Monday, April 10, 2006

Er ... Not Really

Er ... Not Really



From the Daily Telegraph (Australia -- not the Torygraph):


British historian Tom Asbridge yesterday hailed the find as the first provable example of actual Knights Templar.

The remains were found beneath the ruined walls of Jacob's Ford, an overthrown

castle dating back to the Crusades, which had been lost for centuries.

They can be dated to the exact day -- August 29, 1179 -- that they were killed by Saladin, the feared Muslim leader who captured the fortress.

"Never before has it been possible to trace their remains to such an exact time in history,' Mr Asbridge said. "This discovery is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to archaeologists and historians. It is unparalleled."


Ok ... first, I thought we already knew that the Templars really existed. And second, No, it's not really like finding the Holy Grail at all. Because the only thing like finding the Holy Grail would be actually finding the Holy Grail. Which may or may not be the cup most appropriate for a simple carpenter and may or may not have been found in the 1940s in Petra by a sexy archaeologist and his father after many encounters with the Nazis. Because in this medievalist's world, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is every bit as plausible as the nonsense that Dan Brown writes, and far better because no one ever claimed it might be true. Sheesh.

Update: I've seen comments at other places from several colleagues that this is probably a case of an historian being horrendously misquoted. In terms of the coolness of the discovery, one of my Senior Colleagues points out that knowing an almost exact date for something might be a really good gauge for calibrating other, more traditional dating methods, and thus lead to more accurate dating for other sites -- and that is very cool. Just not pop-culture, Dan Brown, Michael Baigent conspiracy-theory cool.

7 comments:

New Kid on the Hallway said...

WHAT???

Yes, the Templars existed! Maybe it's the first confirmable instance of actual Templar bones, but I have a hard time thinking those would have been particularly rare.

Come on, people, they're not that mysterious. The only possible mystery could be what happened to them post-Crusades, post-Philip, because that's when you can start making up all the crap about going underground and being occult and mysterious and whatnot. But DURING the Crusades? Um, no.

Sheesh.

medieval woman said...

I second the rumble of skepticism! How the heck are they dating the bones to the *exact* day the dude (I mean Sir Dude...) was killed by the feared Muslim leader?? Maybe the bones are "speaking" to this guy...wooooooooo!

Anonymous said...

Of course, the hyperbole may not be entirely unconnected to the fact that the Beeb is airing a Timewatch with him about his identification of the ruins of Jacob's Ford this Friday ;-)

Still, it'll at least make a decent change from all the post-war current affairs that the BBC has been shunting into Timewatch for the past couple of years.

Thomas Asbridge said...

I would like to clarify a few points regarding the article ‘First Knights Templar are discovered’ published by the Australian Daily Telegraph on 10 April 2006. The article was indeed an example of journalistic misrepresentation. I have never maintained that the human remains unearthed at Jacob’s Ford are ‘the first provable example of actual Knights Templar’. The castle of Jacob’s Ford was garrisoned by Templars when it fell in 1179, but it also contained many other soldiers, servants and builders. There is a strong possibility that one or more of the bodies discovered on site might be that of a Templar, but this could never be stated with absolute certainty. I am quoted in the article as stating that ‘never before has it been possible to trace their remains to such an exact time in history’, with the quote positioned to imply that ‘their remains’ refers to Templars, but, in fact, ‘their remains’ was a general reference to those engaged in the wider crusading endeavour of the twelfth century. Similarly, I am quoted as saying: ‘This discovery is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to archaeologists and historians. It is unparalleled’. When made, this statement did not relate to the supposed discovery of Templar remains, but to the discovery of the long lost castle of Jacob’s Ford. The story of this fortress is both fascinating and revelatory, but not for the reasons outlined in the Telegraph’s article.
Dr Thomas Asbridge
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History
Queen Mary, University of London

medieval woman said...

Hmmm...Dr. Asbridge I hope that you contacted the Daily Telegraph and complained - it does seem like they misrepresented your comments! What you've written does indeed sound very interesting...much more so than the Telegraph article made out. Best of luck with the work on Jacob's Ford - hopefully we'll hear more about it!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Dr. Asbridge -- I hope you don't mind that I've moved this comment up to the main part of the blog (or will after my next lecture!). As I said in the update, a colleague did tell he thought you'd been terribly misquoted.

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