The year 2011 will be remembered by Medievalists as the year we literally saw the face of the Middle Ages. Four different projects unveiled 3D facial reconstructions that show a Scottish knight, a Viking woman, an English archbishop, and a Welsh ruler. This year was also notable for the theft of an important medieval manuscript, new research on the origins on the Black Death and Viking archaeological discoveries on the British Isles.
1. Faces of medieval people revealed at Stirling Castle – A new exhibition at Stirling Castle in Scotland will bring visitors face to face with knight and lady excavated from its lost royal chapel. Scientific research has revealed that at least five of the medieval people whose skeletons were discovered at Stirling Castle suffered brutally violent deaths.
2. Codex Calixtinus stolen from Santiago de Compostela – In what is being called the ‘robbery of the century’, a priceless 12th-century manuscript has been stolen from the Santiago de Compostela.
3. Researchers discover original bacteria of the Black Death – The bacteria responsible for causing the 1348 Black Death, identified as one of the most cataclysmic events in human history, has been identified by researchers from Canada and Germany.
4. Face of 14th-century Archbishop of Canterbury revealed – The face of Simon of Sudbury, the controversial former Archbishop of Canterbury, was revealed last week – 630 years after he met his grizzly end during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.
5. Bodies of 17 Jews from Medieval Norwich may have been mass-murder victims, scholars believe – Scholars from the University of Dundee believe that the remains of 17 people found in a well in Norwich were members of England’s medieval Jewish community who were murdered or committed suicide during anti-Jewish violence.
6. Viking Hoard discovered in England – In what is being described as a “very exciting find” over 200 items dating back to around the year 900 have been discovered near Silverdale, in north Lancashire.
7. The face of Owain Glyndŵr revealed – First revealed on the Welsh TV documentary The Face of Glyndŵr, it depicts a powerful-looking man with penetrating brown eyes, dark brown hair, a dark beard with hints of grey in it, a sharply-defined nose and battle scars along with a wart under one eye.
8. Face of Viking Woman Reconstructed – Academics at the University of Dundee to produce a facial reconstruction of a female skeleton – one of four excavated at Coppergate in York over 30 years ago.
9. Viking boat burial site discovered in Scotland – Great Britain’s first fully intact Viking boat burial site has been discovered by archaeologists working in northwest Scotland. The 5 meter-long grave contained the remains of a high status Viking, who was buried with an axe, a sword with a beautifully decorated hilt, a spear, shield boss and bronze ring-pin.
10. French towns sells off 14th century cloister to pay debts – The mayor of the southern French town of Saint Emilion has discreetly sold off its 14th century Cordeliers cloister to a private winemaker, leaving local residents shocked and upset. The medieval site was sold for 750 000 euros to help the town pay off its growing financial debts and continue upkeep on other historical buildings.