Monday, February 29, 2016

New Investigations Begin on the Pyramid of the Mysterious Queen Khennuwa

Ancient Origins

After almost a century, archaeologists are re-entering the burial chambers of the mysterious Queen Khennuwa, who remains a mysterious personality of the Kingdom of Meroe.
The archaeologists re-opened the tomb to increase documentation and research on the queen and site. According to Heritage Daily, the burial chambers were completely decorated with executed paintings and hieroglyphic texts, many of which are still in a good state of preservation. It was identified as the tomb of Queen Khennuwa due to the inscriptions in hieroglyphic texts.
The pyramid of Queen Khennuwa was excavated in 1922 during the excavations in ancient Nubia by George A. Reisner of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. However, the documentation created by his team wasn't complete, it contained only a few photographs and a few hand copies of inscriptions. This lack of information about the burial led archaeologists from the Qatari Mission for the Pyramids of Sudan (QMPS) to ask for permission to re-open the tomb.
The Southern Cemetery of Meroe, where Queen Khennuwa’s tomb is located.
The Southern Cemetery of Meroe, where Queen Khennuwa’s tomb is located. (TrackHD/CC BY 3.0)
The work in the pyramid was initiated by QMPS with the support of the Sudanese National Cooperation of Antiquities and Museums and the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. The work consists of conservation and security measures at the site. These acts are planned to enable the burial of Queen Khennuwa to be open for tourists. Additionally, the team of researchers will analyze the paintings, the general condition of the tomb, and investigate the history of the tomb with the use of the newest technologies.

Dating the Tomb

The re-opening of the tomb was possible as a part of the research and the conservation program of the Qatari Mission for the Pyramids of Sudan. The program was created to restore and preserve the 53 Nubian pyramids at the al Begrawiya area, Nahar al Nil State, north of the National Capital Khartoum. The current investigation covers more than 100 pyramids in the royal cemeteries at Meroe. The international team of experts are working to preserve the heritage of the Egyptian “Black Pharaohs” of the 25th Dynasty (7th century BC), and their ancestors who ruled the Kingdom of Kush (currently located in Sudan) for four centuries.
The tomb of Queen Khennuwa is located 6 meters (19.7 feet) below the pyramid, which is typical for pyramids belonging to the Kingdom of Kush (Meroe). The pyramid has been dated to the early 4th century BC. However, according to research on the life of Queen Khennuwa, she lived in the 3rd century BC, suggesting that the chamber could have been previously prepared for someone else. According to Dows Dunham, her reign can be dated in the middle of the 3d century BC and her consort was perhaps Amanislo, a king of Kush.
Subterranean burial chambers of Queen Khennuwa at Meroe.

Subterranean burial chambers of Queen Khennuwa at Meroe. (P. Wolf/DAI)
The style of decoration in the tomb is very similar to the one used during the reign of the Egyptian 25th dynasty. Kings and queens of the Kingdom of Kush often used similar decorations to their great ancestors. The inscriptions discovered in the burial chambers also contain very similar texts to the funerary texts of the 25th Dynasty, further proving the strong influence of earlier Nubian traditions.

The Forgotten Queen and King of Kush

Queen Khennuwa is known only by her pyramid. In the decorated burial chamber, Queen Khennuwa is titled as the Royal Wife. There is also very little information about Amanislo. He was buried in another pyramid known as Beg. S5. He was most probably the successor of King Arakamani and predecessor of Amantekha.
According to the Historical Dictionary of Ancient Medieval Nubia, Amanislo is believed to be responsible for removing a pair of red granite couchant lion statues from Sulb to Napata. They were installed in Sulb by Amenhotep III (18th dynasty, Egypt), and perhaps reused by Tutankhamun. When they were transported to Napata, Amanislo decided to inscribe them with his name. Currently the lions are part of the collection of the British Museum in London.

The Great Pyramids of Meroe

The kingdom of Amanislo and Khennuwa was located about 200 km (124.3 miles) north of present-day Khartoum, Sudan. The pyramids at Meroe are not as tall as the pyramids in Giza, Egypt. They were discovered in the 1880s by the Italian explorer Giussepe Ferlini. Unfortunately, he destroyed the tops of many of the structures, looking for treasures within.
Aerial view of pyramids at Meroe in 2001.
Aerial view of pyramids at Meroe in 2001. (B N Chagny/CC BY SA 1.0)
Different than the ones found in Egypt, the pyramids of Meroe were built close to each other, so there are many pyramids in a one small section. The royal pyramid necropolis site of Meroe is officially a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Featured Image: Pyramid of Queen Khennuwa at the royal necropolis at Meroe. Source: P. Wolf/DAI
By Natalia Klimczak

History Trivia - Leap Day 2016

February 29

 A Leap Day, February 29, is added to the calendar in Leap Years. This extra (intercalary) day makes the year 366 days long – and not 365 days, like a common (normal) year. Leap Years occur nearly every 4 years in our modern Gregorian Calendar.

Leap Day as a concept has existed for more than 2000 years, and is still associated with age-old traditions, folklore and superstition. One of the most popular traditions is that women propose to their boyfriends.

Read more

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dated Fashion: The Tarkhan Dress, the Oldest Woven Garment in the World

Ancient Origins

A piece of clothing found buried in an ancient Egyptian cemetery has been identified as the oldest known dress and the oldest woven garment in the world.
The item is known as the Tarkhan dress. It was discovered in 1912 by one of the most famous Egyptologists in history – William Flinders Petrie. Petrie excavated the site of Tarkhan, located 50 km (31.07 miles) south of Cairo, in 1912 – 1913. The impressive textile was found in one of the tombs, which was a large mud-brick niched construction. The tomb was built during the First Dynasty (c. 3218–3035 BC).
A dirty bundle of linen from the tomb was sent to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1977 for conservation. It was only then that the V-neck linen shirt (or dress) with pleated sleeves was discovered. It has been preserved in remarkable condition. Apart from this treasured item of clothing, there were also 17 other different qualities of textiles.
A reconstruction of  Tarkhan tomb 2050, where the Tarkhan dress was discovered.
A reconstruction of  Tarkhan tomb 2050, where the Tarkhan dress was discovered. (The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology UCL)

Radiocarbon Dating Confirms the Importance

In 2015, a team led by Dr. Michael Dee from the University of Oxford measured a 2.24mg sample of the dress. They decided to check the age of the textile by using radiocarbon dating. According to the journal Antiquity, linen textiles are very suitable for radiocarbon dating as they are composed of flax fibers. Sometimes, a problem appears due to the reuse of the material, but in this case recycling seemed to be unlikely.
The results of the analysis were published this week (February 2016) in Antiquity. According to the presented results of the examination: “The radiocarbon determination obtained for the Tarkhan Dress (OxA-32331) is 4570±36 BP (δ13C = -24.8 ‰ PDB). This calibrates to a true age (Figure 2) of 3366–3120 BC (68% probability) or 3482–3102 BC (95% probability).”
Figure 2. Radiocarbon date for the Tarkhan Dress adjusted for the Nilotic seasonal effect.

Figure 2. Radiocarbon date for the Tarkhan Dress adjusted for the Nilotic seasonal effect. (Dee et al. 2010)
These results confirm that the dress, which is one of the oldest examples of Egyptian clothing, is the oldest known dress and oldest woven garment in the world.
The Tarkhan Dress is currently a part of the collection of the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London. Dr. Alice Stevenson, Curator at the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, told Past Horizons:
The survival of highly perishable textiles in the archaeological record is exceptional, the survival of complete, or almost complete, articles of clothing like the Tarkhan Dress is even more remarkable. We’ve always suspected that the dress dated from the First Dynasty but haven’t been able to confirm this as the sample previously needed for testing would have caused too much damage to the dress. Although the result is a little less precise than is now routinely possible through radiocarbon dating, as the sample was so small, it’s clear that the linen for the dress was made at the cusp of the First Dynasty or even earlier.”
The Tarkhan dress.

The Oldest Trousers and Shoes in the World

Previously, researchers believed that the oldest clothes were discovered in China. In 2014, a team of archaeologists led by Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, excavated tombs in Yanghai in western China. There, they uncovered the remains of two nomadic herders and a pair of trousers with woven patterns, which were dated to be 3,000 years old. These are the oldest known pair of trousers found to date. The discovery also supports the theory about an evolution from tunics to trousers, which were more practical for horse-riders of the time.
The oldest known trousers belonged to nomadic horsemen in Central Asia

The oldest known trousers belonged to nomadic horsemen in Central Asia. (M. Wagner/German Archaeological Institute)
A few months later, in 2015, Chinese archaeologists announced the discovery and restoration of a pair of goat leather shoes. The shoes were discovered in tombs in Astana, the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Gaocheng. According to Xu Dongliang of Academia Turfanica in China, the shoes are 24 cm (9.45 inches) long, with the vamps, uppers and soles separately tailored. They are 1,400-years-old and were sewed together using animal sinew.
A Chinese archeological research institute restoring a pair of 1,400-year-old shoes unearthed from the Astana Tombs.
A Chinese archeological research institute restoring a pair of 1,400-year-old shoes unearthed from the Astana Tombs. (The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IA CASS))
The past discoveries in China are impressive, however, the confirmation of the age of the shirt or dress from Egypt changes the history of textiles.
Featured Image: The Tarkhan Dress. Source: The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology UCL
By Natalia Klimczak

History Trivia - Scottish National Covenant signed

February 28

1638 The Scottish National Covenant was signed in Edinburgh, which denounced the attempts by Charles I to force the Scottish church to conform to English practices, at the same time urging loyalty to the king.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spanish Leak Reveals Hidden Chamber in Tutankhamun Tomb is Full of Treasures

Ancient Origins

The Tourism Minister of Egypt Hisham Zaazou may have slipped up during a recent visit to Spain when he revealed startling information about the investigations into a hidden chamber in Tutankhamun’s tomb ahead of official press announcements due to take place in April.  Zaazou said that the hidden chamber has been found to be full of treasures and will be the ‘Big Bang’ of the 21st century.
According to the Spanish National daily newspaper, ABC, Zaazou made the sensational claims during a visit to Spain a few weeks ago.
"We do not know if the burial chamber is Nefertiti or another woman, but it is full of treasures," said Zaazou [via ABC] … “It will be a ‘Big Bang’, the discovery of the 21st Century".

Investigations in Tutankhamun’s Tomb

The Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt launched high-tech analyses within the boy king’s tomb on November 4 after initial infrared scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb detected an area of greater heat, pointing to the presence of a hidden chamber.
The scans were designed to test out the theory by archaeologist Nicholas Reeves that the tomb of Tutankhamun contains two hidden chambers and that one of them is the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti. According to the Minister, the scans showed a 90 per cent likelihood that there was something behind the walls.
Nicholas Reeves first suspected hidden chambers in Tutankhamun’s tomb following a detailed examination of the Factum Arte scans of the artistic works on the walls of the tomb. Reeves noticed fissures that he thought indicated the presence of two sealed doors in the tomb’s north and west walls.
Scans of the north wall of King Tutankhamun's burial chamber have revealed features beneath the intricately decorated plaster (highlighted) a researcher believes may be a hidden door, possibly to the burial chamber of Nefertiti.
Scans of the north wall of King Tutankhamun's burial chamber have revealed features beneath the intricately decorated plaster (highlighted) a researcher believes may be a hidden door, possibly to the burial chamber of Nefertiti. Credit: Factum Arte.

What lies within the secret chamber?

According to Reeves, King Tutankhamun’s tomb was unfinished when he died unexpectedly as a teenager in 1332 BC. Consequently, he was hastily buried in the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, the principal wife of Akhenaten, who is believed to have fathered Tutankhamun with another wife. Reeves believes that Tutankhamun’s tomb displaced part of Nefertiti's tomb and assumed some of her burial goods and space.
However, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities al-Damati believes otherwise. According to Agence France Press, Damati believes that any mummy buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb would be more likely to be Kiya, a wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten.
During his visit, Zaazou said there was also a theory that the chamber would be completely empty. However, he asserted that this has now been proven false. “It is not empty. It is full of treasures,” the minister said [via ABC]. “It will be an historic moment.”
Image showing the location of the two chambers from Dr. Reeves report. The upcoming radar scan will search for their existence.

Image showing the location of the two chambers from Dr. Reeves report. The upcoming radar scan will search for their existence. (Daily Mail)
Nile Magazine has questioned why Hisham Zaazou would abandon protocol to reveal such massive news prior to the official press announcements, which are due to take place in April.
“Of course, a cynical person could be forgiven for wondering why, in a government that is a stickler for protocol, the Tourism Minister was revealing such massive news rather than the Minister for Antiquities. It does seem remarkable that Mr. Zaazou has been so loose-lipped. Or could it be that the Minister is largely bluffing, hoping for a much-needed tourism boost?” questions Nile Magazine.
“However it is curious that the British Egyptologist who started all this, Nicholas Reeves, is currently in Luxor. Thankfully we don't have to wait all that long to find out. April will be here before we know it.”
Featured image: The stone sarcophagus containing the mummy of King Tut is seen in his underground tomb. Credit: Nasser Nuri.
By April Holloway

History Trivia - Theodosius makes Christianity sole religion of the Roman Empire

February 27

380 Roman emperor Theodosius declared the orthodoxy of the Nicene Creed, and made Christianity the sole religion of the empire

Friday, February 26, 2016

3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Fingerprints found on Coffin Lid

Ancient Origins
A set of ancient fingerprints have been found on the inner surface of a coffin lid dating back to 1,000 BC, which belonged to an Egyptian priest.  The discovery brings to life our ancient past and draws us closer to the craftsmen that carved and painted the precious sarcophagi thousands of years ago.
The BBC reports that the prints were identified by researchers with the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, ahead of a new exhibition called “Death on the Nile” on how Egyptian coffin design changed over 4,000 years.

It is believed that the prints belonged to the craftsman of the coffin, who handled the lid of the coffin before the varnish had dried, resulting in the preservation of his fingerprints until today.
The prints were “one of many small details that bring us closer to the ancient craftsmen,” a museum spokeswoman said.
The fingerprints found on the inner lid of a 3,000-year-old coffin.
The fingerprints found on the inner lid of a 3,000-year-old coffin. Credit: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Uncovering Ancient Fingerprints

The study of ancient fingerprints is known as “paleodermatoglyphics” and allows archaeologists to peer into our ancestral past and learn more about the humans who inhabited the earth centuries ago.
According to Forensic Outreach, “an ancient fingerprint is a historical snapshot of our ancestral past. They allow archeologists to study whoever came in contact with the material. This is not only the person who created the piece but a slew of others involved in manufacturing it. The type of material gives a lot of information. Prints uncovered from a ceramic artifact, bronze burial rings or historical document, give specific clues into the life of the person. Was he a craftsman or part of the educated elite?... ancient fingerprints are pervasive and can help unveil information about our ancestors that would otherwise remain a mystery.”

World’s Oldest Fingerprints

The newly discovered ancient Egyptian fingerprints, while rare, are not unique. Preserved fingerprints and palm prints have been found embedded in artifacts around the world dating back tens of thousands of years.
One of the oldest sets of fingerprints and palm prints found in Egypt dates back to 1,300 BC and belong to an Ancient Egyptian baker. The prints were identified in a preserved loaf of bread that had been left as food for the afterlife in a tomb in Thebes. The dry, arid climate had allowed the organic material to be impeccably preserved, along with the imprints of the baker who kneaded the dough while it was still soft.
Ancient Egyptian bread, which retains its baker’s handprints

Ancient Egyptian bread, which retains its baker’s handprints (abroad in the yard)
Other records include 5,000-year-old fingerprints found on ceramic pot shards in the Stone Age settlement of Siretorp, Sweden; 10,000-year-old fingerprints found on fragments of clay objects at the Neolithic site of Boncuklu Hoyuk in Turkey; and 26,000-year-old child fingerprints found on a ceramic statuette in the Czech Republic known as the Venus of Dolní Věstonice.
Remarkably, archaeologists have also identified pre-human fingerprints belonging to a Neanderthal weapon maker who lived some 80,000 years ago in what is now the Königsaue region in Germany. His fingerprint was found on an organic substance used as a glue made from birch bark, which had been applied to attach a piece of flint to a wooden handle.
  From Left to Right: 10,000-year-old print found on clay fragment in Turkey, 26,000-year-old print found on Venus statuette in the Czech Republic, 80,000-year-old Neanderthal print
From Left to Right: 10,000-year-old print found on clay fragment in Turkey, 26,000-year-old print found on Venus statuette in the Czech Republic, 80,000-year-old Neanderthal print (abroad in the yard)
Featured image: The fingerprints were discovered by museum researchers on an inner coffin lid belonging to the priest Nespawershefyt from about 1000 BC. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
By April Holloway

History Trivia - Birth of Wenceslas of Bohemia, Holy Roman Catholic German emperor

February 26

 1361  Wenceslas of Bohemia, Holy Roman Catholic German emperor (1378-1400 was born. Not to be confused with the "Good" King of the same name, Wenceslas, son of Holy Roman Empeeror Charles IV, was a peace-loving but incompetent ruler who was unable to prevent the frequent conflicts in Germany.  His power as King of Bohemia and Germany fluctuated until he was little more than a figurehead.  He died, childless, in 1419, whereupon the crown passed to his half-brother Sigismund.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Launch - Scribbler Tales Presents Escape from Berlin by Mary Ann Bernal

Scribbler Tales Presents 
Escape from Berlin
Mark Dresdner’s cover is blown, forcing him to flee East Germany, yet he refuses to leave the woman he loves.  Finding the border crossing blocked, and the enemy closing in, will he evade capture or be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Aelia gives herself completely to the man she loves, revealing a life-threatening secret, trusting her husband unconditionally, but is he deserving of her trust?

Deadly Secrets
Lysandra seeks a new life in America, hoping to forget her past, but an accidental meeting with a man who knows her true identity endangers her happiness.

Murder in the First
As judge, jury, and executioner, Bethel decides the fate of the man responsible for her plight, but things go terribly wrong and the predator becomes the prey.

The Ritual
Devona’s initiation into a modern-day pagan sect on All Hallows’ Eve sends the terrified young woman fleeing for her life amidst a raging storm. Escaping the sacrificial altar, will she survive the tempest?

 Exclusive Bonus Material

The Briton and the Dane
The Briton and the Dane: Birthright
The Briton and the Dane: Legacy
The Briton and the Dane: Concordia
The Briton and the Dane: Timeline
Available in print and digital formats at:



What was snuff?

History Extra

Poster from c1880 showing a barister during the stages of taking snuff. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was introduced into Spain following Columbus’s second voyage to the New World in the 1490s.
The supposed medicinal properties of tobacco saw it spread around Europe, rising in fortune in the 1560s when the French Queen Catherine de’ Medici declared it a wonder for headaches (it had been recommended by John Nicot, who later gave his name to nicotine).
The fashion spread throughout Europe, and by the 1700s snuff was considered a luxury product and mark of refinement. Sneezes were common after a pinch of snuff but they would be mocked as the sign of a beginner.
Though the stereotypical image of the snuff-taker is the Georgian dandy, it was also popular among women – George III’s queen was so fond of it that she earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’.
As with most fashions it fell from favour, as new stimulants appeared.
Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Emily Brand

History Trivia - Saint Walburga dies

February 25

777 Saint Walburga (Anglo-Saxon abbess and saint), patroness of sailors because her prayers calmed a stormy sea, and thereby saving a ship caught in its wake, died

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Did people take drugs in Tudor times?

History Extra

It is certainly plausible that drugs may have influenced some of the Bard’s work – A Midsummer Night’s Dream anyone? (Photbo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

That said, of 24 pipes examined, two had traces of coca plant, which would have been extremely rare in 16th-century Stratford-upon-Avon.
Coca leaves – from which cocaine was first derived in the 19th century – were used as both stimulant and medicine by the Inca of Peru, but the Spanish showed no interest in introducing them to Europe.
More commonly imported was Cannabis sativa, yet this was primarily used to make hemp clothes and rope, rather than joints.
In Elizabethan England, the foremost recreational drugs were actually alcohol and tobacco.
The fact that cannabis and hallucinogenic nutmeg have been found in smoking pipes might suggest people were also getting high, but there are no written sources mentioning such habits.
As for Shakespeare, the evidence is especially suspect – doobie or not doobie, that is the question!

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Greg Jenner.

History Trivia - Pepin the Short dies

February 24

786 Pepin the Short of Gaul died. His dominions were divided between his sons Charles (Charlemagne) and Carloman.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In a nutshell: the Punic Wars

History Extra

17th-century painting of the Battle of Zama, a decisive victory for the Romans over Hannibal of Carthage. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

What were they and who fought them?
The Punic Wars were a series of conflicts fought by the powerful cities of Carthage and Rome between 264 BC and 146 BC. The period is usually split into three distinct wars – the First was from 264-241 BC, the Second between 218-201 BC and the Third started in 149 BC and ended, bringing the Punic Wars to a conclusion, in 146 BC.
Why ‘Punic’?
The word ‘Punic’ actually comes from the word ‘Phoenician’ (phoinix in Greek or punicus in Latin), and refers to the citizens of Carthage, who were descended from the Phoenicians.
How and why did they begin?
Rome in 264 BC was a relatively small city – a far cry from its later superiority – and it was the city of Carthage (located in what we now know as Tunisia) that reigned supreme in the ancient world.
Tensions arose between the cities over who should have control of the strategic island of Sicily. Although relations were generally friendly, Rome’s intervention in a dispute on the island saw the cities explode into conflict. In 264 BC, war was officially declared for control of Sicily.
Rome built and equipped over 100 ships to take on the Carthaginian navy and finally, in 241 BC, was able to win a decisive victory against the Carthaginians at sea. In the peace treaty, Rome gained Sicily, its first overseas province.
Hannibal leads his Cathaginian army during the Second Punic War (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

Who were Hannibal and Scipio and what were their contributions to the conflict?
In 219 BC, Hannibal (son of Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general during the First Punic War) broke the tentative peace between the two cities and laid siege to Saguntum (in eastern Spain), then an ally of Rome. Furious at Hannibal’s audacity, the Romans demanded that he be handed over for punishment. This order was ignored by the Carthaginian senate, and so the Second Punic War began.
Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio, later known as Scipio Africanus, emerged in opposition to Hannibal during this conflict. Famously, the Carthaginian proceeded to march his forces over the Alps, along with his elephants, and conquered much of northern Italy.
Hannibal faced the Romans, including Scipio, at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC – he won a great victory that saw some 70,000 Romans killed compared to just 6,000 Carthaginians.
Not a man to be beaten, Scipio – a admirer of Hannibal – turned the situation around at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. Hannibal’s elephant charge was deflected back into the Carthaginian ranks, followed by a combined cavalry and infantry advance, which crushed Hannibal’s forces.
Carthage was ordered to surrender its navy, pay Rome a war debt of 200 talents of gold every year for 50 years, and was prevented from waging war with anyone without Roman approval.
The army, and war elephants, of Hannibal cross the Rhone River. (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images)

If Carthage had been crushed, why did war break out for a third time in 149 BC?
Carthage paid its war debt to Rome over 50 years, until 149 BC. Then, deeming the treaty to be complete, the city went to war against Numidia, in what is now Algeria.
Not only did they lose the war, but Carthage incurred the wrath of Rome, who again deemed its old foe a threat. This time, Carthage was to be put down permanently.
That same year, a Roman embassy was sent to Carthage to demand that the city be dismantled and moved inland away from the coast. When the  Carthaginians refused, the Third War broke out. Roman forces besieged Carthage for three years, until it finally fell in 146 BC. The city was sacked and burned to the ground where it lay in ruin for more than a century, with its inhabitants sold into slavery.
What were the long-term implications of the wars?
By the time the Punic Wars ended, Rome had blossomed from a small trading city into a formidable naval force. With no serious threat coming from Carthage, the Romans had the power to expand into an empire that would rule the known world.

History Trivia - Diocletian persecutes Christians

February 23

303 Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a general persecution of the Christians.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Britons were eating frogs' legs 8,000 years before the French

History Extra

They’ve long been considered a French delicacy, but a new archeological dig in Wiltshire suggests frogs' legs may have been first enjoyed in Britain.
Among evidence of life in the eighth millennia BC, found at the Blick Mead site at Amesbury, researchers from the University of Buckingham discovered the burnt leg bone of a toad.
The team also found small bones of trout or salmon, and burnt Aurochs bones (the predecessor of cows).
The finds date to between 6250BC and 7600BC, making the discovery the earliest evidence of a cooked toad or frog’s leg found in the world, and around eight millennia before the French.
David Jacques, senior research fellow in archaeology at the University of Buckingham, said: “It would appear that thousands of years ago people were eating a Heston Blumenthal-style menu on this site, one and a quarter miles from Stonehenge, consisting of toads’ legs, aurochs, wild boar and red deer with hazelnuts for main, another course of salmon and trout, and finishing off with blackberries.
“This is significant for our understanding of the way people were living around 5,000 years before the building of Stonehenge and it begs the question – where are the frogs now?”
The latest information is based on a report by fossil mammal specialist Simon Parfitt, of the Natural History Museum, who looked at the find.

The site already boasts one of the biggest collections of flints and cooked animal bones in northwestern Europe. It has resulted in 12,000 finds, all from the Mesolithic era, which fell between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic.
The team hopes to confirm Amesbury as the UK's oldest continuous settlement. The dig, which will run until 25 October, is being filmed and made into a documentary by the BBC, to be screened at a later date.
Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust and co-ordinator of the community involvement on the dig, said the site at Blick Mead could help to explain why Stonehenge is where it is.
“No one would have built Stonehenge without there being something unique and really special about the area,” he said.
“There must have been something significant here beforehand and Blick Mead, with its constant temperature spring sitting alongside the river Avon, may well be it.
“I believe that as we uncover more about the site over the coming days and weeks, we will discover it to be the greatest, oldest and most significant Mesolithic home base ever found in Britain.”

History Trivia - Battle of Cassel

February 22

1071 Battle of Cassel:  Robert I the Frisian defeated Arnulf III who was killed in the battle.  Robert became count of Flanders and ruled until 1093.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Medieval tourism: pilgrimages and tourist destinations

History Extra

Jacob’s Journey, manuscript illumination, c1411. Hospitals and monastic houses would spring up alongside popular travel routes. (Credit: AKG Images)

One enduring perception of medieval Europe is of a static, confined world in which most people rarely travelled beyond their immediate locality, and when they did, movement was undertaken primarily for pragmatic reasons. Research in recent decades has significantly revised this picture – high numbers of people regularly travelled both short and long distances, and, more interestingly, some of this movement was driven by motivations which we might today associate with the modern-day tourist. If we readjust our modern understanding of tourism, and place it into a medieval context, we can soon see that many medieval people travelled for renewal, for leisure, and for thrill-seeking, and that an abundance of medieval ‘tourist’ services catered for these activities.
Southern Italy and Sicily, in the 11th and 12th centuries, offers a particularly vivid illustration of this phenomenon. Due to its position in the central Mediterranean, the region has always been pivotal to wider currents of movement and travel. And from the later 11th century it began to attract even more European visitors for three main reasons. Firstly, southern Italy and Sicily was conquered by bands of Normans who unified a region which had previously been politically fragmented and host to a patchwork of Greek Christians, Latin Christians, Jews and Muslims. Indeed, by 1130 the Normans had created a powerful new monarchy in the middle of the Mediterranean which had for centuries been dominated by Muslim sea-power. The Normans, therefore, enabled Christian shipping and travellers to move more securely and freely.
Secondly, various factors converged to boost the popularity of international pilgrimage, and after the beginning of the crusading movement in 1095 Europe experienced its golden era of devotional travel, much of which moved through southern Italy and Sicily en-route to Jerusalem.
Thirdly, in the 12th century, Europe underwent a cultural renaissance; learned individuals travelled further afield to seek knowledge, to uncover classical traditions, and to encounter alternative experiences. Southern Italy and Sicily, steeped in classical history and with a Greek and Islamic past,attracted visitors avid to imbibe both ancient and eastern learning. The result of these three combined strands saw an influx of visitors to the region, who were not migrants, conquerors, or traders, but travellers in their own right, what we might identify as tourists.

Scenes from the Life of Saint Stephen: Pilgrims at the Saint’s Tomb by Bernardo Daddi (c1290–1350). (Credit: Scala) 
Pilgrimage offers perhaps the most apparent medieval equivalent of the tourist trade. Some pilgrims travelled not solely for pious motivations – a pilgrimage might cloak political and economic agendas, or be imposed as a judicial punishment. But whatever the incentive, adopting the pilgrim’s staff conferred a theoretical and universal status in which the individual acquired a new identity forged in the act of the journey to a particular shrine.
Between the pilgrimage’s start and end points, while the pilgrim was traversing alien territories, he was encouraged to imitate Christ, to experience challenge and hardship and to consider his own salvation. Indeed, at many shrines along their way, pilgrims practised an act  known as incubation, in which they stayed and slept near the holy tomb, sometimes for days, in order to receive cures or divine revelations. In this sense, the pilgrim in his fundamentals was comparable to many modern-day travellers: an experiential traveller, absorbed in the act of journeying, partaking in a detox – not merely of the body as at a luxury spa, but also of the soul – like a modern meditative retreat achieved while on the move.
As international pilgrimage expanded dramatically in the central Middle Ages, southern Italy took on a key role in the pilgrim’s journey; it acted as a bridge to salvation by connecting two of the greatest shrine centres of the Christian world: Rome and Jerusalem.
This ‘bridge’ was a geographic reality. Southern Italy possessed one of medieval Europe’s more sophisticated travel infrastructures. Being so close to the heart of the former Roman empire, it still boasted several functioning Roman roads – the motorways of the Middle Ages – which linked into the Via Francigena, the main route that brought travellers from western Europe across the Alps to Rome. Roads such as the Via Appia and Via Traiana enabled travellers to move across the south Italian Apennines to the coastal ports of Apulia, while the Via Popillia wound through Calabria and directed visitors to the bustling Sicilian port of Messina. Thanks also to the Norman conquest, the region equally offered relatively safe maritime travel.
South Italian ports hosted fleets of well-informed local ships as well as those of the emergent commercial powers of Genoa, Pisa and Venice that traded in them.

Strong foundations

The pilgrim could therefore rely on secure, efficient and direct travel connections. At the same time new hospitals, inns, bridges and monastic houses emerged along southern Italy’s main pilgrim routes, or near shrines which foreign visitors would attend.
The junctions at Capua, and Benevento, and the major Apulian and Sicilian ports (which often hosted pilgrim hospitals belonging to Holy Land military monastic orders – the Templars and Hospitallers), were full of such buildings offering shelter and sustenance to the traveller.
Unfortunately, as no reliable statistical data exists on how many travellers, pilgrims and crusaders (the three often indistinguishable) traversed these roads, and sailed to the Holy Land from these south Italian ports, we must rely on indirect evidence that suggests the region was one of the most frequented in the medieval world. This evidence can be found in the creation of all that travel infrastructure, and in contemporary accounts of the region’s ports teeming with travellers.
One commentator of the First Crusade noted that “many went to Brindisi, Otranto received others, while the waters of Bari welcomed more”. The Spanish Muslim traveller Ibn Jubayr, passing through Messina in 1184, described it as a frenetic port adapted to foreign travel; it was a “market of the merchant infidels [ie Christians], the focus of ships from the world over, and thronging always with companies of travellers by reason of the lowness of prices… Its markets are teeming, and it has ample commodities to ensure a luxurious life. Your days and nights in this town you will pass in full security.”

A 14th-century tin alloy pilgrim’s badge depicting the Madonna with child. (Credit: AKG Images)
Later, in the mid-13th century, the English chronicler Matthew Paris produced a superb illustrated strip-map showing a travel itinerary from London to the Holy Land in which he pinpointed Apulia and the port of Otranto as the best route, orientating the reader to Otranto pictorially through a series of symbols and the image of a boat.
The foreign visitors to the region were of diverse social status. Most of the surviving evidence focuses on elite travellers – kings, counts, bishops – primarily because their status and wealth drew comment. But travel, and pilgrimage in particular, was also undertaken by the very poorest. Monastic rules outlined their monks’ duty to offer free hospitality to travellers, and we have many instances of poor pilgrims visiting Christendom’s most far-flung shrines. One poverty-stricken man, for example, from southern Italy had been able to visit the Holy Sepulchre and the shrine of St Cataldus at Taranto primarily through the proceeds of begging. It was also good advertising for shrine centres to be seen to cater for all backgrounds. Indeed, attracting foreign visitors was, as it is today, desirable and lucrative – they spent money on local services and profitable tolls. Like today’s travel agents, the guardians of many of southern Italy’s shrine centres targeted, and competed for, travellers.
The iconography within some shrine complexes catered for the pilgrim’s transcendental mindset with images echoing the theme of salvation and depicting Christ as a pilgrim. Texts were also produced to show, for example at the shrine of St Nicholas the Pilgrim at Trani, that the saint entombed within had a particular penchant for saving pilgrims. The city of Benevento produced a treatise in c1100 which attempted to divert pilgrims to its own shrines and away from the popular one of St Nicholas’ at Bari by slandering the latter city’s hospitality towards foreign visitors; it claimed Bari was a “merciless land, without water, wine and bread”.
But many south Italian shrines did not need to produce such ‘travel brochures’, as they were already renowned across Europe. The likes of St Nicholas’ at Bari, St Matthew’s at Salerno, St Benedict’s at Montecassino and St Michael’s at Monte Gargano, received a vast influx of visitors, and provided vital spiritual release points as the pilgrim travelled to wherever his final destination may be.
Unsurprisingly, the Norman rulers of southern Italy were eager to portray themselves as protectors of pilgrims, and issued legislation to back this up. However, the need for protection also revealed the dangers of travel. The threat of robbery, shipwreck and disease was omnipresent. In the 1120s, the north Italian St William of Montevergine aborted his pilgrimage to Jerusalem after he had been mugged in Apulia; no wonder pilgrims often travelled in groups.
Many pilgrims suffered from debilitating conditions, and struggled to cope with the demands of medieval travel. Many died passing through southern Italy. One chronicler of the First Crusade saw the drowning of 400 pilgrims in Brindisi harbour. At least dying as a pilgrim brought the hope of salvation – the medieval equivalent of travel insurance.
Southern Italy also served not merely as a logistical bridge to salvation, but as a metaphorical one too. These potentially fatal outcomes were indeed part of the experience and attraction of travel that many pilgrims embraced. Redemption required suffering and this could certainly be found in the demanding setting of southern Italy and Sicily. In modern terms the region provided a superb outdoor adventure experience for the thrill seeker, a sinister landscape steeped in supernatural, classical and folkloric traditions which were channelled back to western Europe as travel increased in the central Middle Ages.

Fearsome tides

Southern Italy’s landscape was characterised by features that elicited wonder and fear. Its surrounding seas could be treacherous, especially the busy Straits of Messina, full of whirlpools and tidal rips. The Muslim traveller Ibn Jubayr described the waters as boiling like a cauldron, and suffered a near-fatal shipwreck in the Straits in the 1180s.
Unsurprisingly, it was here that classical legend located the two sea monsters named Charybdis and Scylla, a vortex and a giant multi-headed sea-dog respectively. Commentators like the Englishman Gervase of Tilbury attempted to de-bunk these legends in the 12th century (he believed the whirlpools were created by the release of winds trapped below the seabed) but in doing so showed that many believed them to be real and/or were avidly interested in such tales. Indeed, the famous Hereford Mappa Mundi, dating to the late 13th century, offers a particularly vivid portrayal of the two sea monsters lurking in Sicilian waters.

Boats on the Sea, 14th century. The treacherous waters around southern Italy gave rise to many myths and legends. (Credit: Bridgeman Art Library)
Southern Italy, as today, was also a hotspot for seismic activity. Several eruptions were attested in the Middle Ages at Vesuvius and Etna, while earthquakes were a regular feature: one which struck Sicily in 1169 was said to have killed 15,000 people at Catania. While some medieval commentators tried to analyse these events in a natural, scientific framework, many still viewed them as portentous signs, often indicating God’s disapproval.
The region’s volcanoes were endowed with even greater potency through a set of myths connecting them to the entrance to hell. Increased medieval interest in Virgil, the ancient poet and author of the Aeneid, led to renewed Vesuvius and the gateway to the Underworld; for it was there that Virgil’s hero Aeneas appears to have located it. Gervase of Tilbury noted the “spine-chilling cries of lamenting souls” heard in the vicinity of Vesuvius and who were apparently being purged in the Underworld.
Medieval commentators also spoke metaphorically of the “infernal torments” and “cauldrons” of Sicily. In the 12th century the diplomat Peter of Blois said that the island’s mountains “are the gates of death and hell, where men are swallowed by the earth and the living sink into hell”.

Land of legends

A strange and beguiling world materialised in 12th-century southern Italy, one that seemed to exist halfway between heaven and hell, and must have challenged the medieval visitor’s psychological landscape to its very core.
The reviving 12th-century interest in the classical past also contributed to the aura of curiosity, danger and attraction which southern Italy exerted on visitors. Alongside those ongoing tales of Scylla and Charybdis, we find the revival of legends on Virgil and his supernatural protection of Naples (where he was allegedly buried).
Gervase of Tilbury recorded some of these in detail: Virgil’s protection of the city from snakes, an Englishman who found Virgil’s bones in the 1190s with a book of magic, and the city gate where Virgil bestowed good fortune on those passing through the correct side.

Dante and Virgil, the Dragon and the Sea Monster, from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. (Credit: Bridgeman Art Library)
In c1170 a Spanish Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela, passed Pozzuoli near Naples and marvelled at the sight of an ancient city submerged just off the coast where “one can still see the markets and towers which stood in the midst of the city”. Benjamin also noted Pozzuoli’s famous hot spring baths which “all the afflicted of Lombardy visit [...] in the summertime” to benefit from the restorative properties of its waters. Indeed, many travellers also came to the region to access and benefit from cutting-edge medical knowledge, the fusion of Arabic and ancient Greek learning, available at the great medical school of Salerno.
Another 12th-century English author, Roger of Howden, also included within one of his chronicles a literary tourist guide highlighting sites in southern Italy associated with Pontius Pilate and Virgil. The great 13th-century preacher Jacques de Vitry railed against people travelling to witness the bizarre, and it is clear that many of the accounts we have mentioned were tailored for an inquisitive audience, a segment of which were more than likely to visit southern Italy.
It would seem therefore that medieval travellers displayed traits which reflect aspects of our modern understanding of tourist travel, and particularly the trend for travel which produced transformative and morally meaningful experiences. Of course, to avoid obvious anachronism, the parallels between medieval and modern must remain loose, and account for the multiple differences that developed in the intervening centuries.
Nevertheless, medieval people travelled regularly, and sometimes long distances, encountering lands that were unfamiliar and challenging. But these challenges and new experiences were actually often sought as ends in themselves. Southern Italy encapsulated these trends – and offered an experience for travellers in all their guises. It had developed travel and service infrastructures, it catered for those seeking spiritual detox, for those who were interested in the distant past and in intellectual nourishment, and for those who sought physical and psychological tests – its volcanoes, earthquakes, volatile seas, and entrances to the Underworld made the region akin to a modern-day theme park.
For the medieval traveller, salvation, life enrichment and damnation all sat together in southern Italy – helping to create an alluring travel hotspot.
Dr Paul Oldfield is a senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Manchester.