Shedding Some Light on Those Beastly Dark Ages

 

I saw this story the other day, and sent the link to my stepdaughter and sister at approximately the same time as my stepdaughter sent the link to me and my sister, and only a moment or two before my sister sent the link to my stepdaughter and me. The circle of life. Connections. Not quite psychokinesis, but almost. I love it when that sort of thing happens among those I love.

It’s the story of an 11th-century nun at a small German monastery just south of what is now Frankfurt. The monastery was completely destroyed in a fire in the fourteenth century, but records remain, and the nearby cemetery has been excavated. Among the remains retrieved are those of a nun, aged somewhere between 45 and 60 when she died in approximately AD 1100.

What puzzled and fascinated scientists were the blue flecks in her teeth. (What puzzled and fascinated me is how she apparently had, well into middle age, managed to hold onto such a fine set of choppers at all, given what we think we know about the times in which she lived. But I digress.)

Blue flecks. Teeth.

Scientists, studying her teeth and the plaque that had accumulated on them (no Obamacare. No dental insurance. No regular six-month cleaning and polishing) noticed that it contained a number of brightly colored flecks that they couldn’t explain, but which they didn’t think could be ascribed to her diet (which is the thing they were actually researching). So they sent some scrapings off for X-ray spectroscopy and were shocked when the substance was identified as tiny bits of lapis lazuli, a rare, semi-precious stone mined, at the time that the nun lived, only in northeastern Afghanistan.

Why would a small German monastery have access to this rare and beautiful rock, and what could it possibly be used for?

As it turns out, that’s an easy question to answer. Lapis Lazuli is the source of ultramarine blue, a pigment used in only the most highly priced and decorative illuminated manuscripts, and only by the most experienced and expert of scribes. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste any, after its almost 3,000-mile journey on the Silk Road to your little cloister and into your tiny scriptorium.

All the evidence points to this unnamed nun being a skilled painter of manuscripts and one who worked at her calling for years (given the layers of plaque and the depth and number of colored flecks in her teeth). And this has turned at least more than one assumption about the soi-disant “Dark Ages” on its head.

First: Historians are beginning to rethink the network of connections and the depth and complexity of the trade routes at the time. After all, if a small, undistinguished, little monastery like this one had ultramarine blue pigment for its scribes to use, it must have had access to, and traded with, the folks selling it.

Second: You know all those stories you’re used to hearing of the monks saving Western Civilization by copying ancient texts, in the monastic libraries (about the only thing those “Dark Ages” ever seem to get any credit for)? And you know those illuminations, showing them, cloaked almost from head-to-toe in their religious habits, working away, writing, drawing and painting like mad? Saving Western Civilization? For us “ungrateful little twerps“? (One of the funniest scenes, from one of my favorite movies.)

Get ready for a gender-bending exercise, courtesy of a small 11th-century lady who, as was standard practice during her lifetime, and as part of her life’s work, used to moisten her paintbrush now and then by putting the end of it in her mouth and adding a little saliva to make the color flow.

Ready?

Some of those men were almost certainly women.

And the best part? No gruesome surgery or trans, or dis, figuration was required for them to live their dream and do the work they were born to do, hundreds of years before most people believed such a thing was even possible, or that such a thing could stand.

Just a bit more evidence that really, people haven’t changed much over the last millennium. And I’m glad.

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There are 61 comments.

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member

    There are flint deposits all over North and South America. But there is a flint deposit in what is now extreme southern Mexico that was apparently superior to North American flint for making arrow heads. So American Indians used that to make arrow heads, not their locally available flint. When you find an arrow head in New York state, it is likely that the flint in that arrow head is from 3,000 miles south of where you found it.

    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:23 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Huzzah and Glory be to God! Sr. Wendy’s probably met a whole group of them already. :-)

    • #2
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:25 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    There are flint deposits all over North and South America. But there is a flint deposit in what is now extreme southern Mexico that was apparently superior to North American flint for making arrow heads. So American Indians used that to make arrow heads, not their locally available flint. When you find an arrow head in New York state, it is likely that the flint in that arrow head is from 3,000 miles south of where you found it.

    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    Globalism, here we come!

    • #3
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:33 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    She: What puzzled and fascinated me is how she apparently had, well into middle age, managed to hold onto such a fine set of choppers at all, given what we think we know about the times in which she lived.

    It was before government subsidies for production of high-fructose corn syrup. And if she didn’t have to eat flour that was ground by hand with sandstone rocks (as some southwestern North Americans did in those days) I suppose her teeth could do well.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. J Climacus Member

    The Middle Ages as a time of repression, stasis, and intellectual stultification is an enduring myth originally started in the Enlightenment, no longer taken seriously by historians but still regnant in the popular mind.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:43 AM PDT
    • 17 likes
  6. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    She: What puzzled and fascinated me is how she apparently had, well into middle age, managed to hold onto such a fine set of choppers at all, given what we think we know about the times in which she lived.

    It was before government subsidies for production of high-fructose corn syrup. And if she didn’t have to eat flour that was ground by hand with sandstone rocks (as some southwestern North Americans did in those days) I suppose her teeth could do well.

    Yes. I expect that quite a lot of “gnawing” went on in those times too, and that probably strengthened what teeth remained.

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    I agree! And I think people who think about, and study “real history” would agree too. IMHO, the inability of most of the moderns to look at where we’ve come from (“from whence we’ve come,” as I should more properly say) without imposing a supercilious, patronizing and at least imagined, contemporary frame of reference upon it, is at the root of a lot of our self-inflicted misery and unrest today. 

    The “Thank God that I am so much [insert favorite comparative adjective here, as in ‘smarter,’ ‘better,’ ‘wiser,’ and so on] than those [insert the pejorative of the day, aimed at those you despise, as in ‘stupid fools,’ ‘patriarchal oppressors,’ ‘oblivious dullards,’ and so on]” is a destructive mindset, no matter where it pops up or how it’s framed.

    • #6
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    The Middle Ages as a time of repression, stasis, and intellectual stultification is an enduring myth originally started in the Enlightenment, no longer taken seriously by historians but still regnant in the popular mind.

    Indeed. I found that out for myself almost 40 years ago when I threw in my lot with a man who’s made a study of the medievals his life’s work. It’s a fascinating period, and much misunderstood. Thanks for pointing this out as you did.

    • #7
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  8. Amy Schley Moderator

    She (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    She: What puzzled and fascinated me is how she apparently had, well into middle age, managed to hold onto such a fine set of choppers at all, given what we think we know about the times in which she lived.

    It was before government subsidies for production of high-fructose corn syrup. And if she didn’t have to eat flour that was ground by hand with sandstone rocks (as some southwestern North Americans did in those days) I suppose her teeth could do well.

    Yes. I expect that quite a lot of “gnawing” went on in those times too, and that probably strengthened what teeth remained.

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    I agree! And I think people who think about, and study “real history” would agree too. IMHO, the inability of most of the moderns to look at where we’ve come from (“from whence we’ve come,” as I should more properly say) without imposing a supercilious, patronizing and at least imagined, contemporary frame of reference upon it, is at the root of a lot of our self-inflicted misery and unrest today.

    The “Thank God that I am so much [insert favorite comparative adjective here, as in ‘smarter,’ ‘better,’ ‘wiser,’ and so on] than those [insert the pejorative of the day, aimed at those you despise, as in ‘stupid fools,’ ‘patriarchal oppressors,’ ‘oblivious dullards,’ and so on]” is a destructive mindset, no matter where it pops up or how it’s framed.

     Its evil twin of “we are uniquely base while they were all perfect” is just as bad. 

    People are people. We’ve been the same mix of noble and degenerate since we got kicked out of Eden or out of the trees, depending on your preferred origin story. The only thing that changes from place to place and time to time is how people organize themselves to get what they want. 

    • #8
    • January 12, 2019, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  9. Percival Thatcher

    I read this a couple of days back because one of my Facebook groups linked it too. Because … like, medieval ya know?

    What surprised me was the stated assumption that most of the work illustrating manuscripts would have been done by men. Women have fine motor skills that are as good or even better than men, and it’s not like nuns in convents spent their days playing softball. Really intricate work would have been the province of those with the steadiest hands whomever they were.

    • #9
    • January 12, 2019, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  10. Al French, sad sack Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    There are flint deposits all over North and South America. But there is a flint deposit in what is now extreme southern Mexico that was apparently superior to North American flint for making arrow heads. So American Indians used that to make arrow heads, not their locally available flint. When you find an arrow head in New York state, it is likely that the flint in that arrow head is from 3,000 miles south of where you found it.

    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend the book “1491”, which I listened to on Audible.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39020.1491

    • #10
    • January 12, 2019, at 9:31 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  11. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frevisse novels center on a Benedictine monastery of women whose livelihood centered on copying/creating devotionals and other manuscripts for patrons. Fascinating period detail – and ripping good yarns, to boot. 

    • #11
    • January 12, 2019, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. Western Chauvinist Member

    It’s always been a burr under my butt that Catholics get accused of “worshiping” Mary and in the next moment of oppressing women. You don’t get to have it both ways. Either we recognize the gifts of all people (that’s why we’re called universal, innit?) or we’re not very catholic, are we?

    This is a great story, because it’s more evidence that the Church has done more to elevate women than any “pro-choice” progressive could even dream up. A little nobody cloistered nun given the the most expensive materials to work with in recognition of her talents. And feminism hadn’t even been invented yet!

    • #12
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:13 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  13. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    I agree! And I think people who think about, and study “real history” would agree too. IMHO, the inability of most of the moderns to look at where we’ve come from (“from whence we’ve come,” as I should more properly say) without imposing a supercilious, patronizing and at least imagined, contemporary frame of reference upon it, is at the root of a lot of our self-inflicted misery and unrest today.

    The “Thank God that I am so much [insert favorite comparative adjective here, as in ‘smarter,’ ‘better,’ ‘wiser,’ and so on] than those [insert the pejorative of the day, aimed at those you despise, as in ‘stupid fools,’ ‘patriarchal oppressors,’ ‘oblivious dullards,’ and so on]” is a destructive mindset, no matter where it pops up or how it’s framed.

    Its evil twin of “we are uniquely base while they were all perfect” is just as bad.

    Agreed. 

    People are people. We’ve been the same mix of noble and degenerate since we got kicked out of Eden or out of the trees, depending on your preferred origin story. The only thing that changes from place to place and time to time is how people organize themselves to get what they want.

    I would also suggest they organize themselves to get what they need, and that not all those things are material goods. Emotional support, spiritual life, beauty through art and music, and so on.

    • #13
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    What surprised me was the stated assumption that most of the work illustrating manuscripts would have been done by men. Women have fine motor skills that are as good or even better than men, and it’s not like nuns in convents spent their days playing softball. Really intricate work would have been the province of those with the steadiest hands whomever they were.

    Well, to be fair, most of the paintings of folks doing the illuminations are of men. But your point is well taken. There’s a reason that so many of what Mr. She calls the “fiddly jobs” fall to women. Many reasons, actually, only one of which is the fine motor skills issue. This book, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years is really enlightening on this subject.

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    This is a great story, because it’s more evidence that the Church has done more to elevate women than any “pro-choice” progressive could even dream up. A little nobody cloistered nun given the the most expensive materials to work with in recognition of her talents. And feminism hadn’t even been invented yet!

    Yes.

    • #14
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. The Reticulator Member

    She (View Comment):
    This book, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years is really enlightening on this subject.

    Now in my Kindle queue. Thx.

    Edit: I did check the author’s bio before buying. Seemed she might have a good enough background to write about this.

    • #15
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Randy Webster Member

    She (View Comment):
    The “Thank God that I am so much [insert favorite comparative adjective here, as in ‘smarter,’ ‘better,’ ‘wiser,’ and so on] than those [insert the pejorative of the day, aimed at those you despise, as in ‘stupid fools,’ ‘patriarchal oppressors,’ ‘oblivious dullards,’ and so on]” is a destructive mindset, no matter where it pops up or how it’s framed.

    I think “more knowledgeable” might fit. They were just as intelligent as we are.

    • #16
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:25 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    Without horses, beasts of burden, or even the wheel, one might surmise that long-distance cargo transportation would require some sort of involuntary servitude.

    • #17
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Randy Webster Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    I read this a couple of days back because one of my Facebook groups linked it too. Because … like, medieval ya know?

    What surprised me was the stated assumption that most of the work illustrating manuscripts would have been done by men. Women have fine motor skills that are as good or even better than men, and it’s not like nuns in convents spent their days playing softball. Really intricate work would have been the province of those with the steadiest hands whomever they were.

    Not as many women were educated as were men.

    • #18
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    I read this a couple of days back because one of my Facebook groups linked it too. Because … like, medieval ya know?

    What surprised me was the stated assumption that most of the work illustrating manuscripts would have been done by men. Women have fine motor skills that are as good or even better than men, and it’s not like nuns in convents spent their days playing softball. Really intricate work would have been the province of those with the steadiest hands whomever they were.

    Not as many women were educated as were men.

    The community of educated and learned women probably was centered in the Church. And that’s the tradition of Hrothswitha, and Hildegard of Bingen, and others. There’s so much interesting history of that period, and so many strong and capable women in it that it’s really a shame it can’t be told without, in most cases, someone grinding an ax. (It goes without saying, I think, that education was, for women as well as for men, something of an “entitled” class thing. Lower classes who worked for themselves, their families, and the droit of their seigneurs, from the moment they got out of bed in the morning until the moment they fell into bed at night, really didn’t have time or resources for such things. The Church, I think, leveled this playing field a bit by educating its clergy and its religious, no matter their backgrounds or station in life.

    Eleanor of Aquitaine is a remarkable figure from a non-religious context, of this time period.

    • #19
    • January 12, 2019, at 10:43 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. philo Member

    She: …has turned at least more than one assumption about the soi-disant “Dark Ages” on its head.

    J Climacus (View Comment): The Middle Ages as a time of repression, stasis, and intellectual stultification is an enduring myth…

    As with so much these days, I think back to an Instapundit entry. Here, its from 2012:

    Just remember: The so-called Dark Ages were a period of great creativity. Though scribes and bureaucrats recorded the fall of Rome with horror — because it was terrible for scribes and bureaucrats — the average person’s caloric intake went up. …

    [emphasis added]

    Similarly, I suspect, the “horrors” of the Trump years will be remembered by select classes.

    • #20
    • January 12, 2019, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. Hartmann von Aue Member

    On travel and trade in the “Dark Ages”, the things that’ve been found in Viking graves include but were not limited to Arabic and Byzantine coins (lots of them) and at least one jade Buddha statue. There was regular traffic from Scandinavia to the Holy Land and to Constantinople from the late ninth to the 14th century. 

    • #21
    • January 12, 2019, at 11:43 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  22. Percival Thatcher

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    On travel and trade in the “Dark Ages”, the things that’ve been found in Viking graves include but were not limited to Arabic and Byzantine coins (lots of them) and at least one jade Buddha statue. There was regular traffic from Scandinavia to the Holy Land and to Constantinople from the late ninth to the 14th century.

    Oh yeah. The Varangian Guard — the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor — were mostly Swedes, with a few Anglo-Saxon refugees sprinkled in after William took England. The Guard dates back to the 10th century.

    • #22
    • January 12, 2019, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    On travel and trade in the “Dark Ages”, the things that’ve been found in Viking graves include but were not limited to Arabic and Byzantine coins (lots of them) and at least one jade Buddha statue. There was regular traffic from Scandinavia to the Holy Land and to Constantinople from the late ninth to the 14th century.

    Yes. Unearthing the Sutton Hoo burial site (seventh century) revealed number of Byzantine coins. Even the locally-produced artifacts are extraordinarily beautiful and detailed.

    • #23
    • January 12, 2019, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member

    She (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    On travel and trade in the “Dark Ages”, the things that’ve been found in Viking graves include but were not limited to Arabic and Byzantine coins (lots of them) and at least one jade Buddha statue. There was regular traffic from Scandinavia to the Holy Land and to Constantinople from the late ninth to the 14th century.

    Yes. Unearthing the Sutton Hoo burial site (seventh century) revealed number of Byzantine coins. Even the locally-produced artifacts are extraordinarily beautiful and detailed.

    You know about this, right?

     https://www.bl.uk/events/anglo-saxon-kingdoms 

     

     

    • #24
    • January 12, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    https://www.bl.uk/events/anglo-saxon-kingdoms

    Yes, thanks. Auntie Pat (ninety-five, may she live forever) told me about it when I phoned her up on Christmas Day. Thankfully, I just missed the Queen’s Speech. I’ve called before, during it, and been given a stern talking to for interrupting Her Majesty.

    If I were in the UK, I’d so be going. I think it would have the same effect on me as a long-ago trip to the Sackler Gallery in DC for a special Masterpieces of Mespotamian Art exhibit. I felt so much more in common, and so much more of a connection with those folks from five thousand years ago, than I ever do from a display or exhibit of modern art of almost any sort.

    One of the most interesting little exhibitions I’ve ever been to was a private showing (because my sister was a supporter) of the manuscript treasures of Worcester Cathedral Library. The Cathedral has a very respectable collection, up in its attic (the potential for fire or weather disaster is huge). In attendance were Mr She and I, and my sister and brother-in-law, and David Morrison the Cathedral Librarian. We did indeed see King John’s thumb bone (imagining it signing the Magna Carta), and the skin of the Viking, who was flayed alive and whose skin was then nailed to the Cathedral door as a warning to others, after he was caught trying to steal one of the bells (which I should have thought was a work of superogation in its own right). In those days, they really knew how to send a message.

    Here’s a little slideshow of some of their holdings. So beautiful, and such artistry (you can see the absolutely gorgeous blue in some of the photos):

    • #25
    • January 12, 2019, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. PHCheese Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    There are flint deposits all over North and South America. But there is a flint deposit in what is now extreme southern Mexico that was apparently superior to North American flint for making arrow heads. So American Indians used that to make arrow heads, not their locally available flint. When you find an arrow head in New York state, it is likely that the flint in that arrow head is from 3,000 miles south of where you found it.

    Think about how many arrow heads they made. Flint is heavy stuff. The Indians had no horses or other beasts of burden. They had mining and transport industries 10,000 years ago that were apparently very sophisticated and well developed. I suspect that trade, transportation, commerce, etc were much more sophisticated several thousand years ago than we would imagine.

    The Mayans brought it North in their space ships.

    • #26
    • January 12, 2019, at 3:56 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  27. PHCheese Member

     

    Does anyone think that someone will find Hillary’s email five thousand years from now.

    • #27
    • January 12, 2019, at 4:05 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  28. She Thatcher
    She Post author

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Does anyone think that someone will find Hillary’s email five thousand years from now.

    We can only hope! Archeologists probably stand a better chance of finding them than we do.

    Perhaps it will be something on the order of the Vindolanda Tablets–over two thousand artifacts of Roman writings found near Hadrians Wall, some of which were recovered from a rubbish dump, and which are written in wax on wooden tiles. Some samples of what they say (from the linked article). The more things change, the more they stay the same:

    “Please send me 20 chickens, 100 apples (if you can find nice ones), 100 or 200 eggs (if they are for sale at a fair price.)”

    “Let it be clear to you that I am not resigning from either the mess or from the club.”  (Note to self: I wonder what happened. Somehow, the phrase “drunk and disorderly” springs to mind.)

    “Unless you send me some cash, at least 500 denarii, the result will be that I shall lose what I have laid out as a deposit. I want you to know I am in very good health, as I hope you are in turn, you neglectful man, who have sent me not even one letter.” (Note to self: Oh, dear.)

    “Enclosed herewith, please find a charitable donation consisting of half-a-dozen pairs of Bill’s old shorts. I am taking a tax write-off in the amount of $20 for the purpose. Please send me a receipt.”

    OK. I made that last one up (only the last one. The rest are genuine and the sentiments are 2000 years old). But you get the idea.

    • #28
    • January 12, 2019, at 4:19 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. SkipSul Moderator

    Several years ago I watched an episode of Nova where they closely examined what went into making Viking swords. One of the the takeaways was that the higher-grade steel they braided with the lower quality (as sort of Damascus effect in its own way) came from lands that the Vikings themselves rarely reached: Afghanistan. From the 800s through the 1100s, the Norse, Danes, and Swedes were getting high grade steel from central Asia.

    Constantinople by 1000 had managed to make its own silk, which had hitherto mostly only come from China. How did they do it? Somebody smuggled silk worms all the way from China to the Mediterranean, keeping them alive in the process.

    • #29
    • January 12, 2019, at 5:23 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  30. Doctor Robert Member

    And the cathedrals. Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine cathedrals. 30 stories tall in places, walls made of glass, built without steel, or electricity, or mathematics beyond geometry or any knowledge of what we would now consider basic structural engineering. Cathedrals knock me over.

    • #30
    • January 12, 2019, at 6:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
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