The skeletal remains of eight people have been unearthed in an ancient grain silo in Marsal, a town in the northeastern French region of Lorraine. The skeletons date to around 500 B.C. and were unceremoniously tossed into the silo so archaeologists found the bodies stacked on top of each other in random positions. Two of them were of children.
The discovery is unusual, the first of its kind in Lorraine, and may be connected with Marsal’s history as a major center for the production of salt. From the 7th to the 1st century B.C., there were extensive salt works in the area processing water from the salt springs of the upper valley of the Seille river. So far archaeologists have unearthed more than six miles of salt production complexes and at least a dozen individual workshops.
This was production on an industrial scale. Workshops created clay grids on which little coarse ceramic molds not unlike Dixie cups in shape and size would be placed. The cups were filled with high salinity brine and wood-fueled fires lit underneath the grid. The water would boil away leaving only crystalized salt in the vessels. The molds were then broken apart, leaving a cone of salt of a conveniently standard size and a pile of broken clay. Excavations in the Marsal area have discovered trash piles of the clay discards from this process up to 40 feet high.
Salt’s value as a seasoning agent, and most importantly, as one of the only consistent, reliable and portable means of food preservation, made it so valuable it could be used as currency. The cones of salt left after the vessels were broken away could be traded for goods and services, just like money. That’s why their being regular in size and weight was so significant a production element, akin to the precious metal content of a coin.
Most relevantly to the skeletons in the silo, archaeologists have found an Iron Age necropolis used by the salt workers in the community, so dumping the bodies of these poor wretches in the silo was a deliberate choice. The grave goods in the necropolis burials include a range of objects of diverse value, the highest of which are expensive imports underscoring just how active and far-ranging the commercial activity of the site was, and that there was a distinctly hierarchical society in place there.
The remains found in the grain silo are all in good condition thanks to the watery and salty soil. Archaeologists hope testing can determine if these people worked in the salt workshops, if they were raised in the area, if they were related to each other, what they ate, what may have claimed their lives. Lead archaeologist Lawrence Olivier, who has been excavating Marsal and environs for a decade, believes they must have been people of low status, possibly slaves, perhaps victims of a massacre or an epidemic.
France’s National Institute for Preventative Archaeology (INRAP) has a comprehensive and fascinating website dedicated to Gallic salt production. If you don’t read French, browse it using an online translator because it’s downright illuminating. Here’s the section on the Bronze and Iron Age production that covers the period of the skeletons. Check the dropdowns for tons more information and pictures.
The East took two of the three populace shoots, for 6 war points!
The three traditional populace archery war point shoots were adapted to this year’s safari theme. Each shoot was worth three war points. Archers could shoot each of the three shoots up to five times on their own schedules, spreading them out over the five days the range was open for war point shooting, or doing them all at once if they wished.
On the Castle Window range, archers had 30 seconds to shoot as many arrows or bolts as possible into the window about 30 yards away, for one point each, or into the monkey hanging in the window, for two points per hit.
This year’s “Soldiers” were elephants and rhinoceroses. Archers could shoot six shots at their choice of target. Hits on the closest (about 15 yards) scored one point; two points for hits on the second rank of targets (about 35 yards); three points for hits on the third distance (about 45 yards); and four points for hits on the farthest distance (about 55 yards).
The center of the Clout was at the usual 100 yards, but the perimeter of the castle was square this year. Archers had six shots to send at their choice of the moat (about 50 yards away) or the castle turret. Shots landing in the moat scored one point; hits on the alligator in the moat earned two points; shots landing inside the castle were worth three points; and hits on the giraffe earned four points. The giraffe was about twelve feet tall, and proved to be a durable and well-designed — and challenging! — target; shots high on the neck or head could be retrieved by lowering the hinged upper portion. If tales told are correct, the giraffe was herded to Pennsic fully upright, and wore its own EZ-Pass transponder!
No accurate counts exist for the numbers of archers who shot in each of the war point shoots, but over 2200 inspection stickers were issued, giving a rough estimate of the overall participation.
At the end of war point shooting on Friday, final tallies were done and the East won 6 of the 9 available war points, as follows:
Castle Window: East = 2119, Midrealm = 1670
Soldiers: East = 7062, Midrealm = 5775
Clout: East = 4806, Midrealm = 4880
(Photos and report by Ygraine of Kellswood.)
Filed under: Archery, Pennsic Tagged: War Points
From Dueña Mercedes Vera de Calafia, Seneschal of the East Kingdom:
Applications for the office of Pennsic Steward are now being accepted. Please send an email with your SCA and Modern name, a brief SCA resume and a statement of interest to TRH@eastkingdom.org email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include contact information.
This office is defined in East Kingdom Law & Policy section IV.F.23.a-g 23.
The East Kingdom Pennsic Steward:
a. Performs an inventory of all East Kingdom Regalia and equipment used specifically for Pennsicand stored at Pennsic War. Ensures that this inventory is supplied to the East Kingdom Exchequer at the end of each Pennsic War.
Filed under: Official Notices, Pennsic Tagged: job opening
On Thursday (Aug.7), two teams of twelve assembled on the range to settle the Thrown Weapons Champions Team war point. The East prevailed with 119 points over the Midrealm’s 85 points.
The top individual scorer of the contest was Master Robert of Wilford with 16 points; he was an Eastern ally from An Tir. Another ally, Baron Paganus Grimlove from Caid, tied for second-highest score with 15 points. Both champs said it was a challenging competition, and they are shown with one of the toughest targets.
Filed under: Pennsic, Thrown Weapons Tagged: War Points
A 17th century Baroque masterpiece by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known by his nickname Guercino, has been stolen from the Church of San Vincenzo in the historic center of Modena. The painting, Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory Thaumaturgus, was painted by the master in 1639 and has been in the church ever since. An allied bomb struck San Vincenzo on May 13th, 1944, destroying the presbytery and the choir and its late 17th century frescoes, but the Guercino survived. Let’s hope it can survive human greed.
The painting was not insured because “church cannot afford to insure every painting in its possession,” as San Vincenzo’s priest Father Gianni Gherardi put it, and as callous as that sounds, the truth is that practically every church in Italy is stuffed to the gills with masterpieces. It would be prohibitively expensive, even if private insurers could be secured, to cover everything. The alarm system installed with funding from the Modena Savings Bank Foundation a decade or so ago was turned off because “it was too expensive to keep up,” which I presume refers to the monthly bill.
San Vincenzo is not a parish church so it doesn’t stay open all week. The doors are opened every Sunday for mass and locked after the service is over. The thieves made their way inside, stole the painting and got out without leaving a trace. There is no sign of forced entry on the church door. The priest only realized something was wrong because the door was open.
Police believe at least three men were involved in the theft because the piece is so big and heavy, especially still inside the frame, that it one or two people wouldn’t be able to move it. They probably got in during mass on Sunday, August 10th, and hid until they could do their dirty deed under cover of night. They must have had transportation, most likely a van.
Not that insurance would be much consolation. The painting is invaluable and irreplaceable. It could be worth something like $8 million if we hypothetically considered a market value and if it were actually salable, but of course it’s not. It’s hugely famous and at nine and a half feet high and six feet wide, it’s impossibly conspicuous. Authorities are concerned that the thieves might cut it up into individual figures in the attempt to sell it, but they went through a lot of trouble to keep it whole. That’s why the current preferred theory is that it was a theft commissioned by a Bond-villainesque collector. That’s the go-to preferred theory, but time and time again we’ve seen thieves steal something first and only think of disposal once the object is burning a hole in their pockets. Then they bumble around for years trying to unload their ill-gotten gain in the most ridiculous ways, often to undercover cops.
The Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale unit (a national police squad dedicated to investigating stolen art and antiquities) are in charge of the investigation. They’re looking through phone records and security camera footage from along the street. There are no cameras pointed at the church, but a van large enough to contain the painting should have been captured by other cameras.
Kaliyan Kali reports that at Their Caer Galen Defender event, Their Majesties Walrick and Cecilia, of the Kingdom of the Outlands, offered elevation to the Order of the Laurel to the Honorable Lady Mirabel de Malmesberie.
A team of archaeologists at the University of Bordeaux has identified the earliest known case of Down syndrome in the remains of a child who lived in 6th century France. The diagnosis was made after the remains were submitted to a (CT) scan.
The 200-year-old salt-glazed stoneware bottle recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of Gdańsk Bay off the coast of Poland does not contain its original prized mineral water from the internationally known springs of Selters, Germany. Or at least, that’s not all it contains. Testing at the J.S. Hamilton laboratory in Gdynia has found the contents are 14% alcohol distillate. The remaining 86% could still be the original seltzer water since its chemical composition is consistent with Selters mineral water.
[A]ccording to the laboratory staff, the alcohol may be a kind of genever gin (jenever) – traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium. “Did someone really pour this drink into a soda bottle, or are we dealing with a different beverage? Experts will try to determine this in another series of analyses, which will be completed in early September” – said [National Maritime Museum archaeologist Tomasz] Bednarz.
Chemical analysis suggests the alcohol is still potable in the sense that it won’t kill you, but it might make you wish you were dead.
The archaeologist added that according to laboratory workers, the alcohol in the bottle is suitable for drinking. “This means, it would not cause poisoning. Apparently, however, it does not smell particularly good” – he explained.
Bednarz explained that according to the latest findings, stoneware bottle recovered from the Gulf of Gdańsk was made in Ransbach, approx. 40 km from Selters springs. “The manufacturer was determined by reading the print under the main emblem +Selters HN+: letter R and the number 25, denoting the number of the manufacturer.
I looked for but couldn’t find any kind of master list of the manufacter names and their corresponding numbers. There were dozens of small producers in all the towns around Selters, so we know the town thanks to the R mark but not the shop.
Once upon a time, four bronze angels adorned the gateposts of the Wellingborough Golf Club in Northamptonshire, England. No one paid much attention to them until two were stolen, but now all four, identified as Renaissance treasures, are the subject of a fundraising effort by the Victoria and Albert Museum. (photo)
SleepyUnicorn has posted a photo album from the Known World A&S Display held at Pennsic 43.
The Philadelphia Citypaper sent a reporter to Pennsic 43. She camped with the Barony of Bhakail, and spent the whole of war week learning and listening. The result of her efforts is the cover story of the Citypaper this week. The article features many Easterners and is an epic portrayal of what Pennsic and the Society are all about. You can read the full article on their website.
Filed under: Pennsic Tagged: Pennsic
Archaeologists have long believed that artificial mummification in Egypt began during the Old Kingdom, around 2,500 B.C. Mummies have been found from the Late Neolithic and Predynastic periods (ca. 4500 – 3100 B.C.), but they were thought to have been naturally mummified in the arid heat of the desert. Evidence for the use of embalming agents was found on one examples from the late Old Kingdom (ca. 2,200 B.C.), only becoming frequent in the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2,000-1,600 BC).
Now the results of an 11-year study are upending the conventional wisdom with chemical analysis of preservative resins found in prehistoric funerary wrappings. Researchers from the Universities of York, Macquarie and Oxford have identified complex embalming agents in linen fragments from some of the earliest tombs in Egypt found in the Neolithic cemeteries at Badari and Mostagedda in Upper Egypt.
Egyptologist Dr. Jana Jones of Sydney’s Macquarie University started the ball rolling in 2002 when she examined 51 wrapping samples excavated from Badari and Mostagedda in the 1930s and preserved in the collection of the Bolton Museum. Viewing them under a microscope revealed the presence of “toffee-like” substance likely to be resin. Researchers from Oxford University radiocarbon dated the samples to confirm they were indeed prehistoric as the archaeological evidence had indicated.
The resinous substances had to be confirmed chemically, however, because the microscopic analysis couldn’t conclusively identify them. That’s where University of York archaeological chemist Dr. Stephen Buckley came in.
Corresponding author on the article, Dr Buckley, used a combination of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and sequential thermal desorption/pyrolysis to identify a pine resin, an aromatic plant extract, a plant gum/sugar, a natural petroleum source, and a plant oil/animal fat in the funerary wrappings.
Predating the earliest scientific evidence by more than a millennium, these embalming agents constitute complex, processed recipes of the same natural products, in similar proportions, as those employed at the zenith of Pharaonic mummification some 3,000 years later.
Dr Buckley, who designed the experimental research and conducted the chemical analyses, said: “The antibacterial properties of some of these ingredients and the localised soft-tissue preservation that they would have afforded lead us to conclude that these represent the very beginnings of experimentation that would evolve into the mummification practice of the Pharaonic period.”
Dr Buckley added: “Having previously led research on embalming agents employed in mummification during Egypt’s Pharaonic period it was notable that the relative abundances of the constituents are typical of those used in mummification throughout much of ancient Egypt’s 3000 year Pharaonic history. Moreover, these resinous recipes applied to the prehistoric linen wrapped bodies contained antibacterial agents, used in the same proportions employed by the Egyptian embalmers when their skill was at its peak, some 2500-3000 years later.”
This revolutionary discovery underscores the importance of historic specimen collections in museums. They may seem like dust-magnet clutter, but as technology advances they can be an invaluable resource. First the cholera genome was mapped from 19th century specimens in Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, now the history of Egyptian mummification has been rolled back 1,500 years.
The oldest known copy of "The Brus," an epic poem describing the Battle of Bannockburn, has been restored in time for the 700th celebration of the event. The poem was written in 1375 by the Archdeacon of Aberdeen. (photos)
Gillian reports that Their Majesties Conor and Isa of the Kingdom of the West have chosen to elevate her protégé, Chaninai al-Zarqa' bint Ibrahim ibn Rashid, to the Order of the Pelican.
In June 2014, Their Majesties Tindal and Etain of the Kingdom of AEthelmearc offered elevation to the Order of the Pelican to Shishido Tora Gozen. The elevation too place at the Kingdom's Equestrian Championship.
When the United States joined World War I, the War Department commissioned eight accomplished artists to go to France with the American Expeditionary Forces and sketch what they saw. Illustrators William James Aylward, Walter Jack Duncan, Harvey Thomas Dunn, George Matthews Harding, Wallace Morgan, Harry Everett Townsend, architect and etcher J. André Smith, and illustrator and muralist Ernest Clifford Peixotto were given the rank of captain in tn the Army Corps of Engineers and sent to the Western Front in 1918.
This was the first time the US put official artists in the field and the AEF artists had a specifically documentary brief. Their job was to make a visual record of the people and activities on the front lines.
Throughout 1918, prior to the war’s end in November, the artists produced some 700 works, ranging from charcoal sketches to completed ink or watercolor compositions. Bart Hacker, a curator at the National Museum of American History, says the artists depicted four types of scenes: soldier life (washing up, meal time); combat, aftermaths of war (destroyed churches, devastated fields); and technology. In one image, wounded men carry the fallen through trenches and barbed wire. In another, soldiers on horseback travel through a destroyed French village. Notably, Hacker says, the artists did not depict dead bodies.
That isn’t entirely true. They did not depict Allied dead, perhaps, but there are German dead. No blood or gore, however, not even in the field hospital scenes or in combat actions. So their work was meant to document the front, yes, but not the horrors of war in an explicit or even impressionistic way. These images were going to be shown to the public, after all, and bodies torn apart by artillery don’t really sell a war or reassure worried loved ones.
When the artists completed their sketches and watercolors, the pieces were sent to the War Department in Washington, D.C. where some of them were exhibited immediately. Works deemed to be incomplete were kept for the artists to finish upon their return. In January of 1920, the collection was given to the Smithsonian for exhibition. The drawings were put in storage in 1929 and have only been exhibited a handful of times since then.
This year’s centenary of the start of World War I has brought new attention to these works. The American History Museum has digitized the Smithsonian’s collection (there are a few pieces in other museums) and made them available for browsing in high resolution on its website. They may go on public display once again in 1917, the centennial of America’s entry into the war.
While I’m on the subject of the Smithsonian and digitization, the institution has just launched a massive transcription project asking volunteers to sift through millions of images of documents, artifacts and natural history specimens in its collection and transcribe them to make these invaluable resources searchable. Beta testers took days to convert handwritten notes and archives into searchable text that would have taken Smithsonian employees months to complete.
All you have to do is register here, then activate your account by clicking the link in an email they send you and setting your password. Once you’re logged in, go to the Transcription Center and pick your project. Quite a few of the first round of projects are complete but you should look through them anyway because you can enjoy the transcripts which can be browsed page by page or downloaded in their entirety. You can transcribe pages that haven’t been done yet or you can review transcriptions that others have done.
A few open projects on my short list:
Archives Center – NMAH, Charles Francis Hall on his 1860 journey to the north, exploring western Greenland.
Bookmark the site and check back regularly for new projects.
Morucatha reports that, at the recent West-An Tir War, Their Majesties Conor and Isa of the Kingdom of the West offered elevation to the Order of the Chivalry to Brennos Agrocunos.
Many of us shop at Amazon for a wide range of products. Did you know that the SCA can benefit from each purchase you make at no additional charge to you?
Excitement is mounting in Greece over the excavation of a vast tomb atop Kasta hill in the ancient Central Macedonian city of Amphipolis. The Kasta Tumulus was first excavated in 2012, revealing a circular tomb almost 10 feet high (eroded from an estimated original height of 80 feet), 525 feet in diameter and 1,640 feet in circumference, making it significantly larger than the Great Tumulus at Vergina (43 feet high, 360 feet in diameter) that houses the tombs of Philip II of Macedon and other members of the royal family. In fact, it’s the largest tomb ever discovered in Greece.
Almost as soon as digging began, speculation exploded in the media about who might be buried in such a monumental tomb. Could it be Roxana of Bactria, last wife of Alexander the Great, and their son Alexander IV Aegus? According to historian Diodorus Siculus (The Library of History, Book 19, Chapter 52 and 105), they were imprisoned and killed in Amphipolis by Cassander, distant relative of Alexander the Great and Regent of Macedon, in around 310 B.C. Siculus says Cassander had his minion kill them and conceal the bodies. The largest tumulus in Greece doesn’t seem like an ideal spot to conceal anything. Outside of the fever dreams of the press, therefore, there is zero historical evidence that mother and son were interred in Amphipolis and zero archaeological evidence attesting to who was interred in the tumulus.
With Greece’s economy in deep recession, there was no budget to continue excavations or even to secure the site, now exposed to the world in injudiciously excessive terms as a tomb of great historical interest. Archaeologists found Philip II buried in a 24-pound gold casket. Even the most distant possibility that someone in the Macedon royal family or adjacent thereto could be buried in the Kasta Tumulus would surely prove an irresistible lure to looters.
Somehow the money was scraped up to continue excavations and by Spring of 2013, much of the perimeter of the tomb had been unearthed. The foundation of the perimeter wall was built of large limestone blocks clad in marble from the island of Thasos, the same kind of marble used to make a sculpture known as the Lion of Amphipolis. The lion and blocks of marble were found in the Strymon river in the early 1910s. Greek soldiers dragged the blocks out of the river and used some of them to build a base for the lion a few kilometers away from the Kasta Tumulus. The loose blocks and columns that weren’t used in the reconstruction are still there, grouped together next to the lion monument.
Many of the marble pieces from the tomb were missing, so Michaelis Lefantzis, the archaeological team’s architect, went looking among the lion’s marbles for blocks that may have come from the tomb. He found that 400 blocks from around the lion and 30 from the base were the same in shape, size and elaboration as the ones in the wall encircling the tumulus. It seems the Romans stripped them in the 2nd century A.D. and used them to stabilize the banks of the river. Archaeologists believe the lion was once perched on the top of the tomb before it was tossed in the Strymon.
The discovery underscored what an impressive monumental structure the tumulus was in antiquity. Now archaeologists are on the verge of getting inside and maybe discovering who was so important as to garner such a fancy final resting place.
So far, workers have unveiled a flight of 13 steps that lead to a broad path, flanked by masonry walls, which end in a built-up arch covering two headless, wingless sphinxes — mythical creatures that blend human, bird and lion characteristics.
Archaeologists believe the entrance will be unearthed by the end of the month. They haven’t found any evidence of tomb raider activity, no tunneling, no break-ins, so they expect to find an intact tomb. Anticipation is so high the Prime Minister of Greece, Antonis Samaras, visited the site Tuesday, calling the tumulus “clearly extremely important.”
Auctioneers at Christie's have announced that they will offer for auction a double-edged Viking sword associated with the battles of Hastings, Stamford Bridge and Bannockburn. The sword is expected to bring between UK£80,000 to £120,000. (photo)