Ancient York Minster and Christianity in England, circa 630.

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The cathedral at York, York Minster, was constructed first of wood in 627, and then in 637 in stone .
A period of instability followed with York vulnerable to attack from Penda of Mercia and the Britons of North Wales.
We know that the city was overrun at least twice and probably three times between the death of Oswald in 641-2 and the Battle of the Winwaed in 654-5.
In about 670 St. Wilfred took over the see of York and found the structure of Edwin’s church fairly lamentable .
‘The ridge of the roof owing to its age let the water through, the windows were unglazed and the birds flew in and out, building their nests, while the neglected walls were disgusting to behold, owing to all the filth caused by the rain and the birds.’
“Saint Wilfred set to work renewing the roof and covering it with lead, whitewashing the interior walls and installing glass windows.
Based on descriptions given of other churches built at a similar time it is possible to understand something of how Wilfred’s restored church at York would have looked to the 7th century worshippers who entered it.
The altar, within which relics were deposited, would have been decorated with purple silk hangings of intricate woven design.
Upon the altar, raised by a book rest and in a jewelled binding, would stand the illuminated gospel book. The walls and probably also the testudo (a wooden partition screening the altar) would be adorned with icons painted on wooden panels depicting the types and anti-types of the Old and New Testaments.
These church paintings were essential to the evangelization of England, being the only effective way of explaining the ‘the new worship’ to an illiterate population. Gregory the Great called them ‘the books of the unlearned’.”
via Bookbinding Timeline : From Cave Paintings to the Internet.

Ivan Kupula, the Ancient Baptism of Fire and Cleansing Ritual.

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Ivan Kupala is an ancient pagan ritual, which used to be known as just Kupala – meaning to bathe. Ivan – meaning John, as in John the Baptist – was added after Christianity came to the region and assimilated the festivities.
The ritual was originally held on the summer solstice between June 20 and 22, but was moved to the birthday of St John the Baptist, which was on June 23 by the old Julian calendar.
The new Gregorian calendar moved the date to July 6, so the link with the solstice was lost.
Despite its associations with Christianity, the festival still draws heavily on mysticism and folk-law.
It is believed that witches also take a holiday on this day and come to do harm to people, and that werewolves and mermaids also emerge to roam around and attack the souls of the wicked.
The day-long ritual is therefore designed around purity, supposedly cleansing the body and soul and providing protection, fertility and luck to those who take part.
The main focus is fire-jumping, with the flames supposedly cleansing the souls of those who pass over it.
Couples who can complete the jump holding hands will have a strong relationship, while friends may also jump together to prove their loyalty to one-another.
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Unmarried women also wear garlands of flowers and herbs in their hair during the day, and at night float the wreaths out on to a lake with a candle. The woman whose flowers float the longest will be lucky in love, while the longest burning candle denotes long life.
It is also said that, on this one night, ferns are able to produce flowers, with whoever sights one of the blooms able to make a wish come true.
Villagers often take off into the woods in search of the blossoms, with unmarried women allowed to go first with single men following, in the hope that relationships might also blossom in the hunt.
See more Images via Baptism of fire: Girls leap over flames as part of ancient cleansing ceremony held on the birthday of John the Baptist | Mail Online.

Discovering the Ancient Great Rhino, 1910-1911.

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Standing 16 feet tall at the shoulder and weighing 20 tons, Paraceratherium was one of the largest mammals to ever walk the Earth.
That may seem pretty puny by dinosaurian standards, but, at the American Museum of Natural History and other institutions that house reconstructions of the 34-23 million year old animal, the hornless rhino towers over every other beast. Only a few extinct elephants have come close to its impressive stature.
As is often the case with the large and fossiliferous, though, it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the nature of the beast and forget the history that assembled the creature before us. University of Manchester historian Chris Manias recounts the tale in a new paper.
In the case of Paraceratherium, the great rhino only emerged after years of toil, study, and, most importantly, collaboration between researchers who were independently drawn to the remains of the same giant.
Before the rhino could get a name or start casting shade over museum halls, the titan had to be discovered.
The British paleontologist Clive Forster-Cooper had the honor.
Curious about fossils regularly found by England’s Indian Geological Survey among the Bugti Hills of Baluchistan, Foster-Cooper organized a 1910-1911 expedition to see the fossils for himself.
The work was more difficult than Forster-Cooper had hoped. In the age of imperial paleontology, he took the traditional route of hiring unskilled local workers who he frequently groused about to his esteemed colleagues elsewhere.
Not only were the local Nawab people suspicious of the paleontologist’s true motives – who would be travel all the way out there for old bones? – but Forster-Cooper complained that he had to fire three workers for “idleness and insubordination” and did not trust the remaining three with anything more than rudimentary digging around.
Read on via How Paleontologists Uncovered the World’s Biggest Rhino – Phenomena: Laelaps.

Sunset at the Ancient City of Jiaohe, Turpan, China.

A view of the ruins of the ancient city of Jiaohe, seen at sunset in March, 2007 in Turpan, China.
Jiaohe, was built on a 98-foot-high loess plateau over 2,300 years ago, lies in the Yarnaz Valley and is protected by the natural fortification of the precipitous cliffs.
The city has been a major passageway for communication between the East and West since the Han Dynasty and Tang Dynasty, and an important section of the ancient Silk Road.
Image Credit: Photograph by China Photos / Getty.
via A Photo Trip Along the Ancient Silk Road – The Atlantic

Sean’s Bar Ireland’s Oldest Pub. circa 900.

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Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s Oldest Pub
I visited more than 50 pubs around Ireland over the eight weeks my wife and I toured the country in the summers of 1997 and 1998.
I don’t recall being in any pub that had a selection of more than five beers: Guinness, Smithwick’s, Carlsberg, Kilkenny, Budweiser or Coors, and Murphy’s or Beamish.
The first three beers were available at all pubs and often those were the only three beers served.
In a tiny pub on Arranmore Island, County Donegal in 1997, when I commented about the small selection of beers, an old Irish man said to me,
“Too much choice is not necessarily a good thing”.
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Sean’s Pub is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest pub in Ireland with ownership records dating back to 900 AD.
Source: A day in Athlone, Ireland

Lovable Stegosaurus had a Brain as big as a Lime.

The stegosaurus is one of the more well-known dinosaurs out there, appearing in more forms of media than almost any of its lizardy brethren with the exception of the T-Rex and possible that dinosaur with wings on its legs.
Interestingly, it’s also one of the dumbest.
We say this not because we have anything against the stegosaurus, because that couldn’t be further from the truth, we love the stegosaurus because how could we not love a dinosaur with an in-built Mohawk?
No, the reason we’re saying that the stegosaurus is probably one of the dumbest dinosaurs to have existed is because it literally had one of the smallest brains we’re aware of.
As noted here, the stegosaurus had a brain no bigger than a lime, although this is bigger than people initially thought, since it used to be believed that the stegosaurus’ brain was no bigger than a walnut, it still means that the dinosaur had statistically, the smallest brain of any dinosaur we’re currently aware of.
We should make it clear that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a stegosaurus didn’t need to contemplate philosophy or do long division in its head because it’s life was, overall, pretty good.
However, in the early days of palaeontology, people examining the skulls of stegosaurus remains couldn’t accept that a creature of such immense size and girth could survive with such a tiny brain, so it was theorised that the creature must have had a second brain, in its arse.
The actual reasoning behind the theory isn’t as stupid as that, but it is is painfully close.
To explain, palaeontologists back in the day noticed that the stegosaurus had a weird cavity in the booty area of its spine.
This cavity was larger than the cranial cavity that housed the dinosaur’s brain so it was simply assumed that it must have contained a second brain of some sort.
That was literally it.
This theory  persisted for decades because what else could that cavity be for? As it so happens, no one really knows what the cavity is for.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, the important thing to remember here is that at one point in time, it was literally believed that stegosaurus’ had a second brain in it’s arse.
via People Used to Think The Stegosaurus Had Two Brains | Fact Fiend.