Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Melodies of the Emperors

In ancient China, court music was so valued that musicians and their instruments were buried with the emperor after the ruler’s death. In fact, so respected was such music that it spread to imperial courts in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. But in the early 1900s, when the last Chinese emperor was overthrown, the 3,000-year-old musical tradition died out in China.

It was not heard again in Beijing until October 2009, when musicians from Nanhua University, a small private school in Chiayi, southern Taiwan, were invited to play the music at the China Conservatory, a Beijing institution that focuses on the research and study of traditional Chinese music. “The audience clapped really loudly. The instruments were different. They’d never seen them before, or heard the music before,” says Xie Jiaxing, director of the China Conservatory’s Institute of Music Research.

Click here to read this article from the Taiwan Review

Ancient Egyptians styled their hair like Marilyn Monroe and Rihanna, archaeologists find

A study of male and female mummies has revealed the fashion-conscious Egyptians made use of a fat-based product to keep their hair in place. They used the styling gel on both long and short hair, tried to curl their hair with tongs and even plaited it in hair extensions to lengthen their tresses.

It is thought they used the product in both life and death, with corpses being styled to ensure they looked good in the afterlife. The incredible discovery was made by archaeological scientists who studied hair samples of 18 male and female mummies, aged from four to 58 years old.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Click here to access the article "Ancient Egyptian hair gel: new insight into ancient Egyptian mummification procedures through chemical analysis" from the Journal of Archaeological Science

Motte and Bailey Castle in England to go on sale at auction

The remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle will be sold at auction next month, and is expected to fetch between £25,000 and £30,000. Driffield Castle on Moot Hill, located in East Yorkshire, sits on a private property of just over two acres near town of Driffield. It will be sold at an auction held on September 7th.

Little now remains of the medieval fortress, which was constructed by Hugh d’Arvanches, first Earl of Chester, in the 11th century. In the 13th century the castle was re-fortified and a wide ditch still separates the motte from its large bailey. The site may even hold the remains of an eighth century Northumbrian royal palace.

Click here to read this article from

The Beacon in Whitehaven to create Medieval space with £105,000 Copeland council grant

Planners at ambitious Cumbrian heritage centre The Beacon will tell the story of the region’s castles, churches and country-swapping past after winning council permission to create a new Medieval Gallery.

Copeland Borough Council will allow organisers to spend £105,000 refreshing the permanent exhibition galleries, persuaded by impressive visitor numbers to the new Popular Culture space and a glowing report from tourism judges at Visit England.

Click here to read this article from Culture24

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iceland: Ancient Gold Necklace Found in West Fjords

Archeologists and university students recently discovered an ancient gold necklace during an excavation project in Vatnsfjördur in Ísafjardardjúp in the West Fjords, which has been ongoing for the past eight summers.

Scientists from different fields participate in the project, along with international university students, reports.

Click here to read this article from Iceland Review Online

5th century shipwreck discovered in Istanbul

In the course of the ongoing archeological excavations at Istanbul's Yenikapı Marmaray construction site, the world’s best preserved shipwreck, a merchant vessel whose contents and wooden parts are in exceptionally good condition, was revealed. The archaeologists believe that the ship is from the fourth or fifth century and that it sank in a storm. Surprisingly, most of the amphorae on the ship are in perfect condition.

The archeological excavation started in 2004 at the Yenikapı Marmaray construction site and reaches 8,500 years into the history of İstanbul. Skeletons, chapel remains, water wells and footprints, in addition to 35 shipwrecks, have been uncovered by archeologists so far.

A 15 to 16-meter-long, six-meter-wide shipwreck loaded with dozens of amphorae found last May brings new historical data to life. The amphorae are shaped and colored differently than previously found examples. It is assumed that the ship was completely buried in mud and that this oxygen-free atmosphere protected the vessel and its contents from breaking down or being damaged. The ship was loaded with pickled fry, while almonds, walnuts, hazels, muskmelon seeds, olives, peaches and pine cones found on the shipwreck were also in good condition.

Click here to read this article from Today's Zaman

Volcanic Artifacts Imply Ice-Age Mariners in Prehistoric Greece

Mariners may have been traveling the Aegean Sea even before the end of the last ice age, according to new evidence from researchers, in order to extract coveted volcanic rocks for pre-Bronze Age tools and weapons.

A new technique which dates obsidian—volcanic glass which can be fashioned into tools—suggests that people were mining for obsidian in Mediterranean waters and shipping the once valuable rocks from the island of Melos in modern day Greece as far back as 15,000 years ago.

Click here to read this article from US News

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hunting for a Mass Killer in Medieval Graveyards

Beneath the Royal Mint Court, diagonally across the street from the Tower of London, lie 1,800 mute witnesses to the foresight of the city fathers in the year 1348. Recognizing that the Black Death then scourging Europe would inevitably reach London, the authorities prepared a special cemetery in East Smithfield, outside the city walls, to receive the bodies of the stricken.

By autumn, the plague arrived. Within two years, a third or so of London’s citizens had died, a proportion similar to that elsewhere in Europe. The East Smithfield cemetery held 2,400 of the victims, whose bodies were stacked five deep.

The agent of the Black Death is assumed to be Yersinia pestis, the microbe that causes bubonic plague today. But the epidemiology was strikingly different from that of modern outbreaks. Modern plague is carried by fleas and spreads no faster than the rats that carry them can travel. The Black Death seems to have spread directly from one person to another.

Click here to read this article from the New York Times

Researchers discover original bacteria of the Black Death

The bacteria responsible for causing the 1348 Black Death, identified as one of the most cataclysmic events in human history, has been identified by researchers from Canada and Germany.

Using a novel method of DNA enrichment coupled with high-throughput DNA sequencing, Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist from the McMaster University and Johannes Krause of the University of Tubingen have discovered that the now-extinct version of the Yersinia pestis bacterium initiated the bug that caused 30-50 million European deaths between 1347 and 1351. Never before have researchers understood the exact cause of the plague, which continues to claim some 2,000 deaths a year worldwide.

Click here to read this article from

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pilgrim’s progress

The Camino de Santiago is one of Christendom’s most sacred pilgrimage routes, ranking third after Jerusalem and Rome. In effect, it comprises several itineraries, with take-off points scattered across Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and northern Europe. Each has its name, its own pathways and characteristic scenery, all converging on Santiago de Compostela, the ancient city of St. James the Apostle, in the far northwestern corner of Spain.

In the past two decades this medieval pilgrim trail has undergone an amazing revival, making it one of Spain’s biggest tourist attractions.

Legend has it that the body of St. James – Santiago in Spanish – was beheaded in 44 CE by King Herod and brought by boat from Palestine to the Iberian peninsular, to be buried there and then forgotten. The cult of the saint dates from the mid-ninth century, when he made a miraculous appearance and defeated the Moors in the battle that led to the Reconquista of Spain by the Christians. The great cathedral in his name was erected and his remains reburied in the crypt.

Click here to read this article from the Jerusalem Post

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lost Roman port found in Wales

The remains of a 2000-year-old Roman port have been discovered in south Wales by archaeologists from Cardiff University. Uncovered outside the Roman fortress in Caerleon by a team of staff and students from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, the port is only the second known from Roman Britain and sheds new light on Wales’ role in Roman Britain.

The well-preserved remains of the port are located on the banks of the River Usk just north of the city of Newport and include the main quay wall, as well as the landing stages and wharves where ships would have docked and unloaded their cargoes. The team made the find during their on-going excavations of the ‘Lost City of the Legion’, an unknown suburb of very large public-style buildings discovered by the University last year.

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

Unesco warning over Libya looting

The UN's cultural body has warned international art dealers and museums to look out for artefacts that may have been looted from Libya during fighting.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement that dealers should be "particularly wary of objects from Libya in the present circumstances".

And she called on Libyans to protect their "invaluable cultural heritage".

Libya has five World Heritage sites including Cyrene - one of the principal cities in the Hellenic world.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Twelfth-century tollbooth building discovered in Scotland

Pioneering low altitude, hi-resolution vertical aerial photography has just been used to record what is believed to be the earliest upstanding architectural fabric of a Scottish municipal building.

Uncovered as part of a Fife Council project to regenerate Market Street in St Andrews, the fragmentary remains reveal the site and layout of Scotland’s first tollbooth.

Built some time around 1140 as the headquarters of the town’s council, the tollbooth or praetorium was the office from which the provost and baillies organised the running of the newly-created burgh.

Click here to read this article from

500 years ago, yeast’s epic journey gave rise to lager beer

In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.

The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid – representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens – would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular – if not the most popular – alcoholic beverage in the world.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, August 26, 2011

King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland

The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years. Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older. Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.

Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets.

Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.

Click here to read this story from the Daily Telegraph

Thursday, August 25, 2011

US company gets right to remake Kurosawa films

Splendent Media has signed a multiyear deal to represent worldwide rights (outside Japan) to 69 titles from filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, including 19 screenplays that were never produced.

Kurosawa, who considered one of the most influential movie director’s in the history of cinema, made over thirty films in his lifetime, including several that were set in medieval Japan.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Face of slain 14th century English archbishop to be revealed soon

Almost 630 years of waiting are almost over as the face of Suffolk’s most iconic and tragic figure is set to be revealed.

Forensic experts from Dundee University have been working to put a face to Simon Theobald of Sudbury who had his head hacked off by Watt Tyler’s rampaging mob during the peasant uprising in 1381 for his role in introducing the poll tax.

In June the team removed the skull, which sits in a cubby hole in St Gregory’s Church, Sudbury, and took it to West Suffolk Hospital for a series of scans by a radiologist in the first phase of the process to reconstruct his face and reveal what he would have looked like.

Click here to read this article from the East Anglian Daily Times

See also their earlier article 'Bury St Edmunds: 630-year-old skull is West Suffolk Hospital’s ‘oldest patient’

Icelandic Checkmate?

In 1831, an ancient set of chess pieces was found in the Isle of Lewis, in Scotland. The most amazing fact about these chessmen—made of walrus ivory and whale teeth—is that they were the oldest figures showing a clear resemblance to modern pieces. Since then, it had been believed that the most important chess set of all time was handcrafted in Norway in the 12th century. But recently things have changed with the discovery of a little chess piece found in an excavation at Siglunes, Iceland. And guess what? Surprisingly, this Icelandic piece, handcrafted from fishbone, bears similarities to those Lewis Chessmen, but might be older. The plot thickens!

Click here to read this article from the Reykjavik Grapevine

Medieval knights prepare to fight at Herstmonceux castle

Final preparations are well under way for one of the largest events in the South East when Herstmonceux Castle will witness the battlecry and mayhem of knight battling each other for the annual Medieval Festival.

Now in its 19th year, the festival promisses a colourful spectacle from August 27 to 29.

The stunning setting of the magnificent 15th century moated castle is transformed into a living history encampment populated by more than 1,000 medievalists in authentic garb from all over the world.

Click here to read this article from the Sussex Express

See also Monty Python’s Spamalot at Herstmonceux Medieval Festival

British Library hosts Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

Beginning on November 11th, the British Library will be hosting a new exhibition entitled Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. It is the Library’s first major exhibition to bring together the its Royal collection, a treasure trove of illuminated manuscripts collected by the kings and queens of England between the 9th and 16th centuries.

Curated by Dr Scot McKendrick, Head of History and Classical Studies, British Library; Professor John Lowden, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and Dr Kathleen Doyle, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts, British Library, the exhibition features stunning manuscripts that are among the most outstanding examples of royal decorative and figurative painting from this era surviving in Britain today, their colours often as vibrant as when they were first painted.

However, the manuscripts do much more than declare the artistry of their makers; the luxurious objects unlock the secrets of the private lives and public personae of the royals throughout the Middle Ages and provide the most vivid surviving source for understanding royal identity. As well as providing clear instruction on appropriate regal behaviour they also give a direct insight into royal moral codes and religious belief and shed light on the politics of the day.

Click here to read this article from

More sex please, we’re Greek: exposing the myth of Platonic love

Plato lent his name to Platonic love but a new book reveals that the ancient Greek philosopher never advocated love without sex.

University of Manchester science historian Dr Jay Kennedy, who hit the headlines last year after revealing he had cracked the code in the great thinker’s writings, has now published a decoder’s manual that lays bare the secret content of Plato’s ancient works.

“Plato – the Einstein of Greece’s Golden Age – was long thought to favour love without sex, or ‘Platonic love’, but this new research reveals Plato was far from being a prude,” says Dr Kennedy, who is based in Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Deadly medication? Bonn scientists shed light on the dark secret of Queen Hatshepsut’s flacon

The corpus delicti is a plain flacon from among the possessions of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who lived around 1450 B.C., which is on exhibit in the permanent collection of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn. For three and a half millennia, the vessel may have held a deadly secret. This is what the Head of the collection, Michael Höveler-Müller and Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the university’s Pharmacology Institute just discovered. After two years of research it is now clear that the flacon did not hold a perfume; instead, it was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema. In addition, the pharmacologists found a strongly carcinogenic substance. Was Hatshepsut killed by her medicine?

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

Archaeologists to explore Cawthorne Woods for signs of medieval industry

Local people are being invited to explore South Yorkshire’s medieval past in an exciting new project starting next Monday.

The two week project is being organised by Woodland Outreach Learning Foundation (WOLF), Heeley City Farm and the University of Sheffield´s Department of Archaeology. The general public are invited to discover the fascinating history of the medieval working landscape that is now hidden within Cawthorne Woods in Barnsley.

It is known that the site hides mining features, slag heaps and other evidence of iron smelting – the process used to turn iron ore into iron and steel for weapons, tools and other artefacts. It is hoped that surveying the site, with the help of the general public, will reveal greater insight into the area during medieval times and provide the community with a connection to their local heritage.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval manuscript returns to St Kierans

Last Friday, amidst great excitement, a very rare late medieval illuminated manuscript, which disappeared without apparent trace more than forty years ago was returned to its rightful owners, St. Kieran’s College.

The Consultant College Archivist, Mr John Kirwan, acting on instructions from Monsignor Kieron Kennedy, the College president, proceeded to Dublin to collect the ‘lost’ manuscript from the National Library of Ireland, where it had been found after a year long search amongst its holdings.

This late medieval manuscript which is approaching its 600th birthday is one of a bare handful of devotional books which survives from an Irish context, in the country. It gives us a rare insight into late medieval piety, which period in Ireland lasted about 1100 to 1500 AD. The manuscript also has post Reformation additions which event occurred in Ireland in the 1530s. Thus we get an even rarer insight into the devotional practices of the clergy and laiety of Ossory during a very troubled period of our history – a period which saw much civil and religious change.

Click here to read this article from the Kilkenny People

Monday, August 22, 2011

Italian art experts accused of censoring phallic fresco

Italian art experts who restored a cryptic medieval fresco depicting a tree of fertility have been accused of censoring the work by painting over the numerous phalluses which dangle from its boughs.

The unusual 13th century Tree of Fertility fresco was discovered by chance a decade ago in the Tuscan town of Massa Marittima and has recently been subjected to a three-year restoration.

The experts who carried out the restoration have been accused of sanitising the mural by scrubbing out or altering some of the testicles, which hang from the tree's branches along with around 25 phalluses.

UPDATE - We received this message on our Facebook page from Cecilia Frosinini:
"I was involved in the researches, preliminary to the restoration. There were additions that were not original and they were rimoved. In a restoration treatment of 10 years ago, the restorers were so excited of finding such a peculiar work of art and of such a subject, that they ADDED many of the phallic elements.

"The present restoration has taken away what was a fake, NOT CENSORING ANYTHING!!!!
There is a lot of press coverage on the right news, on the Italia press: please do not spread the false scoop that was released at the beginning because of sake of scandals."

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Click here to read "Restorers accused of 'castrating' 746-year-old fresco called The Tree of Fertility by painting over its phallic fruit" from the Daily Mail

Click here to read "Italian art experts accused of censoring medieval phallic fresco" from ANI

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ancient Roman Jar Riddled with Mystery

By Owen Jarus

An ancient clay vessel reconstructed from pieces discovered at a Canadian museum is riddled with tiny holes, leaving archaeologists baffled over what it was used for.

The jar, just 16 inches (40 centimeters) tall and dating back about 1,800 years, was found shattered into an unrecognizable 180 pieces in a storage room at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. But even after it was restored, the scientists were faced with a mystery. So far no one has been able to identify another artifact like it from the Roman world.

"Everyone's stumped by it," Katie Urban, one of the researchers at the London, Ontario, museum, told LiveScience. "We've been sending it around to all sorts of Roman pottery experts and other pottery experts, and no one seems to be able to come up with an example."

Click here to read this article from LiveScience

Could Ancient Business Predict Our Future?

While many may consider Milan or Paris the world’s fashion capitals, author Keith Roberts says in a new book the industry got its true start centuries ago on what is now the coast of Syria.

It was there, in 1200 B.C., that the Phoenicians found a black substance in clams that could be turned into purple dye for clothing— lending some color to fashion, which until then had comprised only plain fabrics, and establishing the Phoenicians as one of the earliest commercial powers.

"That started out as the fashion capital of the world," Roberts told BusinessNewsDaily. "The Phoenicians became extremely successful in business."

It’s the origins of businesses like that one that Roberts explores in his new book The Origins of Business, Money and Markets (Columbia University Press, 2011) which explains the history of businesses from their earliest beginnings in ancient Mesopotamia.

Click here to read this article from

Medieval priory uncovered in Wombridge

The ruins of a medieval priory have been uncovered in the grounds of a Shropshire church by volunteers.

The Reverend Kevin Evans, of Wombridge Parish Church, Telford, said the ruins had been known about for some time, but had never been investigated.

As many as 50 volunteers have been involved in the dig, helping to clear earth and rubble.

Archaeologist Dr Malcolm Hislop said it could prove "one of the most important medieval monuments in Telford"

Click here to read this article from the BBC

See also this earlier article: Chapel uncovered after Telford excavation work

Thornbury's medieval fishponds get protection

Thornbury's medieval fishponds have been given special status protecting them from development.

The decision by English Heritage to schedule the fishponds under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 has been welcomed by residents and the local planning authority, which was behind the application.

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: "The council is responsible for the request to English Heritage to schedule the fishponds as a monument and we are pleased that their significance is recognised."

Click here to read this article from the Gazette

Golden Horde mausoleum discovered in Kazakhstan

A large mausoleum of the Golden Horde period was discovered in the Pavlodar region in Kazakhstan, the Pavlodar State Pedagogical Institute told Trend.

"The mausoleum, dated to the 14th century AD, is one of the largest archaeological buildings on the territory of Sary-Arka. The mausoleum’s height is 20 meters. The skeleton of a man who was the representative of the ruling elite was discovered at the bottom of the burial pit," the institute said.

Click here to read this article from Trend.Az

Bulgaria hopes to bring tourists to see new archaeological attractions

Bulgaria has made plenty of headlines for its dubious distinction as a destination for "alcohol tourism", but the Government hopes that the country’s wealth of archaeological discoveries – of which there has been a further spate of late – will encourage higher-minded visitors.

Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said as much when he joined Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova in showing off the latest findings in the centre of the capital city, uncovered as work proceeds on the underground railway metro line.

Work, which began in 2010 and is continuing this year, is still at an exploratory stage, but there is considerable excitement among archaeologists working on sites in the centre about the finding of a 30 sq m area of mosaics in virtually intact condition. The mosaic, said to date from the fourth century CE, has various geometric patterns, showing elements radiating out around a stylised crown.

Click here to read this article from the Sofia Echo

Celebrity chef reinvents a long-lost Medieval recipe

Living every moment to the hilt, the characteristic that most describes Alan Coxon is his intense desire to make the past come alive on everybody’s food plate. His passion for how our past has shaped our food preferences, pushed cultures into inventing and experimenting with ingredients and of the history of food ingredients in itself is immense. He is tirelessly excited about it.

This passion is what led him to reinvent a classic and historically valuable recipe from Medieval England, which he has calls the Ale-Gar, putting him in the rare league of chefs who have invented food products of great value. A versatile and uniquely flavoured form of vinegar, to put it very broadly, Ale-Gar can be put to a variety of uses as well-known chefs in many restaurants in the West are attesting to.

Click here to read this article from Gulf News

Swedish house goes on sale, complete with medieval tomb and skeleton in cellar

A Swedish real estate agent has an unusual piece of property up for sale: a five-bedroom house, complete with medieval tomb and skeleton in the cellar.

The central Visby town house on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland was built in 1750 on the foundations of a Russian church. The kitchen lies on the presbytery, and the tomb containing the skeleton — visible through a glass panel — is in the cellar.

Click here to read this article from the Washington Post

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black Death study lets rats off the hook

Rats weren't the carriers of the plague after all. A study by an archaeologist looking at the ravages of the Black Death in London, in late 1348 and 1349, has exonerated the most famous animal villains in history.

"The evidence just isn't there to support it," said Barney Sloane, author of The Black Death in London. "We ought to be finding great heaps of dead rats in all the waterfront sites but they just aren't there. And all the evidence I've looked at suggests the plague spread too fast for the traditional explanation of transmission by rats and fleas. It has to be person to person – there just isn't time for the rats to be spreading it."

He added: "It was certainly the Black Death but it is by no means certain what that disease was, whether in fact it was bubonic plague."

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Click here to see our feature on the Black Death

Call for Papers: Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages

The Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages (PUMA) would like to invite applications for membership, and announce its annual calls for papers for the International Congress in Medieval Studies (ICMS) at Kalamazoo, 2012 and the International Medieval Congress (IMC) in Leeds, 2012.

We invite abstracts for the following sessions at the 2012 ICMS and IMC. Abstracts (between 250 and 500 words) should be submitted electronically to to the attention of Paul Sturtevant, and should indicate clearly your mailing address and phone number. If you need special equipment for the talk (digital projector, etc.), let us know when you submit your abstract. All abstract submissions are due by 15th September, 2011.

Click here to read the full article from

Medieval Suffolk church gets closer to major lottery funding

St Mary's Church in Ickworth has been awarded £52,100 after passing the first round of the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant application process.

If successful, Ickworth Church Conservation Trust (ICCT) would receive more than £590,000 from the HLF and £325,000 from English Heritage to save the church from ruin.

The trust is hoping that the project will also be considered for an English Heritage ‘Angel’ award, launched recently by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Click here to read this article from the Bury Free Press

Money and Beauty: Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities – new exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi

Masterpieces by Botticelli, Beato Angelico, Piero del Pollaiolo, the Della Robbia family, Lorenzo di Credi and Memling – the cream of Renaissance artists – show how the modern banking system developed in parallel with the most important artistic flowering in the history of the Western world. Money and Beauty. Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities, on view at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, from 17 September 2011 to 22 January 2012, explores the links between that unique interweave of high finance, economy and art, and the religious and political upheavals of the time.

The exhibition examines the birth of the modern banking system and the economic boom that it triggered, providing a reconstruction of European life and the continent’s economy from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Visitors will be able to delve into the daily life of the families that controlled the banking system and perceive the ongoing clash between spiritual and economic values. The story of the art patrons is closely linked to that of the bankers who financed the ventures of princes and nobles alike and, indeed, it was that very convergence that provided the climate in which some of the leading artists of all time were able to flourish.

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Borgias: the past is all death and debauchery

Affecting that familiar air of above-it-all, actorly bewilderment, Jeremy Irons wondered last week what sort of society we’ve become. After all, he complained, a chap can’t even pat a woman on the backside without it being misinterpreted.

“The assumption must be that all men are evil, and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits, whenever they have free scope,” he complained. Oops, no, that was Niccolò Machiavelli, explaining the subtleties of statecraft in 15th-century Italy. What Jeremy actually said, in the course of plugging his lavish new TV series, The Borgias, was that political correctness, and the various prohibitions it imposes, are largely a result of there being “too many people in power with too little to do”.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Monday, August 15, 2011

3,422 ancient Carthaginian coins discovered off of Sicily

Italian archaeologists have retrieved a sunken treasure of 3,422 ancient bronze coins in the small Sicilian island of Pantelleria, they announced today. Discovered by chance during a survey to create an underwater archaeological itinerary,the coins have been dated between 264 and 241 BC.

At that time, Pantelleria, which lies about 70 miles southwest of Sicily, in the middle of the Sicily Strait, became a bone of contention between the Romans and Carthaginians.Rome captured the small Mediterranean island in the First Punic War in 255 BC, but lost it a year later. In 217 BC, in the Second Punic War, Rome finally regained the island, and even celebrated the event with commemorative coins and a holiday.

Click here to read this article from Discovery News

Privilege and Duty in the Serene Republic: Illuminated Manuscripts of Renaissance Venice

Helena Szépe of the University of South Florida is currently researching illustrations found in Venetian medieval and Renaissance documents. With the assistance of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Professor Szépe is now preparing a book entitled Privilege and Duty in the Serene Republic: Illuminated Manuscripts of Renaissance Venice.

“While researching my dissertation on the woodcut illustrations in a Venetian early printed book, I realized that the designers of the printed illustrations in that book continued to paint in manuscripts and even in printed books,” she said. “I became fascinated with the ways in which the new technology of print evolved from, but also coexisted, with manuscript production; and how artists of the book were involved in, and shaped, both technologies of communication.”

Click here to read this article from

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Remains of Anglo-Saxon Saint discovered?

Archaeologists working in the Oxfordshire town of Bicester believe they have discovered a reliquary containing some of the bones of Saint Edburg, a seventh-century saint.

John Moore Heritage Services is conducting the excavations of a site of former apartment buildings (flats) which is being redeveloped. The land once belonged to Bicester Priory, and the archaeological work has uncovered the entire north transept of the Priory Church, After coming across thirteen other skeletons during the dig, the archaeologists found some partial remains of a skeleton wrapped in a lead sheet.

Click here to read this article from

Friday, August 12, 2011

Staffordshire Hoard is coming to America

More than one hundred artefacts from the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered – will be displayed in Washington D.C. later this year.

The exhibition, called ‘Anglo-Saxon Hoard: Gold from England’s Dark Ages’ will be open at the National Geographic Museum from October 29, 2011 to March 4, 2012.

The Staffordshire Hoard comprises more than 3,300 mainly gold and silver artefacts from the seventh and eighth centuries. The haul is made up of intricately designed articles of war, including helmet cheek pieces, sword pommels and religious crosses. Experts believe that some of the items were deliberately folded before being buried and that the treasure could be the booty from a battlefield from the ancient kingdom of Mercia.

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Medieval Lincoln captures best-selling author and historian Alison Weir

Lincoln Castle will open its gates and transport visitors back in time at the weekend, transforming its grounds into a scene from Medieval England. The Medieval Merriment event at the castle will be brought to life with theatrical performances and re-enactments of traditional crafts.

Bestselling author and historian Alison Weir, who recently visited Lincoln to promote her latest book, The Captive Queen, explains why Lincoln is really such brilliant place for rediscovering the past. In the past she has spent a lot of time in Lincoln researching her books, in particular, while writing a biography of local historical figure, Katherine Swynford.

Click here to read this article from the Lincolnite

“The Hidden Alhambra” project to give public virtual access to historic site in Spain

The World Monuments Fund and American Express have announced a partnership for the conservation and improved access to the Alhambra, the famous palace and fortress of the last Muslim rulers in Spain.

“The Hidden Alhambra” is a sustainable tourism project supported by American Express and World Monuments Fund in the form of a donation of $200,000 through the American Express Partners in Preservation program, in collaboration with World Monuments Fund. The support will allow for a strategic reworking of the tourist route through the complex, reducing pressure on the most trafficked areas while also giving visitors the ability to see a number of places previously closed to the general public but of significant historical value.

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Archaeologists uncover 3,000-year old lion

Archaeologists leading the University of Toronto’s Tayinat Archaeological Project in southeastern Turkey have unearthed the remains of a monumental gate complex adorned with stone sculptures, including a magnificently carved lion. The gate complex provided access to the citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 950-725 BCE), and is reminiscent of the citadel gate excavated by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in 1911 at the royal Hittite city of Carchemish.

The Tayinat find provides valuable new insight into the innovative character and cultural sophistication of the diminutive Iron Age states that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great civilized powers of the Bronze Age at the end of second millennium BCE.

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

Oxford Viking massacre revealed by skeleton find

Evidence of a brutal massacre of Vikings in Oxford 1100 years ago has been uncovered by archaeologists. At least 35 skeletons, all males aged 16 to 25 were discovered in 2008 at St John's College, Oxford.

Analysis of wound marks on the bones now suggests they had been subjected to violence. Archaeologists analysing the find believe it dates from 1002 AD when King Ethelred the Unready ordered a massacre of all Danes (Vikings) in England.

The surprise discovery of the skeletons was made by Thames Valley Archaeological Services under the quadrangle at St John's College at the University of Oxford, before building work started on the site.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Historians cast doubt on the story of Marco Polo's travels in China

His journeys across mountain ranges and deserts opened the eyes of medieval Europe to the exotic wonders of China and the Silk Road, establishing him as one of history's greatest explorers.

But a team of archaeologists believe Marco Polo never even reached the Middle Kingdom, much less introduced pasta to Italy after bringing it back from his travels, as legend has it.

Instead they think it more likely that the Venetian merchant adventurer picked up second-hand stories of China, Japan and the Mongol Empire from Persian merchants he met on the shores of the Black Sea, thousands of miles short of the Orient.

Click here to read this article from Daily News and Analysis

Roman-era Sword Uncovered in Ancient Ditch in Jerusalem

Like a postcard sent from the battle ground, a Roman sword, still in its leather-bound wooden scabbard, was unearthed in a Jerusalem ditch where it had apparently lain since the revolt that destroyed the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron told The Media Line it was a rare find and the only one that could definitely be linked to the Great Revolt by the Jews against the Romans in August 70 A.D.

The discovery was even more symbolic for the archaeologists since it came just a day before Jews mark the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of the Jewish Month of Av, which falls on August 9.

Click here to read this article from The Media Line

Click here to read the article "Jerusalem tunnel contains 2,000-year-old sword, pots and coins" from the Daily Telegraph

Sudan: Remains of Ancient Palace Discovered

Hidden beneath an ancient palace in what is now central Sudan, archaeologists have discovered the oldest building in the city of Meroë, a structure that also may have housed royalty.

The capital of a vast empire that flourished around 2,000 years ago, Meroë was centered on the Nile River. At its height, the city was controlled by a dynasty of kings who ruled about 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) of territory that stretched from southern Egypt to areas south of modern-day Khartoum.

People of Meroë built palaces and small pyramids, and developed a writing system that scholars still can't fully translate today. Although Meroë has been excavated off and on for more than 150 years, archaeologists are not yet clear on how it came to be. The city seems to have emerged out of nowhere.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from Live Science

Poland's medieval love affair for knights

There is something about summer that makes some Poles clamour to slip into chain mail or flowing dresses and pretend to be medieval knights and damsels.

During the holiday season there is a knights' tournament or battle re-enactment every weekend.

"People love it. They want to be some somewhere far, far away from the normal, just a little bit boring, everyday life," says popular historian Boguslaw Woloszanski.

"We are a very romantic nation, and knights and the medieval time is so romantic."

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Monday, August 08, 2011

German city banks future on unearthing Jewish past

COLOGNE, Germany - This city in western Germany is banking its future on its Jewish past. But at present, the investment is exacting a heavy price: $52 million, to be exact.

Following a divisive decades-long battle, Cologne's municipal government voted recently to allocate that sum toward the construction of a new museum focused on the city's medieval Jewish quarter. Its centerpiece will be the product of a massive excavation project that began in 2007 in the middle of the city, on the square in front of City Hall.

For years the project had been dogged by opponents who said the country didn’t need another monument dedicated to the Jewish past or complained about the disruption that the project would create in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city.

Click here to read this article from the Jerusalem Post

Oldest Hungarian medieval church thought to have been found in Romania

Recently excavated ruins in Alba Iulia, Romania, may be those of the oldest Christian church in early medieval Hungary, Romania's Hungarian-language daily Szabadsag reported.

The ruins, discovered by local archaeologists and unearthed during the past few months, follow Byzantine patterns and are believed to have been constructed around or before 1000 AD.

Archaeologist Daniela Marcu Istrate told the paper that the church could have been commissioned by Saint Stephen I, Hungary's first Christian king (1000-1038), or Gyula, his maternal grandfather, the lord of Transylvania.

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Holy Trinity Church plans Hull tourism hub to fight cash losses

England's largest parish church is looking at ways to become one of Hull's leading tourist attractions to save itself from financial ruin.

Holy Trinity Church, in the heart of the Old Town, is losing £1,000 a week and is expected to run out of money within the next four years if extra funding is not found.

Since taking over as vicar last year, Reverend Dr Neal Barnes has been looking at ways to generate extra income.

One of the ideas being looked at is creating a visitor centre inside the 700-year-old church, giving information about the sights in Old Town.

Click here to read this article from The Hull and East Riding

Medieval history professor wrote groundbreaking book on Ireland

Michael Richter, who has died aged 68, was a former professor of medieval history at the University of Konstanz, Germany, having previously spent 15 years teaching at University College Dublin.

He is best known for his groundbreaking book, Medieval Ireland: the enduring tradition (1988). Whereas Irish history had traditionally been depicted either in isolation or in the manner by which it was influenced by outside forces, especially England, Richter adopted a different approach.

Click here to read this article from the Irish Times

Cosmeston Medieval Village hosts university dig

Cardiff University’s Cosmeston Archaeology Project hosted a successful open weekend at Cosmeston Medieval Village. (July 9 and 10) More than 1,000 visitors enjoyed a wide range of shows and activities. Medieval life was re-enacted by costumed characters including a medieval music group performing in the Tithe Barn and the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust demonstrated the Archwilio on-line heritage record for South-East Wales.

A great draw was the excavation in progress on the site of the original manor house. Visitors from all over the world were shown around and had the processes of archaeological digging explained to them. For overseas visitors, staff and students rose to the challenge of describing what was going on in French, German, Italian and Lithuanian, as well as providing regular tours in English and Welsh.

Click here to read this article from the Penarth Times

The Pensive Prince of Denmark

Is he, or is he not Hamlet, the Dane? After having claimed for so long that the tragic prince of William Shakespeare’s eponymous play, Hamlet, had his origins in Danish mythology, literary scholars now provide evidence that Denmark’s famous prince was, in fact, of Irish linage, a Celt, and is not a Dane at all.

The myth of the pensive prince set in Denmark’s Kronborg Castle has been kept alive with Hamlet, one of the most famous and frequently performed plays in the world. This mid August, the splendid courtyard of the Kronborg Castle, the location of Shakespeare’s play, will come alive with world-class production of Hamlet and his father’s ghost, while the audience will sit spellbound, brooding over whether “To be or not to be….”. Set in the kingdom of Denmark, the play explores themes of revenge and treachery. It recounts how Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle for murdering his father, ascends the throne and marries his mother.

Click here to read this article from Washington Bangla Radio

Friday, August 05, 2011

Game of Thrones: when the medieval fantasy explains Realpolitik

The Iron Throne A Song of Ice and Fire in the original has become an HBO series, this dark fantasy saga written by George R. R. Martin, whose first volume appeared in 1996 and who must rely on Sept. 1 when completed.

The story of the saga takes place mainly in imaginary land called Westeros in a fantasy universe. As in any good fantasy saga, rare and fantastic populate the continent as dragons or werewolves.
The story begins with the death of the king’s hand, Lord Jon Arryn, it was used and advised a Roy who had seized the throne by force. A usurper king chasing women and running and will leave gradually the power of the courtiers and advisers.

On this earth there are seven crowns, unified under one banner in which the swords of the kingdoms were used to build a huge iron throne.

Joffrey families, Renly, Stannis, Robb Stark and Greyjoy families are “royal” on this earth and are in constant struggle, ignoring a hazard in the North, where the king’s power stops. This border is guarded by men in the North prevail mysterious beings, giants, wild men and other, strange and mysterious supernatural beings, capable of transforming humans into zombies frozen.

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Bulgaria: Archaeologists Discover Emperor Constantine’s Palace

The metro station in Sofia downtown may soon happen to house the residence of Byzantine Emperor Constantine I. The archeologists have not confirmed for sure the identity of the findings as excavations continue. All facts for now, however, lean towards the variant that the palace of the first Christian Emperor lies just under the square in front of St Nedelya Church.

Click here to read this article from the Standart

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Medieval wall uncovered in drains dig at hotel

Workmen carrying out drainage work at a hotel were shocked to uncover a piece of ancient history. The drains at the Maenan Abbey Hotel near Llanrwst were being dug up last week when the workers stumbled on two medieval walls underground.

They are believed to date back to the previous building on the site, a Cistercian abbey from the 13th century built by King Edward I.

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust is now investigating the findings and the owners hope they can be protected and used as an attraction for guests in the future.

Click here to read this article from the North Wales Weekly News

Colchester Castle receives £3.2m for restoration work

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £3,267,400 towards a major redevelopment of Colchester Castle, Essex. The medieval fortress, built in the eleventh century, is one of the best surviving examples of Norman architecture in England.

“This is fantastic news”, said Tom Hodgson, Project Manager. “We are now able to put all our planning into practice and create exciting new displays that do justice to Colchester’s nationally important heritage, the outstanding collections and the amazing building in which they are housed”.

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The Norwich well case: a BBC documentary reveals the results of the investigation

On 31st January, 2011 for the series “Interview with History”, Archeofilia published an interview with the English Archaeologist Giles Emery, who found a medieval well containing the remains of 17 people during the course of some excavations in Norwich. Of these people, whose bones have been dated back to the 12th or 13th Centuries, 6 were adults and shockingly enough 11 were children aged between two and 15.

Last week, 5 months after that interview, Archeofilia staff watched the documentary (unfortunately not available in Italy) that BBC produced about this mysterious case, called “History Cold Case: The Bodies in the Well”. The documentary presented the investigation work carried out by the BBC staff of the “History Cold Case” programme, who, thanks to the most modern technologies placed at their disposal by English Universities, have shed new light on a mystery the implications of which have turned out to be rather shocking for the community of Norwich.

Click here to read this article from Archeofilia

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New archaeological treasure uncovered near Colosseum

More 'medieval' skeletons found in Kempsey

Another 16 graves have been found in a Worcestershire village where new flood defences are being built.

The 16 are in addition to the 12 uncovered in Kempsey last week next to St James Church.

It is thought that some of the skeletons could date back as early as 500 AD.

Click here to read this article from BBC News

Earliest medieval map of Britain put online

A fifteen-month research project of the earliest surviving geographically recognizable map of Great Britain, known as the Gough Map, provides some revealing insights into one of the most enigmatic cartographic pieces from the Bodleian collections. The findings are recorded on a newly-launched website.

The fifteen-month AHRC-funded project used an innovative approach that explores the map’s ‘linguistic geographies’, that is the writing used on the map by the scribes who created it, with the aim of offering a re-interpretation of the Gough Map’s origins, provenance, purpose and creation of which so little is known. Although the identity of the map-maker is unknown, it is now possible to reveal that the text on the Gough Map is the work of at least two scribes: the original 14th-century scribe and a 15th-century reviser.

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Hungate developers consider next phase

Developers behind one of Yorkshire’s biggest regeneration projects which stalled in the recession have confirmed that the next phase of the £150m scheme will be assessed later in the year.

The second stage of the Hungate project to transform a 10-acre site within York’s medieval bar walls has been on hold due to the economic downturn.

But directors from the company behind the development, Hungate (York) Regeneration Limited, have revealed that a decision could be made before the end of the year as to whether work will resume.

Click here to read this article from the Yorkshire Post

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Rome's Pantheon may have been built as a massive sundial researchers reveal

It is one of the best preserved buildings from the Roman world, a 2,000-year-old testament to the immense power and wealth of the empire. But mystery has always surrounded what lies behind the unusual design of the Pantheon, a giant temple in the heart of Rome that was built by the Emperor Hadrian.

Now experts have come up with an intriguing theory – that the temple acted as a colossal sun dial, with a beam of light illuminating its enormous entrance at the precise moment that the emperor entered the building.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

The Ecology of Medieval Art - new course at DePaul University

Anne F. Harris, associate professor of art history and director of the Women's Studies Program, received a student-faculty summer stipend to write curriculum for a new interdisciplinary course she will offer next year - The Ecology of Medieval Art.

Her motivation behind designing the course is to show students that Western culture, indeed human culture, is not self-contained. "The course is an attempt to make Medieval art less white and less European," Harris says. "As I looked at the courses I was teaching, I realized that they were consistently about a very self-enclosed Medieval Europe.

"Modern Western culture is influential but also deeply influenced by other cultures," she explains. "Looking at the Crusades, opened up the Middle Ages because it made me realize that not only did Christians go to Jerusalem, but there were Christians ruling in the Middle East from 1099 - 1291. There was a 200-year colonial period right in the middle of Medieval history."

Click here to read this article from DePaul University

World famous abbey to host insight into late medieval life

Since it was founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey has been a place of pilgrimage for millions of people throughout the passing centuries.

And visitors to the World Heritage site near Ripon are being given the chance to get an insight into what life would have been like had they arrived in the late medieval era.

Historical re-enactors have taken over the North Yorkshire site to set up camp and provide a taste of what Britain would have been like in the 15th century.

Click here to read this article from the Yorkshire Post

Staffordshire Hoard comes to Lichfield Cathedral

From Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery - This video shows the conservation team's involvement with the setting up of the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition at Lichfield Cathedral. This includes checking on the condition of the objects to ensure that they have not been damaged in transit. The exhibition is on from July 30th to August 21st in Lichfield and all tickets were snapped up prior to the exhibition opening. The final leg of the Mercian Trail tour will see the Hoard go to Tamworth Castle from August 27th to September 18th.