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Dark Age Obscured (History)
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aurelius



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Mick Harper wrote:
best the ASC can offer is an eclipse of the Sun in 538 for a few hours

Those of us who witnessed a full eclipse -- after all the best you can get -- will be puzzled by 'a few hours'. It was full for a few minutes, partial for (what?) twenty minutes tops.


True. The exact translation is:

A.D. 538. This year the sun was eclipsed, fourteen days before
the calends of March, from before morning until nine.


The maximum possible length of totality is brief,

Totality currently can never last more than 7 min 32 s.
- Wiki

but from start to finish (to give the ASC the benefit of the doubt) it could take a couple of hours.
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Boreades


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When's morning in March?

(A rhetorical question for townies, as us country bumkins set our clock by sunlight).

Do the arithmetic.
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Hatty
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Sun comes up just before 5. I know this because one year in honour of the spring equinox I got up on 21st March to see the sunrise. Except it was snowing so no sun which may also have been fairly typical in A-S times.
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Boreades


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That's about four hours then. Unless they were measuring the time with a sundial. Hang on, how were they measuring the time back then?
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Hatty
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There was a reference in an online book I was consulting to 'Normans and Danes' being responsible for wiping out loads of manuscripts. This is the standard explanation for the non-survival of (ancient) manuscripts, but the Normans?

Perhaps the Harrowing of the North is the eleventh-century equivalent of 'Viking raids'. Are there entries in the ASC describing the Harrowing and, hopefully, the destruction of manuscripts? A couple? Or even one?
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aurelius



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Hatty wrote:

Perhaps the Harrowing of the North is the eleventh-century equivalent of 'Viking raids'. Are there entries in the ASC describing the Harrowing and, hopefully, the destruction of manuscripts? A couple? Or even one?


AD 1069:
Soon after this came from Denmark
three of the sons of King Sweyne with two hundred and forty
ships, together with Earl Esborn and Earl Thurkill, into the
Humber; where they were met by the child Edgar, and Earl
Waltheof, and Merle-Sweyne, and Earl Gospatric with the
Northumbrians, and all the landsmen; riding and marching full
merrily with an immense army: and so all unanimously advanced to
York; where they stormed and demolished the castle, and won
innumerable treasures therein; slew there many hundreds of
Frenchmen, and led many with them to the ships; but, ere that the
shipmen came thither, the Frenchmen had burned the city, and also
the holy minster of St. Peter had they entirely plundered, and
destroyed with fire. When the king heard this, then went he
northward with all the force that he could collect, despoiling
and laying waste the shire withal;


Peterborough only 'the north' if you live south of the Watford Gap, but as there's nothing else for these years (I have underlined the sole mention of 'books'),

AD 1070:
Then the monks of Peterborough heard say, that their own men would plunder the minster; namely Hereward and his gang: because they understood that the king had given the abbacy to a French abbot, whose name was Thorold; -- that he was a very stern man, and was then come into Stamford with all his Frenchmen. Now there was a churchwarden, whose name was Yware; who took away by night all that he could, testaments, mass-hackles, cantel-copes, and reefs, and such other small things, whatsoever he could; and went early, before day, to the Abbot Thorold; telling him that he sought his protection, and informing him how the outlaws were coming to Peterborough, and that he did all by advice of the monks. Early in the morning came all the outlaws with many ships, resolving to enter the minster; but the monks withstood, so that they could not come in. Then they laid on fire, and burned all the houses of the monks, and all the town except one house. Then came they in through fire at the Bull-hithe gate; where the monks met them, and besought peace of them. But they regarded nothing. They went into the minster, climbed up to the holy rood, took away the diadem from our Lord's head, all of pure gold, and seized the bracket that was underneath his feet, which was all of red gold. They climbed up to the steeple, brought down the table that was hid there, which was all of gold and silver, seized two golden shrines, and nine of silver, and took away fifteen large crucifixes, of gold and of silver; in short, they seized there so much gold and silver, and so many treasures, in money, in raiment, and in books, as no man could tell another; and said, that they did it from their attachment to the minster.

Afterwards they went to their ships, proceeded to Ely, and deposited there all the treasure. The Danes, believing that they should overcome the Frenchmen, drove out all the monks; leaving
there only one, whose name was Leofwine Lang, who lay sick in the
infirmary. Then came Abbot Thorold and eight times twenty
Frenchmen with him, all full-armed. When he came thither, he
found all within and without consumed by fire, except the church
alone; but the outlaws were all with the fleet, knowing that he
would come thither. This was done on the fourth day before the
nones of June. The two kings, William and Sweyne, were now
reconciled; and the Danes went out of Ely with all the aforesaid
treasure, and carried it away with them. But when they came into
the middle of the sea, there came a violent storm, and dispersed
all the ships wherein the treasures were. Some went to Norway,
some to Ireland, some to Denmark.
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Ishmael


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aurelius wrote:
On most of these occasions the English ‘sightings’ are replicated by the much more consistent and diligent Chinese records.


Probably because the Chinese "records" are duplicates of the ASC.
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Hatty
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They went into the minster, climbed up to the holy rood, took away the diadem from our Lord's head, all of pure gold, and seized the bracket that was underneath his feet, which was all of red gold. They climbed up to the steeple, brought down the table that was hid there, which was all of gold and silver, seized two golden shrines, and nine of silver, and took away fifteen large crucifixes, of gold and of silver; in short, they seized there so much gold and silver, and so many treasures, in money, in raiment, and in books, as no man could tell another; and said, that they did it from their attachment to the minster.

That would explain why no remains of an Anglo-Saxon monastery have been found at Peterborough. However archaeologists did find a bit of a wall about 30 years ago so the cathedral archaeologist, Dr Hall, still has hope.

It is more than 30 years since a dig discovered a small area of wall.

Dr Hall said: "They found the bottom of the wall, which was built out of bright yellow mortar and stone.
"We're trying to trace the wall through to another area."

Dr Hall said: "The signal goes into the ground and reflects from all the layers that are below and bounces back."

She said it was "too early to say if we have found the wall" but remains "optimistic".

The wall is important because according to place-name experts and Anglo-Saxon experts, Peterborough got its name because it became a 'burgh' i.e. a walled town, though burgh seems to belong to twelfth-century administrative records.

Expectations of the Peterborough dig are not high

it is believed that finding archaeological remains pre-dating the abbey are fairly low, so the main focus of the archaeology will probably be on the Late Anglo Saxon period and later.

It's dispiriting since they know exactly where to dig because the present cathedral [founded 1116] is said to be on the site of three previous Anglo-Saxon churches, two of which were looted/destroyed by Danish and Viking raiders.
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aurelius



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Comets & eclipses

Before I move on...

Comets

aurelius wrote:
On most of these occasions the English ‘sightings’ are replicated by the much more consistent and diligent Chinese records.


Probably because the Chinese "records" are duplicates of the ASC.


To put it into context, there is no corroboration at all between the Chinese sightings of 374 CE, 451, 530, 607, 684, 760, 837, 912 or 1145 (these nine corresponding to Halley's periodicity) and ASC, so they didn't make a very good job of the duplication.

I have now discovered there is a lengthy listing of comets in Donald K. Yeomans. Comets: A Chronological History of Observation, Science, Myth and Folklore (John Wiley, 1991). In it some of the Chinese sightings are also reported on the European continent (chiefly Rome & France) by Alexandre Guy Pingre (1711-1796) in his work Cométographie; ou, Traité historique et théorique des comètes, 1783 but I can't find a translation. The sixth century matches are for 530, 539, 541, 582 and 595, the latter also being observed in Korea. None of these match the ASC; 539 duplicates the Annals of Ulster reference; however, given that the A of U is seldom in tune for physical phenomena with any of the other annals this is most probably fortuitous.

Eclipses:

The A of U rarely remarks on eclipses (the first postive one being a lunar one of 734 where it agrees with the ASC and orthodoxy.

The ASC is agreed by orthodoxy after 795, no doubt because orthodoxy trusts it from then on.

The Annales Cambriae has, uniquely, 624, 810 and 831 for the period it covers, 447-954. Again this is an under-reporting of solar and lunar eclipses though total eclipses of the Sun witnessed in the same place for example Britain are comparatively rare, maybe only a couple per century

There was no Total Solar Eclipse visible from the United Kingdom between 1724 and 1925.


Wiki's list of sixth century solar eclipses only gives spot co-ordinates and it is a bit of a pain playing around with their columns to see what was visible from between latitudes 50 and 55 degrees for England:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_in_the_6th_century

I don't fully understand the spot co-ordinates as an eclipse is seen in an arc around the globe and its path could include most of the British Isles.

There is no pattern in the reporting of lunar or solar eclipses between the annals, which further supported my suspicions.[/u]
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aurelius



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Yellow

Procopius of Caesarea, Palestine (c.500 – c.554) wrote:

“From the time when this thing happened men were free neither from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death”.

Pestilence indeed was to follow the dust cloud, in the form of the so called Justinian Plague of 541-2. The argument goes that famine drove the flea-carrying black rats out of the fields and into grain stores where they came into increased contact with humans. With the fleas infected, though unharmed by the bacterium Yersinia pestis it was only a matter of time before their bites triggered a deadly pandemic that tore through the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and, pinballed around from port to Mediterranean port (Constantinople-Alexandria-Rome-Carthage-Marseilles, etc.), before accelerating beyond it.

The account of Procopius is echoed by other authors such as Gregory of Tours (538-594) who, historians trust, gave five notices of epidemic activity in southern France and northern Italy between 566 and the end of the century. Significantly, Gregory observed that once a plague ship had docked and the rats disembarked the effect on the local population was not as immediate as a disease spread by human contacts: instead there was an interval during which the contagion first spread to the local house rats. With the eventual death of their rodent hosts the ‘deprived’ fleas turned to humans. Procopius noticed also that the plague always started on the coast, and worked inland.

Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd in Wales, was said to have died of the "Yellow Plague of Rhos" around 547
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aurelius



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Yellow (2)

The Annales Cambriae thus recorded ‘plague’ in Britain in 547 - and indeed earlier in 537:

537: The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.


Yet there is no evidence that it was the Bubonic Plague itself that reached these shores. 'Plague' did not acquire its modern connotation with a specific microbial disease until the seventeenth century. The word plague is derived from the Latin plaga, originally meaning a blow, but as a sudden outbreak of disease was regarded by the Romans as a 'blow from the gods' and the early Christians often as a divine punishment, pestilence and plague became closely related. So 'yellow plague' could have meant another disease entirely.

None of the three annals make further mention of 'plague' in the sixth century but all do in the seventh.
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Boreades


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537: The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.


Other accounts describe the "plague" period as a wasteland in which nothing would grow. Which suggests something other (or more) than a medical plaque.
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Hatty
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Other accounts...

Whose accounts? Geoffrey of Monmouth's?

If he and/or his contemporaries were the sources of the ASC, they'd be writing at the time of the 1135-54 Civil War.
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aurelius



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Boreades wrote:

Other accounts describe the "plague" period as a wasteland in which nothing would grow. Which suggests something other (or more) than a medical plague.


Exactly. One of the things I wanted to achieve when analysing the annals was to find 'British' references to major events that we can be reasonably sure occurred, like returns of Halley's Comet, the severe weather of 525-7 and the Plague of Justinian. And if the latter two occurred there may very well be a link between them, with the combination producing a massive social impact.

When pestilence swept through the whole known world and notably the Roman Empire, wiping out most of the farming community and of necessity leaving a trail of desolation in its wake, Justinian showed no mercy towards the ruined freeholders. Even then, he did not refrain from demanding the annual tax, not only the amount at which he assessed each individual, but also the amount for which his deceased neighbors were liable.
- Procopius.

We don't need 12th century sources written well after the events.
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aurelius



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I See A Darkness

Can we trust that something or things serious happened between 535 and 540? Here are some more accounts:

535 AD: “the Sun began to go dark, rain poured red as if tinted by blood. Clouds of dust enveloped the earth....yellow dust rained down like snow. It could be scooped up in handfuls” – the Nan Shi Ancient Chronicle of Southern China, referring to the country’s weather in Nov and Dec 535.

535 AD: Massive storms and flooding recorded in the Korean history, the Samguk Sagi.

536 AD: “The stars were lost from view for three months” – China, where records indicate that the light from the Sun dimmed, expected rains did not come and snow was seen in the middle of summer. Famine widespread; in the midst of the turmoil the Emperor abandoned his capital.

536 AD: Falls of yellow dust recorded in Sui-Shi Chronicle, southern China; Bei Shi annals report famines and cannibalism in northern China.

536 AD: Nihonshoki Chronicle, Japan records famine and terrible cold weather. Also ‘plague’, believed to be smallpox or measles.

537 AD: "the Sun...seems to have lost its wonted lights, and appears of a bluish colour. We marvel to see no shadows of our bodies at noon, to feel the mighty vigour of the Sun’s heat wasted into feebleness” –Flavius Cassiodorus.

537 AD: Nan Shi Chronicle records frosts and snow in August.

538-551 AD: Tax amnesty in China due to widespread famine. Tax system collapses.

These are taken from Costa, Nicholas. Adam to Apophis: Asteroids, Millenarianism and Climate Change, D'aleman Publishing, 2013.
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