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George III’s huge map collection digitized

History Blog - Wed, 2016-01-06 14:28

The British Library has begun a massive project to digitize all of King George III’s 50,000-piece map collection. George III was an avid collector, not just of things he personally loved but in true Enlightenment style, of things he thought would be of intellectual value to the nation. He added significantly to the royal art collection, dedicated a lifetime to collecting books that he made available to all scholars (not even John Adams was barred) and put together an extensive collection of mathematical and scientific instruments.

Maps and topography were a genuine passion of the king’s and had been since he was a young boy. There’s a well-known portrait of George III when he was Prince of Wales with his younger brother Edward Augustus at their lessons with tutor Francis Ayscough. Next to the future king is a globe, a book with an imprint of the Prince of Wales’ feathers leaning against it. It’s a prescient image. Once he was king, his love of geography became professionally important as well, and there are accounts of his dedication to learning every detail about the topographical details of ports, fortresses and cities.

While British monarchs before him had squirreled away maps and atlases in various nooks of royal palaces, it was George III who brought them all together into a single collection that he then added to extensively. He had agents scouring Europe to acquire important pieces and even whole collections. He incorporated all gifts of maps and atlases to the monarch from his subjects into the collection. He even straight-up stole from royal engineers, military and colonial mapmakers who sent drawings, prints and watercolors for his inspection. Late 18th century land surveys done by British military surveyors for the American Board of Trade, for example, never made it to their commissioner. George was so enthralled with the series, which included a map of the Florida coast more than 22 feet long, that he just kept them all, bless his heart, and added them to the ever-expanding collection kept in a room next to his sleeping chamber in Buckingham House, then not yet an official palace.

By the time of King George III’s death in 1820, the Topographical Collection included 60,000 drawings, watercolors, manuscripts, prints, letters, reports and atlases dating from 1500 to the then-present. Half of the material covers Britain and its colonies (or former colonies after the American Revolution) while about 30% covers European countries like Italy and France that were popular Grand Tour destinations. The map collection was gifted to the nation by his son, George IV, along with the late king’s book collection. (He kept all the military maps for national security purposes.)

Originally dispatched to the British Museum, George III’s Topographical Collection was moved to the British Library. Despite its royal pedigree and historical significance, the full collection was never thoroughly catalogued. The British Library moved to remedy that in 2013, raising funds from private donors to catalogue, conserve and digitize George’s beloved maps. It’s a massive job, expensive in time and money, and the library still doesn’t have the funds needed to complete it. They’ve started piecemeal using the donations they have. So far they have conserved, catalogued and digitized all color views, the maps and atlases of South and North America, China, Scotland, southwest England, Spain and 30% of London and southeast England. As of last month, about 25% of the collection has been digitized.

Right now the project is working on the gem of the collection, the gigantic The Klencke Atlas which was the world’s largest atlas until the publication of the Earth Platinum atlas in 2012 which is new so as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t count. At 5’9″ by 6’3″ when open, the atlas is literally man-sized. It wasn’t actually one of George III’s acquisitions. The atlas was given to King Charles II, a known map aficionado, in 1660 by a group of Dutch merchants led by sugar merchant Johannes Klencke as a gift celebrating the king’s restoration to the throne. On its huge pages are 41 walls maps of Europe, Britain, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Charles II liked it so much he put it with his most prized objects in his cabinet of curiosities at Whitehall Palace.

The Klencke Atlas has long been a favorite with British Library staff — there are photographs of curators being dwarfed by it going back to the 19th century — but photographing the giant pages themselves in any kind of quality was all but impossible until recently. The technology now makes it possible to capture high resolution images of sections of every page and digitally knit them together into a single image. This will give viewers the chance to the see both the big picture, as it were, of each page and to zoom in on the tiny details — names, labels, etc. — that would have been too blurred out to read a decade ago.

The digitization of the Klencke Atlas and 80 other pieces was funded by a donation from rare book seller Daniel Crouch who has a lovely outlook on the matter.

Crouch admits that it is “an unsexy cause — it’s not like naming a gallery. It is the digitisation of a lot of old stuff.” He stresses that, although “it doesn’t sound important or life-saving, it actually is. It’s the kind of resource that will be used in years to come and will make the holdings of the British Library accessible to all.”

The digitization of the Klencke Atlas is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, there’s the other 75% of the Topographical Collection that still needs love and attention before we can spend entire weekends on a nerd bender of George III’s maps. The British Library needs another £500,000 ($730,000) to finish the job. To donate to the digitization project, go here and select “Unlock London maps” from the dropdown (it should be selected by default) once you’ve chosen an amount and clicked through.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Polling Order Recommendations Due January 10th / Les recommandations pour les Ordres nécessitant un vote doivent être reçues au plus tard le 10 Janvier 2016.

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-01-05 16:14

En français

Recommendations for TRH Kenric and Avelina’s first order polling are due on January 10th, 2016.

The orders that require polling are:  

Peerages (society level awards): Order of Chivalry (heavy weapons), Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), Order of the Pelican (service), Order of Defense (rapier combat)

Orders of High Merit (East Kingdom): Order of the Silver Crescent (service), Order of the Maunche (arts & sciences), Order of the Tygers Combatant (heavy weapons), Order of the Sagittarius (archery), Order of the Golden Rapier (rapier combat), Order of the Golden Lance (equestrian).

Recommendations for awards that do not require polling (including Awards of Arms and the new Armigerous Orders) may be submitted to the Crown at any time.

Full descriptions of all East Kingdom awards can be found in East Kingdom Law available on-line here (.pdf document), in Section IX Awards, starting on page 23. Additional information about the new Armigerous Orders can be found online here.

Anyone may recommend any person for any award. You do not need to be a member of an order to recommend someone for that order or award.

An excellent summary of how to write a good recommendation letter is available on the East Kingdom Wiki by clicking here.

You may submit recommendations for any award by using the EK Awards Web Form. Click here to access the form.

En français
Traduction par Ekaterina Solov’eva Pevtsova

Les recommandations pour les Ordres nécessitant un vote à leurs Altesses Royales Kenric et Avelina doivent être reçues au plus tard le 10 Janvier 2016.

Les Ordres nécessitant un vote sont :

Pairs (Ordres de la SCA) : Ordre de la Chevalerie/Chivalry (Combat en armure) Ordre du Laurier / Laurel (Arts et Sciences), Ordre du Pélican/ Pelican (Service) et l’Ordre de la Défense / Defense (Escrime).

Ordres de Haut Mérite (Ordres du Royaume de l’Est) : L’ordre du Croissant d’Argent / Silver Crescent (service), de la Rapière dorée / Golden Rapier (escrime), de la Manche / Maunche (Arts et Sciences), du Tigre Combattant / Tygers Combatant (combat en armure), du Sagittaire / Sagittarius (tir à l’arc) et de la Lance dorée / Golden Lance (équestre )

Les recommandations ne nécessitant pas de vote (ce qui inclut les décernement d’armes (Award of Arms) ainsi que les nouveaux Ordres non-votant) peuvent être envoyés à la Couronne en tout temps.

La description de toustes les reconnaissances du Royaume de l’Est se retrouve dans la Loi du Royaume de L’Est ici (en document .pdf) dans la section IX, Awards, débutant à la page 23. Les informations additionnelles pour les nouveaux ordres non-votant sont disponible ici.

Tous peuvent recommander une personne pour une reconnaissance. Il n’est pas nécessaire de faire partie d’un Ordre pour pouvoir recommander une personne pour cet Ordre ou cette reconnaissance.

Une très bonne description expliquant comment écrire une bonne recommandation est disponible sur le wiki du Royaume de l’Est en cliquant ici.

Vous pouvez soumettre vos recommandations pour toutes les reconnaissances en utilisant le formulaire EK Awards Web Form en cliquant ici.

 


Filed under: En français, Official Notices Tagged: award recommendations, awards, polling deadlines, polling orders

18th c. scuttled ship found on Potomac riverfront

History Blog - Tue, 2016-01-05 12:03

Archaeologists overseeing construction on the Potomac riverfront in Alexandria, Virginia, have found the well-preserved remains of a ship that was scuttled in the late 18th century. The 50-foot section of the port side of the hull, an estimated 1/3 of the original length of the ship, including some of the keel, frame, bow stem, stern and exterior boards and interior flooring, survived the centuries thanks to the waterlogged soil which kept oxygen and microbes from devouring the wood.

The ship is being thoroughly documented in situ via 3D laser scanning, high resolution photography and precise measurement. Each layer of the wood — archaeologists believe there are at least three — will be scanned and photographed before removal. An expert will examine the remains to identify the wood and date it precisely with dendrochronological analysis. The dismantled ship parts will be kept under water for preservation purposes — a lab has yet to be found that can accommodate it — while the city decides seeks funding for long-term conservation, study and possible display.

While we await an exact date based on when the trees were cut, historians have already pinpointed a tight date range by documentary study. The site was originally located on a bluff overlooking a Potomac cove. That cove was filled in to extend the property in the late 1700s. Historical maps showing how the shoreline changed in the second half of the 18th century provide a possible window for when the ship was buried of between 1775 and 1798.

The frame sections were placed very close together, an indication that the ship was built to carry heavy loads. It was likely a coast-hugging vessel rather than ocean-going, and while archaeologists tentatively believe it was a merchant ship, they cannot yet rule out that it had a military use. There is evidence of deliberate chopping of the hull, probably with a broad axe. This may have been done during the filling in the cove as the ship was chopped up to fit into the given space.

The site of the future Indigo Hotel at 220 S. Union Street is part of a major redevelopment project of Alexandria’s historic waterfront. The ship is the second significant historical find in the one-block site. In September archaeologists unearthed the remains of a warehouse built in 1755 that is thought to be the first public building erected in Alexandria which was only six years old at the time. Historical records of a June 18th, 1755, meeting of the Trustees of Alexandria document their order that a warehouse “One hundred feet long twenty four feet wide thirteen feet Pitch’d To be three Divisions double strided” be constructed, and archaeologists found almost exactly that: the outline of a wooden building 90 feet long and 24 feet wide. The 10 missing feet were destroyed by later construction on the site.

With the stone foundations, large beam framing and even sections of the floor and interior walls surviving, the warehouse remains give historians the unique chance to explore mid-18th century construction elements like the extensive use of mortise and tenon joints even in the studs and beams, and to study the city’s very early commercial history. It was dismantled and sent to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab in St. Leonard to be preserved in its tanks.

Unlike the warehouse whose location was recorded in the Trustees meeting, the discovery ship came as a complete surprise to excavators. There are no surviving records known that document its scuttling and installation, nor are any expected to be found.

“It’s very rare. This almost never happens,” said Dan Baicy, the hard-hatted field director for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm watching for historic evidence during construction. “In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there’s so much disturbance.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

East Kingdom Deputy Paypal Exchequer Sought

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-01-05 07:00

Unto the Populace of the great East Kingdom does the Chancellor of the
Exchequer send greetings.

At the October 2015 Board Meeting the Board of Directors expressed a desire
to provide the Kingdoms with the ability to use PayPal as a replacement to
the prior online event reservation tool.

If the East is to use PayPal, the only approved event reservation option,
then there will need to be a PayPal deputy.  I am looking for persons that
have an interest in filling this new position.  This position will take time
to get all the pieces needed in place, so the sooner people apply, the
sooner the Kingdom will be able to get this in place.

All person interested in the position should send a letter of interest or a
resume to  exchequer@eastkingdom.org  the words ‘PayPal deputy’
should be included someplace in the subject line.

In Service,
Maestra Ignacia la Ciega,
East Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer
exchequer@eastkingdom.org


Filed under: Official Notices

Event Announcement: Kingdom Twelfth Night

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-01-04 20:46
What: Æthelmearc Kingdom Twelfth Night When: Saturday, January 9th, 2016. Site opens at 10am.  The gate will close at 2pm.  The event ends and the site closes at 10pm. Where: Washington Lodge #265 Caldwell Consistory Cathedral, 150 Market Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815 Come One Come All to the Celebration of Saturnalia with our Most August Imperiatori, Tindal and Etain, featuring the renown competition for Sylvan Bard of Æthelmearc. Keep your strength up for reveling by partaking of the splendid lunch presented by Baron Janos Mezzaros, and after a day full of activities, you may choose to sit Above the Salt or Below the Salt for a Saturnalia Feast also created by Janos and his Company of Cooks. You may choose your entertainment throughout the day: dancing (Instruction during the day and dance in the evening), an arts contest with roots going back to the the days of Cicero (more info to come), games of chance (including a Kingdom fundraiser) and games of skill. Come in your most brilliantly-hued haute couture. As did our ancestors, we too will revel in the Roman fashion.  There will be a Kings Choice and Queens Choice for best dressed in Saternalia sartorial splendor. And  as the Sun turns, so too shall our social order, and as befits our celebration, our Lord and Lady of Misrule too shall make their choices known. Merchants are welcome.  In lieu of a merchant fee, we are asking for donations for the fundraiser. Due to limited space, you must reserve ahead of time. Please contact our Merchant Liaison Baroness Rosemund von Glinde (Wendy Hart, baronessrosemund725@yahoo.com, 716-949-4984) Other activities and information will be forthcoming on the web and on the Kingdom and Twelfth Night Facebook pages as well as here in the Æstel. Autocrats for your event are Lady Antoinette de Lorraine (Ashley Green, antoinettedelorraine@gmail.com, 570-317-4575 – before 7pm)  and Mistress Cori (Clare Jackson, thecoribird@gmail.com, 716-517-8570 TEXT is best). Please send reservations to Edith of Winterton (Caroline Elliott, 38 Chateau Terrace EAST, Amherst, NY 14226, edithofwinterton@gmail.com, 716-574-1354).  Please include an email with your reservation for followup.  Please include any food allergies when you make your reservation. The cost for this wondrous affair is: SITE FEE (includes lunch):           Adult: $14.00           Minor age 13-17: $7.00           Minor age 0-12: Free Family Cap SITE FEE ONLY: $35.00 BELOW THE SALT (Site Fee + Below the Salt dinner)           Adult: $22.00           Minor age 13-17: $15.00           Minor age 0-12: $8.00 ABOVE THE SALT (Site Fee + Above the Salt dinner):           Adult: $27.00           Minor age 13-17: $20.00           Minor age 0-12: $13.00 For Children age 0-12 there will be an alternate Children’s Feast available at a children’s table in the feast hall for $3.00. For those whose minor children do not eat event dinners at all, parents may reserve for them with site fee only. We will have a table in the feast hall for kids who are not partaking any feast whose parents are, so that the kids may still be in line of sight without taking a feast seat. Off board tables will be available for people who wish to stay at the event and bring their own feast. Please make your checks payable to: SCA NY, Inc- Canton of Beau Fleuve.  A $5.00 non-member surcharge will be collected at the door from all non-member adults. Hope to see you there!
Categories: SCA news sites

Skeleton found under Scottish school playground may have been a pirate

History Blog - Mon, 2016-01-04 12:15

An excavation at Edinburgh’s Victoria Primary School last year unearthed the skeletal remains of what may have been a 16th century pirate.

Founded in the 1840s, Victoria Primary School is the oldest working elementary school in Edinburgh and is housed in a historic building in the neighborhood of Newhaven which was once a thriving fishing village with a harbour on the Firth of Forth. In the early 1500s, King James IV, visions of a great Scottish navy dancing in his head, established a deep-water port with a dock for the construction of large warships in Newhaven. The first ship constructed at the Newhaven port was the Great Michael, the largest ship in the world when it launched in 1511 with twice the displacement of its exact contemporary and King Henry VIII’s pride and joy, the Mary Rose.

When the City of Edinburgh Council decided to build an addition to the primary school building, AOC Archaeology was contracted to do a thorough archaeological survey before construction. With the school near the present harbour and practically on top of the original one, archaeologists expected to find the remains of structures from the old harbour and the shipbuilding concerns that once proliferated there. Instead they found skeletal remains in very poor condition.

Because of its condition and because shards of 4,000-year-old Bronze Age pottery were unearthed alongside the skeleton, the archaeological team at first thought the remains were very ancient. Radiocarbon dating performed by AOC Archaeology revealed that in fact the remains date to the 16th century or 17th century. The date, location and condition of the remains suggest this man, who was about 50 years old at the time of death, did not die a peaceful death and go to a respectful repose.

At that time, there was a gibbet on the Newhaven dockyards where pirates and others convicted of capital crimes would be hung for weeks until their bodies rotted away. Pirates were particularly popular candidates for the Newhaven gibbet because hanging their decaying bodies in plain view of the ships in the harbour was meant to be a deterrent to any other would-be scurvy dogs. Whatever was left of the body would eventually be taken down and buried wherever. The Victoria Primary School skeleton was buried in a shallow grave close to the shore, not in one of three graveyards in the area.

Laura Thompson, Head Teacher at Victoria Primary School, added: “As the oldest working primary school in Edinburgh, we are proud of our history and heritage and the school even has a dedicated museum to the local area.

“The pupils think it’s fantastic that a skeleton was found deep underneath their playground. The archaeologists will hold a special lesson with some of the children about how they have used science to analyse the remains and it will be a good learning opportunity for them.”

Not to mention an outstanding opportunity for pirate-themed recess games.

Forensic artist Hayley Fisher has made a facial reconstruction of what the man may have looked like from the remains of the skull. He looks a little young for a 50-year-old pirate/criminal. Needs more weather beating.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Ginger Churchill goes to hell on Austrian church ceiling

History Blog - Sun, 2016-01-03 09:08

On the ceiling of the Three Kings’ church in Hittisau, western Austria, is a large scale painting of The Last Judgement. That is not unusual. What is unusual is that one of the figures depicted going to hell is Winston Churchill in a red wig.

The Roman Catholic parish church of Hittisau was built in 1842, funded by a bequest from priest Josef Schnell who stipulated in his will that construction on the new church would have to begin within five years of his death or no dice. Schnell died in 1838, so they just made it in under the wire. The Three Kings’ church was completed in 1845. In 1850, artist Josef Bucher made three altarpieces to adorn the high altar, but other than that the interior decoration was quite spare.

When Father Josef Maisburger was assigned to the parish church in 1934, he wanted to gussy it up a little. In 1936 he contacted well-known Munich artist Waldemar Kolmsperger the Younger to explore the idea of painting a mural on the ceiling. Waldemar Kolmsperger the Younger followed in the footsteps of his father Waldemar Kolmsperger the Elder (1852-1945) whose Neo-Baroque extravaganzas earned him the title of the “last Baroque painter.” The younger Kolmsperger specialized in church decoration, a signature of the elder, and worked in a style reminiscent of the Baroque flourishes that had made his father famous. A professor of the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, the son of a famous artist and a leading church painter in his own time, Kolmsperger the Younger didn’t come cheap. His final price was too high for a small village church budget, so Maisburger packed his dreams away for a rainy day.

That rainy day came in 1940. Now Austria and Germany were the same country, and it was a country at war. New church mural commissions were few and far between and this time when Maisburger reached out to Kolmsperger, his fee had dropped enough to make him affordable for the Three King’s church. The linked article says Kolmsperger was motivated to accept this small-potatoes gig in a tiny village in rural Austria in part because he feared conscription, but he was born in 1881 and I seriously doubt 60-year-old men were in fear of the draft, not in 1940 at any rate. It was at the end of the war when old men and young boys were dragged into service.

As the Battle of Britian raged in the late summer and fall of 1940, Waldemar Kolmsperger began work on the Apotheosis of Christ in Heaven and Hell. He worked behind a white sheet so people didn’t see the painting until after it was completed in 1941. When the work was finally revealed to the public, the people of Hittisau were horrified to find that Kolmsperger had not only flipped the entire village the bird, but he had pulled a Dante and put a living political figure in hell.

Hans Weiss said: “The fresco did not include on one side heaven and hell on the other, apparently the artist disliked the area so much, he decided to paint two hells.

“Secondly, there was quite noticeably a picture of Winston Churchill right at the heart of the hill where Judgement Day was being carried out, showing him carrying a huge bag of money which represented his ill-gotten gains for his treacherous behaviour, and containing the writing “100,000 pounds”.

“Despite the protests of locals the artist refused to change it, and there was a huge row that went right up to the bishop. Locals were convinced that once bomber command found out about the insult, they would deliberately target the church in order to eradicate it.

“The Bishop apparently agreed and he eventually ordered the artist to disguise Churchill by giving him a red wig, and to change the word pounds to gold.”

So Kolmsperger grudgingly made the changes, plopping a ginger Moe wig on Churchill’s head so instead of looking like a bomb-baiting Winston Churchill, he looked like a bomb-baiting Winston Churchill in a ginger Moe wig. He wasn’t happy about it, though, and apparently plotted revenge. His plan was to add a few of the locals to the hellscape, and since he’d already put a couple of topless ladies in the mural who were eerily similar to women from the village who Kolmsperger was suspected of having bedded, nobody put it past him. The villagers are said to have chased him out of town before he could make his final alteration.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Gazette staff 2016 resolutions!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-01-02 16:54

We asked the hard working staff of the Gazette to offer a few of their SCA related 2016 resolutions. Happy New Year to all!

Mistress Ysabeau Tiercelin’s 2016 SCA Resolution:

There are so many activities I love in the SCA (probably too many!), but one of the things dearest to me is our Equestrian Program. I may be one of the few people who bought a horse specifically to ride in SCA events (most of our riders already own horses or are very active in riding in the modern world). However, it’s been a few years of ups and downs with time, horse health issues, and overcoming a lack of confidence on my part. My resolution and goal for this year is to really up my riding game, and be able to canter in at least one activity in this year’s Kingdom Equestrian Championships. And I would like for all of you in Æthelmearc to come out and support the program by being there to cheer all of us on!

 

THL Ursula of Rouen has this to say about 2016:

I’m pretty big on goals and while my SCA goals usually get revisited at War Practice for the year I took some time to stop and think about what I wanted to achieve in 2016. I came up with one resolution and one goal. My resolution is to support the scribal community as much as possible. I plan to do this by encouraging others to jump into the wonderful world of scribal (seriously, if I can do it, anyone can!), attending local scribal nights, learning at least one new technique and teaching it to others, and helping no less than three people complete a start-to-finish scroll blank for the first time. My goal is to branch out and attend events in at least four kingdoms this year. My mundane job, and new geographic location don’t allow me to travel as much as I once did, and I plan to take advantage of my new location by attending events in bordering groups and kingdoms. I encourage you all to attend a new event you haven’t been to before in a new group or kingdom you don’t get to as often as you like, oh and seek out or start your own local scribal night! Happy 2016!

 

Baroness Miriel Du Lac’s 2016 Resolution:

My Resolution this year is to advance myself in fencing. A goal that I started last year and wish to continue. Not only to continue to practice and fight as much as I can, but to seek out other fighters that I’d normally be afraid to take on, fight them, and get feedback on how I can improve as a fighter. As the Baroness of The Rhydderich Hael I hope to use my new position to support and encourage the fencers and fencing community in my Barony, to stand with the fighters in battle, and know by example that I will back them in anyway I can.

 

The fine words of Lord Christian Goldenlok:

What I find very interesting about the SCA is how dichotomous the inclusion is. There are thousands of SCAdians with their activity eggs all in one basket. (fencing or heavy fighting or the fiber arts.).

There are others who dabble in every single thing out there. I wish to look for opportunities to use my extroversion to help nurture a greater sense of unity among different SCAdian niches. Yes, in fact you can fence and heavy fight. Yes, you can sew and shoot archery in the same day. If those people who fight well also desire to sew I want to help point those people in the right direction and encourage them to be as well rounded as possible.

My second goal is to continue to strive to attend every event I can get to. I want to get faster and stronger and change my armor around a bit. I had a really successful summer season and we put about five thousand miles on the car and when I couldn’t drive, I tried to network a ride.

When I traveled, I found that there were literally strangers waiting to embrace me. I solidified friendships with those from Yankee AEThelmearc. Generally, I feel that the typical SCAdian gets out of it what they put into it. I’ve always come away with very positive feelings, especially in the heavy fighting community.

Lastly, I want to be the fighter people send new fighters to. I want to be the one to fight the person three days into wearing armor. I want to give minimal instruction and a feeling of maximum inclusiveness to those people who are new to the fight. I have been sought out for new fighters’ authorization before and I love the feeling that I helped introduce them to the sport that I love so deeply.

I could keep going and going and going and going……

 

Baron Magnus de Lyons’s 2016 resolutions: 

First off I want to finally get a gym membership (yeah…just kidding). 2015 was a busy year for me and I don’t expect 2016 to slow down any time soon. On the martial front I would like to continue to advance my skill as a fencer by obtaining at least one additional authorization (I am thinking dagger). My goal for heavy fighting is simple…do more of it. I also promised a few friends that I would fight in the combat of the 30 at Pennsic. Getting the kit in order is still a long road but one that I am willing to walk (but might have to run at this point). My leather working and crafting was sorely neglected last year. My goal this year is to finally  clear my very long to-do list (I think I have about 20 items on it) and that will include at least one or two items for my own use. My goal as Baron of the Rhydderich Hael is to continue to push the idea of “fun first”. This means looking at our events and practices from the stand point of people enjoying their activities first and balancing this enjoyment with the traditions and more formal aspects of the SCA. My goal for the Gazette this year is to publish more articles. I only had one good one last year and I really want to correct that this year (assuming I can settle on a topic).

 


Categories: SCA news sites

Ivan the Terrible-era weapons cache found

History Blog - Sat, 2016-01-02 12:52

Archaeologists excavating the site of future highway construction near Zvenigorod, a medieval town in the Moscow Oblast about 40 miles west of the capital, have unearthed a cache of weapons from the era of Ivan the Terrible (r. 1547-1584). The arsenal was discovered alongside the remains of the 16th century village of Ignatievskoe. The team unearthed about 60 buildings from the village. One of them had burned down in the mid-16th century but its basement survived remarkably unscathed. It’s in the underground timber-lined storage room that archaeologists discovered what they believe was the private arsenal of one of Ivan the Terrible’s elite cadre of knights.

They found helmets stored in leather boxes, kolchugs (a kind of cuirass), sections of military sabres, belts, and arrows and more. It seems possible that this was a cache of weapons for a military expedition, stored in special boxes, including even sections of camp tents and billy cans. This warlike inventory, along with the status of its owner, probably indicated the existence of a standing army of troops in readiness, who were armed, billeted and fed at the cost of members of the nobility as part of their responsibility as courtiers.

The spherical helmets with the pointed spikes decorated with gold and silver fittings are particularly splendid examples. There are similar ones in major Russian museums today, but these are the only ones ever found still inside their leather storage boxes with their fabric linings and ear-pieces intact.

The identity of the cache’s owner is unknown, but Ignatievskoe which was the home of the Dobrynins, an important boyar family who had at least one son among the oprichniki, a personal guard hand-picked by Ivan to police an area that was under his exclusive control. Ivan had demanded the creation of this new region as a condition of his return to Moscow after his sudden December 1564 departure. Distrustful of many nobles and clergy who he was certain were a pack of treasonous thieves, Ivan had left Moscow and sent a letter announcing his abdication. The boyar court was terrified that Moscow would fall into violence and chaos without Ivan’s leadership, so they agreed to all of his terms. Ivan decreed the creation of the oprichnina, a territory that he thought was rife with rebellious nobles (and, coincidentally of course, valuable industry), over which he had absolute power, including the power to execute anyone he wanted no matter how aristocratic without having to justify himself to the boyar council. Even family wasn’t exempt. Ivan’s cousin Vladimir of Staritsa, the grandson and nephew of Tsars, was one of the nobles who was executed and had his property confiscated under the oprichnina.

His army of a thousand men swore loyalty to him alone. Famed for their black horses and ruthless application of Ivan’s notion of justice, the oprichniki killed thousands, noble and peasant. Their unchecked violence culminated in the 1570 Massacre of Novgorod when more than 1500 nobles and uncounted numbers of commoners were tortured, killed or kicked out of the city to die from exposure and starvation. The massacre turned the tide against the oprichniki so decisively that Ivan was compelled to disband it in 1572.

Ignatievskoe was in the middle of several towns in the Moscow Oblast added to the oprichnina. It’s possible the arsenal was intended to arm Ivan’s terrible black-horsed guard in the performance of their brutal duties. It’s also possible that it was meant for other campaigns as the late 16th century was plagued by incursions from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as well as internal conflict.

“This gives us a much better idea how a Russian noble would have prepared for setting out on a military campaign—each nobleman would have had his own arsenal in readiness. This excavation enables us to ‘see’ for the first time the preparations made by the noblemen who made up the officer corps elite of the Russian army at the time of the flowering of Muscovy as a Russian state,” Mr. Alexeyev remarked.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Arts & Sciences Research Paper #5: The most kindly way to preserve by Alesone Gray, Sugarwricht

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2016-01-02 10:22

Our fifth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Baroness Alesone Grey, Sugarwricht, and is drawn from her studies in historical confectionary, specifically the preserving of fruits with sugar. (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)

The Most Kindly Way To Preserve

One of the great joys of preserving the harvest is you can enjoy summer time fruits all year round, including in the dark days of winter. Many fruits have a very short season and need to be picked and eaten or preserved quickly. In the United States, the tart cherry season lasts 1-2 weeks in June. Apricots are 4-6 weeks starting around mid May. Peaches and plums start around the end of June and can last through August, depending on region. Apples, pears, quince and crab apples start their peak in September-October. There are a few varieties of fruits that have 2 seasons; among them are figs, which are picked in early spring and early fall.

But which method of preservation is ideal for various fruits? It depends.

Contents
The Science of Preservation
Some Historical Examples
Troubleshooting Preserves

The Science of Preservation

The choice of method depends on a number of factors including pectin, pH, acidity, ripeness and fragility of the fruit. These factors create a chemical equation, which dictate an ideal medium and agents for preserving fruits. The basic formula looks a lot like this:

Preserves = sugar + pectin + acid + fruit + heat

In an ideal world, both the gelling agent and the acid come from the fruit being processes. However, some fruits do not have enough natural pectin or acids to gel on their own. A preserve can be supplemented with a thickening agent like isinglass, if there is insufficient pectin in the fruit. If the fruit does not have enough acid to bind with the pectin efficiently, wine can be used to assist gelling.

In all of the preserve recipes we have from period, the key ingredient is sugar, in a ratio that is 1:1 equal parts sugar and other stuff (fruit, pulp, liquids). This ratio is significantly higher than most modern recipes.

Sugar raises the boiling point of water. This allows for more sugar to be dissolved into a solution, creating a super saturated concentration. This is important for development of jellies, conserves, preserves and syrups, as the final temperature determines texture and consistency. The chemical properties of sucrose include antioxidant properties, which helps prevent the deterioration of textures and flavor in preserved fruits. [1]

Sugar is also an antimicrobial agent that works via osmosis and diffusion.  Osmosis is the process of establishing equilibrium by drawing water into super-saturated sugar water from inside the fruit. This reduces the number of free water molecules in the food; these are needed for microbial growth. This is a state of dehydration for the microbes and they cannot multiply and cause spoilage. When equilibrium has been achieved, the fruit will enrich itself with sugar solutes in the syrup solution via diffusion.[2]

Osmosis (image courtesy Wendy Marques)

Pectin is the second ingredient that is vital to a cohesive preserve. Pectin was originally identified as a substance in 1790 by French chemist Nicholas Vauquelin.[3]  The pectin source was an apple.

Pectin is a complex carbohydrate. It is located between the cell walls of plants, binding the cells together by creating a continuous layer between adjacent cells. In confections, pectin is a gelling agent, thickening agent and stabilizer.

Pectin (image courtesy Wendy Marques)

Fruit that has just become ripe contains the most amount of pectin. As fruit continues to ripen, pectin is broken down and loses its ability to be a gelling agent. Ripening turns pectin into pectic acid.[4]  This creates a fruit with a full bodied flavor, but little pectin.  These fruits are great for eating, but not very good for preserves.

Fruits high in pectin Fruits low in pectin Pears
Apples
Quince
Plum
Gooseberries
Oranges
Lemons
Limes
Currants
Crab apples
Blackberries Cherries
Grapes
Raspberries
Strawberries
Apricots
Peaches

Pectin cannot function on its own. It needs sugar and an acid in order to bind the preserve together. Sometimes there is sufficient acid in the fruit that a gentle application of heat is enough to create the bond. Often times there is not and fruit requires from an additional acid. In period recipes this acid is often wine.

It is important to pair the right wine with the right fruit. Acids in wine develop as the grape matures. In warmer climates, acids are lost through plant respiration.  Warmer weather results in lower acidity, and cooler weather creates higher acidity.  A wine produced in Napa, California will have a lower natural acidity than a wine produced in Chablis, France.

When looking for a wine to use, find one with a low pH; the lower the pH number, the more acidic the variety. Most table wines have a pH somewhere between 3.3 and 3.7;[5] white wines tend to be more acidic than their red counterparts. Regions that produce fairly acidic wines include: Chablis (France), Austria, Germany, and Northern Italy for white wines and Bordeaux and Burgundy in Southern France for red wines.

Occasionally a fruit both low in acid and low in pectin can use the assistance of a 3rd party gelling agent. In period this could come in the form of isinglass. Isinglass is a type of gelatin that comes from the air bladders of fish. Typically this would be sourced from sturgeon and would be sold dried, either whole or shredded. Isinglass is an ideal gelatin as it is odorless and tasteless. This means it will not impart additional flavor to the finished preserve. Unlike a modern gelatin, it does not need to bloom (become fully softened and melted) to be at full strength, and can added directly to the preserve as it nears completion of cooking. It completely dissolves and will cause some opaqueness to the finished product. Unlike a jelly using modern gelatin, when it sets, it will not be clear.

Isinglass (image courtesy Wendy Marques)

The amount of isinglass used will determine the setting properties of the finished product. A typical recipe can use 1-3 oz of isinglass. Modernly isinglass comes from cod. It can be found with brewing supplies, as it is a clarifying agent for beers and wines. However, it is advisable to stay away from liquid and powdered isinglass as they often had added citric acid and other materials for extending shelf life. To get the best results use whole or shredded isinglass.

The final factor in making preserves is heat. How do you know when the preserves are done, and why? 220 degrees Fahrenheit is the magic number for preserves, 8 degrees above a boil. Sugar at this stage is roughly 78% concentrated. It is also the temperature where sugars and pectin form a gel bond.

To test for this stage, you can do several things.

  1. Use a candy thermometer. 220 degrees should be clearly marked.
  2. When the temperature reaches 220 degrees, dip a spoon into the rolling mixture and watch what happens as the liquid runs off. If the liquid drops that form together into a sheet off of the spoon, the gel point has been reached. If the liquid retains droplet form, then it needs a little more time.
  3. You also can test your gel on a frozen plate by dropping a small bit of gel on a plate that has been chilling in the freezer. If the mixture gels then it is done.
  4. The period method would be a combination of what the bubbles look like as the mixture is boiling and the spoon sheeting test. Bubbles will be well formed, but not rolling. They will still pop like bubbles.

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Some Historical Examples

Preserves with additional acids

“To make conserve of any fruit you please, you shall take the fruit you intend to make conserve of and if it be stone fruit you shall take out the stones; if other fruit, take away the paring and core, and them boil them in fair running water to a reasonable height; then drain them from thence, and put them into a fresh vessel with claret wine, or white wine, according to the color of the fruit; and so boil them to a thick pap all to mashing, breaking, and stirring them together; then to every pound of pap put to a pound of sugar, and so stir them all well together, and being very hot, strain them through fair strainers, and so pot it up.” [6]

Berry Preserves (image courtesy Wendy Marques)

In this recipe by Markham (1615), the author is supplementing potential pectin levels with additional acids. He is calling for a 1:1 ratio of sugar to everything else. This creates a super sugar solution. Fruits cooked with this method have a higher potential of becoming candy-like than a modern preserve. The wine adds a fantastic level of flavor to the over all preserve. It also helps the pectin bind better to create a more semi-solid gel state. Cherries using this recipe with a red wine end up with a consistency that is similar to a very thick molasses.

This is a great recipe for stone fruits with lower pectin levels like cherries, apricots and peaches. Cherries set well with a nice red from the Bordeaux region. Apricots and peaches set well with a nice German Riesling. I prefer not to use this recipe with high pectin fruits such as currants and gooseberries. I have found the gels set up too fast and are thick with a gritty texture.

Preserves with additional gelling agent

“To make jelly of Straw-berries, Mulberries, Raspberries, or any such tender fruit. Take your berries, and grind them in an Alabaster mortar, with four ounces of sugar and a quarter pint of fair water, and as much Rosewater: and so boil it in a possinet with a little piece of isinglass, and so let it run through a fine cloth into your boxes, and so you may keep it all the year. [7]

In this recipe from Hugh Plat from 1609, we have several factors working against us. The sugar to water/pulp ratio is low. We are not creating a super sugar concentration as the liquids outweigh the sugar. We are working with fruits that are naturally lower in pectin. And we are not adding any additional acids to help our pectin. In this case the author suggests adding isinglass as a 3rd party gelling agent to thicken soft fruits low in pectin.

We also are not given an indication of how long it is to be cooked. I have found I get the best results when I put isinglass in around the 218 degree mark. It will dissolve rapidly. Your preserve will continue to cook a bit as it rises into the 220 degree range. You can add more isinglass at this stage if you want to and the mixture is not gelling to your liking. If it rises beyond 224 and begins heading toward the stage where it will form a soft ball in cold water, you have gone too far. Unfortunately, there are a lot of external factors that make executing this recipe difficult. However the end result should be an opaque gel with a very intense flavor profile.

Preserve with supplemental pectin

To make Marmalade of Lemons or Oranges. Take ten lemons or oranges and boil them with half a dozen pippins, and so draw them through a strainer, then take so much sugar as the pulp does weigh, and boil it as you do Marmalade of Quinces, and then box it up.

In this recipe, Plat is supplementing the citrus with pectin in the form of boiled pippins. This is another super saturated sugar concentration, i.e., it starts at 1:1 and concentrates further with cooking. The additional apple pectin creates a finished pulp that has a thick body that can be cut when it sets up.
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Troubleshooting preserves

Food science is never 100% clear-cut, “follow this recipe and everything will work perfectly”. There are so many different elements that can cause a recipe to fail. When making fruit preserves, usually this manifests by your preserves not setting.

Possible variables

  • Time
  • Batch size
  • Pectin
  • Acid
  • Sugar
  • Ripeness
  • Humidity
  • Altitude
  • Heat
  • Cookware
  • Canning procedures

It’s a pretty long list. Here are the four biggest variables to consider: all things being equal, what could I have done differently?

  1. How high was your heat?
    1. Pectin will break down at high temperatures. If you crank the heat to high and set your preserves to just do their thing, you will get through sugar stages fairly fast, but you can also break down your pectin. You will end up with very lovely syrup.
    2. To fix this problem: you can add water and re-saturate your sugar syrup and bring it back up to temperature via a lower temperature. You can also try adding a 3rd party gelling agent, like isinglass. You can also leave it in syrup state.
  2. Was your fruit too ripe?
    1. Just ripe fruit has the most natural pectin.
    2. To counter this, mix fruit that is too ripe with fruits that are either just ripe or slightly under ripe.
  3. Did you need to use an acid?
    1. Lower pectin fruits need the acid to help them.
    2. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really have a fix outside of re-saturating and adding a third party agent. You may find you need to use a lot more isinglass to get it to set up.
  4. Would more pectin help?
    1. You can always attempt the recipe and add a few apples. This is especially useful for fruits that have a lot of liquid in the cooking process.

Corrective measures should occur once your preserves have cooled completely. If you are using a modern canning water bath process you will be able to see in a few days whether they have set up. If after a few days the preserves have gelled to your liking, you can pop the lids and attempt a corrective method. It is always an option to leave it in a syrup state. Syrups are a perfectly period way to preserve foods.

Your ingredients will always play a large role in preserves. If you are using a sugar that is “in the raw”, “minimally processed” or has been crafted and cured in small batches, you will have additional preserve challenges. These sugars often have impurities that will need to be removed during the cooking process. They require longer times and reduced heat cooking temperatures. To rush the process can cause the pectin to break down faster and you will end up with lovely syrups.

When experimenting with preserves, I recommend trying a variety of cooking techniques with your fruits. You will discover which flavor combinations you like best. There is nothing to say you cannot cook a fruit using any of the period recipes, as long as you understand the properties of your fruits.
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[1] “The Canadian Sugar Institute.” Functional Properties of Sugar. Accessed 07 Oct. 2015.

[2] “How Do Salt and Sugar Prevent Microbial Spoilage?” Scientific American Global RSS. Accessed 07 Oct. 2015.

[3] “Introduction to Pectin.” CyberColloids, Ltd. Accessed 08 Oct. 2015.

[4] “Science of Cooking: Pectin and Partners for Perfect Preserves.” Exploratorium: The Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception. Accessed 08 Oct. 2015.

[5] The Oxford Companion to Wine. Ed. Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 549.

[6] Markham, Gervase, and Michael R. Best. The English Housewife: Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman … Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University, 1998.

[7] Plat, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609.


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

Electronic Newsletter Access for Family Members

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2016-01-01 20:30

The following announcement was made by the SCA’s corporate office. 

The Board of Directors is pleased to invite all current Family members to access the SCA electronic newsletter site. To log in, please go to:

website – enewsletter.sca.org
User Name – membership number
Password – start
If you experience any difficulties, please contact membership@sca.org, and include your legal name & membership number in the message.


Filed under: Announcements, Corporate

Preregistration for Pennsic 45 is now open!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-01-01 19:22

 

Just a friendly New Years reminder from the staff of the Gazette…

Preregistration for Pennsic 45 is now open!

For more information on Pennsic and how to preregister for this excitement go to…

Pennsic 45 website

Not excited enough yet? Take a look back at Pennsic posts of old…

Pennsic…a look back


Categories: SCA news sites

Pennsic 45 registration is open

SCAtoday.net - Fri, 2016-01-01 15:29

The Pennsic Registration Office is now accepting registrations for Pennsic 45, to be held July 29 through August 14.

read more

Categories: SCA news sites

The Dream We Dream Together: Bringing Pennsic Home

SCAtoday.net - Fri, 2016-01-01 14:25

On the Vaguely Bohemian web site, Rambler writes about discovering Pennsic as a first camping trip, and the power of a shared dream brought to life.

read more

Categories: SCA news sites

18th c. bridge collapses in northern England floods

History Blog - Fri, 2016-01-01 13:43

Northern England has suffered massive flooding over the past weeks. Thousands of people have been evacuated from small towns and big cities like York and Manchester. One of the small towns, Tadcaster, 10 miles southwest of York, has lost a large section of a historic stone bridge to the flood waters. Bystanders captured dramatic footage of the moment of collapse.

The bridge was closed to foot and vehicular traffic after the River Wharfe began to flood on December 26th due to fears that the rising waters had caused structural damage. Obviously that was a wise precaution because on December 29th the bridge started coming down. The collapse of the bridge formed a dangerous wave — you can see it in the video — and authorities asked all residents in the area to evacuation immediately. Also, gas pipes threaded along the bridge were exposed in the collapse. Witnesses and journalists watching the events smelled a strong smell of gas right after the stones fell down, so an area of 150 feet around the bridge was cordoned off to deal securely with the gas leak. Residents were allowed to return to their homes the next day.

The Tadcaster Bridge, also known as the Wharfe Bridge, was built around 1700 in the same location as an earlier bridge built around 1200 of stones purloined from Tadcaster Castle. Its seven bays are made of Magnesian Limestone, a local stone that has been quarried in the area since Roman times (Tadcaster was called Calcaria back then, the Latin word for lime) and is still quarried today. It is Grade II listed as a structure of significant architectural or historic interest. The bridge is the main road connecting to halves of the town. Only one bridge remains now — a modern one for the A64 bypass — and it’s on the other side of town so locals have to go six miles, 12 roundtrip, out of their way to cross Tadcaster town center.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss visited the town and assured residents that getting the bridge up and running again was a “national priority.” It better be, because the A64 around Tadcaster is slated to be shut down for resurfacing in 10 days which would leave the town entirely bisected. (Pedestrians can use the Tadcaster Viaduct, a 19th century railway bridge just north of town.)

And that was just the aftermath of Storm Eva. Frank is on the way now.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Celebrating Our First Year!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2015-12-31 19:29

We started the Æthelmearc Gazette just over a year ago – and a great one it’s been! Here is a statistical New Year’s countdown:

The Gazette editors celebrating their first year!

10. The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. The Gazette was viewed about 110,000 times in 2015. If the Gazette were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it. Yes, folks, we are getting an average of 301 page views a day!

9. The busiest day of the year was January 26th with 3,606 views. The most popular post that day was An Announcement from Their Majesties of Æthelmearc on the Additional Peerage.

8. We posted 414 times in 2015 – we have a busy group of editors!

7. Aside from the two top postings, which were from Duke Timothy, the 9 next most popular posts were:
What it Takes to Rule a Kingdom
Writ Given for first Æthelmearc Master of Defense
Omnibus Peerage Proposal Submitted to SCA Board of Directors
On the Peerage
What Does Your Heraldry Actually Say About You?
Order for Your Kingdom
The Making of an SCA Award Scroll
On Being a Knight
The SCA and Recruiting in the World of Live Action Role Playing Games

6. Our FB Post “Stock up for Pennsic” reached 57.7 thousand people – the highest single post showing all year on our Facebook page – it was definitely the Subway sign seen around the world.

5. Our audience came from 117 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & Australia were not far behind. We also had hits from Poland, Turkey, Iceland, Tanzania, Qatar, and Fiji.

4. Our top referrers are Facebook, Search Engines, G+, the East Kingdom Gazette, and scatoday.net.

3. Our most prolific author is Mistress Arianna – responsible for 5 of our top 10 blog postings, along with numerous others. Vivat Arianna!

We are ready for 12th Night!

2. Our top viewed category is Arts & Sciences.

1. We are looking forward to another great year ahead and wish you and yours all the best for the New Year! Thanks for making us the most seen news source in Æthelmearc. And don’t forget, submit early, submit often!

 

 

 


Categories: SCA news sites

The Year in History Blog History

History Blog - Thu, 2015-12-31 12:11

The end of 2015 is upon us and so is what has become an annual tradition here, the Year in History Blog History. We had another milestone which, while the number was a tad on the random side, turned out to be my favorite milestone celebration ever. Why? Because we rang in six million pageviews with Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive but somehow still able to rock the double-knit polyester leisure suit. I was surprised and delighted to find so many comments from people who love the Six Million Dollar Man as much as I do. Engine block Steve Austin action figure 4EVA!

The most read story of the year going by pageviews was the one about the Dutch soccer hooligans vandalizing the newly restored Barcaccia fountain at the base of Rome’s Spanish Steps. Short on its heels was one of my favorite, if not the favorite, post of the year: the cuneiform tablet that added 20 more lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The awesomeness of the Viking blacksmith’s grave drew the third largest numbers of views, and the momentous discovery of an archaic home from the 6th century B.C. underneath the Quirinale Hill in Rome came in fourth.

Number five on the list is also my favorite photograph of the year. It’s the CT scan of the cross-legged meditating Buddha statue that has a mummified person inside of it. I learned about the brutal process of self-mummification thanks to that post, which was horrifying and fascinating at the same time if not in equal measure, even though the CT scan showed the internal organs had been removed so the person inside the statue hadn’t actually gotten that way by starving, dehydrating and poisoning himself over the course of six years.

That post also corrected an error that was widespread in the general media coverage of the Buddha mummy, namely that its presence inside the statue was revealed by the CT scan. The statue was part of a traveling museum exhibition about mummies, so obviously the fact that there was a mummy inside the state was already known. That’s why they scanned it in the first place. Still, once a mistake like that gets into a headline or a lede, it’s almost impossible to carve it out. The days of a front page correction fixing the problem are over.

That goes double for a big mistake in History.com’s Today in History feature. I informed History.com that they had confused 18th century surveyor Andrew Ellicott with his great-grandson and dendrochronology pioneer Andrew Ellicott Douglass in their entry on the first recorded observation of a meteor shower in North America. I got an email back saying they were looking into it, but their erroneous article still stands. Perhaps they’ll have fixed it by the time November 12th comes around next year.

Another widespread story that needed some correcting is runner-up for favorite picture: the sale of the “world’s greatest cat painting.” Carl Kahler’s monumental 1893 painting of wealthy San Francisco socialite and philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson’s 43 cats sold for $826,000 made news all over the cat-loving Internet. Mrs. Johnson came off of her posthumous virality a little the worse for wear since apocryphal stories of her being a crazy cat lady with hundreds of cats roaming the house got repeated over and over again. In fact she was a thoughtful, devout, generous person who left valuable property and monies in her will to found a hospital for indigent women and children. That hospital still exists, albeit in a new location (the old one was felled in the 1906 earthquake) and under a new name.

It was a particular good year for film discoveries, I think. I don’t just mean lost films that were found hiding out in vaults, but personal discoveries, films that were known but that I discovered in 2015. The most important actual discovery of the year was the film of the 1915 Eastland disaster found in Dutch newsreels. The ship which killed 844 people when it capsized while still moored just feet from the bank of the Chicago River was captured in important photographs by groundbreaking photojournalist Jun Fujita, but this is the first film of the disaster known to have survived.

As far as personal finds go, I still laugh like an idiot at Douglas Fairbanks as the brave, clueless, high as a kite detective Coke Ennyday. That was a random surprise find. Finding The Daughter of Dawn on Netflix, on the other hand, was the happy outcome of years of checking in on the story. I’ve been anxious to see the rediscovered treasure since I first wrote about it in 2012, and much to my amazement, it did not disappoint even after years of buildup. It’s a great picture in many ways, capturing an era that was bygone even as it was being filmed.

My favorite videos of the year were all about the technology and procedure of historical preservation and exploration. First there was the all-too-brief view of how Historic Royal Palaces conservators go about washing the fragile 17th century tapestries under their care. With all the custom technology — the giant horizontal car wash made specifically for tapestries — the best part was how tenderly the conservators sponge away the dirt and blot away the moisture. The composite video made from synchroton X-ray imaging of a corroded 17th century metal box blew my mind purely from a tech standpoint. The detail and resolution of the images opens up a world of new possibilities for non-invasive exploration of artifacts that are otherwise too fragile to be touched.

Speaking of history and technology, the discovery that an eye salve from Bald’s Leechbook, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon book of remedies for illness, kills MRSA superbug bacteria with ruthless efficiency could have enormous implications in our soon-to-be post-antibiotic world. There were some heartbreaking responses to that story from people who have lived for years with persistent infections and are desperate to find a solution. Here’s hoping the research gets all the support it needs going forward so they don’t have to crowdfund for a measly £1,000 to hire a summer intern.

Is it weird if I transition from bacterial infection to poop? Oh well, at least there’s some sort of segue in there, even if it is a pathogenic one. Let’s face, it’s not a good History Blog year without some good poop stories, like the 25 tons of pigeon poop cleaned out of the 14th c. tower in Rye, a medieval city on the English Channel coast. Also we saw the greatest of all updates to the story of the barrels of poop found in Odense, Denmark. Researchers sifting through compacted 14th century excrement one teaspoon at a time, a designated expert poop-sniffer, museum Smell-O-Vision: that post and its comment thread made me inordinately happy. As did the hidden pooper found in the 17th century Dutch painting by Royal Collection curators.

The hidden pooper may be my favorite restoration find, but my favorite artifact find of the year is probably the Roman owl fibula found on Danish island of Bornholm. Its bright enameled colors, rarity and sheer cuteness completely won me over. If Lorenzo ever graduates from making Mjölnir amulets out of his mom’s tea spoons into a full-fledged artifact reproduction business, I vote he make us a whole bunch of Bornholm owls.

Close seconds are the blackboards from 1917 discovered with beautiful chalk artwork and class exercises preserved in pristine condition in an Oklahoma City school and the 132-year-old Winchester ’73 found leaning against tree in Great Basin National Park in the Snake mountains of eastern Nevada. Several comments on the latter story appreciated that I’d said conservators were keeping the rifle in its highly weathered condition “because it’s cool.” What’s funny is that I actually thought about it a lot when I was writing. I was going to break down all the reasons they’d decided not to restore it, but then I realized that it all boiled down to the same thing: because it’s cool. There are a million Winchester ’73s. This one stands out because some poor devil left it leaning against a tree for 130 years and now it looks kickass.

As far as precious metal finds go, the treasure of the year has to be the Bronze Age gold spirals found on Zealand, Denmark. They were found under a pile of gold coins and the spirals are so awesome they completely eclipsed the gold coin hoard. The comment thread on the spirals is particularly great too. Lots of interesting contributions from people who use or produce similar objects in embroidery and machining metal. The inscribed sword from the 13th or 14th century inspired a wealth of fascinating comments as well. Everyone likes a mystery, or at least we few, we nerdy few, we band of history-obsessed brothers do.

I also loved the comments on the story about the 7th century Christian skeletons found in front of the Temple of Concordia at Paestum because you were so enthusiastic about the fabulous hidden prostitute conspiracy story. One of the joys of writing this blog is when something that tickles me tickles y’all too. I love it even more when it’s a tangent that you pick up on rather than the main thread of the story. I’m not sure why. Validation that my meanderings were worthwhile, I suppose.

Sometimes the meandering becomes an entire post of its own, as in the case of Childeric’s treasure, a story I came across while researching something else I can’t remember anymore and that became something of an obsession for days. The story about Emily Post’s madcap road trip from coast to coast came about in much the same way.

It’s been a heartbreaking year for history lovers. The destruction of so much of our shared cultural heritage in the Middle East by terrorism and war is almost unbearable. The brutal murder of Khaled el-Asaad, a great man who dedicated his life to the historic patrimony of Syria and the gave his life for it too, was an agonizing loss to his family, colleagues and all the rest of us who where so beholden to him without even realizing it until he was gone.

In the end, it’s history itself that soothes me even in such dark times. It wasn’t so long ago that Europe was facing the rubble of its own history, torn apart by total war. The sculptures and reliefs of Tell Halaf in Berlin were bombed to smithereens when the museum took a direct hit from an incendiary bomb in 1943. Seventy years later, they were put back together.

Three years ago, author Hilary Mantel, author of the exceptional Tudor historical fiction Wolf Hall, gave a speech about the public’s relationship to royal families at a London Review of Books event. It made the news because some media outlets plucked quotes about the Duchess of Cambridge and made them out to be cruel criticisms of the former Kate Middleton rather than the astute and apposite observation about how people, spurred on by an obsessive press, fetishize her and box her in. It’s a great speech, but the part that struck me most profoundly was about the discovery of the remains of Richard III.

Why are we all so pleased about digging up a king? Perhaps because the present is paying some of the debt it owes to the past, and science has come to the aid of history. The king stripped by the victors has been reclothed in his true identity. This is the essential process of history, neatly illustrated: loss, retrieval.

I’ve thought of that last line so many times this year, as horrific destruction followed horrific destruction. What was lost can be found again, even if its original form is gone forever. That is what history does. That is what we do every time we read history. We find what was lost.

Thank you all so very much for reading and commenting and sending me the kindest compliments and hottest story tips. May your 2016 be glorious.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

New Easy Family Access to Kingdom Newsletters!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2015-12-30 13:19

Family members no longer have to use the primary member’s log-in information to access the Kingdom newsletters.

The Board of Directors is pleased to invite all current Family members to access the SCA electronic newsletter site. To log in, please go to:

 website – enewsletter.sca.org

User Name – membership number

Password – start

 If you experience any difficulties, please contact membership@sca.org, and include your legal name & membership number in the message.”

Comments are strongly encouraged and can be sent to:
SCA Inc.
Box 360789
Milpitas,  CA 95036
You may also email comments@lists.sca.org.
This announcement is an official informational release by the Society for Creative Anachronism , Inc.


Categories: SCA news sites

Kingdom 12th Night Competitions!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2015-12-30 09:00

All Hail the Populace of Æthelmerciae-

The Roman celebration of Saturnalia was a joyous time for those of all social classes. The feast day, which later on turned into several days, honored the God of Saturn with food, feasting, gift giving and role reversal; the Lord and Lady of Misrule made the day even more enjoyable.

To add to the festivities, we will be hosting four contests during Kingdom 12th Night (in addition to the Kingdom Bardic Championship)!

1.) A Colorful Roman Costume showcase featuring your finest Roman wear. Glorious and colorful splendor is the hallmark of the day so don’t stint on the dye-pots for this fashionable festival!

2.) A Pileus Hat competition (These hats were close fitting, brimless hats, much like a skull cap. Many were pointed or conical. These hats symbolized liberty, and were typically worn by commoners and freed slaves.  A pattern for the Pileus hat can be found here or see illustration at the end of this blog post.

Their Royal Majesties as well as our Lord and Lady of Misrule will choose Their favorite garb and hat of the day from the sartorial splendor presented by Their populace throughout the day’s festivities.

3.) In addition, a quest will be held! Somewhere on the premises an earthenware Etruscan container filled with is hidden. Check with troll to see a photograph of this great archeological artifact. The gentle who locates the Etruscan archeological artifact between noon and hour before when court begins, will take home the treasure!

4.) Finally, at the hallway entrance point to court, a “Dirty Dozen” Largesse competition will be open for all to join. If you cannot be present, please send your Largesse with a representative who is willing to fulfill all duties. For this competition, please bring 12 identical (sic) items to be donated to the Largess of the Augustus and Augusta. No documentation is required for this competition unless desired. Their Royal Majesties as well as our Lord and Lady of Misrule will choose their favorite item of the “Dirty Dozen” before court begins. Our populace too will be asked for their opinion in a polling at the display area. The winners will receive three items of this largesse to do with as they please. The remainder of the “Dirty Dozen Largesse” will become part of the Largesse for Augustus and Augusta and doled out at their discretion and grace.

Please sign up by noon 1/9/16 and join us for these amusing and joyful fetes in honor of Kingdom 12th Night.

Sign-up for the Costume, Hat and Largesse competitions will be at the Largesse Display area. Children’s Costumes and Hats and Largesse if entered will be judged as well. Youth 12 years and under will be judged in the youth division.

No sign-up is required for The Etruscan Treasure Quest.  Simply find Lady Mairghread (or one of the autocrats, Mistress Cori or Lady Antoinette) if you believe you have found The Etruscan Treasure!!!!

For questions, please contact Lady Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne, Arts and Science co-ordinator for Kingdom 12th Night A.S. 50 at wilcox.margaret@gmail.com.

Click on the pics below for a larger version.


Categories: SCA news sites

Civil War-era cedar log “corduroy road” found in Virgina

History Blog - Wed, 2015-12-30 01:36

A county construction crew in Fairfax County, Virginia, has unearthed a section of a rare Civil War-era cedar log highway. A crew from the Fairfax County Utilities Design and Construction Division (UDCD) was digging for a new road shoulder and sidewalk on Ox Road when workers found a layer of old macadam (a small stone aggregate road surface invented by John MacAdam in the 1820s). Beneath it was a line of cedar logs laid next to each other, a design known as a corduroy road because of its resemblance to the striated fabric. Ken Atkins, senior inspector for the UDCD and avid history buff, made sure the macadam stones were removed very carefully so as not to disturb the wood underneath.

Atkins stopped excavation and alerted UDCD engineer Mohamed Kadasi who called the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch (CRMPB). They sent archaeologists to assess the site who confirmed that Mr. Atkins’ instincts were spot-on. His cautious, thoughtful approach saved a very rare surviving historic Civil War road surface. Logs were a common road surface at the time, especially during the war when the constant tramping of Union and Confederate soldiers turned dirt roads into sucking mud pits.

The CRMPB documented the site, taking photographs and planning a more thorough future recording of the historic road. When they were done for the day, Atkins covered the excavated trench with a steel plate to protect the cedar logs and keep members of the public from falling into the pit.

Then came the bureaucracy. While the county is using the land for public works, it actually belongs to the state of Virginia and is being worked under the aegis of an easement held by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Therefore before a formal excavation of the cedar road could be done, the CRMPB needed a permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Usually that sort of thing can drag on for weeks, but everyone pulled together. Within 48 hours, the CRMPB had drawn up a work plan and submitted the permit application, the VDOT had agreed to the plan and signed the permit.

Armed with the permit, the CRMPB team used a total station, one of those surveyor’s tools that looks like a big yellow plastic camera on a tripod, to record the cedar log road in 3D. They also got a favor from the Fairfax County Geographic Information System (GIS) department which has been using high definition LiDAR data to create a detailed topographic map of the county. The CRMPB asked them to process the data from the area around the road find and it returned evidence of a Civil War circular fort that once protected the roadway.

CRMPB archaeologists recorded every log and its exact location, numbered them and then attached two tags with the assigned number to each end of the log. Then they cut through them. I know it sounds horrible and it is, but the UDCD had a drainage pipe to install, and the decision was made that it was better for historical accuracy and preservation to cut the logs but leave them in situ rather than pull them out. Once the pipe was in place, the trench was backfilled up to the cedar log road. The cut ends of the logs were put back in their original places and then the trench was backfilled again, this time up to the modern ground level.

While the road is now reburied and will likely remain so in perpetuity, thanks to the documentation and GIS data, the CRMPB hopes to digitally reconstruct the area as it was during the Civil War.

Jim Lewis, a member of the executive committee of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, said a corduroy road from the Occoquan River to the Fairfax courthouse was a major pathway in the war.

The logs that the county workers found are almost certainly part of the first section of that road, from the courthouse to Fairfax Station, which was built in 1862, Lewis said. “Almost certainly” because Lewis pointed out that a specific dating process hasn’t been used to verify that the wood is from the Civil War and not from a later incarnation of Ox Road.

If the corduroy road does date to the Civil War, the historian said, it would have been traveled by Union Gen. Joseph Hooker, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and other famous generals.

The road would have been a link to get supplies from the railroad at Fairfax Station to the Fairfax courthouse, a significant Union supply depot, he said.

Most other corduroy roads have long rotted away, Lewis said, which makes the Fairfax discovery substantial.

“To find a corduroy road intact is spectacular,” he said.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History