The Bayeux Tapestry

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The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry, is some serious piece of embroidery, consisting of 50 scenes, with 632 people, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 creatures, 37 buildings, 41 ships and 49 trees.  It measures seventy metres in length, along with Latin captions in the upper and lower margins.

It tells the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The early stage of the Bayeux Tapestry tells of Harold’s journey to France, and Harold swearing an oath of allegiance to William, promising to support William’s claim to the English throne.

Edward dies, and Harold is crowned King of England, the oath he had made to William meant nothing, for he just disregarded it, to be King.

In February of 1066 a comet was observed in the sky… This was a sign of change, the downfall of the current regime.

Duke William prepared his fleet for the seventy mile crossing to the Sussex coast, in dragon-headed ships, a reminder of Norman – Viking ancestry.

These Norman’s built castles at Pevensey and Hastings and ravaged the countryside.  Harold’s family came from Sussex, so William was challenging him on his own ground.

The tapestry depicted the Battle of Hastings, as the English held the ridge, many on foot with their axes and shields.

The first attack by the Norman’s saw the English protect the ridge.  Some English followed Norman’s down, at the word William had been killed… he removes his helmet and cries out, “I am alive.”  His men rally to his side and kill the English who had come off the ridge.

The Norman’s lured the English into a more vulnerable position, and the Norman Calvary cut them down.  Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, is depicted with a huge club.  As a Bishop, he could not shed blood, but he could breal a few arms, legs and heads.

The decisive moment of the battle comes, when King Harold was killed as an arrow pierced his eye.

The English fled, at the news of their King’s death, pursued by Normans.

William marches off to London the very next day, and on Christmas Day he is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

One story tells of William’s wife Queen Matilda, and her ladies creating this tapestry… This piece of embroidery for her victorious husband.

If we look back in history, other 11th century queens, have produced embroidered pieces for churches.  However a seventy metre linen, embroidered in wool is something quite different, but one never knows.

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Norman England: The Domesday Book

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The Domesday Book

The Norman invasion of 1066, was led by Duke William of Normandy, who became William I (William the Conqueror), King of England.  He who was a descendant of those pagan Vikings, who attacked coastal communities from Scandinavia, who settled in the Seine Valley in 911.

When King Edward the Confessor died, Harold seized the English throne, and Edward’s promise that William should succeed him, was ignored.  This precipitated a Norman attack, as William claimed his right to the English throne.

England of the 11th century was not only an old country, but one stepped in wealth, one of which was English wool being exported to Europe…

So the Domesday Book was born, for he needed to know how much his new kingdom was worth.  Who owned every piece of land, those who lived and worked it, how much livestock, and set it down as a record.

They recorded the name of the estate, whose name it was in, how much livestock, ploughs, slaves, freemen, sokemen, wood, meadow, pasture and mills.  How much each freeman and sokeman had, and its considered value, thereof.

For it was a record of estates and manors, and how much tax could be levied across the country as a whole… an estate liability.

After the Norman Conquest, William initiated a change of estates and manor ownership, which would be recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.  Some 180 large estates and manors formerly owned by Anglo-Saxons, changed hands to that of Norman Barons.

6,000 farmers, who owned their land, now had to lease it from their new Norman masters.

The Domesday Book described a conquered country to a King, who never uttered a word of the English language, but wanted a detailed record of its ownership, and estimated value for tax purposes.  It paints a picture of early medieval England, with its Feudal System, Local Government and Taxation.

The Doomesday Book was a new start for the country, whose roots were firmly rooted in the past.

Of the sixteen Anglo-Saxon Bishoprics, only one survived, the others were moved to large centres under Norman leadership, and all six Anglo-Saxon Sees were changed to Norman.

By the year 1200, most of the Anglo-Saxon Cathedrals were destroyed and replaced by Norman-Styled Architecture of which many still exist to this day.

William took over a country, down to the last blade of grass, and developed a system, run by his Norman officials, from central to local officials.  For he needed England’s wealth in taxes to pay for his army.

So a demand for tax would be sent to a shire, by representatives of the court, which would carry the royal seal, often backed by military forces to ensure payment.

When Edward the Confessor died, and Duke William of Normandy his chosen successor finally claimed the English throne.  Who would have believed he would milk the country dry by means of taxation, to pay for his own army…

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Evolution… Early History

Early Human Warriors

It is unlikely that early forms of man were fully aware of the impact on our world that their simple use of tools from bones, rocks and branches would eventually have. Even so, rock was rock and wood was still wood, no matter what shape they formed it to or what they attached it to make weapons and early knives or cleavers.

There were times however when the nature of wood or rock could change, they would have seen this and most likely have been very alarmed. The fire from the sky may have struck a tree causing it to burn and turn black. They would certainly have found that food they found or killed smelt bad, or didn’t taste quite so good after a few days in the sun. They may even have noticed that fruit juices became strangely stimulating to drink and affected them physically.

These changes in the nature of substances that form matter of all kinds forms what we now call Chemistry. These fundamental alterations in the nature and structure of substances are known as chemical changes. Today, we readily make chemical changes that are generally with some benefit in mind. Some, alas, are not.

The first of these “controlled” changes occurred when man developed that ability to start and maintain fires. This was the “discovery of fire” as history labels it. From this point onwards, man would soon find that the texture and taste of food was enhanced by mixing it with fire for certain times, he would find that mud became extremely hard and that food inside mud would have an even different taste and texture to that mixed directly with fire. It would not be long before man was shaping mud and baking it hard to hold food and other items. Eventually, this would lead to ceramics and even primitive forms of glass.

These times are generally grouped into what we call the Stone Age, a time generally thought to be prior to 8000 BC when in the Middle East a revolutionary change was occurring. Man learned to domesticate animals and grow some of the foods they needed and so provide more stable and ample supplies required for the increasing populations. They began to develop permanent dwellings. For the first few thousand years stone was still the dominant tool in this “New Stone Age” or “Neolithic Period”. By 4000 BC, this development was spreading out from the Middle East to areas of Western Europe. It was about this time that a significant discovery was made, that of metal.

Early man came to find and use metal but it is almost certain that these early metals would have been shiney nuggets of yellow gold or the red copper. Maybe they would have been in the streams or in a hole dug for another reason. We can however, assume that their rarity prevented any real use until maybe someone discovered that the bluish green rocks he or she has surrounded a fire with the night before had left nuggets of this red malleable material behind. It wouldn’t have taken them long to realize that by heating certain types of rock they could obtain these metals. The first evidence of this discovery is thought to have been around 4000 BC, on the Sinai Peninsula, East of Egypt.  Copper frying pans have been found in Egyptian tombs that has been dated 3200 BC.

By 2000 BC an alloy of Copper, produced (no doubt by accident at first) from the heating of copper and tin ores together was common enough to be used in weapons and armour. This metal gives its name to the Bronze Age, during which the Trojan Wars occurred.

By 1500 BC the Hittites had discovered how to extract iron from its ores, a process requiring significantly higher temperatures than for copper or tin. Letters from 1280 BC from a Hittite king to his viceroy in an iron rich mountain region, make definite references to iron production. Iron itself is not a strong metal but during production it would pick up carbon from the furnace in enough quantities to form steel, a more malleable and stronger metal that could be formed into stronger armour and sharper blades. So began the Iron Age. By 900 B.C. several empires were building based on the strength of their iron, but even now the Egyptians were already turning their hand to other forms of chemistry. There was a great interest in the preservation of human bodies after death using pigments and juices from the natural world.

According to one theory they word “Chemistry” is derived from the word “khemeia”, a derivative of the Greek word “khumos”, meaning juice of plant and so khemeia is thought to mean the art of extracting juices, these juices may also refer to extracting liquid metal from rock and so this word can also mean “the art of metallurgy”.

By 600 B.C. the Greeks were beginning to concern themselves not only with the technology of the day but where it came from and why some things happened the way they did. They were setting out to develop what we might call, the first chemical theories. The first of these documented, lies with the philosopher Thales (c. 640 – 546 B.C.) who lived in Miletus, a region east of Turkey. What he was asking himself was that if you can transform one substance into another that has no resemblance of the previous substance, what is the true nature of that substance? Is the true nature of the substance what is was in the beginning or what it was at the end? Maybe it was neither, maybe it was both. Moreover, was it possible to change any given substance into some other substance and so, are all substances just a different aspect of one basic material? The obvious answer to us now is a resounding YES, all substance can be converted into some other substances and more importantly, all substances are derived from one basic material.

At this time, the Greek philosophers knew very few pure and basic substances. Of these, Thales believed the basic substance, or element, was water. It may seem strange to think that rock can form from water but, Thales observed that water was present in the greatest amount, it surrounded the land, fell from the sky, permeated rocks and life was impossible without it. It was a logical choice. As with all good philosophy, his ideas were accepted by some, disputed by others and in 570 B.C. Anaximenes of Miletus concluded that the element was in fact air and that towards the center if the universe, then thought to be earth, air was compressed into harder and denser varieties such as water and earth. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 540 – 475 B.C.) took a different route and suggested that if change characterized the universe then the ever shifting and ever changing fire must be the element and that its fieriness made change inevitable.

During these times the scientific interest migrated westwards with the Ionians and about 529 B.C. Pythagoras of Samos (c. 582- c.497 B.C.) is thought to have travelled to Italy where his teachings are known to have been very influential. Empedocle of Sicily (c.490 – C.430 B.C.) asked, “Why does there have to be one single element?” and so developed the doctrine of four elements which was accepted by one of the best known of the Greek philosophers, Aristotle (384-322B.C.). Aristotle did not consider the elements as named, rather that they were combinations of opposites, hot and cold, dry and moist and he believed one property could not combine without the other. This he took further by proposing that each element had its own unique set of properties and also proposed a fifth element, ether (meaning “glow”) and applied this to the heavenly bodies as they were unchanged. Fifth Element, in Latin is “quinta essentia”, it is still used today to mark Aristotelian perfection in the word “quintessence” when we talk of something in its purest and most concentrated form.

During the debate over elements, another major question developed between the Greek Philosophers. They had observed that you could break down a rock into powder but how many times could you continue to make the subdivision. Leucippus of Ionia (c. 450 B.C.) maintained that eventually a piece so small would be obtained that it could no longer be subdivided. Democritus (c. 470 – c.380 B.C.) was a disciple of Leucippus continued to think about this and named the ultimately small particles “atoms” meaning “indivisible”. Democritus believed that the atoms of each element were distinct in size and shape and that it was this distinction that made the elements have different properties. Actual substances were mixtures of the atoms of different elements and one substance could be converted to another by changing the nature of the mixture.

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Roman Britain: Hadrian’s Wall

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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar’s invasion force landed on Britain’s south-coast in 55 BC, and found it inhabited by Celtic tribes.  In 56 BC Caesar returned to Britain, and came face to face with the Catevellauni, whom he defeated in battle.  Caesar set up treaties and alliances before withdrawing his forces, and so the Roman occupation of Britain had begun.

In AD43, Emperor Claudius sent Aulus Plautius with a force of some 24,000 Roman soldiers to Britain, with orders to establish a military presence.  By AD79 England and Wales were under Roman control.

Emperor Vespasian believed Scotland should also become part of the Roman Empire, but they resisted the Romans.

Julius Agricola, Governor of Britain was faced with a formidable task.  By AD81 he had subdued southern Scottish tribal clans of Selgovae, Novantae and Votadini.  Roman forces headed northwards, intent on provoking the Caledonians into battle against hardened Roman warriors.  They met at Mons Graupius, where Romans were victorious, as 10,000 Caledonians were slain in battle, at the cost of only 360 Romans.  The following day, surviving clansmen fled into the hills, remaining resistant to Roman rule.

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Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian became Emperor of the Roman Empire in AD117, and under his orders, the Roman Empire no longer expanded.  In AD122 upon his visit to Britain in, ordered the construction of a wall from the North Sea to the Irish Sea; Solway Firth in the West to the River Tyne in the East.  If he couldn’t rule or control these Scottish barbarians, he built a wall; “Hadrian’s Wall” some 73 miles in length, 10 feet in width, and 15 feet in height, across open country, keeping them out of Britain.

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Hadrian’s Wall – Mile Castle Remains

The Roman’s built mile castles (small forts) which housed garrisons of some sixty men, every mile with towers every third of a mile.  Sixteen larger forts, holding 500-1,000 soldiers were built along the length of the wall, with large gates on the walls north face, and a wide ditch, with six foot high earth banks on the south side of the wall…

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Hadrian’s Wall – Roman Fort Remains

This massive structure, stretching across northern Britain was constructed by legionaries, taking six years to complete.

Much of the wall remains to this day, despite parts being used for road building and houses over the centuries.  This wall is nearly 1900 years old, a testament of Roman construction.

Images:
Hadrian’s Wall: English Heritage
Hadrian’s Wall Mile Castle: English Heritage
Hadrian’s Wall Roman Fort: English Heritage
Julius Caesar: Wikipedia

Neolithic Scotland: Skara Brae

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Skara Brae – Neolithic Settlement Remains

Located on the Bay of Skaill, in the Orkney’s, Northern Scotland, can be found “Skara Brae” a Neolithic settlement.

Humans changed their way of life during the Neolithic Times, from hunters and gatherers with no fixed abode, to the farming and raising of animals.  The changes took place over many hundreds of years.  They found they could control their food sources, by the planting of seeds and cultivation of crops.  They domesticated animals, which provided them with varied sources of meat; cattle, sheep and pigs.

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The site date backs some 5,200 years based on archaeological excavations.  There are ten single room houses, each measuring  thirty-six square metres with no windows, and heated by fire.  The roofs are all but gone, and we have to assume the roof was constructed from turf or timbers with chimney for ventilation.  The village had constructed its own drainage system, with toilets located within each house.

The buildings were constructed from flagstones, layered into the earth, amongst midden, giving greater support.  Space between walls and earth was filled with midden (rubbish) creating natural insulation.

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Each dwelling contained cupboards, beds, seats and storage boxes constructed out of stone.  These people knew how to work stone, even down to their furnishings.

Located at the front of each bed, remain stumps of stone pillars, possibly supporting a canopy of fur, associated with Hebridean life-style.

Builders of Skara Brae, were probably self-sufficient as much as possible.  Bones discovered at the site, shows their stable diet would have consisted of cattle and sheep plus barley and wheat locally grown.  Great quantities of fish bones and shells shows they complimented their food with fish.

Red deer and boar would have been hunted, eggs from seabirds and even birds would have been on the menu.

The inhabitants made grooved ware pottery, which was bowls, vases, pots and containers with flat bottoms and straight sides, decorated with grooves.  This earn’t its inhabitants to be known as the Grooved Ware People of Skara Brae.  They also crafted jewellery, tools and gaming dice.

“Skara Brae” lost for thousands of years, reared its head in the 19th century.

Western Scotland was battered by heavy storms in 1850, and much sand from the beaches was blown away, revealing parts of a few structures.  Landowner; William Watt, saw these exposed sections of walls, and excavated four houses.  George Petrie started his excavations, and presented his findings to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in April of 1867.

Work on the site came to a halt, and remained untouched until 1913, when the site was plundered for artefacts.  In 1924 storm damage, led to part of a housed being washed away.

Radio-Carbon tests undertaken in 1972-73 confirmed without any doubt, that Skara Brae was occupied between 3180BC – 2500BC, when weather conditions became cold and wet, and the site was abandoned.

Red ochre found at Skara Brae, proves that body painting was taking place.  Artefacts including knives, pins and beads were made from fish, bird and whalebones.

The Neolithic settlement of “Skara Brae” received World Heritage status in December 1999.

These Neolithic people built long barrows as tombs for their ancestors.  They are remembered for the construction of ritual monuments, henges and stone circles; Stonehenge and Avebury Henge, there are many more examples scattered across our lands.

Images: Orkneyjar

Evolutionary Path: Apes – Man

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Science tells us all living creatures are composed of cells, with the capacity to reproduce itself.  All living things have the right to be born, but survival of the species, is another matter.  Survival, involved constant changes in the species, through genetic changes.

Early monkeys from the rainforests of Africa, dating back some thirty million years have barely changed… living in trees and standing on four limbs.

Another form of monkey existed with longer arms for food gathering and swinging through trees, they belonged to a new category; Apes.

Around fifteen million BC, Earth’s climate underwent a climate change and became seasonal.  Fruit in forests became sparse in certain times, forcing monkeys and apes to leave their habitat in search of food.

Ramapithecus, the Rama-ape, successfully adapted to life outside the forest.  Their fossilized remains can be found in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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Australopithecines Skull

The Australopithecines or Southern Apes lived between five million and one million BC, and fossil remains found in Africa, showed that these bipedal apes, were different from their ancestors.

The spine no longer hunched, shorter pelvis by design, hip joints modified, allowing legs to lie in line with the backbone.  The species were much taller, up to 1.5 metres in height and weighing in at seventy kilos.

As the Australopithecines were fading out of existence, around two to three million BC, a new creature had arrived…  He was man, the world’s first Homo; man and grass eater with a fifty per cent larger brain.

This was Homo Habilis, whose fossilized remains have been discovered at Olduvai in East Africa.  He had the ability to create tools for hunting, by splitting of rocks and cutting up animal carcasses.

Somewhere along their road of evolution, they discovered how to create and use fire.

Come 300,000 BC, they still retained their original facial image associated with that of an Ape, and classified as “archaic Homo sapiens” and evolved into modern man. European Homo sapiens by 100,000 BC became Neanderthal Man and by 30,000 BC disappeared.  They left their mark; they conquered the art of tool making.

The next step in evolution, came the Homo sapiens appearing first in South Africa around 100,000 BC, and over the next 70,000 years would replace all previous species of hominid, world-wide.  They had the ability to produce sound.

Changes came about around 30,000 BC.  No longer did nature shape mankind’s development but mankind stepped out and started shaping nature’s development.

(Image) Australopithecines Skull: scienceagainstevolution
(Image) Human Family Tree: harunyahya

Ice Age effects on Britain

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Ice Age Britain

Our earliest thoughts when we think of primitive humans that have roamed this land of ours for thousands of years.  Is one of people, clothed in animal skins, with spear in hand, trekking across this land of ours, in search of food!

Ice Ages, have affected this land of ours, with deep sheets of ice, and have been here, long before the first human made his or her appearance.

The “Ice Age” that affected Britain, saw the Earth’s surface and atmosphere drop in temperature, and the polar ice sheets expand outwards from the north and south poles.  This caused much of Earth’s water to become trapped in ice sheets.

During this period Britain was joined with Ireland and Europe.  The connection with Ireland dissipated by 14,000 BC and with Europe around 5,600 BC.

When the Ice Age came to an end, the ice would slowly melt, and the oceans would return, and the sea levels would rise.  Coastlines would change, and so much of the coastal outlines would change, with the creation of new water areas, when before there was none.  Britain was connected to Europe by land mass, which has been replaced by the English Channel.

The last Ice Age came to an end in 10,000 BC, and nomads moved to the lands of Britain around 9,600 BC, and by 4,000 BC the island showed signs of a Neolithic culture inhabiting the island.

Planet Earth had received a respite from the Ice Age, but for how long?

If we look back at our history, Planet Earth could be millions of years old, and have been plunged into deep-cold Ice Ages many times over.  The warm weather would fade away, only to be replaced by cold weather winter and summer, which would be an indication of the return of an Ice Age.

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