Karnak's History Korner

Don't both politics and religion feed off us vs. them, closed thinking systems? To me it's the easy win button for both religion and politics, so it leads to easy thinking from followers and is exploitable by leaders.

The law, at least, has direct, practical application that gets fought in court. We don't have that for religion, so instead we get wars.

That said, moral, social, etc., beliefs and mores are passed down through generations, so it's not entirely unique to religion. I'd argue that religious texts have very much been interpreted differently depending on the different cultures applying them.

That’s why I specified *literalism*, Garion. Yes, there are different interpretations, but those who insist on holding to the “literal” interpretations uniformly suffer the problem of no longer having the social and cultural context around the writings. When you’re a Bronze Age tribe, differentiating yourself from other tribes by, say, forbidding certain foods is reasonable. When you’re a modern religious believer arguing that there’s actually a hygiene or food safety reason to avoid certain foods - or even that there was then - it’s covering arbitrary beliefs in a justificational veneer that simply did not exist at the time. (To ward off argument, bear in mind that we find pig remains in some houses without Jewish symbols, but not in literally adjacent Jewish houses in the same settlements... Over time periods of centuries.)

Literalism, not tradition itself, is the problem.

I still think the literalism is impacted by the culture to a large degree.

Avoiding certain foods in the modern world seems like a simple thing to give up when I can eat tomatoes, corn, avocados, etc., year round. No pork? No problem!

It's a whole other ball game if we start stoning women because they dared to engage in intercourse before they were married. Literalists don't do that because it's illegal, but also because they can waive it away saying "Jesus threw out the old testament rule book." And yet, on other things they'll say "because it's in the Bible." It's culture and society influencing their interpretation, still.

I mean, are all fundamentalist Christians flat earthers? Perhaps there's a bit of overlap there, but most folks who believe the Bible, or some other text, should be taken literally don't really mean it to the extent you're characterizing.

I almost feel like you're taking a supremely hard line because of your disdain for literalists. Like, I get that, but most folks are literally literalists. They're opportunistic literalists who use the "cause the Bible says so" when it suits them.

You're kind of mis-taking my point. I'm saying that the *sanctioning* of "literalist" interpretations, and the subsequent behaviors and practices common to Bronze Age societies, are the problem. That does not mean that *everything* is taken literally (although, take a look at some of the fringe Jewish and Christian sects, who definitely try to approach that). If society simply said "There's no validity in *literally* believing what the Bible says", as a default, we'd have a very different society. But society says, in general, "the Bible is the Word of God", allowing anyone to interpret it as they like (that's Protestantism in a nutshell). That is the problem of literalism.

Why do we have Creationism affecting school curricula? Literalists who think the world was simply created a few thousand years ago. Yes, they are a tiny minority, but their influence is outsized. No blood transfusions? Literalists. Jews killed Jesus? Literalists. And I'm not the only one harping on this; St. Augustine warned against it, as a theme for at least one of his essays. This is a problem that's been with us for a long time, and we can separate it from culture, and should, because culture and religion have a fully reciprocal relationship, not just a one-way "oh, it's an excuse for bad behavior innate to people". Some people really believe this stuff, because they read it in the Bible, and it affects their behaviors.

(The argument that people just use religion as an excuse, that religion never actually *drives* behavior, is weirdly and artificially limited. No one argues that culture does not drive behavior, that politics and nationalism don't drive behavior; religious people even argue that *philosophies* drive behavior. But they want to excuse religion from this responsibility, even though it's a system of belief just like the others. I sort of feel like that's where you're going with this; I hope not, but I've heard it before.)

~mod~

Hello!
Getting a little hot & off-topic here. This thread started as a light history romp in 'Everything Else,' perhaps start a thread in D&D if you wish to continue a religious debate?

xoxo
A

Thanks for creating this thread Karnak.

Karnak wrote:

Aww, thanks everyone! I don't think I have it in me to update every day; I have an archaeological field school several times a week this summer, then grad school starts in August. I wanted to keep my researching skills sharp in the interim and it's been fun to learn more and write about about various topics. No spoilers for next week, but it won't be North American history. =)

In my short lived career as a volunteer on archeological dig sites (I wish I'd stuck with it) I worked on the site of some very old, half buried foundations. I found a heater thermostat and an incontinent toad.

Sometimes it's the smallest details that real bring home to you how archeology can connect you to people in the distant past. On a visit to the site of a Roman villa in Kent. I looked closely at some unused roof tiles that were part of the display. One of the tiles had a track of cat paw prints across it. Presumably left there while the newly formed tile was being dried in the sun.

Robear wrote:

Garion got the point, Eleima.

Gotcha. That was not at all clear to me.

Sorry Amoebic. Thanks for the catch.

Here's a pic of and article about the roof tile Higgledy mentioned. I remember reading about this and having a strong emotional reaction.

It seems to speak to a small moment in time when people and pets were going about their every day lives.

Looks like cats were a menace for your average Roman roof tiler. The one I saw was in Lullingstone villa (which is an amazing site with incredible mosaics.)

IMAGE(http://ancaslifestyle.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Lullingstone-Roman-Villa-02.jpg)

Speaking of imprints in clay... This is an interesting article about some of the brickwork here in Charleston.

Fingerprints of enslaved children imprinted on Charleston bricks show city’s dark past.

There's a lot of talk these days about updating our interpretation of our country's past to include those enslaved. Seeing and touching the fingerprints of a 7 or 8 year old enslaved child is an intense reminder of the lives of those people were forced to live.

Ugh, I'm a sucker for toe beans!

And medieval manuscript creators..
IMAGE(https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/JIbUI4t4Ks5XIr6OT6Liv3cFa9Y=/fit-in/1600x0/https://public-media.si-cdn.com/filer/cat-paws-470.jpg)

Boy. That would hurt. Some medieval swearing may have been heard from the manuscript room.

That looks awesome! I have a whole cache of photos from this summer I will (eventually) post.

Higgledy wrote:

It seems to speak to a small moment in time when people and pets were going about their every day lives.

Looks like cats were a menace for your average Roman roof tiler. The one I saw was in Lullingstone villa (which is an amazing site with incredible mosaics.)

IMAGE(http://ancaslifestyle.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Lullingstone-Roman-Villa-02.jpg)

All (field) work and no (well more than a little let's be honest) play makes Karnak a dull boy and makes this a dull thread!

This has been a dynamic summer. Between my field work, vacation to Puerto Rico, Domecon, and getting geared up for grad school, the last half of my summer has been one busy blur. Now that the dust has settled and my friends have gently poked and prodded me to breathe some life back into this thread, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least try.

No promises for regularity, but I'll try and be more consistent (especially if my friends keep poking me) in updating. At the advice of Staygold, Amoebic, and Minotaar, maybe I don't need to spend hours in research and writing before I post ? Maybe I can deliver a narrative piecemeal?

With that in mind, submitted for your approval is the stinger for the next history story I want to share.

Why do we call capital letters Upper Case? With the advent of movable type and the printing press, typesetters need a way to organize their types for storage when not in use. One of the methods employed a case or drawer to store all the types (ha) they would need. The upper half of the case was reserved for capital letters, mathematical operands and extraneous letters like æ (the Latin letter for 'a' and 'e'), while the lower half contained numbers and (just in case you miss it) the 'just case' (commonly called the lower case). But does this explanation tell the whole story? What else might we glean from reading between the lines? This just in, hot off the presses: Next Week on KHK, "The Case of the Upper Case"

When I was in middle school, at a private school, we had a late 19th/ early 20th century Chandler and Price hand-powered press that we printed the weekly paper on (called "The Week"; yeah, preppies, amirite?). Given the choice between that and woodworking for shop class, once I got beyond the basic stuff we all had to learn, I dived into the printing. It turns out that's a really fun thing for someone who doesn't know they are OCD and ADD to do. Sorting, sizing by eye, tactile stimming, a cool machine to manipulate in action... I actually remember it quite fondly.

To this day, I can read stuff in mirrors or upside down much faster than most people I know.

When I went to college there was one room that was always empty. It had raised desks with sloping surfaces and a wooden border to each surface. It had been the room where they trained people to stack type (looking at the history of lead type it doesn't seem right that they'd still be teaching stacking when I started at college (I'm old but I'm not that old) that said the room was there.) I also remember visiting a type setters and seeing a contraption that automatically created lead type for you to print from. I only have vague memories of how it worked but, as far as I recall, the setter typed in the words as you would on a type writer and the rather Heath Robinson machine would stamp out an appropriate letter.

Edit: With a bit of research it sounds like it was a Linotype machine. The operator was very proud of it, as I remember, so perhaps it was the latest model.

In other news. On our latest ramble our group had lunch in a church yard and there was a tree with distinct berries on it. The tree itself was clearly very old and had a metal bar propping it up. I wasn't completely sure what the species of tree was and asked those in earshot. One of my very well informed fellow ramblers told me it was a yew tree. They went on to say that, at one time, every church yard in England had to have a yew tree in it because yew was the wood longbows were made from.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/wZ9cCJ0.jpg)

Edit: Also, I bought a corn doll. Next year's harvest is safe.

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/IunapPp.jpg)

That's a "just-so" story about the yews. There are accounts of yews in churchyards that well pre-date the 13th century (when the longbow rose to prominence in England); one in Fortingale (sp?) is estimated at 2000-3000 years old.

Yews have been found consistently in old pre-Christian religious sites in England and Normandy, so to my mind, the yew being holy to both is likely a result of Christians trying to co-opt symbols of older religions. That's the theory I favor. In medieval Christian philosophy, the red of the fruit symbolized Christ's blood, and the white of the heartwood, His flesh.

Robear wrote:

That's a "just-so" story about the yews. There are accounts of yews in churchyards that well pre-date the 13th century (when the longbow rose to prominence in England); one in Fortingale (sp?) is estimated at 2000-3000 years old.

Yews have been found consistently in old pre-Christian religious sites in England and Normandy, so to my mind, the yew being holy to both is likely a result of Christians trying to co-opt symbols of older religions. That's the theory I favor. In medieval Christian philosophy, the red of the fruit symbolized Christ's blood, and the white of the heartwood, His flesh.

Interesting. Thanks Robear. It was such a pleasing neat story but that's often an indication that it isn't the truth. It would be interesting to know what the tree symbolised for the pre-Christian religions.

Higgledy wrote:
Robear wrote:

That's a "just-so" story about the yews. There are accounts of yews in churchyards that well pre-date the 13th century (when the longbow rose to prominence in England); one in Fortingale (sp?) is estimated at 2000-3000 years old.

Yews have been found consistently in old pre-Christian religious sites in England and Normandy, so to my mind, the yew being holy to both is likely a result of Christians trying to co-opt symbols of older religions. That's the theory I favor. In medieval Christian philosophy, the red of the fruit symbolized Christ's blood, and the white of the heartwood, His flesh.

Interesting. Thanks Robear. It was such a pleasing neat story but that's often an indication that it isn't the truth. It would be interesting to know what the tree symbolised for the pre-Christian religions.

Dinner.

I was told the berries were poisonous but... *hurries away to google it*

Wow. Yes. Really pretty poisonous apart from the red part of the berries. so possible but you really don't want to mess with any other part of the plant.

The entire yew bush, except the aril (the red flesh of the berry covering the seed), is poisonous. It is toxic due to a group of chemicals called taxine alkaloids.

Yew poisonings are relatively common in both domestic and wild animals who consume the plant accidentally.[6][7][8] The taxine alkaloids are absorbed quickly from the intestine and in high enough quantities can cause death due to cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.[9] Taxines are also absorbed efficiently via the skin skin and Taxus species should thus be handled with care and preferably with gloves.[32] Taxus Baccata leaves contain approximately 5mg of taxines per 1g of leaves.[33] The estimated lethal dose (LDmin) of Taxus baccata leaves is 3.0-6.5 mg/kg body weight for humans.[34] There is currently no known antidotes for yew poisoning, but drugs such as atropine have been used to treat the symptoms.[35] Taxine remains in the plant all year, with maximal concentrations appearing during the winter. Dried yew plant material retains its toxicity for several months[36] and even increases its toxicity as the water is removed[37]. Fallen leaves should therefore also be considered toxic. Poisoning usually occurs when leaves of yew trees are eaten, but in at least one case a victim inhaled sawdust from a yew tree.[38]

Higgledy wrote:

Interesting. Thanks Robear. It was such a pleasing neat story but that's often an indication that it isn't the truth. It would be interesting to know what the tree symbolised for the pre-Christian religions.

Wouldn't it? We only have Roman accounts of Druidism, I think, to learn from, but this could easily come from an even earlier tradition. People go back in the Isles a long time, and different cultures have washed through there many times. Perhaps Karnak can shed light on this.