During my Internet reading, I stumbled cross (clicked across?) three interesting items of historical note this week. It’s been a while since I had a history post, and since I can’t choose only one, it’s time for an extravaganza of historical stories. Please, calm down. I know it’s very exciting and you can’t wait to regale everyone with these anecdotes at the next party. It’ll make you sound smart and totally cool, I swear.
Fascinating Historical News Item #1
Archaeologists in Colchester discovered a collection of gold and silver Roman jewelry buried under the floor of a house that later burnt to the ground, along with the rest of the town, during the Boudican Revolt in 61 AD. Human bones were also uncovered on the site near the treasure, and show evidence of injuries which suggested fighting and a violent death. Not surprising, given that the Revolt pitted the native Britons against the Romans looking to occupy Britain. Colchester was a Roman town at that time, and so were London and St. Albans, and the Britons burned down the towns. In the end, the Roman army suppressed the revolt and Britain remained part of the Roman Empire.
The collection of jewelry includes three gold armlets, a silver chain necklace, two silver bracelets, a large silver armlet, coins, and a jewelry box containing gold rings and earrings. It is speculated that the owner of the house, or perhaps one of her slaves, buried the jewelry for safekeeping during the early stages of the Boudican Revolt. As is recorded by Tacitus and Dio Cassius, the inhabitants of Colchester suffered a two-day siege before defeat.
I have two main thoughts after reading about this: first, I must make notes because there is definitely story potential here somewhere; and second, I would wear the heck out of a replica Roman bracelet. Someone who makes jewelry, get on that please.
Check out the full article here.
Fascinating Historical News Item #2
A Chinese boy discovered a 3,000 year old bronze sword in the Laozhoulin River. He apparently touched it while washing his hands, and pulled it out to take home. Curious about its obvious age, his family sent it for examination and the sword has been dated to either the Shang or Zhou dynasty. As shown in the picture, the sword is short (only 10” long) and while it would serve for practical use, it is thought to be haven the status symbol of an official, serving decorative purposes more than fighting ones. Plans are in motion for a major archaeological dig in the area to see if there are more artifacts.
I don’t know much about this area and time period at all, but I’m certain there’s an awesome novel just waiting to be written in this setting as well. Also, I can’t help but wonder how sharp a 3,000 year old bronze sword would be? Luckily it must be pretty dull by now, given the way it was found.
Fascinating Historical News Item #3
There may have been more female Viking warriors than previously believed. I’m no expert on Vikings (unless we’re talking about Eric Northman) but I’m thinking we previously thought there were pretty much no female warriors. Anyway, researchers had been identifying skeletons based on what they were buried with. Swords and shields were thought to belong to men, and skeletons with oval brooches were thought to be women. However, researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to study the osteological signs of gender within the bones themselves, and it appears that approximately half of the remains of the sample group were actually females buried with weapons.
It still seems unlikely that half of all Viking warriors were women. As a scholar points out at the link women with weapons usually make up fewer than 10% of the graves, and sometimes there are no women with weapons at all. Of course, we cannot definitively know today what someone’s life was like when they died. Perhaps there are warrior women who were buried in dresses, and left their weapons to surviving family members. Some bodies of men buried with weapons might have not been warriors at all. Apparently the skeletons of infants have been found with weapons, and they clearly had not grown into fighters yet. It’s difficult now to understand the ritualistic purposes that may have been associated with weapons at ancient funerals.
The article piqued my interest, and now I’m planning to add some books on Viking history to my reading list. It’s a fun subject to read about in fiction as well. Bernard Cornwell’s wonderful Warrior Chronicles about Uhtred of Bebbanburg is one of my favourite series, and there are a lot of Viking elements.
So there you go, an exciting dose of historical news. It’s been a while since I shared my passion for history in the blog – maybe it was overdue! News items like these are some of the reasons that I like history so much. Even though the events are in the past and long over, we are still learning about them every day. The opportunity to fill in the gaps of historical events is also a reason that historical fiction is such an interesting genre. I love imagining the motivations and emotions of historical figures, especially when surprising bits of information come to light that make you look at the time period in a different way.
Does anyone else love history and historical fiction? Please share what aspects of it are appealing to you. Don’t leave me here gushing about history all by myself!