Most archaeologists focus on metal, stone, and ceramic objects which are common and easy to conserve, but this has problems! Back in 1962 John Coles studied European Bronze Age shields by beginning with complete bronze shields (or shield covers) from Cyprus, the Aegean, southern Germany, Czechia, Denmark, and the British Isles. Because the oldest finds in the Aegean could be dated to around 850 BCE, Coles created an elaborate theory that the surviving wooden and hide shields and shield moulds from Ireland were copies of Southwest Spanish copies of the shields from the Aegean and Cyprus. Because the shields from Ireland were found loose in bogs, there was no way to date them by the other objects they were found with. Then in 1991 specialists started to collect radiocarbon dates from the Irish shields and shield-moulds, and consistently got dates before 1000 BCE! Since most parts of Europe don’t have as many peat bogs as Ireland, and ancient wood and hide rarely survive outside of bogs, this sparked some rethinking!Read more
Month: April 2023
Unskilled labour is one of those terms which people often absorb from pundits or books without thinking. Its worth saying out loud that unskilled labour is labour which is common, or labour which employers can easily replace. It does not mean ignorant, or uneducated, or that anyone from a different society could do it.Read more
Taylor, Michael j. (2022) “Decimatio: Myth, Discipline, and Death in the Roman Republic.” Antichthon, pp. 1–16 doi:10.1017/ann.2022.9
Around 150 BCE, Polybius wrote that Roman military law contained the fearsome punishment of decimatio:
If the same thing (i.e., acts of cowardice) ever happens to large bodies, and if entire maniples desert their posts when exceedingly hard pressed, the officers refrain from inflicting the fustuarium or the death penalty on all, but find a solution of the difficulty which is both salutary and terror-striking. The tribune assembles the legion, and brings up those guilty of leaving the ranks, reproaches them sharply, and finally chooses by lots sometimes five, sometimes eight, sometimes twenty of the offenders, so adjusting the number thus chosen that they form as near as possible the tenth part of those guilty of cowardice. Those on whom the lot falls are clubbed mercilessly in the manner above described; the rest receive rations of barley instead of wheat and are ordered to encamp outside the camp on an unprotected spot. As therefore the danger and dread of drawing the fatal lot affects all equally, as it is uncertain on whom it will fall; and as the public disgrace of receiving barley rations falls on all alike, this practice is that best calculated both to inspire fear and to correct the mischief.
But historian Michael Taylor noticed that the Romans had only two or three examples of this punishment being carried out before the time of Crassus and Pompey, both of which belonged to the misty times before 300 BCE.Read more
In January the Scholarly Skater reminded me of the panel painting of Christ mocked found in France and attributed to Cimabue of Florence who died in or after 1302. The panel is not in the best shape, but if you have seen the Maciejowski Bible or some 13th century French sculpture its nothing special. Panel paintings from the 13th century are rare but not as rare as many things. So why the fuss?Read more