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Oldest madeira collection found in New Jersey museum

History Blog - Tue, 2017-07-11 23:27

Workers renovating Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, discovered a rare collection of Madeira wines, some dating back to Colonial times. Museum staff knew the Kean family had wine storage shelves in the cellar, but they were obscured by a plaster and plywood wall built during Prohibition. When workers broke through the wall and the locked wooden cage behind it, they found a collection of 18th and 19th century wines far larger than they realized. There are three cases containing more than 50 bottles of Madeira, the oldest of which date to 1796. The attic held an unexpected wine cache as well, not in bottles but in 42 demijohns dating to the 1820s. It’s the oldest and largest known collection of Madeira in the United States.

The museum staffers cataloged the cases and jugs of Madeira as they were discovered. While some of the stock needed to be researched online, most of the wine was still labeled with handwritten tags, or could be looked up in the thousands of Liberty Hall documents dating more than 200 years.

“We have the receipts from the liquor store, or the liquor distributor in New York, in Elizabeth or wherever,” [Liberty Hall director of operations Bill] Schroh said. “We can also trace the purchaser, when it was purchased and who it was purchased from.”

Part of the research showed some of the Madeira was imported by Robert Lenox, a millionaire merchant from New York who owned land in the heart of Harlem, which is where the borough’s main avenue gets its name.

Liberty Hall was the country home of William Livingston, scion of a prominent New York family and a successful lawyer. When he bought the land in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, he planned to retire to the estate. He was intimately involved in the design of the 14-room Georgian home and of the landscaping and orchards on the 120-acre property. He and his wife settled in to their happy retirement home in 1773, but Livingston’s retirement wouldn’t even last a full year. Revolution pulled him back into political and military action. He was a delegate to both Continental Congresses, was a general in the New Jersey militia and was New Jersey’s first elected governor in 1776.

Livingston was only able to return to Liberty Hall in 1783 and the estate had been rudely treated by the British who trashed the place on the regular searching for him when he was a wanted man. American soldiers also looted the home. Livingston lovingly repaired the home and gardens, even as he continued to serve as governor until his death in 1790.

The hall was purchased by Peter Kean, the son of Livingston’s niece Susan, in 1811. Peter and his mother maintained the estate for the next 22 years. In 1833, Susan’s grandson Colonel John Kean inherited it and over the course of six decades, transformed the Georgian home into a 50-room Victorian mansion. It has remained in the Kean family who have worked to preserve it and open it to the public as a museum displaying original artifacts from the Livingston and Kean families in rooms dedicated to different time periods.

It seems the wines were collected by both the Livingstons and the Keans.

Some of the original Madeira stock was shipped to the second generation who lived at Liberty Hall, in anticipation of John Adams’ presidency. Although Liberty Hall President John Kean was well aware of the wine collection, he couldn’t have imagined its historical significance.

“We knew there was a lot of liquor down here, but we had no idea as to the age of it,” said Kean, first cousin to New Jersey’s former governor. “I think the most exciting part of it was to find liquor, or Madeira in this case, that goes back so far. And then trying to trace why it was here and who owned it.”

Madeira was a popular tipple for the early American upper crust, because unlike most wines at that time, it can take a lot of jostling of the kind sure to be experienced on a trans-Atlantic ocean voyage. The fortified dessert wine also lasts far longer than other wines without spoiling or turning to vinegar. In the 18th century, the 13 colonies bought 95% of the Madeira produced on the Portuguese archipelago and gentlemen of wealth and good taste would have a selection of Madeiras in their cellars (or attics). The Liberty Hall collection has six different kinds of Madeira.

The newly liberated cellar space with its original wooden shelves, now restored and structurally reinforced, is open to the public, along with some of the bottles and demijohns. John Kean had the opportunity to taste a sample from one of the Madeiras and he said it tasted fine, like a sweet sherry. The bottles from 1796 have not been sampled. They might be whipped out for an appropriate special occasion in the future: a visit from the President of Portugal.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Hospitality at Royal Encampment Needs Your Help!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2017-07-11 20:24

Æthelmearc Royal encampment, a few years past. Photo by Aoife

Greetings unto the populace of Æthelmearc!

Our names are Dubheasa inghean Dubgaill and Lasairfhiona inghean Aindriasa, and we have been asked by Their Royal Majesties to take charge of coordinating hospitality at the Æthelmearc Royal encampment for Pennsic XLV.

For those not in the know, hospitality is in charge of the populace pavilion at the AE Royal Encampment where we provide anyone who would like a place to sit, cool/dry off, hydrate, and socialize. We make sure people get answers to their questions, are directed to wherever they need to go in the Royal Encampment, have messages taken, and we accept gifts to the crown.

Due to the popularity, we will be able to recharge small electronics. These are open to anyone who is in the populace pavilion, in a meeting or other business in the encampment, guarding the gate, or working hospitality. You are, of course, responsible for your own devices.

We are looking for volunteers to fill shifts throughout the war. We like to have two people manning the desk during open hours. We always make sure to schedule at least one experienced person in a shift, so if you’re new to hospitality, feel free to sign up, and we’ll get you up to speed in no time.The first day of hospitality is on Sunday, July 30 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., during which time we will finish setup.

Peace Week shifts are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday, July 31 through Friday, August 4.

War Week shifts are from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturday, August 5 through Thursday, August 10. We have two shifts in the morning of August 11 to pack up prior to tearing down the royal encampment.Shifts are two hours long.

Hospitality will be closed during Kingdom Court, and adjustments will be made for other activities taking place in the royal encampment or as demand requires it.

If possible, please sign up in advance! We have a total of 108 slots to fill throughout Pennsic to provide the level of hospitality and service we have become known for.

Dubheasa can be reached at this email address. Lasairfhiona can be reached at this email.

If you can’t commit yet to a time, the hospitality schedule book will be at the hospitality desk to sign up in once you get to Pennsic. Of course, early choice means the best times are available.

Thank you very much!

Lady Dubheasa inghean Dubgaill
Lady Lasairfhiona inghean Aindriasa
Hospitality Coordinators
Categories: SCA news sites

New cache of Roman writing tablets found at Vindolanda

History Blog - Mon, 2017-07-10 23:13

Archaeologists excavating the Roman fort of Vindolanda have discovered a new cache of 25 Roman writing tablets. The wood tablets were unearthed in a sodden trench (it’s been raining a lot up there) on June 22nd in a small section less than 10 feet long. These invaluable records of daily life in a Roman fort on the far northern border of the empire date to the end of the 1st century A.D., which means they were written no later than 15 years after the first version of the fort was built.

Many of them less than two millimetres thick, simple slivers of birch rather than the notebook-like rectangles you might think of when you see the word “tablet,” this incredibly rare group of letters, lists, official and private correspondence were likely part of an archive that was lost or unceremoniously discarded, albeit in a weird way. The tablets weren’t grouped together as they would be if they’d be enclosed in a bag or dumped in one spot. They were found spaced out along the trench at regular intervals. The archaeological team speculates that they may have fallen out of a bag with a hole in the corner, or else someone took the time to remove individual tablets and toss them into the rubble of a foundation layer every other step.

Vindolanda was a Roman auxiliary fort and associated vicus (an independent civilian settlement) in Northumberland just south of Hadrian’s Wall. Multiple iterations of the fort were built starting with simple wood and turf structures in the late 1st century through to the stone forts of the late 2nd and early 3rd century. That last stone fort was repaired and occupied in fits and starts until the end of the 4th century in the twilight years of Roman Britain.

That long, varied record of occupation was preserved for nigh on 2,000 years by the site’s anaerobic soil. Organic materials that would normally decay survived in the waterlogged mud of Vindolanda in exceptional condition, among them wood plumbing pipes, an inscribed barrel stave, the only known Roman wooden toilet seat, leather shoes by the thousands and of course, the artifacts voted the UK’s top archaeological treasure by British Museum curators, more than 1,700 fragmentary and complete wooden writing tablets.

Ever since the first writing tablets were discovered at Vindolanda in 1973, individual tablets have been found during the ongoing excavations. One small but important fragment with four lines of ink writing clearly visible to the naked eye (many tablets have no visible ink remaining and can only be deciphered using infrared photography) was just unearthed on June 15th. It dates to between 92 and 105 A.D. Not exactly a writing tablet because there is no ink or lettering on the surface, but just five days later archaeologists found a wooden stylus tablet that once held a wax layer on which letters would be written.

A cache of writing tablets is a much different and rarer animal, however, even in the miraculously soggy soil of Vindolanda. The last time a tablet hoard was found was in 1992 and it was massive, containing hundreds of writing tablets. This batch is far more modest in size, but it has some singularly important features.

As the archaeological team, carefully and painstakingly extracted the delicate pieces of wood from the earth they were delighted to see some of the letters were complete and others had partial or whole confronting pages. The confronting tablets, where the pages are protected by the back of the adjoining pages, are the most exceptional discoveries as they provide the greatest chance of the ink writing being preserved.

Dr Andrew Birley, CEO of the Vindolanda Trust and Director of Excavations spoke about the day the tablets were recovered “What an incredible day, truly exceptional. You can never take these things for granted as the anaerobic conditions needed for their survival are very precise.

I was fortunate enough to be involved when my father, Dr Robin Birley, excavated a bonfire site of Vindolanda tablets in 1992 and I had hoped, but never truly expected, that the day might come when we would find another hoard of such well preserved documents again during a day on our excavations.

I am sure that the archaeological staff, students and volunteers who took part on this excavation will always remember the incredible excitement as the first document was recognised in the trench and carefully lifted out. It was half a confronting tablet, two pages stuck together with the tell-tale tie holes and V notches at the top of the pages. The crowd of visitors who gathered at the edge of the excavation fences were also fascinated to see tablet after tablet being liberated from a deep trench several metres down”.

Like the fragment discovered the week before the cache, several of the writing tablets in the group have readable ink. This is immensely exciting to archaeologists because they don’t have to wait for the painstaking process of conservation followed by infrared photography before they can even attempt to decipher the spikey Latin cursive. The oak confronting tablet is not legible at the moment because oak darkens over time much more than birch, but the team is optimistic there may be sufficient ink on the surface to be detected by infrared imaging.

Some of the names in the letters have been deciphered already because they’re known from previously deciphered tablets. One character named Masclus makes a second appearance after a very memorable first one. In the first letter from Masclus discovered at Vindolanda, he asked his commanding officer to send more beer to his outpost on Hadrian’s Wall. In the tablet discovered last month, Masclus is asking to be granted leave (commeatus), possibly due to a crippling hangover.

Cleaning and conservation of the tablets has already begun — you can’t waste any time when keeping organic archaeological materials from decay once they’ve been exposed to the air — and once they’re clean and stable, the writing tablets will be analysed using infrared photography so the ones with faded ink can be read and translated.

For more about the endlessly fascinating (and endlessly wet) work of the Vindolanda archaeological team, follow Digging Vindolanda, a blog of the seasonal digs by one of the volunteer excavators.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Consultation Tables at Pennsic A&S Display/Tables de consultation à l’exposition d’Arts et Sciences de Pennsic

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2017-07-10 19:35

Queen Avelina, accompanied by Mistress Amy Webbe examines entries at an earlier Pennsic.

En français


A&S Consultation Tables!

Coming to Pennsic War: Known World Arts & Sciences Display, Sunday, August 6, 2017, 1:00 – 5:00 pm

Entrants can voluntarily request feedback based on the higher degree of expectations that happen at more competitive levels.

The focus is on extensive research, historical understanding, and exemplary execution. These are all important for A & S Champions entries, but also for other activities throughout the Society. Even if you never plan to enter A & S competitions, you can use these tables as opportunities for feedback.

Entrants: After you have gone through the registration table, you may sign up at the A&S Consultation Tables for constructive feedback. (This is in addition to your other A&S Display activities and is no way required.)

• You will not receive a score and there is nothing to win. • You will have a chance to talk to experienced judges and walk through their thought process as they examine your entry.

• We can give you directed feedback and we can also walk you through example judging rubrics. It depends on what help you are requesting.

• We will attempt to accommodate as many entries as possible. We will visit you at your table to view your display and talk to you. We can also work with you on scheduling a specific time. Judges: We also welcome volunteer judges. Want to help? Let us know! It’s you who will help make the A & S Consultation Tables successful.

• We’d welcome you for the full four hours; two hour shifts would also help. Let us know what you can do and we’ll work with you.

• Never judged before and want to learn? Let us know. You can be a shadow judge. We’d welcome the company.

• We also hope that this will make the judging experience more constructive and more enjoyable. If you are interested in helping, please contact Honorable Lady Kataryn Mercer.

En français
Traduction: Behi Kirsa Oyutai

Tables de consultation d’Arts et Sciences !
Bientôt à la Guerre de Pennsic: Exposition d’Arts et Sciences du Monde Connu, dimanche le 6 août 2017, entre 1:00 et 5:00 pm
Les participants peuvent volontairement demander de la rétroaction basée sur les plus hautes attentes exigées aux compétitions plus avancées.
L’accent sera mis sur la recherche exhaustive, la compréhension du contexte historique, ainsi que l’exécution exemplaire. Tous ces sujets sont importants lors d’une entrée de compétition, mais ils le sont aussi pour plusieurs autres activités au travers de la Société. Même si vous ne planifiez jamais participer à une compétition d’Arts et Sciences, vous pouvez utiliser cette opportunité d’obtenir de la rétroaction.
Participants: Après avoir visité la table d’enregistrement, vous pouvez vous inscrire aux tables de Consultation d’Arts et Sciences afin d’obtenir de la rétroaction constructive. (Ceci est en plus de vos autres expositions d’Arts et Science et n’est pas requis d’aucune façon.)
• Vous ne recevrez aucun score et il n’y a pas de prix à la clef.
• Vous aurez la chance de parler à des juges expérimentés et d’expérimenter leur processus d’évaluation étape par étape, alors qu’ils examinent votre item.
• Nous pourrons vous donner de la rétroaction dirigée et pourrons vous guider au travers d’exemples de feuilles de critères de jugement. Ceci varie selon le type d’aide demandé.
• Nous tenteront d’accommoder le plus d’entrées possible. Nous vous visiteront à votre table afin d’examiner votre exposition et vous parler. Nous pouvons aussi travailler avec vous afin de planifier une visite à un moment spécifique. Juges: Les juges volontaires sont les bienvenus. Vous souhaitez aider ? Laissez-nous le savoir ! Les tables de consultation d’Arts et Sciences ont besoin de votre aide afin d’être un succès.
• Nous vous accueillerons pour les quatre heures complètes; mais des disponibilités de deux heures aident aussi beaucoup. Laissez-nous savoir vos disponibilités et nous ferons ce que nous pouvons pour travailler selon votre horaire.
• Vous n’avez jamais été juge et souhaitez apprendre ? Dites-le nous. Vous pourriez observer un juge en action. Nous aimons la compagnie.
• Nous espérons aussi que ce projet rendra l’expérience de l’évaluation plus constructive et plus plaisante. Si vous êtes intéressés d’aider, veuillez contacter l’Honorable Dame Kataryn Mercer.

Filed under: Arts and Sciences, En français Tagged: A&S Consultation, Pennsic

US returns looted royal seals to Korea

History Blog - Sun, 2017-07-09 23:27

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned two looted royal seals from the Joseon Dynasty to the Republic of Korea at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., on June 30th. The repatriation ceremony was planned to coincide with South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s visit to Washington so that Thomas D. Homan, acting director of ICE, could formally hand the seals over to the President who then carried them back to South Korea personally.

The two royal seals are the same size — four inches square — and both have handles shaped like turtles, but they were made a century apart from different materials. The oldest of them is the royal seal Queen Munjeong (1501-1565) which was made in 1547 out of gilt bronze. Technically 1547 was the second year of her son’s reign, but King Myeongjong was just 12 years old when he ascended the throne after his half-brother’s death under suspicious circumstances, so Queen Munjeong acted as regent. The seal uses a title given to Munjeong during her early regency.

(It was widely believed that Myeongjong’s half-brother King Injong, who reigned for only one year after his father’s death and was 30 years old when he died, was poisoned to death. Queen Munjeong was the prime suspect for the ringleader of the conspiracy to remove the young, reform-minded, active king and replace him with his kid brother whom she could easily manipulate. She stayed on as regent long past her son’s majority, remaining queen until her death 20 years later. Myeongjong was 32 years old when he finally became king in more than name.)

The second royal seal was made for the future King Hyeonjong (r. 1659-1674) to commemorate his becoming the crown prince in 1651. It’s carved out of highly prized white jade and is taller and more massive than the Queen’s seal.

Both of these are of a type of royal seal known as an “eobo,” used for ceremonial purposes rather than for official government documents which were the province of the “guksae” or the great seal. Because they were the official stamp of royal authority, the production, deployment and retirement of royal seals were stringently regulated by the Jongmyo, the Confucian shrine dedicated to the preserving the memory and rituals of the Joseon royals. The Joseon Dynasty is one of the longest ruling dynasties in the history of the world (1392 to 1897), so you might be forgiven for thinking they were lousy with royal seals after all that time, but because of that strict oversight, during the 500+ years of the Joseon Kingdom and Korean Empire only 37 guksae and 375 eobo were made.

They were all present and accounted for until the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945). The seals were hot items for looters and pillagers, and continued to be actively stolen during the Korean War (1950-53). The two returned seals are microcosms of the larger syndrome. Queen Munjeong’s seal is believed to have been stolen during the Korean War, King Hyeonjong’s during the Japanese occupation. The Korean government has vigorously pursued all leads to track down their precious cultural heritage since the 1950s. Four of the great seals have been recovered and seven of the royal seals. There are still 29 great state seals and 46 royal ones unaccounted for as of today.

The seals are a microcosm of Korea’s assiduous attempts to reclaim their lost treasures too. There are US State Department records going back to the mid-1950s that document requests from the Korean ambassador to locate the stolen seals of Queen Munjeong and King Hyeonjong. There is no evidence of any investigation taking place at that time. That would have to wait until 2013 when ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division opened an investigation into Queen Munjeong’s royal seal at the request of South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) who had found out the seal at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and had been for 13 years. The Korean Broadcasting Service did a little digging and identified the private collector who sold the Queen’s seal to LACMA in 2000. They found the King’s seal at his house.

The seals will be conserved and stored at the National Palace Museum of Korea in Seoul. They won’t go on display right away. The CHA is currently planned a special exhibit in August that will put the royal seals on public view.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Eastern Results from the May 2017 LoAR

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2017-07-09 21:39


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

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

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

EAST acceptances

Anneke Valmarsdotter. Name and badge. (Fieldless) A pinecone with stem to chief azure.

Jean Oste de Murat. Badge. (Fieldless) A prawn Or.

The question was raised in commentary about whether a prawn would conflict with a crab, which would bring this badge into conflict with the device of Mór Ruadh: Gules, a crab Or. Crabs and lobsters have been demonstrated to be interchangeable in period, and we do not grant a DC between the two crustaceans. Some commentary suggested that charges that look like lobsters might have been described in cants as prawns, though evidence for that has not yet been provided.

However, the submitter has received permission to conflict from Mór. We therefore decline at this time to rule whether a prawn has a DC from a lobster. We also decline to rule on the precise relationship between prawns and crabs, prawns and lobsters, and crabs and lobsters so far as difference is concerned.

Jean Oste de Murat. Badge. Per bend argent and azure, a hop cone slipped and leaved Or.

This does not conflict with the device of Turold of Normandy, Purpure, a New World pineapple Or leaved vert. The substantial leaves of a New World pineapple sufficiently separate it visually from a hop cone for there to be DC between them.

Lijsbet van Catwiic. Badge. (Fieldless) A mortar and pestle sable charged with an elderflower argent.

Lijsbet van Catwiic. Badge. (Fieldless) An escallop purpure winged Or.

Ravensdale, Stronghold of. Branch name.

Ruantallan, Barony of. Badge for Populace. (Fieldless) On a dolphin haurient argent a tenterhook azure.

Ruantallan, Barony of. Badge for Populace. (Fieldless) On a dolphin haurient contourny argent a tenterhook reversed azure.

Ryan Mac Whyte. Heraldic title Skunk Herald.

Skunk is the lingua Anglica form of the Early Modern English term Squuncke, the plural form of which is found in the OED s.v. skunk dated to 1634.

Samuel Peter Bump. Badge. (Fieldless) A fess wavy within and conjoined to a mascle sable.

Thomas de Marr. Badge. (Fieldless) On a barrel sable a dragon passant Or.

Thomas de Marr. Badge. (Fieldless) In fess a dunghill cock Or conjoined at their tails with a bull rampant contourny gules.

Thomas de Marr. Badge. Per chevron inverted gules and azure, in chief a cockatrice Or.

Whyt Whey, Canton of. Device change. Argent, an apple gules slipped and leaved within a laurel wreath vert and an orle sable.

Nice device change!

Canton’s previous device, Sable, a cockroach tergiant within a laurel wreath and on a chief embattled argent, a pomme, is retained as ancient arms.

Whyt Whey, Canton of. Badge for Populace. Argent, an apple gules slipped and leaved vert within an orle sable.

Nice badge!

Zoya the Orphan. Name (see RETURNS for device).

The byname the Orphan is the lingua Anglica form of the Russian byname Sirot or Sirota, both of which are found in Paul Wickenden of Thanet’s “A Dictionary of Period Russian Names” (http://heraldry.sca.org/paul/).


EAST returns

Christiana Crane. Badge. (Fieldless) Six caltrops conjoined in annulo points to center argent.

This badge must be returned for visual conflict via SENA A5D2 with the badge of Clovia Lumi: Sable, a snowflake argent, and with the device of Thorbjorn Wulfgrimmssøn, Per fess azure and Or masoned sable, in chief a snowflake argent. The arrangement of the caltrops left a distinct impression of a snowflake for most commenters, and when considered as a snowflake, there is only one DC from each piece of registered armory for removing the field.

Additionally, this must be returned for lack of identifiability. The overlapping tips of the caltrops caused visual confusion which made the charges themselves difficult to identify, which further led to the assumption by most submitters that the design is a snowflake.

Snowflakes have not been allowed as heraldic charges since August 1994, with subsequent registrations falling under allowances found in SENA A2B3 and similar rules in RfS.

Vígþorn Vetsson. Name.

Submitted as Vígþorn Vetsson, the patronymic does not use the correct genitive (possessive) form of the father’s name. The proper construction is Vetrarson or Vetarson. We would change the name for registration, but the submitter does not allow any changes.

On resubmission, the submitter should be prepared to demonstrate that the name Vetr was used by real people. The only use of Vetr as a personal name in Cleasby-Vigfusson is for a mythological giant who was the son of Vindsvalr or Vindlóni in the Eddas. Without evidence of usage by real people, a name claiming to be the son of a giant is likely to be prohibited by PN4C of SENA as improperly claiming powers.

Zoya the Orphan. Device. Purpure, three Arabian lamps argent.

This device is returned for conflict with Celestinus MacCriomthainn: Vert, three pitchers flammant at the mouths argent. There is a DC for changing the field, but none for enflaming the pitchers. We don’t grant difference between pitchers, ewers, laverpots, and other spouted, handled vessels; the Arabian lamp, not being a period charge, doesn’t get the allowance for period differencing.

Filed under: Heraldry Tagged: heraldry, LoAR

Heronter Pewter Class

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-07-09 21:10

Pewter Class by TH”Fool” Dagonell Juggler

The Shire of Heronter has regular A&S gatherings. For our most recent gathering, Lady Edana the Red came up from Debatable Lands to teach pewter casting.

On Saturday, June 24th, 2017, members of the Shire assembled at the home of THL Keinven Ragnarsdottir and Baron Malcolm Fraser at 10 AM. Fortunately, it was a clear and sunny day, pewter hates rain and high humidity. Everyone had glasses or other eye-protection and paper dust masks were issued to all. Soapstone creates dust easily and it’s not something you want to breathe in. Long hair was tied back and everyone had been instructed to wear long sleeved tops to expose as little skin as possible. We worked outside to not leave stone dust on the furniture. Picnic tables were covered in old towels for easier clean up.

We were each issued a ‘carving kit’, a small Tupperware tub containing a marker (black), a plastic template for drawing circles (quarter and dime sized), a mechanical pencil (red shaft), a carving tool (wooden handle, scraper at one end, point at the other), a dental pick (brass), a crayon (red) a few scraps of paper (blueish due to shadows), a small piece of soapstone (I’ve already started carving mine), a few curls of sandpaper (at base of mechanical pencil) and a coin level (at top of box, on its side). The latter is a small piece of metal mounted to a small scrap of wood.

The first step is to design the badge. It had to be something small enough to fit on a quarter sized coin. The final token will be the mirror image of the drawing, so anything like letters should be done backwards. Geometrics, unless perfectly carved, tend to look a little lopsided. For this step, we used the scraps of paper, the template, and the mechanical pencil. My design can be seen in the picture above, my badge is a slipper charged with a vair bell. (Yes, it’s a pun, work on it!)

The next step is to start carving the mold. Above, Lady Edana demonstrates how to use the plastic template and the carving tool to inscribe a circle on the soapstone mold to about the depth of a quarter. Once the circle has been inscribed into the mold, the coin level is inserted into the groove and gently pulled toward the center of the circle. The small block of wood rides across the face of the stone while the metal point scrapes the coin shape to a uniform depth. Do not force the level, it will leave a groove. Just keep lightly scraping a thin layer at a time until the coin shape is complete. Lady Edana demonstrates using the coin level to Duchess Dorinda. Dorinda’s token design, a cross bottony from her badge, is by her left wrist. In the first photo above, my completed coin shape can be seen on the mold next to the kit. The pile in the center is the soapstone dust from carving the coin and will be brushed out with the paintbrush onto the towel.









Pirate Ginevra (left) watches as (right, front to back) Duchess Dorinda, THL Keinven, and m’lady Apollonia all work on carving their molds

Once the coin blank is complete, the next step is to carve the design onto the coin. Remember that the design is backwards, so letters need to be reversed. The deeper into the mold, the higher the image will be above the coin blank. A single layered design is best for a first attempt, however my design was a vair bell on a slipper, so the slipper was carved into the coin, then the vair bell was carved inside the shoe, deeper into the mold. The small curls of sandpaper are used to smooth out designs and erase tool marks on the mold. To test your carving, Play-doh™ is your friend. Press a small piece into the mold, then gently pull it out by the edges. Shown below, a small piece of red Play-doh™ is pressed into Dorinda’s mold and gently pulled out to reveal the final design. If you are not satisfied with your design, you can continue working on the mold and testing until you are content with the design.

The next step is to create the sprue, the channel that the pewter will be poured through. Lady Maggie Baxter, above uses a large metal file to begin the sprue. Knife cuts will bring the channel up to the design without damaging it. The location of a sprue hole depends on the design. You want the pewter to pour into the entire mold, not rise into the smaller details. If you’re going to have a loop on top of your token, the sprue should probably enter the bottom of the coin.

Next, vent holes are cut into the mold to allow air to escape as the liquid metal enters. Otherwise, air pockets and bubbles will form and the pewter won’t fill the entire mold. For safety considerations, Lady Edana’s assistant did all the pouring. A second piece of soapstone was held against the first, to provide a back to the medallion. The second piece had a cross-hatch design which created a texture on the back.









A metal catch basin to hold the pewter while it cools, a camp stove starter, wire cutters for cutting sprue, and several bars of pewter waiting to be melted. Notice that we are using an ordinary camp stove to heat bricks of pewter in a steel crucible. Pewter has a melting point around 230* Celsius. The exact temperature depends on the specific blend of metals that make up the alloy. The pieces are small enough that they can be held them together in a welder’s gauntlet. If we were doing a larger piece, the mold halves would be tied together and placed on a table. Note that there is another mold on the stove near the burner. A warm mold keeps the pewter liquid for a few moments longer and allows it to flow more easily into small details in the mold.

The pewter solidifies within a minute and the mold is opened. This is Lady Helena’s stylized H and the sprue enters the medallion at the bottom. The medallion is dumped into the metal basin and allowed to cool to the point it can be handled with bare hands. The excess metal that fills the sprue hole, and vent holes, is also called sprue and must be removed with tin snips or wire cutters. The edges of the medallion are then filed or sanded smooth. The cut off sprue, and mis-cast medallions, are simply dropped back into the cauldron to be melted down for the next medallion.

Below we see Duchess Dorinda’s finished pewter tokens. The loop will need to be drilled out on a few of them.









Shown below is a medallion that has both a front and a back. Notice the pins and pinholes in the mold so that the images line up.







Here are the two medallions cast from the mold above, showing the back and front of the completed design.









Shown below is a mold allows you to pour five medallions at once. Again, note the pins and pinholes to make the front and back line up correctly.














Completed tokens from every member of the class.
Left: m’lady Othilia’s candle in an archway, Lady Helena’s stylized H
Center: top; Duchess Dorinda’s cross bottony, l-to-r; THL Keinven’s triquetra, Lady Maggie’s linden leaf, Lady Ginevra’s swan, m’lady Diane’s fret
Right: top; Lady Cigfran’s raven, m’lady Apollonia’s wolf, THFool Dagonell’s vair slipper


Categories: SCA news sites

Aztec golden wolf burial found in Mexico City

History Blog - Sat, 2017-07-08 23:42

Excavations in Mexico City run into momentous finds every other week, it seems. It’s like Rome. As soon as anyone puts a shovel a couple of feet into the ground, they bump into a treasure trove of the city’s ancient history. The latest announcement is of a discovery made by archaeologists in April of this year: the remains of a sacrificial wolf literally draped in gold. The final tally is 22 intact pieces of jewelry made from thin sheets of gold elaborately decorated with symbols. Most were pendants, the tie that held them together long since decayed; there’s also a nose ring and a chest plate.

The wolf was about eight months old when it was ritually killed. Its body was adorned with gold ornaments and a belt of shells from the Atlantic. It was then placed on a bed of flint blades inside a stone box and buried near the staircase of the Templo Mayor (behind the colonial-era Metropolitan Cathedral), the primary center of worship in the sacred precinct of Aztec Tenochtitlan. It was buried facing west and was meant to represent Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and of the sun. Archaeologists found layers of offerings in the burial pit, items representing air, earth and sea and laden with religious meaning.

In forty years of excavations around the Templo Mayor area in Mexico City’s Zocalo, or central square, the gold covering this little wolf is far and away the finest in both metal quality and in its crafting. More than 200 ritual sacrifices and offerings have been found over the four decades. Only 16 of them contained gold, and little wonder since the Cortes and his successors took every last atom of Aztec gold they could find and melted it down for the Spanish treasure ships. Looters, both deliberate (treasure hunters) and incidental (workmen stumbling on something and pocketing it for sale on the black market), despoiled what was left underground. The Aztec, famous for their prized gold work, have been archaeologically denuded of it in Mexico City, the modern city built over their great capital of Tenochtitlan.

This small wolf burial, therefore, is of oversized historical importance as well as great pecuniary and artistic value. It came very close to disappearing from the archaeological record before it was ever documented. A city sewage line built in 1900 interfered with the burial, damaging the box. Thankfully the contents were not exposed, because one little glint of gold and the crew would have helped themselves to all of it, leaving nothing but scattered bones.

The golden wolf was buried during the 1486-1502 reign of King Ahuitzotl, the most feared and powerful ruler of the Mexica, who extended the empire as far south as present-day Guatemala. The reign of Ahuitzotl was particularly brutal, which may also explain the fate of the young wolf.

[Lead archaeologist Leonardo] Lopez said tests on its ribs will be needed to confirm his theory that the animal’s heart was torn out as part of the sacrifice, just as captured warriors were ritually killed on blood-soaked platforms of Aztec temples.

But this was no ordinary violence, noted [Harvard historian and Aztec expert David] Carrasco.

“These people didn’t just kill these things. They didn’t just kill people and throw them away,” he said. “They took elaborate, symbolic care for them because they knew that the presence that they represented, the presence of god, had to be nurtured.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Breakthrough on the dating of Borgring

History Blog - Fri, 2017-07-07 23:36

The ring fortress discovered on the island of Zealand, Denmark, in 2014 seemed from the first geophysical surveys of the site to fit a very rare and important type of fort built by King Harald Bluetooth (r. 958 — ca. 986). The circular design, the imposing size (475 feet in diameter), the four gates placed at the cardinal compass points, thick inner ramparts encircled by a spiked wooden palisade are all characteristics of Trelleborg-type fortresses, a network of powerful ring forts built by Harald in around 980 A.D. to form a defensive line against Germanic incursions. Only eight Trelleborg-type forts have been found in what is now Denmark and the southern tip of Sweden.

The 2014 excavation was limited in scope. Only a few trenches were dug revealing small sections of what archaeologists believed to be the north and south gates and some of the ramparts. The geophysical data was significant, but open to interpretation. Scholars were reluctant to accept that the Zealand structure, dubbed Borgring, was a fortress of the Trelleborg type based solely on these initial discoveries.

In order to conclusively identify it as one of Harald’s Trelleborg-type forts, archaeologists needed to narrow down the date of its construction as accurately as possible. These forts were built during a short window of a few years at the end of his reign, so pinpointing its age was essential. In the initial excavation, large oak timbers were unearthed at the north gate, charred in a fire that had engulfed the gate after its construction. Preserved by the flames, the wood could be radiocarbon dated, and because the timbers were so large, archaeologists were optimistic that they could be tree-ring dated as well. Carbon-14 testing can only return a date range, but dendrochronological analysis can, in the best case scenario, pinpoint the precise year in which a tree was felled.

Two samples taken from the north gate timbers were radiocarbon dated and produced pleasingly consistent dates. The oak logs dated to between 895 and 1017 A.D. Those dates fit squarely within the hoped-for range, but there was still too much wiggle room to prove that Borgring was a Trelleborg fortress. Archaeologists hoped the timbers could be dated dendrochronologically as well, but the charring impeded the analysis.

That was three years ago, and while excavations have been ongoing, the radiocarbon dating results from the north gate timbers have remained the only absolute dates on the table. That changed on June 26th, 2017, when the archaeological team from the Museum of South East Denmark and Aarhus University dug new trenches in the field next to the fortress. Just over eight feet below the surface, the team unearthed a piece of wood about three feet long. The carved oak plank was drilled with holes, some of which contained wooden pegs still in place. There is evidence of wear, but it’s unclear what exactly the plank was used for before it wound up discarded just outside the south gate.

Getting discarded was the best thing that could have happened to it, archaeologically speaking, because that field is composed of layer of peat, that blessed substance, preserver of organic remains large and small. The peat kept the wood from rotting and kept its rings in counting order.

Leading specialist in dendrochronological dating, Associate Professor Aoife Daly from the University of Copenhagen and the owner of dendro.dk, has just completed his study of the piece of wood and says: “The plank is oak and the conserved part of the tree trunk has grown in the years 829-950 In the Danish area. A comparison with the material from the Trelleborg fortress in Sjælland shows a high statistical correlation that confirms the dating. Since no splints have been preserved, it means that the tree has fallen at some point after year 966 “.

Research leader Jens Ulriksen says: “The wood piece was found on top of a peat layer, and is fully preserved as it is completely water-logged. We now have a date of wood in the valley of Borgring, which corresponds to the dating from the other ring fortresses from Harold Bluetooth’s reign. With the dendrochronological dating, in conjunction with the traces of wear the piece has, it is likely that the piece ended as waste in the late 900s, possibly in the early 1000’s. ” […]

Søren M. Sindbæk, professor in Archaeology at Aarhus University and part of the excavation team says: “This find is the major break-through, which we have been searching for. We finally have the dating evidence at hand to prove that this is a late tenth century fortress. We lack the exact year, but since the find also shows us where the river flowed in the Viking Age, we also know where to look for more timbers from the fortress.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Wedgwood First Day’s Vase saved

History Blog - Thu, 2017-07-06 23:28

One of four vases made by Josiah Wedgwood on the opening day of his new Etruria Works at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, has been acquired by the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery after coming within a razor’s width of being exported out of the UK by an overseas buyer. The vase was bought at a Christie’s auction on July 7th, 2016 for £482,500 ($625,759). In December, Culture Minister Matt Hancock placed a temporary export bar on the vase as an object of its rarity and national significance to British art, industrial and ceramic history. It would have been the only one of the four First Day’s Vases to leave the UK. Two are in the Victoria and Albert Museum; the other is still owned by the Wedgwood family.

After a fundraising campaign that saw donations from hundreds of members of the public, private businesses and institutions like the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery were able to raise the £482,500 purchase price to keep the vase in the UK. They have negotiated with the auction buyer and have worked out the exchange. The vase will now go back to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery where it was on display, loaned by the owner, the granddaughter of Cecil Wedgwood, from 1981 until it was withdrawn in 2016 to be sold to the highest bidder.

Made of Black Basalt and decorated with a painting technique Wedgwood termed “encaustic” (hand-painted with enamel pigments and a clay slip then fired), six First Day’s Vases, each slightly different, were thrown by Josiah Wedgwood himself on June 13th, 1769, the opening day of his new Etruria factory. His partner Thomas Bentley turned the wheel. Four of the six vases survived the firing process. Wedgwood, who had a real understanding from the very beginning of the importance of preserving his company’s history, specifically noted in a letter to Bentley’s workshop that the vases “sho’d be finish’d as high as you please but not sold, they being the first fruits of Etruria.”

The figures are copied from a 5th century B.C. Attic red-figure vase in the collection of antiquarian Sir William Hamilton (whose wife, Emma Hamilton, was very notoriously and very scandalously the lover of Admiral Horatio Nelson for seven years before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805). The vase was published in the illustrated catalogue of Hamilton’s vase collection in 1766 and Josiah Wedgwood got a preview copy of the book because of his connection to Sir William. Hamilton was a generous patron to Wedgwood, giving him access to his collection of vases so he could study and often times duplicate their forms and decoration.

The piece that inspired Josiah Wedgwood’s First Vase is an elaborately painted water jar that features dense and complex groupings of figures from Greek mythology — the kidnapping of the Leukippides, Heracles in the garden of the Hesperides — and was considered by art historians of the 18th and 19th centuries as one of the greatest extant examples of Greek design. Today it is known as the Meidias Hydria now that its artist has been identified as the Meidias Painter. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1772 when Hamilton sold his entire vase collection to the institution.

Wedgwood getting access to Hamilton’s collection and an early view of the high quality plates in the catalogue before any other artist gave him a great advantage in the market. Neo-classical decorative arts were all the rage, and Josiah Wedgwood was ideally positioned to fulfill the public’s craving. Modelled in both shape and decoration directly from the original ancient vessels, the First Day’s Vases tapped into this market with a verisimilitude that none of Wedgwood competitors could boast of, and the influence of Hamilton’s antiquities was felt throughout the Wedgwood line, in vases, tableware, reliefs and patterns.

At the foot of all four of the First Day’s Vases is the inscription “Artes Etrurae Renascuntur,” meaning the Arts of Etruria are Reborn. Josiah Wedgwood played a large role in popularizing neo-classicism, and these vases, the name of his factory, the duplication of elements of ancient vases but on an industrial scale, underscore how central the inspiration of antiquity was to Wedgwood. It was the foundational idea behind the Etruria Works.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Northern Region War Camp Court Report

East Kingdom Gazette - Thu, 2017-07-06 20:10

East Kingdom College of Heralds


Court Report Form

  Being the Court of Their Majesties Ioannes and Ro Honig held on July 1, A.S. LII (2017) in the Shire of Glenn Linn at Northern Region War Camp Court Heralds: Master Malcolm Bowman, Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, Mistress Pagan Graeme, Baronin Maria Erika von Ossenheim, Lady Marian Kirkpatrick, Don Lucien de Wyntere, Dona Anastasia da Monte, Rose Erembourc Reporting Herald: Master Malcolm Bowman

Order SCA Name Award C&I    

Xavier the Sinister  


Rhonwen Glyn Conwy   Kenric aet Essex

  OGR  Onora ingheann Ui Rauirc

    Remy Delamontagne de Gascogne

  Silver Brooch  No scroll

    Tsuki no ho Akiha

  Tyger’s Cub  Vettorio Antonello


Rosalia of La Familia Gladiatoria

  Tyger’s Cub  I: Mairi Crawford
C: Mari Clock van Hoorne    Lisette Fournier



I: Mairi Crawford

C: Mari Clock van Hoorne

W: Audrye Beneyt

    Saffir Weaver

  Silver Brooch  Millicent Rowan


Wilhelm Un Bergrekkr AoA

  No scroll





Order SCA Name Award C&I    

Lady Serafina Della Torre Silver Wheel


No scroll    

Tomas an Bhoga O Neill Silver Wheel


Eowyn Eilonwy of Alewife Brook   Angharad verch Moriddig


  Silver Wheel    

C: Thyra (Þóra) Eiríksdóttir

I: Alita of Hartstone

W: Alys Mackyntoich

    Bianca Anguissola


  Silver Wheel    

I: Carmelina da Vicari

C: Aesa feilinn Jossursdottir

W: Malcolm Bowman

    Cassius of La Familia

  Writ for Chivaly

  Fiona O’Maille ó Chuan Coille


Scrooby of Carolingia Silver Rapier

  C&I: Magdalena von Kirschberg

W: Alys Mackyntoich


Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova Laurel


C&I: Isabel Chamberlaine

W: Alidreda de Tamworthe   Gretta Wunderin

  AoA  I: Camille des Jardins

C: Anna Mickel von Salm

W: Alidreda de Tamworthe

    Tola Knityr


  Silver Crescent    

I: Leonete d’Angely &
Nataliia Anastasia Evgenova

W: Catrin o’r Rhyd For

C: Eleanor Catlyng

    Donovan Shinnock

  Silver Crescent   

I: Emma Makilmone
C: Henna Sinclair

W: Ryan MacWhyte


Magnus hvalmagi Silver Crescent


I: Ellesbeth Donofrey
C: Jonathan Blaecstan

    Richard de Troyes

  Silver Crescent

  Thyra (Þóra) Eiríksdóttir



Order SCA Name Award C&I   Kuroma Kenshin Silver Tyger  Scroll in backlog


Dalla Olafskona Pelican

  Vettorio Antonello

    Ogedei Becinjab

  OTC  C&I: Eva Woderose

W: Alys Mackyintoich

    Godric inn hivit ulfr


  C&I: Magdalena Lantfarerin

W: Aislinn Chiabach

    Remy Delamontagne de Gascogne






C&I: Mýrún Leifsdóttir

W: Alys Mackyntoich

French: Brunissende Dragonette de Brocéliande



Filed under: Court, Official Notices

Important Pennsic Authorization Information

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2017-07-06 10:12

So, you’re going to Pennsic this year and want to fight or fence? Make sure your paperwork is in order before you leave by following these tips:

  1. Your Primary Authorization must be complete and dated on or before July 19, 2017. A primary authorization is your first authorization in any marshal discipline. Any authorization paperwork for a primary form dated after July 19, 2017 will not be mailed out until Wednesday of War Week to help keep Æthelmearc in compliance with Pennsic rules.
  2. All authorization forms are turned into the Kingdom Authorizations Clerk by July 19, any forms in hand that day will be mailed out by Monday, July 24, 2017. Note: If you miss this cutoff you can keep your paper copy of your authorization form to use at Pennsic. We recommend sending a digital scan or copy of your paperwork to the Authorizations Clerk before leaving for War just in case.
  3. The Authorizations Clerk’s address is THLady Ursula of Rouen, c/o Ms. Danielle M. Duvall, PO Box 661, Shepherdstown, WV  25443. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is never required, but always appreciated.
  4. Please check your card now to see if it has expired or will expire prior to August 13, 2017 and please complete the paperwork for a renewal now. No need to wait until the card is close to expiration.
  5. Keep a copy of your paperwork in a safe place; whether it is a brand new authorization, an additional form, or a renewal, plan to have that paperwork on your person for use at Pennsic in case your card does not make it to you before you leave for vacation.
  6. It’s a good idea to make a copy of your authorization card/paperwork, and photo ID, put in a Ziploc baggie and tape to the back of your shield, or keep in your armor bag. You’ll need these along with your medallion to get inspected at Pennsic.
  7. If you need to reach THLady Ursula regarding your Authorization Card, or if you have any questions her e-mail address is of.rouen@gmail.com. You may also call before 10pm at 540-287-1748. Please do not send Facebook messages as those get lost in the shuffle.

All current authorization forms can always be found on the Kingdom Authorizations Clerk Website.

Rules regarding authorizations and Pennsic can be found on the Pennsic Website.


Categories: SCA news sites

Curia Agenda for July 9, 2017 at Great Northeastern War

East Kingdom Gazette - Thu, 2017-07-06 08:32
East Kingdom Curia Sunday, July 9 2017, 9:00 am
at Great Northeastern War in the Province of Malagentia (Hebron, ME) 1. Curia Opening 2. Old Business 3. New Business (See Agenda page 2 for details) 3.1 Polling Orders: polling notification lists

Revision to IX.F.6. to reflect current practices.

3.2 Interkingdom Events: The Pennsic War

Revision to VIII.C.2. to reflect a change in the Pennsic War hosting cycle; and deletion of VIII.C.5. (obsolete reference).

3.3 Crown Tourney vs Crown Tournament

Revision to II.B.k. and VIII.F. to eliminate inconsistent terminology.

3.4 Youth Combat Activities

Section XI. deleted (superseded by Rattan and Rapier Armored Combat policies).

4. Officer Reports 5. Curia Closure


EK Law Section III.I. The Agenda for the Curia Regis
1. Any items that The Crown chooses to add to the agenda after the Curia has been called will be added to the agenda under “New Business”.
2. If a Curia notice has been sent according to East Kingdom Law, but another Curia needs to be held before the previously announced one, any items of business held over from the earliest Curia will be automatically added to the agenda of the subsequent Curia under “Old Business”

Filed under: Announcements Tagged: agenda, curia, GNeW

Graves of very tall Neolithic people found in China

History Blog - Wed, 2017-07-05 23:22

They’re being called “giants,” because headlines and hyperbole would be lost without each other, but in fact the late Neolithic skeletal remains discovered by archaeologists in Shandong, eastern China, are more accurately described as having belonged to men of greater than average height. Some of them are very tall even by modern standards, and markedly exceed the current average height for an adult man in Shandong.

Measurements of bones from graves in Shandong Province show the height of at least one man to have reached 1.9 meters [6’3″] with quite a few at 1.8 meters [5’11”] or taller.

“This is just based on the bone structure. If he was a living person, his height would certainly exceed 1.9 meters,” said Fang Hui, head of Shandong University’s school of history and culture.

The average height for an adult man in Shandong in 2015 was 5’9″, which beats the national average by an inch. Indeed, Shandong residents pride themselves on being taller than their compatriots, and have done so for a long time. The philosopher Confucius (551 B.C. – 479 B.C.) was born in what is now Qufu, in southwestern Shandong, and he was reputedly 6’3″.

Archaeologists have been excavating the village of Jiaojia near Jinan City, Shandong Province, since 2016 and have unearthed the remains of an extensive Neolithic settlement including 104 houses, 205 graves and 20 sacrificial pits. The homes were mainly row houses, lines of adjacent dwellings not unlike modern townhouses. They were nicely appointed, too, which separate bedrooms and kitchens, indicating a high standard of living not reserved only for the elite. The settlement dates to around 5,000 years ago, a period when the Jinan City area is thought to have been the most important political and economic center of what is now northern Shandong.

These are the remains of the Longshan Culture, also known as the Black Pottery Culture, which inhabited the middle and lower Yellow River valley from around 3000 to 1900 B.C. Officially named after Mount Longshan in Zhangqiu, a modern town next to the the Chengziya Archaeological Site where the first archaeological finds from this culture were made in 1928, the Longshan Culture is renowned for its exceptional pottery crafts, especially the glossy black pottery that gave the culture its alternative name.

Some of that pottery, not just black but in a prismatic array of brilliant saturated color, was found in the graves of the tall men. Only a few of the 205 graves discovered were so richly adorned with goods. Six of those graves are the largest in size and also contain the remains of the tallest men in the burial ground. Archaeologists believe these were men of high rank and therefore had access to the best diet, hence their impressive heights. There’s also evidence of deliberate damage done to the skulls, leg bones, pottery and jade objects in the six tombs. They were likely inflicted shortly after burial and may be the result of conflict between high-status factions, political one-upsmanship in the form of grave desecration.

By this time agriculture was well-established in the Longshan towns. They grew millet as their primary crop and raised animals, mainly pigs, for food. Bones and teeth from domesticated pigs were found in some of the burials. With steady, varied sources of nutrition, safe, comfortable dwellings and wide access to regional trade, people of the Longshan Culture from this period experienced the kind of growth spurt seen in many different eras across the world when children no longer have to deal with the deprivations that their parents suffered.

So far have only scratched the surface of this exceptional site, and excavations are ongoing.

The range of the Jiaojia site has been enlarged from an initial 240,000 square meters to 1 sq km. Currently, only 2,000 square meters has been excavated.

“Further study and excavation of the site is of great value to our understanding of the origin of culture in east China,” said Zhou Xiaobo, deputy head of Shandong provincial bureau of cultural heritage.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Blanching Almonds in Medieval Cooking

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2017-07-05 21:27

By Elska á Fjárfelli and THL Fionnghuala inghean Diarmada

Blanching: does it mean soaked, or scalded?

According to the dictionary blanch comes to Middle English by way of the Old French blanchir, from blanc for white, and is of Germanic origin. As a verb, blanching can mean to make white or pale; to bleach by extracting color; to whiten a plant by depriving it of light; to pale from shock, fear or a similar emotion; or to prepare vegetables for freezing or further cooking by briefly immersing in boiling water. In modern English blanch and scald are synonyms, both meaning to boil briefly. [1]

In many medieval recipes, on the other hand, blanching is mentioned in combination with soaking in cold water. So why the difference?

Blanching as a cold water treatment could fit in the medieval preference for white foods. Golden foods, like those colored with saffron, were supposed to ensure happiness, white foods were supposed to achieve purity – and sharp, bitter, and black foodstuffs were to be avoided. [2] Soaking would lighten the color of foods by leaching out part of its colorants (like making tea) to then be disposed of separately, and could be how the technique of blanching got its name.

In the process of making marzipan from almonds, the process also seems to have another function: blanching almonds by soaking slightly hydrates the nuts. With much longer travel time from farm to table, and less ideal storage (no ziplocks or vacuum seals), medieval nuts like almonds were likely to contain less moisture than their modern counterparts and cold water soaking would counteract some of that loss of moisture. This hydration can make a difference in the making of marzipan, as dry crumbly almonds do not tend to stick together as well and would need lots more grinding (and rosewater) than their soaked counterparts. And while our modern almonds are likely to be much fresher, my scalded almonds did not make the sticky marzipan I grew up with either, putting me on this quest to figure out the why.

Sample recipes defining blanching as soaking in cold water:

Le Ménagier de Paris, 14th century:  [3]
“Another porée of new chard […] But still greener and better is that which has been sorted, then washed and cut up very small, then blanched in cold water.”

A book of cookrye. Very necessary for all such as delight therin’, gathered by “AW”, 1591:
“How to make a good Marchpaine. First take a pound of long smal almonds and blanch them in cold water, and dry them as drye as you can, then grinde them small, […]” [4]

Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, 1604: Spurling
“To make french biskit bread: Take one pound of almonds blanched in cold water, beat them verie smale […]”

The Complete Practical Cook by Charles Carter, 1730: [5]
“To make an Almond Cake. […] next morning rub it through a cource sive blanch 2 pounds of Almonds in cold water beat them with Orenge flower water very fine […]”

Other 17th and 18th century cookbooks mention both scalding and blanching in combination of preparing almonds:

The Queens Closet Opened by W.M., 1655:
“To make Marchpane to Ice and guild and garnish it according to Art. Take Almonds and blanch them out of seething water […]”

The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary; Or, The Accomplish’d Housewifes Companion by John Nott, 1723:
“8. To make Almond Bisket. […] having ready half a Pound of blanched Almonds, in cold water, beat them well […]”
“11. Almond Cakes. Beat a Pound of Almonds blanch’d in cold Water […]”
“19. To Make White Crisp’d Almonds. Scald and blanch your Almonds as before […]”
“29. Another Way. Scald and blanch you Almonds, pound them in a Mortar as before […]”
“109. Blanc-Mangers. Blanch a Pound of sweet Almonds in scalding Water, […]”

There seems to be a predilection in early cookbooks for using the term blanching when indicating the use of cold water, and the term scalding for when hot water is used, (Steinhardt) in the processing of almonds. When both blanching and scalding are mentioned together, blanch could conceivably mean the quenching step of submerging the scalded almonds in cold (iced) water. This usage of the word blanch in connection with a cold water bath is also found in the 1591 A Book of Cookrye in recipes using ingredients other than almonds:

“A Pudding in Egges. Take and boyle your Egges hard, and blanch them, […]”
“How to bake pyes of Calves feet. Take Calves feet and wash them, boyle and blanch the haire of them, […]”

As the modern definition of blanching has come to mean only a brief immersion in boiling water followed by an icewater bath, this could indicate a change of definition of the word blanch from cold water soaking in medieval times to our modern brief boiling water immersion followed by a cold dunk. The varying use of the word blanch in the 18th century Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary by John Nott – sometimes meaning cold water soak, sometimes indicating the quenching step of scalding, and sometimes even scalding alone – seems to support this theory.

Have more recipes? While there are many recipes indicating to blanch or scald your almonds (and vegetables), most do not indicate how. The ones that give more information are in the minority, so if you have one I did not list here please do not hesitate to share. I’d love to see how it fits this pattern!


Adamson, Melitta Weiss. Food in Medieval Times. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

Day, Ivan. The Complete Practical Cook by Charles Carter, London, 1730.

Dictionary: https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+blanching&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

Greco, Gina L. & Rose, Christine M. The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.

Nott, John. The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary; Or, The Accomplish’d Housewifes Companion. C. Rivington, 1723.

Spurling, Hilary (1986) Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, Penguin Books.

Waks, Mark & Jane (transcribers) A Book of Cookrye, by A. W., London, 1591. Originally published 1584. STC 24897 — Early English Text microfilms reel 1613:9

W. M., The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chirurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery ; as They Were Presented to the Queen, 1655.


[1] Dictionary
[2] Adamson, 199
[3] Greco, 279
[4] Waks
[5] Day
[6] Waks

Categories: SCA news sites

Revolutionary War musket ball found in Charleston cracks archaeological case

History Blog - Tue, 2017-07-04 23:36

A team of archaeologists and college students have unearthed a single lead musket ball from the Revolutionary War in Charleston, South Carolina. This is the first archaeological evidence found of the British lines from the Siege of Charleston in 1780.

Archaeologists and students from the College of Charleston had been excavating behind the historic Aiken-Rhett House (built in 1835 on an infilled work yard) for two weeks in the hopes of discovering physical traces of a British trench that was part of a network of trenches used to besiege the city. A ground-penetrating radar survey indicated significant soil disturbance under the surface, so the team of more than a dozen people was assembled to excavate quickly and efficiently.

On Wednesday of last week the team was excited to find a lead ball, but their hopes were dashed when it was identified a post-Revolutionary lead shot from a hunting gun. Thursday their luck turned when they dug up a small lead ball that was the proper age, fired by the proper weapon (a musket) and was flattened on one side from the impact against a target. It’s the proverbial smoking gun.

Charleston Museum Director Carl Borick has been searching for the 1780 siege line for nearly 15 years. “Based on these artifacts, my research and the archaeologists’ assessment of the mottled soil in the trench, we have pretty much confirmed it was part of the British siege lines during the 1780 siege.”

As the students worked, the director of museums for the Historic Charleston Foundation, Lauren Northup, led tours around the site explaining in detail what they hoped to discover.

“We have worked for three weeks to uncover evidence of a suspected revolutionary war seize trench dug by the British in 1780,” Northup told Fox News. “We are nearing the end of the field school and we have finally reached the trench.”

Northup says the British-built trenches were open only for a short period of time. “A trench was built very quickly and it was really meant to transport troops safely behind earthworks,” she explained. “Basically once they dug it and passed through they then filled it back in.”

That’s why it has been so difficult to find archaeological evidence of the trenches. They were dug and refilled so quickly, there’s no real structure to find. (They can’t all be Thaddeus Kosciuszko tunnels.) The only indication of their presence is the random stuff that the British troops dropped in the trench, or, as in this case, the remnants of battle.

This one tiny bullet could well crack the whole siege trench network wide open. Researchers will be able to compare the one known trench with military and historic maps of the British siege positions and marked trenches. That will give them an approximate idea of where to find whatever physical evidence survives of the other trenches.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Section of Great Wall repaired with traditional materials, toughness

History Blog - Mon, 2017-07-03 23:37

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall of China is famed for its picturesque tree-covered mountain locations and dramatic vistas of jagged peaks and plunging cliffs. Built about 50 miles north Beijing along the skinny spine of a mountain ridge with steep dropoffs left and right, Jiankou is a great draw to hikers and photographers fit enough to tackle the challenges of the winding rise and run of this section. They also have to be willing to take their lives in their hands, because it is a tough walk, all but vertical in some parts, and there are significant sections in dangerous disrepair.

The 12-miles stretch of wall at Jiankou was built during the Ming Dynasty (1369–1644). The Great Wall as we think of it today is largely the work of Ming emperors who took a scattershot collection of earthwork defenses built by their predecessors (the first border walls built to repel invaders go at least as far back as the 7th century B.C.) and transformed them into massive walls, first of tamped earth, then of stone and bricks. The Jiankou section was made of large white stone and bricks that contrast vividly with the dark greens of its wild backdrop.

It’s not clear under which Ming emperor and when exactly the stone and brick Jiankou wall was constructed. Chinese chroniclers credit Ming general and scourge of Japanese pirates Qi Jiguang (1528–1588) with repairing and improving this section of the wall when he was put in charge of defending the northern frontier from the Mongols in 1572. He also added a great many watchtowers to strengthen the border defenses. The copious use of brick in Jiankou also suggests a 16th century date, but it’s likely that the overall work was done in multiple stages of restoration, improvement and maintenance.

Repairs to the Jiankou section stopped altogether Qing conquest of China in 1644. The Qing conquered the Mongol Empire and annexed it, so the old borders were no longer relevant. The difficult terrain compounded the neglect and the wall at Jiankou was left virtually untouched for almost 400 years. There’s a big upside to centuries of abandonment in a remote location: a lot of the original materials are still in place — damaged, collapsed, structurally unsound, but original and therefore restorable to something close to its 16th century condition. More accessible sections of the wall were used as quarries for local construction so much of the original masonry and brickwork is lost forever. Others have been repaired with historically inaccurate materials like concrete (which always ends in disaster; concrete is not the friend of historic preservation) to make them more tourist-friendly.

In 2005, a program of restoration began on the Jiankou section of the Great Wall. This is excruciatingly slow work because it’s so hard getting materials up the mountain — mule trains are often the only option, and even mules can get a little cranky having to haul more than 300 pounds of bricks apiece up a precipitous mountain ridge — and finding skilled workers to do the dangerous construction job. It takes a special kind of testicular fortitude to lay brick while dangling from a rope over a freaking abyss.

The restoration is now in its third phase and the focus is on preservation, not creating a new tourist trap. Original materials are used where possible, accurate reproduction using traditional crafts where not.

Where they could, workers used the original bricks that had broken off the wall over the centuries. Where there were none to be found, they used new bricks made to exacting specifications.

“We have to stick to the original format, the original material and the original craftsmanship, so that we can better preserve the historical and cultural values,” said Cheng Yongmao, the engineer leading Jiankou’s restoration.

Cheng, 61, who has repaired 17km of the Great Wall since 2003, belongs to the 16th generation in a long line of traditional brick makers.

Just a tenth of the wall built during the Ming Dynasty has been repaired, said Dong Yaohui, vice president of the China Great Wall Association.

“In the past, we would restore the walls so that they would be visited as tourist hot spots,” he said, by contrast with today’s objective of repairing and preserving them for future generations. “This is progress.”

Amen to that. This video shows some of the workers being badasses on an ordinary day at the job site.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Site Book and Class Schedule for Great Northeastern War Now Available Electronically

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2017-07-03 11:08

The site book and class schedule for Great Northeastern War, taking place in Malagentia July 6-9, are now available for download.

Paper copies will also be available at the event, however the event staff is making these available for early download so that attendees can plan their weekend and download the information to a mobile device if they wish.

Link for the full site book (.pdf format)

Link for the Great Northeastern University book, with full class descriptions and times (.pdf format)

Link for the class “grid” handout (classes listed by location and time, no descriptions) (.pdf format)

Answers to most other questions about the event, including directions, gate opening times, fees, pets, and site rules, can be found at the event website http://www.gnewar.org.

Please check the web page and the Event page on Facebook for updates and corrections.

Filed under: Events Tagged: class list, classes, east kingdom events, electronic publications, event announcement, Great Northeastern War, Malagentia, site book, Stonemarche

Templo Mayor skull tower keeps getting skullier

History Blog - Sun, 2017-07-02 23:52

The Aztec tzompantli (skull rack) discovered in the Templo Mayor complex in downtown Mexico City two years ago has proven to be on an even vaster scale than first realized. Archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) unearthed the tower of skulls six feet under the floor of a colonial-era house west of the Templo Mayor. At the center of a rectangular platform 34 meters (111.5 feet) long and 12 meters (40 feet) wide, they found a circular structure six meters (20 feet) in diameter made of skulls mortared together with a combination of lime, sand and volcanic gravel.

Tzompantli were used by the Aztecs to display the heads of the sacrificed, usually warriors captured in battle. The skulls were pierced from temple to temple and threaded onto wooden stakes that were mounted onto vertical posts like a grisly abacus. Pierced skulls and the remains of stakes have been found before, but they’ve been very modest in size and there was no permanent, mortared structure in place studded with the skulls of sacrificial victims.

The Templo Mayor skull tower is therefore unique in the archaeological record. Holes through the parietal bones of the skulls’ indicate that as unusual as it is, the tower was part of the life cycle (death cycle?) of the Huey Tzompantli, a huge skull display in the city center that horrified even the Spanish conquistadors, no strangers to mass slaughter. One of Cortes’ soldiers, Andres de Tapia, described the Huey Tzompantli as displaying thousands of skulls at a time. Archaeologists believe the tower was the stage two, the final disposition of the heads after they’d been exposed to the public on the Tzompantli array. The defleshed heads were then mortared into the tower, all of the skulls positioned to face the inside the circle.

When the discovery was first reported in August 2015, archaeologists had found 35 skulls. Now that number is now 676, and the excavation isn’t over yet. Archaeologists fully expect the final tally will reach into the thousands, just like de Tapia said. The sheer scale of the tower is striking enough, but the inclusion of skulls of adult women, youths and small children took archaeologists by surprise.

Historians relate how the severed heads of captured warriors adorned tzompantli, or skull racks, found in a number of Mesoamerican cultures before the Spanish conquest.

But the archaeological dig in the bowels of old Mexico City that began in 2015 suggests that picture was not complete.

“We were expecting just men, obviously young men, as warriors would be, and the thing about the women and children is that you’d think they wouldn’t be going to war,” said Rodrigo Bolanos, a biological anthropologist investigating the find.

“Something is happening that we have no record of, and this is really new, a first in the Huey Tzompantli,” he added.

The Templo Mayor was one of the most important temples in the sacred precinct of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire which became Mexico City after the Spanish conquest. The tower is now located next to the Metropolitan Cathedral built over the Templo Mayor by the Spanish. When it was built during Stage VI of the construction of the Templo Mayor (between 1486 and 1502), it was on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice, a fitting location for a tower of skulls.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Pennsic Largesse Items Needed!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2017-07-02 10:46

Greetings  Most Generous Populous of Æthelmearc,

Largesse generously donated by the people of our Kingdom, given to Atendveldt at Estrella War. Photo by Mistress Hilderun Hugelmann

This year the gift exchange has departed from tradition; We do not have a Kingdom assigned to us. This gives some unexpected flexibility and opportunity for our artists. In that spirit Our Gracious Monarchs Timothy & Gabrielle will be gifting all of our Royal cousins with tokens of friendship!

There are two ways for you to be involved in this endeavor. The first is the gift exchange basket. Since there’s no Kingdom & we have already received some beautiful items to build around, the theme of the basket is Norse (Viking). Cohesive items to this theme are greatly appreciated, but all generosity is welcomed.

The second way to be involved is making items for all the Royal Cousins. To keep this manageable I’m splitting the Crown and the Consort. Ideally 15-20 like items would keep this equal & easy to distribute (for all bags we would need 30-40).  This is a big task! If you can only make 6 of something, please still do! There’s no need to worry about colors, make best use of resources available. The gift bags are approximately 12”x14”.

We have some amazing gifts for this purpose already, but value all contributions.  If you have any questions or need to brainstorm, please reach out to me (phone & Facebook preferred over email). If you have the will & ability, but not the resources, please contact me. Material assistance may be possible. Items can be delivered at events to TRM or I, mailed, or delivered at Pennsic to the Kingdom encampment. Please do so by Saturday morning, August 5th, 2017.

Please include your name, Facebook name (if applicable), home group & contact information. You can do this either once, or even better, attached to each item. You’d be surprised where your gifts end up and who might want to thank you! If liquid or consumable, please make sure items are sealed and include ingredients on each item. If you have documentation include it (but don’t fret if you don’t)! With TRM’s permission, I’m looking forward to photographing many, if not all, of the donations to share on Facebook. If for any reason you do not want your work shared, please note that as well. We want to show all the amazing deeds of our kingdom and help inspire future participation!

Great ideas can be found on the Largesse Makers Facebook group, found here.

In Service by the Grace of Timothy & Gabrielle,
Countess Anna Leigh

Facebook: Anna Leigh
412-901-3581 Cell phone (between 9am-10pm)

Categories: SCA news sites