You’ve always loved history. Regardless of geography or blood,
knowing how the past functioned, not in dates and names but in daily
details, has always been fascinating. So this is not unknown ground for
you. And Renaissance Faires are fun: spending the day outside, geeking
endlessly about the minutia of history with other like-minded folk,
doing hands on demonstrations for kids. There’s nothing here you don’t
Sure, you may be the only Black person there, definitely one of a
few, but don’t let that stop you. The chances of anyone throwing rocks
at you are low. The chances of anyone laughing at you are high, but when
has that stopped you before? […]
Some will try to tell you that
you are wrong, out of time, out of place. They are wrong. African people
have always been travelers, traders, and scholars. The Mediterranean
has never been impenetrable and we have always been everywhere.
“When one considers the evidence for medieval chastity belts, as Classen did in his book The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-making Process, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that there’s not much of it. First of all, there aren’t actually all that many pictures of or accounts of using chastity belts, and even fewer physical specimens. And the few book-length works on the topic rely heavily on each other and all cite the same few examples.
"You have a bunch of literary representation, but very few historical references to a man trying to put a chastity belt on his wife,” says Classen. And, any literary reference to a chastity belt is likely either allegorical or satirical.“
One of the century’s most spectacular archaeological finds occurred in 1921, a year before Howard Carter stumbled upon Tutankhamun’s tomb, when Poul Norlund recovered dozens of garments from a graveyard in the Norse settlement of Herjolfsnaes, Greenland. Preserved intact for centuries by the permafrost, these mediaeval garments display remarkable similarities to western European costumes of the time. Previously, such costumes were known only from contemporary illustrations, and the Greenland finds provided the world with a close look at how ordinary Europeans dressed in the Middle Ages. Fortunately for Norlund’s team, wood has always been extremely scarce in Greenland, and instead of caskets, many of the bodies were found swaddled in multiple layers of cast off clothing. When he wrote about the excavation later, Norlund also described how occasional thaws had permitted crowberry and dwarf willow to establish themselves in the top layers of soil. Their roots grew through coffins, clothing and corpses alike, binding them together in a vast network of thin fibers – as if, he wrote, the finds had been literally sewn in the earth. Eighty years of technical advances and subsequent excavations have greatly added to our understanding of the Herjolfsnaes discoveries. Woven into the Earth recounts the dramatic story of Norlund’s excavation in the context of other Norse textile finds in Greenland. It then describes what the finds tell us about the materials and methods used in making the clothes. The weaving and sewing techniques detailed here are surprisingly sophisticated, and one can only admire the talent of the women who employed them, especially considering the harsh conditions they worked under. While Woven into the Earth will be invaluable to students of medieval archaeology, Norse society and textile history, both lay readers and scholars are sure to find the book’s dig narratives and glimpses of life among the last Vikings fascinating.