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Top 10 Medieval News Stories of 2016

These last twelve months have seen more discoveries and great research about the Middle Ages. However, in keeping with the theme that 2016 is the worst year ever, our most important story is a depressing tale for medievalists.

1. #Femfog

Allen J. Frantzen is considered one of the leading scholars in the field of Old English / Anglo-Saxon studies, having written several important books and articles. However, it seems after retirement, he turned his words towards attacking feminism and complaining about the treatment of men in today’s society. On his personal website he wrote a post on ‘How to fight your way out of the feminist fog’, where he encouraged readers to “Grab your balls (GYB) and be the man you want to be…” (the blog post has since been deleted, but can be read via Archive.org).

While the post was online for a few months, it was only in January that it got noticed by a scholar, and soon much of the medieval studies community was condemning the post as bizarre, misogynistic rantings. You can read some of the online blog posts here, here and here. While the controversy did not get the attention of mainstream media (except for this report) it would become much talked about in academic circles, including at conferences. The scope of the discussion broadened out to include the treatment of women in medieval studies, with many young scholars revealing episodes of harassment by their supervisors and other senior medievalists.

While Allen Frantzen’ reputation as a scholar and as a human being is in tatters, he seems to remain steadfast in his beliefs, even self-publishing a book to expand on his views. The Femfog controversy has also forced the medieval community to take a hard look in the mirror, and to take steps towards greater inclusivity and an end to sexual harassment.

2. Anglo-Saxon Island Discovered

While 2016 saw many wonderful archaeological discoveries, perhaps none was more fascinating than discovery of an eighth-century settlement in England, which is located on a now sunken island. Topographical and geophysical surveys were carried out to help find “a site of international importance.”

3. 15th-century ship raised from river

After spending more than 500 years sitting on a riverbed in The Netherlands, a 15th-century cog has been successfully brought to the surface in good condition. Maritime archaeologist Wouter Waldus called the recovery of the veseel “a fantastic achievement…The shipwreck can become a symbol of our rich maritime history, and I fully expect many people, both young and old, to be amazed by and start enjoying this ship from the Hanseatic period’s fascinating story.”

4. Umberto Eco, Jonathan Riley-Smith, pass away

The medieval studies world lost several important scholars in 2016, including the famous novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco. While Eco will be best known as the author of The Name of the Rose, he also made several contributions to our understanding on aesthetics and philosophy in the Middle Ages.

Later on this year we also said goodbye to Jonathan Riley-Smith, who is considered one of the most important historians of the crusades. We will also miss the Anglo-Saxon historian James Campbell and Carol Kaske, a respected scholar of late medieval and Renaissance literature.

5. Graves of medieval Muslims found in France

Archaeologists working in the south of France believe they have discovered three graves of Muslims buried in the eighth-century.

6. King Harold death site moved

King Harold Godwinson was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and it is believed that the exact spot of his death was commemorated inside Battle Abbey. This year experts determined that this location was actually about 20 feet away from the original spot, and the stone marking it was moved just in time for the 950th anniversary of the battle.

7. More Vikings in Newfoundland

Exciting news for medievalists in Canada as researchers began exploring a possible second Norse site on the island of Newfoundland. However, subsequent excavations are showing that much work still needs to be done.

8. Hidden medieval cities revealed

Using modern technology, archaeologists have been able to uncover medieval cities in Cambodia that have been hidden under the jungle. Other discoveries in 2016 include a Viking toolbox, Byzantine and Ottoman shipwrecks in the Black Sea, and 81 Anglo-Saxon coffins.

9. ISIS destroys medieval monastery

War in Iraq and Syria continued to cause devastation to heritage sites in the last year. It was revealed that the so-called Islamic State destroyed the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq. However, in some good news, hundreds of texts, some dating back to the 13th century were hidden and successfully saved.

10. Yes, you can move in medieval armour!

To end off our top 10 list, we have this viral video posted on our own Youtube page – Can You Move in Armour? was created by Daniel Jaquet and has been watched close to 400,000 times.

You can also see the follow-up video – where a knight races against a modern day soldier and a firefighter.

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