I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Archive for December, 2011

Woods of the Viking Age

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book I am writing, dealing with woodworking during the Viking Age. When published in the book, the list will also have alternate names and notes. The countries in which the woods were found are listed, and the final column—Unknown—refers to artifacts that have been uncovered made from some species of the wood.

Speaking of the native trees of the British Isles, the British Woodland Trust  notes that “native trees are usually defined as trees that arrived and grew here naturally after the last Ice Age, and were not introduced by humans.” Since we are here concerned with native trees and, most especially, trees that were available for use in the Viking Age, we like this definition and wish that other countries—and especially those who class as “native,” trees that have a North American or Asian origin—adhered to this definition as well. The following list was assembled from a variety of mainly botanical sources, checked against Wikipedia and may therefore be incorrect. Since we know about as much about botany as most botanists seem to know about history, any corrections will be gratefully received!

Tree

 

Latin

 

British Isles

 

Denmark

 

Iceland

 

Norway

 

Sweden

 

Unknown

 

Alder

 

Alnus Glutinosa

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Apple, Wild

 

Malus Sylvestris

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Ash

 

Fraxinus Excelsior

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Aspen

 

Populus Tremula

 

BI

 

Den

 

Ice

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Beech

 

Fagus Sylvatica

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

BIrch

 

Populus Nigra

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

BIrch, Downy

 

Betula Pubescens

 

BI

 

 

Ice

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

BIrch, Silver

 

Betula Pendula

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Blackthorn

 

Prunus Spinosa

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Box

 

Buxus Sempervirens

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Cherry, Sour

 

Prunus Vulgaris

 

 

Den

 

       

Cherry, Wild

 

Prunus Avium

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Chestnut, Horse

Chestnut, Sweet

 

Aesculus Hippocastanum

 Castanea sativa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unk

 

Elm, Wych

 

Ulmus Glabra

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Fruitwood

 

Pomoidae Family

 

         

Unk

 

Hawthorn, Common

 

Crataegus Monogyna

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unl

 

Hawthorn, Midland

 

Crataegus Laevigata

 

BI

 

         

Hazel

 

Corylus Avellana

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Holly, European

 

Ilex Aquifolium

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk?

 

Hornbeam, European

 

Carpinus Betulus

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Juniper, Common

 

Juniperus Communis

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Larch, European

Larix Deciduous

         

Unk

 

Lime, Large Leaved

 

Tilia Platyphyllos

 

BI

 

Nor

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Lime, Common

 

Tilia X Vulgaris

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Lime, Small-leaved

 

Tilia Cordata

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Maple, Field

 

Acer Campestre

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Maple, Norway

 

Acer Platanoides

 

     

Nor

 

Swe

 

 

Mistletoe

 

Obligate Hemi-Parasitic

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Oak, Common

 

Quercus Robur

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Oak, Sessile

 

Quercus Petraea

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Osier, Common

 

Salix Viminalis

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Pear, Wild

 

Pyrus Pyraster

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Pine, Scots

 

Pinus Sylvestris

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Plum, Cherry

 

Prunus cerasifera

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Poplar, Black

 

Populus Nigra

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Rose, Guelder

 

Viburnum opulus

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Rowan, European

 

Sorbus Aucuparia

 

BI

 

Den

 

Ice

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Service-berry

 

Amelanchier ovalis

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Service Tree

 

Sorbus domestica

 

BI

 

Den

 

       

Service Tree, Wild

 

Sorbus Torminalias

 

BI

 

         

Spindlewood

 

Euonymus Europaeus

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Spruce, Norway

 

Picea Abies

 

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Strawberry Tree

 

Arbutus Unedo

 

BI

 

         

Wayfaring Tree

 

Viburnum lantana

 

BI

 

         

Whitebeam, Common

 

Sorbus Aria

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Whitebeam, Swedish

 

Sorbus Intermedia

 

 

Den

 

   

Swed

 

 

Willow, Almond

 

Salix Triandra

 

BI

 

         

Willow, Arctic

 

Salix Polaris

 

     

Nor

 

   

Willow, Bay

 

Salix Pentandra

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow Black

 

Salix Myrtilloides

 

     

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Crack

 

Salix Fragilis

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow. Dwarf

 

Salix Herbacea

 

     

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Eared

 

Salix aurita

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Green

 

Salix Phylicifolia

 

BI

 

   

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Grey

 

Salix Cinerea

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Goat

 

Salix Caprea

 

BI

 

   

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Purple

 

Salix Purpurea

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow. Net-leaved

 

Salix Reticulata

 

     

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, Tea-leaved

 

Salix Phylicifolia

 

BI

 

Den

 

Ice

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Willow, White

 

Salix Alba

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

 

Yew, European

 

Taxus Baccata

 

BI

 

Den

 

 

Nor

 

Swed

 

Unk

 

Neil Peterson has compiled a very useful listing of woods used in artefacts at http://www.darkcompany.ca/articles/wood.php

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CROSS-TIMING

I think that one of the things I hate most about living history is the tendency to compartmentalize eras. I am certainly not speaking in favor of anachronisms; I am referring to cross-pollination.

If I had a nickel for every time the reenactor of one period—ironically, usually one who decries that no one else is up to his standards—I could probably afford Starbucks for the rest of my life! There seems sometimes to be a prejudice against other eras. I was told that so,meone thought Micel Folcland was beneath contempt because it was not American Civil War. Several AWI reenactors regularly refer to Civil War reenactors as Silly War reenactors and announce that articles on the French and Indian war is beneath their dignity. Reenactors of one era note they will not buy a magazine which features articles on eras that they do not recreate. Reenactors of American living history want nothing to do with medieval—”we had a war to get rid of that crap”—and medieval reenactors note they want nothing to do with American “because it’s not old enough to be real history.” And so on. You’ve probably encountered similar statements and perhaps—I hope not—said them yourself!

The fact is, as I noted while in Norse drag to a cowboy and a Colonial American reenactor at Reenactorfest a few years ago, we reenactors have much more in common than our different eras show how different we are. After a moment of thought, they agreed. After all:

• We both do the same kind of research for our impressions (though as an Anglo-Saxon reenactor noted, it’s far easier for the ACW reenactors!)

• We both wear funny costume

• We usually both adopt pseudonyms for our impressions

• We both use obsolete or “old-time” technology (even persons doing more recent eras in many instances)

• We even often employ the same tools, kit and instruments in many instances (a friend who did several eras called this “cross-timing,” a term that I have adopted; however, reserch things befoe using them!)

And again, so on. The differences are, in the end, rather trivial, sometimes more akin to different cultures from the same era than to segregating influences. There is also the matter that much of earlier culture did not change as fast as today’s OSs and Ipods do, and there was a tendency to not throw away things even if they were “out of fashion.” There are samples of Norse and Anglo-Saxons at the turn of the millennium who used materials from the Roman Empire; there is every indication that the famous Sutton Hoo helmet was at least a century old and even repaired for further use before being placed in the grave! Knowing what went on in the past is often as important as knowing what is going on in the era that you recreate!

A quarter century ago, Donlyn Myers of Smoke and Fire News  (a multi-era newspaper) noted that she and I were two of the few people who were really interested in more than one era. While that has changed, I think, there is still tendency among many to remain oblivious or even antagonistic to reenactors from other eras. That is indeed, unfortunate, because the people who are wear such blinders continually are forced to reinvent the wheel, not to take advantage of what another era has learned and can offer (both intellectual and physical). What can you learn from another era:

• What to avoid without trying it yourself (or changing it for better results)

• What to do (without reinventing the wheel; the number of times groupsw from different eras have virtually the same threads going at the same time—and refuse to listen to anyone who says that “in such-and-such a century they…”—would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic)

• Where to send someone who is interested in another era (instead of trying to pound a square peg into around hole)

• Everyday details of another era (entertaining and educational even if they are not practically useful for your impression; plus, if you are doing a third person, you can use these details to better explain details in your own era)

• As mentioned before, what is offered by sutlers and other vendors of another era that you might use in your own era

• Examples of how to better research and to determine the truth of your era

• Examples for recruiting, kit spex and other ways that your group runs things

The list goes on. These reenactors of other eras can be instructors, students, sometimes even mentors and always fellow travelers.

I have always liked talking to folks from other eras. I like being able to share things, especially with people who regard anachronisms the same way I do. I really like timelines, and I try to go to reenactments from other eras to schmooze and enjoy the ambiance.

What brings this up is that we were recently in Gettysburg and, quite unwittingly, wandered into its second largest reenacting event of the year, Remembrance Day. We stayed an extra day to see the parade, to visit sutlers, to talk with fellow travelers, to trade ways of doing things and to watch thousands of very good reenactors. We had a great time, and we picked up a number of items—tent stakes, bees’ wax candles and lye soap for example—for use in our camp, as well as a few items that were just neat. It was fun and instructive, and if I go back, it’s going to be during an event like this. I heartily urge others from this and other eras to go to such a reenactment, to see, to learn and hopefully to improve!

I also urge folk to go to timeline and other multi-era events. My favorite of the year is ReenactorFest (now Military Odessey Fest, but it will always be ReenactorFest to me!) in Chicagoland in February. And to mix and to mingle with the folks that do another era but who have a Clew!


A recommendation

Micel Folcland focuses on civilian, everyday life, and I assume that this has dissuaded many “swordjocks” from joining or participating after they find they can’t play war games with us. But as I often note, after all most “Vikings” were farmers for most of the year. Dan Crowther has put a good article on civilian living history up on his blog at http://www.celticclans.org/re-livinghistory/?p=460