Spanish Armada cannons discovery off Ireland


This video says about itself:

17 June 2015

Rare cannons from Spanish Armada discovered in seabed after wreckage from ship washed ashore by storms

From the Irish Times:

Relics from Spanish Armada discovered in Sligo

Artefacts more than 425 years old from merchant vessel found off Streedagh

Wed, Jun 17, 2015, 16:41

Severe winter storms over the last two years are believed to have led to the recent discovery of relics from the Spanish Armada off the Irish coast.

A number of cannons from the merchant vessel La Juliana have been found in sands off Streedagh in Co Sligo since timbers from the exposed wreck began washing ashore in April.

The guns date back to 1588 but are said to be in excellent condition.

Two have been taken off the seabed with archaeologists discovering that one bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, a saint particularly venerated by the people of Catalonia.

It is also dated 1570, the year La Juliana was built, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, the Government said.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, visited the wreck site and saw the archaeological work first hand.

“We have uncovered a wealth of fascinating and highly significant material, which is more than 425 years old,” she said.

“This material is obviously very historically and archaeologically significant.”

Two other vessels from the Armada sank in violent storms in the area in September 1588, La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision, with more than 1,000 soldiers and mariners drowning when they went down.

They are believed to remain concealed and protected by layers of sand which did not shift in storms over the last two years.

La Juliana traded between Spain and Italy until King Philip II commandeered it for the Armada fleet of 130 ships to invade England and take Queen Elizabeth I’s throne.

The vessel was large, weighed 860 tonnes, carried 32 guns, 325 soldiers and had a crew of 70.

Recovery of the rest of the guns, relics and materials from the sandy seabed off Sligo is expected to last a number of weeks.

Butterflies in history, arts and science


Roman mosaic

This is an ancient Roman mosaic depicting death as a skull and the soul as a butterfly, both balanced on a wheel which symbolises fortune.

From the BBC in Britain:

Do butterflies hold the answer to life’s mysteries?

16 June 2015

Throughout history, butterflies have been seen as symbols of many things – not only transformation and purity, but also death and sin. Today though, scientists study them to see what they can tell us about our changing planet, writes Mary Colwell.

Butterflies seem to distil out of warm summer air. Their fleeting, fragile appearance has inspired poets, authors and musicians through time.

They were “flowers that fly and all but sing” to the American poet Robert Frost, but took on a more tragic hue for Victor Hugo. In his poem, The Genesis of Butterflies, they “Are but torn love-letters, that through the skies / Flutter, and float, and change to butterflies.”

Bitter or sweet, ethereal or sinister, the delicate wings of butterflies have borne the burden of our hopes and fears for centuries.

In his new book, Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies, Peter Marren traces the many beliefs that have been held about these creatures. He believes their journey from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to winged beauty has evoked stories that resonate with the mysteries of the soul, life and death.

For some, these transitions are symbols of hope, a sign that the human soul can break from earthly ties, darkness and confinement to fly into the light.

The ancient Greeks were transfixed by this notion, identifying the butterfly with the essence of our being – and Psyche, the goddess of the soul, is often depicted with butterfly wings.

For the ancient Greeks, “The butterfly was telling us about our own lives,” says Peter Marren.

Through time, some butterflies took on different meanings. The bright fire-colours of the red admiral, with its velvet black wings slashed with crimson, inspired images of an inferno.

“This became the butterfly from hell,” says Marren. The imagery was used by 17th century Dutch artist Jan van Huysum – in one of his paintings a white butterfly, a sign of hope, feeds on a vase of full flowers – but sitting on a sickly bloom in the shadows is a red admiral.

Jan van Huysum painting with butterflies

Death and sin are ever present – a painted lady can be seen in Durer’s Madonna with the Iris, where it symbolises the crucifixion. The white butterflies on the other hand represent purity and hope.

Less colourful, even dowdy, butterflies are also used in art to reflect our fears. In Hieronymus Bosch‘s Garden of Earthly Delights, butterflies, or at least devils with the wings of meadow browns and small tortoiseshells, are part of the throngs of hell, involved in all kinds of unpleasantness towards people. These are far from fluttering beauties from an ethereal realm.

This video says about itself:

The Garden of Earthly Delights (Part 1)

Late Gothic (Ars Nova) composition by Hieronymus Bosch – Overview of the triptych and the exterior (outside panels).

And these two videos are the sequels.

Here comes another series, of four videos explaining the painting, by Adam McLean.

High resolution version of the painting: here.

The BBC article continues:

Eyespots on a butterfly’s wings were not always seen as a deterrent designed to scare off hungry predators, but a means of watching our behaviour from the hedgerow. Butterflies became moral spies, sent by God, to a world where it is all too easy to slip up. They watched us, not the other way round.

But today we are watching them – intensely, as modern portents of doom, already affected by climate change.

In the UK, some butterflies have had to find new habitats. The comma, for example, has moved 137 miles northwards from central England to Edinburgh in two decades. Over the same period the mountain ringlet has moved 490ft higher, becoming extinct at lower altitudes.

The brown argus has widened the area in which it lives and can now be found not only in most of southern and eastern England but as far north as Yorkshire too. The speckled wood has been spreading northwards since 1940.

We look to the sensitive butterfly for visible effects of a warming world – what we find is a world in flux and our interest in what butterflies are telling us increases.

In the Americas there has been a precipitous decline in the population of the monarch butterfly. This beauty, often described as shards of stained glass falling through sunlight, can be found along a 2,500-mile (4,000km) migration route between Canada and Mexico.

In 2004 an estimated 550 million arrived at their usual wintering ground. But 10 years later, in 2014 there were just 50 million – a decline of about 90%.

Today, butterflies’ flutterings make us sit up and take notice of what is happening around us – they are both harbingers and victims of climate change and we are studying them for what they can tell us about the future prospects of life on earth.

Ethiopia-Roman empire connection archaeological discoveries


This 2014 video says about itself:

Africa’s Past: Civilization of Aksum (4th BC – 10th AD).

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Dazzling jewels from an Ethiopian grave reveal 2,000-year-old link to Rome

British archaeology team uncovers stunning Aksumite and Roman artefacts

Dalya Alberge

Sunday 7 June 2015 00.04 BST

Spectacular 2,000-year-old treasures from the Roman empire and the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled parts of north-east Africa for several centuries before 940AD, have been discovered by British archaeologists in northern Ethiopia.

Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, headed a major six-week excavation of the ancient city of Aksum where her team of 11 uncovered graves with “extraordinary” artefacts dating from the first and second centuries. They offer evidence that the Romans were trading there hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

Schofield told the Observer: “Every day we had shed-loads of treasure coming out of all the graves. I was blown away: I’d been confident we’d find something, but not on this scale.”

She was particularly excited about the grave of a woman she has named “Sleeping Beauty”. The way the body and its grave goods had been positioned suggest that she had been beautiful and much-loved.

Schofield said: “She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.”

The woman was also wearing a necklace of thousands of tiny beads, and a beaded belt. The quality of the jewellery suggests that she was a person of very high status, able to command the very best luxurious goods. Other artefacts with her include Roman glass vessels – two perfectly preserved drinking beakers and a flask to catch the tears of the dead.

There was also a clay jug. Schofield hopes that its contents can be analysed. She believes it would have contained food and drink for the afterlife.

Although “Sleeping Beauty” was covered only with soil, her grave was cut into a rock overhang, which is why the finds survived intact.

The team also found buried warriors, with each skeleton wearing large iron bangles. They may have been killed in nearby battlefields.

Other finds include another female skeleton with a valuable necklace of 1,065 coloured glass beads, and, elsewhere, a striking glass perfume flask.

In 2012, the Observer reported that Schofield’s earlier excavations in the region had discovered an ancient goldmine that may solve the mystery of from where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.

Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, was a major trading power from the first to the seventh centuries, linking the Roman Empire and India. Aksumites were a literate people. Yet little is known about this so-called “lost” civilisation.

“Ethiopia is a mysterious place steeped in legend, but nobody knows very much about it,” said Schofield. “We know from the later Aksumite period – the fourth and fifth centuries, when they adopted Christianity – that they were trading very intensely with Rome. But our finds are from much earlier. So it shows that extraordinarily precious things were travelling from the Roman Empire through this region centuries before.”

In return, the Romans sought ivory tusks, frankincense and metals. Schofield’s excavations also found evidence of iron working.

The finds will go to a new German-funded museum, opening in October. Schofield hopes to organise a loan to the British Museum, but first the finds must be conserved: the mirror, for example, is corroded and slightly buckled. Germany is sending nine conservators.

Dark Ages lady’s face reconstructed in Friesland


This 4 June 2015 Dutch video is about reconstruction of the face of a seventh century lady. She had been buried in the highest artificial dwelling hill, or terp, in the Netherlands; in Hegebeintum village in Friesland province.

Archaeologist Maja D’Hollosy has now reconstructed the ‘terp lady”s face at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, capital of Friesland. From this Saturday on, the reconstruction will be on show there.

The terp lady probably belonged to the local elite. Her necklace points in that direction. So does her being buried in a hollowed out oak tree. Trees were rare then in Friesland.