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Amateur hnefatafl board fragment from Toftanes, Faroe Islands


A broken plank of oak found at Toftanes in the Faroe Islands represents a surviving fragment of a game board hastily fashioned from an old serving plate. One side of the board bears a portion of a nine men morris court showing poor symmetry; the other side bears seven rows of an incised lattice measuring fourteen rows across, marked with a cross in the cell which would have been the center, assuming a square lattice of thirteen by thirteen rows was intended (meaning one too many lines produced an accidental fourteenth row on one side). Again, the meandering lines and poor overall symmetry strongly suggest a hasty or amateurish effort. Photos of this board fragment may be found here or in From Viking to Crusader, Ed. Else Roesdahl and David Wilson. New York: Rizzoli, 1992. ISBN 0-8478-1625-7. The Toftanes board is entry #321 in the catalog, appearing on p. 311.

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Ancient Roman Garb Basics

La Bella Donna

I love this blog. I will be investing in some appropriate Roman clothing for the summer!

Ancient Roman Garb Basics.

via Ancient Roman Garb Basics.

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Documentation for the hamburger.

A recipe from the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius, written by an unknown author during the late 4th or 5th centuries AD, details a dish called ‘Isicia Omentata’ made of minced meat, pepper, wine, pine nuts and a rich fish-based sauce (Garum), all formed into a patty.


The Complex Reality of Early Medieval Slavery

Kim Rendfeld

Costumes of slaves or serfs Costumes of slaves or serfs, from the sixth to the 12th centuries, from the 19th century Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

Let me get one thing out of the way: Slavery is evil. No one has the right to own another person and do whatever they want to them.

But early medieval times present uncomfortable complexities to this tolerant 21st century American. Some slaves were better off than their free counterparts. Servants in a noble house were more likely to eat, sleep in a sheltered space, and have decent clothing, but they were more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

A peasant’s life was uncertain, especially when it came to food. A bad harvest in the fall meant famine in the winter. Poverty was so widespread that the Church differentiated between killing…

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German or Swiss? Landsknecht or Reisläufer?

Whilja' s Corner

The quick and dirty introduction of who’s who;

Until 1490 the Swiss were the superior warriors of Europe, and Swiss instructors was imported to tech German soldiers how to fight, forming a new group of mercenaries in Europe, the Landsknechts. The Landsknechts also copy the Swiss outfit and even added more slashes and flamboyant look to it.

The Landsknecht copying the Swiss fighting style and fashion wasn’t that popular among the Reisläufers and the lesser employment opportunities with a growing group of Landsknechts, made the two groups bitter rivals and enemies, especially since the Landsknecht didn’t care for who they fought for …as long as they were payed.

The woodcut below shows a rare view of a Landsknecht and a Reisläufer in the same woodcut, a symbol of a truce between the two groups during this period of wars raging back and forth through Europe.


The slashing
The Landsknecht on…

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Period or not… Names

East Kingdom Gazette

This is a recurring series by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich on whether certain names currently can be documented to period based on existing evidence. There are a lot of names that people think are medieval, but actually aren’t, and others which people think are modern, but in fact are found in the SCA’s period. If you would like to suggest a name, send an email to the Gazette.

Today’s names are Moira and Maura.

Moira is one of those “Irish” names popularly believed to be medieval or Renaissance, but which is currently undocumentable in that form.  The spellings we can document in Anglicized Irish (not Gaelic) are Moire[1] or Mora[2].  Neither is pronounced like the modern “Moy-ra.”  Moire is most likely pronounced as either “Moor” or “Moora.”  In Gaelic, the closest name is Máire[3], pronounced roughly “May-ra” or “Ma-ra.”

Many also think of Maura as an “Irish” name, but in fact…

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Poetry: A Bright Spot in the Dark Ages

Kim Rendfeld

When I read Alcuin’s acrostic poem, “The Holy Cross,” I get the feeling that maybe the Dark Ages weren’t as dark as they are often portrayed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion that I would want to live in a time of widespread poverty, warfare, disease, and superstition. But “The Holy Cross” reminds me that even with these obstacles, people possessed intellect and sought beauty. To craft a poem that can be read line by line as well as a cross within a diamond within a square requires sophistication.

Visit English Historical Fiction Authors for more about this example of early medieval intellect.

Manuscript dedication Raban Maur (left), supported by Alcuin, dedicates his work to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons).

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An unorthodox braid tutorial

One setup, four color-patterns

Medieval Misconception: Parents Did Not Bond with Their Babies

Kim Rendfeld

The idea is plausible: Because so many medieval children died young – half didn’t make it to age 5 – parents did not become attached to their babies. In modern parlance, it’s a defense mechanism.

After all, this was an age of war and brutal justice. It just makes sense that medieval parents would hold off on affection until they could be more certain their child was going to live, right?

Not exactly. Paul the Deacon’s 783 epitaph for Charlemagne’s 40-day-old daughter Hildegard tells a different story: “Dear little maiden, you leave no little grief/Stabbing your father’s heart with a dagger.”

Medieval parents might have accepted the likelihood of burying at least one child, and it’s easy to imagine everyone knew someone who had lost a child. That sad reality might have made grieving parents feel less isolated.

But the epitaph proves that in the Dark Ages parents loved their…

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