Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Alumna studies crossdressing saints at UPenn

Some may say that the world of academia is boring; those people probably aren’t studying crossdressing saints of the Middle Ages. The Young Alumni Lecture held Wednesday, Nov. 16 in the Science Complex Physics building featured Courtney Rydel, a former student of the College. Rydel is now studying to get her Ph.D in medieval literature, with a dissertation titled “Legendary Effects: Women Saints of the Legenda Aurea in England 1260-1563.” She reflected on her experiences in graduate school, giving advice to future graduate students and explaining her current research.

Rydel graduated from the College in 2006 with a B.A. in English. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rydel’s work explained the role of gender created in early English literature, using saints to demonstrate this phenomenon. These literary works revolved around female saints who posed as men, concealing their gender for different reasons, some more distinct than others. According to Rydel, this representation of gender surprised her, simply because it was such an early time period.

The idea of concealing one’s gender is not uncommon among great literary works, however. “People were always interested in this theme. It’s nothing new. It’s a trend that links up to being extraordinary,” Rydel said.

Click here to read this article from The Signal

Marmaray dig reveals Byzantine and Ottoman glasswork

Glasswork from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires has been discovered during the Marmaray excavations in Istanbul. Experts previously believed Ottomans did not develop a unique glasswork style.

Archaeologists have discovered unique glasswork from the Ottoman Empire for the first time in the Marmaray excavations Istanbul’s Sirkeci neighborhood, as well as 2,000 year-old glasswork from the Romans and Byzantines.

Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Doğuş University Industrial Designs Department Chairman Üzlifat Özgümüş said the excavations, which have gone on since 2007, were the world’s largest and the most important excavations.

Click here to read this article from Hurriyet Daily News

Interview with Jay Rubenstein - Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse

When he began looking at the First Crusade (1095-1099 ), Jay Rubenstein was expecting to write an academic paper or two demonstrating that the European Christians who answered the call of Pope Urban II to liberate Jerusalem from its Muslim rulers were motivated by something other than an apocalyptic vision. In fact, his research led Rubenstein, an associate professor of medieval history at the University of Tennessee, to write a highly accessible history of the First Crusade arguing that the nobles and peasants who fought the Crusade intended to usher in the End of Days and the return of Jesus Christ. In Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse (Basic Books; 448 pages, $30 ), Rubenstein tells the story of the blood-drenched, costly and logistically ambitious war from the point of view of those who conducted and experienced it, and the chronicles they left behind indeed suggest not only that they believed the Apocalypse was approaching, but that it had arrived.

Rubenstein, 44, grew up in Oklahoma, and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. His honors have included a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, and, in 2007, selection as a MacArthur Fellow, a lucrative honor that brings a grant of $500,000 over a five-year period. He spoke with Haaretz from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Click here to read this interview from Haaretz

Click here to read another interview with Professor Rubenstien from Metro Plus

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thirteenth-century Ivory of Virgin and Child sells for $8.5 million

An ivory of the Virgin and Child enthroned, made in Paris between 1250-1280, was sold at auction for $8.547.979 (US) earlier this month, a record price for a medieval art object.

The ivory was sold by Christie’s Paris auction house on November 16th to art dealer Sam Hogg, who was working on behalf of a private client. The medieval art piece was expected to bring in between €1-2 million.

Click here to read this article from

Christmas Cards with medieval images on sale from Bangor University

Those interested in sending Christmas Cards with a medieval theme might want to contact Bangor University. The Bangor Pontifical Project and Bangor Cathedral are selling the cards, which show a miniature of a bishop consecrating a church, and the decorated opening page of a special Mass celebrated during the Christmas season.

The two illustrations are from the unique medieval Bangor Pontifical Manuscript, or ‘Bishops Book’ copied and illustrated in around 1320, which contains the texts, music and services required for significant occasions when the bishop was present through the year. The Book once belonged to Anian II, Bishop of Bangor between 1309 and 1328.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, November 28, 2011

Medieval records of the Church Courts of York now online

Fascinating records from the Church Courts of York are now available on-line at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, allowing historians new insights into a huge variety of topics over many centuries.

From arguments about church taxes on liquorice, roses and pigeon dung, to families disputing wills and inheritance, the records paint a vivid picture of the social, economic, political, religious and emotional world of people living in a period from the 14th to 19th centuries.

Digitisation of the York Cause Papers, which record the proceedings of the ecclesiastical courts of York from 1300 to 1858, has been funded through a grant from JISC, the UK’s technology consortium for higher and further education. The development means the papers are set to become one of the most widely-used historical records in the UK.

Click here to read this article from

Tithe Barn restoration wins conservation prize

A medieval barn in Nailsea, which has undergone a £1.2 million refurbishment, has won a top conservation award. The Tithe Barn has won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) People's Choice award.

RIBA asked people across the South West to vote for their favourite new building project, with the 15th century Tithe Barn beating the competition to take the main prize.

The competition is in its fourth year and the shortlist represented a broad selection of publicly accessible buildings across the South West.

RIBA South West Town And Country Design Awards look at the impact of new and converted built environment projects in both rural and urban settings.

Click here to read this article from This is Bristol

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin – review

The story is extraordinary. Even as the world was mired in medieval darkness, with the crushing hand of religion blocking all scientific inquiry, a lone genius named Fibonacci appeared on the shores of the Mediterranean. Through magnificent creative struggles, he discovered a number with near magical properties.

It is an infinite sequence that begins 1.61803… and is sometimes known as the Golden Ratio; sometimes as the Divine Proportion. Mathematicians symbolise it by the Greek letter phi, and it can be used to produce the most beautiful rectangle humans can recognise: one that already was understood when the Parthenon was designed and, in times to come, would be incorporated by Leonardo da Vinci in his greatest works of art. It appears today in the proportions even of the humble credit card.

Or so the internet, and many popular books, would have us believe. In fact, the man referred to in so many accounts, originally Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci came long after his death, from his family's name), was not much of a genius. Nor was he living in an age of ignorance. Nor does the shape that came to be associated with his name actually appear in Greek sculpture, or Renaissance art, or our Mastercards today.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Brilliance of Medieval England

The historian David Horspool says that we are wrong to think of medieval England as backward. It produced art, architecture and books - on display in a new British Library exhibition - of staggering sophistication.

There's a story in Peter Ackroyd's latest book, a history of medieval England called Foundation, about what one Englishman did to his sister, deformed since birth. Robert de Bramwyk "plunged her into a cauldron of hot water; then he took her out and began stamping on her limbs in order to straighten them."

To Ackroyd, "The records of madness evince some of the general qualities of the medieval mind." But do they? Could the same be said of modern Britain, that the activities of, say, the criminally insane are indicative of the way we Brits behave in general?

Click here to read this article from The Huffington Post

English-Language Companion to Chronicle of Henry of Livonia Published

The nearly 500-page volume, Crusading and Chronicle Writing on the Medieval Baltic Frontier, comprises materials from a conference held at the Tallinn University's Center of Medieval Studies in 2008 and aims to become a solid reference source on the 13th century chronicle of Henry of Livonia.

The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia, or Henricus Lettus, written by a missionary priest to record the history of the German crusades to Livonia and Estonia around 1186-1227, has become known as one of the most vivid literary examples of early 13th century crusading ideology.

Click here to read this article from Estonian Public Broadcasting

Friday, November 25, 2011

Deadly sins paintings revealed at Llancarfan church

Medieval wall paintings of five of the seven deadly sins are to be unveiled at a Vale of Glamorgan church following conservation work.

Depictions of greed, avarice, lust, sloth and pride have been uncovered in a £140,000, three-year project at St Cadoc's Church, Llancarfan.

An event on Friday will celebrate the rediscovery of the 15th Century wall paintings last seen in full in 1547.

Funding is being sought to uncover the two remaining sins - anger and envy.

Parishioners set up a conservation committee in 2008 when architects discovered a thin red line of ochre beneath more than 20 layers of limewash added over five centuries.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jerusalem’s Western Wall was completed after the reign of Herod, research finds

A ritual bath exposed beneath the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem shows that the construction of that wall was not completed during King Herod’s lifetime.

Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority: A ritual bath exposed beneath the Western Wall of the Temple Mount shows that the construction of that wall was not completed during King Herod’s lifetime.

Who built the Temple Mount walls? Every tour guide and every student grounded in the history of Jerusalem will immediately reply that it was Herod. However, in the archaeological excavations alongside the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem a very old ritual bath (miqwe) was recently discovered that challenges the conventional archaeological perception which regards Herod as being solely responsible for its construction.

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

Well discovered in Norwich could date back to the Middle Ages

A 25-metre well has been found next to a Norwich pub, and city historians believe it could be an important find.

A plumber discovered the well by the outside wall at the Trowel and Hammer in St Stephen’s Road, which has been undergoing a makeover.

The pub has been run by brothers Ilir and Ben Duraj for about six years and is
believed to date back to at least 1700.

Ilir Duraj said: “The plumber was doing the mains outside and suddenly came rushing in to tell everyone he had found this well. It was quite a surprise. We have measured it as about 25m deep and 2m wide.”

Click here to read this article from Norwich Evening News

£200,000 goes to monastic sites in eastern England

The Heritage Lottery Fund is spending almost £200,000 on two projects for medieval monasteries in eastern England – the first two discover excavate the site of Ramsey Abbey and the second to promote Wymondham Abbey.

Students at Abbey College will receive a £24,800 grant to carry out an archaeological dig to establish the outline of the lost Benedictine monastic buildings at Ramsey Abbey.

The monastic site, created in AD 960, was one of the richest ecclesiastical establishments in the Fens during the medieval period. Today, little of the Abbey survives above ground and the interpretation of the remains is subject to much debate.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval Archaeological finds reported at Tipton

Archaeologists from MetroMOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) have recently completed the excavation of a site in the West Midlands town of Tipton, which has yielded exciting new findings about the medieval origins of Tipton Green.

The project arose as a result of MetroMOLA’s partnership with Birmingham Archaeology, who had dug evaluation trenches on a site in Shrubbery Avenue, Tipton, in late 2010. Birmingham Archaeology made a recommendation for further excavation, as one of the trenches uncovered evidence of a substantial wall thought to represent the foundations of Tipton Green Hall, constructed c. 1400 by the Dudley family.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New book examines the medieval history of St Paul’s Cathedral

As the current St Paul’s building celebrates its 300th anniversary, the cathedral’s archaeologist John Schofield brings together the lives of its predecessors for the first time in one publication. St Paul’s Cathedral Before Wren, published this week by English Heritage, highlights the historical and religious importance of the cathedral and churchyard site over the course of its first 1000 years, allowing its buried buildings to rise from the roots of St Paul’s once again.

The book contains documents, surveys and early maps showing the development of the religious complex and illuminating the lives of its occupants. The account starts with the cathedral’s foundation in 604 AD. (It was popularly rumoured that a Roman temple of Diana was built on the site, but there is no evidence for this.) The main focus is on excavations and observations between 1969 and 2006, but discoveries dating from the time of Wren himself are included. One such example is the discovery of Roman pottery kilns by local apothecary and pioneering archaeologist John Conyers, as foundations for the new north transept were dug in 1677.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Researchers to use DNA to learn origins of Roman slaves

Using only a tooth, researchers at Idaho State University can help solve ancient archeological mysteries – for example, determining what someone ate hundreds of years ago on Easter Island or tracing the genetics of 2,000-year-old Roman slaves – by utilizing new technologies and methods.

“One single tooth from a skeleton can tell you a whole lot of things,” said John Dudgeon, Idaho State University anthropology assistant professor, who, among other duties, is the director of the ISU Anthropology-Biology Ancient DNA Extraction Laboratory.

Dudgeon, whose specialty is “bioarchaeology,” and his students can extract residues from teeth and other skeletal fragments, such as old or “ancient” DNA, stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen and microfossils of plants eaten by prehistoric people and animals, by using the DNA Extraction Laboratory, scanning electron microscopy and other advanced instrumentation in the ISU Center for Archaeology, Materials and Applied Spectroscopy.

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

Romulus and Remus symbol of Rome could be medieval replica

The symbol of Rome – a bronze she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the city – may be a medieval replica rather than a 2,500 year-old Etruscan creation, it was claimed yesterday.

The bronze statue, which encapsulates the mythical origins of the Eternal City, is one of the star attractions in Rome's Capitoline Museums and is reproduced on countless T-shirts, key rings and postcards.

It has always been claimed that it was forged in the fifth century BC during the Etruscan era, which predated the Roman republic and empire.

Five years ago it was subjected to carbon dating testing, which suggested that it may have been made during the Middle Ages.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Monday, November 21, 2011

Regency Medievalism and the Early-Romantic Guitar

Professor Christopher Page, a celebrated musician and musicologist, will be coming to the University of Bristol on Thursday [24 November] to give this year’s Tucker-Cruse Lecture in the Department of English.

The lecture, entitled ‘Regency Medievalism and the Early-Romantic Guitar’, will consider how the guitar, so favoured by amateur musicians among the nobility and gentry by 1830, came to be involved with a developing interest in the Middle Ages during the Regency period. It will be illustrated with an original guitar of circa 1825 and by the tenor Christopher Watson.

Click here to read this article from

Mystery of Dead Sea Scroll Authors Possibly Solved

The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience

Japan: Ancient metal workshop found near Nara's Heijo Palace

The remains of an ancient metal workshop believed to date back to around the 8th century has been found near the Heijo Palace site here, a research institute has announced.

The Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties said on Nov. 17 that the remains of a metal workshop were discovered some 130 meters southeast of the Heijo Palace's "Suzakumon" main gate. Although researchers could not determine the specific period when the metal workshop had been used, they believe the structure was in operation for a short time before the relocation of the nation's capital to Nara in 710. Nara was Japan's capital through 784.

Click here to read this article from the Mainichi Daily News

Traffic ban proposal for Westgate Towers in Canterbury

Plans to protect the medieval heritage of Canterbury by banning traffic passing through the Westgate Towers have been put forward.

The city council is considering creating a pedestrian zone around the grade-I listed towers. It said tourist coaches frequently misjudged the size of the archway and became stuck, eroding the brickwork.

Built in 1380, the structure is thought to be the largest surviving medieval gateway in the UK.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to read the St Dunstan's and Westgate Towers environmental improvements plans from Canterbury City Council

See also the earlier article Westgate Tower Museum in Canterbury is saved from closure

Protesters call on Getty to relinquish medieval manuscripts

About 30 protesters on Saturday called on the Getty Museum to return seven ornate pages from a sacred, medieval-era Armenian book considered to be a national treasure.

The protesters gathered outside the gates of the museum Saturday holding signs that read "Shame on Getty" and “Our history is not for sale" as Armenian church officials attempt to secure the pages, which they say were illegally obtained by the museum nearly two decades ago.

“It is a piece of culture taken away from us. It is a piece of our identity. It is a piece of our past,” said Glendale resident Rita Mahdessian.

Click here to read this article from the Burbank Leader

The Getty Museum is in a legal fight over Armenian Bible pages

The J. Paul Getty Trust failed Thursday to derail a lawsuit by the Armenian Orthodox Church that accuses the museum of harboring stolen illuminated medieval manuscripts — 755-year-old works that are masterpieces and, to the church, spiritually and historically sacred.

After a brief hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan denied the Getty's motion to dismiss the claim. The museum's attorneys argued that the deadline for filing the suit had passed decades ago under the statute of limitations. But the judge said that's "not clear" and ordered four months of mediation, scheduling a March 2 resumption if the case isn't settled.

At that point, the judge said, he might focus on the complicated history of the pages' journey from the Turkish region of Cilicia to America during and after the World War I-era Armenian genocide, in order to determine whether the suit filed last year meets the six-year statute of limitations.

Click here to read this article from the Los Angeles Times

Friday, November 18, 2011

First trailer released for Crusader Kings II

Paradox Interactive has released the first in a series of seven live-action trailers for medieval strategy / RPG Crusader Kings II. The video features a ‘unique’ attempt to storm a medieval castle ;)

The game, set between 1066 and the 15th century, allows players to take on the role of a Christian noble and battle against various rivals as they climb their way into power. The game also has battles in the Crusades and against the Mongols. The original Crusader Kings game was released by Paradox in 2004.

Click here to read the full article from

New project to examine immigration to medieval England

Scholars at the University of York are to launch a major research project focusing on the impact and extent of immigration into England in the Middle Ages.

The study, backed by a £784,545 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will create a huge database of around 80,000 immigrants who lived in England between 1330 and 1550. Once the database is completed, in 2015, it will be freely accessible to all online and will offer much material that has never been available before outside academia for family and local historians.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The healing joy of singing 13th-century girl-group music

Ironically, one of the most acclaimed names in classical vocal groups for the past quarter-century has been Anonymous 4.

On Saturday, at Mountain View's Community School for Music and Arts, the fabulous female foursome offers an "Informance," a one-hour program of performance and conversation, presented by Stanford Lively Arts. Anonymous 4 will demonstrate the building blocks of creating arrangements for their medieval songs and chants.

In 1986, in New York, the four women of Anonymous four came together, from different musical backgrounds and with different musical instincts. "For us, it was an experiment," said founding member Marsha Genensky, a Menlo Park resident. "All of us knew each other from singing in other groups that did slightly later early music, Renaissance music."

They wondered what medieval music would sound like in higher voices. "In the mid-1980s, women were not singing medieval music professionally. So we didn't know what it sounded like. And we couldn't go back to the Middle Ages to find out," Genensky said, laughing. "We tried it, loved the sound and decided to do a program. Then we wanted to do another program. We had a passion for it and worked really hard at it. At a certain point, we made a pact among ourselves to forego other freelance work, so that we could focus all of our rehearsal and performance time on creating this sound with this one set of people. It snowballed and here we are, 25 years later."

Click here to read this article from the Mercury News

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Archaeologists discover major Pictish site

An excavation has revealed a fortified early medieval settlement and unearthed significant artefacts which position a tiny Scottish village as a seat of major political power and influence.

Rare Late Roman pottery found during archaeological excavation at the site of a collection of eight unique Pictish symbol stones in Rhynie, has shed new light on this Aberdeenshire village, and provided fresh information on one of Britain’s most mysterious groups of people – the Picts.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval Cathedral Reconstructed in Iceland?

Guðjón Arngrímsson, information officer at Icelandair, presented ideas at the Church Convention yesterday on reconstructing the large wooden cathedral which was built at the ancient bishopric Skálholt, south Iceland, in the Middle Ages.

The idea is that tourism operators and the National Church of Iceland collaborate on the project, jointly develop cultural tourism at Skálholt and run the cathedral as an independent culture and exhibition center, Fréttablaðið reports.

Current Church at Skalholt - photo by Christian Bickel

Kristján Valur Ingólfsson, ordination bishop at Skálholt, told Morgunblaðið that he favors the idea. He added that he is not concerned about the project causing similar controversy as the current reconstruction of Þorláksbúð, an ancient turf house.

Click here to read this article from Iceland Review

Historian examines the philosophy of Richard Rufus

Richard Rufus of Cornwall may be the most important figure in Western philosophy you’ve never heard of. A project based at Indiana University and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities aims to change that.

The NEH has awarded a $315,000, three-year grant to Rega Wood, professor of philosophy in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, to prepare for online and print publication of the 13th-century Scholastic’s lectures on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. As far as is known, Rufus was the first to teach the Metaphysics, one of the famous libri naturales that revolutionized higher education.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lewis Chessmen arrive in New York City

In 1831, a hoard of luxury goods—including more than 70 chess pieces and several other objects, all made of carved walrus ivory and dating from the 12th century—was unearthed on the Isle of Lewis off the west coast of Scotland. The chess pieces (thereafter known as the Lewis Chessmen), which come from at least four distinct, but incomplete sets, are today arguably the most famous chess pieces in the world, and are among the icons of the collections of the British Museum in London and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Beginning today, over 30 chessmen from the collection of the British Museum will be shown at The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The Metropolitan’s presentation of The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis represents the first time such a large ensemble of the chessmen has traveled outside the United Kingdom. After the showing in New York, they will return to London.

Click here to read this article from

Israel Computer Solves Jigsaw of Letters, Prayers Scattered for Centuries

Thousands of fragments of centuries-old Jewish texts, from shopping lists to historical documents, are being joined together using new software.

The scraps of the Cairo Genizah being cataloged include a letter from a wife complaining about her husband and a rabbinical judge’s authorization of the kosher status of cheese sold by a Jerusalem grocer.

The software, developed by Tel Aviv University professors Lior Wolf and Nachum Dershowitz, is analyzing texts that span about 1,000 years of Middle East history. The algorithm program adapts facial recognition technology to identify similar handwriting on documents which are then sorted into digital loose-leaf binders.

“The computer found thousands of items running for a week,” Dershowitz said in a telephone interview. “Then it took months for the scholars to look at it and decide if the computer was correct.”

Click here to read this article from Bloomberg News

French towns sells off 14th century cloister to pay debts

The mayor of the southern French town of Saint Emilion has discreetly sold off its 14th century Cordeliers cloister to a private winemaker, leaving local residents shocked and upset. The medieval site was sold for 750 000 euros to help the town pay off its growing financial debts and continue upkeep on other historical buildings.

The town, which lies near Bordeaux, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The Cordelier’s cloisters property includes a reception hall, cellars, offices and a garden. Over 570,000 euros were spent on its restoration in recent years.

Click here to read this article from

The Pastons: Revealing the amazing tale of one of Norwich’s most famous families

And now, Dragon Hall on King Street, Norwich, will celebrate their legacy of medieval life left behind in a series of letters.

The affluent Paston family of the 15th and 16th centuries, who elevated from landholding peasantry to influential, English gentry, left behind a wealth of private and business correspondences that still survive today and provide a fascinating insight into medieval life and the often turbulent political landscape of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The family moved through the ranks of post-plague English society as a result of the increase in trade and an unstable King troubled by turbulent nobles. Clement Paston is the earliest known, a peasant who owned 40 hectares of land in the village of Paston, 19 miles North East of Norwich, and made sure his son William – born in 1378 – received a good education. William became a sought after expert in law, and married a nobleman’s daughter.

Click here to read this article from the Norwich Evening News

Crusader inscription by Frederick II discovered in Israel

An Arabic inscription that bears the name of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, and the date “1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah”, was recently deciphered by Professor Moshe Sharon and Ami Shrager of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During the deciphering it became evident that this is a rare archaeological find – the only one of its kind.

The 800-years-old inscription was fixed years ago in the wall of a building in Tel Aviv. The original location of the gray marble slab, on which the inscription is engraved, was probably in Jaffa’s city wall.

Click here to read this article from

Monday, November 14, 2011

Multi-million funding for centre for medieval European literature

A proposed new centre for the study of medieval European literature based in York and Odense is set to become a reality thanks to an award of nearly £4.5 million funding from the Danish National Research Foundation.

The Centre of Excellence, which will be jointly based at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of York, will radically change the way in which medieval European literature is studied, allowing researchers to look at literature from a pan-European perspective, rather than one based on traditional national boundaries.

Click here to read this article from

A medieval market town has discovered it owns an original version of the Magna Carta

A medival market town has discovered it owns an original version of Magna Carta, potentially worth about 20 million pounds, rather than a copy worth only 10,000 pounds.

It was identified in the collection of Faversham town council in Kent by academic experts prompted by the auction of a version from 1297 owned by Ross Perot, who ran for the US presidency against Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In 2007 that version had fetched $US21.3m (about $A20.8 million at today's rates).

Confirmation of the find comes ahead of the announcement of celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the 1215 charter that established the right of freeborn Englishmen to be punished only under the law of the land.

Nicholas Vincent, an authority on Magna Carta and professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia, said: "There is an original from 1300 in Faversham that the people of Faversham knew about but nobody else did, that they had insured for 10,000 pounds ($A15,000) but must be actually worth more like 20m pounds ($A31m). That came as a bit of a surprise to them."

Click here to read this article from The Australian

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Missing medieval manuscript found after 50 years

In one otherwise unremarkable storage box in Connecticut College’s Shain Library, Ben Panciera made a remarkable discovery.

Wedged between a set of magazines containing stories for Australian children and a biography of an Episcopalian priest was a book Panciera never thought he’d see with his own eyes – a medieval manuscript presumed stolen more than 50 years earlier.

Panciera, the Director of Special Collections in the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives, said the find was exhilarating. “You could see right away that it wasn’t paper,” Panciera said. “I thought, ‘Ahhhh, this has got to be at least 400 years old.’”

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Historian investigates the history of witchcraft prosecution

A dark but iconic moment in U.S. history, the Salem witch trials of 1692, are taught in American schools to educate students about religious extremism and the judicial process. But the origins of witchcraft prosecution can be traced back to Europe centuries prior, when pre-Reformation courts first induced criminals to admit to heresy and witchcraft to exert social control through displays of harsh and often violent punishment.

Laura Stokes is an Assistant Professor in Stanford’s Department of History, whose work has mostly focused on the origins and prosecution of witchcraft in fifteenth century Europe. Her Ph.D. dissertation, which chronicled the rise of such persecution as well as its linkages to developments in judicial torture, has now been revised into a book, Demons of Urban Reform: The Rise of Witchcraft Persecution, 1430-1530.

Focusing on case studies from the European cities of Basel, Lucerne, and Nuremburg, Stokes’ work examines the legal underpinnings of witchcraft persecution as well as the religious and esoteric influences that fueled it.

Click here to read this article from Stanford University

Wales and the Crusades

What was Wales’s involvement in the Crusades and what role did Welsh soldiers play in the campaign to halt Islamic expansion into Jerusalem? How did Welsh participation in the Crusades help cement English control over Wales?

Wales and the Crusades by Kathryn Hurlock is a new title, published by the University of Wales Press, which looks at the impact of the Crusades on Medieval Wales and what forces and reasons lay behind its participation in the doomed campaign.

Hurlock also considers why Welsh lords and their armies took part in the Crusades, supported military orders, and wrote about events in the Holy Land, despite then being perceived as religiously and culturally underdeveloped compared with the rest of Britain and Europe.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, November 11, 2011

Treasures lost in Coventry Cathedral ruins since Blitz to be uncovered

Treasures lost in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral since the Blitz are to be uncovered for the first time in 70 years.

They include an underground network of ancient crypts and chapels, and a large haul of medieval stained glass windows.

Dr Jonathan Foyle, of the World Monuments Fund, and David Porter, the cathedral’s canon for reconciliation, will launch the project on Monday night – the 71st anniversary of the 1940 raid.

A cathedral statement said the pair would reveal “exciting plans” to “uncover previously unseen treasures”.

Click here to read this article from the Coventry Telegraph

Who were the 99% of ancient Rome?

From Gibbon to "Gladiator," it might seem like we know a lot about Ancient Rome, but our view of this civilization is a skewed one. The Romans lived in one of the most stratified societies in history. Around 1.5% of the population controlled the government, military, economy and religion. Through the writings and possessions they left behind, these rich, upper-class men are also responsible for most of our information about Roman life.

The remaining people – commoners, slaves and others – are largely silent. They could not afford tombstones to record their names, and they were buried with little in the way of fancy pottery or jewellery. Their lives were documented by the elites, but they left few documents of their own.

Now, Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University, wants to tell their story by sequencing their DNA, and she is raising donations to do it. “Their DNA will tell me where these people, who aren’t in histories, were coming from,” she says. “They were quite literally the 99% of Rome.”

Click here to read this article from CNN

Queen opens British Library manuscripts exhibition

The Queen has opened a British Library exhibition featuring manuscripts which belonged to medieval kings and queens. The Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination contains 154 items, including manuals on how to behave.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had a private viewing of five manuscripts on display at the London exhibition. They included monarchs' prayer books, a charter commemorating the start of monastic rule of St Benedict in 964 and books made for King Edward IV.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Forget Blackadder, turnips and the Black Death: medieval England was extremely sophisticated

There's a tendency to think of the medieval English living an archaic, primitive, Blackadder sort of life: a lot of knobbly-faced peasants rotating crops, marrying at 12, before succumbing to their first bubons in the armpit at 15.
An exhibition opening at the British Library today, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, puts that right. Not only are the 154 gilded books on display extraordinarily beautiful – and in fresh, glittering condition – but they also show how sophisticated medieval England was. Pictured is Winchester's New Minster Charter, an Anglo-Saxon manuscript, gilded a century before William the Conqueror turned up. The workmanship and the colour are extremely advanced.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Irish medieval 'lost town' opens its streets

The pub trade once bustled in this medieval Irish town before it was eventually abandoned after an economic meltdown. Archaeologists have found new clues about life in the early-Norman settlement in Co Kilkenny.

Newtown Jerpoint, near Thomastown, is today one of the best surviving examples of an abandoned medieval town. Light-detection and ranging technology -- used by armies throughout the world to detect underground bunkers -- found the 'lost town' dating from the 13th Century.

The Irish Heritage Council (IHC) has long known of its historical importance of the site but the latest dig by archaeologists has given an insight into life in the Norman settlement.

Click here to read this article from the Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

University of Basque Country granted priceless library collection

The University of the Basque Country (UPV) revealed on Wednesday it had become the beneficiary of an "invaluable" library collection donated by a resident of Madrid. As a condition of his donation, the benefactor insisted only that the collection remain intact and be open to anyone interested in attending the library.

The donation contains more than 5,000 books including an extensive collection of texts from the Medieval and Renaissance eras, as well as an exquisite selection of art and oriental artifacts.

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Women portrayed as the causes of “wars and other evils” in Roman mosaics

Research coordinated by Carlos III University in Madrid (UC3M) analyzes the images of women in Roman mosaics and their impact on the collective consciousness of feminine stereotypes. In many cases, the research concludes, the images pointed to the female as the cause of wars and other evils.

Numerous images of women appear in Roman mosaics. The majority are inspired in mythology – goddess, heroines and other protagonists of countless legends – although other flesh and blood women, probably dominae, their daughters, handmaidens and servants, are also documented. “The most significant aspect of these images is the different roles they reflect and their contribution to the construction of certain stereotypes, not just in the Roman world, but also throughout history and up to the present”, points out Luz Neira, Associate Professor of Ancient History in the Department of Humanities: History, Geography and Art, and a researcher at UC3M’s Institute of Culture and Technology.

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sarasota's Medieval Fair compares Peasants Revolt of 1381 with Occupy movement

The Occupy movement is spreading across the globe because people are tired of the 1%'s greed forcing the 99% further into poverty and wage slavery. But a theatrical rendition in Sarasota Sunday reminded people this isn't the first time in history the rich have been targeted by angry crowds of common folk tired of being stepped on.

About 25 Common people from the Peasant Revolt of 1381 are preparing to storm London Tower, intent on murder. Fourteen year old King Richard II raised poll taxes for the third time in six years, ostensibly to pay for military campaigns overseas. One Common is a scruffy young man covered in dirt. He seemed to be in a bit of a quandary on precisely why he was protesting.

Click here to read this article from WMNF Community Radio

Yorkshire medieval church’s star role

Being Vicar of Halifax must be exhausting, but tomorrow’s episode of Songs of Praise has re-charged the batteries of the hugely energetic holder of that post, Hilary Barber. “The BBC lit the church with arcs of light, and for the first time I had a proper sense of it as a 16th and 17th century church,” he says.

The Minster’s own lighting system is out-of-date and deeply unflattering. To update it and to reveal the place in its proper glory, Rev Barber and his team launched an appeal, A Million for the Minster, and appointed an architect. An appearance on TV can do that fund-raising push no harm at all.

Who’d be the Vicar of Halifax? It must be one of the most daunting jobs in the Church of England. To start with, it’s a Crown appointment, so the phone call comes from Downing Street. Then there’s the sheer size of the parish – for a long time it was the third largest in the country, stretching over a hundred miles.

Click here to read this article from the Yorkshire Post

Discover Medieval Chester project gets funding

The ‘Discover Medieval Chester’ project, which intends to promote the rich history of medieval Chester as a multi-cultural, multi-lingual frontier city, has has received an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Knowledge Transfer Fellowship to the value of £172 000.

The project is led by Dr Catherine Clarke of Swansea University, in a partnership with the Grosvenor Museum, (Chester’s history museum) and other heritage bodies, and builds upon Dr Clarke’s previous AHRC funded collaborative research project titled, ‘Mapping Medieval Chester.’

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New App features Bodleian Treasures

The Bodleian Libraries have launched a mobile app featuring a selection of the rarest, most important and most evocative objects from the Bodleian collections: from ancient papyri through medieval oriental manuscripts to twentieth-century printed books and ephemera. The app supports the Autumn 2011 exhibition, Treasures of the Bodleian – on show until 23 December. Created in conjunction with Toura, a leading solution for cloud-based mobile app development, the Treasures of the Bodleian app can be downloaded for free.

Users can explore in high resolution through themes including the classical heritage; maps and boundaries; the sacred word; the animal and plant kingdoms; literature and music; the sciences of observation and calculation; and moments in history.

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Castles in the desert – satellites reveal lost cities of Libya

Satellite imagery has uncovered new evidence of a lost civilisation of the Sahara in Libya’s south-western desert wastes that will help re-write the history of the country.

The fall of Gaddafi has opened the way for archaeologists to explore the country’s pre-Islamic heritage, so long ignored under his regime.

Using satellites and air-photographs to identify the remains in one of the most inhospitable parts of the desert, a British team has discovered more than 100 fortified farms and villages with castle-like structures and several towns, most dating between AD 1-500.

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

New book examines the Cistercians in Wales

Janet Burton, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Wales – Trinity Saint David and co-director of the Monastic Wales project, has teamed up with Dr Julie Kerr, research fellow at the University of St Andrews, and researcher for Monastic Wales, to produce a book entitled The Cistercians in the Middle Ages. Published by Boydell and Brewer, the book explores the European context for the emergence of what was very probably the most influential of all the medieval monastic orders.

It seeks to unravel the historiographical problems surrounding the sources for the foundation of Cîteaux and the spread of the Order, picking its way through the conscious construction of an identity by later Cistercian writers, to produce an account of this most distinctive of monastic congregations.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Devil found in detail of Giotto fresco in Italy's Assisi

Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.

The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.

The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugone. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis.

Click here to read this article from the Montreal Gazette

The Farce of the Fart – new book offers scandalous plays from medieval France

They were the sitcoms of their time –– lowbrow comedies that lampooned every serious topic, from sex and relationships to politics and religion. In her new book, ‘The Farce of the Fart’ and Other Ribaldries –– Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English, Jody Enders, a professor of French at University of California – Santa Barbara, translates a dozen of these theatrical gems and brings them into the 21st century.

More than a study in literary criticism, for entertainment value and a peek into 15th- and 16th-century life and wit, ” ‘The Farce of the Fart’ and Other Ribaldries, ” is unequaled. Enders captures the colorful characters, coarse humor, and outrageous plot lines of medieval dramas that have, for the most part, been inaccessible to contemporary readers and theater audiences. “Except for about a dozen from the hundreds that have survived over the centuries, none have been translated into English,” Enders said. “And many of them haven’t been translated into modern French, or any modern vernacular. So they’re kind of untouched.”

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Mary Malloy taps medieval world for murder most foul

Like Chaucer's Wife of Bath, Mary Malloy is an adventurous woman. She has hiked across England in the footsteps of the "Canterbury Tales" character and voyaged north to Spitsbergen, Norway, and in the South Seas.

A professor of maritime history at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole who also teaches museum studies at Harvard University, she balances her academic career with a lighter pursuit: writing mysteries.

Her newest, Paradise Walk (Leapfrog Press, 286 pages, $15.95), finds historian Lizzie Manning tracing the path of Chaucer's bawdy Wife of Bath. In the vein of Dan Brown's blockbuster, "The Da Vinci Code," "Paradise Walk" entwines fiction and history.

What begins for Lizzie as a research commission to find evidence of Alison the Weaver, who may have inspired Chaucer's character, becomes a quest riddled with intrigue and danger. Woven into this mystery with textile clues are the legends of King Arthur, the relics of St. Thomas Becket and King Henry VIII's brutal dissolution of the monasteries.

Click here to read this article from Cape Cod Online

In the heart of the Ozarks, a team builds a castle using medieval methods

For many of us, the mark of a productive day is the number of items checked off in our day planners. The more we can get done in a short period of time, the better.

That is not the case at the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill, Ark. Builders broke ground in June 2009. Right now, all that stands are walls, which have slowly grown to a height of 14 feet. When the castle is complete, it will include towers ranging from 40 feet to 70 feet in height, a draw bridge and 4- to 5-foot-wide walls surrounding a full courtyard. The whole thing will total about 40,000 square feet, making it a medium-size castle.

But these grand structures will be a long time coming. The projected finish date isn’t until 2030.

Click here to read this article from the Columbia Daily Tribune

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Medieval gold ring declared treasure

A metal detecting enthusiast unearthed a 14th century gold ring studded with a ruby and an emerald, an inquest heard. Metal finishing plant worker Paul McEvoy, 44, found the medieval finger ring just six inches beneath the soil surface in a field in Thurcroft, Rotherham.

Mr McEvoy, from Dinnington, told the Rotherham hearing: “I thought I had dug up a squash bottle top but it turned out to be a ring.”

He said he had been metal detecting for an hour and until then had only found modern spoons, nails and a buckle. The find, made in July, 2009, was verified by Beverley Nenk from the British Museum.

Click here to read this article from The Yorkshire Post

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Making History: Antiquaries in Britain

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College is now presenting the exhibition: Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, which showcases treasures from the Society of Antiquaries of London, a 300-year-old society for people concerned with the study of the past, which still thrives today. It is on display until December 11, 2011.

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Viking navigation secrets explained?

Was it the hammer of the Gods that drove Viking ships to new lands, or the light-polarizing qualities of a crystal called Iceland Spar?

Ancient Viking mariners may have been able to navigate the high seas from Norway to North America centuries before Christopher Columbus thanks to a crystal "sunstone" GPS, according to new French research.

The crystal, called Iceland spar, is a transparent form of calcite that is sensitive to the polarisation of light and is commonly found in Scandinavia.

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The Viking Sunstone Revealed?

To avoid getting lost on their voyages across the North Atlantic 1000 years ago, Vikings relied on the sun to determine their heading. (This was long before magnetic compasses had been invented.) But cloudy days could have sent their ships dangerously off course, especially during the all-day summer sun at those far-north latitudes. The Norse sagas mention a mysterious "sunstone" used for navigation. Now a team of scientists claims that the sunstones could have been calcite crystals and that Vikings could have used them to get highly accurate compass readings even when the sun was hidden.

The trick for locating the position of the hidden sun is to detect polarization, the orientation of light waves along their path. Even on a cloudy day, the sky still forms a pattern of concentric rings of polarized light with the sun at its center. If you have a crystal that depolarizes light, you can determine the location of the rings around the hidden sun.

Click here to read this article from ScienceNow

Click here to access the article A depolarizer as a possible precise sunstone for Viking navigation by polarized skylight from the Royal Society

Sudan Yields Medieval Art and Signs of Long Pilgrimages

Excavations of a series of medieval churches in central Sudan have revealed a treasure trove of art, including a European-influenced work, along with evidence of journeys undertaken by travelers from western Europe that were equivalent to the distance between New York City and the Grand Canyon.

A visit by a Catalonian man named Benesec is recorded in one of the churches, along with visits from other pilgrims of the Middle Ages, according to lead researcher Bogdan Zurawski of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The discoveries were made at Banganarti and Selib, two sites along the Nile that were part of Makuria, a Christian kingdom ruled by a dynasty of kings throughout the Middle Ages.

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ancient cooking pots reveal gradual transition to agriculture

Humans may have undergone a gradual rather than an abrupt transition from fishing, hunting and gathering to farming, according to a new study of ancient pottery.

Researchers at the University of York and the University of Bradford analysed cooking residues preserved in 133 ceramic vessels from the Western Baltic regions of Northern Europe to establish whether these residues were from terrestrial, marine or freshwater organisms.

The project team studied ceramic pots from 15 sites dating to around 4,000 BC– the time when the first evidence of domesticated animals and plants was found in the region. The research, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is published online in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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

Byzantine-era Christian prayer box discovered in Jerusalem

A miniature Christian prayer box decorated with a cross has been uncovered in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem. The box, which dates to the Byzantine period (sixth-seventh centuries CE), is adorned on the inside with the drawings of two figures (icons) surrounded by a background lined with gold leaf, and it seems that the artifact was used as a personal prayer relic.

The box is 2.2 cm long by 1.6 cm wide and is made of a bone taken from a large animal (steer, camel or horse). The box slides open. When doing so it includes two flat parts, each of which bears a colored drawing.

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Medieval manuscripts highlight of Lilly workshops at Indiana University

British scribe and illuminator Patricia Lovett will be this year’s guest for Indiana University’s Mediaevalia at the Lilly, an annual event focused on the Lilly Library’s large collection of rare medieval manuscripts and books.

The event is directed by Professor Hildegard Keller with Indiana University’s Germanic Department and Medieval Studies Institute and Cherry Williams, the Lilly’s curator of manuscripts.

As part of the event, Lovett will teach two workshops demonstrating calligraphy, illumination and manuscript-making. The workshops will be held on Thursday, Nov. 3, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 5 p.m. in the Slocum Room of the Lilly Library. Both workshops are free and open to the public, but registration is requested by calling the library at 812-855-2452.

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Buried in medieval graves, they did not rest in peace

Once laid to rest, the remains of many who died in medieval Europe were not left in peace. As many as 40 percent of graves from the mid-fifth to mid-eighth centuries appear to have been disturbed after burial.

Grave robbers, searching for wealth buried along with the dead, have frequently born the blame from archaeologists.

"This sort of behavior has always been described as grave robbery," said Edeltraud Aspock, a postdoctoral researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. "It has always been thought that it was criminal gangs and foreigners that have been plundering, and it was all about material gain."

But after carefully examining disturbed graves, Aspock believes something much more complex was happening.

Click here to read this article from MSNBC


See also What actually is a deviant burial? Comparing German-language and Anglophone research on deviant burials, by Edeltraud Aspock