Thursday, June 30, 2016

Audio Book Launch - Fractured Vows: Brooklyn and Bo Chronicles, Book 3 by Brenda Perlin

When love comes with a price. What happens once a vengeful ex just won't let go? Bo and Brooklyn's worlds are turned upside down as they find themselves facing insanity in the form of an angry woman who loses all reason when she tries to destroy them. Will Ruth give up or will she succeed in ending the relationship between her former husband and his new love?

Audible Link
Amazon Link
iTunes Link

About Brenda Perlin

Brenda Perlin is an independent contemporary fiction author of five titles and numerous short stories. From novels to illustrated books, Brenda’s provocatively unique writing style evokes passionate responses in her readers. Ever since she was a child, Brenda has been fascinated with the writing process. She draws her biggest inspiration from Judy Blume who sparked her obsession with pursuing personal expression through prose. Brenda has always lost herself in the world of literature.
Her first series, the highly-acclaimed Brooklyn and Bo Chronicles, captures the soul-wrenching conflicts of a couple struggling for emotional fulfillment against those who would keep them apart. Next, Brenda ventured into the realm of graphic novellas with Ty the Bull, a story about a young boy who overcomes bullying, and Alex the Mutt, which explores the journey of love and loss of a beloved dog. 
Her latest, Punk Rocker comes after L.A. Punk Rocker, both are anthologies where authors write about the music scene in the late seventies to the early eighties: a time when she was in Hollywood meeting famous bands and enjoying the new music scene. 
Now that Brenda has just released Punk Rocker, the second book in the punk series she is contemplating whether or not she will forge ahead with another book to complete the series, along with a photo book, L.A. Punk Snapshots. While she is still listening to her favorite bands from the eighties, Billy Idol remains the ultimate King Rocker and music is just as important to her as ever. 

Amazon link                

Great Pyramid of Giza Was Lopsided Due to Construction Error

Ancient Origins

Research carried out by engineer Glen Dash and Egyptologist Mark Lehner has revealed that the Great Pyramid of Giza is not as perfect as once believed. Results of testing showed that its base was built  lopsided.

According to LiveScience, the builders of the Great Pyramid made a small mistake while constructing it. The new research reveals that the west side of the pyramid is slightly longer than the east side. It means that the long lasting myth about the perfection of this construction is not true. Dash and Lehner detected the small flaw in a new measuring project carried out with the support of Glen Dash Research Foundation and Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA). Mapping and excavating the Giza plateau by AERA took about 30 years.
As Glen Dash wrote in his report:
''Originally, the Great Pyramid was clad in more than 21 acres of hard, white casing stones that the Egyptians had hauled over from quarries at Tura across the Nile. Most of those casing stones were removed centuries ago for building material, leaving the pyramid as we see it today, without most of its original shell. The photo below was taken along the pyramid’s north side. In it, we see some of the pyramid’s few remaining casing stones still in place. These sit on a platform that originally extended out 39 to 47 centimeters (15–19 inches) beyond the outer, lower edge (the “foot”) of the casing. Behind the casing stones in the photo we can see the rougher masonry that makes up the bulk of the pyramid as it stands today.''
Researchers took measurements of the Great Pyramid's edges and platform, showing what one of the corners may have looked like when built. Researchers noticed a "corner socket," or a cutting in the rock, whose purpose remains unclear.
Researchers took measurements of the Great Pyramid's edges and platform, showing what one of the corners may have looked like when built. Researchers noticed a "corner socket," or a cutting in the rock, whose purpose remains unclear. Credit: Image courtesy of Glen Dash
Lehner undertook research to determine the lengths of the original pyramid sides. His team looked for surviving casing stones situated at the foot of the pyramid's platform, and which would have formed the pyramid's original casing baseline. They found 84 points along 155 meters (508 feet) of the original edges of the pyramid, which were marked on a grid system. It was used for mapping all of the features on the Giza Plateau. The obtained data was then processed to receive the most precise outline of the Great Pyramid, which allowed the projection of the original lengths of the pyramid's base.
The Casing Stones can be seen here at the base of the pyramid
The Casing Stones can be seen here at the base of the pyramid (Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library / Flickr)
The results surprised the researchers, who proved that the pyramid originally measured between 230.3 and 230.4 meters (755.6 and 755.8 feet), while the west side of the pyramid originally measured somewhere between 230.4 to 230.4 meters (755.8 and 756.0 feet). It means that the west side was 5.55 inches (14.1 centimeters) longer than the east side. The researchers claimed that the previous measurements of the Great Pyramid were not exactly correct, and the error in construction comes from ancient times.
According to Dash, the ancient Egyptians laid out the pyramid on a grid. The north-south meridian of the pyramid runs 3 minutes 54 seconds west of due north while its east-west axis runs 3 minutes 51 seconds north of due east. Moreover, the east-west meridian runs through the center of the temple built on the east side of the pyramid too. The measurements by Dash and Lehner prove that the Great Pyramid is oriented slightly away from the cardinal directions. The analysis of the data gathered by the team led by Dash and Lehner will be continued.
In January 2014, April Holloway from Ancient Origins reported about a different discovery of Mark Lehner. His team made some new discoveries ''including the remains of a bustling port, as well as barracks for sailors or military troops near the Giza pyramids. The findings shed new light on what life was like in the region thousands of years ago.
Archaeologist Mark Lehner, director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, has said that the discoveries suggest Giza was a thriving port, at least 4,500 years ago.  Lehner's team discovered a basin, which may be an extension of a harbour, near the Khentkawes town just 1 kilometre from the nearest Nile River channel.
"Giza was the central port then for three generations, Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure," said Lehner, referring to the three pharaohs who built pyramids at Giza.
Archaeologists also discovered a series of long buildings, called ‘galleries’, which they believe were used as barracks, either for sailors or for soldiers.  The buildings were about 7 metres high and 35 metres long and could have held about 40 troops in each one. These troops may have been participating in voyages from the port to the Levant, or soldiers who may have been used for guarding kings and queens while at Giza.''
Top image: The Great Pyramid of Egypt. Source: BigStockPhoto
By Natalia Klimzcak

History Trivia - St Marcellinus elected Pope

June 30

296 St Marcellinus began his reign as Catholic Pope. The violent persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian dominated his papacy.  Also the papal archives were seized and destroyed, but the famous Cemetery of Calixtus was saved by the Christians when they blocked its entrance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Richard the Lionheart: King of war

History Extra

Richard the Lionheart (right) demonstrated his military acumen during clashes with the French king Philip Augustus at the key strategic stronghold of Gisors in the 1190s. © Bridgeman

On 25 March 1194, Richard I, the Lionheart, laid siege to Nottingham Castle. Intent upon reasserting his authority over England, the king directed the full force of his military genius and martial resources against this supposedly impregnable, rebel-held fortress.
Eleven days earlier, Richard had landed at Sandwich in Kent, setting foot on English soil for the first time in more than four years. During his prolonged absence – first waging a gruelling crusade in the Holy Land, then enduring imprisonment at the hands of political rivals in Austria and Germany – the Lionheart’s devious younger brother, John, had sought to seize power. Richard thus returned to a realm threatened by insurrection and, though John himself soon scuttled across the Channel, Nottingham remained an outpost of those championing his dubious cause.
King Richard I fell upon the stronghold with chilling efficiency. He arrived at the head of a sizeable military force, and possessed the requisite tools to crack Nottingham’s stout defences, having summoned siege machines and stone-throwing trebuchets from Leicester, 22 carpenters from Northampton, and his master engineer, Urric, from London. The castle’s garrison offered stern resistance, but on the first day of fighting the outer battlements fell. As had become his custom, Richard threw himself into the fray wearing only light mail armour and an iron cap, but was protected from a rain of arrows and crossbow bolts by a number of heavy shields borne by his bodyguards. By evening, we are told, many of the defenders were left “wounded and crushed” and a number of prisoners had been taken.
Having made a clear statement of intent, the Lionheart sent messengers to the garrison in the morning, instructing them to capitulate to their rightful king. At first they refused, apparently unconvinced that Richard had indeed returned. In response, the Lionheart deployed his trebuchets, then ordered gibbets to be raised and hanged a number of his captives in full sight of the fortress. Surrender followed shortly thereafter. Accounts vary as to the treatment subsequently meted out to the rebels: one chronicler maintained that they were spared by the “compassionate” king because he was “so gentle and full of mercy”, but other sources make it clear that at least two of John’s hated lackeys met their deaths soon after (one being imprisoned and starved, the other flayed alive).
With this victory Richard reaffirmed the potent legitimacy of his kingship, and support for John’s cause in England collapsed. The work of repairing the grave damage inflicted by John’s machinations upon his family’s extensive continental lands would take years – the majority of Richard’s remaining life in fact – but the Lionhearted monarch had returned to the west in spectacular fashion. Few could doubt that he was now the warrior-king par excellence; a fearsome opponent, unrivalled among the crowned monarchs of Europe.

Rex bellicosus

Richard I’s skills as a warrior and a general have long been recognised, though, for much of the 20th century, it was his supposedly intemperate and bloodthirsty brutality that was emphasised, with one scholar describing him as a “peerless killing machine”. In recent decades a strong case has been made for the Lionheart’s more clinical mastery of the science of medieval warfare, and today he is often portrayed as England’s ‘rex bellicosus’ (warlike king).
Current assessments of Richard’s military achievements generally present his early years as Duke of Aquitaine (from 1172) as the decisive and formative phase in his development as a commander. Having acquired and honed his skills, it is argued, the Lionheart was perfectly placed to make his mark on the Third Crusade, waging a holy war to recover Palestine from the Muslim sultan Saladin. The contest for control of Jerusalem between these two titans of medieval history is presented as the high point of Richard I’s martial career – the moment at which he forged his legend.
However, this approach understates some issues, while overplaying others. He embarked upon the crusade on 4 July 1190 as a recently crowned and relatively untested king. Years of intermittent campaigning had given him a solid grounding in the business of war – particularly in the gritty realities of raiding and siege-craft – but to begin with at least, no one would have expected Richard to lead in the holy war. That role naturally fell to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Europe’s elder statesmen and veteran campaigner, and it was only Barbarossa’s unfortunate death through drowning en route to the Levant that opened the door for the Lionheart.
Arguably, the extent and significance of Richard’s achievements in the Holy Land also have been exaggerated. True, he brought the crusader siege of Acre to a swift and successful conclusion in July 1191, but he did so only in alliance with his sometime-rival King Philip Augustus of France (of the Capetian dynasty). The victory over Saladin’s forces later that year at the battle of Arsuf, on 7 September, appears on closer inspection to have been an unplanned and inconclusive encounter, while Richard’s decision to twice advance to within 12 miles of Jerusalem (only to retreat on both occasions without mounting an assault) suggests that he had failed to grasp, much less harness, the distinctive devotional impulse that drove crusading armies.

A manuscript thought to depict Richard I fighting Saladin during the Third Crusade, where the Lionheart honed the military skills for which he became famous. © AKG Images
This is not to suggest that Richard’s expedition should be regarded as a failure, nor to deny that his campaign was punctuated by moments of inspired generalship – most notably in leading his army on a fighting march through Muslim-held territory between Acre and Jaffa. Rather, it is to point out that the Lionheart was still sharpening his skills in Palestine. The Third Crusade ended in stalemate in September 1192, but it was in the fires of this holy war, as Richard and Saladin fought one another to a standstill, that the English king tempered his martial genius.
He returned to the west having acquired a new depth of experience and insight, and proved only too capable of putting the lessons learned in the Levant to good use as he strove first to subdue England, and then to reclaim the likes of Normandy and Anjou from Philip of France. It is this period, between 1194 and 1198, which rightly should be recognised as the pinnacle of Richard I’s military career.
By the time he reached England in March 1194, the 36-year-old Richard had matured into an exceptionally well-rounded commander. As a meticulous logician and a cool-headed, visionary strategist, the Lionheart could out-think his enemy; but he also loved frontline combat and possessed an exuberant self-confidence and inspirational charisma, allied to a grim, but arguably necessary, streak of ruthlessness.
All of these qualities were immediately apparent when Richard marched on rebel-held Nottingham. This veteran of the siege of Acre – one of the hardest-fought investments of the Middle Ages – understood the value of careful planning, the decisive capability of heavy siege machinery and the morale-sapping impact of calculated violence. Though one contemporary claimed Nottingham Castle was “so well fortified by nature and artifice” that it seemed “unconquerable”, Richard brought its garrison to the point of surrender in less than two days. Other striking successes in siege warfare followed, not least when the Lionheart captured the mighty fortress of Loches (in Touraine) in just three hours through a blistering frontal assault.

Sparring with the enemy

While campaigning on the continent to recover Angevin territory from Philip Augustus, Richard also demonstrated a remarkably acute appreciation of the precepts governing military manoeuvres and engagements. During the crusade he had sparred with Saladin’s forces on numerous occasions, through fighting marches, exploratory raids and in the course of the first, incremental advance inland towards Jerusalem conducted in the autumn of 1191.
This hard-won familiarity with the subtleties of troop movements and martial incursion served the Lionheart well when, in the early summer of 1194, Philip Augustus advanced west towards the town of Vendôme (on the border between the Angevin realm and Capetian territory) and began to threaten the whole of the Loire Valley.

The seal of Richard the Lionheart depicts the ultimate medieval warrior-king, who eagerly threw himself into the heat of battle. © Bridgeman
Richard responded by marching into the region in early July. Vendôme itself was not fortified, so the Angevin king threw up a defensive camp in front of the town. The two armies, seemingly well-matched in numerical terms, were now separated by only a matter of miles. Though Philip initially remained blissfully unaware, from the moment that the Lionheart took up a position before Vendôme, the Capetians (French) were in grave danger. Should the French king attempt to initiate a frontal assault on the Angevin encampment, he would have to lead his troops south-west down the road to Vendôme, leaving the Capetian host exposed to flanking and encircling manoeuvres. However, any move by the French to retreat from the frontline would be an equally risky proposition, as they would be prone to attack from the rear and might easily be routed.
At first, King Philip sought to intimidate Richard, dispatching an envoy on 3 July to warn that a French offensive would soon be launched. Displaying a disconcerting confidence, the Lionheart apparently replied that he would happily await the Capetians’ arrival, adding that, should they not appear, he would pay them a visit in the morning. Unsettled by this brazen retort, Philip wavered over his next step.
When the Angevins initiated an advance the following day, the French king’s nerve broke and he ordered a hurried withdrawal north-east, along the road to Fréteval (12 miles from Vendôme). Though eager to harry his fleeing opponent, Richard shrewdly recognised that he could ill-afford a headlong pursuit that might leave his own troops in disarray, perilously exposed to counterattack. The Lionheart therefore placed one of his most trusted field lieutenants, William Marshal, in command of a reserve force, with orders to shadow the main advance, yet hold back from the hunt itself and thus be ready to counter any lingering Capetian resistance.
Having readied his men, Richard began his chase around midday on 4 July. Towards dusk, Richard caught up with the French rear guard and wagon train near Fréteval, and as the Angevins fell on the broken Capetian ranks, hundreds of routing enemy troops were slain or taken prisoner. All manner of plunder was seized, from “pavilions, all kinds of tents, cloth of scarlet and silk, plate and coin” according to one chronicler, to “horses, palfreys, pack-horses, sumptuous garments and money”. Many of Philip Augustus’s personal possessions were appropriated, including a portion of the Capetian royal archives. It was a desperately humiliating defeat.
Richard hunted the fleeing French king through the night, using a string of horses to speed his pursuit, but when Philip pulled off the road to hide in a small church, Richard rode by. It was a shockingly narrow escape for the Capetian. The Angevins returned to Vendôme near midnight, laden with booty and leading a long line of prisoners.

The power of a castle

By the end of 1198, after long years of tireless campaigning and adept diplomacy, Richard had recovered most of the Angevin dynasty’s territorial holdings on the continent. One crucial step in the process of restoration was the battle for dominion over the Norman Vexin – the long-contested border zone between the duchy of Normandy and the Capetian-held Ile-de-France. Philip Augustus had seized this region in 1193-94, while Richard still remained in captivity, occupying a number of castles, including the stronghold at Gisors. Long regarded as the linchpin of the entire Vexin, this fortress was all-but impregnable. It boasted a fearsome inner-keep enclosed within an imposing circuit of outer-battlements and, even more importantly, could rely upon swift reinforcement by French troops should it ever be subjected to enemy assault.
The Lionheart was uniquely qualified to attempt the Vexin’s reconquest. In the Holy Land, he had painstakingly developed a line of defensible fortifications along the route linking Jaffa and Jerusalem. Later, he dedicated himself to re-establishing the battlements at Ascalon because the port was critical to the balance of power between Palestine and Egypt. Richard might already have possessed a fairly shrewd appreciation of a castle’s use and value before the crusade, but by the time he returned to Europe there can have been few commanders with a better grasp of this dimension of medieval warfare.
Drawing upon this expertise, Richard immediately recognised that, in practical terms, Gisors was invulnerable to direct attack. As a result, he formulated an inspired, two-fold strategy, designed to neutralise Gisors and reassert Angevin influence over the Vexin. First, he built a vast new military complex on the Seine at Les Andelys (on the Vexin’s western edge) that included a fortified island, a dock that made the site accessible to shipping from England and a looming fortress christened ‘Chateau Gaillard’ – the ‘Castle of Impudence’ or ‘Cheeky-Castle’. Built in just two years, 1196–98, the project cost an incredible £12,000, far more than Richard spent on fortifications in all of England over the course of his entire reign.

Richard’s Chateau Gaillard (meaning ‘Castle of Impudence’) allowed him to neutralise his enemies in the Norman Vexin. © Rex Features
Les Andelys protected the approaches to the ducal capital of Rouen, but more importantly it also functioned as a staging post for offensive incursions into the Vexin. For the first time, it allowed large numbers of Angevin troops to be billeted on the fringe of this border zone in relative safety and the Lionheart set about using these forces to dominate the surrounding region. Though the Capetians retained control of Gisors, alongside a number of other strongholds in the Vexin, their emasculated garrisons were virtually unable to venture beyond their gates, because the Angevins based out of Les Andelys were constantly ranging across the landscape.
One chronicler observed that the French were “so pinned down [in their] castles that they could not take anything outside”, and troops in Gisors itself were unable even to draw water from their local spring. By these steps, King Richard reaffirmed Angevin dominance in northern France, shifting the balance of power back in his favour.
In the end, Richard’s penchant for siege warfare and frontline skirmishing cost him his life. One of the greatest warrior-kings of the Middle Ages was cut down in 1199 by a crossbow bolt while investing an insignificant Aquitanean fortress. The Lionheart’s death, aged just 41, seemed to contemporaries, as it does today, a shocking and pointless waste. Nonetheless, he was the foremost military commander of his generation – a rex bellicosus whose martial gifts were refined in the Holy Land.

Crusader to war king

8 September 1157
Richard is born, son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine (below), founders of the Angevin dynasty

© AKG Images
June 1172
Invested as Duke of Aquitaine in the abbey church of St Hilary in Poitiers
11 June 1183
His elder brother dies. Richard becomes heir to the English crown and Angevin realm (including Normandy and Anjou
Autumn 1187
Saladin reconquers Jerusalem. Richard is the first nobleman north of the Alps to take the cross for the Third Crusade
3 September 1189
Having rebelled against his father Henry’s authority and hounded the old king to his death, Richard is crowned king
4 July 1190
Sets out on crusade to the Holy Land, leaving younger brother, John, in Europe
Summer 1191
Richard seizes Acre from Saladin’s forces. He marches to Jaffa, defeating the Muslim army at Arsuf en route
2 September 1192
After abortive attempts on Jerusalem, Richard agrees peace with Saladin
December 1192
Travelling home, Richard is seized by Leopold of Austria, then held by Henry VI of Germany until 1194
26 March 1194
Richard takes Nottingham Castle. His brother John’s cause in England collapses
Richard spends £12,000 on ‘Chateau Gaillard’ which helps him reassert Angevin dominance in northern France
6 April 1199
Richard dies during the siege of Chalus
Dr Thomas Asbridge is reader in medieval history at Queen Mary, University of London. He is currently writing a new biography of Richard I for the Penguin Monarchs series.

History Trivia - London's Globe Theatre burns

June 29

 1613 London's Globe Theatre burns down when a theatrical canon is fired during the play 'All Is True'. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

10 facts about Stonehenge

History Extra

Built in several stages, Stonehenge began about 5,000 years ago as a simple earthwork enclosure where prehistoric people buried their cremated dead. The stone circle was erected in the centre of the monument in the late Neolithic period, around 2500 BC
• Two types of stone are used at Stonehenge: the larger sarsens, and the smaller bluestones. There are 83 stones in total
• There were originally only two entrances to the enclosure, English Heritage explains – a wide one to the north east, and a smaller one on the southern side. Today there are many more gaps – this is mainly the result of later tracks that once crossed the monument
• A circle of 56 pits, known as the Aubrey Holes (named after John Aubrey, who identified them in 1666), sits inside the enclosure. Its purpose remains unknown, but some believe the pits once held stones or posts
• The stone settings at Stonehenge were built at a time of “great change in prehistory,” says English Heritage, “just as new styles of ‘Beaker’ pottery and the knowledge of metalworking, together with a transition to the burial of individuals with grave goods, were arriving from Europe. From about 2400 BC, well furnished Beaker graves such as that of the Amesbury Arche are found nearby”
• Roman pottery, stone, metal items and coins have been found during various excavations at Stonehenge. An English Heritage report in 2010 said that considerably fewer medieval artefacts have been discovered, which suggests the site was used more sporadically during the period
• Stonehenge has a long relationship with astronomers, the report explains. In 1720, Dr Halley used magnetic deviation and the position of the rising sun to estimate the age of Stonehenge. He concluded the date was 460 BC. And, in 1771, John Smith mused that the estimated total of 30 sarsen stones multiplied by 12 astrological signs equalled 360 days of the year, while the inner circle represented the lunar month
• The first mention of Stonehenge – or ‘Stanenges’ – appears in the archaeological study of Henry of Huntingdon in about AD 1130, and that of Geoffrey of Monmouth six years later. In 1200 and 1250 it appeared as ‘Stanhenge’ and ‘Stonhenge’; as ‘Stonheng’ in 1297, and ‘the stone hengles’ in 1470. It became known as ‘Stonehenge’ in 1610, says English Heritage
• In the 1880s, after carrying out some of the first scientifically recorded excavations at the site, Charles Darwin concluded that earthworms were largely to blame for the Stonehenge stones sinking through the soil
• By the beginning of the 20th century there had been more than 10 recorded excavations, and the site was considered to be in a “sorry state”, says English Heritage – several sarsens were leaning. Consequently the Society of Antiquaries lobbied the site’s owner, Sir Edmond Antrobus, and offered to assist with conservation
To read more about Stonehenge, click here.

History Trivia - Byzantine Empress Theodora dies

June 28

548 Byzantine Empress Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian I, and thought to be the most influential and powerful woman in the Roman Empire's history, died.

Monday, June 27, 2016

In case you missed it... Top 10 historical Cornish words

History Extra

c1870: the busy fishing port of Newlyn in Penzance, Cornwall. (Photo by Gibson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Cornish, or Kernowek – a descendant of the language spoken by the British population before the Anglo-Saxons arrived – has survived and resisted over the centuries.
In 1549, during the Reformation, the Act of Uniformity decreed that the Book of Common Prayer in English should be used by everyone in place of Latin worship. This proved so unpopular with the speakers of Cornish that there was a massive uprising – the Prayer Book Rebellion. Thousands of rebels died, striking a massive blow to the already dwindling language.
However, Cornish struggled through until the 19th century when – entirely replaced by English – it was declared a dead language. Famously, the last native speaker of Cornish was Dolly Pentreath of Mousehole, who died in 1777.
As Cornish declined and was replaced with English, the two intermingled to develop a rich Cornish dialect of English. This dialect, while English, has elements of Cornish grammar, and lots of Cornish vocabulary.
In the mid-19th century there was a resurgence of interest in the Cornish Language and dialect, despite the fact it had been in decline some years earlier. In an effort to record and preserve it, several scholars wrote grammars, dictionaries and glossaries.
The language preserved in these books shows a Cornwall that is pragmatic and occasionally bawdy; hardworking, and dependent on the landscape.
Cornish still survives today and is now an official minority language, although it is notably stronger in the older generations. There is a growing number of bilingual native speakers, and Cornish-language books and films are being made.
Let’s look back at some notable 19th-century Cornish dialect words:
EGGY-HOT – Hot beer whisked with eggs and sugar, sometimes flavoured with rum.
TIDDLEYWINKS or KIDDLIWINKS – A pub. Innkeepers would keep smuggled brandy hidden from the law in a kettle. Those in the know would then WINK at the kettle when they wanted some. It’s likely that after an evening’s hard winking at the kettle, it didn’t stay secret for long.
VESTRY – When a baby smiles in its sleep.
EAR-BOSOMS – Glands in the neck. When they’re swollen, you say “my ear-bosoms are down”.
POKEMON – Clumsy. Unrelated to the Japanese POKEMON, which is a contraction of Pocket Monsters.
DUMBLEDORE – A thorn or bramble. This word, which also appears in early modern English meaning a bumblebee, inspired JK Rowling.
BOWLDACIOUS – Brazen or impudent, as in “You bowldacious hussy”.
GOD’S COW – A ladybird. Because what is a ladybird if not a tiny, red, holy cow?
AIRYMOUSE – A bat. A more modern Cornish dialect word for bat is LEATHERWING, which is equally lovely.
NESTLE-BIRD, CHOOGY-PIG and PIGGY-WHIDDEN – The smallest and weakest pig in a litter. The number of words for this demonstrates how important animals were in daily life.

History Trivia - St. Agatho elected Pope

June 27

678 St Agatho began his reign as Catholic Pope. The great event of this pontificate was the Sixth General Council, the Third of Constantinople which extinguished the Monothelite heresy and reunited Constantinople to Rome.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Prehistoric Calendar Revealed at Stonehenge

Ancient Origins

Summer solstice is fast approaching, and on the 20th June over 20,000 people are expected to gather at the world-famous Stonehenge to celebrate and watch the sun rise above the Heel Stone and shine on the central altar. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is a time when the sun's path stops moving northward in the sky, the days stop growing longer and will soon begin to shorten again.

Over 5000 years old, Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. Its full purpose remains unknown yet the mystery that surrounds Stonehenge is so enduring and popular that last year over 1.3 million visitors flocked to this ancient monument. There are even several man-made copies of the world-famous heritage site have been built around the world, including an impressive full-scale replica at the Maryhill Museum in Washington, USA.
Painting of the Maryhill replica of Stonehenge
Painting of the Maryhill replica of Stonehenge (Michael D Martin / Flickr)
Stonehenge famously aligns to the solstices, but for the rest of the year it seems strange that these ancient builders would not be aware of the current day, or for that matter how many days remained to the next solstice event. However, a new theory has been presented that suggests Stonehenge was used for more than just marking the winter and summer solstices, or as a sacred burial site.
Recently, Lloyd Matthews (scale modelling expert based in the UK) and Joan Rankin (a retired historian living in Canada), have made an ambitious attempt to rethink the purpose of Stonehenge. Their conclusion, after three years of extensive and laborious research, is that the entire structure was, in fact, a complex and significant prehistoric calendar that could actually count the individual days in a year. Not only did Stonehenge act as a solar calendar, similar to the western calendar used today, but it also acted as a lunar calendar and was important for a developing agricultural society to successfully plan for the seasons.
Lloyd Matthews spent 6 years meticulously researching and constructing two scale models of Stonehenge for display at The Maryhill Museum of Art. The models show Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked when built.
Lloyd Matthew’s models showing Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked.
Lloyd Matthew’s models showing Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked. Credit: Lloyd Matthews
During its construction, Mr Matthews identified three distinct carvings on three of the large stones known as Trilithons (shown below). Curiosity piqued, Mr Matthews approached several experts at the time who were unable to provide an explanation as to what these symbols meant. Dissatisfied with the responses, Mr Matthews decided to continue his research into this ancient puzzle with the help of Joan Rankin, an authority in prehistory.
Stone 52 with ‘The Eye’ symbol. From Left: Stone 52 today (Credit: Lloyd Matthews), Replica of Stone 52
Stone 52 with ‘The Eye’ symbol. From Left: Stone 52 today (Credit: Lloyd Matthews), Replica of Stone 52 (Credit: Lloyd Matthews), Stone 52 in 1867.
Stone 53 with ‘The Dividers’ symbol.
Stone 53 with ‘The Dividers’ symbol. Credit: Lloyd Matthews
Stone 59 with ‘The Parallels’. Left: Stone 59 today. Right: Replica of Stone 59 as it would have once stood.
Stone 59 with ‘The Parallels’. Left: Stone 59 today. Right: Replica of Stone 59 as it would have once stood. Credit: Lloyd Matthews
Together, they may have not only successfully cracked the mystery of these three symbols but also discovered the original purpose of 56 unusual holes that were dug around Stonehenge during the very first phase of its construction, famously known as the Aubrey Holes. It appears that these holes could likely have been used as a calendar counting system used to keep track of each passing day, with six and a half revolutions around Stonehenge marking a full year, and using the rising of the Summer Solstice sun as a way of astronomically marking the starting point of each new year.
Replica of Stonehenge showing the Aubrey holes
Replica of Stonehenge showing the Aubrey holes (public domain)
As for the mysterious shapes carved into the Trilithons, they have shown how these symbols may have been deliberately positioned to allow the ancient astronomers at Stonehenge keep track of other significant astronomical cycles, including its use not only as a solar calendar but also as a lunar calendar.
Dr Derek Cunningham, an established archaeological expert has even embraced this new theory himself, saying that "the idea is based on some solid observations. Not only can Lloyd now explain his three shapes, Joan's ideas help explain the layout and also the number of Aubrey Holes seen at the site. Neither had been satisfactorily explained before."
Dr Cunningham goes on to say, "Further work is expected, but it now appears that Stonehenge may finally be giving up some of its secrets."
Article source: Rankin, J., Matthews, J., Matthews, L., & Cunningham, D.  The Aubrey Hole Calendar – Why 56 Holes. Available from:
Original Source Material: Rankin, J., Matthews, J., & Matthews, L. (2015). The Stonehenge Carvings. Available from:
SOURCE The Office of Lloyd Matthews
Top image: Image of Stonehenge.
By James Matthews

History Trivia - Pied Piper leads children out of Hamelin

June 26

1284 the legendary Pied Piper led 130 children out of Hamelin, Germany.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Amateurs Find Largest Ever Viking Gold Hoard in Denmark

Ancient Origins

Three amateur archaeologists recently found the largest Viking gold hoard ever discovered in Denmark. At 900 grams (1.948 pounds), the hoard consists of seven beautifully worked bracelets, six of gold and one of silver. The silver piece weighs about 90 grams.

At Sønderskov Museum we are extremely excited about six gold bracelets that were recently handed in to the museum. They were discovered by Poul, Kristen and Marie that make up the metal detector group Team Rainbow,” says the museum’s Facebook page. Their full names are Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe.
The group Team Rainbow Power includes Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe
The group Team Rainbow Power includes Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe (Photo by Jørn Larsen)
“One of the bracelets was decorated in the Jelling style – an art style that is thought to be closely related to the upper class in Viking society. This could mean that some of those closest to the king were based in Vejen Municipality.”
The group found the pieces in a field in Vejen, which is in Jutland. Ms. Larsen told the Danish National Museum (press release in Danish) that she was using her metal detector for just 10 minutes when she struck gold. The Danish National Museum said the “bangles” date to the 900s AD.
“We really felt that we had found the gold at the end of the rainbow when we found the first ring, but as there appeared more up, it was almost unreal,” Ms. Larsen told the museum. Her husband is Dreiøe, and Pedersen is their friend.
Sønderskov Museum curator and archaeologist Lars Grundvad said: “At the museum we had talked about that it could be interesting to explore the area with a metal detector, because a gold chain of 67 grams was found in 1911. But that amateur archaeologists in the course of a few days would find seven Viking bangles, I had in my wildest dreams never imagined.”
He said the seven bracelets are likely connected to the one found in 1911.
The Denmark National Museum’s Viking expert, Peter Pentz said: “To find just one of these rings is huge, so it is something special to find seven. The Viking Age is actually the ‘silver age’ when it comes to hoards. The vast majority of them contain only silver. If there is gold, it is always a small part, not like here, the majority.”
The group Team Rainbow Power includes Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe
One of the bracelets; note the dragon heads. (Photo by Arnold Mikkelsen of the Denmark National Museum)
Mr. Pentz said there’s no doubt in his mind the treasure belonged to Viking elite, and the bracelets may have been used by a chief as alliance gifts, or as rewards or oath rings for his men.
According to in an article on Viking social classes, their society was divided into three groups: the middle class karls, the noble jarls and the slaves or bondsmen þræll. People could move from one class to another, the article states, adding:
Above [the karls] were the jarls, the noble class. The stories indicate that jarls lived in fine halls and led refined lives filled with a myriad of activities. But archaeological evidence to back up these details is lacking.
Jarls were distinguished by their wealth, measured in terms of followers, treasure, ships, and estates. The eldest son of the jarl was on the fast track to becoming the next jarl. But, by gaining enough fame and wealth, a karl could become a jarl. The power of a jarl depended upon the goodwill of his supporters. The jarl's essential task was to uphold the security, prosperity, and honor of his followers.
But why did such fabulous wealth end up in the ground? both Pentz and Grundvad ask. Mr. Pentz said perhaps someone buried it with the intent to go back and retrieve it later, but for some reason was unable to.
“It would be interesting to examine the wreck site closer as it might enlighten us as to why this valuable treasure has ended up in the ground,” Mr. Pentz said.
Mr. Grundvad agreed an archaeological survey would gives clues as to why the treasure was buried. He hopes the news of the find will help archaeologists raise money for an excavation, perhaps this fall, of the site, which is being kept secret for now.
Another find, of 750 grams (1.65 pounds), from Vester Vestad in south Jutland, was the largest Viking gold hoard found previously.
Team Rainbow Power will be compensated before the hoard goes on display at the Denmark National Museum.
Featured image: The seven bracelets likely belonged to a Viking nobleman and may have been used as oath rings for his men. (Denmark National Museum photo)
By Mark Miller

History Trivia - Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye

June 25

 841 In the Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye, forces led by Charles the Bald and Louis the German defeated the armies of Lothair I of Italy and Pepin II of Aquitaine.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Egyptologists Set to Unravel the Identity of Mystery Pharaoh from Tomb KV55

Ancient Origins

An ancient Eygptian tomb excavated in 1907 still holds mysteries. Chief among them: Who exactly was buried there? Was it Akhenaten, a radical pharaoh who overturned all the Egyptians knew about their many deities and elevated one “true” god above all others—Aten? A new study will explore this question and try to answer once and for all who was the occupant of the mystery sarcophagus in tomb KV55 of the Valley of Kings.

No one has ever presented any definitive evidence that the sarcophagus had contained Akhenaten’s remains, AhramOnline quotes Elham Salah, head of the Antiquities Ministry’s Museums Department, as saying. Dr. Salah added that the sarcophagus is one of the most controversial among Egypt’s many known ancient burials.
Bust of Pharaoh Akhenaton
Bust of Pharaoh Akhenaton (Wikimedia Commons)
The Ministry of Antiquities will continue a study of the sarcophagus begun in 2015 with help of a $28,500 grant from the American Research Center in Egypt.
“Salah … told Ahram Online that the study is being carried out on a collection of 500 gold sheets found in a box in storage at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir along with the remains of a skull and a handwritten note in French,” the newspaper states.
Pieces of the skull found in the sarcophagus in KV55
Pieces of the skull found in the sarcophagus in KV55 (AhramOnline photo)
The note dates to the opening of KV55. It says the 500 gold sheets were in a sarcophagus in the tomb, but doesn’t specify which sarcophagus, AhramOnline states. The initial phase of the study determined the gold sheets could have been in sarcophagus in question.
The gold sheets that were in a sarcophagus in the tomb
The gold sheets that were in a sarcophagus in the tomb (Photo by AhramOnline)
Islam Ezat, a staffer with the ministry’s scientific office, said the study is being done by skilled Egyptian archaeologists and restorers. He told AhramOnline the study may answer once and for all who the owner of the sarcophagus and tomb was.
KV55 contained a variety of artifacts and a single body, as Ancient Origins reported in January 2015. Identification of the body has been complicated by the fact that the artifacts appear to belong to several different individuals. It has been speculated that the tomb was created in a hurry, and that the individual buried there had been previously laid to rest elsewhere. With many different possibilities for the identity of the mummy – ranging from Queen Tiye (Akhenaten’s mother), to King Smenkhkare – researchers who set out to identify the mummy were presented with a puzzling challenge.
In January 1907, financier Theodore M. Davis hired archaeologist Edward R. Ayrton and his team to conduct excavations in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The Valley of the Kings is an area in Egypt located on the West bank of the Nile River, across from the city of Thebes. Almost all of the pharaohs from Egypt’s Golden Age are buried in this famous valley.
The KV55 tomb is small and simple. The entrance includes a flight of 20 stairs. At the time of the discovery, the entrance and stairs were covered by rubble. A sloping corridor leads to the tomb, which contains a single chamber and a small niche. Within the tomb, at the time of discovery, were four canopic jars, a gilded wooden shrine, remains of boxes, seal impressions and a vase stand. It also had pieces of furniture, a silver goose head, two clay bricks, and a single coffin. The coffin had been desecrated, with parts of the beautifully decorated face having been removed.
One of the four Egyptian alabaster canopic jars found in KV55, depicting what is thought to be the likeness of Queen Kiya
One of the four Egyptian alabaster canopic jars found in KV55, depicting what is thought to be the likeness of Queen Kiya. Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5
Overall, the physical appearance of the tomb is unremarkable. However, the contents became more puzzling and mysterious as they were examined, as each piece appeared to be connected to different individuals. This made efforts to identify the remains within the tomb more difficult. According to some researchers, the presence of this variety of items indicates that whoever was entombed here was done so in a hurry, or possibly the individual was buried somewhere else, and then relocated to KV55 at a later date.
While identifying the remains in the tomb has been challenging, there are many clues in the items found within the tomb. Many of these items have been linked to King Akhenaten. The four canopic jars within the tomb were all empty. They contained effigies of four women, believed to be the daughters of Akhenaten, and may have been created for Kiya, one of Akhenaten’s wives. The gilded shrine appeared to have been created for Akhenaten’s mother, Queen Tiye. And Akhenaten’s name was on the two clay bricks.
Profile view of a skull recovered from KV55.
Profile view of a skull recovered from KV55. Public Domain
In 2010, some experts had concluded they were nearly certain the remains were of Akhenaten, but the identity is now being studied further.
Featured image: The desecrated royal coffin found in Tomb KV55. Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0
By Mark Miller

History Trivia - Aqua Traiana inaugurated

June 24

 109 The Aqua Traiana was inaugurated by Emperor Trajan, the aqueduct channeled water from Lake Bracciano, 25 miles north-west of Rome.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Impressive Gaulcross Hoard: 100 Roman-Era Silver Pieces Unearthed in Scotland

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists discovered a hoard of 100 silver items, including coins and jewelry, which come from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The treasure belongs to the period of the Roman Empire’s domination in Scotland, or perhaps later.

 Almost 200 years ago, a team of Scottish laborers cleared a rocky field with dynamite. They discovered three magnificent silver artifacts : a chain, a spiral bangle, and a hand pin. However, they didn't search any deeper to check if there were any more treasures. They turned the field into a farmland and excavations were forgotten.
Now, archaeologists have returned to the site and discovered a hoard (a group of valuable objects that is sometimes purposely buried underground) of 100 silver items. According to Live Science , the treasure is called the Gaulcross hoard. The artifacts belonged to the Pict people who lived in Scotland before, during, and after the Roman era.
Silver plaque from the Norrie's Law hoard (7th-century Pictish silver hoard), Fife, with double disc and Z-rod symbol
Silver plaque from the Norrie's Law hoard (7th-century Pictish silver hoard), Fife, with double disc and Z-rod symbol. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
The artifacts were found by a team led by Gordon Noble, head of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. When they started work in the field, they didn't think to search for more artifacts, but were trying to learn more about the context of the discovery made nearly two centuries ago. The researchers claim that the field also contained two man-made stone circles - one dating to the Neolithic period and the other the Bronze Age (1670 – 1500 BC).
The three previously discovered pieces were given to Banff Museum in Aberdeenshire, and are now on loan and display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The surviving objects from the nineteenth-century Gaulcross hoard find.
The surviving objects from the nineteenth-century Gaulcross hoard find. ( National Museums Scotland )
In 2013, two groups of researchers studied the field in northeastern Scotland with the help of metal detectors. It was the first time when researchers explored the field after such a long time. During the second day of work, they uncovered three Late-Roman-era silver "siliquae," or coins, that dated to the 4th or 5th century AD.
They also found a part of a silver bracelet, silver strap-end, and several pieces of folded hacksilver (pieces of cut or bent silver). They examined the field over the next 18 months, and as a result, they unearthed 100 pieces of silver all together.
The silver was not mined in Scotland during the Roman period, and instead came from somewhere else in the Roman world. During the '' Late Roman period, silver was recycled and recast into high-status objects that underpinned the development of elite society in the post-Roman period''. The researchers believe that some of these silver pieces, such as the chunks of silver called ingots, may have served as currency, much as a gold bar did in more modern times.
The recent discoveries help shed light on the date of the Gaulcross hoard. It seems that some of the objects were connected with the elites. The silver hand pins and bracelets are very rare finds, so the researchers concluded that the objects would have belonged to some of the most powerful members of the post-Roman society.
The surviving objects from the nineteenth-century Gaulcross hoard find.
Some of the finds from Gaulcross: A) the lunate/crescent-shaped pendant with two double-loops; B) silver hemispheres; C) a small, zoomorphic penannular brooch; D) one of the bracelet fragments with a Late Roman siliquae pinched inside ( National Museums Scotland )
Another important hoard has previously been uncovered in Scotland. Actually, on October 13, 2014, April Holloway of Ancient Origins reported on the discovery of one of the most significant Viking hoards found there to date. She wrote:
''An amateur treasure hunter equipped with a metal detector has unearthed a massive hoard of Viking artifacts in Dumfries and Galloway, in what has been described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in Scottish history. According to the  Herald Scotland  , more than 100 Viking relics were found, including silver ingots, armbands, brooches, and gold objects.”
The findings also included “an early Christian cross from the 9th or 10 century AD made from solid silver, described as having unique and unusual decorations. There was also a rare Carolingian vessel, believed to be the largest Carolingian pot ever discovered.”

Some of the finds from Gaulcross: A) the lunate/crescent-shaped pendant with two double-loops; B) silver hemispheres; C) a small, zoomorphic penannular brooch; D) one of the bracelet fragments with a Late Roman siliquae pinched inside
Detail of the Carolingian vessel of the famous Viking hoard. ( Historic Environment Scotland )
Holloway wrote that the Vikings “conducted numerous raids on Carolingian lands between 8th and 10th century AD” and explained that in a “few records, the Vikings are thought to have led their first raids in Scotland on the island of Iona in 794.”
The Vikings attacks led to the downfall of the Picts. As Holloway reported:
“In 839, a large Norse fleet invaded via the River Tay and River Earn, both of which were highly navigable, and reached into the heart of the Pictish kingdom of Fortriu. They defeated the king of the Picts, and the king of the Scots of Dál Riata, along with many members of the Pictish aristocracy in battle. The sophisticated kingdom that had been built fell apart, as did the Pictish leadership.''
The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb.
The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb. (Catfish Jim and the soapdish/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Top Image: The Gaulcross silver hoard, including a silver ingot, Hacksilber and folded bracelets. Source: National Museums Scotland
By Natalia Klimzcak 

History Trivia - The Battle of Bannockburn

June 23

1314 The Battle of Bannockburn. This significant battle helped the Scots regain independence from England and secured the throne of Scotland for Robert the Bruce.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pig-chickens, beavers’ tails and turtle soup: 8 weird foods through history

History Extra

A Plantagenet king of England dining. (Credit: Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

From the Romans to the Normans, through the medieval period and up to the reign of Elizabeth I, our foods were influenced by European trends, and heavily affected by the seasons. In the 17th century, glasshouse technology [the use of glass to control temperature and humidity for the cultivation or protection of plants] enabled the rich to buck the seasons, and products from the New World began to be imported. The rich could choose to eat almost anything they fancied, and the range of animals and birds consumed in Georgian Britain was astounding – nothing that moved was safe from the cooking pot.
With that in mind, here is a selection of foods from history at which we might balk today…

 1) Dormice

Yes, the Romans really did eat dormice. At least, some people did, but we don’t really know how many, or how popular dormice were. The dormice the Romans ate weren’t the tiny, huge-eyed things we are familiar with today, but a much larger type called – unsurprisingly – the edible dormouse. They are common across the Mediterranean and most of Western Europe, and there’s a British colony around Tring in the Chilterns – they escaped from a Victorian gentleman’s menagerie and have procreated there ever since.
The Romans would capture the mice and fatten them for the table, much in the same way turkeys are fattened up for Christmas today. They would either keep them in pens or in large jars studded with airholes and feed them walnuts, chestnuts and acorns. They were then either roasted with honey or stuffed with pine nuts, pork and spices and baked – this was a fiddly job.
As with so many of the dishes eaten by the rich in history, the show-off factor lay, not in consuming vast quantities of meat or food in general, but by taking something apparently pointless to eat, and making it delicious. Lavishing time and expense on something so small showed that the person serving it had the money to find, keep, and prepare the mice, as well as the good taste to showcase a delicate titbit instead of a gargantuan mountain of flesh.

2) Cockentryce

The rich in medieval England would have eaten a wide variety of animals and birds, usually served intact, with heads, feet and tails all indicating what the meat was, and adding to its visual appeal. A decapitated roast bird would probably have seemed as strange to the average 15th-century knight as one with its head intact to us today.
Medieval feasts could comprise tens of different dishes, roughly grouped together into courses that could be interspersed with entertainment, including amazing edible concoctions. Sotelties, as they were called, were often sugar work, but there was another type of extravagant medieval culinary diversion: fantastic beasts.
The cockentryce is probably the best known of these, and comprised half a pig sewn to half of a capon (a castrated and fattened chicken). Modern recreations often involve the front of the bird and back of the pig, but both were done. Once sewn and stuffed, it was roasted and covered with batter. It was almost certainly then decorated richly with anything the inventive medieval cook could lay his (and professional medieval cooks were always men) hands on.
There are also recipes in medieval manuscripts for capons  [a castrated domestic cock] riding suckling pig steeds, and ‘yrchouns’ (hedgehogs) made of pigs’ stomachs stuffed with spiced pork, with almonds to resemble spines. Again, these dishes would have been time-consuming to make and required a lot of skill (and space).

3) Beavers’ tails

Until the Reformation in 1533, many of England’s eating habits were dictated by the rules laid down by the Catholic Church. For Catholics in the Middle Ages – that is, most of western Europe – around half of the year was set aside as fast days. This included, as we might imagine, Lent, but it also included Advent, along with Fridays, Wednesdays and various other days.
Fast days didn’t simply mean no eating – it meant no animal products. Fish was acceptable, however, and some exquisite fish recipes were served on fast days. However, there also developed some extremely broad definitions of fish, with beavers’ tails among them. They were scaly, often in the water, and the flesh was also said to taste like fish.

An antique print of a beaver from the illustrated book The Natural History of Animals, 1859. (Credit: Graphica Artis/Getty Images)

4) Tansy

Common garden plants such as scabious [aka the butterfly blue or the pincushion flower], comfrey [a popular herb], hawthorn [a shrub] and tansy [a plant with yellow, button-like flowers] were all eaten in previous centuries, both for their taste and their perceived medicinal value.
Tansy, which is today usually seen as an invasive weed, was in the 17th century used as an insect repellent and as a ‘strewing herb’ to freshen the air in musty rooms. If you smell the crushed leaf, you can see why: it is a bitter herb with a very distinctive smell.
In the 17th century it was popular to add flavour to a set of dishes called ‘tansies’, which were usually either a sort of baked sweet omelette, a boiled or baked biscuit, or bread-based pudding. Spinach juice was also often added, to give the final dish a green tinge – something we’d probably find very off-putting today.
Tansy is mildly toxic, or can be (the same applies to comfrey), and too much of it can add an eye-watering flavour to the final dish. Tansy was also said to aid the digestion of salt fish.

5) Ambergris

A solid, waxy, dull grey substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, ambergris only reaches the table after it’s been either vomited or excreted out. It then has to survive months or even years in the sea, before being washed up on shore or recovered by a lucky passing boat.
Ambergris has a delicate, musky flavour, and is incredibly scarce. Like most rare and relatively tasty, edible products, it gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac and a much-sought-after food for the super-rich in the 17th century. Charles II was said to enjoy ambergris with eggs, and it was used to flavour pies and cakes.
Ambergris is largely banned today, as part of attempts to curb the exploitation of whales for human consumption. Where it is sold, it commands extortionate prices.

6) Mock turtle soup

Turtle soup became popular in Britain in the 18th century. Most recipes start with instructions on how to kill and butcher the turtle, which would have been brought in live from the West Indies. The most elaborate way to serve it was as calipash and calipee: two soups, served in the upper and lower shell, one with the upper (green) and the other with the lower (yellow) meat. It was popular for banquets, and became something of a craze in late Georgian Britain. It was incredibly time-consuming and expensive to prepare, and by the 19th century tinned or dried turtle was often used instead.
Another 19th-century alternative was the peculiarly British mock turtle soup, which used a calf’s head. The character of the mock turtle in Alice in Wonderland, which has the body of a turtle and the head of a calf, sums this up nicely.
It was an ingenious substitute for turtle – affordable, available, and not dissimilar in flavour – and was typical of the way in which British cookery book writers at the time democratised haute cuisine. By the end of the 19th century, mock turtle soup was so closely associated with the upper and middle classes that French cooks called it turtle soup ‘à l’anglaise’.

A close-up of a tin of Heinz ready-to-serve mock turtle soup in 1961. (Credit: Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)

7) Medlars

The range of fruit and vegetables we eat today is tiny compared to that available at various times in the past. The Victorians, especially, were avid plant-breeders. There were around 1,500 varieties of apples alone available to the late Victorian gardener – compare that to the five or so commonly on sale in shops today. The Victorians were also more adventurous when it came to fruit – much of which would be unsellable in the modern world.
Medlars, which are related to the rose and the apple, were known to the Greeks and Romans, but were really exploited by the Victorians. The fruit is small, brown, and open at the bottom – the French call it cul de chien, or ‘dog’s bottom fruit’. It’s rock hard and inedible unless it’s left to ‘blet’, or partially rot, either on the tree or in bran. The Victorians would serve them in the bran and scrape out the flesh to eat with sugar and cream. They would also make tarts and fruit cheese with it.
You can still buy medlar jelly and it is exquisite.

8) Vegetarian ham

Vegetarianism has a long history, though the word itself is comparatively new. Early vegetarians were called pythagoreans, after the Greek mathematician Pythagoras (b 571 BC).
Until the 19th century, giving up meat voluntarily was largely associated with religious belief. It was often said by non-meat eaters that those who ate meat ingested with it notions of slaughter and blood-letting, and that meat-eating contributed to wars and violence. For some, giving up meat was a form of protest against societal norms, which valued meat eating as prestigious and as a mark of the ruling elite.
In the late 19th century, vegetarianism finally became a movement, associated closely with animal welfare. Its proponents were often women and, for that reason, it became associated for a while with suffrage. Vegetarian restaurants opened to cater for the growing numbers of non-meat eaters, and provided a safe haven for women wishing to meet in socially acceptable surroundings.
There was in the Victorian period a leap forward in developing vegetarian food, which was delicious and creative in its own right, and not merely a collection of side dishes or meat-based dishes with the meat removed. Furthermore, those who ate them were proud to show their adherence to a vegetarian diet.
To Victorians, our modern ideas of making protein into something that looks and tries to taste like meat would probably seem decidedly weird.
Dr Annie Gray is a research associate at the University of York and a freelance food history consultant.