Tag: Science in the Middle Ages


Observational Archaeoastronomy at Stonehenge: Winter and Summer Solstice Sun Rise and Set Alignments Accurate to 0.2 o in 4000 BP

Our studies since 1980 of Solstice and Equalnight Sun Rise and Set alignments at an ancient site in southern Alberta, the Majorville Medicine Wheel Complex (MMWC), have drawn our attention to Stonehenge (Atkinson 1979; Burl 1976, 1993). While there might have been no ideological or religious similarities between societies in North America and Britain 5000 years ago, we know of no evidence that there was not. Indeed, Sun worship was world-wide at that time.


“A Swarm in July”: Beekeeping Perspectives on the Old English Wið Ymbe Charm

At the same time, however, their differing responses to the remedy attest both to the variation of beekeeping practices and the multivalence of Wið Ymbe itself. The fact that two beekeepers interviewed within two days and two hundred miles of each other can respond differently to the charm’s advice on swarms suggests that we reevaluate unilateral assertions regarding what the text might have meant across the hundreds of years that we now know as the Anglo-Saxon period.

A skull from the East Smithfield plague pits in London, located under what is now the Royal Mint. Researchers announced today that they have sequenced the entire genome of the Black Death, one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. Photo by Museum of London

The Lived Experience of the Black Death

To appreciate the importance of the biological effects of disease on a society’s lived experience, it can be useful to look at modern examples. Polio provides an excellent example. Children who survive an infection of polio – and escape the neurological incapacitation that can result in disability up to paraplegia – have a fifty percent chance of suffering the similar effects of post-polio syndrome later in life.