Documented from the Scrolls of the Reign of Magnus Tindal and Etain II, basileos kai basilissa Æthelmearc: the Business of Their Court at Æthelmearc Æcademy, 14 November Anno Societatis L, in the Shire of Riversedge, accompanied by Their Highnesses Byron and Ariella, Prince and Princess of Æthelmearc. As recorded by Their Silver Buccle Herald, Kameshima-kyō Zentarō Umakai, with the assistance of Lady Raven Whitehart.
In the morning:
Master Fridrikr Tomasson av Knusslig Hamn and Mistress Orianna Fridrikskona, the Kingdom Ministers of Arts and Sciences, swore their fealty as Kingdom Officers.
Master Fridrikr begged a boon of the Imperatori, for he felt there was a grave oversight to correct. There was one, he said, whose art had reached the entirety of the Pennsic Wars for many years. He draws labyrinths that touch the hearts of young and old alike, for as many reasons as there are those who walk his mazes. He begged that the Emperor and Empress recognize this man’s accomplishments by inducting him into Their Imperial Council of the Laurel. They agreed, convened the Council, and summoned forth THL Ambrose Kyrielle. They charged him to sit vigil and contemplate whether he would accept a seat on Their Imperial Council, and bade the Order escort him to the place of contemplation that had been set for him.
In the evening:
Sisu the Strong was brought forth and recognized with the Order of the Silver Sycamore for her research into period felting and her teaching of classes to instruct others in that same art, and all at the age of 8. Scroll by Ursula of Rouen.
Thora the Destroyer was awarded the Order of the Silver Buccle for her service in the kitchens and helping with demos and setup and cleanup at events, and for teaching classes. Scroll illuminated by Frusina Bahor and calligraphed by Kieran MacRae.
The children of the kingdom were brought forth and sent to play and enjoy themselves while the adults conducted the business of Court.
The Imperatori brought forth the Assassin’s Guild and presented them with a signed charter to create them as an official guild of the Kingdom, subject to certain rules and restrictions as outlined in said charter. Charter by Maggie Ru.
The Imperator agreed that with the presence of such assassins in His land, even despite their allegiance to the Throne, the strength and leadership of the Sylvan Army was paramount. He had bidden His Highness choose a Warlord that would lead Æthelmearc through his reign, and he called forth the current Warlord, Syr Steffan Ulfkelsson, with whom His Highness had consulted strongly. They announced that His Majesty Tindal Augustus would lead the Sylvan Army once He had retired from the throne.
Syr Steffan went on to announce that THL Thorsol Solinauga was victorious in the day’s Unbelted tournament. His prize, courtesy of Duke Duncan von Halstern, was a basket hilt that His Grace had himself received in a similar tournament from the hand of Sir Kadan Chakhilghan ger on Echen.
Tiðfriðr Alfarinsdottir was Awarded Arms for her service setting up events, at troll, in kitchens, and cleaning up events, and for her work as Shire Chronicler. Scroll by Maria Christina de Cordoba.
Lord Mael Daire ua Duinn was inducted into the Order of the Golden Alce for his skill on the heavy weapons field, most notably with axe and with sword and shield. Scroll illuminated by Tegrinus de Rhina and calligraphed by Baroness Alex.
Duke Duncan von Halstern was created a Companion of the Sycamore for his study and practice of the arts of woodworking and Viking potmaking. Scroll by Caleb Reynolds.
The autocrats of the day, Duchess Ilish O’Donovan and Lady Katelyn Rose, were brought forth to thank their staff.
While Lady Katelyn was in the Imperial presence, The Imperatori elevated her to the Order of the Sycamore for her research and teaching into clothing making, especially St. Birgitta caps, and cordmaking. Scroll by Anlaith ingen Trena.
THL Ambrose Kyrielle was recalled before the Imperatori to answer the question that had been set before him that morning. He confirmed that the Council of the Laurel had advised him, and that he would accept elevation to the Council. Their Majesties convened the Council and asked for testimony from worthy Peers. Countess Elena d’Artois spoke of Ambrose’s peer-like qualities of grace, gentility, charisma and hospitality, which he has consistently displayed for over 15 years. Sir Thorgrim Skullsplitter spoke of the chivalric virtue of humility, for Ambrose creates his art without seeking or taking credit, but now everyone will know his name. Master Fridrikr Tomasson av Knusslig Hamn of the Order of the Pelican spoke of the service that art provides, that the labyrinths that Ambrose creates are walked for many reasons, and that he provides the service of taking art and bringing it to the people. Mistress Katla Ulfheðinn of the Order of the Laurel spoke of Ambrose’s consistent teaching, and that every time she talks to him she learns something new. Mistress Orianna Fridrikskona bore the words of Mistress Brid nic Shéarlais of the East Kingdom, who had known Ambrose since he was a child and watched over him like a foster mother, and who had seen him grow and flourish in his study of labyrinths into a man whose hospitality and honor are renowned. Having heard such testimony, Magnus Tindal Augustus stated that he wished to see Ambrose bedecked in the raiment of a Councilor of the Laurel, and he was gifted with a medallion, a hood, a brooch, a wreath, and the traditional Laurel fruitcake. Now that he presented the visage of a Councilor, Magnus Tindal Augustus and Etain Augusta awarded Ambrose Arms by Letters Patent, and created Master Ambrose Kyrielle a Peer of the Realm and a Companion of the Laurel. Scroll illuminated and calligraphed by Una de Saint Luc upon wording by Fridrikr Tomasson av Knusslig Hamn.
Mistress Marsi of Hadley, the class coordinator, and Mistress Alicia Langland, the Chancellor of the Æcademy, were invited forth to thank all those who taught classes, as well as all those who helped to make the Æcademy a continuing success. Her Majesty presented them with Her tokens of inspiration on behalf of all the day’s teachers.
All those who contributed to the day’s scribal efforts were asked to stand and be recognized.
There being no further business, this Court of Their Majesties was closed.In Honor and Service, Kameshima Zentarō Umakai 高貴国境の王国の治部卿 Silver Buccle Principal Herald, Kingdom of Æthelmearc
If like me you’ve wept openly at StoryCorps‘ Friday broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition for the past decade, or at their beautiful animated shorts on PBS, you may have wondered how to go about recording the oral histories of your own loved ones. StoryCorps uses professional radio equipment to record and has a platoon of trained volunteers to facilitate the interviews. Interviews are recorded one at a time in the StoryCorps MobileBooth that travels the United States or in one of the permanent StoryBooths in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Atlanta.
Despite its limited geographical reach, StoryCorps has been able to record thousands of stories a year and now have more than 65,000 recordings from 100,000 participants. This Thanksgiving, they hope to at least double that figure in just one long weekend. Obviously they don’t have 65,000 sets of radio equipment and facilitators. This goal can only be achieved with new technology, and that’s what StoryCorps has created.
Every year the TED conference awards a $1 million prize to someone with “a creative, bold vision to spark global change.” StoryCorps’ founder Dave Isay was the winner of the 2015 Ted prize and his bold vision was the StoryCorps.me app, a smartphone app that anyone anywhere in the world with an Android and iOS device could download and use to record high-quality audio.
That vision has now become a reality. More than $400,000 of the prize money went to the development of the app; the rest was spent creating a dedicated website and adding server capacity so that interviews can be uploaded directly to the site. The free app extends StoryCorps’ range to the entire world.
Armed with a working beta of the StoryCorps.me app, anyone can participate in the Great Thanksgiving Listen. The project seeks to take advantage of a holiday where multiple generations of family and friends are locked together in a house with no way easy way out. The focus of the initiative is on working with high school teachers to encourage their students to record a grandparent or other senior family member during Thanksgiving weekend as part of their social studies, history, civics, journalism and political science classes. There’s a teacher toolkit (pdf) with instructions for students on how to plan and conduct the interview as well as the mechanics of recording and uploading the result. All interviews recorded this weekend will be uploaded not just to the StoryCorps website, but also the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
It’s not just for students, however. Anybody with a compatible device can take their shot at capturing the invaluable oral histories of a whole generation of elders. The app helps users prepare questions, find the best location for the interview, record the conversation on a mobile device, take a photograph to accompany the interview, share the completed recording with friends and family celebrating the holiday and finally upload the interview. It also provides editing tools. All recordings uploaded in the first year will be archived at the Library of Congress as well as on the StoryCorps.me website.
“In this time of great disconnect and division, we hope the Great Thanksgiving Listen will prove a unifying moment for the nation,” said Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ Founder and President. “We are excited to use the new StoryCorps app to bring the country together in a project of listening, connection and generosity. Together we will collect the wisdom of a generation and archive it for the future, while at the same time reminding our grandparents how much their lives and stories matter.”
Download the StoryCorps.me app here and start planning your interview now. If you haven’t watched or heard any of StoryCorps’ interviews, please check them out on StoryCorps’ website. The animations are here, the audio interviews here.
Here’s one example of the kind of profoundly meaningful oral history these conversations record:
Pertinent to recent discussions about the Non-Member Surcharge and when it is to be in force, The Society Exchequer has issued the following statement regarding when it is and is not appropriate for local groups to collect the non-member surcharge:
The Non-Member Surcharge of $5.00 (five dollars) shall be collected at every Society, Kingdom or Local group event where:
Limited exceptions to the NMS rule:
1. Demonstrations – if the Kingdom or local group is hosting a demo at a school, a Renaissance Faire or some other gathering run by another organization (either for-profit or non-profit), the collection of NMS is not necessary; however, if the Kingdom or local group is either hosting or co-hosting the event and charging either a site fee or suggesting a donation, NMS shall be collected.
2. Regular Occurring Meetings: No NMS need be collected at a weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual re-occurring event, i.e. not at an officers meeting, a local group fighter practice, or regularly scheduled local arts & science meetings. If there is an officers meeting (or any other meeting or practice) at a published event charging a site fee or a suggested donation, this meeting/practice (as part of another event) does not negate the need to collect NMS.
Chinese archaeologists have unearthed the largest, most complete and best preserved Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-25 A.D.) cemetery near Nanchang, the capital of eastern China’s Jiangxi Province. The cemetery has only eight tombs, but they’re huge, covering 40,000 square meters (430,556 square feet or about 10 acres). The largest tomb has a chariot burial with walls almost 900 meters (2,953 feet) long. Excavations of the site began five years ago but the discoveries were only announced earlier this month, with new finds still coming in.
The site is a city of the dead, with memorial temples, roads and drainage systems structured around the tombs. The tombs are the most intact Western Han yet found, their layout exceptionally clear. The chariot burial is exceptional. There are five chariots, each with four horses sacrificed in a funerary ritual, and more than 3,000 artifacts and fittings decorated with gold and silver. It is the only tomb found south of Yangtze River to have real chariots, or real vehicles of any kind, for that matter.
And that’s just the beginning of the wealth discovered in these tombs. The main tomb was found to hold more than 10 tons of Wuzhu bronze coins, more than two million individual pieces. The coins date to the reigns of three Western Han emperors: Emperor Wu (141-87 B.C.), Emperor Zhao (87-74 B.C.) and Emperor Xuan (74-49 B.C.). Most of the coins were in a pile, but archaeologists found six strands of 1,000 coins each. Ancient sources reference 1,000 low-value Wuzhu coins being strung together via the square hole in the center to create a larger denomination. Based on the documentary evidence, this monetary adaptation was thought to have started in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), but no archaeological evidence of it has been found before. The discovery of six intact groups of 1,000 coins strung together on hemp ropes confirms the historical sources and pushes back the date of the practice at least 600 years. To give an idea of the value, the ancient documents say that ten of the strings could be exchanged for one Jin (250 grams) of gold. Ten Jin was the total net worth of a middle-class family in the Western Han Dynasty.
So far, the excavation of the cemetery has unearthed more than 10,000 artifacts, including bronze mirrors, bells, cooking pots, wine vessels and two exceptional lamps shaped like geese with fish in their beaks which in addition to being beautiful are also practical. The candle was held in the mouth of the goose so that smoke would enter the goose’s body through the fish. The goose lamp’s belly would be filled with water and the trapped smoke would dissolve into it like a one-way bong. (The geese don’t exhale.) They’ve also found jade objects, wood tablets, bamboo slips and musical instruments, among them a se (a plucked zither with 25 strings), pan flutes and sheng (a mouth-blown reed pipe instrument). There are also terracotta figurines known as Kuregaku figurines depicting how the instruments were played.
Then there’s the lacquer screen. It was broken into vertical painted panels. One of the panels has a portrait of a man who archaeologists believe may be Confucius. If they’re right, it will be the earliest known portrait of Confucius found in China. There are pictures of the screen in situ here and video of it here. Fair warning: you can’t see the portrait at all. You can’t even tell it’s a screen, frankly.
But wait! There’s more! On Tuesday archaeologists struck gold, specifically, 25 gold ingots shaped like hooves and 50 large and heavy gold coins. This is the greatest amount of gold ever discovered in a Han Dynasty tomb.
While the identity of the dignitary buried in the largest tomb has yet to be conclusively established, archaeologists believe it was Liu He, the grandson Emperor Wu, the Han dynasty greatest’s emperor who reigned for 54 years (141-87 B.C.). Liu He did not take after his venerable and supremely competent grandfather. He reigned for a mere 27 days, from July 18th to August 14th 74 B.C., before being deposed by the Dowager Empress Shangguan and court officials on 1127 charges of misconduct, most of them revolving around his sexing, feasting, hunting and all-around partying when he was supposed to be in mourning for his uncle, the deceased emperor. He was replaced by Emperor Xuan, the great-grandson of Emperor Wu, who had been raised a commoner after his father and grandfather died when the latter was falsely accused of practicing witchcraft against Emperor Wu.
Liu He was stripped of his titles after he was impeached, but in 63 B.C. Emperor Xuan was persuaded to make him the Marquess of Haihun which had the added advantage of shipping a potential rival away from the capital of his former principality (modern-day Jining) 900 miles south to the modern-day Jiangxi province. He died four years later in 59 B.C. The Haihunhou cemetery is named after the title, which in turn was a feudal descendant of a small kingdom that had once ruled the north of Jiangxi.
Lead archaeologist Li Xiaobin of the China National Museum, who has studied an impressive 4,000 Han Dynasty tombs, hopes the question of who the main tomb was built for will be answered when the sealed coffin in the central mausoleum is opened. If there’s a royal seal or jade accoutrements, that would identify the occupant as an emperor and may even identify him by name. If it is Liu He, it’s probable his wife occupies one of the other tombs and other family members or high-ranking nobles the remaining six.
The regional culture ministry has set up a number of laboratories so that researchers can examine the enormous quantity of artifacts recovered according to their relevant fields — archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, metallurgy, textile studies. Vice Minister of Culture Li Xiaojie wants the site to be excavated with an eye to a future application for the cemetery to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Recently, Kingdom officers have received a number of requests for clarification around the issue of the Non-Member Surcharge, following a discussion about this charge at the October Board of Directors meeting. The Society Exchequer has issued the following statement regarding when it is and is not appropriate for local groups to collect the non-member surcharge.
The Non Member Surcharge of $5.00 (five dollars) shall be collected at every Society, Kingdom or Local group event where:
Limited exceptions to the NMS rule:
1. Demonstrations– if the Kingdom or local group is hosting a demo at a school, a Renaissance Faire or some other gathering run by another organization (either for-profit or non-profit), the collection of NMS is not necessary; however, if the Kingdom or local group is either hosting or co-hosting the event and charging either a site fee or suggesting a donation, NMS shall be collected.
2. Regular Occurring Meetings: No NMS need be collected at a weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual re-occurring event, i.e. not at an officers meeting, a local group fighter practice, or regularly scheduled local arts & science meetings. If there is an officers meeting (or any other meeting or practice) at a published event charging a site fee or a suggested donation, this meeting/practice (as part of another event) does not negate the need to collect NMS
Filed under: Announcements Tagged: Non-Member Surcharge
A team of archaeologists has discovered early Norse artifacts in Canada and its Arctic islands, including what it believes is a stone crucible, with traces of bronze inside, used for metalworking. (photo)
The Lod mosaic, one of the largest and most complete Roman mosaic floors ever found, was discovered by accident during highway construction in the Israeli city of Lod, 10 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, in 1996. The initial excavation revealed a floor 50 feet long by 27 feet wide with a series of kaleidoscopic mosaics depicting animals at hunt, great sea creatures and fish crowding ships, urns and floral garlands, birds perched on branches and small, individual birds and fish all framed with bold black lines, geometric shapes and intricate knots. The total mosaic covered 600 square feet and was composed of two million individual tesserae (tiles).
Pottery sherds and coins found littering the floor dated it to the early 4th century A.D., and while no other parts of the structure were found, archaeologists believe it was a private home whose frescoed mud-brick walls had collapsed onto the floor preserving the mosaics for 1,700 years. Different sections of the mosaic were installed at different times and designed by different artists. The three north panels — individual animals in hexagonal frames, the largest panel with smaller animal and hunting scenes in triangular frames around a central octagonal mountain hunting scene, the great marine scene — were made by one mosaicist. The two south panel with birds on branches and fish and birds in frames were made by another. The urn and garland panel between them was made by a third artist, the least accomplished of the three, and was likely the last one to be installed. It probably took around three years for the whole floor to be completed.
The exceptional beauty and rarity of find vaulted the mosaic to international fame. The mosaic was opened to the public for one weekend and during those two days 10,000 people came to see it. The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) didn’t have the budget to properly conserve such a huge masterpiece, so after that one weekend of public display, the floor was reburied for its own protection.
In 2009, a $2.5 million gift from the Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation gave the Israel Antiquities Authority the wherewithal to re-excavate the mosaic, lift it from the floor (they found footprints and drawing lines in the mortar bedding), clean it and conserve it for exhibition. The three sections of the north panel, the best preserved and most intricate design, toured the United States starting in 2010 and moved on to Europe in 2013. It is now at the Cini Gallery in Venice.
The donation also made possible the construction of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center, a museum dedicated to the mosaic built on the discovery site. The traveling panels were reinstalled in their original location and the building went up around the floor. The center was originally scheduled to open in late 2014, but that date was pushed back, and with good reason. Between June and November of 2014, IAA archaeologists surveyed an unexcavated area south of the previously unearthed mosaic in advance of construction.
The second Lod mosaic is 36 feet by 42 feet and is part of the same private villa. The newly discovered mosaic shares the same themes of animals at hunt, fish, birds, urns and floral elements, and is of outstanding artistic quality. This mosaic decorated the floor of the villa’s courtyard, while the first mosaic decorated the floors of several reception rooms where the homeowner would have entertained clients and guests. The courtyard was surrounded by porticos, covered walkways, with lines of columns supporting the ceiling, none of which survive, although numerous fragments of wall frescoes have been recovered.
This elegant, expensively appointed home was part of a wealthy enclave during the Roman and Byzantine eras. Founded by Canaanites around 5600–5250 B.C., the city of Lydda was destroyed by Rome during the First Jewish War (66 A.D.) and besieged in the Second Jewish War (115-117 A.D.) Much of the Jewish population was slaughtered and the Christian population increased significantly in the years afterwards. In 200 A.D. the emperor Septimius Severus granted it city status and named it Colonia Lucia Septimia Severa Diospolis. It was the district capital and a regional center of commerce and government administration. The owner of the villa was part of the city elite, either an official or a rich merchant.
The site is bounded by modern buildings on the east side, so the entire home cannot be excavated. The new discovery will be incorporated into the visitor center.
For an in-depth examination of the first Lod mosaic and its significance, watch these videos compiled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First is a short film documenting the original find and the lifting of the mosaic in 2009. The next to are lectures given during the mosaic’s stop at the Met in 2011 about the discovery of the mosaic, the interpretation of its imagery and the influence of Rome on local art.
Documented from the Scrolls of the Reign of Magnus Tindal and Etain II, basileos kai basilissa Æthelmearc: the Business of Their Court at Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, 31 October Anno Societatis L, in the Shire of Angel’s Keep, accompanied by His Highness Byron, Prince of Æthelmearc. As recorded by Baronsfrú Oðindisa Býkona, Fleur d’Æthelmearc Herald, with the assistance of Lady Amalie Reinhardt.
Their Majesties thanked the entire populace of Angel’s Keep for their willingness to host the event and for the hard work they did to make a it great day.
Their Majesties invited the children forward. They then called Baroness Anastasie de Lamoure into court. Baroness Anastasie then escorted the children outside for fun and games.
Their Majesties called forward Baron Fridrikr Tomasson of Knusslig Hamn and Baroness Orianna Fridrikrskona. They talked about all the wonderful entries they saw. They thanked the entrants for entering. They also thanked the judges for the work they put into evaluate the entrants. Baron Fridrikr and Baroness Orianna then gave thank you gifts to the judges.
Their Majesties called forward the top five placers of the competition: Elska Fjarfell, THL Solveig Throndardottir, Mistress Gillian Llewelyn, Baron Artemis Andreas Magnus, and Lady Cassandra Matis. Her Majesty gave them Her token to mark their accomplishments.
Baron Fridrikr announced that Elska Fjarfell was the populace’s choice for the day. She was given a token to commemorate this.
His Highness spoke of the many hours of work and fine craftsmanship that Mistress Gillian Llewlyn had put into her embroidered slippers. He then gave her a token for being the Prince’s choice.
His Majesty spoke of Lady Cassandra Matis’s fine display of prosciutto and cheese. He admired her for the many months she spent making the prosciutto. For this, He named her King’s Choice and gave her a token.
Her Majesty spoke of Baron Artemis Andreas Magnus’ stained glass display. She remarked on the many hours of work that went into each piece as well as his extensive documentation. For this, She named him Queen’s Choice and gave him a token.
Their Majesties called forward THL Christina McGhriogair, Their current Arts & Sciences Champion. They thanked her for her service as Arts & Sciences Champion and divested her of the regalia. They then called forward Elska Fjarfell and named her Their new champion and placed the sash on her. Scroll by Lady Mairghhread Stoibheard Inghean ui Chionne.
Their Majesties called forward Lady Margaret Grace. It was noted that she made beautiful clothes for the royal family. For this they created her an Imperial Seamstress. Scroll by Edle Herr Fridrich Flußmüllner.
Their Majesties also noted that she cared for the Royal Children both at events and in their raiment. For this, they bestowed her with an Award of Excellence. Scroll by Edle Herr Fridrich Flußmüllner.
Their Majesties called forward Lady Felice de Thornton. Her Majesty spoke of Felice’s beautiful scrolls entered in the competition. She was especially pleased when Felice donated them to the kingdom. For this, Her Majesty named her as Queen’s Inspiration for the day. She was then created a companion to the Order of the Sycamore for her skill and artistry. Illumination by Lady Gillian McGill. Wording and calligraphy by Master Jonathan Blackston.
Their Majesties called forward Lady Fenris McGill. Lady Fenris spoke of how the children’s activities box went missing after the sudden death of Lady Lassairfhiona. She then thanked the Barony of Delftwood, and especially Baroness Clarice Roan, for replacement items for the new box.
The Majesties called forward THL Desiderata Drake. THL Desiderata talked about the scavenger hunt for the children. She thanked all those adults who helped make it a success and fun for the children. Their Majesties bid her stay a bit longer. They noted she helped revitalize websites so that information was more accessible to everyone. They spoke of her many years of service both as local, regional, and currently, the Kingdom Chatelaine. They then called forward Their Most Noble Order of the Pelican. They presented her with a writ to sit vigil for contemplation of entrance into this order. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova. Wording by Master Giles de Roet.
Their Majesties asked that all those who contributed scrolls for the event please stand and be acknowledged. They then thanked them for contributions.
Their Majesties thanked the staff of the event again and also the populace for a wonderful day. They encouraged everyone in the further pursuit of the arts and sciences.
Oðindisa Fleur d’Æthelmearc asked for a moment in the Imperial Court, which Their Majesties granted. She then requested that Baroness Helene al-Zar’qa join her. She announced to one and all that Oðindisa’s term as Fleur d’Æthelmearc Herald had come to an end, and Silver Buccle had appointed Helene the new Fleur d’Æthelmearc Herald, responsible for regional heraldic matters in Region 5 of Æthelmearc. With the consent of the Imperatori, and by the authority granted her by Silver Buccle, Oðindisa placed the Fleur d’Æthelmearc tabard on Helene’s shoulders and named her Helene Fleur d’Æthelmearc.
There being no further business, this Court of Their Majesties was closed.
When a member of a mountaineering club first spotted what would prove to be the frozen mummy of an Inca child 17,400 feet up Argentina’s Aconcagua Mountain in 1985, he mistook it for a patch of grass. The other climbers, knowing grass didn’t grow at that altitude, checked it out and found not vegetation, but black and yellow feathers on the headdress of a young boy who had been sacrificed on the mountain 500 years earlier. With only part of the mummy exposed by erosion, the climbers wisely left it alone and returned to the city of Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes where they alerted archaeologist Dr. Juan Schobinger to the find. Fifteen days later, Schobinger and a team of volunteer archaeologists climbed the mountain and carefully excavated the mummy bundle.
This was a milestone in the history of mountain archaeology because it’s extremely rare that the professionals get to excavate the find before the people who discover it. Folks just can’t resist having a dig, sometimes because they were only up there in the first place looking for ancient treasure, as in the case of the El Plomo Mummy found in the Chilean Andes in 1954, or because they thought it was a recent death and called the cops, as in the case of Otzi the Iceman or out of simple curiosity.
The Aconcagua Mountain region in northwest of Argentina was once part of Collasuyu, the southern-most province of the Inca Empire. It was in this empire that lasted less than 100 years from 1438 A.D. until the Spanish conquest in 1532 A.D. that mountain sacrifices reached their apogee. The Incas built shrines at the peak of the highest mountains — Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia — and there practiced the ceremony of capacocha, the ritual sacrifice of children on occasions of great import like the death of an emperor or in the wake of a natural disaster. The children selected were the most beautiful and healthiest in the empire. They would be given narcotics and alcohol, taken to mountaintop shrines and either left to die of exposure or killed outright.
The Aconcagua child appears to have been killed by a blow to the head when he was about seven years old. The cold and dry of the Andean environment preserved his body, the two wool tunics he was wearing, the wool, hair and vegetable sandals on his feet, and multiple layers of cotton cloths and fiber cords wrapped around him, included the outermost wrap festooned with yellow parrot feathers. A total of 25 textiles were found in the bundle. Because the mummy was excavated with proper archaeological procedures, the exceptional preservation was maintained and additional objects were found in the fill underneath the child: six figurines, three human with clothes and feather accessories, and three stylized flames, one gold-plated and two made of Spondylus shell.
Preserved first by 500 years in a frigid and arid climate and then by careful archaeological practice — a replica is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Cuyo while the mummy itself is kept in a freezer at all time — the Aconcagua mummy was a rare pristine subject for interdisciplinary studies. Researchers found red dye, probably from the achiote tree, on his skin and a red liquid, also probably involving achiote, in his stomach. He’s been examined by medical doctors to determine cause of death, been subject to histological, microbiological, osteological, genetic and environmental analysis. He’s been X-rayed and CT scanned.
Now a team of geneticists has has mapped his mitochondrial genome, a first for any Native American mummy. In fact, not only is he the first Native American mummy whose full mitochondrial DNA has been successfully extracted, he’s the first for whom complete sequencing has even been attempted. Geneticist Antonio Salas from the University of Santiago de Compostela had high hopes that the Aconcagua mummy’s unique preservation conditions might have preserved enough of his DNA to be testable. A small sample of the child’s lung was tested — internal organs are less likely to be contaminated — and all 37 genes passed down from his mother were sequenced.
The boy’s pattern of genetic variations placed him in a population called C1b, a common lineage in Mesoamerica and the Andes that dates all the way back to the earliest Paleoindian settlements, more than 18,000 years ago. But C1b in itself is very diverse — as its members spread throughout Central and South America, smaller groups became isolated from one another and started developing their own particular genetic variations. As a result, C1b contains many genetically distinct subgroups. The Aconcagua boy’s genome didn’t fit into any of them. Instead, he belonged to a population of native South Americans that had never been identified. Salas and his team dubbed this genetic group C1bi, which they say likely arose in the Andes about 14,000 years ago. They detail their findings today in Scientific Reports.
When Salas combed through genetic databases, ancient and modern, he found just four more individuals who appear to belong to C1bi. Three are present-day people from Peru and Bolivia, whereas another sample comes from an individual from the ancient Wari Empire, which flourished from 600 to 1000 C.E. and predated the Inca in Peru. Clearly, C1bi is extremely rare today, but the fact that it has now popped up in two ancient DNA samples suggests that it could have been more common in the past, says Andrés Moreno-Estrada, a population geneticist who studies the Americas at Mexico’s National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Irapuato and was not involved in the current work. If you sample just one or two individuals, “what are the chances that you pick the rare guy?” he says. “Most likely, you’re picking the common guy.”
It’s likely only so rare today because the Spanish and their diseases did such a thorough job of annihilating the native population. An estimated 90% were dead shortly after the conquest, and the rest interbred with Europeans, other Native American groups and Africans imported to the continent as slaves making the genes of modern Central and South Americans very distant indeed from the ones of their pre-conquest ancestors. The mummy’s DNA is frozen in time just as he was, providing us a rare window into past peoples. For instance, we know now that it took only 4,000 years for the earliest migrants to America to travel from Alaska to the Andes. The speed with which the continent was populated has been much debated, so this is very signficant new information.
Salas plans to go even further. He is working on mapping the complete nuclear genome of the Aconcagua mummy and when that’s done, he will turn his attentions to sequencing the genome of all the microorganisms in the boy’s digestive tract. That would lend new insight into the evolution of the microorganisms that live inside of us, helping us or actively trying to kill us.
You can read the full study here.
Researchers from the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties are studying a series of square holes they believe may have held the foundation for an important building in Fujiwara-kyo, the nation's capital between 694 and 710.
The Google Cultural Institute (GCI) and the British Museum have worked together to make it possible people all over the world to enjoy the museum’s many offerings from the comfort of their homes. So far 4,654 objects and artworks have been made available for our perusal. Google’s Street View cameras have trundled through the museum’s vast halls, so you can virtually walk through them from the second basement to the fifth floor, the largest indoor space yet captured on Street View. They’ve even captured the outdoors so you have a stroll around the beautiful museum building itself.
The British Museum has an excellent website with more than 3.5 million objects in its searchable database, 920,000 of them with one of more photographs attached. Many of the pictures are very good, but even the largest of them are modestly sized (the usual caveat regarding my obsession with high resolution photography applies, of course) and there are a significant number that look dated or are in black and white. It’s a wonderful thing, therefore, to have fresh images of thousands of objects in ultra high resolution courtesy of Google’s gigapixel cameras.
For example, the museum’s entry for the Admonitions Scroll, a Chinese painted silk handscroll more than 11 feet long from the 5th to the 8th century that depicts scenes from a 3rd century court poem, has 247 images. If you want to explore the details, you can go through the pictures one by one, but it’s tedious to have to go back and forth and the photo quality is less than satisfying. There are duplicates, old black and white shots and none of the pics I clicked on are more than 750 pixels wide. The scroll looks dingy, the painting dim.
Contrast that with the version on the Google Cultural Institute’s British Museum page. It’s a whole different viewing experience, like someone turned the light on in the room. You can see the whole thing in front of you at once. You can view the work in a depth of detail that you couldn’t possibly achieve in person unless your name is Steve Austin and they’ve made your other eye bionic too. You can see the weave of the silk, the individual hairs in the brushstrokes. It’s stupefying.
In addition to the objects from the permanent collection, there are also online versions of the museum’s temporary exhibitions, six of them right now with more to come. I’ve been pining to see Celtic Life in Iron Age Britain since it opened at the end of September. Gorgeous examples of Celtic metalwork, jewelry, objects of daily use and more are now viewable in detail online. It’s a curated online exhibit, not just a list of objects, arranged in a logical progression accompanied by explanatory notes. No Gundestrup Cauldron, though, sadly. It’s on the National Museum of Denmark’s GCI page, but not in gigapixel fun.
The collaboration between Google and the British Museum has also paved new territory for digital museum offerings. The Museum of the World microsite allows viewers to explore a timeline of artifacts divided into their continents of origin but then linked together by thematic connections. You swoop through time to a sparkly wind chimes sound effect while the objects load as polka dots, different colors for each part of the world — Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. When you click on one of the dots, you see a small thumbnail and the title of the object and lines radiate outwards connecting it to other objects. If you want to learn more, click again. The detail view has a text explanation of the piece, an audio description introduced by a narrator and expanded on by a relevant curator. Click on the picture to see it in high resolution. On the right side under the audio there’s a map so you can see where the piece came from and then a few thumbnails of related works if you’d like to skip directly their detail views.
I found it thoroughly engrossing. I scrolled all the way to the back of the timeline to the oldest artifact in the museum: a 1.8 million-year-old basalt chopping tool from the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. It has only one connected piece — an 800,000-year-old Olduvai handaxe — by the related objects thumbnails take you far afield to an archaic Native American birdstone (1,000-1,500 B.C.) and an early 19th century Inuit ulu (a crescent-shaped knife). Once you get to the handaxe, the radiating lines proliferate.
You can browse by continent — just click the name and all the other dots will disappear, click it again for them to return — or by the themes listed in the menu to the right. Click the three squares in the upper left corner to cut the scrolling and jump to specific times.
Seriously this feature is the rabbit hole of all rabbit holes. I would strongly recommend you only click on the first link when you have a nice chunk of time available, because there is no way in hell you’ll be able to stop once you get started. This is ideal lost weekend material.
University of Reading archaeologists have discovered a fragment of a Roman inscription that matches a piece unearthed in 1891. Both pieces of the marble slab were excavated from the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum next to the modern village of Silchester in Hampshire. The first and larger fragment was discovered by the Society of Antiquaries of London which excavated the entirety of the town within the Roman walls between 1890 and 1909. The piece had two truncated lines of text, “IN” on the top row, “AT” on the bottom. It was added to Reading Museum’s Silchester collection where it has remained for nearly a century and a quarter. The second fragment was found by the university team in 2013 during the excavation of Insula III, a block of the Roman town, just 10 meters (33 feet) away from the find spot of the first piece. The second piece has only one truncated row extant inscribed with the letters “BA.”
While just a small piece of a marble slab, it’s of considerable archaeological significance on its own because it’s likely a remnant of a plaque erected on a building to commemorate its construction or the deity to whom the structure was dedicated. Archaeologists believe the dedication was broken when the building was destroyed in the middle to late 1st century A.D., and very little material evidence of the destruction of an important building has been found in Britain.
The fragment was analyzed by Oxford University’s Dr. Roger Tomlin, an expert in Roman inscriptions. He’s the one who made the connection to the first fragment, finding they were both inscribed with the same style and size lettering on a slab of the same material — Purbeck Marble, a limestone native to Dorset that was extensively quarried in Roman Britain — and dimensions. Tomlin believes they are adjacent pieces, that the “BA” comes after the “AT” on the bottom row of the first fragment to spell out the word “At(e)ba(tum)” meaning “of the Atrebates,” the Gallic founders of the town of Calleva in the 1st century B.C.
Despite this amazing occurrence there could be more revelations to come. The name of the building is yet to be revealed but previous work at Silchester has connected the site to the infamous emperor Nero, as well as queen Boudica who led a famous rebellion against the Roman Empire.
Professor Fulford added: “We now know what the bottom line of the sign reads – however the top line remains a mystery. It’s a tantalising thought that this might link to Nero himself who is known to have commissioned major building projects in Silchester. Our work to uncover the origins of Silchester continues next year — perhaps a name could emerge. It’s unlikely — but this story goes to show that when it comes to archaeology, anything is possible.”
Calleva was a fortified settlement or oppidium that was the Atrebates’ seat of power. Numismatic evidence suggests that it was something of a mini-kingdom first ruled by Commius, a chieftain who at first had been Julius Caesar’s ally in the conquest of Gaul but who then turned on him and fought with Vercingetorix in his revolt against Rome in 52 B.C. According to Caesar’s legate Aulus Hirtius who wrote the eighth and last book of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, in 51 B.C. Commius finally struck a deal with Mark Anthony: he’d take his troublemaking ass out of Gaul on condition that he never had to see a Roman again. Anthony agreed and Commius crossed the Channel to Britain with a small group of followers.
It was that group which built the oppidium of Calleva. Coins have been found with Commius’ name and the names of his successors, so it seems Calleva was something of a city-state with him as its ruler. The Atrebates was added to Calleva’s name in a nod to its founders when the Iron Age oppidium was converted into a proper Roman town with streets on a grid pattern and solid stone walls after Claudius’ conquest of Britain in 43 A.D. The city was at a crossroads leading to important Roman urban centers, so it prospered and was known to have several large public buildings any one of which might have had a relevant inscription slab affixed to its walls.
Both inscription fragments will be on display in the University of Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life through November 27th.
Their Majesties Brennan Ri and Caoilfhionn Banri did visit their Barony of Bergental, and held a tournament to find their Heirs on 7 November 2015, AS L.
After a tournament filled with skillful and chivalrous combat, it came down to a best of five between Kenric ӕt Essex and Hrafn Bonesetter. After three rounds rotating from sword and shield to greatsword to polearm, Kenric emerged the victor.
His Majesty Brennan crowned Kenric ӕt Essex Prince of the East, and his heir. Her Majesty Caoilfhionn crowned Avelina Keyes Princess of the the East, and her heir. In court Their Highnesses would be formally named Prince and Princess Tir Mara.
Before the tourney began, however, Their Majesties called forth Benjamin Black. Noting his prowess in combat, and service as a marshal that day, they called in their Order of the Tyger’s Combatant. He was inducted into the order and presented a medallion and a scroll by Melisande of the Gryphon Wood.
At the start of evening court, a moment of silence for those who have passed was observed.
Hrafn Bonesetter was called before the court. He was named the Admiral of the Armies, as is tradition.
The Ladies of the Rose were invited to join Their Majesties. They presented tokens to Jibril al Dakhil, Ketilfastr Thorkilson, Hrafn Bonesetter, Sigrun Soldottir, Gelleys Jaffery, Wilhelm von Ostenbrücke and Luis de Castilla. They then chose to present the Shield of Chivalry to Simon Gwyn.
Their Majesties next called before them Aeryn Fitzpatrick. Despite her youth, they spoke of her exceptional service. They called forth the Order of the Tyger’s Cub. She was inducted into the order, presented a medallion and a scroll by Katherine Stanhope.
Her Majesty invited before her those children who had taken part in her Service Initiative. Caleb, Emma, Courtney Rose and Catline were presented tokens for their participation.
The rest of the children present were invited into court. They proceeded to stampede in their pursuit of the toybox.
King Brennan and Queen Caoilfhionn invited before them Brynhildr Amvarsdottir. They spoke of her great service to themselves and the Kingdom, and made her a Lady of the court, Awarding her Arms with a scroll featuring illumination by Adrienne d’Evreaus, calligraphy by Alexander St. Pierre and words by Aneleda Falconbridge.
Cassandra Blondel de Saint Alban was called before the court. Their Majesties spoke well of her, and Awarded her Arms, making her a Lady of the Court and presenting her a scroll by Sorcha Dhocair inghean Ui Ruairc with words by Ulrich Reinhart.
Next were Leon d’Saint Aubin and Rudolf d’Saint Aubin called into court. Their hard work noted, Their Majesties Awarded them both Arms, and made them both Lords of their Court. Leon received a scroll featuring illumination Juliana de Essex and calligraphy and words by Nest verch tangwistel. Rudolf received a scroll by Eowyn Eilonwy of Alewife Brook.
His Majesty Brennan next invited into court Astryda Browska and Stephan of Silverforge. He spoke highly of their tremendous attention to detail in their personas and their presentation, and inducted them each into the King’s Order of Excellence. Astryda received a scroll by Onóra ingheann Uí Rauirc.
Stephan received a scroll with illumination by Sunniva Ormstung, calligraphy by Elen Alswyth of Eriskay and words by Sunniva Ormstring & Elen Alswyth.
Their Majesties both asked Stephan of Silverforge to remain in their court. Speaking highly of his skills, they invited into their court the Companions of the Order of the Maunche. He was inducted into the order and presented a medallion.
Their Majesties called before their court Raina Iskremova. Brennan and Caoilfhionn spoke of the good they had heard of her, and made her a Lady of the Court, Awarding her Arms.
The citizens of the Hamlet of…well, frankly it was a really inscrutable piece of paper they gave the
Herald which appeared to read the Hamlet of Hepfulton. At any rate, the citizens asked Their Majesties for assistance, as they lacked leadership. His Majesty called forward his squire, Martin Wasserpeier. So it was Martin was named the Mayor of the newly renamed Hamlet of Helpfulltown, and presented a sash of office and a scroll with illumination by Elizabeth Eleanor Lovell and calligraphy by Alys Mackyntoich.
His Majesty demanded the presence of Aneleda Falconbridge. He was quite upset to have learned that she had composed a song not for him, but for his cousin of the Mid. Her Majesty pleaded on behalf of Aneleda, but Brennan was most wroth. He determined that a jury of her peers was necessary, and called them forth – The Companions of the Order of the Laurel. Analeda was given a writ to sit vigil at A Market Day at Birka, and on that day answer whether she would be elevated to the Peerage.
Brennan Ri and Caoilfhionn Banri called forth Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova.
She answered the question they had put before her at their Rapier Champions event in the affirmative, and thus they called before them the Companions of the Order of Defense. After hearing the words of representatives of each Peerage, they presented Nataliia with a cloak and a collar. The Queen then cast a gauntlet before Nataliia and challenged her to take up the duty of a Master of Defense. The challenge being accepted, she was made a companion of the Order. The new Master of Defense was also presented a scroll by Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus.
The future of the Kingdom of the East secured, Their Majesties closed their court. Long live the King and Queen! Long live the Prince and Princess! Long live the Kingdom of the East!
Malcolm Bowman, Eastern Crown Herald.
PS – Thank you to the Rowen Cloteworthy for organizing the Heralds for the Tournament, and to the heralds and runners for their hard work.
Thank you also to the heralds for court – Leonete d’Angely, Alesone Grey of Cranleigh, Maria von Ossenheim, Yehuda ben Moshe, Liadin Ingen Chineada, and Simona bat Leon.
Filed under: Court Tagged: court report, Crown Tournament
Last July, workers on a waterway restoration project near the Diana Gate on the north side of the ancient Etruscan city of Volterra stumbled on the remains of two walls 20 meters (66 feet) long. Archaeologists from the regional Superintendency were observing the works and took over when the ancient walls were found. Extrapolating from the shape and direction of the structures already unearthed, they dug test trenches in two locations that would have more walls if the building were, as they suspected, an amphitheater. Lo and behold, they found exactly what they expected to find: two more masonry walls each ten meters long with a marked elliptical curve.
Calculating from the established curvature, the building is an oval 80 meters (262 feet) long by 60 meters (197 feet) wide, which is a pretty massive structure for people to forget ever existed. Volterra already has one Roman theater from the late 1st century BC, early 1st century AD that was discovered in 1950 by Volterran native son and historian Enrico Fiumi who was actually a trained economist, not an archaeologist, and whose excavation team was composed of patients from a local psychiatric hospital. The theater was partly dug into the side of a hill in Greek fashion and seated 3500. Some of the seats were found with the names of the most prominent local families, season ticket holders, if you will. A large section of the two-level skene (the building behind the stage) 50 feet high survives.
There is some mention in 15th and 16th century sources of an amphitheater in Volterra, but the writers were considered less than reliable on the details and thought to have been referring to the theater Fiumi discovered rather than a real amphitheater.
The discovery of the amphitheater caused a stir, but there was no funding to continue digging. The city had to go begging hat in hand to the local bank for sponsorship which thankfully they were able to secure. This September excavations resumed. Archaeologists found two rows of steps and additional architectural features were discovered: a large carved block that was part of the cryptoporticus roof and the base of an entrance arch. Like the ancient Etruscan city walls, these features are made of a porous sandstone native to the area called panchina which is soft and easy to work but hardens when exposed to the air.
“This amphitheater was quite large. Our survey dig revealed three orders of seats that could accommodate about 10,000 people. They were entertained by gladiators fights and wild beast baiting,” Elena Sorge, the archaeologist of the Tuscan Superintendency in charge of the excavation, told Discovery News.
By comparison, the Colosseum in Rome could seat more than 50,000 spectators during public games.
“The finding sheds a new light on the history of Volterra, which is most famous for its Etruscan legacy. It shows that during the emperor Augustus’s rule, it was an important Roman center,” she added.
Tuscany’s oldest continuously inhabited town, Volterra was an important urban center from the 6th century BC through the Renaissance, falling under the Roman sphere of influence in the 3rd century and under direct Roman control in the 1st century BC. Although there’s never been any doubt that it retained its cultural and political significance in the imperial era, the discovery of a second much larger public entertainment complex possibly from the 1st century A.D. indicates the city was more prominent and more populated than historians realized.
The goal of this fall’s excavation was very limited: analyze the remains to get a solid idea of what else is out there. With more data to work with, the archaeological team will be able to design a plan for a more thorough future excavation and a budget. Then they’ll have some figures to use when scrambling for more funding.
On November 12th, 1799, the first known record of a meteor shower in North America was written in the journal of a witness observing the Leonids from the deck of a ship in the Florida Keys. The occasion is marked in many an iteration of “This Day in History” entries, but in almost all of them there is a glaring error: the journal entry is attributed to Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an astronomer and founder of the modern science of dendrochronology who was born in 1867, 68 years after the Leonids put on such a spectacular show in the Keys.
The real observer of the 1799 Leonids meteor shower was Andrew Ellicott, a surveyor who was in Florida on assignment from President George Washington to ascertain the official boundary line between the United States and Spanish territory as negotiated in the Treaty of San Lorenzo.
About two o’clock in the morning I was called up to see the shooting of the stars (as it is vulgarly termed), the phenomenon was grand and awful, the whole heavens appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after daybreak. This phenomenon extended over a large portion of the West India islands and was observed as far north as St. Marys where it appeared as brilliant as with us.
The Leonids show up annually around this time and sprinkle light in the sky at the rate of about 20 meteors per hour, but every 33 years they put on a glorious light show with thousands of meteors per hour showering the sky. The 1833 storm was so strong at least 100,000 meteors, and maybe double that, streaked over North America in nine hours. The 1799 storm was just short of the peak of the cycle, but it was exceptionally strong nonetheless, which is why Ellicott hauled his cookies out of bed at two in the morning to see the show.
Although you might think the profession of surveyor would ensure Andrew Ellicott kept his eyes on the earth more than the skies, that his having made so meaningful a mark in the history of American astronomy was a fluke, in fact the line between heaven and earth, Horatio, was not so clearly demarcated. Jacques Cassini, son of astronomer Giovanni Cassini after whom the spaceprobe was named, was both astronomer and surveyor, having done the first triangulation of France and used the data to create the first scientifically rigorous map of France just a few decades before Ellicott saw the Leonids. Chemist Antoine Lavoisier, identifier of oxygen and hydrogen, also participated in surveys of France while watching the skies. Not coincidentally, Ellicott brought up Lavoisier’s theory that the atmosphere was composed of multiple elements right after seeing the Leonids. In the same November 12th journal entry, he wrote:
Many ingenious theories have been devised to account for those luminous and fiery meteors, but none of them are so satisfactory to my mind as the conjecture of that celebrated chemist M. Lavoisier, who supposes it probable that the terrestial atmosphere consists of several volumes, or strata of gaz or elastic vapour of different kinds, and that the lightest and most difficult to mix with the lower atmosphere will be elevated above it, and form a separate stratum or volume, which he supposes to be inflammable, and that it is at the point of contact between those strata that the aurora borealis, and other fiery meteors are produced.
Andrew Ellicott was renowned in his time for his great accuracy in surveying, determined in large part by his celestial observations. Born in 1754 to a large Quaker family of modest means in Pennsylvania, Ellicott fought in the Revolutionary War ultimately rising to the rank of major. After the war he worked with James Madison and David Rittenhouse continuing the survey of the Mason-Dixon line that had been abandoned during the conflict. He turned out to be really good at it. In 1786 he was commissioned to survey the western border of Pennsylvania, a meridian that is still today known as the Ellicott Line.
In 1792 Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson appointed Ellicott to survey the boundaries of the federal Territory of Columbia, which would be renamed the District of Columbia nine years later. That same year he surveyed the land that would become the city of Washington, then forming the nucleus of the Territory rather than the entirety of it. He worked with Pierre Charles L’Enfant on the plan of the city until L’Enfant pissed off the Commissioners overseeing the project enough to get the boot. Ellicott’s revised plan of Washington (which L’Enfant strenuously opposed) became the basis on which the capital was constructed.
In 1796 George Washington gave him the biggest assignment yet: surveying the border between Spanish North America and the United States. He spent four years travelling the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, the Gulf Coast and into Florida, deploying impressive diplomacy and patience in his dealings with Spanish commissioners, and recording everything in his journal. Another one of his boundaries that is still called Ellicott’s Line remains today the border between Alabama and Florida.
After that bear of a job was done, he moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where, among other things, he taught Meriwether Lewis how to survey in preparation for his great expedition to the Pacific with William Clark. In 1813 he took a job as Professor of Mathematics at the Military Academy at West Point. His last survey was in 1817 when he helped establish the western border between Canada and the United States as defined in the Treaty of Ghent. Andrew Ellicott died of a stroke on August 28th, 1820.
The term surveyor appears nowhere in his obituary printed in the New York Evening Post of August 29th. His great professional gifts belong to the field of “practical Astronomy” in which he was “pre-eminent, both in the expert use of Instruments, and the accuracy of his calculations, which were the results of his observations. The reputation which he gained for those rare and peculiar acquirements, was evinced by the number and frequency of his appointments, both by individual states and the United States, for the purpose of adjusting such boundary lines as depended on the most nice Astronomical observations.”
The obit concludes:
The Geography of our country, in particular, is indebted to him for many interesting details, and descriptions of its unfrequented parts, as well as for the most accurate adjustment of the relative situation of particular places. By his death, science is deprived of a devoted admirer — the Military Academy of one of its best friends and most distinguished Professors — society of a benevolent & useful member, and his family of a tender husband and a kind and affectionate parent.
We should all wish for such a glowing and meaningful final assessment.
What a pity, then, that the record of this great man has been erroneously subsumed into the life of another. I suspect the error originated with History.com and then spread around in the usual pattern of Internet epidemiology. I have emailed the site to let them know of the mistake, but I’m afraid there’s no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Over much of the web, Andrew Ellicott will be denied his seminal astronomical observation, his rich contributions to the history and geography of the United States and even his very name while Andrew Ellicott Douglass, who has many genuine accomplishments worthy of This Day in History lists, will be taken out of his time and saddled with posthumous plagiarism of his own great-grandfather.
Yes, the name is not a coincidence or a distant tribute. Andrew Ellicott’s daughter Anne married David B. Douglass and they had a son named Malcolm. Malcolm Douglass and his wife Sarah Hale named one of their sons Andrew Ellicott after his illustrious great-grandfather.
This report was written by Lord Magnus de Lyons, Lady Miriel du Lac, Duke Timothy of Arindale.
From Lord Magnus:
On a chilly fall morning a small group of intrepid members from the Rhydderich Hael headed south to experience the A&E War (aka the Corn Maze) hosted by Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais. The event boasted “More fighting and fencing than anyone should ever do in a week, all in one weekend,” and let me tell you it did not disappoint. Sadly, due to time constraints I was only able to attend Saturday’s portion of the festivities but I certainly came away fulfilled.
The setting for the event was Ard’s Farm in Lewisburg Pennsylvania. Ard’s farm is a large farm market with a country store, gift shop, and full restaurant, but the key feature of the farm was the massive ten-acre corn maze that would provide the stage for the day’s martial activities (honestly the place would be a wonderful day trip just on its own). The corn maze was divided into two sections; a large section that was set aside for heavy combat and a small section reserved for fencing (don’t let the word small mislead you; it was just as confusing as the large section). Surrounding the corn maze was a small collection of tents and pavilions for the combatants and staff including a rather welcoming fire pit. This was a three day event, so for people looking to stay the duration the site offered primitive onsite camping.
My choice of activity for the day was heavy combat in the larger maze. I have not had the chance to get into armor since Pennsic so I was excited to suit up and get into the action. Once I was in armor and inspected I was lucky enough to run into some friendly faces. Joining my friends on the red team we headed into the maze. Having no prior knowledge of the maze it was pretty easy to get turned around even when using visible landmarks on the outside of the maze. The “tunnels” of the maze offered a challenging but not overly restrictive area to fight and was ripe with choke points, pockets, and three or four way battle points. Spears seemed very useful and popular but I was able to wield my pole arm without difficulty. Combat archery was allowed in every battle and added a nice “stay vigilant or die” element to the scenarios. Hats off to the combat archers who participated and I hope they found all their ammo at the end of the day
Heavy Combat Report by Duke Timothy:
Are you tired of the typical melee event? Do you find yourself shortly before lay on is called saying: Field battle, bridge battle, field battle, bridge battle, boring, boring, boring, boring! If you did not make it out to this years’ A/E War, you missed an opportunity to do something completely out of the ordinary. His Majesty Tindal and Their Highnesses Byron and Ariella joined nearly one hundred combatants gathered from five separate kingdoms at a small farm in Abhainn Ciach Ghlais. There, these warriors fought and fenced battles that were anything but the ordinary.
A ten-acre maze carved out of a corn field featuring thousands of feet of corridors, each 6 to 8 feet wide, provided a battlefield that allowed for combat far outside everyone’s usual comfort zone. It wasn’t what anyone would describe as high medievalism, but everyone present seemed to have had a great time and they all left with a smile on their faces.
The initial heavy battle consisted of roughly thirty fighters per side playing a game we named “polearm polo.” Sir Timothy, Viceroy Gui, and His Lordship Brada dropped a “puck,” (a 3’ diameter rubber ball,) and both teams had to move it using just polearms and greatswords. A point was determined if the puck was moved outside of one of the four maze entrances. Both sides had to take just the right mix of weapons to help score. To add an additional threat, both sides had combat archers. Archers Baron Friderich, Baron Fergus or any of the other combat archers spent the afternoon making the undefended or unprepared fighters’ day miserable. Polearm Polo raged for about an hour, creating numerous amusing situations. In one round, the last person left in a battle at the puck was a sword and shield fighter, and it took about 10 minutes before anyone from either side was able to locate him.
We next ran a five-man melee team free for all. Each team was given three flags, similar to what would have been used in flag football, and then instructed to disperse in the maze. No two teams could work together. After each engagement, all fighters were allowed to heal wounds or revive, and the winning team took one of the losing teams’ flags. This battle lasted for about an hour. A tie was the result, with two teams ending up with six flags each.
We next decided to play Capture the Flag. While every fighter knows how to organize and marshal a bridge or field battle, the marshals were pretty much flying blind. There was some confusion as we tweaked the scenario so that it would be the most fun. We decided to use both ends of a massive wooden bridge in the center of the maze as each team’s resurrection point. Just before lay on was called, a five-man banner unit from each side had thirty seconds to choose a spot to place their banner. The first team to capture the other side’s banner and return it to the bridge received a point. After about an hour or so, we called it at a two to two tie. Of all the day’s events, this scenario seemed to be the highlight of everyone’s fighting.
At this point we had been fighting for four solid hours, and we allowed folks to take a dinner break. Considering how many people gorged themselves on ribs/brisket/steak, I was quite pleased to see how few folks had disappeared when we started to fight again a couple of hours later, under the massive banks of lights that the site provided. As is now traditional, we needed to select a corn maze winner to receive the lovely scroll produced by Nemenia filia Hweli, known as Nyfain merch Coel. Each fighter was given 3 resurrections, and we had a free for all in the so-called children’s section of the maze (kind of fitting, considering that many of the fighters were giggling like idiots). When the smoke cleared, Sir Havouc was the sole survivor. What is a maze without a Minotaur? Or in our case, several? We decided to take a few of the more senior fighters and give them special abilities and see how long they could last against the bulk of the fighters, who were given unlimited resurrection. Well, when you are allowed to literally walk through the maze walls and kill from behind, it can take quite a while. Our initial crew of 5 Minotaurs, HRM Magnus Tindal, Duke Gregor, Sir Tash, Master Wulfstan the Unshod, Sir Murdoc and Sir Havouc weren’t enough of a challenge, so we added a few more. This made for a laugh riot. The Minotaurs succumbed, but it took quite a while for 30 some heavies to kill 8 or 9 Minotaurs. We did a couple side A vs. side B meat grinders, but everyone was anxious for the grand finale, our now famous (or infamous) zombie scenario. Each fighter was given an unbroken glow stick, and instructed to wander into the maze and find a spot where that they were comfortable. Then once each person was given sufficient time to wander, they were allowed to break their glow sticks; red sticks/red team, blue sticks/blue team. As a marshal, from my vantage point safe on top of the bridge in the maze’s center, it was amusing to see the occasional red in a sea of blue and vice/versa. We used the bridge as a resurrection point, and just had the fighters fight for the sake of fighting. One fighter was coached that he was patient zero; when he died, he came back as a zombie, and all his kills joined his side. Once a sufficient number of zombies had been spawned, we declared humanity’s last stand, and everyone laughed as heavies with glow sticks were slowly swamped by fighters screaming “brains”. Around 10pm, the fighters declared that they had finally had enough, about 10 hours after the initial lay on. As I said before, not what I would call high medievalism, but everyone left with a smile.
Fencing Report by Lady Miriel:
I have been excited about this event since I read people’s war stories from last year: the night-time zombie battles, BBQ, stories by the camp fire, and just being able to run around in a corn maze sounded like a spectacular time. So when I read that there would be fencing scenarios in the maze as well this year, I was sold!
The day of the event, we arrive and I get geared up and hustle over to the “field,” hoping that I haven’t missed anything. Thankfully I arrived just in time and Lord Andreas Jager von Holstein the fencing marshal for the day, was giving the low down for the first scenario.
Scenario One: The Buckler of Destiny and the Minotaurs.
Scenario Two: Attack and Defend
The first defending team decided to set up a kill pocket in an alcove within the maze, the Buckler and res point both directly behind them in the alcove. The attackers went to it, trying to break the defenders’ line and fend off attackers from behind who had lain in wait. Finally, when the defenders’ resurrections were spent, the attackers grabbed the Buckler and removed it from the maze.
When the teams reversed roles, the new defending team placed their buckler and resurrection point at the farthest end of the maze and decided to go with a retreating res. They created a cup of death at the near beginning of the maze and doing their best to just hold off the attackers as long as possible. When a defender fell, they ran to the res point and placed them selves not at the first line of defense but at a new one closer to the location of the Buckler. They did this for both of their resurrections, the last line of defense right at the opening to the alcove bearing the Buckler. It came down to one lone defender, the fierce HL Alianora Bronhulle, holding off the attackers for a good half a minute, giving her team the overall win.
Scenario Three: The Adventures and the Zombies
Almost all of the three-man teams survived, fending off the brains-hungry zombies. Cries of “Brains’, “Urrr Argh” and “Ready Whip” filled the maze as each zombie was slain on the adventurers’ path out to safety.
The Zombie Scenario was run multiple times until the fighters grew hungry for more than just brains and went to lunch at the outstanding BBQ restaurant on site.
My time doing all of these scenarios was so much fun, I couldn’t have had a more outstanding day. I loved meeting and fighting beside fencers I’ve never had a chance to meet before. I enjoyed working with the teams and working out how to best help my fellow fencers achieve victory. I was able to have some one-on-one bouts with His Majesty, Don Po, Lord Andreas, and more. Each helped me to grow in my skills and just have a damn good fight! I highly enjoyed this event and cannot wait until next year to see what’s in store for the fencers of Æthelmearc and the East.
It is my great pleasure to inform you that the schedule for Saturday’s AEthelmearc AEcademy and War College is now available here.
Are you interested in classes on clothing and accessories?
• 16th-Century Coif Make-and-Take
How about fiber arts?
What about food and cooking?
Maybe you prefer hands-on/how-to classes?
Is history your thing?
Are you musically inclined?
Looking for ways to up your SCA game?
And don’t forget there is a host of WAR COLLEGE and GOLDEN CHAIN classes, too!
GOLDEN CHAIN CLASSES
Event details can be found at here.
After you’ve had a chance to check out the amazing array of classes, remember to tell all your Facebook friends that you’ll be there on the event page!
University of Cambridge historian Dr. Ulinka Rublack, author of the excellent Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe, and Maria Hayward have published a unique 16th century manuscript documenting one German accountant’s daring and elegant forays into personal style. The Klaidungsbüchlein, or “book of clothes,” is the ancestor of every fashion blog, Instagram and Tumblr and it slays them all.
Matthäus Schwarz was born in Augsburg on February 20th, 1497, the son of a wine merchant and innkeeper. Even as a teenager Schwarz showed an interest in fashion, realizing how quickly trends came and went. That understanding would inspire him to meticulously record what he wearing, when and why, noting his age down to fractions of years. After learning bookkeeping through apprenticeships in Milan and Venice, as soon as he returned to Augsburg in 1516 he got a job as a clerk with Jakob Fugger, the head of one of the richest, most powerful mercantile, mining and banking firms in Europe. Schwarz quickly worked his way up, becoming head accountant by the age of 23.
That same year he began to document his outfits, keeping a style blog in the form of illuminated manuscript. He commissioned local artist Narziss Renner, then just 19 years old, to reconstruct 36 images of him from birth through his early 20s based on detailed descriptions and old drawings. Renner then made tempera portraits of each important outfit going forward, while Schwarz made notes on the date, his age and the occasion.
Schwarz took pleasure in gorgeous, expensive clothes, but they were also an important form of self-expression for him. He was successful at his job and made good money, but he wasn’t rich. He was a middle class burgher, but he spent all of his discretionary income on clothes and was involved in every aspect of the design. There was no prêt-à-porter and if there had been Schwarz still would have gone for the couture. This wasn’t just a foppish indulgence. He put on a sartorial display as a means to better himself socially. His grandfather Ulrich had pulled himself up by his bootstraps, rising from common carpenter to guild leader to mayor of Augsburg only to be charged with corruption by opponents of greater wealth and status. He was convicted and hanged in 1478, a stain on the family reputation that Matthäus, like his father, felt keenly. The right kind of clothes were essential to Matthäus’ hopes that he might regain the ground lost by his grandfather’s disgrace.
It worked. He caught the eye of Ferdinand, brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who invited Schwarz to his wedding. When Charles returned to Germany after a nine year absence and he and Ferdinand were in Augsburg for the Imperial Diet in 1530, Schwarz commissioned six extremely intricate outfits he hoped would please them. Schwarz’s employer Jakob Fugger was very close to the emperor, having spent huge sums to help secure his election to the office, so Schwarz wasn’t just a nameless face in the crowd. A devout Catholic in a region rent by the religious conflicts of the Reformation, Schwarz telegraphed his support for the emperor and the Church by his choice of colors. In 1541 he and two of his brothers were ennobled.
Renner and Schwarz worked together for 16 years. After that, Schwarz kept going, employing other artists, including one from Christoph Amberger’s studio, to paint his looks until 1560 when he was 63 years old. By then he had 75 pages of parchment with 137 portraits of himself, including the first secular nude since Albrecht Durer’s. It was a bold nude, too, with both front and back views and an unstinting self-assessment: “That was my real figure from behind, because I had become fat and large.” His son followed in his father’s footsteps, although he was less prolific and his styles less colorful.
Schwarz had the manuscript bound in 1560 and while it was basically a personal account, he appears to have shown it to a select audience. Over the years word got out because in 1704 Sophie of Hanover, granddaughter of James I and mother of George I of England, borrowed the manuscript and had it copied by scribe J.B. Knoche. She kept a copy and gave another to her to her niece Elizabeth Charlotte of Orléans, sister-in-law of King Louis XIV of France. Sophie’s copy is now in the State Library of Hanover.
The original is in the collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, one of the oldest museums in the world. The book is so fragile that even scholars very rarely get to see it, and then only with two trained curators gingerly turning each page. Before now, most of the color photos of the manuscript were taken from the Hanover copy. The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthäus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg is the first, and given the caution with which the manuscript is treated very possibly the last, edition to publish all the original images in color. Since the copies have notable errors in coloration that Schwarz would have been appalled by, having a full color record of the delicate original is a precious thing.
The First Book of Fashion is available in hardcover and EPUB eBook from the publisher and in hardcover and Kindle from Amazon. If delayed gratification is not your bag, you can peruse Mr. Schwarz’s analog Instagram in this pdf which is a scan of the Hanover copy. The picture quality isn’t great, though.
Two years ago, Dr. Rublack collaborated with Tony award-winning costume designer and dress historian Jenny Tiramani, who also collaborated on the book, to recreate one of Schwarz’s most dramatic and politically significant outfits: a gold and red silk doublet over a fine linen shirt with yellow leather hose he wore for the 1530 return of the emperor. Watch this video documenting the recreation because it’s awesome. Even just putting on the outfit is crazy complicated. Oh, and killer codpiece too.
The First Book of Fashion includes a pattern for the gold and red outfit, just in case you want to try your hand at recreating such a glamorous Renaissance look.
What’s your full SCA name?
What attracted you to the bardic arts?
How long have you considered yourself a bard?
What’s your primary form? Do you play any instruments, and if so, which?
Where can we find your work?
What sorts of pieces do you enjoy producing? What attracts you to that style?
Describe a favorite performance of your own in the SCA. What makes it a highlight for you?
Also in this category: teaching my Barony to sing a Latin drinking song at a meeting, and singing with three of the Kingdom’s top Bards processing it with Æthelmarc at Pennsic opening ceremonies.
Describe a performance by someone else that inspired you in the bardic arts. How did that performance guide you to improve your own art? What did it prompt you to do?
What projects are you working on now?
But my big obsession is the Pilgrimage Project. When I became Barony Bard I chose to use that award as an excuse to learn as much as I could about monophonic period music. I found the collections of pilgrimage songs to be such beautifully rich resources, particularly the Cantigas de Santa Maria, which are endless and so sing-able. I thought that Pennsic would be the perfect place to ‘go on pilgrimage’ and sing these songs. And it is! This year will be our third, and I’m trying to broaden the circle of invitation every year, this year by having a class during Peace Week to practice the songs. Meanwhile we practice them in my Barony most weekends leading up to Pennsic, drawing not only on the Cantigas but also heavily on the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat. It’s a whole different, magical experience to be banging along with our staves, pilgrim hats on, as we walk on the Serengeti singing at Pennsic.
Who are some of your favorite influences, either for your own research and composition, or for performing within the SCA?
What other types of performance do you particularly love to see / hear?
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a bard?
Is there anything you want to add?
Russian archaeologists have unearthed a letter written on birch bark in Moscow’s historic Zaryadye district close to Red Square. The archaeological team from the Russian Academy of Sciences found the letter 13 feet below street level in a layer with more than 100 small and large artifacts dating to the 14th century.
The first birch bark letters were discovered in 1951 in Novgorod, preserved in its heavy, waterlogged clay soil. Letters were scratched on the inner, trunk-facing side of the birch bark sheet using a stylus made of iron, bone or bronze. The letters were dated with a combination of stratigraphy (dating of the layers in which they were found), dendrochronology (tree ring dating) and palaeography (handwriting analysis) and linguistic analysis (examining the features of the text). They range in date from the 11th through the 15th century.
The vast majority are letters from private individuals detailing the minutiae of their lives. Some are petitions of peasants to their lords. Some are debt lists, but since they open with the imperative “Take” it’s probable that they too were letters, probably of instruction on collecting the enumerated debt. One very special group of birch bark letters appear to be lessons and doodles. There are 17 drawings and notes by a young boy named Onfim. He lived in the 13th century and was around six or seven when he drew scenes of men on horseback, knights in battle, even himself as a fantastical beast next to alphabet and writing exercises. It’s a remarkable testament to a how highly literate this society was at all economic strata.
Since that first discovery in 1951, more than 1000 birch bark letters have been found, almost all of them in Novgorod. The second greatest number, 45, were found in Staraya Russa, a town 60 miles south of Novgorod. Only nine other cities can claim birch bark letter discoveries. None were found in Moscow until 1988. It took 20 years before a second and third were unearthed at the foot of the Kremlin. None of those three quite followed the Novgorod standard. Moscow 1, as the 1988 find was dubbed, was a draft or copy of a property deed or claim. Moscow 2 had a small inscription that was hard to make out. Moscow 3 was a very long inventory of property of a Muscovite prince and it was written in ink, not scratched with a stylus. (Only two of the thousand plus Novgorod letters were written in ink.)
That makes Moscow 4, the newly discovered piece, the first true Novgorod style birch bark letter found in the city. Like the overwhelming majority of the Novgorod ones, this is a private letter. The strip of bark has the smooth surface and carefully cut edges indicating it was specifically prepared for use as stationary. Each letter is printed very clearly and distinctly along the length of the fibers, as they are in Novgorod. The other Moscow letters were written against the grain.
The letter is a sad one. Addressed simply to “Sir,” it tells of the writer’s misfortunes while traveling to Kostroma, a city 217 miles to the northeast that was part of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The writer was detained along with a certain Yuri and his mother by someone “who had the right to do so.” This person, likely an official of some kind, took 13 bel (a relatively small denomination of currency in medieval Russia) from them and then another three. Finally the author had to pay 20 and a half bel more to buy their freedom. The total of 36.5 bel was a signficant amount of money back then. Since it appears the captor had legal rights, this may have been the repayment of a debt with extra tacked on for interest.
Every Novgorod birch bark letter find is exciting, but the rarity of a Moscow find and the precise printing of this letter make it of particular interest to archaeologists. It will be conserved to ensure its long-term survival and studied further at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Most of the birch bark letters have been uploaded to an online database. The website is down right now but it was working earlier. From what I could gather when it was up, it hasn’t been updated for a while so it’s not quite a complete record. Still, you can photographs of each letters in high resolution, plus transcriptions and translations.