• Medieval manuscripts

    The British Library on Medieval Killer Rabbits

    From the British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog: Vengeful, merciless and brutally violent… yes that’s right, we’re talking about medieval bunnies. Rabbits can often be found innocently frolicking in the decorated borders or illuminations of medieval manuscripts, but sometimes, for reasons unknown, these adorable fluffy creatures turn into stone-cold killers. These darkly humorous images of medieval killer bunnies still strike a chord with modern viewers, always proving a hit on social media and popularised by Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Beast of Caerbannog, ‘the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!’.

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    June from Walters W.425

    Typical labors for June include sheep-shearing and hay-mowing, (or scything) and raking the dried hay into small piles. Despite what The Walters Museum says about this June calendar image from Walters W.425, “Three figures farming,” they are in fact  two figures scything hay. The two men in the front are mowing or cutting the grass, which once it dries, magically becomes hay. They men are both using scythes mounted on a long shaft called a snath. The snath has an extra handle which makes the two-handed swinging motion of mowing the hay more efficient. As they mow they create small piles of drying hay. Once the hay is dried, it is…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    May from Walters W.425

    This May calendar page from the Walters Museum prayer book fragment W.425 is a very typical May image. The astrological medallion, looking a little worn but centered in the middle of the border on the right margin, shows the Gemini twins. The calendar image shows a very typical May scene of a lady on horseback, using a side saddle and  accompanied by two youths, all of them wearing aristocratic clothing. The man in the front on the left, and the lady, both bear branches of greenery, attesting to their errand to “bring in the May.” This is another border that features naturalistic flower images. The image on the top right…

  • Archaeology

    Lost and found: Viking Age human bones and textiles from Bjerringhøj, Denmark

    Researchers stumbled upon a box of human bones that had been missing for 100 years. They may come from Viking-age royalty. Ulla Mannering and Charlotte Rimstad are used to studying textiles, not bones. Since 2018, they’ve helped reconstruct Viking-age clothing at the National Museum of Denmark by analyzing fabric from ancient burial sites. But recently, they stumbled across a box of human remains. These weren’t your average bones, they quickly realized. “We looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we think we have the Bjerringhøj bones actually here,’” Mannering told Insider, referring to bones from the Bjerringhøj burial mound in northern Denmark. The gravesite likely dates back to around 970…

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  • Archaeology

    Possible Bronze Age Tomb Discovered in Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula

    A possible bronze age wedge tomb has been discovered on private land in Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. The previously unknown and untouched tomb was lined with stone. Partial excavation reveals human bones, and a worked round stone. Initial inspection suggests that there are two chambers, and that much of the tomb remains underground. See RTE’s Ancient “untouched” tomb discovered on Dingle Peninsula for pictures.

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  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    April from Walters W.425

    This April calendar image from the Walters W.425 prayer book fragment is another calendar page featuring a naturalistic border, like the March calendar page from Walters W.425. The calendar proper includes the feast of Saint Euphemia on April 7. Taurus, the astrological symbol for April, is a recognizable bull, set off by a medallion. Above and below the astrological medallion naturalistic pink and white flowers add a decorative spring-time touch. I don’t know what the flowers are; I suspect, given the detail, that a Flemish gardener of the 15th century would be able to identify them as popular spring time blossoms. There are, I think, three types of flowers in…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    March from Walters Museum W.425

    Walters Museum W.425 is a fragmentary prayer book. Fortunately, all the calendar images are extant. In the astrological medallion in the border on the left, Aries, the sign of the ram, is featured. The astrological symbol is, again, particularly worn, and I wonder if that’s because someone holding the prayer book open  had a thumb resting there. This March image is the first to feature a “naturalistic” border in the calendar images. On the right is a strawberry, and just below the strawberry, a strawberry blossom. The strawberry, because of the three-lobed leaves was associated with the Trinity, and the white blossoms with purity. The labors of March typically show…

  • Archaeology

    Stonehenge: Monmouth May Have Got it Right

    An ancient myth about Stonehenge, first recorded 900 years ago, tells of the wizard Merlin leading men to Ireland to capture a magical stone circle called the Giants’ Dance and rebuilding it in England as a memorial to the dead. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account had been dismissed, partly because he was wrong on other historical facts, although the bluestones of the monument came from a region of Wales that was considered Irish territory in his day. Now a vast stone circle created by our Neolithic ancestors has been discovered in Wales with features suggesting that the 12th-century legend may not be complete fantasy. Its diameter of 110 metres is identical…

  • Medieval manuscripts

    February from Walters MS. W.425

    This image from the Walters Art museum fragmentary prayer book MS. 425 f. 2r shows the February calendar with a short list of the saint’s days in February, and in the border on the right, a roundel that the Walter’s description says is Pisces, which is exactly what one would expect, but the image is very worn, suggesting that the ms. was actually used. The February calendar image in Walters MS. W.425 shows a typical labor for February; an outdoor scene of two men cutting wood, a common labor for the month in colder climates. One of the men on the right is using a wedge in a log that…

  • Medieval manuscripts,  Uncategorized

    January from Walters MS. W.425

    This leaf from the Walters Museum prayer book fragment, Walters MS. W.425 f. 1r shows the calendar page for January, with a partial list of saints days in the month. In the border on the right of the page is a small roundel featuring an image of Aquarius, the water-bearer, in the form of a small naked figure (male?) carrying a jug of water in each hand.is The calendar image shows a fairly conventional labor for the month of January. The scene is indoors. A well dressed man is seated at a table, with his back to a fire. The man wears a fur-trimmed robe; the scene looks domestic, suggesting…