Saturday, May 30, 2015

History Trivia - Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour

May 30,

70 Siege of Jerusalem: Titus and his Roman legions breached the Second Wall of Jerusalem. The Jewish wars financed the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater,  which took ten years to build.

 1536 King Henry VIII of England married Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting to his first two wives.

 1593 Leading Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a pub brawl in Deptford.

Friday, May 29, 2015

History Trivia - Byzantine Empire ends

May 29,

 363 Roman Emperor Julian defeated the Sassanid army in the Battle of Ctesiphon, under the walls of the Sassanid capital, but was unable to take the city.

1167 Battle of Monte Porzio – A Roman army supporting Pope Alexander III was defeated by Christian of Buch and Rainald of Dassel.

1453 The Roman Empire in the east (Byzantine Empire) came to an end as Ottoman sultan Mehmet II captured Constantinople.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mystery Deepens Over Rare Roman Tombstone

Detail of the mysterious Roman inscription.
Cotswold Archaeology

Discovery News

Mystery has deepened over a Roman tombstone unearthed earlier this year in western England, as new research revealed it had no link with the skeleton laying beneath it.
The inscribed stone was discovered during the construction work of a parking lot in Cirencester.
Made from Cotswold limestone, it was found laying on its front in a grave — directly above an adult skeleton.
When it was turned over, the honey colored stone revealed fine decorations and five lines of Latin inscription which read: “D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII,” possibly meaning: “To the shades of the underworld, Bodicacia, spouse, lived 27 years.”
The discovery was hailed as unique since the stone was believed to be the only tombstone from Roman Britain to record the person found beneath.
In fact, while the dedication on the tombstone is to a woman, the skeleton beneath it was that of a male.
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It turns out the gravestone and skeleton were also laid at different times — the inscribed stone was early Roman, dating to the 2nd century A.D., while the burial was most certainly late Roman, from the 4th century A.D..
“We believe the tombstone to have been re-used as a grave cover perhaps as long as two centuries after it was first erected,” Ed McSloy, Cotswold Archaeology’s finds expert, told Discovery News.
Martin Henig and Roger Tomlin, leading experts in Roman sculpture and inscriptions at the University of Oxford, noted that the back of the stone is very roughly worked, almost unfinished, in strong contrast to the finely sculpted front.
Unlikely to have been a free-standing tombstone, the five-foot-long inscribed stone may have rather been set into walls, possibly those of a mausoleum.
Who the grave belonged to remains a mystery.
“Reading the letters, the most plausible interpretation of the name is Bodicacia, a previously unknown Celtic name,” McSloy said.
Gladiator Chews Out Ref From Grave
Indeed the name appears to be a variant of a Celtic name with same root as Boudicca. This was the rebel queen of the Iceni, a British tribe, who unsuccessfully attempted to defeat the Romans.
Bodicacia’s tombstone was also unique. The pediment, which is the decorated, triangular portion at top of the stone, shows the Roman god Oceanus.
A divine personification of the sea in the classical world, the god was portrayed with a long mustache, stylized long hair, and crab-like pincers above the head.
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The image, according to McSloy “is also hitherto unknown in funerary sculpture.”
Most likely, Bodicacia was deprived of her unique tombstone sometime in the fourth century, when her funerary stone was buried in a grave. At the same time or before this date, Oceanus was deliberately defaced.
“The most likely context for this would be early Christian iconoclasm,” McSloy said.
The tombstone will be soon put on permanent display at Cirencester’s Corinium Museum.

Saxon butter churn found in Staffordshire sheds light on life in Mercian Kingdom

Archaeologists working on the site of a rail improvement project in the UK have discovered the lid of a butter churn from the Saxon period.
The discovery of a wooden object at Norton Bridge, reported in the Staffordshire Newsletter, was made on the site of a new flyover currently being constructed by Network Rail along with 11 new bridges. The work is being carried out in order to remove a bottleneck on the busy West Coast Main Line.
The artifact was discovered among the remains of worked wooden stakes and wood chips on waterlogged peat near Meece Road, just south of Yarnfield in Staffordshire. Radiocarbon tests have dated the wooden lid to 715 to 890 AD when the area was part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The results show that the artifact is roughly the same age as the famous Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold found anywhere in the world.
The Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in a field in Hammerwich, near Lichfield in July 2009, is perhaps the most important collection of Anglo-Saxon objects found in England. 2009, David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in a field in Hammerwich, near Lichfield in July 2009, is perhaps the most important collection of Anglo-Saxon objects found in England. 2009, David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. (
Archaeologists originally believed the lid to be far older, as evidence of prehistoric occupation has been discovered nearby. Furthermore, no pottery or other metalwork was found on the site, which could have helped to date the artifact. Dr Emma Tetlow of Headland Archaeology said she was delighted by the find as precious little evidence of the Mercian kingdom has been discovered in the UK so far. Wooden artifacts and other organic evidence from the Saxon period are very rare indeed.
“During this period this part of Staffordshire was part of the Mercian heartland and was populated by a pagan tribe called the Pencersaete” said Dr Tetlow. “Existing knowledge of this period for the north and east of the Midlands and the UK in general is very scarce, so this find is fantastic and of regional significance.”
Dr Tetlow said that the climate of the area at that time would not have been too different from that experienced by people in the UK today as the country was becoming affected by dynamic climate change at the start of what is now known as the ‘Medieval Warm Period’. This was a short climatic interval that is thought to have taken place roughly between 900 and 1300 AD, predominantly affecting the Northern Hemisphere. The Pencersaete would therefore have had to endure unsettled and stormy weather including flooding and a general increase in temperature.
Map of England showing where Mercia was located in the 700-late 800’s.
Map of England showing where Mercia was located in the 700-late 800’s. (Wikimedia Commons)
Butter churns were containers, looking much like a wooden barrel, used to convert cream into butter. They had a hole in the lid through which a pole was inserted. This was then used to agitate the cream in order to disrupt the milk fat, the membranes of which break down thereby creating lumps called butter grains. These join with each other to form larger globules and when the air is forced out of them the mixture becomes buttermilk. Constant and continued churning forces the globules together to form butter. Consumption of butter can be traced as far back as 2000 BC.
Butter churning equipment with all the features for churning, storing, and processing. At the Beskid Museum in Wisła. Photo by Piotrus, 2008.
Butter churning equipment with all the features for churning, storing, and processing. At the Beskid Museum in Wisła. Photo by Piotrus, 2008. (Wikimedia Commons)
The archaeologists intend holding an information day when members of the public can view the finds and discuss them with Dr Tetlow and her colleagues. Dr Tetlow is also planning to write a paper on the discovery for the Stafford and Mid-Staffs Archaeological Society.
Mercia was one of the seven great kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, the other kingdoms being East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex. It was ruled from a capital at Tamworth and expanded rapidly during the 6th and 7th centuries, becoming one of the ‘big three’ kingdoms alongside Northumbria and Wessex. The first ruler of Mercia was King Icel (515-535 AD) and the last was Queen AElfwynn (918 AD) who was deposed by King Edward the Elder of Wessex when he rode into the kingdom and conquered it. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions this episode, commenting that “the daughter of Æthelred, lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all dominion over the Mercians, and carried into Wessex, three weeks before mid-winter; she was called Ælfwynn.” Mercia reached its strongest point during the rule of King Offa when the kingdom dominated much of central England.
King Offa of Mercia from the Benefactors Book of St. Alban's Abbey. C1380.
King Offa of Mercia from the Benefactors Book of St. Alban's Abbey. C1380. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Pencersaete took their name from the Penk Valley, named after a hill near Penkridge. They are named in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 849 describing the area of Cofton Hackett in the Lickey Hills, south of the present city of Birmingham. This region formed the boundary between the Pencersaete and their neighbors, the Tomsaete.
Featured Image: Butter Churn from the Saxon Period, found at Norton Bridge.

History Trivia - Acre falls, ending the Crusades

May 28,

585 BC A solar eclipse occurred, as predicted by Greek philosopher and scientist Thales, while Alyattes was battling Cyaxares in the Battle of the Eclipse, leading to a truce. This was one of the cardinal dates from which other dates can be calculated.

1291 Acre, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, fell to the Moslems, ending the Crusades.

1588 The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, set sail from Lisbon heading for the English Channel. (It would take until May 30 for all ships to leave port).


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Staffordshire hoard: experts piece together rare warrior's helmet

A reconstructed helmet band, depicting a frieze of warriors, which was found as part of the Staffordshire hoard. Photograph: Birmingham museums trust/PA
Anglo-Saxon headgear reconstructed from more than 1,500 pieces as £400,000 grant is announced to fund further work on the treasure

The Guardian

More than 1,500 scraps of silver gilt foil from the Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure, including strips stamped with designs of warriors and beasts and other fragments the size of a fingernail, are being pieced together by archaeologists and conservators into a warrior’s helmet of international importance – as it is one of only five ever found.
With years of conservation and research remaining, Historic England will announce a £400,000 grant on Tuesday to fund the continuing study of the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon precious metal work ever found. It was discovered by a metal detector in 2010 in Staffordshire farmland before another 90 pieces were recovered from the same field three years later.
Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent councils, joint owners of the hoard, are trying to raise an additional £120,000 towards the project, which will include an online catalogue of the complete hoard by 2017.
“Until we started fitting the pieces together we weren’t even quite sure that we had a helmet, but we are now certain that we have most of it,” said Pieta Greaves, coordinator of the conservation team at the Birmingham museum. “We are missing some pieces including the iron frame, but we should end up with an academically respectable guestimate of what it could have looked like. I think some form of reconstruction will prove feasible.”
The helmet would have dazzled when new, set with bands of precious metal and golden intricately decorated pieces covering the ears.
“We’re missing bits that we see on the Sutton Hoo helmet, like the eyebrow and face protectors, but we have the ear pieces, most of the cap and the crest. What we have is the valuable bits, the stripped out silver and gold – it may be that somebody else got a bag full of base metal to melt down,” Greaves said.
The hoard is unique in that it consists entirely of male ornament and decorative weapon fittings – “warrior bling” as one archaeologist put it – and a few Christian pieces that may have been wrenched off bibles or reliquaries. Among more than 4,000 pieces nothing has been identified that was made for a woman.
A detail of the front of the reconstructed sword pommel.
A detail of the front of the reconstructed sword pommel. Photograph: Birmingham Museums Trust/PA
The meticulous cleaning and study of even the tiniest pieces has also identified a unique sword pommel, which was among more than 70 examples in the hoard, that combines Irish and British styles, and materials including gold, silver, garnet, glass and deliberately blackened silver niello work.
Chris Fern, the project archaeologist, said the skill of the workmanship was thrilling and the pommel a truly exciting object. “It combines multiple different styles of ornament, much in the same way as the earliest seventh-century illuminated manuscripts do, like the Book of Durrow. It suggests the coming together of Anglo-Saxon and British or Irish high cultures.”
Greaves said the pommel was the only piece to combine so many materials: “It’s as if the craftsman was showing off, saying look at me, look at what I can really do.”
The gallery for the hoard opened in October by Birmingham city museum has had more than 110,000 visitors. Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Since its discovery in 2009, the Staffordshire hoard and the stories behind it have captured the public imagination.”

History Trivia - Procopius executed

May 27,

366 Procopius, Roman usurper against Valens, and member of the Constantinian dynasty was executed.

 1153 Malcolm IV became King of Scotland.

1564 John Calvin, one of the dominant figures of the Protestant Reformation, died in Geneva.