Medieval sacred textiles in Germany

Just a quick note to disseminate this excellent resource listing sacred textiles in German collections by Amalie on the Adventures in Historical Tablet Weaving blog.

List of the contents of Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters.

It reminded me that in Bamberg Cathedral’s treasury there is meant to be a cloak that belonged to Duke Melo of Bari from his time of exile at the court of Emperor Henry II.

Catalogues of medieval coins

Half follis of Justinian, Portable Antiquities Scheme

Of real benefit not just to numismatists but to medievalists who deal with material culture, economy, politics and more, are the three catalogues of Byzantine and medieval coins (including those of Ostrogoths, Vandals and Lombards, plus later coins from Thessalonica, Trebizond and Nicaea) by Warwick W. Wroth (see my delicious links on the right hand side). They are all now well out of copyright and you can at least read them via the Internet Archive which leads you to Google Books. They are allegedly available for download but I cannot seem to achieve this. I wonder if there is some residual rights problem as facsimiles of these volumes have also recently been published? However, you can at least consult them here. The quality of the reproduction is at least as good as the originals and so perfectly suitable for research purposes:

Catalogue of the imperial Byzantine coins in the British Museum (1908), vol. 1

Catalogue of the imperial Byzantine coins in the British Museum, vol. 2 (1908)

Catalogue of the coins of the Vandals, Ostrogoths and Lombards, and of the empires of Thessalonica, Nicaea and Trebizond in the British museum (1911)

Some loose thoughts on the Staffordshire Hoard

The reaction to the news of the recent discovery of an immense hoard, rich in gold and silver, has been predictably varied, both from the academic and museum communities and the general public. The Staffordshire hoard was announced on 24 September 2009. The story of its discovery by metal detectorist Terry Herbert and its subsequent reporting to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and recovery archaeology at the understandably secret site is well covered in the press and can be read in the press statement on the hoard’s website. Here is a brief reflection I recently left on the Early Medieval Forum mailing list and the full thread with reactions from other medievalists can be accessed in September’s archives and October’s archives.

I read Alex Burghart’s review with great interest. As demonstrated in the article, the questions such exceptional finds raise are as important for the understanding of the past (whether ‘history’ or ‘archaeology’) as any answers that might be yet be put forward. Rather than the rather tired debate about whether such things inform history, or whether history informs them, I found the last sentence of most interest:

Not much certainty is likely to come of this, but when faced with this collection of strange, undiminished beauty, certainty is hardly the point.

What makes this find so intriguing, to me, above all the detail and analysis, whether of the inscription or the workmanship or the materials, is the effect it has already had upon a the popular consciousness of the early Middle Ages. If any of you followed the story on twitter, or indeed take a look at some of the comments left on its flickr pages, you would see what I mean (even overlooking the odd and downright bizarre).

I wish I had had the chance to go up to Birmingham and hear what others were saying, what they were expecting and what indeed it made them think about. The hoard will now be studied by (hopefully) a large cohort of scholars of all persuasions and will enter into lectures and seminar discussions, even if it might start on the legendary ‘booty of Penda’ question. This is only to be encouraged, even before any consensus might be reached about why and how.

We have to give a voice to our texts to get answers, and so do we to our objects. I hope that discussion on the hoard doesn’t get stuck on this issue, nor, I hope does its study become too fragmented between specialist scholars who will all find their own areas of interest in it but not readily come together or share. These finds could be used to create a museum in their own right, in the landscape in which it was found, and with the myriad other finds, texts and images from here. Perhaps if they were all put together, we might feel more certain about its role in the past, and its role today.
/ends

Since then, I have discussed the hoard with other people and kept half an eye on the hoard’s website, still trying to digest it all. What went into that work on the millefiori stud? How long would it have taken? And so on. Of particular interest is Emeritus Professor Nicholas Brook’s first impressions which raise the important issue of such objects having been heirlooms in their own time. I look forward to hearing more from Dr Kevin Leahy in his lecture to be given at the British Museum on 26 November (Tickets £5 and £3 concessions). His outwardly facing agenda for the hoard and its interpretation, in other words, working to put as much ‘raw’ information out to tender as it were, is something to be commended as I have alluded to above. I know of at least one undergraduate student who has already chosen this as his dissertation subject. British Archaeology Magazine’s recent coverage (issue 109 November/December 2009) of the hoard and its discovery is to be similarly commended. Its pure and simple descriptive analysis just states things as they are and doesn’t seek to make comment in order to appropriate some position on it or another or to make pointlessly bold statements about the how the hoard will irrevocably change our understanding of the ‘Dark Ages’… (of course it will only do so through a completely new mode of collaboration, debate, assimilation and dissemination of information).

I now come to a point where I feel that I want to understand better the relationship of one object to another in the haul, more than say, workmanship, techniques, dating, kingdoms and associated historic events. Something about this feels deeply personal. Can’t quite put my finger on it. In the meantime I can only look forward to its imminent arrive in London.

What makes a medieval topic important?

As another academic year turns, so do I. This time, to emerge from the provinces and from behind my charters and museum objects, and join in London’s medieval scene. This evening’s first seminar of the European History 1150-1500 series was a discussion led by David Carpenter and Miri Rubin entitled What Makes a Medieval Topic Important? A very keenly attended seminar, we all squeezed in anticipation into the modest Low Countries Room at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, in Bloomsbury.

Prof. Miri Rubin began with the most deft and breathless exposé of intellectual movements that have had great impacts on medieval history writing. From the Annales School establishment of social and economic histories of the longue durée to the Marxian approaches of late Prof. Rodney Hilton and the history of peasantry, to radical gender historians of North America, historians of ethnicity, identity and the mandala of fields and sub-fields which have resulted from these, we were reminded that it was this question, what is important? that has been asked over and over by historians who have wanted to change our thinking of the past, and by extension, of us today. All of this was gold-threaded with the idea that historians in the last century began to want to know more about European ‘peoples’ than its institutions. In other words, those affected by big decisions, rather than the decision makers. In in a current climate of political activity on ‘Europe’ and ‘Europeans’ (and the prospect of a President Blair–Il presidente del popolo, presumably) this point was made even more apposite.
Continue reading ‘What makes a medieval topic important?’

Who’s Who in Medieval Southern Italy

Last May, I gave a short cameo paper on the theme of identities in 11th century southern Italy.  It revoles around two examples, one of the description of Duke Melo or Melus in William of Apulia’s poem in praise of Robert Guiscard (Book 1) and the second on the depiction of the Earth (tellus) in one of the Bari exultet rolls.

Read Who’s Who in Medieval Southern Italy.

Fragmentation in the Middle Ages: Call for Papers

While the ‘Medieval Exchanges in southern Italy’ project has now ended, the work it has started has not!  I will be co-organising a session at the forthcoming Theoretical Archaeology Conference 2008 at the University of Southampton entitled:

Putting Humpty Together Again: Overcoming the Fragmentation of the Middle Ages

The conference will be held at the Avenue Campus (School of Humanities) on 15-17 December 2008 (Monday to Wednesday).

This session is co-organised with Ben Jervis, also of the University of Southampton (Archaeology) and is supported by the Society for Medieval Archaeology.

To submit an abstract, please use TAG 2008’s submission page on the website as well as emailing a copy to both myself (tehm@soton.ac.uk) and Ben Jervis (bpj106@soton.ac.uk).

The deadline is 1 September 2008
Continue reading ‘Fragmentation in the Middle Ages: Call for Papers’

Final scambi medievali papers at Leeds

This year’s International Medieval Congress will host our final conference papers for the Leverhulme Trust-funded project. I will be organising a session on the construction of family relationships in Norman Europe in which my paper will highlight the importance of objects on the occasion of marriage in 12th-century southern Italy. Patricia Skinner will be participating again in the Medieval Italy strand of the congress giving a paper on the rhythms of trade in Amalfi. Full details to session abstracts are linked below.

Patricia Skinner: Seasonal Business Patterns: Solving the Amalfitan ‘Enigma’?  in:

Session 621: Cities in Medieval Italy and Italians in Medieval Cities, I: New Approaches to Old Problems in Local and Long-Distance Trade, 10 July, 11.15-12.45

Tehmina Goskar: A Bed, a Mattress and a Pillow Full of Feathers: Practical Provisions upon Marriage in 12th-Century Southern Italy (download paper abstract) in:

Session 1627: Nearest and Dearest: The Construction of Family Relationships in Norman Europe, 12 July, 11-15-12.45


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