Category Archives: Exploration

NEW SCROLL, OR NOT…?

Did Archaeologists Really Discover a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave?

Dead Sea Scroll cave under the microscope

huji-qumran-parchment

Archaeologists excavating a cave west of the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran found this piece of parchment that had been rolled up in a jug. Could this and other evidence found inside the cave indicate that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave has been discovered? Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

I read with eager anticipation the first news stories out of Israel that a new Dead Sea Scroll cave had been discovered west of Qumran. As one who wrote a dissertation on Qumran and who teaches a Dead Sea Scrolls course at the University of Iowa, I was keen to see how the new discovery would fit into our present knowledge of the scrolls. What was found that made it a “Dead Sea Scroll Cave”? Was it a new copy of a Biblical book? Was it a copy of a known pseudepigraphical work? Or, was it a new, previously unknown sectarian manuscript that sheds light on the late Second Temple Jewish world?As I read the Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release and various press reports, I quickly discovered the answer: none of the above. Let me explain:

Recently, a Hebrew University press release and multiple news reports announced a discovery made by archaeologists Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Teaching Fellow at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Randall Price, Founder and President of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc. and Distinguished Research Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.1

dss-cave4

A Dead Sea Scroll fragment from Qumran Cave 4. Photo: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Among the hundreds of caves explored near the Dead Sea settlement of Qumran, only eleven caves have ever produced scrolls or scroll fragments. Gutfeld and Price claim that the cave they excavated should be considered the 12th Dead Sea Scroll cave, despite the fact that Gutfeld confirms, “[A]t the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing…”However, Gutfeld claims later in the press release, “[N]ow there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave.” Gutfeld makes this claim because of the discovery inside the cave of pickaxe heads that appear to have been made in the 1950s—which suggest that people had been inside the cave around that time. Gutfeld continues, “[T]he findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

But no Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, only a blank piece of parchment.

Thus, Gutfeld speculates that this must be the “12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave,” arguing that Dead Sea Scrolls must have been looted from the cave. Once again, Gutfeld speculates regarding these proposed looters: “I imagine they came into the tunnel. They found the scroll jars. They took the scrolls … They even opened the scrolls and left everything around, the textiles, the pottery” (italics mine).

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

I must, in all fairness, concede that Gutfeld’s speculation is entirely plausible. However, we must also acknowledge that it is still speculation—even if well-informed speculation on the part of Prof. Gutfeld—because no Dead Sea Scrolls were actually discovered in the cave! We could similarly speculate that scrolls were once present in several other caves excavated in the past, but that does not make them scroll caves. If there are no Dead Sea Scrolls in the cave, then it is not a scroll cave, even if we think there might have been in the past.

qumran-caves

The caves of Qumran. Photo: “Caves@Dead Sea Scrolls (8246948498)” by Lux Moundi is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0.

Let me also state that it is possible that Gutfeld’s team did find scrolls or scroll fragments in the cave, but are not announcing this discovery in an effort to keep looters from surreptitiously stealing any scrolls that still may be in the cave. Withholding public disclosure of a major find is not uncommon on digs in Israel, as is withholding the exact location of the cave. If Gutfeld has discovered actual scrolls in the cave that the team has simply not announced, then this should obviously be considered Cave 12. However, absent the disclosure of the discovery of actual scrolls, we must evaluate the claim of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave on the evidence that has been disclosed, and the disclosed evidence does not warrant a designation of a scroll-producing cave. Gutfeld’s team did not find a new Dead Sea Scroll cave.Allow me, however, to provide an alternative conclusion that better fits the evidence we have. It is possible to argue that the cave in question was part of a larger parchment production enterprise, and that the jars, leather, textiles and blank parchment discovered in the cave are simply the latest evidence that someone or some group near Qumran engaged in some form of scribal activity and had the means of producing its own parchment. Indeed, the discovery of a blank piece of parchment—placed there either to dry or for storage—fits with previously discovered pieces of archaeological evidence that have been piling up for years, all of which support the theory that scrolls were produced at Qumran.


Visit the Dead Sea Scrolls study page in Bible History Daily for more on this priceless collection of ancient manuscripts.


qumran-inkwell

One of the inkwells discovered at Qumran.

In the excavations of the Qumran ruins in the 1950s, a stylus and multiple inkwells were discovered, suggesting that some sort of writing was taking place at Qumran. In addition, stables and the bony remains of numerous animals buried inside jars were also excavated within the ruins of Qumran. The presence of animals means that Qumran was capable of producing the animal skins needed to manufacture parchment. Large, shallow pools were also uncovered in the western building at Qumran that may have been used to soak the parchment. Lime, which is used in curing parchment, was also found in large quantities at Qumran.2 This initial evidence—along with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves surrounding Qumran—led early archaeologists like Roland de Vaux, Gerald Lankester Harding and Eleazar Sukenik to conclude that some Jewish sect (the Essenes, they believed) wrote the scrolls at Qumran.More recent scientific tests support the theory that Qumran could have been a site of scroll production. In July 2010, a team of Italian scientists from the National Laboratories of the South in Catania, Italy—which is part of Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics—led by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo, discovered that the ink used to write the Temple Scroll possesses the same unusually high bromine levels as the waters from the Dead Sea, suggesting that the ink used on the Temple Scroll came from water from the Dead Sea and not from some other water source. This evidence indicates that the ink was produced near Qumran and not Jerusalem.

Gutfeld and Price’s recent discovery of curing jars, leather, textiles and a blank piece of parchment is but the latest piece of evidence supporting the theory that Qumran was, in fact, a place of scribal activity, and perhaps even of scribal implement production.

But this cannot be called the discovery of a new Dead Sea Scroll cave. One can certainly understand why archaeologists would be tempted to issue a press release stating as much, especially before any peer-reviewed reports about the excavation are published. The press is far more likely to cover a story claiming “New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered!”—which is inevitably what people think when they read of the discovery of a “new Dead Sea Scroll cave,” especially in the weeks leading up to Easter—than they are to write a story about the discovery of the most recent piece of evidence supporting the theory that scribal activity took place near Qumran.

But that does not mean this most recent discovery is unimportant. Despite the fact that Gutfeld and Price did not discover a new Dead Sea Scroll or a new Dead Sea Scroll cave, they have provided archaeologists studying Qumran and its relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls with another piece of solid evidence that someone near Qumran was engaged in activities required for scribal endeavors. And this discovery offers one more piece of evidence that someone or some group living at Qumran was capable of producing the materials needed to produce the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the caves surrounding Qumran.

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JUST TO LET YOU KNOW

I will soon be returning to blogging and posting about my own game worlds and milieus, my novels (in this case regarding my fantasy/mythological, my sci-fi, and detective novels mostly), my essays on gaming, the games I have designed and written, TSS scenarios, GPADs, my start-ups that are game related, my Vadding expeditions and urban exploration, and all of my other personal creations, enterprises, and Work.

Recently I have been much too busy with both business and personal matters to post about my own creations. But things have calmed now and that’s about to change.

So from now on I will be posting at least once a week about my own creations and designs. This I will do mostly on the weekends, but if you are a follower of this blog then you will know as soon as it happens.

Have a good weekend folks.

FORE AND AFT, PORT AND STARBOARD

Useful for a wide range of Naval Adventures and Campaigns.

June 23, 2016

Mark S. Cookman

     This is another post following our nautical theme and it includes one of my oldest tables. The table is a simple one and is honestly little more than a nautical vocabulary list, but it was the result of a hard won lesson. My hope is to help novice GM’s learn this lesson in a less painful manner than I did. Let me tell you a story.

     It is the late ’80’s and I am in college. I have a job and am a full time (15 credit hours) student of organic chemistry with a B average. For some reason, I believe that I can also have a social life and maintain this status (BTW, I could NOT.) so I also play various RPG’s. Currently, I am the GM for a game of Flashing Blades, for which I had prepared a murder mystery in a roadhouse type of adventure. Because I was an inexperienced GM, I allowed the PC’s, a group of rich and powerful French nobles, to purchase a ship and set sail away from my adventure.

     At the time though, I thought that I was in control of things. I believed that I could just adapt the adventure to occur on the boat during its trip to the New World. At the time, I didn’t want to make my players unhappy by telling them no. It was a dreadful mistake. The copious notes that I had on the roadhouse and its occupants were now basically garbage. I could salvage some names and other stuff, but that was it. I wasn’t going to say, “I’m sorry guys, but I just don’t really have anything prepared.” The group seemed excited to be on a boat, so I thought I could just go with the flow. The adventure went wrong from the very beginning because I wasn’t able to just say, “The ship will take at least a day to prepare to sail. You will need to spend the night in the inn.”

     It was truly a disaster of a gaming session. I knew less than half of what I needed to know to run a good adventure. I knew the name of the murder victims and how they were killed. I knew who (what actually because it was a shape-shifting demon) the murderer was and how the PC’s had to kill it. I did not, however, have a map of a ship (or even a good idea of what places there were on a ship), nor did I know what crew positions the murdered people filled. When the players began to ask completely reasonable questions, I couldn’t answer them at all. I had spent 3 hours earlier in the week preparing for the roadhouse adventure and yet our session fell apart because I wasn’t prepared to answer some simple questions about the setting, which was now a ship. The group was forgiving, but I had let them down. I started learning things about ships for our next session and today’s list comes from some of that research. Here are 20 Positions on a Ship Besides the Captain. Happy Gaming!

  1. Quartermaster

  2. Sailmaster

  3. Navigator

  4. Bosun

  5. Gunnery Master

  6. Carpenter

  7. Gunner

  8. Common Sailor

  9. Cook

  10. Loblolly Boy

  11. Cabin Boy

  12. Powder Monkey

  13. Shanty Man

  14. The Lookout

  15. First Mate

  16. Officer of the Watch

  17. Ship’s Pilot

  18. Coxswain

  19. Sailmaker

  20. Cartographer

STAR TREK BRIDGE CREW

You’re in Command with Star Trek: Bridge Crew

StarTrek.com Staff

June 13, 2016

Today at E3 in Los Angeles, Ubisoft announced a fall release for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, a new virtual reality game that will allow players to explore space as a member of the Federation. Supporting the announcement: a cool video featuring LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban trying out the game. Playable co-operatively with a crew or solo as Captain, Star Trek: Bridge Crew puts players directly onto the bridge in a Starfleet ship. The game will be available on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Bridge Crew puts a player and their friends in the heart of a brand-new starship, the U.S.S. Aegis, where every action and decision made will determine the fate of the ship and her crew. The overriding mission is as follows: Explore a largely uncharted sector of space known as The Trench, in hopes of locating a suitable new home world for the decimated Vulcan populace — while coming into direct conflict with the vaunted Klingon Empire.
As developed by Red Storm Entertainment, a Ubisoft Studio, Bridge Crew is designed exclusively for VR. It capitalizes on the powerful sense of social presence only possible through virtual reality. Through hand tracking and full-body avatars, including real-time lip-sync, players can experience what it’s like to serve as an officer on the bridge of a Federation starship.
As a crew, players will form a team of four to operate the roles of Captain, Helm, Tactical or Engineer. Each role is crucial to the success of the varied missions players face, and only by working together can the crew complete their objectives. Also playable in solo, players will assume the role of Captain and dispatch orders to their NPC crew mates. The Captain’s strategic decisions will be vital in order to successfully complete missions. In other words, it’s your ship and you’re in command.

Keep an eye on StarTrek.com for additional details about Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

– See more at: http://www.startrek.com/article/youre-in-command-with-star-trek-bridge-crew#sthash.pGLwqy04.dpuf

HIGH CRAFT – LOST LIBRARY

HIGH CRAFT

This article on Viking clothing reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time now. In my games and in my writings, Craft (and by that I mean High Craft), often plays a large and beneficial role in both individual matters and even in larger events.

Using boots and shoes as an example characters have both found and had created for them (by master craftsmen) footwear that is not magical but rather so well crafted that it provides real benefits, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, resistance to wear and replacement, comfort befitting improved endurance or resistance to things like trench foot or blistering, and when they concentrate upon certain tasks (such as running, hiking, climbing, jumping, or stealth) they give definite though temporary advantages.(The characters must concentrate upon the task, for instance, and declare or show evidence that they are trying hard to sneak, or paying attention to their climb – but then such boots give temporary but definite advantages).Such boots or other items and gear (weapons, clothing, tools, etc.) are not magical at all but rather of such high quality and clever construction that they give measurable advantages over other items not constructed by master craftsmen.

(Though really well constructed items of High Craft might very easily be discovered far more susceptible to being enchanted at a later date than more mundane items. That is to say items of High Craft can be far more easily enchanted or ensorceled and such magics will far more easily affix and permanently secure themselves to objects of High Craft than to less well made implements.)

 

The same could be said to apply in a larger sense to whole groups of people. Nations with master craftsmen or smiths or even entire shops, foundries, and industrial operations devoted to High Craft (and invention and innovation) can produce gear and weapons and armor and equipment that gives a particular army a real and measurable advantage over another less well equipped force. Maybe even, en masse, a very large advantage. Again, not a magical advantage but a qualitative advantage of High Craftsmanship.

Though in a Tolkienesque sense it could easily be argued that High Craft is a form of “magic.” That High Craft is precisely what much magic really is.

With me however, at least in games, I usually use Magic as something “added to” or above and beyond even the Highest of Crafts. Though in my writings and novels High Craft and Magic are sometime synonymous and interchangeable or fungible, depending upon the particular circumstances of precisely what is being discussed.

I know that some use craft as a part of their game(s) and writings and some do not, but if you do, then what are some of the ways you use High Craft as an advantage on any level?

How do you use and employ High Craft in your own creations?

 

The Vikings Used Comfortable Shoes

Osberg Ship Viking Shoe One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. (Photo:skinnblogg.blogspot.no)A number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.

All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.

The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Oseberg Viking Shoes

Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no) 

The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side out when finished. This hides the main seam, prolongs the life and prevents moisture from leaking in.

Viking Age shoes (793 – 1066AD) were well suited for use in wintertime by using thick, felted wool socks and fur inside.

Materials and Tools

Studies of the leather shows that mainly cattle hide was used from the 9th to mid-11th century and was typically 1 – 3 millimeter thick.

(Article continues)

Coppergate Viking Shoe York

Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England. (Photo: definedlearning.com via Pinterest)

A bristle or metal needle was used stitching flax, hemp, or a combination of the two. Shears or blades were used to cut the leather, and a simple awl to punch the holes.

At Coppergate twelve examples of iron shears were found.

Tanning and Color

Vegetable tan was the primary method for tanning, but also alum tans and oil tans were used in luxury leathers.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Coppergate York Viking Shoe

Reconstructed Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England by Bjørn Henrik Johansen.  (Photo: by Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no)

Modern vegetable tans are much stiffer due to industrialization and shortening of the process and are unsuited for turn shoes.

Like today, elaborately made clothing and shoes were visible proves of high social status.

Scientists have concluded that the better-quality shoes and boots had much more color than can be seen from archaeological discoveries.

COME NOT BETWEEN THE DRAGONS – STC

I am really, really looking forward to this. If you haven’t seen Star Trek Continues then you really should. Superb work by everyone involved! It’s one of the best things on the internet. As a matter of fact it should be on TV.

And this episode has a Boarding Action!

I’m all about the boarding actions!

STAR TREK CONTINUES

 

 

Actually, I am finishing up a script for Star Trek Continues right now. Whether they will use it or not I don’t know, but I sure am having a ball writing it. And it’s science heavy and something I’ve always wanted to see in Star Trek.

 

 

WORLD WAR ZERO – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME (AND PAST)

WORLD WAR ZERO?

Indeed, as I’ve been saying for decades, the First World War did not begin in the 20th century. Hell, the First World War of the modern era didn’t even begin in the 20th Century. That’s just a common, modern-era-minded conceit of modern people. A mere and entirely erroneous nomenclature. Historians are every bit as absorbed in their own prejudices and misguided assumptions as anyone else.

World Wars, depending on precisely how you define them at any given time may extend well back into pre-history. What the Zero-Point really is we may never know, but it extends well, well beyond our age.

Something to remember about Real Life, something to remember in constructing your fiction, and something to remember when constructing your milieus and game worlds as well.

Just because the events are long lost to time doesn’t mean the effects are…

 

Archaeologist Talks About A Bronze Age ‘World War Zero’ That Brought Down Three Ancient Civilizations

Back in March, we talked about a 3,200-year old massive battle that took place in the cultural ‘backwaters’ of Bronze Age northern Europe (circa 13th century BC), and how this mysterious encounter involved over 4,000 well-armed men from different regions, including Poland, Holland, Scandinavia and even Southern Europe. Intriguingly enough, there also seems to be a date-oriented significance relating to 13th century BC. Within a generation of these contemporary times, the increasing scale of warfare and over-arching political affairs seemed to have swept through many parts of the known world, including the eclipse of the Mycenaean Greeks, the invasion of Egypt by the ‘sea-people’ and the concurrent downfall of the Hittites. And furthermore, there is also the literary narrative of the Trojan War – a large scale conflict (and possibly the proverbial ‘last hurrah’ of the Mycenaeans) that pitted the Greeks against the mystifying Trojans. Considering all these ‘mega’ events of the ancient times, archaeologist Eberhard Zangger has alluded to what he calls ‘World War Zero’ – a seemingly cataclysmic scenario that severely affected and ultimately shattered the thriving nature of eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age civilizations.

According to Zangger, the so-called ‘World War Zero’ (or at least some parallel event) was possibly triggered by the emergence of a more powerful Bronze Age civilization in the proximate region. According to him, this faction – often overlooked by historians, probably pertains to the Luwians, who were based in ancient Anatolia. So who exactly were these Luwians? According to Britannica

Luwiya is mentioned as a foreign country in the Hittite laws (about 1500 bc). It probably coincided roughly with Arzawa, a large region composed of several principalities in western or southwestern Anatolia, and Kizzuwadna, a district occupying the Cilician Plain. Both Arzawa and Kizzuwadna were independent kingdoms during the Old Hittite period (c. 1700–c. 1500 bc) but later became vassals of the Hittite empire. Linguistic evidence testifies to the cultural penetration of the Hittite empire by Luwians.

As for this seemingly ‘wild’ conjecture put forth by Zangger, the archaeologist (who is also the head of international non-profit, Luwian Studies, based in Zurich, Switzerland), the Luwians were intrinsically powerful because of the availability of natural resources in western Anatolia, including the region’s rich minerals and metal ore deposits. Moreover, based on satellite imagery, it has been found that the proximate areas of Anatolia were quite densely populated by Bronze Age standards, with evidences of around 340 big settlements found in the region.

Now regarding literary evidences, as the last sentence of the Britannica excerpt confirms, Hittites were already aware of the rising power of the collective kingdoms of western Anatolia, many of which had the lingua franca of Luwian. In fact, historically some of these ‘Luwian’ factions did unite together (periodically) to make their forays, raids and even invasions of the nearby Hittite lands. One of such major incursions, along with pressure from the eastern Assyrians, might have brought about the ultimate downfall of the Hittite empire.

Zangger continues with his conjectural narrative about how these victorious Luwians then (perhaps) coveted the rich lands of the Egyptian realm. Thus come in the Egyptian texts that document the arrival of so-called ‘Sea People’ – who could have been the Luwians sailing across from ‘distant’ Anatolia to raid northern Egypt. Finally, threatened by the warmongering and other baleful international affairs, the Mycanaean Greeks braced up for an imminent invasion by the Luwians – by attacking the enemy first through their own large offensive, as described in Homer’sIliad. However on nullifying this external threat from Anatolia (aka Trojans), the Mycanaeans squabbled among themselves, and soon civil wars snuffed out their flourishing culture – as hinted at in Homer’s Odyssey.

But of course, from the historical perspective, this expansive (and world-changing) sequence of events of World War Zero is entirely hypothetical – with no exact clue pointing to Luwian dominance in contemporary political affairs. However from the archaeological context, researchers have come across ruins of many Anatolian settlements (circa late Bronze Age) that bore the destructive marks of warfare. Furthermore, since we brought up history, there are rare occurrences of ‘latent’ powers being ultimately responsible for toppling the more conventionally powerful empires, in spite of their relative unfamiliarity in global affairs. One pertinent example would obviously include the burgeoning Islamic realm (after Mohammed), circa 7th century AD, that managed to defeat two contemporary ‘superpowers’ of the time – the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the Sassanian Persian Empire, to claim their subsequent Caliphate.

In any case, beyond conjectures and mirroring events, there is the whole science of extant evidences to consider. These evidences could include both textural works and architectural specimens. As Christoph Bachhuber at the University of Oxford, said –

Archaeologists will need to discover similar examples of monumental art and architecture across western Anatolia and ideally texts from the same sites to support Zangger’s claim of a civilization.

Sadly, the archaeological ambit is still lacking in regard to the machinations of the eastern Mediterranean theater in Bronze Age. But as always there is a silver lining to this academic scope. So while Zangger’s World War Zero mirrors the nigh universal narrative of warfare and destruction, it could also potentially redirect the attention of the experts in this field to ‘dig deeper’ into the mystery of the late Bronze Age. Bachhuber aptly put it forth –

He’s [Zangger] really getting the ball rolling to do larger holistic studies of the area,. I’m actually quite excited that he’s bringing attention to this region.

 

 

BRILLIANCE AND EFFORT – LOST LIBRARY

A rather unique and brilliant and innovative use of archaeoastronomy/archaeoastrology, to predict past city construction behavior among an ancient people. The boy is sharp and asked all the right questions.

Excellent work kid.

 

Teen uses Google Maps to discover ancient Mayan site

Unfortunately, the driving directions are pretty beastly.
David Grossman, PopularMechanics.com Updated 2:39 pm, Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Editor’s note: Since this story first appeared, several members of the scientific community have voiced skepticism that the image shown above is the ruins of a Mayan civilization. Read more on that story here.
Next time you think there’s nothing left to explore—that GPS and satellites have already discovered everything on Earth—just think about the 15-year-old kid from Canada who discovered an ancient Mayan city, The Fire Mouth.
It sounds like a reboot of Indiana Jones, one where a kid is able take raw data from satellite imagery and put it in crucial context. William Gadoury, 15, became obsessed with Mayan history after the endless media drumbeat over the predictions of the end of the world in 2012. Gadoury’s discoveries appear to be the only worthwhile development stemming from that cesspool of clickbait. Gadoury became curious as to why the Mayans lived where they did, often removed from natural options like rivers. He started to focus on twenty-two Mayan constellations and began to wonder if there any correlation with the placement of Mayan cities in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador.
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He had solid grounds for his theory: Mayans placed a heavy emphasis on astrology, the idea that the stars directly effect life on Earth. They would use astrological signs to determine farming cycles, so it stands to reason that the signs could influence where Mayans would want to live. Gadoury started to map out the constellations and noticed that they corresponded with 117 known Mayan cities. Then he decided to add a twenty-third constellation to his map.

A 15 year old Canadian used Google Earth and images from the Canadian Space Agency to discover a Mayan City. (Hosted by Josh King @abridgetoland)
Media: Buzz60 English
The twenty-third constellation was a small one, only three stars. But Gadoury, using Google Maps and later images from the Canadian Space Agency, was able to determine that a 118th city should correspond to it. He plugged in the appropriate coordinates, you can see what he found above. Dr. Armand LaRocque, a remote sensing specialist from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, who is working with Gadoury, believes it is a Mayan pyramid surrounded by thirty smaller structures. “Geometric shapes, such as squares or rectangles, appeared in these images, forms that can hardly be attributed to natural phenomenon,” LaRocque said, and it’s hard to argue with that. Gadoury chose the name Fire Mouth.
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Still, all the evidence lays with satellite imagery—no one has actually explored the location Gadoury spotted on Google Maps. “It’s always about money,” says Dr. LaRocque, bringing to light the stark contrast between the costs of physical expeditions and digital ones. Funds are currently being raised to get Gadoury to Brazil’s Expo-Sciences International, where one hopes he’ll be able to direct his ample abilities towards networking and finding someone willing make their way Fire Mouth.
Source: Gizmodo
This article originally appeared on PopularMechanics.com

GENE RODDENBERRY’S FLOPPIES

How Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s words were freed from old floppy disks

When Gene Roddenberry’s computer died, it took with it the only method of accessing some 200 floppy disks of his unpublished work. Here’s how this tech mystery was solved.

5096 0
While Gene Roddenberry is often associated with the Macintosh, he apparently did far more writing on this unknown-brand computer.

Call the engine room and get Scotty to the bridge: When the long-lost words of Star Trekcreator Gene Roddenberry were found on 5.25-inch floppies—yes, floppy disks—it would take a Starfleet-level engineering effort to recover them.

Roddenberry, who died in 1991, apparently left behind a couple of shoebox-sized containers of those big floppy disks.

The problem? As any techie knows, floppy drives went out off fashion around the turn of the 21st century. Even if you bought a used 5.25-inch floppy drive off of Cyrano Jones on space station K7, you wouldn’t be able to read the files on a modern computer, let alone plug in the drive.

Roddenberry’s estate knew of two possible computers the author had used to write those final words. One had been sold off in a charity auction and the second wouldn’t boot when plugged in.

floppy disk 2009 g1GEORGE CHERNILEVSKY
Most of Gene Roddenberry’s lost work was stored on the 1970s and 1980s era 5.25-inch disk, which here is flanked by the older 8-inch and newer 3.5-inch versions.

The computer’s dead Jim

Rather than accept that no-win scenario, Roddenberry’s estate turned to DriveSavers Data Recovery. The lack of an operative computer was less than ideal, but  Mike Cobb, director of engineering of DriveSavers, was optimistic, considering the company’s ability to recover data from most forms of computer media known today.

According to Cobb, the majority of the disks were 1980s-era 5.25-inch double-density disks capable of storing a whopping 160KB—that’s kilobytes—or about one-tenth the capacity you can get on a $1 USB thumb drive today. Cobb said a few of the disks were formatted in DOS, but most of them were from an older operating system called CP/M.

CP/M, or Control Program for Microcomputers, was a popular operating system of the 1970s and early 1980s that ultimately lost out to Microsoft’s DOS. In the 1970s and 1980s it was the wild west of disk formats and track layouts, Cobb said. The DOS recoveries were easy once a drive was located, but the CP/M disks were far more work.

“The older disks, we had to actually figure out how to physically read them,” Cobb told PCWorld. “The difficult part was CP/M and the file system itself and how it was written.”

As the data recovery firm couldn’t get Roddenberry’s old computer to power on, it had to sleuth the physical layout of the tracks on the disk. That alone took three months to reverse engineer; Cobb credits his own “Scotty,” Jim Wilhelmsen, with figuring it out.

drivesavers star trek recovery 1DRIVERSAVERS DATA RECOVERY
DriverSaver’s Mike Cobb and Jim Wilhelmsen with Gene Roddenberry’s dead computer and a pile of the floppy disks they helped recover.

To make matters worse, about 30 of the disks were damaged, with deep gouges in the magnetic surface. As luck would have it, Cobb said most of the physical damage was over empty portions of the disks and he believes about 95 percent of the data was recovered.

Besides seeking the technical expertise required for the task, the estate also wanted high security, according to Cobb. The estate wasn’t going to just drop all 200 disks in a FedEx box and pray to the shipping gods they wouldn’t get lost. No, only small batches of the disks were doled out at a time,  and each batch was hand-delivered to DriveSavers’ secure facility in Novato beginning in 2012.

Once DriveSavers had recovered the data, the data had to be converted into a format the estate could open. It’s not like you can feed a 1980s-era CP/M word processor format into Microsoft Word, so Cobb personally converted each file to a readable text file.

The big reveal

All told, Cobb said when the operating system files were excluded, about 2-3MB of data was recovered from the 200 floppies. That may seem like a minuscule amount by today’s standards, but in the 1980s, document files were small. Roddenberry’s lost words were substantial.

So what’s actually on the disks? Lost episodes of Star Trek? The secret script for a new show? Or as Popular Science once speculated, a patent for a transporter?

Unfortunately, we don’t know.

Cobb ain’t saying. Understandably, when DriverSavers is contracted to recover data, it’s also bound by rules of confidentiality. PCWorld reached out to the Roddenberry estate but was told it had no comment on the data or its plans for the newly discovered writing of Gene Roddenberry.

drivesavers star trek recovery 2DRIVERSAVERS DATA RECOVERY
For their work in recovering The Great Bird of the Galaxy’s lost writing, DriveSavers received a signed photo of the Star Trek creator in front of his computer from his son.

Related:

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK – RESURRECTED RELICS

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK

If you ask me ancient archaeological sites like these make for superb adventure and dungeon and plot locales, though of a very different type than the standard dungeon or adventure site.

Very bizarre artefacts, relics, objects, events, rituals, and creatures could easily exist at such sites. I often use modified Real World archaeological sites and place them in my games and novels and stories because they are so ancient, rich, and full of odd and often unexplainable things. (As a matter of fact I have an entirely separate category of “adventure and plot locales” when it comes to ancient and prehistoric archaeological sites for my writings and designs, including the artefacts and events discovered/recovered there.)

It is very good to have odd and unexplainable things in your writings and in your games and milieus that the players and readers can try, like everyone else, to figure out, but can’t really understand, deduce, or explain.

Unknown or unexplained or recently discovered archaeological sites are superbly interesting because unlike many other sites they have already passed into pre-history (or out of history) or little to nothing is known about them until they are accidentally stumbled upon again (by completely different peoples and characters, etc.), and because, of course, they tend to be so ancient all memory of them has been subsequently lost. And of course many of these unknown and unrecorded sites tend to be megalithic and absolutely gargantuan in nature, consisting of many vanished layers of development. Entire campaigns and years and years of adventures, not to mention book sequels, can easily be written around such sites. And, of course, one site often bleeds into another.

That’s a superbly good state of affairs for the reader or player (going blind into the dark or going blind back into the far more ancient things), but it is an entirely excellent thing for the writer and the game designer/game master.

Because at such sites the entirely unexpected and the wholly forgotten should be the most common expectation and the most dangerous memory.

 

NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

By RALPH BLUMENTHALOCT. 30, 2015

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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High in the skies over Kazakhstan, space-age technology has revealed an ancient mystery on the ground.
Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old.

The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Another is a kind of three-limbed swastika, its arms ending in zigzags bent counterclockwise.

Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes.

 

The Bestamskoe Ring is among the so-called Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan — at least 260 earthwork shapes made up of mounds, trenches and ramparts, the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old, recognizable only from the air. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
Two weeks ago, in the biggest sign so far of official interest in investigating the sites, NASA released clear satellite photographs of some of the figures from about 430 miles up.

“I’ve never seen anything like this; I found it remarkable,” said Compton J. Tucker, a senior biospheric scientist for NASA in Washington who provided the archived images, taken by the satellite contractor DigitalGlobe, to Mr. Dey and The New York Times.

Ronald E. LaPorte, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who helped publicize the finds, called NASA’s involvement “hugely important” in mobilizing support for further research.

This week, NASA put space photography of the region on a task list for astronauts in the International Space Station. “It may take some time for the crew to take imagery of your site since we are under the mercy of sun elevation angles, weather constraints and crew schedule,” Melissa Higgins of Mission Operations emailed Dr. LaPorte.

The archived images from NASA add to the extensive research that Mr. Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.

“I don’t think they were meant to be seen from the air,” Mr. Dey, 44, said in an interview from his hometown, Kostanay, dismissing outlandish speculations involving aliens and Nazis. (Long before Hitler, the swastika was an ancient and near-universal design element.) He theorizes that the figures built along straight lines on elevations were “horizontal observatories to track the movements of the rising sun.”

Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares a border with China, has moved slowly to investigate and protect the finds, scientists say, generating few news reports.

“I was worried this was a hoax,” said Dr. LaPorte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh who noticed a report on the finds last year while researching diseases in Kazakhstan.

With the help of James Jubilee, a former American arms control officer and now a senior science and technology coordinator for health issues in Kazakhstan, Dr. LaPorte tracked down Mr. Dey through the State Department, and his images and documentation quickly convinced them of the earthworks’ authenticity and importance. They sought photos from KazCosmos, the country’s space agency, and pressed local authorities to seek urgent Unesco protection for the sites — so far without luck.

The earthworks, including the Turgai Swastika, were spotted on Google Earth in 2007 by Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh archaeology enthusiast. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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In the Cretaceous Period 100 million years ago, Turgai was bisected by a strait from what is now the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean. The rich lands of the steppe were a destination for Stone Age tribes seeking hunting grounds, and Mr. Dey’s research suggests that the Mahandzhar culture, which flourished there from 7,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., could be linked to the older figures. But scientists marvel that a nomadic population would have stayed in place for the time required to fell and lay timber for ramparts, and to dig out lake bed sediments to construct the huge mounds, originally 6 to 10 feet high and now 3 feet high and nearly 40 feet across.

Persis B. Clarkson, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who viewed some of Mr. Dey’s images, said these figures and similar ones in Peru and Chile were changing views about early nomads.

“The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects — like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs — has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in an email.

“Enormous efforts” went into the structures, agreed Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archaeologist from Cambridge University and a lecturer at Vilnius University in Lithuania, who visited two of the sites last year. She said by email that she was dubious about calling the structures geoglyphs — a term applied to the enigmatic Nazca Lines in Peru that depict animals and plants — because geoglyphs “define art rather than objects with function.”

Dr. Matuzeviciute and two archaeologists from Kostanay University, Andrey Logvin and Irina Shevnina, discussed the figures at a meeting of European archaeologists in Istanbul last year.

With no genetic material to analyze — neither of the two mounds that have been dug into is a burial site — Dr. Matuzeviciute said she used optically stimulated luminescence, a method of measuring doses from ionizing radiation, to analyze the construction material, and came up with a date from one of the mounds of around 800 B.C. Other preliminary studies push the earliest date back more than 8,000 years, which could make them the oldest such creations ever found. Other materials yield dates in the Middle Ages.

Mr. Dey said some of the figures might have been solar observatories akin, according to some theories, to Stonehenge in England and the Chankillo towers in Peru.

“Everything is linked through the cult of the sun,” said Mr. Dey, who spoke in Russian via Skype through an interpreter, Shalkar Adambekov, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

The discovery was happenstance.

Researchers are hoping to marshal support for investigating the earthen mounds that make up figures like this one, the Big Ashutastinsky Cross. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
In March 2007, Mr. Dey was at home watching a program, “Pyramids, Mummies and Tombs,” on the Discovery Channel. “There are pyramids all over the earth,” he recalled thinking. “In Kazakhstan, there should be pyramids, too.”

Soon, he was searching Google Earth images of Kostanay and environs.

 

There were no pyramids. But, he said, about 200 miles to the south he saw something as intriguing — a giant square, more than 900 feet on each side, made up of dots, crisscrossed by a dotted X.

At first Mr. Dey thought it might be a leftover Soviet installation, perhaps one of Nikita S. Khrushchev’s experiments to cultivate virgin land for bread production. But the next day, Mr. Dey saw a second gigantic figure, the three-legged, swastikalike form with curlicue tips, about 300 feet in diameter.

Before the year was out, Mr. Dey had found eight more squares, circles and crosses. By 2012, there were 19. Now his log lists 260, including some odd mounds with two drooping lines called “whiskers” or “mustaches.”

Before setting out to look for the figures on the ground, Mr. Dey asked Kazakh archaeologists whether they knew of such things. The answer was no. In August 2007, he led Dr. Logvin and others to the largest figure, now called the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village.

“It was very, very hard to understand from the ground,” he recalled. “The lines are going to the horizon. You can’t figure out what the figure is.”

When they dug into one of the mounds, they found nothing. “It was not a cenotaph, where there are belongings,” he said. But nearby they found artifacts of a Neolithic settlement 6,000 to 10,000 years old, including spear points.

Now, Mr. Dey said, “the plan is to construct a base for operations.”

“We cannot dig up all the mounds. That would be counterproductive,” he said. “We need modern technologies, like they have in the West.”

Dr. LaPorte said he, Mr. Dey and their colleagues were also looking into using drones, as the Culture Ministry in Peru has been doing to map and protect ancient sites.

But time is an enemy, Mr. Dey said. One figure, called the Koga Cross, was substantially destroyed by road builders this year. And that, he said, “was after we notified officials.”

 

 

BAM! THE ANCIENTS WERE ANCIENT BUT HIGHLY DEVELOPED

Archaeologists Unearth Spectacular 3,500-Year-Old Warrior’s Grave in Pylos

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The Greek culture ministry announced that an international team of archaeologists led by the Department of Classics from the University of Cincinnati have uncovered a spectacular 3,500-year-old, treasure-filled grave of a warrior has been discovered near an ancient palace in southern Greece.

UC's Sharon Stocker with the 3,500 year-old skull found in the warrior's tomb (Photo Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

UC’s Sharon Stocker with the 3,500 year-old skull found in the warrior’s tomb (Photo Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

The Culture Ministry says the grave is the most spectacular discovery of its kind from the Mycenaean era in more than 65 years on continental Greece. The discovery has revealed about 1,400 artifacts, including gold and silver jewelry, cups, bronze vases, engraved gemstones and an ornate ivory-and gilt-hilted sword.

Gold ring with a Cretan bull-jumping scene was one of four solid-gold rings found in the tomb. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

The grave escaped plunderers who looted a monumental beehive tomb discovered decades ago in the area, near the palace of Pylos — one of the most important Mycenaean administrative centers.

The warrior’s remains were found with a yard-long bronze sword and a remarkable collection of gold rings, precious jewels and beautifully carved seals. Archaeologists expressed astonishment at the richness of the find and its potential for shedding light on the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization, the lost world of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homer.

Alex Zokos, a conservator, removed a bronze jug at the site. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

It said the dead warrior, aged 30-35, must have been a “leading member” of Pylos’ aristocracy. The tomb, which stands at 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) long and 1.5 meters wide, was unearthed during excavations begun in May near Pylos, on the site of the palace of Nestor.

One of more than four dozen seal stones with intricate Minoan designs found in the tomb. Long-horned bulls and, sometimes, human bull jumpers soaring over their horns are a common motif in Minoan designs. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

“Probably not since the 1950s have we found such a rich tomb,” said James C. Wright, the director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

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Nicholas Wade wrote in The New York Times that the discovery could be a gateway to discovering unknown things about the relationships between the Minoan civilization on Crete and the Mycenaean civilization that flourished on the Greek mainland more than 3,000 years ago.

THINGS OF INTEREST AND USE – GAMEPLAY

THINGS OF INTEREST AND USE

I have a Pinterest account in which I have compiled things of interest and use for my writings, gaming, and inventions.

Some of you might find these things useful for designs, idea-generation, or mapping.

HAUNTED CASTLE: DUNOON MASSACRE

HAUNTED CASTLE TOWARD: THE DUNOON MASSACRE

STAR TREK BEYOND – LOST LIBRARY

‘Star Trek: Beyond’ Gets New Release Date

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (Par)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015 | 04:58PM PT

Paramount has moved “Star Trek: Beyond” back two weeks to July 22.

The studio had originally announced a July 8 release date late last year. It will face Warner Bros.’ “King Arthur” and Fox’s animated “Ice Age: Collision Course” on July 22.

The film will mark the 50-year anniversary of the television launch of the landmark science-fiction series. The TV series debuted on Sept. 8, 1966, on NBC and aired for three seasons.

Justin Lin is directing the third installment in Paramount’s rebooted “Star Trek” franchise with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto in the lead roles. J.J. Abrams directed the first two “Star Trek” reboots in 2009 and 2013.

David Ellison’s Skydance Prods. and Abrams’ Bad Robot are producing. Orci and Abrams are theproducers.

Lin directed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” grossed $467 million worldwide, including $229 million domestically.

DUAL AND MULTIPLE USE EQUIPMENT – ALLTHING

DUAL AND MULTIPLE USE EQUIPMENT: MUNDANE AND MAGICAL

A friend of mine and I were having a discussion last night and this morning on primitive bow-making and historical facts. She informed me that ancient men and later frontiersmen used their bow staves as primitive one stringed lyres (or musical bows) and their arrow shafts as primitive bows to play very basic music. See one reference below.

This idea only makes great sense and you can easily see how this would have led to to the development of primitive musical bows and lyres specifically for music.

Anyway this gave me both a gaming and literary idea. In gaming you would have a bow specifically designed for Bards (or that they create themselves as part of their unique gear – like a warrior who forges his own sword) that can easily serve as a modified musical instrument that would allow him to both enchant enemies and opponents and entertain or in some way heal or bless allies and companions. A magical version would then have both combat and Bardic advantages, and it is so very natural since such equipment could easily serve dual or even multiple functions (it might also serve as a 4 to 5 foot pole or as a climbing rod/tool when unbent or in stave form).

As a literary device for my novels it could serve the same basic functions but, of course, would not be described in that way. There is a Welsh bard in one of my novels who would naturally easily employ such a bow.

This is hardly the first device or weapon or piece of gear or equipment I’ve made use of for dual or multiple purposes (either in real life, games, or in literature or poetry) but it is a rather fascinating and new employment for me. Bow staves as musical instruments.

Now all of that being said what items do you use in your games or writings or even in real life as dual-use pieces of equipment or gear?

Further Reference: Work Songs, Plutarch, and the Scythians

GONE A’VIKING

The Viking women who disappeared

By Cathinka Dahl Hambro

Women played an important part in Viking Age society, and their role far exceeded that of mother and the “housewife”. Why, then, are they barely mentioned in the history books?

Ingeborg - Norse mythology - painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892)

“The standard specialist literature within the field is pervaded with Viking expeditions, kings, weapons, and battles,” says Viking researcher Nanna Løkka.

“If women are mentioned at all they are placed within an everyday context, with children, handicraft and domestic life. Thus, when the characteristics of the Viking Age are described, women are either left out completely, or they are given their own little paragraph, as they appear neither very exciting nor spectacular.”

In the recently published anthology Kvinner i vikingtid (“Viking Age Women”), sixteen women and one man challenge this standard saga inspired account of the early Norwegian Middle Ages, which is characterized by raiding kings and chieftains. Løkka has edited the book in collaboration with Nancy Coleman.

Kvinner i vikingtid examines the various roles of women in a society where not only men possessed political power and influence. The book shows that the role of women was not always a domestic one. On the contrary, they actively participated within various aspects of public life such as trade, textile production, medicine, and religious practice.

Kvinner i vikingtidNone mentioned, all forgotten

Both the sagas and the schoolbooks tell us show many benches the master builder Torberg Skavhogg built for the rowers when he equipped the hull of King Olav Tryggvasson’s legendary longship Ormen Lange (“The Long Serpent”). The women who were responsible for weaving the sail, however, are not mentioned by name.

“The Vikings wouldn’t have reached England unless someone had equipped the ships with sails. It is a well-known fact that the Vikings were far ahead of their European neighbours in terms of maritime techniques. In an episode of the TV series Vikings, they make a big fuss about the ship’s anchor, but the sail is not mentioned with a single word,” says Løkka.

The textile production was probably organised hierarchically, where women supervised other women in extensive collaborative work. Løkka adds, “The larger Viking ships used 100 square meter sized sails. In order to produce that, the women needed 200 kilos of wool from approximately 2000 sheep, and it required hundreds of working hours. We are talking about more than just a small-scale family business.”

High school textbooks are the worst

According to the researcher, the models applied to understand the Viking Age ignore the women’s impact and contribution. This is particularly visible in the high school history books. Løkka found that only one among the six most popular history books from the 1990s and 2000s provides its own paragraph on women.

“If women appear at all in the general literature on the field, they are usually depicted as the stereotypical “housewife” who is tied to the farm and the home, not as someone who participates in important social processes,” says Løkka.

In the standard accounts of the Viking Age, the farm is regarded as the smallest, yet most significant unit. Other important institutions in the Viking society are the family, the chiefdom, and the Thing.

The woman is usually associated with the farm and the private sphere, whereas the man is connected to public life. Hence, the gender roles are often described in terms of “inside” and “outside” in order to distinguish between men and women’s responsibilities.

“I’m not saying that the stereotypical representation isn’t feasible at all, but it contributes to a description of the Viking Age based solely on male activities. Most probably the Viking society consisted of other dividing lines and hierarchies where women to a larger degree ranked on top,” Løkka adds.

Nanna Løkka - photo courtesy University of Oslo

The “housewife” as business manager

For example, recent research shows that being a “housewife” might involve major responsibility and hard work, particularly if the farm was of some considerable size. The chieftain’s home at Borg in Lofoten, which is the largest known chieftain’s farm, was more than eighty metres long. That is only twenty metres shorter than the Nidaros Cathedral. A typical chieftain’s farm may have had a longhouse of approximately fifty metres. A banquet on such a large farm could easily involve 150 people, all of them expecting to be served food and drinks.

“Running a farm like that is like managing a medium size business. Thus, these women should rather be regarded as business managers than mere housewives,” says Løkka.

With this in mind, one may therefore ask whether this type of feast actually belonged to the so-called private sphere. At these banquets, contracts and deals were made, politics was developed, and alliances were formed.

If the food or drink was unsatisfactory it could cause diplomatic crisis or disgrace. Therefore, the women who cooked and served the meals held an important public function. According to Løkka, categories like inside/outside and private/public have probably become antiquated due to recent research.

Malevolent Viking women

It doesn’t make things better that the women who did position themselves at the top of the male warrior hierarchy were often severely condemned by the later saga writers. This was the case with Queen Gunnhild, who according to tradition received training from Sami magicians. Allegedly, she took over the leadership of her sons’ army when her husband Eirik Blodøks (Eric Bloodaxe) was driven into exile and subsequently killed.

Alfiva, the de facto Norwegian ruler in the beginning of the eleventh century, received an equally bad reputation, becoming highly unpopular after introducing new legislation and a new tax system.

Viking reverie as nation building

Nanna Løkka emphasizes that in many ways the term Viking Age is a nineteenth century construction, which was formed along the lines of the era’s prevailing national romantic ideals.

For instance, historian Jørgen Haavardsholm has noted that the term Viking Age can be connected to a political process in which the goal was to create a nation with a proud and common past where the Vikings served as masculine and unyielding heroes and adventurers.

“An entire period and society has been connected to the Viking raids. In reality, however, only a small number of the men actually went on Viking raids. It has nevertheless added masculine value to the era, and consequently the female half of the population has been neglected,” says Løkka.

Farewell to the Viking Age?

The national romantic heritage is one of the reasons why a new generation of historians preferred to use the more neutral and European term Early Middle Ages in the four-volume history work Norvegr from 2011. Archaeologists, on the other hand, have mainly preferred the term Late Iron Age.

Lokka explains, “I ended up using the term Viking Age primarily because I want people to understand what I am working with. Moreover, the Viking Age sells and attracts attention. But there is definitely an ambivalence there.”

See also: Viking Women: Not as Different as You Might Think

TOP 10 SWORDS

Top 10 Most Famous Swords of the Middle Ages

Though I would have included different swords in a couple of instances not a bad list at all.

SEA PEOPLES ABANDONED?

Researcher casts doubt on sea peoples theory

The ancient city of Lachish was one of the 16 sites re-examined in the research project. Image: Mark A. Wilson/Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The ancient city of Lachish was one of the 16 sites re-examined in the research project. Image: Mark A. Wilson/Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

University of Tübingen doctoral candidate Jesse Millek has been honoured for his research, which questions the controversial theory of the “sea peoples”.

Mr. Millek has been awarded the Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize by the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem for a paper presenting his findings on the topic. He has been studying the control of resources during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Southern Levant. The research focuses on the fall in trade at the end of the Late Bronze Age in what is now Israel and Jordan.

The award winning work is entitled, “Sea Peoples, Philistines, and the Destruction of Cities: A Critical Examination of Destruction Layers ‘Caused’ by the ‘Sea Peoples,”  and deepens the understanding of what caused the decline of the Southern Levant at the end of the Bronze Age.

Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, from the air. Image: Steve F-E-Cameron/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

More complex

Until now, an inscription in the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III – Medinet Habu – has been said to be evidence of an invasion by the “sea peoples”. The engraving, dating back to 1180 BCE, became the basis for the much-discussed theory which blamed the invasion for the collapse of the neighbouring Levantine kingdoms and the collapse of interregional exchange. Mr. Millek’s recent findings, however, indicate that the causes for a sharp decline in trade are much more complex and likely to have been related to internal, revolutionary processes of social change and an altered approach to handling resources.

Critical examination of 16 sites

Mr. Millek critically examined 16 sites in the Southern Levant said to have been destroyed by the “sea peoples” in a Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 1070 paper. One example is the city of Lachish. Located 44 kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, it is one of the largest and most significant archaeological sites in the Southern Levant.

During early excavations, archaeologists uncovered the charred remains of a temple and building in the Late Bronze Age Destruction of Level 7. Subsequent research interpreted these finds as evidence of a military conflict with the “sea peoples.” However, a critical reassessment of the excavation reports indicates that several significant factors were missed in the initial interpretations.

Jesse Millek says that, “The Late Bronze Age building in Area S was most likely destroyed by a kitchen fire, as the area around the hearth showed the most destruction and was very likely the source of the fire. Even in the past, buildings could be destroyed and preserved in the archaeological record by a common place event like a kitchen fire. Moreover, the Fosse Temple appears to have been ritually terminated as all valuable or cultic items were removed from the temple before it was burned and there were no signs of vandalism. Additionally, the site remained sacred after it was burned as no later people built on top of it, or dug into its remains, which would again indicate the temple was ritually terminated.” The orderly de-consecration of sacred sites points towards changed handling of spiritual resources and a cultural reorganization of values within the society. Continuing research should determine in how far the fall in trade is linked to this change in values.

The head of project A06, Professor Jens Kamlah, emphasizes the significance of disproving the “sea peoples” theory. He says, “The goal of our research is to disprove the evidence supporting this old, extremely simplified, model. Mr. Millek’s work represents a significant contribution to this effect. The time period we are investigating is crucial for the rise of the Israel we know from the Old Testament of the Bible. Demonstrating the different reasons and complex economic relationships behind the decline in trade can provide new insights into this key epoch.”

‘WARE THE SKOT AND THE SKOTLANDS

Vikings ‘were warned to avoid Scotland’

Scotland is full of dangerous natives who speak an incomprehensible language and the is weather awful. That was the verdict of a series of 13th century Viking travel guides that warned voyagers to visit at their peril.

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Vikings on street: Vikings 'were warned to avoid Scotland'

Revellers at the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival in Shetland Photo: GETTY

The medieval chronicles, set down on yellowed calf vellum eight centuries ago, describe Scotland – or Skotland, as it was known – as an unwelcome and inhospitable country offering rewards only to the bold.

“Icelanders who want to practise robbery are advised to go there,” says one saga. “But it may cost them their life.”

Another saga tells the story of Icelandic merchants who sailed into a west coast sea loch where they met 13 ships bristling with what they called “Vikings” – more an occupation than a nationality – but were actually natives.

A Scot identified in the saga as Grjotgard, a kinsman of Melkolf, king of Scotland (Malcolm II), told them: “You have two choices. You can go ashore and we will take all your property, or we’ll attack you and kill every man we lay our hands on.” The merchants were terrified, the saga says, but presumably lived to tell their tale.

The chronicles have been interpreted by Gisli Sigurdsson, a historian at Reykjavik University, who believes the sagas – part fiction, part fact – reveal how the ancient Norse were far from the fearless pirates of legend.

As the Norsemen became as keen on trade as marauding, they were particularly nervous about sailing up the west coast sea lochs they referred to as the “Scottish fjords”. “The only places the Norse could have expected a safe reception was Orkney and Shetland, where the people were basically the same as them and where they would be greeted as kin,” Mr Sigurdsson said.

The Norse Viking age peaked between the 9th and 12th centuries, when Scandinavian seafarers conquered new lands, settling Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, and establishing colonies in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, North America and Russia.

The Icelandic sagas, written in the 13th century but based on earlier oral stories, were often used as route guides for raiders, traders, crusaders and explorers, effectively a road map of medieval Europe and the Middle East. They have proved remarkably accurate, even helping archaeologists to pinpoint the remains of a Norse village in Newfoundland.

Orkney is described as a handy base camp for pillaging Scotland. But the Norse had other bases too, some of which would feature high up in a modern guide for tourists. If you are planning to raid Scotland, one saga reads, you could do worse than base yourself in Fort Skardaborg. That’s today’s Scarborough.

Mr Sigurdsson believes the Norse Vikings were particularly nervous about the Gaels of Ireland and west Scotland.

Orkney historian Tom Muir said: “They picked weak targets, like monasteries. Some of the monasteries were basically unguarded banks of cash with a sign above them saying ‘free money’. The truth is that there were raids both ways and that the Norse had every reason to fear their Celtic neighbours. There are well-documented accounts of Gaelic-speaking Lewismen raiding Orkney.”

The Norse eventually lost their hold in Scotland. But Celts and the Vikings must ultimately have started to get along. DNA evidence suggests many Scots and Icelanders interbred and settled in both countries.

ON MEET-N-UP FOR D&D

On using Meetup to play D&D with a group of strangers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Fate robbed me of an important rite of passage for dorks and nerds. Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1980’s, I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, I played lots of dorky video games with friends, watched the Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons TV series, and read whichever trashy fantasy novel I could find at the library. I would always see the D&D rule books, with their beautiful cover art depicting scenes such as a wizard with an octopus face firing crimson rays at female barbarian clad in a bone bikini, at bookstores and toy stores, but I never knew anyone my age who played the game. The closest I ever came to dungeoneering in earnest, was a board game called Hero Quest (which is now worth $400! Why did you throw it away, Mommy?), a sort of D&D lite which came with plastic miniatures. Though, the only person I could convince to read the 40-plus page rulebook was my cousin Chris. A few times, we played the six-player game with two-players. Sad, but fun.

Aside from its status as a game only for the biggest dorks, this was long before George R.R. Martin and HBO had made dark fantasy mainstream, D&D has also suffered from a stigma brought on by religious groups and lazy journalists (cough-cough) alike in the 1980s. References to demons and the occult within the game as well as a well-publicized suicide of James Dallas Egbert III caused an international stir. Egbert was a severely, clinically depressed individual who happened to enjoy playing D&D. The press ran with it as they’re wont to do and, as a result, many children, such as my 9-year-old self, were denied the pleasure of invading Castle Ravenloft to defeat its vampiric lord.

Then there was Christopher “Chris” W. Pritchard, convicted of the murder of his stepfather and the attempted murder of his mother. He, along with his three cronies, happened to play D&D and they also happened to covet Pritchard’s $2 million inheritance. Even the film industry got in on the act. Three movies about the purported dangers of Dungeons & Dragons were made in the ’80s with Mazes and Monsters (1982) starring Tom Hanks and based on the novel by Rona Jaffe, taking honors as most silly. The Dungeonmaster (1984) is a close second with its dazzling special effects and memorable dialogue: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”

“You’re not getting that. It’s bad,” our mother’s would say. It didn’t matter how cool that undead castle looked or how intense the need to fight a weretiger , “…they said on TV it’s bad.”

Time went on and, for me, D&D became little more than unrealized nostalgia. Sex (or rather, the pursuit thereof) and getting high tend to replace the lust for simulated goblin slaughter. Yet, the love of fantasy persisted. Once a dork always a dork. Laughing friends would always deride my choice of fiction. Frankly, I think they’re just jealous of the cover art. Perhaps Mitch Albom would move more copies if his covers depicted a shrieking owl-bear eviscerating a hapless halfling rogue.

Then, one day, it happened again. Strolling through a Barnes & Noble while waiting for a companion, that gorgeous cover art got to me. A beholder, a creature made out of teeth, tentacles and eyes menacing a heavily armored dwarf fighter wielding a jewel encrusted maul. All the years of deferred quests came through the mists of time. Before I could make an intelligence check, I was the proud owner of the Fifth Edition of D&D’s Starter Set and Monster Manual.

After several unsuccessful attempts to convince friends and family to indulge me in my hunger for arcane warfare and pop and chips, I was forced to Google, “How to find people to play D&D.” I’d come too far and waited too long to give up twice. By all the gods I would have satisfaction! The search led me to a site called Meetup. A popular bit of social media, new to me, but used by many to meet others with similar interests: rock climbing, quilting, support groups and dungeon crawling.

Once the obligatory practice of testing the cyber waters for serial killers was complete, I agreed to meet at a stranger’s home to finally play Dungeons & Dragons. Pop and chips in tow, I expected a human horror show from which I would politely excuse myself after an hour. Instead, I pretended I was a necromancer with a heart of gold for five hours. I actually closed my damned eyes and imagined (for the first time in ages) myself creating a crew of zombies to man our seafaring vessel. Zombies work for cheap. My necromancer’s staff featured a human skull with ruby eyes that totally lit up when conjuring skeletons. The skull, by the way, belonged to a former slave master. (I may practice dark arts, but I don’t go in for that human bondage business.)

A more friendly and diverse group of adventurers would be hard to find. The owner of the house, we’ll call him Kumai from the equivalent Japanese culture in the Forbidden Realms (the setting for D&D), had prepared delicious burgers with homemade buns, tomato salad with mint, and freshly baked, crusty Irish soda bread paired with imported aged Irish cheddar. There was Gmorg, the Dragonborn raider who also repairs cars alongside computer systems and a 70-year-old “dark gnome” cleric and retired school teacher who remembered when one had to trade sci-fi and fantasy novels at book fairs and in “back alleys.” They cost 50 cents back then. Our dungeon master was a former Marine with an uncanny ability for doing silly voices and drowning careless adventurers in pools of boiling blood. The use of miniatures and game maps, which adds a board game element to D & D, was too new-fangled for this group. One had to use their imagination with a little help from the gorgeous artwork in the player’s guide.

It didn’t matter that I was clueless to the process of rolling polyhedral dice to determine character stats such as dexterity, charisma. Nor did it matter we were five completely different people of vary ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds, who, truth be told, would have never uttered a word to one another outside of this gathering. We had a fucking blast and we’re doing it again next week.

Mostly, social media gives one a depressing glimpse into the cesspool of humanity. A scrying pool into a lich’s jerk-off session where you can witness a grown man refer to a group of first graders in a Christmas pageant as “bitch-ass faggots.” But this time, perhaps the only time in my memory, cyberia came through for me. I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group of strangers and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a mental vacation,” said the dark gnome cleric. “You’d be surprised by how a spot of imagination can do you well.”

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