Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Subjects medieval and Neandertalish

There's lots of bloggable stuff I've come across today, both on the "medieval" front and on the Neandertal front, so to speak. 


First, to the medieval:  Elizabeth Chadwick's blog Living the History has a rather long, but extremely interesting post about medieval horse types.  I knew  some of this before I read the post.  I knew the horse types -- destrier, palfrey, rouncy, were used for different purposes.  Destriers were specially-trained warhorses, and generally ridden only in battle(often not for long; most medieval battles (a) were or ended up being fought on foot and (b) a rider could get unhorsed.  If he got unhorsed, he was vulnerable).  These specially trained horses were quite valuable.  People of means also had palfreys, which were used for "ordinary" riding purposes.  Again, these were quite valuable.  Finally, there were rouncys or rounceys.  These horses were, "garden variety" so to speak -- a horse that would basically get you from Point A to Point B without being too "fancy".  Then there were also "sumpter" horses, that is pack animals.  According to Ms. Chadwick, you'd have to be pretty desperate in medieval terms, to end up riding one of these.  There was lots more detail and some nice illustrations, which I absorbed with great interest.  The reason for all of this is, that horses play a not inconsiderable role in my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertal(because in my "universe" the tarpans -- the original wild horses of Eurasia, which were sometimes painted on cave walls -- were important to the Dauarga/Neandertal people on the planet they, and most of these tarpans had been taken to for a while.  In any case, it is interesting to note(and I have put this in the first book of this trilogy -- that the destriers of the period I'm writing about weren't these great big "draft" type horses you sometimes see in pictures.  They tended to be rather small, muscular, and fast, somewhat like the wild mustangs of the American west, Camargue horses, certain modern Spanish "breeds", and Appaloosas, either in size, or in general shape.  But a lot of the horses of this time were even smaller(that's where the tarpans com in) -- they were pony sized, that is, 13 hands or less.  Just FYI a "hand" is four inches.  Which makes one wonder about the size and weight of either the people or the horses.  In any case, I will give you another hint about my story:  there is a recognizably spotted "Appaloosa" type horse in it.  I chose Appaloosas as a model because in size and shape they seem to resemble the medieval types above.  Not that I know that much about horses.  Though I do  know a great deal about cats, and there is a cat that weaves in and out of my story, and she's a rather special cat.  That's all I'm going to say about cats at the moment, though.   Thanks, Elizabeth Chadwick!


On the Neandertal front, it seems that Greg Laden's Blog and the John Hawks Weblog are trumpeting the announcement from Svante Pääbo's genetics lab, that they have sequenced a complete Neandertal genome from someone who lived 38,000 years ago, in a cave near Vindija, Croatia.  Pääbo and his team have been pioneers in sequencing Neandertal genes, and they have made some quite interesting announcements about certain things, which have caused controversy.  And, for the record, people have interpreted all these announcements in various ways, according to their understanding of Neandertals and their lives.  Some of them have even attempted to spin elaborate tales from all of this -- and some of these tales are more believable than others.  As far as taking a "stand" on any of these issues, I have my opinions, but I don't see any point in reiterating them here.  They will become fairly obvious to anyone who reads my books -- I don't plan for all of them to be medieval-themed, though my present work is, of course.  But for now, I'm kept quite busy gathering information on both "fronts" as well as revising the first draft of my book, hopefully into a fashion that is publishable, and interesting.  In any case, the sequencing of the genome is quite exciting, though I will probably disagree with some of the conclusions.  Quite frankly, though there are some workers in paleoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology whose views re Neandertals come closer to mine than others, I don't entirely agree with any of them, which I think in the long run is a good idea.  After all, my story is unique in some ways(I don't claim it's completely unique, though).  One more interesting thing about this announcement:  The Pääbo people are planning to announce the "complete" Neandertal genome on the birthday of the most famous discoverer of the theory of evolution -- Charles Darwin. His birthday falls on February 12, which, for any American readers, is also the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, though that gets into a whole different story.

Anne G

No comments: