Monday, January 31, 2011

Website features the history of Yorkshire Dales

History-lovers can now access a website about the historic lands in Yorkshire Dales National Park in northern England. Staff at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) have just completed a massive overhaul of the Authority’s Out of Oblivion website spanning thousands of years of human history.

And the result is a more up-to-date and comprehensive library of fascinating facts for everyone from schoolchildren to professional historians.

Click here to read this article from

Bath Abbey archaeologists discover cathedral remains

Archaeologists at Bath Abbey have unearthed the remains of a Norman cathedral, thought to be the first ever built on the site.

The foundations, which stand 3m to 4m high (9ft to 13ft), have been buried for several hundred years.

Archaeologists believe that they may have also found what is left of a medieval abbot's lodgings nearby.

Click here to read this article from BBC News

Damage reported at Giza Pyramids, Looters turned back at Karnak

Dr. Scott had both good and bad news. The bad news is that there is antiquities damage at the Giza Pyramids. Mark Lehner and his team are currently working there.

“I’ve heard that the team lost some equipment and that there was some damage to the antiquities but I do not know the extent of that at this point,” he said. He also does not know exactly what was damaged. The Egyptian army is now guarding the pyramids and access has been restricted.

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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian Museum attacked, artifacts damaged

The heads of two mummies have been ripped off and several artifacts damaged by looters at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, as unrest spreads throughout the country. The looters were captured by Egyptian soldiers before they were able to remove anything from the museum, although the gift shop has been heavily looted.

“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters. “Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies.”

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

Video of Damage at Egyptian Museum

News from Cairo – ARCE Director Dr. Gerry Scott talks about the crisis and Egypt’s Antiquities

This morning Dr. Gerry Scott, director of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), gave a telephone interview from Cairo itself. He gave what information he had on how the crisis in Egypt is affecting its antiquities. ARCE supports nearly two dozen active projects in Egypt. Its mission focuses on conserving Egypt’s cultural heritage and has attracted numerous grants – including funding from USAID.

Over the past few days Egypt has been become embroiled in protests and unrest. The news has been changing by the hour and last night President Hosni Mubarak, a man who has led Egypt for nearly 30 years, ordered his cabinet to resign. The government has cut off internet access and cell phone service has been curtailed.

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Medieval mural of King Henry VIII uncovered in Somerset

A couple doing DIY have uncovered a 20ft (6m) high medieval mural of King Henry VIII on the wall of their home. The house in Milverton, Somerset, was once home to Thomas Cranmer, Arch Deacon of Taunton in the 15th Century.

Angie Powell said: "When we saw the eyes appear out of the plaster it was a real moment."

Michael Liversidge, of Bristol University, said the discovery was "enormously significant, stunningly exciting and of national importance".

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jouster killed after splinter pierces eyeball in medieval re-enactment

A professional jouster was killed in a freak accident when a splinter pierced his eyeball during a medieval re-enactment for Channel Four’s Time Team, an inquest heard today.

Tragic Paul Allen, 54, died when the shard from his wooden lance flew through the eye slit in his helmet and pierced his eye socket, inflicting horrific brain injuries.

The tiny balsa wood splinter was sent flying through the air when a joust struck his shield at Rockingham Castle near Corby, Northants.

Mr Allen, a professional jouster and member of historical re-enactment societies, was filming an episode of Tony Robinson’s Time Team focused on Edward III’s Round Table.

Click here to read this article from Small World News Service

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hadrian's Wall: a comeback by the Romans in the North

Mist, dripping trees, stones black with wet. Thank Jupiter I’m not in a tunic; this is the sort of damp that rusts your armour and dribbles down your greaves into your socks.

Yes, the Romans wore socks. I don’t know why I find that so hilarious, but I do. They wore socks and hobnail boots in the winter and you could hear a legion coming for miles, entrenching tools and cooking pots clanking from wood frames carried over one shoulder.

We will see this for ourselves on March 18, when the film of Rosemary Sutcliff’s much-loved children’s novel The Eagle of the Ninth opens. It’s the story of a young centurion, Marcus Aquila, who sets off to Hadrian’s Wall with his British slave (played by Jamie Bell) in AD140. He plans to restore the honour – and recover the eagle standard – of the Ninth Legion, commanded by his father, which disappeared without trace in Scotland 20 years before.

Click here to read this article from The Telegraph

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A land of watchtowers – New research sheds light on Roman occupation of Portugal

A team of archaeologists, working in Portugal, are exploring a system of 24 hilltop watchtowers set up in the aftermath of a Roman civil war.

“You have a rebellion put down and a landscape pacified and reorganized and you have these towers suddenly appearing,” said Joey Williams, of the University at Buffalo, who is co-leading the project along with archaeologist Rui Mataloto of the Câmara Municipal de Redondo.

The team’s work began 10 years ago when Mataloto surveyed the watchtowers, recording their features and investigating the artefacts found on the surface. Later he teamed up with Williams to excavate one of them, a 9 x 5 metre tower named Caladhino. The team’s preliminary results were presented recently at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

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

Book by Romance studies professor compares images of medieval saints to modern pornography

The images of saints in medieval Europe bear an uncanny resemblance to modern pornographic images, says Cary Howie, assistant professor of Romance studies and director of Cornell's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Program, in his new book, Sanctity and Pornography in Medieval Culture: On the Verge (Manchester University Press).

The book, which Howie co-wrote with William Burgwinkle of the University of Cambridge, examines the physical intensity of "sacred bodies." It uses images and accounts of pain and pleasure, bodily exposure and concealment to explore the links between medieval devotion and contemporary eroticism.

Click here to read this article from Cornell University

Handbook of Medieval Studies, edited by Albrecht Classen

Albrecht Classen set out more than six years ago on a major effort to compile a reference handbook about contemporary research on medieval studies.

During that time, Classen, a University of Arizona professor, developed and strengthened international ties with researchers, gathered articles and manuscripts and managed an expansive Website of worldwide resources.

He has since completed the project, resulting in the three-volume Handbook of Medieval Studies, providing an in-depth and interdisciplinary overview of the expansive research in the field covering the last 150 years.

"From now on, there is nothing that can be seen in isolation," said Classen, a University Distinguished Professor in the German studies department.

"Any future researchers must be confronted with this huge number of relevant studies since all aspects in the Middle Ages have to be studied from an interdisciplinary, comparative perspective," he added.

Click here to read this article from the University of Arizona

Lecture: “Commercial Devotion to the Virgin: How to Use and Read a Medieval Book of Hours”

The University of Delaware Library announces that Gabrielle Parkin, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English working on late medieval English literature with an interest in material culture studies, will present “Commercial Devotion to the Virgin: How to Use and Read a Medieval Book of Hours” at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the Class of 1941 Lecture Room in the Morris Library.

The presentation is part of the University of Delaware Assembly of Professional Staff (UDLAPS) “Scholar and the Library Series.”

The brown-bag luncheon program with light refreshments is open to the public.

Click here to read this article from the University of Delaware

Video: Newnham College excavation

When Cambridge University Lecturer in Archaeology Dr Catherine Hills discovered that Anglo Saxon remains could be buried in the grounds of Newnham College, Cambridge, she and her colleagues set about organising a dig to find them. Key to its success would be the help of 20 sixth-form girls from schools in London, Birmingham and Peterborough, all of whom stayed in the college for a week to sample life at Cambridge. What did the girls make of their stay? And did they unearth skeletons in the garden?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Twelve skeletons found in Bicester car park

Twelve skeletons have been found under the car park at a Bicester (Oxfordshire) church.

The bones were found by builders who are midway through constructing the John Paul II Centre in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in the Causeway.

Archaeologists have exhumed the remains and believe the skeletons date from late Anglo-Saxon times, between 700 and 950 AD.

Click here to read this article from the Bicester Advertiser

Lecture on Interpreting Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire to take place at Corinium Museum, Cirencester

Cotswolds history from the air and beneath the ground will be examined in two lectures at the Corinium Museum, Cirencester.

Prof Howard Williams will give a talk entitled ‘Interpreting Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire’ as part of the museum’s Evening Lecture series, next Thursday, January 27.

The area is rich in Anglo-Saxon history. Relics from the Saxon cemetery at Butler’s Field are displayed at the museum.

Click here to read this article from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard

Recent Byzantine archaeological discoveries

Byzantinian Archaeological Findings Found in Rodopi, Greece

Archaeological excavations in the area of eastern Rodopi were found. They include a stamp in the shape of a pyramid, like the stamps used by the officials of the Byzantine army. The stamp bear the figure of a lion, moving to the left. Such stamps were carried by Byzantine army officials, as a sign of recognition of their commission. The findings date from the 10th or 11th century and may belong to a military governor of the Byzantine army, who visited the area of Perperikon.

Click here to read this article from the Greek Reporter

Byzantine Mosaic Painting Unearthed in Central Syria

Byzantine mosaic painting remnants were unearthed at Faydht Marina archaeological site, northeastern of Salamiyah in Hama province.

Director of Hama Antiquities Department Abdul-Qader Ferzat said that the national archaeological mission uncovered lime floor at 2 m deep and pottery fragments from the Islamic age in addition to discovering green-glazed pottery dating back to Ottoman and Mamluk eras.

Click here to read this article from the Global Arab Network

Medieval barn blaze prompts priory fears

Urgent protection has been called for at an historic priory site after arsonists destroyed one of the region’s finest medieval barns.

The 14th-century thatched and timber building at St Bartholomew’s Priory, in Clermont Avenue, Sudbury, has been lost following the blaze on Tuesday night.

Police have now confirmed that the fire is being treated as arson and are urging anyone with any information to contact them.

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Medieval Times performers take their jobs very seriously

Click here to read the article from the Orange County Register

Schedule released for the 2011 International Congress on Medieval Studies

The Medieval Institute of Western Michigan University has released the schedule for the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, which takes place May 12-15, 2011. This year’s congress will feature 580 sessions covering a vast number of topics related to history, religion, literature and medievalism.

Click here to read this article from

Click here to see our section on the International Congress of Medieval Studies

Lost Vatican manuscripts go on display in Dallas

Rare, lavishly-illustrated manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel that were rescued from Napoleon's army, only to fall under the radar screen of art history for two centuries, go on display in Dallas on Sunday.

The exhibit at Southern Methodist University's Meadows Museum, which will run until April 23, is the only chance for the U.S. public to see the stunning, hand-made codices or manuscripts.

Click here to read this article from Reuters

Friday, January 21, 2011

Online history lessons littered with schoolboy errors, warns Royal Society

Historians have criticised Scotland's school curriculum body after inaccuracies were found in its teaching materials.

Christopher Whatley, professor of Scottish history at Dundee University, led an expert group at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) which found "a considerable number of inaccuracies".

The report by the RSE also criticised the materials from Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) for "excessive concentration" on the Second World War. The materials are Higher history resources, available nationwide to pupils through the school intranet, Glow.

Click here to read this article from The Scotsman

Modern Medieval

Medieval studies experts want to use technology to make it easier to study the past.

Ironically, medieval studies scholars were among the first to use modern technology in their research. Rev. Roberto Busa used punchcards back in 1949 for his research on St. Thomas Aquinas. To date, scholars have created more than 100 electronic resources for medieval research. The problem is, the archives aren’t connected.

That’s something Tim Stinson, a humanities scholar at NC State, and Dot Porter, a librarian at Indiana University, want to change. They’re working with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore creation of a federation of electronic medieval studies projects.

Click here to read this article from North Carolina State University Bulletin

Design firm restores medieval banquet hall

A medieval banquet hall has been restored to its original glory – thanks to a South Tyneside design company.

Hebburn-based Restaurant Design Associates (RDA) was appointed by the award-winning Blackfriars eaterie in Newcastle to renovate a 50-seat 13th century banquet hall.

The restaurant is one of the oldest dining rooms in the UK, dating back to 1239, and the hall was the celebrated venue used by King Edward III for receiving Scottish king Edward Balliol.

Click here to read this article from The Shields Gazette

The Neighbour and the Jew in Medieval England

Should the relationship between Jews and Christians in Medieval England just be characterized by violence and animosity? The answer lies in looking more deeply at the sources, which can reveal some fascinating new details about the daily life between these two communities.

Today, the University of Toronto hosted a lecture today on the topic, “The Neighbour and the Jew in Medieval England,” given by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, where he looks at events in the twelfth and thirteenth century.

Click here to read this article from

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sudbury: Loss of medieval barn ‘a tragedy’

A community has been left devastated after a fire destroyed a “beautiful” medieval barn of historic importance. The building, at the site of St Bartholomew’s Priory, in Clermont Avenue, Sudbury, has been completely lost following the blaze at about 8.50pm on Tuesday.

St Bartholomew’s Priory, which is Grade-II listed, is believed to have been the only complete priory in the whole of the county, consisting of the barn, the chapel and the house. The thatched barn, with oak beams, dated back to the 14th Century.

Click here to read this article from EADT

John Rylands Library to digitize late medieval Koran

Technology is to enable scholars for the first time to study a complete manuscript of one of the world’s most important and largest Korans. The book’s ornate 88 x 60 x 18 cm pages – the size of a plasma television – are kept at The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library.

Experts at the John Rylands Library are using digital technology and the internet to reunite the 470 page Rylands Koran of Kansuh al-Ghuri with two missing leaves, discovered in the 1970s at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Up to now, scholars have been unable to study the precious items – thought to be at least 500 years old – because they are too fragile. But now, the reunited digitised resource will be freely available for research, teaching and learning using Turning the Pages technology on a dedicated website.

Click here to read this article from

See also this news report from the BBC

See also this news report from the Mail Online

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A knight’s tale in Warwick

The chivalry and splendour of a bygone era is being brought vividly to life in a new exhibition in the heart of Warwick.

Warwickshire Museum in Market Place is hosting ‘Distant Voices’ A dramatic exhibition of paintings by Leamington-based artist Noreen Mason and armour worn by ‘The Knights of Middle England’.

It will run from Saturday, 22nd January to 15th March in Pedlars Gallery, where Noreen Mason’s beautiful, dynamic and colourful work, conjure up a lost world of horses and bold knights in shining armour. Her inspiration comes from her love of horses, and her interest in the days of chivalry and valour.

Karl Ude-Martinez, who runs the locally based ‘Knights of Middle England’, has been invaluable to Noreen in her unceasing quest for knowledge and enlightenment about days of old.

Click here to read this article from Warwickshire County Council

Gale Adds Medieval and Renaissance Works to British Literary Manuscripts Online

Gale, part of Cengage Learning, today announced the release of British Literary Manuscripts Online, Medieval and Renaissance, the second installment of the British Literary Manuscripts Online series. Following the release of the first installment in May 2009, this new digital archive brings approximately 565,000 pages of unique author manuscripts into the hands of students, educators and researchers.

“This fascinating series, selected from a multitude of leading world libraries, delivers insights into the culture and context surrounding centuries of British literary achievement,” said Jim Draper, vice president and publisher, Gale. “Gale is proud to be the first publisher to conceptualize and publish a collection of this vast range and depth.”

Click here to read this article from

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monks' diaries to help weather forecast

Medieval weather records, including details from monks' diaries are helping experts work out how and why climates have changed over the past 500 years.

Edinburgh University scientists found the historic data, such as harvest records, matched modern computer simulations of climate patterns.

Researchers have assembled climate models to account for past events. They expect the models to work well for forecasting future climate conditions, especially predicting temperatures.

Click here to read this article from the BBC

Click here to see the press release from the University of Edinburgh

Medieval Charter returned to Notts after auction bid success

It is more than 800 years old and shows how some of the land at Rufford Abbey was divided up in the 12th century.

The medieval charter dates from the 1180s and confirms transfer of land at the Abbey. The parchment shows Henry II gave away some of the site to Osbert de Capella and his wife Emma.

And now the charter has come home to Notts. It was bought by the county council's archives section at auction in London from a private collector for about £3,000.

Click here to read this article from the Nottingham Post

Monday, January 17, 2011

Historian dispels myths about Eleanor of Aquitaine and the role of women on the Second Crusade

One of the popular images of the Crusades is the story of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine taking 300 of her ladies-in-waiting with her on the Second Crusade during the years 1147-49. While this particular tale has long-been debunked, a recent article has shown that many other aspects of Eleanor’s role, and the overall effort of women during the Second Crusade has been emphasized too much.

Conor Kostick’s article, “Eleanor of Aquitaine and the women of the Second Crusade,” which appears in the book Medieval Italy, Medieval and Early Modern Women: Essays in Honour of Christine Meek, shows that female participation was likely much smaller during the Second Crusade than it was for the First Crusade at the end of the eleventh century. Kostick believes that the crusade preaching that took place in the lead up to the march to the Holy Land was more aimed at getting people with a military background to commit to the crusade, and avoided encouraging non-combatants, including women, into participating.

Click here to read this article from

Lycoming College professor of history receives grant for research in Spain

Lycoming College assistant professor of history Dr. Cullen Chandler has been awarded a grant from the Program for Cultural Cooperation (PCC) to support a six-week sabbatical in Barcelona, Spain, during which he will be researching medieval Spanish history and culture.

While there, Chandler will have the opportunity to study scholarly work not easily available in the U.S., including hand-produced books from the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries inaccessible outside of Barcelona.

Click here to read this article from Lycoming College

Church discovery sheds light on medieval mystery

A community archaeology project entirely run by volunteers has made a remarkable discovery in a remote Norfolk priory that could help to shed light upon one of British architectures greatest mysteries. The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (NMGS) was established in 2010 to search for medieval graffiti inscriptions in Norfolk churches. To date they have surveyed over fifty of the county’s 650 medieval churches and already made a number of groundbreaking discoveries. However, the most recent find, made in the Priory church of Binham, a few miles from the Norfolk coast, is set to cause excitement and controversy amongst medieval historians and architects alike.

Click here to read this article from

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remains of oldest fruit trees found in Iberian Peninsula

Researchers have found that the seed samples gathered over the years at medieval archaeological sites in the historic old quarter of Hondarribia are the remains of the oldest fruit trees in Southern Europe.

The town of Hondarribia lies on the coast of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, Spain. The research was undertaken by the archaeobiology research team from the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) under the direction of Doctor Leonor Pena-Chocarro.

Click here to read this article from Sify

Bruce Munro's Water-Towers at Salisbury Cathedral

The installation of Bruce Munro’s Water-Towers has begun, and work is in progress on his second contemporary artwork at Salisbury Cathedral, situated along two entire sides of the ancient cloister.

16,000 water bottles (large 2 Lt size) have been supplied by Cott Beverages, suppliers to Tesco, and thanks are due to Jamie Feeley and particularly Sophie Dungworth for their help in ensuring they arrive through inclement weather and other challenges.

Click here to read this article from the Art Daily

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Account of the Viking Siege of Paris offers new insights into the early Middle Ages

The chance to work on an amazing and unique story was the reason behind Nirmal Dass producing a new edition and translation of a ninth century text that described Viking and Frankish warfare. His recent publication of Viking Attacks on Paris: The Bella Parisiacae Urbis of Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, is an eyewitness account of the Norsemen’s seige of Paris in the years 885 and 886. It is the first complete English translation of this text.

The poem offers vivid descriptions of warfare in the early Middle Ages and offers scholars interesting insights into the events as well as early medieval French kingship. Dass, who teaches at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada, finds that Abbo also wanted his readers to draw moral lessons about the meaning behind these events. “Behind every event, there is meaning and value,” he said in an interview with For the medieval man, “when events happen there is always a reason for it. There are divine and cosmic forces at work.”

Click here to read this article from

Norton Priory makeover

Housing workers are travelling back in time to give a 900-year-old priory a facelift - in just two weeks. Plasters, plumbers, painters, joiners and electricians are bringing Runcorn’s medieval monastery, Norton Priory, up to date.

Claire McDade, the priory’s director, said: ”It’s amazing. Every day, something new and exciting is happening. All these skilled craftsmen are doing jobs we simply couldn’t afford. This is ‘Changing Rooms’ on a massive scale. Their generosity is wonderful.”

Click here to read this article from the Runcorn and Widnes World

Friday, January 14, 2011

Crusaders massacre of Jerusalem was done in cold-blood, not religious frenzy, historian argues

A leading historian of the Crusades believes that 1099 massacre of Jerusalem’s inhabitants by the army of the First Crusade was not the result of religious fervour, but rather, “the cold-blooded implementation of…’ethnic cleansing’.”

In his recent article, “The Demographics of Urban Space in Crusade Period Jerusalem (1099-1187), Alan V. Murray of the University of Leeds examines what happened when the Crusaders stormed into the Holy City on July 15th after a long siege. Many of the chronicles graphically describe the violence as the Crusaders slaughtered the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. For example, Raymond of Aguilers wrote, “Some of the pagans were mercifully beheaded, others pierced by arrows plunged from towers, and yet others, tortured for a long time, were burned to death in searing flames.”

Click here to read this article from

Lindisfarne Gospels and the Old English Hexateuch added to British Library Digitised Manuscripts

We are delighted to announce that full colour images of two iconic treasures, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Old English Hexateuch, have been added to our Digitised Manuscripts site.

The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of the great masterpieces of medieval western art. Dated conventionally to the first decades of the 8th century, the manuscript is adorned with beautiful carpet-pages, miniatures of the evangelists, and decorated initials.

Click here to read the full post from the British Library

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Byzantine coins and water tank unearthed in archaeological city of Apamea

Syria (Hama) – the National Excavation Mission has unearthed some archaeological coins, clay pieces and water tank at the archaeological Bath of Acriba, to the north of the Archaeological city of Apamea in Hama province.

Head of Hama Antiquities Department Abdul Qader Farzat said that excavation works concentrated on the western part of the Bath in addition to conducting an exploration in the Byzantine House.

He clarified that excavation works included removing the surface layer in the western corridor which is made of lime and small stones in addition to different pieces of clay.

Click here to read this article from the Global Arab Network

Scientists examine medieval painting at the Tower of London

A medieval wall painting at the Tower of London has received some special attention from scientists at Nottingham Trent University. Dr Haida Liang and her team of researchers were invited by Historic Royal Palaces to use hi-tech equipment developed at the University to examine the 14th century Byward Tower wall painting – without the need to touch or damage it in any way.

For the past six years, Dr Liang and her team have been refining the development and use of non-invasive techniques for examining paintings and archaeological artefacts.

Click here to read this article from

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sealed medieval door at Lincoln Castle to be opened to create complete wall walk

A sealed-up medieval doorway at Lincoln Castle is to be knocked through under plans to create uninterrupted wall walks.

Lincolnshire County Council has £3.5 million to open up the south wall to the public, linking it to the other three walls via a system of cantilevered bridges and timber walkways.

Work is set to begin on the wall, off Drury Lane, in May.

It is part of a wider regeneration and repair project and creating the complete circuit of the walls will need further work in 2012 and 2013.

Click here to read this article from the Lincolnshire Echo

Museum Secrets reveals the history behind historical objects

A museum can be the setting for exciting thrillers, and we’re not talking about the ones penned by Dan Brown. Museum Secrets, a six-part series on History Television, promises to uncover the mysteries and scandals of institutions such as the Vatican, the Louvre and Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum. “We find stories that people don’t know,” says producer Robert Lang, who travelled across the world to investigate prehistoric British cannibalism and the murder of a pharaoh. “Behind every object, there’s a great story to tell. In every museum, there are millions of objects.” Melissa Leong went behind the scenes with curators at the ROM to learn about three mysterious objects and their stories.

Click here to read this article from The National Post

Click here to see our page on Museum Secrets

Robert Markus

Robert Markus, who has died of cancer at the age of 86, was among the finest historians of his generation. He helped establish the idea of Late Antiquity as a distinct and exceptionally creative period of European history, bridging the fall of the western Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages. He stressed the importance of Christianity's beliefs, but always had an eye to the material and social structures in which it was practised.

Click here to read his obituary, written by Jinty Nelson, from The Guardian

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Book: The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance

The macabre encounter of skeletons mocking the living has haunted Case Western Reserve University art historian Elina Gertsman’s imagination since childhood walks with her grandfather through the St. Nicholas Church in Tallinn, Estonia (now the Art Museum of Estonia). That childhood fascination led to Gertsman’s newly published book, The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance (Brepols, 2010), a rare and long-awaited volume on the subject. Gertsman is an assistant professor in the art history department, who started at the university in August. At Case Western Reserve University, she teaches courses on medieval art, including Gothic Art, Medieval Art, Women and Medieval Visual Culture and a seminar on Death in Medieval Art.

The Dance of Death is a late medieval genre that, when incarnated as a large-scale public artwork, often combines images and text. The procession of figures often starts with a pope and then alternates with skeletons or corpses by societal hierarchy from the rich to the poor, the powerful to the powerless. It includes both young and old, lay people and clerics.

Click here to read this article from

Undergrad thesis: ‘Feathered Funerals: Birds in Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Rites’ wins award

Ruth Nugent of the University of Chester has been awarded The Society for Medieval Archaeology’s John Hurst Prize for the Best Undergraduate Dissertation, 2010, for her work Feathered Funerals: Birds in Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Rites.

The prestigious annual award is made to the undergraduate dissertation that makes the most original contribution to medieval archaeology (from AD 400 to 1600) and Ruth is ‘surprised and delighted’ to have been selected from a whole range of submissions from the UK and Ireland.

Click here to read this article from

Jordan's Crusader castles: storm the ramparts

At the crossroads of the Middle East, poised between Europe, Arabia, Africa and Asia, Jordan has seen countless armies come and go. Some have vanished without trace, others have left their mark in the form of Jordan’s hundreds of archaeological sites and ancient buildings.

The most dramatic of these are the many castles dotted around the country – including these three classic examples from the medieval Crusader period.

Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph

Monday, January 10, 2011

Historian uncovers new insights into Jewish Religious life in the Byzantine empire

New research has uncovered a forgotten chapter in the history of the Bible, offering a rare glimpse of Byzantine Jewish life and culture. The study by Cambridge University researchers suggests that, contrary to long-accepted views, Jews continued to use a Greek version of the Bible in synagogues for centuries longer than previously thought. In some places, the practice continued almost until living memory.

The key to the new discovery lay in manuscripts, some of them mere fragments, discovered in an old synagogue in Egypt and brought to Cambridge at the end of the 19th century. The so-called Cairo Genizah manuscripts have been housed ever since in Cambridge University Library.

Click here to read this article from

Mona Lisa backdrop depicts Italian town of Bobbio, claims art historian

A small town in northern Italy is basking in new-found celebrity after an Italian art historian claimed it featured in the background of the world's most famous painting – Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

A bridge and a road glimpsed over the shoulder of the Mona Lisa, often believed to be imaginary, belong to Bobbio in northern Italy, according to Carla Glori, who says that a numerical code recently discovered on the canvas backs her conclusions.

"The twisting road from the painting can be found there, as is the arched bridge that Da Vinci would have seen from the windows of the town's castle," said Glori, who is due to publish her findings about the Renaissance painting this year.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian

Friday, January 07, 2011

Who Were The Three Wise Men Of Christmas?

Of all the characters who appear in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, the "Three Wise Men" are by far the most fascinating. Even someone who has never cracked open a Bible is very likely to know about the Wise Men, the star they followed and the gifts they brought to the infant Jesus on the first Christmas. But the story of these figures is found only in Matthew among the four canonical Gospels, and leaves many questions unanswered. Who were these mysterious foreigners? Where exactly did they come from? What was their star? And were there even three of them, since Matthew never gives a specific number, only tells us that there were three gifts?

Many early Christian writings attempted to provide answers to these questions, but one stands out as truly exceptional. Known as the Revelation of the Magi, it is a complex, rich, and strange narrative that purports to be the Wise Men's personal testimony about the birth of Jesus. According to this writing, the Wise Men (or better, Magi) are mystical sages living at the eastern edge of the world, guarding an ancient prophecy about a coming star that will signify the birth of God in human form. The appearance of the star, their miraculous journey to Bethlehem, and what became of them afterwards -- all of these events are presented in vivid detail in the Revelation of the Magi. There are no other early Christian writings that provide such a complete explanation of these mysterious figures.

Read this article from the Huffington Post

See also Ancient manuscript appears to be account of Magi's journey

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In literary pursuit, he follows trails of animal DNA

Tim Stinson isn’t a scientist. But that hasn’t stopped him from working with DNA.

The English literature professor at N.C. State University is hoping to use the nucleic acid to better trace the history of ancient manuscripts. So far, he has tested the DNA on five ancient pages, each made more than 500 years ago on animal skin parchment.

The project started as Stinson was tracking the history of an ancient poem. In medieval times, scribes frequently changed the work they were copying, translating it in to their own dialect, improving the meter or just removing sections they didn’t like. The result is that many modern versions are not exactly as they were originally written. “There are 85 manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales. None are by Chaucer. None are identical. Which is correct?” says Stinson.

Click here to read this article from the Triangle Business Journal

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Getty Curator Discusses Manuscripts, France, And The Middle Ages: Imagining The Past

Manuscripts often contain written accounts and visual representations of history, but sometimes the history of a manuscript -- who commissioned it, how it was used, when and how it came to reside in a collection -- can also be a "page-turner."

In the year 1413, Duke Louis VII of Bavaria borrowed a lavish set of illuminated manuscripts from the French king. With over a million hand-written words and as many as 1600 individual images, these manuscripts contained a text known as the Mirror of History, which purported to tell the entire history of the world from the Creation to the Middle Ages. The four volumes somehow became separated from each other soon after Duke Louis borrowed them and went their own ways. Two were lost to the mists of time, one ended up at the University Library in Leiden, Holland, and a second eventually made its way to the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris. Last week, these two manuscripts from Holland and France were transported to Los Angeles for a long-awaited reunion.

Click here to read this article from The Huffington Post

See also our article Getty Museum hosts exhibition: Imagining the Past in France, 1250—1500

The ‘mad’ Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong

Ibn al-Haytham’s 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published exactly 1000 years ago, is often cited alongside Newton’s Principia as one of the most influential books in physics. Yet very little is known about the writer, considered by many to be the father of modern optics.

January’s Physics World features a fanciful re-imagining of the 10-year period in the life of the medieval Muslim polymath, written by Los Angeles-based science writer Jennifer Ouellette.

Click here to read this article from

Lichfield Cathedral awarded £100,000 for its urgent masonry repair work

Lichfield Cathedral has been awarded a £100,000 grant towards the cost of more urgent masonry repairs.

The medieval building is in the grip of continued renovation and its naming as one of six English cathedrals to receive funding "could not have come at a better time", according to church elders.

The grant, from the Wolfson Foundation and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, will go towards stonework repairs of Lichfield Cathedral's Lady Chapel, in conjunction with the conservation of the Herkenrode Glass.

Click here to read this article from the Lichfield Mercury

On-Site Archaeology shorlisted for Rescue Dig Of The Year award

York archaeologists have been shortlisted for an award after unearthing a mass grave of Cromwell’s soldiers in Fishergate.

The mass grave from the Siege of York in 1644 at the former medieval All Saints’ Church site at the junction of Kent Street and Fawcett Street is one of five finds nominated for magazine Current Archaeology’s Rescue Dig Of The Year in its Archaeology Awards.

The award is for archaeological survey and excavation carried out in areas revealed or threatened by development, or preventative measures taken on a previously unexcavated site.

Click here to read this article from The York Press

Click here to visit the Current Archaeology Awards website

£10,000 for rare coins which went to auction

A hoard of rare medieval coins has cashed in at more than £10,000 after going under the hammer at Lichfield Auction Centre.

The collection of over 40 hammered medieval and later coins had been brought to Richard Winterton Auctioneers' coin expert Stephen Wrenn just before Christmas.

Comprising hammered gold and silver coinage spanning the reigns of Aethelred I, Edward the Confessor, William I, Edward I, King John, Edward IV, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, Henry III and James I, the collection had been collected primarily during the 1980s by a local man.

Click here to read this article from the Lichfield Mercury

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Help sought for Tripoli's crumbling treasure trove

In the inner court of the Turgut Pasha mosque in the Libyan capital's old medina is a low green sarcophagus, and in the sarcophagus are the bones of a pirate.

The Turkish corsair Turgut Reis helped capture the city for the Ottoman empire in 1551, wresting it back to Islam from the Knights Hospitaller after four decades of Christian rule.

"The tomb of Turgut is a kind of relic," said Walid al Masri, a local imam visiting the mosque on a recent Friday for the midday prayer. "It's just one reason why more must be done to protect holy places here."

Click here to read this article from The National

Archaeologists hope wind farm works could unearth our long-lost secrets

Offshore wind farms could help reveal the ancient secrets of East Yorkshire.

Archaeologists believe plans to connect a network of huge wind farms in the North Sea to an existing sub-station in Cottingham offer the chance to unearth dozens of previously unknown settlements.

The Creyke Beck sub-station will be the connection point to the National Grid for up to 1,700 wind turbines expected to constructed in a 3,500 square-mile area of sea on the Dogger Bank.

Click here to read this article from the Hull Daily Mail

Anglo-Saxon settlement unearthed in Northumberland

The remains of an Anglo-Saxon settlement have been discovered at a surface mine in Northumberland. Buildings and artefacts dating from the 6th to 8th centuries have been uncovered at Shotton Surface Mine, on the Blagdon Estate, near Cramlington.

The site had been investigated by archaeologists before the start of open-cast mining work. Experts said the find had provided "the first direct evidence" of Anglo-Saxon settlement in that part of the county.

Click here to read this article from BBC News

Haughey urged to 'fast-track' Wood Quay excavation

Taoiseach Charles Haughey was advised to order fast-tracked excavations of Viking Dublin at Wood Quay to resolve the long-running dispute over its redevelopment.

A Government briefing memo urged archaeological digs be speeded up and spread across the entire site as a means of selling the project to opponents, including former president Mary Robinson.

Senior officials in Dublin Corporation, which was said to be devilled by paranoia over the work, did not "buy" the idea, the papers revealed.

Click here to read this article from the Irish Independent

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New on - January 4, 2011

Here are the posts added to today:

‘The king o fairy with his rout’: Fairy Magic in the Literature of Late Medieval Britain

Charity Refused and Curses Uttered in Chaucer’s Friar’s Tale

Orthodoxy versus Radicalism: Authorial Agenda in Two English Renaissance Witchcraft Texts

Pictures of the clergy in the Theodore Psalter

Vows, Boasts and Taunts, and the Role of Women in some Medieval Literature


Liturgy and the Illustration of Gregory of Nazianzen’s Homilies. An Essay in Iconographical Methodology

Lazarillo de Tormes and the Medieval Frametale Tradition

Pagan Peverel: An Anglo-Norman Crusader

Providers and Educators: The Theory and Practice of Fatherhood in Late Medieval Basel, 1475-1529

A Mediterranean Jewish Quarter and Its Architectural Legacy: The Giudecca of Trani, Italy (1000–1550)

The Cloisters: A Good Place to Start

It was early March 2008, when I met a friend, and painter, for a drink after work at a bar beneath Grand Central. He had just come from the Whitney Biennial, which had recently opened. The experience had left him drained and a bit cynical. I hadn't seen the show, but I knew the feeling.

There are shows that leave you so invigorated that all you want is to be back in the studio, feeling as though you could work through the night without tiring. Then there are the shows that leave you empty, pondering the foolish choices and childish ideals that led you to choose the life of an artist. And you leave these shows knowing you're supposed to want to go back to work. But who can work when there's so much drinking to be done?

So we talked for a while over some beers about the things two painters talk about when they feel the world is backwards and that nobody makes art for the right reasons. And somewhere in there, we realized that though we'd both lived as painters in the city for the better part of a decade, neither of us had ever been to The Cloisters. Finally, a problem that could be solved!

Click here to read this article from The Atlantic

Monday, January 03, 2011

Six Archeological Tombs and Finds unearthed in Sweida, Syria

Six archeological tombs and antique finds dating back to the Byzantine and Roman eras were unearthed by Sweida's excavation mission at the site of Imtan.

Head of the mission Hussein Zen-Eddein said the tombs and finds uncovered belong to a family cemetery, adding that they contain clay lanterns and bronze bracelets and earrings.

Former excavation works at the site uncovered a basalt pillar on which Nabatean words dedicated to a Nabatean god were engraved. In addition, two other phrases (one in Latin and the other in Greek) were engraved on a basalt stone, referring to God Jupiter.

Click here to read this article from Syrian Arab News Agency

Was Braveheart the true hero of Sherwood Forest?

Scottish hero Sir William Wallace may have been the inspiration behind the legend of Robin Hood, a ­best-selling crime writer has claimed.

Outlaw Robin Hood is a towering figure in English folklore but historical ­author Jack Whyte has claimed the ­origins of the hero may lie in the form of Scottish arch-Anglophobe Wallace. Mr Whyte, 70, said he stumbled across similarities between the two men while working on his book The Forest Laird.

Click here to read this article from The Daily Express

Click here to see a Video Interview with Jack Whyte from

Bleak outlook for History jobs in Academia

There has never been a single academic job market: variation among disciplines, institutions and regions has always mattered.

The reality of radically differing job markets may be especially clear as 2011 begins with disciplinary associations gathering for job interviews at annual meetings and releasing data on the number of available positions. During the 2009-10 academic year, the number of positions listed with the American Historical Association dropped by 29.4 percent, according to a study the group will release today. That follows a 23.8 percent drop the year before. Last year, the association announced that the number of listings it received -- 806 -- was the smallest in a decade; this year's total of 569 marks the smallest number in 25 years.

Click here to read this article from Inside Higher Ed

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A flax merchant from Egypt! Owner of 4th century New Testament papyrus identified

A Princeton University researcher has identified the owner of a New Testament papyrus that dates to the time of Constantine the Great.

Constantine was the Roman emperor who allowed Christians to practice freely, ending hundreds of years of persecution. His decision led people throughout the empire to convert and disseminate the New Testament.

Now, thanks to this new discovery, we know the story of one of these Christians.

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

Click here to read this article from Unreported Heritage News