Category Archive 'England'
22 Mar 2017

Context 958 Lived in the 13th Century

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Facial reconstruction of Context 958 burial.

Gizmodo reports on the reconstruction of the face of a man who lived 700 years ago by Cambridge scientists.

[H]ere’s what we know about Context 958.

He was just slightly over 40 years old when he died. His skeleton showed signs of considerable wear-and-tear, so he likely lead a tough and hard working life. His tooth enamel stopped growing during two occasions in his youth, suggesting he likely lived through bouts of famine or sickness when he was young. The archaeologists found traces of blunt force trauma inflicted to the back of his head, which healed over before he died. The researchers aren’t sure what he did for a living, but they think he was a working-class person who specialized in some kind of trade.

Context 958 ate a diverse diet rich in meat or fish, according to an analysis of weathering patterns on his teeth. His profession may have provided him with more access to such foods than the average person at the time. His presence at the charitable hospital suggests he fell on hard times, with no one to take care of him.

“Context 958 was probably an inmate of the Hospital of St John, a charitable institution which provided food and a place to live for a dozen or so indigent townspeople—some of whom were probably ill, some of whom were aged or poor and couldn’t live alone,” noted John Robb, a professor from Cambridge University’s Division of Archaeology, in a statement.

Strangely, he was buried face down, which is rare but not unheard of in medieval burials.

Full story.

17 Jun 2016

A Muddled Business

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BadBookeeping

In The Story of a Norfolk Farm (1940), Henry Williamson recounts the story of his own less-than-successful efforts to straighten out the tangled business affairs of his bumbling brother-in-laws to be.

When Papa died, the Boys, as Loetitia called them, would have some money from the trustfund of their parents’ marriage settlement. One of them had an idea, How about trying to get some of that money now? Only a little part of it, of course, about one hundred pounds. It was fatiguing work, pushing on the treadle-lathe hour after hour. Now with a hundred pounds they could buy an oil-engine, and two more lathes, and turn out more work. Keen on the idea, they went to see a lawyer.

Certainly, said the lawyer, he would make inquiries on their behalf. The inquiries were so thorough that in less than a week he gave them the good news that much more than a hundred pounds could be arranged, if they liked. Why not sell all their reversions? Then they would have nearly three thousand pounds, with which they could enlarge their engineering shops more profitably. They thought him an awfully nice fellow to have taken such trouble for them, and agreed that it would be fine to have a big Works in the garden, right by the house, so convenient for business. So they signed the document; and a few months later, when Loetitia left to share the precarious life of an unknown and unconventional author, building began. They gave the job to a small local builder, to help them. There was no contract, no price agreed between them. When the building was finished, the little builder hired a cab, bought a barrel of beer, and drove around town visiting his friends. For a whole week the little man celebrated: the dream of his life had come true: suddenly he had a lot of money.

As for the Boys, inexperience and trust in human nature had resulted in a factory being erected with walls of only a single brick in thickness. Part of those walls fell down, and had to be rebuilt. Only the roof held them together. This had cost about £1600, but when the fire insurance inspector came to look over the completed building, he said that in the event of a total loss his company would indemnify them only to the full value of the building, which was £600.

Read the rest of this entry »

29 May 2016

Cambridge University App Tries to Identify English Regional Accents

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EnglishDialects

University of Cambridge Research:

A new app which tries to guess your regional accent based on your pronunciation of 26 words and colloquialisms will help Cambridge academics track the movement and changes to English dialects in the modern era.

Along with colleagues from the universities of Zurich and Bern, Cambridge’s Adrian Leemann has developed the free app English Dialects (available on iOS and Android) which asks you to choose your pronunciation of 26 different words before guessing where in England you’re from.

The app, officially launched today on the App Store and Google Play, also encourages you to make your own recordings in order to help researchers determine how dialects have changed over the past 60 years. The English language app follows the team’s hugely successful apps for German-speaking Europe which accumulated more than one million hits in four days on Germany’s Der Spiegel website, and more than 80,000 downloads of the app by German speakers in Switzerland.

“We want to document how English dialects have changed, spread or levelled out,” said Dr Leemann, a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. “The first large-scale documentation of English dialects dates back 60-70 years, when researchers were sent out into the field – sometimes literally – to record the public. It was called the ‘Survey of English Dialects’. In 313 localities across England, they documented accents and dialects over a decade, mainly of farm labourers.”

The researchers used this historical material for the dialect guessing app, which allows them to track how dialects have evolved into the 21st century.

“We hope that people in their tens of thousands will download the app and let us know their results – which means our future attempts at mapping dialect and language change should be much more precise,” added Leemann. “Users can also interact with us by recording their own dialect terms and this will let us see how the English language is evolving and moving from place to place.”

The app asks users how they pronounce certain words or which dialect term they most associate with commonly-used expressions; then produces a heat map for the likely location of your dialect based on your answers.

For example, the app asks how you might say the word ‘last’ or ‘shelf’, giving you various pronunciations to listen to before choosing which one most closely matches your own. Likewise, it asks questions such as: ‘A small piece of wood stuck under the skin is a…’ then gives answers including: spool, spile, speel, spell, spelk, shiver, spill, sliver, splinter or splint. The app then allows you to view which areas of the country use which variations at the end of the quiz.

It also asks the endlessly contentious English question of whether ‘scone’ rhymes with ‘gone’ or ‘cone’.

Read the whole thing.

02 Jan 2016

English Soccer Chants

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Racist, insulting, off-key, obscene, but also often witty and self-deprecating, the English lower orders at their best.

11 Dec 2015

New Viking Hoard Found by Metal Detector in Oxfordshire

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WatlingtonHoard2

Telegraph:

A Viking hoard discovered by an amateur metal detectorist could prompt the re-writing of English history, after experts claimed it shows how Alfred the Great “airbrushed” a rival king from history.

Ceolwulf II of Mercia is barely mentioned in contemporary records and largely forgotten by history, only briefly described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as an “unwise King’s thane”.

The hoard was found by James Mather, a metal detectorist, near Watlington in OctoberThe hoard was found by James Mather, a metal detectorist, near Watlington in October Photo: Julian Simmonds/The Telegraph

But as of today, his reputation might be rescued after a haul of coins dug up after more than 1,000 years suggested he in fact had a powerful alliance with Alfred, ruling their kingdoms as equals.

The hoard, made up of 186 coins, seven items of jewellery and 15 ingots, was found by amateur metal detectorist James Mather on his 60th birthday, after he uncovered it in a muddy field.

Guardian story

AlfredCeowulfCoin

13 Aug 2015

Color Photographs of England in 1928

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BritishSoldierRetired
A retired soldier sells matches on the street in Canterbury, Kent, 1928.

England in 1928.

08 May 2015

Walter Raleigh’s House For Sale

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Downton

You can buy a pretty decent house and a major chunk of history in Britain right now for a mere £1,600,000 ($2,466,543).

Winkworth Salisbury Estate Agents:

The Manor House in Downton is tucked away next to the church in a peaceful corner of this bustling village. It is said to be the longest continually inhabited house in the South of England, from its original foundation as a chapel in around 850, and later as a medieval hall house. In the 16th Century, Elizabeth I leased the house from Winchester College and gifted it first to Thomas Wilkes, Clerk to the Privy Council, and then to Sir Walter Raleigh, who made significant home improvements, not least to impress Queen Elizabeth when she came to stay at the Manor House in 1586. The Raleigh family remained in occupation for the next hundred years and the Raleigh coat of arms is still to be found over the fireplace in the drawing room (historically known as the ‘Great Hall’ or ‘Parlour’).

Via Country Life.

03 Mar 2015

Photo of the Week

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WoodpeckerWeasel

This photo of a weasel (looks like Mustela nivalis) riding on a Green Woodpecker (Picus viridus) is going viral.

Buzzfeed:

East London resident Martin Le-May captured this incredible photo of a baby weasel on the back of a green woodpecker in Essex, England, on Monday

As much as we’d all like to believe this is a wondrous tale of friendship wherein two mates go on an epic adventure featuring a baby weasel and his magnificent flying steed, sadly it’s NOT.

It’s a photo of a weasel trying to kill a woodpecker. …

Le-May, a hobby photographer, was taking a walk with his wife through the Hornchurch Country Park in east London in the hopes of her seeing a green woodpecker for the first time. …

    “As we walked we heard a distressed squawking and I saw that flash of green. So hurriedly I pointed out to Ann the bird and it settled into the grass behind a couple of small silver birch trees. Both of us trained our binoculars and it occurred that the woodpecker was unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface.

    Lots of wing flapping showing that gloriously yellow/white colour interspersed with the flash of red head feathers. Just after I switched from my binoculars to my camera the bird flew across us and slightly in our direction; suddenly it was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life.

    The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst. I guess though our presence, maybe 25 meters away, momentarily distracted the weasel. The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left. Quickly the bird gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight.

    The woodpecker left with its life. The weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”

19 Jan 2015

Eyewitness Account of Queen Elizabeth I

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Queen-Elizabeth-I
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, 1592

In 1596, German lawyer Paul Hentzner (1558-1623) at age 38, became tutor to a young Silesian nobleman, with whom he set out in 1597, on a 3 years’ tour through Switzerland, France, England, & Italy. After his return to Germany in 1600, he published, at Nuremberg in 1612, a description of this journey, written in Latin, as Itinerarium Germaniae, Galliae, Angliae, Italiae, cum Indice Locorum, Rerum atque Verborum.

Hentzner wrote the following account of his 1598 encounter with Queen Elizabeth I, reprinted at It’s About Time.

We arrived next at the royal palace of Greenwich…

“It was here Elizabeth, the present Queen, was born, and her she generally resides, particularly in summer, for the delightfulness of its situation.

“We were admitted, by an order Mr. Rogers had procured from the Lord Chamberlain, into the presence chamber, hung with rich tapestry, and the floor, after the English fashion, strewed with hay, & through which the Queen commonly passes on her way to chapel.
“At the door stood a gentleman dressed in velvet, with a gold chain, whose office was to introduce to the Queen any person of distinction that came to wait on her; it was Sunday, when there is usually the greatest attendance of nobility. In the same hall were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great number of Councillors of State, officers of the Crown, and gentlemen, who waited the Queen’s coming out; which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner:

“First went gentlemen, barons, earls, Knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bareheaded; next came the Chancellor, bearing the seals in a red silk purse, between two, one of whom carried the Royal sceptre, the other the sword of state, in a red scabbard, studded with golden Fleurs de Lis, the point upwards:

“Next came the Queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar); she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown, reported to be made of some of the gold of the celebrated Lunebourg table; her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels; her hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging.

“That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels.

“As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign Ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French, and Italian; for, besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch. Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some with her hand.

“While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels, a mark of particular favour.

“Wherever she turned her face, as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees. The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and well-shaped, and for the most part dressed in white.

“She was guarded on each side by the gentlemen pensioners, fifty in number, with gilt battle-axes. In the ante-chapel, next the hall where we were, petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the acclamation of ‘Long Live Queen Elizabeth!’

“She answered it with “I thank you, my good people.” In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service were over, which scarce exceeded half an hour, the Queen returned in the same state and order, and prepared to go to dinner. But while she was still at prayers, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:

“A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with him another who had a table-cloth which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and, after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-cellar, a plate, and bread; when they had kneeled as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first.

“At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess), and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting-knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table and rubbed the plates with bread and salt with as much awe as if the Queen had been present.

“When they had waited there a little while, the yeomen of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he had brought, for fear of any poison.

“During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettledrums made the hall ring for half an hour together.

“At the end of all this ceremonial, a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the Queen’s inner and more private chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the Court.

“The Queen dines and sups alone with very few attendants, and it is very seldom that anybody, foreigner or native, is admitted at that time, and then only at the intercession of somebody in power.”

10 Jan 2015

Farmer Gow Culls Super-Aggressive Herd of Heck Cattle

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HeckCattle

The last aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius), the wild ox from which all domestic cattle descend, was killed in Lithuania sometime in the 1600s. The aurochs, like the European bison, was a survivor of Pleistoscene Europe representing the grandest possible hunting trophy.

Naturally, Nazi potentate Hermann Goering, driven by Romantic nostalgia for the pre-modern and mythic older Europe, made an effort to breed cattle backward in order to re-create the aurochs. The Heck Brother, directors respectively of the Berlin & Munich zoos, bred from a variety of ancient European cattle breeds and produced their own breed, thought to come very close to the original aurochs in size, temperament, and color.

In 2009, it was reported that Derek Gow, a British conservationist, was importing a herd of Heck cattle from the Netherlands to Devon.

The Daily Mail recently reported that Mr. Gow’s experiment proved rather dangerous, and that Gow was reducing his herd of thirteen by seven in order to eliminate the most dangerous and aggressive examples.

[Y]esterday Mr Gow said he ‘couldn’t handle’ the rogue members of the herd, adding: ‘What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval. The aurochs were wild bulls.’

The Hecks’ programme was so successful the cows flourished and were used in propaganda material during the Second World War. Mr Gow says they are shorter than the aurochs, but retain their half-ton ancestors’ muscular build and lethal horns.

Mr Gow, a father of two, said he had to reduce his herd because the cows had tried to kill some members of his staff and would ‘attack at any chance they could’. They have now been sent to an abattoir.

Mr Gow said the cows he sent to the abattoir will be turned into sausages and will be sold in Europe.

He added: ‘As far as being a commercial breed is concerned, they have little value, but they are a significant animal from a conservation point of view. For instance, each cow can produce its own weight in dung every year, which is a great source of food for insects and bugs and nutrients for the environment.’

But he added of the aggressive ones: ‘I have worked with a range of different animals from bison to deer and I have never come across anything like these.

‘To get them into the trailer to get them off the farm we used a young and very athletic young man to stand on the ramp and they charged at him before he quickly jumped out the way.

‘When the Germans were selecting them to create this animal they used Spanish fighting cattle to give them the shape and ferocity they wanted.

The half-tonne cattle died out in Britain 4,000 years ago but remained widespread across much of Europe until the 1600s.

However, they were finally wiped out in 1627 after they were hunted to extinction for their horns, hide and meat.

They were saved in the early 1930s when Hitler wanted to recreate the breed to evoke the power of the ‘runes, folklore and legends of the Germanic peoples’.

Heinz and Lutz Heck found their descendants in a cattle from the Scottish Highlands, Corsica and the French Camargue, as well as Spanish fighting bulls.

They then identified the particular Auroch gene, which they were able to use to bring them back from the ‘dead’.

The cows were later transported to game parks in Schorfheide near Berlin, and the Neander Valley in Dusseldorf.

Mr Gow said: ‘The Aurochs were wild bulls. Julius Caesar recorded them as being bulls as big as elephants.

‘Young men hunted these bulls as preparation for battle and leadership in war, but also to obtain these huge 6ft-wide horns that the bulls had as drinking vessels and war horns. They were huge trophies.’

‘The reason the Nazis were so supportive of the project is they wanted them to be fierce and aggressive.

‘Since they have gone it is all peaceful again. Peace reigns supreme on the farm.

‘Despite these problems, I have no regrets at all. It has been a good thing to do and the history of them is fascinating.’

The meat from the slaughtered cows was turned into sausages which Mr Gow said were ‘very tasty’ – and a bit like a cross between venison and beef. They will be sold in Europe, he said, but probably not marketed as ‘Nazi sausages’.

He explained: ‘I’m not sure how appealing Third Reich sausages would be but they might be popular with some.

‘They are very tasty though and taste like a cross between beef and venison and are sought after in Austria and Germany. They are a different product with low fat and cholesterol.

‘I don’t imagine any of them are sold locally but we are looking in the future to create a speciality market for them.

‘But we need to get to a stage where it is a manageable herd that can be used for normal farming.’

———————

Modern Farmer said, in essence, what do you expect to get, when you try raising Nazi cattle?

“They look like cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira. It makes you think of the light of a tallow lamp and these huge bulls on these cave paintings leaping out at you from darkened walls.” Gow admiringly told the Telegraph at the time.

But that’s hardly all that the cattle evoke. This particular breed dates back to the 1920s, when German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, recruited by the Nazis, began a program to resurrect extinct wild species by cross-breeding various domestic descendants — an effort typically referred to as “back breeding.” Among their success stories was the half-ton Heck cattle, a reasonable facsimile of the hearty and Herculean auroch cattle that dated back some 2 million years prior and has roamed en masse all over Germany centuries prior.

The back-breeding program reflected the dual Nazi obsession with eugenics and nostalgia; the wild ancestry of the auroch reflected a time of “biological unity” before civilization softened and “uglified” man and beast alike. And in fact, the program’s research patron, one Hermann Goring, sought to preserve biological unity not only by resurrecting extinct species, but by restoring them to their original habitats; thus his plan was to return the aurochs to the primeval Białowieża forest.

Is anyone really surprised that the cows turned out to be murderously dangerous?

03 Jan 2015

Metal Detector Finds Enormous Anglo-Saxon Hoard in Buckinghamshire

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AngloSaxonCoins1

As metal detectors become widely owned and hobbyists take up treasure hunting, inevitably more and more major finds keep coming to light.

Daily Mail:

An amateur treasure hunter who uncovered one of the largest hoards of Anglo Saxon coins ever found in Britain – worth £1million – almost missed the dig because he couldn’t afford the petrol.

Paul Coleman, 59, persuaded his son and a friend to join him on the excavation on farmland in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire just before Christmas so he could split the £45 cost for the journey.

But the unemployed father-of-two hit the jackpot when he dug up the pristine collection of more than 5,000 silver coins made in the reigns of Ethelred the Unready (978-1016) and Cnut (1016-1035).

It is thought that the find could be connected to a mint established by Ethelred at nearby Buckingham and which remained active during the time of Cnut.

The 5,251 – and a half – coins were in a lead-lined container buried two feet under ground. Only some have been properly cleaned but all have proved to be in excellent condition.

The expedition – in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire – was an annual end-of-year Christmas rally for members of the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club. …

[T]he find, which has been sent to experts at the British Museum for analysis, could be worth around £1million.

Simon Keynes, professor of Anglo Saxon at Cambridge University, said the collection ‘straddled an extraordinary period of history’ during which the Vikings took control of England.

He added: ‘The question is, how do we account for the composition of this hoard? Is it a hoard of a Viking – his accumulated wealth – or is it something else? Only half of the coins have been cleaned so far – the eventual date range could prove to be much more expansive.

‘Until then, the hoard could be difficult to explain, but it is certainly an extraordinary find.’

Read the whole thing.

AngloSaxoncoins2

02 Oct 2014

Seaton Hoard

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Seaton2
The Roman copper-alloy coins date back to between AD 260 and AD 348 and bear the images of Emperor Constantine, his family, co-Emperors and immediate predecessors and successors.

Daily Mail:

An amateur metal detectorist has unearthed one of the largest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain.

Laurence Egerton, 51, made the discovery as he explored land near Seaton, in East Devon – and he was so concerned someone would steal it, he camped out for three nights while archaeologists excavated the site.

Dubbed Seaton Down Hoard, the collection of 22,000 copper-alloy coins is thought to have been buried by a private individual or soldier for safe keeping, but was never recovered.

At the time the hoard was buried, it would have amounted to four gold coins, or solidi, which would have provided the ration of two soldiers for one year, or a worker’s pay for two years. …

‘The amount of money in this hoard would at some points have been the equivalent to a soldier’s total salary for two years; at other dates it would have bought the services of a skilled craftsmen for perhaps 80 days; it could buy maybe 1,000 or so pints of Gallic beer (or double quantities of Egyptian beer, which wasn’t so good) or enough grain to feed someone for two years or so.

‘If you try to turn any of those into modern figures, then, it’s clearly not the sort of fortune that would allow you to retire comfortably or buy a nice country estate; on the other hand, in a world where most people were living close to subsistence level and would have few if any savings, it’s pretty impressive that someone had amassed enough money to live on for a year or so.’

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter, which already houses a large collection of local Romano-British objects, has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the coins.

Mr Egerton originally made the discovery in November 2013, while operating under licence on private land near the previously excavated site of a Roman villa at Honeyditches in East Devon.

The coins were buried in a pit, and may have once been held in a bag, which did not survive.

The hoard was excavated by a team of archaeologists, and were cleaned so they could be identified by experts at the British Museum.

Read the whole thing.

Seaton1

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01 Oct 2014

Deal Warrior

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DealWarrior
Skull and crown of the ‘Deal Warrior’

Iron Age, 200-150 BC
From a burial found in the Mill Hill Cemetery, Deal, Kent, England

British Museum:

This headdress or crown was found on the head of a warrior buried with his sword and shield. It is made from two sheets of bronze held together with rivets. The bronze band which went around the head is decorated with La Tène-style patterns. The metal was worn directly on the head and not padded or strengthened with leather; when found impressions of human hair were left in the corrosion on the inner surface.

Also found in the grave were: an iron sword with bronze scabbard fittings and suspension rings for holding the sword on a belt; bronze parts from a wooden shield, and a bronze brooch decorated with applied coral studs.

Hat tip to Denis Foley via Karen L. Myers.

07 Sep 2014

Sighted Simp; Sank Same

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Tyson1
Tyson2
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Tyson4
Tyson5


Tyson the Swan

Tyson will attack you if you come within a two-mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal in Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire. Joe Davies learned this the hard way and capsized.

Hat tip to Ratak Mondosico.

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