The Book of Kells completed in Ireland, c. 800 CE. This folio shows the lavishly decorated text that opens the Gospel of John.
While much of Europe was consumed by social disarray in the centuries following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, a remarkable golden age of scholasticism and artistic achievement began in Ireland. Untouched by centuries of Roman rule, Ireland retained an ancient cohesive society characterized by rural monastic settlements rather than urban centers. From c. 400-1000 CE — an era more popularly known as the “Age of Saints and Scholars” — Irish missionaries spread Christianity, bringing monastery schools to Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. In doing so, they also transmitted a new, effervescent style of art throughout western Europe: Insular art.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Dorothy Hoogland Verkerk, Associate Professor of Art History at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about the astonishing history of Insular art.
In this special guest post, Ms. Susan Abernethy of The Freelance History Writer introduces Ancient History et cetera readers to the compelling life and achievements of St. Hilda of Whitby. Renown for her piety and learning, Hilda is one of the most appealing and yet elusive figures from the Early Middle Ages (or Late Antiquity). Thanks to her vigorous activities, Hilda’s religious and political influence ensured that northern England remained Christian, while many, including The Venerable Bede, attested to her reputation for intellectual brilliance. In 2014, we celebrate the 1400th anniversary of her birth.
Whenever I hear the term the “Dark Ages” I cringe a little bit. This term has fallen out of use, but you still hear it occasionally. The more I’ve studied medieval history, the more I see this era of history wasn’t “dark” at all. There are some “rays of light” that appear to us, even with the non-existent to scant documentation we have. One of them is St. Hilda of Whitby (c. 614-680 CE).
The ancient Picts of northern and eastern Scotland were as enigmatic to their contemporaneous neighbors as they are to modern-day scholars. Nevertheless, despite the shadowy and wild stereotypes that still abound in popular imagination, recent archaeological excavations across Scotland have revealed astonishing works of art, impressive fortifications, and evidence of strong links with continental Europe.
In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Gordon Noble, an archaeologist and professor at Aberdeen University, about these recent archaeological discoveries and how we should best understand the Picts in the history of ancient Britain.
It gives us great pleasure to welcome Ms. Susan Abernethy, manager of The Freelance History Writer, to Ancient History Encyclopedia as our first guest blogger. AHE’s “AHEtc. blog” will function as a place where ideas and experiences can be shared casually by those interested in all things “ancient.” We hope you enjoy it!
Scota: Mother of the Scottish People
An ardent, lifelong passion for history compelled me recently to start researching and writing on various historical topics. Curiosity, along with the presence of certain books in my library, led me to look into the history of Scotland. Scottish history is chock full of fascinating stories and quaint legends. Surprisingly, I discovered that the founding, mythical ancestor of the Scottish people was a woman named Scota, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh and wife of a Greek prince, whose story may be based on actual events as borne out by DNA evidence.
During the Celtic Iron Age (c. 800-15 BCE), the Celts dominated large swaths of the European continent including what is present-day Germany, Switzerland, and France. The World of the Celts: Centres of Power – Treasures of Art (Die Welt der Kelten: Zentren der Macht – Kostbarkeiten der Kunst), displays this forgotten era of European history with astonishing works of art and rarely seen artifacts. These twin exhibitions–now on show at the Baden-Württemberg State Museum of Archaeology and the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart Germany–assemble the most impressive of Celtic objets d’art in the last thirty years.
In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Ms. Sarah Scheffler, a German archaeologist and expert on the Celts, who assisted in the collection of ancient artifacts for the Treasures of Art exhibition. Probing the nuances of Celtic art and style, Scheffler stresses the importance of exchange to the Celts’ art and of how the Celts interacted artistically with their Mediterranean and Germanic neighbors.
The Discovery Programme is an Irish public institution for advanced research in Irish archaeology. Its sole activity is to engage in full-time archaeological and related research, in order to enhance our understanding of Ireland’s complex past. Recently, the Discovery Programme has initiated a project of geophysical investigations as part of the Late Iron Age and Roman Ireland (LIARI) Project.
In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Jacqueline Cahill-Wilson, Principal Investigator for the LIARI Project. This project seeks, amongst other things, to shed light on settlement and society in Ireland during the first five centuries CE, and will involve a critical reappraisal of the nature and impact of interaction with the Roman world.