Under a cornfield in Cass County, Illinois, near where the Sangamon River flows into the Illinois, are the remains of a bustling Native American town that thrived from the 12th century through the 15th. The town had a central plaza, surrounded by three platform mounds, houses and defensive walls 10 feet tall and more than 1,000 feet long in each direction. Known as the Lawrenz Gun Club Site after a shooting club built on one of the mounds in the mid-20th century, the site has been studied by archaeologists and students from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) every summer for six years.
It was the remains of the mounds that first indicated a community of the Mississippian culture had once inhabited the site, but the town ranges far beyond that, covering over 26 acres. IUPUI’s archaeology field school used remote sensing technology to establish the perimeter of the site and, since they can’t dig up the whole cornfield, to identify areas likely to contain artifacts. This excavation season alone they’ve unearthed 97 bags of archaeological material including projectile points, pottery of many different kinds from cookware to storage vessels to dishes, stone tools, plant and animal remains. Only once in the six years have they encountered a human burial. Officials were notified in compliance with federal law, the grave was reburied and the remains left undisturbed.
“The last couple of years, we have focused inside the city’s walls. This year, we are looking at earlier structures, built before the walls were put up,”” [graduate student John] Flood said. “We are looking at an early house, about 5-by-5 meters in size, and how the city started to develop, trying to understand how the very early Mississippian community arranged their structures.”
For Flood, the most fascinating part of the multi-year investigation has been the huge, elaborate defensive walls built to protect the city.
“You also need to make your presence known,” Flood said. “If you’re coming down the river and see a big, fortified city with 10-foot walls and archers’ towers, that’s a big mark of presence. It says ‘we’re here, and we’re here to stay.’”
Based on the artifacts unearthed so far as, the walls and the dwellings, researchers estimate that the village had a population of 400 to 600 people from around 1100 through 1450 A.D., making it probably the largest village in the area. The inhabitants grew crops, primarily maize, and also foraged wild resources from their environment, including seeds, grasses, nuts and marshelder, a ragweed relation with edible seeds that was cultivated by the earlier Kansas City Hopewell culture of Kansas and Missouri before maize displaced it. The surrounding area also provided abundant hunting and fishing. The IUPUI team has found a great many bones of fish, waterfowl and land mammals.
A large community with impressive fortifications in a fertile location with plentiful plant and animal resources, the village likely traded with the great city of Cahokia, now the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, to the north. Like Cahokia and other known Mississippian communities, the Lawrenz Site met an abrupt end in the mid-15th century. Archaeologists believe a combination of the Little Ice Age and severe drought may have brought on repeated crop failures which drove the population to abandon their settlements and seek greener pastures. With no food left to protect, fortifications that once defended the stores become prison walls enclosing only the prospect of mass starvation.
This season’s excavation will conclude at the end of the month. The 97 bags of artifacts and remains will be sorted, cleaned and analyzed in laboratory conditions back the university in Indianapolis. Every fragment is of interest as a potential source of information about the daily lives of the inhabitants of the prehistoric town.
The SCA 50 Year Celebration continues in the Middle Kingdom with a variety of activities. Thanks to Viscountess Hodierna Miriglee of Lincludin, who was the second Princess of Æthelmearc, and to THLady Rachel Dalicieux for their reports and photos!
Alas, rain on Tuesday and Wednesday caused the closure of some venues including archery and siege, but participants enjoyed many other activities in the many buildings and arenas available on the fairground site. There were crafts in the arts building including pottery, fiber arts, and block printing, as well as numerous children’s activities.
One record already set by the 50 Year Celebration is that it currently holds the largest gathering of equestrians in the history of the Known World. There were mounted combat tournaments and other competitions over the course of the week.
The Queens of the Known World participated in one particularly unusual equestrian competition. They were driven in horse-drawn chariots and had to complete tasks much as in normal equestrian competitions, knocking over artificial “enemies” with beanbags. So of course the Æthelmearc contingent in the stands took the opportunity to cheer Queen Ariella on with chants of “Oh, No, Rock to the Face!” each time she struck a target. While our queen acquitted herself well, the winner of the competition was Queen Adrielle of Ealdormere.
One of the marvels on site was the “Great Machine.” Powered by dogs, it can do a variety of work. One of its creators, Master Sylard of Eagleshaven from Ealdormere, demonstrated using it to drive a Da Vinci Hammer and transform a bog iron bloom to iron that can be worked.Click to view slideshow.
Sir Stefan Ulfkelsson of Æthelmearc also spent some time working bog iron at 50 Year, though without the benefit of the machine. Instead, he had assistants working a bellows to heat a charcoal fire so he could smelt the bog ore into iron using a Viking-era bloom forge. He reports that he was able to achieve about 25% efficiency of product in to iron out, which is very good for this technique.
Photos by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.
Other indoor activities have included a Boat Battle, a Squire’s Tournament, a Known World Hafla, and Children’s A&S Day.
Of interest to both scribes and bards, SCA 50 Year marked the unveiling of a book that was created by a group of over 50 Midrealm artisans in a project called “Calf to Codex.” Spearheaded by Master Johannes von Narrenstein, they began five years ago with deer that were butchered by hand and their hides processed into parchment. The parchment was then distributed to numerous scribes who painted and calligraphed the text using handmade oak gall ink and period pigments, and in some cases even handmade paint brushes and of course, quill pens. The text includes Midrealm history, stories, and songs written by a score of bards of the Middle, including such luminaries as Mistress Marian of Heatherdale, Duke Finvarr de Taahe, and Duke Laurelen Darksbane. Once complete, the parchment pages were gathered into quires, sewn together to form a book, and bound using hand-planed quarter-sawn oak panels and a tooled leather cover with handmade metal reinforcements and clasps. The threads used to sew the book together were made from flax grown, harvested, combed, and spun by members of the Society. Even the tools used to line the leather cover were hand-made. At SCA 50 Year, Master Johannes presented the 112-page book at a performance area where bards performed music and stories from it.
Master Johannes says of the book’s purpose: “It will be used like a book should be – read from, to us, at events and gatherings. We will have a custodian to take care of it, and invite readers to read to us from it.”
The photos below, by Viscountess Elashava bas Riva, are stunning. Gentles interested in a closer look at the project can learn more on the group’s Facebook page.Click to view slideshow.
One of the more popular events of 50 Year was the “Founders Meet and Greet.” A group of five gentles who were present at the first tournament, including its hostess, Countess Diana Listmaker, told stories of the Society’s founding and early days and answered questions. They are undoubtedly the celebrities of the event and have graciously had their pictures taken with scores of people from all over the Known World.
The Great Fire of London broke out in the wee hours of September 2nd, 1666, and raged for three days, leveling the old city within the Roman walls, a quarter of London, and destroying more than 13,000 homes, St Paul’s Cathedral, 87 parish churches, the Royal Exchange, Newgate prison and London Bridge. The Museum of London will mark the 350th anniversary of the conflagration with a new exhibition, Fire! Fire!, which will showcase life in the city before the fire, the events of the fire itself and how London recovered.
The museum will display period art and artifacts in its collection that illustrate the devastating fury of the fire. Some, like burned and melted pottery fragments from a shop on Pudding Lane near where the fire first sparked, have been on display before. Others have never been seen in public before, for example a ceramic roof tile melted and bent in half by temperatures of at least 1500 Celsius and a singled floor tile, burned iron padlocks and keys found at Monument House on Botolph Lane, one street down from Pudding Lane. Another piece on display for the first time is an unfinished needlework panel believed to have been saved from a house in Cheapside during the fire.
There are also two letters written by eye witnesses, one from James Hicks, a post office employee whose office burned down just after 1:00 AM on September 3rd. He fled with his family taking as many letters as he could with them. His letter informed postmasters of the destruction. The other letter was from Robert Flatman to his brother Thomas who worked in the city as a barrister but was out of town for the Great Fire. In the letter of September 9th, 1666, Robert told his brother that he had saved his books from his chamber in one of the Temples (professional associations where barristers kept their offices and lodgings).
In 1666, much of the City of London was little changed from the Middle Ages, a warren of cobblestone alleys tightly packed with crowded timber tenement buildings whose upper storeys jutted over the street to maximize precious square footage. By the mid-17th century the overhanging jetties projected so far over the alleyways that they kissed the jetties from buildings across the street, which made fire very easy to spread and practically impossible to stop. When the fire started in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane, it quickly jumped from building to building and soon formed an implacable wall of flame too hot for people to even attempt to counter. Perhaps controlled demolition of structures forming a firebreak perimeter could have contained it, but Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Bloodworth didn’t order those until the fire had burned all night and day.
What little firefighting equipment existed was small-scale and ineffective: tall ladders, leather buckets of water and squirt guns that look like large syringes could douse a building fire when deployed quickly, but once fire spread these tools couldn’t keep up. Long firehooks were used to pull down buildings, and when the buildings were too high for that, controlled demolition by gunpowder might do the trick. Once the fire was raging, it was too hot and fast for these methods to work. Once the Thames waterfront was on fire, the city’s supply of water was cut off.
Early fire engines carried barrels of water to a fire and pumped it out, but they delivered a comparatively meager stream of water, and that’s assuming they could even make it down the winding alleys of the City of London. Some were on sleds, other on wheels. The Museum of London has a very rare surviving 17th century fire engine which it acquired in 1928. It has been on display, but since all that remains in the central barrel and pump, it just looks like a wooden keg with an iron tap sticking out the top.
For the new exhibition, the museum employed Croford Coachbuilders in Kent to reconstruct the vehicle that carried the barrel and pump. They used traditional methods, tools and material to recreate the carriage. With no plans to go by, the coachbuilders used a 19th century photograph located by museum curators of the engine from when it was still complete with undercarriage, tow bar and pumping arms. Curators also found a print showing the fire engine, designed by John Keeling in London around 1678, in action, which helped the craftsmen replicate the original.
This video documents the construction process. It’s a fascinating summary which I wish were longer. My favorite part is when they take the completed wheel made of three different kinds of woods — elm for the hub, oak for the spokes, ash for the felloes (the part that goes around the spokes) — and fit the iron rim onto it. The rim has to be slightly smaller than the wheel to keep it all together, so they heat that bad boy up so it expands, slap it on the wheel, then quickly dump cold water on it to keep the hot iron from burning the wood and to force the iron to contract around the wheel. It’s smoke-filled awesomeness.
Fire! Fire! opens on July 23rd, 2016, and runs through April 17th, 2017.
Unto the artisans and scientists of Æthelmearc do Byron and Ariella, King and Queen, send Greetings.
We have returned from Our travels to Our beloved Shire of Ballachlagan (beloved particularly by the cicadas this year). We saw so many good artistic acts and thoughtful, insightful classes at the Æthelmearc. We extend Our thanks to all of the artisans and teachers who made the day so special, and to Mistress Alicia for organizing the Æcademy classes. We were pleased to witness the largest Cut and Thrust tournament ever sponsored in this Kingdom, and Our thanks go to Master Will Parris for organizing the tournament. Vivant to Don Clewin, who will soon become a Master of Defense, for winning the tournament.
THL Aelric and all the members of Ballachlagan should be very proud of the event; it went off beautifully and was an excellent showcase for martial and artistic pursuits. We attended many of the classes (at least in part) and were impressed with the quality and depth of the teaching. We also spent time in the Arts and Sciences display, where all of the entries were exceptional, and it was difficult to choose favorites. Furthermore, We thank everyone who made Ian Aetheling and Princess Leah welcome in their classes.
It is indeed a blessing to have Heirs who work so well with Us, and Our thanks go to Prince Marcus and Princess Margerite for their support in numerous ways.
In Service to the Dream,
Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Æthelmearc
In late 2013, archaeologists excavating in advance of a driveway construction project near Gyeongju, a town in southeastern Korea that was the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom, unearthed human skeletal remains. Found in a mokgwakmyo, a traditional wooden coffin, in a marshy area, the skeleton was complete and relatively well-preserved, albeit fragmented in places. Grave goods, including pottery and a wooden comb, were found inside the coffin that identify it as a Silla-era burial.
The Silla Kingdom started as a small city-state in 57 B.C. and ruled an increasingly large part of the Korean Peninsula until 935 A.D. Its thousand-year duration is one of the longest in the historical record, and two of its ruling dynasties — the Parks and the Kims — transcended the kingdom to become the most common family names in Korea today.
Despite the Silla Kingdom’s long life and enormous influence on the history and modern culture of Korea, researchers have had few opportunities to study Silla bones at all, and never with multiple analytical technologies. Intact human remains from the Silla period are rare because Korea’s acidic soil and the cycles of hot/wet, cold/dry weather accelerate the decomposition of soft tissue and bone alike. A 4th-6th century grave discovered in 2009 contained unprecedented complete sets of human and horse armor, for example, but not a single human remain. The wooden coffin survived, as did a box with assorted grave goods. The bones had disintegrated. The discovery of a complete skeleton in 2013 gave scientists the chance to carry out anthropological analysis, extract mitochondrial DNA, run stable isotope tests and craniofacial analyses that led to a full facial reconstruction.
The person deceased was a woman between 35 and 39 years of age at time of death. The length of the femur indicated she was around 155 cm (five feet) tall. The mitrochondrial DNA results placed her haplogroup F1b1a, a haplogroup typical of East Asia but not the dominant group in living Koreans today. Stable isotope analysis found that her diet consisted mainly of foods in the C3 category (wheat, rice and potatoes) and was likely vegetarian.
Her skull was found broken in dozens of pieces. In order to help determine her gender and to create a facial reconstruction, archaeologists cleaned the fragments and dried them. Each piece was scanned and imported into 3D modelling software to figure out how the pieces fit together. Once the model was complete, the team then puzzled together the actual skull from the fragments.
Her skull was unusually long and narrow. This kind of head shape often seen in cases of intentional cranial deformation. It appears to be natural in her case. Intentionally deformed crania are flatter in the front and the bones of the side grow to compensate from the pressure of the deforming agent (usually a piece wood or tight bindings applied to infants when their skulls are still soft).
In the craniometric analysis, the major cranial indices were compared with the corresponding data derived from the subjects of modern Korean adults. The results showed that the skull has longer, narrower and lower cranium with a narrower facial bone and orbits than those from the modern Korean adults groups. The nasal aperture demonstrated an average width in the nasal index. In terms of appearance, it was assumed that the individual had horizontally long & vertically short head with inclined forehead from lateral view and narrower face from frontal view.
This dolichocephalic or long-headedness trait is rare in the population of Korea today. Koreans are more often brachycephalic, defined as the width of their skull being at least 80% of the length.
Here is the complete craniofacial reconstruction:
You can read the full study published in the journal PLOS ONE here.
Throwback Thursday – Duke Eliahu
Sprezzartura is performing everything with grace, if I recall correctly. Per the wikipedia article: “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”
This was a fantastic episode. Hope you enjoy it all again.
Documented from the Rolls and Files of the Coram Regibus of Thomas Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Æthelmearc: Being a True Record of the Business of Their Majesties’ Royal Court at the Æthelmearc Æcademy and War College, 28 May, Anno Societatis LI, in the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais, accompanied by Their Heirs, Prince Marcus and Princess Margerite. As recorded by Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald, with the assistance of Lord Pavel Dudoladov.
In the morning. Their Majesties invited Mistress Alicia Langland to address the populace. She welcomed all to the event, especially those who gave of their time to teach throughout the day, and made a few announcements of changes to the classes. She also announced the inauguration of a new stipend in the memory and honor of the late Countess Aidan ni Lir, and named its first honoree: Lady Edana the Red.
Their Majesties next called before Them His Lordship Sionn the Lost, and Lady Lelija Barnasiewicz-Tancerka. His Majesty spoke of the singular joy that is dance, particularly when one’s partner is also one’s love. A couple so dedicated and so infectious in their love of their art does not escape the notice of others.
Thus, Their Majesties invited before Them Their Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc, who acclaimed Their Majesties’ will to induct The Honorable Lord Sionn and Lady Lelija into that company, and to Grant Lelija Arms. His Lordship’s scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova; Her Ladyship’s scroll is a work in progress.
Next did Their Majesties desire words with Mistress Phiala O’Ceallaigh. She brought unto Their Majesties works of exquisite skill and artistry, woven not by her own hand, but that of her apprentice, Viscountess Rosalind Ashworthe. So greatly impressed were Their Majesties that Her Majesty was tempted to keep a sample for Herself, but instead chose to have Her Excellency brought before the Throne. Thereupon did Their Majesties seek the counsel of the Most Noble Order of the Laurel, and instructed Her Excellency to go forward with that Order and sit the remainder of the day in vigil to contemplate elevation into their company. Mistress Phiala asked Viscountess Rosalind to return her apprentice belt, that she might make her decision independently. Her Excellency was escorted to her Vigil, and Court was suspended.
Court resumed in the evening. Their Majesties asked the children forward and invited them to amuse themselves with activities provided by Princess Leia at the rear of the hall.
Then Their Majesties gave leave to The Honorable Lady Clarissa da Svizzera to address the populace. Her Ladyship invited all to Pax Interruptus in the Barony of Thescorre, and announced a scribal fundraiser to be held at the event. She encouraged all to help support the scribes by bringing “SCA Yard Sale” items to donate, and to shop the yard sale during the day.
Their Majesties next received Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope to install her as the Kingdom Youth Fighting Marshal. Although Sir Thorgrim Skullsplitter, outgoing Marshal, was not able to attend, Their Majesties thanked him in absentia for his service, and entrusted Mistress Arianna with the charge to continue training Their Kingdom’s youth.
Their Majesties invited the Silver Buccle, Kameshima Zentarou Umakai, forward. With Their Majesties’ permission, he inducted Maighstir Liam MacantSaoir as the new Sycamore Herald. He also sought applications for the position of Keystone Herald, in charge of education, to replace the late Baron Malcolm FitzWilliam.
Their Majesties gave leave to The Honorable Lord Aelric Ravenshaw, autocrat for the day’s event, to address the populace. His Lordship thanked his staff, the staff of the Æcademy, the teachers, the cooks, and all those who helped bring the event to success.
Mistress Alicia Langland was once again invited to offer her own thanks for the teachers and students. She particularly acknowledged those who taught at Æcademy for the first time, and those who had had their first-ever teaching experience. She further explained that in the teachers’ gift bags were Medieval-style candle-lighting tools, known in period as a “clue,” and that additional “clues” will go to teachers at future events. Thus, if one teaches sufficient classes at upcoming Æcademy sessions, one might be so lucky as to earn a “clue-by-four.” The next opportunity to amass more “clues” will be Æcademy in the fall, currently proposed for November 12.
Then Their Majesties called Master William Parris forward to name the winner of the cut-and-thrust tournament held that day. Master William explained that cut-and-thrust has long been a growing interest within the rapier community, and that the Masters of Defence have made it their particular brief to encourage and foster it. He announced the final placements: in third place, Master Annanias Fenne; in second, Countess Elena D’Artois; and the winner, Don Clewin Kupferhelbelinc. Don Clewin was called forward to receive his prize: a Royal favor to wear and pass on as additional sponsored cut-and-thrust tournaments are held in the Kingdom.
Their Majesties called before Them Fenna Rioux. They noted her willingness to retain, and spoke of the glowing reports They had received of her other efforts in her Shire and for her Household. This, along with Their first-hand knowledge of her courtesy and nobility, moved Them to Award her Arms. Scroll was a work in progress by Baroness Mahin Banu Tabrizi and Lady Raven Whitehart.
Their Majesties also summoned Jarngerd of Stormhaven to attend Them. Her Majesty said that She first took notice of Jarngerd in Her home, where she was hard at work in the kitchens, and later learned of this lady’s practices in her own home, including raising rabbits for food and fur, as well as her efforts retaining and serving her household. In recognition of these things and more, Their Majesties named her a Companion of the Order of the Keystone and further Awarded her Arms. Scroll by Lady Raven Whitehart with wording by Baroness Mahin Bany Tabrizi.
Their Majesties next sought Lady Elena de la Palma and complimented her on her splendid attire. Her Majesty noted that all who see this lady can be in no doubt of her skills as a clothier, but also her attention to the details of her presentation, as well as her other creative ability. Thus did Their Majesties proclaim Their mind to name her a Companion of the Order of the Sycamore. Scroll by Lord Oliver Sutton.
Baron Silvester Burchardt was brought before the Sylvan Throne, where Their Majesties assured him of Their admiration for his weaving. Their Majesties also assured him that the Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc enthusiastically agreed and encouraged Them in Their present course, which was to once again convene the Order, and name him one of their Companions. Scroll by THL Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne.
Next did Their Majesties desire to address Baroness Amelia Soteria. Although she came before the Thrones from her position behind them as Their Thrown Weapons Champion, Her Majesty pointed out that she might as easily have been standing behind Them as Their retainer. Rarely is this lady found not working, as Mistress of the Lists, or in fighter support, or in any number of ways great and small where she tirelessly serves. Her prodigious efforts commanded the notice not only of Their Majesties, but of the Order of the Millrind. Thus with that Order’s acclaim, Their Majesties did name her a Companion of the Millrind, and gave unto her two medallions that had been provided by members eager to welcome her among them. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova.
Their Majesties called for Viscountess Rosalind Ashworthe to come before Them and give answer whether she had chosen to undertake elevation. Upon her assent, the Most Noble Order of the Laurel was invited forward. Words from Duchess Rowan de la Garnison were conveyed by Countess Alexandra of Clan Donald. Her Grace cited the way Her Excellency wove her own patterns on her travels and left her mark upon the Kingdom. Master Wulfgar of the Wood spoke on behalf of the Order of Chivalry, saying that he has known Her Excellency almost all her life and never seen a better example of chivalry or courtesy. Her Highness Margerite read the words of Duchess Dorinda Courtenay, as a representative of the Order of Defense. Her Grace wrote of the work Her Excellency has done for the arts community, not loudly, but quietly, with little fanfare, but with great patience, and proclaimed that now is the time for the kingdom to speak loudly to proclaim her a Peer. Mistress Mahin Banu Tabrizi, also, attested to the service inherent in every instance that Her Excellency offered to teach, or to help, or guide another artisan on their path. Master Victor of Shrewsbury reflected on the way the threads of one’s life intertwine and twist, for Her Excellency introduced him and his late lady to the Society, ultimately setting them on the path that led to their own inductions into the Order of the Laurel. With the testimony of these Noble Worthies to confirm Their Majesties’ wish, Her Excellency was then bedecked with the medallion given to Mistress Phiala by her own Laurel, Master Ruadhan O’Ceallaigh, and with a hood adorned by a laurel wreath, wrought for her by Lady Beautrice Hammeltoune. Then did Mistress Laurencia bestow into her keeping the reliquary fruitcake of the Order of the Laurels of Æthelmearc. Mistress Rosalind swore her oath of service to the Crown and was proclaimed by Letters Patent to be a Peer of the Realm and a Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Laurel. Scroll by Duke Malcolm MacEoghainn.
Their Majesties called for the attendance of His Lordship Jussie Laplein. His Majesty declared that He knows this man well, for he comes to practice at Their Majesties’ home most weeks, and thus They have both crossed swords with him many, many times. With great pleasure, Their Majesties requested the presence of Their Most Noble Order of Chivalry to attend Them. They then commanded His Lordship to sit vigil at a mutually agreed date and contemplate elevation into the Chivalry. Scroll by Hrefna Fruþikona Þorgrimsdottir.
His Highness, Prince Marcus, addressed the populace. Moved by the ongoing efforts to support and bolster the scribes of Æthelmearc, His Highness announced his intention to sponsor a silent auction at the Kingdom Party at Pennsic. His Highness will create a full Landsknecht ensemble for the winner (who must also provide His Highness with the materials); the proceeds will benefit the scribes.
Her Majesty then named Her inspiration for the day: Lord Sasson della Sancta Victoria. Her Majesty spoke of his impressive efforts as a new Thrown Weapons marshal and a craftsman, but what captured Her attention on this day was that, while he normally attires himself in Japanese clothing, on this very hot day, he was in full Elizabethan garb. He chose to make himself this outfit on the occasion of becoming an apprentice, in honor of his Laurel, Mistress Anne Greye, whose persona is of that period. As he had already departed, Mistress Anne accepted Her Majesty’s token on his behalf and pledged to convey Her words to him.
Their Majesties recognized all those scribes who contributed scrolls, and announced that today and going forward, They have thank-you gifts in the form of scribal supplies. For the duration of the reign, scribes turning in scrolls may select an item from the scribal goodie stash, to help resupply them and provide them with materials they need to produce additional work.
There being no further business, the Coram Regibus was closed.
Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres
Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald
All photos of people by Master Tigernach mac Cathail. All photos of scrolls by Breyhyres Gwendolyn.
by THL Donnchadh Dubh Ghlas
History was made on June 11 at the Æthelmearc Æcademy & War College in Ballachlagan: the first-ever Order of Defense-sponsored Cut-and-Thrust Tournament in the Kingdom occurred.
Nine combatants entered in the tourney, arrayed themselves in a semi-circle around the inside of the list field. The format for the tournament was round-robin style. Each pair of combatants met in the center of the circle, exchanged introductions, and proceeded to take their guard. The combat ensued under the watchful eyes of our Sylvan Majesties, Thomas and Ariella, and the marshal-in-charge, Master William Parris.
Many feats of valor and acts of chivalry were exchanged in the crossing of swords. In the end, Don Clewin Kupferhelbelinc bested all comers and was victorious. Second place was Comtesse Elena d’Artois le Tailleur and third place Master Anias Fenne.
As one of the combatants, it is my wish that these Tournaments continue, and my hope that they draw more worthy fighters into the fray.
After 17 years, restoration of the hull of La Belle, one of four ships that carried French explorer René-Robert de La Salle and 300 would-be colonists on his mission to the Gulf of Mexico, is finally complete.
La Belle was a 54-foot frigate that could navigate open ocean but was had a shallow enough draft that it could hand coastal and river waters as well, an essential design for this trip since La Salle’s aim was to found a colony in the Mississippi River Delta. Their poor maps of the Gulf sent the explorers way off course. When his main storeship, L’Aimable, ran aground, La Salle was compelled to transfer as much of her contents as he could salvage to La Belle, so when a storm claimed her too off the coast in Matagorda Bay, 400 miles west of the Mississippi Delta, in 1686, she sank with a disproportionately huge complement of artifacts and supplies.
That gave the Texas Historical Commission archaeologists who discovered the wreck in 1995 a lot of work to do. They built a double-walled cofferdam around the wreck, pumped out the water and from September of 1996 to April of 1997, excavated the surviving bottom third of the ship’s oak hull. By the end of the excavation they had recovered nearly 1.6 million objects — barrels of gunpowder, weaponry, personal items, cookware, crates full of trade geegaws (brass rings, pins, hundreds of thousands of glass beads).
The hull was sent to Texas A&M University’s Nautical Archaeology Program where the timbers were soaked in a bath of polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution, a petroleum-based polymer that replaces the water in wood to keep it from warping, cracking or shrinking when it dries, for 10 years. When the high price of oil made the use of PEG prohibitively expensive, conservators put the timbers in the largest archaeological freeze-dryer in the world. After four years in the freezer, in the summer of 2014 La Belle‘s timbers were transported to the o the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. There they were reassembled in a side gallery where the process could be viewed by the public.
In May of 2015, reassembling of the timbers was complete and the entire hull was moved to the main gallery of the museum, its final resting place after 20 years of upheaval. While the hull timbers were back together again, the restoration wasn’t finished yet. The were gaps that needed to be closed and additional surviving sections of the hull added to the structure. While conservators were working on that, the main gallery was refurbished around the ship’s hull to create the permanent exhibition that would fully showcase La Belle and its many artifacts.
The restoration is now complete and the ship positioned at a 21-degree angle, just as it was on the sea floor when archaeologists excavated it. The temporary exhibition La Belle: The Ship That Changed History, is ongoing now. The permanent exhibition is scheduled to open in November, after which some of the artifacts from the wreck will become part of a traveling exhibition that will visit several locations in the United States and France, which is still the legal owner of La Belle and everything on it.
Thanks to Mistress Hilderun Hugelmann and THLady Rachel Dalicieux for continued photos and commentary on the SCA 50 Year Celebration.
The SCA 50 Year Celebration opened on Sunday with Countess Diana Listmaker, who hosted the first SCA event, telling the tale of the first event.
A group of founders joined Countess Diana on the dais. One of them, Duke Master Frederick of Holland (known as Flieg), heralded in the royalty of the Known World, reciting each Kingdom’s lineage in turn.
There were then demonstrations of heavy fighting and fencing, as well as a procession of people in clothing from many times and places.
The processional also included the first same-sex couple to rule a Barony, recently retired Barons of the Barony of Gyldenholt in Caid, Master Giles Hill and Master Giuseppe Francesco de Borgia. Musical entertainment was provided by Wolgemut.
There was also a demonstration of jousting, using lances with balsa wood ends.
Video by Lena Erickson
On Monday, June 20, the Æthelmearc Pas d’Arms was held. This tournament was jointly sponsored by King Byron and Queen Ariella, with Their Royal Majesties of Ansteorra, Gabriel and Sonja. It was originally the brainchild of Duke Timothy of Arindale, who was unfortunately detained by llamas somewhere near Machu Picchu and could not attend.
Our King and Queen proudly held the field for four hours in the hottest part of the day, challenging the entire Known World to test their mettle against Their steely resolve. 30 fighters, some from as far away as Drachenwald and the West, met together in the list. At last, Thervald, squire to Sir Devon of the Midrealm, emerged victorious.
Our own Lady Cynewyn Æthelweardsdohter received a Token of Inspiration from King Gabriel for her enthusiasm during the combat.
A support group from Æthelmearc assisted with organizing the Pas d’Armes.
The Gode Bakery, run by Master Alastar Scott MacCrummin and Maistres Myfanwy ferch Rhiannon with assistance from Maistir Brandubh o Donnghaile, serves meals to hungry gentles.
Other subjects of Æthelmearc have likewise been enjoying themselves despite the heat.
Watch for more SCA 50 Year coverage as the week goes on!
The UK Culture Ministry has put a temporary export bar on an Italian inlaid pietre dure table top that sold for £3,509,000 ($5,323,855), more than five times its high estimate, at a Sotheby’s auction last December. Made in the Grand Ducal workshops in Florence between 1600 and 1620, the table top is a glorious technicolor extravaganza of marble and semi-precious stone including agate, quartz, chalcedony, jasper and imported Persian lapis lazuli of the highest quality.
The four corners of the table are inlaid with coats of arms of the Grimani family, one of Venice’s most wealthy and powerful noble families. Family crests are rare motifs in the hard stone tables made by the Grand Ducal workshops, and this table is unique in having four of them. The abstract decoration around the crests is also unique. Other armorial table tops were commissioned by the Medici family as gifts for allies and dignitaries, and almost everything produced in the workshops was done at the behest of the Medici family. It is possible that the Grimanis arranged a private commission. There are no extant records to confirm either way.
The family certainly had enough pull to access the Grand Ducal workshops. Founded by spice and textile merchant Antonio Grimani (1434-1523), the family’s fabulous wealth catapulted them to the top of Venetian society. Antonio was the first Doge, elected in 1521 and serving until his death. There would be another two Doges in the family — Marino Grimani (1532-1605) and Pietro Grimani (1677-1752) — and a great many other big shots in the Church, business and politics.
The table top’s decoration telegraphs the prominence of the family in multiple fields. Each of the four crests is topped with a different symbol. The red domed hat (bottom right corner in the picture) is the Corno Ducale, the traditional headpiece of the Doge. The crossed keys of St. Peter (bottom left) represent the family’s support of the papacy and the many papal offices they held in reward for that support. The lion holding a book (top left) is the symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist, Venice’s patron saint, is a nod to two cardinals in the family who held the prestigious position of Cardinal Priest of San Marco. The double cross (top right) refers to the Grimaldi holders of the coveted and highly lucrative position of Cardinal Patriarch of Aquileia.
The Grimanis were not shy about parading their wealth. They amassed major collections of antiquities and art and packed them into two great palaces, the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa and the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca on the Grand Canal. Both palaces employed some of the greatest architects of their time, including Sansovino and Palladio. Family members and the palaces were painted by the likes of Tintoretto and Canaletto. The pietre dure table top had to be grand to decorate these homes.
The fortunes of the Grimani family began to decline in the late 18th century courtesy of the Napoleonic invasions. The family started selling off their collections piecemeal in 1806. They sold off the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca to their new Austrian overlords in around 1816-1818 and the Austrians converted it into a post office. The table top was in the Palazzo Grimani Santa Maria Formosa until 1829 when it was acquired by Henry Greville, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1779-1853) through British Consul William Taylor Money (1765-1834) who acted as Lord Warwick’s agent in the purchase of the table top and a marble floor for the earl to install in the renovated Great Hall of Warwick Castle.
Interestingly, the Grimani’s refused to sell the entire table. The insisted on keeping the legs and base of the table which they then topped with a fake apparently to save face. Lord Warwick had a new base made and by 1847 the table was on display in the Gilt Drawing Room. Another pietre dure table top Warwick bought from the Grimani’s was displayed in the State Bedroom. The second table top was made in Rome and doesn’t have anything like the same visual impact or historic iconography, but it’s still an exceptional example of the art form.
Both table tops were sold at the Sotheby’s auction. The Roman piece sold for £1,625,000 ($2,465,450), more than three times its high estimate. The UK is not blocking export of that one, but there’s no reason to assume the buyer applied for an export license in the first place. British institutions have until September to raise the purchase price plus VAT of the Florentine table to keep it in country.
This announcement is meant to give artisans advanced knowledge of the format so they can plan their work accordingly. However, please note that this announcement is incomplete, and a more complete announcement, along with details about preregistration, will be constructed once the event date and site are chosen. If you have questions, please e-mail Lissa.
-Mistress Elysabeth Underhill (Lissa), Queens Champion
-Master Magnus Hvalmagi, Kings Champion
Entrants may enter 1- 3 items into the competition, but the championship will be judged as a body of work. Individual entries will not be scored. No item should have won a previous King’s or Queen’s Championship, and each item to be judged should have been made within three years of the competition. The items can be from a single discipline or from multiple disciplines, however, entries which tell a coherent story about a people, time and place are encouraged. The winner of the competition is the Queen’s Champion of Arts and Science. The King determines the King’s Champion of Arts and Science.
Documentation is required to compete in the King and Queen’s Arts and Sciences Championship. Entrants are encouraged to use the judging rubric (which will be updated shortly) to help them determine what information to include in their documentation. However, due to the large number of entrants this competition typically receives, the length of the documentation provided must be limited to allow time for judging. Entrants are asked to compose a 1/2 to 1 page abstract or summary which provides an overview of their entire entry (their body of work). The primary documentation for the entire entry should be no longer than 6 pages, not including references. Entrants are encouraged to include a table of contents and section headings to make reading the documentation easier for the judges, and judges will be asked to read both the summary and primary documentation in full. Appendixes may be used to convey supplemental information, things such as images, tables, charts, excerpts from historic texts, detailed descriptions of processes undertaken, etc. Judges may look at these appendixes if they desire, and entrants can refer judges to information in their appendixes during their presentation. However, entrants should plan to include all information that is critical to an understanding of their project in their primary documentation.
Documentation is not easy to write! If an entrant desires help with writing their documentation, or wants feedback on documentation already written, please e-mail the current queen’s champion, Mistress Elysabeth Underhill (Lissa) at Lissa, no later than 3 weeks before the competition date, and she will try to find a volunteer to assist you. If you are interested in assisting with providing documentation feedback to entrants prior to the competition, please e-mail Lissa as well.
Filed under: Announcements, Arts and Sciences, Uncategorized
by Lady Elska á Fjárfelli
As fairly new residents to our fair Dominion of Myrkfaelinn (though not so new to this side of the pond), for our War Practice dayboard I drew my inspiration from foods of my Dutch heritage… which does tend to mean lots of dairy and potatoes.
While serving the lunch, my husband Hrolfr and I were asked what these different foods were — were they Dutch, and were they period? And while most of what you tasted would be perfectly at home at a Dutch event in modern times (with exception to the processed snack cheese and fake french bread, obviously), a lot of what I choose to serve also has its place in our history.
Take for instance hutspot, our main dish of mashed potato, carrot, onion, and bacon. According to legend, the recipe came from the cooked bits of potato left behind by hastily departing Spanish soldiers in the night of the 2nd to 3rd of October, 1574 on the downtown Lammenschans during their Siege of Leiden as part of the Eighty Years’ War. When the liberators breached the dikes of the lower lying polders surrounding the city, they flooded all the fields around the city with about a foot of water. And as there were few, if any, high points, the Spanish soldiers camping in the fields were essentially flushed out. Hutspot is normally cooked together with “klapstuk” in the same vessel. Klapstuk is a cut of beef from the rib section, is marbled with fat and responds well to slow cooking as part of the hutspot. If klapstuk is not available, then smoked bacon is commonly substituted. The carrots used are generally of the type known as winterpeen (winter carrots), which give the dish its distinctive flavor ordinary carrots cannot match but unfortunately are not available in the New World (as far as I know). The first European record of the potato is as early as 1537, but its consumption spread quite slowly throughout Europe from thereon. It was not until the 18th century that potatoes became a staple food in Europe. The original legend likely refers to what the Dutch call a ‘sweet potato’ or pastinaak, which is a parsnip; this vegetable played a similar role in Dutch cuisine prior to the use of the potato.
Soups, of course, are ubiquitous throughout history, as are lentils. On the other hand, nettle soup has a distinct European flair as stinging nettle tends to grow everywhere in northern and eastern Europe. Nettle soup is a cream soup made with the leaves of stinging nettle, mostly the Large Nettle or Urtica dioica (I have starts, if interested). Especially in Sweden, Iran, and Ireland the soup is rather popular; in Sweden, it is often served with a cooked egg. Archaeologists found traces in Stone Age England of the consumption of nettle as early as 3000 years ago.
Goat cheese had its start several thousand of years before Christ, and the Greek and Romans especially were enthusiastic goat cheese connoisseurs. In modern times, the Dutch are known for their cheese-making abilities, especially hard cheeses, and bred for this specific purpose the Dutch White Goat (Nederlandse witte geit) by crossing the high-production Saanen (from Switzerland) with the local Dutch Landgoat (landgeit), a heritage breed that can be traced back to the 16th century. Our small Ithacan flock is also based on Saanen, with the occasional Boer or Nubian crossbred, which we keep using traditional homesteading techniques (which often are surprisingly medieval). For instance, the use of the deep litter system (by cleaning once or twice a year the raising floor self composts, generating heat and thus keeping the goats warm in winter) and by keeping the kids with the does during the day but not at night, to milk in the morning, and have healthy large kids for the family come fall. My cheese is made with raw milk, as it should be.
My personal favorite was the coarse farmers pate, a perfect blend of meat, bacon, and liver slow baked in the oven. Growing up in the Netherlands, pates in many shapes and tastes are a general part of life, and I missed the availability and choices when moving to this side of the pond. Luckily, I brought my trusty Dutch Grandmothers Cook Book (Grootmoeders kook boek) with me, a book which pretty much every kid receives a copy when leaving home (it explains in detail how to boil potatoes, for instance) and which has a wonderful coarse pate recipe. I had more trouble finding period examples of Dutch pate, or even French pate, as it appears like its name is a fairly recent adoption (from France), and the way of eating it (cold, in the shape of a loaf). I have several Dutch recipes that with a little creative interpretation could be considered a pate, but only one English recipe will also look like one: the 14th century collection Curye on Inglysch has one recipe for meat & liver mortrew that should be standing (“loke that it be stondyng”) when done. I figured that was the end of it, until I recently received my modern Nordic Cook Book by mail, and found Norse culture has many different pate recipes. Pate might be more of a Northern European food culture than I thought!
My families’ favorite, and the one most dayboard tasters remember, is the vla. This is another modern Dutch staple, with a surprising history – and is available in every Dutch grocery store in multiple flavors so it can be poured into your bowl straight out of a carton. I vaguely wondered while living in the Netherlands why vla (custard) and vlaai (pie) sound so similar; in tracking down the history of vla, I stumbled right into vlaai. It turns out that vla (as a thick custard) could historically have been the filling of the pie vlaai. The medieval Dutch cookbooks on http://www.Coquinaria.com list several types of vla, or vlade as it is called in middle Dutch. It is not clear to me, since these recipes do not list to use a crust, if these vlades are meant to be eaten as a pudding or should be part of a pie – or maybe both – but then, the apple pie recipes do not list using a crust either, as everyone had their favorite crust recipes, and using a crust would be seen as kinda obvious to the experienced medieval cook! I did find, in the same book as the pate, a 14th century English recipe for a milk, egg, and sugar pudding cooked with wheat that would be eaten as a pudding, so it is conceivable vlade would be as well. It is also possible that medieval vlade underwent a regional change, as in one part of the country, vlade became to mean vla, and in another, vlade became to mean vlaai… As a side note, English custard and Dutch vla, even though made similarly with similar ingredients, do not taste the same – as the lunchers at my dayboard can attest!
I was surprised to find that rhubarb compote also is not really well known here. But then again, I’d never heard of strawberry rhubarb pie!
I enjoy the historic aspect of SCA dayboard cooking and had a lot of fun sharing yummy food examples from our Dutch heritage! Thank you for coming to eat with me, and I hope we’ll see you at the next Myrkfaelinn event – with vla, and possibly pate!
General information on vla, see here (use the translate button for the Dutch language sites).
The Silver Buccle and Golden Thorn (ÆCoH Webminister) offices, in conjunction with the Kingdom Webminister, are proud to announce that the Æthelmearc College of Heralds website, which has been undergoing a complete site redesign for approximately the last month and a half, is now live with our brand new, more interactive, site design.
The College of Heralds website address has not changed; you can find it here. And you’ll still find all of the references you’ve come to expect: the Order of Precedence, the Roll of Arms, the archive of Court Reports, and more. But the user experience has been brought more in line with modern web standards and mobile device compatibility, and (we hope!) the site has been better organized, with more new helpful features for both experienced heralds, and those taking their first peek into matters heraldic.
As always, if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, the Silver Buccle office stands ready to assist; please direct any emails off-list.
Archaeologists have finally tracked down prehistoric petrographs that were rumored to exist in a remote area of southeastern Russia. Locals have long whispered of ancient rock art in the craggy mountains of the Shilka River basin in the Transbaikal region, but nobody knew the exact location. Local legend has it that the petrographs were first discovered by a hunter many a years ago. He left his hometown and was never heard from again. More recently, a teacher from a village on the Shilka River was reputed to have taken her students to see the rock art in the 1990s. She died before archaeologists began looking.
In 2013, a team of archaeologists from Novosibirsk State University and the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography decided to explore the mountainous region in search of the petrographs. Local man Evgeny Karelin served as a guide to the area even though he didn’t know where the rock art was either. Then the archaeologists, led by associate professor Sergey Alkin, searched until they found the petrographs on a craggy rock face overlooking the Largi River at the end of summer.
It was truly a last-minute find. The field season was coming to a rapid close so the archaeologists only had one hour to study the rock art. They returned the next year and again in 2015, thoroughly examining and documenting the petrographs. They made a complete copy of all the art work and took samples of the pigment.
Now that they’ve found it, archaeologists are not disappointed. It’s quite a large piece with multiple figures painted on the rocky surface with red and ochre pigments. The condition is excellent, thanks in part to its remote location keeping people from messing with it. Other petrographs found in the area are much smaller and more worn. There are more than 20 elements, most of them human figures, plus an animal with hoofs, a tree, what may be birds and geometric shapes.
“Of course, interpretation of the images is disputable. Some elements can be explained only through archaeological and ethnographic analogues. Even the human figures can be interpreted as hunters, spirits or somebody else. For instance, one figure has a circle nearby, which should be a solar sign. With a cross inside, this circle is likely to represent a shaman’s drum, which is typical for many Siberian cultures. Thus, we may assume that this figure shows a shaman with a drum.”
[Sergey Alkin] is quite sure about distinguishing a hoofed animal, presumably a bull. Other distinct elements show some birds. Bird images are typical for other known petrographs in Transbaikalia. An important part of the Largi petrograph is numerous points and lines. “Such points can be interpreted as a symbol of counting with the painter fixing the number of some objects (say, cattle). As for the vertical lines above a horizontal one, this could be a long boat with people sitting in it. Archaeologists often identify similar images from other regions in such a way; however, in Eastern Transbaikalia it is the only known image of this type,” says the scientist.
While other petrographs in the region often are accompanied by ledges underneath the drawings that bear artifacts — tools, arrowheads — which archaeologists believe were part of a ritual sacrifice, there is no ledge here, and no evidence of religious activity. A nearby site at the mouth of the Largi river which was used by hunters and fisherman in the Bronze Age has a large number of pottery fragments and ceramic vessels. The team hopes to do more comparative studies to see if there may be a link between the new find at the site at the mouth of the river.
Comparison with other rock art in the Eastern Transbaikal and Yakutia regions indicates the petrographs were made about 4,000 years ago during the Bronze Age. Now the team will study samples and the detailed copy to learn more about the imagery and arrangement of the figures. They deliberately kept the discovery to themselves to ensure they had all the time they needed to make the copy and to keep the site free of interference from tourists and other researchers. They won’t be releasing the exact location of find site to the public anytime soon and it’s enough of a challenge to get there that archaeologists think the rock art will remain pristine.
The SCA 50 Year Celebration has begun in the Barony of Sternfeld, Middle Kingdom!
Mistress Hilderun Hugelmann, Baroness of the Debatable Lands, is there and sends us photos of the SCA History display. Each kingdom has a display area with items from banners and crowns to clothing and armor. Let’s begin at the beginning…
The slideshow below has photos of the historic displays of each participating kingdom.Click to view slideshow.
There is also a display of historical scrolls. Here are the ones sent by Æthelmearc.Click to view slideshow.
Various artisans have made works in celebration of the SCA’s 50th anniversary. Perhaps the most impressive is an embroidered history of the entire Society in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, created by Lady Jadwiga Wlodzislawska of the Middle Kingdom. Years in the making, the completed tapestry is on display at the SCA 50 Year event in the photo below, or you can get an up close look at the tapestry on Lady Jadwiga’s website.
Other artisans have also rendered SCA history in beautiful ways, as shown in the photos below.
Check back over the coming week for more news from the SCA 50 Year Celebration!
For the SCA’s 50th Year Celebration currently occurring in Indiana, the East Kingdom produced a video overview of its history, people and activities. The East’s booth at 50th Year was a major undertaking overseen by Countess Marguerite and supported by the work of many Easterners. The people who created this video are listed in the credits at the end. Many familiar faces and a few familiar voices are featured.
Filed under: Tidings
The imposing 1950s robot Cygan has been restored to his former dapper rakishness and is going on display next year at the Science Museum in London as part of its Robots exhibition which brings more than 100 historic and contemporary robots to the museum. Cygan is one 12 working robots who will be on display, his nearly eight-foot height, powerful pincer hands and renewed shiny good looks will be put to use smashing things and lifting other things for the delight of visitors, just like in the old days. No word on whether he’ll be picking up showgirls in each arm.
When last we saw Cygan, he was about to be sold at auction and there was an attempt to secure him for the city of Leeds as robot in residence. The attempt was not successful and on September 5th, 2013, Cygan sold to American collector Jerry Wallace for £17,500 ($27,300). Mr. Wallace intended to restore the gentle giant, and when I checked in with him a year later, he told me via email that Cygan’s condition was dire. They had to strip him down to his skeleton to remove all the rust, corroded metal, bad screws and everything else that had gone wrong in his many long years of being exposed to the elements. Wallace’s team sandblasted the skeleton and repainted it with rust-proof paint. The motors all needed to be replaced. Then they created a wireless remote system to automate his various movements. The exterior was cleaned and repaired, but the restorers left it original.
If you’d like to hang with Cygan, you don’t have to wait until next year. He’s already out and about in the Science Museum. Meanwhile, roboticist Giles Walker will be bringing another grand old mechanical man back to life: Eric, built by Captain W. H. Richards & A.H. Reffell in 1928 and billed as the UK’s first robot. Eric was a showman too, with an aluminium plated body, light bulbs for eyes and an electrical charge that would shoot blue sparks from his teeth.
He made his debut on September 20th, 1928, at the Society of Model Engineers’ annual exhibition where he was a big hit. He traveled all over the UK, to the continent and the United States where he was roundly beloved, before disappearing without a trace. Thanks to a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, Eric will be rebuilt. We have the technology. What we don’t have is a lot of information about how he was made. His creators kept their secrets close to their chests, so all we have to go on is a few stories in the press of the period and a few relevant papers curators were able to secure from descendants of Richards and Reffell. Between those archives, period photographs and films and a little deductive reasoning, Walker will make if not an exact replica, a pretty damn close approximation of the original Eric for the Robots Exhibition.
Does Eric really deserve the title of the UK’s first robot, though? New Zealand inventor Captain Alban Joseph Roberts had a robot skating the streets of London eight years before Eric was a twinkle in Captain Richards’ eye. Robot aficionado and researcher par excellence Reuben Hoggett of Cyberneticzoo has has the scoop about him (and about Eric, for that matter). Roberts created an automaton named Kaiser who he controlled by remote control light waves. Unlike Eric who was fixed to the power box under his feet, Kaiser could walk, or glide, and he didn’t need to carry a giant battery box to do it.
Here’s a 1920 Pathe’ newsreel of Kaiser rolling around and opening his arms with his stylish headdress and cape.
Roberts had an eclectic approach to invention. An expert in electricity who ran the municipal electrical utility in Patea, New Zealand, when he was 24 years old, he would go on to experiment with remote control flight, both vessels (dirigibles, cars, ships) and devices (marine and aerial torpedoes). In 1912, he held a demonstration of a remote-controlled model dirigible 10 feet long which he made fly around the Lyceum Theater in Sydney and drop a toy bomb on the precise spot indicated by an audience member, a proto-drone, basically. Scientific American called him “the Edison of Australia,” an intended compliment foiled by the fact that Roberts was from New Zealand.
He also worked on vehicles flying and terrestrial controlled by sound and light. In 1916, he created a resonator that could operate a model aircraft with sound (Sci Am article about it page one, page two). In 1920, the same year he took Kaiser for its first spin, he operated a driverless car with a whistle. The newspaper account of the demonstration presciently explained the significance of Roberts’ invention: “it may mean that before long we shall be able to explode a mine or fire a battery in Constantinople by pressing a button in London.” Again in 1920, as if he wasn’t busy enough that year, he also took a turn to the whimsical when he demonstrated a synesthesia machine that translated the tones of the human voice into different colors.
In a move that Cygan would later copy with gusto, Roberts spent the 1920s on the vaudeville circuit, first with light and sound control demos, then operating a second robot of his invention that trundled around on a wheeled base and could move its mouth as if speaking. It didn’t have Kaiser’s legs, though. The electronics in its base were covered by an Arabian costume. You can see Roberts demonstrate it on the streets of London on January 1st, 1928, in this newsreel. (They attribute the demonstration to the magician Jasper Maskelyne, but it’s Roberts, who was a part of his show, operating the remote.)
Captain Roberts moved from inventing potential wonders of the world to show business to plain ol’ business. He died in 1950 with much of his early genius forgotten.
So was Eric the UK’s first robot? I’m not sure what criteria the Science Museum is using, but even if you disqualify the Arabian fellow because it doesn’t have the tin man form with functioning legs and arms, Kaiser still has Eric beat by close to a decade. The only leg they have to stand on is that Eric was called a “robot” (the R.U.R. on his chest stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, after a 1920 play by Czech writer Karel Čapek which introduced the word “robot” to the English language), while Kaiser was called an automaton, but that’s a shaky leg. The Robots exhibition includes automata going back to the 16th century, after all.
The next in our series of Æthelmearc Artisan Profiles, from Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe: Cassandra Matis
When faced with a gift basket filled with a variety of bacon that was vacuum-packed, uncooked and still in perfect condition, Her Ladyship Cassandra Matis started on a path that has led to her being a recognized expert in meat curing. We were fortunate that she came to live here in Æthelmearc and has been as generous with her knowledge as she has been with her tasty bacon and cured ham.
Cas, as she prefers to be called, is originally from Massachusetts. Her first real cooking job was at Plimouth Plantation, a living history museum that focuses on the Plymouth Colony. While she has always had an interest in cooking it was that gift basket that really changed everything. Cas realized that she could learn how to make everything in that basket and with the encouragement of her late husband, she started learning how to cure meat.
Curing is a preservation method that can use salting, drying, or smoking. The most commonly known cured meats are salami, jerky, bacon, and prosciutto. Curing encompasses not only meat but vegetables, which Cas also makes. She describes curing as “a combination of chemistry, biology, art, and science”, particularly when dealing with medieval meat curing recipes, which can be maddeningly vague (“..until it takes the salt well.”) and then suddenly specific, usually with time and ingredients.
The immediate difference that Cas noticed with homemade cured meats was that the taste was significantly better than that of store bought cured meats. As she gained a certain degree of skill, she began sharing her cured meats through dayboards to make it more approachable for the average Scadian.
When asked about how she determined success, Cas told me that it was “getting to the end of the process as there is potential for failure at every step”. With that being said, she also admitted that through her years of experience she now has a nearly 100% success rate with what she makes. At the time that we spoke, she had about 75 pounds of meat in various stages of curing in her house.
Her love of all things cured has meant that when she bought her new home, one of the first things that she had done was having a meat-curing room installed in her basement so that she would no longer have to use dorm refrigerators and a variety of regular refrigerators to store her curing meat.
While meat curing is certainly what she is best known for, Cas is extremely proud of her cheese, beer, and bread-making. In fact, she loves making beer as much as she loves making cured meats. She makes her bread using a 21-year-old yeast starter she calls “Herm” and credits with being the longest relationship she’s had in her life.
Cas focuses on German culture during our period of study, Sabina Welserin, in particular. She has even found that there is an Italian primary source of the same vintage as Welserin that has much of the same information and has been doing research into that. She also uses Scappi a great deal in her cooking research. She loves using medieval curing methods, but will make concessions to ensure food safety such as using plastic tubs rather than wooden boxes to cure meats.
Her modern cooking heroes cut across all cuisines and, of course, includes Michael Ruhlman, the father of the modern artisan charcuterie movement and whom she refers to as the “Dale Chihuly of Charcuterie”. Her other culinary heroes are Jacques Pepin, Alton Brown (“He made it cool to be geeky about food.”), Jasper Cook, Anthony Bourdain (“I admire his ability to travel and eat anything.”), Gordon Ramsey, and Peter Reinhart.
Her Scadian inspiration is Master Basilius Phocas, the Midrealm Laurel best known for his work with Byzantine food and culture.
When asked about her future plans, Cas said that she would very much like to be making her living making a variety of cured meats, have a smoke house/spring house on her property, and expand her knowledge and work as a sausage maker. I have no doubt that she will be achieving these goals as well as any others she sets her mind towards.
 For those unfamiliar with Chihuly’s work, his glass sculptures are considered fully unique to the blown glass field due to the composition and scale of his work. Particularly considering there are myriad technical difficulties when working with blown glass and large-scale works like Chihuly’s, moreso. For more information about Dale Chihuly, please visit his website: http://www.chihuly.com/.