Most people interested in ancient warfare know about the swords, spears, shields, and wheeled vehicles from La Tène in western Switzerland. Peter Connolly painted pictures of them which were printed in a number of his books. A chat with Prof. Dr. Marc-Antoine Kaeser of the Laténium in Switzerland pointed me to some articles where I learned more about these ancient wooden objects.
The Save Ancient Studies Alliance Virtual Conference is looking for papers on the theme “Discovery, Science, and Technology in the Ancient World” (deadline 31 March). The conference will take place on 23 and 24 July 2023. You can find more about the conference on their website https://www.saveancientstudies.org/virtual-conference
Martin Rundkvist, Mead-halls of the Eastern Geats: Elite Settlements and Political Geography AD 375–1000 in Östergötland, Sweden (Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien: Stockholm, Sweden, 2011) academia.edu
The first time I read Martin Rundkvist’s book on early medieval southern Sweden, I realized that Sweden is weird. That is because for the past two or three thousand years, the area has never been conquered or occupied by foreigners bringing an alien language and culture. The closest things to that are the arrival of Christianity and whatever happened in northern Scandinavia between Indo-European speakers, Finno-Urgic speakers, and whoever was there before them. I struggle to think of anywhere else in the world which could say the same. Norway got invaded by outsiders once in 1940, and Denmark sometimes had trouble with (Latin Christian) Carolingians, British, or Prussians, but basically wars in southern Scandinavia were between Southern Scandinavians whom the proverbial Martian would have a hard time telling apart.
Something elsewhere made me think of Poul Anderson’s classic essay “On Thud and Blunder” about sword-and-sorcery authors who don’t bother to consider the how and why as well as the what. I wanted to check when it was first published and link to the online text.
It was first published in Andrew J. Offutt (ed.), Swords Against Darkness III (Zebra Books, 1978) and reprinted online by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Association. Anderson’s essay was the predecessor to Diana Wyne Jones’ book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (first edition 1996, revised 2006 – Wikipedia).
Mike Bishop and Jon Coulston are working on a third edition of their classic Roman Military Equipment. This will be complimented by a short booklet for a broader audience, a wall poster, and three open-access source books. Compared to the second edition from 2006, it will cover a wider span of time, have some notes... Continue reading: Cross-Post: Bishop and Coulston Third Edition
I am writing a post with this very specific title because I have added some more archaeological sites to What Woods Were Used for Shields in Iron Age Europe? Most importantly, I added sites from the pre-Roman “Arras Culture” of the wolds of East Yorkshire (and more shields from early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in Yorkshire). In this post, I will give more details than I can include in a list in the original post!
Roel Konijnendijk has published his second monograph, on the intellectual climate in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century and how that influenced the writing of ancient military history. Its from Brill, so its priced for libraries not individuals (if you can’t borrow a copy or have your library buy one, email him for other options!) I think a research history like this would play to his strengths. Just remember that there was also research in French and Russian before and after serious ancient history started to be written in English!
One thing I did not spell out is that people with training in history, archaeology, or similar rarely make the key decisions about historical documentaries. Old Media documentaries are businesses like any other film or TV show. They are run by business people and drama people who want return on investment and artistic fulfillment. Scholars may be interviewed and provide sound bites, but what they say is scripted or edited to fit a message chosen by those business people and drama people. Because TV and film are big money, they face big pressure. For example, Zahi Hawass features in almost any documentary about ancient Egypt, not because of his expertise, but because he is very well connected and documentaries which don’t give him airtime have problem after problem with the Egyptian government. Often, a documentary is based on one or two popular books or press releases, so its well downstream of original research. Business people and drama people don’t have the skills or inclination to dig too far into “how do we know that?” so they tend to compare experts and pick the one who sounds most convincing or most exciting. Everyone has to do this sometimes, but trained historians are much better equipped to deal with questions like this.
Over on birdsite John F. Sullivan noticed something which readers of ancient tactical manuals or surveyor’s manuals or medieval painters’ handbooks and fencing books have also noticed.
Whenever I pick up a new Sun Tzu translation, the very first thing I compare is two verses found in chapters 7 & 11 of the text. Why? It turns out they are exactly identical verses, should be rendered identically, but only rarely are. It gives us an indication of how careful and thorough a translator is. The verse itself is not one of Sun Tzu’s most memorable. It is basically composed of three thoughts—understand your neighboring rulers’ intentions, conduct a detailed assessment of the enemy’s terrain, and employ local guides to assist you in traversing enemy land. It does, though, reinforce two main themes of Sun Tzu’s military thinking—detailed assessments of the enemy situation (primarily terrain) and a preference for deep offensive invasions as the ideal military strategy.
I’ve never been sure how to do these since I switched from reading like a novel-lover (reading books in my native language from cover to cover then sending them back to the library) to reading like a scholar (dipping in and out of books, reading in languages I am not fluent in). Should magazines count? Individual short stories read online? Books and stories heard over the radio or on a mobile computer? And there is no sense making this into another piece of unpaid work keeping records of what I read! But I feel like doing one at the end of this year.
I err on the side of including things which don’t appear in my academic notes and reading list so might otherwise be unrecorded.
I am not including books which I read in manuscript.
This post might include some things from the last week of 2021. See previous discussion about unpaid work!