Archive for April, 2014

The Master Gunner was in charge of all guns, shot and gunpowder on the ship. He was also responsible for training of the gunnery crews. His skeleton was found within the wreckage and could be identified by his clothes and the tools he was carrying. His cabin was identified by his chest which contained the Gunners tools.

The Master Gunners chest

The Master Gunners chest

Among the items found in the chest were a guage for iron shot (14). Using this the shot were checked to ensure that they were the correct size for the cannon. The journal cover (12) and the rings (16) indicate that like the Master Carpenter, the Gunner was an educated man of some wealth.

Items from the Master Gunners cheat

Items from the Master Gunners cheat

The Lyrid meteor shower

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Astronomy
Tags: ,

This past week it has been possible to observe the Lyrid meteor shower. Unfortunately there was too much light where I live to see it so I wasn’t able to get any photos.

Lyrid Meteor No. 1
photo by Mike Lewinski (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ikewinski/)

Lyrid Meteor Shower
photo by Phillip Chee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pchee/)

The following is a link to an article about the Lyrid shower

http://earthsky.org/tonight/moonlight-drowns-out-lyrid-meteors-but-not-venus?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=dd0e7aca2b-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-dd0e7aca2b-393761461

The following are links to good articles about meteor watching in general

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/observing-meteors?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=dd0e7aca2b-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-dd0e7aca2b-393761461

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

Abbotsbury Swannery near Weymouth in Dorset is unique in being the only managed nesting colony of Mute Swans in the world. There are usually around 150 nesting pairs with a total count of around 600, although the peak recorded count was 900 birds. This is an unusual place as nesting swans are usually fiercly territorial and would not normally allow other swans or humans to get close to their nests. In July when the birds are flightless they are herded into pens and checked, weighed and ringed.

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Occasionally an escaped swan finds it way to the swannery, in this case a Black swan escaped from a wildfowl collection.

Occasionally an escaped swan finds it way to the swannery, in this case a Black swan escaped from a wildfowl collection.

The earliest record of the swannery was as part of a monastic institution in 1393. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the swannery was purchased by the Strangeways family and it has remained in the family until this time.

Off to visit Fingrinhoe Wick today with RSPB group. This is an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve, south east of Colchester, on old quarry workings beside the River Colne. It has a mixture of habitats including the river and its marshes, a lake, woodland and heathland.

The Colne Estuary

The Colne Estuary

Heathland

Heathland

The Lake

The Lake

I had two main targets today – to hear Nightingale (rarely seen) and to photograph Green Hairstreak Butterfly. Both specialities of this reserve. Well it was clear from the outset that the weather was not favourable for the second as it was cold wet and windy and in fact I didn’t see a single butterfly all day long. It didn’t take long however to satisfy the first target as near the Lake hide a male was singing his characteristic song whilst hidden in the undergrowth. By the end of the day I reckon I had probably heard 8-10 singing males in different parts of the reserve and I did see one briefly as it flew into a bush and thenproceeded to sing at me. Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were also present. On the River were a small number of waders and some Little Egrets.

Little Egret

Little Egret

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

The highlight of the day was definitely the number and song of the Nightingales as this bird is becoming scarcer in the UK every year and this is on of their remaining strongholds.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Bar-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa lapponica)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Nightingale [sp] (Luscinia megarhynchos)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

One of the amazing things about the Mary Rose excavation was thta as they came across the artefacts they were able to work out exactly whose cabin they were looking at from the nature of the things they found.

The cabin identified as that of the Master Carpenter was the largest one found on the main deck of the ship. Interestingly, it showed signs that at some point in the ship’s life the cabin had been modified to improve the conditions. It was a metre longer than the original cabin and next the window had been cut into the side of the ship to provide more light. Who better than the master carpenter to make such changes to his conditions?

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The occupant of the cabin was identified by a large wooden trunk which was found to contain a large collection of carpenters tools.

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But you also get an insight into the life of the carpenter. He was obviously a skilled craftsman to hold such a post, but at the same time he was obviously quite a wealthy man as a number of fine pewter items were also found in the cabin.

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Amongst the other things found in the cabin was a ‘tables’ board. This is an early version of the game which would subsequently developed into backgammon.

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For the contents of this cabin we can conclude that the master carpenter, was a senior officer on the ship, well rewarded for the level of skilled craftsmanship which was required.

I was recently asked to write a short piece on where I would most like to visit – archaeologically speaking. It came down to two sites Lachish in Israel or Carchemish in Turkey/Syria. Here is what I wrote about my choice.

The Battle of Carchemish
The site of the city of Carchemish lies on the banks of the River Euphrates. It originated in the Hittite empire and expanded over time. 3 distinct phases can be identified, a nuclear tell area or citadel, a surrounding area dating to the Hittite empire (early Iron age) and an expansion area dating to the Assyrian period . There are also Roman structures on the site. Excavations of the site ended in 1920 following the Turkish war as the site straddles the border of Syria and Turkey and it has remained a military zone since that date with no access. A new excavation in the Turkish section of the outer city was begun in 2010 although the citadel area remains under military control. Part of the outer city is within Syrian territory and is still off limits to archaeologists.

carchemish

The city of Carchemish was an important commercial site and border stronghold on the river Euphrates in the Iron age. As well as the potential trade opportunities (it had road links to Damascus and Nineveh), it was also a strategic stronghold for controlling access the Euphrates into the Assyrian empire.
The Battle of Carchemish occurred in 605 BCE. Most of the Assyrian empire had fallen to the Babylonian King Nabopolassar. The capital city of Nineveh and its successor Harran had been captured and so the Assyrian King Assur-ubalit and the remnant of his army relocated to Carchemish. Carchemish had been an Assyrian city but at this stage is thought to have been garrisoned by the Egyptians following the Assyrian withdrawal from Eber-Nari (‘the land over the River’) in 615-610 BCE. It was here that the Assyrian empire made its final stand. The armies of Assyria, aided by an army from Egypt under the Pharaoh Necho II, met with Babylonian forces under the command of Nebuchadnezzar II. The Egyptian –Assyrian army was defeated, the city was besieged and eventually fell.
The Babylonian Chronicles, now housed in the British Museum, claim that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish. The armies fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He accomplished their defeat and beat them to nonexistence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, the Babylonians overtook and defeated them in the district of Hamath so that not a single man escaped to his own country.
Why is this my choice?
This battle marks a profound change in the status of the ancient world. The Assyrian empire, dominant in the region for thousands of years had been swept away. The might of the Egyptian army had been broken and they retreated back to their border in the south allowing the Babylonians to take control of the lands of Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia and Judea (These had been part of the Assyrian empire but were coveted by the Egyptians as a security ‘buffer zone’ to the northern empires). Although they remained independent, they too would soon fall under the Persians and in turn Greek and Roman rulers. I think this battle can clearly be seen as a major turning point in ancient history.
Apart from its place in history, I am fascinated by the fact that this site is largely unexplored by archaeology in modern times and so has much still to tell us about the people who lived here; their culture and the effects on the city of the battle and the siege.

Artifacts collected during the excavations of 1910-1920

Fragment of relief showing Teshub, the storm god from Carcamesh (10th century BCE) British Museum

Fragment of relief showing Teshub, the storm god from Carcamesh (10th century BCE)
British Museum

Terracotta figurine of women with elaborate headdress and holding baby from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE). British Museum

Terracotta figurine of women with elaborate headdress and holding baby from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE). British Museum

Terracotta figurine with clasped hands from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE) British Museum

Terracotta figurine with clasped hands from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE) British Museum

Terracotta Horseman from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE) British Museum

Terracotta Horseman from Carcamesh (12th-7th BCE) British Museum

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The chance to pop into the London Wetland Centre for a couple of hours and what a couple of hours they turned out to be.

Redshank

Redshank

With the arrival of migrants there were lots of first sightings for the year on offer.A small flock of Sand Martins were joined briefly by a single House Martin and a Swallow. From the Tower hide Redshank, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper were all seen fairly quickly. Then our attention was drawn to a bird by the marsh land fence. A Large upright female Wheatear whose colouring suggested the Greenland race of the species rather than the nominate race which is most commonly sen in the UK.

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

Female Wheatear (Greenland race)

In all 38 species of birds and 4 species of Butterfly seen in just under two hours.

Female Orange Tip butterfly

Female Orange Tip butterfly

Cananda Goose on nest

Cananda Goose on nest

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Little Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius dubius)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Greenland Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

The Mary Rose Bell is one of the few objects excavated, which date from the launch of the ship in 1511. It is made of bronze and is of Flemish origin, coming from a foundery near Antwerp. The inscription on it reads ‘I was made in the year 1510’. It was used on board to ring the passing of time and so to inform the sailors and soldiers of the change of the watch.

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Robert Falcon Scott - Portsmouth Dockyard

Robert Falcon Scott – Portsmouth Dockyard


This statue of Robert Falcon Scott stands at the entrance to Portsmouth Naval Dockyard. It was sculpted by Kathleen Scott, his widow, a well known British sculptor of the time 2 years after his death in 1912.

Robert Falcon Scott was born in 1868. He joined the Navy and went to active service following training in 1883 at the age of 15. In 1893 he qualified as a torpedo officer and spent his active service on torpedo boats, He led his first Antarctic expedition in 1901. This was both a scientific and an exploration and during their time in the Antarctic much was achieved. Although they reached the Polar plateau there was no attempt to reach the pole. They returned home in 1904.

Scott returned to the Antarctic in 1910 and finally reached the South pole with 4 companions on 17th January 1912 only to find that a Norwegian expedition had arrived there 4 weeks earlier. Tragically on the return journey Scott and his 4 companions perished.

Expedición de Robert Falcon Scott en el Polo Sur (Antártida, 1912)
Scotts 5 man party on the 1912 expedition
From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/recuerdosdepandora/

New Zealand, Christchurch: Robert Falcon Scott
The statue of Scott in Christchurch New Zealand, the port from which the 1910 expedition departed for the Antarctic
Photo by Kool (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kool_skatkat/)

This is awesome. Must see for anyone interested in Roman History