This all sounds somewhat chaotic, and assemblages like the above, pulled together from twenty-five years of metal detecting over the area of a short-lived Viking fortified harbour , tend to corroborate that impression: how could anyone manage all this stuff? Well, among all the stuff above that seemed clear and sensible and somewhat like someone pointing out the floor under a carpet I had got very used to walking on, Jane also had some hints of a system being used to manage the chaos, by possibly setting weight standards in some metals.
The hints here are cubo-octohedral weights, square lumps with the corners cut off, which are found in various sizes from just above a gram to just below four, and are numbered with spots, like dice with only one face. They are found numbered all the way from one to six, and their weights are roughly in proportion to those numbers but so far no example has been found with five spots.
A number four weight of the type Jane was discussing, photographed by her and discussed on her blog click through. That need not preclude an aim to be consistent, but it makes it impossible for us to verify: the error margins of the weights of something so small could very easily exceed a step in the scheme.
Notes Catalogue (Authors D-F)
Posted in Anglo-Saxons , archaeology , Institutions , Vikings. This gallery contains 8 photos. There were more seminar series at Birmingham than I could easily keep track of, and less well advertised than would have made it easy, but I was delighted nonetheless to see the name of old acquaintance and general nice guy Robert Houghton, now of Winchester , on a poster at some point in late and made a point of making it to the paper on 11th December even though I had no real idea what the seminar, the History and Cultures Workshop, was. Of course we are not complete strangers to walk-around visualisations in historical teaching, but it's obviously not as interactive as a game environment and you can hardly climb anything.
However, there are limits on what can be done and still have a playable game. Particularly with grand strategy games the player has a level of abstraction, information and control that no medieval ruler ever did, but the gradation from there to single-handed sword swinger is very shallow. There were other issues usefully pointed out too, both by Rob and the others present, but I got particularly engaged with the issue of counterfactuals. You see, at school, for the sins I mostly had yet to commit, I ran a paper-based wargame of my own invention for a year or so.
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Because my path was probably already clear, I got interested in trying to recreate certain battles as tests of the game system, and especially the above, the Battle of the River Plate. I got it to the point where I could, with all kinds of reservation, make River Plate come out about right two-thirds of the time. Now, I must have mentioned this in my application form as most of what I remember about my Cambridge interviews is the late lamented Clive Trebilcock pushing me for five minutes or so on whether I thought such things could be used as tests for counterfactuals; if I could make River Plate come out right two-thirds of the time, for example, did that mean that this gave some basis for saying that the odds were genuinely against the Germans despite appearances?
On the other hand, the more room for actual play there is, the less testably accurate it will get. And here Rob was on the same page. But should the game exclude it? Many reasons why not come to mind, not least trying to program for all such eventualities, but most obviously that one of the ways people treat computer games is to try and bring about heroically unlikely outcomes, winning through with the least likely playable character or from the weakest starting position and so on, and that this is one of the things that makes such games fun, because you can win against great odds.
But even at age 18 I could see some reasons why a game will probably never be a tool for testing such outcomes; too much must be preset by assumptions about the outcomes. Posted in General medieval , Institutions. Tagged Birmingham , computer games , digital medievalism , Rob Houghton , seminars , teaching.
I have mentioned recently that at something like this time last year I was for the first time teaching early medieval China to a number of unsuspecting first-years at Birmingham. We were approaching the topic via a primary set-text, which was the Records of the Western Regions by the Buddhist pilgrim traveller Xuanzang , active in the early seventh century. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
At this point the text becomes considerably less dramatic and, depending on your perspective, either more or less interesting. For each little city-state it gives the distance and direction from the previous one, some idea of its population size, what its system of government is, what family its native language is from and a sort of statistical count of the state of Buddhism there in terms of how many monasteries and stupas there are there, how many are active, how many people serve them, and whether any particular stories adhere either to the city or the shrines.
You can guess that my students and I divided pretty neatly on this! But we did get quite a lot out of other issues, largely using the matrix for text analysis that was published on Dead Voles a long time ago, but also hitting at one big issue that is the actual subject of this post, which is that this whole text is not what Xuanzang wrote.
Here he is again, Emperor Taizong giving an audience to Ludongzan the ambassador of Tibet in Yen Li-pen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. From what? So it really is a very long and tangly set of steps from what a much younger Xuangzang had seen on his travels to what we have, as follows:.
More importantly, however, there seems to be with this as with Xuanzang a further step away from our original that is so immediate and obvious that none of the historiography stops to consider it. The chief town is 5 or 6 li in circuit. The [spoken] language differs however a little. It produces a fine sort of cotton and hair-cloth, which are highly valued by bordering countries.
Chaffee edd. See n. Xuanzang, Xiyu Ki , transl. Beale, I, p. In a former existence he had given the priests garments made of the Sanaka plant, on the conclusion of the rainy season. By the force of this meritorious action during successive births he wore only this kind of garment, and at his last birth he was born with it. As his body increased so his robe grew larger, until the time when he was converted by Ananda and left his home i.
At the present time it is a little fading, for faith also is small at this time! Fernando de la Granja transl. Molina, ibid. Posted in Currently reading An experience that I have now and again with the number of seminars and conferences to which I go is that I find somebody speaking or present whom I know from reading lists and bibliographies but had no idea was still active in research. Working with a number of these documents, Dr Birrell was looking at how that kind of labour was managed across the English high Middle Ages.
On the occasions when everyone was called in, such work which was fairly unwilling, as all these householders had their own plots to harvest or sheep to shear too was often watched over by overseers from the lowest levels of the nobility, and that was fairly straightforwardly coercive, but as the title shows the peasants themselves could be relied on to an extent to drive their fellows, or rather their immediate lessers, by force too. Firstly, the mere existence of these custumals shows that the peasants were under no illusions about who the big boss was; they may well have negotiated with the yardlanders too but the abbey was the guarantor and more-or-less grudging grantor of all their rights, greater and lesser.
That seems to me to leave space to appeal against or demand reduction of over-mighty intermediaries. Leave a comment.
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