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Senin, 30 April 2012
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One of the most debated developments in human history is the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. This week’s edition of Science presents the genetic findings of a Swedish-Danish research team, which show that agriculture spread to Northern Europe via migration from Southern Europe.


“We have been able to show that the genetic variation of today’s Europeans was strongly affected by immigrant Stone Age farmers, though a number of hunter-gatherer genes remain,” says Assistant Professor Anders Götherström of the Evolutionary Biology Centre, who, along with Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson, co-led the study, a collaboration with Stockholm University and the University of Copenhagen.

“What is interesting and surprising is that Stone Age farmers and hunter-gatherers from the same time had entirely different genetic backgrounds and lived side by side for more than a thousand years, to finally interbreed,” Mattias Jakobsson says.

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World
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Ancient Egyptian Mummy Suffered Rare and Painful Disease

Around 2,900 years ago, an ancient Egyptian man, likely in his 20s, passed away after suffering from a rare, cancer-like disease that may also have left him with a type of diabetes.

When he died he was mummified, following the procedure of the time. The embalmers removed his brain (through the nose it appears), poured resin-like fluid into his head and pelvis, took out some of his organs and inserted four linen “packets” into his body. At some point the mummy was transferred to the 2,300 year-old sarcophagus of a woman named Kareset, an artifact that is now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia.


The mummy transfer may have been the work of 19th-century antiquity traders keen on selling Kareset's coffin but wanting to have a mummy inside to raise the price.

Until now, scientists had assumed a female mummy was inside the Egyptian coffin. The new research reveals not only that the body does not belong to Kareset, but the male mummy inside was sick. His body showed telltale signs that he suffered from Hand-Schuller-Christian disease, an enigmatic condition in which Langerhans cells, a type of immune cell found in the skin, multiply rapidly.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience
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Ten top tips for getting into archaeology

Joe Flatman, author of the award-winning book ‘Becoming an archaeologist: a guide to professional pathways’, tell us his 10 top tips for getting into archaeology.

 Archaeology offers tremendous opportunities for involvement, whether a lifelong interest alongside another career, or a career in itself. It is never too early or too late to become involved in archaeology, and archaeology transcends borders, cultures, languages and social and economic divisions. Anyone anywhere can become involved in archaeology if they wish, and the opportunities to become involved improve all the time.

 The best way to get involved in archaeology is to find out what opportunities for participation are available in your own neighbourhood, through your local archaeology or history society or club, national organisations or local government, schools or universities.There are talks, walks, guides and events on nearly every week around the world; there are also hundreds of opportunities every year to go on more formal training in archaeological techniques and so become involved in actual fieldwork. Many of these events are free; even the ones that charge are rarely all that expensive. Archaeologists are well aware that people don’t have that much money to spare and fight to keep costs of events down. Almost all events are advertised online.Membership of local or national archaeology organizations is similarly cheap and extremely good value. Membership brings you into contact with likeminded people in your neighbourhood and provides access to information and resources like newsletters and magazines, events and even library facilities.

Click here to read this article from Current Archaeology
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Minggu, 29 April 2012
International Congress on Medieval Studies coming next month

Western Michigan University will stage its 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies, the largest, most comprehensive academic conference of its kind in the world, Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13. Worldwide, the congress annually attracts some 3,000 medievalists--professional academics, students and enthusiasts interested in the Middle Ages.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, which began as a biennial gathering in 1962 and grew to become an annual event in 1970. Now named the International Congress on Medieval Studies, it is sponsored by WMU's Medieval Institute and held primarily in venues on the University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

 The Medieval Institute, also founded 50 years ago, ranks among the top 10 North American institutes, centers and programs that focus on medieval studies. Established for instruction and research in the history and culture of the Middle Ages, its pioneering function was to introduce the first Master of Arts in Medieval Studies offered at a state-supported university in the United States.

 A half century later, WMU remains one of the few public colleges and universities in the nation with an interdisciplinary graduate program in medieval studies, with the Medieval Institute having earned a global reputation for its academic programs, medieval congress, notable research activities and longstanding scholarly publications program.

Click here to read the full article from Western Michigan University

See also our videos from last year's Congress:

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Jumat, 27 April 2012
Conference explores land and sea in Middle Ages

The great religious, political and economic upheaval of the early medieval era has been the topic of conversation at a meeting of international scholars at The University of Queensland this week.

 The Land and Sea in the Early Middle Ages Conference focused on the 300-1100 period and featured a range of research papers on topics including Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Arthurian travel, medieval naval warfare, rebel Roman emperors, harbours in Constantinople, and piracy.

 “The Early Middle Ages was a time of great religious, political and economic change,” said conference convener Dr Amelia Brown, from UQ's School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics. “A number of creative new political, religious and economic systems that were born in this era still flourish today. New technologies were advancing knowledge and quality of life, and many of these related to seafaring.

 “The sea allowed for intensive communication between the newly Christianised and Islamized coastal areas, in a way that continues up until now — for good (exchange of ideas, trade, knowledge) and for bad (refugees, warfare, the Crusades).”

The conference, held between April 26 and 28, explored the persistence of contact by sea across coastal and riverine landscapes from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages, in areas ranging from Ireland to the Levant, and Scandinavia to the shores of North Africa.

“By comparing ancient and modern responses to the same landscape, we can learn about human capabilities, and answer some long-running questions about the development of religious, political and economic systems in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa,” Dr Brown said.

Click here to read this article from the University of Queensland

Click here to visit the conference website
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Kamis, 26 April 2012
The ideal medieval Jewish woman


Whenever one reads about Jewish women in medieval Ashkenaz, the name of Dolce of Worms is certain to appear. (Dolce is derived from the Latin for pleasant or charming). Her life is described in the famous elegy composed by her widowed husband which is his version of “A Woman of Valor” (Proverbs 31). This poetic composition is preceded by two paragraphs in prose that provide graphic details of her death in 1196.

The poem contains the author’s name, R. Elazar, in an internal acrostic; its content portrays an ideal woman who seems to have been involved in an unbelievable number of activities. Dolce and Elazar were German Jewish pietists, known as Hasidei Ashkenaz. Thus the emphasis in the elegy on her piety, her God-fearing lifestyle and her saintliness are part and parcel of the values of this society.

It seems as though Dolce never sat still for a moment, or at least not according to her husband’s account. She engaged in the usual wifely activities expected of an Orthodox woman, cooking for her family and allowing her learned husband to be totally involved in Torah study and good deeds and encouraging her sons to study. This might seem to have been enough to occupy her time, but Elazar was nowhere near finished. As it turns out, Dolce was busy spinning thread for tefillin and for binding books as well as scrolls. According to this report, she sewed approximately 40 Torah scrolls and prepared the wool for prayer shawl fringes.

Click here to read this article from the Jerusalem Post
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Rabu, 25 April 2012
Near-infrared spectroscopy illuminates medieval art

Scientists in the US and Italy have borrowed a technique more usually associated with geophysical remote sensing and applied it to medieval artwork - with stunning results. The near-infrared hyperspectral imaging of a leaf from a 15th century illuminated manuscript has produced a map of the pigment binders used by the artist.

The technique will not only allow conservation specialists to better plan strategies for restoring and stabilising paintings, but will also give art historians new insights into the materials and methods favoured by individual artists. Art historians and conservationists need detailed information about materials used by artists, such as the pigments and the organic binding agents, for example gum Arabic or egg white, which were used to carry the pigment.

In some cases it is possible to remove tiny samples from the artwork for analysis, or to use imaging techniques on a small area of the work. But until now it has been difficult to obtain an overview of the materials used across the work as a whole.

Click here to read this article from Chemistry World
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Selasa, 24 April 2012
$800-million ancient Rome theme park planned - in Rome

The wonders of the ancient city of Rome will be re-created as a gigantic theme park a few kilometres from the original monuments, if Gianni Alemanno, the mayor, has his way.

The grandiose project is being nicknamed the Disneyland of Ancient Rome or Romaland. Those backing the project envisage millions of tourists having the chance to stroll through the ancient forum, race chariots around the Circus Maximus, climb down into the catacombs or loll in the Baths of Caracalla.



Visitors will get to watch gladiator fights and battle re-enactments in the Colosseum, although officials say it is unlikely that a full-size version will be built. "The idea is to give the visitor a sense of what the ancient life of Rome was. That's the target," Antonio Gazzellone, Rome's leading tourist official, said.

The plans call for a 240-hectare site on the outskirts of Rome with five hotels, all of which will generate 9,000 jobs. The designers say that an estimated five million foreigners and three million Italians will visit the park every year.

Click here to read this article from the Ottawa Citizen

See also Qatar could invest in ancient Rome theme park: reports
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An Algorithm for Preserving Art

Paolo Dionisi Vici's life's work is preserving aging art made from wood. He gets misty-eyed encountering rare artifacts from his hometown in Tuscany. He looks strikingly like Frank Zappa.

In other words, Dionisi Vici seems an unlikely person to get excited about the wireless sensors that are typically used to monitor the temperature of busy computers packed into IBM data servers. But that's exactly what he was excited about on April 6 in the busy halls of the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's upper Manhattan branch, which contains some 3,000 medieval works.

With technical assistance from IBM, Dionisi Vici, an associate research scientist for the Met, has deployed 120 low-power temperature and humidity sensors there since June of last year in his quest to determine the ideal environmental conditions for priceless wood works.

Click here to read this article from Technology Review

See also our profile of The Cloisters
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Senin, 23 April 2012
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For the first time a new scientific technique has allowed us into the minds and motivations of medieval people – through their dirty books. A new technique invented by Dr Kathryn Rudy, lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, can measure which pages in medieval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore, the most read.

 A machine called a densitometer allows the dirt contained within the pages of books centuries old to reveal the inner thoughts of our ancestors. Dr Rudy’s new technique with the machine, used on medieval prayer books, has shown people were as self-interested, and afraid of illness as today. The ground-breaking research has even managed to pinpoint the moment that people fell asleep reading the same book.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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Minggu, 22 April 2012
Kalamazoo, and Tolkien Too

Every year about 3,000 medievalists descend on Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, but tucked into the over 600 sessions on every medieval topic imaginable, you can find 6 or 7 sessions on Tolkien, often referred to as “Tolkien at Kalamazoo.” You don’t have to be a medieval scholar to attend this conference, though I should say that it is meant to be a scholarly event — still, there’s lots of fun to be had, especially in the Friday night “Tolkien Unbound” entertainment, or the Saturday night dance, or in some of the gaming sessions, or dinner at Bilbo’s Restaurant.

Click here to read this article from The One Ring
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Jumat, 20 April 2012
Europe's 'ugliest castle' celebrates 1000 years


A new exhibition in Carlisle Castle's Militia Store tells the near 1000 year story of the often battered castle – at various times a Norman castle, frontier fortress, administrative centre, royal palace and garrison.

Nearby is the Captain's Tower, probably built by Henry II in the 1180s, and open to the public for the first time in 25 years.


New research is also being carried out on a number of intriguing medieval stone carvings in an upper floor of the Keep. The intricate carvings, now thought to have probably been made by bored guards, include images of mermaids, stags and heraldic devises. These have been subjected to a new specialist survey technique called photogrammetry.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian
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In the winter of 479 B.C., a tsunami was the savior of Potidaea, drowning hundreds of Persian invaders as they lay siege to the ancient Greek village. New geological evidence suggests that the region may still be vulnerable to tsunami events, according to Klaus Reicherter of Aachen University in Germany and his colleagues.

The Greek historian Herodotus described the strange retreat of the tide and massive waves at Potidaea, making his account the first description of a historical tsunami. Reicherter and colleagues have added to the story by sampling sediments on the Possidi peninsula in northern Greece where Potidaea (and its modern counterpart, Nea Potidea) is located. The sediment cores show signs of “high-energy” marine events like significant waves, and excavations in the suburbs of the nearby ancient city of Mende have uncovered a high-energy level dated to the 5th century B.C. The Mende layer contains much older marine seashells that were probably scoured from the ocean bed and deposited during a tsunami.

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World
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An archaeological investigation at Furness Abbey in northwest England has uncovered the grave of an abbot, which includes an extremely rare medieval silver-gilt crozier and bejewelled ring.


The grave, which could date back to the 12th century, was uncovered by Oxford Archaeology North, as they were investigated ways to repair the sinking foundations of the ruined abbey. An initial examination of his skeleton, which is currently in the care of Oxford Archaeology North, indicated that he was probably between 40 and 50 years old when he died. Like many monastic burials of middle-aged and older men, he had a pathological condition of the spine often considered to be associated with obesity and mature-onset (Type II) diabetes. Tests will soon be carried out to determine a more exact date of when  the abbot died.

The grave was situated in the presbytery, the most prestigious position in the church and generally reserved for the richest benefactors. Most Cistercian abbots were buried in the chapter house.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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Rabu, 18 April 2012
Rare Ancient Statue Depicts Topless Female Gladiator


A small bronze statue dating back nearly 2,000 years may be that of a female gladiator, a victorious one at that, suggests a new study.

If confirmed the statue would represent only the second depiction of a woman gladiator known to exist.

The gladiator statue shows a topless woman, wearing only a loincloth and a bandage around her left knee. Her hair is long, although neat, and in the air she raises what the researcher, Alfonso Manas of the University of Granada, believes is a sica, a short curved sword used by gladiators. The gesture she gives is a "salute to the people, to the crowd," Manas said, an action done by victorious gladiators at the end of a fight.

The female fighter is looking down at the ground, presumably at her fallen opponent.

Click here to read this article by Owen Jarus from LiveScience
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The British Library has announced that it has successfully acquired the St Cuthbert Gospel, a miraculously well-preserved 7th century manuscript that is the oldest European book to survive fully intact and therefore one of the world’s most important books.

The £9 million purchase price for the Gospel has been secured following the largest and most successful fundraising campaign in the British Library’s history.

The single largest contribution to the campaign was a £4.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) together with major gifts from the Art Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation. In addition, the campaign received a number of significant donations from charitable trusts, foundations and major individual donors, along with gifts from members of the public.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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Early printed book contains rare evidence of medieval spectacles


Many scholars rank the invention of eyeglasses among the most important contributions to humankind in the last 2,000 years. Yet, the inventor of this now thoroughly quotidian piece of technology remains anonymous. Indeed the inventor (or inventors) will almost certainly never be known, given the numerous conflicting claims, lack of specificity, and scarcity of surviving documentation.


What scholars do know about the history of eyeglasses is that they were probably invented at the end of the thirteenth century by a craftsman living near Pisa. The evidence originates from a passage by Friar Giordano da Pisa who recounts having met the anonymous craftsman in 1286. A friend of Giordano named Friar Allesandro della Spina learned how to make them shortly thereafter and shared the secret with the public. A number of other possible inventors of eyeglasses have been posited over the centuries, all of which have finally been proven spurious in recent scholarship.

During the early period of the production of eyeglasses, they were referred to as vitreos ab oculis ad legendum (eyeglasses for eyes for reading) and oglarios de vitro (spectacles with glass lenses). Eventually these rather clunky terms were shortened to occhiali and ocularia. Either way, the evidence indicates that spectacles were probably invented in Italy at the end of the thirteenth century, and by the early fourteenth century, they were being produced and sold in Venice.

Click here to read this article from the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin
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Medieval Congress free to local residents registering now


Kalamazoo County residents and members of the Western Michigan University community may attend the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies for free if they register online or in person by the Wednesday, April 25, deadline for early registration.
WMU's congress is the world's largest annual gathering of people interested in the Middle Ages. This year's event will take place Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13, primarily at venues on the WMU campus in Kalamazoo. It is hosted by the University's Medieval Institute.

Organizers expect some 3,000 people to register for the 2012 congress, and those interested in attending for free are encouraged to register by the early registration deadline.

The event will include more than 550 sessions featuring the presentation of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and performances.

Click here to read this article from Western Michigan University
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Selasa, 17 April 2012
Viking-era 'piggy bank' yields silver treasure

A bronze, Viking-era "piggy-bank" containing thousands silver coins dating from the 11th century has been unearthed on the Baltic island of Gotland in what Swedish archaeologists have described as a "fantastic" treasure find.


The silver treasure was found last Thursday during an archaeological examination of a field in Rone, on southern Gotland.

"We had an expert out there with a metal detector who got a signal that he's found something pretty big," Per Widerström, an archaeologist with the Gotland Museum, told The Local.

The same field has yielded previous treasure finds, including a well-known discovery from the 1880s, when a collection of nearly 6,000 coins dating from the 11th century were uncovered.

Click here to read this article from The Local
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A Waikato academic has found fragments of centuries-old manuscripts sewn into the bindings of books at Auckland's Central City Library.

Alexandra Barratt, emeritus professor at Waikato University, was going through the pages of a 15th century Latin bible when she discovered the fragments.

"I noticed in the middle of some of the quires [booklets within the bible] there were strips of parchment and I thought they actually looked much earlier than the sort of manuscript that I'm used to dealing with."

An English expert, with an interest in manuscripts in New Zealand, she believes they are from early ninth century and are the earliest example of Western manuscripts in Australasia and possibly the southern hemisphere.

"I was very surprised because these Carolingian manuscripts are early and quite rare and I never expected to see one in Auckland. It's a very unlikely place to see something quite as old as that."

Click here to read this article from Stuff.co.nz
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Minggu, 15 April 2012
Genghis Khan sculpture unveiled in London

A bronze sculpture of Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan has been unveiled at Marble Arch in central London.
The 16ft tall (5m) statue captures the legendary leader wearing Mongolian armour on his steed.
The sculpture by artist Dashi Namdakov will stand next to Cumberland Gate until early September.
The artist, who had an interest in the nomadic tribes of Mongolia, wanted to honour the warrior on the 850th anniversary of his birth.
He said: "If I wanted to show him as a warrior I would have shown him as a warrior, but he is a thinker in this case. He is a divine figure in my country."

Click here to read this article from the BBC
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Medieval lecturer uses role-playing to teach history

The black-robed women in Tony Silvestri's Medieval Experience course at Washburn University sat in a circle in the International House as guest lecturer Carla Tilghman showed them how to embroider running and chain stitches on a small square of fabric. Sewing was a skill they needed to master if they wanted to improve their lot in life and "marry up," said Tilghman, who teaches art history at the university. "If a woman doesn't marry, she's a burden on her family," she confided.
As the young women continued to maneuver their needles through the fabric, Tilghman, dressed in an early 12th-century ensemble of handwoven, embroidered cloth, talked about the roles of women, poetry and the fate of unfaithful spouses. On the other side of the classroom, male students — also wearing black academic robes — quietly studied under Silvestri's supervision. Click here to read this article from The Topeka Capital-Journal
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Sabtu, 14 April 2012
The Riddle Of Mark Twain's Passion For Joan Of Arc

Mark Twain’s obsession with Joan of Arc has to rank among the most baffling and least talked about enigmas in American literature. Even for those entrenched within the competitive world of Twain scholarship, stories like the one above are usually treated as interesting, but ultimately trifling, anecdotes, illustrative of the eccentricities of a predictably unconventional man.

 The same might also be said of his book about the French heroine. Published in 1896, when its author was 61, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc has long been viewed as something of an aberration, a curio—the type of genre-bending work that a bored, established writer often undertakes in order to buck audience expectations. Narrated by a fictionalized version of Joan’s servant and scribe, Sieur Louis de Conte, the book spans the majority of Joan’s life, beginning with her childhood in eastern France and ending with her questionable trial and execution. While other Twain novels such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper are also set in medieval Europe, far from the author’s more familiar milieu of mid-19th century Missouri, Recollections is unique in its somber tone.

Click here to read this article from The Awl
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Jumat, 13 April 2012
Israel's Other Temple: Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy

The Jews had significant competition in antiquity when it came to worshipping Yahweh. Archeologists have discovered a second great temple not far from Jerusalem that predates its better known cousin. It belonged to the Samaritans, and may have been edited out of the Bible once the rivalry had been decided.




Clad in gray coat, Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob, 85, is sitting in the dim light of his house. He strikes up a throaty chant, a litany in ancient Hebrew. He has a full beard and is wearing a red kippah on his head.

The man is a high priest -- and his family tree goes back 132 generations. He says: "I am a direct descendent of Aaron, the brother of the prophet Moses" -- who lived perhaps over 3,000 years ago.
Ab-Chisda is the spiritual leader of the Samaritans, a sect that is so strict that its members are not even allowed to turn on the heat on the Sabbath. They never eat shrimp and only marry among themselves. Their women are said to be so impure during menstruation that they are secluded in special rooms for seven days.


Click here to read this article from Der Spiegel
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Timbuktu: Mali's treasure at risk from armed uprising


For centuries, Timbuktu has existed in the Western imagination as a byword for the most exotic, far-flung place conceivable. Situated on the southern edge of the Sahara, it acquired a near-mythical status in distant countries for its fabled inaccessibility, and for the accounts of the dazzling material and intellectual wealth to be found there.


Intrigued visitors continue to be drawn by the treasures that survive from the city's medieval golden age as an important academic, religious and mercantile center -- its great earthen mosques, and hundreds of thousands of scholarly manuscripts held in public and private collections.

The city, today part of present-day Mali and known as the "city of 333 saints" for the Sufi imams, sheiks and scholars buried there, was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.

But there are fears this carefully preserved legacy could be under threat from groups of armed rebels who have overrun the ancient city this month, in the vacuum left by retreating Malian government forces.

Click here to read this article from CNN
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Graffiti at St Leonard's Hospital 'attack on York heritage'


Graffiti daubed on the ruins of a medieval building in York has been described by police as "a disgusting attack" on the city's heritage.

Vandals used black paint and marker pen on the walls of St Leonard's Hospital, which dates back to the 12th Century.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "This is a disgusting attack on York's heritage and those responsible should be deeply ashamed."

He urged anyone with information about the attack to contact police.

Click here to read this article from the BBC
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Kamis, 12 April 2012
Norway: Ancient coins offer clues about medieval society

Norway’s economic system in the Middle Ages was more sophisticated than previously thought. This claim is based on research on coin circulation in Norwegian society in the years between 1050 to 1320. In this period the use of coins was widespread and frequent, according to historian Svein Gullbekk at the University of Oslo. His study, The velocity of circulation of Norwegian coins c. 1050 to c. 1320 was recently published in a history periodical.



“This debate has been going on for 10 to 15 years,” says Svein Gullbekk. “The main question has been if goods were paid for by coins or commodities.”

The answer to the question reaches further than one might think. Coin circulation in a medieval society says something about its economic system, and whether it was possible for the national government to organize, carry out, and maintain a system based on a fixed currency.

Click here to read this article from ScienceNordic


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Papyri reveal new aspects of Antiquity

Some of the most important papyri on magic in the world are housed at the University of Oslo. Papyri show that though we tend to associate Antiquity with rationality and science, it was also characterised by several alien and obscure practices.


"Papyri are the closest we get to the people of the Antiquity. Nowhere else do they emerge so vividly; people wrote down texts and recorded important life events on rolls and fragments of papyrus. When we study these fragments today, we get a direct view of everyday life in Egypt under Greek, and later Roman, rule", says Anastasia Maravela. The papyri in the University of Oslo Library collection are very diverse and include private letters, horoscopes, dinner invitations, culinary and medical recipes, school texts, marriage and divorce papers, arrest orders for tax evaders, accounts, death notices, fragments of literature, and an entire roll of magic formulas.



Maravela is Associate Professor in Ancient Greek, and is the first UiO scholar in many years to research papyri.

"UiO papyrologists were once considered among the best in the world. We are renewing that tradition, and have re-established UiO as an important centre for research on papyri from Egypt, with a great deal of important texts that have not yet been studied", she remarks.

UiO has the largest papyrus collection north of Berlin. The collection consists of nearly 2300 papyrus fragments, in addition to 27 ostracka (inscribed potsherds), some parchments, some text on mummy labels and one mummy-shroud.

How did so many papyri end up in Oslo? How did the academic papyrus research community become so strong in Oslo?


Click here to read this article from the University of Oslo
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Archaeology becomes Greece's Achilles heel

Faced with massive public debt, Greece is finding that its fabled antiquity heritage is proving a growing burden — with licensed digs postponed, illegal ones proliferating, museum staff trimmed and valuable pieces stolen.


“Greece's historic remains have become our curse,” whispered an archaeologist at a recent media event organized to protest spending cuts imposed on the country for the past two years as a condition for European Union and International Monetary Fund loans.

With Greece moving into a fifth year of recession, licensed archaeology digs are finding it ever harder to obtain public funds while antiquity smuggling is on the rise, archaeologists warned at the meeting.

“There are an increasing number of illegal digs near archaeological sites,” said Despina Koutsoumba, head of the association of Greek archaeologists.

Click here to read this article from the China Post
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Thirty-seven skeletons found in a mass burial site in the grounds of St John’s College in Oxford may not be who they initially seemed, according to Oxford University researchers studying the remains.

When the bodies were discovered in the grounds of the college in 2008 by Thames Valley Archaeological Services, archaeologists speculated that they could have been part of the St Brice’s Day Massacre in Oxford – a well documented event in 1002, in which King Aethelred the Unredy ordered the killing of ‘all Danes living in England’.

However, a new research paper, led by Oxford University, has thrown up a new theory – that the skeletons may have been Viking raiders who were captured and then executed.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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A collaboration between the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana at the Vatican will bring historical texts dating back to the Middle Ages into the digital era. 1.5 million pages from both collections will be digitised and made publicly available.

The Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana will embark on a new collaborative digitisation project with the aim of opening up repositories of medieval and early modern texts and making a selection of their remarkable treasures freely available online to researchers and the general public worldwide.

The digitised collections will be in three subject areas: Greek manuscripts, 15th-century printed books (incunabula) and Hebrew manuscripts and early printed books. These areas have been chosen for the strength of the collections in both libraries and their importance for scholarship in their respective fields. The project will span four years and will result in approximately 1.5 million pages being made available in digital format

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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Rabu, 11 April 2012
Tunis reopens ancient Islamic college to counter radicals


Watched by residents of the old quarter of Tunis, a court official stepped forward and unlocked the huge wooden doors. From the gloom within, volunteers began to bring out stools and chairs that had gathered dust and cobwebs for half a century.



The school at Tunisia's 8th-century Zaitouna Mosque, one of the world's leading centers of Islamic learning, was closed by independence leader and secularist strongman Habib Bourguiba in 1964 as part of an effort to curb the influence of religion. Its ancient university was merged with the state's Tunis University.

The college reopened its ancient doors to students on Monday, part of a drive by religious scholars and activists to revive Zaitouna's moderate brand of Islam, which once dominated North Africa, and counter the spread of more radical views.

Click here to read this article from Reuters
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What's the closest thing to a medieval dining experience in London?

Short of inventing a time machine or getting a surprise invite to one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s dinner parties, the chances of sniffing out a medieval feast in the capital will lead you to one place and one place only – St Katherine’s Dock (E1W 1BP).

This is the home of Medieval Banquet London. Think brave knights, troubadours, minstrels with lutes and jugglers (all played by professional actors), turning your meal into a medieval extravaganza. Enjoy music from 800-year-old manuscripts, hire medieval costumes and bang your fists on the table to demand more food from your serving wench.


Click here to read this article from the Daily Telegraph


Click here to visit the Medieval Banquet London website
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Selasa, 10 April 2012
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The unique holdings of the medieval monastic library of Lorsch, currently scattered over 68 libraries worldwide, are being re-compiled into a virtual library. Heidelberg University Library and local government officials in Germany have been working since March of 2010 to publish the 330 surviving Lorsch manuscripts and manuscript fragments online. The project by the name of “Bibliotheca Laureshamensis – digital” is being funded by the State of Hesse with 450.000 euros and will continue through 2013.

“The virtual reconstruction of the former library of Lorsch Abbey, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gives us the chance to study the abbey’s intellectual foundation, and the Carolingian world view in general, in depth for the first time”, said Eva Kühne-Hörmann, the Hessian Minister of Higher Education, Research and the Arts, during the presentation of the project. “This outstanding endeavour, which is of great interest to the State of Hesse, has united experts from Hesse and Baden-Württemberg in an exemplary, cross-border cooperative effort that reflects the historic significance and geographical location of the monastic library of Lorsch between the palatinate and the diocese of Mainz.”

The Bibliotheca Laureshamensis – digital project will see the digitisation of the abbey’s codices. In addition, scientific descriptions detailing the origin, owners, appearance, handwriting and content of the library’s manuscripts will be compiled in a project database. For the first time, researchers will have comprehensive and systematic access to the Lorsch manuscripts, a fact that opens up entirely new possibilities of research.

Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net
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Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.

The findings offer an insight into the dynamics of agriculture in the ancient world and could also help today’s domestic crops face challenges such as climate change and water scarcity.

The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, examined the remains of ancient cotton at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt’s Upper Nile using high throughput sequencing technologies.

Click here to read this article from History of the Ancient World
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Thomas Becket by John Guy: review

Few figures in medieval history are as famous as Thomas Becket, and fewer have been subject to such utterly differing interpretations. To pious Englishmen up to the Reformation, he was a miracle-working saint, whose blood (widely available in diluted form) could heal lepers, make the blind see, and raise babies from the dead. To Henry VIII, who closed down the shrine at Canterbury and had his bones burned, he was “a rebel and traitor to his prince”.

To TS Eliot, he was a strangely modern Catholic intellectual, fortified by moral and theological principles but ravaged by self-doubt. To Lewis Warren, author of the classic modern biography of Henry II (Becket’s great adversary), he was a “theological dinosaur” whose resistance to his sovereign was based on little more than “narrow clericalism”.

While the interpretations are many and conflicting, the basic facts about Becket’s life are not in doubt. Born in London in 1120, he was the son of a Norman immigrant who had become a well-to-do merchant; there was money in Becket’s background but not high social status, and his aristocratic enemies would always enjoy reminding him of his humble origins. But with education and talent he was able to rise quite rapidly, working in the household of the then Archbishop of Canterbury. This brought him to the attention of the young King Henry II, who made him his Chancellor; by the age of 34, Becket was helping to run the country.

Click here to read this article from The Telegraph


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Senin, 09 April 2012
Medieval walk organisers hope to rival Spanish pilgrimage tradition

A medieval pilgrimage route to major historic religious site is to be resurrected – and organisers hope it will grow to rival a similar event in Spain.

The Way of St Andrews will allow travellers to a route taken by 11th and 12th century Christian devotees who flocked to the Fife town, once home to the largest church in Scotland.

Those behind the trail hope the 62 mile trip, starting from St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, could prove as popular as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

Click here to read this article from Deadline News

See also Supporters hope revived ‘Way of St Andrews’ will attract tourists


Click here to visit the Way of St Andrews website
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Minggu, 08 April 2012
Gallery to bring Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts to New York International Antiquarian Book Fair

For more than half a century the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair has attracted thousands of book collectors and connoisseurs to see important acquisitions presented by as many as 200 of the world’s most renowned dealers in rare and collectible books and manuscripts.

This year is no exception as Les Enluminures gallery of Paris and Chicago is bringing what owner Sandra calls, “A wonderful Rare First Edition of a geographical, historical and linguistic account of Helvetia or the Swiss Confederacy composed in hexameters by Henricus Glareanus. He was a nationalist who was one of the foremost humanists of the period. Finely rubricated and hand-colored, this 1514 copy includes extensive annotations and a contemporary manuscript section by an unknown author, likely a student in the close circle of Glareanus and Osvaldus Myconius which, with modifications, was used for the commentary published under the name of Myconius in the second Basel 1519 edition.”

“This Glareanus is in Latin with German translation and with a few words in Greek and German. It is an imprint on paper, hand-colored. The manuscript is on paper. The imprint is Basel, Adam Petri, 1514 and Basel c1515.”

Click here to read this article from the Art Daily
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Lust, Lies And Empire: The Fishy Tale Behind Eating Fish On Friday

It sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown thriller: A powerful medieval pope makes a secret pact to prop up the fishing industry that ultimately alters global economics. The result: Millions of Catholics around the world end up eating fish on Fridays as part of a religious observance.

This "realpolitik" explanation of why Catholics eat fish on Friday has circulated for so long, many people grew up believing it as fact. Some, myself included, even learned it in Catholic school. It's a humdinger of a tale — the kind conspiracy theorists can really sink their teeth into. But is it true?

"Many people have searched the Vatican archives on this, but they have found nothing," says Brian Fagan, a professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose book, Fish On Friday, explores the impact of this practice on Western culture.

The real story behind fish on Fridays turns out to be much better.


Click here to read this article from NPR


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Sabtu, 07 April 2012
9 Most Important Medieval Assassinations

The mythos of the assassin fascinates even as it horrifies. It fascinates because it allows for the actions of one to bring down a corrupt or tyrannical regime that has no avenue of redress for those not in power. It horrifies because the sudden actions of one can threaten an entire nation--or in the case of World War I--the world's stability.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our political discourse and disagreement has never been more bitter and divisive. And while it is bad, there have been many periods in history that were equally--if not more--vitriolic and downright nasty. Take the Middle Ages, for one. Not only was it a politically raw and power hungry time, but the average citizen had very little say in matters of government.

Historian Barbara Tuchman suggests this might be attributed to the fact that the Middle Ages was a very young society, with over half the population under 21. Many of the leaders of medieval kingdoms and dynasties were on the tail end of adolescence--or younger. William, Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror of England, was only seven years old when he became duke. Charles VII of France was 19 when he was crowned king, and Louis I, became Duke of Orleans at the ripe old age of 20. All that power un-tempered by age or wisdom was a heady thing and ripe for abuse. Assassination was an oft-used tool in their arsenal.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post
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