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  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    How the queen got her crown in chess

    Players of chess will know that the Queen is the most powerful piece on the board – it can move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, and is often used to capture the opponent’s pieces. In the Middle Ages this was not the case. When the game was introduced to Europe this piece was known as the fers, named after the vizier or counsellor to the King. It could only move diagonally one square at a time, and the strategy for using this piece was mostly a defensive, trying to protect the King.In his article “How Did the Queen Go Mad?” Mark Taylor of Berry College examines how did the chess queen take on her modern movement. Historians have previously believed that changes to the Queen came about in the last decades of the fifteenth century in Italy and Spain. These changes also affected the Bishop, which could also now had more expanded movement.However, Taylor has found several medieval texts going back to the 12th century that imply the queen/fers was more powerful than previously thought....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    Medieval readers had eclectic tastes

    Nowadays, people bounce effortlessly from reading news to blogs to email. And it turns out the reading habits of people in medieval times weren't so different, a new book suggests.People in 14th-century London consumed a variety of texts, often linked together in bound volumes. Arthur Bahr, a literature professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores these habits in his new book "Fragments and Assemblages" (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    'World's oldest Torah' found

    It was virtually ignored for centuries, but what may be the world's oldest Torah, the holy book of the Jewish faith, has now been discovered at the world's oldest university.The priceless scroll was found in the archives of Bologna University, which was founded in 1088 and predates both Oxford and Cambridge.The scroll, written in Hebrew, is 118ft long and 25 inches wide and consists of the first five books of the Jewish Bible, from Bereshit (the equivalent of Genesis) to Devarim (Deuteronomy).It had been wrongly dated to the 17th century by a librarian who studied it in 1889, but it now transpires that it is more than 800 years old....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Grotesque Mummy Head Reveals Advanced Medieval Science

    In the second century, an ethnically Greek Roman named Galen became doctor to the gladiators. His glimpses into the human body via these warriors' wounds, combined with much more systematic dissections of animals, became the basis of Islamic and European medicine for centuries. Galen's texts wouldn't be challenged for anatomical supremacy until the Renaissance, when human dissections — often in public — surged in popularity. But doctors in medieval Europe weren't as idle as it may seem, as a new analysis of the oldest-known preserved human dissection in Europe reveals....