Augsburg Master Builders’ Ledgers now available online

FEBRUARY 26, 2017 BY

Historians at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have spent three years working on an annotated digital edition of the account books known as the Augsburg Master Builders’ Ledgers, which are now online. The material offers incomparable insights into the medieval accounting practices in the City of Augsburg in the period 1320 to 1466.

The Augsburg Master Builders’ Ledgers document all of the imperial city’s income and expenditure over the years 1320 to 1800. The master builders entered not only columns of figures in their ledgers, but also recorded a descriptive account of life in their city thanks to various unusual features particular to the accounting practices of the time.

In contrast with the account books of many other imperial cities, the Augsburg Master Builders’ Ledgers have withstood the ravages of time virtually unscathed. They provide a comprehensive inventory of information of immeasurable value on the economic, financial, social, and cultural history of the early modern period that was previously available only to visitors to the Augsburg City Archive who were familiar with the writing styles employed. It is therefore even more satisfying to have a digital full-text edition in which the material is processed and presented in accordance with the latest technological and methodological standards obtaining in the field of the Digital Humanities.

The objective of the project supervised by Professor Jörg Rogge of Mainz University and sponsored by the German Research Foundation is to publicize the ledgers dating from 1320 to 1466.  The project employs a genuinely digital data processing method based on the virtual research environment “FuD” developed by the Trier Center for Digital Humanities. The volumes transcribed and annotated in FuD are then fed into an online framework for historical sources created by the Digital Academy of the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature. The project is a continuous work-in-progress so that there will be on-going augmentation of the digital edition. The registers already contain more than 4,500 keywords that reveal the contextual richness of the sources. The provision of links from individual words to online dictionaries provides for better comprehension of the Middle High German original.

The Mainz-based historians are unable to provide facsimiles of the originals for legal reasons as the Augsburg City Archive has reserved the right to publish digitized reproductions of its holdings. It thus became all the more important to generate a presentation form that offers replications as close as possible to the originals while providing optimum legibility and material that would be of use to academics. The online edition is available on both desktop and mobile end devices.

The digital edition represents a permanent and citable resource that offers both a full-text and register search as well as semantic indexing of the material at https://www.augsburger-baumeisterbuecher.de

Discovery of Lost Early Medieval Kingdom in Galloway

Discovery of Lost Early Medieval Kingdom in Galloway

Archaeological research has just been published which reveals the location of a hitherto lost early medieval kingdom that was once pre-eminent in Scotland and Northern England.

The kingdom of Rheged is probably the most elusive of all the sixth century kingdoms of Dark Age Britain. Despite contributing a rich source of some of the earliest medieval poetry to be composed in Britain – the poetry of Taliesin who extolled the prowess of its king, Urien of Rheged – and fragments of early medieval historical records of Urien’s dominance in southern Scotland and northern England, the actual location of Rheged has long been shrouded in mystery.

While many historians have assumed it was centred around Carlisle and Cumbria, no evidence has ever been found to back this up. However, new archaeological evidence from the excavation of Trusty’s Hill Fort at Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway now challenges this assumption.

‘What drew us to Trusty’s Hill were Pictish symbols carved on to bedrock here, which are unique in this region and far to the south of where Pictish carvings are normally found,’ said Ronan Toolis of GUARD Archaeology, who led the excavation which involved the participation of over 60 volunteers. ‘The Galloway Picts Project was launched in 2012 to recover evidence for the archaeological context of these carvings but far from validating the existence of ‘Galloway Picts’, the archaeological context revealed by our excavation instead suggests the carvings relate to a royal stronghold and place of inauguration for the local Britons of Galloway around AD 600. Examined in the context of contemporary sites across Scotland and northern England, the archaeological evidence suggests that Galloway may have been the heart of the lost Dark Age kingdom of Rheged, a kingdom that was in the late sixth century pre-eminent amongst the kingdoms of the north.’

The excavation revealed in the decades around AD 600, the summit of the hill was fortified with a timber-laced stone rampart. Around the same time supplementary defences and enclosures were added to its lower-lying slopes transforming Trusty’s Hill into a nucleated fort, a type of fort in Scotland that has been recognised by archaeologists as high status settlements of the early medieval period.

Anyone approaching the summit of Trusty’s Hill passed between a rock-cut basin on one flank and an outcrop on which two Pictish symbols were carved on the other. This formed a symbolic entranceway, a literal rite of passage, where rituals of royal inauguration were conducted. On entering the summit citadel one may have been greeted with the sight of the king’s hall at the highest part of the hill on the west side, where feasting took place, and the workshop of his master smith occupying a slightly lower area on the eastern side, where gold, silver, bronze and iron were worked into objects. The layout of this fort was complex, each element deliberately formed to exhibit the power and status of its household.

The excavation also found the remains of a workshop that was producing high status metalwork of gold, silver, bronze and iron. The royal household here was also part of a trade network that linked western Britain with Ireland and Continental Europe. In fact, research now shows that over the late sixth and early seventh centuries AD Gaulish merchants were making a beeline for the Galloway coast, ignoring Cumbria entirely. The excavation revealed that one of the reasons for this may have been to acquire materials like copper and lead. Isotope analysis of a lead ingot found during the excavation of Trusty’s Hill was found to have originated in the Leadhills of south-west Scotland, demonstrating that this mineral source was being mined and used to make leaded bronze objects at this time.

Other activities apparent at Trusty’s Hill included the spinning of wool, preparation of leather and feasting. The diet of this early medieval household, with the predominant consumption of cattle over sheep and pigs, and oats and barley rather than wheat, was largely indistinguishable from their Iron Age ancestors.

‘The people living at Trusty’s Hill were not engaged in agriculture themselves,’ said excavation co-director Dr Christopher Bowles, Scottish Borders Council Archaeologist. ‘Instead, this household’s wealth relied on their control of farming, animal husbandry and the management of local natural resources – minerals and timber – from an estate probably spanning the wider landscape of the Fleet valley and estuary. Control was maintained by bonding the people of this land and the districts beyond to the royal household, by gifts, promises of protection and the bounties of raiding and warfare.’

It is in this context that the Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill can now be viewed. The new analysis of the symbols here leave no doubt that the symbols are genuine early medieval carvings, likely created by a local Briton, melding innovation, contacts with Atlantic Europe and deep seated traditions.

‘The literal meaning of the symbols at Trusty’s Hill will probably never be known. There is no Pictish Rosetta Stone,’ said Ronan Toolis. ‘But they provide significant evidence for the initial cross cultural exchanges that forged the notion of kingship in early medieval Scotland.’

The location of the symbols at the entranceway to the summit of Trusty’s Hill and opposite a rock-cut basin, mirrors the context of the inauguration stone at Dunadd, the royal centre for the kings of Dalriada, the early Scots kingdom that once covered what is now Argyll and Bute. The imported goods and production of fine metalwork at Trusty’s Hill is comparable in quality to Dunadd, showing that these two royal households were of equal status. Dunadd’s Pictish boar, footprint, ogham and rock-cut basin at the entrance to the summit enclosure are best viewed as a set of royal regalia where the rituals of inauguration took place. The only other Pictish carvings located outside Pictland were found near Edinburgh Castle Rock; another site attested by archaeological and historical evidence to be a royal stronghold of the sixth to early seventh centuries AD. Close comparisons can also now be drawn with the early sixth century royal site at Rhynie in the heart of what was once Pictland.

The 2012 excavation at Trusty’s Hill sought to reveal the archaeological context for the Pictish style carvings. They succeeded in showing that the site was very likely a royal stronghold and place of inauguration of the local Britons of Galloway.

A cluster of contemporary Dark Age sites, such as Whithorn, Kirkmadrine and the Mote of Mark, is now known in Galloway. Trusty’s Hill is the only one of these where there is evidence of royal inauguration and suggests that this site was at the apex of a local social hierarchy. The new evidence from Trusty’s Hill now provides a political context to the wealth and complexity of Galloway during the sixth century, the attraction of the region to continental merchants, and Galloway’s claim as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. The archaeological record for the establishment of Christianity in southern Scotland suggests that its elite communities were literate and well connected internationally. This could not have occurred without a powerful secular presence providing land and resources. With the corroboration of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence, we begin to see the tantalising clues to a vibrant and dynamic culture that is entirely consistent with Rheged, a kingdom that was pre-eminent in northern Britain in the later sixth century but which faded into obscurity through the course of the seventh century. The deliberate and spectacular destruction of Trusty’s Hill and the nearby contemporary fort at the Mote of Mark in the seventh century AD, which can also be surmised for a number of similar forts in Galloway, is a visceral reminder that the demise of this kingdom in the early seventh century AD came with sword and flame.

‘The new archaeological evidence from Trusty’s Hill enhances our perception of power, politics, economy and culture at a time when the foundations for the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Wales were being laid,’ said Dr Bowles. ‘The 2012 excavations show that Trusty’s Hill was likely the royal seat of Rheged, a kingdom that had Galloway as its heartland. This was a place of religious, cultural and political innovation whose contribution to culture in Scotland has perhaps not been given due recognition. Yet the influence of Rheged, with Trusty’s Hill at its secular heart, Whithorn as its religious centre, Taliesin its poetic master and Urien its most famous king, has nevertheless rippled through the history and literature of Scotland and beyond.’

The Lost Dark Age Kingdom of Rheged by Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles is published by Oxbow Books.

For more information visit the Galloway Picts website.

Major Viking Age manor discovered in Sweden

Major Viking Age manor discovered in Sweden

Birka, Sweden’s oldest town, has long been a major source of our knowledge about the Viking Age. New geophysical research has now uncovered the ninth-century manor of a royal bailiff at this site.

During spring of 2016 a number of large presumed house terraces were identified by the researchers at Korshamn, which lies outside the town rampart of Birka, which itself is situated on an island in Lake Mälaren, near Stockholm. As a consequence high resolution geophysical surveys using ground-penetrating radar were carried out in September 2016, which revealed a major Viking period hall on the site, with a length of around 40 meters. Based on the land upheaval the area of the Viking hall can be dated to sometime after 810 AD. The hall is connected to a large fenced area that stretches towards the harbour basin.

“This kind of Viking period high status manors has previously only been identified at a few places in southern Scandinavia, for instance at Tissø and Lejre in Denmark. It is known that the fenced area at such manors was linked to religious activities” says Johan Runer, archaeologist at the Stockholm county museum.

During the survey a predecessor for the Viking Age manor was also identified at the site: a high status manor that existed during the Vendel period, prior to the establishment of the Viking Age town of Birka. Both the identified buildings and their continued use from the Vendel period to the Viking Age correlate well with the “ancestral property” of Birka’s royal bailiff Herigar as mentioned in Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii. Herigar was Christianized by Ansgar, archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, during his first mission c. 830 AD, and he built the first church on his land.

“The consequences of our discoveries cannot be overestimated: in terms of the emergence of the Viking town of Birka, its royal administration and the earliest Christian mission to Scandinavia”, says Sven Kalmring, researcher at the Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie, Schleswig.
The results has been published in the journal Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt – click here to read the article: At Home with Herigar: a Magnate’s Residence from the Vendel- to Viking Period at Korshamn, Birka (Uppland / S)“The results highlight the benefits of using non-intrusive geophysical surveys for the detection of archaeological features and, once again, prove to be an invaluable tool for documenting Iron Age building remains in Scandinavia”, says Andreas Viberg, researcher at the Archaeological Research Laboratory at Stockholm University.

The Golden Haggadah is now online

JANUARY 22, 2017 BY

The Golden Haggadah, created in Catalonia around the year 1320, is among several hundred items that have recently been digitised by the British Library as part of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project.

The project has involved the photographing, description and, where necessary, meticulous conservation of 1,300 items ranging from illuminated service books to Torah scrolls, from scientific and astronomical treatises to great works of theology and philosophy. They bear witness to the full flowering of culture, thought and artistry in the Eastern and Western Jewish communities across more than a thousand years.

“The British Library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts is one of the finest and most important anywhere in the world,” said Ilana Tahan, the Library’s Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. “It spans all major areas of Hebrew literature, with Bible, liturgy, kabbalah, Talmud, Halakhah (Jewish law), ethics, poetry, philosophy and philology particularly well represented. Its geographical spread is vast and takes in Europe, North Africa, the Middle and Near East, and various countries in Asia, including Iran, Iraq, Yemen and China. This project makes 1,300 codices and scrolls freely available to scholars and researchers around the world as never before, with items fully searchable by date, place of origin, scribe and keyword.”

The resource has been promoted via the Library’s social media platforms using the hashtag #HebrewProject, and through blog posts and tweets on topics ranging from the largest and smallest items (a 52 metre long leather Pentateuch scroll and a scroll of the Book of Esther just 50mm wide) to the processes of conserving both the scrolls themselves and, in the case of some Torah scrolls, the often elaborate embroidered covers that have protected them for centuries.

“Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness of these remarkable treasures far beyond the research audience,” said Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, digital curator for the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project. “By sharing spectacular images from the manuscripts, as well as going behind the scenes on the work of digitisation, we want to encourage people to find out more and explore online manuscripts that they would previously only have been able to access on microfilm or by visiting our Reading Rooms at St Pancras.”

A second phase to the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project was announced last year, in partnership with the National Library of Israel. The second phase of digitisation – currently underway – will see at least a further 860 manuscripts photographed and made available online.

Click here to see the Golden Haggadah manuscript

You can learn more about the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project on Twitter @BL_HebrewMSS 

Identification, Geochemical Characterisation and Significance of Bitumen among the Grave Goods of the 7th Century Mound 1 Ship-Burial at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk, UK)

JANUARY 22, 2017 BY

Identification, Geochemical Characterisation and Significance of Bitumen among the Grave Goods of the 7th Century Mound 1 Ship-Burial at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk, UK)

By Pauline Burger, Rebecca J. Stacey, Stephen A. Bowden, Marei Hacke and John Parnell

PLoS ONE, Vol.11:12 (2016)

Abstract: The 7th century ship-burial at Sutton Hoo is famous for the spectacular treasure discovered when it was first excavated in 1939. The finds include gold and garnet jewellery, silverware, coins and ceremonial armour of broad geographical provenance which make a vital contribution to understanding the political landscape of early medieval Northern Europe. Fragments of black organic material found scattered within the burial were originally identified as ‘Stockholm Tar’ and linked to waterproofing and maintenance of the ship.

Here we present new scientific analyses undertaken to re-evaluate the nature and origin of these materials, leading to the identification of a previously unrecognised prestige material among the treasure: bitumen from the Middle East. Whether the bitumen was gifted as diplomatic gesture or acquired through trading links, its presence in the burial attests to the far-reaching network within which the elite of the region operated at this time.


Click here to read this article from PLoS ONE

If the bitumen was worked into objects, either alone or in composite with other materials, then their significance within the burial would certainly have been strongly linked to their form or purpose. But the novelty of the material itself may have added to the exotic appeal. Archaeological finds of bitumen from this and earlier periods in Britain are extremely rare, despite the abundance of natural sources of bitumen within Great Britain. This find provides the first material evidence indicating that the extensively exploited Middle Eastern bitumen sources were traded northward beyond the Mediterranean to reach northern Europe and the British Isles.

A Family of Mercers in Medieval London

JANUARY 22, 2017 BY
A Family of Mercers in Medieval London
By Shirley Garton Straney
Foundations, Vol.1 No.5 (2005)

Abstract: A fourteenth century family coordinating elements of English life, the academy, the church, the crown, land, commerce and family connections to become significant participants in London life.

Introduction: A study of medieval London describes Hugh Garton asa Yorkshireman andone of the “three leading Wardrobe mercers” in that city, and also Sheriff in 1313 and Alderman of Coleman Street ward from 1319 until his death in 1327. Although the study refers to him as an immigrant to London, he was not the first of the name there.

The first found in the Corporation of London’s books is William Garton, Citizen and Mercer of London who on Thursday, 19 March 1292/3 was granted a shop in Sopers Lane in the parish of St. Pancras by Hugh Chelmeford, Citizen of London and his wife Alice. Thus began the family in Sopers Lane in Cordwainer ward in London, centre of the Mercers and Pepperers, and near to the Guildhall, where the Citizens met.


Click here to read this article from Foundations of Medieval 
Genealogy

In this period the Citizens, including William Garton, agreed to send twenty men with horses to accompany Sir Edward, the king’s son, to protect the coast of Kent and stay four weeks. On 25 April 1311 William was one of the receivers of 1,000 marks to be sent to the king in Scotland. They delivered this by messenger to the king, and purchased a horse from William Garton for the use of the messenger. When the mayor and aldermen, and “good men from each ward” elected citizens to attend Parliament at York on 15 August 1314 at the Guildhall, William de Garton was among those chosen. Everyone was assessed one penny to pay for their expenses.

Tynwald – An Early Medieval Assembly Place and its Life History

Archaeodeath

Recently, I finally got to visit Tynwald Hill (Cronk Keeill Eoin), St John’s, on the Isle of Man. Located at the north-westerly end of the central valley running across the island from Peel to Douglas, this is the only open-air assembly site still operable in northern Europe. Each year, it is the focus of the Manx parliament’s ceremonial gatherings on Tynwald Day – 5th July.

dsc00467Historical evidence dates the use of the site back to the early 13th century, but the name – Thingvollr (parliament field)suggests its origins stretch back to perhaps the 10th century if not earlier. Historically, the practices on the site relate to swearing allegiance, declaring new laws and administering justice.

There are 5 dimensions to the site, as discussed in a succinct and superbly executed archaeological review by Tim Darvill (2004):

  1. A 25m-diameter, 3.6m-high four-stepped grassed mound. It has a central post…

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