In April of 2012, David Taylor was helping his brother-in-law Andrew Coulter remove stones from his newly plowed field in Inishargy near Kircubbin, County Down, Northern Ireland, when he spied a muddy piece of metal perched on a rock. Its distorted open ring shape captured David’s interest. He picked the piece up and found it was soft metal which made him think it might be an object worth keeping, perhaps an expensive piece of machinery. When he brought it back home and cleaned it, his wife thought it was just some dirty scrap, an old discarded U-bolt bracket that David should throw in the trash.
David was still intrigued by its shape, however. He thought it might be a bracelet, although he had no idea what period it might date to. He took some pictures of the object and sent them to local museum experts. They recognized it as a Viking arm ring, a very rare discovery in Ireland.
On Monday, September 9th, a Belfast Coroner’s Court inquest officially declared the ring treasure trove. It’s composed of 90% silver with trace quantities of copper and gold and was manufactured between 950 and 1100 A.D. It weighs 45 grams, almost two Viking ounces, and would have been used by the Vikings not just as adornment but also as currency.
The Annals of Ulster note that monasteries and churches in the county were raided by Vikings in the 9th century, and there were constant battles between the Danes, Norse and Ulster kings. By 970 A.D. relations between the Vikings and native Irish had stabilized, however archaeologists speculate that the arm ring did not originate in the area, but rather in Shetland or the Orkneys where there were large Viking colonies. Not that there weren’t Viking settlements in Ireland. Dublin was awash with them, and in Northern Ireland there were notable ones at Ballyholme near Bangor and at and Strangford village, both in County Down.
John Sheehan, archaeologist from University College Cork, told coroner Suzanne Anderson that the field where the ring was found lay close to the remains of a medieval church.
He explained that religious sites were often used as a storage place for valuable items.
With clashes between Viking settlers and native Irish commonplace, the expert suggested the ring may have been taken out of Scandinavian hands.
“Maybe it fell into Irish hands and as a result of that ended up deposited for safe-keeping at a church site but then got lost,” he said.
The arm ring will now be assessed for market value by the UK Treasure Valuation Committee, comprised of experts from the British Museum and other institutions. Once a fair monetary value is assessed, the closest local museum, in this case the Ulster Museum, will be given the opportunity to purchase the piece. The money will be divided 50/50 between the finder, David Taylor, and the landowner, his brother-in-law Andrew Coulter. David is hoping the Ulster Museum acquires the arm ring because he thinks it’s important that the rare discovery remain in the place where it was found. That’s what makes it so rare.
Earlier in 2013, Islamic extremists destroyed more than 4,000 ancient manuscripts from the medieval African city of Timbuktu, nearly one-tenth of the ancient collection. Now experts hope they can find copies digitized before the destruction.
A restoration of the Colosseum, currently underway, reveals frescos in a corridor that has been sealed off since the 3rd century. Unlike the moss-and-marble walls of today, the building interior, in its day, would have been a Technicolor extravaganza.
The tomb of one of ancient China’s most powerful and accomplished women, 7th century poet, politician and imperial consort Shangguan Wan’er, has been found near the airport in Xianyang City, Shaanxi province, northwest China. The tomb is approximately 118 feet long, 33 feet deep, has five skylights and vaults off a central corridor. It was badly damaged at some point, probably in antiquity, and not just by casual looters. The destruction of her tomb appears to have been part of a deliberate campaign by political enemies. Few artifacts were discovered — no precious metals or human remains — but the ones that did survive are important: a set of ceramic horsemen on their steeds and a memorial tablet inscribed with an epitaph identifying the tomb as that of “the late Zhaorong [imperial consort] Madame Shangguan of the Great Tang dynasty.”
Shangguan Wan’er (664–710) was born to privilege but in turbulent times. Her grandfather Shangguan Yi was chancellor under Emperor Gaozong. The year his granddaughter was born, Shangguan Yi got in trouble with Empress Wu. Emperor Gaozong had expressed concern about her ever increasing power at court and his chancellor advised that the empress be deposed. When Empress Wu found out, her weasel husband blamed it all on Shangguan Yi. She and her allies accused the chancellor of conspiring with the crown prince to overthrow the emperor and had the lot of them, including Shangguan Yi and his son, Shangguan Wan’er’s father Shangguan Tingzhi, executed.
The infant Shangguan Wan’er and her mother Lady Zheng survived the palace intrigue but were enslaved. Lady Zheng saw to her daughter’s education and the child’s literary abilities became evident at a young age. She was 13 years old when Empress Wu encountered her poems and was so impressed with her abilities that she appointed the teenager her personal secretary. Shangguan Wan’er was 19 years old when Emperor Gaozong died in 683 and Empress Wu became first the power behind her sons thrones, and then, after deposing both of them in turn, the power in the throne. She declared herself emperor in 690, officially ending the Tang Dynasty and starting the Zho Dynasty.
As the empress/emperor’s secretary, Shangguan Wan’er wielded genuine political power. She drafted imperial edicts, handled petitions from imperials officials and served as an adviser to Empress Wu on matters of state. Many of the articles about this find describe her as China’s first female prime minister because her role was so prominent and she was so close to the empress that in effect her position was more akin to a prime minister than a scribe.
In 705, Empress Wu was deposed in a coup and replaced with Emperor Zhongzong, one of the sons she had deposed. Shangguan Wan’er ably changed sides and became one of the new emperor’s concubines, at the Jieyu or 14th rank. He recognized her skills too, so Emperor Zhongzong utilized her experience and famously beautiful prose in the drafting of edicts. She had several affairs with members of the royal family and became a confidante of Emperor Zhongzong’s wife Empress Wei. So powerful a figure was she at this court too that she was singled out for arrest during a failed 707 coup attempt. The next year the emperor promoted her to Zhaorong, a sixth rank concubine.
The emperor died suddenly, probably of poisoning, in 710. In the month after his death, Empress Wei’s faction set up a system where she would rule as regent for her son. Shangguan Wan’er’s part in this cunning plan was to draft a fake pre-dated will in which Emperor Zhongzong left the throne to his son and the regency to the empress dowager. The exclusion of Li Dan, Prince of Xiang, from this plot ensured its failure. Li Dan’s son launched a plot to overthrow the empress. This coup Shangguan Wan’er did not survive. She attempted to buy her survival by handing over Emperor Zhongzong’s original will, but it didn’t work. She was dragged out of her home and beheaded on the spot.
Despite the coups and power shifts that kept the court hopping for years, Shangguan Wan’er’s gifts were readily acknowledged by subsequent emperors. In 711, her titles were posthumously restored to her and a few years later the emperor had her literary works collected and published.
Archeologist Margrét Hallmundsdóttir believes that a skeleton discovered in 2012 in Hrafnseyri, Iceland, dates to around 1000 CE, the year of the country's conversion to Christianity. The grave was found in the vicinity of a church, dating to the same time period.
You know that the SCA Known World is alive with talent. Now the Society is giving us the chance to prove it with just a short YouTube video.
Lucius Valerius Geminus is dead. In fact, he's been dead since the 1st century CE, but thanks to the discovery of his tombstone, archaeologists now know something about the Roman soldier who died in Oxfordshire.
A pair of exceptional dinosaur fossils discovered on private land in Montana in 2006 will be going up for auction at Bonhams in New York on November 19th, and scientists aren’t too thrilled about it. The pre-sale estimate is $7 million to $9 million, an exorbitant sum for an institution, so the fossils and all the unique information they contain might be lost to science should they be snapped up by a private collector with deep pockets.
The fossils capture two extremely rare dinosaurs in what appears to be the moment they killed each other 67 millions years ago. The carnivore, Nanotyrannus lancensis, left some of his teeth in the skull and neck of the herbivore Chasmosaurine ceratopsian. In turn, Nanotyrannus’ chest and skull are crushed from a powerful blow to the side, perhaps a well-placed kick from Chasmosaurine. Nanotyrannus lancensis is either a relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex or a juvenile. This is one of only two examples of the species ever discovered so there’s still debate about whether it’s a separate pygmy tyrannosaur genus or a young T. Rex. Chasmosaurine ceratopsian is closely related to the Triceratops.
This is only the second known fossil to preserve two dinosaurs in a fight. In the other example the two dinosaurs are small, about the size of greyhounds, and they’re nowhere near as complete. The Montana dueling dinos are huge. They are both eight feet high, the ceratopsian 17 feet wide and the lancensis 22 feet wide. They are so well preserved that there are pockets of what could be skin from both animals still attached.
From the Bonhams press release:
The “Dueling Dinos” have the potential to radically advance modern paleontology, and illuminate the mysteries of life during the Cretaceous Age. Their superb preservation in fine-grain, loosely consolidated sandstone allowed them to remain intact despite the weight of the sediment that buried them. The specimens were removed in large, plaster-jacketed sections of earth, safeguarding the spatial relationships in which the bones were found. Both dinosaurs also exhibit extremely rare preserved soft (skin) tissue, offering spectacular possibilities for cellular research.
Additionally, the “Dueling Dinos” may hold the key to answering one of the most puzzling questions for paleontologists today. Presently, researchers are divided over whether Nanotyrannus’ are their own genus, or whether they are simply juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rexes. The Nanotyrannus involved in the “Dueling Dinos” is only the second example ever found, and by far the most complete, offering the best hope to date of answering this pressing scientific question.
Unfortunately, selling them for multi-millions isn’t exactly a boon to science. I find it downright odd that the auction house would emphasize their scientific significance when publicizing their sale to the highest bidder. It’s not like the sellers, the ranchers who own the land in the Hell Creek sedimentary rock formation of Montana where the dueling dinosaurs were found, have stipulated that all buyers must make the fossils available for research. This sale could very well end all scientific investigation of the specimen.
The owners did attempt to sell the fossils directly to museums before they put them up for auction, but their asking price was insane. The Smithsonian was given the chance to bid privately starting at around $15 million. They declined. The American Museum of Natural History received a similar offer which it too declined because of the exorbitant price and because it prefers to display dinosaurs excavated by the museum. The Field Museum of Chicago was also offered the duelers which it declined due to the expense, and this is the museum that paid $8.36 million at auction for Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex which currently holds the record for most expensive dinosaur ever sold.
Maybe one of those institutions who didn’t have $15 million might be able to scrape up half that for the auction, but those pre-sale estimates could easily be blown away in active bidding. Let’s just hope that whoever buys the fossils is willing to grant the scientific community access to it.
The Satire of the Three Estates by Sir David Lyndsay is considered Scotland's only surviving Renaissance play. Now the six-hour-long political satire is being performed at Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian. (video)
Lord Duncan Thorfinnsson, OSC OTC passed away on the evening of September 11, 2013, after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Lady Alexandera Cupbearer, his brother Brian, and his SCA family. Details on services or memorials are not yet available.
Lord Duncan was squired to Master Feral von Halstern and was a long-time pillar of Barony Beyond the Mountain, which named him a Companion of the White oak in 1989. He was a skilled melee fighter, particulary proficient with a pole-arm, and his fighting prowess was recognzied by Tsurunaga and Genevieve in 1993 with his induction into the Order of the Tygers Combatant.
Widely acknowledged as a man who would always be available to lend a helping hand, Lord Duncan’s service to the Society was recognized with his induction into the Order of the Silver Crescent in 1996 by Lucan III and Elspeth. He also served as a retainer to a number of royal households, and was awarded the King’s Cypher by Hanse II in 1999.
Lord Duncan was also a founding member of House Toddington. Although he had not been able to be active in the Society in recent years due to ill health, he remained close to his household and to his SCA friends and family. Fellow household member Baron Ernst Nuss von Kitzengen shares that “if you judge a man’s worth by the friends he has then Duncan was a very wealthy man as he was deeply loved. Not just a gentleman, but a gentle man in all ways. He will be greatly missed.”
Filed under: Tidings Tagged: Barony Beyond the Mountain, obituary
Over 300 wizards and warriors gathered recently at Patuxent River State Park in Maryland for the second annual Bellum Aeternuthe, an "invitational event for live-action role-play (LARP) and combat, open to participants from across the medieval-themed LARP community," and hosted by the Darkon Wargaming Club.
A 1700-year-old mass grave holding the dismembered and decapitated remains of 24 people has been discovered in the ancient Mayan site of Uxul. Researchers from the University of Bonn were exploring the Mayan drinking water system when they came across a 344-square-foot artificial cave that had been used as a reservoir just before it was converted into a charnel house. The floor of the cave was completely clean from when it held drinking water to supply the city during the dry season.
“Aside from the large number of interred individuals, it already became apparent during the excavation that the skeletons were no longer in their original anatomical articulation”, says the archaeologist Nicolaus Seefeld, who studied the sophisticated water supply system of Uxul for his doctoral thesis and discovered the mass grave. All of the skulls were lying scattered around the interior of the cave, in no relation to the rest of the bodies. Even the majority of the lower jaws were separated from the heads. In contrast, detailed examination determined that the limbs of the legs and hands were in some cases completely preserved. “This observation excluded the possibility that this mass grave was a so-called secondary burial, in which the bones of the deceased are placed at a new location”, says Nicolaus Seefeld.
By “completely preserved” he means that some sets of legs, feet, hands and arms were found still fully articulated. That would not have been possible if the bones had initially been buried elsewhere and then moved to the cave. The articulated remains suggest that the deceased were killed all at once rather than over time, and then dismembered and placed in the reservoir.
The body parts were scattered around the space and then covered with coarse gravel and a sealing layer of clay. This burial method kept the bones in excellent condition. Because of the fine state of preservation, osteological analysis was able to identify the sex and age of 15 of the 24 sets of remains. There were 13 men and two women ranging in age from 18 to 42 when they died. Evidence of violence — hatched marks on the vertebra from decapitation, unhealed skull fractures from a blunt instrument, a number of cutting marks, possibly from stone hatchets, on many of skulls.
Some of the teeth had jade inserts, an indicator of high social status, but others showed signs of the long-term malnutrition and tooth decay that tend to afflict the poor. Archaeologists have not yet been able to determine if the dead were residents of Uxul or if they were victims of a war with a competing Maya city. The elite of Uxul weren’t in a good place in the seventh century when the mass grave was filled. The city was conquered and absorbed by my favorite Mayan dynasty, the Snake Lords of Calakmul, during this time. The local nobles were stripped of their titles and replaced with Snake Lord allies. Perhaps some of them were diced up and tossed in a dry reservoir too.
Stable isotope analysis of the enamel and dentine of the teeth might be able to answer that question. Isotopes like oxygen, strontium, lead, carbon and nitrogen become fixed in the teeth when they develop in childhood in percentages and combinations that are unique to a given area. By analyzing the teeth for the presence of stable isotopes, scientists can discover a great deal about the diet and movements of the teeth owners in their youth.
As it stands, the mass grave is strong evidence that the Maya dismembered their prisoners and/or enemies, something depicted often in Mayan art but rarely found in the archaeological record.
Silver Buccle Herald, Kameshima-roku-i Zentarou Umakai, reports that Their Majesties Maynard and Liadain offered Peerages to two of Their subjects at the recent Pennsic War.
The Tyger and Bucket Tavern (Saturday September 14th at 5:00 PM in South Hiram, Maine) is Malagentia’s semi-annual non-event event. Run with a skeleton staff of serving wenches and kitchen crew it seeks to bring the local community together by allowing everyone in attendance to participate in the central activities: schmoozing and eating.
The brain-child of Lady Honig von Sommerfeldt, currently Chatelaine for the Province of Malagentia, this event strives to be a fun event for the old timers who come to catch up with friends old and new, as well as an easy event for a newcomer to attend. Where other events are centered around activities that must be a developed skill before one can participate (such as fighting, archery, arts & sciences displays etc.) you don’t need to know how to do anything but eat to have a great time at this event and be a full participant in the goings-on. This will be the eighth incarnation of the Tavern, which materializes Brigadoon-like from the mists each spring and fall. There is an unwritten low-regalia dress code that helps new people feel at ease and lets those folks who wear the burden of peerage, crown, or coronet set it down for an evening and be “just like regular folks”.
Please join the Bad People of Malagentia for this enchanting evening. Check your stuffy authenticist cred at the door and relax. Travelers from afar are enjoined to settle in among these simple folk and share their war stories from the summer. Learn the secrets of the Schnitzelbank, strut your hirsute handsomeness in the hairy chest contest, purchase a pickle to be delivered by the talented pickle dancers, raise your voice in song, bring a bottle of your best home brew to share and feast and laugh until you guts might burst.
And just in case that isn’t enough to lure you out into the wilds of Malagentia on a crisp autumn evening the a-la-carte menu just might: Chef Gryff will be preparing the following delicacies which will be priced on a per-plate basis, dished up onto your own feast gear, and served to you by smiling, friendly wenches:
Filed under: Events Tagged: events, Malagentia
Wendy Furie is a veterinarian - and a Scottish bard. While the two professions might sound at odds with each other, she makes them work, in the modern world and as Swannoc Beag, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Laura Blasey of the Frederick (Maryland) News-Post has the story.
The SCA archery E-newsletter, Quivers and Quarrels, is requesting photographs for a photo section featuring "period" looking archers. Photos of archers in good looking period style clothing and gear or photos of period style gear (e.g. Bows, quivers. arrows, etc.) made by an archer will be published in each issue.
When the third century A.D. battlefield was discovered at Harzhorn, 60 miles south of Hanover, Germany, in 2008, it upended the conventional historical wisdom that Rome withdrew its legions permanently to the Rhine-Danube border after their devastating loss at the Battle of Teutoborg Forest in 9 A.D.
This seminal archaeological find started off modestly in 2000 when two metal detector enthusiasts looking for the remains of a medieval fortress discovered what they thought was a twisted and gnarled medieval iron candlestick. They kept the piece for years, not paying it much attention, until in 2008 they took it to local archaeologist Petra Loenne who identified it as a Roman hipposandal. These are not common finds in Lower Saxony, hundreds of miles north and east of the Roman frontier. Loenne assembled a team of professional archaeologists and historians plus dedicated metal detector hobbyists to investigate the field in which the hipposandal had been found.
Over the course of three months during the summer of 2008, the team found a large ancient battlefield covering a mile of German forest. They recovered 600 artifacts just from the surface of the battlefield, including clusters of Roman sandal nails, spear tips from ballistae (Roman artillery crossbows) all pointing in the same direction, axes, wagon parts, arrowheads and coins. The coins were from the first half of the 3rd century A.D. and a fragment of wood still attached to the arrowhead was radiocarbon dated to the same period.
The discovery of so late a battlefield far beyond the Rhine-Danube border led to five years of excavations on the site. An astonishing 2,700 artifacts have been found thus far, and excavations are still ongoing. The most recent discovery was made by archaeologists from the Freie Universität Berlin who discovered several pieces of Roman chain mail. Chain mail has been found before in warrior burials, but these are the first well-preserved pieces of body armour found on a Germanic battlefield. The team has been excavating the edges of the battlefield in an attempt to determine the full extent of the fighting and whether there were distinct areas where the overall battle broke down into smaller individual clashes. The discovery of the chain mail suggests the battle may have been particularly intense along that edge.
The chain mail, which was found in several fragments, consists of thousands of small chain links with a diameter of about six millimeters. The iron in the rings, however, is largely decomposed. Chain mail was worn in battle by Roman soldiers of various ranks. Germanic warriors usually waived this protection; however, in Germanic burial grounds, remains of those laboriously produced armor can often be found. In this case, not only the object itself was an unusual find, but also the position in which it was found. It was located directly on the edge of the battlefield with probably the most intense combat action that could be detected on the Harzhorn hill.
“This discovery represents something fundamentally new for the Battle at the Harzhorn,” said [lead archaeologists Prof.] Michael Meyer. “This is the first time that an almost complete part of personal armor was found.” Meyer said it is possible that the chain mail was stripped from a wounded Roman soldier by his comrades because they wanted to dress his wounds and carry him away from the battle zone. It is conceivable that they left the chain mail behind. However, it is also conceivable that it was specifically laid down in a certain place by Germanic soldiers after the fighting was over, as an indication that this location played a special role in the fighting.
Two or three links from chain mail have been found on the Harzhorn battlefield before, but they were probably lost during combat. These are lumps from an entire chain mail shirt that was removed and carefully folded on the spot. The largest pieces are about as big as a hand; most of the fragments are much smaller. Much of the iron has degraded, but you can clearly see the mail rings and structure in X-rays.
The chain mail is still in the process of being fully excavated and cleaned. Once it’s been properly conserved, the chain mail will join its brethren at the State Museum of Braunschweig in Lower Saxony where the exhibition Rome’s Forgotten Campaign: Battle at Harzhorn is offering the public the first chance to see the Harzhorn finds on display. The exhibit tells the story of the discovery and explains the historical context of this battle.
According to ancient historians like Herodian of Antioch and the author(s) of the Historia Augusta, towards the end of the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus (r. 222-235 A.D.), the Rhine-Danube border was weakened by troop withdrawals. The emperor was using the legions in his Persian campaigns, a tactical choice the Germans were glad to take advantage of. Raids and incursions savaged Roman territory in the Middle Rhine. Alexander Severus returned from Persia, bringing together a large Roman force at Mainz.
Before engaging in battle, he sought to negotiate with the German enemy. His troops didn’t like that plan since it would have deprived them of additional wages plus their share of slaves and loot, so they mutinied. Alexander was assassinated by the troops who declared low-born career army officer Maximinus Thrax the new emperor. Maximus either went forward with Alexander Severus’ attack plans or his legions were attacked by the Germanic warriors on their way back to Mainz.
Until 2008, historians thought the ancient sources were, let’s just be charitable and call it embellishing, the facts on this point since there was no archaeological evidence to support a strong Roman combat presence so far east and north of the border. Harzhorn may prove to be the redemption of their reputation.
The Kingdom of Acre in invites all to join them on September 20-22 for a Crusade. The weekend will include armored and rapier battles, archery, an Arts and Sciences display and classes. The event will be held at Camp Cedarcrest in Orange, Connecticut, which has tent camping and some cabins available.
The weekend has a full schedule, which includes a three hour armored resurrection battle with combat archery in which fighters will select either a Templar, Hospitaller or Byzantine role. A feast will be served on Saturday night. After dinner, the amphitheater will host a huge fire pit for bardic performers or those telling stories of past battles.
Descriptions of all martial scenarios, a full class list and A&S display information is available at the Autumn Crusade website. Site fees include Saturday’s day board and are $15 for an adult, $10 for children under 12 years. The camping fees includes breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday mornings and are $15 per person for a cabin (6-8 in a cabin) or $10 per person for tents. Saturday night’s feast is an additional $10 per adult, $4 per child. Event reservations can be made at the Eventbrite website.
Filed under: Events
Bard and artisan, Mistress Dervila ni Leanon, OL, demonstrates the art of Coptic bookbinding in a blog page, illustrated with many photos, that chronicles the process.