Roman and Celtic Olfactory History

I’m working on my diss, and I notice that one of my citations lacks the publication date. I borrowed the book from a friend, and returned it long ago, so I decide to use Amazon to check the data. In the process I discover that there are, I kid you not, scratch and sniff history texts for kids. Like Roman Aromas, of which the publisher says:

Young readers will learn that smells have played a powerful role in our history with these often funny tours back in time

When the Romans arrived in Britain they soon showed the rampaging Celts the way to perfumed perfection. Poor old Celts–with their oils, and baths, and drains those Romans really got up their noses. Sample the splendors of the public baths and a fabulous feast, or suffer with the soldiers in the frozen latrines on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. You won’t forget those Roman Aromas in a hurry.

There are others in the Smelly Old History series.

Speaking of Roman history, and things Celtic, Julius Caesar, invader of England and less than kind to the Celts, has his own Bloggus Caesari.

Celtic Conferences

The 24 Annual University of California Celtic Conference is this week, at UCLA. You can see the schedule here. Some of the papers from the 22nd conference are available here, in .pdf format. The 22nd (yes that’s right, UCLA was first) Harvard Celtic Colloquium is scheduled for Oct. 11, 12, and 13. The Vernam Hull speaker this year will be Professor John Waddell, head of the
Dept. of Archaeology, NUI Galway.

Vellum beats Silicon

Back in 1986, as a celebration of the 900th anniversary of the Domesday book, the census ordered by William the Bastard (that’s William the Conqueror to Sasenachs), Britain spent millions to compile text, images and, maps, audio and video recordings, as a snap shot of Britain, and stored them on laser discs as part of the Domesday Book project.

They created discs that are almost unreadable today, not because of laser rot, but because of obsolete equipment. The irony of this, as the article points out, is that the medieval manuscript is quite readable today, if you know the language and the script. There’s even an expensive archive-quality facsimile, not to mention the Bayeux tapestry.

At my old job I used to hoard working but old hardware—I knew where to get access to an old IBM Display writer, old 5 1/2 inch floppy disc drives, I had an SE under my desk to help faculty with old 3 1/2 inch Mac 800 and 400K disks, and my spouse and I have carefully archived docs and installers for a variety of old programs with proprietary data formats, not to mention things like Syquest and DAT drives.

There’s a sick irony in that cuneiform and manuscripts are more durable than digital media. But digital decay and technical obsolescence are real problems, problems we’ve known about for years.