Gaye Mack’s Blog

RELIC OF JESUS’ CRUCIFICTION CROSS FOUND OR MORE OF THE SAME?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Worth the Read, Writer's Work Leave a comment

 

Admittedly, the time frame here is far earlier than the 12th or 13th centuries I’m used to exploring and writing about, but yesterday’s piece in Huffington  was just too good to pass up here for those of you who missed it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and every other social media outlet on the planet.  This said, once again a flurry of active speculation amongst archaeological and religious academics pitted against the faithful is sure to escalate.  As I’ve commented earlier, it seems that we’ve entered an era of, to borrow Hilary Mantel’s latest book title, ‘Bringing Up the Bodies‘(and everything with them), non-stop

Recent memory zooms to the controversy over remains now concluded to be England’s diabolical(depending on your point of view) King Richard the III.  This excavation was closely followed by discovery of remains speculated to be those of England’s more venerated king, Alfred of Wessex (the jury’s still out on this one as far as I know.)  Nevertheless, the contemplation of ‘what if’ continues to intrigue us.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that discovery of and hawking of, ‘authentic relics’ which are nothing more than fakes is big business that’s older than Methuselah that continues to flourish around the globe.

Still, every time such events are splashed across the media, many of us yearn in hope beyond hope that the real deal has been discovered…it does happen. As for the current ‘discovery’ at hand, we’ll just have to wait…but who knows?  There are so many treasure ‘truths’ waiting to yet be discovered and questions answered…Excalibur, the Grail, the mystical portal protected by the Sphinx, Nazca, Atlantis, Avalon, the pyramids, Stonehenge

In the meantime we can muse on the latest news from Huffington, et al:

“Archaeologists working in Turkey believe they have found a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on.

While excavating the ancient Balatlar Church, a seventh-century building in Sinop, Turkey, on the shores of the Black Sea, they uncovered a stone chest that contained objects that may be directly connected with Jesus Christ.

Excavation head Professor Gülgün Köroğlu definitively stated:

We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross, and we think it was [part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified]. This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far.

The stone chest has been taken to a laboratory for further testing. However, the appearance of the chest suggests that it was a repository for the relics of a holy person, according to the team, who showed reporters at the site a stone with crosses carved into it.

Many churches claim to possess relics of the so-called “true cross,” though the authenticity of the items is not fully accepted by scholars and scientists. Protestant theologian John Calvin noted that, “if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load,” referring specifically to the cross. On the other hand, the 19th-century French archaeologist Charles Rohault de Fleury supposedly said that all of the cataloged relics would only make up less than a third of the mass of a roughly 12-foot-high cross.

But what originally happened to Jesus’ cross, and why has it turned up now? Legend says that Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, found the cross in Jerusalem and distributed pieces of the wood to religious leaders in Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople.

Balatlar Church, built in 660, has proved an especially rich dig site, as Köroğlu mentioned that in addition to the stone chest, her team has found the ruins of an ancient Roman bath and more than 1,000 human skeletons since they started working in 2009.”

 

tintagel castle

King Arthur’s domain?

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

 

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS REVEAL RICHARD III’S BRUTAL DEATH

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

While final DNA testing on a skeleton believed to be England’s maligned king, Richard III is concluded, speculation as to how this king met his brutal death paints a grisly picture.  In a recent interview with the BBC, Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from  Leicester University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, states that the skeleton had suffered ten  injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

According to Appleby, one wound was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).  “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.   In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”

Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.

Dr Appleby added,  “The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.  Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.”

Richard was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only two years on the throne when challenged by Henry Tudor who became England’s King Henry VII.  Evidently the defeated monarch was given a rushed and clumsy burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the center of Leicester. Excavation of the site has revealed no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position than they were found.  Additionally, the arms of the skeleton were crossed which archaeologists believe could be an indication that the body was buried with the wrists still tied.

While initial DNA testing indicates that the  remains are  Richard’s, the drama isn’t over yet. In an interview with NBC news,Turi King, Leicester University geneticist who conducted the initial testing stated that mitochondrial DNA is not as precise an indicator as a paternity test. However, she also noted regarding the DNA found,  “It’s quite a rare type, so that adds to the weight of the evidence,” further adding that the mitochondrial DNA signature found with the skeleton is shared by only a few percent of Europeans.

The next step will be to analyze the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA and the more complicated reconstruction of the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA signature which is passed down from father to son.  Amazingly, four paternal-line descendants of Richard III’s family have already been identified and tested, awaiting further analysis.

black prince

KING RICHARD III OF ENGLAND

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DIGGING UP THE BONES-‘INTERESTING’ MEDIEVAL DISCOVERIES

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 3 Comments

Several archaeological projects with the potential of revealing answers to some of England’s medieval mysteries have  been in the news and are worth mentioning here for my fellow medieval history buffs and writers. 

Earlier this fall I posted a piece on medieval mortuary chests and the project I witnessed that’s underway in Winchester Cathedral.  As I posted, this project is focusing on assigning  specific identities to the bones of Wessex’s early monarchs and bishops; remains that were carelessly ‘dumped’ into assorted chests by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. No easy feat for present day archaeological detectives!

 As this project proceeds, up north in Leicester a major ‘accidental’ discovery hit the news just as I was returning from England in mid September.  In late August, while working on a dig under a city car park, workers discovered skeletal remains with spinal abnormalities and a “cleaved-in skull.” Archaeological authorities called in from Leicester University ‘suggest’  these remains could be those of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, who died in 1485 during the battle of Bosworth, England’s last of significance, in its ‘War of the Roses’. 

 Prior to his demise at Bosworth, Richard’s climb to the throne is a story full of complexities, family rivalries, evil doings and political maneuverings, not the least of which are suspicions that he ordered the murder of his two young nephews in the Tower, thus eliminating any rival claims to the throne.

 As a defeated enemy of Henry Tudor, founder of the Tudor dynasty, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.  Although demolished in the 1530’s, there’s evidence that his burial site survived.  If DNA testing against descendants of Richard’s family confirm the current archaeological theories, this would be a remarkable discovery.  Additional  controversy has also surfaced regarding a suitable burial place for the remains, should they be Richard’s.  Earlier this week after various news reports concerning this issue,  it was revealed that should speculations be confirmed, Richard’s remains would be interred in Leicester’s cathedral…but that was this week.  We shall see.

 And, although not as recent as the discoveries in Winchester and Leicester, there’s more.  In 2005 the London press reported that along with the discovery of  13th and 14th century royal tombs,  work using radar in London’s Westminster Cathedral, pinpointed the original tomb of King Edward the Confessor,  one of the most revered of British saints and one of the last Saxon kings, who died months before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Until this discovery it was assumed that Edward’s tomb was placed near Westminster’s current high altar as implied in medieval records.  However, further research revealed this was not the case.  In 1269, King Henry III had  a shrine built to honor and contain Edward’s remains.  He also had the altar moved and with it, Edward’s tomb which he had placed it under the shrine.  Today, the shrine rests approximately ten feet behind the  present high altar.   Edward as a king does not hold a high place in history as some of his more famous peers, but nevertheless, his presence has endured.  Although made long after his death, the main royal crown is called St. Edward’s Crown and the Coronation Chair is sometimes called St Edward’s chair.

 His family was of the Wessex dynasty and when his half brother, Hardecanute, died in 1042, Edward was named king. He was then succeeded by Harold, killed in the Battle of Hastings, which then ushered in the reign of William the Conqueror and the Normans.  After Hastings, Edward’s reputation for piety grew…Pope Alexander III canonized him in 1161 and for four hundred years he was considered the patron saint of England until 1415 when this status was replaced by St. George.

 Happily the advent of 21st century technology is allowing us fascinating peeps into the ancient past with the prospect of solving mysteries that have mystified many of us for years!

Inquiring minds want to know:  what is your favorite medieval legend that remains unsolved?  Is it Arthur, the ‘Princes in the Tower’ or perhaps…???

 

 Floor Plan of Westminster Abbey and Edward the Confessor’s Tomb and Shrine

 

Recommended historical fiction readings re:  War of the Roses

  • The Kingmaker’s Daughter-Phillipa Gregory
  • A Dangerous Inheritance-Alison Weir

 

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