People being stabbed in medieval art and lovin' it

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Medieval manuscripts were the imageboards of their day, full of murderous rabbits and lewd butts, a new (to me) subgenre is "people who don't seem to mind that they've just been stabbed" -- perhaps the origin of the Black Knight? Read the rest

Why medieval monks filled manuscript margins with murderous rabbits

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Long before Sergio Aragonés filled the margins of MAD Magazine with tiny, weird cartoons, the margins of medieval manuscripts were a playground for bored monks with crude senses of humor. Read the rest

Medieval music recreated and performed for the first time in 1000 years

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'Songs of Consolation,' performed at Pembroke College Chapel in Cambridge last month, was the first airing in a 1000 years of a medieval tune the way it would have been.
...reconstructed from neumes (symbols representing musical notation in the Middle Ages) and draws heavily on an 11th century manuscript leaf that was stolen from Cambridge and presumed lost for 142 years... Hundreds of Latin songs were recorded in neumes from the 9th through to the 13th century. These included passages from the classics by Horace and Virgil, late antique authors such as Boethius, and medieval texts from laments to love songs. However, the task of performing such ancient works today is not as simple as reading and playing the music in front of you. 1,000 years ago, music was written in a way that recorded melodic outlines, but not ‘notes’ as today’s musicians would recognise them; relying on aural traditions and the memory of musicians to keep them alive. Because these aural traditions died out in the 12th century, it has often been thought impossible to reconstruct ‘lost’ music from this era – precisely because the pitches are unknown.

They believe they've pieced together about 80-90% of the melodies. The performers are Benjamin Bagby, Hanna Marti and Norbert Rodenkirchen. Here's more:

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Medieval Europeans knew more about the body than we think

Medieval Europe is generally known for its animosity toward actually testing things out, favoring tradition over experimentation and earning a reputation as being soundly anti-science. In particular, it's easy to get the impression that nobody was doing human dissections at all, prior to the Renaissance. But it turns out that isn't true. In fact, some dissections were even prompted (not just condoned) by the Catholic Church. The knowledge medieval dissectors learned from their experiments didn't get widely disseminated at the time, but their work offers some interesting insight into the development of science. The quest for knowledge in Europe didn't just appear out of nowhere in the 1400s and 1500s. Read the rest

Inn at the Crossroads: A "Game of Thrones" cooking blog

I've long been a big fan of modern attempts to cook medieval cuisine (see: Medievalcookery.com, University of Chicago Press' The Medieval Kitchen, and all the various scanned, historic cookbooks available through Wikipedia). There's something about the cultural anthropology of food that just really appeals to me. Plus, I love the way historic cookbooks assume you know how to do then-basic parts of household labor and will start a recipe with instructions like, "First, butcher and dress a pig." Oh, okay. Sure.

The Inn at the Crossroads blog combines the geeky joy I get from medieval cooking with the geeky joy I get from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The results: A brilliant collection of recipes for dishes mentioned in all five of Martin's novels, many developed using medieval cookbooks and techniques.

In a way, this blog is almost inevitable. I haven't read a series of books this obsessed with the food its characters eat since Little House on the Prairie. Unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder, however, George R. R. Martin doesn't provide much instruction in how to make that food. So bloggers Sariann and Chelsea should get serious props for reverse-engineering recipes for everything from medieval pork pie , to marinated goat with honey, to honey-spiced "locusts" (actually crickets). This is one of those food blogs that's totally worth gawking over, even if you never plan on cooking the recipes.

Thank you, Laci Balfour!

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Trebuchet attack! Elementary school kids build castle siege demonstration for school

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Boing Boing pal Mike Outmesguine shares this excellent video of his son Mikey and his classmates putting on a demonstration for his school. Mike is a wireless technology expert and a fun-loving explorer of DIY-hacker-maker culture, and his son Mikey appears to be following in his father's footsteps. Mike explains:

His class created their own culture faire after learning about ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. His class set up tables and demonstrations for parents and the lower grades at the school.

Mikey, Crashers, and I built the trebuchet from plans featured by John Park on the Make TV show. The kids assembled and were taught how to use it before the faire. His team showed off this trebuchet, a golf ball hurling catapult, a home made crossbow, and sword fighting (along with written info cards and dioramas of the coliseum). Separately, the other teams showed off foods, outfits, gods and goddesses, and how mummies are prepared and set into a kid-size sarcophagus. The mummies all came back to life after being laid to rest. It was at this time that I realized mummies have been replaced by zombies in the modern age.

I declare this to be excellent. Read the rest