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Massive Venezuela petroglyphs mapped for the first time

History Blog - Sat, 2017-12-09 00:25

Large rock art panels discovered recently on islands in the Atures Rapids in the Amazonas region of western Venezuela have been thoroughly mapped and studied for the first time by researchers from University College London (UCL). The engraved images of animals, people and symbols were carved by local people up to 2,000 years ago. (Shortly after the Spanish arrived, Jesuit missionaries identified the Adoles as the inhabitants of this area, but we don’t know who was there before.) Thanks to the historically low level of the Orinoco River, more petroglyphs have been exposed. Researchers found eight groups of rock art on five islands. Some of these engravings, individual and as a group, are huge. One panel is festooned with 93 petroglyphs over an area of 3270 square feet. A horned snake from another panel is 100 feet long just on its own. These are some of the largest rock art panels ever found anywhere in the world.

It was a challenging task recording such large and spread-out petroglyphs carved into high rock faces in the middle of the Orinoco River. That’s why this study is unprecedented. Others have studied the artworks, but were not able to get anywhere near as close and as a detailed a view as the University College London archaeologist. The team employed robot aides in the form of drones to take aerial overhead pictures of the engraved surfaces that were out of puny human reach. Every petroglyph was documented in photographs and their dimensions and positioning measured using photogrammetry (a technology that derives precise spatial data from photographs by creating 3D renderings of the pictures). Researchers also studied the relationship between the Atures Rapids petroglyphs, their archaeological and cultural context and the links they suggest between the locals who carved them and other indigenous peoples of pre-Hispanic Latin America.

The paper’s author Dr Philip Riris (UCL Institute of Archaeology) said: “The Rapids are an ethnic, linguistic and cultural convergence zone. The motifs documented here display similarities to several other rock art sites in the locality, as well as in Brazil, Colombia, and much further afield. This is one of the first in-depth studies to show the extent and depth of cultural connections to other areas of northern South America in pre-Columbian and Colonial times.”

“While painted rock art is mainly associated with remote funerary sites, these engravings are embedded in the everyday – how people lived and travelled in the region, the importance of aquatic resources and the seasonal rhythmic rising and falling of the water. The size of some of the individual engravings is quite extraordinary.” […]

In one panel surveyed, a motif of a flautist surrounded by other human figures probably depicts part of an indigenous rite of renewal. Performances conceivably coincided with the seasonal emergence of the engravings from the river just before the onset of the wet season, when the islands are more accessible and the harvest would take place.

The research is part of the Cotúa Island-Orinoco Reflexive Archaeology Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Principal Investigator, Dr José Oliver (UCL Institute of Archaeology), said: “Our project focuses on the archaeology of Cotúa Island and its immediate vicinity of the Atures Rapids. Available archaeological evidence suggests that traders from diverse and distant regions interacted in this area over the course of two millennia before European colonization. The project’s aim is to better understand these interactions.”

“Mapping the rock engravings represents a major step towards an enhanced understanding of the role of the Orinoco River in mediating the formation of pre-Conquest social networks throughout northern South America.”

The UCL research team’s findings have been published in the journal Antiquity and can be read here. It’s openly available for now (be warned: that could change) and makes a fascinating read.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

How to host a spice-tasting party!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2017-12-08 22:32

On Sunday, December 3, the gentles of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn convened to sample the results of our second redaction challenge. I challenged our cooks to mix a blend of spices to create a Powder Forte and a Powder Fine — two frequently occurring additions to many a medieval recipe.

The base recipes can be viewed here

After an initial flurry of “where can I get galingale?” and “can I swap some grains of paradise for long pepper?”, we made a group spice order and set to blending. Some folks used modern grinders, while others employed mortar and pestle, sifted the results through a sieve, then ground the remainder — over and over until the spice reached a consistent texture.

It turns out that online suggestions for “how to host a spice tasting party” aren’t very helpful, and I found myself in the position of creating a template for doing so. To sample and compare the dozen spice mixtures, we used sandwich picks dipped in canola oil, then dipped in the spice mixture. I made gluten-free and oyster crackers available to cleanse the palate between tastings, though at least one individual dipped the cracker and then tasted the spice on the crackers.

Sandwich picks

The strong powders and fine powders were arranged together; some folks tried the fines then the fortes, others in reverse. It didn’t seem to make a difference to the tasting which spice combination we tasted first, but it was very nice to be able to sample fortes and fines side-by-side.

Once again we had an array of flavors from the same recipe. There were no clear favorites among the group, and more than once I heard “this is good, but I like mine better.” (Given the nature of the recipe, this was not a surprising comment; we were making blends to suit or own tastes.)

As a group, we decided that this methodology did work well to sample the various spices. After more thought, I would recommend the following additions, should you hold your own spice-tasting event:

  • Provide water for palate cleansing.
  • Offer a mild bread, chicken cubes, and warm elbow pasta to carry spice on — some folks though it odd to be eating spices plain, and this would overcome that feeling (plus add some different flavor to think about how the mixture would “work” with different base ingredients).
  • Find sampling dishes that are flat, without sharp corners and crevices, so the spice doesn’t get lodged into unreachable corners.

Once again, we had many folks participate, and we all look forward to using their mixtures in future challenges!

Lady Meadbh ni Clerigh
Dominion of Myrkfaelinn

Photos by Elska á Fjárfelli

Categories: SCA news sites

Earliest known slave remains found in Delaware

History Blog - Fri, 2017-12-08 00:21

An archaeological excavation at the historic site of Avery’s Rest in Rehoboth Bay, Delaware, has unearthed the skeletal remains of some of Delaware’s earliest colonists. The inhumation burials of 11 individuals interred in the late 1600s include three of African descent, one of them a child. These are the earliest known remains of enslaved people ever discovered in Delaware.

Seven of the eight individuals of European descent were neatly buried in a single row. The three African Americans — two adult men and one child of about five years of age at time of death — were interred near the seven but in a separate section. Black and white were all buried in coffins, although only the nails have survived. The people of African descent were not related to each other and their mitochondrial DNA places their ancestral origins in west, central and east Africa. Most of their lives, if not all of them, were spent in the mid-Atlantic area of what is now the United States. Rehoboth Bay was wilderness then, and officially part of Pennsylvania and therefore a Dutch colony.

The hardship of their lives was writ large on their bones. One of the people of African descent, an adult male about 35 years of age, received a blow to the head so severe it chipped a piece of bone off his right eyebrow and fractured his face. Experts believe it wasn’t likely to be the strike that killed him, but it did happen at the time of his death and likely contributed to it. His spine showed signs of heavy labour and his front teeth have grooves from where he bit down hard on his clay pipe while doing all that heavy labour. All of the remains show signs of copious dental issues: cavities, abscesses, extractions. One petite 4’11” adult woman was missing all but six of her teeth.

Avery’s Rest is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because it was part of the vast 800-acre property of Captain John Avery who moved to Rehoboth Bay from Maryland in 1675 shortly after the colony changed hands from the Dutch to the British. A ship’s captain in Maryland, he grew his plantation into a major agricultural and livestock concern, planing corn, wheat and most of all, tobacco. There is evidence of a peach orchard on the property as well, some of the first peach trees imported to what would become the United States.

John Avery became a very wealthy and prominent community leader in Delaware, attaining the rank of captain in the militia and receiving an appointment as Justice of the Peace of Whorekill Court in 1678. He doesn’t seem to have endeared himself to many in the role; he was frequently reported for going into rages and showering his fellow justices with abusive language. He was said to have beaten one of them with a cane. They didn’t have long to put up with his irascibility. Avery died in 1682, leaving his plantation to his wife and three children. His will and estate inventories list 50 head of cattle, other assorted livestock, tools, furniture and two humans bound in chattel slavery valued at 3,000 pounds of tobacco apiece.

Despite its significant history as a very early plantation owned by a first-generation English colonist and its including on the National Register, in 2005 the site was acquired by real estate developers to build housing. The Archaeological Society of Delaware and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs asked the developers allow them to dig a trench or two on the off-chance there might be some archaeological material from the earliest days of European and African presence in Delaware and the developers magnanimously granted them permission to excavate the site in 2006 and 2007. Construction, and the attendant destruction of anything left unexcavated, went forward after that, but the teams continued to explore neighboring land.

The teams excavating the site were hoping to find the remains of the main house Captain Avery and his family lived in, but they never did. By 2007, they had found wells, one wooden well lining (preserved in the waterlogged environment), fence lines, clay pits, glass beads, numerous pipe bowls, Spanish coins, metal pieces from horse fittings, assorted pottery and a large number of animal bones, likely left behind during the process of butchering all that stock mentioned in the estate documents for trade, not for family consumption.

These were meaningful discoveries from a social historical perspective, providing researchers with a rare opportunity to explore the day-to-day operations of an early colonial plantation that was large and prosperous enough to anchor the trade and supply of the British residents of the New World colony. They weren’t the structures the archaeologists had been hoping for, however, so over the next few years they kept looking for them on adjoining properties.

In 2012, they found something else entirely: the first human remains. That triggered a legal requirement that next-of-kin be sought to grant state permission to excavate and study the remains. Three Avery descendants stepped up and granted said permission. By September of 2014, 11 bodies had been unearthed and the Smithsonian Institution’s experts were on the ground to recover the remains and move them to the Smithsonian laboratory for thorough analysis.

So thorough was it that the analysis has taken three years to complete. The age, gender, ethnic origin of the decedents are now known, with even more detail to come.

“Avery’s Rest provides a rare opportunity to learn about life in the 17th century, not only through the study of buried objects and structures, but also through analyses of well-preserved human skeletal remains,” said Dr. Owsley, who leads the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The bone and burial evidence provides an intriguing, personal look into the life stories of men, women and children on the Delaware frontier, and adds to a growing body of biological data on the varied experiences of colonist and enslaved populations in the Chesapeake region.”

Bone and DNA analysis confirmed that three of the burials were people of African descent and eight were of European descent. Coupled with research from the historical record, Dr. Owsley further determined that the European burials may be the extended family of John Avery and his wife Sarah, including their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. However, genetic markers alone are not sufficient to determine the exact identities of the remains. […]

The remains will stay in the custody of the Smithsonian, where they will assist ongoing work to trace the genetic and anthropological history of the early colonial settlers of the Chesapeake region. Delaware law strictly forbids the public display of human remains.

While the Smithsonian works the science, Delaware, the Archaeological Society and other historical organizations are launching a research project in the hopes of discovering the identities of the 11 people found buried at Avery’s Rest. Any information they uncover would become part of an exhibition, be it names, places, dates or facial reconstructions.

“Delaware’s history is rich, fascinating and deeply personal to many of us who call this state home,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “Discoveries like this help us add new sharpness to our picture of the past, and I’m deeply grateful to the passionate community of historians, scientists and archeologists who have helped bring these new revelations to light.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Puzzling runes found on whetstone in Oslo

History Blog - Thu, 2017-12-07 00:02

Archaeologists excavating in Oslo, Norway, have discovered a medieval whetstone inscribed with puzzling runes. The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) was digging there as part of the Follo Line Project, an archaeological survey of the path of a new railway being built between Oslo and Ski. The railway culvert will run through Oslo’s old medieval center, hence the need for a careful archaeological exploration of the site.

In late October, the team unearthed a small but comparatively thick piece of slate from the smallest trench. The stratigraphy indicated it was medieval, dating between 1050 and 1500. The archaeologist who found it noticed with his keenly trained eye that one side of it was inscribed with some runes. This made the little slate a very large discovery because few runic inscriptions have been found in proper archaeological excavations. Later examination identified the slate as a fragment of a whetstone. Whetstones with runic inscriptions are even more unusual. One three other have been found before in Norway, one from the Viking period, two from the Middle Ages.

The runes weren’t quite legible on the freshly excavated slate, nor could they be read in photographs. It had to go to a laboratory and be viewed under a microscope to identify which runes were used and to begin to unravel the inscription. Experts have been struggling to solve the runic puzzle ever since.

Some of the runes are difficult to identify, but it seems that the runes æ, r, k, n, a appear on the whetstone. But it is not easy to tell what they mean.

NIKU’s rune experts have come up with several possible interpretations, ranging from a person’s name to word to words like “scared,” “ugly” and “pain.”

“This is probably an unsuccessful attempt to write a name or another rather trivial inscription, but we can see that this is hardly a trained rune carver,” says Karen Holmqvist, a Ph.D. fellow at NIKU and a specialist in runes.

The findings contribute to the perception that the art of runic writing was relatively widespread in medieval Norway. But many writers would probably find themselves in a borderland, where they knew about writing, but were not literate.

“It is perhaps not that strange that we find some strange spellings and some mirrored runes. Just think how you yourself wrote when you were learning to write,” says Holmqvist.

The medieval person behind this whetstone inscription probably belonged to this group. They knew about the runes, but probably mixed them up a bit.

That’s a kind way of putting it. According to a blog entry co-authored by Kristine Ødeby, archaeologist and field supervisor on the Follo Line excavations, and Karen Holmqvist, the runes can read in a multitude of ways, and this carver seems to have been inconsistent and confused. Runes are confusing enough as it is, with a lot of variables to account for in their interpretation. It’s hard to tell which way is up, for example (literally, not metaphorically). It’s also not certain whether they were written left to right or right to left. (Runes are flexible like that, and it wasn’t until later in the Middle Ages that left to right runic inscriptions became the norm.)

Ødeby and Holmqvist ask readers to comment with any suggestions and ideas for possible interpretations, so if you speak fluent rune (or even just read Norwegian so you don’t have to rely on terrible online translators like I do), chime in with your ideas about what our whetstone-carving friend might have been trying to say.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Brewers Guild Promotes Participation

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:04

by Viscountess Lucilla Theresa de Courtenay

Recently, the Æthelmearc Guild of Brewers, Vintners, and Meadhers (affectionately known simply as the Brewers Guild) implemented a program designed to promote greater participation among its members as well as to entice new people to join the ranks: Points for Participation.

“We have been struggling for a couple of years to increase participation in guild activities,” said THL Madoc Arundel, the current head of the guild. “There are a lot of really decent brewers in this kingdom, and guild activities provide an opportunity for them to showcase their product.”

The goal of the new program is not just to get more brewers involved in A&S competitions, but to promote participation in many of the other opportunities available, such as roundtable discussions, teaching and attending classes, and largess.

“We looked at the archery and thrown weapon communities for inspiration. The ranking programs they have encourage people to shoot or throw as often as possible while rewarding improvement in their skills,” said Madoc. “The programs did not translate directly to the brewing community, but we were able to adapt the basic concept to a construct that works for us.”

Harvest Raid roundtable, 2017.

The new program works on an individual rolling 12-month cycle, meaning that brewers can jump in at any time without missing out on opportunities. Points are awarded for attending or hosting roundtables; organizing, judging, entering, and winning competitions; publishing research or informative articles; contributing to social activities or largess; and teaching or attending classes with a brewing theme. The scale rewards both the breadth and depth of participation. As points are tallied, and thresholds are met, guild members receive a token of recognition of their advancement from Novice to Grandmaster.

Leading into the implementation of this new program, the guild has been promoting greater visibility of its members throughout the Kingdom. Beginning with the regional representatives reaching out within their regions to provide more organized opportunities. Currently, the goal is a minimum of one roundtable and one regional competition within each region every year. Regional representatives are also reaching out to event stewards and local A&S officers to ensure brewing considerations are taken into account whenever an A&S activity is planned for an event. Regional representatives and their contact information can be found at http://brewers.aethelmearc.org/org.html.

Since the implementation of the program in late September, roundtables appeared in Regions 2 and 4 with a focus on the historical ingredients in the various beverages brought by the participants. “I think a big part of AE brewers … is that they also don’t focus on the historic part of the drink. Isn’t that what we’re trying to change?” quipped THL Elska á Fjárfellí, the Region 5 guild representative. Elska is the point person on revamping and restructuring the guild’s competition program to make it easier for local groups to conduct a brewing competition either as a standalone activity or as part of a larger A&S activity. Additionally, the Fall Æcademy included three classes focused on alcoholic beverages: “What the Irish Drank” by Baron Charles O’Connor; “Judging an SCA Brewing Competition” by THL Madoc; and “Brewing a Basic Beer” by Lord Ulf the Barelegged. Classes are being developed or encouraged in future Æcademy and schola events, as well as War Practice.

Since the inception of the new program, sixteen people have qualified for the initial activity level of reward and two people have qualified for advanced levels. Any brewer, judge, teacher, student, activity coordinator, or A&S officer can report brewing activity for themselves or their constituency by sending an email to BVMGuild.Points@hotmail.com with the type of activity, the date/event, and the names of the people participating. “We are planning to announce the first group of achievers at BMDL Twelfth Night,” stated Madoc.

Learn more about the Points for Participation program at the unofficial AE brewers Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/248448708659644/) or the official Brewers Guild website (http://brewers.aethelmearc.org/).



Categories: SCA news sites

3D animation of Sculptor’s Cave

History Blog - Wed, 2017-12-06 00:25

Sculptor’s Cave in Moray, Scotland, is an archaeological gem among archaeological gems. It is the main cave of several set in the craggy ocean-facing cliff that was used by local peoples for millennia. In the Bronze Age deposits of jewelry and ceramics were made there, and the abundance of human skeletal remains, many of children, from that era also found in the cave suggests it held some ritual funerary significance. The skull of one the children appears to have been defleshed post-mortem. Less sensational that the defleshed child but just as meaningful historically are the Pictish symbols carved on the walls of the entrances.

This unique location has been kept hidden from public view (from most people’s view, for that matter) for its own protection and for everyone else’s because it is only accessible at low tide. That’s going to change now, at least virtually.

A new project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland and carried out by Professor Ian Armit and Dr Lindsey Büster at the University of Bradford, has created a high-resolution animated model of the cave. Through laser scanning and structured light scanning, the details of the cave have been digitally preserved to allow for more in-depth exploration of the cave – and the Pictish symbols – no matter whether the tide is high.

“The Sculptor’s Cave is a fascinating location, known for decades for the richness of its archaeology and for the unusual Pictish carvings around its entrance,” said Professor Armit of Bradford’s School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences. “This walk-through animation allows us to study the carvings in detail, and to present this inaccessible site to the public through online and museum displays. It also ensures that we can preserve the cave and the carvings digitally for future generations to study.”

Here is an animated flythrough of Sculptor’s Cave in the 3D model created using the scan data. This is just a glimpse of what’s to come. Next year the results of the study will be published by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The animated model will be deployed at the Elgin Museum so that visitors will be able to see the cave and its carvings in detail.

In keeping with the mini-theme I seem to have accidentally developed over the past couple of days, Historic Environment Scotland has launched an even more ambitious digitization project that will see 50,000 items from its archives scanned, uploaded to the web and made freely available to all. The records include photographs taken by HES’ predecessor organizations, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Historic Scotland. For more than a century (1908 to 2015) RCAHMS’ brief was documenting everything it could about Scotland’s history as seen in physical structures and the environment. There are a thousands of aerial photos shot from airplanes, pictures of buildings (and therefore street life) throughout the decades, among many other things. RCAHMS merged with Historic Scotland, steward of many of Scotland’s listed buildings, in 2015. As a result HES today has an enormous collection of photographs stored in their headquarters Edinburgh, but they’re only accessible to people who can get to John Sinclair House in person.

The digitization initiative will take those 50,000 photos out of their green archive boxes and into pixel space. Once the scanning is complete, the images will be uploaded to Canmore, HES’ online catalogue of its enormous collection of records (including a fine array of historic photographs like Misses Reid and Bonshaw looking fierce in their garden on July 10th, 1890) and catalogue entries of archaeological sites, survey data, architecture and tons more.

Not related to the theme but too awesome not to genuflect before is a new exhibition at Stirling Castle called The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne. It recreates key events and locations in the Jacobite rebellions in LEGO. That’s right, one million bricks and 2000 tiny soldiers were used to bring history to life for all LEGO-loving peoples, child and child-at-heart alike. Two of the scenes include miniature buildings whose real life versions are cared for by Historic Environment Scotland. One is the starkly white medieval tower house Corgarff Castle. The other Ruthven Barracks, a military fortification on a high promontory built after the 1715 Jacobite uprising by George II to keep the ever-restless Jacobites from re-rising. It didn’t work in the long-term and the barracks were taken by a frontal assault in 1746.

The Jacobite conflict writ in LEGO is currently opened to the public on Monday and runs through February 2nd, 2018. You can even make a day of it and visit Ruthven Barracks after you see mini-Ruthven at Stirling. Unfortunately the hat trick is not an option because Corgarff Castle is closed until the spring. (It is in the middle of nowhere anyway, so probably would have made it a multi-day LEGO inspired pilgrimage.)

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Google, British Museum digitize Maya collection

History Blog - Tue, 2017-12-05 00:29

The British Museum and the Google Arts & Culture have been collaborating on creating a complex, in depth digital virtual museum experience for years now. It’s been an exceptionally fruitful partnership from the outset, when the the new Google subsite dedicated to the British Museum’s physical structure, contents, permanent collection and exhibitions opened two years ago. Google Street View’s cameras crawled the entire space and put one of the world’s greatest encyclopedic museums online for everyone in the world with an Internet connection to explore in mind-blowing detail. The collection was rephotographed, this time in the massive resolution of gigapixel cameras, so objects could be viewed on computer screens in far greater dimensions than in person.

Their latest endeavour is dedicated to the preservation of endangered Mayan cultural knowledge and artifacts. It’s a fully functional guided tour, not just of the British Museum’s Maya collection, but of Mayan history and culture. If you go through the virtual exhibition in order, you’ll first encounter an introduction by writer Kanishk Tharoor who gives a summary of who the Maya were and are, a timeline of key events, what we know about their cities, architecture, engineering, language, art and science. That’s followed by a piece by historian Robert Bevan on what the collapse of Mayan cities can tell us about our own present. It’s highly relevant to the British Museum’s collection because since the Spanish burned almost all of the written manuscripts, in order to read Mayan history we have to rely on inscriptions carved in stone.

Atmospheric erosion has caused many in situ written carvings to become illegible, but a new collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and the British Museum is working to combat this gradual destruction. Using 19th century photographs and casts, combined with 21st century digital techniques, means fresh texts to decipher, and a deeper understanding of the ancient Maya.

The project’s source material is the work of the much-overlooked Victorian explorer Alfred Maudslay who traveled through Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras in the 1880s. He used the up-to-date photographic technique of dry plate photography and hauled tons of plaster of Paris with him to create moulds of some of the monuments he encountered, and paper to make impressions (‘squeezes’) of others. 400 of the resulting casts and 800 glass plate negatives are now in the British Museum, among the 100,000 American items held in its collection.

Now, all of these casts and squeezes are being 3D-scanned, allowing researchers to manipulate the images in a way that will assist in translating the Maya inscriptions. Alongside this, an immersive VR journey is being created that takes children, via objects in the museum, to see the ruins in the forests of the Maya region, complete with howler monkeys and soaring ceiba trees that, amongst the Maya, are thought to connect the underworld with the sky. The project is giving us a clearer picture of what happened to the ancient Maya.

Bevan’s article includes embeds of some of the newly digitized Mauslay photographs and 3D models of the moulds he took. You cannot download them, sad to say, but click on the embeds to see them in their fully zoomable fulgor. The next section is a multi-media slide show that explain Mayan writing, the conservation of Mauslay’s casts, the history of Guatemalan masks and the many challenges of preserving Mayan monuments using pictures and animated street view captures. It culminates in a YouTube video of curator Dr. Jago Cooper speaking about Maudslay’s work and how the British Museum can help Google to preserve Mayan history.

The next section is another slideshow, this one about the history of the museum’s Mayan collection which is of comparatively recent extraction. They didn’t really start collecting Maya artifacts until the mid-19th century. Maudslay’s casts didn’t join the party until the 1920s and the best known original artifacts only arrived in the 1930s when coffee planter Charles Fenton donated his important private collection to the museum. The two slideshows after this one focus on the explorer and his casts, followed by a huge photos and 3D models of the casts.

Because it’s Google we’re talking about, there are opportunities to take a virtual stroll through ancient Maya archaeological sites, explore their cities in 360-degree flexibility, even tools for teachers to design virtual trips through space and time for their classes. It’s an ambitious assemblage with a deep bench of content and media to devour. So what are you waiting for?

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

In Quest of Volunteers – Perfect Period Feast Heian-kyō 2020

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2017-12-04 12:17

Unto the people of Æthelmearc, greetings!

There is a small team of individuals currently working on an all-day immersive event set in 16th Century Japan planned for September 2020.

Right now, the team is looking for additional volunteers who are interested in committing 3 years to helping bring this event to fruition.

Right now we are looking for:

+ Someone who would be interested in heading up our fund raising activity.

+ Someone with a background in the technical side of theater who can help us design and plan the “set” to turn the event space into an appropriately dressed Japanese house.

+ Craftspeople in pottery, wood, and fabric to assist with creating the items needed for the set and for use during the day.

If you have any questions or are interested in signing up to be on the staff, feel free to write the event stewards below. We plan to have a general question and answer session, as well as a staff meeting, at Æthelmearc Kingdom Twelfth Night, plus additional sessions at upcoming events this spring.

Baroness Orianna Fridrikskona, Event Steward • email
Baroness Othindissa Bykona, Deputy Event Steward • email

Categories: SCA news sites

Ancient orca geoglyph rediscovered in Peru

History Blog - Mon, 2017-12-04 00:33

The arid desert coast of southern Peru is famed worldwide for its enormous geoglyphs, the abstract, geometric and zoomorphic shapes known as the Nazca lines after the ancient Peruvians who moved rocks to expose the topsoil creating a line-drawing effect when viewed by the aliens who used them as a landing pad. (Sorry about that. I haven’t watched the History channel in years and still the sarcasm flows out of me like honey. Really bitter, eye-rolly honey.) It seems the Nazca’s abilities may have antecedents, however, in another culture that preceded them, and a recently rediscovered geoglyph may hold the key to unlocking the early history of this magnificent art form.

In the 1960s, German archaeologists discovered a geoglyph of an orca in the Palpa Valley, an area neighboring Nazca in the same Ica region about 250 miles south of Lima. It was photographed at the time but not documented properly so its exact location was lost and nobody could find the enormous killer whale drawn into the side of a hill for 50 years. In 1997, a team of researchers from the German Archaeological Institute’s Commission for Archeology of Non-European Cultures (KAAK) started a project in cooperation with the Instituto Andino de Estudios Arqueológicos (INDEA) to study, map, document and restore all the great line drawings in Nazca and Palpa. There are thousands of geoglyphs in less than hospitable terrain, and when they haven’t been maintained or even seen in decades, they can be hard to track down.

Team leader Johny Isla Cuadrado, head of the Decentralized Office of Culture of the Ica region, saw the old picture of the orca geoglyph in an archaeological catalog published in the 1970s. The description was confused and not specific enough as to the size and find site for Isla to figure out where it might be. When he researched it further, he found the area’s residents had no idea where it was either. He used Google Earth to search for it but it the elements had not been kind and the design was difficult to discern. Well, impossible for any normal human. Archaeologists are special, though, and he was able to pick out clues to possible locations of the geoglyph here and there. Finally he found the long-lost orca the old fashioned way: he tromped the desert hills until he saw it with his own two eyes.

That was January of 2015. This spring, Isla returned with Ministry of Culture experts to clean and restore it so it would again be visible to the untrained human eye instead only satellites and archaeologists who know what to look for. Now their work is done and the geoglyph is back to its former splendor inhabiting the characteristic shape of early Peruvian killer whale iconography.

About 70 meters (230 feet) long, the orca is unusual in several ways. Its location on a rolling hillside distinguishes it from the Nazca lines which were all more practically placed on flat plateaus. Archaeologists believe this was one of the earliest stages of this type of artwork. It is found elsewhere among the Palpa geoglyphs, while very rarely at Nazca. It seems the successors of the tradition simplified the task by selecting more ideal surfaces. The hilly terrain also makes the older line drawings more susceptible to damage from erosion.

The creators of the orca drew it on the hillside in negative relief by removing a thin layer of stones to form the outline of the figure. This is similar to the technique used by the people of the Nazca culture to create geoglyphs from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 800.

But some contrasting parts of the rediscovered pattern, such as the eyes, were created out of piles of stones, the researchers said. This technique was used by people of the older Paracas culture, who occupied the region from around 800 B.C. to 200 B.C.

Soil tests have indicated that the orca geoglyph dates from around 200 B.C. The style of the pattern and its location on a hillside, rather than on a plain, suggest that it may be one of the oldest geoglyphs in the region, said one of Isla’s colleagues, Markus Reindel of the German Archaeological Institute, in an interview in a German newspaper.

The Paracas culture, you might recall, produced some of the most exquisite textiles and knits in the ancient world, some of which were used to wrap mummy bundles and survived in extraordinarily vibrant color thanks to the arid climate. They were also innovators in the creation of pottery.

Peru would like to make this remarkable early example of some of its most beloved cultural patrimony accessible to the public, but they can’t because terrible people are terrible and have basically stolen the land using some offensively stupid loophole that allows any grasping greedo to claim huge swaths of state-protected property as “uncultivated lands.” This is a major problem in Peru right now, land traffickers who snatch public land, even in a desert, even covered in priceless ancient art, enclose it and exploit it giving not a rat’s ass about the impact their construction/agriculture/whatever has on the patrimony it abuts.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

The Fencers’ Cult of the Queen in Æthelmearc

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-12-03 22:06

by Don Corwyn Montgomery

Each reign, a celebration is held, the celebration of the Queen’s Rapier Championship. Through our efforts on the field, by bringing our best training and fighting wholly with our hearts, we praise the Queen through our actions, knowing full well at the end of they day one of us will be given the important duties of being the Queen’s rapier champion until another is chosen with the following reign. While we admire the excellence of the skills of those on the field, the praise of the tournament is rightly only for the Queen. Some may ask why the fencers have such a cult of worship built around the Queen and from whence did it originate.

The inspiration of documented history demonstrates the cult of the Queen being foremost in Elizabethan England during the reign of that illustrious and world-shaping woman. Notable heroes of the day such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh credited their renown to efforts on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, and their examples were not isolated but were instead forefront of those common of many men contemporary to them. A culture grew with this as instinct for soldiers of the realm with echoes continuing through England’s history with successive queens, most notably with Queen Victoria and again in the modern day with Elizabeth II.

Historical fiction enhances the importance of fighting for the Queen in the works of Dumas both in the original literary forms and further pursued in representations in film. Echoes of the same devoted fascination are brought forth in Rostrand’s writings as well. In the wake of D’Artagnan and his companions and Cyrano de Bergerac, the hopeful ambition of everyone who lifts a rapier is to serve the Queen.

In the culture of the Society, these inspirations took root throughout the Known World, but in Ansteorra, they were formative in the foundations of a Kingdom remarkable in its history as a leader of progress for Society fencing. The enthusiastic vigor for the cult of the Queen sparked imitation and competition in other kingdoms new and old with each developing a unique approach for their own pursuit of devotion to their respective Crowns.

In Æthelmearc, the Queen is first and foremost for fencers in our own unique fashion.  With the first reign, the King and Queen established the Order of the White Scarf to grant a firmament for their fencers, but discussion of who would claim the fencers of the kingdom was silenced by Queen Caryl when she firmly stated, “They are mine.” Having been so lovingly adopted by our Queen, we have returned that love tenfold perpetually. The Order of the White Scarf invited the Queen to be an honorary member of the Order and upon stepping down as a Lady of the Rose has been welcomed to advise and guide the Order with noble wisdom beyond our ken, and this tradition has and will continue.

The love of the Queen for the fencers and the fencers for the Queens has been circular and brought forth great things. Impressed with the friendship, service, and honor given her by the fencers of her guard, Queen Dorinda joined her friends on the field and led them when she returned as Princess on a following reign. This inspiration brought forth great works by many, the volley of which was returned by Her Grace Dorinda who showed the power of a Rose with steel thorns by winning the day repeatedly as Warlord, White Scarf, and Principal of the Æthelmearc Order of Defence. The garden of Roses with steel thorns continues to bloom in Æthelmearc as we are joined, inspired, challenged, and humbled again and again on the field by Elena, Rosalinda, Kallista, Branwyn, Ariella, and more.

As much as we respect the skill and tenacity of Roses as compatriots on the field, we are ever in awe of the constant gentle guidance and protection they have all given us, exerting their influence to shape the world to allow us to prosper, speaking kind words of encouragement when we need it or stern words of reprimand when we need it more, and setting an example of nobility, grace, and honor we ever strive to mirror within ourselves.

In this cultural phenomenon, we have our Cult of the Queen. We take joy in it and seek to preserve it. For all of those who have had the good fortune to serve a Queen closely, whether as a retainer, a guard, or a Champion, we are left with an indelible imprint and continuing devotion to them, a devotion that brings us to the feet of each new Queen hoping to serve again. The Crown of our Kingdom grant us the gift of the illusion of us recreating history serving them, and in our devotion to them, we are given the chance to allow them to experience the greatness and reality of Their Reign. It is a circular gift made more enduring and mighty the more we give.

Set forth for Queen’s Rapier Championship, and carry in your thoughts something greater to fight for than winning. You will be with the Queen, and you will have the opportunity to sing for Her in an opera of steel in harmony with your friends, glorifying She who makes our fight meaningful. Fight well. Fight with honor. Fight with courtesy.  Fight to praise the Queen.

Long live the Queen.
Ad gloriam Æthelmearc!

The event announcement for the Queen’s Rapier Tourney can be found here.

Categories: SCA news sites

Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs, some with embryos, found in China

History Blog - Sun, 2017-12-03 00:09

Archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs in northwestern China. The number is unprecedented — 215 eggs — but even more significant from a paleontological perspective is the discovery of 16 unsquashed, still perfectly 3D embryos among them. Before this, only six other well-preserved pterosaur eggs had been found and none of them had 3D embryos inside. Frozen in time at various stages of development, the embryos have to potential to reveal a great deal we don’t know about the creatures, their lives and behaviors. The team saw what a treasure they had when they CT-scanned the eggs.

The discovery has kicked off debate about whether the creatures could fly as soon as they hatched. Some previous theories had posited that they could, but the paper suggests otherwise. The research team found that the animal’s hind leg bones were more developed than the wings at the time of hatching, and none of the embryos were found with teeth.

“Thus, newborns were likely to move around but were not able to fly, leading to the hypothesis that Hamipterus might have been less precocious than advocated for flying reptiles in general … and probably needed some parental care,” the paper reads.

A separate commentary in Science calls the study “remarkable” but cautions against drawing firm conclusions about how the animal moved immediately after hatching. That’s because it’s hard to pinpoint just how close to hatching the embryos actually were.

The discoveries weren’t made all at once. They are the result of a decade of excavations between 2006 and 2016 at a site in the Turpan-Hami Basin of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Fossils of bones from hundreds of adult male and female pterosaurs (Hamipterus tianshanensis) and babies and young pterosaurs were found in the same location at the collection of eggs all 215 of which were excavated from a single sandstone block.

Pterosaur were toothed flying reptiles who lived on land near bodies of water and fed largely on fish. Their long beaks were filled with pointy teeth and they had a properly intimidating 13-foot wingspan. When they occupied the Turpan-Hami Basin site 120 million years ago in the Lower Cretaceous, there was a large lake which no longer exists. Because of the spectacular finds, scientists refer to the area as “Pterosaur Eden” although it definitely wasn’t one girl-one guy and the eggs appear to have been banished from terrestrial paradise by flash floods.

The sheer number of eggs found together, the researchers say, suggest they belonged to clutches from multiple female pterosaurs and indicate that the animals may have bred in colonies.

It’s worth noting that the massive discovery does not appear to include a nest. Jiang says the eggs had been moved from the place they were originally laid and may have been carried by water after a series of storms hit the animals’ nesting ground.

The findings have been published in the latest issue of the journal Science (requires subscription or payment to read).

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Eastern Results from the September 2017 LoAR

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2017-12-02 13:53

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

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

The following results are from the September 2017 Wreath and Pelican meetings.

EAST acceptances

Chiara Foscari. Name.

The submitter requested authenticity for 15th Century Venice. This name appears to meet that request.

Cristina Volpina. Household name House of the Golden Schelle and badge. (Fieldless) An escallop bendwise Or.

Nice late 14th century inn-sign household name!

Damian Ísólfsson. Name and device. Vert, a wolf rampant and in chief two crosses of Saint Brigid argent.

This name combines a Russian given name from 1148 with a Scandinavian byname from 1254, an acceptable lingual mix under Appendix C.

There is a step from period practice for the use of crosses of Saint Brigid.

Artist’s note: Please draw the crosses larger to fill the available space.

Damian Ísólfsson. Badge. (Fieldless) On a wolf’s paw print vert the rune Dagaz argent.

Commenters questioned whether a tertiary charge on a disjointed primary or secondary charge would need to overlie all parts of the charge. This is not the case. Unless specifically blazoned, such a tertiary charge would appear on the largest part of the charge (in this case, the central pad).

There is a step from period practice for use of a paw print.

Artist’s note: Please draw the rune larger, to fill the available space.

Dash Altan. Name.

This name was pended on the April 2017 Letter of Acceptances and Returns to allow commentary on the submitter’s request for authenticity for mid-13th century Mongol, which had not been summarized on the Letter of Intent. After the name was pended, the submitter dropped the authenticity request.

The submitter may be interested to know that this name is probably authentic for mid-13th century Mongol, although it would be more usually transliterated as Ta{sv} Altan. The {sv} code represents an s marked with a small v at the top, a character not found in English.

Dionise O Towie. Device. Azure, on a pale purpure fimbriated argent a domestic cat sejant guardant Or.

Eudes de Creully. Blazon correction (see RETURNS for other blazon correction). Purpure, a bend sinister ermine, overall a falcon Or.

Originally registered in December 2016 as Purpure, a bend sinister ermine, overall a falcon hooded Or, an artist’s note read: “Please let the submitter know that if a falcon is hooded, you cannot see its eyes, but without the hood there would be no tuft on the top of its head.” This note is appropriate for either blazon.

Guillermo Solario. Name and device. Per saltire sable and gules, a sun in his splendour argent.

This name combines a Spanish or Catalan given name with an Italian byname, an acceptable lingual mix under Appendix C.

The submitter has permission to conflict with Cosmo Solario, Per saltire sable and azure, a sun in his splendor argent, and with Giuseppe Ferraro, Per saltire sable and gules, on a mullet of eight points argent a rose gules.

Marcus Marius Felix. Name and device. Vert, two lynxes sejant addorsed argent.

Nice classical Roman name!

Mari Clock van Hoorne. Badge. (Fieldless) A domestic cat rampant contourny sable.

Nice badge!

Ravensdale, Stronghold of. Device. Per chevron inverted embattled argent and vert, in pale a raven displayed sable maintaining an apple branch fesswise vert fructed gules and a laurel wreath argent.

There is a step from period practice for the use of a bird displayed other than an eagle.

Roland le Taillefer. Name and device. Argent, an axe-head azure.

Nice device!

Síle Dhubh inghean Mhic an Mhadaidh. Device. Sable, an eagle rising wings displayed maintaining three annulets interlaced one and two argent.

Artist’s note: Please draw all charges larger, to fill the available space.

Sofya Gianetta di Trieste. Device. Or, a fleur-de-lys and on a chief gules two mullets of eight points Or.

Sofya Gianetta di Trieste. Badge. Or, a fleur-de-lys within an orle gules.

Nice badge!


EAST returns

Eudes de Creully and Eyda von Rothenburg. Blazon correction. (Fieldless) On a cup Or a falcon’s head erased gules.

Originally registered in December 2016 as On a cup Or a hooded falcon’s head erased gules, an artist’s note read: “Please let the submitter know that if a falcon is hooded, you cannot see its eyes, but without the hood there would be no tuft on the top of its head.” While we have reblazoned the full falcon in the device on this same letter, we are less inclined to change the blazon when it’s just the head. The tufts at the top of the head make up a good 15-20% of the height of the charge, and the hood (or lack thereof) is almost the entirety of the charge. Therefore, the tuft cannot be dismissed with an artist’s note as easily on this badge as it could on the device. Because the tuft affects the silhouette of the charge, it gives the unmistakable appearance of being part of a hawk’s hood.

If the submitters wish to have a hood-less falcon, they are encouraged to submit a badge change with a smooth-headed falcon


Filed under: Heraldry Tagged: LoAR

100 Minutes War Unofficial Court Report

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2017-12-02 13:47

On Saturday, November 18 th , AS LII, Their Majesties Tsar Ivan and Tsaritsa Matilde, did visit their Shire of Rusted Woodlands, and attended the 100 Minutes War.
In the morning, they went out to the Rapier field, and held a brief court. The following gentles were awarded thusly:

Name Award Scribe(s)
Ciaran Ua Meic Thire Silver Wheel Magdalena Lantfarerin

Alastor Tucker Silver Rapier Shoshana Gryffyth


From there, Their Majesties went to the Heavy list field. The following gentle was awarded thus:

Name Award Scribe(s)
Seamus Mac Neachtain Order of the Tygers Combatant Saerlaith ingen Chennetig


The Hundred Minutes War did take place, as well as rapier, thrown weapons, and archery tournaments.
In the afternoon, Tsar Ivan and Tsaritsa Matilde resumed court.
Ivan Shishov, leading the Rainbow Warriors, received a scroll by Nyfain merch Coel for captaining the winning team.
Hashiji Morikatsu, leading the Murder Ponies, received a scroll by Nyfain merch Coel for captaining the
second team.
The Children’s toybox was run, and the many newcomers attending their first, second or third event received tokens.

Additionally, these gentles were awarded as follows:
Name Award Scribe(s)

Fahad Rouf Award of Arms I:Marieta Charay C: Æsa feilinn Jossursdottir

Aislin of Surtr’s Brood Award of Arms I: Melina Al-Andalusiyya W: Dankwert Bathory C: Robin dit Dessaint

Jadidja the Jewess, called Jade Award of Arms I: Triona MacCasky C: Jonathan Blaecstan W: Galefridus Peregrinus

Arne Ulrichsson Silver Brooch Thyra (Þóra) Eiríksdóttir

Muirenn ingen Ciric Award of Arms Mýrún Leifsdóttir and
Ciaran Ua Meic Thire

Whistler o’ the Pit Artemis Eadaoin Chruitire
(The Artemis is a closed order. As
such, Whistler would be included
in the Order of the Golden Mantle,
and further receive a Grant of Arms)

Pádraig Ó Brádaig Award of Arms Mari Clock van Hoorne

Bjorvig Huldarson Silver Wheel I: Ellesbeth Donofrey
C: Jonathan Blaecstan

Yasemin bint al-hajjar Silver Wheel C&I: Brangwyne of Wentworth W: Alys Mackytoich

Hassan Ibn Abd Al-Malik Silver Wheel Aaradyn Ghyoot

Ulricch van Kathen’ Award of Arms Aelisif Hoarr Kona

Eyvindr Bjarnylr Award of Arms Perronnelle de Croy

Kári Gáranhirsson Golden Lyre

Kári Gáranhirsson performed for the assembled populace. His Majesty of the Mid also addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for an excellent event.
Thus concluded this year’s Hundred Minutes War.

Malcolm Bowman, Brigantia Principal Herald
PS – Thank you to Marian Kirkpatrick and Mabel Fortune for helping to herald court.

Filed under: Court Tagged: 100 Minutes War, court report

Third Roman temple unearthed in Silchester

History Blog - Sat, 2017-12-02 00:51

Archaeologists excavating near the village of Silchester in Hampshire have unearthed the remains of a Roman temple, the third discovered to date in the town.

Known in Roman times as Calleva Atrebatum after the Atrebates tribe who founded the town in the 1st century B.C., it was first an autonomous ally of Rome. It was an oppidum, a fortified settlement, which appears to have largely functioned as an independent city-state under a series of rulers. The first of these and the city founder was Commius, a Gallic chieftain who had aided Julius Caesar’s veni, vidi, vicing in Gaul before becoming switching sides to Vercingetorix and ultimately cutting a deal with Mark Anthony in which Antonius guaranteed Commius would never have to see a Roman again if he took his annoying crew across the Channel and stayed there for good. Coins have been found in Silchester with Commius’ name, so it seems he followed through and was indeed left alone.

A hundred years later times had changed. Now the Romans were interested. One Roman in particular. Specifically the biggest Roman kahuna of them all: the Emperor Nero. He bought Calleva, land, buildings, lock, stock and barrel, as his personal property. He seems to have taken the town as a kind of pet project, endowing it with major public buildings and converting the Atrebates settlement into a symbol of Roman industry, splendour and powder. Perhaps it was carrot, perhaps it was stick, probably a little of both, but he wanted his subjects way up at the perimeter of empire to feel his (and Rome’s) reach keenly. With imperial moneys flowing in for construction, the new city became a hive of proper Roman industry. Lots of new trades, lots of temples and other civic structures.

University of Reading archaeologists have been excavating in Silchester for years, always hoping to find a little Nero under the next shovel-full of soil. Two years ago they found a two-letter inscription and even that meagre material (albeit very cool because it was the second fragment of an inscription whose first fragment had been discovered in 1891) was enough to give them hope they might find Nero’s name somewhere. They didn’t that time, but this time they sure have.

The temple remains were found within the grounds of The Old Manor House in the Roman town at Silchester, along with rare bricks stamped with the name of the emperor, who ruled AD54-68.

Professor Michael Fulford CBE said: “The stamped bricks we’ve found were made just south from Silchester at a place called ‘Little London’.

“They were stamped to show the Emperor’s ownership of what was being built there, and are quite unique to Silchester.

“The stamping of Nero’s name on the bricks essentially acted like a batch marker.”

Four fragments of the bricks were found in a ritual pit within the temple site – the largest concentration ever found in the town – along with another three at the kiln site which made the tiles in Little London.

“These findings are a crucial piece of the jigsaw as we look to solve the mystery of Nero’s links to Silchester. This is something that has puzzled archaeologists for more than a century.

“Only a handful of Nero-stamped tiles have ever been found in the UK, so to unearth this many was very exciting.”

No references to specific deities have been found that would explain which temple this one, or which gods the other two temples were dedicated to. Fulford speculates that if there were only three temples total, they could each have been dedicated to the central triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva which was a common combination. There is no hard physical evidence either way.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

A portrait mummy and a particle accelerator walk into a bar…

History Blog - Fri, 2017-12-01 00:39

Okay so she didn’t walk, she was transported, and it wasn’t to a bar. It was to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory where the first time ever, a mummy was scanned by a particle accelerator. The mummy was donated years ago to the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University by the Hibbard family, wealthy patrons who had funded archaeological digs in Egypt in the early 20th century and received the mummy as a gift (goes the story). They gave this mummy, the remains of a little girl just five years old at the time of her death in the late 1st century A.D., with a portrait of her over her face as if she were peering through the bandages wrapped around her body. It’s that portrait that captured researcher’s interest.

The encaustic-on-wood panel paintings preserved in pristine color and detail by the dry desert heat of Egypt are so personal, evocative and haunting that they’ve been a hot-ticket item for wide sale and distribution in the shady antiquities trade since the first ones were found in the 17th century. Today the mummy portraits number about 900, most of them unearthed from the Faiyum necropolis southwest of Cairo, as was the little girl whose remains were discovered in Hawara at the entrance to the Faiyum oasis. The Faiyum portraits are the largest assemblage of ancient panel paintings still in existence today.

Only 100 of them are still intact and attached to the mummies they depict so expertly. The Hibbard mummy is part of an elite cadre, therefore. And yet, nobody in the archaeological department or on the staff of Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art had any idea she existed. She just hung out at the Seminary for a century, uncommented upon, until museum curator Essi Rönkkö saw her in person. With the curatorial team already in the process of collecting mummy portraits for an upcoming exhibition Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt (ie, Faiyum), Rönkkö took advantage of the unbelievably rare opportunity to add the girl’s mummy to the portraits going on display.

The child’s body is wrapped tightly in thick layers of linen wrappings, the outer layer of which cross each other in a painstaking geometric arrangement that secure and frame her painted visage. Painted with pigment and sealed with beeswax, the girl is shown with her hair is tied at the nape of her neck and wearing a red tunic with gold jewelry. Because of her secure bindings, there was no way for researchers to study her insides without causing damage, but now that they had a real matched pair, the bones still safely wrapped in their original bandages and the intact portrait above them, researchers wanted to examine both the human and her representation with the best technology at their disposal.

In August they took the mummy to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where she was given a CT scan. This provided the team with a 3D map of the mummy’s inside and confirmed she was about five years old when she died. On Monday they considerably upped the ante and took her to the Argonne National Laboratory in Evanston to see what the immense light power of X-ray scattering (the technology that revealed the contents of that medallion box from the French crypt so clearly I heard my own jaw drop when I first saw the video) could tell us about her.

“Intact portrait mummies are exceedingly rare, and to have one here on campus was revelatory for the class and exhibition,” said Marc Walton, a research professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. […]

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our undergraduate students — and for me — to work at understanding the whole object that is this girl mummy,” Walton said. “Today’s powerful analytical tools allow us to nondestructively do the archaeology scientists couldn’t do 100 years ago.”

The synchrotron experiment at Argonne is a modern-day version of 19th-century England’s “mummy unwrapping” parties, Walton said. The Northwestern team collaborated with scientists at Argonne and used the extremely brilliant high-energy synchrotron X-rays produced by Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source to probe the materials and objects inside the mummy, while leaving the mummy and her wrappings intact.

“From a medical research perspective, I am interested in what we can learn about her bone tissue,” Stock said. “We also are investigating a scarab-shaped object, her teeth and what look like wires near the mummy’s head and feet.”[…]

At the Advanced Photon Source, Stock and his team shined the pencil-shaped X-ray beam (about twice the diameter of a human hair) on areas of high-density in the mummy that were identified by the CT scan. They now will use the X-ray diffraction patterns as “fingerprints” to identify each crystalline material. For example, is the black rounded object seen on the CT scan a gold object or a rock?

The findings from the synchrotron experiment, CT scan and other scientific analyses and studies of history conducted by the students will help researchers and historians better understand the context in which the Garrett mummy was excavated in 1911 as well as Roman-period mummification practices. Also, conservators will use the information to best preserve the mummy.

“We’re basically able to go back to an excavation that happened more than 100 years ago and reconstruct it with our contemporary analysis techniques,” Walton said. “All the information we find will help us enrich the entire historic context of this young girl mummy and the Roman period in Egypt.”

Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt opens at the Block Museum of Art on January 13th and runs through April 22nd, 2018.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Kingdom Historian Position Open

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2017-11-30 09:00

Unto the Kingdom of Æthelmearc does Lady Aine O’Muirghesan, Kingdom Chronicler send greetings:

I write to you today to inform you that Dame Hrefna Ulfvarinnsdottir is unable to continue as Kingdom Historian because of changing responsibilities in her modern life. I would like to thank her for this tremendous service to our Kingdom.

This leaves us in need of a Kingdom Historian.

The Kingdom Historian is responsible for overseeing the compilation, preservation, and maintenance of historical information pertaining to the Kingdom of Æthelmearc and for making this history accessible to the public.

The office coordinates, promotes, and fosters Kingdom-related research, projects, events, and displays at the Kingdom, regional and local levels. Candidates for this office should have knowledge of Kingdom law and Officer Policies, especially that of Historian, Web Minister and Chronicler.

The position is considered a Lesser Kingdom Office, reports to the Kingdom Chronicler, and works in conjunction with other Kingdom Officers in promoting the study of Society and Kingdom history. Good communications skills, both written and oral, the ability to network and a curious nature will help greatly in this position.

We are also now in need of a Historian Web Minister as THL Grimolfr Ormalfsonust is stepping down as well. The Historian Web Minister works with the Kingdom Historian to update and maintain the Kingdom History website. I wish to also thank His Lordship for his service to the Kingdom as well.

If you would like further information about these positions please feel free to reach out to Dame Hrefna at ae.historian@aethelmearc.org.

If you are interested in applying for either of these positions please let me know at ae.chronicler@aethelmearc.org.

In Service,

Categories: SCA news sites

Best sphinx head from 1923 Ten Commendments found

History Blog - Thu, 2017-11-30 00:36

Archaeologists have unearthed another piece of colossal scenary from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 epic silent movie The Ten Commandments from the sands of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes near Pismo Beach, California. At least one filmmaker, enthusiasts, nature conservancy advocates and archaeologists have been looking for the fabled set since 1982. DeMille claimed to have deliberately destroyed it after filming wrapped to keep it from being used by copy-cats to get their movies to look as good as his without having to spend the Croesonian budgets studios allowed him. He said he had it dynamited to smithereens and bulldozed the remains into a trench.

A few bits and pieces were indeed found by filmmaker Peter Brosnan in 1983, who had to do assiduous research to even find the general area where this landmark film was shot. While there was a small flurry of interest from the Hollywood community when the first discoveries were made, the next shiny thing came along to distract potential moneyed supporters and Brosnan spent the next 30 years looking for more of the set and trying to raise funds to finish a documentary about the search that he’d been filming since 1982.

In 1998, Brosnan’s organization teamed up with a nature preserve advocacy now known as the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center and together they were able to recover more pieces of the set. DeMille had not in fact dynamited it, it seemed. There would have been evidence of that in the fragments, damage, scatter pattern, etc. He just broke the whole thing down and buried it and then the harsh elements did the rest, turning all that plaster and balsa wood to dust. Leave it to him to spin a yarn featuring a big dramatic action sequence complete with pyrotechnics when describing striking a set.

The pursuit of the fabled lost land of Fake Movie Egypt picked up steam in the second decade of the 21st century. An archaeological dig discovered the head of one of the 21 plaster sphinxes (originally each one was 12 feet tall and weighed five tons even though they were hollow) that DeMille used to line the dramatic corridor leading to the main gates of “The City of the Pharaoh,” a vista he borrowed from the Avenue of Sphinxes that connects the temples of Karnak and Luxor. The archaeologists were not able to transport the head so they reburied it hoping the sands would preserve it, but the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are not Luxor. They’re at the beach, after all, and there’s a saltwater marine layer that blocked the adhesion of the expoxy archaeologists had coated the plaster in for its protection. When they returned in 2014, the head had fallen to pieces. They were able to find another of the The City of the Pharaoh sphinx heads nearby that year, and that one was successfully recovered and conserved for display at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center.

In October of this year, archaeologists finally returned to the site. (Funding in an unending migraine, hence the irregular digs.) The excavation was very brief, from October 23rd through November 4th, but the team made a big find even in that brief window: a 300-pound piece of the head of another one of the plaster sphinxes, the largest and best preserved yet.

“The piece is unlike anything found on previous digs,” said Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center.

What makes the recent find significant is its size and how well-preserved researchers found it.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact,” Jenzen said. “This is significant and shows that we’re still learning unexpected facets to film historical movie production, such as the fact that objects in black-and-white films were actually painted extremely intense colors.” […]

The sphinx head, which is about 5 feet by 8 feet, is currently being stored so it can dry out for a few months before art restorers can get to work preserving the artifact.

“It”s 94 years old and has been buried near the beach for that long; it is wet. If you think of the drywall in your house buried for 94 years at the beach, that is the consistency of the material we are working with,” Jenzen said.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Report: King’s Crossing Birthday B(r)all

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-11-29 23:16

Here continues the Record of the Reign of Gareth and Juliana King and Queen of Sylvan Æthelmearc at the Kings Crossing Birthday B(r)all, October 28, AS 52, in Their Shire of Kings Crossing; as recorded by Lord Arias Beltran del Valle, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald to Their Majesties.

His Majesty Gareth, being unaccompanied by Her Majesty Juliana at this event, first asked those attending their first event to come forward and receive a drinking vessel, so that they would be better prepared for the many future events He hopes they attend.

His Majesty then called for the presence of Jodocus Van de Kloof. He spoke of Jodocus’ willing heart, serving his Shire of Kings Crossing as chatelaine and deputy seneschal, training to be a thrown weapons marshal, and helping to autocrat the day’s events. For this work was he Awarded Arms. Scroll by THL Zosia Kowaleska.

Jodocus Van de Kloof receives his AoA. Photo by Lady Katryn Whyte.

Katie (Katryn) Whyte was next summoned before His Majesty. She, too, was deeply involved in the day’s event, serving as feastocrat. She also helps to spread word of the Shire’s activities, both internally reviving the Shire newsletter, and externally helping to organize demos. She, too, was then Awarded Arms for this work. Scroll by Lady Gillian McGill de Verona.

Katie Whyte receives her AoA. Photo by Lord Jodocus Van de Kloof.

His Majesty then summoned Lord Alfonso de Santo Domingo before him. Word of Lord Alfonso’s success on the archery range had reached His Majesty’s ears, as had stories of his willingness to hold practices and provide equipment when most needed. For this was He minded to create him a member of the Order of the Golden Alce. Scroll by Baroness Graidhne ni Ruaidh.

Lord Alfonso receives a Golden Alce. Photo by Mistress Gabrielle de Winter.

His Majesty next demanded the presence of Her Ladyship Katerina Das Vogelen. Long has this gentle worked to promote the Arts and Sciences studied by the Society in her Shire, helping others find garb when needed and information on other crafts when she could not provide it, wearing a smile the entire time. For this did His Majesty name her to the Order of the Keystone. Scroll by Master Aelric Ravenshaw.

THLady Katerina receives a Keystone. Photo by Lady Katryn Whyte.

Lord Thrain inn Riki was then summoned to attend His Majesty. Lord Thrain serves as the Shire’s Knight Marshal, and has worked to insure that others might join him on the field well-equipped and well-trained to defend the Kingdom for His Majesty. So did He create Lord Thrain a member of the Order of the Keystone. Scroll by Gulsah Aydini and Lady Shirin of Susa.

Lord Thrain receives a Keystone. Photo by Lady Katryn Whyte.

His Majesty then called Lord Sven Tyrvisson to appear before him. His Majesty noted the decade passed that Lord Sven had at various times labored to run a local practice for the heavy fighters, hauling extra gear to and fro so all could practice, as well as serving as Shire Seneschal, and helping with demos and events. For this long history of service was he added to the number of the Order of the Millrind. Scroll by THL Sumayya al Ghaziyya.

Lord Sven receives a Millrind. Photo by Lady Katryn Whyte.

His Lordship Donnchadh Dubhghlas was summoned before His Majesty, who recalled the great number of years that his Lordship had served both Kingdom and Shire in a manner most worthy of recognition. So did His Majesty make that recognition known by calling forth His Most Noble Order of the Pelican, sending his Lordship with them to set a day and hour to sit vigil and contemplate his elevation to join that august Order. Scroll by Count Jehan de la Marche and Baroness Graidhne ni Ruaidh. Note: THL Donnchadh’s vigil and elevation will occur at Region 1 Twelfth Night in Misty Highlands on January 27.

THLord Donnchadh receives a Writ for the Pelican. Photo by Lady Katryn Whyte.

His Majesty then asked those present who contributed to the scrolls and tokens handed out that morning to stand and be recognized by the populace.

Their being no further business, the Court of His Majesty was then closed.

Categories: SCA news sites

2017 Battle of the Nations – Barcelona ~ Así es la vida

PainBank - Thu, 2017-05-11 21:51
La Monumental

As I sit here on the plane and reflect on my 6th year of campaigning in Europe at medieval tournaments, I ponder where to next and how shall I commit.  I am over traveling alone.  I have not the drive to do it myself any more.  Having someone with you to just talk with, assist you when confused on how things should work in an unknown place or even to decide on where to eat is an immeasurable bonus and happiness.  Then there is the question of what happens should you get hurt, who can assist you with the heavy stuff and getting to the airport or perhaps even home from the hospital?  These are the things to consider, which you might not even think of, until it is too late.

Trying to travel with armor sucks.  How do you pack? Where does it all go?  This makes things very difficult. What if you have a pole ax or halberd?  What is the length of the poles?  Can you buy a pole to put it on at the site?  Or do you get (my current usage) a snowboard bag and attach then axe head on site?  Then can you get it off, should you need to, for getting it home?  Is it now long enough to compete properly, 6.5 foot or 7 foot?  Of course, there is always the questions that occur from the airlines when you check it in!  What is this?  Sports equipment… then there is some waving of hands and attempts to explain it to them.  Of course, there is always questions, but usually they let you go.  I also pack in about 1/3 of my armor in the snowboard bag as well.  Of course, that is now two bags, so there is a cost to take it over, then one to bring it back.  So now you are looking at about a $200 extra cost for flying and returning. 

Then there are the emotions.  What is the greatest about fighting is also the worse.  The highs are followed by lows to the same degree.  Expectations, anticipations and preparations, which having lead one to the tournament, build you up to a climax that is an amazing experience.  This is something that is slightly different for every person and every tournament.  It is part of the sport and I am yet unsure how to suggest one cope with it.  Ride the emotional wave and enjoy life.

Then there is the fighting.  Every tournament except Battle of the Nations (BotN) seems to be pretty lax on armor and weapons requirements.  (I’m not sure about Dynamo Cup) And weapons for that matter, although they still check those out pretty well.  The actually marshaling to address safety concerns seems to be at a fairly high level all around.  There always seems to be some kind of issue that gets raised or set of issues at and I suppose there always will be until the sport matures to a professional degree.  Something like where you check in/out your arms and/or armor or some such.  But the logistics of that is pretty significant.  They were up to the old ways of running things some.  late rule changes, odd enforcements both in the list and out of the list for registration.  There are definitely some improvements to be made, but overall it is getting better a little by a little.  My #1 suggestion to improve this is for them to schedule things more sooner and to let teams supply volunteers to join in in making some of the stuff happen.

I would say one the biggest disappointment I have seen from BotN is the lake of catering to the fans or new fans of the sport.  They price the event out of the range of average folks that want to enjoy the show.  They could have probably filled 10k+ fans into the arena in Barcelona, however, by charging 30 euro per session or half day, per person, that made it 60 euros for someone to watch just one day of action.  Yup, not many families or other coming out.  What is the right price, maybe 20 euro for the day.  In Belmonte, the price being 30 euros kept the crowd pretty low, compared to the IMCF championship where the price was like 10-20 euro for the day, which had a huge crowd.  Until this sport is completely filling arenas, we should be keeping those ticket prices good for all.   

Barcelona was a wonderful city to visit, which I wish I had more time to explore.  Maybe one day I’ll return just to enjoy the city.  Walking through the gothic quarter it was easy to image what walking through Diagon Alley in Harry Potter might have felt like or perhaps walking through Waterdeep.  I’ll be back, but not sure how much I want to go to Battle of Nations again verse attending other potential tournaments, as there could be a lot of fun at smaller ones as well.  It all depends upon where my travel companions wish to go and have fun at.  Look for me in the list though as I will be there again.  I’m also leaning toward doing more singles fights too.  Hell, I’ll fight in as much as I can.

Categories: SCA news sites