Tag Archives: Anglo-Saxons

New books: December and CHRISTMAS!

There’s quite a few to be getting on with here! First of all, those bought over the course of December:

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  • Kurt Vonnegut –  Slaughterhouse 5     25p
  • Louis de Bernieres –  Red Dog     25p
  • Penelope Lively –  Treasures of Time     25p
  • Brendan O’Carroll –  The Chisellers     25p
  • Andrew Shail & Robin Stoate –  BFI Film Classics: Back to the Future     50p
  • Niccolo Machiavelli –  The Prince     50p
  • Frank Parkin –  Past Masters: Durkheim     50p
  • Tom Baker –  The Boy Who Kicked Pigs     50p

The first four books were from a library sale, and I do already have a copy of the Vonnegut book, which I had for free from my Sixth Form when they were clearing out their library. However, this copy here is a lot better, so for the price I thought it worth ‘upgrading’. Also, I never realised that Tom Baker (i.e. The Fourth Doctor) had written a children’s book. Oh, here I could go off on a ‘children’s literature as adult literature’ rant, but I won’t.

Now for Christmas! I hope you all had a goodtime, and here are some of my new books:

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  • Carol Ann Duffy –  The Christmas Truce     –     Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday
  • In Flanders Fields: Poems of the First World War
  • Russell Brand –  The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The WWI book is a rather nice copy, in a slip case, and the Russell Brand book is a (whisper it!) children’s book, but also illustrated by Chris Riddell, one of my favourite illustrators.

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  • The Jedi Path
  • Book of Sith
  • The Bounty Hunter Code

Yep, I like Star Wars. In fact, I really like Star Wars. And these are rather indulgent books, made to look like they’re written by various characters, and annotated by others.

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  • Brian May with Simon Bradley –  Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World
  • Glenn Povey –  Pink Floyd Treasures

I also really like Queen. And Pink Floyd.

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  • Mock the Week’s Only Book You’ll Ever Need
  • Chris Fern & George Speake-  Beasts, Birds and Gods: Interpreting the Staffordshire Hoard
  • Paul Parsons & Gail Dixon – The Periodic Table:  A Field Guide to the Elements

That last book is going o come in quite useful for reference at work, and the Hoard book is of particular interest, as it looks into the animal imagery of the Hoard and places it in a wider Anglo Saxon context. Also, George Speake works at the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, so I may have come across him once or twice in my time there.

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Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths’ tricks: The Staffordshire Hoard

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As I’ve said several times before, I’m from Stoke-on-Trent, and one of the most interesting things to happen to our City (and indeed our county) for quite a long time was the discovery in 2009 of the Staffordshire Hoard. I was one of the many people who queued to see it when it first went on display five years ago, and it was this that inspired both my dissertation and my enduring love of the Anglo-Saxons, which I hope to potentially pursue academically in future years. I came across a story in the news last week regarding this, and thought it worthy of sharing.

It turns out that some of the pieces within the collection are not quite as pure as you would expect, and that Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths occasionally tricked their royal clients using rather clever methods. Two years of research funded largely by English Heritage has shown that the makers of some of the material in the Hoard used a weak solution of ferric chloride (thought to have been made by heating up a mixture of water, salt and iron-rich clay [or maybe dust from crushed up old Roman tiles]) to remove silver and other impurities from the top few microns of gold at the surface in order to enhance the visual purity of the material. The Anglo-Saxons are known to have used this method for creating contrasts between shades of gold, this is the first time such a method has been observed as being used to enhance the purity of the metal. This would have altered greenish pale-yellow, gold/silver alloy of around 12-18 karat into deep gold, 21-23 karat material.

By comparing the Hoard material with that from Sutton Hoo, it is now thought that items made for royalty were being produced of pure gold, whereas that for the lower nobility was made from this chemically-altered alloy. There is also the possibility that this sort of surface purification may also have taken place in order to make the best of the quality of the gold used to make the item- perhaps the objects which have been treated in this way were of a slightly later date than those with the purer body, and were made from substandard gold. It is known that the quality of gold coming into England from the Continent declined over the 6th and 7th centuries, and so we could be seeing evidence of this here.

As with all of the work surrounding the Hoard, it seems that for every discovery made, there are twice as many questions raised!

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To keep abreast of the latest news about the Hoard and for some rather interesting scientific articles regarding analysis of various pieces, check out the Staffordshire Hoard website: http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

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Christmas Books

It’s taken me a few days to get around to writing this post, but here I finally am. These first few are ones that I picked and therefore knew my partner was saving for me for Christmas:

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  • Jostein Gaarder –  The Ringmaster’s Daughter
  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat
  • J.G.Ballard – Crash

I also knew about this next one. You may remember a month or so ago that I was unable to pick up my old edition of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and that I had decided to purchase one of the pleasantly-designed boxsets (see the discussion with myself in this previous post). Well, a while back I had a rather lucky find at the local library booksale:

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This was also saved until Christmas, and was a ridiculously good find- £20 worth of book for 10p! ‘The Hobbit’ isn’t included, but I should be able to pick that up at some point.

I also had:

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  • E.M. Forster – Maurice
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald –  The Last Tycoon
  • Truman Capote –  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • William S. Burroughs –  Junky
  • Rudyard Kipling –  Puck of Pook’s Hill (off my parents)

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  • Private Eye: A Cartoon History
  • Nicholas J. Higham & Martin J. Ryan –  The Anglo-Saxon World (off my parents)
  • The Private Eye Annual 2013
  • Private Eye: Eyeballs

Quite a nice amount of reading to be getting on with!

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The joys of library booksales

Before I start, let me just say that the books you are about to see haven’t all been bought from library booksales, despite what the title of this post says. However, we have managed to strike ridiculously with the sale in our local library, as our two boys now have about 15 or more new books for little over £3. Who would argue with that?

I didn’t get as many, but have acquired a few recently from other sources too. Before I list these, let me just mention these two books first:

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Please forgive the absolutely atrocious quality of the photo, but they are:

  • Plato-  Republic     50p
  • Francis Pryor-  Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons     50p

I meant to do a blog post on these over a week ago, but just never got around to it. The latter book has refueled my interest in the Anglo-Saxons (I haven’t really picked up on this recently, in part because all of my Saxon archaeology books are still sitting in large fruit-boxes in our boxroom, along with the majority of our other books), and it actually seems to be an academic text masquerading as a populist history work. Always nice. However, the main thing I want to say about these is just that I was quite shocked with the way the woman behind the counter in the charity shop looked at me when I handed them over to pay. Do people in our area not read such books? Are ancient Greek philosophy and Anglo-Saxon archaeology beyond the scope of people here, are were they just beyond her? I don’t know. Anyhoo. The other recent purchases stand as follows:

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  • Anthony Kamm-  The Romans: An Introduction     50p (library book sale)
  • Roald Dahl-  Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life     10p (library book sale)
  • Albert Camus-  The Plague     25p
  • Jean Rhys-  Voyage in the Dark     50p
  • Anon.-  Sweeney Todd or A String of Pearls     50p
  • Jules Verne-  Journey to the Centre of the Earth     50p (Folio Society edition!)
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition     50p (library book sale)
  • Lewis Carroll-  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass     10p (library book sale)

As you may recall from a previous post, I already own a copy of the Hawking work, but thought that 50p wasn’t bad for an updated edition; similarly, you may recall from a previous book-buying post and my ‘Thoughts on…’, I already have individual copies of the Carroll books, but for 10p… Well, there’s an intro. in this one, a series of notes, extra text not in the ones I had, and also the spine isn’t faded (as my individual copies were). Oh, and it’s published by Oxford University Press, too. Not bad. Also, the Roman book is published by Routledge, which is a very good publisher of archaeology texts, and appeared regularly in the bibliographies that accompanied my essays at uni. This book would actually have been handy to have had then, as it covers a lot of background about the Romans that would have been useful for essay background and revision.

I plan to get up soon several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts, as I’ve been reading quite a bit recently (as I said in my last post), and hope to get these done soon. The books I will be looking at are ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Roverandom’, ‘The Torrents of Spring’, ‘Just So Stories’, and ‘Diamonds are Forever’- so quite a bit to come!

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The Mystery of the Late Anglo-Saxon African and the Confused Forensic Anthropologists

Back to archaeology for a bit. I came across this story from a number of sources yesterday, and having thought about it for a bit, it seems even more confusing and interesting than I had first thought. Back in June, two boys found a human skull in the River Coln at Fairford, Gloucestershire, and subsequently uncovered the majority of the rest of the skeleton. The remains did not belong to a recently deceased individual, and have been reported as having a C14 date of between 896 and 1025 AD, as well as being female and between 18 and 24 years old. However, the curious thing is that the remains have also been identified as belonging to a Sub-Saharan African. In itself, this fact makes for an interesting story and leads to various different interpretations and ideas about why an African woman was in England at this time. The most obvious is that she would have been a slave woman, and the next step would be to carry out some desk-based research of the Early Medieval period in Fairford to see whether their are any records of manor houses or large estates that may have had slaves.

However, the story gets a lot more interesting when it is noted that the forensic examination of the skeleton has not been made available to anyone, and the company that carried out the analysis haven’t made it known what features make them think that the body is that of an African; it doesn’t seem as though any DNA has been taken or any isotope analysis done to narrow down the place of the individual’s origin. And then there’s one other matter, that is best illustrated by a picture of the bones in question:

Fairford skeleton

Image: Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard

Does anything look… out of place? Here’s the image again, with several bits marked:

Fairford skeleton 2

 

Okay; quite a few bits marked. Let’s start at the beginning…

1. Well. What’s this bone? Two upper arm bones? I think that may be the tibia, which does indeed seem to be absent on the left leg.

2. …I think I need to come back to this one. It’s the best one by far.

3. The ulna seems to be upside down. See also 5.

4. I’m sure that the radius is upside down, as there is the bulb at the bottom that fits into the Glenoid cavity of the scapula. I assume the other arm has been similarly arranged, it’s just I can’t tell on the photo.

5. See 3.

6. The ilium is both upside down, and on the wrong side of the body. Ditto for 7.

7. See 6.

… and then we have the pièce de résistance…

2. That’s the sacrum. As in the bottom of the spinal column. I can only think that someone thought it was perhaps the sternum. But if they did, then they shouldn’t actually be a forensic anthropologist.

I really can’t understand how someone could put a skeleton together so badly- especially considering they are meant to be professionals. Strangely, those in question haven’t yet come forward or made themselves identifiable (another anomaly considering it should have been an anthropological company or department that has done the work, and thus be known to those who contracted them in the first place). I only did a course in forensic anthropology at uni, and i can point out the errors. One bioarchaeologist, Dr Kristina Kilgrove from the University of West Florida, has even set up a blog post asking readers to point out the errors, with many having never had any training. There may be even more errors, but I can’t make them out with the quality of the image. Feel free to post any comments and further thoughts or points I’ve missed, and I’ll follow this story with interest. I’m intrigued what proper analysis reveals about this skeleton, and will post updates as the news becomes available.

 

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