ossamenta: Radcliffe Camera and Brasenose College, Oxford (Oxford)
The data on Merton College's food purchases are finally copied to a spread sheet. Well, only for the financial year 1488-1489 - it was the only year with a complete set of records (technically complete-ish: one week is missing). I'm working on the translation - the records are written in Latin mostly, with the occasional Middle/Early Modern English thrown in. Consistent spelling is optional. There are frustratingly many items where the dictionaries at the university library fail me. I think most of them are fish, but I'm not always certain.

There is also one regularly occuring item where the translation bugs me: "gullatts", translated as neck. The records mention type of food, but rarely what cut is purchased. Exceptions include marrow bones, calves' feet and sheep heads. Gullatt is a Sunday food, together with beef, mutton, suckling pig, calf, chicken, squab, goose and rabbit*. It's clearly something special, but "neck"? Why not just include that cut at species level, like the rest of them? Or does it have specific significance? I think my next step is looking at medieval cook books, and see if any of them mention gullatt. Most online cookbooks were written in the vernacular, so the next practical step is probably to contact people working with medieval food and cooking.

*: venison is not mentioned at all in the records since that seem to be something the college got from its own lands and not the town butchers.
ossamenta: Radcliffe Camera and Brasenose College, Oxford (Oxford)
Since I wrote the bone report for the Queen's College kitchen excavations in 2009 or thereabouts, I had in mind to research college diets for an article. Previous work has been done on differences in diet between different groups in Medieval British society: rural, urban, elite and ecclesiastical*, but from what I could see in the QC assemblage college diet seem to be a fifth group. Bearing in mind that there are only two universities in Medieval Britain: Oxford and Cambridge, so the sample size is a bit small... I was all set up for some serious library time this weekend, checking all I could find on the historical sources - naturally not found in any single book (because that would be easy), but hidden here and there in old records (thankfully most of these would be transcribed and/or translated into modern English). And then Friday struck me down with a cold. :-( So I guess it will have to wait until next weekend.


*: see N.Sykes, 2007. "The Norman Conquest: A Zooarchaeological Perspective", Archaeopress; Oxford, and N.Sykes, 2006. From cu and sceap to beffe and motton: the management, distribution and consumption of cattle and sheep AD 410-1550, in "Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition" (eds C.Woolgar, D.Serjeantson and T.Waldron), Oxford University Press; Oxford, pages 56-71.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Today I had the day off, not spending time in the sunny outdoors, but sitting in the university library for about eight hours reading Medieval German guild regulations. Unfortunately not all books complied with the Bodleian's photocopying regulations so I had to do a lot of copying by hand. It's a pain in the ass, particularly when you have to go back and check for spelling errors. It's not just the changes in spelling over 600 years, there are also changes within Germany. Today I've gone through regulations for Cologne and Lüneburg, and tomorrow I'm back at the library, going through bibliographies to see which other guild regulations are available. I know that the university library have some digitized, which means I hopefully can read them at home, if the log-in works. Others I will have to order from the stacks, and some I will have to read at the British Library in London. Hopefully I will find some nice patterns, or some exciting details that can be of use for my tanning Ph.D. idea.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I think I will remember 2012 for two things: the huge EEK report and going to conferences. Admittedly, I will do some work on EEK in 2013 when I get my report back with comments, but most of the work was done this year. Hopefully next year will bring slightly smaller assemblages (it's always nice when everything can fit into one office so you don't have to request van+driver if you need to get hold of some bones for re-checking stuff). I went to two conferences this year: The big EAA conference in Helsinki and a small craft conference in London. Both were very stimulating and once I get back to Oxford after the holidays I will take some time to work on my Ph.D. proposal, testing the waters in Germany/Denmark/The Netherlands.


And while I'm at it, I might just as well go through and delete some bookmarked links I thought would make for interesting reading:

- A different way of doing faunal history: Scientists use wormholes in old books to see the geographical and chronological spread of two furniture beetles.

- Coffin birth - how it happens and why. This is not only relevant for human osteologists, as we occasionally find animal burials containing an adult animal with associated foetal remains. Did the animal die while giving birth, before, or after? Or are the adult and foetus/newborn not related at all?

- A long account, but one very much worth reading, of the identification and eradication of kuru, the "laughing death" disease connected to the eating of human remains. And kuru is not the only disease that's gone, last year the livestock disease rinderpest was officially declared eradicated.

- Two very interesting posts on methods for interdisciplinary research (part 1, part 2), which I feel I need to read much closer as it has huge relevance for my Ph.D. proposal. Unfortunately, one cannot know everything, and knowing when to stop trying to learn things oneself and going asking experts is tremendously important. However, one also needs to know a fair amount of the "other subject" in order to ask the right questions.

- And finally, something for the bone-minded knitters among you :-) .

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ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
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