This week, just a few stories about sunken ships, found communities, and the return of what was lost.
- These Viking artefacts and logboats have been found in Galway
Spearheads and battle axes are among the artefacts found in a submerged logboat dating to the 11th century. Article at The Journal.
- Howe's about that? Lost medieval hamlet is found on edge of Cambridge
The lost community of Howe's was apparently abandoned in the 15th century. Story by Chris Havergal at Cambridge News.
- Remnants of Sailendra dynasty allegedly found
Bricks, artefacts and signs of a waterway system indicate the presence of a civilization dating to about the 7th century. Article by Ainur Rohmah at The Jakarta Post.
- Getty Museum to return 12th century New Testament to Greece monastery
The manuscript had been stolen from the monastery more than half a century ago, and upon learning this, Getty is voluntarily returning it. Item by David Ng at the Los Angeles Times includes a fine photo.
- Sunken Portuguese galleon sighted in Java Sea
The galleons evidently sank in a storm in 1512. Article at AsiaOne.
Through works like The Birth of Europe and Medieval Civilization, groundbreaking historian Jacques Le Goff helped us all understand that the Middle Ages were not a time of darkness but the era in which many of our most fundamental modern western principles were formed. He did a great deal to change the focus of learning about the past from politics and events to attitude and anthropological matters. Two of his books are on my shelf (and several more on my wish list). Jacques Le Goff's impact has been strong these last several decades, and his works will continue to influence and inform for decades to come.
Jacques Le Goff died in Paris on Tuesday at the age of 90.
- Influential medieval historian Jacques Le Goff dies aged 90
Informative obituary at The Guardian.
- Le Goff, leading figure in 'New History', dies at 90
Item at The Nation.
- Influential French historian Jacques Le Goff dies aged 90
Story at RFI
A supporter of the arts, Francis I of France invited Leonardo da Vinci to spend his declining years at his summer residence. Legend has it the artist died in the arms of the king. What was this Renaissance king like? Find out in his Who's Who Profile.
Every now and then some scientist or other comes out with an article or book or monograph on how the disease of the Black Death could not have been Bubonic Plague, or how "evidence shows" that multiple diseases were involved in the pandemic. Usually, they're waving their papers under our noses without first looking at the entire known history of events. Now a new theory is here to exonerate those sweet little rodents that we've always blamed as carriers (oh Remy, won't you cook me a nice batch of Ratatouille?)
Everything you know about the Black Death is wrong, claims Terrence McCoy at the Washington Post. Um, really? Everything? And Black Death wasn't actually bubonic plague, Kate Seamons of Fox News tells us. Hmmm. Why, then, did period sources describe victims with black buboes?
If you've read our little feature Death Defined, you know that scholars long ago concluded that four different manifestations of the disease spread during those horrible years. This included Bubonic, which was transmitted by fleas living on infected rats; and Pneumonic, which was airborne. The Bubonic form, which was survivable, spread more slowly and killed more slowly than the Pneumonic; but both were caused by the same bacterium, yersinia pestis. And let's not forget the Septicemic variety, which could kill a healthy individual virtually overnight if an open sore came into contact with the infection. The speed of transmission varied greatly, and the different forms of the disease can explain why.
The recent discovery of 25 skeletons under London's Charterhouse Square has provided scientists with some fascinating new data. But does any of it really contradict what we already know? Check out this article by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press, made available at SFGate, and decide for yourself.
And please, think twice before you try to pet any of the critters that may be residing in your walls.
There's an ongoing discussion about modern graffiti. Is it art, or is it just vandalism? Personally, I believe that some graffiti is most definitely art, and I admire the renegade artists who made blank walls and train cars much more interesting and, yes, beautiful with their talents. On the other hand, anyone who tags art that's already been created (a mural in Austin springs to mind) is just displaying childish stupidity.
But we tend to forget that graffiti can also be a historian's friend. When archaeologists uncover long-buried buildings and discover names or slogans scratched into the walls, scholars of many disciplines tend to get pretty excited.
So here's a rather exciting story at BBC News about graffiti on the wall of a church in Suffolk, England -- not art, but an autograph by 15th-century poet John Lydgate.
In case you haven't been keeping up with it, in August, 2012, skeletal remains were found under a parking lot in Leicester, where scholars theorized the burial site of King Richard III of England might be. The skeleton, which had a curved spine as Richard is thought to have had, was tested for DNA, which was compared to that of two known descendants of Richard's family. In February, 2013, the tests confirmed what scholars had been hoping for: the skeletal remains were Richard's.
But now two respected academic authorities are challenging this conclusion. Michael Hicks, a professor of history at Winchester University and a Ricardian expert, has pointed out that the DNA doesn't necessarily confirm that the skeleton is Richard. Because the DNA is mitochondrial -- from the maternal-line -- and remains basically unchanged for generations, the skeleton could be any of dozens of individuals who were descended from the same women Richard was descended from. And archaeologist Martin Biddle, who was at one time a fellow of medieval archaeology at Oxford University, maintains that records on the excavation have yet to be published and more work is necessary to establish how many burials took place at that site.
Do these serious scholars have a point? (or two, or ten?) Or are they just throwing a wet blanket on the exciting fire of academic discovery? Find out in these articles:
- Richard III expert: The skeleton in the car park may not be missing monarch after all
Feature by Cahal Milmo at the Independent.
- That's not a King you boneheads! Richard III remains 'could be anyone'
Item by Marc Walker at the Daily Star.
- Are they Richard III's remains? To ask the question is to miss the point
Article by David Shariatmadari at the Guardian.
New light on an old church, a significant silver penny, miniature sculptures and a rare religious book.
- Notre Dame Cathedral Just Got an LED Makeover
Modern technology is giving the 12th-century edifice a fresh look. Article by John Metcalfe at AtlanticCities inclues several nice photos.
- Castle forged penny set to sell at auction for £10,000
The silver penny dating to the reign of King Stephen was evidently minted at Tutbury Castle. Story by Rob Smyth at the Burton Mail.
- 15th Century Idols found in Chola Temple
The sculptures measure less than 5 inches in diameter. Item at the New Indian Express.
- Auction of Rare 15th Century Torah May Fetch $2.1 Million
Produced in Bologna in 1482, the volume is the first printing of all five books of the Hebrew Bible. Article by Katya Kazakina at Bloomberg Business Week.
This week's news includes a skeletal monk, an Indian statue, a look at the relationship between rain and Mongol invasions, and some medieval Spanish villages up for grabs.
- Remains of a medieval monk discovered after his legs are found poking out of a sea ridge
In an area that was home to a community of Cistercian monks from the 12th to 16th centuries, the skeleton of a man thought to be in his 20s was discovered. Article by Ellie Zolfagharifard at the Daily Mail.
- Warm, Wet Times Spurred Medieval Mongol Rise
Climate change may have led to the extensive Mongol invasions that took place in the 13th century. Article by Sarah Zielinski at Smithsonian Magazine; see also the item by Subodh Varma at the Times of India.
- ASI digs out 12th-century sculpture
A rare sculpture of Vishnu is one of the items found at Purana Qila. Item by Richi Verma at the Times of India.
- Spain: Deserted medieval villages available 'free'
There are thousands of empty villages across Spain that are up for sale at extremely reasonable prices; some are even free. Item at BBC News.