Friday, July 31, 2015

Medieval mass grave lay hidden just two feet below a college in Scotland

Ancient Origins

A mass grave with 25 bodies from the Medieval era is being excavated “just a couple of feet below” on the grounds of a private college in Aberdeen, Scotland. The bodies, some from the 13th century, were discovered when workers were digging in the yard, where students and faculty walked daily for many decades since the college was founded in the 18th century.
Robert Gordon's College is on the site of an abbey that Catholic friars were forced to abandon during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. A historian says the people buried there were probably elite members of society because they were interred in sacred ground.
“The bones were buried less than two feet underground in the quad area of the site and are now being examined by experts with a view to being reburied,” reports The Scotsman online. “Robert Gordon University, in Aberdeen, ordered the boiler work—but the skeletons were discovered in the grounds of the neighboring private school Robert Gordon College. Contractors installing cables found the first skeleton near Schoolhill main library and called in Aberdeenshire Council archaeologists to carry out further excavations in the area. It is believed the skeletons are of people laid to rest on the site of the former Blackfriars Abbey during the 13th century.”
Robert Gordon's College (Photo by AbedeenBill
Robert Gordon's College (Photo by AbedeenBill / Wikimedia Commons)
Historians believe Alexander II founded the abbey between 1230 and 1249. Religious reformers destroyed it in 1560. The site was granted to George, Earl Marischal in 1587. It became the site of Schoolhill when it opened as a college in 1750.
A local historian, Diane Morgan, said the Protestant Reformation forced Catholics to abandon the abbey, which was then left to go to ruin. Friars from both Blackfriars Abbey and the Greyfriars abbey were exiled from Aberdeen. “This find is very interesting and in the 13th century people could pay money to be buried on sanctified grounds. This could mean the people were privileged,” she said.
The Scottish Reformation, part of the larger Reformation sweeping Europe at the time in rebellion to the Catholic Church's corruption, rallied some of the most powerful sections of Scotland's society to the cause of Protestantism. Major figures in the Scottish Reformation included John Knox and George Wishart, who recruited influential people to the movement, says the Scottish Historic Society website. Through their efforts Protestantism replaced Catholicism as Scotland's primary religion. Centuries before, Catholicism replaced the Celtic and Druidic religions in Scotland and the rest of the British Isles.
Scottish reformer John Knox
Scottish reformer John Knox (Wikimedia Commons)
The website says the Reformation movement was just as much a political rebellion as a religious one. The nobility rebelled against Mary of Guise, mother of Queen Mary and the regent of Scotland in the late 1550s. The nobility wanted to align more toward Protestant England and move Scotland away from its long-standing relationship with Catholic France.
The ejection of friars from monasteries, abbeys and friaries came about January 1, 1559, when rebels posted The Beggars' Summons on the doors of Catholic religious buildings and threatened violence if clerics didn't leave. The notice was addressed in the name of the “blind, crooked, bed-ridden, widows, orphans and poor of Scotland” and said:
Ye your selfes ar not ignorant (and thocht ye wald be) it is now (thankes to God) knawen to the haill warlde…that the benignitie or almes of all Christian people perteynis to us allanerly; quhilk ye, being hale of bodye, stark, sturdye, and abill to wyrk…hes thire many yeiris…maist falslie stowin fra us…[we] warne yow, in the name of the grit God, be this publyck wryting, affixt on your yettis quhair ye now dwell, that ye remove fourth of our saidis Hospitales, betuix this and the Feist of Witsunday next, sua that we…may enter and tak posessioun of our said patrimony, and eject yow utterlie fourth of the same.
Michael Maitland, facilities manager for Robert Gordon's College, called the mass grave a major find. “Contractors basically were working to install lines and lay cables when they made the discovery,” he told The Scotsman. “They were using a mechanical digger and with the first scrape, about 300 millimeters [11.8 inches] below ground, they found a skeleton. The first one was near the Schoolhill main library and we called the council archaeologists. They went on to find about 25 from around the 13th century, according to the archaeologists. They were saying they consider it to be quite a major discovery that they believe is tied to the old Blackfriars Abbey on the site. I’ve worked here 25 years and I never imagined there was all this just a couple of feet below me. It’s fascinating.”
Featured image: Archaeologists exhume a body from the quadrangle of Robert Gordon College in Aberdeen, Scotland. (HEMEDIA photo)

By Mark Miller

Not just about the booty: New study sheds light on reasons for Viking raids

Ancient Origins

The lure of the [Viking] raid was… more than booty; it was about winning and preserving power through the enchantment of travel and the doing of deeds.
Thus states a new paper by an archaeologists from the University of York, England, who has been trying to figure out just why, besides riches, the Vikings carried out the raids and conquests that they did.
“This provides an important correction to models that focus on the need for portable wealth; the act of acquiring silver was as important as the silver itself,” writes Professor Steven Ashby in the journal Archaeological Dialogues (the abstract is here).
The Vikings went on raids and set up colonies in England, mainland Europe and as far east as Russia. They went on voyages of thousands of kilometers to Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. The Viking Age lasted from the 9th to the 13th centuries AD.
“The cause of the Viking Age is one of our longest-lived debates,” Ashby writes. “A combination of push and pull factors and a catalysing environment instigated the late 8th-century escalation in maritime activity that ultimately led to social, political and religious transformation. Recent discussions have focused on the macro level, with little consideration of the individual gains to be made by raiding. This paper argues that rewards consisted in more than portable wealth. In the flexible hierarchies of the Viking Age, those who took advantage of opportunities to enhance their social capital stood to gain significantly.”
Ashby wanted to research the social reasons for the raids. The riches Vikings gained were an obvious lure, but what else would cause a man to leave his family and home sometimes for months at a time and put himself in grave danger of being lost at sea or wounded or even killed in battle? Previous research looked at political, demographic, technological and environmental reasons for Viking raids, in addition to the real wealth of silver and slaves, says a synopsis of Ashby's article in Past Horizons. Also, why did silver and other riches and slaves become important in Scandinavian society from the end of the 8th century AD onwards?
Territories and voyages of the Vikings
Territories and voyages of the Vikings (Wikipedia)
I wanted to try to discover what would make a young chieftain invest in the time and resources for such a risky venture. And what were the motives of his crew?” Ashby told Past Horizons. “The lure of the exotic, of the world beyond the horizon, was an important factor. Classic anthropology has shown that the mystique of the exotic is a powerful force, and something that leaders and people of influence often use to prop up their power base. It is not difficult to see how this would have worked in the Viking Age.”
Acquisition of precious metals, especially silver and Anglo, Frankish and Celtic metalwork were tangible symbols of power and status and a mustering focus for more Viking raids. “Many of the large quantity of Christian artefacts found in Scandinavian contexts (particularly Norwegian pagan burials) escaped melting and recycling, not because of some form of artistic appreciation, but because they were foundation stones for power, and touchstones in any argument for undertaking military activity,” says Past Horizons.
Prow of a Viking ship in a museum in Oslo, Norway (Photo by Karamell/Wikimedia Commons)
Ashby said raids gave Viking rank and file men opportunities for violence and also a venue to gain notoriety among peers and the chiefs. “It was an opportunity to build reputations for skill, reliability, cunning, or courage. Just as leaders of raiding parties stood to gain more than portable wealth, so too their followers could seek intangible social capital from participation,” Past Horizons says.
Featured image: Leif Ericson discovers Vinland, by Christian Krohg. (Wikimedia Commons)
By Mark Miller

Analysis of Viking burial site reveals the harshness of life in early Christian Iceland

Bones reveal life was harsh in early Christian Iceland. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ancient Origins

Early Viking settlers in Iceland were Pagan worshippers of the Aesir, the family of gods that included Thor and Odin. However in 1,000 AD Iceland converted to Christianity by decree of the country’s National Assembly under the rule of Olaf Tryggvason. This in turn resulted in a change in burial customs, such that the deceased began to be buried in cemeteries organized around a church. New research conducted by bioarchaeologists Guđný Zoëga and Kimmarie Murphy has revealed just how harsh life at that time was.
The two scientists investigated a small cemetery near a farm called Keldudalur in the Skagafjörđur region of northern Iceland. The site dates from the early 11th century and features 52 burials, probably of three to five generations of one farming family.
The archaeologists unearthed 27 bodies at the site. The men were buried in the southern half of the cemetery and women in the northern half. A high rate of infant mortality was discovered. Once an individual had reached the age of 30 life became more precarious and not many older people survived for long.

Many of the deceased had suffered from porotic hyperostosis, which is evidenced by the presence of spongy or porous bone tissue and holes in the cranium, and is a result of suffering from anemia. The archaeologists concluded that this couldn’t have been iron-deficiency anemia since the people here typically had a diet high in meat. This meant they must have had other gastrointestinal conditions or dietary deficiencies including, in one individual, scurvy.
These early Icelanders were pastoral farmers who planted grain but also relied on sheep and cattle to survive more difficult times. Most of the settlements were widely dispersed, rather than the larger communities in other areas settled by the Vikings. These settlements usually consisted of a group of buildings surrounded by fences, outside of which were the fields farmed by the inhabitants and areas of pasture land. When Iceland became Christian, small churches began to be constructed on these farms with accompanying cemeteries.
Traditional Viking Chieftain funerals were energetically observed, with drinking, feasting, and sacrificial slaughter.  Later, people would be buried in cemeteries near churches. “The Funeral of a Viking,” painting by Frank Dicksee, 1893
Traditional Viking Chieftain funerals were energetically observed, with drinking, feasting, and sacrificial slaughter.  Later, people would be buried in cemeteries near churches. “The Funeral of a Viking,” painting by Frank Dicksee, 1893 (Wikiart photo)
Many of the adults suffered from degenerative joint disease, probably as a result of the rigors of their farming lifestyle. This was common in both men and women, given that everybody helped in the work. The bodies are notable for the lack of dental caries, suggesting a high dairy intake, although this can also result in gingivitis, plaque, and infections and tooth loss, all of which were observable.
Bioarchaeologist Cecilia Collins told Forbes that the investigation has helped understanding of the lives of families and communities on the edge of the Arctic. It also helps to reduce the stereotype of the Vikings as marauding and violent. The people buried at Keldudalur experienced lives that were unpredictable from one season to the next. They also regularly experienced foot shortages, disease and injury from hard physical work.
Early peoples regularly experienced foot shortages, disease, and injury from hard physical work.
Early peoples regularly experienced foot shortages, disease, and injury from hard physical work. (Hans Splinter/CC BY-ND 2.0)
Zoëga and Murphy have now presented their findings in a research article for the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.
Featured Image: A Viking grave. New studies on bones reflect the harsh conditions many endured. Representational image. (Thomas Quine/CC BY 2.0)
By Robin Whitlock


Prehistoric fortress island discovered on English-Welsh border

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists excavating a modern housing estate on the English-Welsh border in Monmouth, UK, have discovered an ancient fortress consisting of a wooden island with a fortified farmhouse elevated above the ground on stilts. The structure used to stand above the waters of an ice age lake and may be older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids. The structure, known as a ‘crannog’, has been dated to 4,900 years ago. The lake surrounding it would have served as a natural defence against attackers.
“We never thought the timbers were as old as they are, it's an amazing discovery” said archaeologist Steve Clarke, speaking to the Western Daily Press. “The inhabitants would have been surrounded by water up to ten feet deep and there's no evidence of a walkway so it was probably only accessible by canoe. This is surely one of the most stunning of prehistoric discoveries. An exceptional feature is that the construction was based on three massive parallel "sleeper beams" – timbers roughly hewn from complete trees set in the ground horizontally”
A reconstructed crannog near Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, on Loch Tay, Scotland
A reconstructed crannog near Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, on Loch Tay, Scotland (Wikimedia Commons)
Mr Clarke added that the farmhouse was occupied at around the time when humans in Britain first started to live communally and is only the second such structure to be discovered in England and Wales, being much older than the first. Many more of them have been discovered in Scotland, most of them dating from the Iron Age (800 BC to 100 AD). Clarke first discovered that the area had once been underwater when the foundations for the new housing estate were being laid by Barratt Homes several years ago in 2013. Three 100 foot channels, each about the width of a canoe, were found close to where Mr Clarke believes the shore of the lake would have been. These channels date from 1700 BC and are evidence of probably one of the oldest boatyards ever discovered.
Clarke subsequently discovered a series of timber posts, which had once been preserved beneath the clay and peat of an ancient lagoon, formed after the lake had drained. He sent them to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre for radiocarbon dating and scientists employed there informed him the posts were around 4,900 years old. At that time the ground in the area would have been under 20 foot of water, however the posts themselves were found at a location that would have been somewhat shallower, leading Mr Clarke to believe they were evidence of a crannog.
The newly-discovered timber posts are believed to have been stilts upon which the crannog was built. Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland
The newly-discovered timber posts are believed to have been stilts upon which the crannog was built. Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland (Wikimedia Commons)
The first crannog in the country to be discovered was at Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons which is believed to have been built around 2,000 years earlier than the one now discovered at Monmouth. It stood closer to the shore and was connected to it by a wooden walkway. Reconstructions of crannogs can be seen at the Scottish Crannog Centre at Loch Tay in Perthshire.
Crannogs would have been able to accommodate around 20 people who slept around against the walls, some of them in timber bunk beds. The space inside would have also featured an area for animals and a fire in the centre provided heating, light and a means of cooking food. The floor would probably have been covered with bracken.
The crannog at Monmouth would probably have been occupied by a wealthy family who would have farmed the fields nearby and gathered fruit, nuts wild cabbage and medicinal herbs from local woodlands. They would probably have hunted wild boar and other animals as well. When attacked, they would have retreated to the fort. There are over 600 such sites in Scotland.
Mr Clarke is chairman of Monmouth Archaeological Society and is also the author of The Lost Lake – Evidence of Prehistoric Boat-Building.
Featured image: An artist’s impression of the crannog at Monmouth by Peter Bere.

By Robin Whitlock

History Trivia - Battle of Alexandria - Mark Antony victorious

July 31

 30 BC Battle of Alexandria: Mark Antony achieved a minor victory over Octavian's forces, but most of his army subsequently deserted, leading to his suicide.

432 Saint Sixtus III was elected Roman Catholic pope. His papacy is associated with a great building expansion in Rome; Santa Maria Maggiore was built during his reign.

781 The oldest recorded eruption of Mt. Fuji (Traditional Japanese date: July 6, 781).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Launch - Chicken in the Oven by M.C. Arvanitis

What in the world would make a chicken smile? When Farmer Dill came to the chicken yard to choose the fattest chicken for her Sunday dinner, and when she waved her chicken hook at BFC, short for Big Fat Chicken, he certainly wasn't smiling. What could he do to convince her not to choose him to be her Chicken in the Oven?

Amazon Link

Ms. Arvanitis is a full time writer who creates books for children, mid-grade readers, and YA historical novels. Her time as a preK and early grades teacher gives her insight into the stories children like to read. She writes mid grade readers books she calls "fables." where she brings mythical creatures such as fairies, elves, mermaids, pixies, and other strange beings to her stories. She now offers her first three 'fables' for mid grader readers. 'THE LEGEND OF ELPANDA PAWS,' 'FORBIDDEN WINGS, A MERMAID'S STORY' PIXIES OF THE FERN: FERNELLA'S MAGIC,' in both as e-books and in print books.

The first two of Mrs Arvanitis's teen/YA historical series,
'HANK OF TWIN RIVERS, BOOK TWO, THE EAGLE'S NEST' is now available as E-book and in print. This coming of age story takes place in 1855 and tells of a pioneer boy's conflict with his stern father on the Oregon Trail.

HANK OF TWIN RIVERS, BOOK THREE; RIDING WITH THE WRANGLERS' will be added to her author's list in 2015.

She also plans to expand her list of books to picture books for under six year old children. These stories have been read and enjoyed by the thousands of students she has taught though out the years. First will be 'CHICKEN IN THE OVEN', the saga of BFC who doesn't want to be Farmer's Dil's Sunday dinner.

Now retired, her life has been filled with younguns .. her own children, grandchildren, and near a thousand students through the years has spent time in her "Four to Get Ready preschool, now featured on line at her cyber preschool blog,

She would value any comments you may have on any of her books. You can email her at

History Trivia - Frederick I (Barbarossa) crowned King of Burgundy

July 30

657 St Vitalian began his reign as Catholic Pope succeeding Eugene I. He was successful in improving relations with England, where the Anglo-Saxon and British clergies were divided regarding various ecclesiastical customs. At the Synod of Whitby, King Oswy of Northumberland accepted Roman practices regarding the keeping of Easter and the shape of the tonsure. Together with King Ecgberht of Kent, he sent the priest Wighard to Rome, to be consecrated in the Papal City after the death of Archbishop Deusdedit of Canterbury in 664, but Wighard died in Rome of the plague.

1178 Frederick I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor, was crowned King of Burgundy.

1629 An earthquake in Naples, Italy, killed about 10,000 people.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Rock Show with Diane Turner latest show on More Music Radio

Mr. Chuckles conjures up Poet, Performer and Humourist, Lynn Gerrard while stirring the Wizard's Cauldron

The Wizard says:

I had a fiver for every person I've spoken to in the past year who has said "Marky, you ought to have that Lynn Gerrard around the Cauldron," I would now have a tidy sum in my wallet instead of holes and fresh air, so, as the second part of my poetry special, I girded my loins and got in touch with her and was delighted when she agreed to come round. 

As we discussed last week during Sue Lobo's fantastic interview, after years on the fringes of the fringes (of even those fringes), poetry is making a big comeback on the scene. 

Lynn writes - her new book has been well received - blogs extensively, and most excitingly, performs live poetry, which takes some proper bottle. 

An extremely funny woman and a talented wordsmith, it has been a pleasure to meet her this week. I caught up with Lynn  on the Wizphone backstage as she prepared for her most recent recital somewhere in the rainswept north of England - here's what she had to say.

History Trivia - Saracen raiders sack Thessalonica

July 29

238 The Praetorian Guard stormed the palace and captured Pupienus and Balbinus. They were dragged through the streets of Rome and executed. On the same day Gordian III, age 13, was proclaimed emperor.

904 Sack of Thessalonica: Saracen raiders under Leo of Tripoli sacked Thessalonica, the Byzantine Empire's second-largest city, after a short siege, and plundered it for a week.

1030 Ladejarl-Fairhair succession wars: Battle of Stiklestad – King Olaf II, the patron saint of Norway, fought and died trying to regain his Norwegian throne from the Danes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

History Trivia - potatoes introduced to Europe

July 28

754 Pope Stephen II made Pippin the Short King of France. He was the first King of the Franks of the Carolingian dynasty.

 1540 Henry VIII of England married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

1586 Sir Thomas Harriot introduced potatoes to Europe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

History Trivia - Thomas Becket and King Henry II reconcile

July 27

 1054 Siward, Earl of Northumbria invaded Scotland to support Malcolm Canmore against Macbeth of Scotland, who usurped the Scottish throne from Malcolm's father, King Duncan. Macbeth was defeated at Dunsinane.

1170: Thomas Becket and King Henry II temporarily reconciled. Becket's six-year self-imposed exile from England was resolved when he met with Henry and King Louis VII of France at a conference in Freteval and settled on an uneasy truce. Becket made preparations to return to his See in Canterbury.

1214 King John lost Normandy and his other French possessions after being defeated by Philip II of France in the Battle of Bouvines.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

History Trivia - Perkin Warbeck’s army lands in Cork

July 26

796 Offa, king of Mercia died. Many historians regard Offa as the most powerful Anglo-Saxon king before Alfred the Great.

1469 Wars of the Roses: the Battle of Edgecote Moor pitted the forces of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick against those of Edward IV of England took place.

1497 "Edward IV's son" Perkin Warbeck’s army landed in Cork.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

History Trivia - Constantinople recaptured by Nicaean forces

July 25

864 The Edict of Pistres of Charles the Bald ordered defensive measures against the Vikings.

1261 The city of Constantinople was recaptured by Nicaean forces under the command of Alexios Strategopoulos, re-establishing the Byzantine Empire.

1603 James VI of Scotland was crowned as king of England (James I of England), uniting the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland into personal union. Political union would occur in 1707.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A virtuous Viking: the medieval legend of Havelok the Dane

Havelok begs mercy of Godard, from ballad Havelok the Dane. (Adams, Frank/ Private Collection/©Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images)
History Extra
Many regions of England are fascinated by their Viking heritage, and that was as true in the medieval period as it is today. Here, Dr Eleanor Parker from the University of Oxford explores one particularly popular Viking legend…

Everyone knows the stereotypical image of a Viking: a daring, rapacious warrior who rejoices in fighting and killing, sailing the seas and pillaging monasteries with a certain ruthless glamour. Later medieval writers were familiar with this stereotype too, and many delighted in exaggerated, bloodthirsty tales of Vikings murdering nuns, impaling babies on spears, and carving eagles on the backs of their enemies. But that’s only one aspect of the legend of the Vikings, and some medieval texts tell very different stories about what the Vikings did in England.
Medieval writers interested in England’s history – especially in the north and east of England – knew that Scandinavians had not just raided and plundered in the region, but also settled there. There are various legends exploring how and why this settlement came about, and the most famous involves Lincolnshire's very own Viking hero, Havelok the Dane.
Stories about Havelok, a Danish prince who came to rule part or all of England, are first recorded in the 12th century, but may well be much older. The best-known version of the story is a Middle English romance, written probably at the end of the 13th century, known simply as Havelok. It’s a lively, fast-moving poem, frequently funny but with an underlying concern for important questions about what makes a good ruler and a just society. It's cheerfully violent but always scrupulously fair: kindness is rewarded, cruelty punished, and the rightful king restored to his proper place.
The poem tells the twin stories of Havelok and his wife, the English princess Goldeboru. Set in a distant past, which is recognisably Anglo-Saxon England, the poem begins with the deaths of the fathers of Havelok and Goldeboru, kings of Denmark and England respectively. The young orphaned heirs are both deprived of their inheritance by wicked usurpers: the English villain has Goldeboru imprisoned, while the Danish villain murders Havelok’s little sisters and arranges for Havelok to be drowned by a man named Grim. Grim can’t bring himself to kill the child, so he smuggles Havelok out of Denmark and flees to England with his wife and family.
Grim and his family, with the young royal exile, land on the coast of Lincolnshire, where Grim settles down to the life of a fisherman. He works hard and his business prospers, and the poem tells us that the place where they made their home came to be named after its founder: Grimsby.
Havelok grows up to be incredibly tall and strong, but in other respects he is almost comically unlike the stereotype of a Viking: he is cheerful, patient, good-tempered, and gentle to women and children. When he reaches adulthood he decides he ought to earn his own living, and he sets off for Lincoln, where he finds a job as a kitchen-hand.
Everyone is impressed by his great strength and his sheer niceness, and he comes to the attention of the treacherous regent of England, who decides to humiliate Goldeboru by forcing her to marry this unsophisticated kitchen boy. (He had promised the late king he would marry Goldeboru to ‘the highest man in England’, a condition the unusually tall Havelok technically fulfils.)

Lincoln Castle. According to the chronicler Robert Mannyng, in the 14th century you could see the huge rock that Havelok, with his extraordinary strength, threw to win a stone-casting competition. © Timbphotography |
Havelok is unwilling and Goldeboru is horrified, but they have no choice, so they marry and return to Grimsby. On their wedding night Goldeboru has an angelic vision that reveals to her that Havelok is actually a king's son, while Havelok dreams of his homeland: he imagines embracing Denmark in his arms, and bringing its people across the sea to England as a love-gift to his new wife. When they share their dreams with each other, Goldeboru urges Havelok to return to Denmark and win back his inheritance. He does so, then comes back to England to regain Goldeboru's kingdom too. The two of them rule England and Denmark together in a state of perfect peace and harmony for 60 years, and have 15 sons and daughters.
Havelok is a kind of historical fantasy, but it’s firmly rooted in the English landscape and in plausible reality: Grimsby, for instance, probably was named for a Scandinavian settler, although perhaps not the saviour of an exiled Danish prince. The medieval poet knew that Danish settlement was part of the history of this region, and seems to have thought it something to be proud of.
In this he was not alone. The foundation story was a lasting source of pride in Grimsby: the town's 13th-century seal depicts Grim brandishing a sword and shield, Havelok and Goldeboru on either side of him. Grimsby might not seem like a very glamorous location for a romance to take place – it's not exactly Camelot – but in the Havelok legend it has a founding father and an origin myth all of its own.
Beyond Grimsby, too, the Havelok story seems to have been widely known in Lincolnshire: the chronicler Robert Mannyng tells us that in the 14th century you could go to Lincoln Castle and see the huge rock that Havelok, with his extraordinary strength, threw to win a stone-casting competition, as well as the chapel where Havelok and Goldeboru were married.
The legend of Havelok offers a reimagining of English history that finds a balance between a proud regional identity and a sense of national unity. It’s a version of Anglo-Saxon history in which the Danes can be easily integrated into English society: the characters inhabit a North Sea world in which fishermen and merchants travel freely between England and Denmark, and Havelok and Grim’s children, Danish by birth, all marry into English families.
It's as if the poet decided he was going to present an alternative version of the many stories of Viking violence; his Danish protagonists are industrious, honest and virtuous. At one point the English villain tries to paint Havelok as a rampaging Viking, claiming he is killing monks and burning churches, but in fact Havelok is notably pious and even founds a priory in Grimsby in memory of Grim.
In this poem the Danish contribution to English history is presented in an entirely positive light – as something Grimsby, Lincolnshire, and England can and should be proud of.
Dr Eleanor Parker is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Anglo-Norman England at the University of Oxford. She blogs about medieval England at You can follow her on Twitter @ClerkofOxford.

History Trivia - Mary, Queen of Scots, abdicates

July 24

1411 Battle of Harlaw, Highland and Lowland Scots clashed at Red Harlaw, which was one of the bloodiest battles of Scottish history.

1487 Citizens of Leeuwarden, Netherlands held a strike against a ban on foreign beer.

1567 Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate and was replaced by her one-year-old son James VI.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ancient Monastery Recreates Beer Based on Historic Recipe by British Soldiers

Ancient Origins

The Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, has created a popular new beer based on a historic recipe. The Times of India report that they call it the Sv Norbert India Pale Ale and it is based on a recipe that British soldiers brewed for their travels to India when it was under British rule.
Brewing beer is not a new area for the ancient Strahov Monastery. The monastery was founded in 1142 by King Vladislav II. It started production in its brewery in the 1400s. The current location of the Strahov Monastic Brewery is the site chosen by Abbot Kaspar Questenberg in 1628. In the beginning, the Strahov brewery only produced the necessary amount for the monks and the deputies of the monastery, now it is one of the most popular breweries for tourists and locals in Prague.
The Strahov monastery, Prague, Czech Republic
The Strahov monastery, Prague, Czech Republic (Wikimedia Commons)
Monastic breweries were a common practice during the middle ages (5th – 15th Century). Monks and nuns were expected to live by their own labor and not accept charity (The Rule of Saint Benedict, and monasteries were known to be safe places for travelers in search of food and shelter. Thus, brewing beer and wine also served as a source of finances for monasteries such as Strahov.
A Monk Cellarer tasting wine from a barrel, Li Livres dou Santé, (13th Century manuscript), France
A Monk Cellarer tasting wine from a barrel, Li Livres dou Santé, (13th Century manuscript), France (Wikimedia Commons)
The Sv Norbert India Pale Ale is a beer that the Strahov Monastic Brewery created based off of a recipe thought to have been lost. In 2009 they began production of the India Pale Ale, however it was not well-received in the early years. The manager of the Strahov Monastic Brewery, Marek Kocvera, explained the history of the India Pale Ale to The Times of India: "We revived the recipe in this monastery and started first serving it in 2009. However because of its strong flavour it did take a few years for people to grow a taste for it."
The India Pale Ale is a strong-tasting beer with a 6-7% alcohol content due to the large quantity of hops it contains. "This beer was originally prepared for long distance transport, so it should stay in good conditions during the journey from England to India... Hops contain natural antibacterial matters and they help to preserve beer," Kocvera told The Times of India.
The hops also makes the Sv Norbert India Pale Ale bitter and aromatic. The aroma of the beer has been described as  very fruity and despite its strength it is believed to be a refreshing beer. The distinctive taste has made it a popular seller today, Kocvera has reported:
"Since last year, we are experiencing a big boom in its sale. We produce about 60,000 litres of India Pale Ale per year - so around 160 litres per day on average. In most days, the daily quantity finishes by late noon itself."
In the end, the historic British soldier's recipe has received an enthusiastic response from the public and continues the historic success of monastic breweries.
Featured Image: Piwo pijacy mnisi (Beer Drinking Monks), Olaf Simony Jensen (Wikimedia Commons)
By Alicia McDermott

4,000-Year-Old Relief Carvings and Decorated Stone Blocks Discovered in Temple of Serapis in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered two 4,000-year-old reliefs in the Temple of Serapis on the Red Sea. The Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty announced last week that discoveries also included blocks of stone engraved with a goddess and a bounty of flowers.
A team of Polish archaeologists found the two raised wall carvings in a Temple of Serapis which once belonged to the Ptolemaic Queen Berenice.
According to The Siasat Daily, the reliefs date to the Middle Kingdom (2050-1750 BC) and the Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550 BC), eras long before the temple’s actual construction date, suggesting they were brought in later.
ZeeNews reports, “The first relief has a cartouche containing the name of the Pharaoh Amenemhat IV - the seventh and next-to-last pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty - whose reign was characterized by exploration expeditions for precious turquoise and amethyst, while the second relief, quite damaged, requires restoration.”
The team of archaeologists at the temple also recovered several stone blocks which were originally bases for statuary. The stones are said to be highly decorated and engraved with lotus and papyrus flowers, a goddess image, and writing in Greek.
Partial titulary of pharaoh Amenemhat IV (end 12th Dynasty) on a relief from the temple of Medinet Maadi, Faiyum. Representational image.
Partial titulary of pharaoh Amenemhat IV (end 12th Dynasty) on a relief from the temple of Medinet Maadi, Faiyum. Representational image. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Serapis was a Greco-Egyptian god and patron of Alexandria who was often depicted as a Greek man dressed in Egyptian clothing; a symbol of unity between Greeks and Egyptians under Ptolmey I in the third century BC. Even his name was a blend of the Egyptian Osiris and the Apis bull (Osiris + Apis = Oserapis/Sarapis). He represented abundance and resurrection.
Head of Serapis, from a 12-foot statue found off the coast of Alexandria.
Head of Serapis, from a 12-foot statue found off the coast of Alexandria. (CC BY 3.0)
Temples devoted to Serapis were called serapeum, and the cults of Serapis flourished under the Ptolemaic kings who ruled ancient Egypt. The grandest serapeum was said to be in Alexandria.
The remains of the ancient site of the Temple complex of Sarapis at Alexandria. It once included the temple, a library, lecture rooms, and smaller shrines but after many reconstructions and conflict over the site it is mostly ground level ruins.
The remains of the ancient site of the Temple complex of Sarapis at Alexandria. It once included the temple, a library, lecture rooms, and smaller shrines but after many reconstructions and conflict over the site it is mostly ground level ruins.  (Iris Fernandez/CC BY 2.0)
The establishment of the cult and temples of Serapis were one of many symbols of Ptolemaic legitimization in ancient Egypt. The Pharos of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the most famous lighthouse in antiquity. The incredible feat of ancient engineering stood at an impressive height of 130 meters (430ft) until it was destroyed by an earthquakes in the 14th century AD.
Egyptian authorities have this year approved plans to rebuild the towering monument.
Featured Image: Relief carved from stone featuring Ptolemy XIII of Egypt and the deity Isis. Representational image.  (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ancient Origins