Historical things that blow your mind

(104 Posts)
TunipTheVegemal Thu 20-Sep-12 11:07:26

Here's mine (nicked from Cynthia Harnett in The Wool Pack)
Before the spinning wheel became widespread every single thread in every single item of clothing would have been spun by hand by a woman with a drop spindle. We'd have all been walking around with a drop spindle stuck in our girdle so we could spin with one hand at odd moments.

What minor or major facts about the past make your head spin?

The shear number of lives lost in various WW1 battles. Still shocks me everytime.

And on a slightly lighter note, that people used to sling poo & pee into the street or, if they were a bit more refined, have a hole-in-a-bench type loo that simply stuck out over the street or back yard. The Middle Ages must have stunk!

The first steam engine was invented by the ancient Egyptians!

TunipTheVegemal Thu 20-Sep-12 11:18:59

I didn't know that!
On a similar note, the Antikythera Mechanism was quite a surprise.

Clever chaps those ancients!

Marking place as these are fascinating!

I quite like the theory that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were irrigated using Archemides screws.

Paleodad Thu 20-Sep-12 12:37:35

The minor things get me.
This summer, excavating in the agora area of a roman city, a member of the team found a ceramic roof tiles with the perfect impression of a small foot, perhaps (speculating wildly and romantically) the footprint of a naughty child playing where they shouldn't be.
A small thing, but a human connection across time that i find incredible.

That sound ace Paleodad!

Some0ne Thu 20-Sep-12 13:21:53

In the Grotte de Peche Merle in France, half a mile underground, as well as amazing cave paintings, there are childrens' footprints - from 10,000 years ago. Seeing the cave paintings is one thing, but the footprints were truly mindboggling to me.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 21-Sep-12 23:30:39

A random mosaic in the middle of a forest somewhere in England, remains of a house. Brought it home to me that it wasn't just nobles and "show homes" that were "history " - it was a bog standard house that was too. It is one drawback of museums - it puts all the good stuff in one place but gives you no feel that some of the artefacts were just everyday items.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 21-Sep-12 23:35:14

And on the border of science and history - that all that we are, see and touch, all the elements on Earth, were made in stars.

That always blows my mind,

BonkeyMollocks Fri 21-Sep-12 23:36:44

Wow! Just www!

Mind blown!!

smile

Nigglenaggle Sun 23-Sep-12 20:27:59

Definitely with Paleodad on it being the human connections. For example the Roman letters found at Hadrians wall. Some of them could have been written in the not so distant past.

GoingforGoingforGOLD Sun 23-Sep-12 20:51:09

Some bits of cathedrals and churches are getting on for 1000 years old

That amazes me

LaQueen Mon 24-Sep-12 22:15:46

How the Egyptians built the pyramids, so perfectly and so vast.

Watched a program where, even with modern engineering and computers they were really struggling to achieve anything so perfectly aligned and on such an enormous scale.

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 22:38:12

The writing in the stones on the walls of the tower of London of prisoners from centuries ago. Some are covered with protective glass but others you can touch. You can actually touch the carved words of historical figures who quite often had been condemned to die. Love the Tower of London.

These are amazing.

For me: that, for centuries and centuries, it was women who taught children how to read, not men. It was wives and mothers who were literate and doing the early teaching, not men, and not schools.

I guess it seems basic to us now, but it stuns me when I think that the stereotype is that women 'usually couldn't read' and that access to written culture is such a big deal.

2) That every medieval manuscript I look at was written by hand and has survived centuries, but the modern paperbacks won't last much longer than we will.

3) That, if you were a medieval priest, you actually had a set of written rules about what you had to do if a spider fell into the communion wine. You had to drink the wine and eat the spider (so none of the 'blood of Christ' was wasted). If you were a squeamish medieval priest, you had to drink the wine - fish the spider out of the cup - burn the spider-corpse .... and eat the ashes.

confused envy

That is definitely 'gross' not 'envy', there!

RustyBear Mon 24-Sep-12 22:50:19

That we see more images in a single day than an average Victorian saw in a lifetime.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 24-Sep-12 23:21:31

Ooh that's a good one Rusty.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 09:11:58

LaQueen's one is interesting because it's so un-obvious. I would look at a pyramid and think, yeah, we could do that now, easy! Sometimes it takes specialist knowledge to know what is hard.

Another thing is knowledge we take so much for granted that it's hard to imagine people not knowing it. For instance, germ theory of disease. I catch myself thinking 'but couldn't they SEE it was germs?', forgetting that I know it not because I worked it out myself but because scientists got there after a lot of time and looking through microscopes.

That's a pet hate in books (including the lovely Children of Winter, unfortunately). Fiction writers just assuming everyone did somehow know about germs.

rusty - I would love you to bits if you have a reference for that? I mean seriously, I'm not doubting you, I just want a reference!

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sleeplessinsuburbia Tue 25-Sep-12 09:53:25

LRD check out "shift happens" it's updated nearly every year, I remember it once talking about that.

sleeplessinsuburbia Tue 25-Sep-12 09:53:52

On YouTube!

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