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Remember Michael Praed?

First he was Robin Hood in the dippy-hippy Robin of Sherwood; then he was Prince Michael of Moldavia in a couple of well-beloved episodes of Dynasty.

He was devastatingly beautiful and his Robin was a whole lot better than Jason Connery's.

He was going to be big.

Then something must have happened. Or, perhaps, more accurately, something didn't happen.

Anyway, these days he appears in odd episodes of the British soaps and has a steady gig doing voice-over for the BBC's history/archaeology show Timewatch.

Last night on Timewatch he was telling us about a bunch of decapitated skeletons that have been unearthed in a Roman cemetery in York. An unprecedented find. It seems likely they're the victims of a purge of the palace old guard conducted by the Emperor Caracalla after the death of his father Septimius Severus.

Thrilling. Thanks to Dio Cassius we know some of their names. Archaeology rarely gets this personal.

Setimius Severus was a dude. A North African who campaigned against the Scots and made York the capital of the Empire. He died there and his funeral was like nothing Britain had ever seen.

So how do you pronounce Severus? The Rowling crowd say "sever", but Praed and his experts were all saying "severe".

Septimius Severe-us? It sounds all wrong to me.
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Good news. A plan to quarry more gravel from around the Thornborough Henges in Yorkshire has been knocked back in the courts.

The Thornborough Henges- three huge, aligned turf enclosures- constitute one of the finest and largest prehistoric ritual sites in Britain. They ought to be as well known as Stonehenge or Avebury.

Here's a poem I wrote about them a few years back.

THORNBOROUGH HENGES

Our towns might look like this- would look like this-
If we let them go. The southernmost henge is a lake
Of grasses. Follow the newly-planted hedge
And you come to the second in line which has thistles as well.
I sat in the West and the clouds hurried out of the East
And I watched the waves of sunshine roll to my feet.
Then by car to the third. It's a circular wood
And we followed the path round the bank- or I think we did
But the boskage has thickened the view. At a crook in the path
We came upon Helen who'd travelled the other way round,
All cheery because she'd discovered a raspberry bush.

Seasonal

Dec. 8th, 2005 12:18 pm
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Here's something I got from Channel 4's Time Team.

Durrington Walls is the largest prehistoric henge in Britain.

Archaeologists digging at Durrington Walls have found rubbish pits full of pig bones.

Pigs farrow in the spring. These pigs had been slaughtered at nine months old. Ergo the people at Durrington Walls were in the habit of enjoying a slap-up pork dinner at the Winter Solstice.

"Jesus is the reason for the season"? Only if you accept that "Jesus" is just another name for the Sun.

Fat Monks

Jun. 26th, 2005 10:16 am
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According to Pip Patrick (article in Current Archaeology 198) the stereotype of the fat, jolly monk has some basis in fact.

Pip did a study of skeletons from a number of medieval cemetries in London and found that monks "were five times as likely to develop some form of obesity-related joint disease as their secular counterparts."

Nice to find science (for once) confirming rather that debunking myth.
poliphilo: (Default)

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges-
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"


I'm fascinated by things that are lost. Even if they never existed in the first place- The Holy Grail, Atlantis. Tell me that something's lost and I immediately want to go hareing off to look for it.

Well Google it anyway.... 

That's why I love archaeology. And why I wear a Roman ring on a thong round my neck. It's all green and crusty and has obviously spent a long time underground. It's a lost thing we got back.

The list of lost things goes on forever. The Colossus of Rhodes, a couple of Shakespeare plays,  most of Sappho, the last 20 minutes of The Magnificent Ambersons,  Brian Wilson's Smile....

But- heh, heh, heh- we just retrieved the last of those. I was listening to it while I cooked lunch. It makes me so happy.

And one day we're gonna find the others. Right?

 

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