Hold on to your Viking helmet; you’re about to dig, layer by layer, into one of the most extraordinary Viking hoards ever found on the British Isles – the Galloway Hoard – with Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland
The team of metal detectorists had been working this field in Galloway for some time, but what they eventually found was way beyond their expectations.
The top layer contained eleven ingots and eleven silver arm-rings that had been flattened into bullion. They would have been made from the type of ingots they’re buried with. There’s a nice variety of decoration, with lots of punched lines and hatches. This type of arm-ring is normally found in hoards in Ireland and there are some from North Wales and from Lancashire – all around the Irish Sea, but we don’t have a lot of this particular type in Scotland. This hoard completes the circle around the Irish Sea.
They’re called a Hiberno-Scandinavian type of arm-ring and obviously the Scandinavian is the new element added to the cultural mix at the time, but they’re given that Hiberno- prefix because they’re normally found in Ireland. For me it is always the hyphen between these cultural labels where the interesting things are happening.Read the rest of this article...
While I was away I noticed on, I think, Twitter, which I was scrolling through while waiting at a bus stop/train station/whatever, somebody getting into a froth over somebody deleting their tweets upon
mature reflection, and how this was The Death of History.
To which my own reactions were:
a) Archivists have been thinking about the problems posed by the fragility of the digital record for a good couple of decades plus, this is not something no-one has noticed before. (Wasn't the Library of Congress archiving Twitter, and presumably there are some measures against tampering, if so? - hah, I see that there have been problems of processing and it's not actually accessible, or wasn't as at last year.)
b) Quite apart from the dangers of fire, flood and insect or animal depredation to which records in the more traditional forms have been exposed, there has been a fair amount of deliberate curating of the record over the centuries, by deliberate destruction or just careful concealment (whether it's the Foreign Office secret archive or the concealment of Turner's erotic drawings under a misleading file title).
c) While you can delete or destroy a particular record, you cannot always get rid of the information that it did exist - presumably it was other people commenting on the now-deleted tweets or retweeting them that led to the decision to delete them, but that doesn't eradicate the fact of their existence. This may even draw attention to the deleted record: this is why when I was still being an archivist we used to persuade donors not to ask for closures apart from those mandated by Data Protection, because the idea that something is *CLOSED* causes some people's ears to prick up in a supposition that there will be *HIDDEN SECRETS* (this was very, very, seldom the case).
I might also invoke the case that came up in Prince of Tricksters, where Netley Lucas under one of his identities was communicating with different officials and departments, possibly, it is suggested, as a means to confuse his trail: but, due to the growth of bureaucracy, as well as the social networks they belonged to, could also communicate among one another to discover that this was all the same guy.
There is also the phenomenon that I have mentioned to researchers, that yes [organisations of a certain ideological bent] have been very coy about placing their archives anywhere where people might do research in them; BUT the organisations and people they were against kept tabs on their activities, collected their literature, etc.
Also that if person/organisation's own papers do not survive, you can find out a good deal from the surviving records of those they interacted with.
Archaeologists are back at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.
Last summer, researchers discovered traces of early medieval life at Tintagel in Cornwall, on England's southwest coast, where the legendary British monarch was said to have been born.
Now, they've returned to the site for another round of digging, to further explore buried buildings dated from the fifth to the seventh centuries.
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A 1,100-year-old coin is amongst a series of discoveries made at what experts believe was a royal power centre of a northerly Pictish kingdom.
The coin was found along with the remains of a longhouse at Burghead Fort near Lossiemouth, which was thought to have been largely destroyed by the development of a new town during the 19th century.
Now archaeologists from Aberdeen University hope further significant findings will be revealed at the site – a probable seat of power of Northern Pictland between 500AD and 1000AD, given the fresh discoveries.
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Historians have long argued that during the 'dark' ages (the period between the withdrawal of Roman administration in around 400 AD and the Norman Conquest in 1066) most settlements in the region were deserted, and the fens became an anarchic, sparsely inhabited, watery wilderness.
A new interdisciplinary study of the region by a leading landscape archaeologist not only rewrites its early history across those six centuries but also, for the first time anywhere in Europe, offers a detailed view of the settlement and agricultural management of early medieval wetland landscapes.
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Two urns and a lid were discovered in the graveyard. Hugo Chautón, the archaeologist overseeing the excavation, says Urnfield culture spread from central Europe into northeastern Spain around 1,000 years BCE. The name comes from the Urnfield culture’s custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns, which were then buried.
“This culture represents the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron,” said Chautón, “and provides valuable information about burial practices, particularly the move from burying the dead to cremating them.”
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What I read
A novella by Heather Rose Jones, Three Nights at the Opera (2014), prequel to Daughter of Mystery.
There was indeed a new Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory, delivered to my Kobo well in time to beguile my journeyings. Very good.
Alex Hall, Glitterland (2013): m/m contemporary romance, which was an absolute page-turner and I will even give it a degree of pass on the phonetic rendering of Estuarine speech, on the grounds that this might be down to the first-person narrator's attempt to depict Difference.
Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (2016): I had a bit of a problem with the rather gender-stereotypical allocation of science vs magic, and also with the way that both of them, in particular Patricia, are shown as coming to their powers as a result of familial dysfunction and school bullying (are US high schools really quite so generally toxic as literature would have me believe?), which is not that dissimilar in its rather Spartan overtones to the ethos of the military school to which Laurence is briefly sent. But I read on.
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (2013) - there were parts where I thought this was a bit slow, and possibly about showing off the author's research, but then it all came together with all the threads meshing at the end.
On the go
The end is almost in sight with Prince of Tricksters. Also continuing with Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, as and when.
Well, I have lately had delivered to my Kobo Kate Elliott's Buried Heart (2017), conclusion (?) to the Court of Fives series. But I've also, finally, received Monica Ferris's cozy mystery, Knit Your Own Murder (2016), at last a) out in paperback and b) actually in the mailer received from the seller.
One of the big things I wrestle with around being a flawed person who preaches is how to be honest about who I am and what I travel with while not making the entire sermon experience about me. The obvious level of difficulty is, of course, that I am also a universalist who rejects atonement theology. I can't just do a glib "Well, sinners be sinning! And I'm a sinner!" one-liner because ::gasp:: no atomenent theory to actually scoop me out of a predicament.
So. We're left with "And how will suz solve this today, hrm?" advance dinner theater. Yay.
I noticed - flitting past me on Twitter the other day - somebody eyerolling at, if not codfishing, some bloke's plaint that watching Dunkirk had made him realise that The Modern Man does not have these Manly Challenges To Rise To -
And being a historian, I thought that, actually, there have been long generations, at least in my country, where most men were not being called upon to take arms and fight, and the general attitude to the soldiery was summed up by Kipling in Tommy.
And that thing about Challenges to Rise To always tends to be seen in a context which leads to e.g. the Battle of the Somme, rather than to being a despised Conscientious Objector, a decision which history may read entirely differently -
Which possibly links on to that thing I also saw flit past me on Twitter apropos of alt-history narratives which allow the viewer to believe that they would be The Resistance, which reminded me of that nasty piece of work Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger going 'where are the good brave causes?', and really, one can think of a few relevant to the 1950s, not to mention, we do not, ourselves, envisage J Porter going off to Spain in the 30s.
And the whole notion of Heroic Actions and somehow, not here, not now.
And I thought, did not my beloved Dame Rebecca say somewhat to this point in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and while this has the rhetorical universalisation and generalisation to which she was (alas) prone, it does seem relevant to this notion of some kind of masculine Rite de Passage:
All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.
As opposed to, persistently beavering away at the moderately disagreeable in the hopes that it might become a little more agreeable.
This involved a certain amount of faff and hassle about making sure we were buying the right kind of ticket for the train which would also give us free rides on public transport, ascertaining which platform the train in the right direction left from, etc etc. And then when we arrived a) finding the right stop for the tram b) missing the stop we wanted and being carried on to a point we didn't want.
Except it turned out to be right around the corner from Hundertwasser's Waldspirale apartment block, which was on the list of things to see.
After which we wandered down in the direction of the Schloss (which can only be seen by way of guided tours, we passed) and had what was a rather more leisurely lunch than we had intended at the Altes Rathaus before going to the Hessische Landesmuseum, based on the collections of the Grand Dukes, which has some nice stuff.
We then went out to Mathildenhöhe, which was where the artists of the Jugendstil Art Nouveau movement hung out. This includes a Russian Orthodox Church (not particularly Art Nouveau) and the Hochzeitsturm, Marriage Tower, which looks as if it might be the HQ of one of those somewhat spooky early C20th New Agey cults that crop up in mysteries of the period, and a rather small museum (but I think part of it was closed) of furniture and objects created by the artists of the colony.
And then back to Frankfurt, whence we flew home today.
And in other news, spotted this in today's Guardian: the strange world of book thefts:
“We caught a gent last Christmas with £400-worth of stolen books in his trousers and elsewhere.... As we showed him the door he told us: ‘I hope you’ll consider this in the Žižekian spirit, as a radical reappropriation of knowledge.’”As an anarchist friend of a friend remarked when his car was nicked, 'Property is theft: but so is theft theft'.
Turkey Vultures are an everyday sight here. The birds are elegant fliers, soaring through the sky, with very little motion. They play; yes, they do. Watching them glide around our big snag, across the meadow, dipping low before they ascend just above our fence line, trying not to flap, is the kind of thing country mice like me do instead of watching television. Much more entertaining. Even though I've been vomited on a few times, back when I was involved in wildlife rehab, I still love the species. Plus, they do important work, cleaning up carcasses. So, when I heard a podcast about this book, I requested it immediately from the library.
The book is supposed to be about vultures, and it is to a degree, but really, it's about this woman, her unborn baby, her perfect husband, all of her friends, her travels to see the vultures, writing exercises about a vulture family, and side trips into vultures in myth and legend. I'm over a third of the way through it and have yet to learn anything new about the birds. It's past my "toss or continue" limit, so it goes back on Tuesday, unloved.
It had a border of poppies and cornflowers and space for my own text in the middle.
But I can't decide what words to put in the centre. It can't be too lengthy, a dozen words at most, and fewer might be better.
I'm hunting for something that says we don't need loads of possessions to be happy; that a garden is a great source of contentment; that life is to be enjoyed while you have it and maybe something ecological as well.
Now, clearly one can't manage all of that....
Random ideas have included:
Gardeners live longer
To be content is the key to happiness
We only have one world, treat it gently
Toss ideas at me. Anything that sounds good.
Having a weekend with partner in Frankfurt.
Hotel perhaps overdoing the stylish minimalism: why does this always mean, nowhere to put stuff in the bathroom? However, good marks for the breakfast buffet.
On matters of modern design, am I the only person who finds themself waving their hands at a tap that turns on some other way, and vice versa?
Today to the Stadel- art gallery, very good stuff and lots of it. Among works observed, one C16th courtesan as Flora, with obligatory symbolickal bubbie displayed.
Also to the Arts and Crafts Museum, which has gone full-on poncey and eschews labeling in favour of composing curatorial 'constellations'. Though I could have spent more time with the shiny pillow-like balloons that one was permitted even exhorted to touch. (Sometimes I am shallow and frivolous.)
Some general flaneurserie, looking into churches, etc.