Recent finds

Posted by Tory Historian Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tory Historian returns with a round-up of recent finds in the historical and archaeological world.

Of greatest interest to TH is this collection of Victorian photographs of golfers playing at St Andrews.

Ladies are pictured wearing enormous frocks and wielding their clubs while spectators look on.

The women were playing for the Ladies' Monthly Medal in September 1884 and the clubhouse can be seen in the background.

The distinctive sandy beach is also shown in some of the snaps of the course that will host the Open Championship later this week.

Other photographs show a match played between a pair of "strangers" and two locals.
The album was auctioned on July 13 by Mullock's Auctioneers at St Andrews as part of a Golfing Memorabilia sale.

Now we need to move further back in history and in the news items. On July 5 it was reported that the earliest illustrated Bible has been found in an Ethiopian monastery and is being preserved by a British charity, the Ethiopian Heritage Fund.

So much for the Garima Gospels, which are beautiful and fascinating. Not to be outdone, the Hebrew University, whose archaeological department is one of the best in the world, has
recently unearthed a clay fragment dating back to the 14th century BCE, said to be the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.
It is, indeed, a fragment but its historical significance may well turn out to be very big, indeed.
The minuscule fragment contains Akkadian words written in ancient cuneiform symbols. Researchers say that while the symbols appear to be insignificant, containing simply the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do,” and “later,” the high quality of the writing indicates that it was written by a highly skilled scribe. Such a revelation would mean that the piece was likely written for tablets that were part of a royal household.

The find was uncovered in a fill taken from the Ophel area, which lies between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David. The Ophel digs are being carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology, through funding from US donors Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York.

According to Mazar, the fragment was discovered over a month and a half ago during wet sifting of the Ophel excavations, but was only released to the press this week because researchers wanted to wait until analysis of the piece was complete so as to be absolutely certain of the details of the find.

The most ancient piece of writing found in Jerusalem before the Ophel fragment was a tablet unearthed in the Shiloah water in the City of David, dating back to the eighth century BCE – nearly 600 years “younger” than the Ophel find.
That is not all. Nearer home, a huge treasure trove of more than 52,000 coins dating from the third century AD was found by that ever-useful person, a man with a metal detector near Frome in Somerset. Admittedly, the actual find was made in April but it has only just been announced because archaeologists from the British Museum have been working through it and local officials have been making comments about how wonderfully well the scheme they had set up for the finding of local treasures has been working.

In fact, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as outlined on the British Museum site does seem to be very useful.

Some of the coins will go on display in Frome Library on July 22 and visitors will be able to talk to the man who made the discovery as well as archaeologists from the local Society and from the British Museum. According to the Daily Telegraph, some of the coins will also go on display in the British Museum but there seems to be no trace of that on the BM website.

Then there are the finds that are just beginning in the Baltic Sea. The Nord Stream pipeline that is supposed to bring gas directly from Russia to Germany, by-passing various countries in between, may be a political and environmental nightmare but archaeologists are rejoicing, according to Der Spiegel
The remains of a thousand years of maritime trade, as well as the products of dozens of wars, are crumbling in the mud and silt at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In addition to items with great cultural and historical value, the depths conceal the rusting remains of poison gas grenades, high explosive shells and aircraft bombs, all of which represent obstacles to pipeline construction. "It was not an easy situation," says Nord Stream spokesman Steffen Ebert. "We were under considerable time pressure."
The Baltic Sea can yield all sorts of interesting objects, even champagne. Swedish divers found about 30 bottles of 220 year old bubbly in a shipwreck off the Island of Aaland.


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