The flail (in particular, the one-handed version with a spiked head) is an iconic medieval weapon -- but it might not have ever been used in combat, despite the paintings and your old D&D rulebooks. Unlike most of the Internet, the discussion in the comments is worth reading.
Toilets of Roman Pompeii tells you most of the things you wanted to know about Roman habits [more inside]
This is the story of a lost medieval city you’ve probably never heard about. Benin City, originally known as Edo, was once the capital of a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria.
From the Series : Stories of cities
From the Series : Stories of cities
Cristian Ispir explores 14th-century bibliophile Richard de Bury's advice on how to take care of books — or rather, how not to.
Saga Thing is a podcast [iTunes link] about the Sagas of the Icelanders by Professors Andrew Pfrenger and John P. Sexton. The format is simple, the two of them discuss a single saga over the course of one or more episodes. Then they render judgment at the end, on such issues as the quality of its nicknames, witticisms, characters and bloodshed. If you need a refresher on the medieval literature and history of Iceland, Saga Thing has you covered with three introductory episodes (1, 2, 3), or you could listen to the BBC's In Our Time episode about the sagas. Andy and John also have a few short episodes on related topics, such as the gruesome blood eagle, dueling and Norse remains in Newfoundland.
Toronto-based artist Bailey Henderson sculpts the fearsome sea creatures depicted on medieval and Renaissance-era maps. [more inside]
The English are famous for complaining about the weather, but this is nothing new. Nearly a thousand years ago, an unknown musician set down a single verse that still carries heartfelt sadness about the longeurs of winter, leaving us a wistful window into existence, art and society in the early medieval years. Decoding the earliest surviving secular song in English.
"Led by The New York Academy of Medicine, the Color Our Collections event invites you to download images from library and cultural institution collections, color them, and share them on social media using the event hashtag #ColorOurCollections."To start with, check out the natural history offerings from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the medieval offerings from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. [more inside]
The Luttrell Psalter is a mid-14th century English illuminated manuscript containing a large number of illustrations of everyday life in medieval England. In 2008 the Psalter was adapted into a 20 minute short film for The Collection Museum in Lincoln, drawing on 35 scenes from the manuscript. There is also a blog describing the making of the film. [more inside]
Detailed guide to building a medieval village. LEGO builder Luke Watkins Hutchinson / Derfel Cadarn's massive, 300-photo guide to building an intricate medieval scene out of LEGO bricks. [more inside]
Can you solve the code in the sword? (dailymail.co.uk) British Library appeals for help in cracking an enigmatic 'NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI' inscription on a mysterious medieval blade. Curator Julian Harrison writes a bit more on his blog.
The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources aims to document all given names recorded in European sources written between 600 and 1600.
Geoffroi de Charny (c. 1300 – 19 September 1356) was a French knight and author of at least three works on chivalry. One of his works, Questions for the Joust, Tournaments and War consists of a series of open-ended questions regarding the law of tournaments and the proper conduct of war. The complete set of questions has been translated into English and made available online. [more inside]
Eleanor Parker of A Clerk of Oxford writes Public Engagement and Personal Enthusiasm, St Mildred and Me
I can't say how far the personal inspired the scholarly interest, or the other way around - perhaps I was drawn to Mildred because I'm from Thanet, or perhaps studying Mildred has made me more interested in Thanet's Saxon history, which I didn't really know about or think about when I actually lived there. It's probably a bit of both. Who can explain why they're drawn to the subject they study?
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
@deathmedieval is a bot that tweets lines from coroner's rolls in England between 1200 and 1500 AD. (related)
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index covers journal articles, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages. [some pages may contain medieval nudity] [more inside]
Historie of Beafts combs through Medieval bestiaries to bring you the finest in olde-tyme animal facts. [more inside]
"If you love old books, you've come to the right place." Quill is a project by Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel and librarian/photographer Giulio Menna, detailing the laborious process of creating a manuscript before Gutenberg. Learn what a "quire" is, and the origin of the term "watermark." [more inside]
The archive of Leiden's Holy Spirit Orphanage holds a small collection of medieval name tags that were pinned to abandoned babies. Written in Middle Dutch on slim slips of paper, they still have visible holes from the pins that fixed the tags to the foundlings.
The 10 worst misconceptions about medieval life that you would get from fantasy books debunks a number of fantasy-novel myths, inspired by this terrific Reddit thread where historians discuss high fantasy novel tropes [prev]. Some of the greatest misconceptions were around combat in the Middle Ages, which apparently included exotic weapons - like the scorpion bombs used in ancient warfare. [pdf] Also see the Medieval People of Color site to see some other dimensions of Middle Ages diversity that are often missing from fantasy novels. And, of course, a tip of the hat to the venerable and hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
Studying and making an early instrument called a citole. Until recently, this style of instrument was not recognized as separate from a gittern.
The University of Michigan Library, the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest have made public more than 25,000 manually transcribed texts from 1473-1700 — the first 200 years of the printed book. Full text access. Multiple format downloads, including ePUB. Or just download the entire corpus. [more inside]
So how did medieval readers locate books, especially when they owned a lot of them? The answer lies in a neat trick that resembles our modern GPS : a book was tagged with a unique identifier (a shelfmark) that was entered into a searchable database (a library catalogue), which could subsequently be consulted with a handheld device (a portable version of the catalogue). Here is how to plot the route to a specific book in the medieval library.[more inside]
In the year 1450, a pack of man-eating wolves invaded Paris. Dozen of Parisians died, until the people lured the wolves into the Île de la Cité and stoned them to death. This year, a new beast was sighted prowling the suburbs of Paris. Was it a tiger? Or was it something else?
Manuscript Miniatures, Effigies & Brasses, Armour in Art, and Aquamanilia are four online databases of medieval art. Together they comprise some 19,506 images. [more inside]
Scissors or Sword? The Symbolism of a Medieval Haircut:
"Simon Coates explores the symbolic meanings attached to hair in the early medieval West, and how it served to denote differences in age, sex, ethnicity and status."
If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house. [more inside]
Model books, examples for medieval scribes to copy from and adapt in their work, are like illuminated manuscripts in concentrated form. A post from medieval historian Erik Kwakkel's excellent new blog, a longform complement to his excellent Tumblr (previously).
One of the great things about medieval art and architecture is that people just went in and did things. They didn’t build models and scale them up. Building great cathedrals and abbeys was a learning process as much as anything else. This means many of these apparently perfect aspirations to the Heavenly Jerusalem have some often quite comical mistakes, corrections and bodge-jobs that once you see, you can’t unnotice. Great Mistakes in English Medieval Architecture.
The DMMapp (Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App) is a website that links to more than 300 libraries in the world. Each one of these contains medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free. The DMMapp is a product of Sexy Codicology, an independent project focused on medieval illuminated manuscripts and social media. It maintains a great blog about medieval manuscripts, especially those that are available online.
Just how heavy and cumbersome was medieval armor? Who wore it? What did it look like? To find out, watch How to Mount a Horse in Armor and Other Chivalric Problems, an entertaining, informative, and deliciously snarky presentation by Dirk H. Breiding, assistant curator of the Department of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. [more inside]
The images vary widely, but they tend to be very strange and even disturbing—overt sexual acts, defecation, monsters, human-monster hybrids, animals acting like humans. There’s also examples of clergy behaving very badly, the sort of thing you would not expect to see in the margins of a sacred book.Kaitlin Manning of B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts talks to Collector's Weekly (previously) about the exquisitely detailed religious texts surrounded by all manner of illustrated commentary, known today as marginalia.
The uncommonly well-moderated and researched Ask Historians subreddit answers the question: What common medieval fantasy tropes have little-to-no basis in real medieval European history?
In England coats of arms and other issues of heraldry are registered and administered by the College of Arms. But what if some base scoundrel displays your family's ancient and noble coat of arms without the right to do so? You sue them in the Court of Chivalry. [more inside]
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is a remarkable 14th Century book which tells the autobiographical story of Sir John Mandeville's travels from England to Jerusalem and beyond to Asia. The only problem is that the book "had been a household word in eleven languages and for five centuries before it was ascertained that Sir John never lived, that his travels never took place, and that his personal experiences, long the test of others' veracity, were compiled out of every possible authority, going back to Pliny, if not further." The book was very popular for many centuries and was illustrated many times. For more about the book there is the introduction to a recent scholarly Middle English version and an illuminating podcast interview [iTunes link] with Professor Anthony Bale, the translator of a new version of the "defective" version of the book, which was the best known version for centuries. The interview goes into the many errors and fantasias of Mandeville but also puts the work in the context of its time and place.
"The idea that Medieval people drank beer or wine to avoid drinking bad water is so established that even some very serious scholars see no reason to document or defend it; they simply repeat it as a settled truth. In fact, if no one ever documents the idea, it is for a very simple reason: it's not true."
Here she discovered photographs of several of the absent illuminations, a partial ownership history, and a surprising fact: Christie’s had listed the book as “APPARENTLY COMPLETE.” In other words, the devotional had been taken apart—“broken” is the industry term—not a hundred years ago, but within the last three years. Its leaves had been stripped for individual sale by a modern-day dealer. “I was almost physically sick,” Treharne told me. “I could not believe what I had in front of me.”
Have you ever wished that you had an array of reaction gifs featuring hilarious medieval art? u don't say. Previously.
Digitised Diseases is an open access resource featuring human bones which have been digitised using 3D laser scanning, CT and radiography. The resource focuses on a wide range of pathological type specimens from archaeological and historical medical collections, specifically examples of chronic diseases which affect the human skeleton for which many of the physical changes are often not directly observable within clinical practice. Of major interest to many will be high fidelity photo-realistic digital representations of 3D bones that can be viewed, downloaded and manipulated on their computer, tablet or smartphone. [more inside]
Wielding bagpipes, the largest hurdy-gurdy in the world, and a huge array of other medieval instruments, neo-medievalists Corvus Corax (official site) join with taiko drummers Wadokyo for an incredible sunset performance at 2013's Wacken Open Air festival. [more inside]
"As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common, especially in marginalia. But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange, and we had a long discussion about what such pictures might mean."