Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction April 8-14

Some posts I enjoyed this week from around the web:

bookcover image House of Binding ThornsI’ve been reading more fantasy lately, and I enjoyed this interview with Aliette de Bodard. I haven’t read either of the books in this Dominion of the Fallen series, but I’m adding her to my list. It is intriguing how the idea for her fantastical world got started—the corrosive effect of bone dust on lungs—and also her embrace of mythic traditions from across a variety of cultures (Vietnamese, Greek), even though her main characters are fallen angels and the temptation would be strong to stay in Christian mythic tradition. There are a number of authors working across and outside our expectations and preset notions as readers and I find that invigorating. I’ve been thinking about that general area of writing along with others, so I’m giving a talk in June at the HNS conference with some fellow ancient world authors about busting the way readers expect mythic heroes should be. And that adds to the churning in my mind and in my writing. Click here for Unbound Worlds “Aliette de Bodard on Fallen Angels and The House of Binding Thorns”

A medieval Jewish cemetery in Rome discovered. The existence of this cemetery was known in theory but the physical location had been lost. The Pope destroyed it in the 16th century. Not surprisingly, a tannery was also uncovered next to the cemetery. Tanneries are noxiously smelly and no one wants to be near them. So guess whose cemetery was put next door? Rome is a fascinating place with so many layers. This one came to light when an insurance company tried to build its new headquarters. Finds will be preserved in a museum, which I think means the insurance building will win, while the skeletons will be rooted out and stored in a museum. Click here for Archaeology News Network “Medieval Jewish Cemetery Uncovered In Rome”

bookcover image Red Seas Under Red SkiesHere’s another fantasy author, Scott Lynch, and his response to a reader who objects to his middle-aged, Black, female pirate, because, of course, women can’t do such things and portraying anyone of color is just being politically correct. Lynch is hilarious in setting this limited reader straight, but don’t click unless you’re very comfy with what I’ll call vivid language but some might call obscene. By the way, Lynch’s books are great. But not if you’re a bigot, apparently. Click here for “Author Scott Lynch Responds to a critic”




image of Hadrians Wall

Hadrians Wall

While our nation is talking walls on borders, Archaeology Magazine has done a feature on the granddaddy of walls, Hadrian’s Wall, which goes east to west across Britain and had a few purposes: held out and held in people and regulated trade. What I found interesting in this article is how much investment Rome had to make in this wall—which, mind you, is only 73 miles wide. At the time it was built, the Roman Empire was at peace and they had huge numbers of soldiers sitting around doing nothing while on the payroll, so putting them to work, masses and masses of them, building a stone wall was simply a good way to keep them from causing trouble and didn’t require new salaries. But then they had to man the towers and forts that were built every mile etc. And they had to import food for the huge granaries that fed that military force. And related work. The archaeologists calculate that ten percent of the population in Britain went to supporting that wall once it was built. All for 73 miles worth. Wonder what percentage of Americans will have to devote their daily work to keeping up the current concept? Ignore history at your peril. Click here for Archaeology Magazine “The Wall at the End of the Empire”  

The joys and pitfalls of using a foreign language while traveling. This is a hilarious and charming post by Tinney Heath. Her adventures with Italian will have you highly entertained. Click here for Tinney Heath’s Historical Fiction Research “Say what? (or navigating a foreign language on its home turf”  


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