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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sping Pole Lathe

In a Tent.

This is the set up used at the Ribe Viking Centre.

You see that the sapling is tied off to one of the tent frame beams (the side beam in this case). The mid section of the pole is supported on a forked branch. (I would think using two of these would be even more stable.

The lathe is set along the axis of the rear wall. This specific tent does open at both ends.

I'm not sure in demo if the worker just has his back to the public. They also might open BOTH ends of the tent.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Characters - Thorgrimr

There was a man named Thorgrimr, the son of Gunnar, the son of Thorvald who had come from Hardangerfjord to take land in Iceland. When Thorgrimr heard of Ragnar's intention to sail for Greenland he said that it would be no loss, and possibly a good and worthy thing to go and settle there himself.

Thorgrimr at that time was living in his brother's house without wife or child. The land was poor, and each winter was leaner than the last. But Thorgrimr was known as a good carver, and had heard of the walrus and reindeer to be found in Greenland which would give him ivory and antler to work. He said that he planned to profit from this and so sold his share of the farm, packed his tools, and joined Ragnar's ship.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Characters - Ketill

Note: This is the second in the series giving backgrounds of the characterizations DARC members are planning to use for the LAM 2010 presentation.

There was a man named Ketill, son of Einar. He was from the west coast of
Norway, near to Trondheim. This was not the same Ketill who sailed for
Greenland with Eirik the Red, who had settled in the east and named it
Now as a young man Ketill Einarsson had voyaged to Ireland, to make his home at
Dubhlin. He became a blacksmith of some skill and married Bera, known as
the Quickfingered for her skill at the loom. Although Ketill did well
enough at his trade, his luck was poor. Some said of him that he should
dream and plan less, and should work at the forge more. His reputation
became as a man who was quick to spend money, but slow to finish the work.
Although no longer young, Ketill sold his house and traveled to Iceland.
There he hoped his years of experience would have more value, and his
poor reputation be less known. Soon after he went to the Althing to see
if a wealthy chieftain might have need of a skillful smith. But the work
that was offered was that he considered only fit for journeymen, the
making of nails and rivets or the forging of horse shoes.
So it was there he heard the ale-told tales of Eirik and his Greenland.
He met silver tongued Ragnarr Thorbergsson and heard of the voyage to
Greenland that was being planned. Ketill was sure that his skills would
be of high value to Eirik and Leif in such a new settlement. For that
reason, the last of his silver has gone to Ragnarr to pay for passage on
the ship.

Text by Darrell Markewitz - Image by Susan Gold (?)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Characters - Ragnarr & Ka∂lin

Note: This is the first in what will be a series giving backgrounds of the characterizations DARC members are planning to use for the LAM 2010 presentation.

Ragnarr Thorbergsson and Kaðlín Jónsdottir were happy
in their life at Kaupang (Norway). Ragnarr produced wonderful glass
beads and had trading interests in various ships.
Kaðlín produced fabrics suited to the townfolk around
them. Then Olaf the king's friend settled into town
bringing in trade goods including beads and fabric cheaper
than Ragnarr and Kaðlín can make or get. The king made
it plain where his preference was and they saw their trade
drying up.

Unwilling to start a fight they would lose they decided to
pack up and head to that new land they had heard about -
Iceland. It sounded full of promise and the idea of owning
a nice farm with good tenants to do the hard work while they
settled down and worked on a family sounded good. Full of
enthusiasm they sold off their shop, and booked passage to

Unfortunately Iceland wasn't what they had been lead to
believe. No farms were available to be taken they were all
claimed by someone. Making friends with a local chieftain
they hoped that after his trip to the Althing to settle a
claim about a farm that in exchange for some of their trade
goods he might lease them the nice farm involved in the
claim. They went with him to the althing and gifted more
trade goods here and there to help gather support for his
case. Unfortunately the case did not go well and in
addition to losing the farm they wanted the chieftain lost
most of his available money. Now Ragnarr is seen as his
supporter and hence isn't welcome at other chieftain's
homes. Making the best of a bad situation they gathered
together some other disgruntled folks and booked passage to
the wonderful new land Eric found - Green land. Even the
name sounded better than Iceland. Eric would be a much
better chieftain to follow.

Text by Neil Peterson
Image by Darrell

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LAM 2010 - The Senario

The Althing in Iceland of 1000 AD was an important one. As always, many disputes were heard and settled, to the gain of some and loss of others. One of the significant decisions made at the Althing was to encourage all Icelanders to accept Christianity. This did not sit well with all. As always, many things were discussed, and deals made, away from the Speaker's Rock. Some came just to see and be seen. Traders and artisans came to display their wares, seeking customers and commissions at the gathering.
The days of the Landham were now long gone, so the good (even acceptable) farm land had pretty much all been settled. Knowing this, minor chieftains were becoming less and less likely to even oath to new bondi, and not very generous if they did. The famine years were now just a distant memory to only the oldest Icelanders, but still the land was not as bountiful as it once was. One exciting piece of news at the Althing was that of Eric the Red's new Green Land, and even mention of his son Lief's Vinland, both to the west.

There was a man named Ragnarr Thorbergsson, once from Kaupang in Norway. He had come to Iceland, hoping to improve his status and increase his trading. Now Ragnarr was well known for this weather luck, but not so envied for his luck in travel. His travels never were outright disasters, but certainly things just never turned out as he boasted they would.
Ragnarr's schemes at the Althing had not worked as he had planned. He was certainly not alone in this. There were recent immigrants to Iceland, and even young families and second sons, all of whom found that there was no chance of good farm land in their future. There were some who felt the conversion to the new religion was just not to their taste. As always, there were those who felt a fresh start in a new land would solve what ever problems that always seemed to plague them.

So Ragnarr, nothing if not shrewd, quickly hired a ship to sail to the new colony of Greenland. He gathered up a load of the hopeful and disgruntled who would pay him passage against the chance to settle on new farms of their own.
As it happened, things didn't go perfectly on the voyage, with the ship blown off course. Like Bjarni before them, they found themselves near Vinland. Knowing the tales freshly told, they made their way to Leif's buðir and found some Greenlanders already there. Most were not pleased to find that they would need to lay over the winter before continuing to Greenland in the spring.
This mixed group of farmers and craftsmen, of varied ages and original homelands, now finds themselves stuck together in close quarters in Vinland. They are settling in to this remote outpost best they can, and trying to help get ready for the winter soon to come. The ship and most of the crew has gone off down the coast to harvest valuable timber, hoping to improve their lot when they finally make it to Greenland.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : ICELAND

Geography 2 - This is a more focused look of Iceland itself:

The first is a modern view, loaded off the Geographic Guide web site. I had looked at a number of maps available (via Google) and thought this was best suited for our purposes.
Unlike many others, it combines both topography, town sites and roads. It did not use false colour (on many showing elevations, with sea level as green - which is problematic). It did include the locations of the major ice sheets, which along with elevation, is important to understand settlement patterns.

This second map is scanned from Vikings - NAS (Fitzhugh & Ward, pg 165). This is a map of the historic settlement patterns. I chose this one primarily because it shows occupation areas in general during expansion period. The key lists 'by 930' which is as close a reference as we are likely to get for were people are in our target period of 1000 AD.

The last image was scanned from 'Viking Expansion Westwards' (Magnusson, pg 86). It is a nice compliment to the map above. It shows the major town and archaeological sites. I suspect this map will prove the most useful when it comes time to start looking at artifact prototypes.


Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : GEOGRAPHY

After DATE, the next most important consideration in characterization may be PLACE.

The physical location for a character creates a framework that determines what they could know, what they might do, how they might look, and what objects they might have available to them. A town dweller in the home country is sure to be quite different than a farmer in a colony. For most historic periods, the stress should be placed on locally available resources. A good example of this can be found in building construction, where rough form may be cultural, but local materials determine the actual details. This is not always the case, as cultural factors might prevent local materials from being adopted. A nice example here would be early Canadian English freezing to death in cloth coats, because wearing Native style furs was 'just not British'. Access to imported goods has always been restricted, usually thus expensive. What might be easily available in a local area may become high status luxury in a distant place.

The re-enactor is always constrained by the mechanisms of artifact preservation and recovery, a topic that will be dealt with separately. Even when hoping to keep centered to a specific location, lack of artifact prototypes may force you to expand your circle.

As a direct application to DARC at Vinland, take a look at this map of the Norse North Atlantic:

The general immigration patterns during the Viking Age are this:
Danes to England
Swedes to Russia
Norwegians to the North Atlantic
So concentrating on the Norwegians the general pattern is:
Norway to the Shetlands and Scotland
Norway to Ireland (but there are plenty of Danes there too!)
Norse Scotland and Norway to the Faeroes
Norse Ireland and Norway to Iceland
Iceland to Greenland
Greenland and Iceland to Vinland

The pattern is clearly a series of individual stepping stones, both as they moved westward, and as time progressed.

Using our determined time line at 1000 AD, within a normal life time, the primary focus for our characterizations should be Iceland. It is possible to expand slightly to Norway, Norse Scotland and Ireland.

Iceland as a focus presents special problems in terms of artifact selection. Although not marginal, it still had limited resources in terms of raw materials. There will be a considerable impact on the availability and quality of many 'commercial' goods, which primarily had to be imported from the outside. This overall tends to push objects upwards in status level.


Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : EVENTS

Number Two - Historical Events

This is a generalized time line taken from the Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings.

I have cut a slice here, which reflects the possibilities for any of DARC's historic characters. I have used a framework starting at 950, and running through to 1005 (as presented in the source table. This obviously lists the only the largest events.

Key to this is fixing the year date of the presentation. Staff interpreters at LAM do not refer to a specific date in their presentation. If pressed, they will vaguely reference 'about 1000 AD'.

A short background to theory here:
There are a couple of differing ways a living history program could deal with this statement of dates.
1) Refer only to some general historic era (Viking Age). As you might guess, this generally supports only the lowest level of characterization for the individual interpreter (commentary or 3rd person).
2) Relate to a general event (Norse at Vinland). This appears to be the approach being taken at LAM by the staff. Again this supports 2nd person, maybe 1st person characterizations. This would narrow the focus down to roughly 1000 - 1020 AD. The year 1000 is most likely to be given as the general round number.
3) Pick a specific year. Often this target year is researched in great detail, then repeated annually (an example would be Plimoth Plantation) This becomes most useful when delivering full role playing characterizations.
4) A specific, but shifting, year. In the past this has been the normal approach used by DARC, typically we have simply subtracted 1000 from the current year.

Now, one potential problem with the use of a single (repeating) target year is that it does not have provision for the natural ageing of interpreters. DARC has attempted to deal with that by using the shifting date. This is only a problem when you are considering the deep details of a characterization - which is 'what do I know'. Obviously, some of us have characters that have been presented, sometimes with little modification, for over 15 years. Obviously, 'we are not the (wo)men we once were'.
(There is a further consideration of characters and physical ageing to be discussed, but I will leave that for a future posting.)

So the slice of time seen above brackets the potential life of our oldest character (certainly Kettil), but does not extend much past the Vinland presentation date.

Obviously there needs to be a regional aspect added. If Ragnarr is originally from Denmark, what he knows about events is most certainly different from what Kettil knows (Norway born). The next posting will look at geography.


Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : ART

Author's Note: Hopefully this will be the first in a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

Number One - Artistic Styles :

The table above is taken from 'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga' by Fitzhugh & Ward.

Our time point is roughly 1000 AD. That puts things with MAMMEN as the primary style.
RINGERIKE is still relatively new, and may not be seen outside the homelands.
JELLING has just faded, but is likely to make up many of our 'older' objects.
BORRE may exist in some heirloom objects.

Most importantly, both OSEBURG (too old) and URNES (not started) style objects should not be included on decorative objects.

There will likely more to be said about all this in upcoming posts.


(The most obvious starting point would have been geography, but I am having a bit of trouble finding a single map that ties the entire westward expansion over the North Atlantic to the homelands.)

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Objects - Authenticity Levels?

(This piece duplicated from 'Hammered Out Bits')
One of the things that all of us in DARC are struggling with right now is gathering the collection of objects we will need for our presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows in August of 2010. This is a major undertaking for the group, and we all want all aspects of our presentation to be at the highest standard possible.

Picking 'what they carried' is key to the image of the Viking Age that we will create. Objects define the characters and shape the activities undertaken. By serving as jumping off points for conversation, objects help mold possible discussions.

To avoid some confusion, often there is a differentiation made between 'reproductions' and 'replicas'. Reproductions are generally held to be duplicates of the artifacts as they now exist (partial or corroded for example). Replicas are generally considered to be a duplicate of an object when it was 'new'. Our interest here is primarily on replicas, be it duplicates of a specific objects, or something within a known type of object.
There are a number of criteria under which any specific replica object might be evaluated. This can get a bit confusing, as there is considerable overlap in the qualities expected, especially at the higher levels of detailing.
One set of considerations involves the general historical authenticity of a purpose made object. This primarily as assessment of the specific artifact prototype chosen :

Level One : Historic / Not Modern

This is perhaps so obvious that sometimes as a separate level it is disregarded. Here, obviously modern era objects are avoided and replaced with a sample from past history. An axe is used instead of a chain saw, a flame for lighting over electricity, clothing has the feel of 'costume'. Generally the combined effect of a collection of such objects is to leave the viewer with the impression of the scene being 'not modern day' but the exact historic period being represented may not be immediately obvious.

Level Two : Time Period

The object now will fit into the general types known from artifact samples from over the spread of the historic period of interest. A elements from a number of specific sources may be combined into one replica. An axe has a specific shape to head and handle, an oil lamp may replace a candle, clothing now has the feel of 'ethnic costume'.

Level Three - Cultural Set

At this point objects begin to draw on quite specific cultural prototypes. (Danish rather than Saxon for example.) There may be a narrowing of selection to reflect individual geographical locations. There will start to be a narrowing of focus to match the artifacts chosen against their specific functions. A combat axe as distinguished from a felling axe for example.

Level Four - Specifics

The last level is a bit harder to define, as it relates to quite specific narrowing of the artifact prototypes under consideration. Ideally, the choice would be all of A/B/C. In actual fact, it is often not possible to find an existing artifact that can fit all three characteristics. At this point, the detail of the persona characterization may become an important factor in determining the specifics chosen:

Level Four A - Date
Which may be extended backwards by 'heirloom objects'. The turtle brooches in Iceland a perfect example.

Level Four B - Location
Which may be extended by trade networks. Birka having a wider assortment than the backwoods of Iceland for example. Care needs to taken to avoid the obviously 'one of a kind' samples (See the 'Golden Buddha Rule')

Level Four C - Social Status
Which is often something that restricts the range UP - not as much DOWN. Even a king might use a wooden spoon! Most often this restricts overall quality and choice of materials, a brooch of simple iron rather than one of engraved silver.

A second evaluation can be made by looking purely from the standpoint of experimental archaeology. This is an assessment of the production methods used to create the replica. Potential historic accuracy of any object inside a living history presentation can be made on the following four point scale:

Level one is 'Form':

Here the rough appearance of an artifact is duplicated. This produces an object which is essentially decorative only ( a stage prop), and where the both the physical materials and production techniques used may be modern. Such an item will be acceptable when viewed from a distance of several feet. For example, most clothing used in historical presentations falls into this category - the cut may be loosely based on period types, but usually the fabrics are modern and sewing machines are used in the construction. Generally only the simplest of information may be gathered through the use of objects of this level.

Level two is 'Function':

Here the utility of an artifact is duplicated. Some care has been used to match materials and processes to match an existing artifact type. This item would be acceptable when held in the hand and would match the general performance in use of an original. A good example would be a hand forged axe properly heat treated and balanced. Although made using modern materials, there would not be a large difference in handling between these items and an original artifacts. Basic information about the characteristics of an object can be gained at this level.

Level three is 'Materials':

Here the original materials and production methods are duplicated, with special care made to duplicate the exact measurements of an individual artifact. A reproduction shawl made of wool and hand woven; with careful choice of colour and thread textures would be an example. Although it would not be required that the fleece to have been naturally dyed or hand spun, there would be no observable difference to indicate modern steps in the chain. The process of creating the object is now a source of information as well as that supplied by its actual use.

Level four is 'Processing':

At this point the raw materials themselves are created using period techniques, followed by using period production methods to produce an exact replica of a specific object. The item will be acceptable even using detailed analysis. At this level, the chain of production often becomes quite involved. For example, the production of an iron boat rivet (such as found at L'Anse aux Meadows) could involve recreating a charcoal kiln, processing bog iron in a bowl furnace to produce the iron rods, then finally the manufacture of the rivet itself using period styled forge and tools. Because of the complexity and scope of such experiments, the amount of data gathered is large and can often result in unexpected findings.

Applications :

When considering the objects to be included in DARC''s presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows in 2010:

Considering Historical Authenticity (Prototypes):

Every attempt should be to include as many objects as possible that exist at the full range of Level 4 (Specifics). Ideally all of date / location / status should be matched to individual characterizations.
(The original set of objects for LAM were detailed between Level 2 and Level 3, this primarily in an attempt to portray the wider range of Norse material culture.)

Considering Historical Accuracy (Production):

Ideally the majority of our objects will confirm to Level Three (Materials). Those demonstrating individual crafts specialties should endeavor to include some objects at Level Four (Production).
(The original set of objects for LAM were detailed between Level 1 and Level 2, with a selected few at Level 3. This primarily due to a quite restrictive budget.)

A possible third set of qualifications can be to sort objects by their effective contact distances. That is the distance where any differences from historic prototypes become obvious.

Across the room - 10 feet
During conversation - 3 feet
In the hand - 1 foot
Detailed look - 6 inches
Scientific observation - a magnifying glass

Steve Strang made an important observation, based on his experience working a number of different historic periods :
'Any object should have a level of authenticity which matches its normal observation distance.'
What he is getting at here is that differing objects are intended for different 'contact distances'. At a minimum there should be no easily observable modern aspects at that distance. A piece of clothing should have hand sewn seams on the outside edges, but any seams underneath are not observed, and can thus be modern machine stitching. A knife blade could be made of roughly polished stainless steel, as normally it is never placed in the hands of visitor. A drop spindle, which might often be placed in the hands of a visitor, needs to have a high level of detailing.

Generally this means that all our objects must pass observation at a distance of at least three feet (conversation distance) as a bare minimum. A very good number need to pass observation at one foot (in the hand). There may be some rare few that need to withstand observation at six inches (close to the face).

One last general guideline is from Bruce Blackistone - 'Uncle Atli's Bronze Buddha Rule' :
'No more than one really weird/exotic/semi-improbable item in the camp at an event; and it must have a logical, historical explanation.*'
* Such as: "This odd statue came from my uncle who traded for it in
Miklagard" NOT "When I ventured through China and Japan after being
kidnapped by Gypsy pirates, I became a Buddhist."
(Note: This is an expansion of a segment I wrote for 'Interpreting the Viking Age' in 2000. It should be considered to be FULLY COPYRIGHT material. )

Darrell Markewitz

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

On : "Viking garb accessories..belt and pouch?"

(Cross Posted from 'Hammered Out Bits')

This post is edited from my comments relating to a topic under consideration right now on NORSEFOLK . The following came in from those indicated (first names only) that bears on the topic at hand:

Is it standard to wear a belt w/pouch over a woman's apron dress? ... Proper styles? I'm putting together my first viking garb outfit.

A nice article on the pouch controversy comes from a Regia group,
Guerin y Gwyr:

As one of the main authors of the article on pouches within Regia that
Guerin y Gwyer have posted on their website.
I would like to point out this was a bit of research done when the
Authenticity officer was planning a total ban on pouches within the society
( due to the large number of painted hard leather "cartridge box" style
Myself and Andy and Gary ( surnames removed) were acting as Devils advocates and pointing to evidence of some types of pouches in period in the UK. Including evidence pointing towards fabric pouches being use in the UK.


On this :
Note that there is an underlying philosophy to re-creating past eras at the core of this quite excellent overview (which I suggest anyone interested here reads). To paraphrase from the introduction to the article above :

' ... the Code of Law is organised so the argument for (the use of any object) bears the burden of proof. We must prove our case (for the inclusion of the object) rather than the Authenticity Officer proving his (reasons for removing it). Since its inception it has been accepted by the authenticity department that three provenances are regarded as sufficient proof for the use of a period item in a Regia context. '
So this is the core principle adopted by Regia to regulate what objects might be included for use in any of their presentations. On the face of it, very good - seems clear and easy to understand. Notice that it specifically relates to the individual historic focus of Reiga Anglorum itself. They describe themselves : "Regia Anglorum attempts to recreate a cross section of English life around the turn of the first millennium. Our actual self imposed brief is AD950 - 1066..."

Now, if you refer back to Allan's comment, you catch something else. Its a reference to a specific practical problem, what I will refer to here as a 'requirement' :
"... the Authenticity officer was planning a total ban on pouches within the society ( due to the large number of painted hard leather "cartridge box" style
So two things are pointed up here.
1) The structure of this group is such that there is a specific individual who serves as the arbitrator for such decisions.
2) In this specific case, a generalized ruling was under consideration. This because a specific style of object (hard leather box pouch) had grown to be used by participants, well outside what was considered suitable from the artifact record.

So the general implementation of the ruling of 'no belt pouches' was based as much on reaction to an over use of a specific type, than a general lack of artifact evidence. In the article, there is a summery of a number of available artifact prototypes, but also a quick discussion of the problems related to the preservation of certain kind of objects in the artifact record at all.

Ok - to continue:

Then there was a lot of back on forth after this, primarily directed to larger shoulder style bags, simple rectangular haversacks or 'scripts', mostly suggested made out of various fabrics. The raw volume of 'needed' objects seemed to keep growing, and thus the size of the bags ever increasing.
I'm afraid I start feeling like a 'Russian Judge' listening to this talk. More fool me, I keep wanting to direct people back to basic principles (usually followed up with some practical advice):

The simple solution is to do what they did in the Viking Age.

Have less stuff
Carry less stuff

Lock all your modern personal valuables in the car - then all you need
to have available is a single car key. That does not need to be on your
person most likely, so it can stay in your sea chest.

Modern Wallet? Like - why? You don't need your ID on you, credit cards
are useless at the event. Cash does not take up too much space. Norse
with a cell phone - you are kidding, right?

I have a real small pouch for the belt. Its maybe 3 x 4 inches. It holds
my asthma inhaler (always) eye glasses (sometimes), watch (very rarely)
and sometimes that single car key. There would be room for folding money (as if I ever had any anyways.) What else do you REALLY need?

If I might suggest : Shedding modern gadgets is part of integrating into
a historic characterization....

(round two)

First - A common solution observed from Settlement Era events (both men and women) :
Remember those old hippy bic lighter 'pouch on a thong' things? I've seen women wear a small asthma inhaler size pouch (like about 1 1/2 x 2 inch) pouch around
their necks - which (for many) just fits down the cleavage. This is big enough for an inhaler, that key, some folded paper money.

Second - No reason not to steal ideas from other time periods :
In the early 1800's (at least in Upper Canada) women could wear a flat fabric 'pocket' on a flat ribbon of cloth that tied around the waist and under the apron. Take two pieces of cloth and sew them around the edges. (The prototypes are oval, with a slit at the top for access) This allowed them to hold and carry some personal items.

Third - I do NOT want to get into a bitch slap with the costume people.
There are a number of underlaying core assumptions being made by many people on this topic - maybe without them realizing it:

1) Are the limited historic evidence of (women's) clothing in any way accurate to 'real' life?
2) Are those evidences only relevant to specific class / wealth / situation?

These two are of primary significance to this whole conversation.
- The illustrations are by their very nature cartoon like. They are almost always A) physically small and B) rendered in media that do not allow detail. I defy anyone looking at a one inch high silver token of a woman to make out anything more than the most general outlines. Much less if there is a small flat pouch under an apron.
- Burials are NOT representational of daily life. Do modern people get buried with their driver's licences and medications stuffed in pockets? Does anyone really carry a cell phone in their wedding dress?

Fourth (key) - What depth of re-creation is any individual able / willing / intending to maintain?

A number of people mentioned (thank you) that there is a balance to be made between a modern reality and a historic accuracy. If you REALLY are trying to duplicate the 1000 AD Norse - you just DO NOT have a cell phone! I'm afraid the whole conversation was degrading into an argument about 'having your cake and wanting to eat it too' ... but at the same time 'not having anyone see you carry it around with you in the mean time'.

Now, anyone who has been following this Blog (or check the links please) , I primarily operate at a fairly professional level in terms of historic interpretation. Please remember that this informs my point of view and comments.

Some more advice, from (considerable) experience in designing museum interpretive programs, which often have to deal with the same root problems:
- Staff are modern people who live in the 21st Century (they just work in the 'past')
- Some modern objects are required on hand for security, safety, etc
- The general public often has considerable access to the presentation area (if only when someone's back is turned).

There are a number of ways to create 'passive security' for equipment.
- Use of simple fabric / leather bags or closed baskets to hold and cover modern objects that need to be close to hand / be highly portable (this discussed recently at some length)
- Use of smaller wooden chests (small sea chest from Oseberg the ideal prototype) The easiest way to secure this is simply to use it as a seat.
- Obstruct entry ways to tents etc by placing chests / shields / buckets, etc across entrances. In practice, most people will not actually enter a space they have to 'crawl over' to get into.
- Away from camp? Slide the sea chest so its under the edge of a bed. Or place something heavy on top of it (say a shield). Or put a lot of simple smaller stuff on top. You'd be surprised how the remains of a lunch (crust of bread on a wooden trencher) set on a sea chest will keep people from trying to open a box.
- Away from your spot at the fire? A loop of rope tied around the sea chest will act as a simple restriction to access.

Yes, I KNOW we can all supply stories of nervy people who will poke into almost anything. I KNOW there is little you can do to stop someone seriously intending to steal things.
Truth is - anything so valuable that its theft represents serious loss - is just plain best left at home, or locked in the car. (If its not secure locked in the car, then you OBVIOUSLY should have left it at home!) If you decide to bring it and then carry it with you, just put up with the fact that you will just NOT resemble someone from 1000 AD at the market (who never had a camcorder in the first place).

If someone moves my sea chest to get it open, then complains about my modern first aid kit inside?
It says a heck more about THEM than it does about ME.

"Re-creating History is the Art of the Possible"

Those who are interested in this whole aspect of historic re-creation, might want to read my 1998 paper :
Lessons from the Viking Age - Development of an Interpretive Program for L' Anse aux Meadows NHS

(I once worked with just one other interpreter inside a camp presentation which was visited by 8,000 people over six hours)
Vandy as 'Bera Quickfinger' at the 'Norse Encampment'.
The Orangeville Medieval Festival, 1995


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      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © Dark Ages Recreation Company, 2007
Photographs © Individual artists
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