Thursday, 29 November 2012

A look round David's Tower - Edinburgh's first medieval 'high rise'


A medieval tower which housed kings and hid treasure was the first "high rise" in Edinburgh. 

David's Tower was itself hidden beneath Edinburgh Castle until its rediscovery 100 years ago. 

BBC Scotland's arts correspondent Pauline McLean has had a look around.

Watch the video...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Skulls, longbows, arrows … and nitcombs! Science sheds light on life aboard Tudor warship



Tudor skulls, bones, longbows, arrows and nitcombs were among the array of artefacts examined by Bishopston Comprehensive School pupils as Swansea University academics showed how 21st century technology is shedding new light about life aboard the 16th century warship The Mary Rose.

 

Nick Owen and Dr Sarah Forbes-Robinson from the Colleges of Engineering and Science visited the Year 8 pupils at the school to reveal how science and technology has helped them to discover more about the lives of the people on board Henry VIII’s warship which was sunk in 1545.

Mr Owen, a Sport and Exercise Biochemist who has been working with The Mary Rose Trust, showed pupils his work on samples of skeletons that were raised with the ship from the Solent in 1982.

Mr Owen’s research has focussed on the bones believed to be those of an elite company of professional archers who were known to have been on board the ship when it went down. Many of the skeletons show evidence of repetitive stress injuries of the shoulder and lower spine which are thought to be as a result of the shooting heavy longbows regularly.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mary Rose: scientists identify shipwreck's elite archers by RSI


A company of elite longbow archers perished aboard Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose when it sank almost five centuries ago, scientists have discovered.

Researchers have identified the elite archers who died alongside sailors on Henry VIII's flagship, due to evidence of repetitive strain in their shoulders and spines.
The ship sank off Spithead in The Solent in 1545, while leading an attack on a French invasion fleet. It stayed on the seabed until it was raised in 1982 and put on public display.
Over the past two years, scientists from the University of Swansea have been working to identify almost 100 skeletons kept at the Mary Rose Museum, in Portsmouth.
DNA identification has been difficult because they have been contaminated by cockles, molluscs and algae.
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The Mary Rose archers were among the elite soldiers of the 16th century, research reveals


The archers who fought on Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, would have been elite soldiers for their time, standing over 6 feet tall and able to pull weights over 200 lbs. These findings come from a new research project being carried out by sports scientists at Swansea University and the Mary Rose Trust to discover more about the lives of the 16th century archers on board the ship.
When the ship was raised from the Solent in 1982, many thousands of medieval artefacts along with 92 fairly complete skeletons of the crew of the Mary Rose were recovered.
Nick Owen, Sport and Exercise Biomechanist from the College of Engineering at Swansea University said, “This sample of human remains offers a unique opportunity to study activity related changes in human skeletons. It is documented that there was a company of archers aboard when the ship sank, at a time when many archers came from Wales and the South West of England.
“These archers had specialist techniques for making and using very powerful longbows. Some bows required a lifetime of training and immense strength as the archers had to pull weights up to 200lbs (about 90kg).”
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Is it King Richard III? We we will know in January


The DNA and scientific testing to confirm whether or not the remains of an individual discovered in Leicester is that of England’s King Richard III will be known early in the new year, according to officials from the University of Leicester.
DNA testing, environmental sampling and radiocarbon dating are some of the tests being undertaken to determine whether the skeleton found in Leicester was once Richard III – and there are also plans to do a facial reconstruction.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, of the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services, explains “We are looking at many different lines of enquiry, the evidence from which all add up to give us more assurance about the identity of the individual. As well as the DNA testing, we have to take in all of the other pieces of evidence which tell us about the person’s lifestyle – including his health and where he grew up.
“There are many specialists involved in the process, and so we have to coordinate all of the tests so the analysis is done in a specific order. The ancient DNA testing in particular takes time and we need to work in partnership with specialist facilities. It is not like in CSI, where DNA testing can be done almost immediately, anywhere – we are reliant on the specialist process and facilities to successfully extract ancient DNA.”
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You may also be interested in this Oxford summer school course about Richard:

The Life and Times of Richard III... 
 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Summer Courses in Archaeology

Oxford Experience Archaeology Courses

The Oxford Experience Summer School offers weekly introductory courses in the Sciences and Humanities.  Participants stay in Christ Church, the largest and one of the most beautiful Oxford Colleges.


You can find out more about the Oxford Experience here...

Richard III dig: Leicester archaeologists to reconstruct the face of Greyfriars skeleton


Archaeologists working to identify the Greyfriars remains are reconstructing the 500-year-old skeleton's face to give people a possible glimpse of King Richard III.

Scientists at the University of Leicester are using techniques similar to those which recreated Tutankhamen's face more than 3,000 years after the young Pharaoh died.

The Leicester skeleton, found at a council car park in August, has already been subjected to a CT scan which will allow a specialist team to build a 3D digital picture of the face.

They hope to reveal the results in the new year.

Professor Lin Foxhall, head of archaeology at the university, said: "We've provided 3D scans of all the bones, including the skull, to a specialist team, which will build up a picture of how he used to look.
"It will be very interesting, because of course there are portraits of him and if the images come back and they're similar it's another piece of evidence which will strengthen the identification process."

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Archbishop Desmond Tutu to meet University of Leicester team behind Search for Richard III


Archbishop Desmond Tutu is to meet key members of the Search for King Richard III when he visits the University of Leicester on Wednesday, November 14.

The Emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town and honorary graduate of the University of Leicester, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be brought up to date with all of the announcements from the Grey Friars dig.

Archbishop Tutu will have a meeting with staff in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History and the Department of Genetics before giving The Provost Derek Hole annual lecture 2012 on Public faith in a secular age.

The University of Leicester, in association with Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, is leading the Search for Richard III. The University announced in September that it had discovered a set of articulated remains which are currently being subjected to rigorous laboratory examination.

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You may also be interested in this Oxford summer school course about Richard:

The Life and Times of Richard III... 

   

How Medieval Arms Race Led to Swords Capable of Killing ‘Tin Can’ Knights


I grew up on an early edition of Dungeons & Dragons and John Boorman’s Excalibur. The image of the tin-can knight — clanking and rattling as he walked, hoisted onto his horse by a crane — was the first part of my childhood that had to go when I started working on The Mongoliad, an epic collaborative tale about the Mongol invasion of Europe in the early 13th century.

Part of our purview on the project, an interactive story that’s being turned into a book trilogy, was to portray Western martial arts correctly. Thus began my crash course in the evolution of arms and armor over several centuries of medieval life.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this education was charting the changes that occurred as a result of this medieval arms race. Let’s start with the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, as recorded by the Bayeaux Tapestry, which is more than 200 linear feet of embroidered pictures of men in armor.

They’re wearing hauberks, long shirts that hang nearly to their knees made from interlinked iron rings. They called it “maille,” plain and simple, and if the troubadours were getting all poetic about these battles, they might refer to this maille as a “net.” Never “chain.” Why? Well, because it was a net.

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‘It’s not like CSI’: the Science of the Search for Richard III


Complexity of tests being performed on Grey Friars skeleton mean answers will not come overnight

Search for King Richard III press portal: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii
DNA testing, environmental sampling and radiocarbon dating are some of the tests being undertaken to determine whether the skeleton found in Leicester was once Richard III - and there are also plans to do a facial reconstruction.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, of the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services, has explained the schedule for the scientific processes the skeleton is being subjected to.

The complexity and rigorousness of the tests – along with the need to find specialist facilities for some crucial stages – mean that the results of the skeleton’s identity will not come overnight.

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You may also be interested in this Oxford summer school course about Richard:

The Life and Times of Richard III... 
  

Monday, 12 November 2012

Chance to relive the battles of Richard III’s era


University of Leicester students will swap their pens and notebooks for the medieval swords, longbows and chainmail from the days of King Richard III.

Members of the public will be able to take part in a “Bringing History to Life” event at the University on Wednesday November 14, which will feature a day of authentic medieval combat organised by the University’s Re-enactment Society.

The day will focus on the 12th century as well as the 15th century, which covers the time of Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Society members will perform demonstrations of combat, and passers-by will be able to try out replica chainmail, embroidery, equipment and armour made by society members.

Visitors will also be able to hear from researchers at the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who have uncovered human remains at the possible site of the Richard III’s burial.

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You may also be interested in this Oxford summer school course about Richard:

The Life and Times of Richard III...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Caherduggan peytrel – a unique medieval find


Excavations at the former site of Caherduggan Castle, Co. Cork, have revealed a preserved composite leather and metal object that may be a unique survival in Ireland and Britain.

The dig was carried out in 2011 by Rubicon Heritage Services on behalf of Cork County Council, as part of a road realignment planned between the villages of Newtwopothouse and Doneraile in the north of the county.

A medieval well

The investigations revealed a number of features relating to the castle structure, including the footings of a tower house and an enclosing stone-revetted fosse. Within the castle confines a medieval well was excavated that contained a number of extraordinarily well preserved objects. Amongst the material lost or discarded in its depths were a 13th/14th century bone gaming die, a 13th/14th century indoor side-seamed shoe and a curious long leather strip with what appeared to be metal-studding along its length.

These objects underwent months of painstaking conservation and have recently returned to undergo specialist analysis.

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