Dutch museum buys ancient Viking ring

This 2 April 2020 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

The Netherlands Middle Ages collection of the National Museum of Antiquities is richer now because of this Viking ring. The ring was found in a cornfield near Hoogwoud, in the north of North Holland province. It is a silver ring from the tenth century. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden recently bought the ring from the finder. In this video, curator Annemarieke Willemsen explains why the ring is so special.

See also here.

The museum is now closed because of the coronavirus crisis. The ring will be exhibited later.

Rare Dutch Dark Ages coin discovered

The newly discovered sceatta coin, photo by William Posthouwer

Does this newly discovered Dutch early medieval silver coin depict a curlew on one side? This sceatta coin type often depicted curlews.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In the neighbourhood of Born town in Limburg province, a coin that was more than a thousand years old was taken out of the ground. It is a so-called sceatta coin from the early Middle Ages. Sceatta is an old Germanic word for ‘treasure’.

William Posthouwer from Born discovered the coin with his metal detector. Where exactly he does not want to say, because he first wants to thoroughly search the area himself. Posthouwer is more often looking for treasures. “But this is my most extraordinary find so far”, Posthouwer tells 1Limburg regional broadcasting organisation.


The coin is very special for Limburg, says Paul Beliën. Belïen ​​works at De Nederlandsche Bank and is a specialist in the field of historical coins. “This sceatta is of the continental runic type and was struck around 700 AD.”

The time of Frisian King Redbad.

“3000 sceattas have been found in the Netherlands”, says Beliën. “A few hundred of them are of this runic type.” Of those thousands of sceattas, 24 were found in Limburg, according to the specialist. “Only four of them are of the rarely found continental runic type.”

Frisian coin

According to Beliën, the fact that the sceatta is hardly found in Limburg is because the coin was mainly used by the Frisians. They used to live along the North Sea coast, from Zeeland to Denmark. “That is why the coin is seldom found in Limburg.”

Limburg then was not Frisian, but part of the Frankish kingdom.

According to Beliën, little can be said about the current value of the currency. Historical sources show that in the Middle Ages [about 800 AD] you needed 36 sceattas to buy a cow.

And 84 for a sword; and 144 for a horse.

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.

Medieval caliphate golden coin treasure discovery in Mediterranean

This video says about itself:

Largest Trove of Gold Coins Ever Discovered In Israel

17 February 2015

A group of divers in Israel has stumbled upon the largest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in the country. The divers reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and nearly 2,000 coins dating back to the Fatimid period, or the eleventh century, were salvaged by the authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit. The find was unearthed from the seabed of the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park, according to a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The discovery of such a large hoard of coins that had such tremendous economic power in antiquity raises several possibilities regarding its presence on the seabed,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the release. “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected.”

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Israeli divers find ‘priceless’ underwater treasure in the Mediterranean

2,000 gold coins were found, thought to be more than 1,000 years old

Zachary Davies Boren

Thursday 19 February 2015

A ‘priceless’ trove of gold coins has been discovered by scuba divers off the coast of Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

The estimated 2,000 gold coins, found on the seabed in the ancient harbour in Caesarea, are thought be more than 1,000 years old, and made visible by recent winter storms

They have been identified as “multiple denominations” used in the Fatimid Caliphate, the Islamic dynasty that ruled much of the Middle East and North Africa for hundreds of years around the time of the 10th century.

The Israeli Antiquities Authorities said the trove was “so valuable that it’s priceless”.

Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Authority’s marine archeology division, said the area would be excavated in an attempt to determine the coins’ origin.

The BBC reports him as saying: “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected.

“Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city.

“Another theory is that the treasure was money belonging to a large merchant ship that traded with the coastal cities and the port on the Mediterranean Sea and sank there.”

Read more:

Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins found in recent years goes on display at British Museum

Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The divers who stumbled upon the 9kg ancient trove first thought the coins were toys, but upon realising what they discovered they took a handful back to their club.

The coins are now the property of the Israeli state and the divers were given no finders’ fee.

‘Rare cache’ of Hasmonean-era coins uncovered in Israel’s Modiin: here.

Mongolian emperors and Chinese art history

This video says about itself:

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, reading with text

9 February 2013

Kubla Khan (pron.: /ˌkʊblə ˈkɑːn/) is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, completed in 1797 and published in 1816. According to Coleridge‘s Preface to Kubla Khan, the poem was composed one night after he experienced an opium influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan. Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. The poem could not be completed according to its original 200–300 line plan as the interruption caused him to forget the lines. He left it unpublished and kept it for private readings for his friends until 1816 when, on the prompting by George Gordon Byron, it was published.

Some of Coleridge’s contemporaries denounced the poem and questioned his story about its origin. It was not until years later that critics began to openly admire the poem. Most modern critics now view Kubla Khan as one of Coleridge’s three great poems, with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. The poem is considered one of the most famous examples of Romanticism in English poetry. A copy of the manuscript is a permanent exhibit at the British Museum in London.

Apart from Coleridge’s poetic imagination, and descriptions by Marco Polo, there is more to say about Khubilai Khan and other Mongolian rulers of medieval China.

From the International Institute for Asian Studies in the Netherlands:

Khubilai Khan’s legacy: Inner Asian Influence on Chinese art

Date & time

19 February 2015, 14.30 – 16.30 hrs


Auditorium, Rijksmuseum
Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam

The programme

14.30 – 15.00 Reception with coffee & tea in the foyer at the Auditorium
15.00 – 15.10 Welcome & Introduction
15.10 – 16.00 Lecture by Professor Morris Rossabi
16.00 – 16.30 Q&A

The lecture

This slide-illustrated presentation challenges the conventional wisdom that portrays the thirteenth-century Mongolians as merely destroyers, killers, rapists, and plunderers. Although the lecture does not minimize the massacres and destruction wrought by the Mongolians, it also reveals their contributions to the arts and culture in China. Khubilai Khan, in particular, supported several of the most prominent Chinese painters, recruited Muslim weavers to add new motifs in Chinese textiles, appointed Mongolians to supervise the spectacular porcelain industry, and commissioned Tibetan and Nepalese painters and artisans to produce portraits of the Imperial family and to construct remarkable buildings in Dadu (or Beijing). Marco Polo, whose book introduced Khubilai to the West, was himself dazzled by the extraordinary art and culture he encountered in Mongol-ruled China.

To be sure, the Mongolians were not the artists and craftsmen, but they acted as sponsors, patrons, and consumers of the arts, thereby performing an invaluable service. Women, especially Khubilai’s wife and great granddaughter, were avid supporters of Chinese art.

The speaker

Morris Rossabi is a historian of China and Inner Asia who conducted his initial research on traditional Chinese foreign relations and on the peoples along China’s borders. He wrote a biography of Khubilai Khan, which has been translated in many languages, including Korean and Russian, and helped to organize exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. He was commissioned to write three chapters for the Cambridge History of China. After serving as a Consultant for the Soros Foundation, he wrote the book Modern Mongolia. The author of numerous articles and speeches, he travels repeatedly to Central Asia and Mongolia, where he teaches courses on Mongolian and East Asian history.


Entrance and registration are free of charge. Please register via: h.m.van.der.minne@iias.nl


For enquiries about the lecture, please contact Ms Heleen van der Minne: h.m.van.der.minne@iias.nl.

Rare medieval bookmark discovery in Leiden, the Netherlands

This video is called Rare medieval bookmark.

About this video, from Leiden university in the Netherlands:

Rare medieval bookmark found in Leiden University Library

A rare medieval bookmark emerged in Leiden University Library. Book historian Erik Kwakkel found the disk in an archive of manuscript descriptions called the Bibliotheca Neerlandica Manuscripta. It was likely put their [sic; there] in the early twentieth century by Willem de Vreese, who made the descriptions. The presence of the bookmark was not known to the library. Only thirty-five bookmarks of this type have been identified worldwide.

The bookmark concerns a disk with the numbers 1-4 written on it. Originally, it would have been fitted in a sleeve, which could be pulled up and down along a cord. The reader would turn the disk to indicate in what text column certain information was found, after which he pulled the sleeve to the relevant line. Page, column and line were thus marked. The specimen in Leiden is incomplete, as only the disk itself survived. However, this manuscript in Harvard’s Houghton Library illustrates how the bookmark works.

Although it is hard to determine the precise date of the bookmark, it was likely made in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. It appears to have been popular in learned books and it reflects how scholars from the thirteenth century began to use their books. No longer were the objects merely used to read from cover to cover, but an interest emerged to read particular sections. To facilitate such use, various aids became widely used, including the index, running titles, and detailed chapter titles. The rotating bookmark can be understood as yet another means to quickly and efficiently find your way to a particular passage. The thumbprints on the Leiden specimen suggests it was frequently used.

The bookmark has been moved to the manuscript collection and has been given the shelfmark BPL 3327. The find was first reported on Erik Kwakkel’s blog medievalbooks.nl and in De Volkskrant of 2 October, 2014.

Last Modified: 02-10-2014.

English King Richard III ate swans, herons, egrets

This video from England is called Richard III – Identifying the Remains.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Swan, egret, heron: the Richard III diet revealed

Research on the king’s remains show the royal liked his food and drink

Jonathan Owen

Sunday 17 August 2014

His daily diet included crane and egret, washed down with a bottle of wine. The reign of Richard III only lasted two years but the king used that time to indulge a secret passion for the finer things of life, according to new research.

The monarch, depicted by William Shakespeare as a Machiavellian villain who murdered his way to the throne, enjoyed a debauched lifestyle of feasting and heavy drinking. His love of fine food and wine shows another side to the king dubbed a “poisonous bunchback’d toad” in Shakespeare’s Richard III.

After ascending to the throne in 1483, he embarked upon an orgy of drinking and eating, consuming copious amounts of wine and an array of rich food including exotic meats, freshwater fish such as pike, and birds such as swan and heron.

The findings of the research by experts from the British Geological Survey and the University of Leicester will be shown in a new documentary, Richard III: The New Evidence, to be shown tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.

Richard III’s reign was cut short when he died during the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. More than 500 years passed before his remains were found under the site of a car park in Leicester and unearthed, in August 2012.

The discovery enabled researchers to conduct 21st-century scientific tests to reveal new insights into his life. Isotope analysis of bone and tooth samples was used to measure the levels of certain chemicals, such as strontium, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon and lead, which relate to geographical [l]ocation, pollution and diet.

In a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science today, researchers state: “Variations in Richard III’s diet can be traced through his life using carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions.” They add that in medieval England, “the wealthier you were the more variety of meat and fish you consumed”.

The results of the analysis demonstrated a shift to “an increased proportion” of freshwater fish and wildfowl “in the latter part of his life”, something which “corresponds to an increase in these ‘luxury foods’ in the last two to five years of his life [during his reign] relative to the average last 10 years of his life,” according to the paper.

And the isotope levels when “assessed against historical documentations, suggest a significant increase in feasting and wine consumption in his later years”, it continues.

Dr Angela Lamb, geochemist at the British Geological Survey, and lead author of the paper said: “Your body processes the food you eat and the water you drink and they have chemical signatures in terms of their isotope composition which gets preserved in your teeth and bone.”

In the documentary, Dr Lamb says: “The nitrogen isotopes show an increase in the amount of meat and protein they were eating, and also an increase in the amount of fish they were eating. And Richard’s are at the top end of comparable medieval high-status individuals.”

Richard III’s diet was, she said, “way beyond that of an even equivalent high-status individual in the late medieval period”.

As for quenching the royal thirst, an analysis of oxygen isotopes in the king’s ribs suggests that he started drinking around a bottle of wine every day during the last three years of his life. It is probable that he was getting through up to three litres of alcohol a day in total. “An increase in wine consumption would explain why he may have had a higher oxygen isotope value at that time,” said Dr Lamb. “Our estimations are it’s sort of 25 per cent of his oxygen intake. It was a considerable step up from what was his average drinking before.”

As well as the revelations over Richard III’s lifestyle, the programme shows a modern-day body double for the English king, 27-year-old Dominic Smee from Tamworth, Staffordshire, who demonstrates that Richard III’s curved spine would not have stopped him from being able to fight and ride in battle.

Mr Smee has a virtually identical curvature of the spine and a similar build to that of the dead king. He has taken part in a series of tests, from wearing armour and wielding weapons to riding on horseback, to show that Richard III was capable of fighting in a medieval battle.

European Middle Ages and Enlightenment, new book

This video from the USA is called Stephen GreenblattThe Swerve – Part 1.

And this video is the sequel.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

A key moment in the prehistory of the Enlightenment

9 August 2014

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt, W.W. Norton, 2011 (US$16.95)

In his autobiography, Trotsky compares the Protestant Reformation in Europe to the work of men who have broken out of an insane asylum. “To a certain extent, it really was,” he remarks. “European humanity broken out of the medieval monastery.”

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, a recent bestselling non-fiction book by Harvard academic Stephen Greenblatt, tells the story of how the first cracks began to appear in the medieval monastery walls. It chronicles a little-appreciated but nevertheless significant event in the history of human ideas: the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) in the winter of 1417 by former papal secretary and book hunter Poggio Bracciolini. Key philosophical conceptions drawn from this rediscovered poem, Greenblatt argues, formed the foundations for many subsequent developments in modern thought.

Greenblatt’s controversial book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and it has also come under attack as an “anti-religious diatribe.” The book has merit and, as a celebration of the very early stages of the intellectual trajectory that would become the Enlightenment, deserves to defended.

The Swerve paints a truly dark picture of the Middle Ages in Europe. At the dawn of the fifteenth century, society is subordinated to the whims and caprices of a cruel aristocracy of landowners, warlords, and priests. Ignorance and superstition reign, and lists are maintained of banned and heretical books. War, hunger, and disease regularly carry off entire populations. The ruins of ancient Rome are pilfered for bricks and scrap metal, and the literary treasures of antiquity are forgotten. The Catholic Church treats every original thought as a potential threat to its hegemony, and it aggressively tortures dissenters and burns them at the stake. There is not a drop of romance in Greenblatt’s grim account of this period in history.

Even 200 years after the events that are the main focus of the book, at the height of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church continued to use the most barbaric methods against those who would challenge its worldview. Greenblatt gives the following description of the death of the colorful and brilliant philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was murdered by the Inquisition on February 17, 1600:

“He [Bruno] had steadfastly refused to repent during the innumerable hours in which he had been harangued by teams of friars, and he refused to repent or simply to fall silent now at the end. His words are unrecorded, but they must have unnerved the authorities, since they ordered that his tongue be bridled. They meant it literally: according to one account, a pin was driven into his cheek, through his tongue, and out the other side; another pin sealed his lips, forming a cross. When a crucifix was held up to his face, he turned his head away. The fire was lit and did its work.”

The executions of religious reformers Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague—also by burning at the stake—likely had a particular impact on the protagonist of the story, the early humanist Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459). Poggio witnessed the execution of Jerome, who, according to a contemporary chronicler, “lived much longer in the fire than Hus and shrieked terribly, for he was a stouter, stronger man, with a broad, thick, black beard.”

Poggio, in a letter to a friend, praised the eloquence with which Jerome had made his case before his persecutors, even with his own life in the balance. His friend replied, “I must advise you henceforth to write upon such subjects in a more guarded manner.” The terror of the Inquisition was everywhere.

Under these conditions, the work of the early humanists was driven semi-underground. Their work took the form of searching for and appreciating the works of the classical writers of Greek and Roman antiquity.

Some authors of historical novels and detractors of books like Greenblatt’s glorify the Middle Ages as a lost paradise of beautiful damsels, chivalrous courageous knights and pious Christians; while ignoring the exploitation of the peasantry, horrible executions imposed by the Inquisition and the nobility, etc. However, some authors of the Renaissance and later, opposed to the ‘dark Middle Ages’, tend to idealize Greek and Roman culture, forgetting aspects like slavery or Julius Caesar’s bloody war of conquest in Gaul.

To give a sense of how much had been lost, Greenblatt quotes Roman rhetorician Quintilian’s praise for the works of Macer, Lucretius, Varro of Atax, Cornelius Severus, Saleius Bassus, Gaius Rabirius, Albinovanus Pedo, Marcus Furius Bibaculus, Lucius Accius, Marcus Pacuvius, and others. With the exception of Lucretius, Greenblatt writes, all of the works of all of these authors have been lost.

The poem of Lucretius, which Poggio rediscovers in 1417, has significant philosophical implications. Little is known about the life of Lucretius (99 BCE–c. 55 BCE), who was a follower of Epicurus. In his masterpiece De Rerum Natura, he sought to combine beauty of aesthetic presentation (poetry) with the highest achievements of science and philosophy.

Partway through the book, Greenblatt makes a list of some of the key ideas in Lucretius’s poem: everything is made of invisible particles; these elementary particles are eternal; all particles are in motion in an infinite void; the universe has no creator or designer; nature ceaselessly experiments; human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty but in a primitive battle for survival; there is no afterlife; all organized religions are superstitious delusions; religions are invariably cruel; there are no angels, demons, or ghosts; understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder; the highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain; and the greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain but delusion.

According to Lucretius, all phenomena come into being as a result of the unpredictable “swerve” of elementary particles, and this conception is the source of the title of Greenblatt’s book. There is a curious quasi-materialism in Lucretius that no doubt fascinated his early modern readers: “Sight did not exist before the birth of the eyes, nor speech before the creation of the tongue.”

In addition to its radical philosophical content, Lucretius’s poem is rich in passages of arresting beauty, even now after the passage of so many centuries. Lucretius portrays the world as ever-changing and yet still possessing continuity. Life has meaning, even if an individual’s life does not continue after death, as part of something greater. “Thus the sum of things is ever being renewed, and mortals live dependent one upon another. Some nations increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and like runners pass on the torch of life.”

The Swerve traces the fascinating impact of the poem and its Epicurean ideas across the subsequent centuries. Botticelli paints scenes from the poem; Shakespeare refers to it in his plays; Montaigne cites it in his essays; and it animates Thomas More’s Utopia. Asked to describe his philosophy of life, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I am an Epicurean.”

Greenblatt does not mention it in The Swerve, but Epicurean philosophy had a certain influence on another important figure in modern thought: the very young Karl Marx, who filled seven notebooks with a study of Epicurean philosophy and even wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature.”

Some of the value of Greenblatt’s book is reflected in the ferocity of the attacks against it. Hostility to the Enlightenment and all of its accomplishments predominates in ruling circles in America and throughout the world. The epoch of imperialism, Lenin wrote, is “reaction all down the line.” It is no coincidence that, in a country where the Supreme Court recently affirmed the “religious right” of corporations to deny health care to women, a book celebrating secular humanism and the Enlightenment would encounter a chilly reception in certain quarters.

The Los Angeles Review of Books published one such attack, entitled “Why Stephen Greenblatt is Wrong—and Why It Matters.” The author of the attack, Jim Hinch, a religion correspondent for California’s Orange County Register, takes furious exception to Greenblatt’s narrative “of how modern western secular culture liberated itself from the deadening hand of centuries of medieval religious dogmatism.”

“Greenblatt’s caricatured Middle Ages might have passed muster with Enlightenment-era historians,” Hinch writes (using the word “Enlightenment” as an epithet). The Swerve, he continues, is “filled with factual inaccuracies and founded upon a view of history not shared by serious scholars of the periods Greenblatt studies.”

These “factual inaccuracies” are never specified. Meanwhile, it appears that “serious scholars” (whom Hinch does not name) have lately determined that the Dark Ages were not that dark, that there is no such thing as the Renaissance, and that life under the Inquisition was not really that bad!

Replying to a hostile review in a different journal, Greenblatt wrote, “I plead guilty.… That is, I am of the devil’s party that believes that something significant happened in the Renaissance. And I plead guilty as well to the conviction…that atomism—whose principal vehicle was Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura—was crucially important in the intellectual trajectory that led to Jefferson, Marx, Darwin, and Einstein.”

It is a testament to the power of the poem—more than two millennia after it was composed, and nearly 600 years after its rediscovery by Poggio —that it still evokes such hostility. Indirectly, in a way, the response of people like Hinch confirms Greenblatt’s thesis.

Finally, the description of The Swerve as an “anti-religious diatribe” is one of those slanders that depends on the audience not having read the book in question. Greenblatt’s sympathies are clearly with reason, secularism, and the Enlightenment, but the book is not actually concerned with making a case for or against religion.

Greenblatt, in fact, rather objectively relates how the protagonist of the story, Poggio, made his career within the complex institutions of the Catholic Church. Greenblatt also describes medieval religious monasteries as places where books were carefully copied, preserved, and revered (if not always fully appreciated). There is a glimpse here and there, across six centuries, of how life really was, with some of its movement and contradiction.

Greenblatt’s book deserves to be defended against right-wing obscurantism, but in the opinion of this reviewer it has other limitations. In an effort to make the book as simple and approachable as possible, the reader sometimes feels that Greenblatt has “dumbed down” the material too much, almost to the point of being condescending. One wants to ask the author to kindly dispense with the “popular” style, and instead to tell us what he knows. Meanwhile, the author returns again and again to certain key philosophical themes for emphasis, but the result is sometimes simply repetitive.

Greenblatt’s suggestion that the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem actually “caused” the world to “swerve” in a new direction is more than poetic license. It is an outright exaggeration. De Rerum Natura is fascinating, and certainly it had broad influence over a long period. But the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment cannot all be understood as contingent on the rediscovery of this poem.

Material conditions for a major change in consciousness in Europe were in the process of ripening at the time of Poggio’s rediscovery of De Rerum Natura. Medieval Church doctrine had served as the dominant ideology throughout a long historical period characterized by feudal relations of production, namely the exploitation of peasants tied to estates owned by the feudal aristocracy. The growth of towns, which featured early capitalist relations and which were increasingly controlled by what would develop into the modern bourgeois class, heralded a shift in ideas.

The old forms of consciousness were being undermined by changing material conditions, and the rediscovery of the poem under such circumstances was a fortuity. In other words, if Lucretius’s poem had not been rediscovered, and instead had been lost forever, then the form of the historical processes that led to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment might have been affected, but not the eventual trajectory.

But as a history of how it actually did happen, and as an introduction to a masterpiece of world literature that deserves to be rediscovered again, Greenblatt’s book is worthwhile reading.

Medieval ship discovery

This video, recorded in Kampen town in the Netherlands, is about a reconstructed medieval cog ship.

About cog ships, from Wikipedia:

A cog (or cog-built vessels) is a type of ship that first appeared in the 10th century, and was widely used from around the 12th century on. Cogs were generally built of oak, which was an abundant timber in the Baltic region of Prussia. This vessel was fitted with a single mast and a square-rigged single sail. These vessels were mostly associated with seagoing trade in medieval Europe, especially the Hanseatic League, particularly in the Baltic Sea region.

In the eastern Netherlands, Kampen town was a Hanseatic League member.

Recently, Dutch archeologists announced the discovery of the wreck of a medieval cog in the IJssel river near Kampen.

Dutch NOS TV writes about it today:

At the end of the month it will be decided whether the wreck will be raised and whether it should go to a museum.


In the Netherlands, during the draining of the Flevo polders, already several wrecks of cogs have been found. One was restored with medieval wood. It sails since 1998 under the name Hanseatic Kampen Cog.

That is the ship in the video.

Spain’s Jewish heritage, ages after expulsion

This video is called International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Toledo Sephardic Museum remembers Nazi victims.

From the New York Times:

TOLEDO, Spain: Spain has sometimes been slow to recognize its own treasures.

Miguel de Cervantes was slipping into obscurity after his death until he was rescued by foreign literary experts.

El Greco‘s paintings were pulled from oblivion by the French.

The Muslim palace of Alhambra had fallen into neglect before the American author Washington Irving and others wrote about it in the 1800s.

Now, more than 500 years after expelling its Jews and moving to hide if not eradicate all traces of their existence, Spain has begun rediscovering the Jewish culture that thrived here for centuries and that scholars say functioned as a second Jerusalem during the Middle Ages.

“We’ve gone from a period of pillaging the Jews and then suppressing and ignoring their patrimony to a period of rising curiosity and fascination,” said Ana María López, the director of the Sephardic Museum in Toledo, a hub of Jewish life before the Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1492 during the Inquisition.

Sephardic Jews and Muslims in Spain: here.

The Chuetas, a community of forced converts from a collection of islands off the coast of Spain, are embracing their Jewish roots. Many are looking to return to the fold but are finding obstacles along the way: here.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2011) — A well-known collection of historical texts, the Cairo Genizah is one of the most valuable sources of primary documents for medieval historians and religious scholars. The 350,000 fragments found in the Genizah include not only religious texts, but also social and commercial documents, dating from the 9th to 19th century. But the collection is scattered among 70 institutions worldwide, including libraries in Cambridge, Jerusalem, and New York City, and scholars are hampered by both the wide dispersal of the collection as well as their fragmentary condition: here.

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