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Archaeologists Find 6th-Century Castle at King Arthur’s Mythical Birthplace

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The coast of Tintagel. Image credit: Nilfanion via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The craggy ruins of a medieval castle are no longer the oldest structures in Tintagel. That title has just been claimed by a Dark Ages castle complex that might well have been the birthplace of King Arthur. 

That depends, of course, on whether King Arthur ever actually existed. For although the great hero is integral to the fabric of English history, there’s little evidence to suggest that he was a man of flesh and blood rather than the fabrication of a storyteller. But even if the great king was mythical, his biography seems to contain at least a few grains of truth.

Legend has it that the man who would save England was conceived in a castle on the rocky coast of Cornwall, the product of an affair between King Uther Pendragon and Igraine, Duchess of Tintagel. 

Whether or not it truly was the birthplace of a legend, Tintagel continues to fascinate travelers and archaeologists alike.

Tintagel's medieval ruins, which suddenly look kind of young. Image credit: via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA

The most recent excavations, which began July 18 and finished August 2, involved digging into previously untouched hillsides. Long before the dig began, geophysical surveys of the terrain concluded that the site likely contained buried buildings. 

Those surveys were correct. Excavations unearthed thick stone walls and slate floors dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries. In addition to their fine craftsmanship, the buildings contained piles of clues to the identity of their inhabitants. Archaeologists found fine tableware and fragments of pottery, some of which had likely contained imported olive oil or wine from the Mediterranean.

Previous digs in the area uncovered equally luxurious artifacts from the same time period, suggesting that the inhabitants of the Tintagel castle were rich and royal indeed.

Win Scutt is properties curator for the nonprofit English Heritage, which sponsored the dig. He said the discovery of what appears to be a royal palace has changed historians’ view of Tintagel.

“It is helping to reveal an intriguing picture of what life was like in a place of such importance in the historically little-known centuries following the collapse of Roman administration in Britain,” he told The Independent.

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A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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