Friday, June 21, 2013

Gutenberg, Executions, Medicis, Vikings, Hobbits and more - medieval news roundup

A medieval news roundup for the weekend...

If you are a fan of Marshall McLuhan or have an interest in the history of printing, this interview from the Columbia Journalism Review might interest you. In this post, entitled The future is medieval, they talk with Thomas Pettitt and Lars Ole Sauerberg from the University of Southern Denmark about their “Gutenberg Parenthesis” idea. It deals with how digital media will be tipping the scales between oral and print communication, the first change we have seen since Gutenberg started his printing machine. It includes some talk about the medieval period, such as:

The Middle Ages was not strong on membership of communities. They were not obsessive about inside versus outside. They didn’t emphasize, “I’m a denizen of this town, I’m a citizen of this country, I belong in this nation, behind these frontiers.” They saw themselves rather like Hobbits (Tolkien was a medievalist). Hobbits knew their relatives to the seventh degree: second cousins three times removed, and so on. In the Middle Ages people saw themselves as part of a network of connections. They knew their family trees. They knew with whom they were related. They identified themselves as a node in a network and they saw pathways, connections to other people in their extended family. They also saw themselves in terms depending on their profession. If they were in the Church, they saw themselves in the Church hierarchy as being a priest here, subject to the archdeacon here, subject to the bishop there, and the archbishop and the pope. You could have status by being the servant to a servant to someone important.

You can also listen to this talk they were part of from MIT:

Slate magazine offers this fascinating excerpt from The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, by Joel F. Harrington. It details how 16th century executioners performed their task. For example:

During his own 45-year career and 187 recorded executions with the sword, Meister Frantz required a second stroke only four times (an impressive success rate of 98 percent), yet he dutifully acknowledges each mistake in his journal with the simple annotation botched

The New York Times has a short article about how nine children from the wealthy and poweful Medici family have been found to have rickets, a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D and usually associated with the poor. In this case, "the researchers said the children were probably deprived of sunlight, which spurs the body to make vitamin D. Wealthy children of that time were often tightly swaddled and kept inside, with suntans discouraged as signs of low standing."

Sticking with the Medici's, Three Pipe Problem (a great blog) has an interview with Edward Goldberg, who does extensive research on that family and on the Jewish community in Renaissance Italy.

ScienceNordic reports that a 1200 year old Carolingian coin has been discovered in Norway. Jon Anders Risvaag, from NTNU University Museum, explains “Two factors make this find stand out. Firstly, this coin is older than the Carolingian coinage reform, and so far the oldest coin from Charlemagne’s reign found in Norway. Secondly, this coin was not found in a grave, in contrast to almost all other coins from Charlemagne and his successors that have been found in Norway.”

If you are interested in the Vikings, go over to Medieval Histories, where Karen Schousboe has written several posts about the Norsemen, including an indepth review of an exhibition Vikings 2013 at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Finally, the CBC (our public broadcaster here in Canada), has this article Film, TV tourism spikes with Game of Thrones, The Hobbit. Fans seem to be heading to Northern Ireland, Dubrovnik and New Zealand to check out the beautiful backdrops to their favourite shows/movies. New Zealand tourism is cashing on in the Hobbit (like they did with Lord of the Rings movies) with their "100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand" campaign.