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A tiny ancient Egyptian coffin previously believed to hold mummified organs has been found to contain the youngest known example of a mummified fetus. Mummified fetuses are rare in the archaeological record of ancient Egypt. Two mummified fetuses in coffins were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, but they were at about 25 weeks and 37 weeks gestation. This one is only 16 to 18 weeks gestation.
The coffin was excavated in Giza in 1907 by William Matthew Flinders Petrie’s British School of Archaeology. When the 1906-1907 dig season ended, Petrie distributed the finds to more than 20 institutions in Britain and the United States. The miniature coffin went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
The cedar wood coffin is just 44 centimeters (17 inches) long. It’s a miniature version of a Late Period Egyptian coffin probably dating to between 664 and 525 B.C. The wood has deteriorated over the years, but even through the networks of deep cracks on the exterior and interior of the coffin, the quality of the carving shines. This was an expensive piece.
Inside the coffin is a bundle wrapped in linen bandages and coated in black resin that was poured over it before the lid was put in place. Because the package is so small, curators thought it contained internal organs that were removed during the mummification process. In preparation for the museum’s bicentennial exhibition Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt, curators wanted to find out what exactly was in that bundle. X-rays were inconclusive but there were indications that small skeletal material might be present.
Curators turned to micro CT, scanning the bundle at Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology. Fitzwilliam experts collaborated with radiologist Dr. Tom Turmezei and pediatric radiologist Dr. Owen Arthurs to examine the cross-sectional images produced by the micro CT scans. They concluded that the bundle contained the remains of a very young fetus. The fingers of both hands and toes of both feet are clearly visible, as are the long bones of the legs and arms. The skull and pelvis have collapsed, but the bones that remain allowed researchers to determine the fetus was no more than 18 weeks old. There are no signs in the surviving bones to explain why the fetus was miscarried.
The long bones of the arms are crossed over the chest, which means the tiny fetus was very carefully posed in its tiny coffin. Add to that the careful mummification and elaborate decoration of the coffin, and it’s clear the fetus was of great importance to its bereaved family.
Julie Dawson, Head of Conservation at the Fitzwilliam Museum said, “Using noninvasive modern technology to investigate this extraordinary archaeological find has provided us with striking evidence of how an unborn child might be viewed in ancient Egyptian society. The care taken in the preparation of this burial clearly demonstrates the value placed on life even in the first weeks of its inception.”
Other ancient societies, the Romans, for example, had no such care for dead babies, nevermind miscarried fetuses.
The miniature cedar coffin is now on display at the Death on the Nile exhibition, alongside some truly exquisite artifacts pertaining to Egyptian beliefs about death. It runs through May 22nd, so the clock is ticking if you want to see the exhibition. I’m including all the wonderful images of artifacts in the show that the Fitzwilliam made available to entice those of you who can make it to Cambridge and give those of us who can’t at least a taste of the marvels on display.
Unto the people of Æthelmearc, and especially Our beloved Barony of Delftwood, do Byron and Ariella, King and Queen, send Greetings.
Our journey to Our home castle gave Us many hours to reflect on the good works of the populace of Æthelmearc, and the glory of Our Crown Tournament.
First and foremost, We extend Our thanks to Lady Amelia and the staff of good gentles who worked throughout the day to make this event a truly memorable experience. The cooks and kitchen staff are to be complimented not only on the quality of the food, but on the clever theme of stadium food.
We thank all of the marshals who kept the fighters safe, and the heralds whose flair kept the populace entertained in the procession and throughout the day. Our thanks also go to Their Excellencies Delftwood and all the populace of that good Barony, for making Us feel so welcome in Our Eastern lands.
And to all the fighters who showed their prowess, and all the artisans who showed their talents, We thank you for enhancing the glory of Our Crown Tournament. We were especially impressed with the works of THL Solveig Throndardottir, as her treatise on Japanese recipes nears completion. We were so pleased to see such a noble display of chivalry from all the combatants. We felt that everyone present was amazed at the quality of this Crown.
Finally, Our congratulations go out to Our Heirs, Marcus and Margerite, Crown Prince and Princess of Æthelmearc. We are much relieved to know that when Our days as Sovereigns come to an end, Æthelmearc will continue in able and trustworthy hands.
In Service to the Dream,
Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Æthelmearc
Medievally speaking, what gets your creative juices flowing?
Is it getting your hands dirty making stuff?
Is it figuring out how things were done?
Delving into the when and where and why of medieval life?
Is it learning something you didn’t know before?
Is it learning more about something that intrigues you?
If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, consider teaching at Æthelmearc Æcademy and War College, hosted by the Shire of Ballachlagan (Wheeling, WV), on June 11.
So far, we have 25 classes (that’s 31 class-hours!) scheduled, on these topics: Bardic, Brewing, Clothing, Dance, Embroidery, Heraldry, History, Metalworking, Research, SCA Life, Scribal, Youth Track, War College — Fencing (for a listing of class titles and descriptions, please visit the Æcademy website).
But sadly, there are NO classes (yet) in Cooking, Equestrian Arts, or Fiber Arts. If you’ve never taught at Æcademy (or if it’s been a while), no problem! It’s easy to register — Just go to the Æcademy registration page and supply the requested information about yourself and your class.
If you’ve never taught a class (or have taught but are still a bit nervous about teaching), I have a solution! On Saturday of Æthelmearc War Practice, from 3 to 4 pm, I’ll be teaching a class called “Documentation to Class,” which will give you ideas to turn what you know into a successful class.
If you have signed up to teach at Pennsic, consider teaching at Æcademy as a “dress rehearsal.” Teaching in June will give you time to fine-tune your class. Plus, the feedback and experience will boost your confidence.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Yours, in Service to the Arts,
Mistress Alicia Langland
A treasure hunter has found the largest nugget of gold ever discovered in the UK near the shipwreck of the Royal Charter off the coast of Anglesey, northwest Wales. Vincent Thurkettle was shallow diving when he spotted the nugget in a crevice about 40 meters (131 feet) from the wreck and just five meters (16 feet) from the shore. The wreck and its environs are usually covered in six feet of sand, but storms had shifted the sands and exposed the crevice in the sea bed and the chicken egg of gold nesting inside of it. At 97.12 grams (3 oz), the nugget is almost twice the weight of second biggest nugget ever found in Britain, the Carnon Nugget, which weighs 59g and was found in Cornwall in 1808. The third largest at 57.9g is the Rutherford Nugget, found in Scotland in 1869.
Built in 1855, the Royal Charter was an iron-hulled steam clipper with sails and back-up steam engines which could be used when the wind was uncooperative. Its speed and sturdiness made it the ideal ship for the challenging Liverpool-Australia route which crossed almost the entire length of the Atlantic, passing through the Cape of Good Hope, notorious for its brutal storms. The Royal Charter pulled off this crossing in fewer than 60 days, a cakewalk for the time, and thanks to the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851, there were plenty of passengers most extremely keen to get to the antipodes to try their luck in the Australian Gold Rush. The return voyage was typically replete with prospectors carrying the fruits of their panning and digging labour.
It was on one of those return trips from Australia to Liverpool that the Royal Charter, laden with a cargo of 79,000 ounces of Australian gold insured for £322,000 (worth an estimated £120 million in today’s money) plus much more carried by miner passengers, encountered a violent storm off the coast of Anglesey near the village of Moelfre. The captain decided to drop anchor in Moelfre Bay, lower the sails and shut down the engines lest the northerly winds drive the ship towards North Wales. This proved a fateful decision as it kept the ship in the middle of the roughest part of the storm. Assaulted by waves 60 feet high and winds of 100 miles per hour, the anchor chain broke and the ship was dashed onto the rocks. In the wee hours of on October 26th, 1859, the Royal Charter broke apart and sank.
One of the crew managed to get to the shore 50 yards away towing a lifeline, but a total of only 39 people — 21 passengers, 18 crew, all men — were able to use the lifeline to reach the safety of the shore. The exact number of passengers and crew is unknown but is estimated to be around 450. The passenger manifest listed 320, but people who purchased last-minute tickets weren’t listed. In the two weeks between October 25th and November 9th of that year, storms wrecked 325 ships taking 748 people down with them. The dead from the Royal Charter make up more than half of that terrible total.
The storm, which was so massive around 200 ships sank in it, became known as the “Royal Charter gale.” As a result of the tragedy, the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, which was only five years old at the time and only collected meteorological observations, was made to issue official gale warnings via the new telegraph technology to ships in British waters. The first gale warnings were issued in June of 1860.
The owners of the ship and insurance underwriters set to salvaging what they could of the Royal Charter‘s valuable cargo. When Charles Dickens visited the wreck site on New Year’s Eve, 1859, salvage operations were still ongoing. He described the wreck and the salvage he witnessed in The Uncommercial Traveller.
Even as I stood on the beach with the words ‘Here she went down!’ in my ears, a diver in his grotesque dress, dipped heavily over the side of the boat alongside the Lighter, and dropped to the bottom. On the shore by the water’s edge, was a rough tent, made of fragments of wreck, where other divers and workmen sheltered themselves, and where they had kept Christmas-day with rum and roast beef, to the destruction of their frail chimney. Cast up among the stones and boulders of the beach, were great spars of the lost vessel, and masses of iron twisted by the fury of the sea into the strangest forms. The timber was already bleached and iron rusted, and even these objects did no violence to the prevailing air the whole scene wore, of having been exactly the same for years and years. [...]
The divers were down then, and busy. They were ‘lifting’ to-day the gold found yesterday—some five-and-twenty thousand pounds. Of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds’ worth of gold, three hundred thousand pounds’ worth, in round numbers, was at that time recovered. The great bulk of the remainder was surely and steadily coming up. Some loss of sovereigns there would be, of course; indeed, at first sovereigns had drifted in with the sand, and been scattered far and wide over the beach, like sea-shells; but most other golden treasure would be found. As it was brought up, it went aboard the Tug-steamer, where good account was taken of it. So tremendous had the force of the sea been when it broke the ship, that it had beaten one great ingot of gold, deep into a strong and heavy piece of her solid iron-work: in which, also, several loose sovereigns that the ingot had swept in before it, had been found, as firmly embedded as though the iron had been liquid when they were forced there. It had been remarked of such bodies come ashore, too, as had been seen by scientific men, that they had been stunned to death, and not suffocated. Observation, both of the internal change that had been wrought in them, and of their external expression, showed death to have been thus merciful and easy.
Official salvage continued for years, and when the companies finally called it a day with about 80% of the cargo recovered, unofficial treasure hunters persisted. They continue to persist to this day. Vincent Thurkettle is a professional prospector and has been panning/diving for treasure for close to 40 years. He’s been leading teams of friends and relatives to the explore Royal Charter site for years. In 2011 he made the news for finding gold dust, nuggets, coins and 200 artifacts from the wreck. He kept mum on the big nugget, which he discovered in 2012, in order to continue to search the site without interference from the public. Also, he developed something of a Gazza Ladra love for this great find. “I had grown very fond of it,” he said. “Other pieces I’ve found before have been quartz with gold in, but this was a big lump of gold with bits of quartz in.”
Anything found close to a shipwreck by law has to be reported to the Receiver of Wreck (RoW) which then researches ownership and determines where the salvage should go. It’s not clear when Thurkettle reported it. He kept it for long enough to grow fond of it, so it seems it wasn’t immediately turned over to the Receiver. The RoW has claimed it for the crown now, which means they’ve probably had it for at least a year since the law says they’re supposed to hold on to wreck salvage for a year to give private owners a chance to claim it.
The nugget is currently stashed in a safe place before it finds a new home in a museum. Thurkettle will have to content himself with a salvage award and the same visitation rights the rest of the public will get when the nugget goes on display.
Looking for something to do at War Practice? Wishing to try your hand at a new art?
Come to the Great Hall and do just that!
In addition to classes in music and dance, and an embroidery salon run by THL Cristina inghean Ghriogair, you can try calligraphy and illumination under the helpful guidance of Mistress Yvianne de Castel d’Avignon and Mistress Liadin ní Chléirigh na Coille, play with fibers with Mistress Mahin Banu Tabrizi, or try cooking over an open fire with Mistress Katla úlfheþinn.
Scribal play time and the embroidery salon will run 3pm to 6pm on Friday; on Saturday, the various play times will be from 10am to 4pm. Stop in and try your hand at something new – embroidery, calligraphy, illumination, cooking, weaving in between attending the classes being run in the Hall. Or stop in and lend a hand to one of the areas, or just come spend the day doing something you love and sharing it with others!
Looking forward to the day.
Baroness Orianna Fridrikskona
Documented from the Rolls and Files of the Coram Regibus of Thomas Byron Rex and Ariella Regina, King and Queen of Æthelmearc: Being a True Record of the Business of Their Royal Court at Blackstone Raid XXV, 30 April, Anno Societatis L, in the Barony of Blackstone Mountain. As recorded by Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald, with the assistance of Lady Katherine McClung, Millrind Herald, and Lord Arias Beltran del Valle, and Baroness Anastasie de Lamoure, Silent Herald.
Their Majesties invited forward those children in attendance. With the permission of their parents, the children were encouraged to see Lady Astrid vigaskegg for activities and treats to amuse them during Court.
Their Majesties brought before Them Baron Ichijo Honen and Baroness Cerridwen de Skeine. Before giving them leave to conduct the business of their Baronial Court, Their Majesties demanded that the Baron and Baroness duly swear their fealty to the Crown. Such fealty being given and received to Their Majesties’ satisfaction, Their Excellencies held their court.
Their Majesties next invited Count Sir Jehan de la Marche to approach. His Excellency offered his own personal fealty to the Crown, and thereupon asked the Court to witness as he renewed his relationship with Master Morien MacBain as both squire and apprentice.
Their Majesties then received Octavius Flavus, a visitor from distant lands. This gentle carried with him words of wisdom from a far shire, which he had transformed into a scroll of his own illumination, calligraphed by Beatrix. Their Majesties accepted it with pleasure and promised to provide Their own message for Octavius to take with him on the next leg of his continuing journey.
Their Majesties next sought Lord Borislav of Novogord. Her Majesty spoke of the many steps fighters must take to perfect their armor and weapons, the dedication necessary to fight in all weathers and at all times, and the skill developed over time in the face of such dedication. In recognition of Borislav’s efforts and skills, They named him a Companion of the Golden Alce. Scroll forthcoming.
Next Their Majesties summoned The Honorable Lord Tegrinus de Rhina, and questioned him regarding his service to his group as Knight Marshal, as well as performing setup, teardown, and other labors for groups throughout the kingdom. To recognize his long service, They named him a Companion of the Keystone. Scroll by Misress Arianna of Wynthrope.
Their Majesties next sought Lady Reina Dulcedame. The Lady being not in attendance, Their Majesties asked Dame Hrefna Úlfarvinnsdóttir to carry Their words, and named Lady Reina a Companion of the Keystone. Scroll by The Honorable Lady Ismay Ponde on wording by Count Jehan de la Marche.
Lady Crystal MacUrsus was brought before Their Majesties, who noted her labors on behalf of events such as the Tournament of the White Hart and others in her group. In recognition of her acts of service, They were moved to name her a Companion of the Keystone. Scroll by Mistress Maria Christina de Cordoba.
Gremian Ulfhednar was next summoned to attend Their Majesties. Again, Their Majesties remarked on the service he provided to White Hart and other events, performing setup and cleanup alike. Being moved by reports of his dedication, Their Majesties saw fit to name him a Companion of the Order of the Keystone, thus Awarding him Arms. Scroll by Mistress Maria Christina de Cordoba.
Their Majesties called into Their presence Kismira Rothiem, and spoke with her of her work as reservations clerk and at the registration desk for Blackstone. In recognition of her service to the Barony, Their Majesties created her a Companion of the Keystone, further Awarding her Arms. Scroll by Master Caleb Reynolds.
Their Majesties called for Tiberius of Sylvan Glen, who was also not in attendance. Once more, Dame Hrefna Úlfarvinnsdóttir came forward to carry Their words of praise to him, as well as Their wish to name him a Companion of the Silver Buccle. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova.
Then was Lady Onora Inghean ui Donmhnaill asked to attend Their Majesties. Their Majesties praised this noble lady’s clothing and embroidery, including the clothes she was wearing at the time. Faced with the obvious evidence of her skills, and knowing the reports of her good works, Their Majesties saw fit to name her a Companion of the Sycamore. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova.
Their Majesties next required The Honorable Lord Gareth Whytebull to enter Their presence. They spoke of His Lordship’s constant service to his Barony, region, and the fighting community as a whole. Mindful of the acclaim of others to this same accomplishment, Their Majesties called before Them Their Order of the Millrind and inducted him into its rolls. Scroll by Meisterin Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen.
Before releasing the Order, Their Majesties called for Lady Odette D’Arques to attend Them. This lady’s service as exchequer, cook, and housing coordinator were among the many reasons Their Majesties were moved to Grant her Arms and name her also a Companion of the Millrind. Scroll by Baroness Alexandra di Campagnella.
Her Majesty then spoke of the one who inspired Her on this day: Bear, who had newly authorized as a Thrown Weapons marshal. He had supplied the butts for the day’s range and spoken with Her Majesty of his plans to transform his estates into an archery and thrown weapons range for all. Her Majesty presented him with Her token in appreciation for the inspiration he provided.
Their Majesties also thanked the event staff who made the day so enjoyable for all, and the cooks who provided food for Them despite additional restrictions and constraints governing Their Majesties’ diet on the day.
Their Majesties also thanked all scribes and regalia wrights who contributed their talents and largesse to enhance the Court’s proceedings. They further invited any and all who might take up the scribes’ pen to speak with or contact the Sylvan Signet, as the Scribes of Æthelmearc have particular need of reinforcements and wish to grow their community again.
There being no further business, Their Majesties’ Court was closed.
Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres
The National Portrait Gallery has acquired a rare album of albumen prints by Victorian photographer Oscar Gustav Rejlander, a pioneer of art photography and photomontage. The album contains 70 photographs of known and unknown people taken in the mid-1800s. They include portraits of Rejlander, his wife Mary, Hallam Tennyson, son of Lord Alfred Tennyson, poet and essayist Sir Henry Taylor, a number of unknown sitters and models representing allegorical themes like prayer, sadness and painting. Copies of some of the portraits in the album are in museums and private collections, but most of them were previously unknown to scholarship.
Born in Sweden around 1813, Rejlander trained as a painter in Rome and moved to England where he opened a portrait photography studio in 1850. In addition to the portraits of moneyed clients, Rejlander photographed street kids and prostitutes, some of whom modeled for his allegorical works. His experiments with techniques like double-exposure and photomontage were cutting edge and one of them, an allegory called The Two Ways of Life which shows two young men presented with views of the virtuous and decadent life, made him famous. He combined 32 of his own negatives in that one montage; it took him six weeks to complete. The nudity on the sinful side caused some pearl-clutching, but Queen Victoria, who we now know had a keen appreciation for the carnal pleasures of marriage, liked it so much she bought a copy to give to Prince Albert. His innovations in the field earned him the title the father of art of photography.
It’s not known who compiled the album. It was part of the estate of Surgeon Commander Herbert Ackland Browning whose father was connected by marriage to Dr. Marsters Kendal, surgeon to the future King Edward VII. Annotations in the album indicate the album was lent to the Prince of Wales, so it’s possible it came though Dr. Kendal directly from the artist who, according to one of the notes in the album, at first refused to sell until the buyer offered “£2.2.0 for the Swedish poor.” It remained in the Browning family for 140 years, unpublished and unrecognized, until they put it up for auction in 2014.
The album was sold by Morphets of Harrogate on September 11, 2014, for a hammer price of £70,000 ($101,000) to a Canadian buyer. In February of 2015, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed a temporary export bar on the album because its significance to the history of photography and 19th century art. Christopher Wright of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), the body that made the recommendation that the export license not be immediately granted, explains the album’s unique historical import:
Rejlander was one of the most popular photographers of his day, famous for pioneering combination prints and for his illustrations in Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. This particular album, a rare survival, is known to have been shown to both Pope Pius IX and the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), who was an enthusiastic collector of his work.
Dr Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “The Rejlander album becomes one of the jewels in the crown of our already impressive collection of 19th century photographs. It transforms the way we think about one of Britain’s great artists. And it contains some of the most beautiful and expressive portraits of the Victorian era.”
The Rejlander album will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in October. The NPG has already digitzed the prints from the album which can be seen on its website. If you’d like the turn the pages of the album and zoom in closer than the NPG photos allow (albeit with unfortunate watermarks), the auction company made a neat digital flipbook.
If the Flash album doesn’t work for you, here’s a pdf version.
Submitted by Mistress Alicia Langland.
Surely one the of the things that has helped our Society flourish for fifty years is our willingness to share what we’ve learned with others. Let’s continue that tradition to the century mark … and beyond!
May 19-22: Æthelmearc War Practice XXVII, Canton of Steltonwald
One of the many activities offered at this busy event, classes are a great way to meet new friends and meet up with old ones. If you would like to teach a class, please contact the Class Coordinator, Baroness Constance Glyn Dwr, at email@example.com.
On Friday from 3 to 6 pm and on Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, stop by the Great Hall, where various salons focused on different art forms — such as fiber arts, cooking, C&I, embroidery and needlework, music, dyeing — will be on display. Come and try a new art form, or learn more about a familiar one! If you have questions or would like to participate, please contact Mistress Orianna Fridrikskona at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 28: Thescorre Baronial Champs, Barony of Thescorre
Among the many competitions at this event is an A&S competition.
(HINT: Documentation with your entries allows you to “teach” others about your art even when you’re not in the room! Sweet!)
Conservation of the 120-ton revolving gun turret of the USS Monitor, raised from the protected wreck site off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on August 5th, 2002, is ramping back up this month after years of painful budgetary restrictions that saw the conservation staff reduced by half and left the massive remnant of the ironclad vessel in limbo. A year-long fundraising push has generated $1 million in donations which has allowed USS Monitor Center conservators to start a two-month campaign on the turret.
The gun turret is kept in a 90,000 gallon tank in the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, filled with an alkaline solution of sodium hydroxide to preserve and desalinate the metal. Every Monday until the middle of July, the tank will be drained (it takes four and a half hours to drain the whole thing) so conservators can work on it. They will clean it thoroughly, inside and out, using small chisels, hammers, dental drills and air scribes (miniature compressed air jackhammers) to remove layer upon layer of concretions.
Conservators will also attempt to remove the nut-guards, shields that covered the nuts to keep them from flying out should the turret be subject to artillery fire. The exposed walls will then be excavated for small artifacts pinned there when the ship capsized and sank on New Year’s Eve, 1862. A number of discoveries have been made before behind the shields, including a monkey wrench, a bone-handled knife and a silver table spoon with the initials “SAL” engraved on the handle that researchers believe belonged to Third Assistant Engineer Samuel Augee Lewis, one of 16 crewmen who went down with the ship.
Once the cleaning and archaeological work have been completed, the turret’s newly exposed interior and exterior walls will be scanned through a 3-D photogrammetry process in order to record the progress of the electrolytic reduction and descaling treatments.
The sensitive images also may enable the conservators to uncover hidden clues imprinted on the turret’s exterior during the Monitor’s milestone clash with the CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads in March 1862, as well as its confrontation with Confederate shore batteries at Drewry’s Bluff on the James River two months later.
So discerning is the data gathered by the technique that it could provide the exact depth and circumference of both seen and unseen indentations made by enemy shot, bolts and shells, Hoffman says.
The tank will be filled up every Friday to preserve the turret over the weekend, then it all starts over again Monday. When this project is completed in mid-July, the tank will be filled back up for another long-term treatment. In total, conservators expect treatment to take 15 years before the turret can be safely exhibited in the museum without the protection of its tank, fresh water and alkaline solution. The $1 million raised is a fraction of the projected total cost of the full conservation. That’s more along the lines of $20 million, so the museum is continuing to raise funds.
One brilliant fundraising approach will be taking place over the next few months while the tank is empty during the week. For a price of 100 tax-deductible dollars a person, the USS Monitor Center’s director, historian John V. Quarstein, will lead visitors through the museum exhibition and the Batten Conservation Complex, the largest marine archaeological metals conservation lab in the world which contains the three largest pieces of the USS Monitor encased in massive conservation tanks: the vibrating side-lever steam engine, two XI-inch Dahlgren shell guns and their gun carriages, and the largest and most famous of them all, the gun turret. Visitors will have the chance to handle some of the artifacts recovered from the turret, and best of all, they’ll be allowed to go inside the drained turret tank. Waterproof boots at least eight inches high are required. Now that’s a killer gift idea for the history nerd who has everything. To schedule a tour (15 people at a time, max), contact Hannah Piner at hpiner@MarinersMuseum.org or call (757) 952-0465.
To follow the conservation project as it proceeds, check out the USS Monitor Center’s outstanding blog with entries written by the conservators doing the work. The museum’s website also has webcams trained on the three tanks so you can see the conservation as it happens.
Thanks to Laegaire Mac Conaill Meic Shiadahail for allowing us to share his poetic and evocative recounting of the finals from Crown Tournament.
I couldn’t have asked for a better match up to watch to determine the Heirs of Æthelmearc. Two knights who I look up to greatly came together in love, chivalry, and brotherhood to fight under the eyes of the populace, their King and Queen, their wives, and the Gods. When Duke Marcus and Duke Timothy stepped into the list, a thought occurred to me and I voiced it to those around me.
No matter which of these men takes victory today, Æthelmearc wins.
And so it was. Two titans of honor and martial skill crashed together, laughter and joy heralding their steps, even as their sword blows brought thunder and fire. At the choice of Queen Ariella, the first of five bouts was fought with polearms.
Timothy took the bout decisively, and Marcus chose to fight the second bout great sword. Like the very plates of the earth they came together again, exchanging blows and words until Timothy fell, choosing that the third round should be fought two-weapon.
An honorable move, as Timothy’s bailiwick is sword and shield, and he chose an even fight over that which would give him the best odds at victory. This round may have been the longest, as the combatants circled one another, engaging cautiously at first, until finally in a brutal bind, Timothy found the opening, bound Marcus’ weapon with his axe, and won the bout with a windmilling strike from his sword.
Emulating Timothy’s decision to favor the most even fights possible, Marcus chose to fight their fourth bout with sword and shield.
This was when something amazing happened. The stuff of dreams. Timothy ceded the bout. These two had come far, and fought hard, and were holding the weapons commonly held to be the “traditional” weapons of Society Chivalry. So, he ceded the fourth bout. And so it came down to one last fight. The joyous tension in the air was palpable. Tents were emptied. Conversations silenced. All turned out for this fight. I repeated to myself, quietly.
No matter which man becomes Prince, Æthelmearc wins.
The beginning of their bout was a beautiful thing of laughter and friendship. “Sweep the legs!” cried one from the side, as the two took a “crane’ stance, much to the amusement of the many spectators. More words were exchanged, but what I remember most is just before the bout, Timothy simply calling out to Marcus, “my friend.”
Finally, after much ado, they clashed. Zeus and Odin, the Morrigan and Athena. Launcelot and Arthur. John McClane and Rambo. Mountain and Mountain. They fought back and forth, traversing the entirety of the list at least three times. To me, it felt that a killing blow might never be struck. No matter how hard one pressed the offense, each man defended himself with grace and prowess. Even when Marcus lost a shield strap, he elected to continue the fight, maneuvering his shield with alacrity. In the end, the fight wasn’t decided by brute force, or a long series of blows. The friends tangled a final time and broke apart, circling each other. With the dexterity of a viper, Marcus lashed out with a thrust, the tip of his blade flying towards his opponent. The air hung still. No one breathed. From the sides, it was impossible to tell. Had the blow struck true, or had it stopped a fraction of an inch short? After what may have been a moment, or a year, Timothy fell.
The crowd gasped, collectively. With one blow, it was decided. With one thrust, Marcus had seized the crown, and become Prince of Æthelmearc, in a tourney worthy of story and song.
Finally, the Shield of Chivalry is given to the fighter in Crown who the Ladies of the Rose and Garnet decide showed the most honor and chivalry.
Of course, Duke Timothy received the Shield, excellent, yes. But the ladies charged him with a geas to, at each event, select a fighter who displays excellent chivalry, and make them the bearer of the Shield for a day. There are so many reasons I find this beautiful. It helps the kingdom to recognize chivalry all throughout its borders, instead of singling out only one individual. This is a quest which I know His Grace will love greatly, and enjoy undergoing throughout his time as the Shield-bearer. Lastly, it shows a sense of love for the entire kingdom, and pays respect to our need to recognize chivalry whatever we find it. I love this.
I hope only that my words have conveyed some part of the magic of that day, and the monolithic honor and prowess that I saw.
Greetings dear populace,
It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that, due to circumstances beyond our (the Canton of Beau Fleuve) control, we must cancel the Brass Ring Thing Demo. The demo was to be held June 4th from 11-6 at the Hershel Carrousel Museum.
Thank you for all of your support in the past and look forward to the future!
THL Govindi of Dera Ghazi Khan
A subterranean chamber recently discovered on Mainland, Orkney, turns out to have been discovered by the Victorians first, and they filled it with rubbish. The entrance to the structure was found by Clive Chaddock on his land near the Harray Manse. A horticulture professor at Orkney College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Chaddock called his colleagues from UHI’s Archaeology Institute to investigate. Two weekends ago, the Archaeology Institute’s Martin Carruthers and county archaeologist Julie Gibson examined the find.
The structure is an architecturally impressive well or a souterrain, an underground gallery used neither as a tomb nor for religious purposes. Their exact purpose is unknown. They are associated with settlements, so could have been used for food storage or perhaps a place to hide when the going got tough topside. The Orkney Islands have several notable souterrains, among them Castle Bloody, a souterrain mound on the island of Shapinsay with several passageways leading to a central chamber, a multi-chambered one at East Broch in the island of Burray and another chamber near the Harray Manse.
This one has a short entrance gallery with a low ceiling which leads to partially corbelled square chamber. Comparison with similar structures suggests it dates to the Iron Age. The chamber is fully roofed, but in the 19th century it was exposed and used as a trash chute. Its full depth is obscured by a pile of rusted iron kettles, buckets, glass bottles and even imported French mustard jars. Whoever found it didn’t document it, and eventually it was closed back up and forgotten again.
Martin Carruthers spoke to the Archaeology Institute’s excellent blog about the archaeological double-whammy.
The chamber appears to be entirely constructed from coursed masonry with no bed-rock or glacial till apparent as some Iron Age souterrains and wells do. There are no uprights or pillars present inside the chamber, which makes this structure feel like one of the so-called wells more than a classic souterrain or earthhouse. The steep drop-off between the passage and the chamber also encourages the idea that there may well be a steep flight of stairs leading down into the chamber. The chamber might be really quite deep underneath all the Victorian, and perhaps earlier, in-fill.
As you can see from the images there’s so much Victorian material it probably represents quite an academically interesting collection in its own right. We might be tempted to think that later periods are so well-understood and documented that it isn’t worth thinking about this detritus archaeologically, but actually its often the case that the domestic habits of later periods are often overlooked in many mainstream histories and documents. The Victorian rubbish is potentially a neat snap-shot of someone’s (perhaps one of the Manse’s Ministers) domestic waste of that era and may be full of insight about the habits, tastes and practices of a Nineteenth Century Orkney house- with a real social history value. What’s more, it’s also an interesting insight into a recent intervention in an Orcadian souterrain/well that we had no previous knowledge of. So it’s also noteworthy that here we have an example of another prehistoric underground building that was clearly known to locals, for a time, but didn’t make its way on to the official archives, and helps make the point that there are likely to be so many more of these sorts of structures still to be found in Orkney.
The site has been sealed again and will be monitored for the time being. Keep an eye on the Archaeology Orkney blog for future updates (and for its general awesomeness).
The theme for the Ӕthelmearc Kingdom Party at Pennsic VL will be “Arthurian Legends”. Dress as your favorite hero from the time of King Arthur. Even better, imagine how your persona would view King Arthur and how your persona would dress for Arthurian tournaments (which were surprisingly popular in medieval Europe). We will have more details about the Party as Pennsic draws near, but the King and Queen wished to give the populace plenty of time to think about costumes. The Ӕthelmearc Kingdom Party will be held on the evening of August 8, starting at 8:30PM, in the Ӕthelmearc Royal encampment. All members of the populace and friends of Ӕthelmearc are invited.
Our thanks go to THL Elss of Augsburg, who provided the idea for the theme.
Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Ӕthelmearc
A fragment of 13th century pottery unearthed in Teruel, Aragon, eastern Spain, has been identified as a rare depiction of a Jewish man. The fragment was discovered in 2004, one of thousands that were squirreled away for later documentation. It was catalogued in 2011 but the image was only recognized as a Jewish figure this year by archaeologist Antonio Hernandez Pardos. This is a very rare find. Most surviving images of Spanish Jews from the Middle Ages are illuminations in Haggadot or Christian prayer books.
Unusual for pottery decorations from that period, which mostly featured geometric shapes or depiction of flowers, the Teruel fragment shows the lower part of the face of a bearded man wearing a frilled gown that Pardos was able to trace back to Jewish iconography from the period. [...]
The research by Pardos suggests the fragment was part of a work performed by the earliest known potters of Teruel, who were possibly commissioned by a Jewish resident of the area.
Founded in 1170 by Alfonso II of Aragon on the border between his kingdom and Muslim Spain, Teruel flourished during the second third of the 13th century after King James I of Aragon conquered Xarq-al-Andalus, the Levante or eastern region of the Iberian peninsula. Under James I’s relatively enlightened rule, Jews and Moors moved from less tolerant climes and settled in Teruel. The earliest documentary evidence of Jews living in Teruel dates to 1258 when James I confirmed the Jewish community’s tax obligations to the crown. The first written reference to actual members of Teruel’s Jewish community comes 11 years later. It mentions Dueña del Cano and her late husband Samuel Najarí, an important money lender who was one of the crown’s top creditors.
Jews in Teruel thrived in the 13th and 14th centuries, engaging in a variety of trades, particularly weaving and dealing wool. Several prominent Jewish scholars lived in Teruel. Things took a dark turn at the end of the 14th century. A delator (informer or denunciator) arrived in 1385, presaging the pogroms and riots of 1391 which spread through Spain like wildfire and resulted in the murder of thousands of Jews and forced conversions of thousands more. That bloody year was a turning point for Jews in Christian Spain. More and more laws were enacted against them, prohibiting money-lending, commerce with Christians, wearing the same clothes as Christians and forcing them into walled Juderías. Many Jews fled south to the more tolerant areas of al-Andalus. The Jewish community of Teruel was diminished but survived until 1492 when the last bastion of Muslim Spain, the Emirate of Grenada, fell and all of Spain’s Jews were either forced to convert to Christianity or expelled from the realm.
The small fragment of pottery is of outsized significance because despite the distinctiveness of the Jewish community in medieval Spain, with its unique legal status, designated living areas and particular religious/cultural traditions, there are few clear markers of Jewishness in the material culture. There’s no immediately identifiable Jewish architecture like there is Islamic architecture, no immediately identifiable ceramic tradition distinct from Christian or Islamic crafts. The exception is in objects of religious meaning and ritual purpose, but everyday things with an unmistakable Jewish identity are very rare in any period, all the more so in the first few decades of Jewish presence in Teruel.
This lacuna widened into a chasm during the Spanish Civil War when Teruel was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Fought over three months from December of 1937 through February of 1938, the Battle of Teruel devastated the city, subjecting it to constant artillery barrages and aerial bombardment. Tens of thousands of people died before the Nationalists finally won. Large sections of the medieval center of the city were destroyed, and what had once been the Jewish Quarter was all but leveled.
The war-damaged areas were extensively developed in subsequent decades. The Jewish Quarter was rediscovered in 1978 when the ruins of a building abutting its central square and three menorahs were unearthed. The structure was built in the mid-14th century when the neighborhood was going through a third phase of improvement. The large cellar built on powerful masonry arches discovered in 1978 was initially believed to be a synagogue because of its impressive size and strength. The Jewish Quarter wasn’t fully explored archaeologically until 2004 when a major urban renewal project in the plaza area provided the first opportunity for a proper archaeological survey of the site. The excavation revealed several layers of pottery fragments which gave archaeologists new insight into the evolution of the neighborhood in the 13th century, from the perspective of both use and production of ceramics.
There are boxes full of fragments from this excavation that haven’t been studied yet. Pardos expects there are more happy surprises to be found in there. His study of the fragment has been published in the journal Sefarad and can be accessed free of charge here (Spanish language pdf).
Unto the populace of the East Kingdom, greetings,
It has been my pleasure to serve this realm as EK Archivist for these past 12 years. It is now time for me to step down and pass the office unto another gentle.
The responsibilities of the office include maintaining the accrued items that presently are in storage and to organize any new items that are passed onto the office. Presently the items are being stored in north New Jersey, but can be moved to where they are convenient for the new officer.
Anybody interested in the position should contact the Kingdom Seneschal or myself no later than June 30, 2016.
In service to the East,
Filed under: Announcements, Uncategorized
The Æthelmearc Gazette reports that their kingdom has new heirs, Prince Marcus and Princess Margerite. For more information, read the Æthelmearc Gazette article.
Filed under: Tidings Tagged: aethelmearc
This day in the Barony of Delftwood, Crown Tournament has concluded and Marcus and Margerite were crowned Prince and Princess of Æthelmearc!
The semi-finalists were Duke Timothy of Arindale fighting for the honor of Duchess Gabrielle van Nijenrode and Duke Malcolm Duncan MacEioghann fighting for the honor of Viscountess Rosalinde Ashworth in the winner’s list, and in the losers’ list, Duke Marcus Eisenwald fighting for the honor of Baroness Margerite Eisenwald and Sir Gareth Kincaid fighting for the honor of Mistress Julianna Delamare.
In the semis, Duke Timothy bested Sir Gareth in one fight while Duke Marcus defeated Duke Malcolm twice to move on to the finals against Duke Timothy.
The finals were fought best of five bouts. Duke Timothy won the first round with polearm. Duke Marcus won the second round with great sword. Duke Timothy won the next round with two-weapon. Duke Timothy then yielded a fight to Duke Marcus, evening up the count, to great praise from the populace for his chivalry. The final and deciding bout was won by Duke Marcus, who crowned his lady wife as Princess.
The unbelted fighter who went farthest in the tournament was Baroness Beatrix Krieger, who was the only non-Knight in the round before the quarter-finals.
Vivant Marcus and Margerite, Heirs to the throne of Æthelmearc!
Thank you to Mistress Ekaterina Volkova for her usual excellent Facebook updates that allowed us to bring you this report!
During the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale’s 2014-2015 dig at Deir el-Medina, archaeologists found a female mummy with extensive tattoos of animals and flowers. The mummy dates to between 1300 and 1070 B.C., which makes her the first mummy from Dynastic Egypt with non-abstract figural tattoos. Her artwork wouldn’t be out of place in a modern tattoo shop. She has lotus blossoms on her hips, cows on her left arm, baboons on her neck and Wadjet eyes, also known as the Eye of Horus, on her neck, shoulders and back.
“Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you,” says bioarchaeologist Anne Austin of Stanford University in California, who presented the findings last month at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
Austin noticed the tattoos while examining mummies for the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology, which conducts research at Deir el-Medina, a village once home to the ancient artisans who worked on tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings. Looking at a headless, armless torso dating from 1300 to 1070 BC, Austin noticed markings on the neck. At first, she thought that they had been painted on, but she soon realized that they were tattoos.
Aware of studies like the recent multispectral photographic imaging scan that discovered previously unknown tattoos on Ötzi the Iceman, Austin examined the mummy under infrared lighting with an infrared sensor. She found more than 30 tattoos, several of which were on skin that was too darkened by the mummification process for the ink to be seen with the naked eye. Working with Cédric Gobeil, director of the French mission at Deir el-Medina, Austin photographed and digitally reshaped the tattoos to see what they looked like on living flesh, before the skin was shrunk and shriveled by mummification.
All of the tattoos are religious symbols. Cows represent the goddess Hathor; the lotus was a symbol of rebirth associated with Osiris; baboons represent Thoth. Wadjet of eye fame was one of the earliest Egyptian deities, later split into various gods including Hathor who, in one version of the mythology, restored Horus’ left eye after Set tore it out. It was a protective symbol against evil. It’s possible that the woman was a priestess, singer and/or musician in the service of Hathor and that the tattoos on the throat and arms were meant to strengthen her performance and connect her to the gods.
Judging from the degree of fading, the tattoos appear to have been made at different times. This may be an indicator of increasing status in her religious community; the greater the seniority, the more tattoos. Alternatively, they have been her way of expressing her religious fervor, and given how painful the application must have been, it would have demonstrated very great dedication indeed.
There are no known written records from ancient Egypt that mention tattooing, but there is iconographic evidence in wall paintings and figurines. There’s a faience bowl in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden from around the New Kingdom (1400-1300 B.C.) that depicts a lute player with a pictogram of the god Bes on her thigh and a v-shaped dot grouping on her chest. The Louvre has a piece from the late Middle Kingdom (ca. 2033–1710 B.C.), a faience figurine of a nude woman wearing a belt of cowry shells, her body adorned with groups of dots that may or may not represent tattoos, but are very similar to the dots and dash groupings found on mummies of the period. These kinds of figurines have traditionally been known as Brides of the Dead (this is a misnomer as some were placed in the tombs of women and others weren’t found in tombs at all) and are believed to be guarantors of sexual success and fertility in the next life.
The earliest Egyptian mummies with identifiable tattoos have the same kind of patterns seen on the Brides. The first examples were unearthed in the late 19th century, most famously at Deir el-Bahari in 1891. French archaeologist Eugène Grébaut discovered the mummy of a woman named Amunet who was a priestess of Hathor in the 11th Dynasty (ca. 2134-1991 B.C.). Her body was tattooed with diamond-shaped patterns of dots on her right thigh, matrices of dots under her sternum and above her navel, and a multiple rows of dots forming an elliptical pattern that covered her abdomen from leg to leg. This tattoo is particularly relevant to fertility because during pregnancy it would have stretched and grown to give the pregnant belly the appearance of being wrapped in a net, likely a protective symbol.
In the New Kingdom, pictographs of the gods were added to the abstract dot and dash patterns. Pictographs of the war goddess Neith have been found on mummies of women dating to around 1300 B.C. Tattoos of Bes, protector of mothers, children and the household, have been found on the thighs of dancers and musicians. Bes danced, sang and made noise to scare away evil spirits, so it’s a reasonable connection. These mummies date to the 4th century B.C. and were the oldest known non-abstract tattoos in Egypt before the recent discovery of the figural tattoos on the mummy from Deir el-Medina.
That’s one of the reasons the find is so exciting. Another is that the archaeological record of Egyptian tattoos is patchy at best. Tattoos can be very hard to spot on darkened and wizened mummified flesh, or they can be lost to decay. Besides, we’re no longer in the giddy, reckless days of late 19th century, early 20th century Egyptology when archaeologists loved to unwrap mummies, often in front of crowds. Nowadays mummies are kept wrapped as a matter of course. Technology like CT scanning allow examination in great detail without the invasive and destructive interventions of yesteryear. It can’t read tattoos on the surface of the skin, however, so keeping mummies wrapped makes documenting tattoos impossible.
With the great success of infrared imaging on the Deir el-Medina mummy, perhaps the large gaps in the record can be at least partially filled by examining mummies that were unwrapped back when that was trendy, or whose wrappings have been lost. All of the Egyptian mummies with tattoos discovered thus far have been female. Was the art form the exclusive province of women, or have we just not found the tattooed men yet? There is artwork that suggests men had tattoos too. A thorough IR analysis of the mummy record may at long last answer the question.
A European web site, oapen.org, in cooperation with Leiden University Press, is offering a free e-book on the history of book publishing in the Middle Ages.