Saturday, December 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

 Click here to read the full article from EDP24

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 News Stories of 2012: Ancient and Medieval

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

Click here to read the Top 10 Medieval News Stories

Click here to read the Top 10 Ancient News Stories

The secret race to save Timbuktu’s manuscripts

By Geoffrey York
The Globe and Mail

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

See also: The Manuscripts of Timbuktu

Thursday, December 27, 2012

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Sunday, December 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

Saturday, December 22, 2012

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Montreal Gazette

Friday, December 21, 2012

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from Google

Denmark’s only medieval rowboat dated

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from ScienceNordic

Bosch and Bruegel: Four paintings magnified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more at Four Paintings Magnified

Source: University of Glasgow

Monday, December 17, 2012

Norwegian Vikings grew hemp

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

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

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

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

Most likely it was grown for making textiles and rope.

Click here to read this article from Science Nordic

Greenland’s Viking settlers gorged on seals

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

See also this video about the search for Richard III

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Videos on The Hobbit - news and interviews

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

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

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

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

 Tolkien Reaction and Bilbo Baggins Casting Interview

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

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

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

 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Christopher Lee Interview

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hobbit Chic

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

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

 Click here to read this article from The Grid

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Polish archaeologists find unknown tomb in Egypt

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from TheNews.Pl

New light on the Nazca Lines

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

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

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

Rome's Lost Empire, BBC One, review

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

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

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

Click here to read this review from the Daily Telegraph

Thursday, December 06, 2012

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Wiltshire Times

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

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

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

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

Keynote Speakers 

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

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

Call for Papers 

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

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

See for more details

Octandre Ensemble: Medieval Modernist - this Saturday in London!

Octandre Ensemble: Medieval Modernist 

7.30pm Saturday 8 December 2012

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

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

 Tickets £10/£8

Click here to book online

Click here to download the flyer for the concert

'First tartan' discovered on statue of Roman emperor

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from The Scotland Herald

The medieval church’s ideological warfare

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Experts uncover medieval moat in Havel Library's future seat

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from the Prague Daily Monitor

Monday, December 03, 2012

400-Year-Old Playing Cards Reveal Royal Secret

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

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

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Crusader sword sells for £163,250

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

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

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

Click here to read this article from