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Disk from da Gama ship is earliest known marine astrolabe

History Blog - Wed, 2017-10-25 22:30

One of the objects found in the excavation of the shipwreck from Vasco da Gama’s second voyage to India discovered off the coast of Oman in 2014 has been identified as an astrolabe, a marine navigational tool that could calculate latitude based on the position of the sun. Marine astrolabes are very rare with only 108 of them known to exist. This one is the oldest of them all.

When divers discovered the copper alloy disc in the debris field of the Esmeralda, a ship in da Gama’s fleet that sank in 1503, there was no direct evidence on its surface of it being an astrolabe. All that was clearly visible were raised decorations — a Portuguese royal coat of arms and the esfera armilar (armillary sphere), King Manuel I’s personal emblem — which identified it as Portuguese. There is no writing on the disk and no other artifacts that might shed light on some aspect of the disk (age, purpose) were discovered near the find spot.

There were hints of its true function, however. Its round shape, its dimensions (17.5cm in diameter, 1.5mm thick), the hole in the center and the remains of what was likely a suspension bracket at the top so it could be worn as around the neck suggested it might be a very early astrolabe. Age of Discovery marine astrolabes were generally heavier and ballasted so they could hang plumb for optimal calculations even on a swaying, bobbing, rearing ship in heavy winds.

The Esmeralda disk doesn’t have the weight or cutouts common to the more typical examples from the 16th century. Because of the significant design differences, the marine archaeologists who examined it could not compare it to its brethren to confirm whether it even was an astrolabe. They’d need navigational markings to know for sure and while they thought there might be some very faint lines on the back, they were barely visible to the naked eye.

Into that breach stepped Professor Mark Williams at WMG, University of Warwick, and his trusty laser scanner. The high-tech scan and 3D model created from the data revealed that there were indeed markings on the disk, lines etched along the edges, each line exactly five degrees apart. Those are the navigational markings the team was looking for. Sailors used them to measure the height of the noonday sun to calculate their latitude on long voyages through wide-open seas. Vasco da Gama’s second voyage to India in which the Esmeralda was lost took his fleet down all of west Africa, across the Cape of Good Hope, up the east coast to Mombasa and then east to India. It took years and was extremely dangerous. A tool that could give you some idea of where in the dickens you were was invaluable on journeys of such enormous scale.

The precise date of manufacturer is unknown at this time, but it’s decades older than the any other marine astrolabe we know of.

[Expedition leader David] Mearns said: “We know it had to have been made before 1502, because that’s when the ship left Lisbon and Dom Manuel didn’t become King until 1495, and this astrolabe wouldn’t have carried the emblem of the King unless he was King.

“I believe it’s probably fair to say it dates roughly to between 1495 to 1500. Exactly what year we don’t know – but it is in that narrow period.”

He added: “It rolls back this history by at least 30 years – it adds to evolution, it adds to the history, and hopefully astrolabes from this period can be found.”

Here’s a video capturing the exact moment the astrolabe was dug out of the sand.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Eastern Results from the August 2017 LoAR

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-25 17:00

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

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

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

EAST acceptances

Ælfwyn of Dragonship Haven. Name.

Dragonship Haven is the registered name of an SCA branch.

The submitter requested authenticity for “Saxon.” Although the given name is an attested Anglo-Saxon name element, the byname is not authentic because it is constructed from the name of an SCA branch.

Astrid Magnusdottir. Name and device. Per bend argent and azure, a bend counterchanged between an escallop inverted purpure and an escarbuncle argent.

Donnan FitzGerald. Name and device. Per pale gules and counter-ermine, in dexter an axe and on a chief Or three boars passant sable.

This name combines a Gaelic saint’s name with an Anglicized Irish byname, an acceptable lingual mix under Appendix C.

Dorigen of Lewes. Alternate name Dorian of Lewes.

The byname of Lewes is already registered to the submitter and thus can continue to be used under the newly-renamed Existing Registration Allowance, PN1B2g.

Eberhard Schwarz. Name.

Nice late 16th century German name!

Edgitha Hlammandi. Name and device. Per bend sinister azure and gules, a falcon belled and jessed maintaining a drinking horn Or.

Submitted as Edgithe Hlammandi, the given name does not use the nominative (base) form. The spelling Edgithe is not merely a variant spelling; it is the genitive (possessive) form of the name. Accordingly, with the submitter’s permission, we have changed the given name to the nominative form Edgitha for registration.

This name combines a Latinized Old English female name with an Old Norse byname, an acceptable lingual mix under Appendix C.

Edmund Beneyt. Name and device. Argent, two bears combatant within an orle sable.

Nice English name for the 13th century onwards!

Nice device!

Emidio di Arquata. Name.

Halldórr hinn Skarpi. Name.

Submitted as Halldórr hinn Skarpa, the byname did not use the correct nominative (base) form. We have changed the name to Halldórr hinn Skarpi to use the correct nominative form.

Hlífa Hrafnsdóttir. Name and device. Per chevron Or and argent, two oak leaves vert and a raven migrant sable.

The migrant posture is considered equivalent to displayed. As such, there is a step from period practice for use of a non-eagle bird displayed.

Hrafn Ríkarðarson. Name and device. Argent, two ravens rising respectant, each maintaining in its feet a spear crossed sable.

Submitted as Hrafn Rikaðrson, called Bonesetter, two changes are necessary to register the name. First, the byname is not correctly constructed. We have changed it to Ríkarðarson to use the correct Old Norse grammar.

Second, the epithet called Bonesetter cannot be registered in this name because it is not temporally or linguistically compatible with the rest of the name elements.  Hrafn and Ríkarðarson are both Old Norse, and, under Appendix C of SENA, cannot be combined with English name elements unless all elements of the name are dated prior to 1100 C.E. Unfortunately, the earliest evidence of anything like “bonesetter” in English is dated to 1500 C.E. As the submitter allows all changes, we have dropped the epithet called Bonesetter for registration.

The submitter requested authenticity for an unspecified place and time. This request was not summarized in the Letter of Intent. In the form Hrafn Ríkarðarson, this name is authentic for the very end of the Viking Age in the Iceland and other West Norse Atlantic colonies.

Katerina Falconer de Lanark. Name.

Nice Anglo-Scots name for circa 1300!

Mari Clock van Hoorne. Alternate name Marína Sviðbalki.

Muin maqq Mínaín. Alternate name Khalil al-Urdunni.

Submitted as Khalil al’urdun, the name as submitted is not grammatically correct. We have corrected the byname to the adjectival form al-Urdunni for registration.

Perrine de Lille. Name.

The byname de Lille was not documented in the Letter of Intent as a period form. Fortunately, heralds at the Pelican decision meeting found de Lille in “French Names from Paris, 1421, 1423, & 1438” by Aryanhwy merch Catmael (heraldry.sca.org/names/french/paris1423surnames.html).

Ravensbridge, Riding of. Device. Per chevron azure and argent, in base a raven displayed face to sinister sable within a laurel wreath azure, on a chief argent a bridge of three spans sable.

There is a step from period practice for use of a non-eagle bird displayed.

Robert of the East. Holding name and device (see PENDS for name). Argent, on a roundel sable a cherry blossom argent, in chief a bar gemel sable.

Submitted under the name Shimazu Yasukaze.

Ryan Mac Whyte. Badge. (Fieldless) A cross of four ermine spots per pale sable and argent.

Ryan Mac Whyte. Badge. Per pale argent and sable, a cross of four ermine spots counterchanged.

Ysmay de Lynn. Alternate name Matthew Miller.

Nice English name from circa 1400 onwards!

EAST pends

Shimazu Yasukaze.  Name.

This name combines a family name and a constructed nanori. In the past, we have allowed submitters the benefit of the doubt to register names following this pattern, even though they are not authentic because they do not include a yobina. [Akiyama Kintsune, 8/2016 LoAR, A-East; Godai Katsunaga, 3/2008 LoAR, A-Atlantia]. Based on commentary received, both on the Letter of Intent and at and after the Pelican decision meeting, we are pending this matter for discussion of whether we should cease this practice and more specifically identify registerable patterns for Japanese names.

His device is registered under the holding name Robert of the East.

This was item 19 on the East letter of May 31, 2017.

EAST returns


Filed under: Heraldry Tagged: LoAR

East Kingdom Calendar and Notecards: Deadline November 5

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-25 15:01

En français

Worlds of the East Kingdom is a 2018 calendar and set of note cards based on medieval illuminations and created by East Kingdom scribes.  Each calendar page features a different culture from around the world and throughout the SCA’s time period.  This fundraiser helps the royalty of the East Kingdom pay for their travel and show hospitality to foreign royalty. Calendars and note cards can be ordered through November 5th. Extra calendars will not be printed, so orders must be placed in advance.

Calendars are $20 and a set of 12 notecards is $15, shipping included.

For more information about the project, please explore the website or contact the staff via email

En français – traduit par Behi Kirsa Oyutai

Calendrier du Royaume de l’Est et Cartes de Notes: Date limite le 5 novembre

Les mondes du Royaume de l’Est est un calendrier 2018 et un ensemble de cartes de notes basés sur des enluminures médiévales et créées par les scribes du Royaume de l’Est. Chaque page du calendrier présente une culture différente pendant la période de temps couverte par la SCA. Cette levée de fonds aidera la royauté du Royaume de l’Est a payer leurs frais de déplacement ainsi qu’a assumer les coûts d’offrir l’hospitalité à la royauté étrangère. Les calendriers et les cartes de notes peuvent être commandées jusqu’au 5 novembre. Aucun calendrier supplémentaire ne sera imprimmé, les commandes doivent donc être placées d’avance.

Les calendriers sont 20$ (US) et un ensemble de 12 cartes de notes coûte 15$ (US), frais d’envoi compris.

Pour plus d’information au sujet de ce projet, veuillez consulter notre site web ou contactez notre équipe par courriel.

Baroness Cassandra Boell von Bayer

Mistress Rhonwyn glyn Conwy

Mistress Sunniva Ormstung

Lady Altani Khatagidai

FRENCH Lady Aaradyn Ghyoot and Mistress Eleanor Catlyng

Lady Palotzi Marti

Baghatur Borujin Acilaldai

Baroness Emma Makilmone (illumination), Duchess
Thyra Eiriksdottir (calligraphy) and Lady Lillie von der Tann

Lady Keziah Planchet

Lady Mariette de Bretagne

Lady Triona MacCasky and Master Jonathan Blaecstan

Lady Wynefryd Bredhers

Filed under: Uncategorized

Face of elite ancient Peruvian “Lady of the Four Brooches” reconstructed. Kinda.

History Blog - Tue, 2017-10-24 22:43

In April of last year, archaeologists discovered a 4,500-year-old intact burial of a noblewoman at the ancient site of Apero in Caral, northcentral Peru. Her remains were found buried in the Huaca de los Idolos, a pyramidal structure made of overlapping platforms accessible via a central staircase built by the Norte Chico civilization, the oldest in the Americas which flourished in the area between the 4th and 2nd millennia B.C. She was carefully positioned in a crouch and wrapped in layers of textiles, a swath of cotton wrapped around her head, another cotton textile wrapped around body. Thus wrapped, her body was then bundled in a final layer, a reed fiber mat that was fastened closed with ropes. The mummy bundle was placed atop a stone basin containing plant matter offerings including a bowl of mate fragments, tubers and seeds. That was covered with a layers of ash and soil.
Pinned to the cotton sheath that was wrapped around her body archaeologists found four “tupus,” brooches carved in the shape of animals: two birds with long tail feathers and chrysocolla minerals as eyes and two howler monkeys. They were placed on top of her shoulders and earned her her modern moniker. Underneath her where her tucked head almost touched her knees was a splendidly long necklace made of 460 white mollusk shell beads with a large pendant made from the shell of the spondylus mollusk. This was a rare and luxurious item that attests to her high position in Apero society, as do the tupu fasteners.
Caral was a major urban center, long thought to be the most ancient city in the Americas and is certainly one of its most ancient. Covering more than 150 acres in area and inhabited by 3,000 people at its peak, it one of the largest Norte Chico sites known and its most thoroughly studied. No evidence has been found of defensive structures — no walls, no earthenware ditches, no battlements — nor have any weapons, mass graves or other indicators of warfare. Neither have archaeologists found remains suggesting the Norte Chico peoples practiced human sacrifice as later civilizations like the Incas would. About 14 miles from the main city of Caral, Apero was Caral’s harbour town and its primary source of fish.
Since the discovery of the mummy bundle, the Lady of the Four Brooches has been studied thoroughly. She was about five feet tall and right-handed. While her elaborate grave goods, burial method and location indicate she was a member of the elite of Apero, her bones show tell-tale signs of hard work during her lifetime, likely in agriculture or perhaps the local mainstay, fishing. She also appeared to have suffered a serious fall shortly before her death, fracturing three bones. Her skull was flattened on top between the occipital and parietal regions, the result of intentional cranial deformation done when she was a baby before her skull bones had hardened, a widespread practice around the world, including in ancient Andean societies. She was between 40 and 50 years when she died.
To bring her features back to life, an international team of archaeologists, scientists and artists collaborated on a facial reconstruction project, now complete. This was not a simple task. Her skull is 4,500 years old, after all, and has areas that are missing or severely stained by the decomposition process and the remains of the organic materials she was wrapped in. Brazilian 3D computer graphic artist Cicero Moraes was enlisted to turn that skull into a face. It took him two months to fill the gaps in the skull, replacing the missing eye socket by mirroring the complete one, comparing the Lady’s skull with that of a modern Peruvian woman of similar age and genetic ancestry and utilizing computer technology that simulates natural facial muscles using the skull as a foundation.
I don’t know why he would do such a thing in an ostensibly scientific research project, but he also softened the Lady of the Four Brooches’ features. He altered her markedly square, strong jawline he described as “masculine” so that her chin was more pointed giving her a softer more “feminine” appearance. (Women can’t have square jaws now? Somebody alert Paulina Porizkova to her lack of femininity stat!) He also hid her flat skull behind a headdress which was not among her grave goods. Cranial modification was not something hidden by the societies that practiced it. That was the opposite of their intent. In fact, it was often a designator of societal status and considered beautiful. There is no justification I can think of for projecting one’s own highly subjective aesthetic choices using a modern woman’s skull to distort the reconstruction. It should map directly to her real skull. What’s the point of using all those complex data tables and software to build up the soft tissues in an anatomically accurate manner if you’re going to gin up the bones they map to because you think a lady’s jawline isn’t dainty enough?
This bizarre choice is covered in the news stories and press materials entirely without comment as if it were totally ho-hum and not worth addressing. They just get right to the (admittedly compelling) finished digital reconstruction, unveiled Wednesday, October 11th, by the Ministry of Culture in Lima. I get it, because I’m always curious about facial reconstructions and have covered several, but I’ve never seen this kind of deliberate modification based on perceived chin cuteness and the artist’s preferred head shape. So I’d like to tell here she is, but the best I can do is say here are a few parts of her, including how her handsome adornments looked when worn.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Arts & Sciences at Harvest Raid

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-10-24 20:46

By  Signora Ginevra Isabetta del Dolce

Sonnet 1
By Ginevra del Dolce

Whilst clouds did cover all the land with rain
Within our halls delights could scarcely hide
The arts of Æthelmearc bore bright refrain
And with their joyous leisure changed the sky
A fretted griffin did Rhiannon bring
To meet with pleasure paints which Jocelyn dared
Hrolfr wove red threads the Queen’s own dress to ring
And Kate and Ginny each a scroll prepared
Here Elska’s work like dragon’s treasured cave:
We tasted mead and conserve; belt we eyed
Eadaoin’s wassail gave us the drink we crave
Fearghus this hoard within his chest might hide
The woven trim was crowd’s quite favourite art
Most highly judged: the Wool was worlds apart

On Saturday, September 30, Anno Societatis 52, much of the Kingdom gathered in the Shire of Heronter on the shores of Lake Chautauqua for our annual Harvest Raid. I had the honor and extreme pleasure of organizing my favorite event activity: the Arts & Sciences display and competition.

I was astounded and delighted by the breadth of entries for the display and competition as well as the thorough documentation that many contributors included with their works.

We had two categories for entries. First, the competition that was held was for completed works in the theme of the harvest. This portion of entries was adjudicated.

Harvest-themed offerings. Photo courtesy Baron Rhiannon.

Second was the open display, which was without theme or medium restrictions. Entries could be completed or works in progress. I enjoy having both categories available, as this gives all artists a chance to contribute work.

While all entries were beautifully made and presented, Fiber Arts won the day.

The Honorable Lady Elska á Fjárfelli won the harvest competition with her dyed wool and the Skjoldehamn belt into which it was made.

The Honorable Lady Elska á Fjárfelli’s dyed wool and Skjoldehamn belt, made from her dyed wool, won the Harvest Competition. (This and all following photos by Signora Ginevra Isabetta del Dolce.)

The skills and artistry of Elska were much appreciated by all.

All members in attendance were welcomed to vote for their favorite among the entries, giving those without the theme a chance to shine.

Lord Hrólfr á Fjárfelli’s card-woven band for Her Majesty Queen Juliana’s apron dress, a beautiful Æthelmearc-themed trim inspired by the Birka Bands, was the highly marked favorite.

Lord Hrólfr á Fjárfelli’s card-woven band for Her Majesty’s apron dress.

The other entries, in various media, were all worthy of our attention and showed myriad skills. I look forward to these artists’ next entries!

Baron Rhiannon Elandris of Glyndrudwy’s fretted griffin.

“Gus in Memoriam” cat scroll by Lady Catherine O’Herlihy.

Lord Fearghus mac Eoin’s well-constructed Viking chest.

Scroll blank by Ginevra del Dolce.

The Honorable Lady Elska’s ginger-peach conserve.

The Honorable Lady Elska’s oenomeli, or Concord grape mead.

Eadaoin Gaelach Rua’s wassail (mulled cider), warmed over candles throughout the day, was very enjoyable.

Eadaoin Gaelach Rua provided information on wassail.

Lady Jocelyn of Hartstone’s paintings in various media. (I find it is often quite difficult to paint movement, but Lady Jocelyn surely captures it in every brush stroke.)

A very pleasing array of arts and sciences were offered throughout the day in addition to the competition and display. While many of Æthelmearc’s subjects gathered in the great hall throughout the day working on personal projects, there was also a small library, a scribal playtime hosted by Mistress Roberta, children’s activities including a Viking longship-building competition headed by Lord Lodthinn, and a games table hosted by Lady Maggie.

The arts are alive and well in Æthelmearc. What an honor it is to be a part of them. I look forward to seeing what you are working on the next time we meet.

In service,
Signora Ginevra Isabetta del Dolce
Minister of the Arts & Sciences for the Shire of Heronter


Categories: SCA news sites

Let’s Build a Mary Rose Chest

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-10-24 08:23

By Laird Coinneach Mac an Leigh

It is common practice in the SCA to use small chests for storage as well as seating at camping and other events. With a little care, these chests can be made in a historically accurate way, enhancing the authenticity of our sites.

The chest in this article is called the Little Mary Rose Chest because it uses the same joinery techniques as the Purser’s Chest on the Mary Rose, a carrack in the navy of King Henry VIII. The Mary Rose was lost in 1545 in battle in the Solent, the strait separating the Isle of Wight from England. Raised in 1971, she is a treasure trove of Henrician artifacts administered by the Mary Rose Trust.

To build this chest, you will only need two boards: a 1×12 six feet long, and a 1×16 eight feet long. A 1×16 is probably a glued-up panel—a series of small boards glued and planed at the factory to make a wide board. If you feel like it, you could glue up your own panel, but this article won’t tell you how to do that.

Take the 1×12 and start by cutting the ends of the chest to 17-1/4” long. On each board, mark a line 3” up from the lower end, then a second line 0.75” up from the first. These lines mark the edges of a dado, a groove across the grain of the board with a flat bottom and square sides.

An end board with the dado and boot jack laid out.

You can cut this groove by sawing on the waste side of each line halfway through the thickness of the board and clearing out the waste with a chisel. In period, the bottom of the dado would be leveled and smoothed with a tool called an “Old Woman’s Tooth,” which is an early form of router plane. Nineteenth-century router planes can often be found in antique shops. Of course, if you want to use modern tools, you can cut the dado with a router.

Now cut the “boot jack” on the ends. Mark a centerline down the length of the end boards. Mark the lower end of the board 3” to either side of the centerline and 3” up from the bottom. Cut out this triangle.

Dado and boot jack cut.

Cut the board for the bottom of the chest from the rest of the 1×12. Make it 23-1/4” long. Carefully fit the bottom into the dadoes of the ends and secure with nails. You can use regular modern nails, but if you can find cut nails they will both hold better and be more authentic.

Now it’s time to take the 1×16 and cut the front and back of the chest. Cut both to a length of 24” and a width of 14-1/4”. On each end and one long side, mark a line 3/4” in from the edge. This marks the edge of a rabbet, a shoulder cut in the edge of the board. Saw along the waste side of the line half the thickness of the board then remove the waste with a chisel. There is a specialized plane called a rabbet plane designed to cut these joints. You could also use the router again.

Inside of front board showing the rabbets. The back is identical.

Now carefully fit the ends and bottom into the rabbets in the front and back pieces. Secure them by nailing through the front and back into the ends and bottom.

Cut the lid so that it overhangs the chest on all sides by about 1/2”. The original chest on the Mary Rose had its lid secured by strap hinges on the outside of the back and the underside of the lid. If you can’t find strap hinges you can use modern butt hinges or, for more authenticity, you can use snipe’s-bill hinges. These are easily made from a pair of cotter pins joined at the eye and inserted through drilled holes in the chest and lid.

Cotter pins joined to make snipe’s-bill hinges.


To do this, drill a 1/8” hole in the back of the chest at the edge, at about a 45-degree angle downward.

Drilling the back of the chest for the hinges.

Slide in one of the cotter pins and spread its legs on the inside of the chest. Hammer the legs flat. For the lid, drill your 1/8” hole at an upward angle, insert the other cotter pin, and spread its legs as before.

Drilling the lid.

Two or three such hinges provide a historically accurate way to hold the lid to the chest.

Three snipe’s-bill hinges. Left: tips of the legs bent outward. Center: bending the legs outward. Right: legs hammered flat.

The original Purser’s Chest is an article of furniture, but the Little Mary Rose Chest is more an item of luggage, so you should think about adding some sort of handles. There are several types of handles seen in other chests from the Mary Rose, and they can easily be adapted.

The easiest handles to make are simply ropes passed through two holes in each end of the chest and knotted on the inside. You can make the ropes as long as needed to make the handles convenient.

Another option is to attach wooden brackets to each end, with a hole in the bracket and a loop of rope (called a grommet) through the hole. You can make these grommets by unlaying a strand of rope, then re-laying it around itself three times. This is a very attractive option; if you do it well, people will say you know how to make rope heal!

A third option, more difficult than the others, is to attach square iron plates with iron rings to the ends. This is a more expensive option, but quite attractive.

So there you have it. You now have a small chest, 24” long by 12” wide by 18” high. You can finish it with oil-based paints for historical accuracy or any other finish of your choice.


Categories: SCA news sites

Roman hair from the Capitoline Museums for Janet Stephens

History Blog - Mon, 2017-10-23 22:34

Janet Stephens, intrepid hairdressing archaeologist, was on my mind often as I traipsed through the rooms full of Roman busts in the Capitoline Museums. Her intensive research on Roman hairstyling coming from her perspective as a professional stylist, a unique viewpoint that gave her special insight into an arena most historians know nothing about, led her to fascinating discoveries like that Roman matrons likely had their elaborate braided updos sewn together instead of wearing wigs. She also unravelled the complexity of the seni crines, the characteristic hairstyle of the Vestal Virgins.

When I interviewed her almost six years ago, I asked her what changes she’d like to see in the archaeological community if she had her choice. She replied:

I would love it if all archaeological museums would display their sculptures out in the middle of the room instead of in niches and against walls! And I wish there were mirrors behind every small sculpture displayed in a case.

The Capitoline Museums have not made her dream come true, I regret to report. It’s a damn shame because that mirror idea is brilliant. The good news is that even though the busts are still on shelves up against the walls facing the room, many of the female portraits have been turned just enough that you can see the sides and back of their hair. You might have to crane a bit to do it, but it is now possible to see the business end of the Roman women’s hairstyles and even get a pretty decent picture of several of the most interesting ones. Yes, some Stretch Armstronging is required, but nothing too contortionist for single-jointed, non-rubberized people to handle.

I looked for hair that I couldn’t recall having seen her recreate on her YouTube channel yet and that had some intricate elements to it. Nobody famous, therefore, because Janet has already done quite a few empresses and society leaders. My final choices range in date from the 1st century A.D. through the 4th, and all these nameless Roman ladies have in common are great ornatrices and fly dos.

The last woman’s hair is less complex than some of the others, perhaps, but I found its tiger-striped elegance no less intriguing, so she gets the big embed to show off the fine details.

All of these busts were spread out in the ancient marbles gallery, keeping company with some of the famous sculptures of antiquity. My last post on the Capitoline Museums will cover the big names too. Stay tuned!


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Combatant List for the Crown Tournament of Ivan and Matilde

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2017-10-23 14:50

Duke Randal of the Dark fighting for Duchess Katherine Stanhope

Duke Brennan mac Fearghus fighting for Duchess Caoilfhionn inghean

Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver fighting for Lady Gracia Vasquez de Trillo

Vicondesa Jimena Montoya and Sir Rhys Ravenscroft fighting for each

Viscount Antonii Machinevik fighting for Lady Ciar of Skye

Lord Sigurd Berserkr fighting for Mistress Eleanore MacCarthaigh

Sir Thomas of Ravenhill fighting for m’lady Bertana aet Bathancestere

Master Ogedei Becinjab fighting for Master Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova

Baron Joseph Harcourt fighting for Mistress Kis Maria

Baron Duncan Kerr fighting for Mistress Eleanor fitzPatrick

Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrücke fighting for Mistress Vienna de la Mer

Sir Alexander de Hauteville fighting for Mistress Angharad Verch Rees

Sir Matthew D’Arden fighting for Mistress Fia Karmen

Sir Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus fighting for THL Katerina Iliovna

Sir Zhigmun’ Czypsser fighting for Baroness Leda Zipyos

Baron Richard Leviathan fighting for Mistress Nest verch Tangwhistle

Master Ávaldr Valbjarnarson fighting for Mistress Eva Woderose

Master Aethelhawk Keyfinder fighting for Mistress Siubhan Wallace

Master Tiberius Iulius Rufus Primus fighting for Lord Vopiscus Rufius

Lord Martin Wasser Speier fighting for Master Donovan Shinnock

Master Dmitri Stephanovich fighting for Mistress Nadezhda Voronova

Sir Ketilfastr Thorkilson and Lady Leurona Winterborne fighting for each

Sir Hrafn called Bonesetter fighting for Lady Saj Ishta’ Rabi’ah bint

Sir Matthias Grunwald fighting for Baroness Æsa feilinn Jossursdottir

Master Sigurthr Vigurhafn fighting for Baroness Medhbh inghean Ui

Lord Dorian Kalogero fighting for Mistress Tysha z Kieva

Master Richard Crowe fighting for Lady Ameria Browne

Sir Donnan FitzGerald fighting for Lady Aurelia Alfaiata d’Alcaçova

Sir Rory MacLellan fighting for Baroness Astridr Sigrun Ulfkelsdottir

THL Micah of Brighton Manor fighting for Lady Thallos Alexios of
Brighton Manor

Baron Jozef Ludwiczak fighting for Lady Gwenlliana Vachan

Baron Tiberius Nautius Maximus fighting for m’lady Meave Macintosh

THL Duarcaín MacWard fighting for Lady Catháin of Carolingia

THL Ingvar Thorsteinsson called Critter fighting for Baroness Hasanah
bint al-Khalil ibn Habib

Baron Euric Germanicus fighting for Baroness Juliana de Essex

THL Gawyn O’Clery fighting for m’lady Maeve O’Clery

THL Arne Ulrichsson fighting for Lady Anna Von Baden

Baron Joachim Liechtenauwer fighting for Lady Anne de Basillon

THL Luthor Von Eisenfaust fighting for Lady Mabel Fortune

Baron Vladimir Bathory fighting for m’lady Andrea Noelle

Baron Vachir Arslanjin fighting for Lady Sarvuu Arslajin

Lord Volmar Sollons fighting for Baroness Ilulia Baebiana

Lady Vasia von Königsburg fighting for Lady Æsa Sturludottr

Lord Brick James Beech fighting for Lady Nadia Hart

Lord Greadden Olthursun Veassellurd fighting for Lady Aesa Ormstunga
called Jotunsbane

Lord Brian of Stonemarche fighting for Lady Sorcha Dhorcha

Lord Wilhelm van Hammaborc fighting for m’lady Falyn Crowespear

Lord Kevin D’no and Lady Mora Ruadh fighting for each other

Lord Corwin Blackthorn fighting for Lady Ada Wright

Lord Coileán O’Rein fighting for Lady Rowan Orr

Lord Albrecht Østergaard fighting for m’lady Anne Forneau

Lord Johannes Mikkinen called Jensen fighting for m’lady Brenna of

m’lord Alton Hewes fighting for m’lady Robin Baillie

m’lord Joshua Mustard fighting for m’lady Sarah Bereward

Filed under: Announcements, Events, Heavy List Tagged: Crown Tournament, events, Fall Crown

Crown Dayboard Menu

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2017-10-23 10:57

Greetings all,
The head cooks for Crown Tournament of Ivan and Matilde wanted to share the menu for the dayboard. Feel free to ask questions about food sensitivities. We will have a complete list of ingredients available that day, but I think we have a good selection of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options that will provide a hot and hearty lunch for everyone.
White Borscht Soup (with ham, kielbasa and eggs)
Sour Mushroom Soup
Lentils and Skirrets
Blue Cheese Custard Tart
Pickled Cabbage
Pickled Pork
Pickled Eggs & Beets
Turnip Kugel
Smoked Brined Chicken Wings
Smoked Trout
Court Dish of Baked Fruit
Brined Apples
Rye Trencher Bread
Horseradish Spread
Roasted Garlic Spread
Brown Mustard
Polish Sauce for Fast Days
Mushroom Tea Cookies
Pomeranian Trojniak (hot drink)
Sbiten (hot drink)

See the official event announcement here if you have any allergies, or questions regarding food, or any other information needed regarding this event.

Filed under: Announcements, Events Tagged: Crown Tournament, dayboard menu, events

Looted mosaic from Caligula’s barge repatriated

History Blog - Sun, 2017-10-22 21:53

I am devastated to report that my Roman idyll is at an end. I still have at least two more posts I want to write about the wonders I’ve seen, but not today because I’ve been up for what feels like a hundred hours straight and so am going with a new story. It is Rome-related, however.

On Thursday evening, a section of marble opus sectile flooring from a great barge built by the infamous Emperor Caligula was officially returned to Italy. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. confiscated the piece (which was being used as a coffee table in New York City) last month as part of an investigation into antiquities trafficking. The investigation revealed the true origin of the “coffee table” was one of the Ships of Nemi, built around 35 A.D., and that it had been stolen from Italy during World War II. It was made into a table top and acquired by a Park Avenue antiques dealer who kept it for almost five decades without realizing its unique history and inestimable archaeological value.

The Ships of Nemi were the only known examples of Roman ceremonial parade barges, not so much functional ships as massive floating palaces. Caligula’s were decorated with the same luxurious materials and architectural finishes found in an early imperial terrestrial palace: lavish marble inlay floors, statuary, fountains, gardens, heated baths and even a temple to Diana. They were so huge — the largest 73 meters long by 24 meters wide, the smaller 71 x 20 — that they would barely have had any room to maneuver on the surface of the small Lake Nemi. The emperor likely used them as extensions to his lakeside villa, follies harkening back to the pleasure barges of Greece and Egypt of the type enjoyed by his ancestor Marc Anthony during his years at the side of Queen Cleopatra. They may have been used to celebrate the festival of Isidis Navigium, a ritual dedicated to Isis in her role as protector of sailors that took place on March 15th to reopen the navigation season.

After Caligula was assassinated in 41 A.D., the barges were sunk in Lake Nemi and all knowledge of their connection to the emperor was lost. Fishermen pulled up ancient maritime artifacts from the wreck sites for centuries, and their tales of Roman treasure ships wrecked in antiquity lying on the lake bed were widely known in Italy. The first attempts to raise the barges took place in the 15th century when architect Leon Battista Alberti was commissioned by Cardinal Prospero Colonna to recover what was then believed to be a single wreck. Alberti built a floating platform from which he dropped ropes fixed to harpoons. It wasn’t just a failure, it was enormously destructive. The scale of the barges and their depth (about 60 feet below the surface) made getting purchase on the whole structure impossible. The hooks tore up hunks of wood which Alberti studied, learning for the first time that some were sheathed in lead. He also recovered some lead piping whose maker’s marks were erroneously associated with Tiberius and later Trajan, but the project never went any further.

Later attempts to explore the wrecks weren’t salvage operations so much as straight looting expeditions. Pieces of wood were pried off the ships and carved into curios for the tourist trade. Bronze oar locks sculpted into the shape of lions’ heads were sold to antiques collectors. Finally in 1928 a pioneering maritime excavation was initiated to save the Nemi ships from the depredations of time and covetous people. The water level of the lake was lowered to expose the remains of the barges. They looked great, but decay set in immediately as soon as they were exposed to the air. With no means to preserve the delicate wood, experts suspended the project in 1930, resuming only when the government agreed to build a museum on the spot, right over the wrecks. That would keep them safe from the elements.

The Museo delle Navi Romane opened on the shores of Lake Nemi in 1936, a proud Benito Mussolini presiding over the inauguration. Only eight years later, these one-of-a-kind survivals of Roman shipbuilding burned to the ground the night of May 31st, 1944. Allied bombs hit the museum in response to Nazi anti-aircraft artillery. Museum staff also report having seen German troops going through the museum that night with a torch, so it’s possible they burned it down themselves because they sucked so hard. By the time US troops arrived on June 4th, the only artifacts left in the museum were a few of the salvage items recovered from the wrecks before they were raised.

That’s why this coffee table section is so disproportionally important. This one piece of marble mosaic floor is one of only a handful of objects still known to exist from the Nemi Ships.

The antiques dealer, Helen Fioratti, said she and her husband, Nereo Fioratti, a journalist, had bought the mosaic in good faith in the late 1960s from a member of an aristocratic family. The sale was brokered, she said, by an Italian police official famed for his success in recovering artwork looted by the Nazis.

“It was an innocent purchase,” Ms. Fioratti said in an interview. “It was our favorite thing and we had it for 45 years.”

Ms. Fioratti, who owns L’Antiquaire and the Connoisseur, a noted gallery for antiques from Europe on East 73rd Street, said she did not intend to fight the seizure because of the expense and time it would take. Still, she said she believes she has a legitimate claim to ownership. “They ought to give me the legion of honor for not fighting it,” she said.

For her part, Ms. Fioratti said she had no papers proving ownership and she could not remember what her husband had paid for the mosaic. She said he had learned about the piece from a friend, who told him the aristocratic family was looking for a buyer.

When the piece arrived at their Park Avenue home, they paid to have a marble frame attached to the square of flooring and then put it on a pedestal in their living room. Over the years, Ms. Fioratti said, curators who visited had told her they were interested in procuring it for their collections. “I could have made a fortune,” she said.

Pardon me while I roll my eyes as far back as humanly possible. Yes, truly, what a martyr you are for buying an ancient artifact with zero history of ownership and a trumped-up fictional background and then liking it so much you didn’t profiteer off your war loot.

It doesn’t look like she’ll be charged for possession of stolen property at this point, even though that is what the search warrant said the authorities were looking for when they seized the piece.


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

2018 SCA Calendars for Sale

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2017-10-21 18:53

This is a calendar project created by East Kingdom scribes, that should delight all SCAdians…

Worlds of the East Kingdom is a 2018 calendar and set of note cards based on medieval illuminations and created by East Kingdom scribes. Each calendar page features a different culture from around the world and throughout the SCA’s time period. This fundraiser helps the royalty of the East Kingdom pay for their travel and show hospitality to foreign royalty. Calendars and note cards can be ordered through November 5th. Extra calendars will not be printed, so orders must be placed in advance.

Calendars are $20 and a set of 12 notecards is $15, shipping included.

For more information about the project, please explore the website or contact the staff via email.

Categories: SCA news sites

Nero’s Domus Aurea blew my mind.

History Blog - Sat, 2017-10-21 17:43

Technically it qualifies as one of Rome’s hidden gems simply because it is so enormously overshadowed by its neighbor, the Colosseum, which was built on the site of an artificial lake that had provided a lovely prospect to Nero’s massive palace on the Oppian Hill above. It’s weird to think of it as hidden, however, because it was just so insanely huge in its day. Nero took advantage of the Great Fire of 64 A.D. to confiscate a stretch of land in central Rome more than 80 hectares in area.

By the time of his death four years later, the palace almost entirely covered three of the seven hills, and it wasn’t even finished yet. Lavish beyond anything that had been seen before, ingeniously designed to be cross-lit with windows and skylights galore, the palace was really a complex of pavilions linked by grand open spaces that could be used in a myriad of ways. The interior was decorated with exquisite frescoes, marble inlays, mosaics and gilded stucco reliefs that reflected the light to create dazzling optical illusions. It was this play of light and shine that gave the Domus Aurea its name.

Deliberately destroyed by Vespasian (r. 69-79 A.D.) to erase the memory of Nero and his works from Roman history — it was Vespasian who had the lake drained to build the Colosseum as a symbolic return of Nero’s purloined property to the people of Rome — the ruins of the imperial palace were reused by Trajan (r. 98-117 A.D.) as the foundation for a great complex of public baths. He tore the marble inlays, mosaics and frescoes off the walls and floors and reused them in the baths. The damaged walls were rebuilt with tidy bricks and the open spaces filled with soil.

By the time the underground spaces were rediscovered in the 15th century, nobody even remembered that the baths were Trajan’s (they were believed to be the Baths of Titus), and they certainly had no idea that the “grotte” (caves) underneath were part of the long-vanished Golden House. Still, what little was still visible of the Neronian structure had a great influence on Renaissance art. Treasure hunters and artists would lower themselves into the so-called caves and copy the delicate floral and figural frescoes on the walls by torchlight. They then used this newly discovered style in their own artwork when they decorated the walls of Renaissance palazzi. It became known as the grotesque style after the “grotta” in which the originals had been found. (Only centuries later did the term evolve into the grotesque figure as we know it today.)

The Domus Aurea and Trajan’s Baths began to be identified correctly starting in the 18th century, and later excavations would ultimately reveal about 150 identifiable spaces from the Domus. For many years, including all the years I lived in Rome as a child and young adult, whatever was left of Nero’s famous Golden House was closed to visitors. It was structurally unsound, prone to sudden collapses and moisture seepage that sometimes reached the level of outright waterfalls. So when I read that parts of it were reopening for guided tours with a new virtual reality element that recreated how the palace had looked in its heyday, I was more than up for it.

To call this visit one of the highlights of my Romecoming is to vastly understate the case. It. Was. Amazing. Our guide was an archaeologist, deeply knowledgeable and brimming with love and enthusiasm for the incredible site. The site itself …. It’s sublime. Even denuded of all of Nero’s vanities, it still cannot be denied. Huge. Beautiful. Frigidly cold. And the virtual reality element was like the most fantastic rollercoaster ride I’ve ever been on. Without a doubt it is the greatest combination of ancient setting and cutting edge technology I have ever had the fortune to witness. It takes you on a tour through time, and even though you’re sitting down the whole time wearing a goofy VR helmet, you feel like you’re moving through time with it. I would do it every day if I could.

This short film shows you some of the 3D reconstructed elements seen in the introductory video (which they awesomely projected on the brick wall of the Trajanic-era entrance hall) and in the VR experience.

This is the money documentary that covers the four years of painstaking restoration done by hundreds of experts that made the reopening of the site possible. You need to use autotranslated closed captioning if you don’t speak Italian, and as usual the translations are pretty bad, but if you can stand to deal with the gibberish, it is worth it for the views of the space alone.


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Paolina Borghese’s (unairconditioned) feet

History Blog - Fri, 2017-10-20 14:46

Set in the Mannerist splendour of Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s villa on the Pincian Hill, today the Galleria Borghese is one of Rome’s most beautiful museums. Its owner spared no expense to create a suburban party palace that would set off his superlative collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities. Frescoed ceilings and walls, inlaid marble floors and every other sumptuous architectural feature you can imagine serve as the backdrop to one of the greatest private collections of art ever amassed.

As the nephew of Camillo Borghese, Pope Paul V, Scipione benefitted handsomely from papal nepotism (not coincidentally, the English term derives from the Italian word for nephew), first garnering the elevation to the cardinalship and then a heap of other titles, benefices and revenues that would make the most exploitative Roman tax farmer blush. Much of those moneys he spent amassing an art collection worthy of the crowned heads of Europe. One of those crowned heads, in fact, the notoriously self-crowned head of Napoleon Bonaparte, bought a large part of it from his wastrel brother-in-law Camillo Borghese in the early 19th century. It would form the nucleus of the Louvre’s collection.

Before it was chipped away by his heirs after his death, the collection included 12, count them, 12 Caravaggios. Today that figure is reduced by half, still an incredible concentration of paintings by the master of dark and light in a single small museum. When Caravaggio’s Youth with a Basket of Fruit, The Young Bacchus Ill and David with the Head of Goliath come to life at night, they get to play Texas Hold ‘Em with the likes of Raphael’s La Fornarina and Woman with Unicorn, Corregio’s Danae, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love and Boticelli’s Madonna and Child with the Young St. John the Baptist and Angels. If they need to sweeten the pot, they let figures by Rubens, Parmigianino, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Pinturicchio, Andrea del Sarto, Canaletto, and Perugino chip in. If they’re really in the mood to party, Paolina Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and wife of Camillo Borghese, rises from the marble couch the sculptor Antonio Canova captured her on and brings the heat. Bernini’s extraordinary, almost unbelievable Apollo and Daphne are too realistically frozen in mythological time to play along.

With so many world class treasures of the arts to enjoy, the Galleria Borghese was an obvious addition to my itinerary, all the more so since it would allow me to post an update to a past story. Remember this story from 2013 about Paolina Borghese’s dainty shoes discovered in the University of Aberdeen museum archives? I was delighted to find that according to my viewcount stats, it has been consistently popular ever since, largely thanks to foot fetish websites. Well, for all you feet fans out there, here’s Canova’s representation of Princess Paolina’s doggies.

I thought I had posted about a distinctly less entertaining story, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives so I guess I never did. The Galleria Borghese needs a new climate control system. I read about this situation a couple of years ago, if I recall correctly, and it was dire then. The ancient air conditioning was so hobbled that it barely produced enough cool air to keep the areas around the units at proper temperature, so they had to leave windows open to let some of the heat out of the hot, humid rooms and institute reservation-only ticketing to control the numbers of people allowed in at any given time. When I read about it back then, they were raising money to replace and update the whole system, but it was an expensive proposition and the Italian government wasn’t exactly rushing to spend that dough.

It still hasn’t been fixed, and y’all, it was bad. I mean really, really bad. I was genuinely horrified to my core by what I saw and experienced. The larger rooms with the more popular works (mainly Renaissance Old Masters) were stultifying, and you could actually see the moisture damage on the surface of oil paintings. One was so bad the paint was cracking in a line down the middle and bubbling up. Only a few of the works even had the protection of a glass panel covering the canvas. Only one of the 20-year-old air conditioners was blowing any air. I put my hand over it and it was lukewarm. It was deeply upsetting, so much so that I almost wished I hadn’t gone because seriously they need to shut the doors to human bodies and the heat, dirt, bacteria and effluvia they inevitably bring into a space and fix this monstrous state of affairs immediately. It is a true state of emergency. I can only hope against hope that my ticket price might help right this terrible wrong.


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Finally some updates

History Blog - Thu, 2017-10-19 15:26

I’ve had the hardest time getting to things that I’ve written about in the past so I could post first-person updates. (The hours and availability of sites and museum exhibitions in Rome and environs are, let’s just say, fluid.) Finally today is the day.

Let’s start with everyone’s highest priority, the cat sanctuary at the Largo di Torre Argentina. When last we saw our feline overlords and their faithful staff, they were under threat of eviction by the city, which had issues with the shelter having been set up in an excavated space under the street that is part of the ancient remains of a temple complex built at various times between the 4th and the 1st centuries B.C. The city had a solid case because the sanctuary was built without a permit on an ancient archaeological site and was therefore illegal. It also had a crap case because it claimed the sanctuary was a health hazard when in fact it has the most exacting sanitation standards I’ve ever heard of for an animal refuge, and that it compromised the ruins which weren’t in any kind of peril whatsoever from the small and discreet structure tucked away in what would otherwise be an empty overhang.

The potential loss of the invaluable services they provide to the city’s feral and abandoned cat population — hundreds of cats have been adopted, unadoptable ones virtually adopted, and tens of thousands of cats in the colony spayed — was devastating to cat lovers and Rome lovers alike. Petitions and phone calls protesting the proposed eviction ensued, but I hadn’t read any follow-up on the outcome.

I can now confirm that not only is the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary alive and kicking, they are now the official tenders of the cats, city approved! Check out this sign:

They weren’t open when we stopped by so I couldn’t get inside the sanctuary itself, or inside the sunken temple site at all, for that matter, but I’ll take another stab at it if at all possible. Meanwhile, I was able to get a couple of paparazzi shots of the stars of the show. They were supremely unimpressed by my attempts to get their attention, and really just by my existence in general.

Just a few blocks away, today I got some shots of the ruins of the Athenaeum of Hadrian discovered in Piazza Venezia during construction of Metro Line C in 2009. It’s not like I hadn’t already walked by it about a dozen times already. I just failed to recognize what I was seeing until I drove by it on a bus last night, weirdly enough. When the excavation ended in 2012, the plan was to build the subway stop somewhere nearby in a sewer line and keep the ruins visible to the public. There is no stop yet, but the ruins are visible to the public. Well, sort of. You have to look through a couple of fences. I still managed to sneak the camera in between the links and get a decent pic or two.

Speaking of sneaking the camera in for a decent pic, I went to Piazzale Augusto Imperatore yesterday to check out the restoration work on Augustus’ long-neglected mausoleum, and even covered in scaffolding and construction mess, it still looks hella better than it did in the 80s when it was basically a weed-choked mound with some bricks around the edges/shooting gallery.

It is closed to the public for the duration of the restoration project, all the work done behind a tall barrier, but I got lucky when one of the people working on the site was having a conversation with someone else working on the site and left the gate open for a moment. I rushed in, got a quick shot and hauled ass just before he slammed the gate shut on me. He was even more annoyed by my antics than the cats at Largo Argentina.

I shall close with my favorite update of them all, an entirely fortuitous encounter that went down today at the Capitoline Museums (which have been exceptionally renovated, by the by, but more on that later). There’s a tiny little three-room temporary exhibition going on there right now on reclaimed treasures. The first room has looted artifacts that were recovered by the Carabinieri Art Squad, and guess what was there? The Etruscan black-figure kalpis by the Micali Painter that was pried out of the clutches of the very, very unwilling Toledo Museum of Art in 2012, years after the unique piece was conclusively proven in court to have been stolen.

I didn’t know about the exhibition and I didn’t know the vase, which depicts pirates being turned into dolphins by Dionysus as punishment for their attempted kidnap of the god, would be at the Capitoline. I loved writing that article exposing the whole sordid backstory, I love the kalpis and I loved getting to see it in person, especially since the only pics I could find of it were scans from printed material where you can see the grain of the paper. I had to take it from the side to minimize the horror of flash glare, and yes, I did get yelled at by the guard for taking a prohibited indoor picture. I REGRET NOTHING.


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Another hidden gem: Domitian’s Stadium under Piazza Navona

History Blog - Wed, 2017-10-18 22:55

You may or may not have learned that the Roman Baroque masterpiece now known as Piazza Navona started out as a stadium built by the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) in 86 A.D. to celebrate the Certamen Capitolino Iovi, a musical, theatrical and athletic performance dedicated to Jupiter. He modeled the new stadium and the accompanying odeon on the Greek model, but Domitian didn’t simply use the terrain of a natural hill to build the multi-tiered stands into the way the Greeks did with their stadia. He had the financial means, the labour and the technology to create everything from scratch, and boy did he. The site he selected was on the Campus Martius, a level field outside the ancient Servian Wall that had served for centuries as a military training ground when Roman law prohibited the presence of troops inside the official boundary of the city.

Measuring about 275 meters long and 106 meters wide (902 x 348 feet), the stadium had one curved end and one flat end with two long parallel sides. The entrances were in the middle of the curved end (the hemicycle) and the long sides and, like all Roman stadia, had meticulously arranged numbered archways and staircases for optimal traffic flow and access to the bleachers. Archaeologists estimate that it could seat around 30,000 people.

It was used temporarily to host gladiatorial games after a fire disabled the Colosseum in 217 A.D., and some years later it was restored by the Emperor Alexander Severus. We know it was still in use in the 4th century because the historian Amianus Marcellinus mentions it. Shortly thereafter it was abandoned and suffered the same fate as the Circus Maximus, Colosseum and other monumental feats of Roman architecture: it was used as a quarry to supply travertine and brick for new construction. As its building materials were stripped away, its entrances and arches were used as shops and stables.

Within three centuries of Marcellinus’ writing, Romans had already forgotten the very name of the stadium, calling it the Circus Flamineus, then the Circus Alexandri, then the Campus Agonis which was corrupted into Navoni and ultimately Navona, which happens to mean big ship. The coincidence of this linguistic evolution led to the birth of the urban legend that the Piazza Navona was named after the naumachia, sea battles staged in an artificial lake inside the Circus. This never happened. It wasn’t that kind of arena.

Once the Piazza Navona was built, following precisely the shape of its ancient progenitor (which had been extensively built upon by that point), THEN it was flooded. Roman nobles got a big kick out of racing their carriages, some built in the shape of fantastical sea monsters but still pulled by regular terrestrial horses, poor things, through the flooded piazza every year.

With all the despoliation of Domitian’s original structure, including the regular bouts of construction on top of and in the middle of whatever was left, it’s remarkable that any of it was left to rediscover in 1936 when Mussolini’s project to demolish, rebuild and modernize the area’s streets and houses ran into the remains of the cavea, including a large travertine-clad entrance arch from the hemicycle end. A few bits and pieces were known to have survived in the basements of some of the houses along the piazza and under the Church of St. Agnes, but the discoveries from the 30s were more extensive and complete.

Still, nobody gave much of a damn about them. When I was a kid growing up in Rome in the 80s, you could see exactly one part of Domitian’s Stadium from the street, the big entrance arch, and because ground level was so much higher than it had been in imperial times, you really had to look for it at ankle height. That finally changed in 2014 when a new archaeological area opened underneath the Piazza. It is a small, eminently manageable, phenomenally well-lit museum featuring large chunks of Domitian’s Stadium and a handful of statue fragments, inscriptions and building materials discovered during the dig. I didn’t even know it was there until I happened to walk by the sign and followed it like the yellow brick history nerd road it is, and I read about this kind of thing every day. It’s crazy that it’s so little known. It is the only surviving example of a masonry-built stadium outside of the Greek world. People should be freaking out about it.

I mean, the rest rooms alone are worth the price of admission:


Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Report: Coronation of Gareth & Juliana

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-18 22:55

Here begins the Record of the Reign of Gareth and Juliana, King and Queen of Sylvan Æthelmearc upon the Day of Their Coronation, September 16, AS 52, in Their Shire of Ballachlagan; as recorded by Lord Arias Beltran del Valle, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald, with the assistance and support of THL Sophie Davenport, Silver Buccle Herald, and Mistress Ekaterina Volkova, Ice Dragon Pursuivant.

In Their First Court in the morning:

Having ascended to the Throne, His Majesty Gareth called for his lady, Her Highness Juliana Delamere to attend him. Hearing her desire and confirmation to stand with him as Queen, He took the Consort’s Crown from the custody of Silver Buccle and placed it on Her head, creating Her as Her Majesty Queen Juliana Delamere of Æthelmearc.

King Gareth crowns Juliana as Queen.

Upon Her ascension to the Throne, the Choir of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands sang the lineage of the Sylvan Throne.

Their Majesties summoned Lord Arias Beltran del Valle before Them, and upon swearing an oath of service to Silver Buccle, he swore fealty and service to Their Majesties who then installed him as Their Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald.

Lord Arias swears fealty as Jewel Herald

Their Majesties then invited the recently-retired Duke Timothy of Arindale and Duchess Gabrielle van Nijenrode to return before Them. Their Majesties thanked them for their tireless service during their reign and confirmed their station as Duke and Duchess of the Society. Scrolls confirming their station were done by the hand of Mistress Ekaterina Volkova and Her Ladyship Vivienne of Yardley.

Timothy and Gabrielle are confirmed in their Ducal status and receive Augmentations of Arms

Their Majesties then bid them remain for a moment longer. They noted that although their Graces had served six reigns across three kingdoms, half of those had been while seated in the Sylvan Thrones, and it was their desire for all to know that the Kingdom now claims them as its own. Each were granted an Augmentation of Arms as a sign of their honored place in the Kingdom of Æthelmearc. Scrolls by Isabella Montoya and Lady Umm Samin bint Asad al-Isfahaniyya.

Their Majesties then invited Earl Sir Thomas Byron of Haverford and Master Anias Fenne before them. His Excellency brought before Their Majesties a petition to create a Moneyer’s Guild. He and Master Anias presented Them with a bag of coin created by their hand as a demonstration of their work.

Earl Byron and Master Anias present Their Majesties with coins commemorating Their reign

The Great Officers of the Kingdom were then called before Their Majesties and offered their oaths of fealty to Them.

The Barons of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands and the Barony of Blackstone Mountain swore their fealty to Their Majesties

Those Royal Peers and members of the Order of Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, the Order of the Pelican, and the Order of Defense as were present pledged their service unto Their Majesties.

Their Majesties then summoned before them Syr Tegrinus de Rhina and THL Oliver Sutton, who in turned called for those who desired to serve as the Queen’s Guard. His Majesties inspected their readiness for duty. Upon determining them appropriately armed and attired, Their Majesties accepted oaths from Syr Tegrinus and THL Oliver as Captains on behalf of Her Majesties Guard and did install them as such.

Their Majesties next summoned before them Lady Raven Whitehart, who gave an oath of service and fealty as Head Retainer on behalf of those who wished to serve Their Majesties as retainers during Their reign.

The First Court of Their Majesties was then suspended.

Later in the morning:

The First Court of Their Majesties was resumed to read the following pieces of business:

On September 16, 2017, We, Gareth and Juliana, King and Queen of Æthelmearc, expel Derek Holton, known in the Society as Bluestar, from participation in any SCA activity.

On September 16, 2017, We, Gareth and Juliana, King and Queen of Æthelmearc, expel James Henry Shaffer IV, known in the Society as Cadan Buri, from participation in any SCA activity.

On September 16, 2017, We, Gareth and Juliana, King and Queen of Æthelmearc, expel Justus Clay Pease from participation in any SCA activity.

The First Court of Their Majesties was then suspended until the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon, upon the Sylvan Thrones:

Their Majesties summoned Lady McKenna Henderson and Skjoldr Skotandi before them with the task of taking the toy box into the populace to be found by the children of the kingdom. The children were then summoned before Their Majesties as Lady McKenna and Skjoldr bore the chest away. Their head start having been granted, the children of the Kingdom were then sent away on their search.

Their Majesties next invited Count Jehan de la Marche before them to receive his personal oath of fealty.

Their Majesties then called for Lady Aine O’Muirgheason to attend them. They named her Their Ambassador to the East Kingdom, and sent her forth to bear Their words to Their cousins in the Eastern lands.

Lady Aine is named Ambassador to the East

Their Majesties summoned before Them Master Jussie Laplein. Having bested a field of fighters earlier in the day, they named him Heavy Weapons Champion and invited him to take his place in Their Court.

Master Jussie is invested as Kingdom Heavy Weapons Champion

The Majesties once again called forth Skjoldr Skotandi. Since a young age, Skjoldr has willingly and happily provided service to his house, and supported the Kingdom by bearing water for all who need it at the great Pennsic War. His passion encouraged his father and brother to join as well. Having recently been made a citizen of Æthelmearc, Their Majesties created him a Lord of Their Court and awarded him Arms. Scroll by THL Zofia Kowalewska.

Their Majesties summoned Robeke von Heidelberg before them. Their Majesties noted his continued service after following the footsteps of his son Lord Skjoldr in joining the Society, providing battlefield support, and helping to repair the arms and armor to keep the Army of Æthelmearc well-equipped and safe. For these reasons was he awarded Arms and made a Lord of Their Court. Scroll by Felice de Thornton.

Their Majesties next summoned before them Ysabel le Croix. Ysabel has served Their Majesties house for years as waterbearer at Pennsic War and at Blackstone Raids, where she also offered the same to allies of Æthelmearc to keep them safe and nourished to challenge the enemies of the Kingdom. So did They see fit to name her a Lady in Their Court, and did award her Arms. Scroll by Felice de Thornton with words by Lord Arias Beltran del Valle.

Wren of Sable Maul was then called forth by Their Majesties. As a fighter in House Sable Maul, Wren has overcome serious physical challenges and disabilities beyond those faced by most her age to provide her faithful service not only as a waterbearer, but also as an archer in the Army of the Kingdom. For her strength and commitment did Their Majesties deem her worthy of the position of Lady of Their Court and awarded her Arms. Scroll by Count Sir Jehan de la Marche and THL Ismay Ponde with words by Lord Arias Beltran del Valle.

Rikardr in blakki Bjarn was then summoned before Their Majesties. In only a few short years in the Society, Rikardr has offered his service, becoming a marshal for thrown weapons and helping with the range at Pennsic. Their Majesties also thanked him for providing the big, soft butts (for thrown weapons) so essential to practice in the Kingdom. For this did they award him Arms and make him a Lord of Their Court. Scroll by Felice de Thornton.

Their Majesties then gave Lord Rikardr his first task as a member of Their Court, sending him forth to bring his lady, Birna Rickardskona inn blakki Bjarn. In like fashion to her Lord has Birna become active in the society, clothing and feeding her House, bearing water on the field, and assisting at events with Troll. Therefore did they name her a Lady of Their Court, awarding her Arms. Scroll by Felice de Thornton.

Their Majesties then invited before them Syr Tegrinus de Rhina. Their attention having been drawn to one amongst their guards who had thus far dodged the responsibilities of a position in their Court, They sent him and others of Their guard to bear forth Atrox to answer for his dereliction of duty, who shortly brought him before Their Majesties. As he had recently become a citizen of Their Realm he was no longer able to hide from those responsibilities, and for his many years of service to the kingdom army as a heavy fighter, They named him a member of Their Order of the Golden Alce, carrying with it an Award of Arms. Scroll by Lady Lyse Gunther with words by Lord Arias Beltran del Valle.

Their Majesties then summoned the Autocrat for Their Coronation, Lady Juliana Ravenshaw. Having noted her successful execution of Their Coronation day, Their Majesties also called the attention of the populace to her decades-long history of service as seneschal, creating garb, serving in kitchens, and helping to found Their Shire of Ballachlagan. For her devotion to the Kingdom was she given a Grant of Arms. Scroll by Lady Shirin of Susa.

Their Majesties then called before them Her Ladyship Rynea von Lingen. Having been sent to vigil by their predecessors in the morning, Their Majesties asked if it was still her wish to become a peer and join their most noble order of the Pelican. Her Ladyship confirmed that desire, and their Majesties summoned before them that noble Order.

Sir Vladisla Nikulich spoke for the Order of Chivalry on Rynea’s qualities of humility, courage and prowess in her activities. Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe spoke for the Order of the Laurel on her skills in the kitchen, preparing food for the kingdom. Viscount Bear the Wallsbane spoke as a Royal Peer for the love of the Kingdom. Master Anias Fenne spoke for the Order of Defense about the grace she displays in her actions serving the kingdom. THL Otillige Rappoltsweiler spoke for the Populace also about her love, but this time for the Society itself. Sir Gabriel Hawkes then spoke about the inspiration she provides as an example to those looking upon her works. Finally, Viscountess Judith of Kirtland spoke as a Pelican about her time and efforts in teaching her craft, and the learning provided to others in that process.

Having heard words from Their Orders, and been satisfied by them, Their Majesties then called for articles representing her new status. She was then presented with a medallion, cloak and crop to adorn her person and display her status. All this having been done, Their Majesties then accepted her oath to the kingdom and proclaimed her a Mistress of the Pelican. Scroll by THL Eleanor Godwin.

Their Majesties then invited forth Mistress Maria Cristina de Cordoba. Their Majesties spoke to Mistress Maria about her tireless work as a Mistress of the Lists, helping guide many newcomers to the Society and leading her local group and region in various capacities. For these reasons among others from her more than 25 years of service to the Society were They minded to create her a Baroness of Their Court. Scroll by Lady McKenna Henderson.

Her Majesty Juliana then called for Baroness Sybilla Detwyller to attend, and named Her Excellency as her Inspiration for the day and awarded her a Golden Escarbuncle.

Baroness Sybilla receives a Golden Escarbuncle

Their Majesties then asked those who were involved in the creation of the various scrolls awarded in Their Court to stand and be recognized by the populace. They also thanked those responsible for the creation of the garb They had worn that day, including Mistress Elisabeth Johanna von Flossenburg, Lady Aine ny Allane, and Lady Birna Rickardskona in blakki bjarn, with belts and other hardware created by the hand of His Majesty Himself.

There being no further business before Their Majesties, Their Court was thus suspended.

At feast later the same evening:

Their Majesties summoned from his seat at Feast Ogier of the Black Corsairs. For 20 years has Ogier fought for the Kingdom, teaching new fighters and helping to equip them for battle. For these reasons did Their Majesties see fit to induct him into the Order of the Golden Alce. Scroll by THLady Rachel Dalicieux.

There being no further business, the First Court of Their Majesties was then closed.

Photos of court by Lady Aine ny Allane; scroll photos by Lord Arias Beltrane del Valle.

Categories: SCA news sites

From the Seneschal: Reminder of SCA Harassment & Bullying Policy

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-18 20:48
From Duke Christopher, Kingdom Seneschal: Good evening, please remember that if you feel you have been subjected to any harassment, bullying, or retaliation in the SCA, to contact me directly. If you know of anyone that has been subjected to harassment, bullying, or retaliation in the SCA, please encourage them to contact me. I can be reached at ae.seneschal@aethelmearc.org.   You can read more about the SCA’s Harassment and Bullying policy here: http://socsen.sca.org/the-sca-harrassment-and-bullying-policy/
Categories: SCA news sites

Tir Mara Populace Badge/Badge de la peuple pour Tir Mara

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-18 18:12

En français

Unto the good gentles of the Crown Principality of Tir Mara, greetings!

My name is Lord Conn mac Branain and I am the chair of the Tir Mara Populace Badge Committee. Tir Mara has been without a populace badge for far too long and it’s time something was done to rectify that. The committee formed in June as the end product of a discussion on the Tir Mara Facebook group. We spent the time since then in discussion as to how best go about the process. We now have a process in place and with the approval of the Tir Mara Seneschal and Their Royal Highnesses, we are ready to move forward. The committee includes people from all three Baronies and every Shire in the Principality; some are heralds, some are not.

Because this badge will be the populace badge for Tir Mara, we feel that involving the populace is key. To that end, we are inviting submissions from the populace. Anyone living in Tir Mara can submit their idea for a badge. After a reasonable period for accepting submissions has passed, the committee will vet all the submissions, and those that pass the vetting process will then be subjected to a poll of the populace to narrow the field down to the one badge that will be submitted to the College of Arms.

Here is the process in detail:

From today, 16 October 2017, until 30th November 2017, anyone living within Tir Mara may submit their design for a badge. All submissions are to be sent to the Tir Mara Submissions Herald, Blue Alaunt . Submissions may be in electronic format or sent by snail mail. All electronic submissions for the populace badge MUST have ‘Tir Mara Populace Badge’ in the subject line or they will be ignored. All snail mail submissions for the populace badge MUST have ‘Tir Mara Populace Badge’ on the submission itself or they will be ignored. The regular submission forms are not required, either in electronic or snail mail format – we just need to be able to easily make out what design it is you are sending us. SEND NO MONIES.

From 1st December – 31st December, submissions will be vetted by the committee.

From 1st January – 31st January, the populace will be polled as to which design they would like to have as a populace badge.
It is important to note that this is a poll and not a vote. The Crown has the final say in what is adopted as a badge; just like a poll for a Baronial coronet, or one of the Orders of High Merit, the decision rests with the Crown. It is much easier for the Crown to make a proper decision if they have information. That’s why we’re polling the populace, to present the Crown with data showing the desires of their people.

In February, the numbers will be tallied, the results announced, and the paperwork submitted to the College. Once that happens, we wait until the badge has gone through the normal process for commentary and decision as with all other heraldric submissions.

En français

Salutations au bon peuple de la Principauté de la Couronne de Tir Mara!

Mon nom est Lord Conn mac Branain et je suis en charge de coordonner le comité pour trouver un Badge de la peuple pour Tir Mara. Le comité a été formé en juin dernier, suite à des discussions sur la page Facebook de Tir Mara, où il est apparu qu’il est grand temps que Tir Mara ait son badge. Nous avons depuis discuté afin d’établir une démarche en ce sens, qui a été approuvée par la Sénéchale de Tir Mara et Leurs Royales Majestés. Nous sommes donc prêts à aller de l’avant. Le comité est formé de représentants de chaque groupe de la Principauté, incluant des hérauts.

Il nous a semblé important d’impliquer toute la peuple de Tir Mara, car ce badge doit tous nous représenter. À cet effet, nous invitons la peuple à soumettre des projets de badge. Toute personne résidant sur les terres de Tir Mara peut participer. Lorsque la date limite pour recevoir les soumissions sera passée, le comité examinera les propositions. Les soumissions jugées admissibles seront par la suite soumises à la peuple afin de choisir le design qui sera soumis au Collège des Hérauts.

Voici en détail le processus proposé:
* Les soumissions seront acceptées jusqu’au 30 novembre 2017 et doivent être adressées au « Tir Mara Submissions Herald, Blue Alaunt ». Les soumissions peuvent être envoyées en format électronique ou par courrier régulier. Toutes les soumissions électroniques DOIVENT avoir comme objet « Tir Mara Populace Badge », sinon elles seront ignorées. Nul besoin d’utiliser les formulaires usuels pour les soumissions héraldiques. Il suffit que le design soumis soit clair. N’ENVOYEZ PAS D’ARGENT

* Du 1er au 31 décembre 2017, les soumissions seront validées par le comité.

* Du 1er au 31 janvier 2018, la peuple sera appelée à se faire un choix parmi les badges proposés.

Il est important de noter que c’est une consultation et non un vote. La Couronne aura le mot final quant au design qui sera adopté, comme pour une consultation pour la couronne Baronniale ou les Ordres de Haut Mérite. Il est beaucoup plus aisé pour la Couronne de prendre une décision éclairée si elle a en mains toutes les informations nécessaires concernant le souhait et la préférence de la population de Tir Mara.

Le tout sera comptabilisé au cours du mois de février 2018 et les résultats annoncés par après. La soumission officielle sera transmise au Collège des Hérauts. Nous devrons ensuite attendre la suite normale du processus de soumissions héraldiques.


Filed under: Announcements, En français Tagged: heraldry, Tir Mara

Unofficial Court Report: Tournament of the Roses

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-18 14:32

Photo courtesy of Baroness Cateline la Broderesse

While Tsar Ivan ventured to the Kingdom of Æthelmearc to attend the Njal Saga, Her Majesty, Tsaritsa Matilde, attended the Tournament of the Roses in the Barony of Dragonship Haven on Saturday, October 14, AS 52.
With a heavy heart, her Majesty had to issue the following edict in a morning court:
“Ivan Ivanov syn Dimitriov vynuk Tzardikov and Matilde de Cadenet, Tsar and Tsaritsa of the East Kingdom, issued a Royal Sanction of Exile from the Realm against [legal name redacted], known in the Society as Mord Hrutsson. The sanction will expire at the end of their reign.”
Court was suspended, and the Tournament began.

Duchess Eltheldreda and her winning team.

At the end of the tournament, the team of Duchess Etheldreda emerged victorious.
Her Majesty Matilde reopened her court, and invited Duke Randall of the Dark to attend. He was accompanied by the members of the Chivalry who were present, and read a petition signed by numerous members of the Chivalry of the East, denouncing the actions of Mord Hrutsson.
This unfortunate business completed, Her Majesty wished to bring a more joyous moment to the populace. She invited the children in attendance into court. Eager with anticipation, the kids waited as Tsaritsa Matilde requested Sir Gellyes attend her, and take the toybox for a run to the merriment of all.

Next did Her Majesty invite into court Christine of Serpentius. Though she was not present, Duchess Etheldreda spoke for her, and Christine was Awarded Arms, receiving a scroll by Faolan an Sccreccain.
The Queen next invited into her court any newcomers attending their first, second or third event. They came forth in dribs and drabs, and received tokens and hearty vivants.
Tsaritsa Matilde invited into her court Sara Sala di Peruta. Her Majesty spoke highly of Sara’s service, and invited into the court the companions of the Order of the Silver Crescent. Sara received a medallion, and a scroll by Aesa feilinn Jossursdottir (Feilinn).
After a fine day of fighting, fencing, archery, and arts and sciences, her Majesty thanked the staff for their hard work, and closed court.
Long Live the Tsar! Long Live the Tsaritsa! Long Live the Kingdom of the East!
Malcolm Bowman, Brigantia Principal Herald.
PS – Thank you to Simona bat Leon for assisting with court.

Filed under: Court Tagged: court report, royal court

Birka Fashion Show

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2017-10-18 12:33

Once again House Strangewayes will be presenting a fashion show at Market Day at Birka organized by Baronessa Bianca Anguissola

Baronessa Maria Pagani and Baron Juan Xavier’s winning entry from Her Grace Avelina’s sports garb challenge at Birka in AS 48.

Are you interested in showing off your garb prowess? Want to ogle the talent of the populace? Want to win a fabulous prize and be the envy of all your Peers? Come show off your skill!

In addition to entrants in the following categories:

  • Early Period: 600-1100 CE
  • Middle Period: 1100-1450 CE
  • Late Period: 1450-1600 CE
  • Children’s garb
  • Group category

Her most royal Majesty Czarina Matilde de Cadenet has issued Her own Garb Challenge. In honor of East Kingdom 50 Year, she desires to see the skill with needle and thread of the populace in showing their true colors: their East Kingdom colors.

Show Her what makes you a Beast of the East. Come display your fiercest blue tygers, make them roar for you in your stately Eastern purple and gold, and change into your stripes of blue and gold populace pride.

East Kingdom Badge – may be used by any citizen of the East Kingdom

Unsheathe your shears and tear into that linen, take down that wild wool, and hunt for the perfect pattern to kill it on the runway come Birka. Her Majesty will be looking to catch the most impressive Eastern tyger by the tail and name them the winner of this year’s Queen’s challenge.

Further details for time and location to be announced as the event approaches.

Filed under: Announcements, Events Tagged: birka, birka fashion show, Birka Garb Challenge