Saturday, May 31, 2008

How odd...

Ye Olde Altoidse

Rare medieval windows helped by flower power

Rare medieval church windows in Nowton are a step closer to being restored thanks to a highly successful flower festival.

More than £1,200 was raised at the third annual St Peter's Church flower festival, which will go to restoring the windows – the third most important examples of medieval glass in the UK.

The theme of the festival, which ran from Saturday until bank holiday Monday, was The Holy Bible and a total of 21 displays, including many from professional florists, were on display.

Adrian Potter, of F Clutterham and Sons, in Bury, is also the parish organist and deputy church warden.

He organised the festival, which also included a cake stall run by parishoners.

Mr Potter said: "Everybody who came to the festival said they were very impressed by it.

"Many of our visitors go to other flower festivals but they do say ours is the best.

"The event went really well and I am grateful to everyone who was involved."


Dig aims to uncover lost villages

A team of archaeologists is hoping to solve a centuries-old mystery and discover the remains of two medieval ancient towns in Carmarthenshire.

The settlements are believed to be within the grounds of Dinefwr Park and Castle near Llandeilo.

Their existence is recorded in several medieval documents and researchers are hoping to pinpoint the exact locations later this month.

Previous digs in the grounds have found the remains of a Roman fort.

Archaeologist Emma Plunkett-Dillon said: "We know that the two towns existed because they were well-recorded in various medieval documents.

What is referred to as the English town was established some time after that time, in order to colonise the area and capture the castle and surrounding area for English control.

Work will begin to try and pinpoint the exact location of these towns, beginning with the English one, on 23 June.

A team from Dyfed Archaeological Trust together with a group of volunteers will undertake a geophysical study of the land surrounding Newton House.

A machine will pass over the ground, detecting changes within the soil that will enable the archaeologists to identify buildings and other features buried beneath the grass.

Raise expectations

This will be followed by the excavation of a series of small pits which hopefully will clarify the nature of the buried archaeology.

"I don't want to raise expectations, but potentially this could be an extremely exciting investigation," added Ms Plunkett-Dillon.

"I've been working at Dinefwr myself for almost 20 years and have never seen any signs of these towns.

"This is a golden opportunity to try and find them - what we're actually doing is lifting the lid and taking a look at previously unexplored areas and I for one would dearly love to finally find something."

The public will have an opportunity to watch the archaeologists in action during an open day on 28 June.

"We know that there was a Welsh town somewhere around the castle and an English town nearer the present site of Newton House, in the centre of the estate.

"Records kept by the Crown show us that they were occupied throughout the 14th and 15th centuries - we even know how much rent people who lived there were paying at the time - but the towns themselves have completely disappeared."

The Welsh town was settled by the indigenous population sometime after 1277 when Dinefwr Castle was under Welsh control.

Did you know that people in the Middle Ages abused farmers for fun?

At first I dismissed this as pure ignorance on behalf of the 'news' media, but upon further investigation, they were right -- farmers were abused as entertainment in the Middle Ages.

Look carefully at this image.

The woman on the left is just about to throw coins at the farmer....

Historic dig 13 years after find

Archaeologists are digging for Roman relics in the garden of a Hertfordshire home where the owner discovered medieval pot handles 13 years ago.

Chris Hobbs found the pottery while digging a garden pond at his home in Norton, near Letchworth, in 1995.

But Mr Hobbs only realised the significance of his find when the pottery was certified as 13th Century by experts from Cambridge University.

The Norton Community Archaeological Group is now digging at the property.

Ken Bird, secretary of Norton Community Archaeological Group, said: "It was only when Chris got the pottery assessed at Cambridge University, 13 years after finding it, that he realised it dated back to the 13th Century.

There is thousands of years of unmapped history there

Ken Bird, secretary of Norton Community Archaeological Group

"We are very interested in the location as there are a lot of unanswered questions about Roman occupation, going back to 300 AD.

"There is thousands of years of unmapped history there.

"We are now trying to find if there is anything else on the site by digging cess pits. There are currently about 20 people on their hands and knees slowly scraping," Mr Bird added.

The medieval relics found in Mr Hobbs' garden are now on display in Letchworth Museum.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oxford lab to revisit carbon dating of Shroud of Turin

A physics professor has persuaded an Oxford laboratory to revisit the question of the age of the Shroud of Turin, the reputed burial shroud of Jesus Christ. The professor argues that carbon monoxide contaminating the shroud could have distorted its radiocarbon dating results by more than 1,000 years.

In 1988 and 1989 scientists at three laboratories drew on the results of radiocarbon dating to conclude that the shroud was a medieval forgery. They dated its creation to between 1260 and 1390 AD.

The Denver Post reports that John Jackson, a physics lecturer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has hypothesized that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years.

Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson’s hypothesis. Ramsey said that other forensic and historical evidence indicates the shroud is much older than radiocarbon dating results initially indicated.

"Science still has much to tell us about the shroud," said Jackson, a devout Catholic who heads the Colorado Springs-based Shroud of Turin Center. "If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn't depend on that outcome," he told the Denver Post.

Jackson must prove a viable pathway for carbon monoxide contamination. He is working with Oxford to test linen samples subjected to various conditions the shroud has experienced, including outdoor exhibitions and exposure to extreme heat during a fire in 1532.

In 1978, Jackson led a research team given unprecedented access to the shroud. The team determined that the shroud was not painted, dyed or stained.

The Shroud of Turin bears faint brown discolorations that form the negative image of a man. A positive image of the shroud was produced only with the arrival of modern photography.

Forensic data indicates the bloodstains on the shroud are real and were stained on the cloth before the image of the body appeared, the Denver Post reports. Stains around the head are consistent with punctures by thorns, while the scourge marks are consistent with those made by a Roman whip. A large puncture wound on the man’s side is also consistent with that made by a Roman spear.

Though medieval iconography portrays Jesus nailed to the cross through his palms and the front of his feet, archaeologists have found the bones of a Roman crucifixion victim nailed through the wrists and heels.

There is no consensus regarding what medieval methods, if any, could have created the shroud.
Though the Vatican keeps the shroud locked in a protective chamber at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, the Catholic Church makes no claims about its authenticity.

Vandals break ancient royal church's windows

VANDALS smashed more than 80 window panes at the church where Mary, Queen of Scots was baptised.

They hurled rocks and stones at 300-year-old stained glass windows and
floodlights at St Michael's parish church in Linlithgow, West Lothian.

They struck first between 5pm on Wednesday and 1pm the next day.

And police were called out again at 7.30pm on Thursday after reports more windows were being shattered.

Church bosses estimated the cost of the damage to be more than £10,000.

A police spokesman said: "St Michael's is considered as one of the finest medieval churches in Scotland.

"We are treating these incidents very seriously indeed and would appeal to the public to contact the police with any information they have about the youths responsible for this mindless vandalism."

St Michael's is one of the largest burgh churches in the Church of Scotland.

It was built on the site of an older church and consecrated in 1242 but it was destroyed by fire in 1424.

Most of the present church dates from the mid-15th century, with extensive restorations in the 19th century.

Scottish kings and queens worshipped there, as it is close to the ancient royal seat, Linlithgow Palace.

Mary, Queen of Scots was born in the palace in 1542 and and christened in St Michael's.

In June last year, vandals hurled wheelie bins and logs through stained glass windows at Fala Village Church, near Pathhead, Midlothian.

The damage was estimated at £5000.

The only window to escape intact was a 19th-century stained glass rose, which was too high for the vandals to reach.

And in 2000, a five-year-old boy and two eight-year-old friends were reported to a children's panel after a village church in Tarbert, Argyll, was vandalised.

They caused £25,000 of damage, wrecking six ornate windows and smashing pews.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I see a swimming pool in your future...

Diagrams for palm reading

What I should be doing...

Why does work feel like work?

Rome never fell

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that it has an affinity for all things Roman. If you also have an affinity for the glory of ancient Rome, take a look at Pax Romana.

Pax Romana is a comic written by Jonathan Hickman . In a distant future the Catholic Church is dying. Pope Pius XIII uses experimental time-travelling technology to attempt to restore the Church to its former glory. In meddling with history Pius not only restores the power of the Catholic Church but also the power of the Roman Empire. Witness a world in which Rome still rules.

If this sounds interesting, you can read the first issue of the comic here.

Rings offer up a rare glimpse of medieval luxury

A pair of precious metal decorative rings were among a host of artefacts handed over to the National Museum of Wales.

The rings, one dating back to the 12th Century and made of gold and rose quartz, and the other made of silver and of a style typical of the 13th Century, are thought to provide a unique snapshot of the fashions once popular in Wales.

Both pieces were found last year by members of the public using metal detectors, the first unearthed in Rhoose on September 12, while the second ring was discovered on July 3 in Llanfair, Vale of Glamorgan.

Under the Treasure Act 1996, all items discovered and which are thought to date back more than 300 years or are made of more than 10% silver, must be considered before an inquest, and have the potential to be seized and handed to a museum for preservation and safekeeping.

The rings were among 10 items found by members of the public in the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan areas – all of which were declared “treasure” by coroner Mary Elizabeth Hassell at an inquest held in Cardiff yesterday.

Dr Mark Redknap, medievalist and a curator at the National Museum of Wales, who was at the inquest, said: “Objects from the museum’s archaeology collection, such as those which form the National Museum’s in Cardiff’s new Origins: In Search of Early Wales exhibition, tell the tale of how people used to live in Wales.

“These decorative rings are a valuable addition to this story, uncovering information about fashion, style and other aspects of life in medieval Wales.”

Other items at the inquest which were also declared treasure included a fragment from a silver gilt devotion ring thought to date back to the 15th Century, an Iron Age terret and harness ring found in Cowbridge, and five 15th-century silver groats of Henry V-VI discovered in Llantwit Major.

Most of the artefacts were found in ploughed fields or farm fields, and are thought to have been lost, rather than buried by their original owners.

The artefacts will remain at the National Museum of Wales while they are valued by the Independent Valuations Committee, which sits at the British Museum in London. A date has not been set for the valuations hearing, and depending on its outcome the museum may pursue acquisition of the objects so they can be put on display.

MSCU Summer Elections

The Medieval Studies Course Union will be active for the summer semester. We look forward to holding a number of activities over the summer.

But before we can start planning, we have to elect a new executive.

On Thursday May 22nd we'll be holding our first meeting of the summer. At this meeting we'll elect our new executive members and briefly outline our plans for the summer. At the moment we cannot book rooms, so we'll be meeting in front of Clearihue C 115 at 4:30 pm. If this room is not available we will move to another room and leave a message with directions on the door. The meeting will last one hour.

Ryan Hunt will be returning in his role as President of the MSCU. Stephanie Jury will also be returning to continue her role as Treasurer.

The following positions are up for election:

1. Vice-President - The Vice-President shares many of the same responsibilities as the President. These include, interacting with the Medieval Studies Program, attending relevant UVSS meetings, co-organizing events, and speaking to Medieval Studies Classes.

2. Event Chair - The Event Chair will be responsible for organizing larger scale MSCU events. In the past such events have included research collectives and undergraduate conferences.

3. Activity Chair - The Activity Chair is similar in purpose to the Event Chair. The main difference between the two roles is that the Activity Chair plans smaller scale MSCU events. Such events could include study groups, bake sales, movie nights, etc..

If you cannot attend the meeting and would like to be considered for one of these positions, please send a reply or contact Ryan personally. Send a write-up of why you'd like to be considered for the positions and your write-up will be read at the meeting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Medieval jewellery found in Bridgwater

A rare piece of early medieval jewellery uncovered in a Bridgwater field is now waiting to be valued at the British Museum.

The silver pinhead was discovered in September 2006 by Timothy Phillips, who was running a metal detector over a ploughed field in Chilton Trinity.

It was taken to Somerset County Museum, where experts revealed the two cm object to be a post-Roman silver pinhead, or hand pin, made between 450 and 500AD.

At an inquest held in Taunton last week, Naomi Payne from the museum said the pin would have been worn by a woman of substantial wealth and possibly used to keep a cloak fastened.

Originally, the piece would have been attached to a 12cm pin, much like a hatpin.

According to the museum, there have been no findings of this kind of decorative jewellery since new treasure laws were introduced in 1997, and so the value is currently unknown.

The item has been passed on to the British Museum awaiting a valuation, which should take place in the next few months.

The silver pinhead will be on display when the Somerset County Museum re-opens in 2010.

Mysterious Monks, Fruit Fetish and Helpless Horses - oh my!

It's that time again - time to round up some questionable uses of the word 'Medieval.'

Say what you will about how the word is used, it sure gets around. Below you will find 'Medieval' referenced in the contexts of brutality, religion and ignorance - what a surprise. Once again the news media manages to provide much stereotype as less substance. The small-mindedness of the news media is almost medie... never mind.

I study literature, medieval literature

FUN FACT: The father of Indiana Jones (played by Sir Sean Connery) is a professor of medieval literature.

(Referring to his father) "a teacher of medieval literature. The one the students hope they don't get."

- Last Crusade

So if James Bond studies the Middle Ages, it must be cool.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Holy See website now available in Latin

On Friday, the Holy See website became available in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church.

Alongside the other languages in which the website has been available for many years (Italian, German, Spanish, French, English and Portuguese), a new option, "Sancta Sedes Latine", has now been added. Clinking on that link, users reach the "Documenta Latina" page where they may chose from a menu including: biographies of Popes ("Summi Pontifices"), the Bible ("Biblia Sacra"), the Catechism ("Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae"), the documents of Vatican Council II ("Concilium Vaticanum II"), and the Code of Canon Law ("Codex Iuris Canonici"). There is also a section entitled "Romana Curia" where documents concerning the activities of the dicasteries of the Holy See may be consulted.

Also under "Romana Curia" is a subsection dedicated to "Latinitas", a foundation created in 1976 by Pope Paul VI with the Chirograph "Romani sermonis" and dedicated to the study of the Latin language, of classical and Christian literature and medieval Latin, and to the promotion of Latin through the publishing of books in the language, and through other means.

To access the site click on:

Medieval church re-emerges as Spain ships in water

Perhaps the most striking image of Spain's drought, so severe it has forced Barcelona to ship in water, has been that of the underwater church which emerged from a drying dam.

For most of the past four decades, all that has been visible of the village of Sant Roma has been the belltower of its stone church, peeping above the water beside forested hills from a valley flooded in the 1960s to provide water for the Catalonia region.

This year, receding waters have exposed the 11th-century church completely, attracting crowds of tourists who stand gazing around it on the dusty bed of the reservoir.

Neighboring Vilanova de Sau is enjoying a tourist boom, its mayor Joan Riera says.

"Every time it's on television, a whole lot of people come," Riera told Reuters by telephone, adding that this was all very well but it had made it impossible to find a table in the town's restaurants: "They all want to eat at the same time."

Drying dams are causing problems still more serious in Barcelona, the region's glamorous capital, which has had to charter ships to bring in drinking water.

After proverbial April showers, reservoirs are now about 25 percent full but will have to provide for a hot, dry summer, so emergency measures may only have been delayed.

For now, the short-term outlook is tolerable. But officials said that without shipped water and a campaign to cut water waste, the city could face its first cut in domestic water supplies since 1953.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Today in the Middle Ages

11 May, 1310 - 54 members of the Knights Templar are burned at the stake in France for being heretics...

... fueling conspiracy novels for generations.

Medieval shipwreck found in Barcelona city centre

The wreck of a 13th or 14th century ship has come to light on a construction site in Barcelona's Barceloneta district - beside the Balaurd del Migdia and behind Francia train station - that used to be under water.

The remains were discovered at around seven metres below sea level on the site of a new residential apartment block being built by the Sacyr Vallehermoso company on a plot previously owned by Renfe.

Since July 2006, when work began, experts from Barcelona's Archaeological Museum and the regional Heritage department have been supervising the project given the site's central location.

Mayor Jordi Hereu has visited the dig accompanied by the curator of Barcelona's History Museum, Joan Roca, who commented that the wrecked ship seems to have been designed for the North Atlantic which suggests that the port's trading activity was not limited to the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's May! It's May! The lusty monthe of May!

Carpet of stone: medieval mosaic pavement revealed

The wraps have come off one of Westminster Abbey's least known treasures, a medieval marble pavement foretelling the end of the world, while conservation experts consider how to preserve the ancient stones for the next 740 years.

Few modern visitors have ever seen it, although since 1268 kings and princes, queens and cardinals have walked across a symbol laden mosaic as intricate as a piece of jewellery.

It is made up of rare marbles and gemstones, including some recycled from monuments 1,000 years older, and pieces of coloured glass, set in complex allegorical patterns into a framework of Purbeck marble cut as intricately as a jigsaw puzzle.

"When this floor was new it would have blazed with colour," Vanessa Simeoni, the abbey's head of conservation said. "The materials were chosen for their brilliance and shine, and the quality of the craftsmanship is actually shocking, the ultimate that could be achieved."

The mosaics are known as Cosmati work, after the four generations of a Roman family of marble workers who perfected the technique. The Westminster one, regarded as the finest north of the Alps, uniquely has an inscription boasting of its makers - and a cryptic message about the end of the world.

It was laid in the 1260s, when Henry III sent his new Abbot of Westminster, Richard de Ware, for talks with the Pope in Rome. The Englishman saw a newly installed pavement in the Pope's summer residence, knew it was just the thing for the cathedral which Henry was spectacularly rebuilding around the tomb of St Edward the Confessor, and arrived home with a ship load of marble, glass and Italian craftsmen. Ware's reward was his own tomb incorporated into the design. Henry's tomb, and the saint's shrine, were originally covered in similar work, but all the scraps of marble and glass were picked out as sacred relics by generations of pilgrims.

Only a handful of brass letters remains of the original long inscription, but it was transcribed centuries ago. It names the king, the chief craftsman as Odoricus, gives the date in a tortuous riddle, and then mysteriously suggests that the world will last for 19,683 years, by adding together the life spans of different animals: "add dogs and horses and men, stags and ravens, eagles, enormous whales ...."

Careful cleaning, and a radar survey has revealed that although the pavement bears the scars of centuries of repairs and patching, crude and careful, most of it is original, the rich green and plum-coloured porphyry - almost certainly from chopped up ancient Roman sculptures and architectural fragments - still bedded in the limestone mortar laid by the medieval craftsmen.
For most of the past 150 years it has been covered in thick layers of carpet intended to protect but in fact just adding to the dirt and staining.

Even when the Queen was crowned above it in 1953, the royal pavement was covered over.
The two-year restoration programme will now stabilise the pavement, so that a treasure from the middle ages can be permanently displayed in a 21st century cathedral.

Ancient Nazi-looted religious cross returned

A priceless medieval religious cross stolen by the Nazis in Poland during World War Two was returned on Tuesday to the heirs of the rightful owners after it was found in a rubbish skip.

The enameled cross, 47.5 centimeters (18.7 inches) high and 29 centimeters (11.42 inches) wide, originally from Limoges in France, was discovered in a container full of junk from a house clearance in the Austrian ski resort of Zell am See.

Limoges is famed for its medieval enamels as well as for its 19th century porcelain.

Acquired in 1865, the cross featured among the thousands of works of art in the collection built up by Countess Isabella Dzialynska who displayed it in her castle at Goluchow for many decades.
The collection also included printings as well as Egyptian, Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek and Roman antiquities and medieval and Rennaissance enamels, jewellery and silver.

"I am delighted by the recovery of a precious piece from this once magnificent collection, which we hope to re-constitute in its own building in Poland one day," Count Adam Zamoyski, one of the heirs, who lives in London, said in a statement.

The statement was issued by the London-based Commission for Looted Art which specializes in returning art works stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners.

With the war imminent, some of the gems in the Dzialynska collection were buried on the castle grounds where they were found by the Nazis in 1941.

Three years later with the tide of war turning, the looted items were moved on the orders of Adolf Hitler to Castle Fischhorn in Zell am See from where they were again looted in the chaos around the end of the conflict.

Efforts by heirs of the owners to find them after the war met with no success.

After verification and lengthy negotiations with the finder involving the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, the cross was returned on Tuesday to Count Zamoyski at a ceremony at the Mining Museum in Leogang near Salzburg.

"We very much hope that the people of Zell am See and the surrounding area will be moved to consider whether they have not come across pieces of antique jewellery, glass, enamel, and similar items that might be from this collection," he said.

"Any action that led to the recovery of further pieces would not go unrewarded," he added.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Landmark is preserved for the future

Druids sowed grass seed on the summit of Silbury Hill, to mark the end of a £1.6m conservation project.

The historic monument, near Avebury, was researched in the 1960s by archaeologists who ran an 85m long tunnel to the heart of the mound.

But in 2000 a hole appeared in the top of the hill prompting English Heritage to lead a £1.66m conservation project, with engineering firm Skanska, to preserve the Neolithic mound.

Mark Kirkbride, Skanska project manager, said: "Over the last 12 months the project has been a unique and complex engineering challenge and we have found Silbury to be an incredible feat of construction.

"The tunnelling work has been very unusual and the conditions at times difficult.

"But, through working successfully with English Heritage, we have achieved all of the original aims of the conservation works.

"We are confident that the Hill will now stand safe for future generations to marvel upon."

The project has not only successfully ensured the stability of the 4,400-year-old hill, but also allowed the team to carry out investigations into the age and possible uses of the mysterious mound.

Dr Amanda Chadburn, inspector of ancient monuments at English Heritage said: "Silbury Hill is one of the key monuments of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, and is of global importance.

"It is recognised as a masterpiece of human creative genius and is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe.

"It is proof of the creative and technological abilities of prehistoric peoples to conceive, design and construct features of great size and complexity.

"Given this importance, it was essential that the voids and tunnels within the Hill were backfilled to prevent further archaeological damage to this unique monument."

Because of the research done by English Heritage, archaeologists discovered signs that the summit of the hill may have been more domed in shape, and was truncated later on, in Saxon or Norman times, to create the current shape.

The flat top could have been created in order to house a building. The team discovered a series of medieval postholes and two arrowheads, suggesting a defensive or military function, such as a lookout post or signal station.

Because the tunnel cut through many of the hill's construction phases, archaeologists were also able to take advantage of a chance to make detailed records and investigations along the tunnel.

A presentation on the archaeological findings, and the dating of the hill by the English Heritage team, will take place later in the year.

From: Swindon