Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Did an Enormous Statue of an Egyptian Pharaoh End Up Fragmented in a Mud Pit?

Ancient Origins

A team of archaeologists have unearthed fragments of a gigantic statue, possibly portraying Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, in a muddy pit at the ancient Heliopolis archaeological site in Cairo, as Egypt's antiquities ministry announced yesterday. Finds also included a limestone bust of Seti II.

A Pharaoh’s Colossal Statue Found in Pieces
 Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced yesterday that a team of Egyptian and German archaeologists uncovered two 19th dynasty royal statues from a muddy pit in a Cairo suburb. Cleft in pieces, the huge quartzite statue was discovered in the densely-populated Ain Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis once flourished. The pieces of the statue were spotted near the temple of the King Ramses II in the temple precinct of ancient Heliopolis, also known as “Oun.”

 Dietrich Raue, a curator at the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig and head of the German archaeological team that discovered the statue, told Live Science, “We found two big fragments so far, covering the head and the chest. As of yet, we do not have the base and the legs as well as the kilt."

Archaeologists have unearthed fragments of a colossal statue possibly depicting Pharaoh Ramesses II. Credit: Dietrich Raue Raue also added that, according to his early estimations, the statue is about 8 meters (26 ft.) tall. Additionally, Mahmoud Afifi, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the Ministry, told Ahram Online, “Although there are no engravings that could identify such a statue, its existence at the entrance of King Ramses II’ temple suggests that it could belong to him."

Nearby, the archaeologists also found part of a life-size statue of Pharaoh Seti II. This beautiful bust is about 80 centimeters (nearly 3 ft.) tall and is carved in limestone with detailed facial features.

Pharaoh Ramesses II’s Legacy
Ramesses II is arguably one of the most influential and remembered pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Ramesses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ascended the throne of Egypt during his late teens in 1279 BC following the death of his father, Seti I. He is known to have ruled ancient Egypt for a total of 66 years, outliving many of his sons in the process – although he is believed to have fathered more than 100 children. As a result of his long and prosperous reign, Ramesses II was able to undertake numerous military campaigns against neighboring regions, as well as building monuments to the gods, and of course, to himself.

A statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Source: BigStockPhoto

The Discovery of the Colossal Pharaoh Statute is Described as Particularly Significant
Aymen Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian team on the mission referred to the discovery as "very important" because it highlights how enormous and magnificently constructed the Oun temple was, with authoritative engravings, soaring colossi and obelisks. Unfortunately, as he stated, the temple suffered many damages during the Greco-Roman period, which saw most of its obelisks and colossi being conveyed to Alexandria and Europe. Furthermore, more severe damages took place in the temple during the Islamic era, as many of its blocks were used for the construction of Historic Cairo.

On a happier note, Raue reassured the media that his team will continue to explore the site in order to find more fragments. "We have not finished the excavation of the courtyard," he told Live Science, and added, "It is possible we will find the missing fragments, and — who knows — maybe other statues."

 If all the fragments are discovered and the immense statue is pieced together, it will be put on display at the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

Top Image: The statue of a pharaoh found in a Cairo mud pit. It is believed to depict Ramesses II. (Ministry of Antiquities) Insert: Ramses II, granite - British Museum. (Nina Aldin Thune/CC BY SA)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You Never Know What You’ll Find Down the Rabbit Hole! Were the Spooky Caynton Caves a Secret Templar Sanctuary?

Ancient Origins

There is a fascinating and creepy underground sanctuary located in Shropshire, England known as the Caynton Caves. Allegedly linked to the famous Knights Templars and black magic rituals, legends say the caves date back 700 years. But finding the spooky caves isn’t the easiest of tasks. It all begins with going down the right rabbit hole…

 Although the caves are less than a meter below surface, you may not have the easiest of times if you decide to go looking for them. Michael Scott, from Birmingham, recently decided to search them out and photograph them. He told BBC News "I traipsed over a field to find it, but if you didn't know it was there you would just walk right past it.”

Entrance to the Caynton Caves/Grotto. (Richard Law/CC BY SA 2.0)

Perhaps this secret spot was chosen for a reason. One of the most popular local legends says that the sandstone caves were carved by Knights Templars looking for a place to worship without persecution.

The Templars was one of the most renowned military orders during the Middle Ages. The source of their fame came not only from their prowess on the battlefield, but also from the wealth they amassed during the Crusades. The Knights Templars were founded around 1118-1119 in Jerusalem by the French knight Hugh des Payens. Often regarded as a “secret society” the Templars have been linked to many mysteries, treasures, and important religious relics lost throughout the ages, such as the Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant, and the Shroud of Turin.

Composite image of members of the Knights Templar (Public Domain) and a treasure pile. (CC BY SA 2.0)

But the Templars weren’t the only ones to allegedly use the Caynton Caves, Dominic Wass, an urban artist who has a workshop nearby, told UK Urban Exploration some other stories about others using (or perhaps creating) the site. These range from a landowner illegally keeping 60 slaves at the site, to an eccentric wealthy family from the 1850s thinking it would just be great fun to have such a spooky place.

 When you find the cave entrance, BBC News says that you enter a tunnel which leads you to “a network of walkways and arches carved out of sandstone, as well as a font.” Some of the areas of the cave are so cramped that you’d have to crawl on your hands and knees to pass through. The cave walls depict mystic sigils (seals), mixed with more modern graffiti.

Photos inside the Caynton Caves. (UK Urban Exploration)

 Mr. Scott described his experience inside the Caynton Caves for BBC News, saying “I had to crouch down and once I was in it was completely silent. There were a few spiders in there but that was it. It was raining so the slope down was quite sludgy but inside the cave was bone dry.”

Recent tales suggest that local cults have chosen the out-of-the-way location for black magic and other rituals. Modern (and possibly ancient?) Druids have also been connected to the Caynton Caves. UK Urban Exploration suggests that the landowners had been mostly accommodating to the sects, good or evil, if they asked permission to use the site - and took good care of it.

But some of the more sinister ceremonies, and a lack of respect for the Caynton Caves, led local residents to close up the site a few years ago. Nonetheless, wrought iron gates, barbed wire, brambles, a large mastiff, and CCTV haven’t been enough to keep some people away.

Candles and litter scattered about a passageway in the Caynton Caves. (Richard Law/CC BY SA 2.0)

 Now, the Shropshire Star say there are rumors going around that the creepy Caynton caves have been re-opened, however, this has not yet been confirmed by the landowners.

Photo inside the Caynton Caves. (UK Urban Exploration)

Top Image: Recent photos of the candle-lit Caynton Caves. Source: Shropshire Star

By Alicia McDermott

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Could This Be the Most Expensive Flowerpot in England? $364,000 Roman Sarcophagus Was a Garden Ornament

Ancient Origins

An ancient Roman sarcophagus worth up to 345,000 Euros ($364,000) has been found in England. The precious marble coffin was discovered on the grounds of Blenheim Palace, a monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, where it was used as a flowerpot for almost a century.

 The Roman Sarcophagus was Discovered Coincidentally
 What could be described as an unfortunate case of mistaken identity, the newly acknowledged Roman artifact of immense archaeological and historical significance, served as a humble flowerpot for the past 100 years in the rock garden of Sir Winston Churchill's birthplace in Oxfordshire.

Blenheim Palace, where the Roman sarcophagus was found. (CC BY 2.0)

Before that, the valuable sarcophagus was obtained and used during the 19th century as a garden ornament (a type of fountain) by the fifth Duke of Marlborough, who was famous for his impressive collection of antiquities. Palace officials decided to better examine the almost two meters (6’6ft) long artifact at the suggestion of an antiques expert, who was impressed by the object’s ornate carvings. Ironically, his visit was unrelated to the Roman marble coffin, which he noticed coincidentally.

 Kate Ballenger, house manager at the palace, told Daily Mail:

“We were alerted to the sarcophagus' importance by an antiques expert who was visiting the estate. We always thought it was a beautiful sculpture but we were not aware of the fact is was a Roman sarcophagus dating back to 300 AD. First an elaborate water feature and then a planter for flowers, it has now been conserved and relocated inside the palace. We are delighted to have it back and the restoration work is very impressive. Now it is in a consistent indoor climate away from the natural elements we are hoping it will remain in good condition and survive for many more centuries to come.”

A person visiting Blenheim Palace in 2010 noted that the flowerbed looked like a Roman sarcophagus. Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

The Sarcophagus’ Impressive Carvings Depict a Dionysian Party
After conservators removed the front marble section, which is the genuine part, and carried out a detailed examination they were shocked to identify the basin as a white marble sarcophagus portraying lively and noisy Dionysian festivities, dating back to 300 AD. To be more specific, the impressive carvings depict a dissipated Dionysus, leaning on an equally intoxicated woodland satyr. 

The pair are surrounded by other partygoers including Heracles and Ariadne, as well as two large lion heads. Fortunately, the sarcophagus appears to be in great shape, despite being exposed to natural elements for nearly two hundred years. Nicholas Banfield, of Cliveden Conservation of Taplow, Berks, who has supervised the restoration, told Daily Mail: “The piece is actually in remarkable condition considering it has withstood seemingly aggressive environments, particularly that of a fountain receptacle.”

Example of a marble Roman sarcophagus depicting the ‘Triumph of Dionysos and the Seasons.’ (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Not the First Time a Sarcophagus was Used as a Flowerpot This is not the first time such a valuable and historic artifact was used as a flowerpot. In 2013, auctioneer Guy Schwinge sold a similar sarcophagus for 115,000 Euros ($121k) after finding it being used as a plant trough. He claims that this sarcophagus could be worth three times that price and apparently, Mr. Schwinge, of Duke's Auctioneers of Dorchester, Dorset, seems to agree with Schwinge’s predictions. He tells Daily Mail,

“The quality of this sarcophagus panel suggests it was made in Rome for a high status member of the patrician elite. The overall form and Dionysian carving suggest a date late in the late 2nd century and the lion's masks are a clear expression of Roman Imperial power. At auction a panel of this sophistication could easily realize £300,000 or more with the Blenheim Palace provenance.”

The sarcophagus has now been positioned on public display in an underground room in Blenheim Palace.

After restoration work, the Roman sarcophagus is very impressive. (Blenheim Palace)

Top Image: A Roman sarcophagus that was once used as a garden ornament is now restored and displayed in Blenheim Palace. Source: Blenheim Palace

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Monday, March 20, 2017

When beans were the food of lust

History Extra

Illustration by Clair Rossiter

The London Cuckold, a ballad printed between c1685 and 1688, describes a man who takes leave of his “witty Wife” to “behold the glory” of the army on campaign at nearby Hounslow Heath. On his return, unaware that his wife has been unfaithful, he is lavished with attention:

 “When he came home she gave him Kisses, and Sack-Posset very good, Caudles too, she never misses, for they warm and heat the Blood Such things wilt create desire, And new kindle Cupid’s Fire; These things made him kiss his Wife, And to call her Love and Life.”

 It’s an amusing image: the guilty wife feeding her cuckolded husband with treats intended to “kindle Cupid’s fire” – stoke amorous affection and increase arousal – to make him enamoured anew and even, perhaps, more sexually appealing. But it’s her choice of foods that is most interesting: a taste of the diverse range of putative aphrodisiacs in early modern England.

 Caudle, a warm drink of thin gruel mixed with wine or ale and sweetened or spiced, was believed to be arousing, as was sweet-posset, another mildly alcoholic confection. But the array of aphrodisiacs also included some surprises. Along with produce from kitchen garden and hedgerow (such as parsnips, carrots and nettles), warming spices including cinnamon, anise seed and coriander were high on the list. So were birds like pheasants and sparrows, as well as animal genitalia – the pizzle (penis) and testicles of bulls, boars, goats and stags. Yet, perhaps most surprising was the belief that flatulent foods such as beans and pulses increased libido.

 For early modern men and women, though, these foods were more than just sexual curiosities. They were inherently understood to be treatments for infertility, not just stimulants for increasing arousal.

 This understanding drew upon the medical idea that sexual desire and pleasure were fundamental to fertility – without them, conception was unlikely to occur, not least because men and women would be less likely to engage in intercourse. As the early 18th-century surgeon and medical writer John Marten argued: “God Almighty has…endured each [sex] with natural Instincts, prompting them to the use thereof with desire, in order to perpetuate the Species, by producing new Creatures to supply the room of those who are gone; without which desire, what rational Creature would have taken delight in so filthy, so contemptible and base thing as Venery [sexual intercourse] is?”

 Windy meats
Aphrodisiacs were believed to act in several different ways. They could heat the body; they could provide nutrition for the production of seed (sperm); and they could provide salt, to make the seed more titillating. Pulses, beans and other flatulent foods were thought to mainly affect men, and to function by creating wind and inflating the body.

 Angus McLaren, a historian of reproduction, noted that in the early modern period men were frequently recommended flatulent foods such as apples to stimulate lust. Audrey Eccles, in her work on Tudor and Stuart obstetrics and gynaecology, identified these as a category of stimulants widely known as ‘windy meats’.

 Medical authors of this era explained that erection of the male genitalia was caused by a combination of factors: blood, imagination, muscles, pressure, seed and wind. Helkiah Crooke’s 1616 book, Mikrokosmographia: A Description of the Body of Man, vividly invoked the roles of blood, spirits and wind in this process: “When as in venerious appetites, the bloud & the spirits do in great quantity assemble themselves out of the veines and arteries, that member is as it were a gutte filled with winde, presently swelling and growing hard.”

 Though Crooke used wind as a metaphor for the biological processes occurring during arousal, he also noted later in his treatise that “the efficient cause [of an erection] is heate, spirites and winde, which fill and distend” the hollow parts of the penis. Medical writers agreed that foods releasing wind into the body enabled men to get and sustain an erection.

 This was important not just for the act itself, but also for ensuring that impregnation resulted. Medical doctrine explained that male seed was potent and fertile because it was hot, as well as being spirituous and salty. The heat of the seed was maintained during intercourse because it remained insulated inside the man’s body until it was placed directly into the womb or neck of the womb.

 As Alessandro Massaria’s medical book for women from the turn of the 17th century explained: “Another cause of barrenness, by the defect of the yard [penis], is too much weakness and tenderness thereof, so that it is not strongly enough erected, to inject the seed into the womb; for the strength and stiffness of the yard, very much conduces to conception, by reason of the forcible injection of the humane seed into the womb.”

 In other words, more wind meant a stiffer erection, more direct placement of seed and a better chance of conception.

 Wind also made seed more stimulating and more potent. Medical writers asserted that seed titillated and irritated the sensitive skin of the reproductive organs as it passed through them, causing arousal.

 And in his Secret Miracles of Nature (1559), Lævinus Lemnius explained that seed was made from the “windy superfluity of blood” and that foods that “will make men lusty” should create “plenty of seed, and a force of a flatulent spirit, whereby the seed may be driven forth into the Matrix [womb].” So wind enhanced both the amount and potency of the seed and the function of the male reproductive organs.

 Unlike categories of aphrodisiacs recommended for consumption by both men and women, these ‘windy meats’ were promoted only for men. In fact, wind and flatulence were thought to be particularly damaging to women.

 Philip Barrough’s 16th-century medical treatise warned that “windinesse ingendered in the wombe, doth let the fertilitie or conception, & causeth barennesse”. Jane Sharp, 17th-century author of the first female-authored midwifery manual, suggested that women should take juniper berries every morning to prevent wind from collecting in the womb and damaging fertility.

 Beans and pulses, particularly chickpeas, were among a host of foods identified by early modern medical authors as ‘windy meats’. Barrough, for example, argued that when a man could not fulfil his marital duties (sexually satisfy his wife and make her a mother) “windie meates are good for him, as be chiche peason, beanes, scallions [onions], leekes, the roote and seed of persneppes, pine nuttus, sweet almonds… and other such like”.

 The English translation of Jacques Ferrand’s 1623 treatise Erotomania similarly listed various foods he believed would, through their heat and flatulence, provoke lust, including soft eggs, pine nuts, pistachios, carrots, parsnips, onions, oysters, chestnuts and chickpeas.

 Herbals produced by botanical writers offered similar ideas. John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum of 1640 stated that: “Cicers [chickpeas], as Galen saith, are no lesse windy meate than Beanes, but yet nourish more, they provoke venery, and is thought to increase sperme.”

 Another flatulent food described by botanical treatises as an aphrodisiac was the aubergine, or ‘mad apple’. “They breed much windinesse, and thereby peradventure bodily lust,” commented Parkinson. Likewise, William Salmon wrote in the early 18th century that “they yield but little Nourishment, and breed much Wind, whereby ’tis possible they may provoke Bodily Lust”.

 Thunder but no rain
However, not all medical writers agreed that ‘windy meats’ boosted fertility. Even Lemnius stated that: “Some of our lascivious women will say, that such men that trouble their wives to no purpose, do thunder, but there follows no rain, they do not water the inward ground of the matrix. They have their veins puffed up with wind, but there wants seed.”

 This insinuated that wind, though allowing men to engage in sexual activity, did not enhance the quality of a man’s seed and, thus, did not improve fertility.

 Similarly, a late 17th‑century medical tract by Swiss physician Théophile Bonet confidently dismissed windy meats, stating: “It is commonly reported of Aphrodisiacks, that Flatus or wind is necessary to Venery: but though in Boys erection or distension of the Penis may seem from Flatus, and these may concur by accident, yet they cannot nor ought not to be reckoned among Aphrodisiacks; those things indeed that excite the Spirits stir up Venery, and so make the Seed turgid, but so do not those things that breed or excite wind.”

 Bonet, again, did not discount the idea that wind could cause the penis to swell, but observed that ‘windy meats’ did not improve the quality of a man’s seed, so did not deserve to be classified as sexual stimulants.

 These criticisms became more common as the period progressed and, by the 18th century, windy meats had lost their prestige. New understandings of the anatomy of the penis revealed that wind did not inflate the penis or enhance male potency and attention shifted to the role muscles and blood flow played in sexual abilities.

 Jennifer Evans is a historian at the University of Hertfordshire, with a special interest in medicine and sexual health in early modern Britain.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Violent Water and Filth? People Fought Dirty in the Medieval Streets of Aberdeen, Scotland

Ancient Origins

City of Aberdeen, Scotland Medieval records show people took fighting dirty to a whole new level as they may have been throwing urine and feces at one another during arguments. Newly discovered documents say the city’s residents threw “watter and filtht” and “violent water or filth” at each other. 

The burgh documents were lost for more than 200 years, until Jack Armstrong of the University of Aberdeen found them. Water was a synonym for urine back then.

Another professor at the university, Edda Frankot, told The Evening Express: “History in the past has often been of kings and nobles. These urban sources are special as they show us the fights of normal people – anybody can get into a fight.”

 And they certainly did fight. For example, Canny Leis was convicted on October 31, 1491 of throwing filth at David Theman, the Evening Express says. She got a warning that if she repeated such behavior she would be required to pay a fine that would be given to St. Nicholas Kirk (Church)

The former Kirk (Church) of St. Nicholas in Aberdeen was a site of much sad history during the Great Witch Hunt of 1596-1597. (AberdeenBill/CC BY SA 3.0)

The disgusting fights didn’t just happen in the streets either. Also in 1491, the wife of John Chalmers was charged with throwing filth about the house.

And in October 1494 Robert Kintor was found guilty of “distrubling” an officer of the court named Philip Dubrek. The authorities warned him he’d be fined if he threw “such violent water or filth” from his home again.

Researchers believe the altercations happened in pubs or between neighbors. As researcher Claire Hawes told the Evening Express: “The buckets would have been used as toilets, that’s what we think.”

But the fighting wasn’t just about feces flinging, there is also a recorded dispute between Scotland’s King James I and Highland clan chiefs.

"MacNab". A plate illustrated by R. R. McIan, from James Logan's The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, published in 1845. (Public Domain) The Aberdeen documents record a dispute between Scotland’s King James I and Highland clan chiefs.

 On a completely different topic, there is mention of Aberdeen’s fine salmon fishing in the Mediterranean area too.

Even with these bizarre tales from the past, the archives of Aberdeen’s early council documents have been called a national treasure. They are complete from 1398 to 1511, except for the period of 1414 to 1434.

The documents about Aberdeen are nearly complete from the era of 1398 to 1511. (Evening Express photo) Dr. Armstrong came upon this discovery when he saw a reference to passages from the city’s records from 1398 to 1658 in a catalog of medieval documents from ancient universities and colleges. That catalog was made in 1932. Dr. Armstrong then tracked the manuscript and found several pages that were copied from the missing volume in the 1700s. The researchers intend to do more work to decipher other sections of the documents and make more revelations on life in the past in Aberdeen. A few details about Aberdeen during the Medieval era and shortly after have made the news in recent years. Ancient Origins reported on a mass grave with 25 bodies from the Medieval era excavated “just a couple of feet below” on the grounds of a private college in Aberdeen. The bodies, some from the 13th century, were discovered when workers were digging in the yard, where students and faculty walked daily for many decades since the college was founded in the 18th century.

Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen, Scotland. (AbedeenBill /CC BY SA 3.0) Ancient Origins previously reported that 25 bodies from the Medieval era were discovered at this site.

We also reported on architectural features in a church in Aberdeen, Scotland, where accused witches may have been held during the Great Witch Hunt of 1596-‘97 and later strangled as an act of “mercy” and burned at the stake. One of the features is a ring attached to a stone pillar in St. Mary’s Chapel of the Kirk (Church) of St. Nicholas. The pillar is in one of two features where the accused were imprisoned: the chapel of St. Mary’s and the steeple of the kirk.

An 1868 drawing of St. Mary’s Chapel, where accused witches were imprisoned in the 16th century as they awaited trial in Aberdeen. Credit: Open Space Trust/Mither Kirk Project

This is the same St. Nicholas mentioned earlier in this article. St. Nicholas underwent archaeological excavations in 2006 and 2007 to prepare for redevelopment. Remains of witches were not found because they would have been buried on ground that was not hallowed (holy). However, archaeologists did disinter 2,000 bodies, including 1,000 complete skeletons, of people buried under church buildings on the site in Aberdeen from the 11th to the 16th centuries.

Top image: Peasants Fighting (Public Domain)

 By Mark Miller

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Was It Just a Boss Spying on His Workers? First Viking Age Tower Found in Denmark

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists have recently excavated a very tall structure that can only be elucidated as a tower, in Jutland, Denmark. The “tower” was placed next to larger hall-type buildings, and a possible ritual building. Experts consider it an extremely unique discovery from the Viking Age, as the high building is unknown to Danish archaeology and architecture.

 A Viking Age Tower That Could Be Seen from a Distance
The newly excavated site of Toftum Næs, Jutland and the special features – such as the unique and unfamiliar architecture – that have been registered there, have managed to impress local and international archaeologists. Kamilla Fiedler Terkildsen – an archaeologist and curator at Viborg Museum – and her colleagues from Viborg Museum were the first to unearth the tower in 2014, during excavations of a settlement from the Viking Age.

A drone image of the Viking Age tower (with pit-houses on top of the north wall) and north-south facing house. North is on the left-hand side. (Photo: Andree Gothe )

Impressed and excited with the rare discovery, Terkildsen told Science Nordic ,

“It could be seen from some distance away. It must’ve been an impressive landmark for the place and for the nobleman who lived there. It’s unique in its construction and would have required a great deal to build. I really wonder where they got the idea from.”

She also added that the tower is about ten meters (32.8 ft.) high and is based on large, heavy posts

The tower area with a fenced ceremonial house and a north-south facing house dating to the Iron Age and Viking Age. The tower is indicated by the red arrows. ( Illustration: Tom Lock )

 The Tower is Architecturally Unique for the Viking Age and Danish Archaeology
Terkildsen and her team realized quickly that they had unearthed a Viking Age tower, an extremely rare, possibly the first of its kind in Denmark; and they weren’t wrong. The tower was first noticed as cropmarks on aerial images of the landscape, before the excavation began. What made them curious about the high structure, however, was its distinctive construction and design, which they had never spotted or seen before in Danish archaeology. So, in order to find out more about the peculiar structure, they asked for advice from the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, “They called and asked if I have ever seen something similar. I hadn’t,” co-author Mads Dengsø Jessen, an archaeologist at the Danish National Museum, who helped Terkildsen excavate the tower told Science Nordic .

A ‘Viking Village.’ ( Lukasz Wiktorzak/ArtStation ) Experts believe it would be extremely rare to find a tower in a Viking Age village.

Examining the Viking Age Tower
The tower is estimated to be around 1300 years old, dating back somewhere to the 700s, in the Iron Age. However, the entire site was active up until the end of the Viking Age, around 1000 AD. The archaeologists suggest that the tower was part of the entrance to a larger settlement with several spectacular halls, like others of the kind that have been found in just a few places in Jutland.

The discovery of foreign coins and jewelry imply that the site had contacts with Western Europe, while archaeologists also discovered a fenced house of worship, a type of ceremonial structure used for performing rituals. However, according to Terkildsen, the tower stands out the most, “The site itself is very interesting and one of the few examples of the presence of a chieftain in Jutland, but we emphasise the tower, because there’s nothing like it anywhere else,” she tells Science Nordic .

Coins ( Pernille Rohde Sloth ) and Viking jewelry ( Kamilla Fiedler Terkildsen ) discovered at the site of the Viking Age tower in Jutland, Denmark.

 Usage and Importance of the Tower in the Viking Age The materials discovered at the site indicate that the settlement belonged to a very wealthy nobleman, who possibly had many workers. As Jessen says :

 “You couldn’t see very far (from the tower), but you could monitor the river valley, which you can’t do from the ground. So the question is whether the pit houses were workshops or residential, or both. One could imagine that the owner wanted to keep an eye on the workers on site.”

Furthermore, the structural fluctuation of the site at Toftum Næs, in particular the changes that seem to have taken place during the main use-phase both at the site in question and with regard to the overall development of aristocratic sites with production areas and at the Viking Age towns, are now open for debate amongst Viking Age archaeologists and historians.

Top Image: Stampe 515 ( Public Domain ) and 516 ( Public Domain ) from a series called ‘Everyday Life in the Viking Age’ and the high-ground, southern part of the settlement at Toftum Naes, Denmark. The arrow indicates where the tower once stood. (Illustration: Kamilla Fiedler Terkildsen )

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Friday, March 17, 2017


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast–on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. In the centuries following Patrick’s death (believed to have been on March 17, 461), the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.

 Since around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. Interestingly, however, the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland but in the United States. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called “Irish Aid” societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.

 In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world ‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants each.

 ST. PATRICK’S DAY, NO IRISH NEED APPLY AND THE “GREEN MACHINE” Up until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to 1 million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. Despised for their alien religious beliefs and unfamiliar accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country’s cities took to the streets on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.

 The American Irish soon began to realize, however, that their large and growing numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the “green machine,” became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman attended New York City ‘s St. Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the New World.

 THE CHICAGO RIVER ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY As Irish immigrants spread out over the United States, other cities developed their own traditions. One of these is Chicago’s annual dyeing of the Chicago River green. The practice started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river–enough to keep it green for a week! Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only 40 pounds of dye are used, and the river turns green for only several hours.

 Although Chicago historians claim their city’s idea for a river of green was original, some natives of Savannah, Georgia (whose St. Patrick’s Day parade, the oldest in the nation, dates back to 1813) believe the idea originated in their town. They point out that, in 1961, a hotel restaurant manager named Tom Woolley convinced city officials to dye Savannah’s river green. The experiment didn’t exactly work as planned, and the water only took on a slight greenish hue. Savannah never attempted to dye its river again, but Woolley maintains (though others refute the claim) that he personally suggested the idea to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley.

 ST. PATRICK’S DAY AROUND THE WORLD Today, people of all backgrounds celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore and Russia.

 In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use interest in St. Patrick’s Day to drive tourism and showcase Ireland and Irish culture to the rest of the world. Today, approximately 1 million people annually take part in Ireland ‘s St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks shows.