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More exciting finds under a car park….!

coventry-wall

 

Car parks have become Aladdin’s caves for archaeology and things as wonderful as the remains of Richard III. Coventry’s lost history is now coming to light. Be patient with the Coventry Telegraph site, I found it as much a pain for ads and slowness as the Leicester Mercury!

Merton Priory

Thanks to Dave Perry for drawing our attention to this video. Merton Priory was built in 1117 and dissolved in 1538 but plans are afoot to conserve its remains and renew the Chapter House.m1

THE LOST CITY OF TRELLECH-FOUND

Once upon a time, back in the  Middle Ages, a large, thriving Welsh city existed between Monmouth and the village of Trellech. Its size was astounding for the day—it had 10,000 inhabitants (for comparison London had 40,000.) Another 10,000 souls may have lived in a shanty town along its edges.

What makes Trellech’s size particularly startling is that it reached this number in a mere 25 years, meaning that vast numbers of people must have been flooding into the area. This was undoubtedly something to do with the powerful de Clare lords, who held the local lands and used Trellech for smelting iron for their personal army.

Then…something happened. It possibly began with a  devastating raid over poaching deer, which destroyed a large portion of the town.  Then the Black Death roared in during the 1300’s, causing the population to drop dramatically. More trouble followed in the early 15th century when Owain Glyndwr was on the rampage in those debatable borderlands. By the time of the Civil War, the city had been completely abandoned, and soon nature reclaimed what was once its own, and grass grew over the walls of once mighty Trellech.

By modern times, it was mainly known through a few medieval documents and in local legend, its precise location lost and subject to much speculation, with many believing it was sited under the modern village of Trellech.

No one seemed terribly interested in definitively locating it and finding out if it was as extensive and important as claimed, although some earlier surveys were indicative. But then an enthusiastic young archaeologist, intrigued by the story of the lost city,  decided to use his life savings to buy the fields where folklore said Trellech stood.

And it turned out,  when the trenches were dug, that legend, this time, was correct.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4083716/History-fan-spends-32-000-life-savings-buying-field-digs-discover-lost-medieval-city.html

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http://www.lostcityoftrellech.co.uk/

 

The project is ongoing, so if anyone is in the area and wishes to join in this summer, there are details in the second link.

Besides the archaeological site of the city, the nearby village of Trellech is itself worth a visit, with its Holy Well dedicated to saint Anne, the Grade I Church of Saint Nicholas, a castle motte called the Tump, a 16th C pub, and three enormous Bronze Age standing stones (Harold’s Stones) which are aligned on the Midwinter sunset.

 

 

Knitting with a 14th-century goodwife….

textiles-and-clothing

Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 by Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland, published by Boydell Press, in association with the Museum of London. ISBN 978-1-84385-239-3 (First published in 1992 and reprinted numerous times since then, lastly in paperback in 2016, which is the version I have.)

Before I proceed, I will say that among the sites that provided contributions to this work is Baynard’s Castle (excavated in 1972), which was, of course, a very important residence of the House of York. The book’s coverage ends at 1450, but I am sure the site will still be of interest to those of the murrey-and-blue persuasion.

baynards-castle

The sites covered are mostly along the northern bank of the Thames, in the old city, and were excavated over a period of about twenty years. Archaeologists have discovered all sorts of clothing and textiles that speak of their owners’ status. The list of finds includes “knitting, tapestries, silk hair-nets and elaborately patterned oriental, Islamic and Italian fabrics….beautifully made buttons, buttonholes and edgings which display superb craftsmanship and a high level of needlework skills.”

I purchased the book because it was referred to when I was reading something else, and I am very glad to possess it. The intricate detail and beautiful illustrations are breathtaking. There are some astonishing reconstructions of complicated designs, built up from small fragments. They reveal some exquisitely delicate, decorative silks, brocades and other fine fabrics. At Baynard’s Castle, the most exotic piece retrieved was a Chinese twill damask woven from silk. Oh, to know to whom that belonged!

The samples of knitting are almost moving. There it is, good old stocking stitch, exactly as we knit it now. Looking at the fragments, the medieval period melds with the present, as if there were no intervening centuries. I felt I could sit amicably side by side with a 14th-century goodwife, our needles tapping away…producing the same result. Perhaps she would knit one of a pair of gloves, and I the other. I know, the weaving and other handcrafts are still the same as well, but it was the knitting that touched me.

If I have a criticism, it is that I would have liked more colour photographs. Determining the details of various forms of warp and weft is not always easy when shown in grayscale. At least, maybe they are to someone with weaving experience, but not to someone who seldom ventured beyond knitting.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Textiles-Clothing-c-1150-1450-Medieval-Excavations/dp/1843832399/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485971343&sr=1-1&keywords=textiles+1150

(Please note that the book to which the above link takes you is illustrated with an earlier cover than the one which will arrive, which has the cover pictured at the top of this page.)

The real site of the Battle of Barnet…?

site-of-battle-of-barnet

The excellent BBC series Digging for Britain, Series 5, the episode concerning the east of Britain, presented by the equally excellent Dr Alice Roberts, contained a section on the Battle of Barnet, 1471.

Why is it that an accepted site for a battle so often proves to be the wrong one? Bosworth is a prime example, of course, but it seems the Battle of Barnet was another. Apparently it has always been thought that the battle took place where the town of Barnet is now, yet there was never any proof. So the discovery of some 15th-century cannon balls in fields outside the town had the local detectors out in force.

Accounts of the battle describe it as having taken place in a hollow in the landscape, and the area of the fields fitted the bill. Standing in the middle and panning his camera around in a circle, one of the searchers showed how the land rose gradually all around. He and his fellows searched and searched, only finding things that might have had nothing to do with the battle, but then (in a style that brought Time Team to life again!) right at the eleventh hour a final detector happened upon something more substantial. They did not know if it was from horse harness or perhaps male clothing, although it was a little heavy for that.

battle-of-barnet

Various other finds convinced them they had found the true site of the battle. But it seemed curious that Edward IV, arriving on the scene with his battle at the end of the day, should choose to place himself in a dip. Surely that would be inviting trouble? Especially as he did not know exactly where the Lancastrian army was situated. But, the Lancastrians didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the Yorkists.

Battle commenced in at dawn, in fog, with the Earl of Warwick, in command of the Lancastrians, firing his cannon where he thought the Yorkists were. But he couldn’t see them because they were low down, and his cannon balls went harmlessly over their heads. Edward, on the other hand, kept his cannon silent, in order not to give his position away.

It became a bloody affair, with the Lancastrians mistaking one of their own, the Earl of Oxford, whose badge was a star, for Edward IV, whose badge was the sun in splendour.  Warwick was killed in the rout that followed.

So, was Edward IV a brilliant tactician in choosing the site he did? Or was it pure chance? We will never know.

See this previous post or this one.

Go here to see some of the programme itself.

An interesting discussion about medieval bones, including Richard’s….

bones-talk

Elena Haymond is an anthropology instructor at Riverland Community College,  and teeth are her special area of research within the field of osteoarchaeology. But in this talk she speaks of Richard’s remains in general, and how they have disproved Shakespeare’s portrait of him.

http://www.austindailyherald.com/2017/01/bare-bone-details-study-of-bones-enriches-the-understanding-of-people-cultures/

A MEMENTO MORI BEAD FROM GLOUCESTER

Recently excavations at Gloucester cathedral have unearthed some exciting new finds. Perhaps the most intriguing was a ‘Janus’ Bead of the 15th c., so-called because it is ‘two faced’ like the God Janus, with one face gazing forward and the other backward. What makes this one even more interesting, is that it is also a ‘Memento Mori’ item, with a skull on one side and a living man’s face on the other.

‘Memento Mori’ jewellery was quite common in the Middle Ages and later transformed into what was known as mourning jewellery (ie the Whitby jets items of the Victorians.).  In one of Richard III’s portraits he appears to be wearing a Memento Mori ring with a skull image. A three-faced bead not unlike the one from Gloucester, but made on the Continent, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the case of the single bead from Gloucester, it appears to have originally belonged to a set of Rosary beads. Momento Mori images were not, of course, restricted to adornment but  were also found in art and on tombs–effigies that show both the deceased and/or a decaying corpse are quite common from the later medieval period. Edward IV apparently wanted such an effigy upon his grave but it was never made.

The image on the bead from Gloucester is of a man wearing headgear that indicates high status,  and may be meant to be a depiction of the  the bead’s owner.

 

http://www.borderarchaeology.com/results-are-back-find-out-more-about-our

 

beads

Was Edward IV gay and/or bisexual? Dr John Ashdown-Hill thinks maybe so….

ja-h

What follows was written entirely by Caroline Tilley, Senior Reporter of the Daily Gazette/Essex County Standard

Secret marriages, scandalous affairs and one of the best-kept secrets in English history….

WHEN you have helped to unearth arguably the greatest historical find of the 21st century, some people might decide to put their feet up.

Not Dr John Ashdown-Hill.

Not satisfied with finding the bones of Richard III, arguably England’s most notorious king underneath a Leicester car park, Dr Ashdown-Hill has now been riffling through the secrets of his elder brother Edward IV.

King of England for two periods in the 15th century, Edward Plantagenet’s life seems about as far removed from his brother, Richard’s, as conceivably possible.

A notorious womaniser with illegitimate children scattered across the country, scandal plagued his reign with secret marriages.

Yet all is not as it seems, as Dr Ashdown-Hill has explored in his new book.

The historian, who studied at the University of Essex and now lives in Manningtree, has unearthed evidence which appears to show Edward IV had a relationship with one of his military rivals.

He said: “In the summer of 1462 he met Henry, Duke of Somerset. Contemporary accounts tell us Edward loved him.”

If true, the claim would be one of the most explosive facts to come to light about a king renowned for his womanising.

There is certainly evidence, with a chronicle written at the time reporting how the two shared a bed.

Dr Ashdown-Hill said: “I don’t know why it’s been ignored.

“No-one has really picked it up. I think history is very surprising.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill made the headlines when, thanks partly to his painstaking work, the lost bones of Richard III were uncovered under a Leicester car park.

The notorious king has intrigued historians for centuries after allegedly killing off his nephews, the so-called princes in the tower and Edward IV’s sons, to take the throne.

His death at the hands of Henry VII, father to Henry VIII, marked the end of the famous Wars of the Roses.

It had been believed Richard’s bones had been thrown in a river by an angry mob a myth perpetuated by local legend, 50 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The lesson not to take evidence at face value is something Dr Ashdown-Hill is now applying to his work on Edward IV.

He said: “I had always been interested in Edward IV because of what he had to show about Richard III and his claim to the throne.

“A woman called Jane Shore was said to be his mistress for a long time. In fact, I have shown there is no evidence of this.

“It’s extraordinary. Even historian Rosemary Horrox said there was no contemporary evidence of it, yet she didn’t come to the obvious conclusion.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill added: “It was said Edward IV was a great womaniser and he had numerous bastards.

“In fact, Edward IV only recognised one illegitimate child, which he called the Lord Bastard.

“Henry VII then recognises another of his so-called children called Arthur Plantagenet. So it seems he might have had two or three illegitimate children.

“But so did Richard III and yet no one calls what he did outrageous. So why did they say this of his brother?”

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes the secret is tied up in an Act of Parliament which made Richard III king in 1483, after the death of his brother.

While the throne was meant to pass to the eldest prince in the tower, Richard claimed they were illegitimate and instead took the throne for himself.

But the two princes weren’t the only of Edward IV’s so-called legitimate children to be cut off. In fact, there were seven altogether.

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes it was this which has caused the confusion and led to historians believing Edward IV had so many illegitimate offspring.

Edward IV is not the only project Dr Ashdown-Hill is working on.

His work on Richard III led to the discovery of today’s Plantagenet female line through DNA.

He also uncovered somewhere along the line adultery had appeared, with at least one so-called father being displaced.

Dr Ashdown-Hill does not know whether this adultery happened in more modern or medieval times.

He is now trying to get his hands on the bones of Thomas of Lancaster, a relative of Richard III, whose bones were sold at auction in Colchester 1942.

It is not known where the bones are now but if he uncovers them, Dr Ashdown-Hill hopes to be able to pinpoint more accurately if the adultery happened before or after the birth of Richard III.

So after recovering the bones of Richard III and untangling the web of Edward IV, what’s next for Dr Ashdown-Hill?

As well as chasing possible living descendants who could give him DNA to pinpoint the elusive princes in the tower, he is next turning his attention to Richard III and Edward IV’s mother.

He said: “Cecily Neville seems to have spent a lot of her time being pregnant.

“I’m hoping a book might come from looking at her.”

See the article at http://tinyurl.com/z3m2clp

MORE ROYAL DNA TESTING

Tests using ground-breaking new DNA technology are commencing on the clothing of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. For years it has been rumoured that Masaryk might have been the illegitimate son of Emperor Franz Josef, who was of the House of Hapsburg. Tests will be undertaken first on living relatives of Masaryk’s legal father, and if there is no match, on items belonging to the Hapsburg family.

Masaryk’s mother had been the cook on one of Frank Josef’s estates; finding herself pregnant, she quickly married a man of lower status, who was ten years her junior. In itself, a hasty marriage under such circumstances would be nothing unusual, but Tomas’s subsequent rise into important positions from such inauspicious beginnings fuelled the rumours of possible royal parentage…and patronage.

However, there is no hard evidence his mother Theresia even met the Emperor, let alone slept with him.

Czech historians are not particularly happy at the idea of the DNA testing, believing it is ‘disrespectful’ and citing that Masaryk always spoke of his mother’s husband, Joseph, as his father and that they had a close relationship. However, that could still be true even if Tomas was not Joseph’s biological son.

There seems a strong resistance from Czech historians against potentially having to rewrite certain elements of history in a way they did not anticipate. This reluctance to change accepted belief could, of course, apply to many historians in the U.K. too, who cling to a number of outmoded legends and seem to have no desire to challenge them. DNA could help solve some of those ‘mysteries’ too…

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/38129757

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Dr Turi King and her team are short-listed for National Archaeology Award…

dr-turi-king

All credit for the nitty-gritty scientific work done by this time, but never let it be forgotten that the vital original groundwork was done by others, such as Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill.

http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2016/december/richard-iii-geneticist-among-those-nominated-for-national-archaeology-award

 

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