Month: September 2014

Quaestiones Forojulienses: With which edge should one make each cut?

A man in a robe sits in an armchair with a circular table in front of him. The table rotates on a screw joint and supports two books, one open and upright and one horizontal and closed. In the background a glass window shows a dark night.
A student reading in his room, as painted in Paris circa 1420. British Library Royal MS 20 B XX. Cropped from an image in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts which has been released under a Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

One of my academic interests is knightly combat in late medieval Europe as described in four manuscripts by Fiore dei Liberi dating to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Fiore’s works, and those of his contemporaries in more northerly lands, give us a unique chance to understand how the weapons and armour racked in museums were meant to be used. They at the very least give anyone interested in how ancient people fought food for thought. This series of posts is inspired by the Greek scholar Plutarch, who wrote an antiquarian essay asking why the Romans practiced some curious customs. Plutarch was wise enough to give questions not answers, and that will be my policy in these posts as well.

Blows, steps, and guards make up the vocabulary of an early European martial art.  While Fiore describes these things more clearly than his contemporaries did, his words still leave some ambiguity.

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Meeting Ötzi

A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit the Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum in Bolzen. The modest stone building is the current home of the famous mummy of Ötzi, who died in an Alpine pass about 3300 BCE. Photographing the artifacts, including several sturdy longbows with the knife-marks still visible on their surface, was forbidden, but I did take a photo of this reconstruction.

A reconstruction of Ötzi, from the Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum, Bolzen.
A reconstruction of Ötzi, from the Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum, Bolzen.

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Two Unfortunate Choices of Script

My Internet connection is having trouble uploading, which it making it difficult to post some pictures which I wanted to talk about. Instead, I think I will use this post to gripe about design choices in another kind of information technology. My first career was in programming, but programming languages were not the first where it proved very difficult to change early decisions as their disadvantages became apparent or the context changed.
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The Copper Gutter

A photo of a stone bell tower with a corroded copper roof and rain-gutters shaped like fish
In later millennia, architectural copper could still impress

Last week I mentioned that one Hittite document tells the commander of a frontier post how they are to guard, build, and maintain their post. While the section on the curtain wall is badly damaged, the section on the watchtower is mostly intact:

Let the ?[watc]h? tower be 4 cubits around the top, but around the bottom let it be 6 cubits, and let it be encircled with a copper rain-gutter and a ?gallery?. Let the gallery be 6 cubits in circumference, and let it protrude 5 spans.

The word URUDḫeyawallit is not known elsewhere, but because it is proceeded with the determinative for copper and begins with the word for rain it fairly clearly means “copper rain-gutter”. The measurements of length and the word translated as “gallery” are not as well understood (the later could be more like “battlements” or “palisade”). I am not sure that the scholar who excerpted this text noticed what I did, because he didn’t translate the determinative.

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