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Archive for the category “Science”

We know who it isn’t …

… but this lady in her thirties died far more recently near Norwich Cathedral …

The true identy of the Black Death….?

Miniature out of the Toggenburg Bible (Switzerland) of 1411 

Last night I cheered myself up by watching the PBS documentary The Mystery of the Black Death. No, that opening sentence was facetious, because I have to say that the programme was actually very interesting. And rather uncanny in that it was stated the pestilence started in Italy, then Spain, and then gradually spread through the rest of Europe. Eerily familiar in present circumstances, right?

This documentary traced the progress and symptoms of the Great Pestilence, which has traditionally been identified as bubonic plague. No! Bubonic plague didn’t follow the same pattern as the Great Pestilence (not named the Black Death until later on). The buboes of bubonic plague were absent in all contemporaneous descriptions of what struck Europe in 1347/51. And rats couldn’t have been to blame because there weren’t any at that period.

Well, there were a few, of course, but nothing like the teeming hordes we all envisage. There are small hints of this ratless society, e.g. the fact that dovecotes were built with “nesting” spaces going right down to the ground. This wouldn’t have happened had rats been much in evidence. Rats climb, yes, but medieval people wouldn’t have made it so inviting and easy by providing rat feasts at ground level.

Another indication was that although owls eat rats, no rat bones have been found in the regurgitated pellets of medieval owls. Loads of mouse bones, and so on, but no rats. Why not? Presumably because there were no rats to eat.

So the programme delved into what else other disease it might have been. It concluded that the Black Death was spread by human touch, not rats or fleas, and that it was mostly likely something closely related to ebola.

Whether you agree with the reasoning or not, the programme is very interesting, and I recommend it. But not if you’re squeamish!

If you cannot receive PBS UK, you can see more here.

Westminster Abbey is biased because of those Tudors….!

Ten facts about Westminster Abbey? Well yes, this article does indeed provide such a list, but I do have to find fault with some of its statements. For instance, the Boys in the Urn were probably murdered by Richard’s henchmen.

With luck that urn will one day fall off its plinth and break – then the contents can be examined properly. What’s the betting that the evidence will reveal (a) Roman remains, or (b) a cow’s shin bone, a pig’s jaw and various other animal bits, courtesy of the Stuarts? Whatever, it WON’T show the remains of the boys in question.

As for their deaths at the hands of anyone to do with Richard III…well, prove it. If the remains are Roman, then he couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with it. If most of the bones are indeed animal and from any handy human remains found in the Stuart period, then Richard can’t have had anything to do with that either. We don’t even know if the boys were killed at all. There’s no evidence. It’s just convenient to follow the Tudor clarions and blame Richard for everything. The original wicked uncle!

If he was guilty of anything, I hope it was something like a particularly painful ulcer on Henry VII’s scrawny backside. He was indeed to blame for many unpleasant things. As was the whole of his House. Compared with them, Richard III was a pussycat.

Then I must also object to the following: “…The most influential kings and queens in English history have elaborate tombs at the heart of Westminster Abbey….” Does this mean that anyone who isn’t buried there isn’t of sufficient conseqence or influence? Really?

So, the first Lancastrian king (and usurper) Henry IV, had to go to Canterbury because he wasn’t worthy of Westminster? Um, methinks Henry IV chose to go to Canterbury because he was sucking up to Becket. King John may not have been an all round good egg, but he lies at Worcester. Edward II is at Gloucester. Henry II is in France. Richard I is also somewhere in France…anywhere, so long as it’s not England! Let’s face it, he hardly knew what the place looked like. He stayed away but bled the country dry in order to finance his endless thirst for crusades, and yet eyes still go all dewy when he’s mentioned. Ah, our great and noble warrior king. Yuk.

No doubt there are others who escape my memory at the moment – obviously this blank in my grey cells is due to their absence from Westminster’s sacred portals. Anyway, we’re to think that these monarchs were too insignificant enough for Westminster?

Aha, is the anti-Richard III stance due to the abbey being in a miff about him being laid to rest in Leicester? Does Westminster resent all the interest and income he’s brought to that abbey? If Henry VII’s spirit still rattles around the place, it will have been wailing and shaking its chains in anguish to think that Leicester is benefiting. Henry always clawed all the money he could, whether it was his to claw or not. Scrooge personified.

It was all very well to say at the time that there wasn’t any room for him at Westminster, but maybe the fact is that too many darned Tudors are cluttering up the place. If you want to make the most of the all-too-prevalent fashion for grovelling around anything to do with that House, then a much finer king like Richard is obviously incompatible. He just wouldn’t fit – a little like Gulliver in Lilliputania. Well, he may not have reigned for long before being treasonously murdered, but in that brief time he did a great deal of good for the people of England.

His reward throughout history has been to have Tudor lies about him believed. Past historians have fallen for the propaganda hook, line and sinker. Thank you More. Thank you, Shakespeare. Above all, thank you Henry VII – I cordially hope you did indeed have an abscess on your posterior and that it hurt like Hell every time you sat down!

Well, I’ve huffed and puffed my outrage for long enough, but think I’ve nailed why Westminster Abbey can’t help but suggest that Richard had his nephews murdered! The place is too darned Tudor!

 

The only surviving remains of a member of the Kentish Royal House, and of one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon saints….?

 

taken from the article indicated below

Well, I was watching TV news—the bit where they review the newspapers—and had to laugh (with the reviewers) when they came across the headline “Remains of the Deity”. Brilliant. I’ve since Googled the phrase and the newspaper wasn’t the first to use it, but it was certainly the first time I’d heard it.

Anyway, the story is about the remains of an early English saint being found in the wall of a church in Kent.

This article in the Daily Mail is filled with interesting photographs of the work that’s being done in the Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone, Kent, of which town she is the patron saint. She was also a Kentish Royal Saint and granddaughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelbert.

“….The remarkable discovery was revealed at a special event at the church this evening to mark the start of British Science Week 2020. Dr Andrew Richardson, FSA, from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, said: ‘This locally-based community partnership has produced a stunning result of national importance.

“….’It now looks highly probable that we have the only surviving remains of a member of the Kentish royal house, and of one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon saints….”

If the remains are indeed those of the saint, it’s exciting to think what further research can be done. Are they too old to produce the sort of information we were able to learn about Richard III?

Combining genetics with genealogy to identify the dead in unmarked graves….

 

Can you imagine swarms of investigators milling around unmarked graves (and known graves) across the UK, taking samples of DNA in the hope of locating someone of historic interest? After all, it’s how Michael Ibsen’s descent from Richard’s sister was discovered.

Well, the nature of events in Quebec, Canada, described in this article, raise some interesting points.

Such searches aren’t likely to happen en masse, of course, but if they did, I wonder just whose last resting place might be unearthed? And just who might be proved to NOT be the son/daughter of the parents to whom they’re credited? Some new historical mysteries might be solved…and some very intriguing possibilities created where they weren’t before!

Now, the search for one of Jack the Ripper’s victims….

image from https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/jack-the-ripper

Now there is another search for the resting place of a famous person from the past, this time Mary Kelly, one of the victims of Jack the Ripper. Some of the people involved in finding Richard are involved again. See this post

Mary doesn’t have quite the same cachet as Richard, but the discovery of anyone of historical relevance is always a good thing. I hope they find her.

So wrong he may be right (2) – William Cowper

Here we have the poet and hymnwright William Cowper (left), who we referred to in our previous article but couldn’t find the evidence for the Essex anniversary in February. The usual sources have been a little troublesome but we know from Lord David Cecil’s The Stricken Deer that he was the great-nephew of an Earl and that his mother was a Donne from Norfolk. From this clue, further research revealed a direct female line to Mary Boleyn, giving Cowper the same mtDNA as Elizabeth I.

Among Anne Donne’s more distant relatives was another poet and Dean of St. Paul’s, the great John Dunne (right) from a Welsh Catholic background. Donne, although married with many children, seems to have had no grandchildren or uncles on either side so this descent couldn’t be direct or immediately collateral.

Richard and Greyfriars both lost in Leicester—and found again….!

Here are Historic England’s ten top archaeological discoveries of the decade.

Needless to say, the discovery of Richard III’s remains figures high on the list. He’d been thought to have been buried in Leicester Greyfriars…or maybe thrown into the River Soar! But no, Greyfriars was the place. However, what I didn’t know was that Greyfriars itself had also been lost for 400 years as well!

‘I saw something shining…’ Metal Detecting Finds..

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The Staffordshire Hoard.  One of the biggest hoard of Anglo Saxon artefacts every discovered.  See more of this hoard below..

A story has broken of four ‘metal detectorists’ who have been convicted of stealing a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery worth 3 million pounds, most of which is, tragically, still missing.  You can tell from the pictures of the stuff that has been recovered the quality of the still missing items, which now may never be recovered,  after probably being sold on the black market.

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A gold ring dating back to the reign of King Alfred the Great

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A crystal rock pendant chased in gold  dating back to the 5th century

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Gold arm bangle with a dragon or serpents head design dating from the 9th century..

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A gold coin from the reign of King Alfred the Great..

Just before this story broke I was intending to write a story about metal detectorists that have made some wonderful discoveries and have done the right thing handing them over,  also being paid quite handsome sums.  I list some of these discoveries below.    Although I have had to mention the fact that a small handful of people wielding metal detectors have behaved despicably, for which they will now being paying the price –  long prison sentences –  the majority of finds are declared most of which would have lain undiscovered if not for metal detectorists.  So I say as long as they behave honourable and do not disturb places of historical importance then long may they continue to find beautiful items of great historical interest.

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Medieval garnet and turquoise ring circa 1250-1450.  Found at Barnham Broom, Norfolk.

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The Escrick Ring.  900-1100 AD -Viking.  Only the second time a use of a sapphire has been recorded in England (1)  Found in 2009 and  now in the Yorkshire Museum.

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The famous Middleham Jewel.  Gold with a sapphire.  Dated between 1475 and 1499.  Discovered in 1985 near Middleham Castle.  Now at the York Museum.  

 

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A gold 15th century hat pin found inches below the surface of a newly ploughed Lincolnshire field.  

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Seventeen Medieval coins.  A Welsh find.

image.pngSword Pommel.  Bedale Hoard.  Late 9th to 10 Century.  One of 48 items.  Now in the Yorkshire Museum.

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Gold Brooch – two hands clasped together, note the decorative sleeves.  Only the size of a pound coin.  Found in a field in Cheshire.  Circa 1350.  Thought to be a betrothal gift.  

image.pngA fitting from hilt of a Seax (a large single bladed knife) – one of the items from the Staffordshire Hoard  discovered in 2009 in a field near Lichfield and the largest collection of Anglo Saxon Gold and silver to be ever discovered.image.png

A helmet from the Staffordshire Hoard and fit for a King..image.png

The helmet has been reconstructed as it was  badly damaged before it was buried.

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A mystery object from the Hoard that has left archaeologists  baffled.    Suggestions have been the lid of a container, an extension of a helmet, a saddle fitting?

And so its clear that metal detectorists are a valuable asset in recovering lost treasures frequently  alerting archaelogists to a site and further finds that would have remained undiscovered.  How many more finds are out there awaiting the intrepid metal detector to discover them?  Bring it on!

 

  1. Online article.  University of York.  The first earliest example of a sapphire being used in jewellery in England was 5th century Roman.

 

A Cairo dweller Troll on Quora

Picture of Troll spray

I sometimes go on Quora to give answers to various questions, usually about Richard, and occasionally I get drawn into arguments with those who are entrenched in the belief that Richard was a usurping, chid-murdering hunchback. I can easily argue against these and, as an osteopath, I can state with authority that he wasn’t a hunchback. This is par for the course, but sometimes they get the strangest ideas about him.

Recently, one such misguided individual insisted that Richard was cruel to his mother in law and to George, Duke of Bedford. It seemed a weird thing to pick on and then I found out that he had just read the new ‘biography’ of Richard by Prof Hicks. No wonder he has such strange ideas. Hicks always seems to grasp onto snippets which either don’t make sense and which are just his own opinion or else takes a tack that nobody else has thought of (e.g. that the remains found in Leicester are not Richard, that he committed incest by marrying Anne), usually because it is clearly wrong or unlikely.

I am still arguing with this particular troll and many will say it is pointless. In a way it is as he will never change his view, it is so firmly entrenched. But the reason I do it is that there are innocents viewing the answers given on Quora and I want them to have the true facts. Usually it is obvious who is the most logical and fair-minded in these discussions, so I hope to convert a few neutrals to being Ricardians by showing up these narrow-minded people as illogical and unfair.

A friend remarked that she had heard Quora pay ‘plants’ to argue with people and stir up trouble deliberatley in order to increase the traffic to their site. The same conclusion applies: neutral readers will still see that our Ricardian arguments are much better than the Cairo-dwellers‘ ones!

Does anyone else rise to the bait at times for this reason?

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