Today we take a trip into the past with three new discoveries from the world of archaeology, sent my way by my eagle-eyed friend and fellow writer, Gil Miller.
The first one has to do with ancient fashion. Have you ever wondered how our distant ancestors dressed? Whether it was crudely stitched-together rags, as the peasantry are often depicted? Leopard-skin affairs, like the Flintstones? Or nothing but a brass jockstrap, like this guy?
The "darkness" of the so-called Dark Ages isn't so much that it was lawless and anarchic (although some parts of it in some places probably were), but simply because we know next to nothing about it for sure. There are virtually no contemporaneous records; about all we have, the best-known being Gildas's sixth-century De Excidio et Conquesto Britanniae, are accounts that contain legend mixed up with history so thoroughly it's impossible to tell which is which. I bring up Gildas deliberately, because his is the only record of King Arthur written anywhere close to the time he (allegedly) lived, and the graves that Dark and his team are studying date from right around that pivotal time when Christianized Romano-Celtic Britain was being attacked and overrun by the pagan Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.
The burial practices of noble sixth-century Britons stands in stark contrast from Anglo-Saxon burials from the same period; the Britons, it's believed, scorned the ostentation and ornate decorations of pagan funerals, and by comparison even high-status individuals were buried without much pomp. What sets these graves apart from those of commoners is that they were set apart from other graves, had a fenced enclosure, and were covered with a tumulus of stones that the early Celts called a ferta, which was a sign of high standing."The enclosed grave tradition comes straight out of late Roman burial practices," Dark said. "And that's a good reason why we have them in Britain, but not in Ireland -- because Britain was part of the Roman empire, and Ireland wasn't... We've got a load of burials that are all the same, and a tiny minority of those burials are marked out as being of higher status than the others. When there are no other possible candidates, that seems to me to be a pretty good argument for these being the ‘lost' royal burials."
So that's today's news from the past -- ancient blue jeans, primitive surgery, and Dark Age noble burials. Sorry for starting your day on a grave note. But it's always fascinating to see not only how things have changed, but how similar our distant ancestors were to ourselves. If we were to time travel back there, I'm sure there'd be a lot of surprises, but we might be more shocked at how much like us they were back then. To borrow a line from Robert Burns, a person's a person for a' that and a' that.
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