Historical tidbits from the inauguration

Let’s set aside for the sake of our sanity the endless recurring one-liner cliches about Martin Luther King, Jr., slavery and historical portent, and instead look at the nifty details about the inauguration of President Obama. First of all, the whole inauguration had a Lincoln theme. A phrase from his Gettysburg address was the theme …

Ho hum… Another gigantic hoard of gold coins

Yes it’s yet another unthinkable treasure trove discovered by a metal detector hobbyist in England. This time the lucky sod stumbled on 834 gold coins known as staters, dating from 40 B.C. to 15 A.D., in Suffolk. It’s also the largest hoard of Iron Age gold found in Britain in over 150 years, and the …

Roman head with original paint gets CGI makeover

It’s hard to imagine a Rome where all the shiny white marble was painted in bright, even garish to our neutral-HGTV eyes, colors, in large part because fragments of color were routinely scraped off of ancient statuary in order to conform with revivalist fashions. (The most famous instance of this was when the British Museum …

1300-year-old wooden tablets found in Japan

Tens of thousands of wooden tablets known as mokkan from the Nara Period (710 – 784 A.D.) have been found in the remains of the Imperial Palace. The research institute uncovered a hole containing a large number of wooden tablets while excavating the site last spring. The hole measured about 10 meters from east to …

The medieval manuscript genome project

An associate English professor at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, Timothy Stinson, has begun DNA testing medieval manuscripts. Since parchment was made from animal skin, there is genetic material to be found in the pages of the books themselves. Thousands of fragile manuscripts still survive from the Middle Ages (roughly 400 to 1500 CE), a …

FBI Returns Pre-Columbian Artifacts to Panama

Man, I love it when the news comes from a government press release. They give great backstory and sometimes (like this time), killer pictures. In this case, the FBI returned over a hundred pre-Columbian artifacts to the government of Panama yesterday, including pottery and gold jewelry. The FBI’s investigation revealed that the widow of an …

Europe’s culture — pretty much all of it — online

Two million items from Europe’s museums, archives, libraries, collections of all sorts are now available for the searching on a single website. Just type in a keyword and see what images, video, recordings and texts show up. I searched for “Galileo” and it returned an entire digitized book from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, …

Theme parks to the right of them, reenactments to the left

As with the Ancient Roman theme park outside the city, Rome is full of ideas to turn its historical sites into modern-day circuses. The latest is gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum itself. According to [city council Head of Archaeology, Umberto] Broccoli’s plan, modern-day gladiators will engage in realistically choreographed mock fights, wearing original costumes and …