Several scraps of linen dating to the Middle Ages have been found at the base of a timber and stone-lined tanks, believed to have been used for tanning, in the St John's Street excavation in Northampton, England. (photos)
Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, was the site of the recent jousting tournament staged in front of the castle. A BBC News In Pictures articles offers "stunning" photos of the action. (photos)
In a recent article for BBC Magazine, sociologist, writer and performer Tom Shakespeare ponders what would happen if Scotland were to achieve its independence and the England left behind broke up into its original seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Since the restored Hampton Court Palace royal Chocolate Kitchen reopened to the public on Valentine’s Day of this year, it has been very popular with visitors. The palace website now has a great section about the Chocolate Kitchens and have recently uploaded a couple of fascinating videos.
The first covers the kitchen’s history, its rediscovery and the intense work that went into recreating the Georgian environment.
The reason nobody knew where the Chocolate Kitchen was is that after it stopped being used to make chocolate for the monarch and queen, it was used as a kitchen for the Grace and Favour Apartments where other members of the royal family sometimes lived. By the Victorian era when the palace was opened to the public, the existence of the Chocolate Kitchen had become a legend like the stories of ghosts and scandals used to attract visitors. Besides, many buildings had been demolished since Georgian times and a devastating fire in 1986 had caused much damage.
Then, in 2013, curatorial intern Charlotte Barker found an 18th century inventory document written after the death of William III that recorded every room in the palace and their locations, including the Chocolate Kitchen. It was known simply as Door Eight to the curators. It had been used as storeroom for the annual Hampton Court summer flower show and was filled with racks, pots, vases, steel shelves.
They figured the room would have been bare bones, all the original chocolate-making accessories long gone. When they removed the clutter, however, they found the full Georgian chocolate kitchen, with original shelves on the wall, the fireplace with a smoke jack inside the chimney, a prep table that folded down from the wall, a cupboard, and the Georgian version of a stove top: a pair of charcoal braziers in a brick housing. Charcoal was placed under the grates and then copper pots placed on top to melt the chocolate with whatever liquids (water, milk, liquor) and spices for the beverage.
A smoke jack, also known as a turnspit, is a mechanism that uses hot air rising from the fireplace up the chimney to turn a fan which turns a pinion that turns wheels that turn a chain that turns a spit over the fire. The one in the the chocolate kitchen wasn’t used to roast pheasants and great joints of beef, but only for roasting the chocolate beans. An automated roasting device was extremely high tech for any kitchen, never mind one dedicated solely to the production of chocolate.
Once the beans were roasted, the nuts were shelled and the innermost bits, the cocoa nibs, were made into chocolate. The curved slab of granite used as a mortar to grind the cocoa nibs would be placed over the brazier to keep it warm during the grinding process. Once the grind was smooth, the chocolate would be formed into flat discs and stored for a month for the flavors to meld.
Just down the hall from the kitchen is the Chocolate Room. It too was being used for storage but unfortunately wasn’t kept in pristine condition underneath the clutter. The late 18th century fireplace and barred windows were all that was left of the original fittings. They were able to recreate the shelves from the marks on the walls indicating where they had once been and were also able to restore damaged fireplace iron tools.
The real trick was outfitting the Chocolate Room with all the gear — chocolate pots, wooden whisks called molinets that were threaded through holes in the lids of the serving pots to give the beverage a nice froth, china and delftware cups, frames the cups were placed in, glass sweetmeat vessels — that were needed to present the royals with their delicious and luxurious beverage. The palace curators enlisted craftsmen who use the traditional methods so everything is as historically accurate as possible. Pewterer David Williams used period antique bronze and lead molds to make replicas of Georgian chocolate pots in the Ashmolean and V&A Museums, only the new pieces were are out of pewter instead of the silver and gold of the royal court originals.
Chocolate was often served with breakfast or after dinner and sweetmeats would have been among the foods on offer. Glassmaker Mark Taylor made the replica sweetmeat jars. Hampton Court Palace archaeological collection includes fragments of original chocolate cups. They were used by potter John Hudson to reproduce the exact cups the Georgian royal family drank out of.
It’s fascinating to see the archivists, curators, craftsmen and food historian at work recreating the Chocolate Kitchen and Room.
If you want to try your own hand a Georgian style chocolate beverage, food historian Marc Meltonville has a fabulous instructional video on how to make Chocolate Port. He’s working in the Hampton Court Palace chocolate kitchen using the reproduction period tools and the chocolate he roasted and ground from the whole pod. It’s so hardcore. For the rest of who are not so cool, we can follow along starting with store bought chocolate that’s 80% or more cocoa solids.
The recipe calls for a pint of port to one ounce of pure chocolate, so teetotalers be warned. I’m guessing this was more for the after supper chocolate service rather than the breakfast of champions.
Here’s a written version of the Chocolate Port recipe (pdf), plus a 1692 recipe for the pure chocolate discs (pdf) that were the basis of all the goodies, and a very yummy looking chocolate cream dessert (pdf) from George I’s 1716 royal cookbook
In 2013, when experts believed they had discovered the remains of King Richard III, they turned to Michael Ibsen, a 17th generation relation of the monarch for DNA testing. Now Ibsen has been tapped for service again - as the builder of the royal coffin.
2015 will be a big year for Magna Carta enthusiasts, marking the 800th anniversary of the document. Recently ten organizations were awarded funds to help with commemorations of the event.
A researcher has discovered an important fragment of papyrus that is an early example of Christian scriptures used as an amulet at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library. Dr. Roberta Mazza, a Classics and Ancient History professor and papyrologist with a particular interest in ancient religions, was looking through the 1,300 uncatalogued and unpublished pieces of papyrus in the library’s Greek and Latin Papyri collection as part of a pilot program to research, conserve and digitize the fragments. She found a papyrus about eight inches high and six inches wide with clear Greek writing covering one side and a few faint lines of Greek on the other.
The papyrus is creased, with one vertical line dividing it in half and four horizontal ones. That suggests it was folded up into a packet 1.2 by 4.1 inches in dimension and kept either in a container in the home or perhaps worn around the neck as amulet to ward off evil, a common practice in ancient Egypt. Before the advent of Christianity, these kinds of charms used magic incantations and prayers to the Egyptian or Greco-Roman deities. The writing on this fragment, however, was found to be a combination of Bible verses, including Psalms 78:23-24 and Matthew 26:28-30.
The full text of the papyrus:
Fear you all who rule over the earth.
Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.
For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.
Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.
Radiocarbon analysis dates the fragment to between 574 and 660 A.D. That makes it the is the earliest Christian charm papyrus found to use the Eucharist liturgy in a charm and the first to refer to the bread of the Last Supper as the manna of the Hebrew scriptures. It wasn’t written by a priest or someone transcribing verses from a Bible. Dr. Mazza notes:
“It’s doubly fascinating because the amulet maker clearly knew the Bible, but made lots of mistakes: some words are misspelled and others are in the wrong order. This suggests that he was writing by heart rather than copying it.
It’s quite exciting. Thanks to this discovery, we now think that the knowledge of the Bible was more embedded in sixth century AD Egypt than we previously realized.”
The faint writing on the other side, deciphered using spectral imaging techniques, was a receipt for the annona, an in-kind tax on crops named after the goddess who personified Rome’s grain supply (the grain fleet and the grain dole were also called the annona). That means whoever made the charm recycled an old receipt and just used the other side. The receipt was so faded because it was the outside while the protective Bible verses were folded up safe inside the amulet packet.
The fragment was purchased on the antiquities market in Egypt around the turn of the 20th century and has been in the John Rylands Library collection since 1901 or so. There is indication of who owned the charm, but the tax receipt references the village of Tertembuthis in the countryside near the ancient town of Hermoupolis Magna (modern-day el-Ashmunein) in Middle Egypt, so it was probably a local man.
It is the largest reconstruction of a Viking ship ever built and it is touring the UK - peacefully. Named after a 9th Century Norwegian king, the Dragon Harald Fairhair wound up its two-week voyage in Wallasey, at the mouth of the River Mersey, where Vikings once sailed. (photos)
The Italian Renaissance is coming to Vallejo, California in spring 2015 in the guise of the Carnevale Fantastico Renaissance and Cultural Festival. Rachel Raskin-Zrihen of the Times-Herald spoke with organizers Dalia Vidor of Vallejo and Maurene "Molly" Drew of Benicia.
Water in the City: The Aqueducts and Underground Passages of Exeter by Mark Stoyle, a new book published by the University of Exeter Press, looks at the complex water supply system, dating to the 14th century, that once served the medieval city and now still exists beneath its streets.
The excavation of the Williams & Griffin supermarket site in Colchester has born rich fruit again. Two months ago it was historically significant bone fragments. Now, three days before the dig was scheduled to end, archaeologists have found a collection of jewelry that was hidden under the floor of a house that was destroyed when Boudicca’s forces leveled Colchester in 61 A.D.
The hoard was buried in a small pit dug in the initial phase of Boudicca’s revolt, when her army was marching on Colchester which, despite its population of Roman veterans, stood largely defenseless and unfortified. Archaeologists believe a wealthy Roman woman or her slave collected her valuable jewels and hid them to keep them from being pillaged and it worked, to some extent. Boudicca’s troops never did find the lady’s valuables; they just burned her house to the ground and left the treasures to be found by archaeologists 2,000 years later. The entire hoard has been removed in a solid block of soil so that it can be excavated with all due deliberation in a conservation laboratory.
So far, archaeologists have found three gold armlets, a silver chain necklace, two silver bracelets, a silver armlet, a small bag of coins and a small jewelry box holding two pairs of gold earrings and four gold rings. When the block is fully excavated, they expect to find even more precious objects. It would be an extremely rich find no matter where it was unearthed, but it’s particularly significant given its location and the momentous events surrounding its burial. This is the first time a hoard of precious metals form the Roman era has been discovered in Colchester’s historic center.
Its historic value is far greater than its gold and silver content. There are traces of organic remains in the hoard’s soil block, like the remains of the purse that held the coins. That’s one of the reasons archaeologists have kept it intact, so that the earth could be carefully removed without damaging even the smallest remnants of surviving textiles, leather and wood.
The lady of the house’s valuables aren’t the only remarkable survivors in the house.
Ingredients for meals that were never eaten lay burnt black on the floor of the room in which the jewellery was found. These include dates, figs, wheat, peas, and grain. (Others will almost certainly be identified when soil samples are examined by a specialist in ancient seeds and plant remains.) Foodstuffs like these would not, generally, have survived, but here they had been carbonised by the heat of the fire so that their shapes were preserved perfectly. Some of the food had been stored on a wooden shelf which collapsed during the revolt, and the remains of the carbonised remains lay on the floor. The dates appeared to have been kept on the shelf in a square wooden bowl or platter.
Under normal circumstances, a discovery of ancient precious metals would be subject to a Treasure Trove inquest. The finds would be assessed for fair market value by experts from the British Museum and the objects offered to a local museum who would then pay the finders/landowners the amount assessed. Thankfully, Fenwick Ltd, owners of the Williams & Griffin store, have decided to waive any finder’s fee they would be entitled to under the Treasure Act and donate the hoard to Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service. That means the British Museum won’t have to get involved, and the archaeologists and conservators can focus solely on the work of excavating, stabilizing and analyzing this exceptional find.
Rowena reports that she has created several albums of photos from Pennsic 32. The albums are posted on her Photobucket website.
The discovery of five skeletons dating to Roman times near a villa in Dorset, England has led archaeologists to postulate that they were from the same family. This is the first incidence of Roman families buried together near where they lived.
Genevieve, Rouge Maunche, reports that at Their Court at Raglan Ffair, Their Majesties Leif and Morrigan of the Kingdom of Drchenwald, offered elevation to the order of the Pelican to Baron Pól ó Briain.
University of Bonn researchers are working with textile conservators to study and preserve delicate silk tunics attributed to Saint Ambrose, the 4th century Archbishop and patron saint of Milan whose skeletal remains are on display in Milan’s Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. The silks are also kept at the Milan basilica and are venerated as relics of the saint. The textiles have not been conclusively dated to the 4th century, but they are certainly from late antiquity which makes them very rare survivals that can lend unique insight into the period.
“These are marvelously beautiful vestments of sumptuous silk that have been ascribed to the saint,” says Professor Dr. Sabine Schrenk of the department of Christian Archaeology at the University of Bonn. One of them has intricate depictions of hunting scenes with trees and leopards, while the other valuable textile is kept rather simple. [...]
In the course of many centuries,time took its toll on these famous textiles. “If these fragile silk threads are to be preserved for a long time to come, it is critical to remove harmful layers of dust,” says Cologne textile restorer Ulrike Reichert, who has headed her own restoration workshop in the Dellbrück neighborhood for many years, specializing in preserving early silk textiles. The cloth is painstakingly cleaned with a tiny vacuum cleaner and delicate brushes. “For this we have had to carefully free the material from the protective glass that had been laid over it,” says Professor Schrenk’s colleague Katharina Neuser.
Since the textiles are far too delicate to travel, conservators have brought their mobile restoration lab to Milan to do the work on site. In addition to stabilizing and repairing the damage of centuries of display under heavy glass or sandwiched between other fabrics in a chest, the restorers hope their analysis will illuminate the evolution of relic worship in Early Christian Italy. Saint Ambrose himself, along with other doctors of the Church like Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome and Saint Cyril of Alexandria, was an early advocate of veneration of relics.
The tunics were revered as relics of Saint Ambrose at least by the 11th century, and probably earlier. A red cross was woven onto one of the textiles in late antiquity or early Middle Ages, an indication that they were held to be of religious significance. A woven band kept with the tunics dates to the 11th century. The inscription describes the silks as Saint Ambrose’s vestments to be held in great reverence.
Restorers believe the band was the work by Archbishop Aribert of Milan (1018-1045) who had political reasons as well as religious ones to emphasize the significance of Saint Ambrose. Saint Ambrose had famously stood up to Roman emperors on a number of issues, refusing two orders from Western emperor Valentinian II that he surrender two churches in Milan for Arian worship and excommunicating Eastern emperor Theodosius I for the Massacre of Thessalonica. Aribert wanted a strong Ambrosian archbishopric that held virtually independent temporal power over northern Italy. He created a princely court in Milan, as luxurious as a royal court only under ecclesiastical rather than princely control. He even called his bishops cardinals, as if he were Pope in the North.
At first he was a strong supporter of the German emperors, an alliance that strengthened his political position in the region. However, when he allied with the great lords of northern Italy against the lesser vassals, arbitrarily confiscating lands and denying them feudal rights of inheritance, the resulting conflict that would pit him against the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II and his son Henry III. Aribert refused to restore fiefdoms he had taken from the minor nobility and refused even to defend his actions before the emperor, insisting that as Archbishop of Milan, he was equal in authority to the emperor and if the emperor wanted those lands back from the see of Milan, he could just try and take them. Indeed, in a presage of the Investiture Controvery that would poison relations between the papacy and imperial throne for decades staring in the reign of Henry III’s son Henry IV, Aribert had personally crowned Conrad II with the Iron Crown of Lombardy making him King of Italy.
Conrad’s attempt to besiege Milan failed thanks to Aribert’s enhanced defenses and a militia he had created from every class of Milanese citizen. Conrad died in 1039 and the conflict between the archbishop and Henry II was finally resolved by diplomacy in 1040. Even though Pope Benedict IX had sided with Conrad and excommunicated Aribert in 1038, in the end the archbishop maintained control over his territory with his political and military strength, a lesson that future popes less in harmony with the Holy Roman Emperors would take to heart.
So the study of these silk tunics really covers centuries of religious, political and social history. Researchers hope it will shed light on economic history of late antiquity as well. There is a widely held belief among historians that in the 4th century silk thread was all imported from China and then woven in the eastern Mediterranean, mainly Syria. Professor Schrenk suspects there may well have been a silk weaving industry in Milan, however, because it was a center of imperial power as the capital of the Western Empire from 286 to 402 A.D.
Dame Vivienne Marie de Beauvais, Vambrace Pursuivant, reports that at Their Morning Court at Sommerfrische, Their Majesties Magnus Tindal and Etain of the Kingdom of AEthelmearc placed Don Lodovick of Gray's Inn on vigil to contemplate elevation to the Order of the Pelican.
There are two new SCA-wide social media groups which rapier fighters may wish to join. The unofficial SCA Society Rapier Marshal’s discussion group can be found on both Google+ and FaceBook.
The G+ community can be found here:
The FaceBook group is here:
Filed under: Fencing, Tidings
Dueña Mercedes Vera de Calafia, East Kingdom Seneschal, shared this link to a very special newsletter. We encourage all to read and reminisce!
I don’t often post things like this, but as a former resident of Settmour Swamp, I think everyone should see the 35th Anniversary Issue of The Mudpuppy, put out by their fabulous chronicler, Baroness Ursula of North Woods. As the SCA Archivist said when he received it “WOW!!! Just WOW!. This issue has raised the bar to cross for group history distribution.” Read it here: August 2014 issue of The Mudpuppy
Filed under: Local Groups, Tidings Tagged: Settmour Swamp
This update was just received from Duchess Anna:
Lady of the Rose Tourney
As the time grows near, We wanted to answer a few questions and update some information for the day.
The Ladies of the Rose have chosen to support the Wounded Warrior Project. Special tokens to commemorate the Rose Tourney will be available for a donation of $5.00 the day of the tourney. Your support of these brave men and woman will be greatly appreciated.
Each Rose has been putting together her team, chosen from outside her household. Additional teams will be assembled on site from the Fighter/Fencers who are not already on a Rose team, so everyone will get a chace to play and have a good time. If you are planning to fight at the tourney, please message Mistress Lylie of Penhyll and let her know you are coming. This will allow us to get the care written and the tourney going quicker, meaning more fighting.
We are Still in need of voice heralds, if you are interested in heralding during the day please contact Master Rowen Cloteworthy.
In addition to the tourney there will be a Populace choice Arts and Sciences display, a Heraldic consultation table, youth fighting, and a short dance class during the day, so lots to do for everyone.
EVERYONE PLEASE NOTE: The Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) is in full swing, which may affect hotel availability and traffic in the area. You may want to consider staying a little futher away from the site (Enfield CT to the south, Holyoke or Northamption MA to the north, for example) and leave extra time to travel.
The tourney will be done in rounds. Each round will consist of 3 bouts.
We can fight as many rounds as the day has time for.
Points are tallied at the end of each round.
This is how it will tally up. Each Fight is a possible three bout:
The paired cards are held by the Marshal (having been given to him by a list runner) and given to the combatants to return to the MoL table with the bout outcome. The fighters MUST show up at the MoL table and report their bout outcome.
We tally the scores as the day processes.
At the the end of the tourney we will have: A heavy list winner, a Rapier list winner, and a winning team.
Filed under: Events, Fencing, Heavy List Tagged: Ladies of the Rose
"I am surprised to find that my iPhone is able to give me directions to Cariadoc’s Path and Fletcher Road, an intersection that only exists two weeks out of the year. It’s like finding Brigadoon on GPS," writes Emily Guendelsberger in an article for the Philadelphia CityPaper. Guendelsberger attended her first Pennsic in 2014 as a guest of the Barony of Bhakail.