Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Artifacts from Medieval Europe

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Artifacts from Medieval Europe

Article excerpt

Artifacts From Medieval Europe. By James B. TschenEmmons. Daily Life Thorugh Artifacts. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015. 321 pages. Acid free $100 (ISBN: 97861060-621-0). E-book available (978-1-6109-622-7).

Artifacts are defined in this book as "any object made or used by humans" (xix). These characteristics distinguish artifacts from written primary sources, although both are studied to learn about the past. The author combines fortyfive visual images of artifacts, related textual sources, and brief explanations and analyses to introduce information about medieval life in Europe.

This book is divided into nine topical sections with essays six pages in length that focus on selected artifacts. The sections are agriculture and animal husbandry; armor, weapons and tools; art and architecture; communication and business; domestic items; entertainment; religion; science and technology; and transportation. Readers will find essays on real artifacts such as a butter keg, horse collar, cradle, tunic, religious icon, pilgrim's badge, flying buttress, chessboard, astrolabe, and cog. In each essay there is an illustration of an artifact, an introduction and description of the item, and a discussion of its significance and relationship to broader issues on the topic. Also many of the essays have a related textual primary source in English, and all have a selected bibliography that sometimes includes websites for further reading.

The essay on the horse collar shows a portion of an illuminated manuscript page from the Luttrell Psalter (1325-35) in England. The illustration depicts a man plowing a field with a horse fitted with a collar. The author explains how the image can be interpreted to learn about the use of horses in agriculture, particularly for plowing, and how people developed the harness for greater efficiency and comfort for the horse. …

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