Your humble author was, at the time of writing the first part of this, doing a caffeine detox and so was having trouble constructing reportage and opinion at his usual standard of prolixity and perceptiveness. Here therefore is some distraction:
First of all, here is a fine collection of observations through the ages on the now-vanished Anglo-Saxon bishopric of Dunwich with some sobering musings about what else could go the same way. I can’t remember where I got this from but somebody isn’t getting a hat-tip that they deserve, sorry.
I’ll repair that by giving decent credit here. Emma at Past Presenters linked to a blog I don’t otherwise know called Ancient Tides, and they had a short post about and linking to this article about research at Cornell suggesting that monks who did fine illumination had learnt special stereoscopic focusing tricks so as to be able to work at something approximating 30x magnification. I would love to hear from someone with enough biology nous to say whether this is plausible.
Then, a housemate points me at this, which is a site allowing you to make your own historical tapestries digitally, using the cast of the Bayeux Tapestry. Needs Flash, so don’t blame me if your browser crashes, but it’s really well done inside that limitation.
Too trivial? Well, okay, remember the time I got into a fight about postmodernism because of how excited I was at discovering Carl Becker? Relive the good bit of that experience by reading this, Carl Becker’s Presidential Address to the American Historical Association from 1931, and then consider all the debates that have been had here or at Modern Medieval or In the Medieval Middle or other such fine blogging establishments about just what it is that we historians do and why it’s important, and how we can prove that, and ask yourself again if this man wasn’t nearly a century ahead of his time. This, I owe to Edge of the American West once more. In particular let me entice you with these quotes:
Even the most disinterested historian has at least one preconception, which is the fixed idea that he has none.
Such research, valuable not in itself but for some ulterior purpose, will be of little import except in so far as it is transmuted into common knowledge. The history that lies inert in unread books does no work in the world.
and, most important of all perhaps:
Nor need our labors be the less highly prized because our task is limited, our contributions of incidental and temporary significance. History is an indispensable even though not the highest form of intellectual endeavor, since it makes, as Santayana says, a gift of “great interests … to the heart.”
I’ll never match that, but I love it anyway.
Lastly, and added in the final stages of editing this much-delayed post, of course you’ve already seen this? If you haven’t, the biggest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold was found back in July somewhere undisclosed in Staffordshire and the news was allowed out yesterday morning. Past Horizons has the press release, the BBC story that is linked through the picture has the simple version and some more pictures, but if you want them the whole hoard is available in Creative Commons-licensed photographs on the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Flickr stream. There is a lot of gold. Now obviously there has been talk of little else in my department since we got the news (which was no sooner than anyone else, in fact, probably because there are no coins in the hoard even though the Guardian was claiming that there were) and I’m pretty sure what I think the interpretation should be, but I have twelve (12), my god, twelve posts queued up here, which I let Professor Deyermond’s obit jump because that was the least respect demanded but which I would like not to let anything else delay. So you’ll have to wait a few days for my opinions, but that’s OK because it’ll take you at least a week to finish looking at the 615 pictures…