mediaevalist: (Hatshepsut)
...I bring you this:

Mosaic in Israel shows biblical Samson

Archaeologists are reveling in the discovery of an ancient synagogue in northern Israel, a "monumental" structure with a mosaic floor depicting the biblical figure of Samson and a Hebrew inscription.
mediaevalist: (Now THIS=a good feminist reimagining)
The Church Changed the Perception of Rape
Destroying another man’s clothes, injuring his cattle and raping his wife. These three acts, which viewed through modern eyes seem highly different, were all considered vandalism against a man’s property in the early Middle Ages.

Thanks to the Catholic Church, however, this weird view changed during the Middle Ages.

Actually, this was standard practise throughout the rest of the world before the Church gained influence. The fact is that classical paganism was certainly not woman-friendly. While there were laws about women owning property, the thing to keep in mind is that it was assumed that this property was either part of her dowry or compensation for being a widow and having a family to support. But it was not, however, because women were considered to have equal standing with men. Rape was certainly not a crime against an individual, even in ancient Ireland.
mediaevalist: (Philosophy)
This photo from the G.K. Chesterton page of a painting of David Hume, 18th century Scottish philosopher, has a link to an excellent history and dissection of the sceptic school of thought. The author clearly knows his/her philosophy schools and history.

The downside is that New Advent always ends up sucking me in as much as TVTropes does. Keep following the links to other articles, and before you know it several hours disappeared while you were learning interesting things.
mediaevalist: (Age of Fail)
Oh my God. This is still around?

Let it not be said
That avatar RP is dead.
mediaevalist: (Philosophy)
Wow, it's been a while. I remember this site from years back. It's gone now, apparently, but just about all the pages are archived for our convenience. Huzzah!

Some of the stuff on general New Age beliefs like Wicca aren't entirely accurate, but the primary function here is historical and cultural preservation. Nothing against Wiccans, but they're perfectly capable of defending their own religion. But there's a number of points on the essay which got me there that I feel need addressing. Kaathryn MacMorgan, while stressing the need to do all the research, trips up and commits that very same mistake when it comes to the Holy Church here. As we like to tell people who claim they distrust "organised religion", our comeback is always "So do I! That's why I'm Catholic!" And we have nothing on Judaism in that regard.

Onward into what's probably just a repeat of anything C. S. Lewis already addressed )
mediaevalist: (crossdressing)
Fanfiction is even older than the examples here.

Around 4000-ish years ago, some Akkadian combined a bunch of Sumerian poems about an ancient king into a RPF slashfic.We know it today as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

That's right folks: our oldest piece of literature is a fanfic. And an RPF slashfic, at that.
mediaevalist: (Funney!)
Medievalists uncover recipe for roasted unicorn

Edit: And yes, it's what you think it is. It's the British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog's April First prank.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Modeling the Joust

More of a physics thing, but awesome nonetheless.
mediaevalist: (Default)
'Witch's cottage' unearthed near Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Complete with the bones of a cat bricked into the wall, probably buried alive. Poor kitty.

Engineers have said they were "stunned" to unearth a 17th Century cottage, complete with a cat skeleton, during a construction project in Lancashire.

The cottage was discovered near Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

Historians are now speculating that the well-preserved cottage could have belonged to one of the Pendle witches.

The building contained a sealed room, with the bones of a cat bricked into the wall.

It is believed the cat was buried alive to protect the cottage's inhabitants from evil spirits.


Simon Entwistle, an expert on the Pendle witches, said: "In terms of significance, it's like discovering Tutankhamen's tomb.

"We are just a few months away from the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials, and here we have an incredibly rare find, right in the heart of witching country. This could well be the famous Malkin Tower - which has been a source of speculation and rumour for centuries.

"Cats feature prominently in folklore about witches. Whoever consigned this cat to such a horrible fate was clearly seeking protection from evil spirits."
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Violent knights feared posttraumatic stress

Medieval knights are often depicted as bloodthirsty men who enjoyed killing. But that is a completely wrong picture, new research shows.

The knights did not kill just because they wanted to, but because it was their job – precisely like soldiers today. Nor were the Middle Ages as violent as we think, despite their different perception of violence compared to ours.

“Modern military psychology enables us to read medieval texts in a new way – giving us insight into the perception of violence in the Middle Ages in the general population and the use of lethal violence by knights,” says Thomas Heebøll-Holm of the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, who researches the perception of violence in the late Middle Ages.

“Previously, medieval texts were read as worshipping heroes and glorifying violence. But in the light of modern military psychology we can see the mental cost to the knights of their participation in the gruesome and extremely violent wars in the Middle Ages.”

There's also a cultural note pointing out that people who lived during the Middle Ages were not more violent than people today, so knights were neither violent by culture nor nature. On the contrary, PTSD seemed to be enough of a concern for at least one well-respected knight to write on what we identify as PTSD today.
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle

Scientists have succeeded in locating the exact source of some of the rock believed to have been used 5000 years ago to create Stonehenge's first stone circle.

By comparing fragments of stone found at and around Stonehenge with rocks in south-west Wales, they have been able to identify the original rock outcrop that some of the Stonehenge material came from.

The work - carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales - has pinpointed the source as a 70 metre long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It's the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

However, the debate on whether the stones were quarried and transported by prehistoric humans, or whether glaciers eroded the stones and carried them to the general area where Stonehenge stands today.
mediaevalist: (Hatshepsut) has an article which, to me, is a bit old-hat: Niccolo Machiavelli – the Cunning Critic of Political Reason.

The article is a good one, but it's not exactly what I'd call new, even though it presents a more recent interpretation that isn't widely known:

Now that some of Machiavelli’s most infamous ideas have been presented, various interpretations of them and their underlying motivation can be considered. One unusual interpretation comes from the eighteenth-century historian of philosophy William Enfield, who suggested that The Prince was a satire on the unruly and selfish behaviour of political leaders. Enfield declared that, since Machiavelli was an enemy of despotism in his actual conduct, The Prince was intended to ‘pull off the mask from the face of tyranny’. If it really was meant by Machiavelli as a satire, then it has to be the driest, most bitter and most convincing satire ever written, one that has fooled many commentators and leaders alike for centuries.

But even this article from Cracked (authored by Peter Davis and David A. Vindiola ) acknowledges that "[a]ctually, Machiavelli was totally just trolling." Like the bimbo in one of my English classes who was horrified by Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal for advocating eating children in an obviously sarcastic manner, (as anyone with comprehension skills beyond Kindergarten level can attest) most folks completely missed Machiavelli's bitter, cynical, and even sarcastic tone. Or, as Davis and Vindiola put it:

The context in this case is that the Medici family to whom he dedicated his love letter is the same group who personally broke Machiavelli's arms for being such a staunch advocate for free government. He worked for the Florentine Republic before the Medicis marched in, mowed down the government and mercilessly tortured him, and then he sat down and wrote The Prince from his shack in exile, assumedly with some really bendy handwriting (on account of the arms). When you learn about that, it kind of adds a new layer of meaning to the text -- it suddenly sounds like it's dripping with sarcasm.

The article further explores another interpretation of the circumstances:

Another possibility is that, in writing The Prince, Machiavelli was articulating only what he believed that the then-current rulers wanted to hear, so that he could win back their favour. On this view Machiavelli himself might not have believed everything he wrote in The Prince, but he thought that a cold amoral attitude to politics might impress his superiors, thus leading to his reinstatement in government. If this interpretation is true, then he was being doubly cynical by cynically advocating scheming distrust as a method of government, while not fully believing in it himself. The actual circumstances of the composition of The Prince add weight to this interpretation, in that Machiavelli dedicated it specifically to Lorenzo de Medici. It has also been suggested that he composed it quickly, on deciding to take a break from working on the longer Discourses, this apparently coinciding with a period when a new Pope had recently been installed in Rome and a new leader found for Italy. Did Machiavelli hope through The Prince to influence this new ruler? If so this aim was never actually realised, and Machiavelli died without ever regaining his political position.

However, Davis and Vindiola point out that

For centuries, the consensus on Machiavelli's best-known work has been that he was just trying to brown-nose his way back into the government. But a deeper study of his full body of work reveals that this is a pretty absurd ambition, considering not only did Machiavelli repeatedly say that "popular rule is always better than the rule of princes," but after he wrote The Prince, he went right on back to writing treatises about the awesomeness of republics. Considering also that he was no stranger to the literary art of satire, scholars these days are turning to a more likely scenario -- Machiavelli was the Stephen Colbert of the Renaissance.

Admittedly, there's no real way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Machiavelli's true intentions were. But comparing The Prince to all his other work, I have to say I'm not especially convinced he was sucking up. On the other hand, the evidence for The Prince being a scathing satire is pretty convincing.
mediaevalist: (Whatte the swyve?)
It's that time of year, and with Hallowe'en/All Saints' Eve/Feis na Samhna around the corner, you know what that means. It's time for my

Hallowe'en/All Saints' Eve/Feis na Samhna rant!

As it's well-known, Hallowe'en/All Saints' Eve/Feis na Samhna is sort of like Christmas for fluffybunnies. And so this is my present to you, my dear New Age goofballs: you are not today's victim. Instead, I am going to rant about ridiculously overcautious parents. That's right, it's not even a history, culture, or language rant; just a lambast of childhood-killing ninnies.

From here:

Try to get your kids to trick-or-treat while it's still light out. If it's dark, make sure someone has a flashlight and pick well-lit streets.


This holiday (which is really a festival) was once the New Year's Day of the calendar of cultural peoples collectively called the Celts. The civilisations of these Celts were agricultural ones in ancient times (many of them still are today) and followed a way of measuring days that actually makes more sense than the way we do it now: the next day would effectively begin at sundown. Technically-speaking, Hallowe'en is the first day of November, beginning at sundown on what we think of as 31 October in our post-industrial calendar. Hence, the original name of Feis na Samhna, which translates into 'Feast of November'. (NB to fluffies: when you say 'Samhain', what you're really saying is '(the month of) November'.)

If you want to give your kids the chance to dress up in costumes, just take then to an anime convention. And you hardly need a special day for loading your rugrats up with sugar (and from strangers, no less). The darkness is even more a part of the festival than a vinyl Optimus Prime costume from Wal-Mart or a bag of Snickers. (I am especially disapproving of all your jack-o'-lanterns: not because pumpkins are a New World crop and not traditional, but because PUMPKINS ARE NOT FOR CARVING RIDICULOUS SHAPES INTO, THEY ARE FOR EATING. Stop wasting pumpkins on bad crafting attempts unless you are making something undeniably awesome like this.)

Do it right, or don't bother doing it at all.
mediaevalist: (Whatte the swyve?)
Hey kids! It's time for another...

Bad History Rant!

Today's rant is brought to you by a particular song from Night of Hunters by Tori Amos. Now, given that we should generally take history from pop songs with a whole damned salt mine, "Battle of Trees" perpetuates a steaming pile of New Age cow pattie that was debunked a really long time ago. The problem, then, is that this cow pattie persists and sticks to popular culture.

Bring on the barbecue! )
mediaevalist: (King Arthur as a girl)
I hate the fact that these damned things always seem to be on PDF, but I suppose it's the easiest way to present a Master's thesis.

Heraldry and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur

The fun thing about Arthurian legend is that it's anachronism stew from the onset. European heraldry as we know it really didn't take off until the High Middle Ages, and the historical King Arthur (Arturius, Artuir, Arturia) lived during the cusp between the Late Roman Period and the Early Middle Ages. But the anachronism stew is what makes it so entertaining!
mediaevalist: (Whatte the swyve?)
Medieval home with extraordinary history up for sale

A medieval home with an extraordinary history has been put back on the market after being lovingly renovated and could be yours for just £1.3 million.

I'm not crazy about the landscaping, though.
mediaevalist: (crossdressing)
I'm sure he considered saying the Elizabethan equivalent.

Scholar examines alchemy mystery from 16th-century England

It involves a printer, the far-reaching power of a monarch, possible censorship, three English alchemists dedicated to uncovering the secret of transmutation and a whole lot of unanswered questions. Earlier this summer, Dr. Teresa Burns, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Humanities professor, presented a paper at the Western Michigan University International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo that helps to unravel a 16th-century mystery.

Burns’ topic, which examined the link between the 1591 publication and suppression of the first English printing of George Ripley’s “Compound of Alchemy” and what may have ended a planned long-distance partnership between John Dee and Edward Kelley just a few weeks after it began, was sponsored by Societas Alchimica, a society affiliated with UW-Platteville and led by Burns and colleague Dr. Nancy Turner as vice president and president respectively.

Someone write a novel on this, it's fascinating stuff.
mediaevalist: (Default)
Sword unearthed in Japan bears Chinese sign for year 570

FUKUOKA -- An ancient sword bearing kanji characters that show the year 570 according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle has been unearthed from an ancient burial mound here, the local education board announced on Sept. 21.

The discovery made by the Fukuoka Municipal Board of Education is consistent with the Chronicles of Japan, one of Japan's oldest history books, which says Japan imported the Chinese calendar from Paekche, one of the countries that existed on the Korean Peninsula.
mediaevalist: (Default)
It's a bt of old news, but regardless.

Ancient swords, modern nanotechnology

Though science and technology in the modern era have accomplished things that our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, it is still worth remembering that the ancients weren’t dummies. Through a combination of ingenuity, observation, determination, and probably a lot of luck, these people managed to develop a number of surprising technologies — many of which have been lost to history and have proven surprisingly hard to reproduce today.


Still, a good understanding of the remarkable mechanical properties of the metal remained elusive. In 2006, however, researchers at the Institut fur Strukturphysik at the Technische Universität Dresden published the results of their own detailed investigations. They obtained a small sample of a Damascus sabre from the Berne Historical Museum in Switzerland, and inspected it using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. An electron microscope, which uses electrons rather than light particles (photons), can resolve images of objects that are smaller than a nanometer (a billionth of a meter).

Remarkably, they found the presence of so-called carbon nanotubes, a material that is on the cutting edge of nanotechnology!
mediaevalist: (LOL)
Kelburn, Scotland's graffiti castle

Not surprisingly, it's caused quite a stir. And so typically Glasweigan. We never take things seriously.

The Earl of Glasgow, whose family has occupied the castle for the last 800 years, invited four Brazilian graffiti artists to create a work of art on one of the walls in 2007 as a temporary measure. The so-called Graffiti Project involved 1,500 cans of spray paint to decorate the 13th-century castle. It put Kelburn Castle, which lies near the seaside town of Largs on Scotland's west coast, into the top 10 worldwide examples of street art - on the same list as Banksy's work in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro's Favela Morro da Providencia.

It's the kind of thing you typically see when the scaffolding starts going up around historic buildings in Scotland's usual springtime ritual, not to mention the world over when renovation's being done. The difference now is that the art itself has garnered so much attention that the family now wants to keep it up.

Fortunately, it seems like most share my opinion of "Let 'em keep it!"

Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), says Scots take their historic treasures seriously, but believes the right balance must be struck when dealing with old buildings such as Kelburn Castle.

"The graffiti's a bit of thumbing of the nose at the conservationists who are terribly precious about our environment, and that's always good fun but you don't want to cause the building permanent damage," he said. If the building is fine and stable, there is no harm to it, then fine - paint it bright pink."

Buildings shouldn't be considered museum pieces, he added, but should continue to contribute to society: "Buildings are useless if they are not alive."

I love that quote. I really do. In fact, I am shamelessly ripping it off.

June 2015



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