Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Environmental Crusaders

How Medieval Knights remade Poland’s ecosystems

In 1280, victorious Teutonic Crusaders began building the world’s largest castle on a hill overlooking the River Nogat in what is now northern Poland. Malbork Castle became the hub of a powerful Teutonic state that crushed its pagan enemies and helped remake Medieval Europe. Now, ancient pollen samples show that in addition to converting heathens to Christians, the Crusaders also converted vast swathes of Medieval forests to farmlands.

In the early-13th century, Prussian tribes living in the south-eastern Baltic became a thorn in the side of the Monastic State of Teutonic Knights, which was formed in 1224 in what is now Germany and Poland. To remove the thorn, and protect Christian converts in the region, the Teutonic Order launched a series of crusades. By the 14th century, the conquests had produced a state that ruled over more than 220,000 people, Alex Brown and Aleks Pluskowski of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom report in the Journal of Archeological Science, including new colonists who settled into fortified towns and castles.

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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Stirling Castle skeletons show signs of brutal death

Tests on the medieval skeletons of five people found buried at Stirling Castle have suggested they suffered "brutally violent" deaths.

Their remains were found along with those of four others during renovations of the castle's royal palace.

Scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine the nine people died between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

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Stirling Castle's Amazon warrior revealed

THE discovery of the remains of an aristocratic Scottish "Amazon", killed in battle during the Wars of Independence, is set to rewrite the history books.

Her skeleton was among the remains of five "high status" individuals - all of whom had suffered violent deaths - found beneath the paved floor of the "lost" Royal Chapel at Stirling Castle.

The woman - simply known as "skeleton 539" - was a robust and muscular female, standing 5ft 4in tall. Archaeologists had previously suspected she had been a courtier at the Royal palace during the reign of Alexander 11. But detailed forensic tests have now shown that she was ruthlessly killed by a warhammer during one of the key conflicts during the Wars of Independence.

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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Archaeology volunteers uncover ‘lost’ castle

A castle that was once one of the most important buildings in the North Pennines and the gateway to the Bishop of Durham’s great deer park of Stanhope, is now revealing its secrets after centuries as a forgotten ruin.

Fifty volunteers from the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Altogether Archaeology and backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage are busy uncovering the ruins of Westgate Castle in Weardale.

From the 13th until the early 17th century, Westgate Castle served as the ‘west gate’ into the Bishop of Durham’s great deer park, and functioned as an administrative headquarters for the Bishop’s extensive estate encompassing the Old Forest of Weardale.

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