web analytics

Ye olde swirley

Here’s an interesting article from the BBC: local groups searching churches to catalogue Medieval graffiti. (I would also direct you to the Suffolk group and the Norfolk group for many more pictures).

Basically, it’s a bunch of amateurs (with professional guidance) fanning out across England to document and record ancient church graffiti. The project started in Norfolk in 2010.

2010. Seriously. That fascinating stuff has been hanging around for, like, a thousand years and nobody has formally cataloged and examined it. It blows my mind.

I can’t tell you how strange and common that is here — this weird lack of curiosity about local history — but I can kind of tell you why.

For hundreds of years, serious historians concentrated on Roman Britain. Those generations of academics who believed Greek and Roman culture were the high point of civilization — and that was, let’s face it, most of the modern era — were inclined to be embarrassed by what they saw as the primitive customs of the locals before the edifying arrival of Caesar’s boys.

To these people, the Medieval era was just a sinking back into provincial ignorance — do they still call it the Dark Ages? — the long snooze of Western Civ, waiting to be rescued by Italian culture again (i.e. the Renaissance).

Modern academics are much more inclined to revere primitive cultures. But the peoples who love pagan-y things tend to be Lefties. And Lefties believe showing the slightest interest in English things is raaaaacisssssst.

So there you have it. There are all these amazing places and objects and boxes of bones squirrelled away all over the country, unexamined. Every once in a while an academic turns something over with his toe and goes, “huh.”

Makes me crazy.


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: July 23, 2014, 10:51 pm

Maybe what they call the ‘Dark Ages’ is something that Libertarians might actually like?…an absence of overbearing government stealing from everyone for their own selfish purposes?…maybe we should call it the ‘Freedom Ages’ instead? :+)

Anybody who says anything bad about the Dark/Middle Ages is probably a government bureaucrat or lefty academic who doesn’t want anybody to get the idea that we can live without them.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: July 23, 2014, 11:11 pm

“Batte·mann was here A(nno) Do(mini) CCCVI”

Comment from LesterIII
Time: July 23, 2014, 11:25 pm

It looks as if Kilroy is just about to be there, at about the 5 o’clock position.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 23, 2014, 11:37 pm

By gum, I think that is Kilroy!

I’m not persuaded by most of the explanations in the article. Except the one about stonemasons showing apprentices how to use a compass — there are lots of incised circles.

I’m going with the “it’s probably bored graffiti” theory.

Comment from mojo
Time: July 23, 2014, 11:47 pm

Angles and Saxons and Jutes, oh my!

Comment from Feynmnagroupie
Time: July 24, 2014, 12:53 am

I find it more interesting that our ancestors had the time to be creative in a non-productive manner, temerity to fidget, and opportunity to deface HRM/CoE/HMFiC’s property.

It contradicts most of the history of the common folk that is usually told. One wonders if there was a much richer variety to the life of a peasant/barbarian than is officially thought.

Of course, I suppose it could be your lesser aristocracy and their yardmonkeys doing all that doodling.

It’s a bit cheeky innit! (my attempt at a English-y accent (region unknown))

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: July 24, 2014, 10:29 am

I’ve heard it argued that life was often very far from relentless back then, Feynmangroupie. Apparently, once you take into account all the saints’ days and feast days and so on, people had quite a lot of time off.

Lucky bastards.

Oh, and no: ‘Dark Ages’ is seriously frowned in academic circles these days. Which may be all the more reason to use it, of course 😉

Comment from Deborah
Time: July 24, 2014, 2:05 pm

Are there any ancient “north” arrows carved into the rocks?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 24, 2014, 8:42 pm

Not that I know of, Deborah. Is this a thing?

Comment from Deborah
Time: July 24, 2014, 9:03 pm

In some of the Scandinavian countries, there are very old north arrows and compass roses carved into rocks, which made me wonder about England.

Comment from Chicken Farmer.
Time: July 26, 2014, 10:09 pm

When you are of this country, this Sceptr’d Isle, you’ll discover that this sort of ancient stuff is normal. We grew up with this stuff all around us; knowing that it was always there and would always be so.
Then, when we’d grown up, we saw what had been been destroyed already in the name of ‘progress’ (which it was not), and we, the English, became much more protective of those things which constitute our history. Cultural anchors are necessary, and the anchors in England are dug deep in the bedrock of our history.
I sometimes go to Church, not often, only when I have the need. The Church I go to was built in the 12th Century, it has not been touched since it was first built.
It’s what we are all about.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: July 27, 2014, 4:11 pm

QuasiModo @ July 23, 2014, 10:51 pm:
Maybe what they call the ‘Dark Ages’ is something that Libertarians might actually like?…an absence of overbearing government stealing from everyone for their own selfish purposes?…maybe we should call it the ‘Freedom Ages’ instead? :+)

Absence of overbearing central government, yeah. Presence of of really overbearing local government instead.

P.S. That graffito in the image? Looks like it was carved with tools, i.e. all the scribed circular arcs – and subsequently damaged by small arms fire. (I’ve hear that Cromwell’s men indulged that way with stained glass and statues.)

As in “The baron gets 1/3 of your labor to work his land (which is the best land), and when there is a famine you starve first. In return for which he and his soldiers may try to keep the baron down the road from plundering you. And no backtalk from serfs about crops trampled when he’s out hunting, no ‘poaching’ of game (it’s all his), and your teenaged daughter to warm his bed when he feels like it.”

Libertarians should have no more nostalgia for the Dark Ages than for the pre-Civil War American South. Freedom for some, slavery for the rest.

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny