Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've Been Away Too Long!

If you have been following this blog you know that it has been sometime since I posted.  I've been very preoccupied with putting the final touches to my new young reader's novel, seeing it into print and starting marketing process.  I've found that final step to be the most tedious and time consuming of the entire process! 

Over 42,000 people have visited this blog as of August 2014.  I'm humbled and gratified for that and I thank everyone who has visited here.  This blog will stay in place, but new blog posts, when I have time to write them, will be on my new author's website which you can find at www.mehubbs.com.

I encourage you to check my blog there from time to time, or sign up for website updates to let you know that something new has been posted.  I'm currently writing a sequel to my first book and it has already taken more of my time than I expected.

My latest book was release in July 2014.  The Archer's Son is getting great reviews and stayed #1 for a month in Amazon's Hot New Releases for Kid's Medieval Fiction.  You can read reviews or purchased at this LINK.

The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is also on Amazon and is also available at most Books a Million stores.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

1,000 Year Old Saxon Skull Shows Six Sword Wounds

This set of remains may be the only "survivor" from the battle of Hastings, 1066.  Re-blogged from the Daily Mail UK.

Does this skull belong to a soldier of the Battle of Hastings? 1,000-year-old remains found near famous battlefield reveal man was hacked six times in the head from behind
By Sarah Griffiths
Published: 08:38 EST, 22 May 2014 | Updated: 11:15 EST, 22 May 2014
The famous battle took place nearly 1,000 years ago, but the badly scarred skull of a man could be the first-ever recorded victim of the Battle of Hastings.
Battle scarred: The badly damaged skull of a man (pictured)
could be the first-ever recorded victim of the Battle of Hastings.
Experts have revealed that it belongs to a 45-year-old man
 
Experts have revealed that it belongs to a 45-year-old man who was hacked six times with a sword to the back of his head – and could provide first-hand evidence of the brutal battle of 1066.
No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event.
The skull forms part of a skeleton that was first dug up in 1994 during excavations in Lewes, East Sussex - around 20 miles from the famous battlefield.

The skeleton, which bears the marks of battle, was found in Lewes, around 20 miles from the famous battlefield, thought to be located in Battle, East Sussex


Bones were originally sent to experts at the University of York as part of preparations to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes.

But radiocarbon testing of the remains at the University of Edinburgh dated them to 28 years either side of 1063.
Scientists believe the man was therefore likely to have been involved in fighting at the time of the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings.

Based upon the way he was buried, they think he was probably British.
Osteoarchaeologist Malin Holst from the University of York said: ‘The first injury was probably a cut to the right side of the ear and upper jaw.

‘This was then followed by a series of sword cuts, all delivered from the left hand side behind the victim, in a downward and horizontal motion.’
Tim Sutherland, a battlefield expert from the University of York, said: 'The skeleton is apparently unique in that it appears to be the only individual ever recorded which could be related to the Norman invasion. A remarkable new story could be unfolding.' Sword marks are easily visible on the skull (pictured)
 
The Norman invaders were thought to have buried their dead in a mass grave, but there were records of the bones of English fighters being visible on the hillsides years later.

This skeleton was found on the site of a former medieval hospital.
No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event, so the remains of the 45-year-old (pictured) thought to have died in battle, are a first
 
Tim Sutherland, a battlefield expert from the University of York, said: ‘The skeleton is apparently unique in that it appears to be the only individual ever recorded which could be related to the Norman invasion. A remarkable new story could be unfolding.’

Edwina Livesey from the Sussex Archaeological Society described the find as ‘shocking’.
‘When I heard the news I was completely gobsmacked. It begins to paint a picture of what might have happened in the aftermath.

‘They haven’t found any grave pits of the Normans. The ground is very acidic so the bones may not have survived.’
Ms Holst said that from bone analysis they could tell that the man ate a diet rich in marine fish and was at least 45 years old.

‘He had some spinal abnormalities and suffered from chronic infection of the sinuses.
‘He showed age-related wear and tear of the joints of his spine, shoulders and left wrist, which might have been uncomfortable.

‘He had lost a few teeth during life, possibly as a result of receding gums. He had two small tumours on his skull.’
Although he was violently killed, the man had sustained some other kind of head injury up to two years before his death.

She said: ‘He had sustained an injury to the left temple which caused a blood clot to form. It was well-healed at the time of his death.’
English Heritage said: ‘This is a fascinating discovery and a potentially very interesting piece of evidence from the second half of the 11th century. It certainly demonstrates the violence of the period.

‘It would be a reasonable hypothesis that this individual could have some links to the Norman Conquest, but further research is essential in understanding the potential significance of this skeleton.’

HAROLD'S LAST STAND WAS ON THE A2100, NOT AT BATTLE ABBEY, EXPERTS CLAIM


In late 2013, experts claimed that King Harold died with an arrow in his eye not at the site of Battle Abbey (which has a dedicated vistor's centre - but on a spot that is now a roundabout on the A2100.
Archaeologists from Channel 4's Time team excavated grounds around the Abbey and the other site proposed by historian John Grehan.

They found no evidence that either place was where the army of William the Conqueror triumphed over the forces of Harold, the English King.
Using aerial laser imaging, Time Team then mapped the terrain - on the basis of which a group of experts agreed that the most likely location for the battle was a roundabout joining Upper and Lower Lake in the town of Battle.

Time Team said the mapping had ‘proved’ that the traditional battlefield - on the land directly below the Abbey - would have been too boggy for William’s cavalry.
‘Military analysts studied the data to see where Harold, a skilled commander, would most probably have mounted his defence,’ explained a Channel 4 spokesman.

‘They identified the only ideal battlefield. It seems Harold’s fearsome Saxon shield wall straddled a narrow strategic pass that is on today’s A2100.’

A new battle: In late 2013, experts claimed that King Harold died with an arrow in his eye not at the site of Battle Abbey (which has a dedicated vistor's centre - but on a spot that is now a roundabout on the A2100

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2636252/Does-skull-belong-victim-Battle-Hastings-1-000-year-old-remains-near-battlefield-reveal-man-hacked-six-times-sword.html#ixzz32TbkGIky






Monday, April 7, 2014

A Gut Wrenching Experience - Kamikazes at Okinawa

I had the opportunity to interview a World War II US Navy veteran for another project recently.  I thought I would share here also.  All photos are courtesy of Zane Geier.
 

Zane Geier
US Navy 1944 – 1946

Interview by Mark Hubbs

 
 


 Someone who does not know Zane Geier would have trouble realizing he is 88 years old and a veteran of World War II.  He is easy to smile; an active man with an engaging sense of humor.  He is as sharp now as he has ever  been.  I have known Zane for over ten years, but really only learned the story of his early life and war time experiences as a result of this interview.


Zane was born in May 1926 in the little village of Weaver, Alabama, just north of Anniston.  His first up close experience related to the War were the many soldiers from Fort McClellan who tramped by his community on road marches and field maneuvers when he was in high school.  When soldiers stopped to draw water from his family well, he realized they represented an entrepreneurial opportunity.  He followed the marching columns on his bicycle and cornered the market on Baby Ruths and Milky Ways each time they stopped for a rest break.    
Zane Geier just out of boot camp
Zane’s father took a job with the Department of the Navy before the War began and the family moved several times from 1936 to 1944.  Zane did very well in school despite the fact that he attended four different high schools in Alabama, South Carolina, California and Florida.  With his graduation in May 1944 from Pensacola High School, he followed the path of millions of young men and answered his country’s call.  The Navy was the obvious choice due to his father’s career in Navy shipyards.
Boot camp was at Camp Perry, Virginia, near Williamsburg, and then on to radar training at the Fleet Training School at Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The training at the Fleet Training School was fast and intense as the Navy struggled to provide the new sailors and new ships needed for the final push in the Pacific theater. 
The Navy wasted no time in getting Seaman Geier to sea.  He was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and assigned to a brand new destroyer escort, the USS Cross.  Almost all of the sailors were newer than the ship.  One hundred and ten men were assigned to the Cross.  Ninety five of them were brand new sailors just out of boot camp and “A” school.  A cadre of only fifteen “old salts” had to train and blend this group of youngsters into an effective fighting crew.  Zane was on board the ship when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the USS Cross during its commissioning ceremony.
The USS Cross as she was outfitted for the Pacific theater
 
Although Zane was a radarman during normal operations of the ship, his battle station “was on a 4 barrel, 40 millimeter gun mount on the starboard side, forward.  I sat on the right hand side and turned the crank that made the gun move laterally.” 
Zane's 40mm gun firing during training exercises.  Zane is the seated man on the front left of the gun tub

Zane at his Battle Station
 
After a shakedown cruise to Bermuda and convoy duty in the Atlantic, the USS Cross was slated for duty with the Third Fleet in the Pacific.  The Cross rendezvoused with the fleet at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Island, and from there island hopped to Ulithi and the Northern Marianas.   The Navy and Army were gearing up for what would become the largest, most intense, campaign of the Pacific war – the Battle of Okinawa. 
As the battle raged on the island of Okinawa, the US Navy protected the landing sites from the Japanese Navy and air forces.  This is where the Japanese first used Kamikazes on a gigantic scale.  Over 1,600 allied ships ringed the island and each became targets for Japanese suicide flyers.  Destroyers and destroyer escorts, such as the USS Cross, formed the outer ring of the fleet defenses.  They provided early warning radar and fire support against Japanese planes that attempted to break this perimeter to get at the aircraft carriers, battleships and cruisers.  As a result these smaller ships often became primary targets when the Japanese flyers realized they could not break through.  Almost 5,000 American sailors were killed in Kamikaze attacks during the course of the Okinawa Campaign. 
Zane recalls, “many occasions when the Cross and sister ships were engaged in pumping out a wall of bullets at incoming Kamikaze.  It was a gut wrenching experience to see a plane coming towards us, low on the water, getting closer and closer . . . and a feeling of relief to see the plane explode . . . sometimes only 100 yards or so away . . .and feel the shock and hear a sharp scraping sound as flying debris struck the ship.”
As the Battle of Okinawa wound down in late June 1945, the US Third Fleet moved its area of operations off the island of Honshu in preparation of the invasion of the Japanese homeland.  However, the destruction of the Japanese cites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atomic bombs sealed the fate of Japan.   They formally surrendered on August 25, 1945.
A sailor is transferred from the battleship USS West Virginia to the USS Cross
 
The USS Cross was damaged during a massive typhoon in October 1945.  The ship was towed back to the US for repair, but not before its crew was scattered and reassigned to other ships.  Zane found a new assignment aboard the USS Hornet, one of the most famous aircraft carriers of World War II.  The Hornet participated in Operation “Magic Carpet” when it ferried several thousand US soldiers back to the United States.  Zane was discharged from the Navy on June 4, 1946.
On the flight deck of the USS Hornet
Zane Geier served as a shore patrolman in the months before his discharge in 1946
 
Zane became an auditor for the US General Accounting Office after the war, and even continued his nautical career in the Navy Reserves in the late 1940s.  He received a degree in accounting from the University of Alabama in 1949, and attended Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration, and completed the Program for Management Development in 1963.
Zane is proud of his service during World War II.  He also celebrated the sacrifice and heroism of veterans of other wars by participating in Civil War and War of 1812 living history and reenactment programs for many years.  However, he understands the futility of war and abhors it as a political means.  He says:
“I am opposed to war and favor peaceful coexistence instead.  Although I fought in a big war, and have observed the United States’ involvement in a long succession of others, I am convinced it is all for naught.  In the long run, most wars, even the Crusades, have accomplished little.  The pain and suffering and loss of life and property caused by war have been immense.”
Zane Geier in 2012
 
 

 

Monday, March 17, 2014

"So Our Souls Can Be At Peace" Recovering the Dead of the Russian Front

      My job as an archaeologist for the US Army sometime takes me to far flung places.  On several occasions I've been involved in the recovery of Japanese soldiers killed in action at Kwajalein Atoll in the Central Pacific.  Remains are often inadvertently discovered during infrastructure improvements on the island.  Indeed, over 3,000 Japanese service members are buried in yet undiscovered individual and mass graves across Kwajalein Island alone. 

      Even though these were enemies of my country, I can't help but be saddened by these discoveries.  It is always sobering to remember that these men died and were buried by strangers, in a land far from home.  In almost every case, the families of these men never learned of the circumstances of their death, only that they were lost at Kwajalein.

     The emotions expressed by the people in this article reveal much of what I experienced, but magnified many times over.   The archaeologists and volunteers recovering the missing in Russia are doing to account for their countrymen and for those still living who were left behind. My hat is off to these people and what they are accomplishing.

    Visit the website below to find more information and many more photos
 
 
Digging for their lives: Russia's volunteer body hunters
By Lucy Ash BBC News, Russia


Of the estimated 70 million people killed in World War Two, 26 million died on the Eastern front - and up to four million of them are still officially considered missing in action. But volunteers are now searching the former battlefields for the soldiers' remains, determined to give them a proper burial - and a name.

Olga Ivshina walks slowly and carefully through the pine trees, the beeps of her metal detector punctuating the quiet of the forest. "They are not buried very deep," she says.
"Sometimes we find them just beneath the moss and a few layers of fallen leaves. They are still lying where they fell. The soldiers are waiting for us - waiting for the chance to finally go home."

Nearby, Marina Koutchinskaya is on her knees searching in the mud. For the past 12 years she has spent most of her holidays like this, far away from home, her maternity clothes business, and her young son.
"Every spring, summer and autumn I get this strange sort of yearning inside me to go and look for the soldiers," she says. "My heart pulls me to do this work."

They are part of a group called Exploration who have travelled for 24 hours in a cramped army truck to get to this forest near St Petersburg. Conditions are basic - they camp in the woods - and some days they have to wade waist-deep through mud to find the bodies of the fallen. The work can be dangerous, too. Soldiers are regularly discovered with their grenades still in their backpacks and artillery shells can be seen sticking out of the trees. Diggers from other groups elsewhere in Russia have lost their lives.
Marina holds up an object she has found, it looks like a bar of soap, but it is actually TNT. "Near a naked flame it's still dangerous, even though it has been lying in the ground for 70 years," she says.

Many countries were scarred by World War Two, but none suffered as many losses as the Soviet Union.
On 22 June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest and bloodiest campaign in military history, aimed at annexing vast areas of the USSR to the Third Reich. St Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, was one of his main targets. In less than three months, the advancing German army had encircled the city and started pounding it from the air.

But attempts to take the city by storm fell through, so Hitler decided to starve it into surrender. For more than two years, the Red Army fought desperately to cut through German lines.
Olga and Marina are working near the town of Lyuban, 80km (50 miles) south of St Petersburg. Here, in an area of just 10 sq km, an estimated 19,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in just a few days in 1942. So far the diggers have found 2,000 bodies.

Ilya Prokoviev, the most experienced of the Exploration team, is carefully poking the ground with a long metal spike. A former army officer with a droopy blonde moustache, he found his first soldier 30 years ago while walking in the countryside.
"I was crossing a swamp when suddenly I saw some boots sticking out of the mud," he says.

"A bit further away, I found a Soviet helmet. Then I scraped away some moss and saw a soldier. I was shocked. It was 1983, I was 40km from Leningrad and there lay the remains of a soldier who hadn't been buried. After that there were more and more and more, and we realised these bodies were to be found everywhere - and on a massive scale."
There was little time in the heat of battle to bury the dead, says Valery Kudinsky, the defence ministry official responsible for war graves.

"In just three months the German death machine covered more than 2,000km (1,250 miles) of our land. So many Red Army units were killed, wiped out or surrounded - how could anyone think about burials, let alone records of burials, in such conditions?"

Immediately after the war, the priority was to rebuild a shattered country, he says. But that does not explain why later the battlefields weren't cleared and the fallen soldiers not identified and buried.

The diggers now believe that some were deliberately concealed. The governing council of the USSR issued decrees in 1963 about destroying any traces of war, says Ilya.
"If you take a map showing where battles took place, then see where all the new forest plantations and building projects were located, you'll find they coincide with the front line. Nobody will convince me they planted trees for ecological reasons."

If you crouch down in the woods near Lyuban, a series of grooves in the earth can be clearly made out.
"They actively planted new trees on the battlefield - they ploughed furrows and put the trees exactly in the places where the unburied soldiers were lying," Marina says.

She recently unearthed a helmet and in order to find its owner, the team had to uproot two nearby trees.
"When we cleaned away some clumps of earth from the roots we saw two hands tangled up in them. Then we found a pelvis and some ribs between the roots. So we think the whole soldier was underneath the roots and the trees were growing on top of him."

But how could anyone - farmers or workmen - get on a tractor and plough over land littered with human remains?
"If they refused to plough a field because there were corpses or bones in it, they'd just be sacked," says Ilya. "If you lost your job in those days you were a non-person - you didn't exist. That's what life was like in the Soviet Union." Plus, it was less than two decades after the war. The workers had endured far worse horrors, he says.
 
There are horrors for the diggers, too.

Nevskaya Dubrovka, on the banks of the River Neva, was the scene of one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Leningrad siege. The Red Army fought tooth and nail to secure a narrow stretch of river bank in an attempt to break the blockade. Hundreds of thousands of troops, used as little more than cannon fodder, were slaughtered.
Diggers discovered a mass grave in the area last summer. The soldiers may have been thrown into the pit by their comrades or local villagers as a hasty form of burial, or even by the German Army, anxious to prevent an epidemic among its troops.

"There must have been 30 or 40 soldiers in there. Four layers of people one on top of the other," says Olga, as she sits by the campfire. "But the skeletons were all mixed up and smashed. Here you have a head - there a leg…" She pauses and stares into the fire. "Once you've seen that, you'll never forget it. You are no longer the same person you were before."
Going back to city life and her job with the BBC Russian Service is sometimes hard after a few weeks in the forest. When her friends in Moscow complain about not being able to afford a good enough car or designer clothes, she feels alienated.

"Everything seems so pointless - even my job as a journalist - and sometimes I think, 'What am I doing?' But here, on the dig, I feel we are doing something which is needed."
For Olga - who sang hymns to Communism in her primary school, then learnt about profit and loss at secondary school - volunteering as a digger also provides a moral compass in confusing times.

"Sometimes you need to know that you are doing something which is important, that you are not just a piece of dust in this universe. This work connects us to our past. It's like an anchor which helps us to stay in place even during a storm."
Finding the dead is only one part of their mission. Rescuing them from anonymity is the other.

In Moscow an eternal flame burns at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the shadow of the Kremlin Wall, but for the diggers, the best way to honour those who lost their lives is to give them back their identities.
"The soldier had a family, he had children, he fell in love," says Ilya. "Being unknown is nothing to be proud of. We are the ones who made him unknown."

But discovering who they were is not always easy, especially after so much time has passed.
"The more data we can collect from the spot, the better the chance we have to identify a soldier," says Alexander Konoplov, the leader of the Exploration group. Sometimes they find old coins with the soldiers, given to them by their families. The belief was that if the family lent him a few coins, he would come home to repay the loan.

But while personal items can build up a picture of the person, they can't help find his name, or place of birth. Initials scratched into spoons and bowls are good. But the key is usually an ID tag.
During World War Two, Soviet soldiers' ID tags were not made of metal - they were small ebony capsules containing a small piece of paper for their personal details. Sadly, the papers are often illegible. Others were left blank because many soldiers were superstitious - they believed filling in the forms would lead to certain death.

Alexander, who ran his own business selling food products before becoming a full-time digger, is holding a bullet case plugged with a small piece of wood. He hopes that it is an improvised ID tag. But when he turns it upside down in his hand, what comes out of it is not a roll of paper, but a trickle of brown liquid.

"Sometimes we find messages with the soldier's name," says Alexander. "Some wrote, 'If I am killed, please pass this on to my girlfriend or my mum.' You can't help feeling touched by it."

Exploration is one of 600 groups of diggers from all over Russia who have found and reburied a total of 500,000 soldiers so far.
These teams are known as the "white diggers", but there are also those dubbed "black diggers" who search for medals, guns, coins or even gold teeth which they sell online or to specialist dealers. They are not interested in identifying the soldiers - they just leave the bones in the ground.

Alexander has a strict set of guidelines about how the remains should be excavated, labelled and stored. Each soldier is photographed and their location is recorded and entered into a digital database.
If a decades-old ID tag cannot be deciphered by the team on the ground, it is carefully packed and sent to the team's headquarters in the Volga city of Kazan.

 
The team's technician, Rafik Salakhiev, uses ultraviolet light and digital imaging to reveal the faded pencil marks. "Let's try to enhance purple colours on this yellow paper," he says. "We can reduce the saturation and yes! We start to see some letters…"
Once a name emerges, the diggers use old army lists, classified documents and contacts in the military or police to identify the soldier precisely and to locate surviving members of his family.

"Every new search gets to me as if it was the first one," says Rafik. Many of the relatives are now elderly and may not be in good health. "When you call the relatives, before telling them the news, you try to prepare them. Even if they have been waiting for a long time."
But tracing a soldier's family can take years - on occasions more than a decade - especially if the family moved after the war.

When, in 1942, people in First Lt Kustov's home village heard he was missing, they suspected him of deserting and collaborating with the Germans. They branded his young son and daughter traitor's children and the family were forced to leave. It took Ilya Prokoviev months to track them down.
"When we told them that we had found their father's remains, for them the feeling was just indescribable. They knew that he hadn't just deserted, that he couldn't have behaved like that, but there was never any proof until 60 years later."

From the archives, the diggers worked out that Kustov had been the commander of one of Stalin's notorious shtrafbats, a battalion made up of prisoners and deserters. Only a trusted officer and staunch communist would have been appointed to such a post.
"They had managed to restore historical truth and honour their father's memory," says Ilya. "It was the main event of their lives, I think." Kustov's children took his remains and buried them next to their mother, who had waited her whole life for her husband to return.

Near the banks of the River Neva, close to the mass grave found by diggers, a Russian Orthodox priest chants prayers as he walks around the rows of bright red coffins laid out on the grass.
The children, grand-children and great-grand-children of the soldiers they unearthed look on, some quietly sobbing.

Valentina Aliyeva is here to bury the father she has not seen since she was four years old. For seven decades, the only link she had with him was a black and white photo of their former family home.
"My mother remarried some years later and everyone told me to call my stepfather Daddy. But I refused - I knew who my real dad was," she says, her eyes filling with tears. "What those diggers have achieved means so much to me. I can't tell you how grateful I am."

Tatiana Uzarevich and Lyudmila Marinkina, twin sisters in their early 50s, have travelled from the remote region of Kamchatka - nine hours away by plane. The diggers found their grandfather's ID tag in the mass grave. When they were unable to trace his family, the group put out an appeal on the evening news.
The twins' elderly mother was stunned when she heard his name - Alexander Golik - the family had searched in vain for years. His disappearance had left his wife and children destitute. "The fact that he was missing in action meant that my grandmother was not entitled to any of the financial support given to other relatives after the Great Patriotic War. She didn't get a penny and she had four children to raise," says Lyudmila.

"My mum was so hungry all the time, she begged the other kids for pieces of bread at school.
"She only remembers the shape of her fathers' hands - but she had memories of a kind, good man," says Tatiana. "We just had to come to this reburial service to visit the place where he died and accompany him to his final resting place."

The walls of the large, newly dug grave are draped with red cloth - an act of respect normally accorded only to army generals. Young men dressed in Soviet-style army uniforms form a guard of honour. Visibly moved, as coffin after coffin is carried past to be buried, some of them look up to the sky. There is a belief that birds flying overhead transport the souls of the dead.

 
There are more than 100 coffins - each contains the bones of 12 to 15 men. The diggers would like each soldier to have his own, but they can't afford the extra 1,500 they would need for today's service.
This is the culmination of months of work by the volunteers. It's what it's all for - bringing a semblance of order to the moral chaos of the past, and paying tribute to those who gave their lives.

In the spring they will resume their searches in the forests and fields where so many were slaughtered. They are determined to continue until the last man is found. But it could be a life's work - or more.
"There are so many unburied soldiers, it will take decades to find them. There will definitely be work for our grandchildren," says Marina. "But nature is working against us. The remains are decomposing and it is getting harder to find the bones, ID tags and army kit." The more years that go by. The less information there is.

"We need to continue to do this for ourselves, so our souls can be at peace," says Ilya. "It has become the meaning of our lives."


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Party On the River: The Little Ice Age in London


Climate Change has been at the forefront of the scientific (and political) conversation for over a decade.  First touted as “Global Warming,” the nomenclature has changed through the years to better fit the reality.  There is no doubt that our climate is changing.  Written history, the archaeological record and the geologic record all tell us that climate is cyclic and goes through periods of warming and cooling.  The most dramatic and destructive of those cycles brought intense cold and continent size glaciers to the Northern Hemisphere that lasted for thousands of years each time.
Intense warming in the early middle ages, brought temperatures thought to be much warmer than the present, and resulted in massive population growth in Northern Europe.  Greenland became so temperate that Scandinavian explorers established settlements that lasted for generations.  Those settlements were abandoned when the climate changed again with the “Little Ice Age,” which lasted from the mid 14th Century until the early 19th Century. 

North America is experiencing unusually cold and snowy weather this winter.  As of early February, the Great lakes are over 90% ice covered, the most the lakes have seen since the mid 1990s.  The reports of the ice on the lakes made me take notice of this blog post (thanks for sharing Greg!)  I’ve reblogged it here.  Go to the original site to see even more photos.
 
The Frost Fair: When the River Thames Froze Over Into London's Most Debaucherous Party
by Allison Meier - Feb 7, 2014

For additional period art work of the Frost Fairs go to the original blog:
http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/frost-fair-of-london
 

From about 1550 to 1850, the world was in what scientists have deemed a "Little Ice Age."  The frigid centuries included the spectacular sight of the River Thames in London freezing over, sometimes with ice so solid people decided to go out and have a festival on the river.
The Frost Fairs were staged on the frozen Thames in 1683-4, 1716, 1739-40, 1789, and 1814. Parallel exhibitions commemorating the 200 year anniversary of the last Frost Fair in February of 1814 are being held at the Museum of London in the City of London and the Museum of London Docklands.  Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1814 shows the winter bacchanalia from the Frost Fair, where the main trade was booze and the principal activity was having as wild a time as possible without breaking the ice.

Through etchings, paintings, mementos printed by enterprising press owners, and even a 200-year-old block of gingerbread - the "only surviving piece of gingerbread bought at the 1814 Frost Fair" - you can get an idea of the joy and chaos of the Frost Fairs.  It seems the artists most delighted in showing people falling on the ice (one of the drinks served along with beer and gin was a highly intoxicating concoction called "Purl" that involved wormwood), but you can also spy participants roasting sheep, playing games like bowling and "throwing at cocks" (that seemed to involve hurling things at roosters), and even fox hunting and bull-baiting. Some reports even claim an elephant walked across the ice, but sadly it did not make it into these tableaux.


"Gingerbread and wrapper, 1814" (© Museum of London) "This is the only surviving piece of gingerbread bought at the 1814 Frost Fair. At 200 years old it is now a little hard, but still smells of ginger and spice. "

Of course, every ice event has its seasonal end, and the Frost Fair would conclude tumultuously with the sounds of cracking ice and inebriated revelers scrambling for the shores.  While with the current climate and the alteration of the architecture of the Thames it's not likely there will be another Frost Fair, you can find memories of it in the city.  Under the Southwark Bridge, Richard Kindersley created a series of engravings on slate remembering the fair with this inscription:

Behold the Liquid Thames frozen o’re,
That lately Ships of mighty Burthen bore
The Watermen for want of Rowing Boats
Make use of Booths to get their Pence & Groats
Here you may see beef roasted on the spit
And for your money you may taste a bit
There you may print your name, tho cannot write
Cause num'd with cold: tis done with great delight
And lay it by that ages yet to come
May see what things upon the ice were done

Abraham Hondius, "The Frozen Thames, 1677," (© Museum of London)

 

 
"A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs," 1684, Abraham Hondius (© Museum of London)


"Frost Fair on the River Thames, 1684" (c.1800), unknown artist (© Museum of London)

 
Printed keepsake, 2 February 1814 (© Museum of London) "This simple, hastily produced example conveys the urgency and excitement of being there."

"View of the Thames off Three Cranes Wharf, 1814," Burkitt & Hudson (© PLA Collection / Museum of London)

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Tomb For The Lost King

I’ve presented several updates on the search for and discovery of the remains of Richard III in past blogs.  Since his recovery and positive identification, a legal battle as ensued over where his last resting place should be.  I’ve followed this story closely because of my interest in British history and because my alma mater the University of Leicester led the archaeological effort to recover the remains.  The University and the City of Leicester want Richard to be reburied in Leicester.  After all, it was the Grey Friar monks of Leicester who secured his body after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and respectfully buried him the Grey Friar’s church choiry where he lay (even though the church was destroyed) until February 2013. 

However, Richard was from York.  That city and the Plantagenet Society, a group of distant relatives, want him reinterred in his home town.  The law suit has not yet been settled, but plans and designs for Richard’s new tomb have already been revealed.  As you will see, a gracious nod to his Yorkshire roots is included in the design.
Re-bogged from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2425609/Richard-III-receive-burial-fit-king--raised-tomb-York-stone-positioned-large-white-rose.html#ixzz2riznxyOg

 
Richard III will receive a burial fit for a king under a raised tomb made of Yorkshire limestone positioned on a large white rose

By Sarah Griffiths
Richard III will be buried under a raised tomb made out of Yorkshire limestone, cathedral chiefs have announced.

King Richard III (pictured) was killed
at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485
 bringing to a close the period
of English history known as the Wars of the Roses
Leicester Cathedral said it wanted the tomb to have links that would reflect the last of England's Yorkist kings and the stone will be quarried close to where the king grew up.

The news comes amid a legal challenge by distant relatives of the King, who have questioned the decision to make Leicester the final resting place for his remains.
Plans for the raised tomb, which will be carved out of finely worked Swaledale fossil limestone and feature a deep carved cross, will now be submitted to planning officials for a final decision.

The limestone is quarried in Swaledale, Yorkshire, near to Middleham, where Richard III underwent his boyhood training in knighthood and later made his home.
Set within the cathedral's chancel, the £1.3 million project will see the tomb placed on a floor inlaid with a large Yorkist white rose.

 
The Dean of Leicester, the Very Reverend David Monteith (centre) and The Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens (right) pose with plans for the tomb of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2425609/Richard-III-receive-burial-fit-king--raised-tomb-York-stone-positioned-large-white-rose.html#ixzz2rj98UWEa
The name of the King, his date of birth and death, along with his personal motto Loyaulte me Lie (Loyalty binds Me) and his boar badge will also be carved into a dark circular band around the tomb.

The project will also see changes to internal layout, windows and lighting in the cathedral.
The plans revealed today will now be reviewed by the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England, with a decision expected later this month.

If all goes to plan, the cathedral hopes the king's remains can be re-interred in a ceremony full of pomp next year.

But the plans also rely on the outcome of a legal challenge from a group of distant relatives of the king, who call themselves the Plantagenet Alliance.

They have applied to the High Court for a judicial review into the decision to grant the city cathedral licence as the final resting place for the King's remains and want to see the remains placed in York, where Richard had strong links.
Richard's remains were discovered by archaeologists from the University of Leicester after a dig in a city centre car park following a campaign by the Richard III Society and with the permission of Leicester City Council, which owned the plot of ground.

The Dean of Leicester, The Very Rev David Monteith, said: 'We fully respect the process of the Judicial Review which will ensure the procedure leading to the re-interment is correct.
'While this takes its course, we must, as would any Cathedral in this position, seek planning permission for the detailed and costly changes which need to be made to the building.

'The overall concept is regal and respectful in its elegant simplicity, as befits the final resting place of a king of England.
'By placing the tomb in our chancel, we are giving king Richard the same honour as did those friars more than 500 years ago.'

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 bringing to a close the tumultuous period of English history known as the Wars of the Roses.
 
Richard's remains (pictured) were discovered by archaeologists from the University of Leicester after a dig in a city centre car park following a campaign by the Richard III Society and with the permission of Leicester City Council, which owned the plot of ground
Side Bar:
RICHARD III WAS RIDDLED WITH ROUNDWORMS, HIS REMAINS REVEALED

Richard III not only had a hunchback but he also suffered from roundworm infection, research recently revealed.

Scientists found roundworm eggs in a soil sample taken from the pelvis of the skeleton of the king.

Since the body of King Richard III was found, scientists have been undertaking careful analysis of the remains, in an attempt to shed further light on the attributes and history of the controversial king.

A team of researchers led by Dr Piers Mitchell, of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, used a powerful microscope to examine soil samples taken from the skeleton’s pelvis and skull, as well as from the soil surrounding the grave.
The microscope revealed multiple roundworm eggs in the soil sample taken from the pelvis, where the intestines would have been situated in life.

However, there was no sign of eggs in soil from the skull and very few eggs in the soil that surrounded the grave, suggesting that the eggs found in the pelvis area resulted from a genuine roundworm infection during his life, rather than from external contamination by the later dumping of human waste in the area.

Dr Mitchell said: 'We would expect nobles of this period to have eaten meats such as beef, pork and fish regularly, but there was no evidence for the eggs of the beef, pork or fish tapeworm. This may suggest that his food was cooked thoroughly, which would have prevented the transmission of these parasites.'
Dr Jo Appleby, lecturer in human bioarchaeology at the University of Leicester, said: 'Despite Richard’s noble background, it appears that his lifestyle did not completely protect him from intestinal parasite infection, which would have been very common at the time.'