mediaevalist: (Gryff)
A single article, but two doses of history in one.

Early edition of Magna Carta has been found in a Victorian scrapbook.
The discovery has come months ahead of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta in Runnymede in 1215.

Kent archivist Dr Mark Bateson had been asked to search for another charter from the town of Sandwich.

Dr Bateson found the town's Charter of the Forest in a Victorian scrapbook in Kent County Council archives - with the long-forgotten Magna Carta edition.

The document was ripped with about a third missing but could still be worth up to £10m, according to Professor Nicholas Vincent, a specialist in medieval history from the University of East Anglia.

Its high value comes from the fact that it was found with the Charter of the Forest. The only other such pair - dating from 1300 - in the world is owned by Oriel College, Oxford.
mediaevalist: (Funney!)
This 3,500-Year-Old Dagger Made a Really Great Doorstop

The History Blog reports that a farmer in Norfolk, England, unearthed a bent piece of bronze while plowing a field. He put it to work as a doorstop, and it served that purpose for more than a decade. Eventually, the farmer started thinking about getting rid of the four-pound thing. But a friend convinced him to ask an archaeologist about its origins before consigning it to the local dump.

That’s where things get interesting—because the farmer's doorstop wasn’t trash at all. Experts have identified the piece as “the Rudham Dirk," a bronze ceremonial dagger dating from 1,500 B.C.
mediaevalist: (Default)
Large mosaic in ancient tomb uncovered in Greece which possibly contains the remains of a contemporary of Alexander the Great.

The mosaic, 3 meters (10 feet) long and 4.5 meters (15 feet) wide, depicts a horseman with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by two horses and preceded by the god Hermes. According to a Culture Ministry announcement on Sunday, Hermes is depicted here as the conductor of souls to the afterlife.
mediaevalist: (Default)
Archaeologists believe they have found dungeons that held 'Dracula'.

Archaeologists in Turkey have uncovered a secret tunnel, storage rooms, a military shelter, and two dungeons during restoration work on Tokat Castle, where Vlad III the Impaler, who served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character Dracula, is believed to have been held captive in the early 15th century.
mediaevalist: (Funney!)
As amusing as these all are, as an unapologetic mediavalist, I can confirm that these are actually spot-on for the most part.The thing to remember here is that, contrary to a lot of the Bravo Sierra you'll read about the Mediaeval Period of Europe, Cracked surprisingly finds some good sources and cites them. (I cannot stress citation enough) So even if you want to take the authors's colourful interpretations with a pinch of salt, do check out their citations.

5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe About the Dark Ages (This one explains where the 'Dark Ages' misnomer comes from)
6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

Remember kids: research is your friend! Even if you think you know something, double-check it anyway!
mediaevalist: (Hatshepsut)
I've touched upon this before with an article on the nanotubes present in Damascus steel, but that wasn't just a happy accident. The Romans indeed knew what they were doing:

This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers

The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.

The technique wasn't completely forgotten: red stained glass was very expensive to craft due to the requirement of crushed gold mixed into it.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
And now we have the world's oldest lunar calendar.

'World's oldest calendar' discovered in Scottish field

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar "calendar" in an Aberdeenshire field.

Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months.

A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago.

Holy cow, it's even older than the Mesopotamian ones. Definitely a find.
mediaevalist: (crossdressing)
Technically, these are back from different days of last month, but it's been a good day to learn about them.

Smuggled Out: Most Timbuktu Manuscripts Saved from Attacks

Far more of Timbuktu's priceless ancient manuscripts were saved from Islamist attacks than previosly thought, according to information from the German Foreign Ministry.

More than 200,000 of the documents, or about 80 percent of them, were smuggled to safety, says the ministry, which aided in the operation.
The ministry said many of the manuscripts, some of which date back to the 13th century, were driven out of Timbuktu in private vehicles and taken to the Malian capital, Bamako. Some of them were hidden under lettuce and fruit in an operation led by the head of the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library, Abdel Kader Haidara.

And back over in Scotland...

Selkirk water works unearth medieval village remains

The remains of a medieval village in the Borders have been uncovered during the laying of a new water main.

Scottish Water was carrying out the works at Philiphaugh on the outskirts of Selkirk.

It was laying new pipes between Howden and Yarrowford water treatment works when the discovery was made.

Initial studies suggested it was an Anglo-Saxon settlement, but closer inspection indicated it may have been the site of a medieval village.

Archaeologists found evidence of a number of stone buildings with stone floors across the entire area, with cobbled sections in between.

And finally...

Richard III tomb design proposed by society

A design for Richard III's tomb has been unveiled by an enthusiasts' group.

The Richard III Society said the 7ft (2.1m) long limestone monument would blend modern and medieval style decorations to reflect the king's life.

The group was closely involved in the project to find the lost king's remains, which was confirmed last week.

Leicester Cathedral, where Richard is expected to be reinterred in 2014, said it would consider ideas but no decision had yet been made.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
I have been extraordinarily lazy about this blog, but nothing in news has really grabbed me enough to feel it warrants a post. But this? You betcha.

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.

Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: "Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard."

Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

The painstaking process itself is utterly fascinating, as well. A major piece of English history recovered through some very interesting science.
mediaevalist: (Default)
Early medieval royal stronghold discovered on Trusty's Hill in southwest Scotland

Recently, historians have started to doubt that the Pictish stone carvings were genuine, since the carvings are rather far from the historically Pict-controlled lands in the north-east.

The Galloway Picts Excavation did indeed uncover an early mediaeval Pictish fort on the site, with considerable evidence of ritual activity.

The Galloway Picts Project has more information on the ongoing excavations.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Previously, archaeologists had been searching for the mediaeval city of Dunwich, the capital of East Anglia 1,500 years ago. But now it looks as if just beyond that was an entire country that was slowly submerged between between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC, well before the mediaeval period.

'Britain's Atlantis' found at bottom of North sea - a huge undersea world swallowed by the sea in 6500BC

The article isn't clear about whether there's any connection between the earlier project and this one, if in searching for Dunwich, evidence of a much older civilisation was discovered. From my own view, these are probably unrelated except for the fact that undersea archaeology seems to be the big thing now for much of archaeology in Britain.
mediaevalist: (Now THIS=a good feminist reimagining)
The Church Changed the Perception of Rape
Destroying another man’s clothes, injuring his cattle and raping his wife. These three acts, which viewed through modern eyes seem highly different, were all considered vandalism against a man’s property in the early Middle Ages.

Thanks to the Catholic Church, however, this weird view changed during the Middle Ages.

Actually, this was standard practise throughout the rest of the world before the Church gained influence. The fact is that classical paganism was certainly not woman-friendly. While there were laws about women owning property, the thing to keep in mind is that it was assumed that this property was either part of her dowry or compensation for being a widow and having a family to support. But it was not, however, because women were considered to have equal standing with men. Rape was certainly not a crime against an individual, even in ancient Ireland.
mediaevalist: (Philosophy)
Wow, it's been a while. I remember this site from years back. It's gone now, apparently, but just about all the pages are archived for our convenience. Huzzah!

Some of the stuff on general New Age beliefs like Wicca aren't entirely accurate, but the primary function here is historical and cultural preservation. Nothing against Wiccans, but they're perfectly capable of defending their own religion. But there's a number of points on the essay which got me there that I feel need addressing. Kaathryn MacMorgan, while stressing the need to do all the research, trips up and commits that very same mistake when it comes to the Holy Church here. As we like to tell people who claim they distrust "organised religion", our comeback is always "So do I! That's why I'm Catholic!" And we have nothing on Judaism in that regard.

Onward into what's probably just a repeat of anything C. S. Lewis already addressed )
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Modeling the Joust

More of a physics thing, but awesome nonetheless.
mediaevalist: (Default)
'Witch's cottage' unearthed near Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Complete with the bones of a cat bricked into the wall, probably buried alive. Poor kitty.

Engineers have said they were "stunned" to unearth a 17th Century cottage, complete with a cat skeleton, during a construction project in Lancashire.

The cottage was discovered near Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

Historians are now speculating that the well-preserved cottage could have belonged to one of the Pendle witches.

The building contained a sealed room, with the bones of a cat bricked into the wall.

It is believed the cat was buried alive to protect the cottage's inhabitants from evil spirits.


Simon Entwistle, an expert on the Pendle witches, said: "In terms of significance, it's like discovering Tutankhamen's tomb.

"We are just a few months away from the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials, and here we have an incredibly rare find, right in the heart of witching country. This could well be the famous Malkin Tower - which has been a source of speculation and rumour for centuries.

"Cats feature prominently in folklore about witches. Whoever consigned this cat to such a horrible fate was clearly seeking protection from evil spirits."
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Violent knights feared posttraumatic stress

Medieval knights are often depicted as bloodthirsty men who enjoyed killing. But that is a completely wrong picture, new research shows.

The knights did not kill just because they wanted to, but because it was their job – precisely like soldiers today. Nor were the Middle Ages as violent as we think, despite their different perception of violence compared to ours.

“Modern military psychology enables us to read medieval texts in a new way – giving us insight into the perception of violence in the Middle Ages in the general population and the use of lethal violence by knights,” says Thomas Heebøll-Holm of the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, who researches the perception of violence in the late Middle Ages.

“Previously, medieval texts were read as worshipping heroes and glorifying violence. But in the light of modern military psychology we can see the mental cost to the knights of their participation in the gruesome and extremely violent wars in the Middle Ages.”

There's also a cultural note pointing out that people who lived during the Middle Ages were not more violent than people today, so knights were neither violent by culture nor nature. On the contrary, PTSD seemed to be enough of a concern for at least one well-respected knight to write on what we identify as PTSD today.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle

Scientists have succeeded in locating the exact source of some of the rock believed to have been used 5000 years ago to create Stonehenge's first stone circle.

By comparing fragments of stone found at and around Stonehenge with rocks in south-west Wales, they have been able to identify the original rock outcrop that some of the Stonehenge material came from.

The work - carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales - has pinpointed the source as a 70 metre long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It's the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

However, the debate on whether the stones were quarried and transported by prehistoric humans, or whether glaciers eroded the stones and carried them to the general area where Stonehenge stands today.
mediaevalist: (Hatshepsut) has an article which, to me, is a bit old-hat: Niccolo Machiavelli – the Cunning Critic of Political Reason.

The article is a good one, but it's not exactly what I'd call new, even though it presents a more recent interpretation that isn't widely known:

Now that some of Machiavelli’s most infamous ideas have been presented, various interpretations of them and their underlying motivation can be considered. One unusual interpretation comes from the eighteenth-century historian of philosophy William Enfield, who suggested that The Prince was a satire on the unruly and selfish behaviour of political leaders. Enfield declared that, since Machiavelli was an enemy of despotism in his actual conduct, The Prince was intended to ‘pull off the mask from the face of tyranny’. If it really was meant by Machiavelli as a satire, then it has to be the driest, most bitter and most convincing satire ever written, one that has fooled many commentators and leaders alike for centuries.

But even this article from Cracked (authored by Peter Davis and David A. Vindiola ) acknowledges that "[a]ctually, Machiavelli was totally just trolling." Like the bimbo in one of my English classes who was horrified by Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal for advocating eating children in an obviously sarcastic manner, (as anyone with comprehension skills beyond Kindergarten level can attest) most folks completely missed Machiavelli's bitter, cynical, and even sarcastic tone. Or, as Davis and Vindiola put it:

The context in this case is that the Medici family to whom he dedicated his love letter is the same group who personally broke Machiavelli's arms for being such a staunch advocate for free government. He worked for the Florentine Republic before the Medicis marched in, mowed down the government and mercilessly tortured him, and then he sat down and wrote The Prince from his shack in exile, assumedly with some really bendy handwriting (on account of the arms). When you learn about that, it kind of adds a new layer of meaning to the text -- it suddenly sounds like it's dripping with sarcasm.

The article further explores another interpretation of the circumstances:

Another possibility is that, in writing The Prince, Machiavelli was articulating only what he believed that the then-current rulers wanted to hear, so that he could win back their favour. On this view Machiavelli himself might not have believed everything he wrote in The Prince, but he thought that a cold amoral attitude to politics might impress his superiors, thus leading to his reinstatement in government. If this interpretation is true, then he was being doubly cynical by cynically advocating scheming distrust as a method of government, while not fully believing in it himself. The actual circumstances of the composition of The Prince add weight to this interpretation, in that Machiavelli dedicated it specifically to Lorenzo de Medici. It has also been suggested that he composed it quickly, on deciding to take a break from working on the longer Discourses, this apparently coinciding with a period when a new Pope had recently been installed in Rome and a new leader found for Italy. Did Machiavelli hope through The Prince to influence this new ruler? If so this aim was never actually realised, and Machiavelli died without ever regaining his political position.

However, Davis and Vindiola point out that

For centuries, the consensus on Machiavelli's best-known work has been that he was just trying to brown-nose his way back into the government. But a deeper study of his full body of work reveals that this is a pretty absurd ambition, considering not only did Machiavelli repeatedly say that "popular rule is always better than the rule of princes," but after he wrote The Prince, he went right on back to writing treatises about the awesomeness of republics. Considering also that he was no stranger to the literary art of satire, scholars these days are turning to a more likely scenario -- Machiavelli was the Stephen Colbert of the Renaissance.

Admittedly, there's no real way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Machiavelli's true intentions were. But comparing The Prince to all his other work, I have to say I'm not especially convinced he was sucking up. On the other hand, the evidence for The Prince being a scathing satire is pretty convincing.
mediaevalist: (Whatte the swyve?)
Hey kids! It's time for another...

Bad History Rant!

Today's rant is brought to you by a particular song from Night of Hunters by Tori Amos. Now, given that we should generally take history from pop songs with a whole damned salt mine, "Battle of Trees" perpetuates a steaming pile of New Age cow pattie that was debunked a really long time ago. The problem, then, is that this cow pattie persists and sticks to popular culture.

Bring on the barbecue! )

June 2015



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