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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Mick Harper
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Some excellent irony on show here https://twitter.com/For_the_Wynn/status/1101829509710520320 It's Kate Thomas of the British Library bigging up their St Cuthbert's Gospel. What caught my eye though was this post from Martin Connell, SJ

The sale of that book by the British Jesuits to the BL has helped build a school in Malawi and has reaped many other benefits. Thank you, St. Cuthbert!

I don't normally commend the British Library using our money (£9 million, I think it was) to buy such obvious fakes from the Jesuits (they'd put it next to a thorn from Jesus's Crown of Thorns at their Stoneyhurst College but the BL people passed on that one) but if it came out of the aid budget I suppose one might forgive them this one time.
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Mick Harper
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Uh-oh, we're in trouble

Home of 7th Century princess unearthed in Coldingham

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-47495826

They’ve found a ditch. Monastery to follow.
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Mick Harper
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Uh-oh, now we're in real trouble. The carbon dates are in -- what we're always demanding. Let's see how high up the Coldingham petard they've hoisted us

During the excavation, we recovered hundreds of pieces of butchered animal bone, including cattle, horse pig, sheep/goat, domestic fowl and red deer. The animal bone spreads represent the disposal of carcasses after processing with the high value joints of meat consumed elsewhere within the complex. They were eating well!

Translation: butcher's shop

We sent a piece of animal tooth off to the lab for radiocarbon dating, and the results came back as between 664 – 864 AD, indicating that the pile of bone is Anglo-Saxon in date. We can now confidently say that substantial activity was taking place right in the centre of Coldingham at the time that Aebbe’s monastery existed.

Translation: butcher's shop in the centre of Coldingham

Piecing the evidence together. There isn’t one single clue that points to this being Aebbe’s monastery

One would be a start though

there are many – and together they fit the profile of an Anglo-Saxon monastery. Anglo-Saxon monasteries typically included lots of different wooden buildings spread out within a large area enclosed by a boundary ditch, with traces of small-scale industries, farming, and even large piles of rubbish (like the huge spread of bones we found) around the edges.

According to my profile book, that's called a village

Aebbe’s monastery was recorded by the medieval historian Bede as being at a place called ‘Urbs Coludi’, which became ‘Colodaesburg’ in Anglo-Saxon, and later Coldingham, so we knew from the start that it was somewhere in the vicinity.

You found Coldingham all right. But it wasn't lost.
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Mick Harper
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Archeologists' favourite apophthegm is "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" which is utterly stupid. It is. Though it may not be proof of absence. Coldingham illustrates the importance of getting this simple distinction through their thick skulls. If you excavate an entire complex and there is an absence of anything religious, you don't conclude that therefore it is Princess Aebbe's monastery, you conclude that therefore it probably isn't. You may be proved wrong later, and it turns out that it was, but you don't call in the world's media and announce you've just found Princess Aebbe's monastery.

Though actually, come to think about it, if you are an archaeologist, you probably do. You wouldn't want the plug pulled before you've found the wretched thing. And since it doesn't exist, that plug won't ever be pulled. It's the perfect Ponzi scheme.
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Wile E. Coyote


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You should be more charitable Mick, the archaeologists came very close, they were just unfortunately digging in the wrong place.

The monument is in fact still standing! It is here !!

http://www.ebchester.org/community/parish-church-of-st-ebba/

It's the the parish church of Ebchester (notice the well known combination of old english personal name/saint with the Roman chester.......)

It is of course a Norman construction out of an old Roman fort.

An interesting tidbit is that there were two Saint Aebbe's. The elder and the younger, with about a two hundred year gap. Saint Aebbe, Abb or Ebba is sometimes known as Aebbe the Elder and lived from 615 to 683 Saint Aebbe the younger was around in the 800s.
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Mick Harper
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Joanna Tucker emphasises the vital@importance of engagement with the material history of the manuscript in researching medieval cartularies



I cannot begin to tell you how hilarious this is. There is never much mystery about the cartularies themselves. They are medieval books containing copies of early medieval manuscripts -- land charters, grants of privileges and suchlike. However, the fact that these manuscripts are in a cartulary is the best evidence that the manuscripts never existed! It goes like this:

1. The land charter must have been available in order to be copied into the cartulary
2. Therefore the land charter and the cartulary co-existed in time
3. The land charter is legal evidence of ownership
4. The cartulary is not
5. The land charter is more valuable than the cartulary
6. The land charter always subsequently 'disappears'
7. The cartulary always survives
8. Draw your own conclusion
9. Which is that manuscript specialists are a bunch of idiots
10. Sorry about that but you know my insistence on ten-point plans.
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Mick Harper
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I apologise to my thousands of devotees for my relative quietude -- the new book has to take precedence. To quote Kate Wiles quoting me: the internet is temporary, the printed word is permanent. But here's something that made me chuckle

We've just launched http://e-chartae.ch , making all early medieval charters of the Abbey Archive of St. Gall freely accessible. This means that the only originally preserved monastery archive of the Merovingian and Carolingian periods is now completely available online.

We all know about St Gall but I didn't know that's yer lot for the whole of the Frankish period. As St Gall is Forgery Central, I think we can safely say that's yer lot for the Franks. Unless I've misunderstood what 'originally preserved' means -- it's a tricky concept.
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Mick Harper
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Forgeries got a mention on Twitter! The Emeritus Professor of Medieval Archaeology at Cambridge had posted this up


Let's hear what she's got to say

Dr Sue Oosthuizen
The multi-stranded interlace work, the chainwork around the edge, & other details all suggest that the goldsmith who made this stunning #gold brooch in Denmark c950-1000AD had seen & loved late #AngloSaxon embroidery, whose high quality was famous across Europe.

It hits its mark

dr. e‏ @dokta_e
While this post proves the dictum re 1 pic = 1000 words it also supports my contention that erudite commentary makes 1 pic >= 1000 ( or at least 100) uncontextualized photos.

Philippa Stewart expresses the same thing in layman’s terms

Philippa Stewart‏
Oh wow, that detail!

A Doctor Writes

Dr Victoria Thompson Whitworth‏
The Terslev knot here also has parallels in the 2nd Bible of Charles the Bald. Terslev knots are common in female contexts e.g Dublin weaving sword as well as on high-end Harald Bluetooth-era jewellery. I discuss them in re. St Mary Castlegate 3. http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/catvol3.php?pageNum_urls=271 …

But there’s always someone who spoils it for everybody else

Harriet Vered‏
The brooch lacks provenance apparently so the suggestion that a goldsmith of unknown date or background was inspired by Anglo-Saxon embroidery is somewhat bizarre. Out of curiosity, can someone produce examples of 'Anglo-Saxon embroidery'?

Will Harriet have her curiosity satisfied? Find out in the next gripping instalment.
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Mick Harper
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Dr Vicky points Hatty towards the Textile Research Centre in Leiden

Dr Victoria Thompson Whitworth‏
"In 1827, the coffin of St. Cuthbert was opened, and in it were found, among other items (including the famous St. Cuthbert Gospel), the remains of a stole and maniple. The garments are nowadays recognised as the oldest extant medieval examples of English embroidery in the country. "

This Harriet person seems to be not at all grateful. One wonders why one bothers sometimes
.
Harriet Vered‏
1827. Next to a corpse. Indeed. Are there any examples of other embroideries that could survive such unsavoury conditions for, er, over a millennium?

Victoria smells a rat

Dr Victoria Thompson Whitworth
This is such a weird subject to troll on, Harriet! Did you write this book, by any chance? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Meetings-Remarkable-Forgeries-M-Harper/dp/0954291123

The rat confesses

Harriet Vered‏
By ‘trolling’ I suppose you mean I disagree with you. But, yes, the case is laid out in detail in that book.

Butter doesn’t melt in Victoria’s mouth

Dr Victoria Thompson Whitworth‏
Thanks for clarifying.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
Forgeries got a mention on Twitter! The Emeritus Professor of Medieval Archaeology at Cambridge had posted this up


Let's hear what she's got to say


Dr Sue Oosthuizen
The multi-stranded interlace work, the chainwork around the edge, & other details all suggest that the goldsmith who made this stunning #gold brooch in Denmark c950-1000AD had seen & loved late #AngloSaxon embroidery, whose high quality was famous across Europe.


I do like a bit of art history, where someone makes a couple of inferences based on the prevailing style in the late anglo saxon.

The coffin is pretty remarkable as well. It's an "almost" only survival of a large body of Anglo Saxon wood carving. I love the "No doubt"

wiki wrote:
The coffin is almost the only survival of what was no doubt a very large body of Anglo-Saxon wood carving, being inscribed or engraved with linear images which have tituli in Latin lettering and Anglo-Saxon runes with names of apostles and saints; many names are illegible.[1]
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Mick Harper
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Academics have two striking characteristics: they are exceptionally intelligent people and they are exceptionally nice people. But they are people so when it comes to their basic professional and political (not religious anymore) assumptions they are, like everyone else, extremely stupid and very nasty. AE-ists present a problem because we use people's basic assumptions against them, so we have to be driven off by 'careful ignoral'.

Thus when Hatty asks Professor Oosthuizen for a provenance, a basic requirement of any historian, she is simply ignored. Susan knows fine well there isn't one and she's not allowed to flat out lie. When Hatty asks Dr Thompson Whitworth how cloth can survive thirteen hundred years with a decaying body, she gets the troll treatment. Victoria is not allowed to flat out say that the Laws of Entropy apply everywhere in the universe except inside St Cuthbert's coffin.

Both Sue and Vicky know, in some corner of their cortex, that Hatty is right. In another corner of their cortex resides some rationale or other for why, on this occasion, she isn't. What they can't hear, but what their cortex can hear, is their limbic brain screaming, "Don't go down this road, you'll lose everything. You'll be at odds with every professional colleague in the world just giving it house room." And generally speaking, limbic brains are well worth listening to. They choose fight or flight with great acumen.

Which is why we must continue to rethink our strategies.
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