Sunday, 29 June 2008

A new theory points to model for King Arthur

Published: March 19, 1985

A BRITISH scholar has uncovered evidence that he says establishes the identity of the man who may well have been the model for the mythic Arthur, the once and future king of legend. The real Arthur, according to the new findings, was probably a fifth-century ''high king'' of the Britons known as Riothamus.
In a detailed analysis of the few written accounts of the time, the scholar, Geoffrey Ashe, a historian who has worked closely with archeologists, found a striking coincidence between Arthur's supposed exploits in Gaul and the documented expedition of Riothamus. He is known to have led an army of Britons in a vain struggle to expel the barbarian Goths from the pro-Roman region of Burgundy. Like Arthur, he advanced into Burgundy, was betrayed by an associate, fought bravely but was defeated and disappeared from history in about 470. Further research gave Mr. Ashe reason to suspect that Arthur and Riothamus were one and the same. He and Leon Fleuriot, a Celtic scholar at the Sorbonne in Paris, working independently, discovered that Riothamus is not a name but a title, meaning ''high king.'' Since history records no other name for the king, Mr. Ashe decided, after years of what is called manuscript archeology, that he had quite probably ''found'' the man who was Arthur.
In ''The Discovery of King Arthur,'' published recently in association with Debrett's Peerage, Mr. Ashe wrote: ''In the High King called Riothamus we have, at last, a documented person as the starting point of the legend. He is the only such person on record who does anything Arthurian. Or to put it more precisely, he is the only one to whom any large part of the story can be related.''
The finding is not likely to diminish the Arthur of medieval romances, which are glorious fictions about a magic sword and the prophetic Merlin, gallant knights of the Round Table and the ''brief shining hour'' of Camelot, the adulterous love between Lancelot and Guinevere, Galahad's quest for the Holy Grail, and the king's ultimate defeat and disappearance to Avalon. This Arthur, though he never lived, is immortal.
But Mr. Ashe's conclusions are certain to stir controversy among the scholars who have long sought to establish the historical basis, if any, for the Arthurian legend. Some scholars doubt that there ever was a real Arthur. Others believe he was a general, not a king, who fought the invading Saxons and after death was given heroic stature in Welsh and Breton folklore. Still others question whether he ever extended his military reach to the Continent.
Norris J. Lacy, president of the International Arthur- ian Society and a scholar of medieval French literature at the University of Kansas, called Mr. Ashe's study ''the most complete and best-researched'' attempt so far to identify the real Arthur. ''Many people are still viewing it with some reserve,'' Dr. Lacy added, ''but the arguments are relatively convincing and Ashe is making some converts.''
The hypothesis is likely to inspire new studies of the Arthur question and give added impetus to the small but active groups of archeologists digging for traces of the fortresses, villas and other artifacts from the time of Arthur, a chaotic time in British history that invited legend because so little about it is known.
When Rome withdrew its legions early in the fifth century, ending centuries of rule in the British Isles, the Britons, a Celtic people, were left on their own. They soon disintegrated into petty kingdoms vulnerable to attack. To shore up defenses, an ambitious nobleman, Vertigern, brought in Angle and Saxon mercenaries who then turned on their employers. The ultimate Anglo-Saxon takeover was forestalled by an army of Britons led by a king - either Arthur or someone like him.
Since there are no contemporary accounts from this time, the legend of Arthur grew mainly out of Welsh stories passed on from generation to generation. It was one people's way of recalling their former greatness. In about 1135, Geoffrey of Monmouth embellished the stories in writing a ''history'' of the British kings, and this became the primary source of medieval tales celebrating Arthur's reign and his presumed battles in Gaul.
Reign Set From 454 to 470
For his study, Mr. Ashe re-examined Geoffrey's book as well as earlier writings by a certain Jordane, in the 6th century, and someone known only as William who wrote the ''Legend of St. Goeznovius'' in the 11th century. He thus determined that Arthur presumably reigned from 454 to 470 and campaigned in Gaul when Leo I was Emperor in Constantinople, in the late 460's. This coincided with the time Riothamus led British forces into Gaul.
Mr. Ashe noted that Jordanes wrote of the ''king Riotimus'' who came with 12,000 men into Brittany ''by way of Ocean.'' Then, as he said in an interview last week, Mr. Ashe found ''the most certain proof'' of Riothamus's existence and his presence in Gaul in the late 460's. The evidence, which had been overlooked, was a letter written by Sidonius Apollinaris, an aristocrat living in Rome, to Riothamus in a region south of the Loire River.
After Mr. Ashe first described the probable link between Riothamus and Arthur, he learned that a historian in 1799, Sharon Turner, had the same idea but never pursued it further. In ''History of the Anglo-Saxons,'' he wrote in a footnote, ''Either this Riothamus was Arthur, or it was from his expedition that Geoffrey, or the Breton bards, took the idea of Arthur's battles in Gaul.''
Riothamus suffered a defeat in battle at the town of Deols across the Indre River from Ch^ateauroux. The king was last heard of as passing from history in Burgundy. Mr. Ashe said his probable route of escape took him through a French town called Avallon to this day.
In his book, Mr. Ashe concluded: ''We now have evidence in four quite different settings - not only Geoffrey's fiction, but the folklore of the Celtic fringe, Breton hagiography and Franco-German chronicle-writing - for the name Arthur denoting this King. This looks like the solution.''
Some Scholars Are Skeptical
Frederick C. Suppe, a Celtic scholar at the University of Minnesota, said that Mr. Ashe's research was ''respectable from a scholarly point of view,'' though he was ''dubious'' that Arthur ever fought on the Continent. ''I'd be willing to listen and consider the case,'' he added.
Dr. Suppe said the new study was an example of the ''more systematic'' research directed in recent years at questions raised by the Arthurian legend. Scholars are re-examining the Celtic folk legends for recurring themes and possible underlying fact. And archeologists have begun to explore the legend with vigor.
In the 1960's, archeologists uncovered in Somerset the stone remains of a fortress at Cadbury Hill, the supposed site of Arthur's Camelot. Pottery found there was identified as being similar to known fifth century pottery. Leslie Alcock, professor of archeology at the University of Glasgow and leader of the excavation, said the ramparts and architecture of the fortress suggested a grandeur befitting a king - not a castle in the medieval sense of the Arthurian legends, but perhaps more than the headquarters of a military commander. Dr. Alcock, however, has refrained from making a judgment on the reality of Arthur.
Excavation of Roman-Style Villa
John Kenfield, an archeologist at Rutgers University, will be returning to England this summer to resume excavation of a Roman-style villa near Avebury in Wiltshire. The villa is near the site of the Battle of Badon, where Arthur is supposed to have defeated the Saxons.
Nothing dug up so far points to Arthur, Dr. Kenfield emphasized, but pottery place the time of the villa in the late fifth century. He said the villa could provide clues to life at the time Britain was passing from Roman to Saxon hands.
Mr. Ashe said he hoped that future archeologists will dig around the area where Riothamus battled the Goths in France. Finding some British weapons from Arthurian times, he said, would re-inforce his thesis that in Riothamus he has found the real King Arthur.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


According to Gildas Vortipor "tyrant of the Demetae" (Dyfed), it presents a suggestion about Arthur of Dyfed as Vortipor, if Artuir of Dyfed was the son of Pedr, a direct descendant of Vortipor, the Irish version "Gartbuir" brings similarities with the warlord suggested in Y Gododdin "Gwarddur" being compared to Arthur, searching for some similarities to Vortipor (Protector), some genealogies establishes a pedigree for Coel (coincidently a theory which King Arthur is a Coel's descendent, just suggestion), identifying a descendent from Caswallon. Some genealogies identify his father as Guotepauc or Godebog, what in Brythonic language means "Protector"; "defender". Could be Guotepauc as Vortipor? About Vortigern, he had three sons: the eldest was Vortimer (Gwerthefyr) known as St. Madrun, the second was Categirn or Brydw (Brittu), Categirn is another epithet meaning "war lord", "battle king", the third was Pascent who reigned in the two provinces Builth and Guorthegirnaim, after the death of his father. The fourth was Faustus born of an incestuous marriage with his suppose daugher or probably "step daughter", who was brough up and educated by St. Germanus

Monday, 23 June 2008

An Anglo-Saxon Tale: Lady Godiva

The story of Lady Godiva is an enduring one - find out here the facts about her that are known to be true, alongside the tale that has been handed down through the years.

Who was Lady Godiva?

The story of Lady Godiva's ride, naked, through the streets of Coventry has changed and grown over the 900 years or so of its existence - but who was the real person behind the legend?
Lady Godiva was married to Leofric, the 'grim' Earl of Mercer and Lord of Coventry, a man of great power and importance. The chronicler Florence of Worcester mentions Leofric and Godiva, but does not mention her famous ride, and there is no firm evidence connecting the rider with the historical Godiva.
In 1043 the Earl and Countess founded a Benedictine house for an abbot and 24 monks on the site of St Osburg's Nunnery, which had been destroyed by the Danes in 1016. The monastery was dedicated by Edsi, Archbishop of Canterbury, to God, the Virgin Mary, St Peter, St Osburg and All Saints.
During the dedication ceremony, Earl Leofric laid his founding charter upon the newly consecrated altar, which not only granted the foundation, but also gave him lordship over 24 villages for the maintenance of the house.
Lady Godiva endowed the monastery with many gifts in honour of the Virgin Mary. She is supposed to have had all her gold and silver melted down and made into crosses, images of saints and other decorations to grace her favoured house of God.
Leofric died in 1057 and was buried with great ceremony in one of the porches of the Abbey church. Lady Godiva survived her husband by ten years and is also said to have been buried in the church, although this has not yet been proven.

On her deathbed, she gave a heavy gem-encrusted gold chain to the monastery, directing that it should be placed around the neck of the image of the Virgin. Those who came to pray, she said, should say a prayer for each stone in the chain.
The remains of the subsequent 13th-century church monastery, Coventry's first cathedral, can now be seen in Priory Row.

The Godiva legend

The Godiva procession So what is the truth behind the story of Lady Godiva's ride through Coventry? Why would a lady of great standing in the town do such a thing? The legend has been handed down over many years, so the line between fact and fiction has become more than a little blurred.
The earliest surviving source for the legend is the Chronica of Roger of Wendover for the year 1057. He wrote that Godiva pleaded with her husband to relieve the heavy burden of taxes he had imposed on the citizens of Coventry.
Weary of her persistence, Leofric said he would grant her request if she would ride naked through the town.
The rest of the story is not documented at all, but it is said that so great was her compassion for the people of Coventry that Godiva overcame her horror of doing this. She ordered the people to remain indoors with their windows and doors barred. Loosening her long hair to cover her as a cloak, she mounted her waiting horse.
Then she rode through the silent streets unseen by the people, who had obeyed her command because of their respect for her.

Only one man, called Tom, was unable to resist the temptation to peep at the Countess (hence the term 'Peeping Tom'). He unbarred his window, but before he could satisfy his gaze he was struck blind.
Her ordeal completed, Godiva returned to her husband, who fulfilled his promise to abolish the heavy taxes. According to Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon, Leofric freed the town from all tolls save those on horses. An inquiry made in the reign of Edward I shows that indeed, at that time, no tolls were paid in Coventry except on horses.
A pageant is held annually in Coventry to re-enact Lady Godiva's original route through the town.

Source: BBC/History

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Arthwys ap Mor/Mar versus Arthwys/Arthuis ap Masgwid


The second son of Mor/Mar was Arthwys c. 455 or 460, known as Arthur of the Pennines. Arthwys had two sons, St.Pabo Post Prydain c.470 – 530, whose daughter Arddyn Penasgell (Wing Headed) c.510 married Brochfael Ysgythrog of the family line.
The second son was Cynfelyn c.474. The next son of Mor was Morydd , who in turn fathered Morfryn Frych (the Freckled), who after marrying Alden was later to become a king in the Gwynedd area.
Ceneu's second son Gwarst is known to have fathered two sons, Meirchion Gul (the Lean) c.422 and Masgwid Gloff c.444, King of Elmet. Meirchion Gul had three sons, which caused the Rheged kingdom to be split. The first was Cynfarch Oer (the Dismal) c.461, King of North Rheged, and the second Elidyr Llydanwyn (the Stout and Handsome) c.464. They married two sisters Nyfain and Gwawr, the daughters of Brychan. The third was Idno c.466 who had no offspring. Masgwid Gloff had five sons, Llaennog c.475, King of Elmet and his brothers Einion c.477, Arthwys c.479, St. Cynllo c.481 and Ceredig c.483, none of whom became kings or had family.

Saturday, 21 June 2008



Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain, north of Salisbury, in southwestern England, that dates from the late Stone and early Bronze ages (about 3000-1000 bc). The monument, now in ruins, consists of a circular group of large upright stones surrounded by a circular earthwork. Stonehenge is the best preserved and most celebrated of the megalithic monuments of Europe. It is not known for certain what purpose Stonehenge served, but many scholars believe the monument was used as a ceremonial or religious center.

Stonehenge is not a single structure, but a series of structures that were rebuilt, revised, and remodeled over a period of approximately 1,500 years. Little is known of Stonehenge’s architects. In the 17th century English antiquary John Aubrey proposed that Stonehenge was a temple built by Druids, a caste of Celtic priests encountered by the Romans as they conquered ancient Britain in the 1st century AD. Another early notion was that the Romans themselves constructed the monument. These theories were disproved in the 20th century, when archaeologists showed that work on Stonehenge began some 2,000 years before Celts, and later Romans, had arrived in the area. Today it is widely believed that Neolithic peoples of the British Isles began constructing the monument about 5,000 years ago.

Construction of Stonehenge
Excavations at Stonehenge since the 1950s suggest the monument was constructed in three main phases. The earliest phase of Stonehenge was completed by about 2900 bc. It consisted of a circular ditch 110 m (360 ft) in diameter and 1.5 m (5 ft) deep. Archaeologists believe deer antlers were used as picks to loosen the chalk bedrock. Excavated material was used to build a circular embankment along the inside rim of the ditch. Along the interior edge of the embankment the ancient architects dug 56 pits. These pits are named Aubrey Holes, after John Aubrey, who first observed them. The pits may once have held wooden posts.

In a second phase of construction, lasting from about 2900 to 2500 bc, several new timber structures arose at Stonehenge. Timber posts were erected in the flat ground at the center of the encircling ditch. Posts were also raised at a break in the ditch to the northeast, a place that served as an entrance to the site.
Stonehenge was radically and repeatedly transformed during a third phase of building, which lasted from about 2550 to 1600 bc. About 80 pillars of various types of igneous rock, called bluestones for their color, were erected near the center of the site in two concentric circles. The bluestones came from outcroppings in the Preseli Mountains of southwestern Wales, located roughly 220 km (137 mi) from Stonehenge. Transportation of the rock pillars, which weigh as much as 4 metric tons each, was a remarkable achievement and may have involved sea, river, and overland routes.

During this third phase of building, Stonehenge underwent a complicated sequence of remodeling. The double circle of bluestones was soon dismantled. Great blocks of a different kind of stone, a sandstone called sarsen, were brought from Marlborough Downs, located 40 km (25 mi) north of Stonehenge. Thirty of these new and much larger pillars of sarsen were erected in a circle with a diameter of about 33 m (108 ft). This structure is now known as the Sarsen Circle. Each pillar stood approximately 4 m (13 ft) above the ground. Mounted atop the 30 pillars was a continuous ring of sarsen crosspieces, called lintels. The lintels were matched together with tongue and groove joints and were attached to the pillars with mortise and tenon joints. With its engineering, design, and precise stonework, the Sarsen Circle is considered one of the most impressive features of Stonehenge. Of the 30 original sarsen pillars, 17 remain standing today along with six of the lintels.

Within the Sarsen Circle, a massive horseshoe-shaped structure was erected. The horseshoe, which opens to the northeast, toward the entrance to the structure, was constructed of five pairs of gigantic upright blocks of sarsen. Each block weighs 40 metric tons or more. A stone lintel on top of each pair makes each into a great archway called a trilithon (a word derived from Greek that means “three stones”). The trilithons increase in height toward the central and largest one, which measures 7 m (24 ft) above the ground. Three of the five original trilithons, complete with their lintels, remain standing today.

Several other features at the site are also associated with the third phase of construction. These include the Altar Stone, a block of greenish sandstone that sits at the base of the central trilithon near the center of the horseshoe. Once standing, the Altar Stone now lies flat against the earth, and—like the bluestones—came from southwestern Wales. Just inside the interior of the circular embankment, four stones, called station stones, were erected. Two of the stones are still standing. The station stones were situated approximately in line with the older Aubrey Holes. Imaginary lines connecting the stones opposite each other intersected at the very center of the monument. In addition, more sarsen stones were placed near the entrance to the monument. The two that survive are called the Slaughter Stone and the Heel Stone. The Heel Stone rises just outside the encircling ditch on the Avenue, a long earthwork structure that is marked by parallel banks. The Avenue is interpreted as a ceremonial approach to Stonehenge.

In later years, the bluestones were further rearranged. Eventually, some of the bluestones were used to erect a circle of pillars between the Sarsen Circle and the trilithon horseshoe, and a horseshoe of bluestone pillars was erected inside the trilithon horseshoe.

There are more than 1,000 stone circles in the British Isles, but Stonehenge is unique among them. No other circle has massive stones trimmed into neat shapes, like giant building bricks, or lintels perched atop them. The sophisticated engineering and joinery employed at Stonehenge suggest that it was built by people who were skilled in making great structures out of timber. Archaeologists now know that Stonehenge was just one of many prehistoric structures, collectively called henges, built of earth, river gravel, timber, or stone. Like the surviving stone circles, most were circular in shape.

Purpose of Stonehenge

Why Stonehenge was constructed remains unknown. Most scholars agree that it must have been a sacred and special place of religious rituals or ceremonies. Many have speculated that Stonehenge was built by Sun worshipers. The axis of Stonehenge, which divides the sarsen horseshoe and aligns with the monument’s entrance, is oriented broadly toward the direction of the midsummer sunrise. In nearby Ireland the celebrated megalithic monument Newgrange, built approximately at the same time as Stonehenge, was oriented toward the midwinter sunrise.

In the early 1960s American astronomer Gerald S. Hawkins theorized that Stonehenge was an astronomical observatory and calendar of surprising complexity. Hawkins suggested that ancient peoples used the monument to anticipate a wide range of astronomical phenomena, including the summer and winter solstices and eclipses of both the Sun and the Moon. The astronomical interpretation of Stonehenge remains popular today, despite many uncertainties. Some scholars are doubtful that the peoples who constructed Stonehenge and other sites of the era possessed the mathematical sophistication necessary to predict many of the events that Hawkins theorized. They note that Stonehenge’s architects may have been aware of the subtle movements of the Sun, Moon, and other heavenly bodies without having an analytically advanced understanding of astronomy.

The true purpose of Stonehenge is an enduring mystery. Modern observers can only speculate about what it meant to its builders and what compelling impulse drove them to invest so much labor and care in creating it.

A Recent Excavations

In 2006 excavations at Durrington Walls, about 3 km (less than 2 mi) from Stonehenge, uncovered a large settlement dating to 2600 or 2500 bc. The settlement consisted of wooden structures laid out in the same pattern as Stonehenge and, according to the archaeologists who conducted the excavations, probably housed the workers who built Stonehenge. However, the remains of large amounts of pottery and animal bones found at the site suggest that it was a place of feasting, which may mean that it housed people who came to Stonehenge to celebrate. In a separate area at Durrington Walls, archaeologists discovered the remains of houses surrounded by fences. They believe that these houses may have been used by priests or that they may have been used in cult rituals. In any case, the excavators believe that Durrington Walls and Stonehenge were closely connected and that Stonehenge was part of a much larger complex used for funeral rituals.

Reviewed By:

Christopher Chippindale, Ph.D.Curator, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology in Cambridge, England. Author of Stonehenge Complete and The Archaeology of Rock-Art.

Further Reading
How to cite this article:"Stonehenge," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008 © 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Sojourn to Stonehenge: summer solstice 2008

The summer solstice at Stonehenge is a spiritual experience for some, a fantastic festival for others and undoubtedly one of the most significant celebrations in the UK each year. MSN UK News brings you a preview of the event that brings people together and provides a touchstone, or a circle of them, for spiritual connection.

Four times a year, the ropes are down and men can stand next to monoliths. English Heritage, the historical society that oversees Stonehenge, will open the stones to the public Saturday for the summer solstice.

"[It’s people] getting together as sort of a democracy of celebration to welcome the summer sunrise," Ronald Hutton, a professor of History at Brixton University and a specialist in modern Paganism said.

For Maurice Bower, a co-founder of the Wight Druids, a group of a few dozen individuals living on England’s Isle of Wight, the solstice, the longest day of the year, is a time of reverence and celebration.

"It's the high point of the year; it's when the day is at its longest, light at its strongest. It’s a seasonal turning point; sometimes I call it the hinge of the year," Bower said.

Druids are one of the most prominent spiritual groups that travel to Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

"I regard it as a temple and I have no doubt it was such in the past," Bower said. "We have no doubt that Druids did not build Stonehenge; it still has significance to us as a temple, a monumental temple, and one of the great ones of the world."

Mysterious heritage

Stonehenge was built in three stages by three cultures, Windmill, First Wessex and the Beakers. The bigger mystery is what Stonehenge was used for and why it’s there. Scholars and spiritualists alike can offer clues to its amazing longevity.

"Nobody really knows why it was built. It’s a kind of world imagination park in which people can project their own spiritual needs. It’s simply because it’s so mysterious, that people have a chance to find things there for themselves," Hutton said.

The traditional respect toward nature and ancestry are what most draw the Druids to Stonehenge.

"It's clearly an ancestral monument, and as we follow a religion, or a spiritual path, that claims ancient linage, ancient roots, we don't pretend to practice that now, but to us it's important to respect the monuments that our ancestors have left to us," Bower said.

Thousands of people are expected at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. Over 20,000 people visited for the event last year.

By Kelsey Proud and Maneeza Iqbal, Reporters, MSN UK News

20 June 2008

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Britain AD Episode I - King Arthur's Britain

Friday, 13 June 2008

New research suggests Welsh Celtic roots lie in Spain and Portugal

Professor John Koch suggests the Welsh can trace their ancestry back to Portugal and Spain, debunking the century-old received wisdom that our forebears came from Iron Age Germany and Austria.His radical work on Celtic origins flatly contradicts the writing of Sir John Rhys, who in the late 19th century established the idea that we originally came from central Europe.Sir John believed the Celts were the remnants of a great culture that extended here from modern-day eastern France, Switzerland, southern Germany and Austria.But Professor Koch, of the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies, in Aberystwyth, says archaeological inscriptions on stones show we came from southern Portugal and south-west Spain.He said: “Celts are said to come from west central Europe – Austria, southern Germany, eastern France and that part of the world.“That’s been the theory that everybody has grown up with for at least 100 years.“There is evidence that the Celtic languages were spoken there because of place names and people’s names.“But the assumption was that was where they came from. I think they got there later.“There is evidence in Spain and Portugal indicating they were there 500 or more years before.”Professor Koch says there are Celtic texts in Portugal and Spain way before they started springing up in central Europe during Roman times.One key piece of evidence is the earliest written language of western Europe – Tartessian, found on inscribed stones in Portugal and Spain dating back to between 800BC and 400BC. The professor maintains this language can be deciphered as Celtic.Expert on Welsh history and archaeology Dr Raimund Karl, says there is also biological and genetic evidence to support professor Koch’s theory.He said: “In the last couple of years there have been a number of genetic studies of human DNA indicating that the population of much of the western part of the British Isles is related to other communities along the Atlantic seafront. These include Brittany, northern Spain, Portugal and the French Atlantic coast. That’s their genetic origin.”But Dr Karl, of the University of Wales, Bangor, said there is also archaeological evidence suggesting a cultural link with central Europe.“There is evidence suggesting a link with central Europe from elite-material culture – stuff associated with the upper parts of society. This includes weaponry, feasting equipment, artwork on jewellery and other prestigious items.”However the academic said attempts to identify a biological Celt or notions of cultures emanating from a particular spot are meaningless. He believes human cultures and populations are constantly in a state of flux, drawing their influences from far and wide.Dr Karl, himself an Austrian, added: “I personally think the question of where Celtic culture originated is by and large meaningless. Culture is constantly changing and never has a single point of origin.“The biological Celt is meaningless because human populations inter-mingle.”

Source; IC Wales.

New theory on geometry of Stonehenge from Anthony Johnson

A new study claims our Neolithic ancestors employed a sophisticated knowledge of geometry to build Stonehenge that rivalled that of Pythagoras, 2,000 years before the eminent Greek was born. After five years of detailed research, respected landscape archaeologist Anthony Johnson believes the world famous Wiltshire landmark was designed and built using advanced geometry.The theory of the Oxford University expert has major implications for understanding the 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site and the mysterious people who built it.Attempting to answer probably the greatest question of British archaeology, many experts have proclaimed Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory.However, Mr Johnson suggests the creation of the enigmatic pattern of stones on Salisbury Plain was firmly rooted in the study of geometry rather than early astronomy.The knowledge of geometry and symmetry was an important part of wider European religious belief, spurring the designers to create a masterpiece highlighting their expertise.He said the complex was designed, pre-fabricated and erected as a result of methods used to construct much simpler monuments during the preceding hundreds of years.Mr Johnson said the great stones were shaped off-site before being installed by surveyor-engineers. He also argues this knowledge was regarded among prehistoric tribes as a form of arcane wisdom or magic that conferred a privileged status on the elite who possessed it.The most complex geometrical achievement at Stonehenge is an 87-metre diameter circle of chalk- cut pits which mark the points of a 56-sided polygon, created immediately within the monument's perimeter earthwork.Mr Johnson used computer analysis and experimental archaeology to demonstrate that this outer polygon was laid out using square and circle geometry.The latter involved nothing more complex than experimenting with the aid of two men, a few wooden stakes and a piece of rope.He believes the surveyors started by using a rope to create a circle, then laid out the four corners of a square on its circumference, before laying out a second similar square, thus creating an inner octagon.The points of the octagon were then utilised as anchors for a surveyor's rope which was used to draw arcs which intersected the circumference so as to progressively create the sides of a vast polygon.He said he had demonstrated that a 56-sided polygon was the most complex that could easily be created purely through square and circle geometry using a single piece of rope.Mr Johnson, whose theories are outlined in a new book Solving Stonehenge, said: "For years people have speculated that Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory."My research suggests that, apart from mid-summer and mid- winter solar alignments, this was not the case."It strongly suggests that it was the knowledge of geometry and symmetry which was an important component of the Neolithic belief system."It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2,000 years before Pythagoras.

Note: Ronald Hutton reviews this book in the TLS, plus an extract from Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill, see the latest comments

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

An Arthurian Chronology according to Geoffrey of Monmouth

410/ End of Roman authority; appeal to Aldroenus; Constantine heads army; defeats Picts; made King

410-426/ Reign of Constantine. He marries and has three children: Constans (410), Ambrosius (425) and Uther (426)

428/ Constans murdered; Vortigern king; Ambrosius and Uther smuggled to Britain [Llydaw]. Arrival of Saxons [Gewis?].

428-440/ Build up of Saxons, including arrival of Reiwen who marries Vortigern. Visit of Germanus and Lupus.

440s/ Saxon wars. Vortimer deposes Vortigern and drives back Saxons.

449-455/ Vortimer killed; Vortigern restored; return of Hengist. Massacre of nobles. Vortigern flees.

455-457/ Ambrosius arrives; defeats and kills Vortigern. Made king. Defeats Hengist.

457-460/ Rebuilding programme. Late 460s/ Ambrosius killed; Uther quells north. Octa and Eossa imprisioned.

c470/ Birth of Arthur.485-494/ Uther poisoned; Arthur crowned. Octa and Eossa escape and are killed. Period of Arthur's battles.

495-506/ Arthur's peaceful reign and rise of chivalry.

506-515/ Arthur's Gallic campaign, culminating in imperial coronation.516-520/ Arthur's second Gallic campaign and march on Rome; Mordred's teachery; Arthur's return and fall at the battle of Camlann.

523/ Death of Arthur in Avalon.520-532/ Reigns of Constantine, Cynan and Vortipor.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Boudicca: The Warrior Queen

by Edileide Brito

Boudicca (Boadicea) is one of Britain’s greatest heroines, a freedom fighter who rebelled against the Roman government. Her rebellion was the only viable challenge to the supremacy of the Romans who, until the fifth century, exercised a distinct influence over Britain and its heritage. Boudicca was queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England and led a major uprising against occupying Roman forces. Her husband Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia, when the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule. However, when Prasutagus died the Romans decided to rule the Iceni directly and confiscated the property of the leading tribesmen. They are also said to have stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters. These actions exacerbated widespread resentment at Roman rule.
Around 60 or 61 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was leading a campaign in North Wales, the Iceni rebelled. Members of other tribes joined them. Boudicca's warriors successfully defeated the Roman Ninth Legion and destroyed the capital of Roman Britain, then at Colchester. They went on to destroy London and Verulamium (St Albans). Thousands were killed. Finally, Boudicca was defeated by a Roman army led by Paulinus. Many Britons were killed and Boudicca is thought to have poisoned herself to avoid capture. The site of the battle, and of Boudicca's death, are unknown.
Boudicca is portraited as a typical Celtic warrior woman and in the Celtic tradition these legendary women warriors were a big part of history. In Celtic society, females had equal standing to men. they fought and hunted side by side with the men and had the same rights to property and respect. In Celtic lands women were owned communally, and wealth seems to have been based largely on the size of cattle herd owned. The lot of women was a good deal better than in most societies of that time. They were technically equal to men, owned property, and could choose their own husbands. They could also be war leaders, as Boudicca later proved.
However, Boadicca, Queen of the Icenis was of the one most remembered. After their home were savage plundered, the women violated and their men killed, Boadicca formed her “clan of warriors” that swept across Europe defending the Celtic lands and ways and fighting for justice against the Romans. She was later reffered to “Amazon”, a term given to all women were honourable, courageous, brave and excelled in combat and dit not abide a “patriarch society”. The term ‘Amazon’ is thought to come from an Armenian word, meaning 'moon women'. Artemis or Diana was the goddess of Moon and Hunt and was the Amazon's patron goddess.
Exploring the myth of the ancient Celts especially as they focus on female deities. The myths of the ancient Celts suggest the dominant role of the Celtic female, or at least they point up a society that was at one time ‘matrifocused’, that is, focused on women. Further, the evolution of these myths suggests a distinct shift in consciousness shaped by the warrior ethos. "Women were highly honored, female symbolism formed the most sacred images in the religious cosmos, and the relationship with motherhood was the central elements of the social fabric, the society was held together by common allegiance to the customs of the tribe loosely organized around the traditions of the goddess".
In Irish mythology and later Arthurian tales, women warriors teach the famous heroes chivalry, mystical wisdom (possibly Druidic lore), and feats of arms. The wooing of Emer is one such tale. Scáthach nUanaind taught the great Irish hero Cúchulainn, on the Isle of Skye, how to fight. Skye was one of many schools or academies of martial arts run by women. The myths say it takes these women a year and a day to train a hero.
These women warriors are called banaisgedaig, ban feinnidi, and bantuathaig and they are credited as having the magical power of transformation, somewhat like berserker rage, where the face is flush red and the neck and arms swell. On the whole, these female champions are described as both beautiful and courageous. These heroines were not all muscle and no brains; they were also accomplished in the arts and sciences. Sometimes referred to as Ban-faith or "prophetess" they were experts in divination and supernatural wisdom. If these female heroines were indeed Ban-faiths, then it these warrior women were also a subclass of the Druids, just as the Faiths and Ovates were a subclass of the Druids.
In a nutshell, the Celtic warrior women represent all the values to rule a society, they are synonym of courage and leadership, and their feats a bequest of freedom.