Links of coolness (mainly featuring death or actual cold, but some brighter)

Well, I’ve been busy for so long that quite a lot of exciting stuff has come out of the ground or otherwise appeared on the web. First and foremost, it would seem that some of the stuff presented at that Bristol conference that I said I wasn’t allowed to talk about has now been released.

The grave of Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg, newly opened

The grave of Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg, newly opened

At the conference they had video from a microcamera intruded into the coffin of this man, who was once Barbarossa’s Chancellor, but hadn’t yet opened it. Now they have, which I learn from this article on The Times‘s website, in case your German’s not up to that first one, and I found the Times one because of this post by Michelle Moran at her History Buff blog. In case you can’t see, he is holding a chalice and a book. Go and look at the pictures! Rarely is a dead body so amazing.

Skulls in the burial pit on the Ridgeway, Dorset

Skulls in the burial pit on the Ridgeway, Dorset

So, I said I’d tell you and so I have. But of course just lately most of the focus has been on another set of dead bodies, the fifty-one apparently-Vikings at Weybridge, Dorset. A quick sken at the Anglo-Saxon Archaeology blog reveals ten separate articles just on the front page and I seem to remember that there were more. Here I think I should give the palm of coverage to my colleague Rory Naismith who has covered it for the Cambridge Department of Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic’s blog here. If you want an expert’s take, there is one, albeit suitably cautious.

The ruins of Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh

The ruins of Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh

One more set of dead bodies with no images as yet, but in some ways more interesting, is a group of female burials that have been found at Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh, in Devon. The archæologist in charge, Sam Turner, is saying that this suggests there was a nunnery on the site. I see the reasoning, but I wonder, because of the dating, which from the article in the South Devon Herald Express to which David Beard linked at Archaeology in Europe, which continues invaluable, they say only that the site is at least 1000 years old. I think, reading between the lines, that this is because they have found a church underlying the current ruins, which are Norman (and only this ruined because of a fire in 1992, worse luck), and since those are Norman these must be Saxon. What the relation of the burials to either church is not clear from the short notes in the papers, or whether the bodies themselves have yet been dated, and I’d very much appreciate any further information anyone might have. The reason I’m cautious is that in 1018 there was a monastery, Buckfast Abbey, founded just down the hill from this sight, and so the dating is kind of crucial to work out whether the abbey was replacing a nunnery, moving in alongside, or merely a resumption of monastic life in male reform style on a site where female religious observance had ceased long before. Or, whether they’ve just struck a bit of the graveyard where women were, as these are not the first burials recovered from the churchyard (as you’d expect). So, cart before the archæological horse? Or genuinely archæological evidence of a very late Saxon double monastery? Apart from anything else, I note that in 2005 Andrew Reynolds and Dr Turner published this site as a monastery, so I’d very much like to know what the earlier evidence was, and will keep my eyes and ears open.1 Hey Andrew, you’re not reading are you? (Worth a try…)

Antler carving of a presumed Norseman found at Sigtuna

Away from bodies, but back to Vikings, and also relating to arguments that have been had here about our favourite bone of contention, it should be noted if you didn’t—I got it from David Beard’s Archaeology in Europe again—that a new temperature index for medieval Greenland has been compiled from sea-shells pulled out of sediment cores, and shows a fairly severe collapse in the temperature in that area in the decades after the settlement of Iceland in c. 890. Of course, I’m more interested in the bit where they say, “winter temperature variability increased between 990 and 1120, a time when written records suggest that crops occasionally failed. By 1250, things heated up again and summer temperatures reached 10 degrees Celsius, possibly the highest in three centuries. Within decades, though, temperatures began to plunge again”, but the reminder that all our temperature data (and this is still true now) is local data first and foremost is salutary, because this is not really what we see in mainland Europe.

Mosaic floor from the Umayyad palace at al-Sinnabra

Likewise about things coming out of the ground, although in a very different area and of very different size (though possibly less significance: think on that, ye mighty…) is this summer palace of the Umayyad Caliph Mu’awiya that Israeli archæologists have located at al-Sinnabra on the shores of the Lake of Galilee. I learn this from News for Medievalists, and I haven’t missed the recent controversy over their content, but this one links to the press release I’ve just linked, so I see no problem with tipping the hat here.2

Then, I’d also like to notice two things that are about texts rather than objects, firstly this excellent article by Patricia Cohen for the New York Times about how to archive Salman Rushdie’s computer files, which taps into so much stuff I’ve written here before about digital decay and the need for truly long-term digital preservation strategies, which I was pointed at from Cliopatria, and which contemplates, among other things, preserving the hardware on which the files were used so as to replicate the author’s mise-en-page, which is a wonderful idea. They make mention of a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device at Stanford University, basically a really advanced data recovery machine, and I’m quite glad there is one of those but I think we’ll need more…

And of course, as has correctly been observed by Goblinpaladin at Opinions of a Reformed Dropout, this is approximately the most brilliant thing in the world, a chap called Jackson Crawford who has taken it upon himself to rewrite the story of Star Wars as Old Norse saga, Tattúínárdœla saga. My Old Norse is basically non-existent, and he has provided English translations only reluctantly, but the actual effort of reimagining the characters and storyline into a Viking Age setting is a considerable part of his achievement. I’d say go read it but since he speaks of having 8,000 visitors per day I’d guess you probably already are. Nevertheless, just in case… Ah me how I love the Internet.

1. Andrew Reynolds & Sam Turner, “Discovery of a late Anglo-Saxon monastic site in Devon: Holy Trinity church, Buckfastleigh” in Archaeology International Vol. 5 no. 8 (London 2005), pp. 22-25.

2. I confess to some slight bemusement at the extent of this. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never met its operators, but I never thought was anything other than self-promoting journalism. The selection of articles and the coverage given to fiction has always left that impression on me, and the choice of digitised scholarly work they choose to host also seems to embrace availability rather than discrimination. At least they are now consistently giving links. The whole thing has made me think a lot more carefully about how I use hot-linking, though. It’s always seemed to me a way to pass traffic to a deserving site and notify them that I’d borrowed their image, and the bandwidth implications had never struck me. They probably don’t arise with the number of visitors I get here, but all the same, and because often hot-linked images disappear, I should rethink that. Any thoughts from people I’ve linked to?

7 responses to “Links of coolness (mainly featuring death or actual cold, but some brighter)

  1. First, though the Web site at medievalists. net and the blogspot blog are owned by the same people, what people are upset about is mostly on the blogspot blog called Medieval News.

    Because they are still being weasels, in that they repeat an entire press release, or a blog post, verbatim, and then add a link to source (n.b., yes Virginia, this is still plagiarism, and yes, it violates the DMCA and yes, it’s weasel behavior) I’m not going to link to them.

    There are, however, quite a few other sources, the same sources and tools they use to get their content, in fact.

    And yes, I’m annoyed; both as a geek and as a medievalist who has to explain to students that copying three paragraphs and citing the source in a footnote when you don’t do anything with the text, is plagiarism and the sort of behavior that is not considered ethical or scholarly.

    • I’m in no position to argue about the legalities of their practice; the law you cite doesn’t run in my country. I’m conscious that it does run in the country where this blog is hosted; however, it’s not my practice we’re arguing about I hope.

      As to the charge of plagiarism, however, I can say that what they’re doing (now) is not plagiarism by the standards I’m asked to teach by. It’s extremely uninspired and would score very poorly as it demonstrates no real understanding, but as long as it’s attributed, it’s not plagiarism. So I’ll go with `not considered scholarly’, and as I say it never struck me that they were, but as to the actual ethics, I’m not sure where I would draw a line between what they (now) do and what somewhere like Archaeology in Europe, which I find incredibly useful, does. So I shan’t, yet.

  2. Maybe I’m just too cynical about the British press, but the complaints about Medieval News recycling press releases without attribution and proper referencing doesn’t seem to me to be any worse than what the mainstream media do. (Nicking blogposts is a different matter). See for example, on the Weymouth Vikings Medieval News, BBC and Guardian.

    In fact, you tend to get more accurate information from someone who just cuts and paste the press release then when someone who doesn’t know anything about the subject tries to paraphrase it in their own words.

    • I suppose that the question is the origin of the content. To an extent, what they’re doing with press releases is exactly what those who released them intended. It’s the stuff that’s not press releases where the ethical sharks swim.

  3. Greenland settlement of 890? Typo, right? Should be c. 984.

    • You’re not wrong, are you? It actually is a typo, but I meant to type 870, because that’s the figure given in the article, which is unambiguous and wrong. I should have trapped that one myself. I guess they’ve taken the date for the settlement of Iceland and cross-applied that! The actual scholarly article on which this is reporting (which is now online so that I can tell you that it is: William P. Patterson, Kristin A. Dietrich, Chris Holmden and John T. Andrews, “Two millennia of North Atlantic seasonality and implications for Norse colonies” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 107 no. 12 (2010), pp. 5306-5310, doi:10.1073/pnas.0902522107), gives the dates correctly. I’ve therefore corrected above. Thankyou!

  4. Pingback: Seminar LXXXV: more skeletons, and this time Vikings « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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