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Torc hoard is earliest Iron Age gold found in Britain

History Blog - Wed, 2017-03-01 00:02

It’s the first gold hoard of the year! We’ve had Bronze Age weapons and Roman copper vessels packed with plants. Now we have a group of four ancient gold torcs discovered by metal detectorists in a cow pasture in Leekfrith on the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The torcs were found last December by Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania. Hambleton had scanned the field some two decades ago without success. They were about to give up when Joe Kania’s machine signalled the presence of metal. All they’d found up to that point was trash and a 19th century coin or two, so Hambleton had already packed up his metal detector when Kania pulled a gold torc out of the ground. Then another. And another. And another. Three of them are necklaces, one a bracelet. Three are complete and intact, the fourth broken, likely by agricultural interference. The torcs were about six inches beneath the surface about a meter (three feet) apart from each other.

Hambleton spent a fitful night failing to sleep with the hoard by his side. The next morning, the finders alerted the Portable Antiquities Scheme to their discovery. Stoke-On-Trent City Council dispatched archaeologists to the field but they found no evidence of further treasure. Hambleton and Kania defied the odds again, though, returning to the spot last Sunday where they discovered the second half of the broken torc.

The Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs were examined by Dr. Julia Farley, the British Museum’s Curator of British & European Iron Age Collections. She determined they were not of British origin, but likely from what is today Germany or France. Analysis of the gold content found that it was no less than 80% in every torc, making them more than 18 carat gold which is 75% pure. The torcs weigh between 31 grams for the smallest piece, the incomplete bracelet, and 230 grams for the largest. The one bracelet stirred particular excitement because it is decorated, etched with lines inside loops. This is some of the earliest Celtic art ever discovered in Britain. All of the workmanship on the torcs is extremely high quality. One of them even has an incredibly rare maker’s mark.

Dr. Farley:

“This unique find is of international importance. It dates to around 400–250 BC, and is probably the earliest Iron Age gold work ever discovered in Britain.

“The torcs were probably worn by wealthy and powerful women, perhaps people from the continent who had married into the local community. Piecing together how these objects came to be carefully buried in a Staffordshire field will give us an invaluable insight into life in Iron Age Britain.”

A coroner’s inquest was held in North Staffordshire on Tuesday. Coroner Ian Smith asked questions of experts about the hoard, its continental origin and how they pieces may have made their way to Leekfrith. After hearing testimony about the torcs’ age and precious metal content, the coroner ruled that the pieces are treasure trove. The next step is for the independent experts of the Treasure Valuation Committee to determine fair value of the torcs. Local museums will then be offered the first opportunity to raise the amount of the valuation. That money will be divided between the finders and the landowner.

Stoke-on-Trent, which is bidding to be a 2021 UK City of Culture, is mighty keen to secure the torc hoard. Another little hoard you might have heard of, the Staffordshire Hoard, spends half its time in Stoke and it has brought millions of tourists and their cash to the region. The Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs will be on display in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-On-Trent, one of two local museums that share custody of the exceptional Staffordshire Hoard, for three weeks before they go back to the British Museum for valuation.

See Joe Kania and Mark Hambleton tell the story of the discovery (notice the awesome traditional dry stone walls behind them as they goof around for the camera in beginning; I love a quality dry stone wall) and Staffordshire officials glow with happiness over their shiny new babies in this video:

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

2017 Scribal Tour, Coming This Year to A Group Near You!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-02-28 23:31

A photo from the Visconti workshop at AEdult Swim, the first stop on the 2017 Scribal Tour. A second Visconti workshop will be held in Sylvan Glen March 18.

Tour Dates:

March 4 – Thescorre, Squashed Bug

March 18 – Sylvan Glen, Visconti

April 23 – Rhyderrich Hael, Celtic

June 17 – Angel’s Keep, Anne of Britany

August 6 to 9 – Pennsic, Armenian

August TBD – Thescorre, Visconti

September TBD – central PA, High French

October TBD – western PA, Celtic

For more information, or to register, please email Mistress Antoinette.

Join the Facebook Scribal Tour page.

Categories: SCA news sites

In Memoriam, Lord Argus Erikson

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2017-02-28 09:26

Lord Argus Erikson, aka Argus of the Seven Hills, passed on unexpectedly on February 1, 2017. His passing leaves a hole in the fabric of the Barony of Stonemarche.  Usually one starts this sort of article with a summary of the person’s awards and offices. Doing that doesn’t do Argus justice.

He received his Award of Arms from Balfar and Luna in 2000. He served Stonemarche as Chatelaine for several years.

Eventually he handed off the formal office, and writing the reports to someone else, but he never really stopped being a Chatelaine. As I scanned the social media in the first day or two after we heard the news, the one thing I saw repeated over and over was the sentiment that he’d been one of the first people the writer met when they came to an event in Stonemarche as a nervous newcomer, and he welcomed them. He made them feel like they belonged there, and were genuinely wanted.

That, at its core, is what a Chatelaine does. You can read guides to SCA life, you can watch videos and look at web sites about the SCA and how to get started, but it’s the personal touch that really makes you want to stay. He made people welcome as naturally as breathing. His legacy to Stonemarche, and to the SCA as a whole, is all those people who came, felt welcome, and stayed to become part of the fabric of the group.

It wasn’t just when you were new either. His face lit up any time he saw a friend, whether he’d just seen you the week before, or it had been a year. I don’t think I ever ran into him at an event without getting a big smile of welcome and hug.

He did lots of other things in the SCA too – he fought heavy list, he fenced, and he loved to sing and tell stories.  He wrote SCA filks, and loved a good party. He was a familiar sight at bardic circles with his gigantic beer stein, claiming “The wife said I could only have one drink, so it’s a big one.” It wasn’t true, but it made a good ice breaker.  It got people to laugh, and he loved that.

He was Father Christmas at more than one Baronial Yule. I think he was “Uncle Argus” to half the children of the Barony.  And he was always there to lend a hand when something needed doing at an event.

The funeral was held on Thurs. Feb. 9, but an informal memorial is planned for Palio in Stonemarche in June, for his SCA friends to share memories and bid him farewell.

The formal obituary is available on-line here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/telegram/obituary.aspx?n=brian-ford&pid=184026211&fhid=4796.

This In Memoriam was written by Mistress A’isha bint Jamil.



Filed under: In Memoriam Tagged: In Memoriam, Stonemarche

Help transcribe World War I love letters

History Blog - Tue, 2017-02-28 00:46

Do you speak English, French, German, Dutch, Italian or Slovene? Okay well if you’re reading this you can obviously speak English, and I know many of you are fluent in other languages, ancient and modern. You can put your polyglot skills to good use by transcribing a collection of World War I-era love letters in Europeana’s digital collection.

Europeana, an online cultural heritage network that brings together millions of digitzed items from libraries, museums, collections and assorted other institutions in Europe, launched a crowdsourcing campaign last November to transcribe personal, handwritten texts from World War I. The records come from libraries and archives all over the world, and from members of the public who submitted their precious family keepsakes to memorialize their loved ones’ experiences in the Great War. The Transcribe Europeana 1914-1918 project enlists the aid of an Internet’s worth of eyeballs to decipher the idiosyncracies of handwriting. Once transcribed, the item can then be translated and searched by keyword, subject, author, etc.

The Love Letter Run, as this sub-initiative of Transcribe Europeana is called, contains more than 40 letters, notes, postcards, diaries, autograph books and other personal documents written by soldiers at the front and their loved ones waiting desperately for their safe return.

To cope with the separation, many soldiers sent long, romantic letters of to their loved ones back home. Some women waited longingly for their lovers on the field, while others sought companionship with the men left behind. There was love that transcended borders, love that lasted the ages, and love for one woman fought over by two different men. In the Love Run, we present you stories of romance and betrayal, of lust and longing, heartbreak and new beginnings – all the makings of your favourite melodrama, but from real, handwritten sources of real, lived experiences.

It’s a poignant experience reading the sweet yearnings of young war-torn lovers. There are also all kinds of interesting side-issues that crop up. For instance, if you’re a postcard aficionado (which I am), there are some fascinating pieces in the collection: war propaganda postcards, postcards featuring slightly naughty stolen kisses, sentimental postcards targeted to loved ones separated by war, postcards bearing the official “censored” mark.

Because I am not the only sucker for a theme, the Love Letter Run was launched on February 14th. It will run through 2018, the centennial of the end of the Great War. The database of love letters will be updated with new documents regularly so check back every so often to see the latest offerings. There are plenty of records yet to be transcribed even in English which tends to be the first category completed in crowdsourcing project because the pool of English-speakers on the Internet is so large.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Dress Your Best this weekend: Dayboard, Schedule

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2017-02-27 19:52

We will be having a clothing lending library at the event. Please bring any
books you think others might be interested in looking at. We are hoping to
have a scanner and printer set up so people use.

Dayboard menu:

  • Pea soup (V,GF)
  • Ham (GF)
  • Sausage (GF)
  • Bread & butter (VEG,D)
  • Cheeses (VEG,D,GF)
  • Eggs (VEG,GF)
  • Hummus (V,GF)
  • Veggies (V,GF)
  • Pickles, olives (V)
  • Honey goat cheese (VEG,D,GF)
  • Horse radish goat cheese (VEG,D,GF)
  • Fruits (V,GF)

Please contact Hrólfr á Fjárfelli with any food concerns–


  • 10am Event opens
  • 11am Fencing starts
  • 12 Heavy Fighting starts
  • 12 Dayboard
  • 12 to 2 Photo Booth will be open – Please come get your picture taken in all
    your finery!!
  • 2 Fashion Show
  • 4 Awards ceremony
  • 6 everyone must be out or they can help move all the dining hall tables

Come fight and fence once again in a medieval Great Hall. Show off your finery in our fashion show. Join us for a day of enjoyment at Risley Hall.

Please join the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn on March 4, 2017 at Risley Hall (536 Thurston Ave, Ithaca NY 14850) for Dress Your Best. There will be fencing and heavy fighting, but most excitingly a fashion show with prizes! Come take the stage and compete for prizes for things such as best overall, best persona, best accessory. And of course we don’t want to leave out they fighters so there will be prizes for things such as best heavy kit and fanciest fencer! We are also hoping for a class or two on personas and making garb.

Site opens at 10 am and will close at 6pm. Autocrat is Gytha Oggsdottir.

  • Adult Event Registration: $13
  • Adult Member Discount (or Adult Student Discount) Event Registration: $8
  • Teen Event Registration (13-17): $4
  • Youth (0-12): Free

Make checks payable to SCA NY Inc -Dominion of Myrkfaelinn

Please join us in our gorgeous medieval surroundings Dressed your Best!!

Facebook event page is here.

Categories: SCA news sites

An Evening of Fine Food & Dance: Menu

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2017-02-27 19:18

Interested in an evening of dancing and a delectable Spanish meal this weekend?

Baroness Oddkatla Jonsdottir shares below her menu for Nithgaard’s An Evening of Fine Food & Dance, an event that runs from 4 p.m. to midnight this Saturday evening, March 4, with dance masters from around the kingdom.

See the event announcement here. The Facebook event page is here.

First Course

  • An assortment of Spanish cheeses
  • Bread & butter
  • Membrillo (quince paste) (from An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry)
  • Roasted red peppers, garlic & basil, marinated in olive oil
  • Clarea De Aqua (honey water) (from Libre del Coch Ruperto de Nola)

Second Course

  • Armored hen (Libre del Coch Ruperto de Nola)
  • Potatje de porrada (leek pottage) (Libre del Coch Ruperto de Nola)
  • Golden sops (Libre del Coch Ruperto de Nola)

Third Course

  • Pork Belly with French mustard and apples
  • Chickpeas and honey with pomegranate (A Drizzle of Honey)
  • Couscous

Fourth Course

  • Stuffing lamb with cheese (An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry)
  • Fresh [green] beans (An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry)
  • Macrones in almond milk with cheese (An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry)

Fifth Course

  • Recipe for honeyed rice (rice pudding) (An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry)
  • Pottage called peach (Libre del Coch Ruperto de Nola)

Categories: SCA news sites

Stolen “Arbeit macht frei” gate returned to Dachau

History Blog - Mon, 2017-02-27 00:45

A wrought iron gate bearing the infamous Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” stolen from the entrance to Dachau in 2014 was returned to the concentration camp memorial in a ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 22th. The gate was stolen from the Dachau memorial on the night of November 1-2, 2014. It was found two years later rusting under a tarp in a parking lot in Ytre Arna outside Bergen, Norway. The thieves remain unknown.

“This is a meaningful day for the memorial,” said Ludwig Spaenle, the Bavarian minister of cultural affairs. He called the theft of the gate an attack on a place of remembrance and said that the integrity of the memorial could now be “somewhat healed.”

Karl Freller, who heads the foundation responsible for the Dachau memorial, said he was “happy and grateful,” stating “now that we have the gate back we will not let it out of our sight.”

Dachau bears the repulsive distinction of being the first concentration camp established by the shiny new Nazi government on March 22nd, 1933, less than two months after Hitler’s ascension to the chancellorship of Germany. The former munitions factory was converted into a forced labour camp for political prisoners which at that time were the Communists and Social Democrats who opposed the Nazi Party. As soon as Hitler was appointed chancellor, he ordered the systematic persecution of his political rivals to consolidate his grip on power. Dachau became a death camp for the slaughter of Jews, homosexuals, Roma and anyone else they deemed inferior during the war, but of course they kept that “Works Sets You Free” sign (always a blatant lie since from day one none of those political prisoners could ever work their way to freedom), as if the purpose of the camp were labour, not mass-murder.

The Jourhaus, the entrance and exit to the prison camp, was built by prisoners by command of the SS in May and June of 1936. The SS ordered Communist political prisoner Karl Röder to make the “Arbeit macht frei” sign. The news stories about the theft, recovery and reinstallation all refer to the stolen gate as the “original,” in contrast to the replica that was put in its place in 2015 for ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau by the US Army on April 29th, 1945. In fact, the “Arbeit macht frei” sign in the stolen gate is not the original made by Röder.

It’s not clear what happened to the original original. It was in place right after liberation. There’s an undated photograph of the gate taken by former political prisoner Franz Brückl that shows the sign in place. Researchers believe it was taken immediately after liberation. Another photograph, also unfortunately undated, but taken after Brückl’s shows the gate with the inscription removed. An exact replica was created from historical photographs and installed in the gate after the Dachau memorial opened in 1965. This is confirmed by a 1972 memorandum in the memorial’s archives which notes: “Reconstruction of the inscription removed from the iron gate, work is free.”

So the gate is original, but the sign is not. The symbolic significance of the gate and the most chilling words inscribed over a doorway since Dante’s Inferno remains undiminished, which is why it and the much larger Auschwitz sign were stolen in the first place.

The recovered gate is now being treated by conservators. It will go back on public display this April 29th, but will not be reinstalled in the Jourhaus. Instead, it will be on view in the Dachau concentration camp memorial museum. The 2015 replica will stay in place.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Ædult Swim II: Fighting with Social Anxiety

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-02-26 20:54

By Duke Malcolm Duncan MacEoghainn, originally posted on Facebook

Photo of Duke Malcolm at last year’s AEdult Swim by Ursus.

I have read more than a few comments about anxiety and concerns by folks asking for fights, and I’d like to address that a wee bit. Let’s start with me sharing something that I don’t often share: I suffer from social anxiety. I don’t say that lightly as it’s one of those things that I just don’t talk about, but in this instance I think it’s important as it sets the tone for what I think I plan to say next. Just walking in the door to something like Ædult Swim is a non-minor victory for me. People I do not know intimidate me, and I never feel comfortable initiating a conversation. Ever.

So, I only say that to set the tone for making suggestions, and most of these suggestions apply to any situation, although in an environment like Ædult Swim or practices, even more so.

Primarily, remember why you are there. This is not Crown or a proving ground. Yes, there are times you see some of those Duke-types go at each other like it is, but believe me, they aren’t. They’re having fun, they’re playing, they’re testing each other and themselves. They are Duke-practicing. They are doing the same thing you are, they’re learning new things. It might not be obvious, but that’s what’s happening. It’s the same thing for you: you have nothing to prove except to yourself. Learn. Pick something that you need to know, and work on it. Or, and this is where the anxiety part comes in, ask someone to help you with that.

Fighters go to things like Æ-Swim to learn from resources that are not normally available. You can’t often get to spend time fighting someone from Lochac and the Midrealm and Caid all back to back. That usually only happens at major wars when there are a thousand other things going on. Practice is just that- practice. People expect to fight. The only reason people get turned down is because someone is waiting for someone else to finish arming and come out. And then, they’re likely to be willing to fight you next.

While I can only say this about myself, in conversations with fellow fighters of my level I feel confident that this next bit applies nearly universally: I love all my fights. At Æ-Swim II, I fought all level of fighters, from those fighting their first few months to those who have forgotten more than I will ever learn. I never.. EVER.. had the thought that “Gee, I wish I didn’t fight this person.” I was glad for each and every moment. For me, seeing the eyes light up as a newer fighter starts to see something gel is a thrill. Just as it’s exciting to see that look of “I got ya” in the eyes of the Superduke. At practice, every fight I teach, every fight I learn, every fight I practice. That no-ego, no-worries free exchange of knowledge is the beauty of Æ-Swim and practices.

And, for those of use who do suffer from anxiety, it is an opportunity to practice something else: courage. If you struggle with it, you get to practice enduring. You can practice your public skills and add that to your fight. With every encounter, and every moment, you take yet another step toward controlling the anxiety rather than allowing it to control you. I am not going to tell you to “not be afraid,” because that’s just not possible. I’ll tell you to go ahead and be afraid, be anxious, but do it anyway. That makes you stronger. Trust me on this one.

Lastly, let me give you this: you are a gift. You are a gift to yourself, and you are a gift to those who know you. If you are skilled, then learn more, push more, and share your skill. If you are learning, keep learning, and give the gift of practice to everyone you meet. While you may find some very few who do not accept your gift, they will be few and far between.

When you are at a practice, at a pick-up field, or something like Æ-Swim… grab that opportunity. Be the fighter, and go fight. Go learn. And if you see some chucklehead standing on the field by her- or himself, then go acquaint them with your friendship and ask for a dance. You got this.


Categories: SCA news sites

Mithras sanctuary found in Corsica

History Blog - Sun, 2017-02-26 00:50

Archaeologists from France’s National Institute for Preventative Archaeology (INRAP) have unearthed an ancient Roman sanctuary dedicated to the God Mithras in Lucciana on east coast of Corsica. This is an exceptionally rare found as it is the first mithraeum ever discovered in Corsica, and only a dozen have been found in all of France.

The site was excavated by INRAP in advance of roadwork planned in the neighborhood. The remains of the ancient city of Colonia Mariana are within the municiple boundaries of Lucciana, but this particular area had not been excavated before. It would have been a peripheral sector of the Roman town, and the remains of modest homes and artisan workshops found in the excavation confirmed that it was a working class neighborhood.

The team began the archaeological survey in November of last year. In the three months since, archaeologists have found the worship room of the mithraic sanctuary and an antechamber. The main hall is a rectangle about 36 feet by 16 feet in dimension. It has a central nave with two long benches going down its length. The benches are six feet wide. A vaulted brick niche was built into each bench taking up the full thickness of the banquette. They were positioned opposite each other, and one of the niches contained three intact oil lamps. This was how the sanctuary was lit.

Other artifacts recovered from the site include a marble head of a woman, a marble foot, pottery, two bronze bells, numerous broken lamps and glass paste jars that may have been liturgical furnishings. Two inscribed plaques, one of bronze, one of lead, were found; the inscriptions have yet to be deciphered. Three fragments of a marble bas-relief are of particularly significance because while some of the carving is missing, it is still recognizable as the tauroctony, the iconic scene of Mithras slaying the sacred bull while a dog and snake drink its blood and a scorpion stings its testicles.

The Persian deity Mithra inspired the religion, but the version that spread throughout the Roman Empire starting in the 1st century A.D. bears little religion to the original. The mystery religion is believed to have been brought west by Roman soldiers and spread from military bases and ports. From what we can tell — there are no written records of the faith — it was only open to men and was particularly popular with soldiers. What we know of Mithraism has been gleaned from archaeological remains, mainly artifacts and art depicting myths and rituals.

The Roman city of Colonia Mariana, was founded around 100 B.C. by Roman general, military reformer and seven-time consul Gaius Marius. He and his one-time friend and colleague turned nemesis Lucius Cornelius Sulla, each founded a colony in Corsica (Sulla’s was Aleria) which they seeded with their veterans. Mariana was an important center in Roman Corsica, thanks largely to its commercial harbor that was a hub of maritime trade on the Mediterranean. The patron saint of Corsica and of the Principality of Monaco, Saint Devota, was born in Mariana in the late 3rd century and was martyred there in 303 A.D. Her martyrdom inspired many a conversion and by the end of the century Mariana was solidly Christian. The Diocese of Mariana was created in 4th or early 5th century, one of the first Christian dioceses in Corsica.

It’s possible the rise of Christianity in Mariana came in direct conflict with the worship of Mithras. Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Empire in 392 and outlawed all pagan religions, including Mithraism. Some of the objects found in the Mariana sanctuary were damaged in antiquity, most notably the altar, and the sanctuary itself appears to have been deliberately destroyed and filled with rubble. A large Paleochristian church and baptistery complex was built in the city around 400 A.D., the first archaeological traces of Christianity in Corsica. There were likely tensions between the adherents of the religions.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Officer Interview – Æthelmearc Kingdom Equestrian Officer

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2017-02-25 20:09

THL Aaliz de Gant

This is another installment of the Gazette’s Officer Interviews. This installment introduces the current Kingdom Equestrian Officer, THL Aaliz de Gant who answered the following questions regarding her involvement in the SCA, the equestrian program and her thoughts on equestrian activities in the Kingdom.

How long have you been in the SCA and what was your first event?

My first event was Pennsic 29. I started getting more involved in a local group after Pennsic 30 though.

What has made you stay?

The people – I have friends that became family. I can’t imagine life without them.

How did you become interested in equestrian activities and become the Equestrian Officer?

I’d been part of a couple households that were pretty much fighting households.  When they fell apart as households sometimes do, I found myself at loose ends right around the time a demo came up for equestrian activities.  I authorized at that event and was thrilled to be able to combine my SCA life and my horses. It is not every day I can manage to combine my expensive and all consuming hobbies.

What is the role of the Kingdom Officer for Equestrian?

Bringing policy from the Society Equestrian Officer to the Kingdom, setting and ensuring rules and policies are being followed within the kingdom, encouraging involvement, refereeing squabbles should they arise, warranting marshals, conducting marshal training, and generally being involved and attending events.

Do you have a general philosophy about your job?

I think that I should be able to prepare people to get involved in equestrian events if they express interest. I think the people within the program should “own” their program.

How would someone get involved in equestrian activities?

Talk to me or to any of the equestrians and we would be more than happy to discuss how to get you involved. If you don’t have a horse and simply want to be around them, we always need ground crew at events. If you have horses, we’d love to have you involved. If you want to start something in your area, talk to us and we’ll try to see what we can do.

What is an example of something you think the general populace should know about horses, but don’t?

This is harder — I’ve had horses my whole life so I’m never quite sure what people do and don’t know. But I think one of the hardest things to understand about equestrian is that there are two of us that have to work together – the rider and the horse. If either of us is having a bad day, it’s going to be a lot more obvious than in other disciplines. The best rider in the field isn’t always the one that will come out on top because horses have a mind of their own. You can practice hard, then have your horse decide on that day that it’s afraid of equipment that he/she has seen a thousand times. But the more practiced a horse/rider combo are the more they understand each other and the less you’ll see cues going on, in general.  When both horse and rider work together it makes it look like what they are doing is effortless.

Where do you see the Equestrian program going in the SCA or the kingdom – Are there any changes coming?

Society wise, there is a lot of encouragement and interest for more jousting. We have a couple of people in Æthelmearc who are very interested in jousting and they are working towards getting more of it in our Kingdom.

What is the best part about equestrian activities in the SCA?

A sword in one hand and reins in the other and people that think it’s just as incredible as you do.

THL Aaliz fighting Mistress Arabella on horseback.

Categories: SCA news sites

Child’s footprints found in ancient Egyptian mortar

History Blog - Sat, 2017-02-25 00:34

Archaeologists have discovered child-sized footprints in an ancient mortar pit at the archaeological site of Pi-Ramesse, modern-day Qantir, in Egypt. The site at the eastern edge of the Nile Delta about 70 miles northeast of Cairo was once the capital of the pharaoh Ramesses the Great (r. 1279–1213 B.C.) and is recorded in ancient sources as a city of great beauty, power and wealth. An estimated 300,000 people lived in the city which covered seven square miles during its heyday, making one of the biggest late Bronze Age cities in the Mediterranean both in area and population. It had a massive temple, riverside mansions, modest mud-brick homes, a planned street grid, a harbour, a system of navigable canals and lakes like Venice, Ramesses’ great palace, industrial works and high-end artisan workshops.

It was inhabited from the reign of Ramesses until and 1050 B.C. when the branch of the Nile that provided Pi-Ramesse with all of its water silted over. The pharaohs of the 21st Dynasty (1077-943 B.C.) used the former capital as a ready source of building materials. All the splendid architecture — temple reliefs, obelisks, statues, sphinxes — were moved whole to the new capital Tanis and reinstalled there. Entire buildings were dismantled in the abandoned city and rebuilt in the new capital. If the buildings weren’t worthy of reassembly at Tanis, they were simply demolished and their stone used for new structures. They were so thorough that nothing of Pi-Ramesse survives above the surface today.

The site was discovered in the 1960s by Austrian Egyptologist Manfred Bietak. An international team of archaeologists based at the Roemer-Pelizaeus-Museum in Hildesheim, Germany, have excavated the site since 1980, discovering, among many other things, the largest bronze foundry ever discovered, glass-making workshops specializing in red glass, faience factories, a chariot manufacturer with massive stables that could accommodate close to 500 horses and a bone workshop that used the bones of animals long-since extinct in Egypt (lions, elephants, giraffes) that can only have been exotic imports in Ramesses’ days.

From 1996 through 2003, Caesium-Magnetometry was used to take measurements of the ancient city. The technology can differentiate between materials with different magnetic signatures, so for instance since mud brick responds differently than soil, mud-brick structures under the surface became apparent. With the magnetometry data, the team was able to map the layout of Pi-Ramesse.

In one area they identified the remains of a monumental structure measuring about 820 by 490 feet and sections of walls. Archaeologists believe this was a construction site for the renovation of a monumental complex, likely a palace or a temple. Pottery sherds found on the spot date the building to between 1300 and 1200 B.C., so either during the reign of Ramesses or shortly thereafter. Near the monumental remains, the team found an intriguing feature this season: a mortar pit. The pit measures about eight by 26 feet and at the bottom an ancient layer of mortar was still extant. Embedded in the mortar were prints left by the pitter-patter of tiny feet.

The footprints are 5.9-6.6 inches long, so about the size of kids between three and five years old, according to modern growth charts (which may or may not apply). Archaeologists can’t tell yet if they were left by multiple children or if the prints were smeared.

The reason for the children’s presence remains a mystery. Although no modern concept of banning child labor was in place, the footprints seem to be too small even for children who may have been working.

On the other hand, it appears unlikely that royal kids were left to play in the mud and mortar.

It does feel very satisfyingly squishy between your toes. I could easily see a little Prince demanding to have a stomp through the wet mortar, protocol be damned.

On top of the mortar layer, the team found smashed piece of wall plaster bearing the remains of polychrome paint in black, yellow, red and shades of blue. The fragments are small and the original paintings appear to have been large-scale, so the team has not yet been able to identify imagery or motif from the pieces. The fragments are of hard plaster, a substance rarely used in Egyptian art, so may indicate foreign craftsmen were employed at the site. Fresco technique — pigment applied to wet plaster — is also extremely rare in ancient Egypt. More analysis is needed to determine whether this painted plaster was a fresco.

Next season, archaeologists will excavate the pit further in the hope of recovering more missing pieces of the colored plaster. They will then try to puzzle them together to determine their motif and size, which will in turn suggest which walls the paintings may have once adorned. From what we know now, it was likely the monumental structure nearby. The mortar pit could have been used in the renovation and the frescoes stripped from the wall to redecorate in a style more au courant with the fashions 1200 B.C. They will also bring in specialists to analyze the footprints.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Report – The Feast of the Seven Deadly Sins

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2017-02-24 17:17

Documented from the Scrolls of the Reign of Marcus & Margerite, King and Queen of Æthelmearc, accompanied by Their Heir, Prince Timothy: the Business of The Feast of the Seven Deadly Sins, February 11, Anno Societatis LI, in the Barony of Delftwood. As recorded by Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald.

In the morning their Majesties invited their Excellency’s Delftwood to join Them in Their court.

Baroness Helena Mutzhasen was called before Their Majesties, who spoke at length of Her Excellency’s artistry in millinery and clothing of Germany, and so the Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc was summoned and Her Excellency was named a companion of that order. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova. Embroidered scroll by Meisterrin Felicity Fluβmüllnerin, Lady Margaret Grace, Countess Caryl Olesdatter, Herrin Saskia Feldmeyrin, and Fela Fluβmüllnerin with words by Freiherr Fridrich Fluβmüllnerin and Meisterrin Felicity Flu βmüllnerin.


Next, Master Diego Munoz de Castilla and Don Corwin Montgomery approached the Throne and presented Her Majesty with a pictorial representation of the lineage of the White Scarf starting with Tivar Moondragon. They showed Her Majesty the branch of the tree representing those subjects from the kingdom of Æthelmearc. However, Their Majesty’s Jewel Herald spoke and noted that the representation was heraldically incorrect as he is a member of that line and there is heraldry displayed of one who is not a white scarf of that line. To settle this matter, Her Majesty called for the Order of the White Scarf to confirm, and invited the Ladies of the Rose and Garnet to also attend. The Order did affirm that there was indeed heraldry displayed of one who is not a member of the Order, and so Lord Michael Gladwyne was called forward and inducted into the Order of the White Scarf in recognition of his prowess and his contributions to the rapier community of Æthelmearc. And thus, the error was made correct.  Scroll by Baroness Helena Mutzhasen.

THL Ruslan Voronov was called to attend Their Majesties, and then the Order of Chivalry was summoned forward. Their Majesties inquired whether his lordship was prepared to sit this day in vigil in contemplation of joining the Order of Chivalry, to which he responded that he was. However, there was one last piece of business to attend to and so Sir Óláfr þorvarðarson came forward and took back his squire’s belt from Ruslan and released him from his service so that he might sit vigil unencumbered. That business being concluded, Their Majesties released THL Ruslan into the care of the Order of Chivalry to escort him to vigil.

Court suspended.

In the evening their Majesties invited Their Excellency’s Delftwood to join Them in Their court.

Their Majesties called forward all children and then sent them off in pursuit of the toy chest of treasures so that they might be occupied during the remainder of court.

Their Majesties then gave leave to Their Excellency’s Delftwood to hold their baronial court.

Earl Yngvar the Dismal, Countess Caryl Olesdatter, Master John Michael Thorpe, THL Fionnghuala inghean Diarmada, and Baroness Beatrix Krieger were invited into court. Her Majesty spoke of a recent trip to the East Kingdom in which several challenges befell Her visit, and these gentles came forward and provided various forms of assistance to Her. So for these acts of kindness, Her Majesty presented each with a personal token of appreciation.

Katharina von Bamberg was awarded arms in absentia. Scroll by Mistress Graidhne ni Ruaidh.









Snorri sketi Bjornnson was awarded arms in absentia. Scroll by His Excellency Master Caleb Reynolds.









Lady Adelheid Grünewalderin was awarded a Keystone in absentia. Scroll by Baroness Helena Mutzhasen.









Lady Ragna Feilan was called forward and inducted into the Order of the Sycamore for her cooking and Viking food research, and for winning the Iron Chef competition. Scroll by His Excellency Master Caleb Reynolds.









Next, Ráðúlfr Eiríksson was invited into court and inducted into the Order of the Golden Alce and awarded arms for his prowess upon the field. Scroll by Baroness Barbary Rose of Endless Hills with words by Don Po Silvertop the Rogue.









Their Majesties then called for Ulfr Thorbjarnarson and inducted him into the Order of the Golden Alce and awarded him arms for his prowess, honor, and cunning upon the field. Scroll by THL Padraig O’Branduibh.









Her Majesty then called for Sir Óláfr þorvarðarson and spoke of his generosity, and specifically spoke of the children’s treasure chest he constructed when the call for help went out. And so, She named Sir Óláfr Her inspiration and awarded him a Golden Escarbuncle.

THL Ruslan Voronov was next called before the Throne. Their Majesties asked if, after having received council today, he would join the Order of Chivalry, and Ruslan answered in the affirmative. Their Majesties then called for Their Order of Chivalry to join Them. Duke James Ahearn then arose as a royal peer and spoke of Ruslan’s willingness to give of himself to others. He stated that to be a noble one must act nobly, and that Ruslan has done that. By letter, Duchess Dorinda Courtenay spoke for the Order of Defence and told of how Ruslan’s booming voice can be heard above the din and how he uses that voice to teach, to serve, and to grow others. Countess Isabeau de l’Isle spoke for the Order of the Laurel of how excellence takes you beyond simple curiosity, but to passion; and that passion leads to practice, and that practice leads to growth. Countess Caryl Olesdatter spoke for the Order of the Pelican of Ruslan’s current service as champion of the Roses and how he is a beacon for others to follow. For the Order of Chivalry, Count Robin Wallace told of Ruslan’s humility, his striving, his leading and teaching of the art of combat. Sir Óláfr þorvarðarson also spoke of Ruslan’s ability to speak truth from the heart because he has gone through dark times and walked the gauntlet himself. Having heard these words of Their peers, Their Majesties were then moved to induct Ruslan into the Order of Chivalry and had him adorned with spurs, a belt of white belonging to Duke Morgunn Sheridan, a cloak, and a chain. His Majesty then knighted Ruslan, and Their Majesties received his oath. Scroll forthcoming.

Lastly, Their Majesties thanked all those scribes and artisans who had contributed works throughout Their reign so that the work and skill of others might be recognized, and Her Majesty offered tokens of appreciation and offered scribal supplies.

There being no further business, this court of Their Majesties was closed.

Faithfully submitted,

Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta

Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald

Categories: SCA news sites

Travel Fund to Benefit from Sales of The Dream Atlas

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2017-02-24 13:03

The Dream Atlas is a map of the Known World inspired by the 14th century Catalan Atlas and created as a fundraiser for Their Highnesses to use toward travel expenses and Eastern Hospitality for foreign royalty. This Atlas is now available for purchase. The map shows all twenty of the current kingdoms, as well as many baronies, shires and sites of large annual events.

In addition to providing geographical reference, there are annotations about each kingdom designed to help travelers better understand various regions. These notes come from conversations with the people who dwell in each land and provide only a small taste of much larger cultures.

Researched and drawn by Lady Christiana Crane, The Dream Atlas is designed to be an opportunity for people to learn about their neighbors, regardless of kingdom. It makes an attractive piece of art for the home or office, however adventurous pilgrims may instead choose to fold their map and use it to record their own travels, turning the Atlas into a living journal.

Maps are 24”x36” black and white prints and are $35 including shipping. These can be ordered through the website until April 3, 2017.

There is also an extremely small number of limited-edition, full color hand painted originals of the map done on acid free paper available for $1000 each. Details regarding availability and delivery time are available by contacting TheDreamAtlas (at) crossroadgames (dot) com.

To learn more about The Dream Atlas, or to order yours, go to theknownworlddreamatlas.blogspot.com

Filed under: Announcements Tagged: for sale, fundraiser, Fundraising, Ioannes and Honig, Travel Fund

Teachers Sought for Novice Schola

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2017-02-24 05:09

On March 11th, the Barony of Bergental (Springfield, MA) will celebrate its 25th birthday by holding a Novice Schola, with classes and activities for one and all.

The class scheduler, Mistress Barbeta Kyrkeland, is still looking for teachers to teach classes in the following categories:

  • A&S (particularly scribal, woodworking, leatherworking, lampworking, blacksmithing, beer-making, metalworking, etc.)
  • Martial
  • Cooking & Food
  • History
  • SCA Life
  • Music & Dance
  • Garb (particularly looking for a simple tunic class)
  • Youth 10-16
  • Youth 6-9
  • children 1-5

If you are available to teach at thsi event, please contact Mistress Barbeta harpnfiddle@pobox.com.

Filed under: Events Tagged: Bergental, classes, novice, novice classes, novice schola, teachers

Galloway Viking Hoard Campaign launched

History Blog - Fri, 2017-02-24 00:20

A new campaign has been launched to keep the Galloway Viking Hoard for exhibition in the county where it was found. Buried in the 10th century, the hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist in field near Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in September of 2014. Archaeologists excavated the hoard and found more than 100 silver and gold pieces, from ingots to jewelry to fragments of Byzantine silk to an extremely rare Carolingian pot stuffed with more treasure. The Galloway Viking Hoard is the largest Viking treasure found in Scotland since 1891.

Since then, the Carolingian pot CT has been scanned and painstakingly excavated in the laboratory and the other objects cleaned and stabilized, but there’s still much more to be learned from this unique assemblage of artifacts. Bordered by the Cumbria, with its high Norse population, to the south, and the Viking-dominated Irish Sea to the west, Galloway had a strong Viking presence from the 9th until the 11th century. The person who buried the hoard was almost certain Norse, burying his or her most precious valuables, many of them heirlooms, handed down spoils from long-ago raids on Anglo-Saxon, Irish French and/or German communities. No other Viking hoard has been found with such a wide variety of objects — gold, silver, glass, enamel, textiles — from such a wide geographic area. The rare survival of textiles, the precision wrapping of each object and careful burial in order of priority makes this hoard a particularly rich source of information about Viking Galloway beyond just the value and significance of the precious objects.

The news of the hoard made headlines all over the world and electrified its home county of Dumfries and Galloway. A pre-existing plan to convert the Kirkcudbright Town Hall into a major art gallery gained whole new steam with the prospect of the Galloway Viking Hoard as the centerpiece of the collection. The budget for the conversion was cranked way up and hefty contributions secured from the Heritage Lottery fund, the Kirkcudbright Common Good Fund and the council itself. The new Kirkcudbright Art Gallery would be a secure, state-of-the-art setting for the display of the hoard near where it was discovered.

But the course of true hoard love never did run smooth, and some David-and-Goliath museum drama has churned in the background of this campaign. The Kirkcudbright Art Gallery doesn’t actually exist yet, while National Museums Scotland (NMS) sure does. NMS wants the Galloway Hoard. The Dumfries and Galloway Council released a statement last month expressing their support for a joint bid with NMS that would give the county and the national museum joint custody of the hoard.

In order to find a way forward, our Council has conducted a detailed options appraisal. This appraisal highlighted 3 main options that our Council could take. We could apply for sole ownership of the Hoard, we could enter into a joint agreement with NMS, or we could withdraw our interest in homing the Hoard. This appraisal provided many positive and negative reasons why each option should be explored, but mainly highlighted that the Hoard needs to have some connection with Kirkcudbright and the region, and that applying for sole ownership would bring serious financial pressures with it. It was therefore decided by Members at the meeting on 24 January to pursue a joint agreement with NMS, but for adjustments to be made to the current proposal, to give Kirkcudbright Gallery and Dumfries and Galloway as a whole, a more flexible position in terms of a joint ownership of the Galloway Viking Hoard.

NMS totally ghosted them. Requests from the council that National Museums Scotland spell out the details of the partnership and clarify how much time the hoard would spend in Kirkcudbright went unanswered. With deadlines on the horizon and the ominous prospect of a deep-pocketed national museum bidding against the scrappy county underdog, the Galloway Viking Hoard Campaign has taken matters in hand.

[Campaign chair Cathy Agnew] said: “This is a time for Scotland to take the lead. The Galloway Viking Hoard is quite extraordinary and should have pride of place in a specially created exhibition space in the new Kirkcudbright Art Gallery. Remarkable finds have so often been whisked away from the communities where they were discovered only to become a small feature in a large national museum. This is a very old-fashioned approach and in 2017 we should be making sure that regions fully benefit from their cultural riches.

“Having a collection of this kind in Dumfries and Galloway would act as a powerful magnet to bring in visitors from all over the country and overseas, benefiting the local economy by encouraging them to spend time here visiting historic sites.”

The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP), the body of the Treasure Trove Unit tasked with advising the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer which museum a treasure should be allocated to and how much the ex gratia payment to the finder and landowner should be, is scheduled to meet on March 23rd to determine their recommendation for the Galloway Viking Hoard. The campaign is hoping to make some substantial noise before that meeting in the hopes of boosting Dumfries and Galloway’s bid. The website is still a work a progress — there isn’t even a donation button yet — but for now the campaign is asking for people to send letters to the Dumfries and Galloway Council and SAFAP. They also have an email sign-up if you’d like to receive updates on the campaign.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

This Roman road brought to you by McDonald’s

History Blog - Thu, 2017-02-23 00:33

On Tuesday, February 21st, the first archaeological museum underneath a McDonald’s opened in the Frattochie ward of Marino, a town about 12 miles south of Rome. The museum was built around a pristine stretch of Roman road dating to the 2nd/1st century B.C. discovered in 2014 during construction work on a new McDonald’s. McDonald’s Italia financed the conservation of the road to the tune of 300,000 euro ($317,000). The local Archaeological Superintendency supervised its careful excavation and the installation of underground museum gallery.

The restaurant was still built over the site, but it was designed in a bridge-like shape with transparent flooring that makes the Roman road visible under your feet both when you’re waiting inside for your Royale with Cheese and when you’re sitting outside on the patio. If you prefer to eat elsewhere, what with being in Italy and all, you can still visit the underground museum. It has independent access so you don’t have to walk through MickyD’s to get to it, and entrance is free of charge, courtesy of the Clown.

The road begins near the XI mile of the Via Appia. It’s stretch 45 meters (148 feet) long paved with slabs of siliceous rock bounded on both sides with opus incertum walls made of medium to large pieces of local volcanic rock (peperino and basalt) set in a grey mortar. The ruts of hundreds of years of wagon wheels are deeply embedded in the pavers. The average width is 2.1 meters (a hair under 7 feet). Going towards the Appia, a u-shaped drainage canal runs along the right side of the road, while on the left side the edge stones survive in excellent condition and there’s a little sidewalk .8 meters (2.6 feet) wide. There is evidence that the road was repaired repeatedly in antiquity.

The section was cut off relatively recently, on the east end by the construction and demolition of an industrial plant and by the construction of the New Appian Way on the west end. Nobody noticed the ancient road they cut through. It wasn’t a complete unknown, mind you, just forgotten. The existence of a road feature had been noted on topographical maps as early as the 18th century, but it was architect and antiquarian Luigi Canina who put it on the archaeological map. Canina in his role as Papal Commissioner of Antiquities directed the project of cleaning, restabilizing and restoring the Via Appia Antica and its many funerary monuments between 1851 and 1855. His efforts transformed fragmented, overgrown, ramshackle ruins into the usable road and open-air archaeological park it still is today. In his 1853 work documenting the first section of the Appia, La prima parte della Via Appia dalla Porta Capena a Boville, Canina identified it as a “communication route of the Appian Way at Castrimenio.”

Frattochie, next to Castrimenio, is the modern descendant of the ancient Roman town of Bovillae, the legendary place of origin of the Gens Julia. According to the founding myth of Rome, its father city Alba Longa was destroyed by Roman king Tullus Hostilius in the 7th century B.C. and all of Alba Longa’s sacred objects were moved to Bovillae. These objects and the rituals connected to them were the foundations of Rome’s religions, so Bovillae became an important (and wealthy) religious center. The offshoot of the Appia was likely built for the benefit of a wealthy noble resident of Bovillae who wanted a nice, properly paved road to take him to his doorstep.

Bovillae reached its peak when the Julians came to prominence in Roman politics. Augustus’ body lay is state there before returning to Rome, and Tiberius invested heavily in public buildings including a theater, a circus and a chapel dedicated to the Gens Julia. The town declined after the Julio-Claudians died out in the 1st century. By 326 A.D., it was so insignificant it didn’t garner a mention in a document wherein Emperor Constantine I donated land that included Bovillae to a cathedral in Albano Laziale. Whatever was left of it must have suffered greatly when Alaric I sacked Rome in 410. The towns along the Via Appia were the first to feel the Visigothic wrath.

Following the fortunes of the town, between the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. the road fell into disuse. It became overgrown with vegetation and covered with soil. The locals put the path to good use. Like the Via Appia, it was lined with burials and tombs. One of the tombs is still visible today on the property of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Sacrament, a Trappist monastery in Frattocchie which, just fyi, makes outstanding chocolate.

The McDonald’s excavation unearthed the skeletons of three adult males buried in the 2nd-3rd century A.D. along the stretch of road. Each was in his own grave, with the three graves relatively close together towards the center of the surviving road section. Casts of the skeletons have been placed in the locations of the original graves along the road in the underground museum.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Academy of St. Clare of Assisi: MORE Stitches in Time!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-02-22 17:56

A great gift for a special someone who LOVES embroidery is surprise
reservation for the upcoming all-embroidery event, “Academy of St. Clare of Assisi: MORE Stitches in Time,” which will be hosted March 31 to April 2 by the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais.

At “Academy of St. Clare of Assisi: MORE Stitches in Time,” students choose classes suited to THEIR level and interests.

And instead of an unfinished sampler that gets tossed in a drawer, your
special someone could go home with:

  • a beaded pouch  (Class limited to 8 students!)
  • an emboidered book cover  (Class limited to 10 students!)
  • a Viking-style bag to embellish  (Class limited to 10 students!)
  • an Elizabethan-style flower to applique  (Class limited to 20 students!)
  • a pair of embroidered cuffs to add pizazz to a garment  (Class limited  to 15 students!)

PLEASE NOTE:  Classes with limits are filling up quickly!  So, too, are the bunk spaces in the HEATED cabin.  To avoid disappointment, mail your special someone’s reservation TODAY!

Need more info?
Visit this website  for details!

(See last year’s Gazette article here.)

Hope you can join us!
Mistress Alicia Langland

Categories: SCA news sites

Is this the skull of the legendary “weasel bear”?

History Blog - Wed, 2017-02-22 00:45

A huge polar bear skull with very different features from modern polar bear skulls has been discovered at an eroding archaeological site in northernmost Alaska. Its massive size and elongated, narrow shape recall an unusual polar bear reported by Inuit hunters but never photographed, filmed or in any other way scientifically verified.

In interview projects documenting the traditional knowledge of the Inuit peoples of northern Alaska and the western Canadian Arctic, hunters report very rare sightings of a bear “that has a longer neck; it’s high and pure white, but looks like a weasel and runs fast like a weasel”. This creature is known as “tiriarnaq” in the Siglitun dialect, “tigiaqpak” in the Kangiryuarmiut dialect, all of them translating to “weasel bear.”

Here’s a description of a weasel bear by a Sachs Harbour hunter from a 2010 interview:

“You get sometimes bears which we call tiriarnat, and they get over 11 foot. They get very big; they’re slim, their necks are way longer than the stubby bears that we get now. I never seen a weasel type bear for years, years and years…. We used to see some north of Storkerson Bay when we travel…. And they’re very big…. Stubby bears get ten [feet] three [inches], ten [feet] four [inches], that sort of thing. But a weasel type bear is 11-foot plus.

There are differences between some of the accounts of the weasel bear — some say they’re fat, not slender, others say they’re all male — but the large, long, narrow head and neck is common to all the stories. The recently discovered skull fits the description.

“It looks different from your average polar bear,” said Anne Jensen, an Utqiaġvik-based archaeologist who has been leading excavation and research programs in the region.

Through radiocarbon dating and subsequent analysis, Jensen and her colleagues estimate that the big bear skull — which appears to be the fourth largest ever found — is from a period between the years 670 and 800. It is possibly the oldest complete polar bear skull found in Alaska, inspiring a name for the departed creature that owned it: The Old One.

Exactly what accounts for its differences is yet to be determined; genetic testing is needed for that, Jensen said. It could have been a member of a subspecies or a member of a different “race” in genetic terms — similar to the varying breeds that are found among dogs — or possibly something else entirely, said Jensen, who works for the science department of the Native village corporation, Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corp., or UIC.

The rapid thawing of the permafrost on the Chukchi Sea coast has exposed the archaeological site of Walakpa, 13 miles southwest of Utqiaġvik (the northernmost city in the United States formerly known as Barrow). First excavated by Smithsonian anthropologist Dennis Stanford in the late 1960s when the permafrost was still perma, Walakpa is a settlement from the Birnirk period (600-1300 A.D.). It was widely believed to have been so thoroughly explored by Stanford’s team that there were no archaeological materials of note left to discover.

Climate change proved that consensus wrong in the late summer of 2013 when the face of a bluff sheered off after a storm, exposing the timbers of an ancient house. They could not be fully excavated due to adverse environmental conditions and lack of funding. In 2014, a 90-foot section of soil collapsed. A local discovered the polar bear skull at that time, although exactly where and when is unclear.

Anne Jensen was finally able to raise the funds for a solid three-week dig last summer. The exposed timbers were lost by then, but Jensen’s team unearthed a number of artifacts and remains preserved for centuries in the permafrost and recovered before their decay was accelerated by the warming soil. The sheered-off bluff where the timers were found still harbored a rare treasure: four mummified seals, naturally preserved in what had once been an ice cellar. These are the only mummified seals ever found outside of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Jensen excavated one of them, a female dubbed Patou dating to the mid-1940s whose body is intact from fur to claws.

Time is running out for this site and many others in Alaska, and funding hasn’t come to close to keeping up with the pace of site deterioration.

The good condition of the artifacts is only temporary. As thaw and erosion occurs, items fall into the sea or, if exposed to the air, are at risk of decay.

Even if they are not exposed to air, artifacts can be vulnerable to below-ground degradation, Jensen said. As soils warm, bacteria are better able to decompose bones and other items. Even worse, warming soils can bring the items to a point where they generate their own heat, speeding the decomposition process.

With open water present up to eight months of the year instead of two and with temperatures rising and shorelines crumbling, the threats to the archaeological sites are increasing exponentially, Jensen said. Sites are eroding at a rate that far outpaces the normal grant process used to secure funding for work, and some new emergency approach is probably warranted, she said.

“It’s like the library is essentially on fire — now,” she said.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Æthelmearc A&S Faire 2017: Advisors Needed

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-02-21 23:35

On May 6th, the Shire of Nithgaard will host the second Æthelmearc Arts & Sciences Faire. This will be a day to celebrate the artisans our Sylvan Kingdom. We will have room for all who choose to do so to display their works.

The A&S Faire web page can be found here.

We will also be running the second annual Queen’s Prize Tourney, for those who hold a Grant of Arms level award or lower in the Arts & Sciences. The tourney does not have scores or a winner, but offers those who enter advice from members of the Orders of the Laurel and the Fleur.

It is our hope that the Queen’s Prize Tourney will give these artisans the opportunity to both learn and teach, and will give the Kingdom an opportunity to see their work. Each entrant is required to be sponsored by a member of the Laurel or the Fleur. Each entrant is required to be present at the event. Each sponsor is asked to provide a small thank you gift to each of the entrants he or she sponsors.

We will need advisors (previously called “judges”) for the tourney. Advisors must be Fleurs or Laurels and are expected to spend the better part of the day in face-to-face advising of the entrants. You can sign up to be an advisor at the A&S Faire website.

For those of a more martial inclination, there will be outside areas available for fighting and fencing during the day.

The web page contains links to:

  1. the event announcement
  2. an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet concerning the event and Queen’s Prize Tourney
  3. registration forms for Entrants and Sponsors in the Queen’s Prize Tourney and also for Advisors
  4. a form for Entrants seeking Sponsors to sponsor them
  5. a form for Sponsors seeking Entrants to sponsor.

We hope to see many of you at the A&S Faire!

In service,
Fridrikr & Orianna
Kingdom Ministers of Arts & Sciences

Categories: SCA news sites

Navy posts Hunley recovery report online

History Blog - Tue, 2017-02-21 00:15

The U.S. Navy has released a comprehensive archaeological report on the recovery of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley and it is a total page-turner.

The Hunley sank off of Charleston Harbor on February 17th, 1864, but not before taking down its target, the USS Housatonic, in the first successful torpedoing of a ship by a submarine. Famous for this feat and for its disappearance immediately after the clash, the wreck of the Hunley was much sought by scholars, archaeologists and an adventure novelist. After decades of scholarship and fruitless searches, it was the novelist, Clive Cussler, with a team of exports from the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), who found the wreck in 1995. It was tilted on its starboard side, embedded in the seabed at a 45 degree angle and buried under feet of silt.

The idea of raising the hand-cranked iron submarine that played such a seminal role in the development of naval technology was a daunting one. It had been protected for 131 years by its silten blanket, and any excavation could endanger the sub. If it survived being dug out, then it would have to be safely raised out of the water, a logistical challenge of massive proportions. But the incentives to take the plunge were strong. Unlike other shipwrecks, Hunley almost certainly had sealed compartments that contained not just untouched artifacts, but the remains of the eight brave crewmen who operated this terrifying contraption. With the news of the discovery making headlines all over the country, the wreck would certainly become the target of looters.

Five years passed from discovery to recovery, five years of assiduous research, planning and problem-solving. You don’t have to be Civil War or naval history buff to find the Navy’s report on the recovery project riveting. It covers so much ground that anyone with an interest in archaeology, conservation, science, engineering, metallurgy, museums, even project management will be fascinated. I’ve read a lot of archaeological reports over the years, but I’ve never read one this thorough. It goes into depth on the historical background of Hunley, including its predecessors, recovery attempts after the war and searches in the 20th century. It’s not just verbiage, either. There is a plethora of pictures, maps and diagrams.

Dr. Michael McCarthy of the Western Australia Museum, who participated in a 1999 symposium of experts convened to discuss the recovery of H.L. Hunley, puts it beautifully in the foreword:

[This report] ably brings to the world the complexity of such a multi-faceted project, its own history, including the search and finding, the engineering problems and solutions, the archaeology, conservation, historical research, public access, and future exhibition plans. Clearly evident is the fact that it has all required perseverance, dedication, and exceptional time management from not only the archaeologists, researchers, and conservators, but those who managed the funding and the enormous resources required to complete the project. What editors Robert Neyland and Heather Brown have brought together and presented in what follows is a fitting and lasting tribute to the project’s many and various constituents and, like H.L. Hunley itself, it is a monument to its builder and to its three brave crews, young men once lost and now known to all.

The 321-page document can be downloaded free of charge in pdf format here.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History