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Curia to be Held at Great Northeastern War

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-07-06 21:37

East Kingdom Curia  will be held Saturday, 9 July 2016, 8:00 a.m. at Great Northeastern War in the Province of Malagentia (Hebron ME).

Following is the agenda, prepared 5 July 2016, 6:10 p.m.

  1. Curia Opening
  2.  Old Business
  3. New Business
    1. 3.1Laws of the East Kingdom Clarification that, in cases of conflict, the SCA, Inc. Governing Documents take precedence over EK Law.
    2. 3.2Glossary Revisions to several terms to match the definitions in SCA, Inc. Governing Documents.
    3. 3.3Polling Procedures Revision to VII.C.2.f. to clarify the polling where there are more than two candidates or choices.
    4. 3.4King’s and Queen’s Equestrian Champions Tourney(s) Revision to VIII.A.8. to clarify preferred scheduling within the Summer Reign.
    5. 3.5Award of the Burdened Tyger Relocation of IX.D.3. to IX.E.2.
    6. 3.6The Company of Fellowship New section IX.E.13., an award to recognize local branches.
    7. 3.7Discussion of a possible new armigerous order to include and provide recognition for martial activities other than rattan, rapier, and target archery.
    8. 3.8Discussion of potential East Kingdom 50-Year celebratory event.
  4. Officer Reports
  5. Curia Closure

EK Law Section III.I. The Agenda for the Curia Regis 1. Any items that The Crown chooses to add to the agenda after the Curia has been called will be added to the agenda under “New Business”. 2. If a Curia notice has been sent according to East Kingdom Law, but another Curia needs to be held before the previously announced one, any items of business held over from the earliest Curia will be automatically added to the agenda of the subsequent Curia under “Old Business”.


Filed under: Announcements, Law and Policy Tagged: curia

Change to Internet and Charging Services at Pennsic

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-07-06 12:06

In June, the proprietors of Mystic Mail announced via Facebook that they would not be operating at Pennsic this year.

Instead, the Coopers have announced that they will create the Cooper’s Lake Internet Café, or CLIC, to be located near Penn Market and ice.  The café will have WiFi and hardline internet available. You’ll also be able to charge your devices (phones, tablets, laptops) there.

The Chancellor of the Pennsic University, Captain Elias Gedney, issued the following statement:

All Pennsic University teachers and students should be advised of the following

  1. The University has never had a formal relationship with Mystic Mail regarding handout printing/distribution. Mystic Mail offered individual services on a one by one basis in relationship with teachers. Pennsic University has always been grateful, but not directly involved. We are thankful to the proprietors of Mystic Mail for all their years of work in this regard and are sorry to see them go. Thank you.
  2. Pennsic University has not received any notification or offers of any replacement services, either from Coopers or any other entity. There may be something forthcoming, but as of right now, we have not been contacted. [Editor note: this was posted before the Coopers announced the creation of their Internet Cafe; however, at this time there is no indication that the café will offer printing or data storage services.]
  3. Pennsic University does not offer any form of publication or data storage/distribution. We have considered it, but the potential for copyright fooferall and security hullaballoo continues to disincline Pennsic University from offering these services.
  4. Pennsic University strongly encourages all teachers to try to bring enough paper copies of handouts. Figure ten of each per session as a ballpark, unless you have a really popular class, in which case, “let your experience be your guide”.

There is a Staples ten minutes off site, one exit down I-79 at 2551 W State St., New Castle, PA 16101.

 


Categories: SCA news sites

Four 17th c. tapestries repatriated to Sweden

History Blog - Wed, 2016-07-06 02:15

The National Museum of Sweden, has acquired four tapestries that graced an elegant home in late 17th century Stockholm but have been out of the country for more than a century. A large bequest from Gunnar and Ulla Trygg gave the museum, which has no acquisitions budget, the rare opportunity to bring these wall hangings home. They are in exceptional condition.

The tapestries were made in the early 1690s. They were commissioned by Swedish architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger to adorn the Stockholm home of Swedish statesman Carl Piper, a commoner whose abilities earned him advancement and a noble title at the court of King Charles XI. In 1690, he married Christina Törne, the daughter of a rich merchant who also happened to be Piper’s stepbrother. His father-in-law/stepbrother gifted the couple a handsome property in Stockholm’s old town. Tessin, then the premier architect in the country who could count the king and queen among his clientele, was given the task of refurbishing the old house.

Later known as the Grotesques de Berain, the tapestries were mistakenly thought to be the design of Jean Bérain the Elder, a Dutch artist in Paris known for his arabesques and grotesques who was a good friend of Nicodemus Tessin’s, but extensive surviving correspondence between Tessin and Daniel Cronström, the Swedish envoy to Paris, proves that the artist was in fact someone else. Cronström’s was Tessin’s go-to guy in France, a close friend who could negotiate directly with the purveyors of the most fashionable goods and services in Paris. The real designer for the Piper tapestry series was Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, a Flemish painter who worked for both of the great tapestry workshops in France: Gobelins and Beauvais. He specialized in floral still-lives and was in demand both for his tapestry cartoons and for decorative painting. He worked under Charles Le Brun, then director of the Gobelins factory, on the fresco decorations for royal residence the Château de Marly and under Jean Bérain at the Dauphin’s residence the Château de Meudon.

Tessin commissioned two suites of tapestries from Beauvais: one with a “port de mer” (harbour scenes) theme, the other “grotesques,” meaning a style drawn from the frescoes of ancient Rome which were usually discovered in underground cave-like spaces or “grotte,” in Italian. Curling foliage elements embrace mythological figures (Bacchus, Pan), animals (elephants, peacocks) and heroic figures against the background of Classical architectural elements. Beauvais’ grotesque motif was hugely popular from the time of its launch in 1688 for another 40 years. Carl Piper’s set did not have his coat of arms or monogram in the border because Tessin was in a hurry and the customization would take too much time to complete. Cronström had the idea of making matching chairs with Piper’s monogram. It is a lot easier and faster to weave a monogram onto an upholstered chair than a big ol’ wall hanging. Some of those chairs have survived. Here’s one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The tapestries were installed in the Piper palace in early 1696. After that, it’s not clear what happened to them. Carl Piper was taken prisoner in 1709 after the Battle of Poltava in the Great Northern War. He was largely blamed for Sweden’s terrible defeat, accused of having taken bribes from England to sway King Charles XI to the calamitous invasion of Russia which had concluded in such ignominy. Piper and his wife (who did indeed get a lovely pair of diamond earrings as a “gift” from the Duke of Marlborough) were disgraced. Carl died in captivity in Russia in 1716. His formidable wife, who had wielded great power when her husband was an important royal minister, went on to become a real estate mogul, industrialist and philanthropist of immense success.

At some point before 1909, the tapestries left Sweden, probably in the late 19th century. In 1909 they were sold to Louise Mackay, an American collector, who bequeathed them to her son Clarence. After his death in 1938, they were sold at Christie’s in New York and the grotesque tapestry suite was split up. Two other tapestries from the series are now in museums in England and Spain.

The National Museum is proud to have repatriated four of the tapestries from the grotesque suite. Their exquisite condition and brilliant color would make them a catch for any museum (compare them to the matching armchair to see how pristine they are), but they’re even more significant thanks to that surviving correspondence between Tessin and Cronström. The letters make these suites of tapestries the best-documented personal orders for French tapestries from the 17th century. They’re also the first documented order of tapestries with matching chair upholstery.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Æthelmearc-Sponsored Archery Tourney at SCA 50 Year

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-07-05 11:22

Master Urho teaching a young archer.

Thanks to Master Urho Waltterinen for this account of the archery tourney he ran at the SCA 50 Year Celebration.

On Tuesday, June 21st, despite the heat, the Kingdom of Æthelmearc sponsored an archery tournament created by Master Urho Waltterinen. Their Majesties of Æthelmearc, Byron and Ariella, attended and oversaw the entire tournament. Twenty-five archers, including Their Majesties’ son, Ian, participated.

In the first of three rounds, archers shot at a quartered section of the usual 60 cm target at twenty yards. They had to make a decision whether to aim at the center of this new target and risk not scoring enough points to advance or go for the gold and risk missing the target completely. In the end twelve scored high enough to advance to the next round. The high scorer was presented with a gift certificate for his achievement.

In the second, twelve archers were challenged to shoot at an unspecified target in the distance. THL Luceta di Cosimo painted a fantastical beast for them to aim at. The task to advance was to hit this target twice and the first eight to do so would advance to the final round. Archers began at about seventy yards away, fired two arrows in a coordinated mass launch and then advanced five paces forward for the next flight. The first seven archers were easily found, but three archers tied for the eighth position. His Majesty heard a suggestion from one of the archers that these three would fire two more arrows and the closest to a small escarbuncle on the target would advance and ruled that this would be the tiebreaker. The last archer advanced.

In the third and last, these elite archers returned to twenty yards and competed in a double-elimination round skillfully managed by Baroness Elizabeth Arrowsmyth as Mistress of the List. The target for this was a yin-yang in black and white merely eight inches across where each archer was assigned their color. After the pairings were determined by random draw, the rounds were shot. His Majesty was so caught up in the excitement shown by the skills of these archers that he personally assisted in the scoring of each match. At the level of prowess reached by these final competitors, mere millimeters determined success or failure.

In the last and final round, Cullen of the East and Treutvin of Calontir were matched. Cullen hit his color five of six times while Treutvin hit his color on six of six and so was declared the winner. Both finalists were awarded gift certificates and Treutvin was further presented with a scroll created by Mistress Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen and read to the populace by Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful.

All archers were then invited to join us again on the archery range at Pennsic.

The archers thank Their Majesties for Their attendance and for Their attention to our sport.


Categories: SCA news sites

Inscribed wood barrel stave found at Vindolanda

History Blog - Tue, 2016-07-05 01:13

The Vindolanda site in Northumberland just south of Hadrian’s Wall is best known for the more than 700 wooden writing tablets preserved for millennia in the waterlogged soil, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to organic archaeological remains. Vindolanda has the largest collection of Roman leather in the world. Everything from thousands of leather shoes of all sizes so perfectly preserved the museum display case looks like a shoe store, to purses and buckets have been unearthed there, as well as fragile textiles like a child’s sock.

Then there’s the wood. In 2014, archaeologists found a wooden toilet seat, the first of its kind ever discovered. Now the anaerobic soil has produced another handsome wood everyday treasure: an engraved barrel stave. The stave dates to around 90 A.D. and is in exceptional condition, smooth as slate with a maker’s brand and numerals still pristine on the surface. The brand is incomplete with the visible part reading “ALBIN.NORB.” We don’t know what was in it, but the numeral indicates there were 1,200 of them in the barrel.

The wood is pine and archaeologists believe the barrel was imported from Spain.

[Dr Andrew Birley, CEO and Director of Excavations for the Trust] went on to say “the barrel stave has been one of the highlights of the season so far and we hope over the coming weeks we will know more about ALBIN – NORB as images of the stave have been sent to specialists in both Spain and here in the UK for further interpretation. However, we can guess that ALBIN could mean ALBINVS, the name of the manufacturer of the barrel, and NORB is the place of origin”.

Albinus is a cognomen, a family name, and so is Norbanus. They wouldn’t go together as the name of one person, which is why the NORB is likelier as a place designation, ie, Albinus from Norba. Cities were often named after the families names of important men. Norba Caesarina (modern-day Cáceres in southwestern Spain), for example, was named after its founder Gaius Norbanus Flaccus, proconsul of Spain from 36 to 34 B.C., and his boss Octavian who was going by Gaius Julius Caesar, courtesy of his posthumous adoption by his assassinated great-uncle, at the time.

The barrel stave is one of 1,463 wooden artifacts that have been unearthed at Vindolanda over the decades. It’s the largest and most varied collection of ancient wooden objects in Britain, but it’s been locked away in storage for years for conservation purposes. The Heritage Lottery Fund has just approved a £1.3 million ($1.7 million) grant that will fund the display of this exceptional collection for the first time.

Unlocking Vindolanda’s Wooden Underworld will see the creation of a new gallery dedicated solely to the display of the wooden objects found at the fort and settlement site. The gallery will have custom display cases with climate control features that will allow the wood to be on public view without compromising the temperature and humidity levels necessary to preserve the wood.

The barrel stave may be among the artifacts on display in the dedicated wood gallery. The toilet seat definitely will be, along with a wagon wheel, a potters’ wheel head, a bread shovel, axles and large wooden water pipes made out of alder logs bored down the length of them. The new gallery is scheduled to open in 2018.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Royal Thanks for SCA 50 Year

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-07-04 23:21

Their Majesties recently traveled to the Midrealm to celebrate the SCA’s 50 Year Anniversary celebration. They wished for us to share this missive of gratitude with the Kingdom.

Photo by Meisterin Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen

The once-in-a-lifetime 50th anniversary of the birth of the Society is behind us.  But before We turn Our thoughts to the Pennsic War, We would take a moment to thank those gentles who supported Us in this wonderful event.

First and foremost, Our thanks go to Countess Geneveive du Vent Argent.  She was Our rock throughout this process, and helped in every stage of planning and execution.  We thank our Jewel Herald, Gwendolyn the Graceful, for traveling to far lands with tasks as massive as reminding the Founders that Aethelmearc exists.  We thank THL Rosalia for organizing the Aethelmearc camp – We were so glad that the populace and Royal camp were brought together, and we could all be a single Kingdom.  We thank Lady Arsalan for her Crown support (literally) and her support of the Crown (figuratively) and for her willingness to play medieval strategy games with His Majesty.  There were several gentles who created martial events for the glory of the Kingdom:  Master Urho (archery), Master Illadore and Mistress Fredeburg (fencing), Duke Timothy and Don Clewin (heavy), Lady Melodia (thrown weapons), and the entire equestrian community (equestrian).  And We would lastly draw the Kingdom’s attention to one who played a critical role for Us, despite not attending the event.  Mistress Hrefna Úlfvarinnsdóttir was pivotal to Our success as a Kingdom and as Royals; she is an example of service for all to aspire to.

The hard work of these individuals, and everyone from Aethelmearc who attended the event, made Us look good to everyone in the known world.  We thank you all.

In Service to the Dream,

Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina AEthelmearc


Categories: SCA news sites

Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rods

History Blog - Mon, 2016-07-04 03:41

In 1746, Peter Collinson, wealthy merchant, philanthropist, botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society of London, gave Benjamin Franklin one of those newfangled Leyden jars that were all the rage. Well, technically he gave it to the Library Company of Philadelphia, but that was founded by Franklin and Collinson was a long-time friend and supporter of Franklin’s endeavors, so it was understood that Franklin was going to be using the new toy which could capture “electrical fire”. Thomas Penn, son of colony founder William Penn and inheritor of his title Proprietor of the Colony of Pennsylvania, chipped in all the rest of the equipment necessary to start investigating electrical phenomena, a pursuit engrossing many gentlemen of scientific disposition in the Old World at that time. The Library Company’s electrical setup formed the first scientific research laboratory in America.

Benjamin Franklin was hooked. Alongside Ebenezer Kinnersley, Thomas Hopkinson, and Philip Syng, Franklin studied and experimented with electricity for the next three years. From 1747 through 1750, he shared his findings in a series of letters to Collinson. In these letters Franklin detailed his experiments and described for the first time principles of electricity that are commonly held today. For example, he recognized that friction did not create electricity so much as collect it from materials like metal and water to which it was attracted; he coined the terms positive and negative/plus and minus to describe electrical charge (as opposed to the prevailing thought that they were two different kinds of electricity, “vitreous” named after the glass that accumulated electrical charge when rubbed with silk, and “resinous,” like amber rubbed with fur); he first used the terms “charging” and “discharging” for the operations of a Leyden jar; he coined the term “battery” for a group of connected jars that could store more charge than an individual jar, like a battery of cannon concentrated shot on the battlefield.

Franklin also determined through experimentation that a sharp point is far more effective at drawing electricity than a blunt end. When he put a “long slender sharp bodkin” close to an electrically charged shot, it drew the charge from a foot away, while a “blunt body” had to be no more than an inch away and unlike the sharp point, it generated a spark. Extrapolating from his small-scale experiments, he proposed that a long, sharp rod properly grounded could save structures from the destruction of lightning.

I say, if these things are so, may not the knowledge of this power of points be of use to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, ships &c. from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to fix on the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of iron made sharp as a needle, and gilt to prevent rusting, and from the foot of those rods a wire down the outside of the building into the ground, or down round one of the shrouds of a ship, and down her side till it reaches the water? Would not these pointed rods probably draw the electrical fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible mischief?

For his idea of a lightning rod to work, first Franklin had to confirm that “clouds that contain lightning are electrified,” still an open question at the time. He suggested an experiment.

On the top of some high tower or steeple, place a kind of sentry-box, big enough to contain a man and an electrical stand. From the middle of the stand, let an iron rod rise and pass bending out of the door, and then upright 20 or 30 feet, pointed very sharp at the end. If the electrical stand be kept clean and dry, a man standing on it when such clouds are passing low, might be electrified and afford sparks, the rod drawing fire to him from a cloud.

While Franklin did his experiments in Philadelphia, other people were doing similar work across the Atlantic. Collinson circulated the letters among the Royal Society fellows, including William Watson who at the same time as Franklin had independently determined that “vitreous” and “resinous” electricity were a surplus and deficiency, as he called it, of charge. In 1751, Collinson published the letters and other papers Franklin had sent him in a book, Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America.

Franklin’s writings were accepted but with subdued enthusiasm at first in Britain. In France, on the other hand, people were excited and inspired to try his experiments. Famed French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, received a copy of the book from Collinson and asked his frequent collaborator botanist Thomas-François Dalibard to translate it into French. Dalibard got so into it he enlisted the aid of a certain Delor who had the necessary equipment to replicate Franklin’s experiments. They worked so well that Buffon, Dalibard and Delor performed them before Louis XV and a delighted court where (forgive me) sparks flew.

Their success drove them to try the experiment that Franklin had described but not done yet: the sentry-box lightning rod experiment. They wisely forewent perching a man next to an iron rod in a box on top of a tower roof, modifying it into a test with distinctly less killing potential. A 13-meter (43-foot) iron rod insulated by silk ropes and wine bottles was inserted into a wooden table under a little roofed structure (the sentry-box). When a thunderstorm passed over, the iron rod drew sparks.

Franklin didn’t hear about Dalibard’s experiment for a while. Meanwhile, he’d come up with a new idea to test the charge of storm clouds without the complications of the sentry-box. On June 15th, 1752, Benjamin Franklin and his son William flew a silk and cedar kite with a sharp wire at the top. Twine coming down from the kite had a silk ribbon tied to it and a key tried to the ribbon. This experiment has gone down in legend with an image of Benajamin Franklin running in the rain as lightning strikes the key, but in fact it was essential the silk ribbon stay dry so it could insulate the key from the ground and ensure the electric current accumulated in the key. Franklin was indoors while the kite was getting wet. If he hadn’t been, he never would have seen the sparks fly off the key.

When the news of Dalibard’s success reached him, Franklin installed an insulated iron rod on the roof of his home. Within a few months grounding conductors were installed in the Academy of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). In 1753, Franklin published instructions on how to protect homes from lightning strikes using iron rods in Poor Richard’s Almanack (page 72 of this pdf). Some people were apprehensive about it, railing at early adopters for attempting to defy God’s will and attracting deadly lightning, but over time lightning rods became commonplace and Franklin refined and modified his design to improve them.

The invention of lightning rods saved not only property but lives. Before them, the only method considered valid against thunderstorms was in hindsight insanely counterproductive: vigorous ringing of church bells in the belief that sound could break up storm clouds. That put the poor bell ringers of the world up church steeples, the highest structures around, yanking on soaked ropes connected to large metal bells precisely when lightning was most likely to strike. The practice continued for decades after Franklin’s experiments proved there was a simple architectural solution that did not put lives in danger. A study by Johann Fischer published in Munich in 1784 found that in the 33 years between 1750 and 1783, bell towers were struck by lightning 386 times killing 103 bell ringers.

During the Revolutionary period, the embrace of Franklin’s design for the lightning rod was a political statement of allegiance to New World ideas. In Britain the blunt-ended lightning rod was popular. Rejecting them in favor of Franklin’s sharp points was a philosophical choice. In 1788, the Maryland State House in Annapolis had a 28-foot lightning rod installed on its new dome according to Franklin’s specifications. It is still there, making its inventor proud. On Friday it was put through its paces and even after 208 years it handled the strike like a boss.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Arts & Sciences Research Paper #10: Fibonacci – A Master By Any Name

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-07-03 21:10

Our tenth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Lady Rosina von Schaffhausen, of the Shire of Quintavia. She introduces us to a fascinating figure from the 13th century – the mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, known most familiarly to us as Fibonacci.  (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)

Fibonacci – A Master By Any Name

The Latin phrase filius bonacci, in the first line of the Liber Abbaci manuscript (above) gave rise to Leonardo da Pisa’s modern nickname, Fibonacci. (National Library of Florence)

Imagine being an Italian merchant in the early 13th century, traveling around the Mediterranean. You visit fascinating places, eat new and unusual foods, see many exotic sights, and trade many of the goods passing through the region.

However, you have a problem. The basic addition and subtraction you need to do to keep your account books you can handle, using the tools you have available, Roman numerals and an abacus. But doing any sort of multiplication or division is difficult. And you need to multiply, or divide, or sometimes both, to do all sorts of important things. You need them to determine how much cinnamon your pepper is worth, how much of your profits each of your investors should receive, how much your cut is, to calculate currency exchange, and to determine how much interest you have earned on the loan your city forced you to give them to build their navy. The methods you know seem much more difficult to deal with than the Arab merchants’ system.

On your next stop at home, a friend is raving about the new system of Hindu reckoning in a book written by one of your compatriots, and you resolve to find a copy and learn this new system…

Contents
Leonardo’s Pisa
Leonardo’s Life
Leonardo’s Work
Teaching Europe Math
Blazing New Trails
Conclusion
Bibliography

As commerce began expanding in the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean, the Italian city-states vied for control of lucrative trade routes. Throwing off the control of the Holy Roman Empire, the northern cities began running their own governments and conducting trade. They built navies and were the first governments to go into debt to finance their expenditures, sometimes by forcing their citizens to loan them money. They established customs houses at home and in a number of ports abroad, as well as forming the first corporations. Many of the cities coined their own money, and the first banks started offering interest on deposits.

While the first universities were being founded at this time, they did not add algebra to their curricula until the middle of the 16th century [3, p. 107]. It was the needs of the merchants that drove the eventual revolution in European mathematics. The need for better and easier bookkeeping, computation, and problem-solving methods brought the Hindu-Arabic number system and Arabic algebra into use throughout Europe. Leonardo of Pisa, today known as Fibonacci, was a pivotal figure in the process of changing over from Roman numerals to the system we use today. The practical example problems he included in his best known work, Liber Abbaci, displayed the ability of the Hindu-Arabic number system and algebra to solve many of the pressing problems of the medieval merchants.

Fibonacci is best known today for his famous sequence, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, … where successive numbers are found by adding the previous two together.  However, this sequence is not original to him. Since the concept of plagiarism did not exist in the form it does today, many of Fibonacci’s example problems, including this sequence, can be found in identical or similar versions in earlier texts from the Islamic world, India, and even China. The main purpose of Fibonacci’s writing was to educate merchants and surveyors on techniques that were largely unknown or forgotten in Europe. Thus he was influential in bringing in our modern number system, more so than other scholars of his day. In addition, he wrote some impressive original mathematics, which was unheard of in Western Europe at the time. Most of all, he left legacies of education and research in mathematics that lasted long after his death. While today we remember one sequence, in the middle ages and Renaissance, many math texts acknowledged a large debt to one Leonardo of Pisa.

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Leonardo’s Pisa

Leonardo of Pisa, known today as Fibonacci, was born in Pisa around 1170. Around this time Pisa was a republic, one of many Italian city-states vying for control of trade in the Mediterranean. At sea, Pisa contended with the other maritime republics of Genoa, Amalfi, and Venice. On land, their main rivals were Florence and Lucca. Pisa is situated on the Arno River on the western coast of the Italian Peninsula, just south of the top of the “boot” of Italy. From Roman times until the 15th century, when the river silted up and Pisa lost its port, Pisa was a prime commercial center in Tuscany.

The 13th century on the Italian peninsula. Pisa is just northeast of Corsica, on the western coast of what is now Italy. (Map by srinaldipds at SlideShare.)

While other cities mostly concentrated on going east toward Constantinople and the Holy Land for their trade, at first Pisa mostly went west. The city established trading ports, conquered towns, and took over islands in places such as Corsica, Sardinia, and Carthage. During the First Crusade in 1099 Pisa was instrumental in the campaign, and used the opportunity to establish trading centers in the eastern Mediterranean. While other states did the same, using this advantage Pisa became a serious international power. For a time Pisa surpassed Venice as the foremost merchant and military ally of the Byzantine Empire.

At home, Pisa used her spoils to begin building a beautiful city center, including a cathedral and baptistery. As a very young child, Leonardo may have watched the first three floors of the famous bell tower being built and start to lean. Construction on the Leaning Tower, begun in 1173, was stopped in 1178 as the structure, built on unstable ground, began its famous tilt.  The tower stayed at that height throughout Leonardo’s lifetime, as building would not resume for nearly 100 years and took nearly 200 to complete.  In 1284, the Pisan navy was nearly completely destroyed by Genoa at the Battle Meloria, ending Pisa as a naval power. The city managed to keep up some independent trade until she came under the rule of Florence in 1406. Then the river silted up, ending Pisa’s ability to trade easily.

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Leonardo’s Life

Fibonacci signs his name in Liber Abbaci as Leonardo of Pisa of the Family Bonaci, which might also be translated as Son of Bonaci. However, since his father’s name was Guglielmo, this translation is incorrect.  Some scholars think that Bonaci or Bonacio was the name of an ancestor, as a reference to a famous ancestor was a common practice in Italy at this time. The name Fibonacci was first used in the 19th century and has become the most common one used for him today. He signed Liber Quadratorum as Leonardo Pisano, or Leonardo of Pisa. However, in his later work Flos (1225) and in a legal document (1241) [3, p. 149] his name is listed as Leonardo Pisano Bigollo. Some scholars think Bigollo means traveler, good-for-nothing, or absent-minded, while others think these translations are incorrect. Considering that the legal document is honoring Leonardo, Bigollo could not possibly have been meant as an insult.

Most of what we know about Leonardo’s life comes from the introduction to his book Liber Abbaci. When Leonardo was a boy, his father Guglielmo was working in the customs house of the Pisan trading port of Bugia (now Bejaïa) on the Barbary coast of Africa, east of Algiers. Guglielmo had young Leonardo sent over to Africa, most likely just after finishing grammar school, so the boy could learn mathematics. This was a trading center in a Muslim region, so Leonardo learned as much as he could from scholars visiting from many places. Modern scholars believe he learned to read and possibly write Arabic [5, pp. xviii-xx]. He studied a variety of mathematical systems and methods, and decided that the “Indian method”, as he called it, was superior to the rest. Leonardo continued his studies on business trips around the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily, and Provence. He later wrote his first book, Liber Abbaci, or Book of Calculation, in 1202 to spread this method, which is our modern number system [6, p. 15-16].

Leonardo’s first book got him noticed not just in Pisa, but also by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. At this time Pisa was nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, but had begun governing itself even before a previous emperor permitted the city to function under its own governance. Frederick II was known as the Wonder of the World. At this time, the first universities were still very new, and many scholars worked for wealthy patrons. Frederick encouraged scholarship in his court, and even wrote a treatise himself. Leonardo was introduced to Frederick’s court likely around 1225. Some scholars in the court posed Leonardo some challenge problems, another common practice of the day, used to determine the abilities of scholars. Leonardo was able to solve the challenges posed to him, and his writing on the solutions and related mathematics encompass a large portion of his original mathematics. In the 1220s Leonardo wrote most of his other works, including those on the challenge questions. He wrote a revision of his first book Liber Abacci, dedicating it to the scholar who first wrote about him to the court, Michael Scott. In 1241, at the end of his life, Leonardo was presented with an annual stipend from the city of Pisa [3, pp. 148-149] for his contributions to the city.

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Leonardo’s Work

Leonardo wrote a number of impressive texts in the course of his career.  The first and foremost is Liber Abbaci (1202; 1228), mentioned above [6], a compilation of arithmetic and the algebra that was known in his day. Next Leonardo wrote De Practica Geometriae (1220, meaning Practical Geometry), a book on a variety of geometry problems including practical ones on land area and surveying [5]. Liber Quadratorum (1225, meaning Book of Squares), on advanced algebra and number theory, contains some impressive original mathematics [4]. These three are available in English translation. Flos (1225, meaning flower) and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum (date unknown, meaning letter to Master Theodore), both on indeterminate equations like those in Liber Quadratorum, have not yet been translated into English. Two of Fibonacci’s works have been lost. One is a tract on Book X of Euclid’s Elements.  The other is Libro di minor guisa (date unknown, meaning probably The Book of the Lesser Method) on commercial arithmetic.  We will go into more details later on some of these books.

Folio 124r of the Codex magliabechiano, a manuscript of Liber Abbaci preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze. The “Fibonacci Sequence” is shown in the column at the right hand side. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Fibonacci’s impressive texts come in two varieties.  The first are texts designed to explain mathematics to the common person, as well as to show its usefulness.  De Practica Geometrie, Liber Abbaci and Libro di minor guisa fall into this category.  Liber Abaci is an encyclopedic work which, together with Euclid’s Elements, contains most of the mathematics known in the world at that time.  The other two texts are shorter and focused more on application. The second group of texts contain Leonardo’s original mathematics. Flos, Liber Quadratorum, and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum contain his solutions to problems posed to him by masters in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. In addition, in these books Leonardo expanded on the challenge questions and wrote original proofs of some ancient Greek knowledge as well as general solution methods for the types of problems posed. The tract on Book X of Euclid’s Elements was likely expanded from a chapter in Liber Abbaci. Leonardo’s popular works are more extensive than other European texts at this time, and no other European mathematician between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance has a body of original research.

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Teaching Europe Math

Leonardo’s longest and most influential work was Liber Abaci, first written in 1202 and revised in 1228. The revised version is the one that was recently translated to English, and Leonardo not only made corrections but added some of his original mathematics at the end. In the introduction he stated that his goal was to bring the “Hindu numerals” to the Italian people. He succeeded, at least in planting the seed, since it took was not until after the invention of the printing press for that our modern number system to fully take took hold in Europe. At this time, Leonardo was not the only European familiar with Arab mathematics. Hindu Arabic numerals were known in Europe at least as far back as the 10th century. Gerbert d’Aurilac, later Pope Sylvester II, used them as number symbols but not in calculations. In the 12th century other scholars began translating Arab works into Latin, as well as writing their own texts. However, these translations and texts were aimed at other scholars. Leonardo was the first to deliberately focus on mathematics useful for everyday purposes. Soon after Liber Abbaci appeared, other popular arithmetics did also, but few approached the sheer magnitude of Leonardo’s compilation of arithmetic, algebra, geometric proofs, some of his original research, and a wide variety of practical and impractical examples.

While the goal of Liber Abbaci is to spread the Hindu Arabic number system, the book contains a wide variety of mathematics. The first chapter explains the basics of the number system. Chapters 2-5 deal with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division while Chapters 6 and 7 concern operations with fractions. Chapters 8-12 deal with various “word” problems, many of which would naturally arise from business situations of the time. Other problems are abstract, intended to display different solution methods of a problem or to provide further examples on a solution method. Occasionally Leonardo throws in a whimsical problem. One of these is the famous “rabbit problem” from which we get the Fibonacci Sequence. Chapter 13 is on algebra, namely on methods for solving linear equations. Chapter 14 is on extracting roots and arithmetic operations on roots. The 15th chapter deals with geometry and some applications to algebra, namely quadratic equations. The last two chapters are material from Leonardo’s work Flos added in the revision.

Folio 139v-140r of the Liber Abbaci. (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Italy)

Most of the mathematics in Liber Abbaci can be solved in terms of modern mathematics with elementary school arithmetic, basic first year high school algebra, and geometry. The main exception to this is that most schools no longer teach algorithms for square root extraction, and I have never heard of any that taught cube root extraction. Most of the application problems in the book can be modeled with linear equations, which in modern terms are equations that can be manipulated into the form Ax+B=C, where x represents the unknown in the problem and A, B, and C are numbers. However, variables as we know them today, as well as almost all modern math symbols, were not used until the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Because of this Leonardo’s solution methods vary from somewhat different to quite different from modern methods. The main methods he used for these problem types are formalized guess-and-check systems called single false position and double false position. In addition, Leonardo uses what he calls “the direct method” which is basically the same as our modern algebraic manipulation, only using words instead of symbols. Most of Leonardo’s paragraphs-long solutions could be condensed to a few lines using modern symbols.

While Leonardo displays a wide range of mathematics and shows a facility for original mathematics in other works, Liber Abbaci is a summary of the existing useful arithmetic and algebra of the time. Leonardo had a wide range of sources at his fingertips that he used liberally for this book. Plagiarism was not seen in the same light as today, so many of the example problems can be found elsewhere before Liber Abbaci was written. This includes the Fibonacci sequence, which appears in several Indian texts going back to at least 200 BC. In some cases Leonardo acknowledges that he obtained problems elsewhere, but does not always mention names. One example is “A Problem on the Same Thing Proposed to Us by A Master near Constantinople” [6, p. 290]. Other problems come from a variety of texts. Books that Leonardo used included al Khwārizmī’s Algebra text (the oldest known algebra text for which the subject was named) and Euclid’s Elements.

Given the massive scope of Liber Abaci, there are a number of interesting items within its pages. First, Fibonacci used a fraction system from North Africa where he went to school that seems bizarrely complicated. That is, until one notices that it is incredibly useful for old fashioned monetary and measuring systems that do not work as well with modern decimals. For example, using this fraction system with the current U.S. system of measurement, 1 yard, 2 feet and 3 inches could be expressed as

yards. In some problems with solutions that cannot be expressed as fractions, Leonardo found approximations using this fraction notation that are very much like our modern decimals.

Second, Leonardo partially ignored the existence of negative numbers and considers equations with negative solutions to have no solutions, unless they are part of a merchant account, in which case he considered them debits in the account. He did, however, give directions on how to operate with negative numbers [6, pp. 417-419]. Leonardo never admitted the possibility of square roots of negative numbers for any reason.

Third, Liber Abbaci contributed to the financial developments in Italy in multiple ways. Leonardo used a form of present value analysis in some problems, which is the foundational concept of modern financial calculations and decisions [8]. This is the first known use of this method to compare two investments. In addition, the mathematics of minting precious metals into coins in Liber Abbaci may have contributed to the more consistent coinage available in subsequent centuries.

Fourth, Leonardo included an early version of the classic “two trains” problems that students love to hate. However, instead of having two trains leave different cities at the same time, he calculated when two ships would meet [6, p. 280]. One scholar examining a 15th century French arithmetic text claims that that text contains possibly the earliest known example of a “two trains” problem [13], but Leonardo’s is 200 years earlier.

While Liber Abbaci is an impressive book and has been admired by scholars throughout the centuries, its immense size would be overwhelming to a merchant who just wants to know what his goods are worth in the coin of the city he’s in that week. Most likely for this reason Leonardo wrote another book on the basics of our number system specifically for merchants. This is referred to elsewhere as di minor guisa (the minor work), which probably refers to the fact that the book was shorter or contained fewer topics. However, no known copies of this text survive. For a long time scholars wondered why many arithmetic textbooks in the Renaissance had an acknowledgement in them to Leonardo of Pisa, but the books were not similar to any of Leonardo’s surviving texts. Recent scholarship shows a plausible link between the missing Libro di minor guisa and the “abbacus” texts used for instruction in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries [3, Ch. 8]. Recently found manuscripts from the late 13th century and early 14th centuries have some elements in common with later arithmetic texts and some with Liber Abbaci, providing the missing link between Leonardo’s work and the tradition of mathematics instruction in later medieval and Renaissance Italy.

The third of Leonardo’s explanatory texts is De Practica Geometrie, or Practical Geometry. Practical geometry was the term used at the time for surveying or land measurement. This profession had been very important and well-regarded in Roman times. The art declined during the so called Dark Ages, but began reviving on discovery and transcription of Roman surveyors’ tracts in the ninth and tenth centuries. These works then became common through the 11th century, but were more for teaching than for practical use. In addition to the duties of the Roman surveyors, medieval surveyors also verified weights and measures. [12]

Most other practical geometries of this period contained three sections on measuring heights, areas and volumes, while Hugh of St. Victor [5, p. xxv; 9] replaced the section on volumes with measurement of the heavens. Leonardo included all four of these topics [5, p. xxv], but one seems to have been largely lost between Leonardo’s time and when the existing manuscripts were copied. [5, p. xxv] The other thing that sets Leonardo’s text apart from prior practical geometry texts is his inclusion of the theory underlying the practice. Theoretical validation of surveying procedure became a goal in later texts, sometimes displacing the practice. De Practica Geometrie was translated into Italian a couple of times in period, as well as included in various compilations with other geometry texts in Italian.

For his surveying manual, Leonardo used a wide variety of geometry texts from the ancient Greeks and the Arab world. One text he used was Euclid’s On Division of Figures, which has since been lost. However, a century ago a scholar took an outline of Euclid’s text that still remained and found that Leonardo’s use of it matched very closely. This scholar then used Leonardo’s text to fill in the missing pieces and come up with a plausible reconstruction of Euclid’s missing text [1]. The scholar who recently translated De Practica Geometrie into English opines that it is not only a useful compilation of Greek and Arabic geometry, but is a practical analog of Euclid’s Elements: a stand-alone text containing everything a surveyor would need to solve the mathematics problems inherent in their work.[Back to Top]

Blazing New Trails

In addition to being an excellent explainer of mathematics to the masses, Leonardo of Pisa was also a research mathematician. Between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, almost all of the writings left by European mathematicians were translations of Greek and Arabic works, expository texts like Leonardo’s Liber Abbaci, or textbooks or lists of problems to use in teaching students. Leonardo, however, solved some original mathematics problems and produced new solutions to some previously solved problems. While some of these texts are on other lines of inquiry, some of these were based on the challenge problems he was given in the court of Frederick II. One of these, Liber Quadratorum, or The Book of Squares, is currently in English translation [4].

Leonardo solved two of the challenge problems and later wrote Liber Quadratorum on the solutions and related problems, but never finished or published this book. It contains 24 propositions written in a style similar to Euclid’s Elements, which Leonardo references in the text. The text focuses on whole number and fraction solutions to indeterminate equations, or Diophantine equations, which are equations with multiple variables, and thus may have multiple solutions. The Greek mathematician Diophantus was the first to study these equations. For example, one of Leonardo’s challenge problems was equivalent to finding x,y,”and” z such that x2+5=y2 and y2+5=z2. In the process of finding a solution, Leonardo stated and proved a special case of Lagrange’s identity, although scholars argue over whether his proof is original or based on Arab material. Also, Leonardo wondered what other numbers besides 5 could be used in these equations and the equations would still have solutions. He proved some interesting facts about these numbers, called congruent numbers [17], based on the Latin word that Leonardo used for them. The mathematics scholars of the Tuscan school that arose from studying Leonardo’s works were very interested in congruent numbers. Modern mathematicians have not yet determined a general rule for which numbers are congruent numbers.

Another impressive result in Liber Quadratorum is that

for any whole numbers n and m where n > m. A conclusion Leonardo reaches in the proof is that no square can be a congruent number. This result is equivalent to the fact that the area of a Pythagorean triangle, a right triangle with whole number side lengths, cannot be a square. The proof about the Pythagorean triangle was one of Fermat’s greatest achievements.

Leonardo’s other higher level works, some of which include some original work, include Flos and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum, and a now lost text on Book X of Euclid’s Elements. Flos was included in the revision of Liber Abbaci as the last two chapters. The first of the two chapters is also a discussion on Book X of Euclid’s elements, and is basically a discussion on how to deal with numbers that can be expressed using square roots, among other things. Unfortunately we do not know how Leonardo’s lost text would have differed from Flos. The second chapter is on solving quadratic equations, which contain a square of the variable in them. Leonardo solved these using completing the square, since methods commonly taught in high school today such as the quadratic formula were not possible without the symbols we now use. He also proved some facts about squares and includes some of his challenge problems. Leonardo wrote Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum, or Letter to Master Theodore, to one of the scholars offering challenge problems, with more material on those challenge problems. Leonardo’s works began traditions of scholarship in algebra and in investigating congruent numbers both in Tuscany and in Germany.

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Conclusion

Leonardo of Pisa, today called Fibonacci, wrote a number of impressive texts containing the bulk of the practical mathematics known in his day, plus some original mathematics research. His goal in writing his most impressive text was to bring our modern number system to Europe. While other mathematicians were also writing and translating books about this system, the legacy of mathematics scholarship and education that sprang from Leonardo’s works testify to the influence he had in making this happen. His legacy of education continued in the arithmetic and algebra textbooks in Italy and nearby areas until the Renaissance. His legacy of scholarship continued through schools of mathematicians in his native Tuscany and in Germany. Even today mathematicians are studying questions that he pursued in his research. It is no wonder that Leonardo of Pisa is considered the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages.

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Bibliography

1. Archibald, Raymond Clare, Euclid’s book On divisions of figures…with a restoration based on Woepcke’s text and on the Practica geometriae of Leonardo Pisano, Cambridge University Press, 1915.

2. Berlinghoff, William P. and Fernando Q. Gouvea, Math through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers and Others, Oxton House Publishers and the Mathematical Association of America, 2004.

3. Devlin, Keith, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution, Walker & Company, New York, 2011.

4. Fibonacci, Leonardo, The Book of Squares / Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci; an annotated translation into modern English by L.E. Sigler, Academic Press, Boston, 1987.

5. Fibonacci, Leonardo, Fibonacci’s De Practica Geometrie, ed. and tr. by Barnabas Hughes, Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, 2008.

6. Fibonacci, Leonardo, Fibonacci’s Liber abaci : a translation into modern English of Leonardo Pisano’s Book of calculation, tr. by L.E. Sigler, Springer-Verlag, New York 2002.

7. Gies, Frances and Joseph, Leonard of Pisa and the New Mathematics of the Middle Ages, Crowell, New York, 1969.

8. Goetzmann, William N., “Fibonacci and the Financial Revolution”, The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations That Created Modern Capital Markets, Goetzmann and Rouwenhorst, eds., Oxford University Press, New York, 2005

9. Hugh of St. Victor, Practica Geometriae, tr. by Frederick A. Homann, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, WI, 1991.

10. Menninger, Karl A., Number Words and Number Symbols, tr. by Paul Broneer, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

11. Mucillo, Maria, “Fibonacci, Leonardo”, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, 2005.

12. Pikulska, Anna, “Agrimensores”, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, 2005.

13. Schwartz, Randy K., “‘He Advanced Him 200 Lambs of Gold’: The Pamiers Manuscript,” Convergence (July 2012), DOI:10.4169/loci003888, http://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence.

14. Suzuki, Jeff, A History of Mathematics, Prentice Hall, 2002 (ska Master William the Alchemist).

15. Swetz, Frank, Capitalism and Arithmetic, Open Court, La Salle, IL, 1987.

16. Swetz, Frank, Ed., The European Mathematical Awakening: A Journey Through the History of Mathematics from 1000 to 1800, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2013.

17. The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, published electronically at https://oeis.org, 2010, Sequence A003273

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Filed under: A&S Research Papers, Arts and Sciences Tagged: a&s, Arts and Sciences, mathematics

Pennsic Tween/Teen Party

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2016-07-03 20:35

Duchess Ilish O’Donovan and Dame Hrefna Ulfvarinnsdottir send fond greetings!

We are excited to announce that the Kingdom of AEthelmearc will be hosting a Tween/Teen party at Pennsic on Saturday, August 6th, 2016 from 7-9pm in AE Royal.

The evening will feature a roaring fire and a gourmet s’mores bar, and light refreshments. Bring your friends and family for an evening of s’more fun!

****Gourmet S’mores Menu****
The Nutty Buddy
Graham Cracker /Peanut Butter Cup / Marshmallow
The Right Stuff
Oreo Cookies take the place of graham crackers /Milk Chocolate / Marshmallow
The Fudge Stripe
Fudge Stripe Cookies take the place of Graham Crackers / Milk Chocolate / Marshmallow
The Classic
Graham Cracker / Milk Chocolate / Marshmallow

If you can donate any of the ingredients for our Gourmet S’mores Bar or any other light refreshments or volunteer to help serve the kids during the party, please Contact Duchess Ilish at illish_o@hotmail.com or Dame Hrefna at ravenstyx@gmail.com.

EDIT: Her Grace, Ilish will be in attendance at St. Swithin’s Bog’s Three Day Event on July 16, if you would like to donate at that time.


Categories: SCA news sites

Danish police to study 10th c. arson at Borgring

History Blog - Sun, 2016-07-03 02:32

Archaeologists excavating the 10th century Viking Borgring fortress discovered on the island of Zealand, Denmark, in 2014, are calling the cops to help solve a 1,000-year-old mystery. The fortress was first identified with drone footage, laser scanning and a geomagnetic survey. Test pits were then dug at key positions which confirmed that this was Trelleborg-type fortress, one of a series of defensive ring forts built around 980 A.D. by King of Norway and Denmark Harald Bluetooth.

One of the original test pits was dug where the north gate would have been. Archaeologists found large oak timbers, evidence of the massive gates typical of Trelleborg forts, that were charred from fire. Funds for a full excavation of the site were secured last year. Excavations began in earnest this year. Thus far the team has unearthed more evidence of fire at the east gate. The outer posts of the gate are charred through, and posts from inside the gate bear marks of burning.

The working theory right now is that the fort was attacked by Danish noblemen before it was completed during an uprising against Harald Bluetooth’s rule. Harald’s son Sweyn Forkbeard rebelled against his father in the mid-980s. According to Saxo Grammaticus, chronicler and author of the Gesta Danorum, Sweyn’s forces defeated Harald and forced him to flee to Jomsborg where he died of his wounds.

Archaeologists also found that the fort was not complete, that construction appeared to have ended halfway through. That suggests it was the last fort Harald built, that it was started at the end of his reign, became a target of rebel forces and was left unfinished after his defeat and death.

In the hopes of getting more information about the fire, archaeologists have reached out to police fire safety investigators. They want forensic arson specialists to study the burned areas of the structure.

“Hopefully, they can say more about how the fire was started. We generally have good experience of cooperation with the police. For instance, we have previously used their sniffing dogs to dig out bones from the earth,” Sanne Jakobsen, communications manager at Southeast Museum Denmark told Danish Radio.

The team will also do dendrochronological analysis of the timbers to narrow down the date of the fort. Excavations will continue for three months every summer through 2018, after which the plan is to close up archaeological shop and let the field return to nature. The clock is ticking, therefore. If you have a chance to see the site in the next couple of years, take it. Visitors can download an app to learn more about the other Trelleborg forts, Borgring and the archaeological finds made at the site.

Here’s a video of the site which is open to the public right now. There are mounds and trenches from the active excavation at the east gate.

You can keep up with the excavation on the Vikingeborgen Borgring Facebook page.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Gold coins found on Teutoburg Forest battle site

History Blog - Sat, 2016-07-02 10:04

At the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D., three legions, six cohorts of auxiliary troops and three squadrons of cavalry led by Publius Quintilius Varus were slaughtered by Germanic tribesmen led Arminius. Arminius was the son of Cherusci king who had been sent to Rome as a hostage when he was a child. There he received a military education and achieved the rank of Equites. He was deployed to Germania as Varus’ advisor where he secretly united tribes that had been at each other’s throats for years. While feeding Varus misinformation, Arminius used his knowledge of Roman military tactics to manipulate commander and legions into a disastrously indefensible position inside the forest. By the end of the battle, 15,000 to 20,000 Roman troops were dead. Varus and several of his officers committed suicide. Only about 1,000 men survived.

The defeat was so decisive it had long-term consequences to Rome’s plans for Germania. Roman legions would fight German tribes east of the Rhine, even east of the Teutoburg Forest again, but Rome never gained the permanent foothold in Germany between the Rhine and the Elbe it had in Gaul or Britain.

The precise location of the battlefield was lost for thousands of years until the late 1980s when a metal detectorist found coins from the reign of Augustus and lead sling-bullets at Kalkriese Hill in Osnabrück county, Lower Saxony. Starting in 1989, the site was formally excavated and archaeologists unearthed human and animal bones, and Roman military artifacts like fragments of hobnailed sandals, spearheads, iron keys and one officer’s ceremonial face mask. They also found earthworks defenses 15 miles wide and evidence that the Romans had attempted to breach them but failed, just as Cassius Dio had described (Roman History, Book 56, Chapter 18).

A museum and archaeological park were built at Kalkriese Hill in the early 2000, with the 20 hectares of the site open to the public as excavations continue. During this season’s excavation, a team from the Kalkriese Museum and Park and Osnabrück University found six gold coins, Augustan aurei, on June 9th. The next day they found three more. In the past 25 years, excavations at the site have unearthed two gold coins and 800 silver and bronze ones, so finding eight within a few meters of each other on two consecutive days is a great rarity.

Minted in Lugdunum (modern-day Lyons) from 2 B.C. until 4 A.D., the aurei are of the Gaius-Lucius type, coins dedicated to Augustus’ grandsons. On the reverse the young Caesars are depicted wearing togas, one hand on a shield with a spear behind it. A simplum and lituus, emblems of priestly rank, hover between them. The inscription reads AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT (“sons of Augustus, consuls-designate and leaders of the youth”). The obverse is a profile head of Augustus wearing a laurel wreath inscribed CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE (“Caesar Augustus, son of the deified [Julius Caesar], Father of the Nation”).

The sons of Augustus’ daughter Julia and Marcus Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius were adopted by their grandfather in 17 B.C. when Gaius was three and Lucius was an infant. He made them his heirs and turbocharged them into political careers when they were still teenagers. Augustus’ hopes were dashed when Lucius died of a sudden illness in 2 A.D. and Gaius died two years later after being wounded in battle. Tacitus suggests their stepmother Livia may have had a hand in their deaths in order to elevate her own son Tiberius to the imperial throne.

After Gaius’ death in 4 A.D., the coins were no longer produced. The eight coins found on the battle site are well-preserved, but they show signs of having been in circulation, particularly in the wear around the edges. Aurei were very valuable, used mainly for large purchases and ceremonial gifts. Standard legionary pay under Augustus was 300 bronze asses a month, the equivalent of about 19 denarii. An aureus was worth 25 denarii. Legionaries didn’t usually get their full pay while they were in the field because carrying around increasing hundreds of bronze coins for years quickly goes from bulky to impossible. It was saved for when the campaign was over or sent to their families.

Only an officer was likely to have the wherewithal to have a bunch of aurei on his person. Since these coins were found so close together and relatively near the surface, archaeologists believe they may have been in a bag of cash an officer was carrying during the battle. It was dropped in the conflict or perhaps hidden before a flight attempt and the bag decayed, leaving only its shiny contents to be discovered 2,000 years later.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Escape tunnel found at Lithuanian massacre site

History Blog - Fri, 2016-07-01 09:48

Vilnius, today the capital of Lithuania, and environs were occupied by the Soviets in 1939 and 1940. The USSR and Germany were allies at the time, and Soviet troops occupied areas of Eastern Europe in concert with Germany’s invasion of Poland. In 1940, the Soviet army began to dig pits for oil storage tanks in the Ponar forest, today known as Paneriai, outside Vilnius to supply a planned airfield. The oil storage project was still in progress in 1941 when Hitler violated the Nonagression Pact and invaded the Soviet Union. The Red Army retreated from Vilnius and the Nazis took over.

Being as practical as they were murderous, the Nazis thought of another use for the big pits: as execution chambers for tens of thousands of Jews, Poles, Russians, Roma and political prisoners. Between July of 1941 and August of 1944, approximately 100,000 people, 70,000 of them Jews, were forced by SS Einsatzkommando 9 and Lithuanian collaborators to walk down a steep ramp into the pits in the forest. The soldiers standing at the rim of the pit then mowed down everyone inside of them. The victims were buried in the forest.

As the Red Army advanced in 1943 and it became clear Germany would not be able to hold occupied territories in Eastern Europe for long, the Gestapo ordered that all evidence of genocidal mass-murders be destroyed, in keeping with the Aktion 1005 directive. To accomplish this gruesome goal in Ponar, 80 prisoners from the nearby Stutthof concentration camp were assembled into a “Burning Brigade,” as it became known, and tasked with digging up all the mass graves, cutting wood, piling the corpses onto pyres made from the logs they’d cut, dousing them in gasoline and burning them to ash.

Guarded by 30 Lithuanian militia and German soldiers and 50 SS men, one guard for each prisoner, the members of the Burning Brigade had to work for three months with their legs shackled together. At night they slept in an execution pit where they knew full well they themselves would be shot to death after their work was done. Eleven of the prisoners had been shot and killed already because of illness of for no particular reason other than sadism or to instill even more terror in the survivors.

Some of the prisoners decided to make an attempt to get out of this hell alive. The lead organizer of the escape attempt was Isaac Dogim, a Jewish man who had recognized his own wife amongst the decaying corpses from a medallion he had given her as a wedding present. His wife, three sisters and three nieces were in the pile of bodies he was forced to burn. With the help of prisoner Yudi Farber, who had been a civil engineer before the war, they dug a tunnel out of the pit with spoons and their own hands as their only tools. Shackled, guarded and using spoons for shovels, the prisoners managed to dig a tunnel 35 meters (115 feet) long over the course of three months.

They decided to make a break for it on Passover night, April 14th, 1944. They cut their shackles off with a file and crawled through the tunnel. Forty prisoners made it out of the tunnel, but the guards heard footsteps on branches and began to shoot. Fifteen prisoners made it to the forest. Only 11 eventually reached resistance forces in the Rudniki forest and survived the war. Five days after the escape, the 29 prisoners left at Ponar were shot.

After the war, the Soviets used the Ponar massacre as propaganda, claiming only Soviet prisoners were killed there and denying the overwhelming numbers of Jews and Poles murdered. The survivors of the escape and their descendants kept the real story alive, but the precise location of the tunnel was lost.

Excavating the site in an attempt to rediscover the tunnel was not possible because it might disturb remains of people murdered by the Nazis, but several attempts were made to locate it with non-invasive means. In 2004, a Lithuanian archaeologist found the entrance to a tunnel inside Pit 6. This year, the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius enlisted a team of researchers from Lithuania, Israel, the United States and Canada to map and explore the tunnel itself without excavation.

Led by Richard Freund, a Judaic studies professor at the University of Hartford, and Jon Seligman, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the team of historians, archaeologists and geophysicists used ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), a technology which detects different elements underground from their different levels of electrical resistivity, to scan the entrance to the tunnel. ERT is commonly used by the oil and gas industry as a prospecting device, and by scientists to investigate the water table, fault lines, landslides and more. It can also pinpoint buried archaeological features because their electrical resistivity is different from that of the soil in which they’re buried. On June 8th, the team successfully mapped the entire length of the tunnel and found its exit.

The discovery of the tunnel has been filmed for PBS’ always-excellent NOVA series. The episode will cover the history of the Jews in Vilnius, a city with such a rich Jewish culture it was once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, the slaughter of 95% of the city’s Jewish population in World War II, and modern archaeological investigations including that of the Ponar tunnel and the excavation of the The Great Synagogue of Vilna. The program is scheduled to air in 2017.

The research team plans to return to the pit. Working with the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum and the Tolerance Center of Lithuania, the team will open the tunnel to public view as part of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the massacres in Vilnius.

UPDATE: Here is a video of Holocaust survivor Mordechai Zeidel telling the story of the liquidation of the Vilnus (Vilna, then) ghetto, his forced labour in the Burning Brigade and his escape through the tunnel. He was one of the 11 to survive and reach a Jewish partisan group with whom he participated in the liberation of Vilnius. It is subtitled in English.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Altenberg Abbey treasures reunited after 200 years

History Blog - Thu, 2016-06-30 02:12


More than two centuries after they were scattered, a medieval altarpiece, reliquaries and art works from the Premonstratensian convent of Altenberg in central Germany have been reunited at Frankfurt’s Städel Museum. Heaven on Display. The Altenberg Altar and Its Imagery brings together 37 precious devotional objects from the late 13th and early 14th centuries that have been in separate collections since Napoleon was cutting a swath through Europe.

The star of the show is the Early Gothic Altenberg Altar, a folding high altar retable with a shrine cabinet, a polychrome statue of the Madonna and Child in the middle niche and painted panels on each side. The wings, some of the earliest surviving examples of German panel painting, are part the Städel’s permanent collection, but the rest is on loan. Other objects include reliquaries the once were kept in the shrine cabinet of the altarpiece, goldsmithery, 13th century altar crosses, figural glass paintings from an early 14th century window and two embroidered linen altar cloths made around 1330.

The altar cloths are large, elaborately decorated pieces that were placed on the altar in front of the retable. No other altar cloths from the Early Gothic period in Germany have survived.

Sometime before 1192, Emperor Barbarossa granted the convent the status of imperial immediacy, which put it under the direct rule of the Holy Roman Emperor, exempting it from vassalage to the local lords, essentially a guarantee of independence. The daughters of area nobles joined the convent and endowments from their families over time transformed a small, obscure abbey into one of wealth and power.

One of those daughters was Gertrude, the child of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia, who died a few months before Gertrude was born. After her beloved husband’s death, Elizabeth dedicated her life to asceticism and charitable works, so much so that she gave up basically everything in the world that she loved, including her children. Little Gertrude was two years old when she was sent to live with the canoness of Aldenberg. She took the veil and became cannoness herself when she was just 21. Her rule lasted until her death 49 years later.

Elizabeth was already dead by the time her daughter dedicated her own life to piety and mortification of the flesh, felled by a fever when she was 24 years old. Only five years later she was canonized. Gertrude collected relics of the mother she had only had childhood memories of, if any, for the abbey. The works on display are examples of Gertrude’s devotion to her literally sainted mother. There’s a tapestry from 1270 woven with scenes from the life of Elizabeth and Louis IV which may have been hung behind the altar on important occasions before the altarpiece was built, an arm reliquary shaped like an arm and containing an arm, Elizabeth’s silver jug and a ring that once belonged to Louis.

The convent managed to retain its imperial status through the Reformation, the decline of imperial power and rise of the princes after the Thirty Years’ War. It came to an end with the Final Recess of 1803 when Napoleon compensated German princes who had lost lands west of the Rhine to France with ecclesiastical territories. Altenberg, monastery, church and extensive agricultural and forested lands, became the personal property of the Princes of Solms-Braunfels who had long coveted it. They turned the convent into a summer residence and distributed its works of art and devotional objects throughout their castles. The altar went to Braunfels Castle, the arm reliquary of St. Elisabeth to the chapel of Sayn Palace.

From there they made their way into museums and collections around the world. The Städel Museum in got the wings of the altar in 1925. Other collections including those of the city of Frankfurt, Munich’s Bayerische Nationalmuseum, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City all have bits and pieces of Altenberg. It’s an impressive feat reuniting so many elements of the medieval convent to put the objects in some semblance of their original context.

The exhibition is on right now and runs through September 25th, 2016.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Æthelmearc Fencers Rise to the Dragon Rose Challenge

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-06-29 21:21

Comtesse Elena d’Artois reports on the completion of the Dragon Rose Challenge.

Fencers at War Practice. Photo by Crystal Clark.

The Dragon Rose Challenge has ended, and our kingdom has done incredibly well for an out-of-kingdom program! Final scores were:

  • Midrealm 5201
    • By region: Constellation: 1523 Midlands: 676 Oaken: 2167 Pentamere: 835
  • Æthelmearc 3866

Top 3 Midrealmers (to be awarded prizes):

  • THL Lucien Featherstone: 310
  • Lady Cecily O’Donell: 306
  • THL Vindis the Bedwetter: 263

Top 3 Æthelmearcers:

  • Doña Elena d’Artois : 372.5
  • Don Po Silvertop the Rogue: 336.8
  • Doña Emily of Dunvegan: 278.9

Our kingdom scores individually were:

  • Doña Elena d’Artois 372.5
  • Don Po Silvertop the Rogue 336.8
  • Doña Emily of Dunvegan 278.9
  • Mistress Dorinda Courtenay 225.04
  • Lord Jacob Martinson 217
  • Lord Ru Cavorst 203
  • Doña Gabrielle de Winter 168
  • Nicolo Loredan da Venezia 166.2
  • Don Clewin Kupferhelbelinc 138
  • THL Gytha Oggsdottir 128
  • Don Jacob of Dunmore 123.71
  • Baroness Miriel du Lac 109
  • Lord Lucha di Lion 107
  • Lady Racheldis of Swansmere 87
  • Master Benedict Fergus atte Mede 87
  • Dame Caroline of Burgundy 80
  • Master Donnan MacDubhsidhe 79
  • Mistress Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen 78
  • Lady Cairdha Eilis 67
  • Baroness Juliana Rosalia Dolce di Siena 54.375
  • Lord Battista 51
  • Lord Cyrus Augur 49
  • Lord Simon Savastian Caminante 46
  • Master Iago Benitez 42.1
  • Lady Deirdre Kildare 41.08
  • Baron Magnus de Lyons 40
  • Lord Hrólfr Fjarfell 38
  • Lord Robert MacEwin of Thornhill 37.4
  • THL sionn, the lost 37
  • Don Corwyn Montgomery 35.2
  • Lord Chahagan Duras 34
  • Lord Fordwin Marchand 31
  • Mistress Illadore de Bedegrayne 28
  • Dromundr Geirhjalmsson 27
  • Quintin Lawless 24
  • Master Orlando di Bene del Vinta 21
  • Lord Magnus bastiano di Vigo 21
  • Lord Bjorn Einarsson 20
  • Master Bastiano di Iacopo 19
  • King Byron 17
  • Master Diego Miguel Munoz de Castilla 16
  • Mistress Irene von Schmetterling 15
  • Kar Chan 15
  • Lord William Peregrinus 14
  • Queen Ariella 14
  • Romy Flexcia Delevine 11
  • Jacob Johnson 11
  • Lady Lucia Augur 9
  • Lady Christina Mary Lowe called Jinx 8
  • Master Caleb Reynolds 8
  • Lord Jan Langhe ten Walde 8
  • Calista 7
  • Lady Kattera Doplerin 7
  • Leah of the Debatable Lands 5
  • Baron Ichijo 5
  • Sir Ian O’Kennavain 4
  • THLord Aelric Ravenshaw 3

Great job, Æthelmearc fencers!! To put this in perspective,

  • The Midrealm had 80 fencers, with a total of 5201 points, for an average of 65.02 per fencer.
  • We had 63 fencers but only 58 ever reported scores after joining. With a total of 3924 ponts, we had an average of  67.67 per fencer reporting.

So really, we kept up with them per active person average. We just needed more people, and more people reporting regularly!

Our folks were never eligible for any awards, but participated anyway. Some passionately.

It was a wonderful way to look back on each week to see exactly what we accomplished. Most of us just documented what we were already doing, but the extra challenges kept things fresh and provided a variety of ideas for ways to improve.

Duchess Dorinda maintained a constant energy level all year encouraging us to push that extra couple of bouts. She was inspirational.


Categories: SCA news sites

Viking power couple buried in death house

History Blog - Wed, 2016-06-29 01:30

In 2012, highway construction in Hårup, southwest Denmark, unearthed an unusual grave. It’s a Viking tomb of a type known as a death house, a palisade structure similar to the simple roofed post-in-ground structures that would evolve into stave churches. This is the first death house found in Denmark. It measures four by thirteen meters (about 13 x 43 feet) and has one large room with two graves, and an addition that was built later to house one more grave. The death house dates to around 950 A.D.

Acidic soil has left no detectable human remains, but archaeologists were able to determine the gender of the people buried in the death house from their grave goods. In the main room are a man and woman, the former identified by a large battle axe that was called the Dane Axe in the 10th century. Its imposing size made it an intimidating and highly destructive weapon when wielded by an able fighter. Its weight and size made it a useful tool break apart enemy shields along their seams. In the 10th century, this would have been extremely expensive, an elite weapon for nobility or the obscenely wealthy.

The second person in the main chamber was buried in a wooden wagon typical of burials of noble women. Buried with her were two keys, one larger one symbolic of her status as the lady of a great household. The second key fits a square box that was found by her feet. Fine accessories buried with her include gold and silver ribbon and fur. The person buried in the addition is also an adult male. He too was buried with an axe in his grave, only his was smaller.

The special markings of the grave indicate that the pair must have had a high social status.

“It could be the gentlemen and the lady of the local area and maybe their successor. They’ve at least been honoured in a special way, so they must have been important,” says [excavation leader Kirsten Nelleman] Nielsen.

And it is not just the tomb that is special.

“It’s very special that the man and woman’s graves are marked by the same tomb or palisade. It’s unusual that we’re able to establish that the man and woman were equals with such certainty,” says Nielsen. [...]

[A]rchaeologist Henriette Lyngstrøm from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark,… has seen examples of shared graves before, but the way that the men and women are laid in this grave does indeed indicate a powerful couple, she says.

Nielsen thinks the design inspiration for the death house may have been foreign. The remains of a clay vessel found in the woman’s grave is of a type produced in the Baltic, and she also had two silver coins from what is now Afghanistan. The couple either acquired goods from traders who ranged far and wide or were perhaps well-travelled themselves. If the death house was inspired by a similar structure from elsewhere, that might explain why not other such tombs have been found in Denmark.

Lyngstrøm believes there are more death houses in Denmark; they haven’t been found yet. Nobody was really looking for them. Perhaps this first discovery of its kind will stimulate archaeologists to make associations they haven’t previously made when excavating at tomb. For example a necropolis in Hornbæk, a coastal resort town in northeast Denmark, has the remains of structures at the entrances that may have been death houses, or at least a version of them.

The Silkeborg Museum is hosting an exhibition running through October 23rd that presents an overview of the discoveries made during the highway construction project. It includes the reconstruction of the woman’s grave, the grave goods and some of the other finds from the Stone Age to the 19th century.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Pax Fundraiser for the Kingdom’s Scribes!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-06-28 15:38

The Barony of Thescorre is having a “garage sale” to benefit the scribes of the Kingdom. Anyone who has received an award scroll can see the time and effort put into each work of art. Supplies for our beautiful scrolls are expensive, and the money earned will allow more scribes to do their art for Æthelmearc. 

Please bring your SCA-related items that you no longer use to Pax for the sale. Pre-pricing items is helpful. There will be a tent set up in the merchant area.

Need items for Pennsic? Then come and shop! You never know what kind of bargains you will find.

(And the favor of stopping by at the end to retrieve unsold items would be greatly appreciated.)

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly via Facebook (Pamela McDermott) message or email.
YIS,
Mistress Roberta McMorland


Categories: SCA news sites

Original ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster for sale

History Blog - Tue, 2016-06-28 11:06

Before it was an inescapable meme of infinite variety plastered on every crappy consumer product ever cranked out by Chinese industry, the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan graced a British Ministry of Information poster printed, but never used, in the early days of World War II. It was one of three poster designs in plain text bearing the crown of King George VI printed in August of 1939 to shore up the morale of the country through the confusion and fear that were sure to follow should war break out.

The other two posters — “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory,” and “Freedom Is in Peril Defend It with All Your Might” — were quickly distributed after Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939. “Keep Calm,” which was intended for use in the worst case scenario of a German invasion and since that never happened, those posters were never posted. They were widely distributed as part of the preparations for war, but most of the print run of 2.5 million posters was pulped when paper shortages struck.

Never seen by the public, the poster was unknown until 2000 when one Stuart Manley, co-owner of Barter Books, a beautiful bookstore in a restored Victorian train station in Alnwick, Northumberland, found one folded in the bottom of a box of old books he’d bought at an auction. His wife Mary thought it was awesome, because it is, so she had it framed and hung it on the wall near the cash register.

Customers went gaga for it, so the Manleys made copies of the poster to sell. Soon the original was outside the shop, drawing crowds and advertising the copies for sale. When it hit the internet, the slogan spread worldwide and in short order became the meme template we know today.

For more than a decade, the Manleys’ poster was one of only two known. Then in 2012, Moragh Turnbull brought a cache of 15 of them to the Antiques Roadshow at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh. Her father William worked for the Royal Observer Corps in Edinburgh during the war and had kept many papers, including the “Keep Calm” posters that were distributed but never actually posted. The AR appraiser valued her posters at £1000.

Now, four years later, the original poster that launched a thousand dish towels will be available for purchase at the Manning Fine Art stand at the Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia in London, open now through July 3rd. According to The Guardian price tag is £21,250, but the headline says it’s up for auction so that may be the reserve set or maybe even a pre-sale estimate.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Teapot is Smithsonian’s millionth digitized object

History Blog - Mon, 2016-06-27 00:05

A teapot made by 19th century silversmith Peter Bentzon is the one millionth object digitized by the Smithsonian’s Mass Digitization Program. There are 154 million objects in the many collections of the Smithsonian Institute, so just 153 million more to go.

Peter Bentzon was born on the island of St Thomas in the Danish West Indies around 1783. The child of a free mulatto woman and a white father, he was what the Danish categorized as a “mustice” or “mustee.” His family was comparatively well-off; it is believed his father was Norwegian lawyer Jacob Bentzon who was a royal judge advocate on St Thomas for several years. Peter was sent to school in Philadelphia when he was eight years old, and was apprenticed to a Philadelphia silversmith in 1799 when he was 16. His completed his apprenticeship in 1806 and moved to Christiansted, St Croix, where he started his own silversmithing business.

The British occupied the island from 1807 to 1816 which was advantageous for Bentzon because the British didn’t have the strict laws the Danish had controlling the movements, professions and political rights of the free coloured population of its colonies. Denmark reclaimed St Croix in 1816 and Bentzon made arrangements to move his family and business back to Philly. He lived and worked there until 1829, after which he returned to St. Croix for another 20 years. He relocated to Philadelphia again in 1848. His name is on the 1850 Census. After that, he disappears from the historical record. Wherever he was living, he regularly traveled back and forth between Philadelphia and St Croix.

Bentzon was the only free silversmith of African descent in slavery-era America whose work can be identified from his hallmarks, P. BENTZON and PB. There were at least four other black silversmiths in Philadelphia during his time. Henry Bray and Anthony Sowerwalt are listed as silversmiths and “persons of color” in the 1813 and 1818 Philadelphia directories. Joseph Head and John Frances, a runaway slave, were also working as silversmiths. None of the four produced work under their own hallmark, however, so it’s impossible to link any surviving silver to them.

Very few of Bentzon’s pieces are known to have survived, fewer than three dozen, most of them teaspoons. That makes his work rarer than that of famed fellow silversmiths like Paul Revere and Thomas Fletcher. The Smithsonian’s teapot is the only one confirmed to have been made in Bentzon’s Philadelphia shop.

The silver teapot is an oval vase-shape on a pedestal foot. The scroll handle is made of wood topped with a leaf design. The cover has an acorn finial. It is stamped twice on the bottom with Bentzon’s mark and is inscribed “Rebecca Dawson” on the base. Bentzon rented his workshop from a Robert Dawson, so perhaps Rebecca was a relative of his landlord. The monogram “MC” on the side is a later addition.

It is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) which isn’t an actual museum yet. There had been efforts to create a national museum displaying art and artifacts from African-American history since 1915, but with little funding and no Congressional support, proposals went nowhere. A state initiative was more successful. The National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, received a federal charter from Congress in 1981 and opened in 1988 with no public funding. Its focus was more narrow than that envisioned for the national museum, however, with its main exhibition dedicated to the struggle for Civil Rights in the 1950s and others featuring the city of Wilberforce’s history an important stop on the Underground Railroad and the founding of historically black college Wilberforce University, the first college in the United States that was owned and run by African Americans.

The Smithsonian’s collection of African-Americana didn’t see much light until dedicated exhibitions in the National Museum of American History in the 1980s. For a long time the Board of the Smithsonian itself questioned whether the collection could sustain a stand-alone African-American history museum, and it wasn’t until December of 2003 that all the pieces came together with the passage of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Act establishing the new museum within the rubric of the Smithsonian Institution. It took another three years for the site, part of the Washington Monument grounds, to be selected. Settling on a design for the building took even more time. Finally, ground was broken on February 22nd, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Smithsonian took the innovative step of creating a virtual museum when the physical museum was still years away from construction. It created a website for the NMAAHC with select objects from the collection and online exhibitions. The first exhibition in the three dimensional world took place in New York in 2005. In 2012 the NMAAHC partnered with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to put on an exhibition about slavery at Monticello held at the National Museum of American History.

By 2015, the museum’s collection had grown to more than 33,000 objects including Louis Armstrong’s 1946 Selmer trumpet, 39 extremely rare Harriet Tubman artifacts donated in 2012 by collector Charles L. Blockson, Emmett Till’s glass-topped casket, a 1922 Pullman railroad car from Chattanooga, Tennessee, used to carry Black passengers under Jim Crow segregation and a guard tower from Louisiana’s notorious Angola penitentiary which was is big the museum had to be build around it.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will opens its doors in the new building on September 24th, 2016.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Another Samnite tomb, skeletons, gold coins found in Pompeii

History Blog - Sun, 2016-06-26 01:41

Last year, the international and interdisciplinary archaeological team from the Jean Bérard Center of Naples excavating the Porta Ercolano are outside Pompeii’s northwest gate made headlines when they discovered a rare intact 4th century B.C. Samnite tomb. Now the same team has found another Samnite tomb from the same period, plus the skeletal remains of four people fleeing the eruption of Vesuvius and a few of the treasures they carried with them.

As is traditional with Roman cities, areas outside the walls were used for tombs and for artisanal workshop, in this case primarily pottery shops, because they’d make a lot of noise, produce smoke, noxious odors, etc. that would be a nuisance in the densely populated city center. In fact, the team has been excavating this area for five years to study the pottery production facilities and the role of crafts in the Pompeiian economy. They didn’t really think they’d find anything new in this particular spot because it had already been excavated in the 19th century by the great Giuseppe Fiorelli, Pompeii’s groundbreaking director of works who devised the plaster cast system to capture the last moments of Vesuvius’ victims.

Soon after the dig season began on May 16th, the team was delighted to find, in keeping with their mission, the remains of two shops. One had a vertical pit with a staircase built into the side, a unique design never found before in Pompeii. Archaeologists believe it may have been a furnace used to manufacture bronze objects. The second workshop, closer to the city gate, has a circular well dug into the soil that may have been used to extract construction materials. Archaeologists aren’t certain of its purpose. It was accessible by a spiral staircase carved into the terrain. Research will continue over the next month and other shops nearby will be excavated.

The remains of Vesuvius’ victims were found in the back room of one of the shops. The four appear to be young people, one of them a teenage girl, who made it outside the city gate but must have been compelled to stop and seek shelter, probably in the futile attempt to dodge the pyroclastic flow ringing the death knell for the city. The remains were jumbled up against the wall, the result of looters known as fossores who tunneled through the ash to scavenge any valuables people had taken with them when they tried to outrun the volcano. The exact date of this incursion is hard to establish; sometime between the eruption of 79 A.D. and the official excavations of the 19th century.

The fossores didn’t get everything, though. Three gold coins and a gold foil pendant in the shape of a flower were found amidst the bones. The coins are aurei of the emperor Vespasian dating to 74, 77/78 A.D. There were also some undamaged ceramics: a bowl, three small pitchers, two lids of cooking vessels charred from their quotidian use, not the eruption, and an elegant white urceus, a tall, slender, one-handled vessel used to contain garum, the fermented salted, sun-cured fish intestine sauce that Romans used on everything.

Dating to the 4th century B.C., the Samnite tomb is lined with limestone slabs and contains the remains of an adult male with grave goods quite different from those found in the tomb of a woman last year. There are six vases — among them an oinochoe, a lekythos, a kylix, a skyphos and a globular aryballos with a flat bottom — all black painted without any decoration painted over it, unlike last year’s tomb. The tomb is not fully excavated yet, but archaeologists are on the look-out for remains of a belt buckle and/or weapons that have been found before in the graves of Samnite men.

From the late 5th century, early 4th century B.C., a period of great transition when the Samnite peoples, originally located in the Apennines, spread into the territories of other Italic tribes and Greek colonies finally reaching the Mediterranean. Before the eruption of Vesuvius, Pompeii was less than a third of a mile from the coast, so the Samnite presence there is an important benchmark of the last stages of its expansion. Very little archaeological material has been found from this period, so all discoveries take on even greater significance.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Scented Soap Balls, the Tudor Way!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-06-25 21:02

by Lady Elska á Fjárfelli

Using bar soap to make something else is a time-honored tradition. In the 16th century in Tudor times, grated soap could be bought from an apothecary as an ingredient for scented soap balls (and rather strange medicines). Intriguing recipes of that time exist with quite curious ingredients, such as oil of spike (a type of lavender) and civet (an excretion of the civet cat, used in perfumery). If it smelled nice, or otherwise helped a woman’s self-image by bleaching (white hands), scrubbing (calluses), coloring (rosy cheeks) or smoothing (wrinkles), pretty much anything went.

Children enjoyed making soap balls at College of Three Ravens. Photo by Lady Elska.

White soap was known for many centuries but it was not until the Middle Ages that it came into widespread use. White soap had two distinct advantages over soft soap, or black soap. Its basic ingredient, olive oil, was easy and pleasant to work with compared to animal fat of questionable age and hygiene. It also sets into solid bars and therefore can be shredded, which makes it possible for a customer to mold and scent soaps to the customers’ personal taste.

Despite the general modern belief that people back then did not bathe much at all, people of the Tudor age did keep themselves clean … by continuously changing and laundering their underclothes and by sponge bathing. Henry VIII and other royals had permanent plumbed-in bathrooms, like those built at Hampton Court and Whitehall. Of course, these magnificent bathrooms were great luxuries.

Bathing for the average person meant having to fill a wooden tub with water, which was time consuming without indoor plumbing or gas ranges and was not something they would bother to do regularly. An interest in personal cleanliness did develop around that time as Tudor-style clothes were tight fitting and often of not-easy-to-clean fabrics, as shown by various toiletry soaps and stain removal recipes that began to show up in various household instruction manuals of that time.

Sir Hugh Plat, in his Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes & Water (1609), shares a great recipe for “a delicate washing bal”:

Take three ounces of Orace, half an ounce of Cypres, two ounces of Calamus Aromaticus, one ounce of Rose leaves, two ounces of Lavender flowres: beat all these together in a mortar, searching them thorow a fine Searce, then scrape some castill sope, and dissolve it with some Rose-water, then incorporate all your powders therewith, by labouring of them well in a mortar.

Another nice recipe comes from The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount (1558) by Girolamo Ruscelli, on how to make “Vvhite musked Sope”:

Take Sope scraped or grated, as much as you will the whiche (when ye haue well stieped and tempered in rose water) leaue it eight dais in the sunne: Than you shall adde to it an vnce of the water or milk of Macaleb, twlue graines of Muske, and sixe graines of Ciuet, and reducinge all the whole into the fourme and maner of harde past, you shall make therof very excellent balles.

Making your own soap balls is easy, since all one needs to do is grate soap into slivers (by hand or with a kitchen machine), add a tiny bit of water or milk to make the slivers sticky, knead a bit by hand and then roll the sticky mass into a ball. Dry for a few days and the soap is ready to be used. Plain olive oil-based soap like Castile soap would be close to period.

Grinding ingredients at A&S Faire. Photo by Lady Elska.

This project also makes for quite a fun kid’s activity, especially when they get to hand-grind smelly botanicals to add to their own kid-sized shaped balls of soap. Check out your local Asian store for a coarse stone mortar and pestle, pick up some herbs and spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, lily flowers, or rose buds, and with the help of your energetic kids grind up a pinch of this and that, then knead into your sticky mass before shaping. The bits and pieces will also add scrubbing ability to your soap, along with an amazing handmade scent. Your kids might actually be inspired to wash their hands before dinner now they’ve made their own soap… a win-win situation if you ask me!

What are plausible ingredients for period washing balls?

You can try dried moss for a scrubbing soap; cedarwood, sandalwood, musk, and civet essential oils for a spicy woodsy scent; (distilled) rosewater, ground rose petals or buds, ground lavender buds, or lily flowers for a nice floral scent; dried herbs like mint, lemon balm, rosemary, or sage for that clean herbal scent. There are also some less usual but very period ingredients: Orace (orris, or Iris rhizome), Cypres (not cypress, but Aram or jack in the pulpit), Calamus Aromaticus (sweet sedge), amber grease (ambergris),  Benjamin (benzoin), Macaleb (Prumus maheleb), Sandali citrini (yellow saunders wood), gum Oldanum (frankincense), Storax, and my personal favorite; oil of Spike (Lavendula spica essential oil).

So, the next time you are shopping online for kitchen spices or visiting an international market, check out the botanicals to see what unusual scrubs and scents they might have… and make yourself a set of scented balls the Tudor way!

Bibliography:

http://www.livinghistory.co.uk/homepages/historicalballs/History%20of%20soapmaking.htm

http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/resources/life-in-tudor-england/tudor-hygiene-part-1-bathing

Ashenburg K (2007) The Dirt on Clean, an unsanitized history, North Point Press, NY

Plat, Sir Hugh (1609) Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes & Water EEBO

Ruscelli, Girolamo (1558) The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount EEBO

My personal database of soap-related Materia Medica.


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