Friday, November 27, 2015

Researchers Claim Glastonbury Ancient Legends Made Up By Cash-Strapped Monks

Ancient Origins

The famous legends of King Arthur and his round table, among other ancient myths, were stories made up and peddled by enterprising monks at Glastonbury Abbey to make some cash, say researchers. What’s more, these legends muddied modern research into the site by “clouding the judgement” of past experts.
These are the claims being made recently by a team archaeologists from the University of Reading in UK after a four year study.
The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England.
The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. (CC BY 2.0)
As reported by The Guardian the physical history of the site has been reexamined and the conclusions are:
“Those feet, immortalized in William Blake’s poem Jerusalem, never walked on the green and pleasant land of Glastonbury; the oldest church in England was not built there by Christ’s disciples; Joseph of Arimathea’s walking stick does not miraculously flower every Christmas after 2,000 years. And it turns out that the supposed link with King Arthur and his beautiful queen, Guinevere, is false too – invented by 12th-century monks faced with a financial crisis in the wake of a disastrous fire.”
Archaeologists claim the Glastonbury monks clouded the history of the site by deliberately designing renovations after a fire in 1184.  The redesign is said to have employed a purposeful archaic architectural style to generate a mythical feel, supporting popular legends and thereby raising more money from eager pilgrims.
In addition, “Arthur’s supposed grave has been revealed as a cemetery pit containing material dating from between the 11th and 15th centuries, offering no evidential links to the era of the legendary 5th and 6th century leader,” reports Culture24.
The Legendary King Arthur: "And when they came to the sword that the hand held, King Arthur took it up."
The Legendary King Arthur: "And when they came to the sword that the hand held, King Arthur took it up." (Public Domain)
Recent archaeological studies, and reassessment of older projects at the abbey between 1904 and 1979, are now casting doubt on the previous historical assumptions of the site, and the myths surrounding it.
Inside ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.
Inside ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

History of the Legendary Site

Described as “one of the most romantic religious sites in England,” Glastonbury Abbey, the ruins of a monastery established in 712 AD, is the nexus of many ancient myths and historical events featuring prominent figures, such as legendary King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, the Christian Joseph of Arimathea, and England’s King Henry VIII.
Glastonbury is popularly said to be the resting place of King Arthur, and nearby locations are connected to stories of the Holy Grail. Legend has it that it was founded by the venerated saint Joseph of Arimathea in the first century, and it is believed to be the site of the earliest church in Britain. 12th century writings connect Joseph with the Holy Grail, with him bringing it to Britain from the Holy Land in Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie.
Joseph of Arimathea by Pietro Perugino.
Joseph of Arimathea by Pietro Perugino. (Public Domain)
Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey church, Somerset, England.
Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey church, Somerset, England. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Other tales say that the church was built by Jesus himself to honor his mother, Mary.
One widespread story involving the “holy thorn” has originated from the area. In that legend, on the spot where Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury, he pierced the earth with his staff (in some versions made from the wood of the crucifixion cross), and a hawthorn tree sprouted there.
This, the “Glastonbury Thorn” stood on Wearyall Hill and was said to bloom twice a year (unlike other hawthorn trees which bloom only once a year). It was said to bloom every Christmas day for 2,000 years (until vandals cut it down in 2010, causing much grief and outrage, local and international). Hawthorn trees have been propagated by grafting in and around Glastonbury many times in order to preserve it.

A Glastonbury Thorn at Glatonbury Abbey, 1984. This tree died in 1991 and was removed in 1992.
A Glastonbury Thorn at Glatonbury Abbey, 1984. This tree died in 1991 and was removed in 1992. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The site suffered a devastating fire in 1184. It was rebuilt, and had become one of the richest and most influential monasteries in England by the 14th century.
This power did not go unchallenged long. The Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII dismantled the church, taking their money and land. Richard Whiting, the last abbot of the Glastonbury Abbey was viciously killed by hanging, then drawn and quartered as a traitor to the crown at Glastonbury Tor in 1539.

Researchers Allegedly Bewitched

Citing a lack of physical evidence to prove the historical legends, the team of 31 specialists led by Roberta Gilchrist, professor of archaeology at the University of Reading and now a trustee of Glastonbury, “found that generations of her predecessors working at the abbey were so bewitched by the legends that they either suppressed or misinterpreted evidence that did not fit,” reports The Guardian.
Site of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's purported original tomb beneath the high altar. Archaeologists now say it was filled with material dating from between the 11th and 15th centuries.
Site of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's purported original tomb beneath the high altar. Archaeologists now say it was filled with material dating from between the 11th and 15th centuries. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The archaeologists uncovered several surprising finds, including: a previously unknown prehistoric settlement of Romans and Saxons, predating the earliest monastery; A glass-working complex which has been radiocarbon dated to approximately 700 AD, making it the earliest evidence for glass-working in Saxon England; and it was found wine was imported from the continent to the site at an even earlier date, as shown by ceramic fragments.
Archaeological finds from Glastonbury Abbey.
Archaeological finds from Glastonbury Abbey. Credit: University of Reading

Perhaps more to legend than ‘made up’ stories

However, there are those that believe that ancient legends might have been retellings of actual historical figures and events. Author and researcher Ralph Ellis writes,
“Arthurian history is traditionally set in the fifth or sixth centuries, the era of the Dark Ages. This is a period in British history that is not simply ‘dark’ because of an economic and social collapse following the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire, it is also ‘dark’ because it lacks any historical records. This makes it difficult to decipher what was happening in this era, and it is this lacuna in British history that has enabled the life of King Arthur to remain enigmatic and semi-legendary for so long. Had Arthur been a king of the fourth or ninth centuries, we could easily have determined if these legends were fact or fiction, but Arthur has managed to slip into a historical crevasse where there are many known unknowns and several unknown unknowns.”    
This raises the idea that the chronicles of King Arthur and other legends during the Dark Ages may not be untrue simply because they cannot be proven through pottery sherds or skeletal remains. It may be possible that the ancient scribes poorly documented a real king or man, or an ancient history, either purposefully or accidentally, and these stories endured. Could modern interpretations of legends now be clouding the ancient past?
King Arthur's knights, gathered at the Round Table, see a vision of the Holy Grail.
King Arthur's knights, gathered at the Round Table, see a vision of the Holy Grail. (Public Domain)
The ancient myths that have resonated through time will not be so easily vanquished, if the continuing popularity of Glastonbury Abbey is any judge. And while researchers might point to the empty burial site of the mythical King Arthur as an absence of evidence, more important perhaps are the insights that come from the social history of the period gleaned from these legends.
The findings of the researchers are reportedly going to be added “gently” to the new Glastonbury guidebook so as to remain sensitive to legend.
According to the University of Reading, the main thrust now at the site is to inform future interpretation and development of the Abbey: “Glastonbury Abbey: archaeology, legend and public engagement aims to improve visitors' understanding of spatial layout, chronological development and archaeological evidence, while also exploring the Arthur and Arimathea legendary connections.”
Gilchrist explained, “We are not in the business of destroying people’s beliefs. A thousand years of beliefs and legends are part of the intangible history of this remarkable place.”
Featured Image: Glastonbury Abbey. (Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
By: Liz Leafloor   

History Trivia - First Eddystone Lighthouse destroyed in Great Storm

November 27

8 BC, Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) the great Roman lyric poet, died at Venusia, in Apulia at age 56. 

1582 William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. 

1703 The first Eddystone Lighthouse (south west of Rame Head, UK) was destroyed in the Great Storm of 1703

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

History Trivia - Danish Vikings attack Paris

November 26

886 Danish Vikings attacked Paris and were paid by the Frankish emperor Charles the Fat not to destroy the city as they had in 845 and 856.

1703 Hurricane-force winds killed as many as 8,000 people as the Great Storm swept southern England.  Bristol incurred heavy damage and the Royal Navy lost 15 warships.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hidden Chamber Theory to be Confirmed or Denied by Radar Scans beginning Thursday in Tutankhamun Tomb

Ancient Origins

A three-day operation to scan behind the walls in the burial chamber of Tutankhamun is set to begin this Thursday with the results being announced by press conference on November 28. The official investigations are designed to test out the theory by archaeologist Nicholas Reeves that the tomb of Tutankhamun contains two hidden chambers and that one of them is the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti.

The Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt launched high-tech analyses within the boy king’s tomb on November 4 and initial infrared scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb detected an area of greater heat, which may indeed point to a hidden chamber. Excitement among historians is mounting that the long lost queen, and no doubt her wealth of treasures, may finally be found.
Ahram Online reports that the new operation “will involve the use of radar signals and infrared thermography to probe the north and west walls of the boy king’s burial chamber”. Antiquities Minister Mamduh al-Damati explained that these techniques will not cause any damage within the tomb, but are designed to reveal whether there are hidden chambers behind the walls or not.

Factum Arte scans reveal possible presence of hidden doors

National Geographic reports that Nicholas Reeves first suspected hidden chambers in Tutankhamun’s tomb following a detailed examination of the Factum Arte scans of the artistic works on the walls of the tomb. Reeves noticed fissures that he thinks may indicate the presence of two sealed doors in the tomb’s north and west walls.
“Cautious evaluation of the Factum Arte scans over the course of several months has yielded results which are beyond intriguing: indications of two previously unknown doorways, one set within a larger partition wall and both seemingly untouched since antiquity,” writes Reeves in a paper on his study of the scans. “The implications are extraordinary: for, if digital appearance translates into physical reality, it seems we are now faced not merely with the prospect of a new, Tutankhamun-era storeroom to the west; to the north appears to be signalled a continuation of tomb KV 62 and within these uncharted depths an earlier royal interment—that of Nefertiti herself, celebrated consort, co-regent, and eventual successor of pharaoh Akhenaten.”
Image showing the location of the two chambers from Dr. Reeves report. The upcoming radar scan will search for their existence.
Image showing the location of the two chambers from Dr. Reeves report. The upcoming radar scan will search for their existence. (Daily Mail)

Tutankhamun hastily buried in Nefertiti’s tomb?

Reeves posits that King Tutankhamun’s tomb was unfinished when he died unexpectedly as a teenager in 1332 BC. Consequently, he was hastily buried in the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, the principal wife of Akhenaten, who is believed to have fathered Tutankhamun with another wife. Reeves believes that Tutankhamun’s tomb displaced part of Nefertiti's tomb and assumed some of her burial goods and space.
Reeves points out that the tomb is far more typical of Egyptian queens rather than king due to its position to the right of the entrance shaft. In addition, the small size of Tutankhamun's burial chamber has been puzzling to Egyptologists, who have wondered why his burial chamber is the same size as an antechamber and not the typical size of a tomb fit for an Egyptian King. These factors suggest that Tutankhamun’s tomb is part of a larger complex that has not yet been uncovered or that the tomb may not have been intended for him but rather for Nefertiti.
Nefertiti was the chief consort of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), who reigned from approximately 1353 to 1336 BC.  Known as the Ruler of the Nile and Daughter of Gods, she acquired unprecedented power, and is believed to have held equal status to the pharaoh himself.  However, much controversy lingers about Nefertiti after the twelfth regal year of Akhenaten, when her name vanishes from the pages of history. Despite numerous searches, her final resting place has never been found. She is one of the most searched-for queens in Egyptian history.
The iconic bust of Nefertiti, discovered by Ludwig Borchardt, is part of the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, currently on display in the Altes Museum
The iconic bust of Nefertiti, discovered by Ludwig Borchardt, is part of the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, currently on display in the Altes Museum (public domain).

Infrared scan provided initial evidence of hidden chamber

Last month, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities gave approval for testing of Reeves theory and on November 4 high-tech but low impact analyses were initiated.  The first test involved infrared thermography, which measures temperature distributions on a surface.
According to Mamdouh el-Damaty, the Minister of Antiquities, “the preliminary analysis indicates the presence of an area different in its temperature than the other parts of the northern wall.” The variation in temperature hints at an open area behind the wall.
“If Dr Reeves is correct, the hidden tomb could be far more magnificent than anything found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber,” reports National Geographic.
While Dr Reeves is strong in his assertion that any mummy discovered in a hidden chamber is likely to be Nefertiti, Antiquities Minister al-Damati believes otherwise. According to Agence France Press, Damati believes that any mummy buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb would be more likely to be Kiya, a wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten.
Featured image: Scans of the north wall of King Tutankhamun's burial chamber have revealed features beneath the intricately decorated plaster (highlighted) a researcher believes may be a hidden door, possibly to the burial chamber of Nefertiti. Credit: Factum Arte.
By: April Holloway

History Trivia - White ship sinks in English Channel

November 25

 955 King Eadred brought Northumbria permanently under English rule.  

1120 The White Ship sank in the English Channel, drowning William Adelin, son of Henry I of England.   

1343 a tsunami, caused by an earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea, devastated Naples (Italy) and the Maritime Republic of Amalfi.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Audio Book Release - Ty the Bull by Brenda Perlin

Everything seemed to fall apart for Ty when his parents got a divorce. At his wits end after being bullied endlessly, he started to ditch school. It wasn't until he met up with a skater named Peacock that things somehow turned around and he put the pieces of his life back together.

Audible Link

Amazon Link

iTunes Link