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Inventing History : forgery: a great British tradition (British History)
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Mick Harper
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Saxony in northern Germany...

You have to be careful here. This is called 'New Saxony' by historians because the Anglo-Saxons have to come from thereabouts to make sense of English history. What everybody else refers to as Saxony is in southern Germany. We of course hold that 'Saxonia' is the Elbe valley i.e.
a) the salt mines in 'Old Saxony'
b) the Elbe river for transporting the salt to
c) 'New' Saxony, the German ports on the North Sea coast for onward salt transmission.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
Saxony in northern Germany...

You have to be careful here. This is called 'New Saxony' by historians because the Anglo-Saxons have to come from thereabouts to make sense of English history. What everybody else refers to as Saxony is in southern Germany. We of course hold that 'Saxonia' is the Elbe valley i.e.
a) the salt mines in 'Old Saxony'
b) the Elbe river for transporting the salt to
c) 'New' Saxony, the German ports on the North Sea coast for onward salt transmission.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migration_Period#/media/File:Invasions_of_the_Roman_Empire_1.png


https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Viking_Age&oldid=703310347#/media/File:Vikings-Voyages.png


There was a lot of Völkerwanderung in the good old days ie in the minds of 19th century historians....
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Mick Harper
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The ineffable Levi Roache has directed our attention to a book one of you will have to read https://twitter.com/DrLRoach/status/974975477373906944
The thread ends with the promising comment
the mushy credulity of our age, ha!

But good news on another front

Good news! Some of our stolen items have been recovered in a recent raid of a property in Canterbury. Sadly the majority of our educational material is still missing, but all our Anglo-Saxon beads are accounted for! #hertitagecrime #archaeology
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Boreades


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Wile E. Coyote wrote:
To Coyote these Scriptoriums are continental who recruited....they were not founded by Irish or Scottish monks.

No discerning wannabe Irish King /Tribal leader wants to think the charter they are brandishing has been produced by a Bavarian.


Oh dear, I fear that takes into the realms of Zero Knowledge Proofs.

And, sadly, I do not yet have permission to reveal why I believe that there were indeed Irish monks running these Austrian Scriptoriums.
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Hatty
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The book recommended by Levi Roach, The Conversion of Europe: from paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD, has a distinct whiff of didacticism but aimed at the general unwashed. It is priceless though cheap on Amazon. Just started the opening chapter, titled Who is it for? ('it' meaning Christianity, not his book) where he writes that 'saints' didn't formally exist in what he calls the Early Middle Ages

canonization was an invention of ecclesiastical lawyers of the twelfth century

and then goes on to point out every person of intellectual quality was an object of wonder in the Early Middle Ages and in order to understand the past "[saints' lives] constitute an important source of information for the historian".

Hagiographies such as his [Bede's] Life of St Cuthbert are our most important written sources


but there are others. In the same paragraph he writes

Letter collections such as Alcuin's were on the whole valued and preserved rather for their style than for their content. Deeds rarely survive in their original form; the texts of the copies which have come down to us may have been tampered with in the course of transmission. Unattributed poetry is hard to date.


Hard to disagree though he should add that 'signed copies' are just as hard to date. If the letters are important historical sources, content should be of far greater interest surely. But style is what historians, and archaeologists, rely on for dating purposes, in many cases it's the only basis for, say, 'Durham school' or 'Canterbury school' labels vis a vis manuscripts.

Anglo-Saxon scholarship may be on the wane though. Tony Robinson, BBC's favourite cheeky chappy-cum-archaeologist, has a series on cathedrals on Channel 5. The first programme was on York Minster which he says is a cathedral, not a minster, though the name has stuck.

The timeline began at 1400 years old but almost imperceptibly became 1,000 years and then 800 years (the minster-cathedral was begun in 1220). Fifty years ago the tower was about to collapse due to subsidence and archaeologists had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to look at the foundations. Stuff was collected and put into boxes where they've remained for the last fifty years.

No-one has got round to analysing the finds. Tony opened one which was empty, then another which contained a rather fine, clean-looking metal pin and immediately described it as Saxon! He did later admit an object found in the foundation level was presumably eight hundred years old, i.e. not Saxon.
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Mick Harper
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This was one of the most spectacular examples of 'careful ignoral' I have come across for ages. Anglo-Saxon material is infuriatingly scarce as far as scholars are concerned since they claim English history is built on it. To blunder across a whole cathedral basement of the stuff was a prize beyond rubies.So they packed it it up in boxes and ignored it for fifty years.

And believe me they will ignore it for another fifty years because, as our Tone discovered, there's either nothing there or it doesn't fit. Not that archaeologists are bothered -- digging in fields is what they like, digging in cardboard boxes is what they don't like. The idea that York Minster (not to mention English history) is built on shifting sands is something nobody likes. Apart from us.
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Hatty
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York and its Minster came up yet again, this time in a programme about the 'Vikings in York'. Not a patch on Sir Tony but still worth a moment or two just for the aerial view.

The aerial archaeologist, looking down from his helicopter, concluded 'Vikings and Anglo-Saxons co-existed' based on the number of -by (Viking) and -ton (A-S) placenames intermingled around York. Viewers might conclude there's no evidence on the ground, just up in the air (York has no Anglo-Saxon archaeology but this was never mentioned)

One artefact shown was simply fabulous. We were told it's a Viking drinking horn made of elephant tusk called the Horn of Ulph and its owner, a Viking noble presumably named Ulph, gave it to York Minster in the tenth century (which didn't exist then) along with his lands.. No charter needed!

So I wondered if elephant tusks (as opposed to, say, walrus) were in common use back then, whenever 'then' was? Anything else known about 'Ulph' and his amazing gift?

York University is more informative

Given its size and condition, it is a particularly good example of a medieval oliphant.

I did wonder about the object's superb condition especially in view of York's troubled history but museum curation is wonderful these days

Tradition holds that it is a horn of tenure, presented to York Minster by a Norse nobleman named Ulph sometime around 1030.

Tradition. Oh dear. No Ulph then.

It served as a physical symbol of the lands and manor houses in Deira (an area between the Humber and Tees rivers) which he was giving to the Minster in order to alleviate controversy between his sons over their potential inheritance. It is said that he filled the horn with wine, placed it upon the altar himself, and in doing so dedicated his land to God and the Church of St Peter in York. The transfer of land was later confirmed by Edward the Confessor.

Edward the Con...oh dear. Surely alarm bells are jangling by now.

The first known mention of this tale is in a metrical chronicle written in the late fourteenth century when Thomas Arundel was the archbishop of York (1388-1397). Unfortunately, we do not have the original manuscript, with the earliest known copy of it coming from the mid to late fifteenth century. There is an earlier reference to the story in the Minster itself, however: a shield bearing Ulph's heraldry, which includes a large horn, can be found in the north side of the nave, which was built c. 1300

Finally. Whatever. The inconvenient gap (400+ years) does not appear to concern York historians.

Some modifications to the horn have been made over time. In 1393, a gold chain was added to it by John Neuton, the newly-installed treasurer. During the Reformation, it fell into the hands of a goldsmith who removed the original mounts, which are traditionally held to have been made of gold. It then became the property of the Fairfax family, and was returned to the Minster by Henry Fairfax in 1675.

No wonder the '1,000-year old' horn remained in such fine condition. But is it even Viking?

The Horn of Ulph was made in the early eleventh century in southern Italy. Although like many other oliphants its production is traditionally associated with the town of Salerno, it is likely that it was made in the nearby town of Amalfi. Amalfi had strong trading contacts with North Africa, Sicily, Cairo, Antioch and Alexandria, and craftsmen there would have had ready access to ivory, and eastern goods such as patterned cloth which would have influenced the style of their work

Is it an Italian piece? Apparently there's some debate ongoing

While it is thought that the carving of the Horn of Ulph was done by Islamic craftsmen, I think this unlikely. The same workshop which carved it also made Christian religious pieces for churches in southern Italy. While it is possible that Islamic craftsmen were commissioned to produce Christian pieces, it is more likely that the style of local Christian craftsmen was simply influenced by the textiles and patterns of their Muslim neighbours and trade partners. This connection with the Near East had a visible influence on the style in which the Horn of Ulph was carved. While it has been previously thought that the motifs were Mithraic in nature, this is not the case: Mithraic symbols are more reminiscent of the zodiac, the primary animals being bulls and scorpions, not the griffins, trees, and unicorns seen on the Horn of Ulph. Instead, the Horn of Ulph combines motifs which reflect several thousand years of artistic contributions from the Middle East.

https://hoaportal.york.ac.uk/hoaportal/yml1414essay.jsp?id=6

These arcane discussions are not just about some drinking horn because similar problems arise in archaeology. Roman material typically gets shoe-horned into 'Saxon' or 'Norse' or whatever fits the 'record'. When attribution is really tricky, Middle East or Islamic sources may be called upon. This is also the case with illuminated manuscripts and their famed decorative motifs. The source of some pigments used is still disputed.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Whatever next.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-pusey-horn/

'I kynge knowde (Cnut) gave Wyllyam Pecote (Pusey, mistranscribed) thys horne to holde by thy land'.


`Cornage', or transfer of land by service of a horn, was customary in Anglo-Saxon England.


The silver mounts are later.......
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Mick Harper
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Haven’t watched the programme yet—I’m at work—but I would like to comment on Hatty’s comments.

The aerial archaeologist, looking down from his helicopter, concluded 'Vikings and Anglo-Saxons co-existed' based on the number of -by (Viking) and -ton (A-S) placenames intermingled around York.

This is one of the more egregious fantasies of the place-name industry.
1. There are more –by places in Britain than in Scandinavia so presumably we colonised them
2. –ton means (something like) town. The Anglo-Saxons had the least propensity to found towns of all our many invaders.
3. Anglo-Saxons are Vikings i.e. sea-invaders from southern Denmark. According to the place-name people.

a Viking noble presumably named Ulph, gave it to York Minster in the tenth century (which didn't exist then)

What, the tenth century? Correct!

along with his lands.. No charter needed!

Good spot. It must have been increasingly difficult accounting for lost-and-suddenly-found Anglo-Saxon charters by the late fourteenth century so this was an ingenious new prop.

The oliphant served as a physical symbol of the lands and manor houses in Deira (an area between the Humber and Tees rivers)

The famous Tyke oliphant. Brian Close kept one as a pet.

which he was giving to the Minster

Too right. I’m leaving all my stuff to the Church as well. Just to be on the safe side. Let them pay off my credit cards.

in order to alleviate controversy between his sons over their potential inheritance.

I know exactly where Ulph’s coming from. My mum’s just passed and left us kids a tidy sum. Or so we thought. She knew us too well and gave it all to a Swiss Cryogenics Lab instead to prevent us endlessly squabbling. Thanks, ma! Funny though, she didn’t seem particularly interested in cutting edge science when she was with us.

Unfortunately, we do not have the original manuscript, with the earliest known copy of it coming from the mid to late fifteenth century.

Very unfortunate. Very unfortunate indeed. The original must have existed in the mid to late fifteenth century in order to be copied and yet, despite law courts then and now generally insisting on originals, somehow it got itself disappeared. They were awful times so we shouldn't be too surprised. It's a miracle the copy survived.

There is an earlier reference to the story in the Minster itself, however: a shield bearing Ulph's heraldry, which includes a large horn, can be found in the north side of the nave, which was built c. 1300

So they knew exactly who they could use without exciting too many guffaws.

It then became the property of the Fairfax family, and was returned to the Minster by Henry Fairfax in 1675.

Yes, but when did it become Fairfax property? Thomas Fairfax was the military commander who won the Civil War first at Marston Moor, just outside York, in 1644 and then again at Naseby in 1645. He should by rights have become the Oliver Cromwell of his day and there is a lot of murk around why he didn't. There is even more murk about how Church valuables (of which Puritans disapproved) were to be disposed of and the really pressing problem of the day was how to pay off the army of which Fairfax was the head, and chief spokeperson. It is known that Church property (as well as Cavaliers' property) was used for this purpose. There is even more murk about how everything got back to the rightful owners after the Restoration in 1660. It mostly didn't but nothing wrong with a PR exercise. 'Ave a holiphant, squire, lovely job, one careful owner, Italian I shouldn't wonder.

The Horn of Ulph was made in the early eleventh century in southern Italy... Amalfi had strong trading contacts with North Africa, Sicily, Cairo, Antioch and Alexandria

Possibly so but did it have strong trading links with North Yorkshire?

the Horn of Ulph combines motifs which reflect several thousand years of artistic contributions from the Middle East.

So any time then. Not very helpful. Though in another way, very helpful.
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Mick Harper
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The level of expertise re York Vikings was exemplified by the Chief Expert showing off what she claimed was a Viking skate, the pride of their 50,000 item collection. "The river was much broader and shallower -- and tidal -- then so this would have been a good way of getting across the frozen river." In England tidal rivers freeze up about once every fifty years so presumably the expression 'getting your skates on' is not of Viking origin.
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Mick Harper
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I've written elsewhere about how historians create extra divisions to hide paradigm errors by decreasing gaps, a technique that can be applied to all time-based areas of knowledge -- which includes the heritage tourist industry. Here in York we've got a lovely example of the opposite dodge, conflating two 'eras' to fill a gap. One short but known, one less known and therefore 'stretchable', thus creating a single 'epoch' which never in fact existed.

We showed in Forgeries that the Vikings never existed so how can there be a Viking York? Well, York is a major trading-cum-administrative town and was, naturally enough, used for this purpose by whoever was in charge nationally at any one time -- the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes, the Normans, the Church and the English shire system. That's all well documented in both the historical and the archaeological record. So where do the Vikings come in? The only connotation 'Danish' has is with pastries which is not going to attract many tourist dollars, so let's call the Danes 'Vikings'.

Never forget that academia is also in the bums-on-seats business.
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