Saturday, June 30, 2012

Medieval finds uncovered in Scotland’s Treasure Trove Report

Over 239 finds dating back from the Bronze Age to the medieval period were unveiled this week as the annual Treasure Trove Report was presented to the Scottish Parliament. Discoveries include a silver seal matrix from the 12th century, a Roman eagle head and a complete set of trade weights from the 18th century.

 Created by the Scottish government’s Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer office, the report covers the period 1 April 2011 – 31 March 2012. It deals with archaeological finds within Scotland where the items were presented for a public evaluation.

According to the Treasure Trove report, 152 artefacts were claimed by the government and gifted to museums, while 87 were returned to finders. Those who had to give their fnds to museums were rewarded with a combined £36,535, with individual pay-outs ranging from £15 to £6,000.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, June 29, 2012

History, Chemistry, and Cold Beer

When next you reach for a cold one in the buzzing heat of a summer day, you will probably give no thought to the glorious history, complicated chemistry, and abundant myths associated with what you are drinking.

 That's OK. Just know you are participating on one of humanities oldest and most popular activities. After water and tea, beer is the third most favored drink in the world. It is one of the first by-products of human agriculture. Beer may, in fact, be a reason for civilization.

 The United States is a splendid place to drink beer, said British-born expert Charles Bamforth of the University of California, Davis. The market is huge and diverse, with an enormous variety of the stuff available from breweries large and small. Beer is made of fermented cereal grains. Usually, the grain is barley, but wheat beer is common, sometimes rye, rice, corn, or even sorghum.

 The drink was discovered about 8,000 years ago, historians believe, likely the result of accidents in bakeries.

Click here to read this article from Inside Science News Service

The Medici Code: tales of medieval daring found in Hebrew manuscript

It is a story which out-Dan-Browns Dan Brown, a tale of Italian mediaeval courts, spies, intrigue, and, at its heart, an extraordinary Jewish scholar, Abraham Ben Mordecai Farissol.

Farissol, who lived between 1469 and 1528, was the author of a remarkable manuscript, Iggeret Orhot Olam, or Treatise on the Ways of the World. On July 10, Sotheby's in London is selling Farissol's work, the only one in private hands, and famous as the first Hebrew manuscript to mention America and the possibility of Native Americans being one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Dr Timothy Bolton, Sotheby's specialist in mediaeval manuscripts, can barely contain his excitement about the manuscript, probably written in 1524. There are only five known copies of the Farissol manuscript - one in Oxford, one in Budapest, one in Parma and one in Florence - but the Sotheby's example is the only one which scholars say carries a delicious "extra" - a sketch of America, almost certainly added to the manuscript by Farissol himself, after the scribe Joseph ben Abraham Finzi Delinyago presented him with the finished version.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Archaeologists to excavate Alþingi site in Iceland this summer

While the site of the parliament in Reykjavík is being excavated, archeologists will continue to search for remains at the site where Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, was founded in 930 AD, Þingvellir National Park, this summer.

 This time around, archeological remains will be searched for and registered at the periphery of the ancient site, as well as in the area between Hrafnabjargir and Ármannsfell, reports. Þingvellir National Park extends over 230 square kilometers.

The influx of tourists has increased significantly in recent few years, putting strain on cultural remains. Therefore it is considered a priority to register the park’s archeological discoveries.

Click here to read this article from Iceland Review Online 

Viking Remains Excavated in Center of Reykjavík

“We can see at least one smithy, if not two, but also coal pits and iron melt ovens,” said Vala Garðarsdóttir, who leads the excavation project in the Alþingi construction site on the corner of Tjarnargata and Kirkjustræti in central Reykjavík. 

 The site has been earmarked for enlargement of the parliamentary building but first archeologists were given time to excavate remains that might be found there. Excavation has taken place there in summers since 2008. This year the project kicked off on June 1 and will continue through mid-September, Fréttablaðið reports.

Click here to read this article from Iceland Review Online

Tuscan village on sale on Ebay for 2.5 million euros

A medieval village, set in the Tuscan hills of Italy among castles and monasteries, can be yours for €2.5 million. Pratariccia, which is situated about 25 miles east of Florence, has now been put on sale through ebay, the popular online shopping website.

The village consists of 25 homes and eight hectares of land. The village has been abandoned for over fifty years, so many of the buildings are in a ruined state and electricity lines would need to be established. Also, no roads exist that lead to the village.

Local estate agent Carlo Magni said in an interview, “It’s a stupendous location, 40km from Florence, with hermits still living in the nearby hermitage of Camaldoli and all the castles you’ll ever need, dating from when Siena and Arezzo fought over the area.”

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stonehenge helped to unify ancient Britain, researchers say

After 10 years of archaeological investigations, researchers have concluded that Stonehenge was built as a monument to unify the peoples of Britain, after a long period of conflict and regional difference between eastern and western Britain.

 Its stones are thought to have symbolized the ancestors of different groups of earliest farming communities in Britain, with some stones coming from southern England and others from west Wales. 

The teams, from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London, all working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP), explored not just Stonehenge and its landscape but also the wider social and economic context of the monument’s main stages of construction around 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC. 

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

Medieval Wombridge priory excavated

Archaeologists are due to return to a Telford church almost a year after a medieval priory was first unearthed.

The remains of the building, thought to date back to the 13th Century, were found in the grounds of Wombridge Church last August.

A team of volunteers are to help archaeologists uncover the medieval floor.

Click here to read this article from BBC

See also Medieval priory uncovered in Wombridge

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2,000-year-old road unearthed in Greece; children’s games etched on paving stones

Archaeologists in Greece’s second-largest city have uncovered a 70-metre section of an ancient road built by the Romans that was the city’s main travel artery nearly 2,000 years ago.

The marble-paved road was unearthed during excavations for Thessaloniki’s new subway system, which is due to be completed in four years. The road in the northern port city will be raised to be put on permanent display when the metro opens in 2016.

The excavation site was shown to the public on Monday, when details of the permanent display project were also announced. Several of the large marble paving stones were etched with children’s board games, while others were marked by horse-drawn cart wheels.

Also discovered at the site were remains of tools and lamps, as well as the bases of marble columns.

Click here to read this article from the Toronto Star

Aberdeen Bestiary goes on public display for the first time

The Aberdeen Bestiary, a beautifully illustrated manuscript that dates back to the twelfth century and which once belonged to King Henry VIII, can now be seen by the public for the first time at the the University of Aberdeen. The new exhibition Gilded Beasts began yesterday at the university’s library and will run until August 18th.

Bestiaries were illustrated books of animals, some real and some mythological, used to provide Christian moral messages. They were popular in the 12th and 13th centuries but few were as lavishly produced as the Aberdeen manuscript, which has been in the care of the University for almost four centuries.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

St Andrews Cathedral in Scotland recreated online

People can now explore St Andrews Cathedral, Scotland’s largest medieval church, as it looked in the Middle Ages, through a new online portal created by the University of St Andrews.

 Visitors will be able to create their own avatars and navigate their way around the online reconstruction, which shows the Cathedral as it was 700 years ago. They can explore the cloisters, the internal choir section, the chapter house, and the nave. There will be historic characters so visitors will be able to chat with Robert the Bruce, an Augustinian Friar and perhaps “The Old Grey Lady” a ghost reported to haunt the building. The experience is intended to give users a new perspective on Scottish history, accessible across the generations.

Click here to read this article from

'Capitoline Wolf' could be 1,700 years younger

A study has shown that the “Capitoline Wolf,” a bronze statue representing Ancient Rome's most famous symbol, was probably sculpted during the Middle Ages, some 17 centuries later than what has long been thought, media reports said Saturday.

 Researchers at the University of Salento, who carried out radiocarbon and thermoluminescence tests, believe the statue dates from around the 12th century A.D. and not the 5th B.C., daily Corriere della Sera said.

 The statue, which is kept at Rome's Capitoline Musuems, depicts a she-wolf suckling human twins. The pair represent Romulus and Remus, brothers who, according to legend, founded Rome in 753 BC.

 Most experts believe the twins were added in the late 15th century A.D., probably by the sculptor Antonio Pollaiolo.

Click here to read this article from the China Post

See also Romulus and Remus symbol of Rome could be medieval replica

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monks from Eynsham Abbey reburied

Nine bodies left languishing in a storeroom for decades will finally be laid to rest tomorrow.

 Some of the skeletons, uncovered at Eynsham Abbey in an archaeological dig, have waited more than 400 years for a proper burial. They were discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s and kept in a storeroom at the Oxfordshire Museum’s Resource Centre in Standlake.

 That was until their existence was discovered by a local priest, who decided to bring them back and return them to their rightful home.

Click here to read this article from the Oxford Times

See also Eynsham's medieval monks reburied in church

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Visitors given rare access to medieval undercroft in Coventry city centre

Few people realise that the medieval undercroft, near to the front of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, exists, and it is now being opened to the public.

 On 23 and 24 June, and by prior appointment on later dates, members of the public will be able to see where goods were stored 600 years ago.

 Mr Demidowicz, who was involved in the conservation of the undercroft, said that the merchant also bought and sold wool and traded in girdles, which were fashionable at the time.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to visit the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery

Friday, June 22, 2012

No sexy outfits nuns told in 1,300-year-old 'rule' book

They were held up as paragons of virtue, but one congregation of Essex nuns appear to have needed some pointers on how to conduct themselves.

In a book of advice for the cloistered women written more than 1,300 years ago, they were reminded of the benefits of virginity, warned of the sin of pride, and cautioned against wearing garments which “set off” the body.

The guidance came from the Anglo-Saxon cleric Aldhelm in a text dedicated to the abbess nuns of Barking Abbey, the oldest surviving version of which is now up for sale. In the work, De Laude Virginitatis [In Praise of Virginity], the author tells the nuns that abstinence from sex is not enough - their “stainlessness of bodily virginity” must be accompanied by a “chastity of the spirit” if they are to avoid the “untamed impulses of bodily wantonness”.

Addressing the issue of clothing, he writes: “If you dress yourself sumptuously and go out in public so as to attract notice, if you rivet the eyes of young men to you and draw the sighs of adolescents after you, and nourish the fires of sexual anticipation ... you cannot be excused as if you were of a chaste and modest mind.”

Click here to read this article from The Telegraph

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A deathbed will from medieval Cairo

In April 1143, a well off Egyptian woman made some out-of-the-ordinary requests from her deathbed.

Anyone who elects to leave instructions in a will obviously has something to bequeath that is worth recording. After S.D. Goitein discovered numerous testaments in the Cairo Geniza, he published the texts of a number of wills in the Sefunot annual in their original Judaeo-Arabic with his Hebrew translation, and some appear in English in his five-volume work, A Mediterranean Society (i.e. see vol. 5:153-155 for the case below).

The wife of Abu Nasr, a highly successful merchant from Aleppo, made a deathbed statement in April, 1143. Her family, namely her parents and brother, all resided in the three-story house that she owned.

Two years earlier, this building had been given to her as a gift by her father, Abu ’l-Muna, who had been careful about legalizing the transfer and documented the transaction with the Muslim authorities. This gift included the clear condition that as long as he, his wife and son lived, they could never be evicted from the apartment on the third floor. He made certain to have his son-in-law present when this stipulation was made, so that it could not be changed or challenged at a later date. If the two men were to have a falling out, it would not be farfetched to imagine that Abu Nasr might attempt to be rid of his in-law’s presence.

Click here to read this article from The Jerusalem Post

See also Bodleian Libraries Cairo Genizah collection now available online

Researchers solve the mystery of Palmyra

In ancient Roman times A.D., Palmyra was the most important point along the trade route linking the east and west, reaching a population of 100 000 inhabitants. But its history has always been shrouded in mystery: What was a city that size doing in the middle of the desert? How could so many people live in such an inhospitable place nearly 2 000 years ago? Where did their food come from? And why would such an important trade route pass directly through the desert?

 Norwegian researchers collaborated with Syrian colleagues for four years to find answers.

 “These findings provide a wealth of new insight into Palmyra’s history,” says project manager Jørgen Christian Meyer, a professor at the University of Bergen. The project has received funding of over NOK 9 million from the Research Council of Norway’s comprehensive funding scheme for independent basic research projects (FRIPRO).

 The Bergen-based archaeologists approached the problem from a novel angle – instead of examining the city itself, they studied an enormous expanse of land just to the north. Along with their Syrian colleagues from the Palmyra Museum and aided by satellite photos, they catalogued a large number of ancient remains visible on the Earth’s surface.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is this the knucklebone of John the Baptist?

New dating evidence supports claims that bones found under a church floor in Bulgaria may be of John the Baptist, who is described in the Bible as a leading prophet and relative of Jesus Christ.

A team from the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University dated a knucklebone from the right hand to the 1st century AD, a date which fits with the widely held view of when he would have lived. The researchers say they were surprised when they discovered the very early age of the remains adding, however, that dating evidence alone cannot prove the bones to be of John the Baptist. The new dating evidence was revealed earlier this week in a documentary made by The National Geographic channel.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weapons maker to the world: Meet the go-to man for battle attire

On the outskirts of New Delhi, in a cramped concrete workshop where the air shimmers with the light of welding torches, an Indian businessman has become a master craftsman of Napoleonic swords. And medieval chain-mail armour. And Second World War hand grenades and helmets.

From Hollywood war movies to Japanese Samurai films to battle re-enactments across Europe, Ashok Rai, 31, is one of the world's go-to men for historic weapons and battle attire.

Rai's workshop reverberates with the sounds of metal being hammered and beaten into chain mail, swords, axes, muskets, sabres, spears and helmets.

Rai, a trap-shooting enthusiast, says he has been a history buff since childhood. "I would watch every war movie that came to town. All my life, I've been reading up on all the major battles in history. Now when we make medieval battle gear it's easy for me to explain to my craftsmen exactly what's to be done."

Click here to read this article from the Associated Press

800 year old shipwreck discovered in Baltic Sea

An 800-year-old shipwreck has been found by divers off the south coast of Sweden, prompting archaeologists to ponder the potential treasures inside.

Lars Einarsson, underwater archaeologist at the Kalmar County museum, was amazed at the results of the exploration of the ship found off the coast of Sturkö, near Karlskrona. “This is an extraordinary medieval wreck. We’ve found that the wood was cut down between 1250 and 1300,” he told The Local.
The long and narrow ship, measuring 14 by two metres, would have been sleek and fast, and most likely used for attacking and looting.

The ship is 1.8 metres underwater, and is still almost completely buried under the seafloor, which makes for “troublesome diving conditions” according to Einarsson. “When the divers recovered fragments for dating, they were literally ‘looking’ with their hands. The sediment is so easily disturbed that it makes it almost impossible to see what you’re doing. In some ways, it would be easier if the ship was ten times deeper.”

Click here to read this article from The Local

See also Iron and sulphur compounds threaten old shipwrecks

Interview with Sylvia Federico on Women in the Peasants' Revolt

The CBC Radio show As it Happens interviewed Professor Sylvia Federico of Bates College about her research on Women in the 1381 Peasant's Revolt. You can download the podcast here. The seven minute segment appears at about the 25 minute mark of the podcast.

Click here to visit the As it Happens website

Click here to read Peasants' Revolt: The time when women took up arms

Monday, June 18, 2012

Laws of Hywel Dda manuscript to be sold at auction

A 14th century manuscript containing the Laws of Hywel Dda is set to go up for auction next month, and is expected to sell for between £500,000-700,000. Sotheby’s London will offer the medieval Welsh manuscript as part of its sale of Western Manuscripts and Miniatures to be held on Tuesday, 10th July 2012,. It is the earliest manuscript of its kind ever offered in a public sale and the first medieval manuscript in Welsh to come to the market since 1923.

 The Laws of Hywel Dda are attributed to Howel the Good, king of Wales (c.880-950). Partly derived from ancient Celtic and Irish justice systems, his laws are exceptionally liberal for their time: they focus on just restitution for crimes rather than violent punishments, and take progressive standpoints in their treatment of women, especially in respect to divorce and division of property. A woman could just as easily divorce her husband as he could her; and a woman who found her husband committing adultery was entitled to a payment of six-score pence (ten shillings) for the first occasion, a pound for the second, and could divorce him on the third.

 The Laws of Hywel Dda came to be a crucial symbol of Welsh national identity, perhaps above any other Welsh text. It was the standard for Welsh law until Llywelyn ap Gruffyd’s rebellion against English overlordship in 1282; Llywelyn’s entreaty to King Edward I to maintain Welsh law was rebuffed by the archbishop of Canterbury, who believed that the laws had been inspired by the devil.

Click here to read this article from

Hexham Abbey receives £1.8m to restore medieval buildings

Hexham Abbey in northeast England has been granted £1.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a restoration of the Abbey’s medieval monastery buildings.

 The restoration project includes the creation of a state-of-the-art visitor centre and community facilities within the former monastic complex adjoining the 7th century abbey church which dominates the heart of Hexham.

 Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “Hexham Abbey has played a pivotal role in the lives of local people and visitors for hundreds of years. This project, that will restore and reunite the Abbey’s monastery buildings, will mean that the heritage of this special place is brought to life and provide a place for everyone to reflect, learn from and enjoy. HLF are incredibly proud to be supporting this project to protect a true heritage gem in the North East.”

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Roots of Art in Ancient Egypt

How art begins is one of mankind’s greatest enigmas to which an answer has yet to be found.

 If there is any hope of discovering the process out of which it emerges, ancient Egypt might be the place that will yield some clues.

 The admirable show, “Dawn of Egyptian Art,” put together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Diana Craig Patch, reveals a world of seething artistic creation headed in multiple directions. Much of it bears no recognizable connection to the statuary and objects from Egypt under its historic dynasties. 

The most startling revelation is the simultaneous existence by the end of the fourth millennium B.C. of pure abstraction, highly stylized figuration and representational art close to nature.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Friday, June 15, 2012

Paleolithic paintings in Spain are over 40000 years old

Paleolithic paintings in El Castillo cave in Northern Spain date back at least 40,800 years – making them Europe’s oldest known cave art, according to new research published yesterday in Science.

The practice of cave art in Europe thus began up to 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, indicating the paintings were created either by the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or, perhaps, by Neanderthals.

Fifty paintings in 11 caves in Northern Spain, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo, were dated by a team of UK, Spanish and Portuguese researchers led by Dr Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol, UK and funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

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

New look for St Benet’s Abbey ruins at Horning

The mysterious ruins of St Benet’s Abbey next to the River Bure at Horning are currently hidden beneath scaffolding as an £800,000 restoration project gets under way.

And the painstaking work of specialist builders from Suffolk firm R and J Hogg is creating quite a point of interest for Broads holidaymakers passing on boats.

Since the scaffolding went up in April, Bernie Bartrum and his team have inspected every inch of the medieval abbey gatehouse and adjoining 18th century windmill to check for the ravages of time.

Foreman Steve Martin said: “It is a fantastic spot to work over the summer. Before we started we had to carry out a wildlife survey and we have seen everything here from hen harriers and kestrels to barn owls and a sparrowhawk carrying a large rat.”

Click here to read this article from the Norwich Evening News

Early printed book contains rare evidence of medieval spectacles

Many scholars rank the invention of eyeglasses among the most important contributions to humankind in the last 2,000 years. Yet, the inventor of this now thoroughly quotidian piece of technology remains anonymous. Indeed the inventor (or inventors) will almost certainly never be known, given the numerous conflicting claims, lack of specificity, and scarcity of surviving documentation.

 What scholars do know about the history of eyeglasses is that they were probably invented at the end of the thirteenth century by a craftsman living near Pisa. The evidence originates from a passage by Friar Giordano da Pisa who recounts having met the anonymous craftsman in 1286. A friend of Giordano named Friar Allesandro della Spina learned how to make them shortly thereafter and shared the secret with the public. A number of other possible inventors of eyeglasses have been posited over the centuries, all of which have finally been proven spurious in recent scholarship.

During the early period of the production of eyeglasses, they were referred to as vitreos ab oculis ad legendum (eyeglasses for eyes for reading) and oglarios de vitro (spectacles with glass lenses). Eventually these rather clunky terms were shortened to occhiali and ocularia. Either way, the evidence indicates that spectacles were probably invented in Italy at the end of the thirteenth century, and by the early fourteenth century, they were being produced and sold in Venice.

Click here to read this article from Cultural Compass, University of Texas

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Academic seeks origin of mysterious Spanish cloister

Could a poolside folly at a private Mediterranean resort in Spain owned by a reclusive German billionaire actually be a 12th century architectural treasure spirited away from its original home?

 This is the historical mystery being unraveled by a medieval art expert who has been investigating a cloister that has stood since 1958 on a northeastern Spanish estate owned by wealthy German philanthropist Curt Engelhorn and his family.

 Gerona University Medieval Art History Professor Gerardo Boto believes the cloister, now nestled in a pine forest on the estate in Palamos, some 120 km north of Barcelona in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, could be the remains of a romanesque monastery that was originally built several hundred miles away in the central region of Castilla y León.

 "If its authenticity is confirmed, that could help us rewrite a few aspects about Spanish romanesque," Boto told Reuters on his first visit to the cloister.

Click here to read this article from Reuters

Click here to read Who has a cloister around their pool?

Creating An Online Portal Into The Medieval World

Perhaps it is fitting that students and scholars interested in the medieval world have to grapple with fiefdoms in order to find information dating to the period – though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. But the days of searching through scattered online resources will soon be history. 

Researchers are in the process of pulling together a website bringing together scores of electronic resources on medieval subjects, including literature, history, theology, architecture, art history and philosophy. Creation of a centralized search engine for medieval materials would be a big step forward. At present, for example, those interested in studying the medieval era may have to visit dozens of different sites to search for documents related to their research topics, from King Arthur to church history to the Hundred Years’ War. And that’s assuming they know how to find those sites in the first place.

 The new site, which is part of a larger project called the Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), will allow users to search all of these sites at once – streamlining the research process and hopefully bringing to light resources a scholar may have otherwise missed. The site is scheduled to launch by the end of the year, and will initially cover Europe and the Mediterranean world from roughly 450 A.D. to 1450 A.D.

Click here to read this article from

Peasants' Revolt: The time when women took up arms

Until now the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 is largely believed to have been led by a mob of rebel men, but new research shows women played an important role in orchestrating violence against the government.

Today people are used to the idea of women being in the military. Some are already pressing for the right to fight on the front line. And women fighting as insurgents has been a fact of conflicts from Vietnam to Sri Lanka. But there's a growing feeling historians have overlooked their role in medieval rebellions like 1381's Peasants Revolt.

 On 14 June 1381, rebels dragged Lord Chancellor Simon of Sudbury from the Tower of London and brutally beheaded him. Outraged by his hated poll tax, the insurgents had stormed into London looking for him, plundering and burning buildings as they went.

 It was the leader of the group who arrested Sudbury and dragged him to the chopping block, ordering that he be beheaded.

 Her name was Johanna Ferrour.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to read A Hotbed for Dissidence: Southeast England in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Historian uncovers cases of ransoms paid to Vikings in the 11th century

How much were two women worth in 11th century Iberia? For the Vikings the price was a blanket of wolf skin, a sword, a shirt, three scarves, a cow and some salt.

This fascinating story is part of research done by Helio Pires from the New University of Lisbon. His article, “Money for Freedom: Ransom Paying to Vikings in Western Iberia”, appears in the latest issue of Viking and Medieval Scandinavia.

Pires’ article examines the taking of prisoners and collecting of ransoms by Vikings on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula. He was able to uncover two documents, dating from the first half of the 11th century, where people described the payments they made to Vikings to return family members.

Click here to read this article from

Historic Lewis Chessmen returning to Western Isles

Six Lewis Chessmen are to be displayed long-term at a new museum on the Western Isles, where more than 90 of the historic pieces were found.

 An agreement has been reached between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and the British Museum. The British Museum will loan the six pieces to the new museum at Lews Castle, in Stornoway, from 2014. 

Figures from the Lewis Chessmen have only previously been displayed on the islands on a short-term basis. A five-month exhibition last year, called Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked, attracted more than 23,000 visitors. 

Under the new arrangement, six pieces will go on show at the 19th Century Lews Castle following the completion of a major revamp of the building.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

New cookbook looks at old recipes — live frog pie, anyone?

Adventurous cooks might consider one of the recipes in Peter Ross's new book, but the author of the tome on unusual historical cuisine says it's probably best not to try a dish featuring animals like swans, peacocks or porpoises.

"You could cook a meal, but it could be quite a strange meal," said Ross, the chief librarian at Guildhall Library in London and the author of The Curious Cookbook, which looks at a wild range of cookery from medieval times right through to the Second World War.

"It's mostly the medieval recipes where you're going to have a problem — because they were eating things like swans, peacocks, porpoises."

The new book also features a live frog pie that dates from the 17th century.

Ross said the dish containing live frogs was "basically an entertainment" that was served during a high-class meal.

Click here to read this article and listen to an interview with the author from the CBC

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

‘Lost Fleet’ discovered in medieval cellar

A project to clear rubbish from a cellar in the English village of Winchelsea has led to the discovery of a series of medieval graffiti inscriptions that are being hailed as being nationally significant.

 The inscriptions, located in a medieval undercroft beneath Blackfriar’s Barn, were first identified by builders carrying out repair work prior to the National Trust opening the cellar to the public this summer. A recent survey of the inscriptions, undertaken by medieval graffiti specialist Matthew Champion, has identified a whole series of large-scale medieval ship inscriptions; leading to the discovery being referred to as Winchelsea’s ‘Lost Fleet’.

 The undercroft at Blackfriar’s Barn is believed to have been built in the early fourteenth century, dating back to the time when Winchelsea was a bustling south coast trading port. The town was constructed on the orders of Edward I after the former settlement of ‘old winchelsea’ was lost to the sea, and it soon became one of the busiest ports in southern England. However, a series of French seaborne attacks, culminating in their sack of the town in the 1380s, led to the slow decline of this once bustling port into the picturesque village that survives today.

Click here to read this article from

Ancient statues of Chinese entertainers unearthed

Statues of entertainers have been unearthed during the third excavation of the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The statues were found in a pit numbered K9901. With an area of 800 square meters, the pit is located in the southeast corner between the walls of the inner part and the outer part of the mausoleum.

Up to now, archaeologists have found the relics of more than 30 life-size statues in the pit and successfully restored six of them.

Most of the statues in K9901 Pit are shirtless and have "beer bellies" and bare feet.

Archeologists estimated that they were statues of entertainers or acrobats in the imperial palace as acrobatics was rather popular during the Qin Dynasty according to historical records. Also found were several giant statues with their heights reaching more than two meters.

Click here to read this article from THV

China unearths over 100 new terracotta warriors

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed 110 new terracotta warriors that laid buried for centuries, an official said Monday, part of the famed army built to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor.

The life-size figures were excavated near the Qin Emperor’s mausoleum in China’s northern Xi’an city over the course of three years, and archaeologists also uncovered 12 pottery horses, parts of chariots, weapons and tools.

“The... excavation on the 200-square-metre (2,152-square-feet) site has found a total of 110 terracotta figurines,” Shen Maosheng from the Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum -- which oversees the tomb -- told AFP.

Click here to read this article from Al-Arabiya

Turin Shroud ‘one of 40 fakes’

Not only is the Turin Shroud probably a medieval fake but it is just one of an astonishing 40 so-called burial cloths of Jesus, according to an eminent church historian.

Antonio Lombatti said the false shrouds circulated in the Middle Ages, but most of them were later destroyed.

He said the Turin Shroud itself – showing an image of a bearded man and venerated for centuries as Christ’s burial cloth – appears to have originated in Turkey some 1,300 years after the Crucifixion.

Lombatti, of the Università Popolare in Parma, Italy, cited work by a 19th century French historian who had studied surviving medieval documents. “The Turin Shroud is only one of the many burial cloths which were circulating in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. There were at least 40,” said Lombatti.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

See also Pollen is evidence that the Holy Shroud is indeed a winding sheet

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Segovia: Within medieval walls

The throne clad in red velvet was magnificent, the embroidered eagle stared menacingly, and the dome embellished in geometric motifs surreal. Mariano Vela Bautista, the dapper guide with a salt-and-pepper beard, doffed his fedora and stood still in Segovia Alcazar’s Throne Room.

“This is where Christopher Columbus stood when Queen Isabella gambled on his proposal for a western route to China, a voyage that would lead to the discovery of America.” I looked at the ground beneath my feet — I was standing on history.

 Almost."That is what Segovia is all about. History,” Bautista began his story about Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage City which sits coquettishly close to Madrid, Spain’s capital. It is replete with twisted alleys, Romanesque structures, and legends that could tire any storyteller.

Click here to read this article from the Deccan Herald

See also this video: Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What Happened to Aged Priests in the Late Middle Ages?

While it might seem that disease and war made it unlikely that someone would survive to old age in ancient and medieval times, many men and women did live on into their 60s, 70s and even older. A recently published book, On Old Age: Approaching Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, explores some aspects of being elderly hundreds of years ago.

 Among the sixteen essays in this volume is “What Happened to Aged Priests in the Late Middle Ages?” by Kirsi Salonen. Salonen, a Research Fellow at the University of Tampere, uses Canon Law and ecclesiastical records to examine what happened with bishops, priests and clerics as they got older. She notes that while Canon Law made it in theory difficult for religious officials to retire, there were hundreds of cases appearing in Papal records where various solutions were worked out.

 For example, Salonen notes there are “numerous entries in the papal register series concerning old priests who resigned their benefices in favour of someone who agreed to pay them a yearly pension.” For example, in 1477 Johannes de Meynringha, the priest in a parish church near Metz, France, resigned from his position because “he was over eighty years old and had health problems, and thus was no longer capable to carrying out his priestly functions.” In a papal letter signed off by Pope Sixtus IV, Johannes was assigned a yearly pension of 8 tournois, which would be paid by the new parish priest, Theodericus Raynoldi.'

Click here to read this article from

Friday, June 08, 2012

European medieval and WWI history digital archiving project gets €6.5m in EU funding

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is leading a four-year collaborative project called CENDARI to digitise geographically dispersed historical data from the medieval European era and from World War I so scholars, and eventually the public, will be able to access everything from illuminated medieval gospels to WWI propaganda using one online portal.

 The CENDARI project, which stands for Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure, has just been awarded €6.5m by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme to carry out the project.

 Apparently the aim is for CENDARI to provide a model that is not only relevant for the digitisation of historical data, but also for other scientific fields, such as biomedical images and environmental data.

Click here to read this article from Silicon Republic

Has the lost Honduran city of Ciudad Blanca been discovered?

A field team from the University of Houston and the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) has mapped a remote region of Honduras that may contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.

 The results, recently announced by Honduras President Porfirio Lobo, mark the successful completion of the first light detection and ranging (LiDAR) survey of that country's Mosquitia region, one of the world’s least-explored virgin rainforests.

 An initial analysis of the LiDAR survey has identified ruins that could be those of Ciudad Blanca or other long-hidden sites. The information provides archaeologists with the precise locations of features within fractions of meters for further study.

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

Book Review: The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death and Salvation

The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death and Salvation
By Jon M. Sweeney
Published by Image Books, 2012

Reviewed by Michael Walsh

 During the late Pope John Paul II’s long, drawn-out illness, one of the FAQs was, inevitably, can a pope resign? The answer, of course, was yes. A pope has done so, and therefore one might do so again.

Practically every commentator at the time seemed to be aware that Celestine V (1294) had given up the papal office. As the distinguished historian Maurice Powicke long ago remarked, it is a well-known story. Author Jon Sweeney takes issue with the Powicke view, but the story is known to anyone who has ever opened a history of the papacy. It is, nonetheless, a story worth retelling.

In the long sede vacante following the death of Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92), Charles II of Sicily was desperate for a pope, any pope, who would ratify his secret treaty of La Junquera. A monk, Peter Morrone, was conveniently at hand. The king did not write Morrone’s letter to the cardinals in their prolonged conclave, but he may well have inspired it. The letter precipitated Morrone’s election as Celestine V. The big question of Celestine’s pontificate is, did Peter Morrone -- as he once was and after his pontificate returned to being -- jump from the throne, or was he pushed?

Sweeney spends a good many of his 250 pages describing the spiritual milieu in which Celestine was formed. He emphasizes Morrone’s holiness and love of solitude. Sweeney’s conclusion necessarily follows: Celestine left the papal office because he judged he could not fulfill it. The only proper thing for a holy man to do, therefore, was to resign (not a scruple that seems to have worried too many Roman pontiffs).

Click here to read this review from the National Catholic Reporter

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Should We Rebuild the Buddhas of Bamiyan?

When you've spent 18 months writing a book called The Buddhas of Bamiyan, and - let's be honest - when you'd quite like to flog a copy or two, all the recent talk about reconstructing one of the colossal statues demolished by the Taliban can seem heaven-sent. Those 18 months were spent discovering that places don't come any more historically significant than Bamiyan.

 In AD 629 the Buddhas were visited by Xuanzang, the great Chinese traveller sometimes described as the Marco Polo of the East: he left a precious account of their original, brightly-coloured decoration. Later they were celebrated wonders of the Islamic world, monuments of which it was said that there were "no equals in this world."

 At the end of the 18th century an eccentric but influential British author proposed that Bamiyan was the Garden of Eden: a string of dropouts, spies, and Christian missionaries visited Bamiyan from British India in his wake, and though all of them found a place of breathtaking natural beauty, the earthly paradise proved more elusive. Even the destruction of the Buddhas in 2001 was connected in murky ways to the greatest historical turning-point of recent times, in New York later the same year.

So yes, by all means let's investigate the feasibility of reconstructing the smaller (38 m.) Buddha - what remains of the bigger (55 m.) statue is just too fragmentary for it to be an option there. If it can be done well, if the daunting technical obstacles can be overcome, and if the cost (which will be exorbitant) can be justified by the benefits it will bring to a renascent tourist industry, who could possibly object? It's certainly what the local population want, and leaving empty the niche of the larger Buddha would even satisfy the purists who see the space where the Buddhas once were as a powerful memorial in itself. In all sorts of ways, a profoundly apt gesture.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post

Message in ancient bottle?

Could Cleopatra have used these ancient glass bottles? Were these 3,000 year old figures ‘servants’ in the afterlife? Questions which excited staff at Swansea University Egypt Centre are hoping to solve when they study a valuable collection of over 30 ancient Egyptian objects which has travelled from Surrey to Swansea, and arrived at the centre today.

 The artefacts, donated by Woking College, includes two glass bottles (perhaps for scent or make-up) from late in Egyptian history (c100BC-AD200), around the time of Cleopatra and several shabtis (servant figurines) which the ancient Egyptians believed would do work for their deceased owners in the afterlife. One of the shabtis is an ‘overseer shabti’. Shabtis, mirroring real life work teams, were organised in gangs of 10. Each gang would be overseen by a foreman, or overseer. The shabtis are around 3,000 years old.

 Other objects include amulets, including an amulet of Sekhmet (a fiery, female goddess with a feline head) and another amulet of Shu (who separated heaven and earth); a head of the god Bes (protector of children and women in childbirth); a pendant in the shape of a lotus or papyrus sceptre; several pottery vessels and a Sokar hawk (Sokar was a god associated with rebirth).

Click here to read this article from Swansea University

World's 'oldest fish trap' found off coast of Sweden

Wooden fish traps said to be some 9,000 years old have been found in the Baltic Sea off Sweden, possibly the oldest such traps in existence.

 Marine archaeologists from Stockholm's Sodertorn University found finger-thick hazel rods grouped on the sea bed. They are thought to be the remains of stationary basket traps.

 "This is the world's oldest find when it comes to fishing," said Johan Ronnby, a professor in marine archaeology.

 Arne Sjostrom, a fellow archaeologist who worked on the Sodertorn project, said the sticks seemed to have been used as a "sort of fence to lead the fish into a creel or they were part of the actual creel".

Click here to read this article from the BBC

See also Landscapes Lost. Exploring the Early Holocene sub-marine landscapes in Hanöbukten, Southern Sweden

Who has a cloister around their pool?

An exceptional 12th-century cloister has been sitting for half a decade inside the garden of a private home in Girona province without anyone knowing about it, except its owners and a few locals. Gerardo Boto, a professor of medieval art at Girona University, unveiled the discovery at a recent Barcelona art convention, where he amazed Romanesque architecture experts with a detailed description of the find, which is already being compared to the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in Burgos. Most remarkably, it does not show up in any official inventory, nor does it enjoy cultural protection from any public agency.

Click here to read this article from El Pais

Research examines the ‘abortionist saints’ of medieval Ireland

A recent article on sexuality and childbirth in early medieval Ireland reveals some surprising attitudes towards abortion held among the Christians during this period, and that hagiographical texts recount four Irish saints performing abortions.

 'Of Vanishing Fetuses and Maidens Made-Again: Abortion, Restored Virginity, and Similar Scenarios in Medieval Irish Hagiography and Penitentials', by Maeve Callan, appears in the latest issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality. Callan examines a wide range of hagiographical works and other sources from medieval Ireland. She writes, “these accounts celebrate saints who perform abortions, restore female fornicators to a virginal state, contemplate infanticide, and result from incest and other ‘illegitimate’ sexual unions. Moreover, the texts themselves generally reflect a remarkably permissive attitude toward these traditionally taboo acts, an attitude also found in Irish penitentials and law codes.”

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ancient Statue Reveals Prince Who Would Become Buddha

In the ruins of a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, archaeologists have uncovered a stone statue that seems to depict the prince Siddhartha before he founded Buddhism.

 The stone statue, or stele, was discovered at the Mes Aynak site in a ruined monastery in 2010, but it wasn't until now that it was analyzed and described. Gérard Fussman, a professor at the Collège de France in Paris, details his study in "The Early Iconography of Avalokitesvara" (Collège de France, 2012).

 Standing 11 inches (28 centimeters) high and carved from schist — a stone not found in the area — the stele depicts a prince alongside a monk. Based on a bronze coin found nearby, Fussman estimates the statue dates back at least 1,600 years. Siddhartha lived 25 centuries ago.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Indigenous martial arts evolved in the west as well as the east

For most people, martial arts are inexplicably tied to the Far East. However, as special guest author John Clement of the Association For Renaissance Martial Arts details below, a sophisticated science of self-defense was prevalent in the west during Medieval and Renaissance times:

With the evolution of the armored knight as the consummate professional lone warrior, an indigenous art of personal combat developed to an exceptional degree in Western Europe. Once guarded as secret skills, from the early-1300s to mid-1600s these long forgotten chivalric fighting traditions were practiced as a highly effective and systematic “science of defence.”

Click here to read this article from A Blog about History

Researchers look to save deteriorating Viking treasures of Oseberg

Conservation experts in Norway are conducting tests to see if a solution can be found on how to save important archaeological finds from the Viking Age that were discovered in Oseberg in 1904.

Researchers from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, working closely with Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), have been studying ancient wooden Viking artefacts at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II. The conservators expect this non-destructive method will yield crucial insights into the degradation of these unique works of art.

The wooden artefacts come from a Viking grave found in 1904 at Oseberg near the Oslo fjords. The Oseberg finding is considered one of the most important testimonies of the Viking Age and is one of the most frequently visited sights in Norway. Yet, they are now in serious danger of collapse because the wood fibres in the artefacts are disintegrating.

Click here to read this article from

New book offers translation of medieval Islamic debate

A recently published book is offering readers a glimpse into how medieval Muslims debated their own religion. Abu Hatim al-Razi: The Proofs of Prophecy offers an English translation of a debate between two celebrated figures of the medieval Islamic era who diverge on notions of prophecy, miracles and the origins of science.

Tarif Khalidi, Shaykh Zayid Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut, edited and and translated the work, one of the that few surviving records of a medieval debate.

The debate took place around 920 AD between Abu Hatim al-Razi, a well known Isma’ili missionary, and Abu Bakr al-Razi, a physician and philosopher known in Europe as Rhazes.

Rhazes, during the debate, expresses deep religious skepticism. He attacks the Qur’an and Bible, points to contradictions in holy scriptures and religious narratives, and dismisses scripture as superstition.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

2,000 year-old gold and silver hoard uncovered in Israel

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports they have uncovered a spectacular 2,000 year-old gold and silver hoard during an archaeological excavation in southern Israel.

The hoard includes jewelry and silver and gold coins from the Roman period, and was recently exposed in a salvage excavation in the near the city of Qiryat Gat. The treasure trove comprising some 140 gold and silver coins together with gold jewelry was probably hidden by a wealthy lady at a time of impending danger during the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

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

The vampire skeletons of Bulgaria: Human remains from Middle Ages found with iron rods staked through their chests

The discovery was made near the Saint
Nicholas Wonderworker monastery in Sozopol.
Photo by

If you thought vampires were simply the stuff of myth and legend - and perhaps the odd teen horror film - think again.

Archaeologists in Bulgaria have unearthed two skeletons from the Middle Ages pierced through the chest with iron rods to keep them from turning into the undead.

They are the latest in a succession of finds across western and central Europe which shed new light on just how seriously people took the threat of vampires and how those beliefs transformed into the modern myth.

The two skeletons, believed to be around 800 years old, were discovered during an archaeological dig near a monastery in the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol.

Bulgaria's national history museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov said: 'These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century.'

Click here to read this article from The Daily Mail

Over 100 'Vampire' Graves Discovered in Bulgaria - Official

Over 100 buried people whose corpses were stabbed to prevent them from becoming vampires have been discovered across Bulgaria over the years, according to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National History Museum.

On Sunday, local media reported that two Middle Age "vampires" had been discovered by archaeologists in the Black Sea town of Sozopol. Big iron sticks with which the two men's bodies had been stabbed were found in their graves.

"I do not know why an ordinary discovery like that became so popular. Perhaps because of the mysteriousness of the word "vampire," Dimitrov has commented, as cited by Sega.

Click here to read this article from the Sofia News Agency

See also 'Vampire' Skeleton found in Venice

See also Medieval Irish had their own ways to stop the undead

Fourth-century Hebrew inscription discovered in Portugal

Archaeologists of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena found one of the oldest archaeological evidence so far of Jewish Culture on the Iberian Peninsula at an excavation site in the south of Portugal, close to the city of Silves (Algarve). On a marble plate, measuring 40 by 60 centimetres, the name “Yehiel” can be read, followed by further letters which have not yet been deciphered.

The Jena Archaeologists believe that the new discovery might be a tomb slab. Antlers, which were found very close to the tomb slab in the rubble gave a clue to the age determination.

“The organic material of the antlers could be dated by radiocarbon analysis with certainty to about 390 AD,” excavation leader Dr. Dennis Graen of the Jena University explains. “Therefore we have a so-called ‘terminus ante quem’ for the inscription, as it must have been created before it got mixed in with the rubble with the antlers.”

Click here to read this article from

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Medieval Cookbook and The Classical Cookbook published in revised editions

The Getty Museum and British Museum have published two cookbooks for those wanting to try recipes dating back to the Middle Ages or ancient times. The Medieval Cookbook, by food hisorian Maggie Black offers collection of medieval recipes, but a social history of the time.

This revised edition has eighty recipes, drawn from the earliest English cookbooks of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, are presented in two formats: the original Middle English version and one adapted and tested for the modern cook. The author also describes the range of available ingredients in medieval times and the meals that could be prepared from them—from simple daily snacks to celebratory feasts—as well as the preparation of the table, prescribed dining etiquette, and the various entertainments that accompanied elite banquets.

 Click here to read this article from

New website – Getty Research Portal – offers better access to art history resources

The Getty Research Institute launched a new website last week, the Getty Research Portal, which promises to provide universal access to digitized texts in the field of art and architectural history.

 The Getty Research Portal is a free online search gateway that aggregates descriptive metadata of digitized art history texts, with links to fully digitized copies that are free to download. Art historians, curators, students, or anyone who is culturally curious can unearth these valuable sources of research without traveling from place to place to browse the stacks of the world’s art libraries.

Click here to read this article from

See also Getty launches full text website for art history research

Sunday, June 03, 2012

UMKC conference to celebrate Medieval nuns’ literary contributions

The letter to Eadburga expressed thanks for the previous goods sent from Minster-in-Thanet and asked for yet another favor — a special copy of the Epistles of St. Peter.

 Along with Bishop Boniface’s “thank you” was a quantity of gold, to be pounded flat or powdered by the clever fingers of the monastic scribes, for gilding the hand-written book’s Latin letters. When trying to convert the “carnally minded” Germans in the early 700s A.D., it paid to be a little flashy. 

 This Anglo-Saxon bishop/missionary to the pagan tribes was not writing to a house of Kentish monks, however. Eadburga was an abbess, one of hundreds, if not thousands, of nuns involved in copying books throughout the Middle Ages. In our collective cultural misconception, fed by clever advertising (remember the “It’s a miracle” Xerox ad?), cartoons and movies (“The Name of the Rose”), this job is largely thought of as a monk’s — read, “man’s.”

 Yet cloistered women also underpinned European civilization, noted medievalist Virginia Blanton, “another part of the past which, when I was in school, did not appear in our history books.”

Click here to read this article from The Kansas City Star

Click here to visit the Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe II website

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition – exhibition at The Met

Nearly 300 works of art are now on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art to mark how the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean underwent important changes between the seventh and ninth centuries. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition represents the first major museum exhibition to focus on this pivotal era in medieval history.

The exhibition, which began on March 14, will be hosting a couple of important events within the next few days. The exhibition brings together works of art from museums in more than a dozen countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, the Republic of Georgia, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City among others. Many of these works have never been shown before in the United States.

 “Byzantium and Islam will contribute immeasurably to the intellectual legacy that was established by the Met’s previous three widely acclaimed exhibitions on the Byzantine Empire,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. “By bringing to general attention a complex historical period that is neither well-known nor well-understood, this exhibition will provide an important opportunity for our audiences.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, June 01, 2012

Is Snow White Real? A Look Back Into The Life Story Of Countess Margarete Von Waldeck

With the premiere of Rupert Sanders' "Snow White and the Huntsman," which hit theaters on Friday starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, many are wondering if the folk tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney of the girl with hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow is based on a real person.

 Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, the authors of the original "Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge" or the story "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," were German scholars who collected, researched and wrote stories based on folklore in the early 1800's.Treating the stories spread by word of mouth as scholarly research, the Grimm brothers eventually compiled more than 200 stories, one being Snow White, based on accounts from various people from peasants to aristocrats, which drew some criticism based on the factual nature during the transcription process.

 However, in 1994, a German scholar named Eckhard Sander wrote "Schneewittchen: Marchen oder Wahrheit?" which translates to" Snow White: Is It a Fairy Tale?" in an effort to debunk claims that the protagonist in Snow White was never a real person or not based in historical fact. According to Sander, the account from the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale Snow White was based on the life of Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess who was the mistress of a Spanish prince during the 1500's.

Click here to read this article from the International Business Times

Click here to see our page on Snow White and the Huntsman

Icelandic MP Moves Elves’ Boulder to His Home

MP for the Independence Party Árni Johnsen arranged for the relocation of a 30-ton boulder, which he believes is home to three generations of elves, from Sandskeið on Hellisheiði in southwest Iceland to his home Höfðaból in the Westman Islands today.

 Árni first encountered the elves’ dwelling when he was in a serious car accident in January 2010. His car overturned and landed beside the boulder 40 meters away from the highway, Morgunblaðið reports. His SUV was damaged beyond repair but Árni escaped the accident unharmed.

He considered whether the boulder might be a dwelling for hidden people and had it saved from landing underneath the south Iceland Ring Road when the highway was widened.

Click here to read this article from Iceland Review Online


 The Icelandic belief in elves goes back well over 1,000 years. Elves (álfar) are referenced many times in the Poetic Edda, but there is a tantalizing lack of descriptive information about these mysterious beings. Medieval sources record the practice known as álfablót ("sacrifice to the elves"), but again there is little detail to be found.

 Click here to read this article from The Norse Mythology Blog Click here to read The meanings of elf and elves in medieval England