Friday, September 30, 2011

Treasures of the Bodleian exhibition opens today

The Bodleian Libraries’ autumn exhibition ‘Treasures of the Bodleian’ opens to the public today (Friday 30 September). The exhibition will feature a selection of the Bodleian’s rarest, most important and most evocative items – from ancient papyri to medieval oriental manuscripts to twentieth-century printed books and ephemera.

The exhibits are arranged into broad themes: the classical heritage; mapping the world; the sacred word; the animal and plant kingdoms; works of the imagination; the sciences of observation and calculation; historical moments in time.

Click here to read this article from

World's Earliest Christian Engraving Shows Surprising Pagan Elements

By Owen Jarus

Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world's earliest surviving Christian inscription, shedding light on an ancient sect that followed the teachings of a second-century philosopher named Valentinus.

Officially called NCE 156, the inscription is written in Greek and is dated to the latter half of the second century, a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power.

An inscription is an artifact containing writing that is carved on stone. The only other written Christian remains that survive from that time period are fragments of papyri that quote part of the gospels and are written in ink. Stone inscriptions are more durable than papyri and are easier to display. NCE 156 also doesn't quote the gospels directly, instead its inscription alludes to Christian beliefs.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Cod skulls reveal fishing patterns in the Middle Ages

Scholars from the University of Cambridge have concluded that sea fishing in northwest Europe was more locally-based than previously believed. By using skulls of cod fish, the Medieval Origins of Commercial Sea Fishing Project was able to determine that the majority of fish catches in the 10th and 11th centuries in England were from waters relatively nearby, such as the North Sea.

It was only by the 13th and 14th centuries, when local fish stocks were depleted that fisherman sailed to further seas to net the cod and other fishes that would wind up as dinner for people in urban communities such as London.

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Historic cobblestones removed from the medieval village of Dunster

Workmen have begun removing the cobblestone pathways around the village of Dunster in Somerset. The distinctive cobblestone paths have existed for hundreds of years, but concerns over people slipping on the surface and the difficulty in moving wheelchairs and strollers along them have led local officials to have them removed.

It is now being replaced with natural stone paving, with about a foot of the cobblestone surface being left on either side. The cobblestones were in poor condition and local businesses and community members were unwilling to pay for repairs because it would expose them to liability if anyone was injured when walking on them.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manuscript Scholar Gives Illuminating Talk

Not every rare book scholar gets the opportunity to hold the object of her research. Professor Anne Rudloff Stanton, chair of the art history and archaeology department at University of Missouri Columbia, is one of the lucky few. Stanton, whose research focuses on manuscripts from 14th-century England, spoke about her hands on experience at Kenyon on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011.

Specifically, she explores the function of pictures, or "decorations," in prayer books from that time period, and their relationship to the prayers. In the times before page numbers and paragraph indentations, Stanton said, "Every book had some kind of decoration because that was a way of finding where you were in the text." The decorations depicted the prayers and stories in the books. Not only did they help the reader keep track of his or her place, but the decorations also made the prayer books more accessible to the common man. Stanton said that because the books were written in Latin, the language of the Church, and so few spoke Latin, "they could find their spot by the picture and they might know in general what they were supposed to be saying."

Stanton found her passion for medieval manuscripts in a graduate school class at the University of Texas at Austin. Stanton was always interested in ancient history, but studying the manuscripts inspired her anew. "What hooked me was that I could sit down and have an experience that approached the intended experience for the original user," Stanton said. One of the first books that Stanton studied was the Queen Mary Psalter manuscript. A Psalter is a book of 150 psalms, and this one was decorated with miniature pictures of the life of Christ. The Queen Mary Pslater eventually passed on to Queen Isabella of France. The Mary Pslater manuscript influenced Stanton to write her own book entitled Queen Mary Psalter: A Study of Affect and Audience, and sparked her interest in further research on Queen Isabella of France as a collector of art and manuscripts.

Click here to read this article from The Kenyon Collegian

Art historian the influence of medieval pieces on culture

The job of art historians is to discover the origins of artwork, but when it comes to art from early medieval periods, historians find themselves in a world shrouded in mystery. "We've got objects, but no fancy story to attach to them," said Sigrid Danielson, in her lecture titled "Art History and the Early Medieval Artist" at Elon University Tuesday evening.

Historians saw the names of artists as "signifiers of ethnic identity and geographic origins of the object's creator," Danielson said.

From the 1920s to the 1950s, schools of art history responded to the lack of information about early medieval art by focusing solely on the artist, specifically his or her ethnicity. This resulted in the artist's work being used simply as evidence to back up the conclusions historians drew about the artist's background.

Danielson, who, in conjunction with Elon University art history professor Evan Gatti, is currently working on a collection of essays regarding the art and writings of early medieval times, said she believes that by spending so much time and energy on the artist and not the art itself, the actual role the work played in society is lost.

Click here to read this article from the Elon University Student Newspaper

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scholar finds evidence of links between Vikings and North American natives

Old Norse sagas such as Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders have been long been considered among the most important sources of information about relations between Vikings and Native Americans. But new research suggests that accounts about a mysterious island known as Hvitramannaland are also other descriptions of the New World and its inhabitants.

In the article “Hvitramannaland and other fictional islands in the sea”, Else Mundal examines references in saga accounts about the island, which was described as being six days and nights of sailing west of Ireland. Other accounts suggest that it was close to Vinland, which is now considered to be somewhere along the eastern coast of North America.

Click here to read this article from

Professor earns fellowship to research medieval English morality plays

Gail McMurray Gibson said that her college professors first sparked her interest in medieval studies. She has pursued that interest and become one of the most inspiring and decorated teachers in Davidson College. She has received the college’s Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, and was named North Carolina Professor of the Year in 1987 by the national Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Now Gibson has received yet another honor — a short-term fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library to conduct research for a chapter of a new book she’s writing titled Medieval Drama in Afterlife. Each chapter concerns the way that medieval Catholic religious drama texts continued to be defiantly protected after England adopted the Protestant Reformation.

Click here to read this article from

Understanding the Art of Memorization through a Medieval Singing Tool

In an age of sheet music, pianos, and electronic keyboards, the study of a nearly extinct technique for learning how to sing might seem unwarranted. But Jesse Rodin, an assistant professor of music at Stanford, believes that an antiquated teaching tool reveals much about a faculty that has arguably been neglected in this era of instant access to information: memory.

The Guidonian Hand was a musical staple of medieval clergymen, choirboys, and composers. A map of notes arranged on the hand, it was used to help aspiring singers remember how musical notes relate to one another. Had you watched a church choir perform 500 years ago in France, the Low Countries or Italy, you could be certain that the singers had used the Hand, at least in their formative years.

Click here to read this article from the Science Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

University of Rhode Island: Medieval history professor welcomed as new chair

The University of Rhode Island's History department welcomed professor Joelle Rollo-Koster, avid traveller and inquisitive researcher, as its new department chair this year. "I like to do research and to teach," she said. "This is not something professors are trained for."

But Rollo-Koster is experienced when it comes to adapting to a new environment. She has traveled to many countries in Europe and some places that don't have running water or electricity, she said. "You realize what you're worth," Rollo-Koster said about traveling. She said being put in a brand new situation is "great for the brain" and forces you to "adapt quickly."

Click here to read this article from The Good 5 cent Cigar

Monday, September 26, 2011

A grisly end: 800-year-old remains of witch discovered in Italian graveyard… with seven nails driven through her jaw

These are the 800 year old remains of what archaeologists believe was a witch from the Middle Ages after seven nails were found driven through her jaw bone. The grim discovery was made during a dig on what is thought to be a 'witches graveyard' after another woman's skeleton was found surrounded by 17 dice - a game which women were forbidden from playing 800 years ago.

Experts say they believe the women are aged around 25 - 30 years old and were found buried in a simple shallow grave in the ground with no coffin or shroud. The macabre remains were found during a dig close to the sea at Piombino near Lucca in Italy's Tuscany region and the woman had seven nails through her jaw as well as another 13 nails surrounding her skeleton.

Archaeologist Alfonso Forgione, from L'Aquila University, who is leading the dig, is convinced that the women were suspected witches because of the circumstances in which they were buried.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

Beauty and brutality: Iceland’s literary landscapes

Dr Emily Lethbridge is breathing new life and understanding into the centuries-old Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) during a unique year-long research trip – conducted from the back of a decommissoned Land Rover ambulance.

The beauty and brutality of Iceland‘s breathtaking landscapes, so closely linked to the stories in the sagas, has been captured in a stunning new documentary film released today by Cambridge University. The sagas were copied in manuscripts in Iceland from the medieval period until the early 20th century, and the stories were passed down from one generation to another over many hundreds of years.

Click here to read this article from

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Dante in Love

Yeats said no face was more familiar to Western civilisation than Dante's, apart from that of Christ. Dante Alighieri is the greatest poet of Italy and he is also the one figure of the late medieval-renaissance period who bears comparison with the greatest visual artists: Giotto, Michelangelo and Titian.

Though there is only one Dante: Petrarch, the great sonnetier, and Boccacio of The Decameron fame make up the triad but are footnotes to him. Dante, born in Florence in 1265, belongs only with Homer and Shakespeare.

In 1300, according to legend, he had the experience that is recorded in his great three-part poem The Divine Comedy: he found himself in Hell, then Purgatory, then Heaven. The opening lines are inscribed in the DNA of our culture: "Nel mezzo del cammin de nostra vita /mi rotrovai per una selva oscura, /Che la diritta via era smarrita". ("In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost".)

Click here to read this review from The Australian

13th century well discovered in Suffolk

A cafe owner in Clare who engaged a builder to give his garden a make-over got more than he bargained for when he discovered a 20ft deep Medieval well under his lawn.

The well was unearthed when Mr Palmer, owner of the Number One Delicatessen and Cafè, in High Street, hired local builder Warren Rodwell to lay a new patio.

Mr Palmer, who has lived in the property for four years with his wife and three children, said: “He was digging and suddenly they found a bloody great well.

Click here to read this article from the Havelhill Echo

Friday, September 23, 2011

Large ancient shipyard discovered near Rome

University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, leading an international excavation of Portus – the ancient port of Rome, believe they have discovered a large Roman shipyard.

The team, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, has uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or ‘harbour’, at the centre of the port complex.

University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director, Simon Keay comments, “At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships. Few Roman Imperial shipyards have been discovered and, if our identification is correct, this would be the largest of its kind in Italy or the Mediterranean.”

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

Conference on ‘Alchemy and Medicine from Antiquity to the Enlightenment’ taking place at University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is hosting an international conference – Alchemy and Medicine from Antiquity to the Enlightenment – which will include over 25 papes ranging from the ancient Greeks to the alchemical remedies of the fifteenth-century English royal physician John Argentein. The meeting will be the first of its kind to bring together leading experts on medieval and Renaissance medicine, such as Nancy Siraisi, recipient of a prestigious MacArthur grant at City University of New York, with the world’s foremost alchemy scholars, including William Newman, based at Indiana University and an expert on Isaac Newton’s alchemy.

The meeting will also reveal new findings by junior scholars – from Gabriele Ferrario, who is literally piecing together the secrets of Hebrew alchemy from fragments of manuscripts in Cambridge University’s Genizah collection, to Tuna Artun, a PhD student at Princeton University, who is tracing alchemy and medicine at the 17th-century Ottoman Court.

Click here to read this article from

Pages from history: the best of the Bodleian

Deep underground, 20ft below the sandy-coloured stones of Oxford, mile upon mile of shelves lie dusty and empty. The entire contents of the New Bodleian Library – one of the most ancient and precious collections in the world, founded by Thomas Bodley in 1598 – have vanished.

It is a sight to instil fear into any scholar. Four editions of the Magna Carta; the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays; and a document from the court of King Alfred that is reckoned to be the oldest in the English language. Three million books, a million maps, and countless priceless documents. All gone. But there is no need to worry: they have not been stolen, or teleported by culture-envying aliens. They have just been taken to Swindon.

Click here to read this article from The Telegraph

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Medieval seal from Stone Priory found in a Surrey field

A medieval seal thought to have once belonged to Stone Priory in north Staffordshire has been discovered in a field in Surrey. The bronze object, which bears the image of the Virgin and Child, was found in Cobham by a metal detector enthusiast.

Finds Liaison Officer for Surrey County Council, David Williams, said it was a "complete mystery" how the seal had ended up there.

It is thought to date from between the 13th and 14th Centuries. The seal is an oval shape and pointed at each end. It is about 7cm long, 5cm wide and weighs just 84 grams. In the image the child holds a book in this left hand and appears to be pointing upwards with his right.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Face of 14th-century Archbishop of Canterbury revealed

The face of Simon of Sudbury, the controversial former Archbishop of Canterbury, was revealed last week – 630 years after he met his grizzly end during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.

Using skeletal detail taken from his part-mummified skull, forensic artist Adrienne Barker from the University of Dundee has employed state-of-the-art reconstruction techniques to recreate Sudbury’s facial features and complete a series of 3-D bronze-resin casts of his head. The skull has been kept at St Gregory’s Church at Sudbury in Suffolk for more than six centuries.

Click here to read this article from

Researchers look to ancient art to study Mediterranean Fish

The dusky grouper has been a popular target for Mediterranean fishermen since prehistoric times – their bones have been found in human settlements dating back more than 100,000 years. It’s a slow growing, flavourful and, with the advent of modern sport fishing, endangered species.

In an effort to reverse the decline of multiple species, including groupers, a number of no-take marine reserves have been established across the Mediterranean. But it’s proven difficult to evaluate the success of these protected areas precisely because humans have had an impact on the species for so long. Ideally, reserve biologists would compare modern fish to groupers hundreds or thousands of years ago, before the advent of large-scale commercial fishing.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Baylor Undergrad Students Get Rare Chance for In-Person Research on Ancient Manuscripts

Fragments of ancient, rare manuscripts of Greek classical poetry, Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian Scriptures are being retrieved from papier-mâché-like mummy wrappings on loan to Baylor University — all part of an international project that will give undergraduate humanities students rare hands-on research.

The project, called the Green Scholars Initiative, eventually will include more than 100 universities, with Baylor University as the primary academic research partner. Professor-mentors will guide students through research and publication of articles about rare and unpublished documents, among them an ancient Egyptian dowry contract on loan to Kent State University and an ancient papyrus of Greek statesman Demosthenes’ famed “On the Crown” Speech, said Dr. Jerry Pattengale, initiative director and a Distinguished Senior Fellow with Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

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

India's $22B treasure trove has great 'archeological significance': expert

While one of India's richest temples is garnering worldwide attention for its estimated $22-billion treasure trove, a Canadian researcher says archeologists, scholars, economists and even jewellers are eager to flock to the site to study its historical impact.

The haul from the underground chambers of a medieval Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, India, included enormous quantities of gold coins dating back to the era of French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, and silk bundles full of diamonds, jewelry and Belgian gold — all artifacts that could help researchers paint of a picture of what world trade looked like between the 16th and 19th century, said Amitava Chowdhury, a Queen's University history professor who was an archeologist in Mauritius for several years.

"This finding showed the kind of international trade in billions of precious items, the evolution of jewelry and stone cutting, coins from all over the world. As an archeologist, what's interesting to me is what you can find out about various cultures based on these precious commodities," he said.

Click here to read this article from PostMedia News

Oxford scanner reveals secrets of documents, ancient and modern

A scanner which combines the convenience of a desktop scanner with the functionality of a powerful laboratory imaging device has been developed at the University of Oxford’s Classics Department, and is now being commercialised by a new company Oxford Multi Spectral Limited which was today spun out by the University’s technology transfer company Isis Innovation.

The scanner was developed for imaging ancient papyri and the technology has been used to successfully scan, restore and archive over a quarter of a million historically significant manuscripts.

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

Sword discovered in Japan was forged in the year 570

An ancient sword bearing kanji characters that show the year 570 according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle has been unearthed from an ancient burial mound here, the local education board announced on Sept. 21.

The discovery made by the Fukuoka Municipal Board of Education is consistent with the Chronicles of Japan, one of Japan's oldest history books, which says Japan imported the Chinese calendar from Paekche, one of the countries that existed on the Korean Peninsula.

It is an epoch-making discovery in that it is the oldest item showing that Japan used a calendar in ancient times.

It was the seventh sword with inscriptions of characters excavated from an ancient burial mound, and fourth with the inscriptions of characters indicating years. All the previous ones had been discovered before the 1980s.

Click here to read this article from the Mainichi Daily News

Scholar examines alchemy mystery from 16th-century England

It involves a printer, the far-reaching power of a monarch, possible censorship, three English alchemists dedicated to uncovering the secret of transmutation and a whole lot of unanswered questions. Earlier this summer, Dr. Teresa Burns, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Humanities professor, presented a paper at the Western Michigan University International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo that helps to unravel a 16th-century mystery.

Burns’ topic, which examined the link between the 1591 publication and suppression of the first English printing of George Ripley’s “Compound of Alchemy” and what may have ended a planned long-distance partnership between John Dee and Edward Kelley just a few weeks after it began, was sponsored by Societas Alchimica, a society affiliated with UW-Platteville and led by Burns and colleague Dr. Nancy Turner as vice president and president respectively.

Click here to read this article from Early Modern England

Medieval Art Treasures expected to sell between € 2-3 million at auction

A collection of medieval items dating back to the 10th century will be going up for auction in Paris in November. The medieval treasures, which include ivories, enamels, gilt-bronze, an illuminated Gothic manuscript and pressed leather cutlery cases, are expected to raise between € 2-3 million.

The medieval works of art in the Collection of Jean-Joseph Marquet de Vasselot (1871-1946) were in large part inherited from his father-in-law Victor Prosper Martin Le Roy (1842-1918) who put together a magnificent grouping at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th centuries in France. The sale includes exceptional pieces, acquired from the most eminent collections of art of the 19th century among them Frédéric Spitzer, Michel Boy and Eugène Piot. The magnificent works of art assembled by Martin le Roy was studied and later enriched by his son-in-law, Jean-Joseph Marquet de Vasselot, French art historian, curator at the Louvre and director of the Cluny Museum. His expertise as a scholar was highly regarded and supported by major publications about tapestries and medieval enamels. It was in 1906 that he undertook the publication of the Catalogue raisonné in five volumes of the Collection of Martin le Roy with the intention of making it possible for scholars to discover the treasures that the collection contained.

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Interview with Mike Ryan, University of New Mexico

Associate Professor of History Mike Ryan will join UNM’s Institute of Medieval Studies after leaving a tenured position at Purdue University in Indiana.

His new UNM office is filled to the brim with books on everything from medieval sorcery to the practices of ancient Christianity.

The largest piece of art in the room is called “The Triumph of Death,” and it depicts the myriad ways a person could die in the early modern age. Ryan said he celebrated the publishing of his book, A Kingdom of Stargazers: Astrology and Authority in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon, by getting a sleeve tattoo of a 14th-century French translation of an early medieval text called “On the Properties of Things.”

Click here to read the interview with Professor Ryan from The Daily Lobo

Coventry cathedral ruins in danger of collapse

Parts of Coventry's cathedral ruins are in danger of collapse, the site's director has said.

An urgent fundraising campaign has been started to raise money to repair the weather-damaged wall adjoining Bayley Lane, currently held up by scaffolding. The estimated cost of repair to the structurally-unsafe 14th Century building is £250,000.

Cathedral executive director, Jane Woodward, said a crack had "suddenly appeared" through part of the stone. She added: "You could see daylight through the crack, so we took immediate steps to put scaffolding up and the road had to be closed. We carry out an ongoing survey of the cathedral but this damage has taken us by surprise and it's very upsetting."

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tulane University offers course on 'Medieval New Orleans'

A “persistent presence of the Middle Ages” exists in New Orleans, says Michael Kuczynski, a medieval scholar and associate professor of English. Kuczynski teaches Medieval New Orleans, a Tulane InterDisciplinary Experience Seminar designed to introduce first-year students to the city’s medieval connections.

From handling a Bible that was printed in Strasbourg in the 15th century and is now housed in Rare Books in Special Collections of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library to hearing tunes authentically played by Musica da Camera, an ensemble dedicated to performing medieval music, students experience up close the city’s link to the literature and culture of a faraway time.

Kuczynski’s course examines the 19th– and 20th–century medieval revival that influenced iconic New Orleans cultural institutions such as Mardi Gras, the “festival of fools,” and the Richardson Romanesque–style architecture of Gibson, Tilton and Norman Mayer halls on the Tulane campus.

Click here to read this article from Tulane University

14th-century Samurai battle wounds discovered by scientists

Films like Seven Samurai, Ran and Heaven and Earth have made Japan’s historic Samurai warriors famous But now, their skeletons have been examined in forensic detail by Japanese and British scientists.

A leading British specialist in forensic anthropology has been investigating battle wounds sustained by medieval Japanese warriors almost 700 years ago. Working with Japanese colleagues, Dr Michael Wysocki of the University of Central Lancashire’s School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, has found evidence of sword and arrow wounds, ritualized coup de grace death blows, and even evidence of Samurai heads being taken as trophies by their enemies.

The newly analysed evidence, which was presented by Britain’s Channel 4 in a documentary called Samurai: Back From The Dead earlier this week, shed important new light on the origins of Japan’s Samurai warrior tradition.

Click here to read this article from

Italian scientists go on trial over L'Aquila quake

A group of Italian scientists went on trial Tuesday for failing to predict an earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy in 2009 despite signs of increased seismic activity in the area.

The seven defendants -- six scientists and one government official -- are accused of manslaughter in a case that some see as an unfair indictment of science.

Prosecutors say residents around the city of L'Aquila in the mountainous Abruzzo region should have been warned to flee their homes in the days before the quake. "We simply want justice," L'Aquila prosecutor Alfredo Rossini told reporters.

The injured parties are asking for 50 million euros ($68 million) in damages.

Click here to read this article from AFP

Click here to read an earlier article about the earthquake

Medieval residential area found at Bulgaria’s Assen’s Fortress

A team of more than 20 archaeologists that has been clearing vegetation on the eastern side of Assen’s Fortress in Bulgaria’s Rhodope mountains has uncovered the remains of a medieval residential area adjoining the fortress.

Excavations at the site began after a nearly 15-year lull, after the Culture Ministry allocated 30 000 leva, television station bTV said.

Rositsa Moreva, who has been supervising the current study of the site, said that the residential premises appeared to have been for soldiers and their families. The garrison was at the fortress to guard the strategically-important point of access to a route to the Aegean.

Click here to read this article the Sofia Echo

Medieval home with extraordinary history up for sale

A medieval home with an extraordinary history has been put back on the market after being lovingly renovated and could be yours for just £1.3 million.

The roots of Dame Annis house, which now stands at Burgh Heath Road in Epsom, dates back to the 15th century when it was originally a grade II listed farm in Fyfield, Essex called Dame Anna’s.

In 1920 its owner was Dr Culmer, a horse-racing fan who had dreamt of moving to Epsom but could not find a property to match the charm of his 15th century farmhouse.

Click here to read this article from This is London Local

Friday, September 16, 2011

Medieval Irish had their own ways to stop the undead

Two skeletons discovered with large stones wedged into their mouths, were buried in this way around 1300 years ago to stop them rising from their graves to haunt the living, according to new documentary featuring the work of archaeologists from the Institue of Technology Sligo and St.Louis University.

Such “deviant burials” are associated with vampires and also with revenants or ghosts who were believed to come back among the living, unless steps were taken to contain them in their graves.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kelly DeVries begins teaching at The Citadel

Kelly DeVries, a distinguished military historian of the European Middle Ages, is the new Mark Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Citadel, a military college located in South Carolina.

“We are extremely pleased and honored that one of the world’s foremost experts on medieval warfare will spend this year sharing with our students and community his extraordinary knowledge of armed conflict and the medieval world,” said Keith Knapp, head of the Department of History.

Click here to read this article from

The 800-year-old story of Stourbridge Fair

In the month of September, Stourbridge Common on the outskirts of Cambridge is a lush and pleasant water meadow, frequented by dog walkers, morning joggers and nonchalantly masticating cattle. Scroll back to this very spot several hundred years ago and the air would have been rich with the sounds of tradesmen’s animated chatter, the sawing and hammering of timber, and travelling people tramping down the rough road. Barges and wherries laden with goods would have replaced the sleek college eights skimming the River Cam. Out on the field, carefully measured rows of wooden booths were multiplying, assembling the streets of the most renowned medieval hub of trade, entertainment and revelry: Stourbridge Fair.

For hundreds of years the area known as Stourbridge Common was home to possibly the largest fair of medieval Europe; now all that remains is just a scattering of street names in the east of Cambridge. Garlic row, Mercers Row and Oyster Row are tastes of the huge range of produce bought and sold at this momentous annual event.

The Fair dates back 800 years to 1211, when King John issued a Royal Charter giving the Leper Chapel at Steresbrigge the right to hold a small fund-raising fete. Built on the boundary of Cambridge, the Chapel was part of an abbey that provided care for Cambridge town’s sick and contagious. Growing steadily, the Fair became immensely popular and enticed crowds from all over the country: craftsmen, tradesmen, travellers, nobility, intellectuals, and some of the most famous names in history. For a few weeks a year, it transformed this grazing common into a lively, industrious destination. In 18th century writer Daniel Defoe’s words, Stourbridge Fair became “not only the greatest in the whole nation, but in the world”.

Click here to read this article from the University of Cambridge

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Academic says William Wallace was rebellion 'co-leader'

William Wallace was no more than a "co-leader" in events which sparked a Scottish uprising against Edward I in 1297, a historian has claimed.

Professor Dauvit Broun argues that the killing of the Sheriff of Lanark was as much down to a knight called Richard of Lundie, as it was by Wallace.

He said Wallace's status was cemented by others' death, capture or surrender.

The University of Glasgow academic's claims appear in an article published on the website Breaking of Britain.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to read the article: New information on the Guardians’ appointment in 1286 and on Wallace’s rising in 1297

Interview: Tom Holland on Ancient Rome

How accurate is what we think we know about the Romans? The author of Rubicon tells us about the exercise of power, the staging of ceremony and the influence of religion in ancient Rome.

When you are adapting Latin texts for use by the BBC, how do you go about bringing them to life for today’s audience?

The thing about adapting the texts is that the framework is there for you. Essentially, all that you are doing is a glorified cutting job. But you have to cut it in such a way that preserves both the structure of the narrative and those episodes within it that will give the listener, who may not be familiar with the text, some sense of the reason why it is so powerful and the reason why it has had the impact not just over the centuries but also over the millennia. Obviously it is harder to adapt a classical text than it is, say, a 19th century novel, simply because we are further removed from the Roman world.

Click here to read the rest of the interview from The Browser

Byzantine-era anchor found in Israel might shed light on ancient sailing

The recent discovery by Israeli lifeguards of three ancient iron anchors might help archaeologists understand more about ancient sailing and lead to the discovery of an unknown anchorage site.

Lifeguards at a Bat Yam city beach, south of Tel Aviv, came across the first 300 kg, two-meter-tall anchor after spotting it submerged in shallow waters, 30 meters offshore.

Though the lifeguards initially thought it to be a modern artifact, they contacted the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) after suspecting that it might, in fact, be an archaeological find.

An IAA marine archaeologist confirmed that the find was about 1,700-1,400 years old, belonging to the Byzantine era.

Click here to read this article from the Xinhua News Agency

Byzantine mansion, Roman Villa discovered in Antioch

The ruins of a Byzantine mansion belonging to a pontiff and a Roman villa have been unearthed in a recent excavation being carried out in the ancient Pisidian city of Antioch in Yalvaç, Isparta.

Archaeologists underline that the wall paintings discovered in both structures were of high quality, only comparable to the quality of the paintings found in Rome and Pompeii. The excavation is being conducted by Süleyman Demirel University's Department of Archeology in Pisidian Antioch, an ancient city in Yalvaç, and is almost complete. Assistant Professor Mehmet Özhanlı from the university's Department of Archeology, who is supervising the dig, said in a statement to the Anatolian news agency that they had discovered the mansion of a Byzantine pontiff and a villa from the Roman period in a hill known as Vicus Aedilicus.

Click here to read this article from Today's Zaman

Call for Papers and Sessions: Prophecy, Divination, Apocalypse

Plymouth State University
33rd Annual Medieval and Renaissance Forum
Friday and Saturday April 20-21, 2012

Call for Papers and Sessions: “Prophecy, Divination, Apocalypse”

We invite abstracts in medieval and Early Modern studies that consider how prophecy and divination functioned in personal, political, religious, and aesthetic realms. How did ideas about the future impact the present? Papers need not be confined to the theme but may cover many aspects of medieval and Renaissance life, literature, languages, art, philosophy, theology, history and music.

Click here to read this call for papers from

Monday, September 12, 2011

Looking for Leonardo, With Camera in Hand

For decades scholars have labored to find a lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, believed by many to be hidden behind a fresco by Giorgio Vasari in the Palazzo Vecchio here. Now — thanks to an unusual marriage of art history and nuclear physics, partly arranged by an unassuming freelance photographer — the quest may soon be over.

Better yet, it may end with a photographic image of the lost mural.

The complex tale begins in the 1970s, when the Florentine art historian Maurizio Seracini became convinced that the mural, “The Battle of Anghiari,” hailed by some in Leonardo’s era as his finest work, was lurking behind the wall-sized Vasari in the Hall of Five Hundred, for centuries the seat of Florence’s government.

With its violent, bucking horses and bloodthirsty soldiers brandishing swords in the scrum of warfare, “The Battle of Anghiari,” which Leonardo began in 1505 and appears to have abandoned the following year, was hailed as a triumph and copied by many artists until it mysteriously disappeared sometime in the mid-16th century. (A well-known Rubens drawing in the Louvre was inspired by an anonymous copy of the wall-size battle scene.)

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Wonders of the medieval world

Medieval Europe is often portrayed as a dark time of pestilence, filth, violence, intolerance and ignorance -- a disconnect between the splendor of the Roman empire and the cultural explosion of humanism during the Renaissance. The truth is far more complicated.

Geniuses like Fibonacci, Averroes, Aquinas and Dante didn't exist in a vacuum. Universities that are still in existence today were founded during this time, Aristotle was revived, books came into their own, and the mathematical and scientific advances of the Muslim world filtered into art, design and architecture from the periphery of the continent. These 11 spots reveal a glimpse of the cultural and artistic splendor of the Middle Ages. You can find more medieval travel spots on Trazzler.

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, September 10, 2011

China's Great Wall features parallel walls: archaeologist

Although many people believe that China's Great Wall is a single continuous structure, a Chinese archaeologist has stated that the wall actually features multiple parallel walls near several of its sections.

Surveys of several sections of the Great Wall have uncovered sections featuring two to three smaller walls built parallel to the main wall, smashing the preexisting idea that the wall was built as a single continuous extension, according to Duan Jingbo, the director of a surveying team in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Duan, who is also a professor at Shaanxi's Northwest University, said that a section of the wall located in Shaanxi is actually composed of two parallel walls. This type of construction allowed military leaders to garrison troops more effectively, increasing the defensive power of the wall, according to the professor.

Click here to read the full article from the Xinhua News Agency

Life in a medieval home

Shandy Hall is a good example of a late medieval timber-framed hall, built around 1430.

Shandy Hall is a bit like a museum, but charting the house's own history is difficult. The architectural scholar Nikolaus Pevsner reckoned it was built in the 17th century, but he was wrong, probably because he didn't have access to the inside. In fact, the building is a symmetrical, timber-framed hall built around 1430. The roof rafters show signs of the fire that would have been in the centre of the house, and through a hatch in the kitchen you can see the medieval outside wall.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Architecture: Early medieval survivors

Because early medieval domestic buildings were usually made of wood, only the stone edifices raised for Christianity and military protection remain, says Rosemary Hill.

At the heart of the Old English epic poem Beowulf is Heorot, the splendid mead hall built by King Hrothgar to celebrate his victories in war. With its throne room, its patterned floor and its wide and towering gables, this was "the hall of halls", full of feasting and harping but, the poet adds ominously, "awaiting a barbarous burning". Such was the fate of most Anglo-Saxon architecture. Wood was plentiful in northern Europe and cheaper than stone, so houses, even those as grand as Hrothgar's, were built of timber and burned easily and often. Beyond the hints in Beowulf and the remains of halls that archaeologists have found at Cheddar and at Yeavering in Northumberland, the story of early British architecture is almost entirely told through the churches and monasteries for which stone was used. That story begins in the late sixth century with the re-introduction of Christianity and the arrival of St Augustine.

At first it was a matter of make do and mend rather than creativity. Augustine's first church in Canterbury was patched together from an existing Roman one and was in turn swept away by the later cathedral.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Conference: Emerging Normativities: Examining the Formation of Proto-­Orthodox Christianities and Rabbinic Judaisms 200 -­ 800 CE

According to Simon Lasair, the prevalent belief in religious circles for centuries was that Christianity somehow replaced Judaism. More recently, scholars have come to believe that Christianity and Judaism evolved together and in conversation with each another.

That is the topic of a conference being organized by Lasair, who is a special lecturer in Judaic studies at St. Thomas More College. Titled Emerging Normativities, the two-day conference will examine the formative period of Judaism and Christianity from AD 200 to AD 800.

"Some of the issues surrounding this new line of thought emerged about 15 years ago," Lasair says. "The capstone was the release of Borderlines, a book by Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley."

Boyarin will be a lecturer at the conference. "The old view that Christianity replaced Judaism was prevalent until the mid20th century," Lasair says. "It was held primarily by Protestant New Testament scholars, and some believe it contributed to the Holocaust. After (the Second World War), New Testament scholars, as well as Jewish scholars, wanted to see if that was true. The joint effort resulted in this new view when scholars realized that Judaism and Christianity have been in conversation throughout most of history, beginning in the first few centuries after the time of Jesus."

Click here to read this article from the Saskatoon StarPheonix

Click here to read the conference program

Friday, September 09, 2011

Kells wants its famous book back, but Trinity says no

The town of Kells in Co. Meath wants its book back ... the famous Book of Kells. A campaign has got under way to secure the return of one of the four volumes of the famous priceless works of art.

Campaigners say that the Co Meath town is the rightful home for at least some of the book. But Trinity College, where it is currently housed, has rejected the town's request.

Written by monks around 800 AD, the book disappeared when Oliver Cromwell's army arrived in Kells in 1654. It was given to Trinity six years later and has been there since.

Click here to read this article from the Irish Independent

Writer found a gateway to the medieval world close to home

Cassandra Clark tells Sarah Freeman how growing up in East Yorkshire inspired her acclaimed series of medieval mysteries.

Cassandra Clark is on something of a mission. While Britain of the medieval age is often painted as a pretty lawless, disease-ridden place to live, the author of the popular Hildegard series is hoping that along with selling a few copies of her books, she will also bust a few myths.

“Generally when you read anything about that period it is always about the depressing domestic squalor and disease,” says Cassandra, whose third book in the series, The Law of Angels is out later this month. “However, the truth is rather different, they were actually a pretty civilised bunch. They listened to music, often wore wonderful clothes and the towns were very orderly places. Dare I say it, but it wasn’t that much different to today..

Click here to read this article from the Yorkshire Post

Vernon Manuscript aims to unlock West Midlands accent origins

Experts at the University of Birmingham are using a 600-year-old medieval manuscript to try to unlock the origins of the West Midlands accent.

The Vernon Manuscript, which dates back to about 1400, was written in the region's dialect. University researchers are asking local people to record parts of the text at a series of events.

They can then look at how the dialect has changed over time and what aspects are still used today.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dozens of medieval finds reported in this year’s Treasure Trove of Scotland

The Scottish government has released the latest annual Treasure Trove report, which reveals several dozen new finds from the medieval period. The report, which covers the period 1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011, details some of the exciting new archaeological finds and payments given out to people who discovered these historical artifacts.

Catherine Dyer, the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, said, “The Report confirms that this has been another magnificent year with some outstanding finds being reported, preserved and displayed in breathtaking museum collections around Scotland. Once again I would like to praise the dedicated work of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel, the National Museums of Scotland, the Treasure Trove Unit and the QLTR office. Thanks should also be given to the hundreds of members of the public who report their finds and in doing so assist in preserving the history of Scotland for all to enjoy.”

Click here to read this article from

Medieval ‘treasure’ found near Ripon

An intricately-carved medieval ring discovered near Ripon is an important archaeological find which qualifies as “treasure”, a coroner has ruled.

The piece was found by metal detectorist Lindsey Holland close to Ripon on May 16, 2010 and sent to the British Museum.

In a report to North Yorkshire coroner Rob Turnbull, experts from the museum described the find as an oval silver-gilt seal matrix which would have formed the bezel, or top part, of a finger-ring dating from the 13th or 14th centuries.

Click here to read this article from the Ripon Gazette

Call for Papers: Gothic Ivory Sculpture: Old Questions, New Directions

Conference: Gothic Ivory Sculpture: Old Questions, New Directions

Friday 23rd March 2012, Sackler Centre, Victoria and Albert Museum

Proposals are invited for papers to be presented at this one-day conference, jointly organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Courtauld Gothic Ivories Project, to be held at the V&A in 2012. The papers will be presented in three sessions, each composed of three speakers, with papers lasting twenty minutes.

Click here to read the full Call for Papers at

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

What’s new with ancient Jerusalem?

The 12th Annual City of David Archaeology Conference, the largest of its kind in Israel, is set to take place this Thursday at the City of David. This open-air conference is dedicated entirely to current research about Jerusalem and the City of David and will bring together world renowned experts and 1,400 fans of Jerusalem and its antiquities.

The conference takes place in Hebrew but many Anglos are expected to attend. In honor of the event, the excavation sites at the City of David will be open, and conference-goers will be given the rare opportunity to take a peek at the rigorous field work.

The most senior tour guides will give tours of the various sites including the Herodian Road, the hidden tunnel that leads from the City of David up to the Western Wall. A highlight of this year’s conference is the display of the recently discovered golden bell from the Second Temple period.

Click here to read this article from the Jerusalem Post

Welsh castle set to reopen after 50 years

The secrets of Swansea Castle are set to be revealed for the first time in nearly 50 years this week. More than 700 people will enter the historic landmark in the city centre on Friday and Saturday as part of the nationwide Open Door scheme.

Visitors to the tour, which has sold out, will be able to explore the first floor of the medieval castle, cellars, and the 18th century prison cells.

Inspector of ancient monuments at heritage organisation Cadw, Rick Turner, said: "We have owned the ruins of the castle since 1961 and over the past year there has been a lot of co-operation between Swansea Council and us to realise the potential of the building and the area as well.

"We are confident in opening up the castle on Friday and I am sure if it is successful, there will be more events like it. There is an awful lot of building here to see."

Click here to read this article from the South Wales Evening Post

Universities of Chester and Exeter receives €1.2 million to research medieval history of England and Wales

Historians and archaeologists from the University of Chester and the University of Exeter have received €1.2 million in funding for a new project that will explore the changing significance of memory in medieval and modern England and Wales.

The universities announced the grant from European Research Council (ERC) yesterday. It goes towards the project, titled ‘The Past in its Place: Histories of Memory in English and Welsh Locales’, which aims to delve into archaeological, historical and literary perspectives of memory by exploring churches, ancient monuments and distinctive local landscapes.

Click here to read this article from

etty Museum acquires 13th century Bible

The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired the Abbey Bible, a 13th-century Italian book that is considered to be an important example of Gothic era illuminated manuscripts. The medieval Bible is named for a previous owner, who was a celebrated collector of Italian manuscripts.

Produced for the use of a Dominican monastery, the Abbey Bible is one of the earliest and finest in a distinguished group of north Italian Bibles from the second half of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, most of which have come to be associated with Bologna, one of the major centers for the production of Gothic illuminated Bibles. Its illumination is a superb example of the Byzantine style of the eastern Mediterranean that played such a dominant role in Italian painting and manuscript illumination in the second half of the thirteenth century.

Click here to read this article from

Scotland's graffiti castle stands for conservation debate

A graffiti project on an old Scottish castle has become more popular than expected. Should it be removed for the sake of preserving the historic building?

Kelburn Castle is just like hundreds of other old Scottish castles with its quaint turrets, grand estate and earl-in-residence - except that one of its outer walls displays a bright psychedelic graffiti mural which has reignited the debate over how Europeans preserve their old buildings.

The Earl of Glasgow, whose family has occupied the castle for the last 800 years, invited four Brazilian graffiti artists to create a work of art on one of the walls in 2007 as a temporary measure. The so-called Graffiti Project involved 1,500 cans of spray paint to decorate the 13th-century castle. It put Kelburn Castle, which lies near the seaside town of Largs on Scotland's west coast, into the top 10 worldwide examples of street art - on the same list as Banksy's work in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro's Favela Morro da Providencia.

Click here to read this article from Deutsche Welle

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Notre Dame announces first chair in Byzantine Studies

The University of Notre Dame has established an endowed chair in Byzantine Theology. The position, which will focus on the theology of the medieval Greek-speaking church, will be named in honor of Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.

The Archbishop Demetrios Professorship in Byzantine Theology is a central component of the University’s efforts to expand the scope of its renowned Medieval Institute — which was the first of its kind in the United States — to include teaching and research on the Eastern Roman Empire. The chairholder will be a member of the Department of Theology, as well as of the Medieval Institute. The Department, which includes more than 50 full-time faculty members, is known throughout the English-speaking world for its strength in a variety of fields, especially patristic and medieval theology.

Click here to read this article from

Ovide moralisé to be translated from Old French to English

The 14th-century text Ovide moralisé will be translated into English by Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, of Baylor University. She has received a $210,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to make this seminal work available to a broad audience in the humanities and popular readers for the first time.

“It is so rewarding and exciting to have the NEH to support our work in this area,” Murray said. “I’m hoping it is only the beginning of a long-term relationship with the NEH and other funded projects.”

The Ovide moralisé (or Moralized Ovid) occupies a strategic place in the intellectual tradition of Western Europe. Composed at the beginning of the 14th century in France, it offers readers a complete verse translation and adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (approximately 12,000 lines) in Old French, as well as more than 60,000 lines of philosophical and theological commentary.

Click here to read this article from

Cornwall: Archaeological finds of national importance

A bigger picture of what life was like 1,300 years ago for people living on the Lizard is emerging at Gunwalloe.

Archaeological work in the area has been described by the National Trust as being of national importance.

The trust said: "Gunwalloe has for over 60 years captured the interest and imagination of local residents and archaeologists who have seen archaeological features eroding out of the cliff face from the beach below.

"The archaeological remains recorded so far belong to a possible early medieval settlement in the sand dunes dating to between the 7th and 9th centuries.

"This site is of great importance as only one other settlement of this date has been excavated in Cornwall which makes it of national significance in understanding this period."

Click here to read this article from This is Cornwall

Medieval remains discovered at Cambridgeshire pub

Human remains believed to be from medieval times have been discovered at the Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge.

Extensive work is underway to renovate the historic pub near Duxford during which two burial sites dating back to up to 700 years ago were discovered.

This prompted Cambridge University’s archaeological unit to be called to excavate the site, originally founded as a priory in the 13th century.

Click here to read this article from Cambridge First

Monday, September 05, 2011

School for Roman Gladiators discovered in Austria

A sensational discovery has been made by an international team from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI-ArchPro), together with the Archaeological Park Carnuntum, using state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar devices. After a few hours of scanning, the interdisciplinary team has discovered a unique Roman building complex at Roman Carnuntum, 20 km east of Vienna in Austria and this will shed new light on how Roman gladiators lived and died in the provinces alongside the river Danube.

As the gladiators’ training and living quarters next to the Amphitheatre of the civilian city of Carnuntum (Petronell-Carnuntum), the newly discovered gladiator school has such clearly defined building structures that it can only be compared at the moment with the Amphitheatrum Flavium and Ludus Magnus in Rome.

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

Claims of Mass Libyan Looting Rejected by Archaeologists

Archaeologists in contact with colleagues in Libya say that their nation's antiquities appear safe despite the chaos in the country. That news is contrary to reports earlier this week, which claimed that Libya's museums were being plundered and sites destroyed in NATO bombing raids. Libya boasts a host of ancient Phoenician and Roman sites, as well as major collections of ancient artifacts in Tripoli's Jamahiriya Museum and other smaller museums around the country. So the claims of damage prompted fears of a replay of Baghdad in 2003, when the famous Iraq Museum was looted. But Western archaeologists and Libyan sources say that there is no evidence that such destruction is taking place.

"The antiquities in the major sites are unscathed," says Hafed Walda, an archaeologist at King's College London, who has been in frequent contact with his Libyan colleagues during the recent arrival of rebels in the capital city last week. "But a few sites in the interior sustained minor damage and are in need of assessments." As for Tripoli's museum, located in the city's Red Castle, "it has been protected very well."

Click here to read this article from Science Insider

Friday, September 02, 2011

Who says history can’t be fun?! chats with Simon Bradbury about the medieval gaming world of Stronghold III

How did you get into video game creation?

My first game was a side scrolling arcade game called Elf – back in 1985 – in the days when the whole game could be made in 3 months by 2 people ! I have programmed and designed many genres of games but soon settled on strategy games as the area the really grabbed me. In the 90s I worked as a freelance designer/coder on several strategy games such as the Caesar (think SimCity in Rome!), in 1999 I set up Firefly with Eric Ouellette and 2 ½ years later launched what is now our obsession, “Stronghold”.

Click here to read the full interview from

Remains of horses and chariots unearthed from tomb dating back to 3,000-year-old Chinese dynasty

It could have been as early as 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ that these horses were moved on to greener pastures - and no one has laid eyes on them until now.

Archaeologists have painstakingly uncovered the almost 3,000-year-old remains of horses and wooden chariots in a Zhou Dynasty tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, China. The completed excavation unearthed four horse-and-chariot pits, dating back as far as 770BC.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

“In the Beginning Was the Word”: Medieval Gospel Illumination exhibition at The Getty

The J. Paul Getty Museum has unveiled its latest exhibition earlier this week, which gives visitors the opportunity to see how the four gospels were seen in the Middle Ages. Drawing primarily from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, “In the Beginning Was the Word”: Medieval Gospel Illumination, began on August 30th and goes until November 27, 2011. It examines the decoration associated with the Gospels, including portraits of the four Evangelists, and explores the varied approaches to illustrating the life of Christ.

“The Gospels were considered of paramount importance and were richly decorated throughout the Middle Ages,” says Kristen Collins, associate curator of manuscripts. “With examples ranging from England to Ethiopia, Byzantium, and Armenia, this exhibition traces the tradition of Gospel illumination in Christian art and worship.”

Click here to read this article from

Major Viking Exhibition and Conference at the County Museum, Dundalk, Ireland

Following the discovery of the Viking site in Annagassan last year, the County Museum, Dundalk has announced details of a major exhibition entitled Raiders, Traders and Innovators – The Vikings and County Louth. The exhibition will examine the impact that the Vikings had in the county, will open on Friday October 21st running to February 2012. Featuring objects from the National Museum and the County Museum’s own collection the exhibition will highlight the nature and extent of Viking activity under a variety of different topics during their period in the county. It will also feature the story behind the discovery and ultimate identification of the Linn Duachaill site in Annagassan.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, September 01, 2011

When pregnancy gets you out of a bad relationship – female slaves in medieval Spain

Recent research has uncovered that female slaves in the Spanish city of Valencia were using a novel way to escape their enslavement – they got pregnant with their master’s child. In the article “As if she were his wife”: Slavery and Sexual Ethics in Late Medieval Spain, Debra Blumenthal examines 33 cases found in the archives of the Spanish city between 1425 and 1520 where female slaves sued to get their freedom on the basis that they bore the children of their male masters.

One such case was a Russian woman named Rosa, who was purchased by Arnau Castello while he worked in the city of Naples. At the time, she was according to the archival records, “a pretty, young, white slave woman between eighteen and twenty years of age.” During their stay in Naples, and after they returned to Valencia, Rosa and Arnau were lovers, even after Arnau married. She bore him two children – Lucrecia and Julia, both of whom died in infancy. Later, in 1476, Rosa went to Valencia’s city courts to demand she be released from slavery, invoking local laws which stated, “Any Christian man who lies with his female slave and has a son or daughter by her, that son or daughter should immediately be baptized and both the mother and the son (or daughter) shall be free.”

Click here to read this article from

Extraordinary pictures of the 2,000 year old underground labyrinth where Jewish rebels hid from Roman soldiers

It is a long journey down into the dark - and back into the depths of history. But it certainly isn't a trip for the claustrophobic. The ancient tunnels of Hirbet Madras near the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, are so tight that they are almost impassable in places.

The sprawling underground labyrinth was dug by Jewish rebels fighting the Roman empire. Archaeologists believe some of the maze could date back to the first century BC. It is a fascinating part of history which attracts visitors from across Israel. But it is virtually unknown to foreigners.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Mail

See also Israel's rebel caves lead down to ancient wonders

Windsor Castle bans children under 11 climbing tower

Windsor Castle has banned children under the age of 11 from climbing its Round Tower, which recently reopened to the public after 36 years. Bosses put the age restriction in place after a health and safety assessment on the iconic 200-stone step tower.

A Windsor Castle spokesman said: "It was thought a child of 11 might be too short to reach the handrail."

Children up to 16 must also be accompanied by an adult when climbing the 215 ft (65.5m) medieval fortress.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

York: In English city, cleaning windows becomes a tourist draw

Helen Brower is a window cleaner and people pay five pounds ($7.25) an hour to watch her work.

Brower is one of a half dozen glaziers hired to clean and restore the world’s largest collection of medieval stained-glass windows. They festoon York Minster, one of Europe’s largest cathedrals and they need to be cleaned every 125 years.

More than 43 kilometres of scaffolding was erected to remove the world’s largest stained-glass window — called the Great East Window — in an end wall of the massive cathedral in the heart of this historic city in northern England.

Click here to read this article from the Toronto Star

Medieval artefacts hidden in church’s secret room

An ancient church in Beverley that dates back to the 12th Century has given the BBC access to a secret room hidden behind its altar.

The room inside St Mary's Church contains some unusual artefacts that would not be normally found inside a parish church including a scold's bridle, which was an iron muzzle used as a form of punishment, and an elaborate maiden's garland from the 17th Century.

Click here to see the video from the BBC