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A medieval toilet may not be the first place you’d want to dig as an archaeologist, but old latrines are surprisingly good at revealing secrets to life in the Middle Ages! A team of scientists looking at medieval gut bacteria samples from two ancient toilets have reported on what is the first scientific attempt to detect ancient gut bacteria in this not-so-fun way.
The study was launched to determine what exactly constitutes a healthy microbiome for modern people. And to answer this question a team of researchers studied the microbiomes of our ancestors who lived long before antibiotics were in use and who didn’t eat any processed foods at all. The results of the experiment shed important light on the health of people in the Middle Ages.
An ancient public toilet from early Roman times, which would have been an excellent source of medieval gut bacteria. Source: cascoly2 / Adobe Stock
Studying Medieval Gut Bacteria To Understand Modern Health
Dr Piers Mitchell from Cambridge University recently published the findings of the new research on medieval gut bacteria in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B , and the results provide new insights into the gut microbiomes of pre-industrial agricultural populations. Dr Mitchell told Ars Technica “ We chose the two sites in Jerusalem and Riga in Latvia as they were both from the same time period but from different geographic regions,” which he suspected might lead to different microbiomes in those populations.
According to the Dr Mitchell, the approach taken in this study provides a new framework for determining the health of modern gut microbiomes. He explained that his team set out to determine what constitutes a healthy microbiomes in modern people, and also to analyze the microbiomes of our ancestors who lived and died before “antibiotics, fast food, and the other trappings of industrialization.” When these waste pits ( latrines) were in use, the areas surrounding them were urban, but not industrialized, and this means the ancient residents of such places probably ate and digested food differently than today’s urban city dwellers.
The human gut microbiome is a key part of human health, but it has changed over the centuries. In some ways, the medieval gut bacteria of ancient people was a healthier mix than what modern people have. (sdecoret / Adobe Stock )
Looking For Signatures In 600-Year-Old Poop DNA
According to an article in the Jerusalem Post , gut microbiomes encompass all of the microbes found in the intestines, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. And by studying medieval gut bacteria, the scientists were able to track changes in diet and digestion over time, which in turn, provided a better way of determining the health of modern human microbiomes.
Before the experiments were conducted not everyone was convinced that the study was a useful approach. Among the skeptics was Dr Kirsten Bos, a specialist in ancient bacterial DNA from Germany ’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. According to a report in Cosmos Magazine , while professor Bos had initial reservations about the feasibility of investigating the contents of latrines that had been unused for such a long time, she ended up as a co-lead author of the new paper.
Dr Bos was initially skeptical because in the beginning the scientists were not sure if the molecular signatures of gut contents would even survive in the latrines over several centuries. And while many projects that have retrieved ancient bacteria samples from calcified bone and dental tissues, Bos says these types of samples “offer very different preservation conditions.” However, despite these doubts, the team proceeded to collect and analyze sediment from 14th-15th century AD latrines in Jerusalem, Israel and Riga, Latvia.
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The Various Medieval Gut Bacteria Types Found In The Study
The first step in this experiment was to identify bacteria that had formed in ancient people’s guts as opposed to those naturally occurring in the soils at the latrine sites. The researchers found the poop of many people mixed together in the latrines, which they say offers insights into the microbiomes, and therefore the diets, of the entire communities. “Archaea, protozoa, parasitic worms, fungi” and other organisms were all discovered and listed in the paper along with taxa, which inhabit the intestines of modern humans.
These are just a few of the parasitic worms and other life forms that can live in our gut bacteria and harm us, and this was true a thousand years ago and today. (corbacserdar / Adobe Stock )
These primary results were compared with other sources including DNA from microbiomes from industrial and foraging populations, as well as wastewater and soil. This revealed to the researchers that the mediaeval microbiomes discovered in the latrines at Jerusalem and Riga held common characteristics. However, according to co-lead author, Susanna Sabin, while similar to the types of microbiomes found in modern hunter gatherer poop, and modern industrial microbiomes, the samples from Jerusalem and Riga were “different enough that they formed their own unique group.”
Tracking Changes In Human Gut Bacteria
What this study represents is an advanced method for analyzing human gut bacteria from different time periods. At this stage the scientists reported that they have yet to find a modern gut bacteria source that in anyway matches the microbial content found the in the mediaeval latrines. Speaking with Smithsonian, Dr Bos said the team of researchers will need “many more studies at other archaeological sites and time periods to fully understand how the microbiome changed in human groups over time.” But for now, the study is a big leap forward as a way of analyzing the gut bacteria DNA recovered from ancient latrines. The first results indicate that this analysis method is a promising way to study the diets and lifestyles of ancient people.
This investigation has confirmed Dr Mitchell’s primary suspicions. Specifically, the DNA remnants from “Treponema” bacteria, which are found in the guts of modern hunter-gatherers but not industrialized people, and “Bifidobacterium,” which are present in industrialized people but not hunter-gatherers, indicate what Dr Mitchell describes as “a dietary trade-off.”
How amazing to know that medieval gut bacteria from ancient poop can tell us so much about the past and also the health of humans today.
The most important study of Loos and his oeuvre is Rukschcio and Schachel 1982, which also contains the best and most complete catalogue of his works and projects. Although it has been superseded in some small details, it remains the definitive work on Loos. Bock 2007 Bösel and Zanchettin 2007 Gravagnuolo 1988 Safran and Wang 1985 Schezen, et al. 1996 and Tournikiotis 1994 all offer good synthetic overviews of Loos’s career, designs, and import. Kulka 1979 and Münz and Künstler 1966 are essentially primary source documents by figures that knew and had collaborated with Loos. They remain important for their firsthand insights into Loos’s thoughts and his world.
Bock, Ralf. Adolf Loos: Works and Projects. Milan: Skira, 2007.
Well-illustrated and useful overview of Loos and his most important works.
Bösel, Richard, and Vitale Zanchettin, eds. Adolf Loos, 1870–1933: Architettura utilitá e decoro. Milan: Electa, 2007.
Good, comprehensive account of Loos’s work and ideas, with an excellent but abbreviated catalogue raisonné.
Gravagnuolo, Benedetto. Adolf Loos. New York: Rizzoli, 1988.
Readable and insightful account of Loos’s architecture and its meanings.
Kulka, Heinrich. Adolf Loos. Vienna: Löcker, 1979.
The most important primary source document about Loos’s ideas and works, written by one of his assistants. One of the seminal sources for Loos’s ideas about space and the Raumplan. Originally published in 1931.
Münz, Ludwig and Gustav Künstler. Adolf Loos: Pioneer of Modern Architecture. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966.
Signal work written by two leading authorities on Loos and Viennese modernism. Led to the revival of Loos in the 1960s.
Rukschcio, Burkhardt, and Roland L. Schachel. Adolf Loos: Leben und Werk. Salzburg: Residenz, 1982.
Still the definitive work on Loos, his life, and his work, written by two of the leading Loos experts. Recent Loos scholarship has added new details and questioned some of Rukschcio and Schachel’s conclusions, but this remains the standard source for any Loos study.
Safran, Yehuda, and Wilfried Wang. The Architecture of Adolf Loos. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1985.
Incisive examination of Loos’s work and its meanings in the context of the wider modern movement.
Schezen, Roberto, Kenneth Frampton, and Joseph Rosa. Adolf Loos: Architecture 1903–1932. New York: Monacelli, 1996.
Attractive and well-illustrated work, with thoughtful texts, although not as rich in scholarly detail as some of the other works cited here.
Tournikiotis, Panayotis. Translated by Maguerite McGoldrick. Adolf Loos. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994.
Probing but readable overview. Excellent for its brief but thorough account.
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In the 14th century, a group of young men from Modena stole a bucket from Bologna. The outraged Bolognese declared war to get the bucket back. With 2,000 casualties, the war was one of the bloodiest of the middle ages. It is actually known today as “The War of the Bucket.” The Bolognese never got their bucket back.
Wikimedia Commons, Marzia58
Follow scientists as they uncover “deviant” burials dating back to medieval England, pointing to a belief that the dead could rise from their graves. Predating Eastern European legend, these discoveries force a re-examination of modern vampire lore.
In 1897, Bram Stoker penned his gothic novel Dracula and popularized the modern vampire myth with the introduction of Count Dracula. But the discovery of manuscripts dating back to medieval England suggest the belief that the dead could rise from the grave originated during a much earlier era. These accounts were written hundreds of years before Stoker created his nocturnal creature, long before the Eastern European legends gained popularity.
Secrets of the Dead: Vampire Legend, airing Tuesday, October 27 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), brings together scientists, historians, archeologists, a real-life modern day vampire slayer, and the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker to examine if the origin of the vampire lore lies in fact rather than fiction.Vampire Legend opens Season 15 of Secrets of the Dead.
John Blair, professor of medieval history at Oxford University, has studied the 12 th -century text known as The Life and Miracles of Saint Modwenna, one of several medieval manuscripts recounting stories of the walking dead. In 2005, after attending a lecture in Oxford by archeologist Ian Meadows, Blair made the connection between the similarities of the folktales in these manuscripts describing rituals to dispatch the walking dead and Meadows’ archaeological finds of disturbed Anglo-Saxon graves. Blair contends that the skeleton of a young girl found buried within the churchyard, and whose head was severed, was a “deliberate decisive measure, to keep this person down in the grave so they can never walk around again.”
Archaeologist Dominic Powlesland has excavated more than 10 deviant burials from Anglo-Saxon graveyards that provide more evidence of belief in vampires. Some of the bodies were buried face down in positions that would be unnatural for a normal burial. According to Blair, “…what’s remarkable about this group is that you can virtually see all the ways of keeping a dead person in their grave.” Medieval belief in vampires helps explain the discovery of deviant burials with decapitated skeletons and twisted limbs. But does the terror of the vampire exist today?
To answer that question, Vampire Legend travels to Romania to investigate a story that made headlines in 2004. A 26-year-old woman in a remote village complained of a mysterious illness and claimed her uncle, who had died three months earlier, was visiting her at night and drinking blood from her heart. Believing the woman, six men from the village—including modern-day vampire slayer Mirca Mitrica—dig up the body to perform a vampire-slaying ritual and cure her. For the first time publicly, Mitrica gives his account of the vampire-slaying ritual, one which closely resembles rituals depicted by the medieval texts.
As the documentary suggests, at the heart of vampire stories is the terror of the unknown, disease and illnesses. Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, has studied how Bram shaped his vampire character. In Bram’s notes for Dracula, Dacre found an article about a serious vampire scare in the early 1900s in New England, which turned out to be tuberculosis. Nevertheless, believing the disease was vampirism, state forensic authorities allowed exhumations from the grave for people to perform various ceremonial practices to get rid of the vampires.
Today, science can explain the signs of vampirism described in medieval folklore, as well as the modern Romanian account. Yet there is still a fascination with vampires and, for some, a primeval fear of the bloodsuckers. “Bram’s vampires and all the others today are for entertainment purposes,” says Dacre. “But you’ve got to realize where these came from. The myth of the vampire really terrorized villages.” If one believes the vampire slayer Mitrica, it is not the myth that terrorizes, but the vampire.
Secrets of the Dead: Vampire Legendis a production of Icon Films in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET and Channel 4. Narrator is Jay O. Sanders. Executive producers for Icon Films are Harry Marshall and Owen Gay. Directors are Kate Thomas-Couth, Toby Fenn and Nick Head. Executive in charge for WNET is Stephen Segaller. Executive producer for WNET is Steve Burns. Supervising producer for WNET is Stephanie Carter.
Ten Ancient Stories and the Geological Events That May Have Inspired Them
Myths have fed the imaginations and souls of humans for thousands of years. The vast majority of these tales are just stories people have handed down through the ages. But a few have roots in real geological events of the past, providing warning of potential dangers and speaking to the awe we hold for the might of the planet.
These stories encode the observations of the people who witnessed them, says geoscientist Patrick Nunn, of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, who has studied the links between natural hazards and stories told in the Pacific.
There's no way of telling which came first, the disaster or the story. But tales can provide clues to the past and even help fill in gaps in scientific knowledge about long-ago geological phenomena.
In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, bears and monkeys help Rama and his brother Lakshman by building a floating bridge between India and Lanka. (Wikimedia Commons) According to lore, a giant catfish named Namazu is buried beneath Japan. When the fish moves its feelers or its tail, the earth quakes. (Wikimedia Commons) In the Lycian Way of modern-day Turkey, hikers can visit Yanartas, the site of the Chimera's eternal flames. (Courtesy of Flickr user Damlina) Oregon's Crater Lake, the Klamath people said, had been created in a great battle between Llao, who ruled the Below World, and Skell, the chief of the Above World. (Courtesy of Flickr user Charles Dawley) People on the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific tell stories of Teonimanu, the island that disappeared. (United Nations Photo/Eskinder Debebe) A celestial soap opera involving Pele, goddess of Kilauea, actually describes activity at the Hawaiian volcano. (Courtesy of Flickr user Greg Bishop)
Here are ten ancient stories from around the world and the geology that may have influenced them:
In the well-known story told among Christians, Jews and Muslims (and in movie theaters this week), God chose to destroy the Earth with a great flood but spared one man, Noah, and his family. On God’s command, Noah built a huge boat, an ark, and filled it with two of every animal. God covered the Earth with water, drowning everyone and everything that once roamed the land. Noah, his family and the animals on the ark survived and repopulated the planet.
Science: Similar flood tales are told in many cultures, but there never was a global deluge. For one, there’s just not enough water in the Earth system to cover all the land. But, Nunn says, “it may well be that Noah’s flood is a recollection of a large wave that drowned for a few weeks a particular piece of land and on that piece of land there was nowhere dry to live.” Some geologists think that the Noah story may have been influenced by a catastrophic flooding event in the Black Sea around 5,000 B.C.
There’s a natural tendency for people to exaggerate their memories, to turn a bad event into a far worse one. And a global flood is one explanation for something like the discovery of fossil seashells on the side of a mountain, says Adrienne Mayor, a historian of ancient science at Stanford University. We now know, though, that plate tectonics are responsible for lifting up rocks from the ocean floor to high elevations.
The Oracle at Delphi
In ancient Greece, in the town of Delphi on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, there was a temple devoted to the god Apollo. Within a sacred chamber, a priestess called the Pythia would breathe in sweet-smelling vapors emanating from a crack in the rock. These vapors would send her into a state of frenzy during which she would channel Apollo and speak gibberish. A priest would then turn that gibberish into prophesies.
Science: The temple was a real place, and scientists have discovered two geologic faults running beneath the site, now in ruins. Gas was likely emanating from those fissures when the oracle was in action. But researchers have been arguing over the contents of the euphoria-causing gaseous mix. Theories include ethylene, benzene or a mix of carbon dioxide and methane.
Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, wrote of a great civilization called Atlantis founded by a race of people who were half god and half human. They lived in a utopia that held great naval power. But their home, located on islands shaped like a series of concentric circles, was destroyed in a great cataclysm.
Science: Atlantis probably wasn’t a real place, but a real island civilization may have inspired the tale. Among the contenders is Santorini in Greece. Santorini is now an archipelago, but thousands of years ago it was a single island—a volcano named Thera. Around 3,500 years ago, the volcano blew up in one of the biggest eruptions in human history, destroying the island, setting off tsunamis and blowing tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere where it lingered for years and probably caused many cold, wet summers. Those conditions would have ruined harvests in the region and are thought to have contributed to the quick decline of the Minoans, who had dominated the Mediterranean from nearby Crete.
The city of Helike in Greece has also been suggested as inspiration for Atlantis. The ancient metropolis was wiped off the map by an earthquake and tsunami in December of the year 373 B.C.
Pele, Goddess of Kilauea
Pele came to Hawaii with her sisters and other relatives. She started in Kauai. There she met a man, Lohi’au, but she did not stay because there was no land hot enough for her liking. She eventually settled in the crater at Kilauea on the big island of Hawaii and asked her sister Hi’iaka to return for Lohi’au. In return, Hi’iaka asked that Pele not destroy her beloved forest. Hi’iaka was given 40 days for the task but did not return in time. Pele, thinking that Hi’iaka and Lohi’au had become romantically entangled, set the forest on fire. After Hi’iaka discovered what had happened, she made love to Lohi’au in view of Pele. So Pele killed Lohi’au and threw his body into her crater. Hi’iaka dug furiously to recover the body, rocks flying as she dug deeper. She finally recovered his body, and they are now together.
Science: What seems like a celestial soap opera actually describes volcanic activity at Kilauea, say scientists. The burning forest was probably a lava flow, the largest the island experienced since its settlement by Polynesians. Lava flowed continuously for 60 years in the 15th century, covering some 430 square kilometers of the island of Hawaii. “If any flow were to be commemorated in oral tradition, this should be the one, because the destruction of such a large area of forest would have impacted Hawaiian life in many ways,” U.S. Geological Survey volcano scientist Donald A. Swanson wrote in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research in 2008. Hi’iaka’s furious digging may represent the formation of the volcano’s modern caldera that occurred in the years after the lava flow.
In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, Sita, the wife of the god Rama, is kidnapped and taken to the Demon Kingdom on the island of Lanka. Bears and monkeys help Rama and his brother Lakshman by building a floating bridge between India and Lanka. Rama leads an army of monkey-like men and rescues his wife.
Science: Satellite images reveal a 29-kilometer line of limestone shoals that stretches between India and Sri Lanka that would have been drowned when sea level rose after the last ice age. It is possible that people were able to cross over the bridge until about 4,500 years ago. But Rama’s Bridge is not the only mythological site buried along India’s shores.
A more recent natural event, the tsunami in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, revealed the truth of the legend of Mahabalipuram, a port city on India’s northeast coast that was said to be home to seven pagodas. Today, only one pagoda, the Shore Temple, exists. But the great tsunami removed centuries of sediment from the ocean floor just off the coast, revealing several submerged temples.
The Exploding Lake
The Kom people in Cameroon lived for a short time in the land of the Bamessi. The leader, or Fon, of the Kom discovered a plot by the Bamessi Fon to kill all the young men in his kingdom, and the Kom Fon vowed revenge. He told his sister he would hang himself and the fluids from his body would form a lake. The Kom were not to go near the lake—they were to leave the fish for the Bamessi and should prepare themselves to leave the region on the day that was set for catching fish. On that day, when the Bamessi entered the lake to fish, the lake exploded (or imploded or sank, depending on the storyteller), drowning everyone.
Science: On the night of August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos, a volcanic lake in Cameroon, released a deadly cloud of carbon dioxide, killing 1,700 people sleeping in nearby villages. A smaller degassing event at Lake Monoun two years earlier killed 37. Carbon dioxide can build up in waters at the bottom of volcanic lakes such as these, where it is kept dissolved by the pressure of the lake water above. But seismic activity can trigger a sudden release of the gas, which will travel along the ground and suffocate anyone caught in the cloud. Such events might have been behind the exploding lake of the Kom legend.
Mayor notes that Africa is not the only place with cautionary tales of deadly lakes—Greeks and Romans also had stories warning of valleys or bodies of water that killed birds flying over them. They may also describe real places.
Namazu, the Earthshaker
Buried beneath Japan is a giant catfish named Namazu. The god Kashima keeps Namazu still with the help of a giant stone placed on the fish’s head. But when Kashima slips, Namazu can move its feelers or its tail, causing the ground above to move.
Science: Japan, which sits at the junction of several tectonic plates, is home to volcanoes and is criss-crossed by seismic faults, making it the number one country for earthquakes—no giant catfish necessary. Catfish also figure into Japanese myth in another way: The fish are supposedly able to predict earthquakes. Decades of research has failed to find any link between catfish behavior and earthquakes, however, and the country now relies on a sophisticated early warning system that detects seismic waves and sends messages to people so they can take actions, such as slowing trains, before the worst of the shaking arrives.
In the Illiad, Homer describes a creature “of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.” This is the Chimera, daughter of the half-woman, half-snake Echidna and slain by the hero Bellerofonte. But her flaming tongue remained, burning in her lair.
Science: In the Lycian Way of modern-day Turkey, hikers can visit Yanartas, the site of the Chimera’s eternal flames. There, methane vents from dozens of cracks in the ground. The ignited gas has probably been burning for millennia, and sailors have long used it as a natural lighthouse. The myth probably predates the Greeks and Romans, beginning with the Hittites, says Mayor. The Hittite chimera had three heads—a main human head, a lion head facing forward and the head of a snake on the end of its tail.
The Creation of Crater Lake
When the first Europeans arrived in the Pacific Northwest, they heard a tale from the Klamath people about the creation of Crater Lake. The Native Americans would not gaze upon the lake, for to do so was to invite death. The lake, they said, had been created in a great battle between Llao, who ruled the Below World, and Skell, the chief of the Above World. During the battle, darkness covered the land, and Llao, standing on Mount Mazama, and Skell, on Mount Shasta, threw rocks and flames. The fight ended when Mount Mazama collapsed and sent Llao back into the underworld. Rain filled in the remaining depression, forming a lake in the mountain’s place.
Science: The tale the explorers heard was not far from the truth, though it wasn’t angry gods but a volcano, Mount Mazama, that erupted 7,700 years ago. “The oral traditions actually contain details about the explosion,” notes Mayor. Scientists now recognize that the Klamath tales describe a real event. Red-hot rocks do get flung through the sky during a volcanic eruption. The mountain did collapse to form a volcanic caldera that was filled in with rainwater.
What’s unusual about this story, though, is that it was told for 7,000 years, passed down through so many generations. Usually, myths are reliable for only about 600 to 700 years, says Nunn. “These kinds of things are very, very rare.”
The Vanished Island
People on the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific tell stories of Teonimanu, the island that disappeared. Rapuanate had taken a woman from the island to be his wife, but her brother took her back. So Rapuanate turned to sorcery in revenge. He was given three taro plants, two to plant on Teonimanu and one to keep. When new leaves sprouted on his plant, it was a sign that the island was about to sink. People had notice to flee the island, though—it became salty as the ocean water rose. They fled on boats, rafts or clinging to trees that were washed off the land.
Science: Lark Shoal sits at the eastern edge of the Solomon Islands, part of a ridge that flanks the 5,000-meter-deep Cape Johnson Trench. An earthquake could have sparked a landslide that let the island slide into the trench, Nunn says. Underwater maps have revealed several islands submerged under hundreds of meters of water. Islands have probably been sinking in this region for a million years.
Unlike the myths of the Bible or Greece that provide inspiration for many modern-day tales, stories like that of Teonimanu are not well known and often not even written down, Nunn notes. They’re held in the minds of an older generation, passed from person to person in the same way they’ve been for hundreds or even thousands of years. He worries, though, that with modern lifestyles creeping into every corner of the world, many of these stories will be lost. “When the old people who have these myths today die,” he says, “many of the myths will disappear with them.” And so will the warnings of our geologic past.
Scientists Dig for Answers in Medieval Loos! - History
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Have you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Middle Ages? What did people actually eat? Were they really filthy? And did they ever get to marry for love?
In Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction, you&rsquoll find fast and fun answer to all your secret questions, from eating and drinking to sex and love. Find out whether people bathed, what they did when they got sick, and what actually happened to people accused of crimes. Learn about medieval table manners, tournaments, and toothpaste, and find out if people really did poop in the moat.
In sum, this is a great book for people interested in Medieval Europe who are not looking for a historical text full of dates, battles, and royal dynasties, but rather want to get a sense of what everyday life would have been like. A good resource for writers, amateur historians looking for further information, and a gift for those who enjoy a balanced and well-informed account of a historical period most of us don’t know as well as we think.
Read the full review hereAuthor Translator
All in all, this is an excellent book to put to bed many of the myths surrounding medieval existence that persist in the popular imagination. Easy to read and well worth the time to read it. I highly recommend this book if you want to get a mostly unbiased view of medieval life.
Read the full review hereBattles and Book Reviews
The full title of Daniele Cybulskie's book is Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction which gives you an idea about the approach the author takes - there's a whole lot of myth-busting going on! Although the author is a former college professor and a specialist in medieval literature she's produced a very readable book that you can dip into and out of, but will still get you thinking about what life was really like in the Middle Ages.
Read the full review hereLost Cousins
I went into the reading of this book expecting it to be little dry or hard to read, and what a surprise I was in for. Life in Medieval Europe wasn’t dull and nether was this book at all, credit to the author Daniele Cybulskie as the writing and the information revealed is very interesting, intriguing and compelling to read. The book is split into various subjects, with each chapter dealing with a topic such as Health, Death, Faith, Love and Food. Then each chapter/subject is broken down into various questions, which the author will then answer such as were punishments brutal, how did the Knights train, did they often get to use their skills and so on and so on. The answers weren’t just short and blunt or long-winded and boring. The answer the reader gets is a well informed and to the point answer explained very clearly.
Having read this book that was thoroughly enjoyed it answered quite a few questions but I am looking forward to more of this authors’ works because although I was satisfied it left me wanting to learn more about Medieval Europe. There is an excellent bibliography and notes section at the back of the book which I endeavour to plough through and pick out the best. Overall this is a modern and clear book on an old and often dusty subject, I would very much recommend this book to any reader but especially to an avid reader or student of the subject. On top of that another good author I am interested in finding more of their work to read up on.UK Historian
Cybulskie is a good writer, with an easy reading manner that makes the subject easy to understand and the pages fly by. It is divided into seven chapters with the chapters further divided into questions that cover specific areas. These questions are listed in the contents so if there’s something you need the answer to, you can just look for the correct chapter, then question and find the page. Very simple.
There’s a decent bibliography, notes and index so you can take your reading further if there’s a particular area of interest that takes your fancy when you’ve read the book.
Very nice introduction to the period. Highly recommended, possibly even as a text book.
Read the full review hereRosie Writes
To say that this book was fun to read would be an understatement. Cybulskie’s knowledge radiates in every page of this short book. I honestly did not want to stop reading this book, I wanted to learn more. It was educational and entertaining all at the same time. Simply a wonderful resource for novice medievalists and writers of historical fiction and nonfiction alike. If you want to learn the truth about different aspects of medieval life, I highly suggest you include, “Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction” by Daniele Cybulskie, to your book collection.
Read the full review hereAdventures of a Tudor Nerd
It was well researched and the author clearly knows her topic and it shone through in the book and I loved that it had a more informal style. I love a good reference guide and this was excellent and one that will be kept on my bookcase for years to come!
It is 5 stars from me for this one, I really enjoyed it and it is a recommended read for me for those interested in medieval history – very highly recommended!
Read the full review hereDonna's Book Blog
Author Daniele Cybulskie is a former college professor and expert in all things medieval, but more than that, she has an accessible, conversational style in writing about this topic. Not many have the ability to make history as fun and interesting as Ms. Cybulskie does. For instance, in the food section there is this little gem: “If a mouse falls into a liquid, it shall be removed and sprinkled with holy water” and the food could then be served. She covers all aspects of life (the section on underwear is pretty interesting, including facts about communal underwear), and it is nicely organized, making the needed information easy to find and access. This is a great read. Don’t miss it.
See the review hereRosi Hollinbeck, San Francisco Book Review, January 2020
Daniele's book on Medieval life in Europe is something of an eye opener. We all think we know something from books and TV programmes like Blackadder, and the Shakespeare history plays, but the reality is something different, and Daniele's brilliant book brings it all to life. If only this book had existed sixty years ago when I was doing O Level History! Brilliant.Books Monthly
A fun and informative read from cover to cover, "Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Medieval History collections.
Read the full review hereMidwest Book Review
Well organized and accessibly written, with a thorough index, making it a good
starting point for students of history who want to examine quotidian life.Booklist
This book is perfect if you want to have a list of quick but well-researched facts about the Middle Ages. Have you ever wondered how often medieval people bathed? Or what courtship looked like? This book answers many questions without being too heavy. It's a quick fact-sheet based on the author's experience as professor and writer. A joy to read. Highly recommended.
See the full review hereGoodReads, ConstantReader
Danièle Cybulskie manages to deny many of the false myths about the Middle Ages in 138 pages and to provide many other news that many do not know. For those who want to investigate more on some topics there is a substantial bibliography from which to draw and more notes for each chapter. The Middle Ages after reading this short but interesting book will seem much more interesting than you ever thought!
Read the full Italian review hereOld Barbed Wire Blog
What I found useful was the little, easy snippets to remember – great little facts for using if you are a living history or re-enactor. There really is a lot of useful bits of information. Such as how they treated wounds. Did they use Soap? And the most important question for me – weren’t medieval people always fighting? (It feels like it). The Nasty and Brutish chapter a particular favourite.
As well as that, there were more detailed answers, some great images and explanations.
Anyone studying any Medieval HEMA treatise should pick up this book as it will help put some of the things we do into a wider context. Which I feel is important if you want to try and recreate the art as it was.
This book will stay on my desk and will be a well thumbed book for sure.
Read the full review hereMedieval Sword School, Jason Hulott
Étaples takes its name from having been a medieval staple port (stapal in Old Dutch), from which word the Old French word Estaples derives. As a port it was part of the administrative and economic complex centred on Montreuil after access from the sea to that town was restricted by silting.
The site of modern Étaples lies on the ridge of dunes which once lay to seaward of a marsh formed off-shore from the chalk plateau of Artois. From the Canche northwards, the dunes tend to extend inland, all the way to the old chalk cliff.  It lay just outside the southern edge of the mediaeval Boulonnais and some eighteen kilometres (11 miles) south of the geological region of that name.
The dunes were established as the sea level rose during the Quaternary and show signs of habitation during the Palaeolithic. They had therefore stabilized at something like their present form by 2000 BC. The dunes to the north-west of the town have revealed Iron Age, Gaulish material.
The Early-Medieval settlement Edit
Étaples was one of a number of sites formerly identified as Quentovicus from which, as from Boulogne-sur-Mer, Roman ships prepared for the passage to Britannia. However, excavations coordinated by Dr David Hill of Manchester University between 1984 and 1991 uncovered the remains of a substantial settlement at Visemarest near the hamlet of La Calotterie. This site is located to the east of Étaples, further up the Canche valley, near the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer.  This is now accepted as the site of Quentovic, although the finds from the excavations are located in the Musée de Quentovic in Étaples (the museum predating the discovery of the site itself by a number of years).
The Middle Ages Edit
During the ninth century the coast was subject to raids and settlement by Norsemen. From their point of view, this off-shore site, protected by mud flats and marsh, was ideal as a base from which to conduct raids elsewhere, assemble the booty and ship it home.
In 1172, Matthew of Alsace, Count of Boulogne, built a fortress on the old Roman site. In 1193, King Philip Augustus made it the main port of his northern fleet after the southern end of the County of Boulogne (The Boulonnais) was added to the royal domain, forming the only direct access to this coast from royal lands in the hinterland.
Étaples was to suffer particularly during the Hundred Years War, owing to its proximity to the English landing places a little further north. Edward III of England burnt the port in 1346 as he was returning from the Battle of Crécy.  In 1351 it was sacked by Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March and burned in 1359 by Edward's son, John of Gaunt.  There were sieges in 1378 and 1435 and it was burnt again in 1455 and 1546. To complete its disasters, the town had a severe outbreak of the plague in 1596. 
The Renaissance onwards Edit
On 3 November 1492, the castle was the scene of the signing of the Treaty of Étaples between Charles VIII of France and Henry VII of England. At the time of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the diplomatic meeting near Calais between Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England, Francis stayed in the castle of Étaples. The meeting took place at Balinghem from 7 to 24 June 1520 and Francis slept at the castle on the 27th. Louis XIV was received there on 26 May 1637 and it was dismantled around 1641.
The Napoleonic period Edit
Between 1803 and 1805, Napoleon gathered a large army in places along this coast, principally at Boulogne, so as to threaten an invasion of England. As part of this, for two years the Sixth Army Corps of Marshal Ney was stationed in and near to Étaples. The Emperor came several times to the town to review his troops.  After the Battle of Trafalgar ended any hope of providing naval cover for an invasion, the troops moved on.
The 19th century and the influence of the railway Edit
By the mid-19th century, the Bradshaw railway guide was describing Étaples as ‘a decayed fishing port, on a sandy plain’.  The railway between Amiens and Boulogne had recently been built northwards along the coast and the station in the town was opened in 1848. Traffic was increased when the local railway company was amalgamated with the Chemins de fer du Nord in 1851 and the connection between Boulogne and Calais was completed in 1867, slowly reversing the decay. The line enabled the swift transport of fish inland as far as Paris, displacing the old Chasse marée system and requiring changes to working practices in order to accommodate the rail timetables. The town’s economy also benefitted from the influx of holiday visitors as what is now called the Opal Coast was developed. However, Étaples remained a working port with its fishing and associated trades such as boat building and rope making. The main holiday resort was developed 6 km (4 mi) away, south of the river, at what was then called Paris-Plage. The two banks of the Canche were linked by a road bridge in 1860 and the Étaples tramway was built from the town station to the resort in 1900.  The big money flowed there and cheaper prices in the town attracted an international colony of artists between 1880 and 1914.
World War I Edit
The railway, with its network of connections across the north of France, became of strategic importance during World War I, and it was added to temporarily during the period it lasted. Étaples became the principal depôt and transit camp for the British Expeditionary Force in France and also the point to which the wounded were transported.
Among the atrocities of the war, the hospitals there were bombed and machine-gunned from the air several times during May 1918. In one hospital alone, it was reported, 'One ward received a direct hit and was blown to pieces, six wards were reduced to ruins and three others were severely damaged. Sister Baines, four orderlies and eleven patients were killed outright, whilst two doctors, five sisters and many orderlies and patients were wounded.' 
The military camp had a reputation for harshness and the treatment received by the men there led to the Étaples Mutiny in 1917. Étaples was also, from a later British scientific viewpoint, at the centre of the 1918 flu pandemic.  The British virologist, John Oxford,  and other researchers, have suggested that the Étaples troop staging camp was at the centre of the 1918 flu pandemic or at least home to a significant precursor virus to it. There was a mysterious respiratory infection at the military base during the winter of 1915-16. 
Private A S Bullock recorded in his World War I memoir entering Étaples with his battalion just after the armistice. The camp, he noted, was 'almost infinitely expandable at very short notice', attributable to its organisation in groups of huts, each of which contained a headquarters, a cookhouse, and a store housing numerous additional tents and equipment.  Bullock also describes the military hospital, whose thirty or so inmates were all 'murderers. at psychological war with one another'. 
The nearby six-hectare Étaples Military Cemetery is resting place to 11,658 British and Allied soldiers from the conflict. When the war artist John Lavery depicted it in 1919, he showed a train in the background, running along the bank of the river below the sandy crest on which the cemetery was sited. 
Following the war, the town was given recognition by the French state for the difficulty of accommodating up to 80,000 men at a time over four years (according to Bullock 'when full it could accommodate half a million men'  ) and the damage done by the enemy bombing which their presence attracted, and it was awarded the Croix de guerre in 1920. 
World War II Edit
In World War II, Étaples suffered again from German bombing and the tramway was irreparably damaged. The town was then occupied by the Germans and during the Allied invasion was again bombarded, causing seventy civilian casualties and destroying or damaging a third of its houses. In 1949, the Minister of Defence came and added a palme (bar) to the Croix de guerre. 
In 1807 the population was recorded as 1,507 and had grown to 4,692 by 1901. This had nearly doubled to 8,628 by 1962 and had grown by almost as much again to 11,714 in 2007. 
Top 10 Famous People Named Adolf
With such an odious notoriety in the world&rsquos history as Adolf Hitler, it is not surprising that the male name Adolf will always be associated primarily with the Third Reich Führer. That is also the reason for the decreasing popularity of this, once wide-spread, name after WWII. Nevertheless, there were a lot of well-known personalities named Adolf. This list features 10 famous Adolfs, besides the most notoriously known Adolf Hitler. Most of you will probably be quite surprised by the first entry.
Adolf von Henselt was a German composer and pianist, born at Schwabach, Bavaria. He began to learn the violin at the age of three and the piano at five. As he got a financial help from King Ludwig I of Bavaria, he went to study under Johann Nepomuk Hummel in Weimar for some months, and then moved to Vienna in 1832, where, along with studying composition, he made a great success as a concert pianist. Several years later he moved to Saint Petersburg, and became court pianist and inspector of musical studies in the Imperial Institute of Female Education, and was ennobled in 1876. For summer holidays he usually went to his former homeland, Germany. In 1852 and again in 1867, he visited England, though in the latter year he made no public appearance. He actually had to withdraw from concert appearances by age thirty-three because of a stage fright so bad it was close to paranoia.
Henselt&rsquos playing can be characterized as a combination of Franz Liszt&rsquos sonority with Hummel&rsquos smoothness. It was remarkable for the great use of extended chords and for the perfect technique. Henselt had an immense influence on the next generation of Russian pianists. The entire Russian school of music comes from Henselt&rsquos playing and teaching. A famous Russian composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, had a very high opinion of Henselt, and considered him one of his most important influences.
German architect Adolf Loos was born in Brunn, Czechoslovakia, in 1870. He started studying architecture at the Royal and Imperial State Technical College in Rechenberg, Bohemia, but soon was drafted to the army, where he served for two years. He then attended the College of Technology in Dresden for three years. From 1893 to 1896, he lived in the U.S. and worked as a mason, a floor-layer and a dish-washer. He finally got a job with the architect Carl Mayreder and, in 1897, he already had his own practice. He taught for several years throughout Europe, but returned to practice in Vienna, in 1928.
Adolf Loos had great influence in European Modern architecture. Still, he was more known for his writings rather than for his buildings. In his essay Ornament and Crime, he repudiated the florid style of the Vienna Secession, the Austrian version of Art Nouveau. This, and many other essays, are devoted to the elaboration of a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture. Loos established building method supported by reason, as he was convinced that everything that could not be justified on rational grounds was superfluous, and should not exist. Loos preferred pure forms due to economy and effectiveness. He was also against decoration, considering it mass-produced and mass-consumed trash, and believing that culture resulted from the renunciation of passions, thus the absence of ornamentation generated spiritual power. His fight for freedom from the decorative styles of the nineteenth century inspired future architects.
The buildings by Adolf Loos are mostly situated in Vienna, but can also be found in Paris, Prague and other cities.
Adolf Merckle, a German billionaire, became one of the victims of financial crisis. In 2009, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train.
Merckle owned the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in Germany, Phoenix Pharmahandel. He inherited his business from a grandfather but contributed greatly to its development. In 2006, Merckle was the world&rsquos 44th richest man. He faced problems in 2008, during the financial crisis when he made a speculative investment based on his belief that Volkswagen shares would fall. However, in October 2008, Porsche SE&rsquos support of Volkswagen sent shares on the Xetra dax from &euro210.85 to over &euro1000 in less than two days, resulting in losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars for Merckle.
&ldquoThe desperate situation of his companies caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, have broken the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life,&rdquo a family statement said.
The seventh place is shared by the German physiologist Adolf Fick and his ophthalmologist nephew of the same name.
The first started to study mathematics and physics, but then realized he was more interested in medicine. In 1851, he earned his doctorate in medicine at Marburg. After that he worked as a prosector in anatomy. In 1855, Fick&rsquos law of diffusion was introduced. The law, which applies equally to physiology and physics, governs the diffusion of a gas across a fluid membrane. Fifteen years later, Adolf Fick introduced a technique for measuring cardiac output, called the Fick principle. Fick is also known as an inventor of the tonometer. This work influenced his nephew, who invented the contact lens.
Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick was actually raised in the family of his uncle after the premature death of his father, anatomy professor Ludwig Fick. He studied medicine in Würzburg, Zürich, Marburg und Freiburg. In 1887, he tested an afocal scleral contact shell, made from heavy brown glass, on rabbits then on himself and, finally, on a small group of volunteers. It was considered the first successful model of a contact lens. During WWI, Fick headed the field hospitals in France, Russia and Turkey. At the same time he continued working on ophthalmologic anatomy and optics.
A Jewish-born German mathematician, Adolf Hurwitz was described by Jean-Pierre Serre as &ldquoone of the most important figures in mathematics in the second half of the nineteenth century&rdquo. He was taught mathematics by Hermann Schubert, who found out his talent for mathematics and persuaded Hurwitz&rsquos father to allow Adolf to go to university. He also arranged for Hurwitz to study with Felix Klein at Munich. Under Klein&rsquos direction, Hurwitz became a doctoral student. His dissertation, in 1881, concerned elliptic modular functions. After working for two years at the University of Göttingen, and being an Extraordinary Professor at the Albertus Universität in Königsberg, Hurwitz took a chair at the Eidgenössische Polytechnikum Zürich, in 1892, and remained there for the rest of his life. Among his students there was Albert Einstein.
Hurwitz was one of the early masters of the Riemann surface theory and one of the authors of Riemann&ndashHurwitz formula. Hurwitz was particularly interested in number theory. He studied the maximal order theory for the quaternions. In number theory, there&rsquos a Hurwitz theorem named for him.
Adolf Bastian was a major ethnologist of the 19th century, who contributed greatly to the development of such disciplines as ethnography and anthropology. His theory of the Elementargedanke became a basis for Carl Jung&rsquos theory of archetypes.
Bastian&rsquos career at university was very broad. He first studied law at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, and biology at what is today the Humboldt University of Berlin, the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and the University of Würzburg. There he attended lectures by Rudolf Virchow and became interested in what we now know as &lsquoethnology&rsquo. He eventually earned a degree in medicine, in Prague in 1850. Bastian worked as a ship&rsquos doctor and for 8 years he traveled around the world. It was his first travel spent outside the German Confederation. Having returned home in 1859, he wrote a popular account of his travels and an ambitious three volume work, Man in History, which became one of his most well-known works.
In 1861, he went on a four-year trip to Southeast Asia, which led to the six volume work entitled The People of East Asia. For the next eight years, Bastian stayed in the North German Confederation, where he was involved in the creation of several key ethnological institutions, in Berlin. He made copious contributions to Berlin&rsquos Royal museum and the second museum, the Museum of Folkart, was founded largely thanks to Bastians contributions. Its collection of ethnographic artifacts became one of the largest in the world for that time, and for decades to come. He also worked with Rudolf Virchow to organize the Ethnological Society of Berlin. During this period, he was the head of the Royal Geographical Society of Germany. Since the 1870s, Bastian was traveling extensively in Africa as well as the New World. He died during one of his journeys, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
In the 1850&rsquos and 1860&rsquos, the German chess master Adolf Anderssen was considered to be the strongest chess player. He took the first prize in over half of the European tournaments, from 1851 to early 1878. In 1851, he represented Germany in the first international chess tournament, which took place in London. The tournament made Anderssen the world&rsquos leading chess player. A month later the London Chess Club organized a tournament which included several players who had competed in the International Tournament. Anderssen won again. During his career Anderssen also knew defeat. He didn&rsquot do as well in matches as in tournaments. In 1866, Anderssen lost a close match with Wilhelm Steinitz. At the Leipzig tournament in 1877, Anderssen came second, behind Louis Paulsen. The tournament was organized on the initiative from the Central German Chess Federation, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Anderssen&rsquos learning the chess moves. Remarkably, it was the only tournament ever organized to commemorate a competitor.
All in all, Anderssen was a very important figure in the development of chess problems. He is known for his brilliant sacrificial attacking play, particularly in the &ldquoImmortal Game&rdquo (1851) and the &ldquoEvergreen Game&rdquo (1852). Adolf Anderssen was honored to be an &ldquoelder statesman&rdquo of the game, to whom others turned for advice or arbitration.
During his life, the German writer and Freemason Adolph Freiherr Knigge (Freiherr is not a personal name but a title, meaning Baron) was a member of Corps Hannovera, the Court Squire and Assessor of the War and Domains Exchequer in Kassel, Chamberlain at the Weimar court and a member of Bavarian Illuminati.
Still he&rsquos mostly remembered for one book he wrote. This book should be known by any German. Knigge&rsquos Über den Umgang mit Menschen (On Human Relations) is a fundamental sociological and philosophical work on principles of human relations and also a guide to behavior, politeness and etiquette. There even appeared the word Knigge in German language to mean &ldquogood manners&rdquo or books on etiquette.
Adolph von Menzel is one of the most renowned German artists. He was considered the most successful artist in Germany in the 19th century. In 1833, Menzel studied for a short period of time at the Berlin Academy of Art. He drew from casts and ancient sculptures. But generally, Menzel was self-taught.
Menzel was the first to largely introduce to Germany the technique of wood engraving. From 1839 to 1842, he produced 400 drawings, illustrating the Geschichte Friedrichs des Grossen (History of Frederick the Great) by Franz Kugler. After that, he brought out Friedrichs der Grossen Armee in ihrer Uniformirung (The Uniforms of the Army under Frederick the Great), Soldaten Friedrichs der Grossen (The Soldiers of Frederick the Great) and finally, following the order of the king Frederick William IV, he illustrated the works of Frederick the Great, Illustrationen zu den Werken Friedrichs des Grossen (1843-1849). These works established Menzel&rsquos claim to be considered one of the first illustrators of his day.
His popularity in Germany, especially due to his politically propagandistic works, was so great that most of his major paintings remained in Germany, as a lot of them were quickly acquired by Berlin museums. Menzel himself traveled a lot searching for subjects for his art, visiting exhibitions and meeting with other artists, but still spent most of his life in Berlin. Although he had many friends and acquaintances, he was, by his own words, detached from others. He probably felt socially estranged for physical reasons, alone&mdashMenzel was about four foot six inches and had a large head.
Adolf Dassler, more known as Adi Dassler, was always a passionate sportsman. Born into the family of a German shoe worker, Adi became a cobbler himself, but he had a dream to create a shoe specifically for athletes. Shortly after WWI, he started to work on it in his mother&rsquos laundry room, assisted by his brothers (the older one, Rudolf, will be later known as the founder of Puma). The brothers soon started a successful business, which was called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Dassler didn&rsquot miss any sporting event in his quest to make athletes wear the shoes from the Dassler Shoe Factory. At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, some athletes were wearing these shoes and, during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the US athlete Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals wearing Dassler&rsquos shoes. All that was a good advertisement for the company and helped it to establish international contacts.
As WWII began, Adi&rsquos brother Rudolf was drafted. Adi himself produced boots for Wehrmacht (undoubtedly helped by the fact that he voluntarily joined the Nazi Party). After the war, the brothers tried to continue working together, but due to the disagreements Rudolf left Adi and founded his own company, Puma. Adolf Dassler reformed his shoe company and gave it a new name using the short form of his first name and the first three letters of his last name. Adidas is one of the most well-known sportswear companies.