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Glimpses of History #8: Bronze Age and Iron Age

Bronze Age and Iron Age

While many Neolithic cultures continued to use stone tools, they also developed copper and ultimately bronze metallurgy, leading early scholars to coin the term “Chalcolithic” (copper-stone) to distinguish them from earlier Neolithic and Paleolithic cultures.

The earliest manufactured alloy, bronze is made with copper and tin ores (and consequently required trade with remote ore-producing regions). Gold and copper had formerly been smelted, mainly for decorative purposes, but bronze tools and weapons outlived and outperformed stone. From circa 3500 CE, their use spread from Mesopotamia, with separate cultures amending recipes and techniques. The later discovery of similar techniques in the Americas seems unconnected.

Bronze age is the epoch between the human cultural development between the Neolithic period and the discovery of iron-working techniques (the Iron Age). In Mesopotamia, bronze tools were used from c.3200 BCE and the Bronze Age lasted until c.1100 BCE. In Britain, bronze was used after 2000 BCE and iron technology did not become prevalent until c.500 BCE.

Ireland had rich sources of copper ores, specifically in the southwest, which were recognizable by these early prospectors, and which resulted in the development of a significant copper- and later, bronze-working industry. In Britain and Ireland the beginning of the Bronze Age is marked by the appearance of metalworking, new burial practices, and an growth in trade and exchange.

Bronze Age and Iron Age Tools and swords that outlived their owners made inheritance and theft possible, and as cities developed, so did professional armies. Fields could be ploughed and harrowed, and older clay and wax technologies were put to use in metal casting. Early experiments with iron ore produced a brittle, corroding metal, but around 610 BCE, climate changes triggered mass migrations that made local iron ore mining in Europe easier than importing tin. Elsewhere, notably in Japan and southern Africa, bronze and iron arrived more or less concurrently.

From about 700 BCE a steady change from a mainly bronze-working economy to one based on the use of iron as the preferred metal took place. These changes were intense and irreversible, affecting all aspects of society. Ultimately, iron replaced bronze as the preferred metal for the production of tools and weapons, and bronze was restricted mostly to objects of a more decorative nature.

The working of iron was introduced, probably from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey,) into southeastern Europe around 1000 BCE, and into central Europe by the 8th—7th centuries BCE. The European Iron Age has conventionally been divided into two phases, named after type-sites at Hallstatt in Austria and La Tene in Switzerland. In areas conquered by the Romans the ‘Iron Age’ is succeeded by the ‘Roman’ period. Contemporary cultures outside the empire are designated as being of the ‘Roman Iron Age’. From about 400 CE these periods are succeeded by the migration period.

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How England’s “Once Brewed” Hostel Near Hadrian’s Wall Got Its Name

Hadrian's Wall---Roman Fortification

Hadrian’s Wall—Roman Fortification

Hadrian’s Wall, near the Scottish border in northern England, was a continuous 20-foot-tall Roman fortification that guarded the northwestern frontier of the province of Britain from barbarian invaders.

Hadrian’s Wall extended from coast to coast across the width of northern Britain. The wall was built to control native movements across the frontier and for surveillance.

Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 CE to 138 CE went to Britain in 122 CE and, in the words of his biographer, “was the first to build a wall, 80 miles long, to separate the Romans from the barbarians.” At every mile of the wall, a castle guarded a gate, and two turrets stood between each castle.

The flat-bottomed trench on the south side of the wall, called the vallum, was flanked by earthen ramparts and probably delineated a “no-man’s land” past which civilians were not allowed to pass. Between the vallum and the wall ran a service road called the Military Way. Another less-sophisticated trench ran along the north side of the wall.

Hadrian's Wall - Ruined Forts, Vallum and Noman's Land

Today, many portions of the wall, ruined forts, and museums delight history enthusiasts. Hadrian’s Wall is in vogue as a destination for multi-day hikes through the pastoral English countryside. The Hadrian’s Wall National Trail runs 84 miles, following the wall’s route from coast to coast. Through-hikers can walk the wall’s entire length in four to ten days.

In 1987 Hadrian’s Wall was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over the centuries, many sections of the wall have suffered damage caused by roads traversing it and by the plunder of its stones to build nearby houses and other structures. The best-preserved section runs along the Whin Sill towards the fort at Housesteads.

Northumberland National Park Centre

Youth Hostel Association “Once Brewed” and “Twice Brewed” at Hadrian’s Wall

YHA Once Brewed can be found on The Military Road (B6318) which runs parallel with the A69. B6318 trails Hadrian’s Wall for much of its length and the views over the rural area are dazzling. The YHA Once Brewed hostel is easily identified, the car park is just off the main road, and beside the Northumberland National Park Centre.

Folklore has it that when General Wade was building his military road to help deter anymore of the hostile Scottish Jacobite raiders, it is alleged that he got thirsty—and quite rightly so! So stopping for a swift ale at a convenient pub he was thrown in a terrible rage at the sheer lack of strength of the brew. The ale had been brewed in a typically northeastern way and he deemed it far too weak. Calling the landlord he raged: “this is extremely weak and undrinkable” whilst pointing to the offending pint he made the simple treat “I’ll be back here in a week’s time, I want the beer to be brewed again, or it’s the gallows for you!”

Twice Brewed Inn

So the landlord duly trembled, re-brewed the ale and satisfied the returning general a week later. The episode had progressed into a local (and slightly manufactured) legend, the military road is now romantically entitled the B6318, and however the pub next door is clinging onto the heritage and is named “Twice Brewed”

Youth Hostel Association “Once Brewed” Hostel at Hadrian’s Wall

In 1934 the Youth Hostels Association (the English- and Welsh-nonprofit that provides youth hostel accommodation in England and Wales) came along and converted a farmhouse into a hostel. Looking for a name they saw the pub enticingly next door, and with a gigantic leap of imagination called the new hostel “Once Brewed: opened by lady Trevelyan of Wallington Hall, a lifelong teetotaler she remarked “that shall only serve nothing but tea and that would be brewed once only.”

Youth Hostel Association 'Once Brewed' Hostel at Hadrian's Wall

That may not be anything like the real story however, (there are versions at least of the local legend, which gives the pub its name, normally involving roman wall builders pictish raiders instead of irate generals.)

“Twice Brewed” and Northumbrian Dialect

“Twice Brewed” probably derives from Northumbrian dialect, which means between two hills, or brews something, believed to be from drovers bringing the cattle down from the north looking for a gap between the two “brews” to shelter in.

Nevertheless, one fact is for definite: “Once Brewed” is only called “Once Brewed” because it’s next door to “Twice Brewed!”

Once Brewed - YHA Hostel

Before Twice Brewed was the pub, “East Twice Brewed” was the pub’s name, before that there was “West Twice Brewed,” and before that they all brewed their own (until the revenue men came along.)

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Glimpses of History #7: Neolithic Expansion and Indo-European Migration

Neolithic expansion and Indo-European Migration

At the end of the last ice age, humanity entered a epoch of increasing technological sophistication. For reasons that are still debated, many of the large mammals hunted by humans became extinct, driving the development of new food sources: breadmaking considerably predates this period, but people in Mesopotamia now began cultivating wild cereal and pulses. Dogs had been domesticated over thousands of years; nomadic shepherding became possible through domestication of goats, sheep, horses, camels and, above all, cows.

In the Neolithic period farm animals were first domesticated and agriculture was introduced: it began in the Near East by the 8th millennium BC and spread to northern Europe by the 4th millennium BC. Neolithic societies in NW Europe left such monuments as causewayed camps, henges, long barrows, and chambered tombs

By 5000 BCE, livestock herding was sufficiently established to allow a widespread abandonment of hunter-gathering in favor of settled lifestyles. Pottery was increasingly useful, and permanent buildings, constructed from mudbrick, appeared. These technologies spread out of the Middle East through the Old World (the Americas developed agriculture independently, with only the llama available for domestication). With the arrival of bronze, stone was used less for tools and more for buildings.

The majority of the peoples of Europe and a substantial portion of the present and ancient peoples of western Asia speak closely related languages that all belong to the Indo-European language family. European colonial expansions and the spread of Euro-American culture have been so successful that nearly half the population of the planet now speaks an Indo-European language. Yet the place where this language family originated and the course of its earliest migrations have been topics of heated and inconclusive debate for more than two centuries.

The problem of Indo-European origins and migrations has been a major challenge to prehistorians, and the failure to develop a single fully convincing model is a salutary caution to anyone interested in tracing the path of migrations in the archaeological record. If increased doubt is the result of the type of intense discussion that tracing the roots of the Indo-Europeans has occasioned, then this does not bode well for many other hypothesized migrations that have seen far less scrutiny.

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Thermae Bath Spa: The Thermal Springs that Soothed Ancient Roman Conquerors

Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, England

As the sun sets across the Georgian rooftops of Bath, there is no finer place to be than wallowing in the steamy warmth of the rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa. It is the lone location in Britain where visitors can escape into spring water that is naturally heated. Hotel spas, even in Bath, make do with warmed tap water. Thermae uses mineral-rich spring water bubbling up from the limestone at 113 deg F—just like the Romans who built the intricate bathing complex that still stands a few hundred yards away.

There is a modern sense of luxury within the modern construction. More than 140 architects competed to win the contract. Nicholas Grimshaw’s winning design uses conventional Bath stone, like the Georgian buildings surrounding the spa, plus giant swaths of glass and idiosyncratic round portholes. This building also accommodates the Minerva Bath, the largest and most futuristically stylized of the three on offer, with massage jets, a whirlpool, and a “lazy river.”

Cross Bath, Thermae Bath, England The customary treatments are available, as well as private escapes to the restored Georgian Hot Bath and the secluded Cross Bath, a stand-alone bathhouse across the street built above the site of the original Roman cistern. At the main three-story spa, there is everything a latter-day Roman bather could want: scented steam saunas in circular glass pods, an indoor pool with gently flowing currents, bubbling foot baths, a huge shower big enough to soak a dozen people at once, and the highlight, a rooftop pool. The naturally heated rooftop pool on the spa’s New Royal Bath building is best enjoyed at night, when the skyline is floodlit. Visitors can take in a panorama that includes the ornate towers of 17th-century Bath Abbey in the center of town.

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Historic elegance and Fine English Hospitality of Bath’s Royal Crescent Hotel

Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa in Bath, England

Jane Austen fantasies come alive at this elegant hotel ideally situated in the middle of Bath’s architecturally celebrated Royal Crescent.

The Royal Crescent Hotel is situated in the middle of Bath’s beautiful eighteenth-century Royal Crescent. The Royal Crescent Hotel occupies two remarkable buildings virtually untouched since the eighteenth-century when the landed gentry of the day would visit Bath during the “season” for the water’s health-giving properties.

The exterior of the hotel looks much as it did 250 years ago, whereas inside, huge vases of fragrant lilies perfume the air, a fire crackles in the drawing room, and inconspicuous staff appears as if from nowhere precisely when you need them. The bedrooms have been lovingly restored to make certain they are just as they were in the eighteenth century. Carpets, color schemes, and furniture have all been meticulously chosen to ensure genuineness, but not at the expense or comfort.

Dower House, Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath The ideal magnitude of the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath’s architecture, the cobblestones underfoot and the views of the hills around Bath and honey-colored municipality characterize English sophistication. The hotel, bang in the middle of this iconic-terraced Royal Crescent, is a neoclassical enchantment inside and out, as comfortable as can be, with fine dining, an even finer spa and unswervingly old-fashioned, first-class service.

For a spa, head to the Bath House, which offers a variety of treatments including a warm relaxation pool where gothic windows let natural light to flood in. After a few unhurried lengths, soak in one of the toasty hot tubs prior to steeling yourself for an stimulating plunge in one of the icy tubs of cold water, a practice said to do wonders for the blood circulation.

Of course, you do not need to stay for long to enjoy the best of the hotel: Do not give up eating at the Royal Crescent’s restaurant, the Dower House, which overlooks the garden. Alternatively, on a sunny day, find yourself a seat under a flower-adorned magnolia tree in the peaceful and secluded garden, listen to the birdsong, and enjoy an self-indulgent afternoon tea just like those elite Georgians did back in Bath’s heyday.

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