What Were The Middle Ages?; The Venetian Vampire; Hierakonpolis, Egypt.

What Were the Middle ages? 

The Middle Ages are known as the period following antiquity and before the modern period – therefore they get the name for sitting in the middle!! It is also called the Medieval period and ranged between the 5th and 15th centuries.

The Middle Ages were a time of great change throughout the world. New societies emerged including the rise of Islam and royal based nations and state power. Art and architecture began to improve and become more common with Illuminated Manuscripts, large Christian sculptures and oil portraits by wealthy people. Castle were also being built in stone and towns began to be fortified with solid stone walls.

Illuminated Manuscript
Illuminated Manuscript

The church rose in power and built great cathedrals. They convinced the wealthy to go on Crusades to save the Holy land, and elaborate art was developed for the great cathedrals and churches, like carved altarpieces, pulpits and fonts. There was a large rise in the number and type of monasteries and the groups that ran them.

Abbey of Senanque Provence Gordes
Abbey of Senanque Provence Gordes

People were becoming more inquisitive about life and their world. Exploration happened to America, the Canary Islands and around Cape Horn to India, via sea travel. People began to study and learn philosophy and poetry in schools for the wealthy, and through private tutors for the rich. Great writers like Geoffrey Chaucer emerged at this time also.

Christ - Magdeburg Cathedral
Christ – Magdeburg Cathedral

Military power increased with the building of castles and the fortifying of towns and areas. Infantry and cavalry were popular and in some areas war and struggle produced famine and death.

One of the greatest killers during the Middle Ages was the plague, or Black Death. It killed around one third of the population of Europe. Once it was over there were not enough people to look after the land as they used to and specialised crafts and jobs that people did meant that they did not have to serve a certain Lord or person, they were free to charge what they could and move around to find work.

So you can see, the Middle Ages were a time of great change and was the basis for a lot of the structure that we still see in the world today!!



  • Matheson. L. M. 2011. Icons of the Middle Ages: Rulers, Writers, Rebels, and Saints, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO.
  • Rosenwein. B. H. 2009. A Short History of the Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Illuminated Manuscript – By Frater-gryphon (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Christ – Magdeburg Cathedral –  Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Abbey of Senanque Provence Gordes – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abbey-of-senanque-provence-gordes.jpg



Archaeology Wow!! – The Venetian Vampire

The Venetian Vampire is the name given to a skeleton that was excavated on Lazzaretto Nuovo Island, north of venice in 2006. Archaeologists excavating a Black Death, or Plague cemetery, dating from 1630-1631, came across the remains of a woman who had a brick in her mouth.

The Venetian Vampire in situ
The Venetian Vampire in situ

The brick had been forced into the mouth of the skeleton, which was later revealed to be that of a woman aged around 60, after she had died. Forensic scientists discovered that the brick had been pushed with some force into her mouth, breaking some of her teeth. The practice of placing a brick or rock into the mouth of a person thought to be a vampire was to ensure that they would not feed on other bodies around them, or rise from the dead and attack the living.

The Venetian Vampire
The Venetian Vampire

The Black death was first in Venice in 1576 and the cemetery had been used to bury the dead who had died from the painful sickness. In 1630-1630 the Black Death again came to Venice and the local people re-opened the cemetery to bury the dead, it was at this point that the brick had been placed in the mouth of the woman. It is thought that the body of the woman had been bloated and blood was coming from her mouth, as it does in a decomposing body. Back in the Middle Ages they did not know this. They possibly just saw blood on the remains of her mouth and thought she was a vampire.

Now isn’t that a nice spooky story for Halloween!!!


  • Jenkins. M. 2010. Vampire ForensicsUncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend. National Geographic Books.
  • The Venetian Vampire – http://6d6fireball.com.
  • The Venetian Vampire in situ – Strangeremains.com



Archaeological Site Guide – Hierakonpolis, Egypt.

Hierakonpolis, also known as Nekhen, is an extremely important archaeological site in Egypt. The name means City of the Hawks and was the centre for the Horus Cult. The city was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt during the period between c.3,200-3,100 BC, around the end of the Predynastic period.


The site covered an area of 15 hectares and had what was first thought to be a fortified enclosure, but which is now beleived to have been a centre for culture and kingship rituals. The population is estimated as being between 5,000-10,000 people. There are also the remains of what is being called a zoo, which shows evidence of having had hippos, elephants, hartebeest,baboons and wildcats.

Ceremonial Palette from Hierakonpolis
Ceremonial Palette from Hierakonpolis

The city has the oldest known painted tomb in Egypt dating from between 3,500-3,200 BC. The site of the city had previously been occupied by people of the Badarian Culture who lived in the area.

Painted Tomb Illustration
Painted Tomb Illustration

In 1898 the site was excavated by James E Quibell (who had studied under Flinders Petrie) and F W Green. They uncovered the now famous Narmer Palette which depicts victory by King Narmar and the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is shaped like a shield and shows Narmar wearing the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt.

Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette

The Narmar Palette is on show in the British Museum and well worth a look.!!



  • Shaw. I. 2003. Exploring Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Van de Mieroop. 2011. A History of Ancient Egypt. Indianna: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Painted Tomb Illustration – By Francesco Raffaele [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Ceremonial Palette from Hierakonpolis – commons.wikimedia.org.
  • Hierakonpolis – www.brown.edu.
  • Narmer Palette – By Daderot (Daderot) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….


Activity –   Word Search 31 October 2014

2 Comments on “What Were The Middle Ages?; The Venetian Vampire; Hierakonpolis, Egypt.

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  2. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #9 | Doug's Archaeology

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