Friday, August 31, 2012

Medieval Macedonia?

Exhibition in Brussels of so-called Macedonian Manuscripts is met with uproar

 The republic of Macedonia is on of the odd results of the break-up of former Yugoslavia. Officially it was recognised by UN 1993 under the provisional reference of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sometimes abbreviated as FYROM. Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe. Further, since December 2005 it has also been a candidate for joining the European Union and has applied for NATO membership.

 However the use of the epithet “Macedonia” has consistently met with opposition from the surrounding countries – as Macedonia is also the name of a wider region, transgressing the current national borders, which were the result of the civil war in Balkan.

Click here to read this article from Medieval Histories

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Couple discover 33ft deep hole built in middle ages beneath their living room after spotting bump in the floor

A couple have discovered they are sitting on a piece of history after uncovering a 33ft-deep medieval well under their sofa. But although Colin Steer, 61, is fascinated by the historic find, his wife Vanessa certainly isn’t and even made her husband wait more than two decades after it was first spotted to begin exploring it.

The couple moved into their Victorian home in Plymouth, Devon around 24 years ago, when they first noticed a slight indentation in the living room floor.

Mr Steer, a former civil servant, said: ‘I was replacing the joists in the floor when I noticed a slight depression - it appeared to be filled in with the foundations of the house. I dug down about one foot and saw that it was a well but my wife just wanted to me to cover it back up because we had three children running around at the time. I always wanted to dig it out to see if I could find a pot of gold at the bottom so when I retired at the end of last year that’s what I did.’

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reconsecration of Pannonhalma Abbey Church

The medieval church of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma was restored over the last few months, and was solemnly reconsecrated today. The interior reconstruction of the 13th-century abbey church was carried out according to the plans of British architect, John Pawson. The reconstruction mainly focused on the main liturgical area of the church, the chancel and the monastic choir. The main goal of the alterations was to restore the simplicity of this space, and this meant the removal of the 19th century historicising decoration designed by Ferenc Storno (Storno similarly removed the earlier Baroque furnishing of the basilica, to make way for his own, 'historically correct' decorations - now his work suffered a similar fate). The Storno-reconstruction, which was completed in 1876, was the last major intervention inside the church. Storno's pulpit was moved to a chapel at Pannonhalma, while the 19th century stained glass windows - including the large rose window depicting the patron of the church, St. Martin - have been deposited at the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. On the other hand, the painted glass panes of the side aisle remained there, and the vault frescoes of Storno were cleaned.

Click here to read this article from Medieval Hungary Blog

Have archaeologists found church where Richard III was buried?

Archaeologists searching for the remains of King Richard III have unearthed remnants of walls which could belong to the church where he was buried.

 The stone remains are the first clue identified by a Leicester University team who last weekend began excavating the car park of a social services building in Leicester in the hope of finding the missing king's resting place. Experts believe the stone is of medieval date and could belong to the walls of Greyfriars church, part of a Franciscan friary in which Richard, the last Plantagenet king of England, was buried after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The archaeologists said they expected to be able to confirm on Wednesday afternoon whether or not their findings are indeed from the correct medieval period, or whether they were laid down in another historical era.

Click here to read this article from The Telegraph

See also Search begins for lost grave of King Richard III

Monday, August 27, 2012

Richard III Foundation supports archaeological project to find missing monarch

The Richard III Foundation has come out with strong support for the archaeological dig that is underway in Leicester, which hopes to find the remains of King Richard III and end a 500-year-old mystery of where is his last resting place.

The University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society have teamed up to search a parking lot in Leicester, which may have been the site where the English king was buried after he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Although the site was known for decades, by the 17th century it had become forgotten.

The archaeological dig is being filmed by Britain’s Channel 4, but no show will be produced unless their is a major discovery.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, August 24, 2012

Search begins for lost grave of King Richard III

The University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society, are starting an archaeological dig to find the remains of King Richard III, the only English monarch whose resting place remains unknown. On Saturday 25 August 2012 – five hundred years after King Richard III was buried in Leicester – the historic archaeological project will begin with the aim of discovering whether Britain’s last Plantagenet King lies buried in Leicester City Centre.

 Richard was killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth (the last significant battle of the War of the Roses that pitched Richard’s Yorkists against the Tudor Lancastrians), just up the road from the City of Leicester. His body was brought back and publicly displayed, then interred by the Grey Friars, a local order of Franciscan monks. A few years later, a tomb was erected within the Grey Friars’ church. Meanwhile the victor of Bosworth, Henry Tudor, was crowned King Henry VII – then in 1538 his son, Henry VIII, split from Rome. Across the land monasteries were demolished and dissolved, and the Grey Friars were no exception.

 Click here to read this article from

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Castle for Sale: Fortress of Miolans, Savoy

This impressive medieval castle is located in the heart of the Savoy Valley, and is situated on a strategic site 200 meters (550 feet) above the hamlet of Miolans, which part of the small town of St-Pierre Albigny in eastern France.

The site has been occupied since the 4th century AD, with the earliest reference to the fortress going back to 1083. By the second half of the 14th century, the lords of Miolans extended the fortifications with a second tower, and a third tower was added in the early 16th century.

In 1523 the ownership of the castle passed to the Counts of Savoy, and for the next two hundred years would serve as a prison. More than 200 people could be kept within the fortress, which became known as the Bastille of the Alps. The names of its dungeons included Hell, Purgatory, Paradise and Treasury. Among its most notable ‘guests’ was the Marquis de Sade, until he escaped in 1792. All the prisoners were freed during the French Revolution and the castle fell into ruin. It has currently been in the same family for almost six generations and the entire fortress was given full listing by the French Historic Monument Society in 1944.

Click here to read this article from

New details released about ‘Vikings’ television series

The producers of Vikings, a historical-drama to air in 2013, have released new details about the show, including more about the plot and the actors who will be donning Norse gear.

The Irish-Canadian production, which began filming in Ireland this month, will air next year in Canada on History Television and in the US on the History Channel. It will be distributed worldwide by MGM Television. The series follows the exploits of Ragnar Lothbrok, a semi-legendary figure from the 9th century who is also the namesake of the Old Norse work Ragnar’s Saga.

The producers describe the Vikings as “a series high on adventure, exploration, conflict, warfare and bloodshed – for these were extreme times – but, at its heart, it will also be a family saga. It follows the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, a historical figure, and the greatest hero of his age – and the gripping sagas of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family – as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes.”

Click here to read this article from

Real to reel: Course explores ancient Greece and Rome in the movies

Was “Spartacus” an anti-fascist polemic? Does “Agora” demonstrate the horrors of anti-science religious zealotry? Did the Trojans really dress only in blue-and-white outfits? Quiz: Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor in un-credited roles, plus 32,000 costumes.

The answers are yes, yes, no and “Quo Vadis.”

Since 1914, more than 600 movies have been set in ancient Greece or Rome, or in some way employ their history and literature. These movies offer varying degrees of historical accuracy and often mirror contemporary fears and concerns.

A sampling of antiquity-themed films will be examined in depth in the course “The Ancient World in the Movies” to be taught at University of Buffalo this fall by UB classicist Donald McGuire.

Students will watch 13 excellent films, attend two lectures a week and read critical material in a quest to understand why we keep looking at the past, where the populist version of the ancient life comes from and how such movies have reflected and represented present day issues.

Click here to read this article from the University of Buffalo Reporter

Click here find more information about the course from the University of Buffalo

Bornais finds shed light on Iron Age and Viking life

Powerful figures from the late Iron Age through to the end of the Vikings were drawn to a sandy plain on South Uist, according to archaeologists.

Bornais, on the west side of the island, has the remains of a large farmstead and a major Norse settlement.

The area has produced large numbers of finds, including what have been described as exotic items from abroad.

Green marble from Greece, ivory from Greenland and bronze pins from Ireland have been among the finds.

A piece of bone marked with an ogham inscription, an ancient text that arrived in Scotland from Ireland, was also found.

Archaeologists said the items provided a detailed picture of life in the first millennium AD.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to visit the project website from Cardiff Univeristy

Todd Akin’s views are, literally, medieval

Republican congressman Todd Akin’s astonishing observations with respect to pregnancy resulting from rape continue to ricochet around the media in the United States. The nuances of his comments have gotten lost in the ensuing controversy over what constitutes illegitimate rape. His words are, in fact, worth considering again.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that it’s [pregnancy resulting from rape] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Mr. Atkin reveals a troubling ignorance about the mechanism of conception. Indeed, his scientific ignorance is equally as troubling as his social views about rape. They both come from a different time and a very different world.

The notion that a woman’s body will experience different biological responses to intercourse depending on whether the sex act is consensual or coerced can be traced back to the Middle Ages. At this time the scientific and medical texts of Greek and Roman antiquity were being translated and appropriated by European doctors and philosophers, all of whom, without exception, were not only male but also members of the Roman Catholic clergy. Thus, science and medicine were given a distinctly ideological and theological spin.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Castles, Ancient Treasures Under Fire in Syria—Possibly Beyond Repair

Aleppo's citadel is the latest Syrian treasure to be caught in the line of fire. The fighting that began in 2011 has taken a staggering human toll—reportedly more than 20,000 killed—and done grave damage to the country's ancient sites as well: Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, Islamic fortresses, Ottoman mosques and homes.

 The rich collection of buildings and artifacts attests to Syria's 5,000 years of civilization. "Almost all the main chapters of human civilization have a part written in Syria," said Rodrigo Martin, spokesperson for Syrian Archaeological Heritage Under Threat, a group of European and Syrian archaeologists who have tracked damage to Syria's heritage since clashes began.

 Babylonians, Greeks, and Persians all fought for control of the region, which was a crossroads for trade between Asia and Europe. Two Roman emperors, Alexander Severus and Philip the Arab, were born in Syria. For an archaeologist in the 21st century, Syria is a place where you can unearth a significant artifact in nearly any spot you turn a trowel.

Click here to read this article from National Geographic


Baghdad at 1,250: a far cry from past glories

Baghdad was once the capital of an empire and the centre of the Islamic world, but at 1,250 years old, the Iraqi city is a far cry from its past glories after being ravaged by years of war and sanctions.

Construction of the city on the bank of the Tigris River began in July 762 AD under Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar al-Mansur, and it has since played a pivotal role in Arab and Islamic civilisations.

"Baghdad represented the economic centre of the Abbasid Empire, and it was used as a starting point for controlling other neighbouring regions to enhance Islamic power," said Issam al-Faili, a professor of political history at Mustansiriyah University.

"Baghdad witnessed a renaissance of thought through translation, which was usually mastered by Jews and the Christians, and became a destination for intellectuals, poets and scholars from all parts of the world, and a centre for craftsmen and a city of construction," Faili said. "Baghdad today, after it was the capital of the world, has become one of the most miserable cities," he said.

Click here to read this article from Yahoo News

Friday, August 17, 2012

Selling Robin Hood: City's search for Sherwood spectacle

He's got a bow, wears Lincoln green and he's been the subject of Hollywood blockbusters starring Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe.

There is no denying Robin Hood is a fully fledged global icon, but he has proved to be a headache for his home town of Nottingham.

"There has been a feeling for as long as I can remember that Nottingham has underused and undersold one of its greatest assets," said Ted Cantle, who is soon to unveil new official proposals for a themed tourist attraction.

"In the past, attempts to promote Robin Hood have been regarded as flimsy and lightweight and it needs something to really hold the public's imagination."

This week's Robin Hood Festival, featuring jousting and storytelling, aims to attract 20,000 visitors but what about the other 51 weeks of the year?

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to read more about Robin Hood

Siberian princess’s remarkably well-preserved body shows how little tattoo fashion has changed in 2,500 years

“Princess Ukok,” who was discovered high in Siberia’s Altai mountains, is about 2,500 years old. She was buried in the permafrost, which kept her body remarkably well preserved, including tattoos that are among “the most complicated and the most beautiful” archeologists have found.

“More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps,” lead researcher Natalia Polosmak told the Siberian Times, “but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks” — the nomadic tribe to which the princess likely belonged.

“It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.”

Part of what’s striking about the body art is how modern-looking it is, which is no coincidence, Polosmak says. All the mummies they’ve found that only had one tattoo had them placed on their left shoulders, which Polosmak believes is likely linked to basic body composition — it’s a noticeable place to show off the art.

Click here to read this article from The National Post

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

‘Vicious’ Vikings were not as horrible as history suggests

The Viking “invasion” of the Northern Isles of Scotland may not have been the sudden violent takeover of the lands as previously believed.

 The perception of Scandinavian warriors suddenly arriving in their longships – raping and pillaging their way through remote 
villages – is now being questioned. Recent discoveries made at an archaeological dig on Orkney have opened the debate of when exactly the first Vikings settled on the islands.

 Martin Carruthers, lecturer in archaeology at Orkney College, who is leading the excavations at The Cairns in South Ronaldsay, claims the findings could suggest a “more prolonged” and “peaceful” period of settlement than previously thought.

 What has added to the debate is the discovery of soapstone crafting materials which are dated to before AD600, long before the chronicled Viking colonisation of the 9th century.

Click here to read this article from The Scotsman

See also The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Portrayals of Vikings in “The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland”

Monastery where Christian saint was martyred is uncovered on Scottish Island

An archaeological dig on a Scottish island has unearthed the remains of what is thought to be a monastery founded by one of the country’s first Christian saints.

 St Donnan brought Christianity to many places in the West Highlands in the seventh century before settling on Eigg. According to local folklore, he became a martyr after he was killed by Norsemen, along with 50 monks, while giving Mass on Easter Sunday in the year 617.

 Eigg History Society won £17,500 of Heritage Lottery funding to carry out an archaeological excavation on the island in an effort to locate St Donnan’s monastery. The dig at Kildonnan Graveyard on the south-east side of the island has now uncovered evidence which experts believe shows it is the exact site.

Click here to read the full article from The Scotsman

The Netherlands: Locals faced with medieval tax to pay for castle renovations

The owners of a medieval castle east of Utrecht are pressing ahead with plans to make dozens of locals pay towards the upkeep of the property – using a local tax dating back at least five centuries.

 Several people living in the village of Kamerik have been sent final demands for the payment, known as the ‘dertiende penning’ or ‘13th penny’, local farmers union official Joop Verheul told the Telegraaf. Verheul says 30 people in the village have been given bills totalling over €1m.

 One man, 67-year-old Nico Weesjes, told the AD he had been asked to ‘cough up’ €18,500 but has no plans to pay the tax. A foundation has already sprung up to fight the levy.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, August 13, 2012

Severed Hands Discovered in Ancient Egypt Palace

A team of archaeologists excavating a palace in the ancient city of Avaris, in Egypt,  has made a gruesome discovery.

The archaeologists have unearthed the skeletons of 16 human hands buried in four pits. Two of the pits, located in front of what is believed to be a throne room, hold one hand each. Two other pits, constructed at a slightly later time in an outer space of the palace, contain the 14 remaining hands.

They are all right hands; there are no lefts.

"Most of the hands are quite large and some of them are very large," Manfred Bietak, project and field director of the excavations, told LiveScience.

Click here to read the rest of the article from LiveSciene

Part Of Medieval Village Rediscovered Near Towcester

An earthwork survey undertaken by Northamptonshire Archaeology as part of the planning application for 210 new houses at Wood Burcote Court has revealed that Wood Burcote was a larger hamlet in medieval times than had previously been thought. In fields on the east side of Burcote Road,  opposite the ‘Birds’ Estate, the archaeologists found four low mounds that they think are the ‘house platforms’ where cottages used to stand. These cottages would have been the homes of farmers making a living from raising livestock, growing grain in the open fields and working in the adjacent woodlands.

Click here to read the full article from AboutMyArea

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Israeli scholar overhauls Hebrew Bible to correct errors; first time in 500 years

For the past 30 years, Israeli Judaic scholar Menachem Cohen has been on a mission of biblical proportions: Correcting all known textual errors in Jewish scripture to produce a truly definitive edition of the Old Testament.

His edits, focusing primarily on grammatical blemishes and an intricate set of biblical symbols, mark the first major overhaul of the Hebrew Bible in nearly 500 years.

Looking at thousands of medieval manuscripts, the 84-year-old Cohen identified 1,500 inaccuracies in the Hebrew language texts that have been corrected in his completed 21-volume set. The final chapter is set to be published next year.

The massive project highlights how Judaism venerates each tiny biblical calligraphic notation as a way of ensuring that communities around the world use precisely the same version of the holy book.

Click here to read this article from the Toronto Star

Book of Kells has attracted ten million visitors to Trinity College Dublin Library

The 10 millionth visitor to the Old Library, Trinity College Dublin since the creation of its visitor centre in 1992 was welcomed yesterday by the Librarian, Mr Robin Adams. The Old Library and Book of Kells is one of Ireland’s major tourist venues and attracts over 520,000 visitors each year to see the exhibition on the Book of Kells and other medieval manuscripts and to enjoy the spectacular space of the Long Room.

The number of visitors to the Old Library has increased from 220,000 in 1992. Figures for this year have increased by 10% over the previous twelve months. Visitors to the Old Library come from across the globe, with the majority coming from Europe (39%) and North America (33%). Eight percent of visitors come from Ireland, with over 20,000 schoolchildren having free access, often coming as part of a school visit.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Lost Viking Military Town Unearthed in Germany?

A battle-scarred, eighth-century town unearthed in northern Germany may be the earliest Viking settlement in the historical record, archaeologists announced recently.

 Ongoing excavations at Füsing (map), near the Danish border, link the site to the "lost" Viking town of Sliasthorp—first recorded in A.D. 804 by royal scribes of the powerful Frankish ruler Charlemagne. Used as a military base by the earliest Scandinavian kings, Sliasthorp's location was unknown until now, said dig leader Andres Dobat, of Aarhus University in Denmark.

 Whether it proves to be the historic town or not, the site offers valuable insights into military organization and town planning in the early Viking era, according to the study team. Some 30 buildings have been uncovered since excavations began in 2010.

Aerial photographs and geomagnetic surveys indicate about 200 buildings in total. Chief among them is a Viking longhouse measuring more than a hundred feet (30 meters) long and 30 feet (9 meters) wide. 

The longhouse's burnt-out remains seemingly bear witness to a violent attack: Arrowheads found embedded in its charred wall posts suggest the communal building was at some point set on fire and shot at, Dobat said.

A Viking Saga from Aarhus Universitet on Vimeo.

Click here to read this article from National Geographic

See also Ancient town unearthed could explain Viking urban planning 

See also Legendary Viking town unearthed

State of War: Syria’s Crusader Castles and Medieval Fortresses

The conflict in Syria is the product of very modern forces — a legacy of dictatorship and regional geo-politicking — but it’s taking place over a terrain with a rich and deep history. Syria’s deserts, river valleys and mountain passes bear the traces of some of the world’s oldest civilizations; its major cities, especially Damascus and Aleppo, are among the longest continually inhabited on the planet and have endured both the scourges of man (invasions, massacres) and the ravages of nature (earthquakes, plagues). As the rebellion against President Bashar Assad’s rule rages on, concern mounts over the state of the country’s antiquities. Veteran British correspondent Robert Fisk warned of “Syria’s pulverized past,” with precious artifacts disappearing from unattended museums and storehouses, all the while as the daily toll of war imperils some of Syria’s venerable monuments themselves.

 Syria has been the site of bitter conflict before. Some nine hundred years ago, a motley band of Frankish, German and Italian soldiers and mercenaries turned up on Levantine soil under the Papal banner of the First Crusade. Seizing a number of important cities — Jerusalem, Tripoli (in today’s Lebanon), Antioch (modern day Antakya, Turkey) — they attempted to entrench themselves in the Holy Land permanently. This international coalition of the willing would ultimately be driven out, but not before leaving behind a host of beautiful fortresses, many of which, while astonishing testaments to medieval engineering and construction, bear the intractable scars of newer conflicts.

Click here to read this article from Time magazine

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Inscription reveals ancient Jewish toilet in Cologne

Archaeologists in Cologne, Germany have uncovered a fascinating 13th-century Hebrew inscription on a lintel stone in the basement of a home near the city’s ancient synagogue. The Hebrew inscription reads “This is the window through which the feces are to be taken out.”

 The inscription was discovered in December 2011 on the lintel above a walled-up window in the cellar of Lyvermann House, which was built in about 1266 and belonged to a wealthy Jewish family that lived right near the synagogue. Behind the wall was a cesspool, six meters deep.

 According to Prof. David Assaf of Tel Aviv University’s Jewish History Department, “Such a serious-amusing inscription has never been found anywhere, not before and not since.”

Click here to read this article from Haaretz

Monday, August 06, 2012

Cataclysmic volcano wreaked havoc on medieval Britain

The results of the largest archaeological investigation ever to have taken place in London are to be published by the Museum of London Archaeology. Some 10,500 human skeletons dating from the 12th century to the 1500s were discovered by archaeologists a decade ago. It has taken ten years to analyse the results of this colossal discovery. Amongst the orderly burials were a number of mass burial pits that had scientists baffled.

Through radiocarbon dating, the mass burials were accurately dated but the timings didn’t marry with devastating events know to have taken place in the medieval period, like the Black Death or the Great Famine. Osteologist Don Walker set about solving the mystery. He turned to contemporary documentary sources, in which he found mention of ‘heavy rains’, ‘there was a failure of the crops; upon which failure, a famine ensued... many thousand persons perished’.

Whilst examining a possible cause for these climatic changes, Don uncovered references to a cataclysmic volcano that erupted at this time. It is believed to have erupted somewhere in the tropics, perhaps El Chichón in Mexico or Quilotoa in Ecuador. Its force was such that ice-core data is evident in both hemispheres. The effects of this massive eruption were felt across the globe, as a ‘dry fog’ descended across the world, cooling the Earth’s surface.

Don Walker, MOLA Osteologist, said: “This is the first archaeological evidence for the 1258 volcano and is an excellent example of the complexity of knowledge that can be gained from archaeological evidence. It is amazing to think that such a massive global natural disaster has been identified in a small area of East London. MOLA work on such a wide range of projects but I am always surprised when incredible discoveries like this one come to light.”

Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, added, “This was certainly a prodigious volcanic event; one of the largest in the last few thousand years. Consequently, it is not really a surprise that one legacy should be a serious increase in mortality in London. Through their influence on climate, major volcanic blasts can affect any locality on the planet, and an eruption in distant Indonesia - which is one of a number of host candidates for the 1257/8 eruption - could without doubt reach out to take lives in the UK's capital.”

The osteological findings are revealed in the MOLA monograph A bioarchaeological study of medieval burials on the site of St Mary Spital: excavations at Spitalfields Market, London E1, 1991–2007.

Medieval silver treasure found on Gotland

A silver treasure from the 12th century has been found on the Baltic island Gotland, where over 600 pieces of silver coins have been unearthed, according to reports in local media.

 “This is an amazing find. It’s unbelievable that treasures of this scale exist here on Gotland,” Marie Louise Hellquist of Gotland’s County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) told local newspaper Hela Gotland.

 The medieval treasure was uncovered last Monday, as the landowner was moving soil. Some 500 pieces of coin were discovered in the field, and following further searches conducted once archaeologists arrived on Wednesday, that figure has swollen considerably.

 “In total we’ve reached 650 pieces, so far,” Hellquist said.

Click here to read the full article from The Local

See also the Swedish article: Skatter från en tid som flytt

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Medieval records shed light on Italian earthquakes

When a damaging earthquake struck the area of L’Aquila in central Italy in 2009, it was the latest in the region’s long history of strong and persistent quakes. The rich recorded history of settlement in the area, along with oral traditions, archaeological excavations, inscriptions and medieval texts, and offer insight into how often the region might expect destructive earthquakes. But according to a new study by Emanuela Guidoboni and colleagues, the historical record on ancient and medieval earthquakes comes with its own shortcomings that must be addressed before the seismic history of L’Aquila can be useful in assessing the current seismic hazard in this area.

 Their article, ”Ancient and Medieval Earthquakes in the Area of L’Aquila (Northwestern Abruzzo, Central Italy), A.D. 1-1500: A Critical Revision of the Historical and Archaeological Data” appears in this month’s issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Click here to read the full article from

3000 year old human sculpture discovered in Turkey

A beautiful and colossal human sculpture is one of the latest cultural treasures unearthed by an international team at the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in southeastern Turkey. A large semi-circular column base, ornately decorated on one side, was also discovered. Both pieces are from a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).

 “These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition,” said Professor Tim Harrison, the Tayinat Project director and Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. “They provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC.”

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

Greed wasn’t good in the Middle Ages – historian looks at medieval business ethics

ith business and financial scandals common in today’s new headlines, the axiom ‘Greed is good’ often seems to be the working philosophy of many wealthy executives and businessmen. But greed hasn’t always been popular in Western societies.

 Stanford historian Laura Stokes is uncovering how attitudes toward “acceptable greed” have done a turnaround in the past 500 years. Self-serving behavior deemed necessary on Wall Street today might have been despised in medieval Europe. One might even have been murdered for using wealth as a justification for circumventing societal norms.

 Capitalism, Stokes has found, managed to flourish in the intensely community-conscious culture of medieval times. Men of business successfully built financial empires based on trade and credit, even though unbridled greed was universally condemned.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, August 03, 2012

Erectile dysfunction in the Middle Ages – historian examines medieval impotence cases

Like today, the problem of male impotence in the Middle Ages was often serious, and had important consequences for marriages and families. A recent article deals with the issue, explaining how it showed up in court cases in 14th century York.

 ‘Privates on Parade: Impotence Cases as Evidence for Medieval Gender’, by Frederick Pederson, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, analyses two cases where wives attempted to annul their marriages because they claimed their husbands were impotent. They are among six cases from the city’s records that deal with impotence that survive from the Middle Ages.

 These cases were adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts, also known as consistory courts, where decisions were based on canon law. Church officials were responsible for issues relating to marriages and could pronounce an annulment in cases of impotence.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Estonia: Medieval Burial Ground Yields Interesting Find

The 800 year-old pagan burial ground at Maidla yielded the remains of two bodies and evidence of what archeologists say was careful re-burial after an ancient tomb raid.

The remains allegedly belong to women, because of a horseshoe brooch and few glass beads were found along the remains, reported Eesti Päevaleht.

Click here to read this article from Estonian Public Broadcasting

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Were the Ancient Greek Athletes Tougher Than Today's Olympians?

The Games of the XXX Olympiad are under way in London, with China and the United States taking the early lead in the medal count. Last week, Slate visualized Olympic competitions between 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century athletes. How would the ancient Greeks, who invented the Olympic Games, compete against today’s athletes?

Probably not well. Ancient athletes could have held their own in the first modern Olympic Games of 1896. Phayllos of Croton, for example, hurled the discus 95 feet in the Pythian games around 500 B.C. Although that distance is approximate—Greeks measured distance in actual human feet—it would have put him in the running for a medal at the 1896 Olympic competition. Phayllos probably would have bested American Robert Garrett’s 95.6-foot throw if he had used modern tools and techniques. Ancient hurlers likely used a heavier discus and took only a three-quarter turn before releasing it, rather than the two-and-a-quarter turns that modern athletes use. Variations aside, Phayllos wouldn’t have stood a chance against 21st-century athletes: The current world record is more than 243 feet.

Historians have puzzled over records from ancient long-jump competitions. Athletes posted distances of well over 50 feet—nearly double the current world long-jump record. Many classicists assume that the event was actually a triple jump, although that still puts the ancients surprisingly close to the modern record. The ancient competition was quite different from the modern version, however. The Greeks probably started from a standstill and swung handheld weights, known as halteres, to provide momentum on takeoff and allow them to extend their feet farther forward on landing.

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Guédelon: Trades come alive at ‘medieval’ site

Visitors are not usually welcome at building sites but not so at Guédelon, a site in Burgundy which is being run entirely along medieval lines.

 Its castle-builders of all trades are keen to show off their skills, whether they are woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, tile makers, stonemasons or basket and rope makers. Master mason Florian Renucci, in charge of daily organisation, checks that the work carried out is historically, architecturally and archaeologically correct.

 Learning to use 13th century building techniques effectively has not been easy, he says, especially when the walls are three metres thick and the stone is being quarried locally, by hand (the site is located in an old quarry).

 “It’s ironstone, a very hard stone that we had to learn to extract,” he said. Quarry workers also had to master the art of searching for lines of weakness in blocks of sandstone, before drilling holes and inserting steel wedges with sledgehammers, creating shock waves to neatly split the rock.

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France's hidden gem...not any more! Beautiful medieval hamlet overrun with tourists after scooping travel award

Recognition in the lucrative holiday market is what most destinations dream of garnering. However, one pretty French hamlet is experiencing the pitfalls of over-exposure after its tourist figures soared when it picked up a prestigious award. 

On some days during the summer, the local population of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie - just 217 people - has been dwarfed by visitors flocking to the medieval village, which lies 20 miles east of Cahors in south west France. Perched on a steep cliff 100ft above a river, the hamlet has a riveting history of battling off feudal rulers, Richard the Lionheart and religious fanatics in the Middle Ages.

But its tourist office has been almost overrun. 'The sudden increase in visitors has taken us a bit by surprise, not that I'm complaining,' said office chief Clare.

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Fundraising campaign to keep seal in Stone

People have been urged to get behind a fundraising campaign to keep a bit of Stone’s Medieval history in the town where it belongs.

The 12th century seal that was discovered by a metal detector in Cobham, Surrey, was recently named the 17th best historical find in the UK on Britain’s Secret Treasures, a TV collaboration between ITV and the British Museum.

£8,000 is needed to keep the seal in our Stone, so please support the campaign if you can.

If you’d like to contribute to the appeal now you can send a cheque, payable to “Seal Appeal”, to Steve Booth, Treasurer, 18 Larchfields, Redwood, Stone ST15 0DD.

Click here to read the full article from A Little Bit of Stone