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“A fresh laid egge”

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-01-08 09:30

The Egg Float Test explained, for period Soapmakers, Cooks, and Brewers.

By Unnr in elska á Fjárfella (Susan Verberg, 2017).

Of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn in the Kingdom of Aethelmearc.

Sometime in the middle of the 16th century someone figured out that a fresh laid chicken egg has a similar density as certain strengths of solutions. The egg will float instead of sink as it would in plain water, indicating a specific strength or density. First mentioned in soap making manuals to check the strength of lye (1558), it quickly surfaced both in cooking recipes to check the strength of brine (1597), a solution of salt & water, and brewing recipes to check the strength of must (1594), a solution of fruit or honey sugars & water.

Initially the only available references for the egg test in brewing were from the copious but out of period 1669 cookbook The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Knight Opened. Even though this manuscript came from Digby’s lifelong collection of recipes and was posthumously published several years after his death so could be seen as probably period, his recipes are much more contemporary to 17th century recipes than to what is found before. For instance, many recipes mentioned in Digby use ingredients and techniques not yet found, or commonly used, in our period of study. The addition of citrus, like lemons, and the use of raisins, which is common in Digby, is not found in any of the pre 1600 recipes. And the technique of aging in the bottle, often for a sparkling beverage, is something that does not match with the medieval method of serving mead young or aging in wooden casks and barrels either. But even though the recipes themselves may not be period, they do tend to include more information on the actual process and can serve as a good almost period explanation on previously unexplained techniques.

It was not until I delved deeper into period mead making that I came across four late 16th century brewing recipes mentioning the egg float test, and was finally able to firmly place this technique within our time of study for all three crafts: soap making, cooking and brewing. This article explores the underlying process and easy application of this intriguing trick of science!

But doesn’t a floating egg mean the egg is spoiled? It depends. The floating egg technique works by way of the internal design of an egg, which includes an air sack at the rounded end of the egg for the bird embryo to breath. A fresh egg has a relatively small air sack but as the egg shell is slightly porous over time the size of the air sack increases as the contents of the egg slowly evaporate and dry out. As an old egg will have a large air sack, when put into water it will bob up and float. This test is still used in our modern times to test to see if an egg is fit to eat before cracking it and not be surprised with a sulfur bomb!

Because the size of the air sack changes over time, interfering with the results of our density test, it is very important to use a fresh egg which has not yet had time to evaporate. It is also important to check the supposedly fresh egg as eggs sold in the supermarket are not always as fresh as you might assume (check the sell by dates or even better, get a local backyard egg). To do this, before every density test calibrate your egg in plain water to make sure it sinks flat to the bottom, with both butt and tip level. Use a wide mouth glass jar and tongs to place the egg on the bottom as it can sink so fast it cracks in bigger jars.

The density or specific gravity of water is 1. When minerals like salts or sugars are dissolved into water the extra particles change the density of the solution by making it more crowded, or dense. A fresh egg has a density between 1.03-1.1 g/ml which means it would be borne, or float, by a solution of a density matching or exceeding 1.03-1.1 g/ml. A saturated salt solution, or brine, has a density of about 1.2 g/ml, a wood ash lye solution for laundry soap a density of about 1.11 g/ml and a brewing solution would be between 1.06-1.1 g/ml – all fairly close together and why using the egg test works, in some way or another, for all three.

In modern brewing a hydrometer is used to take a starting (before fermentation) and finishing (after fermentation) gravity reading. Determining the difference of sugars between start and end makes it possible to calculate the percentage of alcohol produced by the yeast from that difference (what is gone has been consumed by the yeast and thus converted into alcohol). As medieval brewers were not aware of the micro-biology involved in brewing and artificially stopping the yeast for a specific alcohol content was not understood (how they wished to know what caused the summer ‘boiling’ and consequent explosions of wine!), all the brewer needed to know was if there was the right amount of sugar for proper fermentation.

Most recipes ask for so many pounds of honey to so much water, why should you go through the trouble of checking the density to make must? For two reasons, the first being that not all honey is created equal. A thick syrupy honey created in a dry year will have more sugar per liquid volume than a thin, runny honey. Both will make mead, but if you measured a thin honey to make sweet mead you might be unpleasantly surprised at the dry white wine-like mead you ended up with… Secondly, in period all honey would have been used for brewing, not just the easy to extract. The centrifuge type honey extruder is a modern convenience and allows for high yield with minimal processing. In period honey would be extracted by hand, first by breaking up the combs to leak out as much as they could, and then by washing the broken up combs in warm water to dissolve the remaining and any crystallized honey. This honey/water mixture would be of unknown strength and would have to be checked before brewing, as not enough fermentable sugars could result in an easily spoiled brew and too much sugar can inhibit yeast growth, stalling fermentation and giving competitors a change. I don’t doubt master brewers of the time could eyeball or taste and have a perfect brew each time, but for the less initiated household brewer (and modern re-enactor) it is nice to be able to check with a visual aide, as the Digby recipe Mr. Pierce’s Excellent White Metheglin confirms:

 “When it is blood-warm, put the honey to it, about one part, to four of water; but because this doth not determine the proportions exactly (for some honey will make it stronger then other) you must do that by bearing up an Egge.”

Would any kind of fresh egg work? Not until the Digby recipe Mr. Corsellises Antwerp Meath did a recipe specify that the egg should be a hen’s egg “as above, an Hens Egge may swim with the point upwards”. Even so, with differences in breed, health, age and diet the egg size & shape can differ as well. For the best results, Digby’s Mr. Pierce’s recipe advises to test several eggs and pick out the most average one, both in freshness and shape.

… and put a good number, (ten or twelve) New-laid-eggs into it, and as round ones as may be; For long ones will deceive you in the swiming; and stale ones, being lighter then new, will emerge out of the Liquor, the breadth of a sixpence, when new ones will not a groats-breadth. Therefore you take many, that you make a medium of their several emergings; unless you be certain, that they which you use, are immediately then laid and very round.

But what does “beare an egge” mean? How does that look like? It depends on the density you’re looking for and the solution you are playing with. For instance, in soap making two densities are used; a strong one to make laundry soap and a weaker one to make body soap. While in the laundry soap recipe the egg is floating horizontally at the surface (with about the size of a quarter above the surface), as the The seconde part of the Secretes of Master Alexis of Piemont of 1560 puts “the Egge into it, and whiles the egge remaineth aboue”; the body soap recipe for shampoo uses “stronge lye that will beare an egge swimminge betwene two waters”, or, the egg is suspended in the middle.

Soapmaking lye looks like:  laundry strength lye, and  shampoo strength lye.

Laundry strength lye

Shampoo strength lye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shampoo recipe is the earliest sample I’ve found of the egg float density test and is part of the 1558 manuscript The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount Containyng excellent remedies against diuers disease by Girolamo Ruscelli.

A very exquisite soap, made of diverse things.

Take aluminis catini (burnt cream of tartar), quicklime one part, strong lye that will suspend and egg in the middle, three pottels, a pot of common oil; mix all well together, put into it the white of an egg well beaten (dispersant), and a dishful of wheat flour (thickener), and an ounce of roman vitriol (cupric sulfate), or red lead (lead oxide pigment) well beaten into powder, an mix continuously for the space of three hours, then let it rest, by the space of a day, and it will be right and perfect. Finally, take it out, and cut it in pieces: afterwards set it to dry two days, in the wind, but not in the sun. Always use this soap, when you want to wash your hair, for it is very wholesome, and makes fair hair.” (Translated by Susan Verberg)

As the density of a saturated salt solution is fairly strong, the egg in a salt solution would also float horizontally at the surface, similar to laundry soap strength lye. The recipe in the 1597 cookbook The second part of the good hus-wiues iewell by Thomas Dawson uses this technique to make sure the brine is saturated and is the earliest mention I’ve found of the egg float test in a cookbook. Apparently, it is also used for numerous pickling recipes of the new world colonies but I have not found any period mentions of that as of yet.
To keepe lard in season.

Cut your lard in faire peeces, and salt it well with white salte, euery péece with your hand, and lay it in a close vessel then take faire running water, and much white salt in it, to make it brine, the~ boile it vntill it beare an Egge, then put it into your Lard and keepe it close.

Like with soap, brewing with different sugar strengths makes for different types of brews. The stronger the mead the longer it can keep, as Digby’s To Make Metheglin advises: “If you would have it to drink within two or three months, let it be no stronger then to bear an Egg to the top of the water. If you would have it keep six months, or longer, before you drink it, let it bear up the Egg the breadth of two pence above the water. This is the surer way to proportion your honey then by measure.” Medieval meads are usually fermented using ale yeast, which generally dies off once the alcohol level reaches about 10%. As an alcohol level of about 10-12% will kill off most contaminants responsible for spoiling meads and fruit wines, a higher starting sugar level resulting in a higher alcohol percentage would therefore allow the mead to keep longer. Unlike the soap & brine recipes, the brewing egg does not float horizontal but vertical, as Digby’s Mr. Corsellises Antwerp Meath mentions “so strong that an Egge may swim in it with the end upwards”, indicating an intermediate strength between suspended and floating.

Both the soap making recipes and the brine recipes indicate to boil first, then measure – the brewing recipes are not so certain and often recommend to test the strength before boiling, as Digby’s To Make Metheglin shows: “And the time of the tryal of the strength is, when you incorporate the honey and water together, before the boiling of it.” apparently not realizing boiling evaporates water thereby changing the density. The recipes can also not quite make up their mind if the must should be cold, blood warm or boiling, which could indicate they did not understand how temperature affects specific gravity either, as shown in the 1597 Dutch beekeeping manual “Van de Byen” by Theodorus Clutius; “and let it cook / until an Egg can float in the liquid / then set it off the fire”, which could also resulted in a nicely boiled egg if the egg is not removed… As medieval recipes over many disciplines have a tendency to be brief to the point of missing pertinent information, it is entirely possible the period brewer knew to remove the egg and cool down the must, but did not bother to note that down. The 1616 Danish cookbook Koge Bog advises to “put an egg or two into this lukewarm brew so that there is a part of egg as big as a 2 shilling over the water then it is sweet and fat enough” which probably is the most accurate measurement.

Bees coming out of a hive to drive off an intruder.

Following are two 16th century recipes which specifically mention using the egg float test:

Jewell House of Art and Nature by Hugh Platt, 1594.

76 A receipt for the making of an artificiall Malmesey.

Take four gallons of conduit water, into the which put one gallon of good English honie, stirre the honie well till it be dissolved in the water, set this water in a copper pan upon a gentle fire, & as there ariseth any skumme take it off with a goose wing or a Skimmer, and when it hath simpered about an hour, then put in a new laid egge into the water, which will sinke presentlie, then continue your first fire without any great encrease, and also your skimming so long as any skim doth arise, and when this egge beginneth to floate aloft and sinketh no more, then put in another new laide egge, which wil sinke likewise, & when that second egge doth also swim aloft with the fyrst egge, let the water continue on the fyre a Paternoster while, then take it off, and beeing colde, put the same into some roundelet, fylling the roundelet brimful. And in the middest of this roudelet hand a bagge, wherein first put some reasonable weight or peize, and to everie eight gallons of liquor two nutmegges groselie beaten, twentie Cloves, a rase or two of Ginger, and a sticke of Cynamon of a fynger length. Set your roundelet in the sunne, in some hot Leades or other place, where the sunne shineth continuallie for three whole monethes, covering the bung-hole from the raine, and now and then fylling it uppe with more of the same composition as it wasteth. This I learned of an English traveyler, who advised me to make the same alwaies about the middest of Maie, that it might have 3. hot moneths togither to work it to his ful perfection. […]

Van de Byen” (Of the Bees) by Theodorus Clutius, 1597

To make mead.

One shall take the rest that stayed in the basket / from the dripping of the raw honey or zeem / and wash it with hot water / so that all the sweetness goes into the water / until you have a tub full or two / or as much as you want:  Then put this liquid in the kettle / and let it cook / until an Egg can float in the liquid / then set it off the fire / and pour it into the barrels and let it cool / add some yeast of beer / and set it to rise and work / and althus filling the barrel / so the filthiness may overflow / and when it does not bubble or work / so shall one close up the barrel / and let it rest. This is the way to make mead / some put in a piece of tied cloth some cinnamon / ginger / nutmeg / cloves and similar spices / to give the mead a good taste and scent. (Translated by Susan Verberg)

Between the end of the 16th century and the publishing of Digby’s cookbook a number of mead recipes are found to use a similar egg float technique as described in Digby, but with old-fashioned ingredients and techniques. This is an interesting time of transition, as by the 16th century not only could the average person read, due to cheaper & more extensive trade unusual ingredients like spices, sugar, citrus, chemicals & pigments became available to the common man. It was a time of great exploration, both of the sea and in the mind, not in the least helped by the success of the numerous Books of Secrets, each claiming to expose trade secrets never seen before, which greatly helped to spread knowledge before only accessible to the educated elite. This period of transition shows in the difference between Digby’s work and our time of interest, both in ingredients used and in their often elaborate and detailed explanations.

Numerous recipes in Digby mention the use of coins, like the groat & two pence (most with an average diameter of about 20mm) as a size measurement of the bit of shell sticking above the water surface. This type of measurement seems to become fairly universal in later times as observed in many of the Digby recipes and later in the US Colonial soap making lye measurements which often also specify an area the size of a coin, in this case a quarter. Even though coins are mentioned in the barely out of period 1604 Complete Receipt Books of Ladie Elynor Fettiplaceso strong of honie that it will cover an egg to the breadth of two pence”, and the 1609 The Feminine Monarchiemake it to bear an egge the breath of a groat”, the period recipes do not specify how the egg should float, only that is should.

So after all this, where do you start? With a fresh egg no more than two days old, of the roundest kind, weighing less than or about 2 ounces. Making a brine solution is easiest: add enough salt until it stops dissolving, which means a saturated solution is reached, place the egg, and slowly add water until it floats just as the recipe likes it. To test lye for soap making the egg would be used after the heated evaporated lye is cooled down, which allows for contaminant minerals to settle out of solution and thus not interfere with the remaining solution’s density (for more information on leaching lye and making soft soap see the Bibliography). For brewing, make your honey must first, heat and evaporate as needed, let cool down to blood temperature, and add an egg. If the egg sinks the must is too weak, if it floats close to tipping or tips, the must is too strong. As the 1609 beekeeping manual The Feminine Monarchie instructs: “If the liquor be not strong enough to beare an egge the breath of a two-pēce above it, thē put so much of your course hony into it, as wil give it that strength: or rather, when it is so strong powre in more water (stirring it with the liquor) until the egge sinke.” In other words; if it is too weak, add more honey, stir well to make sure the sugars are completely dissolved, and try again. If too strong, add some water, stir well, and try again. As you can imagine, it is easier to start with too strong a solution and dilute it, than to start with a weak solution and try to incrementally dissolve more sugars into it.

The table below matches egg position with specific gravity, giving us an idea of what to aim for. Egg readings are given for both 10% tolerance yeast (ale yeast) and 12% tolerance yeast. (from The Egg Test)

mead start SG egg start SG egg style 10% yeast reading 12% yeast reading dry mead 1.085 touches 1.1 20mm Medium 1.095 18mm 1.11 26mm Sweet 1.1 20mm 1.12 30mm Dessert 1.1 + > 20mm 1.2 + 30mm +

To make sure there is enough sugar for the yeast to feed on, the egg should float. But if it starts to tip over and not reliably float point up anymore, the solution has become too strong with too much honey sugar for the yeast to properly work and fermentation will likely stall. The average range of 1.08 to 1.12 g/ml at which the average, round fresh laid egg floats point up is also the ideal range of sugar content for starting a successful mead. And now that you have everything you need to make a successful solution using medieval techniques, whether it be for soapmaking, cooking or brewing, and are able to properly document it, let the experiments begin!

I would like to express my thanks to Mistress Roheisa le Sarjent from Lochac for her article The Egg Test for Period Brewers and Mead Makers. It proved a great starting point as we’re working from similar sources, and I’m grateful to find the heavy lifting of figuring out egg readings already done. Tak!

“Dryckeslag, Nordisk familjebok” from Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus or History of the Northern People, by Olaus Magnus, printed in Rome 1555.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Digby, Kenelme. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Knight Opened, 1669

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened. Anne MacDonell (ed.), 2005 https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16441

Sibly, Belinda. The Egg Test for Period Brewers and Mead Makers, 2004

Mistress Roheisa le Sarjent, Cockatrice, May AS 49, p.20-29.

http://brewers.lochac.sca.org/files/2014/02/The-Egg-test-for-Period-Brewers2.pdf

Butler, Charles. The Feminine Monarchie. Oxford: 1609.

https://books.google.com/books?id=f5tbAAAAMAAJ&dq=the+feminine+monarchie+butler&source=gbs_navlinks_s (1623). Transcription by Susan Verberg.

Density values from http://homesteadlaboratory.blogspot.com/2014/02/historical-lye-making-part-2.html

Platt, Hugh. Jewell House of Art and Nature. 1594.

London: Peter Short. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/ Transcription by Susan Verberg

Anonymous, Koge Bog: Indeholdendis et hundrede fornødene stycker etc. Kiøbenhaffn (Copenhagen): Aff Salomone Sartorio, 1616. http://www.forest.gen.nz/Medieval/articles/cooking/1616.html

Krupp, Christina M. & Gillen, Bill. Making Medieval Mead, or Mead Before Digby. The Compleat Anachronist #120. Milpitas: SCA Inc, 2003. (includes the Complete Receipt Books of Ladie Elynor Fettiplace, 1604).

Ruscelli, Girolamo. The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount. London: John Kingstone, 1558.

http://www.eebo.chadwyck.com.

Ruscelli, Girolamo. The seconde part of the Secretes of Master Alexis of Piemont. London: John Kyndon, 1560.

http://www.eebo.chadwyck.com.

Dawson, Thomas. The second part of the good hus-wiues iewell, London: E. Allde for Edward, 1597.

http://www.eebo.chadwyck.com

Clutium, Theodorum Van de Byen. Leyden: Jan Claesz van Dorp, Inde Vergulde Son, 1597.

https://books.google.com/books?id=Y0NnAAAAcAAJ&dq=van+de+byen&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Transcription by Susan Verberg.

More information on leaching soapmaking lye:

https://www.academia.edu/27755101/Of_Potash_and_Lye

More information on making medieval soft soap:

https://www.academia.edu/27757652/To_Make_Black_Sope

More information on brewing with honey: Of Hony, a Collection of Medieval Brewing Recipes.

WEBSITE forthcoming

To find a groat, and other period coins: http://alphaofficium.weebly.com/apps/search?q=groat

Image of fresh egg test from http://media.finedictionary.com/pictures/243/38/9971.jpg

Photographs of soap making lye by Susan Verberg, 2016.

Bees coming out of a hive to drive off an intruder.

Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25, Folio 37r – http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastgallery260.htm#

Dryckeslag, Nordisk familjebok” from Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, by Olaus Magnus, Rome, 1555.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Cate


Categories: SCA news sites

Experimental 1942 glass penny sells for $70,500

History Blog - Sat, 2017-01-07 22:57

A glass penny, the only known intact survivor of a World War II experiment, sold at auction Friday for $70,500 including buyer’s premium, more than twice its presale estimate of $30,000. The price was driven up in a bidding war between a phone buyer and one present in the room. The phone bidder, an American collector, won.

The metals used to make pennies and nickels — copper, tin and nickel — were needed for the war effort so in 1942 the Treasury experimented with coins made from alternative raw materials. Private contractors, eight plastic manufacturers — Bakelite Corporation (Bloomfield, New Jersey), E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. (Arlington, New Jersey), Durez Plastics and Chemical, Inc. (North Tonawanda, New York), Patent Button Company Inc (Knoxville, Tennessee), Monsanto Chemical Company (Springfield, Massachusetts), Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company (Hartford, Connecticut), Tennessee Eastman Corporation (Kingsport, Tennessee), Auburn Button Works (Auburn, New York) — and one glass company — Blue Ridge Glass Corporation (Kingsport, Tennessee) — were commissioned to strike coins with a variety of non-critical materials including Bakelite, other plastics, hard rubber, wood pulp and our hero today, glass.

Chief engraver John R. Sinnock created the pattern dies using simple designs. The obverse was a Liberty Head facing right, a copy of the head on the Colombian two centavos coin, with “LIBERTY” and “JUSTICE” on the left and right border and the date 1942 underneath the head. The reverse is a simple olive branch wreath designed by Anthony C. Paquet for a Washington medalet. Washington’s dates in the middle of the wreath were replaced with “UNITED STATES MINT.”

The dies were sent to the manufacturers who struck prototype cents with their experimental materials. The Blue Ridge Glass Corporation struck their pennies on amber tempered glass blanks from Corning Glass Co.

Blue Ridge had considerable difficulty making glass 1942 sample coins. For impressing a design into glass, both glass and the dies had to be very hot — just below glass melting temperature — then the glass had to cool quickly to preserve design detail. But Blue Ridge was not able to heat the die, and the resulting experimental cents were softly detailed and had many minute surface imperfections. Blue Ridge described their process and results in a six-page report, which has been preserved among U.S. Mint documents in the National Archives.

The surface of the glass coins was susceptible to crazing — clearly visible in the “UNITED STATES MINT” on the reverse of the penny that was just sold — but at first that didn’t trouble the Treasury Department. Blue Ridge was led to believe they’d get a contract to produce the glass pennies and even began to expand their facilities and plan the additional security necessary for mint work. Then, all of a sudden, Blue Ridge’s president J.H. Lewis was informed by Treasury that the project was called off. He was not told why.

Official records indicate Treasury thought the glass coinage would be “too brittle,” but that was just a smokescreen. The real reason was as top secret as it gets. The planned production line glass pennies would have contained traces of uranium oxide that would make them fluoresce under ultraviolet light, a cool and ingenious anti-counterfeiting system. But another project that started in 1942 required every molecule of fissionable material that could be scrounged up, so the glass coins were scrapped and Blue Ridge had to send all of its uranium stock to Oak Ridge for use in the Manhattan Project.

None of the plastic, rubber and glass experiments ever went into production. The Treasury doubted if plastic would ever be accepted by the public as legitimate currency and anyway the most successful plastics, urea and phenol, soon made the critical materials list themselves. The glass penny with its poor impressions and secretly invaluable uranium wouldn’t do either. Alternative metals won the day. The wartime penny would be zinc coated steel. It was minted in 1943. For a year it was lighter than the standard 3.11-gram Lincoln Wheat penny that preceded it, weighing 2.7 grams. Starting in 1944, the weight was back up to 3.11 grams and copper was back in the mix with zinc.

Very few of the experimental coins still exist today. The Mint destroyed most of them. A few examples managed to avoid that fate, mostly reddish plastic ones. Only one other glass example is known to have survived, and it is broken in half.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Thousands of jars reveal Britain’s saucy history

History Blog - Fri, 2017-01-06 23:39

Archaeologists have unearthed a vast collection of pottery (pdf) during construction of Crossrail’s new Elizabeth line station at Tottenham Court Road in London. The station is being built on the site of the former Crosse & Blackwell factory at Soho Square, where some of Britain’s most popular sauces, condiments and jams were manufactured from 1838 until 1921. The basements of the bottling warehouse were unexpectedly well-preserved. Kilns, furnaces and a refrigeration system were discovered in the warren of underground rooms. More than 13,000 pots, jars and bottles of pickle, mustard and jam were found in a cistern on the site. While many of them were broken, there were an impressive number of intact, unused pieces of ceramic, stoneware and glass.

The finds include glass bottles for Mushroom Catsup, ceramic bung jars for mustard and Piccalilli and delicately painted white jars for Preserved Ginger. Archaeologists also found white earthenware jars for Pure Orange Marmalade, Household Raspberry Jam and Plum Jam, some of which still bare their original labels. They illustrate the ambitions of one of Victorian Britain’s most prolific and enduring enterprises and evidence the development of British tastes.

Nigel Jeffries, [Museum of London Archeaology]‘s Medieval and Later Pottery Specialist and author of the book, said: “Excavations on Crosse & Blackwell’s Soho factory produced a large and diverse collection of pottery and glass related to their products, with one cistern alone containing nearly three tonnes of Newcastle made marmalade jars with stoneware bottles and jars. We think this is the biggest collection of pottery ever discovered in a single feature from an archaeological site in London.”

The company began under the name Jackson in the early 18th century. It was changed to West & Wyatt in 1819. West & Wyatt had a shop at 21 Soho Square where they sold soup, pâté, pickles and sauces to the wealthy and titled. That same year two apprentices were hired: Edmund Crosse and Thomas Blackwell. Like something out of The Secret of My Success, Crosse and Blackwell climbed the ladder with impressive speed until just 10 years later they bought the company lock, stock and barrel for £600 and changed its name to a brand that would soon become renown around the world for canned foods, sauces and condiments. The Soho Square shop became an ever-expanding bottling factory.

Crosse & Blackwell were one of the first companies to secure a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1837, the year of her accession to the throne when she was 18 years old. They were also pioneers in the use of celebrity chef as endorsers and collaborators. In the late 1840s, Alexis Soyer, high society chef, inventor, cookbook author, soup kitchen innovator and the most famous culinary genius of his time, created the tangy Soyer’s Sauce sold by Crosse & Blackwell in two versions: a stronger “Soyer’s Sauce for Gentlemen” and a milder “Soyer’s Sauce for Ladies.” They quickly became bestsellers. He followed up with “Soyer’s Relish,” which was the bestselling sauce in London in 1849 and would be sold by Crosse & Blackwell for more than 70 years, and “Soyer’s Sultana’s Sauce.”

The company also jumped on the opportunity to introduce Indian flavors to their product line. A Crosse & Blackwell employee went to India with the first troops sent by the East India Company. He came back with recipes that would shortly become Captain White’s Oriental Pickle and Curry Powder and Abdool Fygo’s Chutney.

Crosse & Blackwell was an official wholesaler of another India-inspired condiment that is still a top seller today: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. You’d think with a name like Worcestershire it would have an English origin, but in fact, the recipe was brought back from India to Worcester by Lord Marcus Sandys in 1835. Sandys had the local pharmacists cook him up a batch but it tasted terrible, so the chemists, Messrs. John Lea and William Perrin, stashed the barrel in the cellar and forgot about for two years. In 1837 they noticed the barrel in the cellar and gave the contents another taste. They were stunned by how delicious it was. They bought the rights to the recipe from Lord Sandys and in 1838 introduced the pantry staple that makes my mom’s stuffed celery so great.

Crosse & Blackwell is repeatedly mentioned in Lea & Perrin’s 19th century ads as a purveyor of “the only good sauce,” but the excavation revealed that the Crosse & Blackwell factory was also involved on the production side. Lea & Perrins branded glass stoppers were unearthed at the factory site.

The Museum of London Archeaology (MOLA) has published a book about the factory finds. Crosse and Blackwell 1830–1921: a British food manufacturer in London’s West End is part six of MOLA’s Crossrail Archaeology series, 10 publications that explore different aspects of the unprecedented archaeological project engendered by the construction of new subway lines and stations. You can buy it online for a tenner.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Colonial cannon pulled from Cape Fear River

History Blog - Thu, 2017-01-05 23:27

A Colonial-era cannon has been recovered from Cape Fear River at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site (BTFA) in North Carolina. It was pulled from the river during a dredging operation on December 21st. The cannon is 93 inches long with an 80-inch bore four inches in diameter. There are no visible markings to identify the type of cannon and a section of the muzzle is gone, perhaps damaged in an explosion caused by a casting flaw. For now all experts can say is that it was likely a six or nine-pounder manufactured before 1756.

Brunswick was an important port town on the banks of the Cape Fear River in Colonial times. Founded in 1726, the town grew into a center for the trade in tar, pitch and turpentine, necessary materials for the construction and maintenance of the wooden ships of the era. Its commercial and naval significance were matched by Brunswick’s political prominence. Two royal governors in a row had their official residences in the town and the colonial assembly met in the courthouse. Royal taxes were also collected there. Brunswick challenged the collection of stamp taxes eight years before colonists disguised as Native Americans threw East India Company tea into Boston Harbor.

The town began to fade in significance when the residence of the royal governor was moved to New Bern in 1770. By the time of the Revolutionary War, Brunswick’s population was depleted, which turned out to be a good thing when British troops burned the town in 1776. The town was never rebuilt. In the mid-19th century, the Orton Plantation took over the land, but what was left of Brunswick became strategically important again during the Civil War when Fort Anderson was built in 1861 as part of the Cape Fear defenses protecting Wilmington and running the Union blockade.

The historic site focuses on both the Colonial and Civil War history. The discovery of the cannon has given the BTFA a unique opportunity to study and conserve a Colonial artifact at Brunswick where it was used 250 years or so ago.

The cannon currently sits, wrapped in burlap and under a light water spray to keep it wet, at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson, until efforts can be made towards conservation.

“It was logical that it should stay here,” [Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Site Manager Jim] McKee said. “But what is going to be so unique about this, is this is the first opportunity that an artifact like this is actually going to be conserved on site. Now that the gun is here … there’s no reason for it to ever leave again.”

The cannon is awaiting conservation efforts. McKee said the cannon will be visible to the public during that time. It’s the first of its kind at the site and could take several years before the restoration is complete.

Here’s an interview with Jim McKee perched next to the cannon discussing its discovery and conservation.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

EASTERN RESULTS FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 LoAR

East Kingdom Gazette - Thu, 2017-01-05 16:52

The Society College of Heralds runs on monthly cycles and letters. Each month, the College processes name and armory submissions from all of the Kingdoms. Final decisions on submissions are made at the monthly meetings of the Pelican Queen of Arms (names) and the Wreath Queen of Arms (armory). Pelican and Wreath then write up their decisions in a Letter of Acceptances and Return (LoAR). After review and proofreading, LoARs generally are released two months after the meeting where the decisions are made.

An “acceptance” indicates that the item(s) listed are now registered with the Society. A “return” indicates that the item is returned to the submitter for additional work. Most items are registered without comments. Sometimes, the LoAR will address specific issues about the name or armory or will praise the submitter/herald on putting together a very nice historically accurate item.

The following results are from the October 2016 Wreath and Pelican meetings.

 

From Laurel: Farewell Lillia

The College of Arms has a rank of Herald Extraordinary that has a long and honored history. The rank was formally created and defined in the July 1981 cover letter by Wilhelm Laurel. The intent of the rank is to recognize and reward “… those heralds who have greatly served the College of Heralds and/or the College of Arms and have achieved the highest level of competence in heraldry.”

In light of her considerable contribution to the College of Arms through her efforts as Pelican Queen of Arms, I confer upon Lillia de Vaux the rank and style of Herald Extraordinary. I charge her to register a title of her choosing with the College of Arms.

I am very grateful for Lillia’s service, and I wish her the best in her future endeavors both within the College of Arms, and without.

 

Society Pages

On December 3, 2016, Master Malcolm Bowman, new Brigantia Herald of the East, named Master Ryan Mac Whyte, retiring Brigantia, a Herald Extraordinary.

 

EAST acceptances

Angelina Foljambe. Household name House of the White Elephant and badge. Azure, an elephant and a bordure argent.

The submitter requested authenticity for English. The inn-sign Black Elephant and the pattern of White + [animal] are found in Lillywhite’s London Signs dated to the 16th century. Therefore, this household name appears to be authentic for 16th century England.

Arabella De Mere. Name.

The submitter may wish to know that the form de Mere is more likely than De Mere. The FamilySearch Historical Records database typically capitalizes prepositions and other elements, even if they were not capitalized in the primary source.

This name combines an English given name with a French byname from the Netherlands. This is an acceptable lingual mix under Appendix C of SENA.

This name does not conflict with the registered name Arabella de la Mer. A syllable has been removed and the vowel changed in Mere versus Mer. Therefore, this name is clear under PN3C1 of SENA.

Arsinoé Dragonette. Name.

Arsinoé is a French literary name.

Brandulfr Sæfinnsson. Name.

Submitted as Brandulfr Saefinnson, the name was changed in kingdom to Brand-Ulfr Sæfinnsson because Brand- and Ulfr- were documented as given names that could not be combined to form another given name. Instead, the name was modified to use Brand- as a prepended descriptive byname, so the name only had a single given name. In addition, the spelling of the patronym was modified from -son to -sson to match the documented form.

In commentary, Siren noted:

Brandulfr is a header form in Fellows Jensen; there’s a Brandulf in the Domesday Book (http://domesday.pase.ac.uk/Domesday?op=6&filterString=brandulf) and Brandlfsike is dated as a place name to the 13th-14th c. She admits that it is not impossible that it’s from a Continental Germanic name.

Therefore we can give the submitter the benefit of the doubt and register the submitted given name.

The submitter requested authenticity for a 10th century Norse name. This name does not meet this request because the given name is dated to the late 11th century from England and the byname is found in Iceland after the 10th century.

Brick James Beech. Device. Sable, on a chevron couched from dexter argent two footprints toes to dexter sable.

There is a step from period practice for the use of footprints.

East, Kingdom of the. Badge for the East Kingdom’s Southern Army. (Fieldless) Five mullets of six points conjoined in cross Or.

“East Kingdom’s Southern Army” is a generic identifier.

East, Kingdom of the. Badge for the East Kingdom’s Southern Army. Azure, five mullets of six points in cross Or.

“East Kingdom’s Southern Army” is a generic identifier.

Elaria Grenway. Name.

The submitter requested authenticity for “late 14th cen./early 15th cen. England”. The entire name can be documented to England in the 1580s, but not in the 14th or 15th century. Therefore, this name does not meet the submitter’s request.

Gregor von Medehem. Name.

Nice late 14th century German name!

Grímólfr Skúlason. Badge. (Fieldless) A closed book argent sustaining in chief a wolf couchant sable.

Ile du Dragon Dormant, Baronnie de l’. Order name Award of the Argent Mountain.

Ile du Dragon Dormant, Baronnie de l’. Order name Award of the Gold Mountain.

Ile du Dragon Dormant, Baronnie de l’. Order name Award of the Purple Mountain.

Lorencio Matteo Espinosa. Device. Per pale azure and vert, a covered cup Or within an orle of flames proper.

Merlyn Kuster. Alternate name Eyjolfr dreki.

Muiredach Ua Dálaig. Device. Sable, a fess azure fimbriated between two talbots passant respectant and a cross formy argent.

Ogurr Aðalbrandsson. Name and device. Per pale vert and sable, a drinking horn and a sword in saltire and on a chief argent a pair of shackles sable.

We note that the form {O,}gurr, using an O-ogonek, is found in Geirr Bassi. However, under Appendix D of SENA, we can register this name as submitted instead of changing it to the attested form.

Sigrida Arnsdottir. Name and device. Per bend vert and sable, a bend embattled counter-embattled between an eagle’s head erased and a stag’s attire in annulo conjoined to itself Or.

Siobhán inghean uí Ghadhra. Name and device. Per pale vert and purpure, a unicorn argent between three harps Or.

Urr{a-}ka al-Tha`labiyya. Badge. (Fieldless) A magpie proper perched on and maintaining a rapier fesswise reversed Or.

 

EAST returns

Esa Gray. Name.

This name was pended to allow discussion of whether it presumes upon the name of 19th century botanist Asa Gray. Asa Gray is the original author and current namesake of Gray’s Manual, the standard reference on North American plants, and is considered to be the most important American botanist of his time. In addition, he collaborated with Charles Darwin, arranged for the publishing of On the Origin of Species in the United States, and wrote defenses of the highly controversial theory of evolution. Although his name is largely known only to specialists, his work “significantly shaped the course of science” in the areas of botany and genetics. Thus, Asa Gray is important enough to protect under PN4D1 of SENA.

The submitted name Esa Gray can be identical in sound to the protected Asa Gray, so we are returning this name for presumption.

Upon resubmission, we suggest the addition of a Scots or English locative byname to avoid the appearance of presumption: Esa Gray of X.

This name was pended from the May 2016 Letter of Acceptances and Returns.

Sitt al-Gharb ha-niqret Khazariyya. Badge. (Fieldless) Two winged monkeys combattant each maintaining two daggers the center daggers crossed in saltire Or.

This badge is returned for redraw, for violating SENA A2C2 which states “Elements must be drawn to be identifiable.” Commenters had trouble identifying the winged monkeys, probably because the daggers make the outline more confusing than the one used in her device.

 


Filed under: Uncategorized

Coronation of Timothy and Gabrielle

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2017-01-05 09:30

Timothy and Gabrielle. Photo by Maestro Filipo.

With Spring comes Coronation in Æthelmearc!

Join the Barony of Thescorre on April 22, 2017 in celebrating the Coronation of Timothy and Gabrielle.

The event will take place at the historic Zion Episcopal Church, 120 East Main Street, Palmyra, New York 14522. The site will open at 9am and close at 9pm. Details on the specific schedule for the day will be forthcoming.

The site is damp and open flames are allowed. There is a small lift to take those with mobility issues between floors as necessary, and a ground floor entrance as needed. Service dogs are allowed; be sure to have license and vaccination paperwork on hand. The site is allowing fighting and fencing on the front yard pending the weather; details of any specific tournaments will be forthcoming.

Adult event registration is $15.00; Adult Member discount event registration is $10.00; Youth registration (6-17) is $5.00; 5 and under free. All event registrations include a side board lunch. For an additional $8.00 adult, $4.00 6-17, 100 people can join us for the feast. Lord Andrew of Thescorre is preparing both lunch and feast. Any dietary questions can be relayed to him at andrew@thescorre.org or 585-747-6915.

Send reservations to Baron Fridrikr Tomasson (Tom Ireland-Delfs, 731 South Main Street, Newark, NY 14513). Make checks payable to SCA NY Inc., Barony of Thescorre. The event stewards are Baroness Orianna Fridrikskona (Orilee Ireland-Delfs, orianna@thescorre.org; 315-573-6326) and Lady Elisabetta de Venetia (Sabrina Sardella; 3goldroses@gmail.com). Questions on local hotels or crash space can be directed to the stewards.

Directions:

From the New York State Thruway East or West, take exit 43 (Palmyra, Manchester). After the toll booths, turn left onto Rt. 21 North. Go approximately 6 miles to the Village of Palmyra. The church will be on the left side at the traffic light. Parking at the church is limited but the village public lots are within a block of the site.


Categories: SCA news sites

First 18th c. American true porcelain bowl found in Philadelphia

History Blog - Wed, 2017-01-04 23:23

The Chinese figured out how to make hard-paste or true porcelain, the finest ceramic known for its hardness and translucency, in the 7th century. It would take almost another thousand years, in the 16th century under the Ming Dynasty, for fine Chinese porcelain to be exported to Europe in significant quantities. There it was admired and puzzled over. European ceramicists tried to crack the code — the combination and quantity of raw materials, the firing temperature — but failed. Only in the 18th century did Johann Friedrich Böttger, at the behest of Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony, solve the mystery of hard-paste porcelain. The Meissen factory, founded in 1710, was the first European producer.

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. In the American colonies, particularly in the southern states, experimentation with porcelain took off in the 1730s, and continued for decades. There is documentary evidence of the study and eventual production of China in America, but no actual evidence of 18th century hard-paste porcelain in the archaeological record. The excavations at the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia in 2014 finally found that evidence.

The survey of the museum site has proven to be one of the greatest archaeological bonanzas in American history, and so deliciously on topic to the institution that will open in historic downtown Philadelphia on April 19th, 2017. The behind-the-scenes hero of the piece is, yet again, poop. Archaeologists unearthed 12 brick-lined outhouse vaults packed with artifacts from the first decade of the 18th century through the mid-19th century. Private residents, shops and hostelries all used the privies as trash cans as well as toilets for 150 years or so, leaving 21st century archaeologists almost 85,000 artifacts to sort through.

One of the 85,000 is a small white punch bowl, unearthed in fragments in 2014. Archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group initially thought the bowl was a piece of white stoneware, but a recent material analysis by Saint Mary’s University geologist Dr. J. Victor Owen, an expert on archaeological ceramics and glass, found that the bowl is true-porcelain, probably manufactured in Philadelphia.

“One of the most intriguing stories in the world of ceramic history is the search for the secrets of making hard-paste porcelain,” said Robert Hunter, editor of Ceramics in America and an author and archaeologist. “The search, however, for physical evidence of making true porcelain in 18th century America has been frustratingly unsuccessful – until now. The discovery of this bowl is like finding the holy grail of American ceramics, and is a thrilling addition to the history of the American effort to produce this coveted material.”

It also has direct relevance to the theme of the Museum of the American Revolution, because buying domestic, even for luxury goods, was a political statement in the lead-up to the Revolution.

“The discovery of this remarkable little bowl reminds us that the ‘buy local’ movement has very deep roots in American history,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, Vice President of Collections, Exhibitions, and Programming at the Museum of the American Revolution. “It is also an important reminder that when colonists boycotted imported British goods as a way to protest Parliamentary taxation, they did not have to settle for crude versions of beloved luxuries from abroad. Colonial tradespeople produced elegant textiles and ceramics for a market eager use the ‘power of the purse’ to make a political point.”

A report on the discovery and analysis of the punch bowl will be published in the January issue of Ceramics in America. The little broken white Holy Grail will go on permanent display in the “homespun” gallery of the new museum when it opens this Spring, but will make its first public appearance at the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair this month. Co-author of the article Robert Hunter will be giving a lecture at the fair on the quest to make true porcelain in 1700s America and how the Philadelphia punch bowl fits into that history on Thursday, January 19th.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

College of Three Ravens: Current Class List

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-01-04 21:30

 

The following are the classes currently planned for College of Three Ravens on January 28 in the Barony of Thescorre:

 Arts & Sciences

  • Sweet Scents – Making Scented Hand Waters and Perfumes
  • Stained Glass Techniques
  • Gilded Letters
  • Making a Norse Thunderstone Amulet
  • Old Norse Drottkvatt Poetry: A Closer Look

Dance:

  • European Dance

Food:

  • Irish food and drink
  • Itamae – Fundamentals of Japanese Cuisine
  • Itamae – Fundamentals of Japanese Food Preparation
  • Itamae – Japanese Meal Planning and Execution

Heraldry:

  • Choosing a Persona
  • Choosing a Name

History:

  • Combalot! A History of Combs
  • History of the Settlement of Iceland

Music:

  • Using the Guidonian Hand for Gregorian Chant
  • Musical Manuscript Using Period Tools, Methods and Materials

Sewing/Fiber Arts:

  • Elizabethan Blackwork Coif
  • The Medieval Double Apron
  • Covering Your Benedict or Monastic Garb in Accordance with the Order of St. Benedict
  • Make Your Own Viking Handbag
  • The Amazing T-Tunic
  • Lucet for Dummies

Youth:

  • Children’s Service Roundtable

Martial:

  • Teaching Fencing
  • Italian Fencing
  • Spanish Fencing

Scribal:

  • Scribal Basics 102

Miscellaneous:

  • The Webminister Position and Web Basics
  • Teaching
  • It’s Been a Rough Day – I Cut Myself and My Clothes are Spotted and Dirty
  • How To Build a Pole Lathe
  • Pole Lathe How To/Demo/Hands-on For Those Who Wish to Learn Art & Mystrie of the Turner
  • Documentation

 

More classes are coming in, so I hope to have the schedule and more class information out soon. Any questions please contact me.

See the event announcement here.

Lady Adelheid Grunewalderin


Categories: SCA news sites

Award Recommendations for Their Highnesses

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-01-04 09:05

Greetings to the populace of the East!

We hope the new year finds you all well and hopeful.

We will be accepting award recommendations for our first polling until January 20th 2017. Please send your award recommendations via the www.eastkingdom.org website.

We look forward to hearing from you.

With much love and excitement for the future,
Princess Honig and Prince Ioannes


Filed under: Uncategorized

Will of 12th c. Georgian king on display for the 1st time

History Blog - Tue, 2017-01-03 23:46

The Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi, Georgia, has put on display the only surviving fragment of the last will and testament of the 12th century King of Georgia, David the Builder. The Georgia’s Medieval Treasury exhibition “showcases Georgian Christian art that reflected the unity and continuity of cultural traditions and formed the basis of the Georgian statehood and the national identity.” It opened in June but the objects on display are constantly changing and the will only went on display a week ago. It is the first time this priceless relic has been on public display.

David the Builder is Georgia’s greatest national hero. Just 16 years old when his father abdicated in his favor, David fought the Seljuk Turks for more than 20 years, chipping off territories under their control from 1101 until 1123 when he wrested their last stronghold of Dmanisi from them and unified the country. According to Arabic scholars like Badr al-Din al-Ayni, David the Builder respected other faiths, granted legal protection to Muslims and Jews living in the kingdom as well as adherents to minority Christian denominations like the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In 1125, King David wrote a will and determined the orderly succession of his kingdom. He died on January 24th of that year. He was just 53 years old but had reigned for 36 years. His son Demetrius succeeded him. The Georgian Orthodox Church canonized him a saint for his dedication to the faith.

Together the reigns of David the Builder and his granddaughter Tamar (r. 1184–1213) are considered the Georgian Golden Age, a military, political and cultural Renaissance in the east hundreds of years before Western Europe got around to it. The Golden Age didn’t long outlive Queen Tamar. First the Mongol invasions of the 1230s and 40s broke Georgian independence, rendering it a vassal state. In the late 14th century Timur (Tamerlane) devastated the country and forced the king to pay tribute. By 1466, the Kingdom of Georgia no longer existed even in name only; it disintegrated into several small kingdoms and principalities. It was carved up some more by neighboring powers — Persia and the Ottoman Empire, then the Russian Empire which absorbed it in 1801.

Even after centuries without a functional Georgian state, Georgian cultural identity still held on strong and David the Builder was widely revered. On display along with the fragment of the will is a glass negative of the whole document made in 1895 by photographer and Georgian nationalist Alexander Roinashvili. He took numerous photographic portraits of prominent Georgian public figures and of important sites and objects of Georgian cultural heritage. So dedicated was he to sharing and promoting Georgian history that he conceived the idea of a mobile museum of Georgian antiquities that would feature both photographs and historical artifacts — weapons, silverware, coins — he’d collected for years. In 1887, Roinashvili finally got his museum off the ground and took it on tour. The museum never did travel as far and wide as Roinashvili had hoped, but it’s thanks to his unwavering committment to documenting Georgian culture that we have a copy of David the Builder’s will.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Are You Working on Your Pent Projects? It is Not Too Late!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-01-03 20:48

Tiles by Lord Ian Campbell of Glen Mor, from the 2016 Pentathlon. Photo by Lady Aine ny Allane.

Greetings all and Happy New Year from the Ice Dragon Pent Staff!

We’re just popping in to remind everyone that there are 95 days left before Ice Dragon! It’s not too late to start working on those Pent entries! Make a Pent entry your New Year’s resolution. You’d complete it in the first quarter of the year and have another 9 months to tell your friends about it while they are still clearing their clutter and making those trips to the gym!

Please take a minute to look at the Ice Dragon Pentathlon page on Facebook and watch for further announcements. We have some new and categories and opportunities this year that should offer a little something to everyone from beginner to master craftsman. Here are just a few of the ways to be a part of the fun…

Judging the culinary entries. Photo by Tiercelin

**In the culinary category we have added a new subcategory just for breads! Hit those cookbooks, do your research and get creative. Your trial and error work should be delicious.

**Historic Combat is new this year. There are so many avenues to explore here. Research the texts and use your imagination to being some aspect of period combat alive for our judges. This category is for entries of artistic endeavor showcasing a martial art of SCA period and/or used currently within the Society. Entries in this category can take a variety of forms. The format is limited only by the entrant’s creativity and safety considerations.

**Don’t forget the 5-in1 Project category. Any ONE item that can qualify for entry in a minimum of 5 of the above listed main categories. This item may also be cross entered into ONE main category to count toward the grand Pentathlon Prize.

**From our Baron and Baroness of the Rhyddeich Hael we offer the special theme prize category. This year Their Excellencies have chose the theme “All Things Welsh” This is one more opportunity for people to use their imagination and creative skill without boundaries.

*Have you ever thought about being a judge, but didn’t know where to begin? We have a opportunities for shadow judging. Learn the ropes first hand from a seasoned Pentathlon judge in real time and space.

Photo by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.

**Would you like to take part but aren’t sure how exactly? Offer to help on our new docent staff. Enjoy the added bonus of seeing all the entries hours before we open the doors to the rest of the populace.

We’re looking forward to a nice turnout for 2017! Come to the Ice Dragon event and find your fun, so many ways to participate and so many people to enjoy!

Over the next several weeks, more information will be forthcoming on this Group/List, as well as in the AEstel, and on the Facebook Page. Questions can be directed to me by email.

I remain in Service,
Jenna MacPherson
2017 Pent Coordinator


Categories: SCA news sites

Arts & Sciences Research Paper #16: The Double Bind: Thomas Campion and Elizabethan Women

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2017-01-03 15:18

Our sixteenth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Lord Drake Oranwood of the Shire of Rusted Woodlands, who examines the work of the Elizabethan songwriter Thomas Campion, and uses his texts as a way to look closely at the role of women in that complex society. (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)

The Double Bind: Thomas Campion and Elizabethan Women

Young Lady Aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg, later Marchioness of Northampton. By English School, 16th century [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The role of women in Elizabethan society is something that quickly called attention to itself from my first studies of Elizabethan popular songs. In developing an Elizabethan persona, I become quite fond of lute songs, as exemplified by John Dowland and his less-celebrated colleague, Thomas Campion. The more of these pieces I learned, however, the more troubling I found the attitudes about women that peeked through (between the lines, as it were). It is no secret that women lacked social equality with men throughout the Medieval and Renaissance period. Still, these pithy bits of popular entertainment provided a surprising window into the conflicting, contradictory, and inescapable demands to which women, particularly young women of the upper classes, were subjected. These quandaries of inequality have existed throughout history, of course, but the writings of the 16th century (written primarily by men) rarely articulated it as such or gave it a name. In the twentieth century a term emerged for this sort of paradoxical dilemma and the strain it places on its subjects: the double bind, which describes “a situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable demands or a choice between two undesirable courses of action.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

In this article, I will examine primarily two songs from Campion’s first songbook, A Book of Airs (1601).[1] These two songs can, if juxtaposed together, be read as telling the story of an Elizabethan relationship first from a man’s perspective, then the woman’s contrasting one. This tale may serve to shed a light on the double bind faced by women Campion observed, and the different constricting forms it took. During Elizabeth’s reign, the power and entitlement men held over women, the conflicting roles and demands placed upon women of status, particularly in matters of sexuality, metastasized into ever more beautiful but suffocating forms.

Song XII.

Thou art not fair, for all thy red and white,
For all those rosy ornaments in thee;
Thou art not sweet, though made of mere delight,
Not fair nor sweet, unless thou pity me.
I will not soothe thy fancies: thou shalt prove
That beauty is no beauty without love.

Yet love not me, nor seek thou to allure
My thoughts with beauty, were it more divine:
Thy smiles and kisses I cannot endure,
I’ll not be wrapt up in those arms of thine:
Now shot it, if thou be a woman right,—
Embrace, and kiss, and love me, in despite!

 

  Song V.

My love hath vowed he will forsake me
And I am already sped.
For other promise he did make me
When he had my maidenhead.
If such danger be in playing
And sport must to earnest turn,
I will go no more a-maying.

Had I foreseen what is ensued,
And what now with pain I prove,
Unhappy then I had eschewed
This unkind event of love.
Maids foreknow their own undoing,
But fear naught till all is done,
When a man alone is wooing.

Dissembling wretch! to gain thy pleasure
What didst thou not vow and swear?
So didst thou rob me of the treasure
Which so long I held so dear.
Now thou prov’st to me a stranger,
Such is the vile guise of men,
When a woman is in danger.

That heart is nearest to misfortune
That will trust a feigned tongue.
When flatt’ring men our loves importune,
They intend us deepest wrong.
If this shame of loves betraying,
But this once I cleanly shun,
I will go no more a-maying.

Our exploration begins with “Thou art not fair”, a fairly typical love song of its time (and indeed many others), but which has a few features of particular interest to us. A male lover’s plea for his lady’s favor, it begins as many such pieces do with sharp accusation:

Thou art not fair, for all thy red and white,
For all those rosy ornaments in thee…

With classic Elizabethan word-play, Campion opens with a heavily loaded phrase: “Thou art not fair”. By punning on the word “fair”, our suitor is actually accusing his lady-friend of falling short of two ideals about English women, both of them double binds. He is calling her ”unfair” in the sense that she is denying him what he is entitled to as a man (and we shall explore that point in detail shortly). He is additionally suggesting she is not “fair”, meaning beautiful according to the standards of the day. But with “for all thy red and white” and “rosy ornaments”, he adds a third, literal, meaning to “fair” that illuminates those standards of beauty: she is not pale-skinned (or less so than she appears). He is accusing her of wearing makeup, which by the end of 16th century had become a special sort of insinuation.

Portrait of Dorothy, Lady Dormer (1577 – ?), daughter of Sir Robert, 1st Baron Dormer, of Wing (1552-1616) and wife of Henry Hudleston of Sawston. By Unknown English: English School (image) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Women’s makeup came into common use in the nobility during Elizabeth’s reign, popularized by the Queen’s copious use of it to achieve a particular idealized standard of beauty: “Pale skin was a sign of nobility, wealth, and (for women) delicacy, and was sought after by many. In a time when skin problems and the pox were commonplace, sunscreen unheard of, and skin creams and ointments out of reach for all but the well-off, smooth, unblemished and pale skin was a rarity.”[2]

Of course, most cosmetic formulations to create this alabaster skin, along with rosy lips and cheeks, were highly toxic and damaged the skin (and when lead was part of the mixture, the brain) with prolonged use. Elizabeth herself, as she aged, suffered from her constant use of cosmetics in public, and thus relied on them ever more heavily, which in turn subjected her to an increasing level of subversive mockery. In living up to men’s expectations of beauty, English noble women found themselves increasingly suspected and accused of being painted impostors wearing false fronts to disguise their bodies’ decay. By late in the reign, literary jabs at noblewomen for their made-up paleness were fairly common. Campion, ever the wit, made use of the trope elsewhere, for example in “I care not for these ladies” from this same songbook:

I care not for these ladies,
That must be wooed and prayed:
Give me kind Amaryllis,
The wanton country maid.
Nature art disdaineth,
Her beauty is her own.
For when we court and kiss,
She cries, “Forsooth, let go!”
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no. If I love Amaryllis,
She gives me fruit and flowers:
But if we love these ladies,
We must give golden showers.
Give them gold, that sell love,
Give me the nut-brown lass, …

Campion contrasts the upper-class “ladies” in question with the more accessible earthiness of Amaryllis, whose “beauty is her own” (i.e., not painted on), and whose body, tan from outdoor work, is far more readily available, with much less fuss, to men. Ladies’ makeup is a protective coating which makes them artificially beautiful, and less attainable, and the suitor of “Thou art not fair” mocks his lady’s (likely compulsory) use of it, hoping to lower her defenses:

Thou art not sweet, though made of mere delight,
Not fair nor sweet, unless thou pity me.
I will not soothe thy fancies: thou shalt prove
That beauty is no beauty without love. Yet love not me, nor seek thou to allure
My thoughts with beauty, were it more divine:
Thy smiles and kisses I cannot endure,
I’ll not be wrapt up in those arms of thine:
Now shot it, if thou be a woman right,—
Embrace, and kiss, and love me, in despite!

Lowering her defenses is indeed his aim, and he will carp at her until she bestows her “pity” on him. A classic trope of male entitlement (still widespread today, but rife in songs of the period) is the notion that a woman’s beauty holds such power over a man that it is cruelty beyond measure for her to tempt him with “smiles and kisses” but withhold sexual favors. Her “beauty is no beauty without love,” and note the ascending scale of the demands: “Embrace, and kiss, and love me, in despite!” Thus the suitor makes plain one end of the greater double bind we alluded to earlier—male entitlement. A desirable woman is hateful if she rejects a man’s sexual needs.

No thought is given in the piece to what the woman in question wants, or whether it is compatible with the man’s sense of entitlement; this is a commonplace of the genre. As Theresa D. Kemp observes, “The modes and genre of courtly love…rarely image an inner life or subjectivity for the lady; she is merely the object of the speaker’s desire.” (Women in the Age of Shakespeare, p. 3.)[3]

So, what if she acquiesces to the fervent plea, and gives herself to the poor fellow (as he appears to imagine himself), instead of taunting him with her supposedly deadly power? It is one thing for the low-born Amaryllis to freely enjoy the delights of the flesh with a man, but quite another for a “red and white” painted (and doubly bound) lady to do so. In “My love hath vowed,” Campion unspools the fate of a girl who makes this choice and faces the consequences of yielding to a man’s sexual entitlement. His telling suggests empathy for her plight, and yet surely this would have served as a stern warning and cautionary tale to any young woman of the day who heard it.

My love hath vowed he will forsake me
And I am already sped.
For other promise he did make me
When he had my maidenhead.
If such danger be in playing
And sport must to earnest turn,
I will go no more a-maying.

In contrast to the supposedly romantic sparring of the previous song, here we discover the aftermath of a consummated tryst. This young woman’s lover wastes no time “forsak[ing]” her on learning of her pregnancy, and, she is “already sped” from the scene of her shame. Her confession—that she gave him her “maidenhead”—is startlingly explicit for Elizabethan songs, which referenced sex constantly, but always veiled in coded language and wordplay. (“Maidenhead,” while used a few times by Shakespeare, appears in no other extant lute song of the period.[4]) There is “danger” in “playing” indeed: she has been ruined socially. This, then, is the other side of the double bind of men’s sexual entitlement: a pregnant, unmarried noblewoman has no bright future in this society.

The Elizabethan age was a period of great change, and a number of scholars mark Elizabeth’s coronation as the true beginning of the English Renaissance. To the extent that term “renaissance” means “rebirth”, however, it cannot be said to have been a step forward for women in Europe, and this was as true in England as anywhere.[5] In a world led exclusively by men, the rise of a woman to the supreme power might suggest the possibility of new equalities, but English society at large responded to this development with, if anything, a hardening and tightening of attitudes about power. In the decades prior, social changes had already been working to make life for high-born English women increasingly constricted and binding, more like a vise than a corset.

Crucially, the role of upper-class women had been shaped increasingly by concerns around wealth and inheritance. The jaws of the vise predated this era: the 14th-century establishment of primogeniture (the eldest male heir would now always be first in line for inheritance), and Henry VIII’s abolition of England’s monasteries in 1536 as part of the Reformation (eliminating convents, the one option for women to have an independent livelihood and life of the mind, outside the sway of men to a greater degree than secular life afforded). By Elizabeth’s time, an unmarried woman generally could not own or run a business on her own, and if married, all property was in the husband’s name. The only alternative to marriage was now domestic service.[vi] (Elizabeth herself famously avoided marriage, and the attendant loss of power and status, despite constant public pressure for an heir—and, of course, her choice not to provide one would end the Tudor line and her legacy of power.)

Had I foreseen what is ensued,
And what now with pain I prove,
Unhappy then I had eschewed
This unkind event of love.
Maids foreknow their own undoing,
But fear naught till all is done,
When a man alone is wooing.

In late sixteenth-century English society, then, upper-class women were valued exclusively for their marriageability even more than before. This required them to be as beautiful as possible (as evidenced by the obsession with paleness and cosmetics), but also, crucially, chaste. In a world where a high-status family used daughters to secure wealth, and a wealthy family used daughters to secure status, the assumption of virginity was essential to those transactions. Our song’s heroine has learned this lesson the hard way, through the “pain” of pregnancy and being shunned by society. She reflects how “maids” (in the parlance of the day, virgins) should anticipate “their own undoing,” but do not consider the consequences until too late.

Dissembling wretch! to gain thy pleasure
What didst thou not vow and swear?
So didst thou rob me of the treasure
Which so long I held so dear.
Now thou prov’st to me a stranger,
Such is the vile guise of men,
When a woman is in danger.

Moving from regret to anger, Campion affords his heroine the clarity to cast (legitimate) blame on her suitor, who as she has already hinted, was eager to “vow and swear” his love in order “to gain [his] pleasure” of her. She reminds the audience, lest they forget, of the loss of “the treasure / Which so long I held so dear”: her virginity. But note the harsh language with which she accosts her seducer: he is a liar, a thief, and ultimately a coward, content to evade the consequences of his wants, as she cannot.

It is intriguing that, for once, Campion spares a thought to acknowledge a man’s culpability in the double bind and the plight of this friendless woman. It is noteworthy in particular that (in the lady’s voice) Campion calls the man out for being untrue to her, both before and after getting his “pleasure”. This would appear to be a very conscious reversal of a ubiquitous trope of the time: that it is women who are false, lacking in honesty and courage. At the heart of each of the double binds faced by the Elizabethan woman, is the Elizabethan man’s constant suspicion of her. The cosmetics she wears to present the image that patriarchal society demands, of pristine youth and beauty, becomes proof of her inherent wily deception and falseness. And the man who demands that a girl remain a virgin until marriage, but who sings joyfully of a man’s sport in using his persuasion and power to take that virginity from her as he feels entitled, will ever wonder whether his fiancée, or his bride, is the virgin he takes her to be. If the Elizabethan woman’s power—the only one afforded to her—is her beauty and sexual allure, then every man’s fear is that she will make use of that power to satisfy her wants, rather than her husband’s. This fear appears to have the effect of drawing the vise ever tighter around the women of the age, with constant reminders that the risks in the game of sexual license and deception are not equally shared, but fall almost entirely on women. Thus does “My love hath vowed” conclude, with a doleful reminder and warning:

That heart is nearest to misfortune
That will trust a feigned tongue.
When flatt’ring men our loves importune,
They intend us deepest wrong.
If this shame of loves betraying,
But this once I cleanly shun,
I will go no more a-maying.

Our heroine sees the entitlement double bind clearly, and speaks now to her countrywomen, warning of the “feigned tongue” of men who risk nothing, to entrap women who risk everything for these moments of pleasure. The attendant “shame of loves betraying” has been her “undoing”, and she hopes others will follow her example going forward to “cleanly shun” such exploits.

Thomas Campion devoted over 10% of his creative output—14 songs out of 119—exploring a woman’s perspective, which was highly unusual for a writer of his day. If Campion, in his own essays, claimed not to place particular value on his mostly light-hearted English lyrics (Latin was the language for serious writing), he nevertheless slipped into them some sharp observations about the society he lived in. Certainly he knew well the double bind of the Elizabethan woman: ever primed and encouraged to be the target of male gaze and yearning, but subject to men’s harsh judgment whether she refuse, or respond in kind; ever pressed to be beautiful and alluring, but virginal; her life, freedom, and sexuality suborned in the service of men’s ambitions. In his songs it is hard to miss the dilemma, bound tightly (and pulling in opposite directions) around every noblewoman in England, up to and including Elizabeth herself.

Notes

[1] Philip Rosseter, Campion’s closest friend and a skilled lutenist, published this first book under his own name, but devoted the first half to Campion’s songs. After this Campion went on to publish subsequent songbooks under his own name. Campion was unusual as an Elizabethan songwriter who wrote his words and music together (the common practice was to add the tune or more often the lyrics later, which is why most lyrics for songwriters like John Dowland are considered anonymous). Rosseter, however, is generally credited with helping Campion with tunes and arrangements. The depth of their friendship was such that Campion, who died a bachelor, bequeathed what paltry wealth he possessed entirely to Rosseter, wishing it were more.

[2] Leed, Drea, “Elizabethan Make-up 101”. 

[3] Kemp, Theresa D. Women in the Age of Shakespeare. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2010. Also available at http://www.abc-clio.com.

[4] Karlsson, Katarina A. ‘Think’st Thou to Seduce Me Then?’ Impersonating Female Personas in Songs by Thomas Campion (1567-1620). (p 74) Thesis. University of Gothenburg, 2011. Kållered: Ineko AB, 2011. ResearchGate. ArtMonitor. Web.

[5] Kemp, p. 26.

[6] Kemp, p. 19-36.

 

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Filed under: A&S Research Papers, Arts and Sciences Tagged: a&s, Arts and Sciences

2,300-year-old Chinese sword found still sharp and shiny

History Blog - Mon, 2017-01-02 23:08

Archaeologists have unveiled an ancient bronze sword from the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) that is still sharp and glossy after 2,300 years. The sword was discovered in tomb No. 18 in Xinyang city in China’s central Henan Province. It was found still snug in its scabbard inside a wooden coffin. Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology filmed the reveal of the sword and released it on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

As the moniker suggests, the Warring States period saw constant wars between the seven leading states of fragmented Zhou dynasty China, plus a handful of smaller states pulled into the conflict at different times. Most of what is today Henan Province was one of the minor states in the struggle, its cities allied with the larger states. By the end of the period, states large and small had all been conquered by one of the leading seven: the Qin state under its king Ying Zheng. When the last competing state, Qi, fell to Ying Zheng, the former king of Qin became the emperor Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of a unified China and founder of the Qin Dynasty.

The sword is a jian, a double-edged straight sword first documented in Chinese sources from the 7th century B.C. They were first made in bronze, then as Chinese metallurgy advanced, iron and steel. The Warring States period was a transitional era for the jian; swords of bronze, iron and steel have been found from the period. Bronze jian were made with different alloys, their properties employed to the weapon’s best advantage. The central spine and core of the sword was made with high copper content bronze, making it pliant but strong and less likely to break. The edges were made from high tin content bronze for optimal sharpness.

If it seems incongruous for a 2,300-year-old bronze sword to be so shiny and sharp after all this time, consider the Sword of Goujian which dates to the Spring and Autumn period (771-403 B.C.). It was found in 1965 in a tomb where it had been submerged in water for at least 2,000 years, and yet, when the blade was unsheathed from its wood lacquer scabbard, it shone like gold and its edge was still keen. Chemical analysis found traces of sulfur which combats tarnish.

The recently discovered sword will be thoroughly studied, documented and conserved. Testing will hopefully answer questions about its composition and confirm its authenticity. There’s a significant market for fake “ancient” jian, and the condition of this sword is so extraordinary there have been some justifiably skeptical reactions on Weibo. Henan Archaeology officials insist it is authentic, discovered undisturbed in its proper archaeological context. Once it is stabilized, it will go on display, likely in the Henan Museum in Zhengzhou.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Docket for Kingdom Twelfth Night

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2017-01-02 19:28

Good Gentles of Æthelmearc,

If you are interested in requesting time for business on the Court docket at Kingdom 12th Night, please email me as soon as possible as the event is this weekend.

In service,
Orlando di Bene del Vinta,
Jewel Herald


Categories: SCA news sites

Doodle found under Dutch Golden Age painting

History Blog - Sun, 2017-01-01 23:06

The Choir of the Saint Bavo in Haarlem (1636) by Dutch Golden Age artist Pieter Jansz Saenredam is an architectural perspective of the interior of the Gothic church of Saint Bavo. Known as the portrait painter of Dutch churches, Saenredam’s specialty was capturing the complex geometries and soaring heights of church interiors to convey their light, stillness and grandeur. Saint Bavo was one of his favorite subjects. He made about 30 drawings and 12 paintings of the church.

Saenredam took a rigorously mathematical approach to his church portraits. He usually made at least two preparatory drawings, one a pencil sketch done freehand in the space to establish the composition, the other a detailed graphite rendition of the scene made with a straight-edge and compass using precise measurements taken of the church by a surveyor.

An exhibition at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C., explores how the artists of the Dutch Golden Age employed drawing as part of their painting processes. The exhibition displays almost 100 drawings plus finished paintings by 17th century Dutch masters including Saenredam, Rembrandt van Rijn, Aelbert Cuyp and Jacob van Ruisdael. To prepare for the exhibition, Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt, conservators at the NGA examined the paintings with infrared reflectography (IRR) which can reveal underdrawings made with black chalk against a white background. (Red or white chalk underdrawings cannot be detected with IRR.)

IRR revealed an unexpected surprise in the underdrawing of The Choir of the Saint Bavo in Haarlem: a doodle of a horse carrying four men on its back and a little stick figure in balloon pants underneath them. Drawn on the left pillar in the foreground, the whimsical figures are a marked contrast to the somber whitewashed interior of the post-iconoclasm church. There’s no way Saenredam intended to paint the doodle in the final version, so he must have just been having fun knowing he’d paint over it.

The drawing of four men on horseback is recognizable as a scene from a Charlemagne romance. The oldest extant version of the chanson de geste Quatre Fils Aymon was written in Old French in the 12th century. It recounts the legend of the four sons of Duke Aymon of Dordogne: the chivalric hero Renaud de Montauban and his brothers Guichard, Allard and Richardet. Aymon presents his sons to Charlemagne at a royal tournament with Renaud wins. For his bravery and skill in battle, Charlemagne awards Renaud a magic horse named Bayard. The gift comes in extra handy when Renaud kills one of Charlemagne’s nephews in a fight over a chess game and is forced to flee. Magical Bayard is so big he can carry all four brothers on his back. In the end, the hero Roland convinces Charlemagne to pardon the brothers which he does on condition that Renaud expiate his sins on Crusade.

The Four Sons of Aymon was immensely popular for hundreds of years. Prose versions began to be written in the 14th century in France and the story was translated in multiple languages. The earliest known English version was printed by William Caxton around 1489. The earliest surviving Dutch translation dates to 1508. In this version it’s Duke Aymon who gives Bayard to Renaud and Renaud kills Charlemagne’s son, not his nephew.

The image of Bayard carrying the four brothers on his back appears in art and sculpture, particularly in northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, from the 12th century through the 20th. Not in religious art, though, and certainly not on church pillars. The Bayard doodle conveys the playful side of an artist like Saenredam almost four centuries after he covered it up.

Monday is the last day of the exhibition, so if you’re in D.C. take a long lunch and pop over to the NGA to see the paintings, the IRR images and the related drawings before they move on to the Fondation Custodia in Paris. The rest of us can at least have a little fun sliding between the paintings and their underdrawings as revealed by IRR on the National Gallery of Art’s website.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

New Year’s Wishes from Their Majesties

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-01-01 10:31

We have been so pleased with being able to spend so much of 2016 as Royalty of Æthelmearc.

We are looking forward to the next four months and all of the things that we can do together as a Kingdom to lift each other up and continue to show the Known World how brightly Æthelmearc shines.

So take these moments to reflect and plan those goals for the new year, whether they be artistic, science, service, or prowess.

We look forward to seeing you at Carnivale (12th Night) and throughout the
duration of Our reign.

Marcus & Margerite
Sylvan Crown of Æthelmearc


Categories: SCA news sites

The Year in History Blog History

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-31 23:13

This year The History Blog celebrated its 10th anniverary. The Six Million Dollar Man didn’t make an appearance at this party like he did at the Six Millionth View party last year, but we made up for it with a really great comment thread. I love when readers who rarely (or never!) comment mingle with the regular commenters to say nice things about the blog. It’s downright invigorating. (No, that is not a prompt for more of same in the comments on this post. Okay it kind of is. Not that you need prompting.)

It’s the on-topic posts that capture people’s attention on the larger web. The article about the 17th century silk gown found on the Texel shipwreck was the runaway most visited of the year with 11,555 views. The story of the murder of Joe the Quilter and the discovery of the remains of his cottage was the second most popular of the year with 6,276 views. It was also one of my favorites. The tragic story, Joe’s outstanding artisanship, the rare survival of a labourer’s cottage from the 1820s and my first encounter with the Beamish Museum all captivated my attention. Then the modern Joe the Quilter topped it all off by commenting.

That wasn’t the only murderous story of the year. I was particularly interested in the story of Martha Brown, the woman who killed her abusive husband and was hanged for it. Among the thousands of people who attended her execution was a 16-year-old Thomas Hardy. Years later he would write Tess of the d’Urbervilles about a woman who kills her abuser and is hanged for murder. The century-old cold case of the Fontaubert bones only has the legend of a gloriously lurid murder behind it, but maybe the new forensic investigation will turn up something if not equally interesting, at least mildly so. Then there was the first known boomerang victim, killed in the 13th century by a fighting boomerang, a heavy, sharp-edged wood weapon that cut through his bone like metal. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the remains of the victim of a huge 17th century royal sex scandal have been found, but the odds are slim.

I allowed myself some shameless photographic indulgences this year. The Australian quilts were probably my richest haul in a single post, but in sheer size and beauty, the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic gets very high ranking in the end of the year summary even though I only just posted it a couple of days ago. Another December entry gave me my greatest source of photographic gluttony, however. It’s the boxwood miniatures. When the Art Gallery of Ontario gave me access to their folder of high resolution photographs, I seriously got a rush. It’s because the carving is so, so small. Having gigantic pictures where the details could be seen in extreme close-up totally made my year.

Along similar lines, I love how high resolution 3D scans of artifacts and remains are becoming more common. This year alone we saw 3D scans of Chinese oracle bones, the Dandaleith Pictish stone, a Pictish cross slab, an Anglo-Saxon name stone found at Lindisfarne, bones and objects from the Tudor flagship Mary Rose, the first church where Norway’s Viking saint king Olaf II was buried and the irrepressible charm of the Skara Brae “Buddo” figurine.

Some of my favorite finds of the year were inscriptions. There was the Etruscan stele found in the foundations of an ancient temple in Tuscany, later found to include the name of the goddess Uni. Newly discovered Etruscan inscriptions are always cause for celebration, and this one is very long and very old. I also loved the two from modern-day Turkey, the 2,000-year-old horse racing rules and the amazing 2,200-year-old lease contract. It’s a contract! Literally carved in stone! And thus metaphor becomes literal.

With no particular thread connecting them other than my personal interest, I got a big kick out of discoveries from all over the world. There was that group of small ceremonial iron weapons found in Oman, the small fragment of 13th century pottery from Teruel, Spain, decorated with a unique depiction of a Jewish man, the Tuscan villa of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, a 4th century senator and one of the last politically prominent adherents of traditional Roman religion to fight for its preservation, that freaking huge gold torc found in Cambridgeshire and the unbearable cuteness of the Canaanite “Thinker” figurine.

In the ephemera category, the only copy of Utrecht’s first newspaper, published in 1623, was found in a hand-bound anthology in the City Archives and Athenaeum Library in Deventer, the Netherlands. The news wasn’t fresh (even our Dutch-speaking readers struggled to follow it), but the history of newspapers was entirely unknown to me before I researched the find. Fascinating subject. The account of another battle of Thermopylae, this one between invading Goths and a combined Roman-Greek force during the 3rd century Gothic wars, discovered in a palimpsest in Vienna is a stand-out of the year. It’s a previously unknown passage in the Scythica, a history of the wars written by Athenian historian P. Herennius Dexippus who lived through them. Only a few fragments from this history survived quoted in later books. The palimpsest gave us by far the longest surviving passage, and a riveting one at that.

Denmark may win the award this year for most exciting finds in one country. There was the wee gold pendant found by a metal detectorist that is the earliest figure of Christ found in Denmark, the lead amulet invoking elves and the Christian Trinity, the rediscovery of the long-lost Ydby Runestone, the stabby beauty of the Viking treasure hoard found in Lille Karleby, the
two pounds of Viking gold bangles, the Viking toolbox unearthed at Borgring, and that amazingly smooth giant Neolithic flint axe. But of all the great and wondrous treasures Denmark has brought us this year, the greatest of them all was the 17th century bishop’s turd. The title alone made me laugh for a solid two days.

The hoards of the Danes had sturdy competition this year from Spain and Switzerland. The sheer quantity, 1,300 pounds of Roman coins, found in Tomares outside Seville, Spain, would have been impressive enough on its own, but they came in custom matching amphorae of a type never seen before. Researchers are still going through the tens of thousands of coins from the late 3rd, early 4th century. It’s not cash or pounds of gold, but the Roman lamp hoard found in Switzerland stands next to these glories with its head held high, just because it’s so pristine and unique.

I think the highlight of the year, maybe the highlight of the first decade of The History Blog history, was the chilling Halloween three-parter about the Harrison Horror (part I, part II, part III). I’d been thinking about writing a serial for years, and a long-form treatment of the body-snatching of John Scott Harrison and Augustus Devin for at least two years. I finally did it and it was so, so worth it. I’m warning you, though, there is no way I’m even trying to top it next year, not for Halloween anyway. Maybe some other theme will inspire me, or maybe it’ll just be something that I randomly stumble across. Stay tuned to find out!

I wish you all the very best of New Years, full of prosperity, peace and nerdery. I will continue to do my utmost to contribute to the last of those.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

3,800-year-old wetland potato garden found in Canada

History Blog - Fri, 2016-12-30 23:56

Archaeologists have discovered a prehistoric garden with 3,800-year-old tubers still in situ near Vancouver, Canada. This is the first direct archaeological evidence that the Holocene hunter-gatherers of the northwest coast cultivated plants as well as hunting and gathering it. The site, discovered during road work, was low-lying wetland 6,000 years ago. The anaerobic soil preserved the remains of an astonishing 3,768 wild wapato tubers (Sagittaria latifolia), also known as Indian potatoes.

Wapato tubers were a dietary staple among the indigenous people of the Fraser and Columbia rivers — the garden site is in what is now the Katzie First Nation territory — and were recorded by early ethnographers. Harvested between October and February, the tubers provided much-needed sustenance during the coldest of the winter months when supplies were scarce. The newly discovered ones long predate any such records, of course, and even the waterlogged soil couldn’t keep them in eating condition for close to 4,000 years. They’re black and brown now, although some the starchy interiors of some of the roots have survived.

Adjacent to the wetland garden is a dry site on a sandy ridge that contains the remains of two rectangular dwellings dating to the Middle Component (5,300–4,250 years before the present) and a fire pit that was so actively used during the Middle and Late Component (4,100–3,200 B.P.) that archaeologists unearthed more than 12 metric tons of fire-altered rock (FAR). Late Component artifacts were also found at the dry site, including more than 90,000 stone beads.

The tubers were wild plants, not domesticated, and wapato plants can grow deep underground all on their own. It’s an assemblage of rocks that makes it clear that this site wasn’t just a very prolific wild potato patch, but a cultivated wetland garden ingeniously customized by the indigenous people of the area to enhance harvest yields. The key evidence of cultivation is the rock pavement which is too uniform and densely packed to have been the result of natural processes like water carrying small stones to the lowest lying land. Archaeologists also found fragments of 150 fire-hardened wood tools, some still embedded in the rock pavement, used to harvest the tubers en masse.

The rock pavement controlled the depth to which the wapato rhizomes could penetrate, allowing harvesters to more easily locate and release the tubers from the mucky substrate. The context, breakage pattern, and direct association with the rock pavement suggest that the wooden tips are the distal ends of digging sticks. Their stratigraphic provenience and orientation imply that wapato harvest involved pushing or thrusting digging sticks into the pavement, where a prying or rocking motion was used to break the wapato tubers free from the mat of rhizomes and muddy substrates. Once released, the tubers would float to the water’s surface. When thrust through the pavement or caught between the pavement stones, some of the digging sticks broke and the tips of the fractured sticks were left in situ or discarded in the adjacent midden area.

The rock pavement in the garden is made of mixture of fire-altered rock and cobbles. It’s likely that the FAR were first used in the large hearth pit on the dry site and then recycled after they’d been shrunk by fire to too small a size for use in roasting. This was nothing if not an efficient system. Radiocarbon analysis of the fire-hardened wood found at the wetland garden indicate it was in use 3,800 years ago. By 3,200 years ago, it had been abandoned, thousands of tubers left in their watery garden for archaeologists to find.

You can read the full report on the site published in the journal Science Advances here.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

New Signets Announced

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-12-30 10:31

Greetings and Good Tidings from TRH Timothy and Gabrielle,

We are pleased to share that Her Excellency Mistress Antoinette de la Croix and Lady Shirin of Susa will be serving our glorious Kingdom in the Office of the Sylvan Signet.

This was a tremendously difficult decision to make, as all applicants for this demanding position were highly qualified and each and every one of the would have served Æthelmearc exceptionally well.

We would like to thank Mistress Jenna MacPherson, Her Ladyship Isabel Fleuretan and Her Ladyship Renata Rouge for applying for this demanding position, and making our decision so very difficult.

Thank you to Mistress Antoinette and Lady Shirin for accepting the appointment and we very much look forward to working with them in the coming months.

In Service to Æthelmearc, Timothy and Gabrielle, Prince and Princess

Left to right: Lady Shirin, photo by Lady Aine ni Allayne, Mistress Antoinette, photo by Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa.

Note: Per the outgoing Signet, Baroness Alexandra dei Campagnella, the new Signets will be taking on the office at Coronation on April 22nd.


Categories: SCA news sites

Tiffany’s glass mosaics get their own show

History Blog - Thu, 2016-12-29 23:52

The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) in Corning, New York, will present the first exhibition dedicated to the intricate glass mosaics made by Louis Comfort Tiffany‘s glassworks. Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics combines works in the CMoG collection with ones from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass and pieces loaned from other institutions and private collections. Almost 50 mosaics made from the 1890s through the 1920s will be displayed, from small decorative objects to massive installations made of thousands of glass tiles.

The exhibition will reveal the process of creating a mosaic at Tiffany’s studios—through detailed watercolor studies and drawings to surviving glass sample panels and examples of completed work. Museum visitors will gain insight into the labor-intensive processes, including the selection of individual pieces of glass, which played a vital role in the overall aesthetic of the final product. Drawing on The Neustadt’s archive of Tiffany glass, objects on display will also include original examples of colored sheet glass, glass “jewels,” and glass fragments made for specific mosaics.[...]

“Although Louis C. Tiffany is best known for his pioneering leaded glass windows and lamps, his mosaics are the culmination of his experimentation and artistry in glass,” said Lindsy Parrott, director and curator at The Neustadt and co-curator of Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics. “Indeed, the mosaics represent an exciting synthesis of his work in both leaded and blown glass. Using a rich variety of materials, including multicolored opalescent glass and shimmering iridescent glass, accented with three-dimensional glass ‘jewels,’ Tiffany’s innovations in glass established a bold new aesthetic for mosaics and contributed a uniquely American character to the centuries-old art form.”

The exhibition will also explore how Louis Comfort Tiffany used his showroom to market his portfolio to wealthy clients, driving up perceived value by letting buyers get a peek behind the curtain at how the wizards in Tiffany’s workshop made every piece by hand.

“Tiffany’s successful combination of art and business coincided with the rapid development of consumer culture in the United States,” said Kelly Conway, curator of American glass at CMoG and co-curator of Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics. “His impressive New York City showroom and clever, gorgeous displays of the company’s mosaics at world’s fairs, coupled with strategic marketing, sparked consumer interest and drove demand for high-priced luxury objects for the home.”

That was just the beginning of the Tiffany mosaic business, however. As the mosaic workshop became increasingly well-established at the end of the 19th century, religious and educational institutions commissioned Tiffany mosaics on a grand scale. While individual mosaics, mostly portable, have been on display before, this exhibition is the first to display the full breadth of Tiffany’s mosaic oeuvre. The museum has created custom digital displays that will allow visitors to explore the minute details of large-scale architectural mosaics in churches, libraries and universities that cannot be moved for exhibition. Mosaics at 12 different locations in New York State, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago have been photographed in high resolution by the CMoG team for the virtual displays.

Here is a magnificent example of that photography. It’s a mural in the Curtis Publishing Company Building in Philadelphia, a huge wonderland of glass tiles that looks completely different from a distance than it does up close, like one of those magic eye posters.

EDIT: Extremely relevant information I left out for some unknown reason is that the exhibition runs from May 20th, 2017, through January 7th, 2018.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History