More questions about Vikings in Greenland, the Bishop of Gardar’s Crosier,and Unicorn Horns.

A recent Smithsonian Magazine article explores the decline and disappearance of Viking settlements on Greenland. Previous scholarship argued that the Viking disappearance was caused by a combination of factors including temperature change linked to a volcanic eruption, environmental collapse caused by livestock overgrazing, and cultural inflexibility (Vikings refused to adapt or abandon their Scandinavian farming techniques and diet). However new evidence suggests otherwise.

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The Unicorn in Raleigh, NC

The North Carolina Museum of Art houses The Triumph of Chastity (ca. 1450-1460), a painting produced by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tommaso. The painting was probably presented to a newly wedded couple.

The Triumph of Chastity, circa 1450-1460, the Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni Tempera and gold leaf on panel.

The image is rich in symbolism. Chastity enters Rome in a triumphal procession riding  a unicorn drawn chariot. The link between the virtue of chastity and the state of virginity is emphasized through the medieval European belief that only a virgin could tame a unicorn.

Cupid, symbolizing lust, kneels before Chastity, affirming the virginity of the newly wed bride. The unicorn drawn chariot is surrounded by maidens. One maiden is carrying a banner of ermine, symbolizing purity, while the others carry yokes, representing marriage and obedience. A faithful dog joins the procession in the foreground.

The Giovanni painting shares some of the same themes found in the del Pane marriage portrait of Matteo di Sebastiano di Bernardino Goazzadini to Ginevra d’Antonio Lupari Goazzadini.

Five Questions about the First Thanksgiving

How do we know about the first Thanksgiving?
The first known written description of the Pilgrims’ first “Thanksgiving” is a letter written by Edward Winslow months after the event. The incident possibly took place in late September or early October of 1621, and the first account was written down by Winslow in a letter dated December 11, 1621. The letter was published as part of Relation or Iournall of the beginning and proceddings of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in New England, by certain English Aduenturers both Merchants and others (London, 1622), a book that is also known as Mourt’s Relation. The book was written by both Edward Winslow and William Bradford, but somewhere along the way authorship was falsely attributed to George Morton aka George Mourt, hence, Mourt’s Relation. Read more