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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Mick Harper
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Or could it have been the work of the Ahnenerbe, an archaeological organisation dedicated to the proposition of the Germans having Viking ancestry? Do you know if there were any Nazis in Norway c 1943? They should have left some archaeology if so.
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Hatty
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Norway was under German occupation so the find, or, if you prefer, the archaeological context, was concealed

At this time the country was under Nazi occupation, so everything found in the burial mound was loaded into wheelbarrows and hidden in a barn.

The Gjermundbu Helmet was named after the farm rather than 'German' but what makes it suspiciously unique is the only Viking helmet was buried together with "the only complete suit of chain mail from the period"

But the village already had made a name for itself finding historical artefacts

The village must have been of significance in the past. The Sætrang and Gjermundbu discoveries are proof of this.

The Sætrang discovery (Sætrangfunnet) was a rich grave finds from a burial mound dating to ca. 975 AD. The tomb was a double grave that was discovered in 1834 on the Sætrang farm Haugsbygd. The burial mound was about 20 meters in diameter and about 1.2 meters high. In the middle of the mound was found a double tomb. Contents included 63.89 grams of gold in the form of five gold rings and about 900 beads of amber, glass and glass mosaics, and a silver bead

Someone appears to have tampered with the Wiki entry. The Norwegian archaeologists said the Saetrang burial mound was from the 'Younger Roman' era
The discovery can be dated to the end of the 300s AD.
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Ishmael


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Hatty wrote:
Officially only one Viking helmet has ever been found which everyone regards as astonishing.


This makes it a special case. As there are no special cases,* AE rules it a fake.

-------------------------

*The only exceptions to this rule are those special case finds that do not fit the contemporary ruling paradigm in any way shape or form. These may be ruled "tentative possibles."
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Mick Harper
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The Codex Amiatinus came up in family conversation at the weekend (not from me or Hatty, honest) so I was heartwarmed to find this on my return to duty

Stewart J. Brookes @Stewart_Brookes Jan 21
An audience member asks Claire Breay how Codex Amiatinus was transported to Italy in the early eighth century. She replies that Ceolfrith died on the way in Burgundy, so we have an idea of the route. And that it was most likely transported in an unbound state.

Actually the book they've got is a modern fake as per

There are no official records that state that the text made it to Rome. It is said that instead, it made its way into Florence, where it was presented by the Lombard Abbot Peter to the Abbazia di San Salvatore at Mount Amiata in Tuscany. It is believed that he changed the dedicatory note inscribed within the leaves as donated to the monastery. This occurred in the 9th century. The document remained at Mount Amiata until 1786, when it was relocated to the Laurentian Library in Florence.

Though its medieval prototype had an even more lively history which I will return to if I can stop laughing long enough.
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Mick Harper
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Not the least hilarious thing about the Codex Amiatinus is there’s scant evidence of a connection between it and England. This has not stopped the British Library (I would think the leading authority on early medieval manuscripts) saying this

One Thursday in June over 1300 years ago, a group of monks stood on the banks of the River Wear, weeping. In the distance, a boat was sailing away across the river. Over the water, the sound of the monks’ singing and sobs reached the elderly man in the boat, who was himself in tears. This was Ceolfrith, their abbot. He was leaving, never to return. Among the things he took with him was an enormous book, a gift he intended to deliver at his earthly destination. That book has never returned to the British Isles … until now. Alison Hudson, BL

It's presently the centre piece of a major exhibition at the BL. Is it worth our while bothering with? Well, it's claimed to be the oldest surviving complete Latin Bible in the world so I suppose it's our Christian duty to tear it to shreds. Besides I need to practise my scales before getting down to some real work.
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Mick Harper
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So let’s see now. Bloke, book set out for Rome. Bloke soon brown bread

Ceolfrith reached Langres around 9am on 25 September. He died there on 29 September 716.

My sources say ten past nine but we won’t quibble. Let’s push on with the Codex (no name as yet).

Codex Amiatinus’s journey did not stop there. According to the Anonymous Life, a group of monks continued on and delivered Ceolfrith’s gift to the Pope.

Always dangerous relying on a single source, and an anonymous one at that. Can the British Library offer some confirmatory evidence?

The Anonymous Life also preserves the Pope’s thank you letter to the monks of Wearmouth-Jarrow, which mentions a fine gift he had received — probably Codex Amiatinus.

Not great but it's a doofer. (It obviously does for the British Library.) So what have we got? Book in the very safe (by eighth century standards) hands of the Pope and he’s very nicely sent it back to us for an exhibition. He’s a brick, he is, always said so. Very refreshing. Forgiven us for all that business with Rattin and ‘violence of the tongue’ obviously. No, wait a mo, there’s a bit of an interlude. I mean with the Codex Amiatinus, we’re fine with the Argies.
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Mick Harper
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In later centuries, Codex Amiatinus moved again, this time to the abbey of San Salvatore

Call me old-fashioned but this is not a doofer. It will not do for anything, anytime, anywhere. It's not a provenance, it's a disgrace. For a start we don't know that the book that allegedly started life in Northumbria arrived in Rome (remember that “fine gift he received, probably the Codex Amiatinus”); we don’t know it was the one that moved to Tuscany "in later centuries"; we don't have any explanation as to why the Papacy is handing out priceless ancient scriptural artefacts to obscure out-stations; we don't have any record of it in the abbey of San Salvatore during the period from its assumed but unrecorded arrival until 1786. The only contribution the abbey made to the history of the Codex Amiatinus was to give it its name (the abbey is in Amiata, between Rome and Florence).

Ah, except for one leetle thing...
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Mick Harper
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Our old door has come back to haunt us


but this time it's got a touch of the Franks Casket

South door at All Saints Staplehurst showing Ragnarök Norse Day of Judgement. Dated to 1050. The light was awful today but one can make out the Midgard serpent encircling the earth and Surt, the sunwheel.

Bob has his doubts

Bob Ellis‏ @bob_bellis Jan 21 Replying to @JudyADoherty
Great pic Judy thanks for that, I shared it with our group if that's OK. Just wondering, where did you get the 1050 date? I can't find anything specific online.

It was either the vicar or Pickfords

Judy Doherty‏ @JudyADoherty Jan 22
The church guide said that it had been authoritatively dated to 1050 but I'm not sure of their source. There is some suggestion that the door was moved to the church from elsewhere. I'll see if there's anything on the local archaeological webpage.

Though we're still going with 19th Century Gothic Revival and Cuprinol.
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Mick Harper
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But first a correction. I had assumed it had come from the Vatican Library from an episode in its later life (which I'll come to later because it is mildly sensational) but in fact

Codex Amiatinus is now preserved in the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence. It will be returning for the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition (19 October 2018–19 February 2019). You can book your tickets to see this remarkable manuscript here.

Now back to the Dedication Page which, as we all know by now, is where the bodies are buried.
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Mick Harper
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Peter the Lombard (fl. late 9th century) partially erased an inscription in the front of the book, recording how it was a gift from Ceolfrith to St Peter’s, and replaced Ceolfrith’s name with his own.

The first thing to say is that Peter the Lombard did not live in the late ninth century but in the twelfth century. For the British Library not to know this is, I’m afraid, all too typical of both their ignorance and their parochialism. But onwards and upwards. Why is one of medieval Italy’s most famous scholarly sons on the dedicatory page in the first place? Well, you can choose between two explanations:

1) One of medieval Italy’s most famous scholarly sons happened to be hanging around in a monastery in southern Tuscany when the bloke delivering a codex needed a signature (“Couriers must remove cowls when entering the reception area”) even though, as his name suggests, Pete was from a coupla hundred miles north and spent his entire adult life even further north in Paris

2) Some modern forgers wanted a Big Name to boost the ante.
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Mick Harper
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The altered inscription also records that he gave the book to the monastery at Amiata.

This too has competing theories
1. Peter the Lombard (or anyway, somebody) decided that a now several hundred year-old book should not bear the name of one of early medieval England’s most famous scholarly sons (Ceolfrith) and one of the world’s most famous sons period (the Pope) but now belongs to a monastery in Amiata
2. Some modern forgers wanted to establish a) a provenance and b) secure legal ownership for their new production, but made sure the Big Names were fairly visible all the same.
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Mick Harper
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It will be argued no doubt that Peter the Lombard received the Codex from the Pope (for some unspecified reason) and than sent it to a Tuscan monastery (for some unspecified reason). This is of course perfectly possible but runs into one of our favourite Bogosity Indicators: presence of world records.

You have to work out the likelihood that the world's oldest surviving complete Latin bible would happen to have been signed eight hundred years earlier by Italy's most famous eight hundred year-old literary figure. Express your estimate in terms of sand grains and universes. But things now get more interesting...
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Mick Harper
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However, later scholars have been able to prove this volume is the one that travelled with Ceolfrith, because a copy of its original dedicatory page is preserved in the Anonymous Life, and it matches the page in Codex Amiatinus, apart from the erasures.

So, after you have finished making the last lot of probability calculations, your next task is to calculate the following:
1. Manuscripts of the eighth century, whether as copies or as originals, have a survival rate that approaches zero
2. One that did is the Codex Amiatinus
3. Another one that did is the Anonymous Life
4. These two manuscripts were separated in the eighth century but each managed to defy the near-zero odds quite independently of one another, thousands of miles apart
5. What is the probability that these independently near-miraculous survivals would turn out to have a page that matches the other?

Once you have arranged enough zeroes before the decimal point, you can calculate this
1. What is the probability that modern fakers of an eighth century manuscript would use another eighth century manuscript to lend verisimilitude?

But if you think that manuscript scholars are daft as brushes, wait till you see what the churchmen got up to.
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Mick Harper
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It is our contention that the Codex Amiatinus is a late eighteenth (could be nineteenth) century fake. But we have a problem

As the primary source of the Vulgate, the manuscript was of particular importance to the Catholics during the Counter-Reformation

Which would throw that theory straight out of the window. But let us dally a while

Protestant translations derived from the original language of the Scriptures, but the Latin text of the Amiatinus was earlier than any then-known Hebrew manuscript, making it a "major piece of propaganda in the battle for textual precedence".

Strewth, if the Catlicks are depending on eighth century Anglo-Saxons to dish the Proddy Dogs it’s no wonder they lost/won the Counter-Reformation. But anyway

In 1587 Pope Sixtus V demanded the book be sent to Rome

A bit late in the day one would have thought but our book is well used to travel by this stage -- it’s gone from Northumbria to Rome to Amiata to Rome and will soon return to Amiata presumably because the Vatican didn’t rate a key text in the whole history of the Church as worth hanging onto. Which is not altogether surprising because...
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Mick Harper
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where it was used as the principal source for a new papal edition of the Bible, the Vulgata Sixtina

Was it indeed? No.

although in the event, little or no use was made of its readings in either the Sistine or subsequent Sixto-Clementine official Vulgate editions

So they had other cribsheets all along. Good to hear. The Word of God and all that. Fifteen hundred years after the event. We’ll have that Dawkins on our case if we don’t step a bit livelier than that. “Tell the Amiata people thanks, but no thanks, and send it back. C.O.D.”
“But surely, monsignor, we did make some use of it, shouldn’t we at least...”
“Did we? Did we? Let me see now. These notes say 'little or no use was made of it'. Could be read either way."
"Isn't that a bit odd, monsignor. You would think they would know which it is, this being the earliest authoritative source for what is now going to be the latest authoritative source for Holy Scripture."
"Yes, yes, all right, make it Carriage Paid to be on the safe side. What a right two-and-eight all this is. I blame printing. If only we'd put a stop to that when we had the chance."

But things were stirring in northern lands...
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