Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sex, Beer and Politics: Riddles Reveal Life of Ancient Mesopotamians

Millennia before modern-day Americans made fun of their politicians or cracked crude jokes over a cold one, people in ancient Mesopotamia were doing much the same thing.

The evidence of sex, politics and beer-drinking comes from a newly translated tablet, dating back more than 3,500 years, which reveals a series of riddles.

The text is fragmentary in parts and appears to have been written by an inexperienced hand, possibly a student. The researchers aren't sure where the tablet originates, though they suspect its scribe lived in the southern part of Mesopotamia, near the Persian Gulf.

The translation, by Nathan Wasserman, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, and Michael Streck, a professor with the Altorientalisches Institut at Universität Leipzig, is detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Iraq.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience

Duke Partners with University of Wisconsin-Madison For Florence Study Abroad Program

A long-standing Duke global education program in Italy is changing shape.

The Duke in Florence program is ending after its host institution, the University of Michigan, decided to close its program near Florence, Italy, after Fall 2011. Duke in Florence, which began in 1997, might reopen next year as a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Florence program, located in Sesto Fiorentino, was a learning consortium headed by the University of Michigan in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Duke. Last Spring, the University of Michigan announced it would no longer manage the program and that it would end in December, said Margaret Riley, director of the Global Education Office for Undergraduates.

“The future of the Duke in Florence Program is yet to be determined,” Riley wrote in an email Thursday. “The University of Wisconsin... has indicated interest in reconfiguring the program.”

Click here to read this article from The Duke Chronicle

Nottingham Robin Hood medieval village 'still possible'

The Sheriff of Nottingham has said he is confident a £25m medieval village tourist attraction could still be built at the foot of Nottingham Castle.

Plans were put forward as part of the Sheriff's Commission two years ago. The aim of the commission was to suggest how the city could make more of the legend of Robin Hood.

Several investors registered an initial interest in the plans but everything went on hold when the country entered a recession, Councillor Leon Unczer said. The idea was to create an "adventurous and fun but historical in context" medieval village which could attract 500,000 visitors a year, Mr Unczer said.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Medieval Harmondsworth Barn to be preserved by English Heritage

English Heritage has purchased a medieval barn in west London, once described as the “Cathedral of Middlesex” for £20,000. Harmondsworth Barn is listed as a Grade I building, placing it alongside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace for its exceptional architectural and historic interest.

Rescued by English Heritage from years of neglect and decay, the oak-framed medieval barn – dubbed by the late poet laureate and heritage campaigner Sir John Betjeman as the “Cathedral of Middlesex” – will be run by and for the local community. It will open to the public in April 2012, joining Stonehenge and parts of Hadrian’s Wall in the National Collection of Historic Sites and Monuments, under the guardianship of English Heritage.

The barn was built in 1426 by Winchester College as part of its manor farm at Harmondsworth and was used to store grain. Inside, both its size and its aisles evoke the space and shape of a cathedral – it is nearly 60 metres long, 12 metres wide and 11 metres tall and 13 massive oak trusses, resting on stone blocks, hold the roof up. The barn is a masterpiece of carpentry, contains one of the best interiors of the medieval age, and for its age is remarkably intact.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vanderbilt scholar Amy-Jill Levine stresses Jewish roots of the New Testament

Sometime in the next few weeks, Rabbi Kliel Rose of West End Synagogue in Nashville hopes to pick up a copy of the New Testament and learn a little more about Jesus.

Rose, like many Jews, has viewed the Christian Scriptures with some suspicion in the past. The New Testament is not always flattering to Jews, and it has been used in unwelcome attempts at conversion.

He hopes the new Jewish Annotated New Testament will make his task a bit more enjoyable.

“For so long we’ve been told that this is not a safe text, that it is a perversion of Torah,” Rose said. “This allows us to look at this as a body of literature without any fear that it will try to convert us.”

Click here to read this article from the Tennessean

Public can now walk the York Jewish History Trail

The York Jewish History Trail was launched on Friday, giving the public the chance to explore hundreds of years of Jewish history in England. Created by the University of York’s Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past launched the trail, and the inaugural walk was led by Professor Helen Weinstein, of IPUP, and City Archaeologist, John Oxley. They have worked for a year with IPUP student interns and media company Historyworks to research and produce an illustrated map of the Trail with accompanying podcasts.

Professor Weinstein says: “I am extremely proud to see this project come to fruition because our IPUP interns have used their research skills to produce a useful product for the public. Most people in York know about 16 March 1190, when Jewish families died in the massacre at Clifford’s Tower, but they do not know where Jews lived and worshipped and were buried. The Trail is designed to introduce the public to the longer story of Jewish settlement in the city from the 12th century to the 21st century.”

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Medieval Energy Bars: They're Back!

It's dark, chewy and protein-packed. It's fruity-sweet and studded with nuts. Sticky on the inside but smooth on the outside, it travels well.

It's panforte, a traditional Tuscan spiced fruitcake so dense as to be almost candy. Invented in medieval Siena, where monks baked it for local Crusaders enroute to the Holy Land -- hey, Crusaders need comfort food too -- this flour-sugar-citron-almond-hazelnut-clove-cinnamon-nutmeg-honey melange is made to last. Its very name means "strong bread" -- strong-tasting and more durable than donuts. It's history's first energy bar.

And it's back. At the 37th annual Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week, no less than three different companies debuted brand-new versions of this glorious relic from an age when Istanbul was Constantinople, and sultans paid bounties for every severed Christian head.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ambitious Norwich Castle plans unveiled by museum officials

Ambitious plans to plough millions of pounds into a major reamp of Norwich Castle Museum have been revealed.

Smart phone technology, wall projections and giant display cases to showcase treasures from Norfolk and British Museum are among the latest ideas being explored for the iconic building’s keep.

Staff from the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service say they are planning to submit “big funding bids” in the next 18 months, which if successful will change the keep’s appearance to visitors.

The Evening News understands the funding bids will aim to attract a cash sum in the millions. Potential sources include lottery cash.

Project officials say there is no target figure, although a total will become clearer in time. They hope to complete a project by 2014/15 that creates a wow factor, makes the castle an attraction the region can be proud of and encourages people to revisit.

Click here to read this article from EDP24

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


A medieval silver brooch declared as treasure this week is likely to have belonged to a young Cumbrian aristocrat.

The 13th century silver gilt ring unearthed at Bridekirk near Cockermouth may have been used by a child to pin on a light cloak or mantle, according to experts.

Stuart Noon, a Portable Antiquities Scheme finds liaison officer for Lancashire and Cumbria, said: “It’s made of silver which suggests it’s a high status piece from the medieval period.

“In the medieval period commoners were not allowed to wear precious metals which is why we find a lot of gilded copper alloys. You had to be of a certain status to able to wear things like this.”

Click here to read this article from the News & Star

Medieval flashmob to rouse York residents

Shoppers in York city centre will find themselves in the middle of a flashmob with a difference this weekend, as performing arts students stage impromptu medieval dance mobs.

The event, planned for Parliament Street and St Helen’s Square, is being planned by the York College students as part of the Residents Festival, but also as a prelim to the summer’s Mystery Plays spectacular.

Organisers of the Plays have also revealed tickets to the outdoor performances in the Museum Gardens in August will be sold at a special discount to local residents during the weekend.

A spokesman said up to 500 residents would be able to get ten per cent off when buying two tickets. All they needed to do was visit York Theatre Royal Box Office in person between 10am and 8pm on Saturday and between noon and 4pm on Sunday with a valid York Card.

Click here to read this article from the York Press

Viking mass grave linked to elite killers of the medieval world

A crew of Viking mercenaries – some of the fiercest and most feared killers in the medieval world – could be the occupants of a mysterious mass grave in the south of England, according to a new theory.

The intriguing hypothesis is being put forward in a documentary, Viking Apocalypse, which will premiere on National Geographic UK on Wednesday, 25 January, and attempts to piece together the identities of a group of men who were apparently the victims of a horrific mass execution around the turn of the 11th century.

Their burial pit, at Ridgeway Hill, Dorset, was found in 2009 while archaeologists were working in the area ahead of the construction of a new road. In it, researchers made the gruesome discovery of the decapitated bodies of 54 young men. All had been dumped in the shallow grave, and their heads had been piled up on the far side.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hidden dimension of Stonehenge revealed

A project directed by academics at the University of Sheffield has made the archaeology of the world-famous Stonehenge site more accessible than ever before.

Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge is the first application of its kind to transport users around a virtual prehistoric landscape, exploring the magnificent and internationally important monument, Stonehenge.

The application used data gathered from the University of Sheffield´s Stonehenge Riverside Project in conjunction with colleagues from the universities of Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and London. The application was developed by Bournemouth University archaeologists, adding layers of archaeological information to Google Earth to create Google Under-the-Earth.

The unique visual experience lets users interact with the past like never before. Highlights include taking a visit to the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls and a trip inside a prehistoric house. Users also have the opportunity to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and the great timber monument called the Southern Circle, as they would have looked more than 4,000 years ago.

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

New book examines Vikings in the Outer Hebrides

A new book on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides has revealed some interesting about the Viking presence in Scotland. From Machair to Mountains shows how experts uncovered a series of virtual “time capsules” on South Uist in the form of ancient settlements preserved under sand dunes dating from the Bronze Age to the modern era. The archaeological project was undertaken with grant aid from Historic Scotland.

The research challenges the existing belief that the Norse period marked a cataclysmic change in the Hebridean way of life. Instead of supporting the view that the Scandinavian invaders killed men and enslaved their women and children, the archaeological evidence suggests a greater degree of intermixing and continuity than has previously been accepted.

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “This project is a remarkable achievement and describes a hugely significant part of Scottish history. The findings show that these remote locations were attractive to human inhabitants from the earliest times and that communities have successfully survived here for thousands of years. The project has added substantially to our understanding of the history of the Outer Hebrides and western Scotland.”

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: 1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half

In one of cinema’s most beloved scenes, Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator plays in his office with a beachball-sized balloon representing the globe – and his own insane pretension. The game and the sentiment were not, alas, unprecedented.

In 1493, the voluptuary Pope Alexander VI (fans of Bravo’s The Borgias know how wholly unholy His Holiness was), sat down at his desk and traced a line on a map of the Atlantic Ocean. He was carving up the world, unilaterally.

The following year, intent on tweaking the papal cartography, envoys of Spain and Portugal met in the dusty Castilian town of Tordesillas and agreed on a division of the world between them – and them alone. Thus was born the far-reaching Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, a Renaissance beachball bounced about by the squabbling ruling families of Iberia.

And when the “known” world had expanded in the generation following the treaty’s signing, the usual suspects met up again, in the Spanish border town of Badajoz, this time to divvy up the Pacific Ocean. A young boy, of a temperament worthy of Chaplin’s, is said to have greeted the haughty Portuguese delegation on a bridge by mooning them and saying, “Draw your line right through this!”

Click here to read this book review from The Globe and Mail

Schedule for Forty-Seventh International Congress on Medieval Studies released

The schedule for the Forty-Seventh International Congress on Medieval Studies was released today, giving scholars a first look at what will be happening at the world’s largest gathering of medievalists. The Congress, which is held at Western Michigan University, will be held from May 10-13, 2012.

The annual International Congress on Medieval Studies brings together about five thousand scholars, writers and history-lovers, to listen to papers given on a wide variety of medieval topics. Dozens of scholarly groups also meet during the congress, and most major publishers also attend, where they sell their books and meet up with potential authors.

This years plenary speakers are David Wallace of the University of Pennsylvania, who will speak about “Conceptualizing Literary History: Europe, 1348–1418″, and Paul Binski of the University of Cambridge, whose paper is entitled, “The Heroic Age of Gothic: Invention and Its Contexts 1200–1400″.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Mysterious 'Winged' Structure from Ancient Rome Discovered

A recently discovered mysterious "winged" structure in England, which in the Roman period may have been used as a temple, presents a puzzle for archaeologists, who say the building has no known parallels.

Built around 1,800 years ago, the structure was discovered in Norfolk, in eastern England, just to the south of the ancient town of Venta Icenorum. The structure has two wings radiating out from a rectangular room that in turn leads to a central room.

"Generally speaking, [during] the Roman Empire people built within a fixed repertoire of architectural forms," said William Bowden, a professor at the University of Nottingham, who reported the find in the most recent edition of the Journal of Roman Archaeology. The investigation was carried out in conjunction with the Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience

Researchers collect DNA from men with possible links to York’s Viking past

Men with Viking surnames filled the meeting room of New Earswick Folk Hall and queued to help research into the ethnic origins of the British people.

Academics were collecting DNA from men with Viking names to see if they are directly descended from the Scandanavian traders and seaman who once ruled York and Yorkshire.

It was the first of four gatherings across northern England and followed a public appeal for people with Viking surnames to come forward.

The project will feature in a future BBC eight-part documentary series on the history of ordinary British people – the Great British Story – and BBC photographers were at the event.

The head of project, geneticist Turi King, of the University of Leicester, said of the York meeting at the weekend: “It has been great. They are quite rare surnames and we have had 200 responses.”

Click here to read this article from the York Press

Medieval Treasures To Go On Show At Wrexham Museum

A hoard of medieval treasures is set to go on show at Wrexham County Borough Museum & Archives this weekend.

Most people have a hazy idea of what life was like in the Middle Ages, but apart from castles, what else remains of Wales’s medieval past? If you have ever asked yourself this question, you will find some of the answers in this exhibition.

Amongst the artefacts on show at the Medieval Minds exhibition in gallery 2 will be the Wrexham Hoard, a collection of silver pennies from the reigns of Richard the Lionheart, John (the king who signed the Magna Carta) and Henry III.

Click here to read this article from Wrexham.com

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ozark Medieval Fortress closed this year

Remember the Ozark Medieval Fortress?

It drew huge attention, from the New York Times on down, after French investors purchased property in Boone County, between Lead Hill and Omaha, to recreate a medieval fortress using authentic construction methods, from stone masonry to forging of metal fittings. It opened in May 2010. The idea, based on a similar attraction in France, was to attract paying visitors ($18 for adults in the last season) to watch and learn about the construction, which was said to take 20 years to complete. It was named one of the state's top 10 tourist attractions.

Things apparently haven't run exactly according to plan. Though a call to the phone says the fortress will reopen for the tourist season in April, the website says it won't reopen in 2012 and no reservations are being taken. I've been unable to reach any of the French leaders of the project, but Arkansas Tourism Director Joe David Rice said he'd learned the attraction wouldn't be opening this year. Agencies that have advertised the attraction in the past are making plans not to include it in advertising brochures this year.

Click here to read this article from the Arkansas Times

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roman villa 'rare and important for Peterborough' says archaeologist

A "substantial, high-status" Roman villa discovered in Peterborough has shed new light on the city's occupants 2,000 years ago, archaeologists say.

Although the city - known as Durobrivae - was well-documented as a strategic area for the movement of Roman troops, there was little evidence of occupation - and no evidence of wealthy occupants in the east of the city.

Now Oxford Archaeology East and archaeologists from Peterborough City Council have discovered a 2nd Century villa and farm complex on the site of former allotments at Walton.

Dr Rebecca Casa Hatton said the two-storey villa, built in local limestone with "fine mosaic floors" and wall plaster painted red and green, was "a statement of the owner's wealth".

Click here to read this article from the BBC

What Medieval Times Teach Us About Respecting the Dead

The viral video of a group of U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan is getting called a lot of names: "horrifying," "barbaric," "medieval."

People who study the Middle Ages tend to get a little bristly when what we study is used as a synonym for everything horrible and backwards. In this case, though, what the Marines are allegedly doing in the video does remind me of the strange events of 1428 when church officials dug up the body of English reformer John Wycliff, who, among other things, suggested that the Bible should be translated from Latin into languages that ordinary people could read. Forty-four years after his death, his beliefs were at the center of England's home-grown heresy, Lollardy, and the folks in power responded by disinterring Wycliff and burning his body. His ashes, like Joan of Arc's would be a few years later, were thrown in a river so that no one would be able to give the remains a proper burial.

2011 was a banner year for those of us who make a living studying the dead. The Apple Store in downtown Palo Alto became an impromptu shrine after Steve Jobs' death, covered with notes and personal messages to the tech giant. His funeral was a grand affair that shut down large parts of Stanford's campus.

I study rituals of death and dying, so I avidly followed descriptions of the funeral and Jobs' quotes on death that were making the rounds. I also made sure to not schedule a library visit on the days that campus was in lockdown in honor of Jobs and the dignitaries who paid their respects at Memorial Church.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post

Ireland: ‘Medieval Mile’ plans to be unveiled

Plans for a ‘Medieval Mile’ in Kilkenny are due to be announced in the next few weeks, and the project will help to promote the South East as a “necklace of must-see destinations,” a Fáilte Ireland conference held in Hotel Kilkenny heard on Monday afternoon.

The Medieval Mile will be one of two “game-changing developments,” the other being a Viking Triangle in Waterford, said Fáilte Ireland’s head of operations for the South East, Gary Breen.

Of the Medieval Mile, he said: “We hope within the next two weeks to have blueprints developed that will outline how this project will evolve.”

It will include the Craft Yard; St Mary’s Cathedral, which will become an exhibition space; the new Butler Gallery for contemporary art being developed at Evans Home; and the upgrade of High Street.

“When that project is in place, we will have the finest built heritage experience in Ireland,” Mr Breen said.

Click here to read this article from the Kilkenny People

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ancient Greek sites could soon be available for rent

Available for rent: The Acropolis.

In a move bound to leave many Greeks and scholars aghast, Greece's culture ministry said Tuesday it will open up some of the debt-stricken country's most-cherished archaeological sites to advertising firms and other ventures.

The ministry says the move is a common-sense way of helping "facilitate" access to the country's ancient Greek ruins, and money generated would fund the upkeep and monitoring of sites. The first site to be opened would be the Acropolis.

Archaeologists, however, have for decades slammed such an initiative as sacrilege.
The culture ministry said any renting of ancient Greek sites would be subject to strict conditions.

According to a ministerial briefing dating from the end of December, a commercial firm could rent the Acropolis for a professional photographic shoot for as little as 1,600 euros a day ($2,046). Demonstrators could also rent the ancient landmark.

Click here to read this article from AFP

Medieval history is uncovered in Crawley

Developers have discovered items dating back to medieval times during an archaeological dig in the town centre. Trenches have been dug at the Sussex House site in the first stage of its regeneration.

And contractors have found evidence that the site was being lived or worked on between the 11th and 16th centuries.

On January 9 work began on digging two trenches inside the car park and another two on the outskirts of the site, which is between High Street and Peglar Way.

In two of the trenches, which have been dug to a depth of about half a metre, six square post holes, a drainage ditch and a layer of iron work waste have been found.

Click here to read this article from the Crawley News

Archaeologists dig deep to ex-Hulme a Medieval past

Hulme's history is often associated with the notorious Crescents or its vital role in the Manchester music scene.

But an archaeological dig is trying to unearth the inner-city district’s forgotten Medieval past.

Archaeologists will carry out a three-week excavation at Birley Fields in Hulme before a new university campus is built on the land.

One aim of the project is to find remains of a farm that could date back to the late Medieval period – thought to be the first time people lived in the area.

A team of archaeologists from Manchester Metropolitan University believe the foundations of hundreds of terrace houses built at the start of the industrial revolution also lie below Birley Fields.

Click here to read this article from the Manchester Evening News

At MIT, dine like a 14th-century nobleman

MIT doesn’t seem like a place where you can dine on food from the Middle Ages. But this month, you could prepare, cook, and eat like a 14th-century nobleman.

For over a decade, during the Independent Activities Period between semesters, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has offered a noncredit class on “old food’’ from the region around the Mediterranean Sea. The idea came from conversations History Department chair Anne McCants, who teaches the class, had with a colleague about how little students know about daily life in the past, she says. “Both of us liked to cook and I was especially interested in nutrition and health of past populations, as well as the productive capacity of agricultural societies. So all of that came together to suggest a fun but informative IAP class using ancient and medieval recipes.’’

This year’s participants were a diverse dozen from the university’s various academic departments, including budding engineers, staff, and at least one bona fide student of history. The hands-on, half-day class took place in the modern kitchen of Next House, a student dormitory. Electric ovens stood in for wood fires.

Click here to read this article from the Boston Globe

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How the Bible Became a Book

Enter any North American hotel room, pull open the drawer next to the bed, and you will encounter a remnant of late-medieval culture: a single-volume Bible. Mass-produced as a small book with tissue-thin pages, this form of Bible was actually a medieval invention, intended to make Scripture relatively uniform and more widely available. Before the 13th century, however, the Bible as a physical object was very different from its modern counterpart. Bibles could be assembled in any order, incorporate only some of the books thought necessary to a Bible today, and even include added "non-biblical" texts completely unfamiliar to the modern reader. In fact, the texts that were thought to comprise the Bible were flexible for centuries, as the composition of the biblical "canon" (from the Greek word for "rule") was debated in both Judaism and Christianity and some writings were eventually rejected as apocryphal.

Early in the history of Christianity, the most important units of Scripture were the individual books of the Bible, such as the books of Moses, the Prophets or the Gospels, which could be grouped together in various combinations and sometimes in differing orders depending on how they were read aloud in the liturgy. Most people did not own a Bible. It would have been difficult for ordinary Christians (who were probably illiterate and thus knew biblical texts only from hearing them read aloud) to discern which of the stories and explanations they heard were canonical parts of the Bible, and which were interpretations or additions.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post

Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures wins 2011 National Jewish Book Award

A University of Pennsylvania professor has been recognized by the Jewish Book Council for her work this past year.

Last Monday, Talya Fishman was awarded a 2011 National Jewish Book Award for her book Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures.

“I feel numbed with honor,” Fishman said when she found out about the award. “I am enormously gratified and mostly feel very lucky.”

For her work, Fishman received the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award, which is part of the annual award program’s scholarship category. This award had special significance for Fishman, who knew Sarna personally.

“Nahum Sarna was a really fine Bible scholar known for the breadth and accuracy of his scholarship,” Fishman said. “It is a high bar to be a scholar of his caliber and that makes this award especially meaningful.”

Fishman’s book attempts to solve the riddle of how the Talmud — a body of writing that preserves Jewish tradition and establishes guidelines on how to live life in Jewish society — shifted in meaning when it changed from oral transmission to written presentation. Researching and writing the book took Fishman 11 years.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Pennsylvanian

Click here to visit the Jewish Book Council website

Monday, January 16, 2012

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Welsh author digs deep to find medieval origins of Thirty Days Hath verse

It is one of the most popular and oft-repeated rhymes in the English language, serving to remind countless generations how many days there are in each month.

Now a Welsh author claims he has unearthed the medieval origins of the verse Thirty Days Hath September.

The rhyme has been passed down in oral tradition but Ceredigion writer and journalist Roger Bryan says he may have traced it as far back as 1425.

Two transcripts of the rhyme – one in the National Library in Wales in Aberystwyth and the other in the British Library in London – could hold the key to the rhyme’s ancient origins.

They were discovered by Mr Bryan while he was working on the second edition of his book on mnemonics, It’ll Come In Handy One Day.

The poem, revealed to the public for the first time in around 600 years, is in a handwritten volumecodex from the early 15th century, dating the written reference to 20 years either side of 1425.

Click here to red this article from this WalesOnline

Good Heavens! Oldest-Known Astrologer's Board Discovered

A research team has discovered what may be the oldest astrologer's board, engraved with zodiac signs and used to determine a person's horoscope.

Dating back more than 2,000 years, the board was discovered in Croatia, in a cave overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The surviving portion of the board consists of 30 ivory fragments engraved with signs of the zodiac. Researchers spent years digging them up and putting them back together. Inscribed in a Greco-Roman style, they include images of Cancer, Gemini and Pisces.

The board fragments were discovered next to a phallic-shaped stalagmite amid thousands of pieces of ancient Hellenistic (Greek style) drinking vessels.

An ancient astrologer, trying to determine a person's horoscope, could have used the board to show the position of the planets, sun and moon at the time the person was born.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience

Medieval Jewish manuscripts discovered in Afghanistan include an unknown work by Saadia Gaon

This much is known: rare, medieval Jewish manuscripts have been discovered along the fabled Silk Road in Afghanistan and are for sale.

Are they authentic? Scholars who have examined them say they are.

The rest — who found them, where they came from, whether there are more to unearth — remains a mystery.

But the discovery of the 200 or more documents, some in good condition and others crumpled or in fragments, has excited academic interest around the world.

“For the first time we have concrete evidence of Jewish existence (in Afghanistan), not only in the material sense of tombstones or household artifacts, but documents that (tell us) about the spiritual world of the people who lived there 1,000 years ago,” says Haggai Ben-Shammai, academic director of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.

Click here to read this article from the Toronto Star

Click here to read Medieval Jewish manuscripts discovered in Afghanistan from Medievalists.net

Friday, January 13, 2012

Figures on Prague’s famous astronomical clock removed for 2-month repairs

Four wooden figures on the Czech capital’s famous medieval astronomical clock have been removed for repairs.

Clock keeper Petr Skala said Friday that the figures need a regular fix of paint to prevent humidity damage.

Skala said the clock — installed on Prague’s old-town hall in 1410 — won’t be shut down during the restoration. Legend has it that when the clock stops the capital faces catastrophe.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

Medieval library with chained books gets annual clean

It is like taking a step inside the restricted section of the Hogwarts' library - rows and rows of chained up books and manuscripts line the tall wooden shelves secured in place on thick metal rods.

Hereford Cathedral's chained library dates back to 1611 and it is not hard to imagine how it looked in Medieval times when it was used by scholars and the clergy as a reference centre for religious study and church law.

Books were chained because they were so valuable at the time - before the printing press each book took hours of skilled work to produce.

The start of the year sees the library undergo its annual deep clean but how do you clean 1,500 books and 225 Medieval manuscripts particularly when those items are chained to the shelves?

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here for more information about the Library

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Slaves or not, Babylonians were much like us, says book

They got married, had children, made beer. Although they lived 3,500 years ago in Nippur, Babylonia, in many ways they seem like us. Whether they were also slaves is a hotly contested question which Jonathan Tenney, assistant professor of ancient Near Eastern studies, addresses in the newly released Life at the Bottom of Babylonian Society: Servile Laborers at Nippur in the 14th and 13th Centuries, B.C., published by Brill.

The book is based on Tenney’s dissertation at the University of Chicago, for which he received the 2010 Dissertation of the Year Award by the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq.

Some previous scholars identified the 8,000-strong group of government workers as temple employees. “But the problem is the records included food for little babies, which didn’t make much sense,” says Tenney, who joined the Cornell faculty this past fall. “And sometimes the workers ran away, and when they were captured they were put in prison.”

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

Byzantine Stamp with the Temple Menorah discovered in Israel

A 1,500 year old seal bearing an image of the seven-branched Temple Menorah was discovered near the Israeli city of Acre/Akko.

A ceramic stamp from the Byzantine period (6th century CE) was discovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting at Horbat Uza east of Acre, prior to the construction of the Akko-Karmiel railroad track by the Israel National Roads Company. This find belongs to a group of stamps referred to as “bread stamps” because they were usually used to stamp baked goods.

According to Gilad Jaffe and Dr. Danny Syon, the directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “A number of stamps bearing an image of a menorah are known from different collections. The Temple Menorah, being a Jewish symbol par excellence, indicates the stamps belonged to Jews, unlike Christian bread stamps with the cross pattern which were much more common in the Byzantine period”.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci: Bag Designer

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was an artist, inventor, scientist, architect, engineer, writer and even a musician. Now we know that he was also a fashion designer.

After several months of meticulous research, scholars have reconstructed some fragmented drawings of a unique bag designed by the Renaissance genius around 1497.

The sketch was first published in 1978 by Carlo Pedretti, a leading Da Vinci scholar, who identified it among the Atlantic Code's tens of thousands of drawings.

Overlooked for more than three decades, it has been reconstructed and reassembled by Agnese Sabato and Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan town of Vinci, where da Vinci was born in 1452.

"Leonardo designed several fashion accessories, but this bag is pretty unique. It blends beauty and functionality in a very harmonious way," Vezzosi told Discovery News in an exclusive interview.

Click here to read this article from Discovery News

2,000-year-old Roman helmet unveiled in England

A magnificent 2,000 year-old silver-gilt Roman helmet of outstanding quality and international importance was unveiled today in England.

Archaeologists who made the original discovery at Hallaton in Leicestershire, used to finding more glamorous gold and silver coins, joked they had found a fairly modern “rusty bucket”. However, their discovery turned out to be a hugely significant archaeological find.

The “Hallaton Helmet” was found ten years ago by members of the Hallaton Fieldwork Group and professional archaeologists from University of Leicester Archaeological Services who were excavating the remains of a 2,000-year-old Iron Age shrine.

The site appears to be a major religious centre, having produced the largest number of Iron Age coins ever excavated in Britain and possible evidence of ritual feasting dating to the mid 1st Century AD. The finds from this site would later become known as the Hallaton Treasure.

It is the only Roman helmet found in Britain with the majority of the silver-gilt plating surviving, and one of only a handful ever discovered. It is also one of Britain’s earliest Roman helmets.

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

The Empire Strikes Back: Rome and us

Critic at large about new books on Rome. This season brings a number of new works on Roman history that focus not on the glories of Roman culture but on its notorious brutalities. What if the true meaning of Rome is not justice but injustice, not civilization but institutionalized barbarism? What if, when you look back, you find at the bottom of all its archeological strata not a forum or a palace but a corpse? In “Rome: Day One” (Princeton; $24.95), the Italian archeologist Andrea Carandini finds exactly that. Tradition assigns this to the year 753 B.C., when Romulus erected the first walls of the so-called Roma Quadrata, or “square Rome.” Carandini provocatively suggests that this might be more or less true. Romulus did not create Rome out of nothing, he grants, but it is possible that there was a single day, around the middle of the eighth century B.C., when sacred ceremonies were held to transform a collection of settlements into the city of Rome. And the culmination of these ceremonies, Carandini writes, was human sacrifice. How would it change our understanding of Rome and the Roman Empire if we could see the corpse—all the corpses—that provided its foundation?

Click here to read this article from the New Yorker Magazine

Appeal to unearth truth of Tottenham’s links to Scottish king

Bruce Castle Museum in Lordship Lane, Tottenham, may well be sitting on the remains of a manor house once belonging to Robert the Bruce.

The Tottenham Manor Rolls – parchments dating back to the early 14th century and part of the museum’s archives – show ownership of the land by the de Brus family, who came over from France after 1066.

When he was crowned king, Robert the Bruce had his English lands confiscated by Edward I of England – including the Manor of Tottenham.

Click here to read this article from the Tottenham and Woodgreen Journal

Medieval burial stone stolen from Herefordshire church

Part of a Medieval burial stone has been stolen from a Herefordshire church.

The 8.5cm (3.3in) thick child's burial slab, was stolen from St Mary's Church in Foy, near Ross-on-Wye.

Church Warden Andrew Netting said the stone, measuring 51cm (20in) by 35cm (14in), featured a carving of a female figure wearing a cloak

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Goslar's perfectly preserved medieval town a sight to behold

The historic German Hanse city of Goslar accumulated great wealth in medieval times thanks to the silver mines in neighbouring Rammelsberg while it was also the location chosen by Emperor Heinrich II for court meetings and synods.

The mines of Rammelsberg and the perfectly preserved old town of Goslar, which dates back to the Middle Ages and includes over a thousand timber-framed houses, have both been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1992.

Goslar played an important role in the Hanseatic League and between the 10th to the 12th century became one of the seats of the Holy Roman Empire.

Evidence of Goslar's importance and wealth are evident in the construction of an imperial Palace and the Palatine chapel of St Ulrich, which contains the heart of Heinrich III.

Click here to read this article from Monsters and Critics

Season 2 of Museum Secrets Premieres this week!

Museum Secrets, the Canadian television show that explores museums from around the world returns for a second season on History Television, beginning January 12th, 2012 at 10PM EST/PST.

Museum Secrets tells of stories behind objects at museums that the history books don’t tell. It’s a captivating show because of the spectacular photography in the museums (and their hidden spaces) in several countries around the world. In addition, the experiments they do with leading researchers and people personally connected to the objects add a nice live human element to the series about history – which is often incorrectly thought of as a dry and academic topic! With animated sequences and cleaver narration, the series also leaves lots of room for humor. Their audiences learn many details about ancient characters lives, that they may not have known before…

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Monday, January 09, 2012

Historians Reflect on Forces Reshaping Their Profession

Historians have to broaden their sense of their discipline and how, where, and why they practice it. That message was broadcast clearly at the American Historical Association's annual conference, which ended here on Sunday.

About 4,700 scholars attended the meeting. Anxiety about job prospects percolated at panels and in hallway conversations. But the meeting drew energy and optimism from two dozen digital-humanities panels, which complemented more traditional fare, and from the association's recent push to expand what counts as respectable employment for historians.

The official theme, "Communities and Networks," generated sessions on topics such as the history of information and spatial history. It also described the group's current desire to appeal to historians who work outside the academic world, or within it in nontraditional ways.

Click here to read this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education

Egypt's man from the past who insists he has a future

No one interviews Zahi Hawass, Egypt's self-styled Indiana Jones of the east – he interviews himself, fist pounding on desk and spittle flying forth into the ether.

"Do I look like a minister to you? Of course not!" thunders the minister for antiquities, a man appointed by Hosni Mubarak to oversee his nation's cultural riches and, improbably, the great survivor of this year's dramatic revolution.

"I am not part of the old regime – I love Egypt, I love archaeology and I will never be a politician," Hawass continues. "I'm a damned archaeologist through and through."

Zahi's strength of feeling is understandable. The 63-year-old headed Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) from 2002 onwards. Like so many other Mubarak-era public figures he is struggling to carve out a role in post-uprising Egypt.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Wales: Medieval glass windows cleaned after 600 years

Members of a Neath Valley church can see clearly once more. Colourful medieval stained glass windows in Glynneath's St Cadoc's Church are being put back in place after they were removed for cleaning — for the first time in about 600 years.

The conservation of the windows is part of a larger £230,000 building project to make repairs and to conserve this historic part of the church.

The Rev Peter Lewis, vicar for the Vale of Neath parish, said the medieval glass underwent specialised cleaning procedures by a firm in North Wales.

"The glass was taken away in September to be restored and the windows were replaced with temporary boarding," he said. "They had not been cleaned in around 600 years. They are now being reinstalled in the church. We are looking forward to having them back."

Click here to read this article from The South Wales Evening Post

Lyndhurst church archaeological dig reveals medieval life

An archaeological dig at a Hampshire church has revealed clues about religious activity in medieval times.

The dig at St Michael and All Angels in Lyndhurst unearthed rare physical evidence of a 12th Century settlement in the town.

The investigation also dismissed a long-held local belief that the distinctive mound on which the church stands was man-made.

Nearly a quarter of the finds at the church have been described as medieval.

The excavation of the mound was carried out to allow a new driveway to be built to the church. It involved the removal of a 5ft (1.5m) deep and 16ft (5m) wide section of earth.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Roman brothel token discovered in London

The first known Roman brothel token to have been discovered in London and most likely Britain, is on temporary display at the Museum of London.

The token or spintria, depicts a man and a woman having sex on one face, and has the Roman numerals XIIII (14) on the other. The lady appears to be lying on a couch on her front and a male figure is positioned behind her.

The spintria is roughly the size of a 10 pence piece and may even be the only such token ever found in Britain. It was then declared to the Museum of London under the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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

Medieval siddur battles gender inequality via Jewish prayer

A siddur from 1471 has revealed an early example of egalitarian Jewish prayer, presenting historical attempts to battle gender inequality.

According to the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the 600-year-old siddur replaces the traditional prayer recited by women, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Master of Universe for Creating me According to your Will”, with “Blessed Are You Lord our God, Master of the Universe, For You made Me a Woman and Not a Man.”

The prayer offered by the 1471 siddur stands as a clear counterpart to the morning prayer recited daily by observant Jewish men: "Blessed are You For Not Creating Me a Woman".

Click here to read this article from Haaretz

Medieval bones found at York building site

Police have been called to a York building site after workmen uncovered human remains believed to come from a medieval cemetery.

Fragments of human bones, which were found under a home in the Lawrence Street area, are thought to have come from a cemetery in operation in the area until the 1500s.

Officers were called to the scene on Thursday afternoon after the discovery was made as there were initial doubts about the age of the remains. The York Archaeological Trust (YAT) has since been consulted and the North Yorkshire Coroner is likely to be informed of the find.

Click here to read this article from the York Press

Friday, January 06, 2012

Hadrian’s Wall: top 6 sights along England’s most famous ruin

Where can you wander alongside the ghosts of Roman soldiers at garrison towns, ancient temples and crumbling forts? Step back in time nearly 2000 years by exploring Hadrian’s Wall along England’s wild northern frontier. The wall crosses a sublime, historic landscape that is still giving up the secrets of the region’s turbulent past.

Hadrian ordered the construction of his wall in 122 AD, ‘to separate the Romans from the barbarians’. It stretched in its heyday from coast to coast, with a pair of turrets and a ‘castle’ or small fort every mile. It’s impossible to walk Hadrian’s Wall and not become fascinated by the Romans and Britons who lived, worked and died here. Whether you’re covering a short section of the wall in an afternoon or spending a week walking its entire length, let Lonely Planet magazine guide you to the six unmissable sights.

Click here to read this article from Lonely Planet

Celebrating the real Joan of Arc

On January 6, people around the world will come together to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the birth of St. Joan of Arc, the brave peasant girl from the French countryside who in 1429 lifted the English siege of Orleans, walloped the enemy army and led her king to be crowned at Reims. French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans a special visit to the village of Domremy, her birthplace. There will be a parade at 6 o'clock in New Orleans, a French pilgrimage retracing the route that led to Joan's martyrdom at the stake in Rouen, prestigious classical music concerts and ceremonial viewings of Carl Theodor Dryer's silent-screen masterpiece, "The Passion of Joan of Arc."

And how typical of the magic of Joan's story that she should have been born on so important a Christian holiday, the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating Christ's baptism and the coming of the Magi. Just another wonder in the life of the transcendent young woman who heard the voices of angels and presented the dauphin of France with a secret sign that only he would know, a sign that convinced him of her authenticity as a messenger from God.

Except that, like so much of the irresistible mystery surrounding Joan, this date, accepted by so many for so long as fact, was almost certainly created six centuries ago as a deliberate fiction for political purposes.

Click here to read this article from the Kansas City Star

Joan of Arc: Enduring Power

Joan of Arc was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks. But type her name into Amazon’s search engine and you get more than 6,000 results. France’s national archives include tens of thousands of volumes about her. She has been immortalized by Shakespeare, Voltaire, Twain, Shaw, Brecht, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Rubens; more recently, her life was fodder for the CBS television series “Joan of Arcadia.”

What is it about Joan of Arc? Why is her story of enduring interest more than a half a millennium after her birth?

By the time Joan of Arc was 16 and had proclaimed herself the virgin warrior sent by God to deliver France from her enemies, the English, she had been receiving the counsel of angels for three years. Until then, the voices she said she heard, speaking from over her right shoulder and accompanied by a great light, had been hers alone, a rapturous secret.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Nicolas Sarkozy, far-right leader Marine Le Pen in tug-of-love over Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc painted in 1854.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right leader Marine Le Pen this week embark on a tug-of-love over the French patron saint Joan of Arc, a surprise player in the upcoming presidential election.

The two leaders are to stage rival celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the birth of the 15th-century Catholic martyr who has been appropriated by the far-right partly for her booting out of medieval English “immigrants.”

The teenage peasant led the French army against the English after experiencing religious visions and was later burned at the stake, but her broad appeal to French of all political colours has ensured her immortality.

France is officially a secular state, but the story of Joan’s struggle against the English and Burgundians on behalf of the French crown has often served as an inspiration in patriotic causes.

She is regularly wheeled out as a symbol of French unity, alongside such Gallic icons as general Charles de Gaulle or Vercingetorix, who defied the Romans like a real-life Asterix.

Her broad appeal is key: French Catholics see in her a saint, nationalists see her as a royalist warrior who kicked out the English, while Socialists can hail her humble origins, although she was the daughter of a landowner.

Click here to read this article from the National Post

Remembering Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans

No one knows for sure when Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domrémy. But many believe the date was Jan. 6, 1412 — six centuries ago today.

After all this time, the tale of Joan of Arc remains a strange one. A peasant girl who never learned to read or write, she answered a call from God by leaving her family and travelling across France on a personal mission.

Although just 17 when she left home, with no training beyond spinning wool and sheep-herding, Joan’s goals were ambitious. She planned to lift the siege of Orleans, free France of its English occupiers, restore the Kingdom of France and see its leader, Charles VII, crowned King.

Joan began her mission about 1429, having been guided by interior voices for about two years. When she set out for Chinon, where Charles the Dauphin was staying, much of France, including Orleans, was occupied by English armies. For anyone considering it, the prospect of restoring the French monarchy must have seemed slim.

Click here to read this article from the National Post

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Northampton’s medieval castle remains to be brought to the surface

The nderground remains of Northampton Castle could be brought to the surface under new proposals to regenerate a historic area of the town.

Dr Marie Dickie, a member of the Friends of Northampton Castle (FONC), believes exposing some of the remains of the medieval site would bring both social and economic benefits to the town.

The castle, on Black Lion Hill, was demolished during the Victorian age, when Northampton train station was built, but excavations carried out in the 1960s uncovered intact remains underground.

Dr Dickie believes the castle was once as large as popular tourist attraction Warwick Castle, and parts of it should be available for the public to view.

She said: “There’s a great deal of castle still left underground and we want that to be brought to the surface. This part of Northampton’s heritage could become a really helpful part of Northampton’s future.”

Click here to read this article from the Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Two poets from medieval Spain

The great medieval Jewish poets of Spain are part and parcel of our Jewish heritage; names like Dunash ibn Labrat, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Moses ibn Ezra, Samuel Hanagid and Yehuda Halevi immediately come to mind. However, it comes as no surprise that all of them were men.

What is surprising is that during this period, there were numerous Muslim women whose poetry has been preserved. Although Muslims refer to the Jews as ahl al-kitab or “people of the book,” Muslim women seem to have been more successful in creating lasting poetic works.

It is rather difficult to account for this discrepancy, for it seems odd to imagine that Muslim women in medieval Spain were far more educated than their Jewish counterparts. Arabic became the lingua franca following the Muslim conquest of the country in 711. When Jewish poets began to compose in Arabic and later in Hebrew, were the women entirely excluded? There are very few extant poems written by Jewish women dating to this period. Although only a fraction of all poems from that time have survived, this does not mean more were not written. The poems that are available are of a high quality, but the problem of quantity cannot be ignored.

Click here to read this article from the Jerusalem Post

Your chance to see £1.2m restoration of medieval Somerset tithe barn

A medieval barn in Nailsea which was restored at a cost of £1.2 million is throwing open its doors to allow people to take a peek behind the scenes of the historic building.

A series of tours of the Grade II listed Tithe Barn, which opened in June following a year-long refurbishment, are being held over the coming months.

Tours will be held every third Monday of the month from 10am to 11am on January 16, February 20 and March 19. The barn, which is one of Nailsea’s oldest buildings dating back to 1480, has been a centre of schooling since Hannah More founded Nailsea Great School in 1789.

Click here to read this article from the Bristol Evening Post

Best-selling writer Umberto Eco celebrates 80 years

Italian author Umberto Eco, turning 80 today, can boast decades of literary success, but he got a late start in life as a novelist.

Many will remember him as having penned the book The Name of the Rose; perhaps even more people were gripped by the film, starring Sean Connery. Both narratives unlock medieval history through fast-paced, intricately-plotted storytelling and literary somersaulting referencing other world-class scribes, such as Jorge Luis Borges, and detective protagonists like Sherlock Holmes. The book, released in 1980, became a best seller, turning over millions of copies around the world and catapulting Umberto Eco to literary fame.

"Since I'm a book person, I write about books," Eco told German weekly Die Zeit.

That book, "The Name of the Rose," was the writer's first novel and came relatively late in life - at nearly age 50. Yet it likely couldn't have been written - or at least not in that way - had Eco not made an impressive academic career for himself beforehand.

Click here to read this article from Deutsche Welle

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Inquisition featured on a special issue of Hispanic Research Journal

Hispanic Research Journal has released its February 2012 issue today, with a special issue entitled Negotiating Power in the Iberian Inquisitions: Courts, Crowns, and Creeds. Five articles dealing with the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions are published in the issue, which will be freely available until mid-February.

The papers were originally contributions to a one-day conference held at the University of Oxford in March 2010. In their introduction to the issue, editors Tyler Fisher and Catarina Fouto write, ”while the Spanish Inquisition has long attracted the bulk of both scholarly and popular attention, its younger sibling, the Portuguese Inquisition (established in 1536), also played a major role in shaping Iberian influence in the Atlantic and beyond.”

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Medieval Friary in Norwich becomes home for photography students

Norwich University College of the Arts has officially unveiled its newest student resource – the East Garth Photography building, which will serve its BA (Hons) Photography degree course with a state-of-the-art digital darkroom and extensive studio facilities for still life, fashion and portraiture photography.

The East Garth Photography building is based in one of the city of Norwich’s most valuable pieces of heritage. The East Garth building is a former medieval Friary and considered as one of the best surviving and most complete examples of its kind in the country. The redevelopment was undertaken with Scheduled Monument Consent and English Heritage provided expert advice and support at all stages of the project.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

BBC show on The Private Lives Of The Medieval Kings to begin airing next week

In Illuminations: The Private Lives of the Medieval Kings BBC Four will tell the story of the Medieval monarchy as preserved through stunning illuminated manuscripts from the British Library’s Royal Manuscripts collection which contains some of the most priceless documents in the country’s history. Some of these manuscripts were commissioned by the Medieval Kings to burnish their legacies. Others were captured as war booty, and handed down from one dynasty to the next. Together they make up a fascinating record of the role of the king and the role of the country as it became a major power at the heart of Europe. This new 3×60 series presented by renowned art historian Dr Janina Ramirez, and produced by Oxford Film and Television will explore the extraordinary art and culture of the period.

Many important illuminated Royal manuscripts will be captured on film for the first time as part of the BBC’s ongoing collaboration with the British Library and in conjunction with the Library’s latest exhibition, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (www.bl.uk/royal). Dr Ramirez will decode and contextualise the manuscripts and in doing so will bring the monarchy of the Middle Ages back to life with the help of Library experts and series consultant Dr Scot McKendrick, Head of History and Classics at the British Library and lead curator of the exhibition. Many of these treasures have not been seen for hundreds of years so their secrets are fresh to the modern eye.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Medieval Jewish manuscripts discovered in Afghanistan

Over 150 medieval Jewish documents have been discovered in Afghanistan. The works were found, purportedly by shepherds looking for sheep, in the mountains of Samangan province, which lies along the Silk Road trade route.

The manuscripts were written in the eleventh century and written in Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian. They included an unknown history of the Kingdom of Judea, passages from the Books of Isaiah and Jeremiah; hitherto unknown works by the tenth-century sage Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon; personal poems of loss and mourning and even bookkeeping records by a Jewish merchant.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

University of York hosts Working in Archaeology exhibition

The University of York’s historic King’s Manor is hosting a European photographic exhibition depicting the day-to-day work of archaeologists.

The public exhibition Working in Archaeology, which runs from 9 January to 6 March, features photographs by Belgian photographer Pierre Buch and reflects the different and varied activities of modern archaeological practice.

Brought to York by the Archaeology Data Service at the University’s Department of Archaeology, the exhibition opened at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in November and will be shown across Europe this year.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Scientists discover existence of brucellosis disease in the Middle Ages

Two teams of Michigan State University researchers – one working at a medieval burial site in Albania, the other at a DNA lab in East Lansing – have shown how modern science can unlock the mysteries of the past.

The scientists are the first to confirm the existence of brucellosis, an infectious disease still prevalent today, in medieval skeletal remains.

The findings, which appear in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, suggest brucellosis has been endemic to Albania since at least the Middle Ages.

Although rare in the United States, brucellosis remains a major problem in the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world. Characterized by chronic respiratory illness and fever, brucellosis is acquired by eating infected meat or unpasteurized dairy products or by coming into contact with animals carrying the brucella bacteria.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net

Ancient City of Angkor may have been ruined by drought

The ancient city of Angkor — the most famous monument of which is the breathtaking ruined temple of Angkor Wat — might have collapsed due to valiant but ultimately failed efforts to battle drought, scientists find.

The great city of Angkor in Cambodia, first established in the ninth century, was the capital of the Khmer Empire, the major player in southeast Asia for nearly five centuries. It stretched over more than 385 square miles (1,000 square kilometers), making it the most extensive urban complex of the preindustrial world. In comparison, Philadelphia covers 135 square miles (350 sq. km), while Phoenix sprawls across more than 500 square miles (1,300 sq. km), not including the huge suburbs.

Suggested causes for the fall of the Khmer Empire in the late 14th to early 15th centuries have included war and land overexploitation. However, recent evidence suggests that prolonged droughts might have been linked to the decline of Angkor — for instance, tree rings from Vietnam suggest the region experienced long spans of drought interspersed with unusually heavy rainfall.

Click here to read this article from The Christian Science Monitor

Monday, January 02, 2012

2,000-year-old relief bust found in Turkey

A 2,000-year-old relief bust of a king was discovered during excavations in ancient Stratonikeia in Muğla's Yatağan district.

Dr. Bilal Söğüt, a professor of archeology at Pamukkale University and head of the excavations, told the Anatolia news agency that they found a street in the ancient city which began with a gate and was lined with columns. During their excavations, they also discovered the bust of a king dating back to the Hellenistic period. The bust, which is one-and-a-half meters tall and nearly two meters wide, features depictions of bull heads and the figure of a goddess, Söğüt said.

“The depictions of bull heads on the bust represent wealth and power. It was in this region that we previously found a racing chariot. The discovery of 1,500-year-old mosaics here was another welcome breakthrough for us,” he said.

Click here to read this article from the Today's Zaman

Physicists help discover medieval art hidden beneath old plaster

Developed in part to be a safer form of x-rays, t-rays let researchers see a lot more than bones. The rays help art historians reveal murals that have been buried under plaster for centuries, as well as early drafts of paintings below the final layer of paint. And they do it all without damaging the art.

In a fit of either temperament or sanity, many artists decide to paint or plaster over their own work to make way for something better. Art historians call this "over-painting." And for years, researchers have wanted a way to peek underneath the over-paint to see what came before the final product. Sometimes these hidden drafts let us see what came before a classic work of art, and sometimes they reveal something entirely unexpected. And terahertz radiation is the revolutionary discovery that makes it possible to go beneath the over-painting.

Terahertz radiation was recently used on a painting under restoration in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Giotto's Polittico di Badia, was painted in the 1300s, so anyone examining it had to take the utmost care. Terahertz imaging revealed that it was painted on fabric laid over wood, typical of the painting techniques of the time, that Giotto used lead paint to make the white parts stand out, and that the painting was absolutely lousy with gold. The painting if of a solemn angel, rendered in umber, surrounded by a golden halo and golden wings, and wearing a golden robe. Gold foil was used under paints to make the painting radiate heavenly light.

Click here to read this article from IO9