Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ming musical moments

British Museum blog

detail of Ming vaseA Ming imperial porcelain flask visits Glasgow, by Tom Furniss

Large porcelain flask painted with underglaze blue decoration. Made in Jingdezhen, China. Ming dynasty, Xuande mark and period, 1426–1435 Large porcelain flask painted with underglaze blue decoration. Made in Jingdezhen, China. Ming dynasty, Xuande mark and period, 1426?1435. Gift of Sir John Addis.

In the deepest deeps of old slow time,
Five thousand miles from here,
Two continents of clay collide,
Two halves of China merge between
The Yellow and the Yangtze.

Twenty thousand years ago
Potters working in a cave
Formed and fired the southern clay,
Made pots in Jiangxi province:
Shards and bones remain.

In the Xuande reign of the Great Ming,
Six hundred years ago,
A peasant took a bamboo spade
And dug in beds of clay.

Women mixed the kaolin
With pottery stone and quartz,
Water from a mountain stream
And feldspar from the earth.

A potter took the earthen clay
And made a wonder with his hands,
A flask half a metre high,

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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Translation of Knossos Fragment KN 190 B with the Sypersyllabogram DI by Rita Roberts

My first translation of the Minoan Script writings Linear B

You will need to click to the original post  where you can enlarge my translation that is hand written.

Canadian Zen Haiku canadien ISSN 1705-4508

Translation of Knossos Fragment KN 190 B with the Sypersyllabogram DI by Rita Roberts Well over a year ago I became interested in the ancient script writings of the Minoans. These scripts are written on clay tablets and were discovered by Sir Arthur Evans whilst excavating the grand Palace of Knossos in Crete. It was Evans who named these scripts Linear B.My Linear B teacher and mentor Richard Vallance Janke is extremely helpful in guiding me through what would be a difficult course for me to follow. However, with Richards humour and patience and his unique way of teaching I have found this subject a delight to learn in so much that I have now completed levels 1-4 (Basic to Advanced, Part 1).Now Richard has given me my first assignment in translating Linear B fragments into English. These fragments seemed simple at a first glance as all of…

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Ancient Minoan Culture (DNA reveals their Origin)

Whenever family or friends visit us the conversation usually turns to archaeology and the Minoan culture, this is because it is one of the subjects I have an interest in. The main question is usually, what was the Minoans origin as it has always been a mystery until I recently came across the following  BBC News Science & Environment  report which I thought extremely interesting.


Analysis of DNA from ancient remains on the Greek island of Crete suggests the Minoans were indigenous Europeans, shedding new light  have on a debate over the provenance of this ancient culture.

Scholars have variously argued the Bronze Age civilization arrived from Africa, Anatolia or the Middle East.

Details appear in Nature Communications journal.

The concept of the Minoan civilization was first developed by Sir Arthur Evans, the British archaeologist who unearthed the Bronze Age palace of Knossos on Crete.  Evans named the people who built these cities after the legendary King Minos who, according to tradition, ordered the construction of a labyrinth on Crete to hold the mythical half-man ,half-bull  creature know as the minotaur.Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in l907

Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos Palace.

Evans was of the opinion that the real-life Bronze  Age culture on Crete must have its origins elsewhere, and so he suggested that the Minoans were refugees from Egypt’s Nile delta ,fleeing the region’s conquest by a southern king some 5,000 years ago.


Evans was surprised to find this advanced civilization on Crete,” said co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos,from the University of Washington in Seattle,US. The evidence for this idea included apparent similarities  between Egyptian and Minoan art and resemblances  between circular tombs built by the inhabitants of southern Crete and those built by ancient Libyans. However other archaeologists have argued for origins in Palestine, Syria or Anatolia.

In this study, Prof Stamatoyannopoulos and colleagues  analysed the DNA of 37 individuals buried in a cave on the Lassithi  plateau in the islands east. The majority of the burials are thought to date to the middle of the Minoan period- around 3,700 years ago.

Bones from Cave Burial Lassithi Plataeu

Some  bones of Minoan people from the Cave burial on the Lassithi Plateau East Crete.


John Lewis and  myself working at The Instap Study Centre for East Crete on Minoan skulls from the Cave burial Lassithi Plateau


A close up of Minoan skulls from the Lassithi Plateau burial.   John Lewis and I found this a very exciting and interesting project.

The analysis focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from the teeth of the skeletons. This type of DNA is stored in the cell’s (batteries) and is passed down, more or less unchanged from mother to child.

The frequencies were then compared of distinct  mtDNA  lineages, known as “haplogroups” , in this ancient Minoan set with similar data for 135 other populations, including ancient samples from Europe and Anatolia as well as other modern peoples.

The comparison seemed to rule out an origin for the Minoans in North Africa: the ancient Cretans showed little genetic similarity to Libyans, Egyptians or the Sudanese. They were also genetically distant from populations in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudis, and Yemenis.


The ancient Minoan DNA was most similar to populations from western and northern Europe. The population showed particular  genetic affinities with Bronze Age populations from Sardinia and Iberia and Neolithic samples from Scandinavia and France. They also resembled people who live on the Lassithi  Plateau today, a population that has previously attracted attention from geneticists .

The authors therefore conclude that the Minoan civilization was a local development originated by inhabitants  who probably  reached the island around 9,000 years ago, in Neolithic times..

There has been a lot of controversy over the years. We have shown how the analysis of DNA can help archaeologists and historian put things straight, “Prof Stamatoyannopoulos told BBC News.

“The Minoans are Europeans and also related to present- day Cretans- on the maternal side.” He added ” Its obvious that there was very important local development. But it is clear that ,for example, in the art, there were influences from other peoples. So we need to see the Mediterranean as a pool, not as a group of isolated nations.”  There is evidence of cultural influence from Egypt and going the other way.”




Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Game of Thrones Written in Bone, Conquistador Edition

Strange Remains

The tomb of Francisco Pizarro at the Cathedral of Lima.  Image Credit: Wikipedia. The tomb of Francisco Pizarro at the Cathedral of Lima. Image Credit: Wikipedia.

The bones of infamous conquistador Don Francisco Pizarro (ca. 1476 – June 26th, 1541) rest in an ornate glass, marble, and bronze sarcophagus in a chapel in the Cathedral of Lima in Peru. Though Pizarro’s bones are now in a position of honor where they are visited by pilgrims and historians, this wasn’t always the case. A mummy, whose identity was lost to history, stole Pizarro’s post-mortem spotlight for decades due to a case of mistaken identity.

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador who conquered Peru, decimated the Incan empire, and founded the city of Lima. Pizarro’s life was as treacherous as it was adventurous and could have inspired anything read about in the Game of Thrones series. This conqueror’s death was just as violent as his life and the marks his brutal assassination left…

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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod

An update from my precious post  ” A Sunken Kingdom”

THE  BELLS OF CANTRE’R GWAELOD (Translated by Dyfed Lloyd Evans)

This is the poem which children in Wales learn about the Sunken Kingdom of  Cantre’r Gwaelod, swallowed by the sea and drowned forever after. On a quiet night legend has it, one can hear the church bells ringing.

Welsh girl.

Welsh Girl wearing the traditional costume.




Beneath the wave- swept ocean

are pretty towns

That hearkened to the bell-rings

set pealing through the night

Through negligent abandon

by a watcher on the wall

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod

submerged beneath the wave

When the sea was surging

with gales upon the wave

The gull, so pale, was failing

to settle on their crest

When waves crashed on the sea-shore

with thunder in its wake

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod

are silent near the wave

But when the sea is quiet

with waves that aren’t  foam-flecked

and day is gently slipping

behind the far-hills slope

sweet tones are heard a-rising

and this I know as truth

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod

are sounding near the wave

O!  ring out bells of childhood

on oceans salty floor for early strains

of living sound in their song for me

Whilst live the shore, I’ll think of

on many quiet nights and bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod

still ringing near the wave.

Ancient Forest exposed at Borth

Welsh men and ladies

Welsh Folk in days gone by. No doubt discussing the tale of The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod







Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Poems

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