PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Saturday, July 11, 2015

THE CELTS: It was the CELTS that wore horned helmets

 

 

 

 

   

THE CELTS:  It was the CELTS that wore horned helmets: Exhibition reveals the history and stunning beauty of ancient Celtic culture

  • Exhibition, called Celts: Art and Identity, will begin in London in September and continue in Edinburgh in March
  • Hoard of gold torcs, religious objects such as an intricately carved cross and rare mirrors will go on show
  • Horned helmet dating to between 100BC shows the Celts invented the design, associated with the Vikings
  • It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects

Many people think the Vikings invented the distinctive horned helmet, but in fact it was the handiwork of the Celts.

A forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum aims to iron out myths surrounding the Celtic people and will use extraordinary objects to tell their story.

They will include a hoard of gold torcs, a rare gilded cross and Iron Age mirrors, among other highly decorative finds.

A forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum aims to iron out myths surrounding the Celtic people and will use extraordinary objects to tell their story. This horned helmet dating to between 150 and 50 BC, which was found in the River Thames is one star of the show. Julia Farley, of British Museum, said: 'I think the Celts have got a pretty solid claim to the quintessential horned helmet'

A forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum aims to iron out myths surrounding the Celtic people and will use extraordinary objects to tell their story. This horned helmet dating to between 150 and 50 BC, which was found in the River Thames is one star of the show. Julia Farley, of British Museum, said: 'I think the Celts have got a pretty solid claim to the quintessential horned helmet'

The exhibition, called Celts: Art and Identity, will begin in London in September and continue in Edinburgh in March 2016.

It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects they made.

While the world 'Celtic' is associated with the cultures of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall, the name 'Celt' was coined in around 500 BC.

The ancient Greeks used it to refer to people living all across northern Europe whom they considered outsiders and barbarians.

 

The exhibition, called Celts: Art and Identity, will begin in London in September and continue in Edinburgh in March 2016 The exhibition, called Celts: Art and Identity, will begin in London in September and continue in Edinburgh in March 2016

The exhibition, called Celts: Art and Identity, will begin in London in September and continue in Edinburgh in March 2016. It will include a hoard of gold torcs, a rare gilded cross and Iron Age mirrors (shown left), among other highly decorative finds such as the brooch on the right, which was found in south west Scotland and is thought to have been made in around 800AD

While the world ‘Celtic’ is associated with the cultures of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall, the name Celts was coined in around 500 BC. The ancient Greeks used it to refer to people living all across northern Europe whom they considered outsiders and barbarians. This is despite the creation of beautiful objects such as the Gundestrup Cauldron from northern Denmark

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While the world 'Celtic' is associated with the cultures of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall, the name Celts was coined in around 500 BC. The ancient Greeks used it to refer to people living all across northern Europe whom they considered outsiders and barbarians. This is despite the creation of beautiful objects such as the Gundestrup Cauldron from northern Denmark

THE HORNED HELMET

The Iron Age horned helmet dates to between 150 and 50 BC.

It was dredged from the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge in the early 1860s.

It's the only Iron Age helmet to have ever been found in southern England and it is the only Iron Age helmet with horns ever to have been found anywhere in Europe.

Horns were often a symbol of the gods in different parts of the ancient world.

This might suggest the person who wore this was a special person or that the helmet was made for a god to wear.

Experts are unsure whether the helmet was made for battle or more ceremonial purposes.

The helmet's made from sheet bronze pieces held together with rivets and is decorated in the style of La Tène art used in Britain between 250 and 50 BC.

It's thought it was also once decorated with studs of bright red glass.

While the disparate groups that made up the Celts left few written records in the early Bronze Age, pieces of stylised art are testament to their culture and marked from apart from the classical world.

The exhibition will include a horned helmet dating to between 150 and 50 BC, which was discovered in the Thames near Waterloo Bridge in the early 1860s.

It's the only Iron Age helmet to have ever been found in southern England, and indeed the only Iron Age helmet with horns ever to have been found anywhere in Europe.

Julia Farley, curator of European Iron Age collections at the British Museum told The Times that there is evidence on the Grundestrup collection that the Celts wore such helmets.

But there's none to support the popular view that the Vikings wore horned helmets in the 8th century.

'I think the Celts have got a pretty solid claim to the quintessential horned helmet'.

'This helmet is clearly something that's been used to intimidate,' she said, adding that it was probably worn by a warrior.

'I think this is a way for people to exaggerate their status in a context to do with war.'

Experts are divided about whether the helmet, which is made from sheet bronze pieces held together with rivets, would have been worn in battle, or was intended for ceremonial purposes.

They think it would have been shiny and was once decorated with studs of bright red glass.

A hoard of gold torcs found at Blair Drummond in Stirling in 2009 will also go on show. The stiff necklaces were found by a metal detectorist buried inside a timber building, which was probably a shrine.

The four torcs, made between 300 and 100 BC, show widespread connections across Iron Age Europe.

This Iron Age mirror is one of the artifacts in exhibition

 
It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects they made, from intricate jewellery to religious artefacts It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects they made, from intricate jewellery to religious artefacts

It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects they made, from intricate jewellery to religious artefacts

 

It will be the first major British exhibition in 40 years to tell the story of the Celts through the stunning objects they made, from intricate jewellery to religious artefacts. The Battersea Shield is shown left, dating to between 350 and 500BC, a painted pop from Clemont-Ferrand painted in around 100 BC is shown centre and the Tully Lough Cross is shown right

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said ‘New research is challenging our preconception of the Celts as a single people, revealing the complex story of how this name has been used and appropriated over the last 2,500 years.' An image of The Riders of the Sidhe, depitcting a romaticised view of  the Celts, is shown

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Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said 'New research is challenging our preconception of the Celts as a single people, revealing the complex story of how this name has been used and appropriated over the last 2,500 years.' An image of The Riders of the Sidhe, depitcting a romaticised view of  the Celts, is shown

Two are made from spiralling gold ribbons, a style characteristic of Scotland and Ireland, while another is a style found in south-western France.

The final torc is a mixture of Iron Age details with embellishments on the terminals typical of Mediterranean workshops, showing technological skill and a familiarity with exotic styles.

While the Romans never referred to Britons as Celtic, during their occupation, the objects Celts made started to express new ideas, such as Christianity.

The exhibition will include iron hand-bells used to call the faithful to prayer, elaborately illustrated gospel books telling the story of Jesus's life, and beautifully carved stone crosses that stood as beacons of belief in the landscape.

The St Chad gospels circa AD 700-800 (pictured) is one of the rare objects from across the British Isles and Europe that will be going on display in a major joint exhibition in England and Scotland exploring just who the Celts were

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The St Chad gospels circa AD 700-800 (pictured) is one of the rare objects from across the British Isles and Europe that will be going on display in a major joint exhibition in England and Scotland exploring just who the Celts were

Two rare Iron Age mirrors – one found in England and the other in Scotland – will go on show as a Spotlight tour with partner museums across the UK

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Two rare Iron Age mirrors – one found in England and the other in Scotland – will go on show as a Spotlight tour with partner museums across the UK

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Two rare Iron Age mirrors – one found in England and the other in Scotland – will go on show as a Spotlight tour with partner museums across the UK. The Desborough Mirror, found in Northampton that dates to between 50 BC and 50 AD is shown left, while the mirror on the right is known as the Holcombe Mirror, found in Devon and is around the same age

REFLECTING ON THE CELTS

Two rare Iron Age mirrors – one found in England and the other in Scotland – will go on show as a Spotlight tour with partner museums across the UK.

Metal mirrors with a polished reflective surface on one side and swirling designs on the reverse were first made in around 100 BC.

They were only made in Britain.

Two thousand years ago, these mirrors might have held a special kind of power in a world where reflections could otherwise only be glimpsed in water.

An exceptionally rare gilded bronze processional cross from Tully Lough, in Ireland, made between 700 and 800AD, will be displayed in Britain for the first time.

Celtic designs such as three-legged swirls and crescent shapes are etched upon it as well as geometric motifs that echo Roman designs and interlaced designs inspired by the Anglo Saxons.

The name Celtic was coined in the early 1700s to describe the languages of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man.

A variation of the word used by the ancient Greeks to describe outsiders, became used by people to embrace their distinctive local identities.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said: 'New research is challenging our preconception of the Celts as a single people, revealing the complex story of how this name has been used and appropriated over the last 2,500 years.

'While the Celts are not a distinct race or genetic group that can be traced through time, the word "Celtic" still resonates powerfully today, all the more so because it has been continually redefined to echo contemporary concerns over politics, religion and identity.'

A rare pony cap, which would have been worn by a horse, possibly in battle, is shown

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The Iron Age coin was discovered in Berkshire and dates to between 50 and 20BC

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A rare pony cap, which would have been worn by a horse, possibly in battle, is shown left. It was unearthed in Torrs, south-west Scotland and was made up to 5,000 years ago. The Iron Age coin on the right was discovered in Berkshire and dates to between 50 and 20BC

Mr MacGregor said: ‘While the Celts are not a distinct race or genetic group that can be traced through time, the word ‘Celtic’ still resonates powerfully today, all the more so because it has been continually redefined to echo contemporary concerns over politics, religion and identity.’ A page from the Chad Gospels is shown

Mr MacGregor said: 'While the Celts are not a distinct race or genetic group that can be traced through time, the word 'Celtic' still resonates powerfully today, all the more so because it has been continually redefined to echo contemporary concerns over politics, religion and identity.' A page from the Chad Gospels is shown

 


KING ARTHUR
   
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Statue of King Arthur,Hofkirche, Innsbruck, designed by Albrecht Dürer and cast byPeter Vischer the Elder, 1520s

THE LEGENDARY MONARCH WHO WILL RETURN TO SAVE GREAT BRITAIN

Thought to have lived during the late fifth and early sixth centuries, the original King Arthur (depicted right in a painting) is believed to have led the fight against the invading Saxons.

However, the King Arthur that many people are familiar with today – thanks to TV shows, films and stage productions – is said to be a combination of many different myths and legends that have developed over the last 1,000 years.

Modern historians often equate him with King Alfred the Great, the Dark Ages ruler of Wessex who led the fight against the invading Danes, eventually stopping them in their tracks.

Either way, according to medieval romances and the Historia Brittonum, Arthur was a great king who defended Britain from enemies both earthly and supernatural.

Arthurian legend claims Arthur was the son and heir of King Uther Pendragon, and was believed to have born on Castle Island in Tintagel, North Cornwall.

Tintagel still exists in ruined form in Cornwall, although others have claimed that he was Welsh.

A sorcerer called Merlin is said to have taken a sword called Excalibur from the so-called Lady of the Lake for King Uther, but upon the King’s death, he placed the sword in a stone.

Merlin stated that ‘he who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be king.’

After the King's death, Arthur is said to have pulled Merlin’s Excalibur sword from this stone, proving his right to the throne.

The legend doesn’t specify exactly where this lake was and there is a debate on whether it was Martin Mere in Lancashire, the Lily Ponds at Bosherston, or Dozmary Pool on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

The latter is closest to the supposed birthplace in Cornwall.

Legend continues that during his reign, in the kingdom of Camelot, King Arthur met with his knights at a Round Table, journeyed after the Holy Grail and fought a number of battles using the infamous sword.

During the Battle of Camlann, in approximately 537, King Arthur was killed and his body was sent to the Isle of Avalon. Historians believe this area was Glastonbury and the Somerset levels.

But there are other theories that King Arthur is buried on Mount Etna, the Eildon Hills in Roxburghshire or a cave in Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

Later, legend expanded the story and claimed upon Arthur's death, the sword was returned to the Lady of the Lake.

Early written accounts of the Arthurian story appeared in 1130 in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain where he claimed Merlin had the 15-year-old Arthur crowned at nearby Silchester, in Reading.

 

 

 

His is among the most enduring ­legends in our island’s history.

King Arthur, the gallant warrior who gathered his knights around the  Round Table at Camelot and rallied Christian Britons against the invading pagan Saxons, has always been an enigma.

But now historians believe they have uncovered the precise location of Arthur’s stronghold, finally solving the riddle of whether the Round Table really existed.

And far from pinpointing a piece of furniture, they claim the ‘table’ was in fact the circular space inside a former Roman amphitheatre.

Round table? An artist's impression of Chester's Amphitheatre, where historians now believe King Arthur may have held court

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Round table? An artist's impression of Chester's Amphitheatre, where historians now believe King Arthur may have held court

The experts believe that Camelot could in fact have been Chester Amphitheatre, a huge stone-and-wood structure capable of holding up to 10,000 people.

They say that Arthur would have reinforced the building’s 40ft walls to create an imposing and well fortified base.

The king’s regional noblemen would have sat in the central arena’s front row, with lower-ranked subjects in the outer stone benches.

Arthur has been the subject of much historical debate, but many  scholars believe him to have been a 5th or 6th Century leader.

The legend links him to 12 major battles fought over 40 years from the Scottish Borders to the West Country. One of the principal victories was said to have been at Chester.

King Arthur, portrayed here by Clive Owen on film in 2004, held court at Camelot - which historians now believe may have been in Chester

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King Arthur, portrayed here by Clive Owen on film in 2004, held court at Camelot - which historians now believe may have been in Chester

Rather than create a purpose-built Camelot, historian Chris Gidlow says Arthur would have logically chosen a structure left by the Romans.

‘The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time,’ he said.

‘And we know that one of Arthur’s two main battles was fought at a town referred to as the City of the Legions. There were only two places with this title. One was St Albans, but the location of the other has remained a mystery.’

Researchers, who will reveal their evidence in a television documentary this month, say the recent discovery at the amphitheatre of an execution stone and a wooden memorial to Christian martyrs suggests the missing city is Chester.

Mr Gidlow said: ‘In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred both to the City of the Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it.

'That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court – and his legendary Round Table.’

For centuries, historians have believed that King Arthur’s Camelot was Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, but new research has cast serious doubts on this theory.

Historian Graham Robb has spent years studying Celtic pathways across the country and now believes he has stumbled upon the site of Camelot at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in Brookfield Road, Wigan.

The leafy dead-end street may have once been the site of King Arthur’s infamous castle and court, and home to the legendary Knights Of The Round Table.

Residents of Brookfield Road, road sign pictured, said they were 'stunned' to discover their lane has been named as the epicentre of Arthurian legend

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Residents of Brookfield Road, road sign pictured, said they were 'stunned' to discover their lane has been named as the epicentre of Arthurian legend

Residents in the village of Standish near Wigan, have been left stunned after the discovery that their lane has been named as the epicentre of Arthurian legend.

Historian Graham Robb believes King Arthur's, illustration pictured, Camelot was built at the end of Brookfield Road, Standish in Wigan

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Historian Graham Robb believes King Arthur's, illustration pictured, Camelot was built at the end of Brookfield Road, Standish in Wigan

Claims that the small road could have once been the realm of the legendary king and his men have appeared in Robb's latest book. In his work 'The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe' he theorises that the area in Standish was ‘significant’ as it was the meeting place of two major Celtic pathways.

He added the crossing pathways, on what is now the cul-de-sac ‘have an astonishing power to illuminate the long-buried past by revealing the location of the legendary court of King Arthur’.

Dr Robb said the ‘intersection lies in the Wigan suburb of Standish’ adding ‘to be precise, the point of intersection is at the end of a cul-de-sac running off Old Pepper Lane where a tracks leads to a woodland’.

He has however laughed off the local reaction because he believes Camelot is entirely based on a myth and never really existed.

He said: 'I was talking about how intersecting Celtic roads of the time can
become significant to history and myth.

'It is like theorising you have found Hogwarts - you can't do it because it never existed in the first place.'

In his book, Graham Robb wrote that the now defunct Camelot theme park sits
just a few miles away from the cul de sac.

He writes: 'The place where 'Camelot' stands empty was once the edge of Martin Mere, the largest freshwater lake in England.

'A local legend claimed that this was the lake into whose waters, in what sounds like an act of ritual deposition, the sword Excalibur was thrown. In view of the unusual preponderance of modal points in the environs of the vanished lake, this now looks more plausible than ever.'

The cul-de-sac, Brookfield Road, is near Martin Mere, the largest freshwater lake in England, into which local legend claims the famous Arthurian sword Excalibur was thrown.

This aerial view shows Old Pepper Lane in Standish on the left, the Brookfield Road cul-de-sac in the centre, leading to a stretch of woodland on the right where Robb believes Camelot was built

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This aerial view shows Old Pepper Lane in Standish on the left, the Brookfield Road cul-de-sac in the centre, leading to a stretch of woodland on the right where Robb believes Camelot was built

Robb claims the precise location of Camelot was at the end of Brookfield Road, in the village of Standish, marked right. The cul-de-sac is near Martin Mere, marked left, the lake in which local legend claims the sword Excalibur was thrown

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Robb claims the precise location of Camelot was at the end of Brookfield Road, in the village of Standish, marked right. The cul-de-sac is near Martin Mere, marked left, the lake in which local legend claims the sword Excalibur was thrown

Robb added that the crossing pathways, pictured, on what is now the cul-de-sac 'have an astonishing power to illuminate the long-buried past by revealing the location of the legendary court of King Arthur.' The intersection lies at the end of a cul-de-sac off Old Pepper Lane where a tracks leads to woodland, pictured

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Robb added that the crossing pathways, pictured, on what is now the cul-de-sac 'have an astonishing power to illuminate the long-buried past by revealing the location of the legendary court of King Arthur.' The intersection lies at the end of a cul-de-sac off Old Pepper Lane where a tracks leads to woodland, pictured

Robb said his geographical research makes it ‘more plausible than ever’ that the small corner of Wigan would be the location of the mythical Camelot.

His claims have now been taken up by a local campaign group trying to stop a new link road being built in the area.

A council want to build a new highway across a patch of woodland at Almond Brook, at the end of Brookfield Road.

A spokesman for Stop Almond Brook Link Road said the new revelations means the area should preserved and the planned new highway scrapped.

Arthurian legend claims Arthur was the son and heir of King Uther Pendragon, and was born on Castle Island in Tintagel, North Cornwall. The remains of Tintagel Castle is pictured

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Arthurian legend claims Arthur was the son and heir of King Uther Pendragon, and was born on Castle Island in Tintagel, North Cornwall. The remains of Tintagel Castle is pictured

A lake on the woodland where King Arthur's Camelot was thought to have been built. King Arthur was a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries who according to histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against invaders in the early 6th century

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A lake on the woodland where King Arthur's Camelot was thought to have been built. King Arthur was a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries who according to histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against invaders in the early 6th century

He said: ‘We have lots of issues with this link road, including it going past school playing fields which could harm the health of pupils and destroying wildlife habitats.

‘But we didn’t think for one minute that the route would also run through what could be Camelot.

‘This site needs a lot more investigation. We just need a white knight to come along and help us save it from development.

‘We found this new theory while researching our campaign but it does tie in with local legends about King Arthur.

‘Wigan Council should be embracing its links with the distant past and not ripping it up.’

King Arthur was a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries who according to histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against invaders in the early 6th century.

THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR: FROM CORNWALL TO WIGAN

King Arthur was a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries who according to histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against invaders in the early 6th century.

However, the King Arthur that many people are familiar with today – thanks to TV shows, films and stage productions – is said to be a combination of many different myths and legends that have developed over the last 1,000 years.

Arthurian legend claims Arthur was the son and heir of King Uther Pendragon, and was believed to have born on Castle Island in Tintagel, North Cornwall.

The Round Table in the Great Hall in Winchester

A sorcerer called Merlin is said to have taken a sword called Excalibur from the so-called Lady of the Lake for King Uther, but upon the King’s death, he placed the sword in a stone.

Merlin stated that ‘he who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be king.’

After the King's death, Arthur is said to have pulled Merlin’s Excalibur sword from this stone, proving his right to the throne.

The legend doesn’t specify exactly where this lake was and there is a debate on whether it was Martin Mere in Lancashire, the Lily Ponds at Bosherston, or Dozmary Pool on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

The latter is closest to the supposed birthplace in Cornwall.

Legend continues that during his reign, in the kingdom of Camelot, King Arthur met with his knights at a Round Table, journeyed after the Holy Grail and fought a number of battles using the infamous sword.

During the Battle of Camlann, in approximately 537, King Arthur was killed and his body was sent to the Isle of Avalon. Historians believe this area was Glastonbury and the Somerset levels.

Later, legend expanded the story and claimed upon Arthur's death, the sword was returned to the Lady of the Lake.

Early written accounts of the Arthurian story appeared in 1130 in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain where he claimed Merlin had the 15-year-old Arthur crowned at nearby Silchester, in Reading.

The first mention of the Round Table, however, was in Robert Wace's Roman de Brut in 1155. This book claimed the round table was a wedding gift to Arthur from Guinevere's father, Leodegrance and is now believed to be hung in the Great Hall in Winchester (pictured above).

Arthur was said to have sat his knights on the round table so that none was ever in a position of power of importance.

The details of Arthur’s story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians.

His famous Knights have been linked to the area before - a now defunct Camelot theme park was located nearby for years, based near Martin Mere.

Resident Arthur Lowe, 72, said: 'I suppose it's quite funny I share King Arthur's name but I was named after my dad - not a king.'

Tony Stanley, 69, who has lived in the cul-de-sac for over 40 years, added: 'I just started laughing when I heard about it. It's a really industrial area and there used to be loads of pits round here so
to think they're now making this claim is just ridiculous.

The first mention of the Round Table was in 1155. This book claimed the round table was a wedding gift to Arthur from Guinevere's father, Leodegrance and is now believed to be hung in the Great Hall in Winchester, pictured

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The first mention of the Round Table was in 1155. This book claimed the round table was a wedding gift to Arthur from Guinevere's father, Leodegrance and is now believed to be hung in the Great Hall in Winchester, pictured

'At first, I thought someone was having a joke for April Fools Day but then I realised it's still March.

Dr Robb was born in Manchester and educated at the Royal Grammar School
Worcester and Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Modern Languages.

In his The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts book, Robb proposed that the ancient Celts organised their territories, determined the locations of settlements and battles, and set the trajectories of tribal migrations by establishing a network of solstice lines based on an extension of the Greek system of klimata.

The evidence included artistic geometries, road surveying, centuriations and other archaeologically attested pre-Roman alignments.

The book of GHOSTS: Eerie faces and messages discovered in ancient medieval manuscript of King Arthur and Merlin

  • Black Book of Carmarthen is the earliest surviving Welsh manuscript
  • It contains some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin
  • Believed 'ghost' images were in the original, but erased by a 16th century owner of the book, probably a man named Jaspar Gryffyth

Stunned researchers have found one of the UK's most important manuscripts is full of ghosts.

Dating from 1250, The Black Book of Carmarthen is the earliest surviving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh, and contains some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

Now, researchers have found a series of hidden faces and message in it.

The Black Book of Carmarthen is the earliest surviving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh, and contains some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

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The Black Book of Carmarthen is the earliest surviving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh, and contains some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

Using a combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software, the images were recovered.

Using a combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software, the images were recovered.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CARMARTHEN

Dating from 1250, The Black Book of Carmarthen is the earliest surviving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh, and contains some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

The book is a collection of 9th-12th century poetry along both religious and secular lines, and draws on the traditions of the Welsh folk-heroes and legends of the Dark Ages.

'It's easy to think we know all we can know about a manuscript like the Black Book but to see these ghosts from the past brought back to life in front of our eyes has been incredibly exciting,' said Myriah Williams of Cambridge's Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. 

The book is a collection of 9th-12th century poetry along both religious and secular lines, and draws on the traditions of the Welsh folk-heroes and legends of the Dark Ages.

Williams and Professor Paul Russell from Cambridge's Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC), believe that a 16th century owner of the book, probably a man named Jaspar Gryffyth, erased centuries' worth of additional verse, doodles and marginalia which had been added to the manuscript as it changed hands throughout the years.

Using a combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software, the 16th century owner's penchant for erasure has been partly reversed to reveal snatches of poetry.

Currently, the texts are very fragmentary and in need of much more analysis, although they researchers say they seem to be the continuation of a poem on the preceding page with a new poem added at the foot of the page.

'The drawings and verse that we're in the process of recovering demonstrate the value of giving these books another look,' Williams said.

'The margins of manuscripts often contain medieval and early modern reactions to the text, and these can cast light on what our ancestors thought about what they were reading.

'The Black Book was particularly heavily annotated before the end of the 16th century, and the recovery of erasure has much to tell us about what was already there and can change our understanding of it.'

The faces are only visible under UV light - and are invisible to the naked eye

The faces are only visible under UV light - and are invisible to the naked eye

Williams and Russell will present a lecture at The National Library of Wales today, part of a larger exhibition on the life and work of Sir John Price, one-time owner of the Black Book.

There, they will detail some of their findings, stressing the importance of continued research on the manuscript.

'What we have discovered may only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be discovered as imaging techniques are enhanced,' said Russell.

'The manuscript is extremely valuable and incredibly important – yet there may still be so much we don't know about it.'

Despite its value today, the Black Book of Carmarthen (so called because of the colour of its binding) was not an elaborate production, but rather the work of a single scribe who was probably collecting and recording over a long period of his life.

This is readily visible on the manuscript pages themselves; the first pages feature a large textura script copied on alternating ruled lines, while in other parts of the manuscript – perhaps when vellum was scarce – the hand is very much smaller and the lines per page tight and many.

Measuring approximately only 17cm by 12.5 cm, the book is made up of 54 pages of vellum (animal hide) and came to the National Library of Wales in 1904 after being bought, alongside other manuscripts, by the Library's founder, Sir John Williams.

An example of the latter is the earliest poem concerning the adventures of the legendary Arthur, which sees the famed hero seeking entrance to an unidentified court and expounding the virtues of his men in order to gain admittance.

Other heroes are praised and lamented in a lengthy text known as Englynion y Beddau, the Stanzas of the Graves, in which a narrator presents geographic lore by claiming to know the burial places of upwards of eighty warriors.

Arthur makes an appearance here as well, but only insofar as to say that he cannot be found: anoeth bid bet y arthur, 'the grave of Arthur is a wonder'.

Other famous figures also appear throughout, including Myrddin, perhaps more familiarly known by the English 'Merlin'.

There are two prophetic poems attributed to him during his 'wild man' phase located in the middle of the manuscript, but additionally the very first poem of the book is presented as a dialogue between him and the celebrated Welsh poet Taliesin.

Since the creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae in the 12th century there has been a connection between Carmarthen and Merlin, and it may be no accident that the Black Book opens with this text.

 
 

Like Mel Gibson's ferocious warriors in Braveheart, the Picts were known for blue body-paint and a rather hostile attitude to southerners

William Wallace, in his most famous battle (The battle of Stirling Bridge), had about 5,000 men (just 100 of them knights).  The English army was 50,000 foot soldiers, 4,000 archers, and 1,000 heavy cavalry knights.  But Wallace, was not intimidated by this.  He let half the

English army

cross over the Stirling bridge, then signaled his men who were hiding below the bridge to take out the supports.  The bridge collapsed and killed many English soldiers.  The commanders of the English army did not know what to do except watch in horror as their divided army was split and being massacred.  The commanders did know how to do one thing, run, like cowards they ran until they hit the English border.

The Battle of Falkirk, 1298
The English nobility had been on the edge of civil war with Edward I. They were disgruntled over his wars in France and Scotland, however, faced with the humiliating defeat by the Scots at Stirling Bridge, they united behind him in time for the Battle of Falkirk.

According to later tales, Wallace told his men: ‘I hae brocht ye to the ring, now see gif ye can dance’, however, as one historian has called it, ‘it was a dance of death’, as Wallace had seriously misjudged Edward’s battle tactics. His Welsh archers proved to be the decisive weapon: their arrows raining death on the Scots spearmen.
Wallace the Diplomat.
After Falkirk, the Scots nobles reasserted their role as guardians of the kingdom and continued the war with Edward. Wallace was assigned a new role as an envoy for the Scots to the courts of Europe.

William Wallace

Diplomacy was crucial to the Scots war effort and Wallace, by now a renowned figure across Europe, played a high profile role. In 1299 he left Scotland for the court of King Philip IV of France. He was briefly imprisoned for various political motives, but was soon released and given the French king’s safe conduct to the papal court. Wallace returned to Scotland in 1301, with the diplomatic effort seemingly in good stead.

However, the French abandoned Scotland when they needed Edward’s help to suppress a revolt in Flanders. With no prospect of victory, the Scottish leaders capitulated and recognised Edward as overlord in 1304. Only Wallace refused to submit, perhaps signing his own death warrant at this time.

Here was the crucial difference between Wallace and the key players from amongst the Scottish nobles - for Wallace there was no compromise, the English were his enemy and he could not accept their rule in any form. However, the nobles were more pliable and willing to switch sides, or placate the English, when it served their own ends. Wallace had become a nuisance to both his feudal superiors and the English.

The Martyrdom of William Wallace
Wallace was declared an outlaw, which meant his life was forfeit and that anyone could kill him without trial. He continued his resistance, but on August 3rd, 1305, he was captured at Robroyston, near Glasgow. His captor, Sir John Menteith, the ‘false’ Menteith, has gone down in Scottish legend as the betrayer of Wallace, but he acted as many others would have. Menteith was no English lackey, and in 1320 he put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath.

Wallace was taken to Dumbarton castle, but quickly moved to London for a show trial in Westminster Hall. He was charged with two things - being an outlaw and being a traitor. No trial was required, but, by charging him as a traitor, Edward intended to destroy his reputation. At his trial he had no lawyers and no jury, he even wasn’t allowed to speak, but when he was accused of being a traitor, he denied it, saying he had never been Edward’s subject in the first place. Inevitably he was found guilty and was taken for immediate execution - in a manner designed to symbolise his crimes.

Blind Harry

Wrapped in an ox hide to prevent him being ripped apart, thereby shortening the torture, he was dragged by horses four miles through London to Smithfield.
There he was hanged, as a murderer and thief, but cut down while still alive. Then he was mutilated, disembowelled and, being accused of treason, he was probably emasculated. For the crimes of sacrilege to English monasteries, his heart, liver, lungs and entrails were cast upon a fire, and, finally, his head was chopped off. His carcase was then cut up into bits. His head was set on a pole on London Bridge, another part went to Newcastle, a district Wallace had destroyed in 1297-8, the rest went to Berwick, Perth and Stirling (or perhaps Aberdeen), as a warning to the Scots. Edward had destroyed the man, but had enhanced the myth.
Wallace became a martyr, the very symbol of Scotland’s struggle for freedom. He entered the realm of folktale and legend. From Blind Harry's 'Wallace' to Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’, William Wallace continues to haunt the Scottish imagination with a vision of freedom.

Archaeologists are searching the site to solve the 200-year mystery of the Pictish carving.
The stone has baffled historians because Galloway was inhabited by the tribe known as Britons.

The Britons were a Celtic people who occupied much of Britain - but were fragmented after the Anglo-Saxon settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

Further north were the Scots, with ‘Pictland’ further still, north of the Firth of Forth.

The Pictish stone is one of only three known out of their traditional territory - the others being in known Dark Age capitals.

Ronan Toolis of Guard Archaeology, who is leading the dig, said today/yesterday that the royal link could finally provide an explanation.

He said: ‘It looks increasingly likely that this fortress was built in the Dark Ages, and occupied during the fifth to the seventh centuries AD.

‘The Pictish stone dates from that time, but the big question has always been what it was doing in Galloway.

‘We know of only two other similar carvings outside Pictland - at Dunadd in Argyll and on Edinburgh Castle rock, both of which were capitals of Dark Age kingdoms.

The Pictish stone is one of very few found outside the tribe's traditional territory north of the Firth of Forth - and hints at a possible alliance between Picts and Britons in the Dark Ages

Stunning Viking sword unearthed: Warrior who brandished the ornate weapon may have been chosen by King Canute for English battles

  • Sword, dating to Late Viking Age, was found in Langeid in south Norway
  • Intricately decorated weapon has a mysterious inscription and gold details
  • An axe with a metal handle was also discovered in the warrior's grave
  • Experts believe elaborate weapons could belong to one of King Canute's hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England

For Viking warriors, swords were not only deadly weapons, but a symbol of power.

A unique example with gold details and a mysterious inscription has been unearthed in southern Norway.

Experts believe the elaborate weapon could belong to one of King Canute's hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England.

A unique sword (pictured) with gold details and a mysterious inscription has been unearthed in southern Norway. Experts believe the elaborate weapon could belong to one of King Canute’s hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England

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A unique sword (pictured) with gold details and a mysterious inscription has been unearthed in southern Norway. Experts believe the elaborate weapon could belong to one of King Canute's hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England

The sword, found in the village of Langeid in 2011 but has not go on display until now, dates from the late Viking age and is embellished with gold, inscriptions and other designs.

It measures 37 inches (94cm) long with a well-preserved handle and is thought to have belonged to a wealthy man because of the use of precious materials.

The weapon was pulled from a grave in a Viking burial ground by archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo.

'Even before we began the excavation of this grave, I realised it was something quite special,' excavation leader Camilla Cecilie Wenn said.

'The grave was so big and looked different from the other 20 graves in the burial ground.'

She found post holes in the four corners of the grave, suggesting there would once have been a roof over it – a sign that the grave had a prominent place in the burial ground.

It’s 37 inches (94cm) long with a well-preserved handle and is thought to have belonged to a wealthy man because of the use of precious materials. The iron blade of the sword has rusted

It's 37 inches (94cm) long with a well-preserved handle and is thought to have belonged to a wealthy man because of the use of precious materials. The iron blade of the sword has rusted

The sword, found in the village of Langeid in 2011, dates from the late Viking age and is embellished with gold, inscriptions and other designs. This image people dresses as Vikings brandishing weapons next to a burning longboat in Edinburgh, to mark the start of Hogmany

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The sword, found in the village of Langeid in 2011, dates from the late Viking age and is embellished with gold, inscriptions and other designs. This image people dresses as Vikings brandishing weapons next to a burning longboat in Edinburgh, to mark the start of Hogmany

THE LANGEID SWORD

Location: The sword was found in the village of Langeid in 2011.

Age: It dates from the Late Viking Age - around 1030AD.

Wear and tear: The sword has a well-preserved handle but its iron blade is rusted.

Decoration: It's embellished with gold, inscriptions and other designs.The sword is decorated with large spirals, various combinations of letters and cross-like ornaments. The letters are probably Latin, but their meaning remains a mystery.

Length: 37 inches (94cm) long

Owner: The sword is thought to have been owned by a wealthy warrior with a connection to England. There's a possibility he was picked by King Canute to fight overseas.

At first they only found two small fragments of silver coins, including a penny minted under Ethelred II in England dating from the period 978-1016.

'But when we went on digging outside the coffin, our eyes really popped,' Dr Wenn said.

'Along both sides, something metal appeared, but it was hard to see what it was. Suddenly a lump of earth fell to one side so that the object became clearer.

'Our pulses raced when we realised it was the hilt of a sword.

'And on the other side of the coffin, the metal turned out to be a big battle-axe.

'Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual.'

By dating charcoal from one of the post holes, they have shown the grave was dug in around the year 1030, at the end of the Viking Age, which fits with the discovery of the coin too.

While the iron blade has rusted, the sword's handle is well preserved.

Project leader Zanette Glørstad, said: 'It is wrapped with silver thread and the hilt and pommel at the top are covered in silver with details in gold, edged with a copper alloy thread.'

Curator Vegard Vike added: 'When we examined the sword more closely, we also found remnants of wood and leather on the blade.

The sword was found in the village of Langeid (marked on the map) in 2011 and caused immediate excitement. ‘Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual,' Dr Wenn said

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The sword was found in the village of Langeid (marked on the map) in 2011 and caused immediate excitement. 'Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual,' Dr Wenn said

 

These wooden carvings from a 12th century church in Norway show scenes of sword ending from a legend These wooden carvings from a 12th century church in Norway show scenes of sword ending from a legend

The sword is decorated with large spirals, various combinations of letters and cross-like ornaments. Experts believe sword making was a rare and precious skill in Viking Norway. These wooden carvings from a 12th century church in Norway show scenes of sword ending from a legend

'They must be remains from a sheath to put the sword in.'

The sword is decorated with large spirals, various combinations of letters and cross-like ornaments. The letters are probably Latin, but their meaning remains a mystery.'

Dr Wenn said: 'At the top of the pommel, we can also clearly see a picture of a hand holding a cross.

'That's unique and we don't know of any similar findings on other swords from the Viking Age.

'Both the hand and the letters indicate that the sword was deliberately decorated with Christian symbolism.'

The experts are unsure how such a sword ended up in a pagan burial ground.

'The design of the sword, the symbols and the precious metal used all make it perfectly clear that this was a magnificent treasure, probably produced abroad and brought back to Norway by a very prominent man,' she added.

Curator Vegard Vike added: ‘When we examined the sword more closely, we also found remnants of wood and leather on the blade.' Here, he works to preserve the intricate metalwork

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Curator Vegard Vike added: 'When we examined the sword more closely, we also found remnants of wood and leather on the blade.' Here, he works to preserve the intricate metalwork

In Norse sagas, swords reveals a warrior's status and his strength.

They also hint that gold had a special symbolic value in Norse society, representing power.

WHO WAS KING CANUTE?

King Canute, also known as Cnut the Great lived between 989 and 1035.

He was a king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden, sometimes called the North Sea Empire.

He won the throne of England in 1016 and maintained his power by unifying Nordic and English traditions, rather than simple brutality.

The king is perhaps best known for the story of King Canute and the waves, recorded in the 12th century.

In the tale, Canute demonstrates to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the elements - in particular, the incoming tide - explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God.

It gave us the popular saying about the futility of trying to stop the tide.

The metal is rarely found in artefacts from the Viking period, suggesting it was considered extremely valuable.

Hanne Lovise Aannestad, the author of a recent article on ornate swords from the days of the Vikings, said: 'Based on the descriptions in the literature, we can say that the sword was the male jewellery par excellence of the Viking Age.'

The Viking Age was a time of great social upheaval and because of this, symbolic objects may have played a role in maintaining social positions, the researchers said.

Ms Aannestad added: 'There is much to suggest that these magnificent swords were such objects, reflecting the status and power of the warrior and his clan.'

In contrast to the ornate sword, the battle axe found in the same grave has no gold decoration.

However, the shaft is coated with brass, which may have flashed like gold on a sunny battlefield.

Such a coating is rare in Norway, but similar battle-axes from the same time have been found in the River Thames in London.

There was a long series of battles along the Thames in the late 10th and early 11th centuries when the Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard and his famous son Canute led their armies against the English king in the battle for the English throne.

The Viking Age was a time of great social upheaval and because of this, symbolic objects such as swords may have played a role in maintaining social positions, the researchers said, as well as being used for weapons. A reenactment of a Viking battle is shown

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The Viking Age was a time of great social upheaval and because of this, symbolic objects such as swords may have played a role in maintaining social positions, the researchers said, as well as being used for weapons. A reenactment of a Viking battle is shown

The men who fought in these battles were picked from all over Scandinavia and it's possible that the axes either got lost in the Thames or were thrown into the river after victory.

There is a possibility that the sword belonged to a Viking from King Canute's army.

Further down the Setesdal Valley a runic stone was discovered that reads: 'Arnstein raised this stone in memory of Bjor his son. He found death when Canute 'went after' England. God is one.'

The stone was probably erected by a father whose son never came home.

The Old Norse inscription seems to refer to King Canute's attacks on England in 1013 to 14, while historic documents suggest his closest army came from leading families and had gilded weapons.

The experts think the Langeid sword was made outside Norway, having a possible Anglo Saxon origin, and would have been approved by the king.

Together with the brass-coated axe and English coin, the man laid to rest in the grave seems to have had a connection with England.

Dr Glørstad said: 'It's quite possible that the dead man was one of King Canute's hand-picked men for the battles with King Ethelred of England.

'Seen in connection with the runic stone further down the valley, it is tempting to suggest that it is Bjor himself who was brought home and buried here.

Experts believe the elaborate weapon could belong to one of King Canute’s hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England. An illustration of the famous king holding back the sea is pictured

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Experts believe the elaborate weapon could belong to one of King Canute's hand-picked men who fought in battles with King Ethelred of England. An illustration of the famous king holding back the sea is pictured

Dr Glørstad said: ‘It’s quite possible that the dead man was one of King Canute’s hand-picked men for the battles with King Ethelred of England.' A view of the fortress and barracks for King Canute's troops is shown

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Dr Glørstad said: 'It's quite possible that the dead man was one of King Canute's hand-picked men for the battles with King Ethelred of England.' A view of the fortress and barracks for King Canute's troops is shown

'Another possibility is that his father Arnstein only got his son's magnificent weapons back and that, precisely for that reason, he decided to erect a runic stone for his son as a substitute for a grave.

'When Arnstein himself died, his son's glorious weapons were laid in his grave.

'The death of his son must have been very tough on an old man.

'Perhaps their relatives honoured both Arnstein and Bjor by letting Arnstein be buried with the weapons with such a heroic history.'

Interestingly, the runic stone is the oldest in Norway that refers to Christianity and was carved at a point in time when Christianity was about to take root in society.

People may have chosen to include a mixture of pagan ans Christian elements in a funeral and the Langeid grave is one of the last pagan funerals to have been recorded in Norway.

The sword is now on display at an exhibition at the Historical Museum in Oslo, called Take it Personally – an exhibition of personal jewellery and adornment over time. 

 

Lindisfarne Castle

Viking era towns of Scandinavia.

The castle is located in what was once the very volatile border area between England and Scotland. Not only did the English and Scots fight, but the area was frequently attacked by Vikings. The castle was built in 1550, around the time that Lindisfarne Priory went out of use, and stones from the priory were used as building material. It is very small by the usual standards, and was more of a fort. The castle sits on the highest point of the island, a whin stone hill called Beblowe.

Lindisfarnes's position in the North Sea made it vulnerable to attack from Scots and Norsemen, and by Tudor times it was clear there was a need for a stronger fortification. This resulted in the creation of the fort on Beblowe Crag which between 1570 and 1572 formed the basis of the present castle.

After Henry VIII had dissolved the priory, his troops used the remains as a naval store. Later, Elizabeth I had work carried out on the fort, strengthening it and providing gun platforms for the new developments in artillery technology. When James I came to power, he combined the Scottish and English thrones, and the need for the castle declined. At this time the castle was still garrisoned from Berwick and protected the small Lindisfarne Harbour.

In the eighteenth century the castle was occupied briefly by Jacobite rebels, but was quickly recaptured by soldiers from Berwick who imprisoned the rebels; they dug their way out and hid for nine days close to nearby Bamburgh Castle before making good their escape.

In later years the castle was used as a coastguard look-out and became something of a tourist attraction. Charles Rennie Mackintosh made a sketch of the old fort in 1901.

In 1901, it became the property of Edward Hudson, a publishing magnate and the owner of Country Life magazine. He had it refurbished in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It is said that Hudson and the architect came across the building while touring Northumberland and climbed over the wall to explore inside.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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