interview

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hobbit Chic

Do you love J.R.R. Tolkien’s books so much that you could just wear them? One local designer has just answered your prayers.

 Director Peter Jackson isn’t the only one repurposing J.R.R. Tolkien’s works this holiday season: U of T civil engineering student Lee Hamu has upcycled some of the author’s classic works to create eco-friendly jewelry, household items, and various paper products. Currently constructing Tolkien-themed glass Christmas bulbs (among other projects), the 23-year-old Hamu spoke to The Grid on the eve of The Hobbit‘s Dec. 14 theatrical release about some of the Frodo-friendly items for sale—or soon to be available—at her Etsy store.

 Click here to read this article from The Grid

Why One Researcher is Documenting the Damage to Syria’s Archaeological Sites

Emma Cunliffe sits in a tiny graduate student’s office on the medieval campus of the University of Durham. But her mind is thousands of miles east, in Syria. Every day she goes online, sometimes for a few hours, to monitor the Facebook feeds of local Syrian groups for word about damaged sites.

She’ll scroll past horrific photos of dead children till she comes across mention of a new archaeological site that was shelled or plundered. She says it’s incredible just how much you can find out from these posts.

“It’s a new world online now,” she says. “The prevalence of social networking sites like Facebook, ease of access to YouTube, and the way that most people’s mobile phones can take video, means that, all those people who are desperate to share information have a real easy way to upload it and make it accessible.”

Click here to read this article from PRI's The World

Monday, December 10, 2012

Polish archaeologists find unknown tomb in Egypt

Polish archaeologists have discovered the entrance to a previously unknown tomb during excavation work in Egypt.

The discovery was made at the historic necropolis of Saqqara, which had functioned as a burial ground for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

Archaeologists had been carrying out excavations at the tomb of a dignitary named Ichi, who served at the court of Pharaoh Pepi over 4000 years ago.

The newly discovered tomb, which is connected to that of Ichi, lies within an area referred to as “the Dry Moat.”

Click here to read this article from TheNews.Pl

New light on the Nazca Lines

The first findings of the most detailed study yet by two British archaeologists into the Nazca Lines – enigmatic drawings created between 2,100 and 1,300 years ago in the Peruvian desert – have been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

As part of a five-year investigation, Professor Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History and Dr Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology have walked 1,500 km of desert in southern Peru, tracing the lines and geometric figures created by the Nasca people between 100 BC and AD 700.

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

Rome's Lost Empire, BBC One, review

Iain Hollingshead reviews Rome's Lost Empire, BBC One's one-off documentary in which Dan Snow uses satellite technology to identify the lost cities, amphitheatres and forts of ancient Rome.

Just when you thought television had had its fill of Ancient Rome, along come two more BBC documentaries. On BBC Four, Simon Sebag Montefiore has started a three-part series exploring the central role of religion in the city. While on BBC One yesterday, Dan Snow’s Rome’s Lost Empire harnessed satellite technology to understand more about Roman military might.

Snow’s adventures certainly lived up to their mainstream billing. In tandem with Dr Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist from Alabama State university who’d recently discovered thousands of sites in Egypt using satellite imagery, they set off to repeat her success with Roman remains

Click here to read this review from the Daily Telegraph

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Church to sell 15th century chalice to British Museum for £1.3 million

A £1.3m sale of the Lacock Cup to the British Museum has been approved by a Consistory Court, with the judge appealing for battling villagers to make amends.

 During the rarely-held two-day hearing at St Cyriac’s Church, Lacock, the Rev Justin Gau, Chancellor of the Diocese of Bristol, gave permission for the sale of the chalice, which dates back to the 1400s and is insured for £2.2m.

 The origins of the cup, which has been on loan to the London museum since 1963, are uncertain, but it is believed to have been donated to St Cyriac’s Church by Sir Robert Baynard, of Lackham Manor, 400 years ago.

Click here to read this article from the Wiltshire Times

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Call for Papers: 7th Annual University of North Texas Medieval Graduate Student Symposium

The University of North Texas is sponsoring the 7th Annual Medieval Graduate Student Symposium on Thursday and Friday April 11th and 12th, 2013. 

“To Move and Be Moved: Physical and Psychological Transportation and Transformations in the Middle Ages.”

Keynote Speakers 

Dr. Janet Snyder, Professor of Art History at the West Virginia University, author of Early Gothic Column-Figure Sculpture in France: Appearance, Materials, and Significance (Ashgate 2011).

Dr. Susan Boynton, Professor of Musicology at Columbia University, author of Shaping a Monastic Identity: Liturgy and History at the Imperial Abbey of Farfa, 1000-1125 (Cornell University Press, 2006).

Call for Papers 

While we will entertain papers on any topic from any discipline of Medieval Studies—Art History, Religion, Philosophy, English, History, Foreign Languages, Music, we particularly welcome those that engage the multifaceted topic of “To Move and Be Moved: Physical and Psychological Transportation and Transformations in the Middle Ages.”

We encourage submission of papers that have been submitted and/or delivered elsewhere. Travel subvention of $300 will be awarded to the best paper. Deadline for submission of a 300 word abstract is December 1, 2012. Selected full papers will be due March 30th. Paper Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to: or Dr. Mickey Abel Associate Professor, Medieval Art History University of North Texas 1155 Union Station #305100 Denton, TX 76203-5017

See for more details

Octandre Ensemble: Medieval Modernist - this Saturday in London!

Octandre Ensemble: Medieval Modernist 

7.30pm Saturday 8 December 2012

Church of St. Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall, Gresham Street, EC2V 5AA.

The Octandre Ensemble presents a concert featuring the work of its Patron, Sir Harrison Birtwistle. The programme includes his arrangements of music by Ockeghem and Machaut as well as modernist works by him and others, including Stravinsky, Holst and Mason, revealing contrasts and connections. Refreshments will be served, including mead, mulled wine and mince pies.

 Tickets £10/£8

Click here to book online

Click here to download the flyer for the concert

'First tartan' discovered on statue of Roman emperor

The earliest depiction of Scottish tartan has been discovered – on a fragment of a Roman statue.

 The bronze statue once stood on top of a giant triumphal arch in the ancient Moroccan city of Volubilis, in the south-west corner of the Roman Empire, 1500 miles from Scotland. It depicted the Emperor Caracalla – the self-styled conqueror of the Caledonians – riding a six-horse chariot.

The statue, erected 1800 years ago, was destroyed centuries ago, and only a three-foot-long fragment of the emperor's cape remains in a museum in Rabat. Remarkably, the surviving bronze includes the image of a captive Caledonian warrior – wearing tartan trews.

 Dr Fraser Hunter, of the National Museum of Scotland, yesterday identified the carving – inlaid with bronze and silver to give texture to the Scottish weave – as the "first-ever depiction of tartan".

Click here to read this article from The Scotland Herald

The medieval church’s ideological warfare

By R.I. Moore
Published by Harvard University Press, $35

 Long ago and far away, in lands now known as Southern France and Northern Italy, many people the church considered “bad” lived in small villages scattered throughout the countryside. They were known by various names -- Cathars, Waldensians, Manichees, Albigensians and Donatists. What they had in common was that their ideas were seen as wrong, a threat to the unity of Christian Europe. They therefore had to be snuffed out.

 This was in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Their offense was heresy -- to believe or express an idea contrary to what was taught by the Roman Catholic church, and to refuse to “correct” that “wrong” idea. To refuse was to be tried, convicted and killed -- usually burned alive at the stake in the town square as an example to those who might insist on having ideas of their own. All this was by order of the church. The popes, who had already sent crusaders to the Holy Land to reclaim Jerusalem, would periodically send a local crusade to Southern France.

 But that was more than 800 years ago, and nothing like that could happen today. Is that clear?

Click here to read this book review from the National Catholic Reporter

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Experts uncover medieval moat in Havel Library's future seat

Experts have uncovered a medieval trench filled with ground layers coming from a cemetery and containing a number of human bones during research into the courtyard of a Prague building that is to host the Vaclav Havel Library after reconstruction, Jana Marikova Kubkova told CTK.

 Marikova Kubkova is the spokeswoman for the Archaeological Institute carrying out the research. The planned reconstruction of the historical house, built in the 16th century near Prague Castle, has stirred up stormy discussions.

 A couple of years ago, the house was bought by businessman Zdenek Bakala, whose foundation sponsors the Vaclav Havel Library. The reconstruction design was presented by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill. Apart from publicly accessible premises, the building is to offer accommodation capacities and a private flat.

Click here to read this article from the Prague Daily Monitor

Monday, December 03, 2012

400-Year-Old Playing Cards Reveal Royal Secret

Call it a card player's dream. A complete set of 52 silver playing cards gilded in gold and dating back 400 years has been discovered.

Created in Germany around 1616, the cards were engraved by a man named Michael Frömmer, who created at least one other set of silver cards.

According to a story, backed up by a 19th-century brass plate, the cards were at one point owned by a Portuguese princess who fled the country, cards in hand, after Napoleon's armies invaded in 1807.

At the time they were created in 1616 no standardized cards existed; different parts of Europe had their own card styles. This particular set uses a suit seen in Italy, with swords, coins, batons and cups in values from ace to 10. Each of these suits has three face cards — king, knight (also known as cavalier) and knave. There are no jokers.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Funding given to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Battle of Flodden

The Flodden 500 Project will receive £887,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to commemorate the 500th anniversary of one of the largest battles ever fought between Scottish and English forces.

The battle of Flodden was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on 9 September 1513 with over forty thousand men on the battlefield. King James IV of Scotland died in the battle, the last monarch from the British Isles to suffer such a death to date.

The project, which is being managed by the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum, will bring together communities of the Scottish and Northumbrian border areas. It will last over a four year duration to ensure that legacy is created beyond the actual commemoration events in 2013.

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Crusader sword sells for £163,250

A rare medieval sword, which had been given to the Mamluk rulers of Egypt and then looted from them by the same Crusader king, sold for £163,250 at auction this week, with an entire collection taking in bids over £ 1 million. Bonhams auction house in London held a sale of medieval and Viking swords, with many of them selling for six or seven times the expected price.

 The crusader sword was estimated to sell for between £40,000 to £60,000. The Italian-made weapon was given as a gift to the Mamluk sultans of Egypt as part of a gift sealing a treaty. The sword was kept in Alexandria, but did not reside their long. Peter I launched the a crusade in 1362 against the Mamluks and his fleet captured Alexandria. They returned to Cyprus with immense amounts, including this sword.

 David Williams, Head of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armor Department, says: “The fascination of this sword is that it has survived some six centuries having been gifted by a Christian King to a Muslim ruler and kept in the famed Alexandrian armory and then taken by force by Crusaders and returned to Europe. It is a remarkable survivor of the Crusader period.”

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Archaeological dig in Northern Ireland uncovers huge haul of medieval artefacts

Archaeologists have been impressed by the huge treasure trove of artefacts that have been discovered so far during excavations of a crannog in Northern Ireland. They are providing a “snap-shot” of life in Ireland between the 9th century AD to the 17th Century, and further work may reveal more items that could date back even centuries earlier.

The crannog – an artificial island in a lake – is located in County Fermanagh in the southwest corner of Norther Irland. Digging began in June, and has revealed a small settlement of about four or five houses. It is believed that the island was occupied between the years 600 AD to 1600 AD. The waterlogged site is turning up many kinds of objects related to daily life in the Middle Ages.

Some of the most striking finds are a wooden bowl that has a cross carved into its base, a unique find from an excavation in Ireland, parts of wooden vessels with interlace decoration, and exquisite combs made from antler and bone, status symbols of their day that date to between 1000 and 1100 AD.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Geese Book – medieval manuscript now available online

One of the most interesting manuscripts of the late Middle Ages is now available online – The Geese Book, a lavishly and whimsically illuminated, two-volume liturgical book, can now be accessed through a project from the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The Geese Book was produced in Nuremberg, Germany between 1503 and 1510, and gives the complete liturgy compiled for the parish of St. Lorenz, which was used until the Reformation was introduced in the city in 1525.

The volumes are renowned for their high quality decorative illumination including fanciful pictures, provocative and satirical imagery of animals, dragons, and wild people. The work takes its name from an enigmatic illustration showing a choir of geese singing from a large chant manuscript with a wolf as their choirmaster. A fox, who has joined the choir, extends his paw menacingly in the direction of one of the geese.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moravian College hosts medieval conference for undergrads

Moravian College will host the seventh annual Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies on Saturday, December 1, 2012. Over 80 students from 34 different schools will be presenting their research, and Dr. Alfred Siewers of Bucknell University will be the plenary speaker.

 In addition to the student research presentations, there will also be an exhibit by a calligrapher and demonstrations in medieval spinning and weaving by a medieval textile specialist. The day will end with a concert of medieval and early modern music by My Lord Chamberlain’s Consort at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem.

 The Conference provides an excellent opportunity for students practice giving professional presentations and to share their research, which they have dedicated so much time and effort to, with an audience broader than their classroom. This year 12 Moravian students will be presenting papers on a wide variety of topics, including an analysis of Robin Hood films, images of disability in the Game of Thrones series, and gender roles in medieval video games. Many Moravian students and faculty will also be involved in chairing sessions, running registration, and helping with setup and cleanup.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, November 26, 2012

When stealing corpses was popular

When you bury family members in a cemetery, you expect them to stay there. Not so 200 years ago, however, when body snatchers prowled the nation’s burial grounds looking for subjects. This lucrative cottage industry was driven by an acute shortage of bodies that were available for dissection by the growing number of medical students.

Now, a new book has amassed, for the first time, archaeological evidence for what happened to the corpses, from dissection and autopsy through to reburial and display. Many of the new findings have never been published before.

The book reveals how the macabre activities of the body snatchers helped to further the progress of medicine and science by improving understanding of how the human body worked.

Click here to read this article from Early Modern England

An Interview With Jeri Westerson, Author of Blood Lance and the Crispin Guest Book Series

Author Jeri Westerson has done it again: She's managed to craft another fascinating, entertaining, engaging book in a style that's been dubbed "medieval noir."

Her latest book, Blood Lance, is the fifth in her series of books about Crispin Guest, a detective of sorts during the medieval era, a man who was previously a knight.

One of the many aspects of this book and series I enjoy is how Westerson combines history with fiction, even historical figures with fictional ones, with grace and eloquence.

In our latest interview--I previously interviewed her about her book Troubled Bones--she also talks about her concerns about the state of the publishing industry and how it will affect authors including herself.

Click here to read this interview from the Seattle Post Intelligencer

You can follow Jeri Westerson (and Crispin Guest) on Facebook

Friday, November 23, 2012

New Book on ‘The Book of Kells’ launched

The Book of Kells is widely recognised as one of the world’s most beautiful decorated manuscripts and a masterpiece of European medieval art, with images that are staggering in their richness, intricacy and inventiveness. This handsome new volume, by Dr Bernard Meehan, Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Library, brims with fresh insights and interpretations and features the extraordinary imagery on a generous scale. The publication which was introduced by Professor of History of Art,  Roger Stalley also marks the tercentenary of the foundation of the Old Library building, Trinity College Library, Dublin, one of  the great historic libraries of the world.

The Book of Kells dates from around 800 AD and contains a Latin text of the four Gospels. There is great uncertainty about its origins. It is thought that the Book of Kells was first worked on at the monastery on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, and was continued, after Viking raids, at the monastery of Kells in Ireland. The Book remained in Kells until the mid-1600s, and in 1661 was presented to Trinity College, Dublin, where it is on permanent display, and is regarded as a national treasure. It is seen every year by half a million visitors from all over the world.

Click here to read this article from

How King's College Chapel Got Its Windows

When you enter King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England, the first thing you do is look up at the magnificent vault of the ceiling. For me, looking up at the beautiful fan-like splays of the ribs always made music resound in my head, perhaps a Bach chorale that I had heard performed there or perhaps something from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols that is broadcast from the chapel around the world at Christmastime. Then there is the light. On a summer's day, "the windows blaze into life, walls of floating light and colour that sparkle and ripple to the changing rhythm of the clouds and sun, 'flecking the vast interior with glory,' according to one former King's undergraduate, E. M. Forster." Thus Carola Hicks introduces the windows in The King's Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art, newly reprinted by Pimlico. It was her last book published before her death in 2010; she had been, among other jobs in a varied career, the curator of the stained glass museum in nearby Ely Cathedral. Now I'd love to go back to the chapel; I had no idea that the lovely windows had such a tumultuous and fractious history, reflecting the complicated times in which they were planned and installed. Even if I never get back, though, I am, thanks to Hicks's book, seeing the windows with new clarity.

Click here to read this book review from The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tycho Brahe was not killed by mercury poisoning, tests reveal

In 2010, Tycho Brahe was exhumed from his grave in Prague, an event which received extensive international media coverage. Since then, a Danish-Czech team of researchers has been working to elucidate the cause of Tycho Brahe’s death. The results of this intensive work now make it possible to rule out mercury poisoning as a cause of death.

 For over four hundred years, Tycho Brahe’s untimely death has been a mystery. He died on 24 October 1601 only eleven days after the onset of a sudden illness. Over the centuries, a variety of myths and theories about his death have arisen.

 One of the most persistent theories has been that he died of mercury poisoning, either because he voluntarily ingested large quantities of mercury for medicinal purposes, or because mercury was used to poison him. Rumours of death by poisoning arose shortly after Tycho Brahe’s death.

Brahe’s famous assistant Johannes Kepler has been identified as a possible murder suspect, and other candidates have been singled out for suspicion throughout the years, according to Dr Jens Vellev, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who is heading the research project.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ancient hieroglyphics meet cutting-edge technology at Loughborough University

Engineers from Loughborough University have used the latest cutting-edge technology to bring to life an ancient Egyptian inscribed tablet.

Working with The Manchester Museum, Loughborough’s Professor John Tyrer has created a high-tech interactive display that will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the story behind the Stela of Hesysunebef.

Stelae were set up at religious sites to commemorate individuals or groups of people. They formed a permanent record of someone and allowed them to participate eternally in religious rituals.

The Stela of Hesysunebef is separated into three horizontal sections, called registers. The top register shows Neferhotep, the foreman of a gang of workmen who lived at the village of Deir el-Medina. He stands on the prow of a boat used to carry the statue of the goddess Mut. The middle register shows Hesysunebef, the adoptive son of Neferhotep and his family, who are all kneeling in adoration before the foreman. The lower register shows five more people including the parents-in-law of Hesysunebef. It dates back to around 1600 BC.

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

New research on how the Bayeux Tapestry was made

A University of Manchester researcher has thrown new light on how the world famous Bayeux Tapestry was made over 900 years ago. Alex Makin –a professional embroiderer who was trained at one the country’s most prestigious institutions – says the same group of people were likely to have worked on the 70-metre-long masterpiece under the same manager or managers.

Her conclusion casts doubt on the widely accepted theory that nuns based in different locations across England made the tapestry in nine sections which were then stitched together.

However, questions still remain over how many embroiderers worked on the Bayeux Tapestry, which is on permanent display at a museum in Normandy, France, who they were and where their ‘workshop’ or ‘workshops’ were located.

From observing the way the stitches overlap on the back of the tapestry, Mrs Makin is also able to say in what order its different parts were sewn. The outlines for individual sections were worked first, and then filled in with colours in a set order.

Click here to read this article from

Who was the mysterious Ælfgyva in the Bayeux Tapestry?

A new theory has been put forward on a mysterious scene in the Bayeux Tapestry that appears to show some sort of sexual scandal that involved a woman named Ælfgyva. Joanna Laynesmith, a medieval historian from the University of Reading offers two possibilities in a new article that appears in the October issue of History Today.

In trying to understand ”the million dollar question” as Laynesmith puts it, several different explanations have been attempted.  Laynesmith believes that this Ælfgyva was most likely Emma, who was the wife of two Anglo-Saxon kings - Æthelred the Unready and Cnut, and was the mother of two more – Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor, or that it could be Ælfgyvva, the first wife of Æthelred.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is it King Richard III? We we will know in January

The DNA and scientific testing to confirm whether or not the remains of an individual discovered in Leicester is that of England’s King Richard III will be known early in the new year, according to officials from the University of Leicester.

DNA testing, environmental sampling and radiocarbon dating are some of the tests being undertaken to determine whether the skeleton found in Leicester was once Richard III – and there are also plans to do a facial reconstruction.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, of the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services, explains “We are looking at many different lines of enquiry, the evidence from which all add up to give us more assurance about the identity of the individual. As well as the DNA testing, we have to take in all of the other pieces of evidence which tell us about the person’s lifestyle – including his health and where he grew up.

Click here to read this article from

Humans were smarter 3000 years ago, scientist says

The human race is slowly losing its intellectual and emotional capabilities because it no longer faces extreme evolutionary pressures, new research contends.

Human intelligence and behavior require optimal functioning of a large number of genes, but the intricate web of genes that gives people these capabilities has started to backslide, the scientists said in an article appearing Nov. 12 in the journal Trends in Genetics.

"The development of our intellectual abilities and the optimization of thousands of intelligence genes probably occurred in relatively nonverbal, dispersed groups of peoples before our ancestors emerged from Africa," study author Dr. Gerald Crabtree, of Stanford University, said in a journal news release.

In the early stages of human evolution, intelligence was critical for survival and there was immense selective pressure acting on the genes required for intellectual development. But once humans achieved a certain level of evolutionary progress, they slowly began to lose ground.

The development of agriculture led to urbanization, which may have weakened the power of natural selection to eliminate mutations that caused intellectual disabilities, the researchers explained.

Based on the frequency that harmful mutations appear in the human genome and the assumption that 2,000 to 5,000 genes are required for intellectual ability, Crabtree estimated the effect that the past 3,000 years (about 120 generations) of human history have had on humans. He concluded that all people now carry two or more mutations harmful to their intellectual or emotional stability.

He noted, however, that the loss of intellectual and emotional capabilities is quite slow and it's likely that a solution will be found in the future.

"I think we will know each of the millions of human mutations that can compromise our intellectual function and how each of these mutations interact with each other and other processes, as well as environmental influences," Crabtree said.

"At that time, we may be able to magically correct any mutation that has occurred in all cells of any organism at any developmental stage," he said. "Thus, the brutish process of natural selection will be unnecessary."

Click here to access the first and second parts of the article Our fragile intellect

The Mary Rose archers were among the elite soldiers of the 16th century, research reveals

The archers who fought on Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, would have been elite soldiers for their time, standing over 6 feet tall and able to pull weights over 200 lbs. These findings come from a new research project being carried out by sports scientists at Swansea University and the Mary Rose Trust to discover more about the lives of the 16th century archers on board the ship.

When the ship was raised from the Solent in 1982, many thousands of medieval artefacts along with 92 fairly complete skeletons of the crew of the Mary Rose were recovered.

Nick Owen, Sport and Exercise Biomechanist from the College of Engineering at Swansea University said, “This sample of human remains offers a unique opportunity to study activity related changes in human skeletons. It is documented that there was a company of archers aboard when the ship sank, at a time when many archers came from Wales and the South West of England."

Click here to read this article from Early Modern England

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Albrecht Classen wins Arizona Professor of the Year

Albrecht Classen almost cried when he learned he won the 2012 Professor of the Year award for the state of Arizona, but the German-born German Studies professor is no stranger to recognition for his work.

Awards line the walls of Classen’s office and help serve as a testament to the appreciation for his work and teaching ability. This week, Classen will receive three additional honors to add to the wall.

On Wednesday, Classen will be inducted as honorary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Later this week, he’ll also receive an award known as “Friend of German” from the American Association of Teachers of German.

The Friend of German award “recognizes outstanding support for and promotion of German and the study of German at the local, regional, or national level,” according to the association’s website.

Probably most significant is the fact that this week Classen will receive an award for U.S. Professor of the Year for 2012 in Arizona from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. When he found out he won, he said he felt moved.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Wildcat

See also Professor Classen speaking on Trobairitz Women Poets from Early Twelfth-Century Southern France

Medieval underwear points to racy history

Underwear dating from medieval times that was found under flooring of an Austrian castle is hardly racy by the standards of today.

But the discovery does suggest that women in 15th-century Europe took pride in their appearance, and perhaps not just the privileged classes.

The University of Innsbruck announced this summer that "the world's oldest brassieres" had been found at Longberg Castle in Tyrol, western Austria.

The cotton garments were decorated, much like today, with lace and embroidery. It might not be a stretch to suggest that such underwear was designed for those "special occasions," scholars say.

At the heart of Tyrol, an area lined with precipitous alpine peaks, is the city of Innsbruck. The items were found during renovations of the castle in summer 2008. The castle lies to the south of the city.

Four brassieres were found amid a heap of cotton material, clothing and leather footwear under the third floor.

Carbon dating by the university's archaeological research team dated the garments to between 1440 and 1485, making them the oldest in existence.

Click here to read this article from The Asahi Shimbun

See also Medieval lingerie? Discovery in Austria reveals what really was worn under those tunics

Early humans may have been much smarter than we thought

Rocks carved into ancient stone arrowheads or into lethal tools for hurling spears suggest humans innovated relatively advanced weapons much earlier than thought, researchers in South Africa say.

The researchers' finds, partially exposed by a coastal storm, suggest ancient peoples were capable of complex forms of thinking, scientists added. "These people were like you and I," researcher Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, told LiveScience.

Modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, but when modern human ways of thinking emerged remains controversial. For instance, some researchers note that the first signs of complex thought such as art appeared relatively late in history, suggesting that genetic mutations linked with modern human behavior occurred as recently as 40,000 years ago.

Other scientists argue that modern human thought originated much earlier but that the evidence was largely lost to the rigors of time.

Click here to read this article from MSNBC

Medieval bestseller explores morality through science

Imagine a stick partially submerged in a pool of water. It appears to be broken at the point where water meets air, but in fact it is in one piece. This optical illusion is called refraction: as light passes from one medium to another, it bends and changes speed based on each medium’s refractive index, causing the stick in water to appear bent.

 Most people are familiar with the scientific definition of refraction. But have you ever considered it as a moral concept? Say there’s a man on the street digging through a dumpster. You might see him as being “broken.” But as refraction teaches us, things are not always as they appear.

 The idea that scientific principles might also have philosophical applications is explored in The Moral Treatise on the Eye, a text written in the late 13th century by Peter of Limoges. The Moral Treatise is a compilation of short narratives, or exempla, meant to help preachers deliver sermons. Each chapter offers a piece of knowledge about the field of optics. Peter of Limoges first explains the concept scientifically, and then gives a moral or religious interpretation, like in the refraction example.

 “Peter quotes Paul, saying that we see things in this world through a dark veil, but in the next life, you’ll see things as they really are,” says Richard Newhauser, an English professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU. “In effect, what he’s saying is, in heaven there’s no reflection or refraction but only lines of direct sight.”

 The Moral Treatise on the Eye combines scientific thought with concepts of moral theology. This blending of disciplines is part of what appealed to Newhauser, who recently published a translation of the text with extensive explanatory footnotes.

Click here to read this article from Arizona State University

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ancient Roman Giant Found—Oldest Complete Skeleton With Gigantism

It's no tall tale—the first complete ancient skeleton of a person with gigantism has been discovered near Rome, a new study says.

At 6 feet, 8 inches (202 centimeters) tall, the man would have been a giant in third-century A.D. Rome, where men averaged about 5 and a half feet (167 centimeters) tall. By contrast, today's tallest man measures 8 feet, 3 inches (251 centimeters).

Finding such skeletons is rare, because gigantism itself is extremely rare, today affecting about three people in a million worldwide. The condition begins in childhood, when a malfunctioning pituitary gland causes abnormal growth.

Two partial skeletons, one from Poland and another from Egypt, have previously been identified as "probable" cases of gigantism, but the Roman specimen is the first clear case from the ancient past, study leader Simona Minozzi, a paleopathologist at Italy's University of Pisa, said by email.

Click here to read this article from National Geographic

Click here to access the article: Pituitary Disease from the Past: A Rare Case of Gigantism in Skeletal Remains from the Roman Imperial Age

How Medieval Arms Race Led to Swords Capable of Killing ‘Tin Can’ Knights

I grew up on an early edition of Dungeons & Dragons and John Boorman’s Excalibur. The image of the tin-can knight — clanking and rattling as he walked, hoisted onto his horse by a crane — was the first part of my childhood that had to go when I started working on The Mongoliad, an epic collaborative tale about the Mongol invasion of Europe in the early 13th century.

Part of our purview on the project, an interactive story that’s being turned into a book trilogy, was to portray Western martial arts correctly. Thus began my crash course in the evolution of arms and armor over several centuries of medieval life.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this education was charting the changes that occurred as a result of this medieval arms race. Let’s start with the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, as recorded by the Bayeaux Tapestry, which is more than 200 linear feet of embroidered pictures of men in armor.

They’re wearing hauberks, long shirts that hang nearly to their knees made from interlinked iron rings. They called it “maille,” plain and simple, and if the troubadours were getting all poetic about these battles, they might refer to this maille as a “net.” Never “chain.” Why? Well, because it was a net.

Click here to read this article from Wired Magazine

Click here to read more articles on Medieval Warfare

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ancient Scythians were a genetic blend of Europeans and Asians, researchers find

A group of researchers led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) has discovered the first scientific evidence of genetic blending between Europeans and Asians in the remains of ancient Scythian warriors living over 2,000 years ago in the Altai region of Mongolia. Contrary to what was believed until now, the results published in PLoS ONE indicate that this blending was not due to an eastward migration of Europeans, but to a demographic expansion of local Central Asian populations, thanks to the technological improvements the Scythian culture brought with them.

The Altai is a mountain range in Central Asia occupying territories of Russia and Kazakhstan to the west and of Mongolia and China to the east. Historically, the Central Asian steppes have been a corridor for Asian and European populations, resulting in the region’s large diversity in population today. In ancient times however the Altai Mountains, located in the middle of the steppes, represented an important barrier for the coexistence and mixture of the populations living on each side. And so they lived isolated during millennia: Europeans on the western side and Asians on the eastern side.

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

Community project shows possibilities for Medieval Norwich church

A prototype project at St Laurence’s Church, in St Benedict’s Street, was launched on Saturday in an effort to explore new ways to use the 15th-century church.

The Common Room project temporarily transformed the church into a type of community space in an attempt to entice people to explore the Grade I listed Medieval church.

The project has been developed by Social Spaces and 00:/ (Zero Zero) in collaboration with The Churches Conservation Trust, a national charity which protects historic churches at risk and cares for over 340 buildings around the country.

St Laurence’s is one of three churches which the charity looks after in Norwich, alongside the 500-year-old Church of St John Maddermarket and St Augustine’s Church, which boasts the only 17th-century brick tower in Norwich.

Click here to read this article from EDP 24

The Fake Medieval Images in Canterbury Cathedral

Thousands of visitors come into Canterbury Cathedral each day, where they gaze upon the hundreds of years of history in one of England’s greatest churches. Many of them will see the great stained glass images in the windows of the cathedral, believing that these were created in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately two of the most iconic images in the Cathedral are actually fakes created in the first half of the 20th century.

In ‘Fakes and Forgeries in Canterbury’s Stained Glass’, a lecture given last week at the University of Toronto, Rachel Koopmans explained how these images came into the cathedral and have fooled people for so long. One of the faked images is known as the Pilgrims panel, which shows four figures on the move and has been associated with the characters of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The other is a portrait of the famous martyr and saint Thomas Becket, which some books have even described as being a contemporary depiction of the twelfth-century Archbishop.

Koopmans explains that both of these images, and many more in the Cathedral, were actually created by Samuel Caldwell Jr., who was the person in charge of restoring Canterbury’s glass for more than fifty years. During this time he created dozens of works and duped various church officials into believing they were genuine medieval images.

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Winchester Cathedral starts potentially groundbreaking research

Winchester Cathedral has started preparatory work for the potentially groundbreaking research into the contents of its mortuary chests. Historians believe the wooden boxes contain the bones of Anglo-Saxon kings, including ancestors of King Alfred and the Danes such as Canute.

 The boxes were recently taken down from the presbytery screens and moved to the Lady Chapel at the eastern end of the cathedral where a wooden hut has been erected with a lockable door. The cathedral is hoping for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Click here to read this article from the Hampshire Chronicle

See also Notes and Queries about the Mortuary Chests

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Maney Publishing and Oxbow Books form journal publishing partnership

Extending a business relationship that has endured for many years, Oxbow will transfer its journal publishing operation to Maney Publishing effective from 2013. Primarily a publisher of books, Oxbow Books is a publisher, distributor and retail bookseller for everything on archaeology, prehistory, the Classical world, the Middle Ages, Egyptology, Near Eastern studies, and related environmental and heritage topics.

Maney benefits from Oxbow’s reach to core markets for the books and series it publishes on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the British Archaeological Association.

Recognising Maney’s success in building an international portfolio of journals, Oxbow Books is pleased to license to Maney its three journals Landscapes, the Journal of Wetland Archaeology and Childhood in the Past so that they achieve full exposure to a global, institutional library market and can be sold flexibly within the MORE (Maney Online Research E-journal) Archaeology & Heritage and History collections. Both companies have grown as a result of collaborative and cooperative business models, working with societies, professional organisations and institutes to provide a viable route to market. The move of Oxbow’s journals to Maney seals a partnership which both sides warmly welcome.

Maney‘s Publishing Manager for Humanities, Liz Rosindale, is pleased that these journals will join the fold because “apart from fitting our profile so well, enabling us to present more excellent scholarship to archaeologists and those involved in the heritage sector, we are delighted to extend our working relationship in a new venture with our friends at Oxbow”.

Oxbow’s Publishing Director, Clare Litt, is delighted with the new arrangements as "Maney has great strengths in journal publishing and a wealth of experience that will benefit our journals, enabling their subscriptions and profile to grow and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with Maney to our mutual benefit."

For more information about these titles visit

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Princess Discovered

The tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess has been discovered south of Cairo hidden in bedrock and surrounded by a court of tombs belonging to four high officials.

Dating to 2500 B.C., the structure was built in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty, though archaeologists are puzzled as to why this princess was buried in Abusir South among tombs of non-royal officials. Most members of the Fifth Dynasty's royal family were buried 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) to the north, in the central part of Abusir or farther south in Saqqara.

The researchers aren't sure whether the remains of the princess are inside tomb, as the investigation is still in progress, Miroslav Bárta, director of the mission, told LiveScience. Even so, they also found several fragments of a false-door bearing the titles and the name of Sheretnebty, the king's daughter.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Medieval Priory discovered on Jersey

Jersey archaeologists had the first chance to explore a rare medieval priory after uncovering a stone wall.

Robert Waterhouse, Societe Jersiaise Archaeologist, said the St Clement's priory had been an accidental find. He said the society knew it must have existed as there was documentary evidence, but that it had not been able to find it until now.

Mr Waterhouse said: "In the summer we carried out a student excavation in the cemetery looking for [an] Iron Age and Roman settlement that was known to exist here.At the end of the investigation one of our trenches came up with a substantial stone wall while the one behind came up with a great mass of building rubble and medieval pottery. We put in a larger trench and came up trumps. We got a substantial medieval wall in the south west corner of the building."

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Monday, November 05, 2012

Florida Wants to Make History Majors Pay More for College Than Math Majors

Philosophy lovers, prepare to be outraged.

 Down in Florida, a task force commissioned by Governor Rick Scott is putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would allow the state's public universities to start charging undergraduates different tuition rates depending on their major. Students would get discounts for studying topics thought to be in high demand among Florida employers. Those would likely include science, technology, engineering, and math (aka, the STEM fields), among others.

 But Art History? Gender Studies? Classics? Sorry, but the fates are cruel. Unless a university could show that local companies were clamoring to hire humanities students, those undergrads would have to pay more for their diploma.
 Charging tuition by major is one of several recommendations the task force will submit to lawmakers as part of a broad reform package for Florida's university system. The hope appears to be that by keeping certain degrees cheaper than others, the state can lure students into fields where it needs more talent. It's an interesting idea in the abstract, but if it ever makes it into law, the results could be messy.

 Before we dive into the pros and cons of the proposal, a few details: The task force's plan calls on the state to help colleges freeze tuition for three years on "high-skill, high-wage, high-demand" majors picked out by the legislature, while letting prices rise for other areas of study. It's not clear yet what degrees would fall under that "high-demand" umbrella. But Florida's state schools already hand out about 37 percent of their diplomas in subjects the government has deemed "strategic areas of emphasis," which include the STEM disciplines, some education specialities, health fields, emergency and security services, and "globalization." Presumably, many of those same majors would qualify for the cheaper tuition rates.

Click here to read this article from The Atlantic