We had a ton of fun with the Fort York Guard and Fife and Drum Corps yesterday at the Museum. These kids even wore matching outfits!
The event came together due a number of events happening at the Fort. Their soldiers are visiting various venues across the city in the mean time.
Thanks to everyone who came out!
Chain link armour was used throughout the Mediaeval World.
The chain helped prevent swords and similar objects from piercing the body. In Europe it was paired with thick, heavy plate armour for maximum protection. In this set up, chain was primarily used over the joints, places where more flexibility was required.
Though armour was a necessity during war, plate armour came with a series of issues. Plate armour is expensive, heavy, and susceptible to the weather- if it was hot, the metal would warm and you would heat up, if it was cold, the metal would cool, and you would freeze. While adaptations were made, such as wearing a tunic underneath, there was never a perfect solution. The daily temperature extremes in the Middle East allowed armour to evolve differently. Though plate armour was used, chain was much more predominately specifically over the arms and legs. Coupled with smaller horses, chain was ideal for the Middle East.
The chain above is from what is now modern day Iran.
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: May 27th, 2014.
Liz Butler Draws The ROM: ROM Revealed
I had an AWESOME time during the ROM Revealed Weekend! It was so great to talk to all of you who stopped by. It was especially great to talk to all of you who are artists yourselves (some younger artists even showed me the cool arts and crafts that they made at the museum that weekend, like Egyptian collars and Chinese dragons)!
A special highlight of the weekend, for me, was talking to many of you about your favourite dinosaurs. It seemed like there were lots of fans of the sauropods, especially those like Barosaurus and Futalognkosaurus, which you learned about at the museum! My favourite is Parasaurolophus. How can you not love that crazy crest? AND the Parasaurolophus species featured in the ROM collection is named after one of the ROM’s founder Sir Byron Edmund Walker (Parasaurolophus walkeri)!
With this post, I have included some of the sketches I made while I was hanging out with all of you over the ROM Revealed weekend. On Saturday, I started out in the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity and the Eaton Gallery of Rome. Sunday I spent the morning in the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples, before heading to the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs. I loved talking about all the great displays in the galleries with those of you who visited!
A huge thank-you to everyone who stopped by to talk to me over the awesome ROM Revealed weekend! What a great celebration!
- Liz Butler is an artist and teacher who loves natural history and museums. She loves drawing, painting, and making crafts of all kinds. She is happiest when she can find ways to combine art projects with science content.
- Liz’s Website – Liz Butler Draws
- Liz’s Blog – Saw Whet Studio
- More guest posts from Liz HERE!
- Do you like to sketch? Love museums? Are you a full time student in Canada? The ROM is yours to explore, FREE, every Tuesday! MORE!
Guest Post By Liz Butler. Last Updated: June 9th, 2014.
#REgenerationtour: Adventure to Machu Picchu
By Emile Watanabe, 10 years old
We started off leaving Cusco in a hour and a half collectivo (mini van that goes to and from the little towns outside of Cusco) on our way to Ollantaytambo (Ollanta for short), a small town in the middle of the mountains. In Ollanta, we spent one night in a nice homestay with a lovely family. These people were warm and kind and had the most playful dog you’ve ever seen. His name was Tony. We spent hours playing with him. There was Petronilla, her daughter Rene and her nice granddaughter, Cynthia. We also took the Pinkuyllyana hike up to the Incan storehouses, a steep but beautiful hike. The storehouses were quite high up in the mountains surrounding the town. What a view we had from there! Filou and dad went to a mini tower over the ruins. Filou said that the tower looked like bunny ears! After our long hike we took a walk around town. Then we headed home for a freshly cooked meal. There was chicken and soup and rice and pasta and it was all so good! So we chowed down and then went off to bed.
The next day we took a class on how the Quechua (an indigenous group from throughout South America) weave and sew. Filou and I each made a bracelet and learned about how they dye the wool and thread to the right colour using minerals and dried insects! It was very interesting. We even crushed some dried beetles for the red dye!
After that we packed our bags and took a Peru Rail train through the mountains to Aguas Calientes, the small town next to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century by King Pachacuti. We spent the night there in a lovely hostel with a great bed and the next day, we were off to Machu Picchu, the historic city of the Incas.
We took a half hour bus trip up to the ruins at 8:30 and then waited in line to get in. But when we got in, it was nothing like what we had expected. It was so much better than that! It was huge and beautiful and oh so high! There were llamas in the fields and birds in the sky and huge mountains all around us! We spent a whole day exploring and I bet we didn’t even see a quarter of the site. The day was long and the site was cold and misty but what a good time we had! Most of what the Inca had built was held together by mud and sand, but what the Pre-Inca had built was just rocks stacked on top of each other! We also took a hike up the Machu Picchu Mountain to get the best shots and views of the city! When we got down we were all very tired and went to the line for the bus, only the line was HUGE!!! We waited another hour before we got back to town! Then, we all sat down for a coffee, (hot chocolate for us kids) and headed home.
Some cool facts about Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu is 2,430 metres above sea level.
- Many people call these ruins The Lost City of the Incas, but it is the most known site to all of the Incas, Peruvians, Quechua people and all other mountain groups.
- Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of the world.
- People used to run around the site nude, so now they are going to set a new rule. Everybody who enters the site has to be with a tour guide.
- All photos (except where noted): Watanabes, 2014
- Image 2: Machu Picchu as the mist’s rise at dawn: By Rtype909 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Follow the rest of the #REgenerationtour HERE!
- Anthony’s (Dad) blog on the environmental mission: www.the-regeneration.com
- Rose’s (Mom) blog shares the family experience on the road:www.yolomomonthego.wordpress.com
- You can also follow Emile on Instagram @emiwata15!
- Check out the rest of our #ROMKidsGoesWhere series HERE!
Writings In An Illiterate World: The Church And Art Of The Middle Ages
It is no secret that the Christian church played a big role in society in Europe. From the first days of the Roman Catholic church through the Middle Ages, churches were a central part of life for people throughout Europe. What people don’t always realize however, is that despite all the austerity so often associated with ‘church’, the church in Europe was responsible (consciously or not) for some of the great works of art produced throughout the Middle Ages. Stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts are just two styles of art, that have their origins in the Christian church, but managed to develop into their own modes of fine art.
Stained glass windows are works of art, most often found in churches, with pieces of coloured glass placed in a frame and held together by strips of metal, usually lead, to form a pattern or image. Sometimes made using coloured glass, which is made by adding coloured salts when the glass is being blown, they can also be made with clear glass that is then painted and fired in a kiln.
Stained glass windows have been found in buildings as early as 600 CE, but truly reached their peak in the Middle Ages. Creating these windows came at an extraordinary cost, since there was the technical skill involved – of blowing the glass, fitting the glass into the frame, and installing the frame inside the building – as well as the artistic skill required to produce a believable and understandable image.
The process of making a stained glass window begins by first planning the size of the space the window is filling. Once the space is determined, a template is made, first of the outside and then is filled in with all the desired imagery. Once the template is complete, the glass can now be constructed. When using coloured glass, each piece is selected for colour and size. Pieces that aren’t an exact fit for the space it needs to fit can be trimmed down with a small tool. Sometimes even when using glass that is already coloured, small details, such as faces or outlines are painted on once the glass is installed. This allows for elaborate details even when relying on using full squares of coloured glass.
Starting around the 16th century, painting clear glass became a more and more popular method for creating stained glass. The paints used would be made using ground glass particles of whichever colour was desired, but by turning the ground glass into a paint, much more detail could be added to the windows. Time that otherwise would have had to be spent trimming down small pieces of coloured glass to fit could be spent adding details to more standard, square pieces of glass.
Once all the pieces of glass were either cut or stained, they could be installed into the window. This was done by slotting the pieces into lead cames. This is a small piece of lead, shaped either like a U or an H so that the glass could be slotted into place and held between two or more cames.
Since the church would have been the most important building in each city, stained glass windows were a great way to add emphasis to this importance. A king or lord could demonstrate their power and wealth by commissioning a gigantic stained glass window. Monks from a monastery could demonstrate their devotion, by taking the painstaking hours to create a series of stained glass windows. Priests and other church officials also valued stained glass windows for the images that they depicted.
In addition to being decorative, stained glass windows were also informative. The subject of the image created would often be religious. This could range from a stylized portrait of an angel to a re-creation of an exact scene from the Bible. Sometimes a single panel of stained glass could tell an entire story, but just as often, a story or theme would be related across a series of panels. Considering that many churchgoers were illiterate, creating scenes in stained glass was one way that churches could convey messages and stories to the mass public. Even though someone would never have been able to read the story in the Bible, when rendered in a stained glass window, or across a series of windows, an illiterate churchgoer could gain an understanding of any given passage or story from the Bible.
Also, even for those people who could read a Bible in an English or German translation, most church services were conducted in Latin, which was spoken by a small percentage of the population. This meant that many people sitting in church on any given Sunday would have no clue what the priest was actually talking about. Filling a church with stained glass windows was a way to keep the churchgoers interested throughout the service and get the message of the priest across.
While stained glass windows found their origin and popularity within the churches of Medieval Europe, they began to spread to the secular world. The purpose remained to increase the prestige of the given building, both inside and outside, but the subject matter of the window changed to reflect the nature of the building. A government building, for example, might display the coat of arms of the country to kingdom they were in. As schools and universities became more and more prominent within society, they would commission stained glass windows to reflect the academic pursuits of the student body. Also, wealthy members from all parts of society began to feature stained glass windows in their homes. These windows were primarily decorative, and rather than biblical stories, would feature scenes from nature or purely ornamental patterns. Nowadays, stained glass refers not just to windows but also to a more general form of art. Stained glass windows are installed in buildings, churches, schools and otherwise, across cities in Europe as well as North and South America.
An Illuminated Manuscript is simply a document or piece of writing where the words are supplemented with decorations such as pictures, borders, or ornate initials. Decorations of illuminated manuscripts can take a number of different forms. Sometimes, the first letter or initial of a book or page will be elaborately painted and much larger than the rest of the text. Borders are sometimes added around the entirety of a page, or just around the first letter. While this border can sometimes just be purely decorative, it can also relate to the content of the text. Illuminated manuscripts can also be decorated with small pictures or miniatures that usually depict what is happening in the text. Illuminated manuscripts traditionally were also inlaid with gold or silver leaf but the term in a broader sense refers to all manner of decorated texts. The shine that these precious metals would give off however, is believed to be the reason why the decorated manuscripts were called ‘illuminated’.
Most of the surviving illuminated manuscripts that are found come from Europe in the Middle Ages. Illuminated manuscripts have, however, been found belonging to the Roman Empire that date as far back as the 5th-7th century CE.
If you think of an illuminated manuscript as an important document accompanied by corresponding pictures or images and inlaid with gold, then even the Ancient Egyptians created them. Documents such as the Book of the Dead have written words (represented by hieroglyphs in this case) accompanied by pictures and are even decorated with gold and other colours.
Most of the illuminated manuscripts that are found are religious in their nature. Sometimes sections or even the entirety of the Bible would be illuminated. Another popular form illuminated manuscripts took was a ‘book of hours’ which outlined certain prayers one should do at different times of the day. Due to the use of gold leaf and coloured paints, as well as the time, labour, and craftsmanship needed to produce one, illuminated manuscripts were expensive to produce and could often only be afforded by the church or religious officials. Churches, and especially monasteries, played a key role not just in the patronage of illuminated manuscripts but in the production of them as well. Already, monks were responsible for a large amount of the written text that was produced in the Middle Ages, being among the small percentage of society that could read and write. Writing out entire books, or as was often the case, The Bible, took weeks and months to produce just the words. With the accompanying images and designs on illuminated manuscripts, the amount of time needed to produce a text increased almost ten-fold. For many monks, this devotion of time towards writing and decorating an illuminated manuscript was just as important a part of their religious life as the actual content of the manuscript.
Over time, Illuminated manuscripts became more and more an art form developed within monasteries across Europe. Beginning at around the thirteenth century however, illuminated manuscripts began to be made that were not religious - such as early books or lists of rules and codices - but they still remained expensive to produce and therefore an art reserved for the elite classes. Nobles would pride themselves on being able to fill their libraries with shelves upon shelves of books. Remember that just having books with written words was impressive enough; consider the prestige a book that looks nice as well would have. Even once the printing press started to replace hand-written books around the 15th and 16th centuries, illuminated manuscripts remained a staple in the homes of the wealthy. Even though the exact same words could be produced much more quickly and at a cheaper cost, the majesty and grandeur of illuminated manuscripts kept them popular.
Illuminated manuscripts were highly valued for a number of reasons. One reason was for the sheer beauty of the illustrations created. Since the texts were often religious texts, and therefore already important to the reader, adding decorations and embellishments simply heightened the reverence for the book/text. Even those who were illiterate could admire the physical appearance of manuscripts inlaid with gold and decorated with pictures.
A large reason for their importance is that they come from a period in Europe where not everyone was able to read. By including pictures or diagrams, an illiterate person could get a better sense of what the text is trying to say. A great example of this at work is the Biblia pauperum or ‘Pauper’s Bible’. This term doesn’t refer to a particular book but was a style or tradition of Bibles, popular in the middle ages, which were filled with illustrations corresponding to the text on each page. The Pauper’s Bible was different from already existing ‘illustrated Bibles’ which had the text of the Bible supplemented with pictures. Pauper’s Bibles made the pictures the main focus, with bits of text at the corners of the page.
These Bibles were likely very expensive (the addition of pictures made them, if anything, more expensive than a normal Bible) so paupers or the lower classes could not have afforded these books. Instead, they were valuable as a teaching aid the church could use to communicate its stories and teachings to the illiterate.
Illuminated manuscripts, much like stained glass windows, serve as yet another example of one of the ways that the Church impacted and influenced art throughout Medieval Europe. For hundreds of years, they controlled much of the wealth of Europe and also had their own labour force in the form of monasteries. This gave them the means and the ability to undertake large tasks such as ‘illuminating’ an entire book, or outfitting an entire building with murals of stained glass. While both of these creations would ultimately branch out to become their own respective fields of art, they both share roots as ways the church attempted to communicate its writings in an illiterate world.
Interested in learning more about Stained Glass Windows or Illuminated Manuscripts? Check out these sources:
- “Introductory History of Stained Glass,” Shannon Fitzgerald, from Light, Color, Glass: Patterns of Illumination, Fall 1998.
- “Stained Glass in Medieval Europe,” Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, in Helibrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.
- “Lights of Faith: Stained Glass Windows as Tools for Catechesis,” by Carol Anne Jone from The Institute for Sacred Architecture, Fall 2008.
- “An Introduction to Illuminated Manuscripts,” The British Library, June 2, 2014.
- “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe,” Susan Jones, in Helibrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2002.
“Stained glass window in Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, San Franciso” by Todd Fong, January 17, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
“Staine Glass, St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall” by @sage_solar, April 8, 2010, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
“Illuminated Manuscript, Duke Albrecht’s Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part), The Trinity (Throne of Grace), with Albrecht of Bavaria, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.171, fol.1r" by Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts February 15, 2011, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
“Manuscript page” by Kotomi_ March 19, 2010 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
“Illuminated manuscript” by Susan Sermoneta June 10, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Even more information!
- Join us June 6th for our look at the Mediaeval World through the art of stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts!
Post by Chris Miller, ROMKids Studio Assistant. Last updated: June 4th, 2014.
The Long History of an Irish Bronze Age Sword
A bronze sword in the ROM’s collection (ROM no.909.68.1) has an interesting history. It is of a type named after Ewart Park, a site in Northumberland in Northern England. The type seems to have developed in what is now Northern England, and became the main sword type of the Late Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland (circa 1000 to 700 BC). In his great work on the Bronze Age Swords of Ireland, George Eogan classified this as his Class 4 of Bronze Age Swords, associated with the Dowris Phase, named after a hoard of objects found at the site of Dowris in County Offaly. These swords are designed for slashing at an opponent, with the edges meant to be sharp for cutting through flesh, not for hacking at armour. Studies of the edge damage tend to not provide evidence of Hollywood-style sword clashing, but a capable use of the sword to deflect blows as is known from Mediaeval sword-fighting treatises, showing that these warriors had a form of martial arts as well-developed as the skills of the manufacturers of the swords themselves.
Chemical analysis of the ROM sword shows that it is made of 91.3% copper, 7.5% tin, 1% lead, and other elements making up the remainder, like silver, arsenic and antimony. Copper would have been available in Ireland, and tin could have been available from Cornwall. Studies of swords of this period in Britain and Ireland show that there was a lot of contact, and swords could be melted down and the materials re-used anywhere in the region. Earlier in the European Bronze Age swords were often made by pouring molten bronze into a mould made of stone, but in the Late Bronze Age it was typical to make the form of the sword in wood, and make two halves of the mould by laying slabs of clay along the wooden form. Impressions of wood grain have been found on the moulds that have been preserved. Fragments of a number of these moulds have been found in Ireland, probably or certainly made for this type of sword. At times there were problems with the casting of the sword, and molten bronze would be poured onto the object; or repairs would be made by “fixing” the blade with wax, making another mould, melting the wax, and pouring molten bronze into the void. This sword seems to have a couple of these problems. What appears to be a blow-holes or voids in the blade itself were filled with bronze, and then ground down to be flush with the blade. The hilt seems to have had a poor cast, or perhaps became cracked, and molten bronze seems to have been poured over the hilt, but was left as it was at it was to be covered by the grip.
After spurs from the casting had been removed, the sword would have been annealed (heated to a high temperature to soften the metal) and hammered. Unike iron or steel, studies have shown that bronze should not be worked, or forged, when it is hot, as this creates severe problems. Instead, the metal would have been annealed and then cold-hammered, probably repeatedly. Then the grip, made of materials such as wood or bone, would be riveted on and the final grinding and polishing would create the final product. The sword has a patina, the fine surficial oxidization of the bronze surface, that dates to about the time of the sword’s first use. Features included in this original patina are the fine scratches of the blades original polishing and grinding, a couple of impacts on the edge, and what appears to be a massive blow to one side that slightly bent the sword. Former ROM curator Francis Pryor, who wrote a catalogue of the ROM’s British and Irish Prehistoric bronzes, subsequently excavated a Bronze Age site in England calledFlag Fen, and he says that several swords deposited in the marshes there were similarly struck on a rock. Possibly the sword was “sacrificed” to make it useable in the Afterlife. The sword was probably used, and had a life in the Late Bronze Age, wielded by a warrior of that time, and then was very probably “sacrificed” in a body of water like those at Flag Fen. Of the over 600 Bronze Age swords found in Ireland, the majority seem to have been found in contexts that would have been bog or stream in the Late Bronze Age, a practice found across Europe for at least another thousand years. Now and in the recent past the old bogs would have been dry, with just the peatier soil showing archaeologists what would have once been standing water, but to this day these swords are found by deep ploughing of what is now peaty soil.
Apart from the Late Bronze Age patina, the sword shows other signs of use which indicate the object was used relatively recently, and when the ROM acquired it, the sword had been refitted with a handle. The handle seems to be made of rawhide, riveted on with iron, and has a curve. If the curve is meant as a finger-guard, that would give the re-used object a side. The recent signs of use are all around the edge, making the sword now completely blunt, especially on what would be the front or lead side if the curve in the grip was to protect the fingers. There is also a fine but uneven polish that looks as though it was made by the sword being worn thrust into a belt, and the owner’s clothing would have polished the sword for some time. Apparently this was not uncommon, but what is uncommon about this object is that we may know more about the more recent owner of the sword.
The shipping document that came with the sword in 1909 is from a company in London, England, called Fenton and Sons. Although the ROM has few other Prehistoric Irish objects from this source, I am told by Mary Cahill of the National Museum of Ireland that Fentons did a lot of business with their insitution, then called the Science and Art Museum, Dublin. On the document it states that the sword was “taken at New Ross, Co. Wexford, Ireland, in the Rebellion of 1798.” Although dealers are notoriously unreliable in the attributions they give, Francis Pryor has said that he did not think it was the type of story that a dealer would simply fabricate. Indeed Currelly was probably not especially selective anyway, and was largely into acquiring quantity more than objects with intriguing stories. Fentons also do not seem too concerned with “stories,” as is evidenced by documents such as this. So we may probably assume that the sword was indeed last used at New Ross.
- The Late Bronze Age sword and its 18th century grip.
- Detail of the sword. Note the general Bronze Age patina, including the two impacts on the edge, and the later polish from being used in the 18th century.
- Detail of the hilt showing where bronze was poured on to strengthen a poor cast or a crack.
- Detail of the blade with possible in-filled blow-holes, a massive ancient impact on the side (possibly from being hit against a rock?), and scratches and polishing from use in the 18th century.
- The shipping document that came with the sword from Fenton & Sons to “C. T. Currelly, Esq.” The sword is the first entry.
- The grip of the sword, probably rawhide, with iron rivets.
- George Eogan, 1964, “The later Bronze Age in Ireland in the light of recent research,” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, New Series XXX: 268-351.
- George Eogan, 1965, “Catalogue of Irish Bronze Swords,” National Museum of Ireland.
- Simon Ó Faoláin and J. P. Northover, 1998, “The Technology of Late Bronze Age Sword Production in Ireland,” The Journal of Irish Archaeology, IX: 69-88.
- Barry P.C. Molloy, 2007, “What’s the bloody point: Swordsmanship in Bronze Age Ireland and Britain,” in “The Cutting Edge: Archaeological Studies in Combat and Weaponry" (edited by B.P.C Molloy) The History Press Ltd.
- Francis Pryor, 1980, “A Catalogue of the British and Irish Prehistoric Bronzes in the Royal Ontario Museum,” Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
- Robert Mason is a ROM archaeologist. See his previous posts HERE. Follow him on twitter HERE.
- Original post found HERE.
Post by Robert Mason. Last updated: May 12th, 2014