Save Bede’s World

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‘[…] There’s a living-museum up here in the North-East called Bede’s World based on the life of the venerable Saint Bede and Anglo-Saxon history and culture.

The site features a copy of one of the very first Latin bible codices (something which would bring international fame to the site), a living Anglo-Saxon farmstead (yet lacking the national and international status that similar living history museums like Weald And Down in West Sussex possesses), a cast of Bede’s skull (his actual body is buried in Durham cathedral), various Anglo-Saxon archaeological finds, an Anglo Saxon boat-building project (and it is likely that English boat-fishing originated in the North East rivers), a herb garden, and was the home of one of the most important people in history, the venerable Saint Bede. These are things which were never given the wider attention that they deserve.

As the link will add, Bede was a man who was responsible for the very name ‘English’ (Angli, Englisc) and English history, our B.C./A.D. dating system and astronomy, theological commentaries, writings on art and poetry, early scientific measurements for building (fathom, yard etc.) and much, much more. In short he is responsible for a great contribution to not only England and Britain, but to the rest of the world.

Here is a summary by someone of why Bede’s World as a site really matters to them and should for others.

If you could add your signature to this petition towards the South Tyneside council, it would be gladly appreciated. I hope that enough interest in it can help the council to realise that reinvestment in the site and the future it can have under new ownership:

SIGN THE PETITION

Adam Brunn’

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The symbol or Rome – a medieval replica?

From The Telegraph:

The bronze statue, which encapsulates the mythical origins of the Eternal City, is one of the star attractions in Rome’s Capitoline Museums and is reproduced on countless T-shirts, key rings and postcards.

It has always been claimed that it was forged in the fifth century BC during the Etruscan era, which predated the Roman republic and empire.

Five years ago it was subjected to carbon dating testing, which suggested that it may have been made during the Middle Ages.

But curators said the tests were inconclusive and the museum continued to insist that the wolf was an Etruscan creation dating back two-and-a-half millennia.

But the controversy was reignited yesterday, with scholars saying that in all probability it dates from the 13th century, amid suspicions that the museum disregarded the original carbon dating tests in order to preserve the potency and romance of Rome’s most abiding symbol.

“It’s a medieval work but that takes nothing away from its importance,” said Adriano La Regina, an expert on Etruscan culture from Rome’s La Sapienza University.

“From the 1700s onwards, it has been considered Etruscan. But with new studies and the carbon tests, the dating has changed.”

Experts said the wolf was made from a single cast, using a technique which was not known to the Etruscans or Romans, who would have had to forge separate pieces and then solder them together.

The museum reluctantly announced that it would amend an information plaque to reflect the renewed doubts over the wolf’s age and provenance.

“Besides the current dating, which claims that the statue was created in the fifth century BC, we’ll include the theory that it may have been made during the medieval era,” said a statement from Rome’s archaeology and heritage department.

Umberto Broccoli, a senior heritage official, said some scholars still believed the wolf was of Etruscan origin.

He said that during the Middle Ages the symbol of Rome was a lion, making it unlikely that there would have been much call for a she-wolf statue. Historians say it may have been based on an original which was cast in bronze in Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, but which was then lost or melted down.

According to legend, Romulus and Remus were the sons of a Vestal Virgin raped by the god Mars. They were then abandoned on the banks of the Tiber.

They were rescued by a shepherd and suckled by a she-wolf. Romulus eventually murdered his brother and went on to found Rome.

The statue includes cherub-like figures of Romulus and Remus suckling from the wolf, but they were added in the late 15th century.

The world’s largest sunken ship museum in İstanbul

From Today’s Zaman:

The world’s largest sunken ship museum will be established in İstanbul thanks to finds from the Port of Theodosius dating back to the fourth century, which was discovered in Yenikapı during excavations in the Marmaray project, an undersea commuter tunnel linking Asia and Europe.

Scientists studying the 36 sunken ships salvaged at the Yenikapı archeological site have been able to identify the trees used in building the vessels and their methods of construction.

Professor Ünal Akkemik from the forest engineering department at the forestry faculty of İstanbul University has said that the ships, dating back to the fourth century, were mainly made of oak. Noting that they are confident of uncovering the dates and methods of construction, Akkemik said: “So far 36 ships have been retrieved during the excavations, and I have conducted wood-related assays on 27 of them. We have completed our studies on 20 vessels. These ships were built mainly using oak trees as well as plane, chestnut, pine, cypress, common ash and beech. Some vessels were largely made of oak but had chestnut for the outer portions and oak for inner components. Others were mainly constructed using pine trees.”

Excavations during the Marmaray project had uncovered several archeological sites that would open a new chapter in the history of İstanbul, the Byzantine Empire and the world. These sites include secret passages, tombs, churches, works from the Bronze Age, ports, vessels and city walls that have been unknown to us until now. The archeological site at Yenikapı uncovered the ancient Port of Theodosius and with it, 36 sunken ships dating back from the fourth century were exposed to the light of day. Scientists at the laboratories of the forestry faculty at İstanbul University conducted several studies on samples from these ships to identify the trees used in their construction as well as their dates of construction. Akkemik said he has been analyzing the samples for two years. “The samples were sent to us after the sunken ships were salvaged. We conducted various tests and identified the materials used in building these ships. Four of these vessels were galleys. The rest were light commercial vessels,” he said.

Akkemik notes that ship no. 12 from the Yenikapı archeological site was the first vessel he examined in the group. “The trees used to build this ship were oak, chestnut, common ash, beech and walnut. All of these except for walnut can be found in the Belgrade Forest [in İstanbul]. This ship was probably constructed in or near İstanbul. Hard and durable woods from oak trees were used for the skeleton. Although oak is common in Turkey, we don’t know whether the oak used in this ship was procured from Turkey or elsewhere. It may have been procured from Romania or Bulgaria,” he said.

From Today’s Zaman.

 

Contemporary Art Museum of Casoria requests asylum in Germany

From Spiegel:

After years of mafia threats and what he sees as official indifference, the director of a contemporary art museum near Naples has had enough. In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he has requested asylum for his museum — and says his entire staff is prepared to move to Berlin if she agrees.

Like many in and near Naples, Antonio Manfredi, the director of the Contemporary Art Museum of Casoria (CAM), lives in fear. Threatening phone calls, vandals and not-so-subtle warnings — the local mafia organization, the Camorra, has left little doubt that he is on their radar. What truly frightens him, though, is just how horribly Italy treats its artistic and cultural treasures.

And now, he has decided to call wider attention to his plight. At the beginning of this month, he mailed an official letter to Angela Merkel’s Chancellery in Berlin requesting asylum for his entire museum. The letter was sent in both Italian and German, and copies were forwarded to the German Embassy in Rome, as well.

“If the Italian government isn’t capable of taking care of its cultural treasures, then let another country do it,” Manfredi told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “This is a warning scream from Italian art to the world.”

The stunt seems to have had an effect. Since the letter went out on Feb. 1, a number of Italian newspapers have published stories about his letter and foreign news media have likewise begun to take an interest. Locals, Manfredi says, have been stopping by the museum to express solidarity.

‘Very, Very Mad’

Ominously, however, Manfredi has yet to hear anything from local politicians. “The mayor,” he says, “is very, very mad at me.”

That, though, was perhaps to be expected. Manfredi, now 50, founded his museum in 2005 with much of its funding coming from the municipality. Within three months, however, public backing dried up and those officials who approved the grant had been replaced.

Having grown up in Casoria himself, Manfredi immediately suspected that the mafia was behind the funding cut. Indeed, in October of that same year, the Casoria city council was dissolved for the second time in six years on suspicion that it had been infiltrated by the Camorra.

Manfredi, however, resolved to go on. “I wanted to continue,” he said. “But I realized that no town, no region and no state would help me.”

Since then, with the help of local donors and volunteers, the museum has collected roughly 1,000 pieces of contemporary art from around the world, including photographs, sculptures, video installations and paintings. It is also used as a space for performance pieces. “People usually tell me that the space seems very Berlin,” he says.

There is, however, a decisive difference. The exhibitions at the museum deal with all manner of relevant cultural issues — from paedophilia to urban decay. In addition, though, the presence of the mafia in daily life is far from taboo. After six immigrants from West Africa were shot down in Naples — allegedly by the Camorra — in September 2008, for example, the museum hosted “AfriCAM,” an exhibition on immigration. There has also been “CAMorra,” a 2008 show on the local mafia.

A Black Doll

Shortly afterwards, the vandalism and telephone threats started. Gates and doors at the museum showed signs of break-in attempts and security cameras were stolen. And then there was the black doll someone laid outside the museum’s front gate following the AfriCAM exhibit.

“The mafia doesn’t need to say outright ‘We are going to kill you!'” Manfredi explains. “They are very subtle. You might receive a message saying you should give some thought to hiring a private security company. If you live here, you know that’s a strong threat.”

Manfredi turned immediately to the police when the threats started, but he says they did nothing. And the warnings haven’t stopped.

In his letter to Merkel, Manfredi wrote: “I am sending you a request that I know probably sounds absurd, but that just goes to show the immense difficulties one faces in trying to make culture in my country.” Manfredi explains his museum’s situation and asks Merkel to adopt the collection. “In the name of culture and art, I hereby ask you to grant our request. I am prepared to move the entire collection to a space in Germany and to run (the museum) there together with my staff.”

Manfredi said he chose Germany as the recipient of his cry for help since it has avoided the drastic cuts in cultural funding seen recently in several other countries around Europe.

Still, his request is not likely to be granted. On Monday, a Chancellery spokeswoman told SPIEGEL ONLINE that they would not be commenting on Manfredi’s letter as they viewed it more as a public protest than as a genuine asylum request meriting further consideration.

‘The Whole Point Is to Not Be Afraid’

Manfredi himself allows that the move was in part meant for a domestic audience. And he is no stranger to high-profile appeals. After the collapse of a house in the ancient city of Pompeii late last year — which he blames on official corruption and indifference — he sent a letter to several government officials and authorities asking for more support for Italy’s cultural sites.

He got a response from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who told him “to have courage.” That, though, says Manfredi, is not enough.

“Another purpose of my letter (to Merkel) is to open the eyes of Italians,” he says, “to ask them how they can let Italy — home to 70-80 percent of the world’s cultural sites — allow its art to be destroyed.”

Whatever the outcome of his appeal to Berlin might be, Manfredi vows to continue offering his museum as a showroom for the works of young, local artists whose works deal with their mafia-saturated world.

“Not all of them are afraid,” Manfredi says in praise of those artists who continue their work in the face of the threats. “The whole point is to not be afraid. Otherwise you should just go and shut yourself into your house for the rest of your life. The majority of people here want change — and these artists are their voice.”

From Spiegel.

Turkey’s underwater cultural heritage in danger

From Hürriyet Daily News:

Underwater cultural heritage is being damaged by urban resorts, industrial development and sport divers, according to a number of Turkish experts, who complained about the ineffectiveness of legal measures on the matter during a Monday meeting.

“When you examine Law no. 2863, it is satisfactory from the perspective of protecting underwater cultural heritage, but the official sanctions are not sufficient. When a sport diver at 30 meters deep finds an amphora [a type of ceramic vase with two handles], he considers that a huge success and wants to keep it,” Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş, head of Istanbul University’s Department of Marine Archaeology, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Kocabaş, who is also in charge of the recent Byzantium shipwreck excavations in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district discovered during the construction of the Marmaray tunnel, was one of a number of experts attending the Regional Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, held at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

Sport divers collecting amphoras makes work difficult for archaeologists, said Kocabaş, adding that an awareness of protecting culture should be fostered in the public through education.

During the Yenikapı excavation project, which has been continuing for five years, 35 shipwrecks dating back to Byzantium were discovered. Kocabaş said they had completed the conservation of 23 of the ships and noted that a team of 600 workers, 50 archaeologists from the Istanbul Archeology Museum and 30 academics from Istanbul University cooperated in the endeavor.

Asked whether the Marmaray project had damaged the ruins in any way, Kocabaş said it would have been hard for them to find the financial support to carry out such an extended study without help from the authorities undertaking the massive transportation project.

“We couldn’t have found the financial support without the benefit of the Marmaray budget. Even though this is called a salvage excavation, we have the privilege of determining our own deadline,” said Kocabaş, noting that conservation takes a longer time.

What is unique about the excavation is the discovery of Byzantine galiots, or warships, Kocabaş said, adding that researchers learned that technique applied was the opposite of what is currently used.

“In contemporary ship construction technology, the skeleton of the ship is first prepared and the outer coat is applied later. But, the Byzantine galiots were designed completely in reverse,” Kocabaş said, adding that nobody knew how a galiot was constructed before the discovery.

Thanks to this discovery, academics focused on the ship construction of the period, including the time span between the sixth century A.D. and the 11th, said Kocabaş.

Within the scope of the project, a museum where the findings will be displayed will be created. “Yenikapı and the Golden Horn are some of the candidate areas for the museum to be located,” said Kocabaş.

Replicas of the ships will be also designed so that people can enjoy the feel of being on an ancient ship.

From Hürriyet Daily News.

The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked

From The Independent:

The Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked exhibition in Edinburgh brings together the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland’s collections of the Lewis Chessmen – a set of medieval gaming pieces, originating most likely from Trondheim in the 12th or 13th century, which were discovered on the Hebridean island of Lewis sometime between 1780 and 1831.

Individually hand-carved from walrus ivory, and numbering 93 pieces in total – 82 of which are held by the British Museum, the remaining 11 by the National Museum of Scotland – the Lewis Chessmen are world famous for their mysterious origins, unique design and curious, almost comical expressions, which range from moody kings to a frightened-looking warder biting down on his shield. They even made a cameo in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Lewis Chessmen Unmasked curator Dr David Caldwell revealed ten fascinating facts about the artefacts, covering everything from the story behind their enchanting expressions to a new theory on when and where on Lewis they were found, why it’s unlikely that a handful of missing Chessmen will ever be discovered, and why the 82 pieces owned by the British Museum will most likely never be repatriated.

Continue here to discover the “10 things you didn’t know about…”

The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked (Exhibition)