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Oldest library in the world renovated, digitized

History Blog - Thu, 2016-10-27 20:58

Founded in the 859 A.D. by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who was herself highly educated and who dedicated her considerable inheritance to the creation of a mosque and school in her community, the University of Qarawiyyin in Fes, Morocco, is the oldest degree-granting institution in the world. The Al-Qarawiyyin library has been in continuous operation since the 10th century and is believed to be the oldest library in the world. After years of neglect, the library is undergoing extensive renovation as part of a renewal program that will restore the Medina, Fes’ walled pedestrian historic district built in the late 8th, early 9th century. In a fitting tribute to its founder, the person in charge of the restoration is a woman, Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni.

Inside the library are ornately carved wooden window frames and archways, colorful ceramic tile designs on the floors and elegant Arabic calligraphy engraved in the walls. The high ceilings in the reading room are adorned with gold chandeliers.

“There is a big restoration because there was a need for the building and the manuscripts to be preserved,” said Abdullah al-Henda, part of the restoration team that’s been working on the restoration since 2012. “There were problems of infiltration, of sewage, degradation of walls, some cracks in different places in the library.”

The library is replete with extremely rare, some unique, volumes. There are more than 4,000 manuscripts in its collection, including a 9th century Quran written in beautiful Kufic script on camel skin, the earliest known Islamic hadiths, and an original manuscript of the Mukkadimah, a universal history written in 1377 by philosopher Ibn Khaldun which many scholars hold to be the first exploration of fields we know as sociology, historiography, demography and other social sciences. It’s particularly meaningful to have a book written in his hand, because after university he began his career as a calligrapher for the Chancellery in Tunis. When he moved to Fez shortly thereafter, he got a job writing royal proclamations for the Sultan.

“When you read a book, you travel in history. When you see a manuscript that is nearly ten or more centuries old, you travel in time. As I said, the library gives you a spiritual bond for these and other reasons. Since I arrived at Al Qarawiyyin Library, it never crossed my mind that I would leave it,” said deputy curator Abou Bakr Jaouane.

These priceless texts need conservation as well. Some have been damaged by the moisture and decay plaguing the building itself. Now that the restoration of the structure is almost complete with new gutters, solar panels and air conditioning, the manuscripts finally have a room suited to their preservation. It is climate controlled with a custom temperature and humidity settings as well as a state-of-the-art security system. The restored library also has a new laboratory for the treatment and conservation of its historic manuscripts.

Right now, only curator Abdelfattah Bougchouf has access to the rare manuscripts kept in the secure room. With the help of experts from the Institute of Computational Linguistics in Italy, that will soon change. All 4,000+ manuscripts are being digitized in the new laboratory. This will make them widely available to students and researchers all over the world. About 20% of them have been digitized so far. The scanning process will also highlight any small holes and areas in need of conservation that are not necessarily evident to the naked eye.

The library will reopen to the public in May 2017.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Help bring Ruby Slippers, Scarecrow back together

History Blog - Wed, 2016-10-26 22:50

Last Monday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $300,000 for the conservation and display of the Ruby Slippers famously worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. The Smithsonian’s budget is sufficient to keep the Ruby Slippers relatively stable in their current condition, but they turned to Kickstarter for the money to conserve the shoes and create a custom state-of-the-art display case with light, temperature and humidity controls that will ensure the long-term preservation of one of the museum’s most iconic film artifacts.

Costume designer Adrian made several pairs of Ruby Slippers for the movie. This pair was worn when Dorothy danced down the Yellow Brick Road, and their condition attests to their hard use. In 1939 (and for decades afterwards), costumes were made to last for the duration of shooting. Materials were chosen to look good at low cost. Adrian took commercial shoes, spray-painted them red and attached a red net with red sequins and beads. The red color of the sequins is a coating of cellulose nitrate lacquer. In the 77 years since the shoes were made, the color has faded given the slippers a muted, dingy look. The nitrocellulose coating is cracked and flaking. Threads stitching the sequins to the net are breaking. The red paint on the soles is cracking and the sole is coming apart from the top of the shoe. (See this interview with the conservator of the Ruby Slippers for more details about their complex conservation needs.)

The money raised would go to repairing what could be repaired (without ruining the original evidence of use because that is an important part of their history), but also towards researching how best to approach the conservation of materials like the sequin coating about which we know very little. That is essential to ensuring that the new display case is properly set to keep the Ruby Slippers in ideal conservation conditions.

The response was to the campaign was huge and immediate. The goal was met and exceeded within a week, thanks to donations from more than 5,000 people from 41 countries on every inhabited continent. With another 21 days to go, the Smithsonian has added a stretch goal of $85,000 for the conservation and display of the patchwork Scarecrow costume worn by Ray Bolger in the movie.

The Scarecrow will need a full conservation assessment to determine which materials were used to construct the costume. This will include working with scientists to identify the materials and conducting historical research. We will take a close look at the textiles and dyes that are extremely sensitive to light and wear. We need to understand what condition they are in to determine what treatment will best conserve and preserve them. Once those issues are addressed, we can decide how best to display the costume. The Scarecrow costume will need an internal structure to support the textiles and reduce stress so that he will remain in good condition far into the future.

As the Scarecrow is less glamorous than the Ruby Slippers, so far only $17,000 of the $85,000 has been raised, but we all know that if he didn’t get restuffed and spruced up so he could join the Ruby Slippers in a new exhibition gallery in 2018, Dorothy would miss him most of all.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Happy Tidings: Welcome Æthelmearc’s Newest Subject!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-10-26 19:37

We are very happy to announce the birth of Viktoria Lola, born 10/24/2016, to Lady Maggie Rue and Lord Methius Weasel. The family is doing well. Welcome to Æthelmearc, Viktoria, and congratulations to the happy family!

 


Categories: SCA news sites

Æthelmearc Crown in Sugarpaste

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-10-26 11:15

By Sir Ian Kennoven.

Photo by Rose Ashbaugh

For the Coronation dinner of Marcus III and Margerite of Æthelmearc, held at Harvest Raid in the Shire of Heronter on September 24, I created an edible crown. There are several crown styles available to the monarchs of Æthelmearc, but the Byzantine style looked to be the simplest to reproduce, so that is where I started.  My intent is to do the others at some future date… 

Master Janos (majordomo for the reign) provided me a with few pictures of the crown in his care.

I then made a cardstock mock-up and shaping form.

Next, I mixed up a batch of sugarpaste:

  • 1/2 tsp. gum tragacanth
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. orange blossom water
  • 1 Tb.  egg white
  • 12 to 16 oz. sugar, ground fine

Wet the gum with the lemon juice then add the orange blossom water and egg white.

Rest for several minutes and slowly incorporate the sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

The paste was rolled out and with the mock-up used as a template, the front piece was cut out. I worked the piece flat (smoothed the center areas and textured the borders), but when it was lifted to place onto the form the surface crinkled and much of the detail was lost. The form was too flimsy to work on, so if I make this crown again, I will create a more rigid form to work upon. The sugar was cured for a day in the dehydrator before being removed from the form. The sides were then cut. They slid off the form through the night, but luckily broke along the lines delineating the individual plaques. I now had an eight-piece sculpture instead of four.

They were placed back on the form and cured for another day before being removed so that the back piece could be manufactured.

A template was made and the escarbuncles were quickly cut out of sugarpaste using an X-Acto knife.

Once all the pieces had cured for a few days it was time to gold & silver leaf them. Each section was painted with egg white and allowed to dry. Twenty-four sheets of edible gold leaf and six sheets of edible silver leaf later, they were shiny.

I made a very quick plaster mold from wax cabochons. They shifted on me while pouring the plaster, but enough were workable to make the carnelians. After melting out the wax and allowing the form to cool, it was soaked overnight in water.  I dissolved 1 cup of granular sugar in 1/2 cup of water, tossed in a small red beet from the garden and a tablespoonful of red sandalwood powder. (Editor’s note: red sandalwood, or sanders, is edible, while brown sandalwood used for incense is inedible.) This was brought to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit then the solids were strained out. The syrup was quickly placed back on the heat,  brought to 300 F,  removed from the heat and the bottom of the pan was placed briefly in cool water. The mold was patted dry and a spoon was used to drip syrup into the mold. As they cooled the carnelians were popped out and more were cast.

Once cooled the sugar carnelians were glued in place with a thinned-out version of the sugarpaste.

This was allowed to rest for a day, then the whole was assembled using the same sugar glue. The crown was placed in the dehydrator overnight.

The seams were then covered in gold leaf and the crown was returned to the dehydrator for another night.

Sir Ian presents the sugarpaste crown. Photo by Karen Mensch DeMichiei

Their Majesties Margerite and Marcus. Photo by Phil Martino

I presented the subtlety to Their Majesties about halfway through the feast.  By the end of the meal, Her Majesty had broken the crown into pieces and distributed them to be eaten by the populace.

Reprinted from Sir Ian’s blog. All photos courtesy of Sir Ian, except where noted.


Categories: SCA news sites

St. Eligius A&S Event: Details and New Challenges

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-10-26 09:59

Submitted by R.Wurm, Barony of Dragonship Haven

Greetings Everyone

St. Eligius is right around the corner and Dragonship Haven is so excited! Queen Anna is honoring us with Her Presence, plus we have some new challenges and special competitions.

New this year are the Baron Adhemar Challenges: Misadventures and Collaboration. Sound intriguing? Go to the Baronial Website or our East Kingdom event listing to find out more and for all other competition information.

Other specialized contests include; Master Alexander the Younger’s Challenge, SCA Kluge, Medieval Moment and Artisan’s Progress, and we will have our Populace and Baron & Baroness’s Choice awards, as always.

St. Eligius is designed to have something for everyone; great food, great prizes, great company and great fun! We pride ourselves on our unique and diverse judging formats and our friendly and supportive atmosphere where all entrants, displayers, and onlookers will feel comfortable, encouraged, and go home feeling enthused and delighted!  Also, St Eligius is a good place to hone and get feedback on your entry for the upcoming King and Queen’s Arts and Sciences Competition.

Don’t feel like entering a competition? Please bring the project that you have been working on, finished or not. We want to see it and have plenty of tables for display only.

We are pleased to announce that there will be fencing, lots of it, with at least 2 tourneys. Since fencing is an art, we can’t leave it out of our A&S day.  Lord Christoffel will be running “The Art of Fence Challenge”; pick your favorite period fencing master and fence in that style.  More on this can be found on our event announcement.

We have space for any Guilds or groups that would like to meet. Please contact the stewards to reserve some space.

Please plan on joining us on November 12th for a day *well spent*. We look forward to seeing you and spending some quality time together!

Thank you in advance.
Hope to see you there!
R. Wurm


Filed under: Announcements, Events, Local Groups

Unofficial Court Report for King’s & Queen’s Rapier Champions

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-10-26 08:57

Their Royal Majesties, Brion III and Anna III, ventured forth to Their Barony of Iron Bog on the 22nd of October, Anno Societatis fifty-one, there to watch the competition to determine the new King’s and Queen’s Rapier Champions.

After spending the day watching over 90 combatants compete for the honour of serving as Champion, Their Majesties opened Their Court. His Majesty invited before him the retiring King’s Rapier Champion, Master Donovan Shinnock, thanked him for a well-run tourney, and said that he would be sad to see him go. His Majesty took back the regalia of the office and Master Donovan stepped down.

His Majesty then called for Don Lupold Hass and asked if he would stand as King’s Rapier Champion. Don Lupold accepted and was fitted with the regalia of the office and presented a scroll naming him Champion, penned by Mistress Heather Rose de Gordoun. Don Lupold then took his place in Their Majesties’ Court.

Her Majesty asked for the attendance of the retiring Queen’s Rapier Champion, Don Llewellyn Walsh. She said that he had served with distinction and would always be a champion. Then she took from him the regalia of the office and Don Llewellyn stepped down.

Queen Anna then asked that Don Lottieri Malocchio come forward, which he did to much applause. Her Majesty stated that she’d be honoured to have him as Her Champion because “OMG, what fun!” Don Malocchio was given the regalia of the Queen’s Rapier Champion and given a scroll commemorating this, made by Mistress Heather Rose de Gordoun.

The Ladies of the Rose were called forward. As is their tradition, they offered tokens to individuals who stood out to them. Duchess Etheldreda Ivelchyld offered her token to Lady Genevra d’Angouleme and Lady Pixie of Iron Bog. Countess Marguerite ingen Lachlainn gave her token to Don Melchior Kriebel. Duchess Avelina Keyes presented her token to Master Connor Levingstoune from Atlantia. And Duchess Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaolain’s token went to Lord Xavier the Sinister.

Queen Anna asked for Don Thomas of Effingham, who carried the Cloak of Perseverance for the last year. She accepted it from him, then called for Don Mark le Gabler and presented the Cloak to him, asking him to bear for the next year.

Their Majesties then called for Lord Eldrich Gaiman. They spoke of his swift reactions on the fencing list and his depth of knowledge of his opponents, and had Their herald read a scroll naming him a member of the Order of the Golden Rapier and Granting him Arms. The scroll was made by Mistress Heather Rose de Gordoun.

King Brion and Queen Anna then asked that the children of the East attend them. As has been Their habit for this reign, they offered the children toys, but first required that they learn something of the Society. Master Donovan Shinnock was called forward to explain the art of defense and distribute the largess.

Next, those new to the Society were called before the thrones. Their Majesties offered tokens that the newcomers might remember their first days among us.

The event steward, Lady Aibhilin inghean ui Phaidin, was summoned and thanked, along with the Barony of Iron Bog, for the wonderful event they had put together for Their Majesties.

Friar Jacob the Wanderer was called forward and Their Majesties spoke of his storytelling skills and his “Children’s Bedtime Story Hour” at Pennsic. For his skill in the performing arts, Friar Jacob was made a Companion of the Order of the Troubadours and given a small cup by the Crown, the regalia of the Order.

Captain Berrick Grayveson was called next to attend the Crown. Their Majesties spoke of his time serving as a rapier marshal and twice as Rapier Champion of the Barony of Bhakail, and his teaching of silk banner making, and made Berrick a Companion of the Order of the Silver Wheel. A scroll commemorating this was penned by Mistress Heather Rose de Gordoun.

Lord Connor MacSeamus O’Neal was summoned before the thrones. Their Majesties spoke of his artistry, his metalwork, and his skill making guards for rapier blades, and felt that these talents should be rewarded. They named him a Companion of the Order of the Maunche. A scroll will be forthcoming.

Their Majesties summoned Lord Ian Douglas. They spoke of his many years as a rapier combatant and marshal and his participation in the cut-and-thrust community, and felt this deserved recognition. They named him a member of the Order of the Silver Rapier and presented him a scroll with illumination by Lady Triona MacCaskey, calligraphy by Master Jonathan Blaecstan, and words by Mistress Dorigen of the Grey Gate.

Next, the Crown called for Lord Morwil MacShane. They recalled his time as Ladies’ Rapier Champion for Bhakail, his service as a rapier marshal, and his place as a alternate on the Pennsic Champions team, and felt all these things deserving. They named Lord Morwill a member of the Order of the Silver Rapier and gifted him a scroll saying such, created by Mistress Heather Rose de Gordoun.

Finally, King Brion and Queen Anna summoned Their Order of Defense. Their Majesties found when that Order gathered, however, that it was incomplete. Queen Anna turned to Her Rapier Champion, Don Lottieri Malocchio and though her herald delivered to him a Writ, to be answered at a later date, that he might respond to Their Majesties’ Summons whether he would take his place as a member of that Order. The words were written by Lady Liadan inghean Chineada.

Their Majesties then thanked all involved with putting on the event, and all attending the event and, there being no further business, processed from the hall.

These are the events of the day as I recall them. My thanks to all the retainers, guards, heralds, Champions, event staff, and attendees who made the day as joyful as it was.

Pray know I remain,
For Crown and College,

Master Rowen Cloteworthy


Filed under: Court

Extremely rare British coin found in boy’s toy box

History Blog - Tue, 2016-10-25 22:53

A gold coin in a toy box that figured in the pirate games of two generations of young boys turns out to be one of the rarest British coins, a bona fide treasure. The owner, who chooses to remain anonymous because he basically hit the lottery, was given the coin by his grandfather.

“My Grandad had travelled all over the world during his working life and had collected many coins from the various countries he had been”, said the stunned and delighted vendor. “He gave me bags of coins to play with (I was into pirate treasure) throughout my early years… As time passed these coins went back into bags and boxes and were forgotten about until I rediscovered them after my Grandad passed away. I looked back through the coins — remembering the stories I made up about them when I was small — and then gave them to my own son to play with and put into his own treasure box. My little boy has been playing with this coin as I did all those years ago.”

Before letting his son go fully to town on the coins, he brought them to Essex auction house Boningtons to see if any of them were worth something. Coin expert Gregory Tong recognized it as one of Britain’s rarest coins: a 1703 Queen Anne ‘Vigo’ five-guinea gold coin, made from gold taken from Spanish treasure galleons at the Battle of Vigo Bay in October 1702.

It was the early days of the War of Spanish Succession, when the last decrepit, inbred Hapsburg king of Spain died putting the Bourbon Philip V, son of Louis XIV of France, on the throne and threatening the Balance of Power in Europe. The allied fleets of Britain and the Dutch Republic had attempted to capture the port of Cádiz at the end of August 1702, hoping to gain a base in the Mediterranean for their ships and to cripple Spain’s access to the wealth of its New World colonies. The attempt was a disastrous failure. Craft and ships were lost in the landing, troops pillaged port towns and never even got to Cádiz itself. As September came and no progress was made, bad weather became an issue. On September 30th, the Allied fleet left with its proverbial tail between its legs.

The Cádiz debacle did have one useful consequence for the Allies: the Spanish silver fleet which usually landed at Cádiz was forced to dock at Vigo Bay in Galicia. Lacking the complex customs and trade infrastructure required to process the tons of silver and gold, the Spanish treasure ships and the French fleet protecting were locked into the bay for a month. The English command got wind of this as its ships were heading back to England, and figured they might at least make lemonade out of the Cádiz lemons by attacking the treasure ships.

On October 22nd, the Anglo-Dutch fleet entered Vigo Bay. The next day, they engaged the Spanish and French fleet. It was a total rout. Every single Spanish and French ship was either captured or burned. More than 2,000 men died on the Spanish-French side. Only 200 were lost on the Allied side. While most of the silver had already been unloaded from the treasure ships, the Allies did manage to score thousands of pounds of silver and a much smaller amount of gold.

Really it wasn’t that much of a monetary gain, but the outcome of Vigo Bay did persuade Portuguese King Peter II to join the Grand Alliance, and it gave the British some PR relief after the Cádiz disaster. To fluff up the minor victory and obscure the major loss, silver and gold booty from the Spanish fleet was delivered to the Master of the Mint, a certain Sir Isaac Newton, to use in the production of commemorative coins, portable propaganda to convince people that the war was going well. He received 4,504 lb 2 oz of silver and just 7 lb 8 oz of gold, for a combined estimated value of a rather measly £14,000. (Philip V of Spain made something like seven million pesos from the Vigo Bay caper because he was able to confiscate all the silver the ships were carrying meant for English and Dutch merchants, so money-wise, this victory was decidedly on the Pyrrhic side.)

The gold was used to make half-guinea, guinea and five-guinea coins. They bore the dignified profile of Queen Anne on the obverse with the word VIGO stamped under her shoulder to publicize the source of the gold. On the reverse was the pre-union coat of arms. Only 20 of the five-guinea pieces are believed to have been struck. The Vigo coins were meant to be circulated — the silver was made into crown, half-crown, shilling and six-penny pieces — but the gold five guinea coins were so expensive that only the very wealthiest people could afford them, and they weren’t likely to spend them like cash.

Of the 20 struck, only 15 of them are known, all of them in private collections. They very seldom come up for auction. Only six of them have gone on the market in the last 50 years. The estimated value of the toy box coin is £200,000-250,000 ($243,620-$304,525), but it could easily sell for more given its rarity. The last Vigo coin to sell at auction went for just under £296,160 ($360,200) and that was in 2012.

When the owner discovered that the coin he’d played pirate treasure with was an actual treasure, he closed himself in the car and exulted so vigorously that the auction house staff could see the car bouncing as it was parked. He even came back the next day to be sure he wasn’t getting punked.

The coin goes on the auction block at Boningtons’ Epping saleroom on Wednesday November 16th.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Sheep & Wool Festival Through the Eyes of A First Timer

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-10-25 14:51

By Lady Pertolongan Kucingyn.

Welcome to the Festival! All photos by Pertolongan Kucingyn.

I am new to the fiber arts, having just learned how to knit recently.  My teacher, Mistress Irene von Schmetterling, had the wonderful idea of going to this amazing event, the New York Sheep and Wool Family Festival, on the weekend of October 15, in Rhinebeck, NY.  I had no idea what to expect but was game for a weekend away from our home, the Barony Marche of the Debatable Lands.

We arrived a half an hour early for the festival, yet there were already at least a hundred people waiting to get in.  Many sported their recent creations and were quick to ogle each other’s work.  The atmosphere was open, friendly, and very welcoming.  

After walking through the first building of vendors I knew this was no ordinary event.  My biggest first impression was of the breadth of color on display!  There was wool in every form, and the dyed fiber contained every imaginable color you could wish for.  One of the vendors specialized in using all-natural dyes and labeled her fiber with the plant used to dye it.  The fiber came in every texture from the rougher wool to the silkiest Cria wool that was impossible not to pet.

Needle felted Triceratops.

There was every tool imaginable for working wool.  If you went there with nothing you could be fully kitted out to work raw wool into a fine garment… if you were wealthy enough to buy everything!  The tools ranged from functional and sturdy to exquisitely beautiful.  There were drop spindles I would have been delighted to use as a decoration in my house for the beautiful designs inlayed in the tops.  Spinning wheels galore were available in every shape and size.  Beautifully wrought looms from portable designs to big floor looms were available.  Perhaps the most clever thing on sale was the 3D-printed Turkish-style drop spindle with a lifetime guarantee.  If a part ever breaks, all you need to do is send the broken piece in and the company sends you a replacement!

 For those people interested in where the wool comes from you could spend time in the animal barns.  Throughout the day, there were demonstrations on shearing and educational talks about the different types of animals and their husbandry.  There were many breeds of sheep on display showing all the different colors and coats to choose from.  The llamas looked on placidly as you stopped to admire them. (My favorite was a white llama with the brown spots all over.)  There were alpaca and goats on display, too.  Some of the goats were quite interested in the people and things around them.  A vendor had to rescue her camp chair from the questing teeth of one goat!  The angora rabbits on display hardly looked real with their long, flowing locks.  I know some of the rabbits were available for purchase and I had to restrain myself from being tempted by a new cuddly companion.

There was no fear of going hungry at this event – it was loaded with food vendors!  There were stands of typical fair food: fried dough, French fries, burgers, and kettle corn.  But there were also vendors that sold lamb dishes.  We stopped at a food truck selling Moroccan lamb stew with a spiced chickpea side dish.  The lamb in the stew was cooked to perfection and delightfully spiced. 

There was a building devoted to food and wine.  Many small New York wineries from all over the state were there offering tastings of their wines.  You could buy frozen lamb cuts that were sent home in an insulated bag.  Specialty cheese vendors were very busy and had long lines of people waiting to get a taste.  You could get homemade pickles and specialty chocolates.  A maple sugar vendor was even selling maple sugar cotton candy.  I bought a peck of my favorite type of apple from the one fresh fruit vendor there. 

There were plenty of finished items for sale too.  I came home with a beautiful alpaca sweater and a wool jacket.  There were socks, hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves to purchase too.  The needle-felted crafts ranged from adorable to incredible.  One booth had the entire cast of characters from the Hobbit including a four-foot-long needle-felted Smaug that must have taken months to create.  My favorite needle-felted item was a picture of a cheetah face.  It was so incredibly detailed that I thought it was a painting until I was up close!  I can’t believe that could be done in needle felting!  We found some lovely soaps and lotions containing lanolin that will be much appreciated in the winter months to come. 

On Sunday, there was a “Fleece to Shawl” contest of several teams of three spinners and one weaver.  There was a team of East Kingdom gentles (in garb) feverishly working away on a beautiful blue and white piece.  The contest required competing teams make a shawl step by step: starting with washed fleece, through hand carding, to spinning, to weaving, and finally to finishing ends.  We stopped to cheer them on.  I keep checking the website for the results of the competition but it hasn’t been posted yet.

Overall, I was delightfully surprised at all there was to do and see at the festival.  We were there all day on Saturday and for a couple of hours on Sunday, and yet we still didn’t see and do everything there was to do.  Anyone who is involved in the fiber arts should definitely try to attend this event.  You won’t be sorry you went!

(Editor’s Note: The Festival’s Facebook page can be found under “New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.”)


Categories: SCA news sites

In Memorium: Mistress Elsa de Lyon

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-10-25 14:44

Mistress Elsa de Lyon passed from this world on October 20, 2016, leaving behind two sons and their families, her mother and the remainder of her family – both chosen and blood relatives – and many, many friends.

Elsa began her journey in the SCA in 1991, in the Shire of Montevale. Her wish to spread her creative talents and help others made her a community leader in her Shire as a Minister of Arts and Science from 2001 to 2004, with a small break from officer work for a few years to again step up and become Seneschal for the Shire of Montevale for five years (2009-2014). Recently, she had become A&S Minister again, because she wanted to continue to serve her local group, and enjoyed this role.

Although she would also serve as a head cook at a few events in the western portion of the Southern Region over the years, many remember her best as a scribe in the East Kingdom College of Scribes. While she physically could not travel the Kingdom, her work would travel to the far corners of the Kingdom and across Kingdom borders to inspire others over these many years.

Elsa was a regular teacher at Pennsic, whether taking groups out for a weed walk, teaching basic calligraphy courses at the Aethelmearc Scribal Track and also helping with setup and breakdown at scribal gatherings at Pennsic. At home, she was a gentle lady, always willing to help others develop their artistic skills in informal one-on-one lessons, at demos, and in occasional local A&S workshops. Her skill was noticed by the Society Chronicler in A.S. 36 and she was nominated for a William Blackfox award for her work on the December 2001 cover of the Montevale Knightly Knews.

Iris by Mistress Elsa

After being recognized with an Award of Arms, a Maunche, the Queen’s Honor of Distinction (Jana IV), and the Order of the Silver Crescent, Elsa was issued a Writ of Summons by Their Graces Brennan and Caoilfhionn in May of 2014, commanding her to appear in court at Southern Region War Camp to consider her elevation to the Order of the Laurel. On June 28, AS 49 (2014), Elsa was released as an apprentice by Mistress Kay Leigh Mac Whyte, and her elevation was witnessed by all present including her household Clan Black Dragons, her son Ryan, and scribes from the Mac Whyte House.. Speakers for her elevation included Master Denys the Decadent of Aethelmearc, Sir Wulfbrand, Duchess Roxane, Mistress Farasha, and Elsa’s first Laurel, Mistress Brighid the Limner, whom had previously retired from the SCA and returned for this special occasion.

In recent years, Elsa made a point of traveling to Pennsic each year to see friends from afar, and could always be found working on something creative that would cause joy to both herself and others.

Mistress Kay Leigh Mac Whyte shares the following memories of her student and friend:

“I had met Elsa at one of the first Known World Scribal Gatherings at Pennsic (about 16 years ago), held in Midrealm Royal camp at the time. I was in my first year as a scribe in service to the East Kingdom College of Scribes, maybe in my 3rd year in the SCA as a whole, and I recall being overjoyed to bump into someone from “back home”, despite the physical distance between us. We remained in touch through the castle.org mailing list for scribes and via email for many years after, and into the years when social media became available. In 2012 while I served as Tyger Clerk of the Signet, I was able to see her work a bit more often, and marveled again at her talent. Although she had the strong support of her local community, and although I viewed her as more of an equal if not my better in many ways, we spoke privately and we had agreed that an advocate for her behind the scenes was needed, and entered into a student-peer relationship, which became an apprenticeship at Pennsic the following year. We would continue to stay in touch, becoming closer within the last five years, albeit perhaps not as close as her SCA household and mundane family.

Detail from a Queen’s Cypher scroll

Our last meeting was at Pennsic 45, at which Elsa and I would meet every day, making the most of the time we had together since we rarely had opportunity during the rest of the year to travel to see each other; her schedule was just as busy as mine, but I would always hear of the success of her prize-winning daffodil bulbs (goodness, she could tell you a million different things about daffodils and other members of the Amaryllidaceae family) as a master gardener and competitor in local gardening shows, or occasions where she had time to teach others at demos or events. We also shared our concerns over the welfare of and recognition of gentles in the southwestern borders of the East Kingdom, and she took to heart her duties as a new peer in looking after others in her community, encouraging them to grow further in the SCA. When we parted ways at the close of this past Pennsic, we probably took several attempts at saying goodbye, knowing it would be a while before we would see each other again.

We made the most of the time we had, and the East was blessed to have this gentle woman among us, with a smile, laughter and gentle demeanor that influenced others across Kingdom borders. She was the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up, long before I was a peer, and I and others have been honored to have known her simply as a friend, grateful for having her in our lives, and her example to live by.”

A memorial service for friends will be held at Gensel Funeral Home at 333 Falling Spring Road, Chambersburg, PA 17201 on Saturday, October 29 2016. Please note that her family has requested that friends of Elsa wishing to attend please arrive at 1:00pm, one hour prior to the family service at 2pm.

A GoFundMe page (originally set up for her medical expenses for recovery) has since been left up online to cover funeral costs as well.  A memorial page has been set up by her family.


Filed under: Tidings Tagged: in memoriam

40+ ancient shipwrecks found in Black Sea

History Blog - Mon, 2016-10-24 20:23

The Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project wasn’t looking for shipwrecks. Its brief is to survey the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea for data about the rise water levels after the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago. To accomplish this aim, marine archaeologists have been scanning the seabed using cutting edge Remotely Operated Vehicles that can detect land surfaces underneath what is now the Black Sea but in prehistory were on dry land. They’ve also taken core samples, laser scanned and filmed the sea bed both in video and with high resolution 3D photogrammetry. One of the two Black Sea MAP ROVs has broken records for depth (1,800 meters or 5,905 feet) and speed (over six knots) and was able to survey 1,250 km (777 miles), recording everything with its path using a full panoply of geophysical instrumentation, high definition cameras and a laser scanner.

A felicitous but entirely unplanned side-effect of this exceptionally thorough geophysical survey is the discovery of more than 40 historic shipwrecks, including ancient Byzantine, medieval and Ottoman ships. Some of them may even be the first of their kind ever found, previously known only from documentary sources. Such a large, varied group of shipwrecks from different periods will give archaeologists a whole new understanding of trade and maritime links between towns on the coast of the Black Sea.

[University of Southampton professor and Principle Investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project Jon] Adams comments: “The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys. They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres.

“Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we’ve been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the sea bed. We are now among the very best exponents of this practice methodology and certainly no-one has achieved models of this completeness on shipwrecks at these depths.”

With the data from the ROVs, researchers have created 3D digital models using the photogrammetry process. Software calculates the position of millions of points captured in thousands of photographs and builds a model which is then overlaid with the visual elements from the pictures to make it look real. The resulting 3D models of the shipwrecks are, to put it mildly, spectacular. Minute details are clearly visible. There is no pixelation and the kind of visibility difficulties that might impede clear video are no match for 3D photogrammetry. The results speak for themselves:






Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Make Your Own Period Drawing Charcoal!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-10-24 20:12

Make your own period art supply!
By Elska á Fjárfella (Susan Verberg)
Dominion of Myrkfaelinn in Aethelmearc – Ithaca, NY

Affordable, but oh-so-easy to make yourself, charcoal drawing sticks might very well have been one of the first art supplies available to man. As all that is needed to make some is a low oxygen burn, and as we have seen time and again with our son, it only takes a kid playing near a cooking fire and another graffiti artist is born!

The science behind making charcoal, or charring, is interesting yet surprisingly simple,  and revolves around oxygen. Charcoal is formed by the incomplete burn, or combustion, of wood. Composed of mostly cellulose (CH2O), wood does not burn immediately; first it releases steam (H2O) and turns from white to black. It chars, thus becoming charcoal (C, or the element carbon, with trace minerals). When charcoal burns in contact with air, carbon combines with oxygen to form the gas carbon dioxide (C + O2 => CO2) and lots of heat. The white ash leftover from burning charcoal is what remains of the small amount of non-flammable minerals which were present in the wood from the start (and can be used to make lye).

When wood is burned without oxygen (this is called anaerobic), it turns black as the water is evaporated out and charcoal is left behind. If access to air is limited and heat is removed, the charcoal will become stable and available for future use. Charcoal takes up less space and is able reach a higher temperatures with the addition of extra air (bellows) than a pile of wood, which makes it ideal for use in a smithy’s furnace. To make proper charcoal an anaerobic burn is necessary, and in history people have found different ways of doing so, mostly by either digging in wood in hill sides or covering wood with a burn resistant material (like a metal kettle) while building a large fire right over it.

Previously used and new paint cans ready for heating.

All kinds of woody twigs can be made into charcoal and by varying the types of trees the twigs come from you can make sticks of varying densities and hardness. To make the type of charcoal sold in art stores, traditionally grape vine or willow twigs are used. Add a small charcoal kiln, and a nice big bonfire, and voila! charcoal sticks!

Any kind of metal can with a tight fitting lid can be used as a charcoal kiln. I prefer to use a new paint can from a home improvement store as it has lots of room, a handle, and minimal chemical residue. It does have a liner and same as with yard sale tins it is a good idea to dry burn it first, not only to remove any leftover residue but also to see if the tin is strong enough to survive the temperatures of a good fire without melting or warping! Lastly, your kiln needs an air hole – a vent – in the lid; a finishing nail hammered through the center works perfectly.

Bonfire ready to go, kiln steadily venting steam.

Next up is the hunt for some good sticks and twigs. Keep in mind that charcoal shrinks significantly so don’t get real skinny ones. Wild grapes are easily found along roadsides and forest edges; willow likes to grow in ditches and near water. The bark can be removed beforehand, or left on to be removed later as needed. Fill the kiln as full as you can, making them as long as you can while still being able to close the lid. Hammer the lid on well, its purpose is to keep oxygen from entering the kiln chamber. It’s fine to mix types of wood and various diameters, and that way you’ll get a nice mix of drawing sticks to play with too!

Combustible gasses are being burnt off.

And now it’s time to play with fire. Make a good wood fire with lots of coal and with a long stick place your cans in or near the fire. Depending on the amount of water in the wood. after a bit steam will come out of the vent enthusiastically. If the steam comes out forcefully, looking like a pillar, pressure is building up inside which can blow off the lid. Either scoot the can over away from the heat a little, or wire the lid down, and try again. If you feel like it should be steaming but suddenly is not, the hole might be plugged with liquid tree sugars – fish the kiln out of the fire, use the nail to poke open (and slightly enlarge) the hole, and try again.

Closing off the air hole during cool down.

Heat the kiln well for at least an hour if it is directly in the fire, or a couple of hours if at the sideline. As long as steam is coming out no air can come in, and the charcoal is doing fine. If the lid blows off, replace is as soon as you can, and take another drink… At the end of the burn, when all water is evaporated, the combustible gasses are ready to go. The steam will dwindle away and suddenly a candle flame will spout out of the lid hole! When the flame also dwindles away, carefully take the kiln out of the fire, immediately plug the air hole and let it cool down completely.


Admiring the charcoal – it’s like a magic trick!

When the kiln has cooled down, pry open the lid and behold – your own freshly made drawing sticks! The neat thing of charcoal sticks as an art medium is that it smudges easily, which can be used to create impressive shadows and highlights – but can also easily muck up your drawing. It is a good idea to use a fixative (like hairspray or an art fixative) to protect your finished drawing, and to store your fragile drawing sticks in a sturdy container like a mason jar so they don’t get crushed or bent. And, last but not least: go forth & create!

It works!

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Dunn, Kevin M. Caveman Chemistry, 2003. ISBN 1-58112-566-6
Neddo, Nick. The Organic Artist, 2015. ISBN 978-1-59253-926-0
Verberg, Susan. Of Charcoal and Ashes, 2015. Class Handout by Elska á Fjárfella.
https://www.academia.edu/27757474/Of_Charcoal_and_Ashes

People in photographs:
Bedwyr Danwyn (Theodore R. Lazcano)
Sîmon á Fjárfelli (Simon Verberg, my son)
Photography by me, Susan Verberg

Bedwyr did this demo at my birthday party in 2015 and taught me the process of making charcoal in a paint can as part of my interest in making quality ashes for soap making.


Categories: SCA news sites

King’s and Queen’s Rapier Champions 2016

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2016-10-24 19:27
On Saturday October 22nd, in the Barony of Iron Bog, more than 90 rapier fighters contended for the positions of King’s and Queen’s Rapier Champion.  The tournament, run by Master Donovan Shinnock, the outgoing King’s Rapier Champion, followed the traditional two-round format, with the first round being multiple round-robin pools and the second round being a 16-person double elimination.   At the end of many friendly but hard-fought combats, the final four contenders were Master Caine Ramsey, Don Lupold Haas, Don Lottieri Malocchio and Don Remy Delemontagne de Gascogne.  Lupold defeated Remy to advance to the finals.  Malocchio defeated Caine to advance to the finals.  

Don Malocchio and Don Remy

 

 Lupold and Malocchio then fought a best three out of five finals.  The fights were intense, passionate and joyful to behold.  At the end, Lupold emerged as the victor and the new King’s Rapier Champion.   In court later that evening, Queen Anna selected Malocchio as her new Queen’s Rapier Champion.   Also in court, their Majesties issued a Writ commanding Malocchio to appear at a date and time to be determined to answer whether he would accept the accolade of the Order of Defense.   The fencers of the East gratefully thank the people of Iron Bog, the marshals and the list officials who made this wonderful day such a success. 
Filed under: Rapier Tagged: King and Queen's Champions

Gun Verlaine used to shoot Rimbaud for sale

History Blog - Sun, 2016-10-23 21:52

The gun used by Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine to shoot his young lover and fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud will be sold at auction next month in Paris. This weapon featured in one of the great scandals of 19th century French literature, which, given the amount of drinking, drugging and sexing going on in that bohemian milieu, is an impressive feat. It was known as the Brussels Affair and was the dramatic dénouement of a tumultuous two-year relationship.

Born in Metz in 1844, Paul Verlaine was the only child of a successful career military officer. His mother had had three miscarriages before Paul was born (she apparently kept the miscarried fetuses in jars in the family home), so he was very much beloved. His teenaged years were troubled and he was sent to boarding school where his boredom and appreciation for Baudelaire inspired him to write his own poetry. After he graduated, he had few interests besides pursuing his poetry. He enrolled in law school in 1862 but dropped out, preferring to hang with his artist friends in Paris.

He published his first poem in a literary magazine in 1863. His father, hoping like so many parents of artists before and after him that he would get a “real job,” secured him employment at an insurance company, then at City Hall. Verlaine continued to write even as he worked his 9-5 jobs. In 1866, when he was 22, his first collection of poems, Poèmes saturniens, was published. It was well-received and established him as a significant new talent on the scene.

His personal life, on the other hand, was a mess. He still lived at home with his parents. He drank to excess and was a brutally violent drunk. After his first love (his cousin who was raised by his parents after she was orphaned and wisely married someone else) died in childbirth in 1867, he tried to kill his mother several times in an alcoholic haze. At his mother’s vigorous encouragement, he got married in of August 1870 to Mathilde Mauté. He was 26; she was 17. They moved to Paris where, as a supporter of the Paris Commune, he enlisted in the National Guard and patrolled the streets of a quiet neighborhood every other night. When the Commune fell in May 1871, Verlaine fled the repression of the Communards.

He was back in the city by September which is when he met Arthur Rimbaud for the first time. Rimbaud was a fan of Verlaine’s poetry and had sent him several letters included poems of his own. In January of 1872, Verlaine invited the 17-year-old to moved in with him and Mathilde, an arrangement which was fraught with tension. There was a newborn in the house — Mathilde had given birth to their son Georges in October of 1871 — and Verlaine’s relationship with the teenaged poet quickly developed into a tempestuous sexual and emotional affair. Meanwhile, his alcoholism and violence increased. He beat Mathilde whenever he drank, threatened to kill her, even hit their infant son, once throwing him against a wall. She took the baby and left.

Their affair went public after that. Rimbaud was rude, shameless and just as much of an addict as Verlaine. They collaborated on poetry, drank absinthe by the keg, smoked opium and fought like wolverines, scandalizing even their circle of poets and intellectuals. After a desultory attempt to win back Mathilde by promising her he’d never see Arthur again, Verlaine left Paris with Rimbaud July of 1872 for Brussels. In September they moved on to London. There they spent almost a year off and on, fighting, drinking, breaking up, making up and generally being miserable with each other. Rimbaud tried to stab Verlaine. Verlaine called Rimbaud his “infernal spouse.” Rimbaud would write about this time in the aptly named A Season in Hell.

In June 1873, Verlaine left for Brussels alone. He couldn’t last a month before writing to Rimbaud asking him to join him. Rimbaud went to Brussels, but told Verlaine he was going to Paris instead of staying with him. On the morning of July 10th, 1873, Verlaine bought a Lefaucheux 7mm six-shooter from the Montigny armory in Brussels. He wrote to his family and friends to inform them he planned suicide, spent the rest of the morning drinking, then returned to his room with Rimbaud. When the younger man announced he was leaving, Verlaine fired at him twice, intending murder. He barely wounded him, one bullet grazing his left wrist, the other ricocheting off the wall into the chimney.

Rimbaud was treated for his wound at Saint-Jean Hospital then went straight to the train station to get out of Dodge. Verlaine was waiting for him. When he reached for his pocket, Rimbaud ran to the police who arrested Verlaine. Rimbaud withdraw his complaint the next day, Verlaine was tried for assault with pederasty as an aggravating factor. On August 8th, he was sentenced to two years in the prison of Petites Carmes. In October he was transferred to the prison in Mons. He was released early for good behavior after 555 days of incarceration on January 16th, 1875.

The two saw each other one last time in 1885. Rimbaud died of cancer six years later. He was 37. Verlaine died broke, drunk, diabetic and syphilitic in 1896 at the age of 51.

He never thought to claim his revolver from the police. They sent it back to Montigny where it remained in their archives, unknown to the public, for close to a century. When the Montigny company filed for bankruptcy in the 1980s and had to liquidate all its inventory, the owner reached out to his good friend and weapons collector Jacques Ruth to buy some of their stock. In gratitude, he gave Ruth the revolver at the center of the notorious Brussels Affair.

Ruth didn’t grasp its cultural significance at the time. He only realized what a scandalous treasure he had when he saw the 1995 film Total Eclipse starring David Thewlis as Verlaine and Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud. In 2004, a new exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Paul Verlaine opened in Brussels. Ruth notified the curator that he had the famous revolver. The curator thought he was joking, but research confirmed that it was the real deal, serial number 14096, listed in the Montigny registry book as the one Verlaine bought on July 10th, 1873. It went on display for the first time at a 2015 exhibition on Verlaine held at the Mons prison where he did time.

The Lefaucheux six-shooter #14096 goes on the auction block at The Exceptional Sale at Christie’s Paris on November 30th. The pre-sale estimate is €50,000-70,000 ($54,315-76,041).

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

A Reminder for Crown Tournament Combatants

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-10-23 20:29

Attention Crown Entrants: Remember your device for the shield trees!

If you need info on how to make a device for the shield tree, see this page on the East Kingdom wiki.

If you have questions or need help either making a shield or deciding what to put on it, please feel free to contact Rosina von Schaffhausen, Jongleur Herald, who can also get you in touch with an accomplished heraldic artist.


Filed under: Announcements Tagged: Crown Tournament, List Trees

On Target: Archery for Kids

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-10-22 21:57

When it comes to children’s archery, make sure “The Size is Right.” Many a well-meaning parent has handed their equipment to their son or daughter not realizing how oversized it is for a 10-year-old. Tiny fingers, inexperience, and nerves already make that first shot very difficult. Added to that, many adults shoot 35-pound bows and higher. Most children should be shooting 25-pound bows and lower.

In the picture at right you can see the difference between a 6-foot longbow and a 3-foot youth bow. Also, you can see the difference in the length of the arrows, I have a slight overdrawn so I used 29-1/2 inch arrow. For a youth, the length can be much shorter.

In addition, youth arrows might have factory tips which don’t always have the appropriate weight, throwing off the balance of the arrow.

Remember archery is for the whole family, but the equipment has to match the size of the shooter.

This month’s safety tip: be sure to go to your local fletcher and he’ll help you make the right decision.

In service,

THLord Deryk Archer


Categories: SCA news sites

Ancient Samaritan 10 Commandments for sale

History Blog - Sat, 2016-10-22 21:06

A marble tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments in Samaritan will be sold at auction next month at at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The Yavneh 10 Commandments Stone is roughly two-by-two feet, weighs 115 pounds and was carved probably between 4th and 8th centuries A.D. in the Samaritan variant of Paleo-Hebrew script. It is one of only five inscriptions of the Samaritan Decalogue from before the Muslim invasion known to survive.

A close derivative of ancient Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew script was in use from at least as early as the 10th century B.C. — the Zayit Stone, the oldest inscription in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, dates to then — until the 5th century B.C. when Aramaic began to take its place. The Samaritans, however, continued to use their version of Paleo-Hebrew and still do so today.

Translated from the Samaritan dialect of Hebrew, the line-by-line inscription runs as follows:

1. Dedicated in the name of Korach
2. I will call you to remember for goodness forever
3. God spoke
4. all these words
5. saying I am the Lord
6. your God you shall not have
7. for yourself other Gods
8. besides me; you shall not make
9. for yourself a sculptured image or any likeness;
10. for I the Lord
11. your God am an impassioned God;
12. Remember the Sabbath day
13. keep it holy; honor
14. your father and your mother;
15. you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery;
16. you shall not steal; you shall not bear [false witness] against your neighbor
17. you shall not covet; you shall erect
18. these stones that
19. I am commanding you today
20. on Mount Gerizim rise up to God

You might notice they’re not quite the standard set of 10. The one about not taking the name of God in vain is missing, and there’s a new one at the end about building the temple on Mount Gerizim to house the tablets.

The tablet’s origins are nebulous, but according to research done in the 1940s, it was discovered in 1913 by construction workers building a railroad near Yavneh on the southern coast of what was then Palestine. They either gave it or sold it to a wealthy local man who installed it on the floor of a doorway into his courtyard. Over time, the middle of the inscription was worn down be people walking on it, but it can still be read under oblique lighting.

The son of the owner sold it in 1943 to Mr. Y. Kaplan who knew right away it was a rare Samaritan Decalogue tablet. Kaplan engaged scholar and expert in Samaritan history (and the future second President of Israel) Yitzhak Ben-Zvi to study the stone. It was he who determined its likely age range based on the writing style of the Samaritan. Later scholarship has expanded the possible date range to the early Islamic occupation period (ca. 640-830 A.D.), but the Byzantine date range is still prevalent.

The stone was sold to an antiquities dealer in the 1990s and in 2005 was bought by Rabbi Saul Deutsch of the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York. As an object of Israeli cultural patrimony, the tablet’s export required a special permit from the Israel Antiquities Authority who allowed it on the condition that it was to be put on public display.

The museum has a collection of ancient artifacts that illustrate people, places and things mentioned in the Torah, like 3,500-year-old Hittite toy chariots as examples of what the Egyptian chariots that chased the fleeing Jews during the Exodus may have looked like. Judging from what’s available online at least, some of the connections are tenuous at best. Fragments of Coptic-era Egyptian garments, for instance, are hardly indicative of what the Jews who left Egypt might have worn. While the tablet has been on display since the sale, as per the terms of the agreement with the IAA, it is not one of the artifacts included in the website’s slideshows.

The museum, which contains a large collection of artifacts of Jewish life and history dating back to antiquity, is shifting toward a more hands-on focus to attract younger visitors and decided it was time to sell the artifact.

“The sale will provide us with the money to do what we need to do. It’s all for the best,” Deutsch said in a statement.

The opening bid will be $250,000, a fortune for a small Brooklyn museum. One caveat, though, the condition requiring public display of the artifact still holds, so the buyer can’t just stash it in his cave of wonders. The auction is on November 16th, but you can bid online starting Friday, October 28th.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Villa of one of the last pagan Roman senators found

History Blog - Fri, 2016-10-21 22:02

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a grand Roman villa outside of Florence. The luxury home was unearthed on private property in what is now the village of Capraia by archaeologists and students from the University of Pisa. So far the team has found a hexagonal structure with six rooms which they believe to include a dining room suite with multiple triclinia. It is of monumental scale, 100 feet in diameter with ceilings estimated to be 50 feet high. Multiple polychrome mosaic floors survive, including a scene of a wild boar hunt in the main reception area. They have also found the remains of the hypocaust system that heated the villa’s baths, namely the hollow space under the floor with pillars of tile (pilae stacks) that supported the floor of the hot room.

The villa dates to the 4th century A.D. and is an exceptional example of a late antiquity country estate. The size and complexity of the villa is so impressive that dig leader Professor Federico Cantini believes the only comparable aristocratic villas from that period are found in Constantinople, then still just a few decades into its tenure as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The mansion was enlarged in the 5th century only to be plundered and abandoned in the 6th. There is also some evidence of occupation in the late Middle Ages, probably by people who were stripping what was left of it for building materials.

An inscription on a stone slab found at the villa identifies the owner as Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, a well-known and highly esteemed 4th century senator who had a distinguished political career and who was at the epicenter of the last significant attempt by the few remaining non-Christian members of the aristocratic ruling class to preserve traditional Roman religions in the face of the onslaught of legislation and Christianization practices that would destroy them. Praetextatus held high political and religious office. He was governor of Tuscany and Umbria, consular of Lusitania, proconsul of Achaia, urban praetor, praetorian prefect to Emperor Valentinian II and consul-elect (he died before he could take office). His many religious titles and priesthoods included augur, quindecimvir (guardian of the Sibylline Books), pontifex Vestae, pontifex Solis, sacratus Libero et Eleusinis and curialis Herculis.

He and his close friend and senatorial colleague Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, who was a very wealthy scion of the patrician Aurelian family and who was known to have at least a dozen country villas of his own, worked together to restore the traditional Roman religions. When he was urban praetor, Praetextatus petitioned the emperor for the restoration of sacred objects looted from temples. When he got the go-ahead, he assigned the job of collecting whatever was left to Symmachus. In 384 A.D., Symmachus wrote an open letter to Valentinian II asking for the return of the Altar of Victory to the Curia, a letter which is still famous today, mainly in conjunction with the equally famous rebuttal written by Ambrose of Milan.

Later that year, Praetextatus died. The city plunged into public mourning and there was an outpouring of grief from Romans of all religions. His wife of 40 years, Aconia Fabia Paulina, had her eulogy for him, apparently a version of her funeral oration, inscribed on his funerary monument. She shared his religious convictions and held many religious honors herself, and in the oration she said he was now in the heavens where, gods willing, she would soon join him. And she did.

Saint Jerome used Praetextatus, whose death had so roiled the city, as an example of how the most exalted, respected pagan will spend eternity in sulfurous agony while the most miserable, derided, self-abnegating Christian will be raised to glory in the hereafter. From his Letter XXIII to Marcella written in 384 A.D., the year of Praetextatus’ death:

Now, therefore, in return for her short toil, Lea enjoys everlasting felicity; she is welcomed into the choirs of the angels; she is comforted in Abraham’s bosom. And, as once the beggar Lazarus saw the rich man, for all his purple, lying in torment, so does Lea see the consul, not now in his triumphal robe but clothed in mourning, and asking for a drop of water from her little finger. How great a change have we here! A few days ago the highest dignitaries of the city walked before him as he ascended the ramparts of the capitol like a general celebrating a triumph; the Roman people leapt up to welcome and applaud him, and at the news of his death the whole city was moved. Now he is desolate and naked, a prisoner in the foulest darkness, and not, as his unhappy wife falsely asserts, set in the royal abode of the Milky Way. On the other hand Lea, who was always shut up in her one closet, who seemed poor and of little worth, and whose life was accounted madness, now follows Christ and sings, “Like as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of our God.”

We know that Praetextatus and Paulina had two houses in Rome, one on the Esquiline whose vast gardens reached what is now Termini railway station and one on the Aventine. Now we know they had a huge country palace in Tuscany. The excavation will be open to the public this weekend, on Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 6:30 PM, and Sunday from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Professor Cantini and the University of Pisa team will be present to explain the site to visitors.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Report: Kingdom A&S Champs

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-10-21 16:33

Documented from the Scrolls of the Reign of Marcus & Margerite, King and Queen of Æthelmearc: the Business of Æthelmearc Arts & Sciences Champions, 15 October, Anno Societatis LI, in the Shire of Sunderoak. As recorded by Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald.

Their Majesties invited Mistress Alicia Langland to address the populace whereupon she shared news of the upcoming Æthelmearc Æcademy & War College and invited all to attend.

Next, Their Majesties called for Simon a Fjarfelli and Hannah- the day’s two entrants in the Youth Arts and Sciences championship. Having spoken of each entrants submissions and the craftsmanship of each, Their Majesties faced a tough decision as to the winner of the competition. After much deliberating and consideration, Their Majesties named Simon as Their Youth Arts and Sciences Champion. Words and calligraphy by THL Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne with illumination by Lady Catherine O’Brien.

Their Majesties then bid Hannah tarry a bit longer. They praised her artistry and craftsmanship and did award her a Silver Sycamore. Scroll forthcoming.

Then, all children present were invited before the Throne and were advised of the chest-of-treasures in the possession of THL Alrekr Bergsson. Seeing the treasure-lust in the eyes of Their young subjects, Their Majesties released THL Alrekr from court with the chest and the children in pursuit.

Master Fridrikr Tomasson next approached the Throne. He read the names of the day’s entrants in the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship. He also read the names of the judges and offered tokens of gratitude for their service. Master Fridrikr also noted that Lord Hrolf Fjarfell was the winner of the populace choice.

The Kingdom Arts and Sciences champion, Lady Elska a Fjarfella, was then invited forward. Their Majesties thanked her for her services as the Æthelmearc A&S champion but noted that it was time for another to take her place, and so the winner of the day’s competition, Mistress Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen was called forward and named as the new Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Champion. She was given the regalia of the position and was then invited to join Their Majesties Court. Scroll wording by Duchess Dorinda Courtenay, calligraphy and illumination by Lady Abigail Kelhoge.

Next, the following gentles were recognized as nominees for the William Blackfox Awards. For Best Regular Feature: Lady Eleanor of Pembroke, Cooks Corner, Authors: Cooks Guild; The Apple Press, Shire of Sylvan Glen. For Best Artwork: THL Rhiannon Elandris, Cover Illumination, Ice Dragon, June 2014, Barony of Rhydderich Hael. For Best Layout and Design: Lady Aerin Wen, Windfalls, Shire of Coppertree. For Best Article: Lady Aerin Wen, Viking Navigation & the Sunstone; Author: Mistress Mathilde des Pyrenees, Summer 2014, Windfalls, Shire of Coppertree. For Best Overall Newsletter: Fuji’na no Takako, The Althing, Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands. For Best Poetry or Short Fiction: Leo Ronin, The Tale of the Wandering Lion: My story in verse. Across the Hills, Spring 2015, Barony of Endless Hills.Commendation for Best Special Edition: Lady Margarita Carpintero, Full tilt- 10th Anniversary Arts & Sciences Special Edition, Barony of Delftwood.

Mistress Illadore de Bedagrayne was then called before Their Majesties and gave her oath of fealty.

Their Majesties then invited Lord Hrolf Fjarfell to attend Them. They spoke of his skill in woodworking and named him a Companion of the Sycamore. Calligraphy and illumination by Lady Kaðlín Sigvaldakona, words by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.

Their Majesties then called for Lady Fenna Rioux. Praising her for her dedication and service in running events did induct her into the Order of the Keystone. Scroll forthcoming.

Next, Lady Oribe Tsukime presented herself to Their Sylvan Majesties, who spoke of her work on her Japanese persona and of her resist dyeing, and so did induct her into the Order of the Sycamore. Scroll forthcoming.

Lady Jerngurd Omgürd next came before the Throne. Their Majesties spoke of good food, and how Lady Jerngerd was responsible for not only today’s good food, but is known for such labors. Being pleased with her craft in cooking did induct her into the Order of the Sycamore. Scroll forthcoming.

Her Majesties then wished to be attended by Rachel McMichael, who was not present. Her Majesty spoke of the importance of the care of the youth of the kingdom and of how Rachel spent her day tending to the children and providing them activities that were both fun and engaging. For this service, Her Majesty named Rachel as Her Inspiration and awarded her a Golden Escarbuncle.

Their Majesties then thanked the scribes and invited any scribe who contributed work to the day’s event or Archers to the Wald to come forward, be recognized, and receive a token from Her Majesty’s hand.

There being no further business, this Court of Their Majesties was closed.

Faithfully submitted,

Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta,

Jewel Herald.


Categories: SCA news sites

Huge mosaic floor in Jericho unveiled for one day

History Blog - Thu, 2016-10-20 20:35

For one time only, the glorious 8th century mosaic floor of Khirbat al-Mafjar, colloquially known as Hisham’s Palace, was on view in all its colorful majesty on Thursday, October 20th. The floor features 38 different scenes in 21 colors, and at 825 square meters (8,900 square feet), it is one of the largest mosaic floors in the world.

Discovered in 1873 three miles north of the West Bank city of Jericho, the first excavations of the site took place between 1934 and 1948 under the direction of Palestinian archaeologist Dimitri Baramki. The palace got its name from a marble ostracon that was discovered during the Baramki excavations that had “Hisham” scratched on it. The name on the marble fragment suggested that the lavish mansion may have been built during the reign of the 10th Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (r. 724-743). The name stuck even though the palace may not have been built for the caliph himself. Robert Hamilton, the British colonial administrator and a colleague of Baramki’s, proposed the compound was constructed for the Hisham’s nephew and successor Walid ibn Yazid (r. 743-744) whose notorious love of the high life irritated the hell out his more temperate uncle.

Whoever it was built for, it had to have been someone in the royal family. The architecture, decorations and artifacts mark it as having been built under the Umayyad dynasty in first half of the 8th century. It’s in a category of structures known as the Umayyad desert castles, fortified palaces built near water sources in the arid regions of Jordan, Syria, Israel and the West Bank between 661 (when Damascus was made the Umayyad capital) and 750 A.D. (when the capital was moved to Baghdad).

Like the other desert castles, Hisham’s Palace includes an agricultural enclosure and a bath complex supplied with water from a nearby oasis. The spectacular mosaics covered the floor of the main bath hall, and one of the most famous stand-out pieces, a Tree of Life mosaic, decorated the floor of the bath’s bahw, or special reception room. It depicts a fruit tree with two gazelles peacefully hanging out on the left, while a gazelle on the right side is attacked by a lion. The contrasting scenes of peace vs. combat are believed to represent the power of the caliph to either bring prosperity to his people or to ruthlessly repress them.

Elaborately carved stucco panels, mainly florals and geometrics with some animal and human figures, including semi-nude men and women, were also found in the bath complex. The stuccos are now at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. The decorative elements in the desert castles are among the earliest Islamic art, and the mosaics, sculptures, frescoes and carved stucco features at Hisham’s Palace are of particularly high quality. The dizzying array of colors and patterns in the mosaics prefigure later Islamic design, while the figural art is unique to the Umayyad period.

The palace is the biggest tourist draw in the West Bank which has a major downside from a conservation standpoint. In addition to the tens of thousands of visitors stomping the site every year, Jericho’s urban sprawl, conflict and scant funds for preservation and personnel have placed Hisham’s Palace is in dire straights. In 2010, the non-profit Global Heritage Fund put it on a list of 12 sites on the verge of irreparable damage. The only mosaic on display in the Tree of Life in the reception room. The rest have been covered by soil and canvas almost since they were first unearthed.

In September 2015, the Japan International Cooperation Agency signed a grant agreement with the Palestinian Authority to give up to 1.235 billion yen ($11,860,000) to construct a protective roof and exhibition facilities for the bath mosaics. The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities spent a year carefully removing the sand, soil and assorted debris covering the floor. Now that the construction phase is about to begin, the complete mosaic floor of the bath complex of Hisham’s Palace was uncovered for a day. The floors go back undercover until the project is complete. If all goes well, the newly protected and restored mosaics will be open to visitors by 2018.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Court Report: Archers to the Wald

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-10-20 15:45

Here begins the report of the Court of Her Majesty Margerite, Queen of Æthelmearc, at Archers to the Wald in the Canton of Steltonwald, 8 October AS LI, accompanied by Their Excellencies Brandubh and Hilderun, Baron and Baroness of the Debatable Lands, Drotinn Jorundr hinn Rotinn, Golden Alce Herald, reporting.

Her Majesty thanked all who attended the event this day and all the staff for running this event at which She had such a wonderful time. His Majesty also sends His greetings and regrets that he was unable to attend this day.

Her Majesty gave leave to Their Excellencies of the Debatable Lands leave to conduct the business of Their Court.

Her Majesty gave leave to Lord Alrekr Bergsson to recognize some archers who had attained ranks in the Royal Round standings. Shelby Hernan, Vera Ivanova Tolstikova, and Alfonso de Santo Domingo, all achieved the rank of Archer, and he presented them with pewter medallions made by the hands of Lady Edana the Red.

Lord Alrekr had one further gentle to recognize but was unable to do so, thus he besought Her Majesty to make this recognition for him. Her Majesty summoned Devon Haugh before Her. Devon has achieved a Junior Royal Round average of 85, and was thus presented with a medallion, also by Lady Edana the Red to reflect his rank of Master Bowman. Her Majesty was further moved to recognize this remarkable achievement by inducting Devon into the Order of the Silver Alce. The scroll will be created by His Majesty at a later date.

Her Majesty next bade the children of the Kingdom to present themselves. So that they might be entertained she summoned forth the box of goodies, and the bearer of the day Alfonso de Santo Domingo that he might carry the box and run with it.

Her Majesty summoned THL Aemelia Soteria, the Kingdom Thrown Weapons Champion. This day she ran a tournament to determine her successor, and from among the finest throwers in the land, one rose above the rest. Master Juan Miguel Cezar proved himself most skilled this day and was named the Thrown Weapons Champion of Æthelmearc.

There was another champion to be determined this day, so Her Majesty summoned, Takamatsu-san Gentarou Yoshitaka, the Kingdom Archery Champion before her. The round robin style tournament had one archer rise above the rest, Ichikeiro-san Osoroshi, proved to be the best shot and so was named, Æthelmearc’s Archery Champion.

Her Majesty called for Caelfind in Eich Gil to attend Her. Their Majesties have heard much of the good works of this gentle and how she not only shoots, but also assists with setting up the range and tearing it down at the end of practice. For this it pleases Their Majesties to Award her Arms and make her a Lady of Their Court. Scroll by Brigette de
Sainte-Mene-Eglise.

Her Majesty next had words for Sanada-san Masamoto Kenshin O’no Kuma. His skill with knife, axe and spear is a wonder to behold, and his rate of improvement is an achievement that all should seek to emulate. Thus does Her Majesty induct him into the Order of the Golden Alce. Scroll illuminated by Isabel Fleuretan with calligraphy by Kameshima Zentarou Umakai.

Her Majesty next gave leave to Master Juan Miguel Cezar to do some business as a member of the Order of the Scarlet Guard. Juan Miguel had a notion to take a pair of students that he might further their interest in and service to archery, Lord Ru Cavorst and Lord Alrekr Bergsson. Juan Miguel however noticed an issue with the regalia that he had brought with him, that being the tassel of the members of the Scarlet Guard, rather than their students. He asked her Majesty if she know of a way that his error could be rectified, and so the Order of the Scarlet Guard was summoned to present themselves.

Lord Ru Cavorst was inducted into the Order of the Scarlet Guard and granted arms with a scroll by Graidhae ni Ruaidh.

Lord Alrekr Bergsson was inducted into the Order of the Scarlet Guard and granted arms, scroll forthcoming.

Her Majesty spoke of how one gentle this day inspired her with her willingness to assist the new members of the Society by taking time out of her day, while taking care of her own child to take care of the child of a family new to the Society so that the parents could get a chance to see what the event had to offer. For this Her Majesty named Lady Aisling Ngleantan Her inspiration of the day and awarded her a Golden Escarbuncle.

Her Majesty bid all the scribes who presented scrolls to this day’s Court to attend Her, and she presented them with a token in thanks of their hard work.

Her Majesty thanked everyone for being so welcoming to Her this day, and wished all a good night and a safe trip home.

Court Closed.


Categories: SCA news sites