36 research outputs found

    Borders, burials, and the extended mind in Early Medieval England: Genesis A and Apple Down

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    This article begins by considering the re-presentation of the Biblical landscape of the Binding of Isaac in the Old English text Genesis A. With reference to place-names, landscapes, and other texts, it demonstrates how this setting was presented as a place of cremation on a hilltop border. The poem may, for audiences living in the generations following the cessation of cremation burial, have served as a means of understanding earlier religious praxis. The article then considers a similar moment of cultural transition written into the conversion-era cemeteries at Apple Down in Sussex, similarly sited in a border region and on top of a hill. Here, a mixed-rite cremation and inhumation cemetery was succeeded by an inhumation cemetery set out in a novel fashion, likely reflecting changes in contemporary religious culture. Both the poem and the cemeteries at Apple Down, in marking these changes, can be understood within Material Engagement Theory, a theory of the Extended Mind, as ‘exograms’: material memory records external to the embodied human brain. The article considers both the poem and cemeteries in this light, and shows how exograms of various kinds might be used to assemble an exogrammar, here defined as a set of ideas distributed across one or more exograms. A framework of this kind, assembling evidence across a diverse range of material and textual sources, is presented as an adaptable method of investigation across disciplines in which various forms of evidence can be understood as residual components of embodied human minds

    First Tests of Prototype SCUBA-2 Superconducting Bolometer Array

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    We present results of the first tests on a 1280 pixel superconducting bolometer array, a prototype for SCUBA‐2, a sub‐mm camera being built for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The bolometers are TES (transition edge sensor) detectors; these take advantage of the large variation of resistance with temperature through the superconducting transition. To keep the number of wires reasonable, a multiplexed read‐out is used. Each pixel is read out through an individual DC SQUID; room temperature electronics switch between rows in the array by biasing the appropriate SQUIDs in turn. Arrays of 100 SQUIDs in series for each column then amplify the output. Unlike previous TES arrays, the multiplexing elements are located beneath each pixel, making large arrays possible, but construction more challenging. The detectors are constructed from Mo/Cu bi‐layers; this technique enables the transition temperature to be tuned using the proximity effect by choosing the thickness of the normal and superconducting materials. To achieve the required performance, the detectors are operated at a temperature of approximately 120 mK. We describe the results of a basic characterisation of the array, demonstrating that it is fully operational, and give the results of signal to noise measurements

    Beacons of belief: seasonal change and sacred trees in Britain from prehistory to the later Middle Ages

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    This chapter addresses the role of trees in religious belief in Britain from prehistory to the later Middle Ages. Despite considerable change to religious practices over the course of millennia, trees have retained a relatively constant symbolic function within systems of belief as signs of the annual seasonal cycle, which affects humans no less than it does the world around us. The principal focus of this chapter is the earliest period for which there is surviving “historical” evidence, namely the early medieval, in which Anglo-Saxon traditional religion was supplanted by Christianity. In the form of the Holy Rood, trees remained a prominent symbolic presence in Christianity throughout the medieval period, being intimately intertwined with the life of Christ and Christian spiritual history

    Trees in the religions of Early Medieval England

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    Book synopsis: Trees were of fundamental importance in Anglo-Saxon material culture - but they were also a powerful presence in Anglo-Saxon religion before and after the introduction of Christianity. This book shows that they remained prominent in early English Christianity, and indeed that they may have played a crucial role in mediating the transition between ancient beliefs and the new faith. It argues that certain characteristics of sacred trees in England can be determined from insular contexts alone, independent of comparative evidence from culturally related peoples. This nevertheless suggests the existence of traditions comparable to those found in Scandinavia and Germany. Tree symbolism helped early English Christians to understand how the beliefs of their ancestors about trees, posts, and pillars paralleled the appearance of similar objects in the Old Testament. In this way, the religious symbols of their forebears were aligned with precursors to the cross in Scripture. Literary evidence from England and Scandinavia similarly indicates a shared tradition of associations between the bodies of humans, trees, and other plant-life. Though potentially ancient, these ideas flourished amongst the abundance of vegetative symbolism found in the Christian tradition

    Hrinde Bearwas: the trees at the Mere and the root of all evil in Beowulf

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    This article argues that the “hrinde bearwas” (frost-covered trees) overhanging Grendel’s mere in Beowulf, which have long been linked with the poem’s proposed sources and analogues, have for too long been represented as little more than an ominous element of the mere’s setting. Although these connections are important in their own right, these trees should also be understood in the context of Grendel’s descent from Cain, whose murder of Abel entwined human lineage with the “branches of sin” – a motif identified in Aldhelm’s Carmen de uirginitate and elsewhere in Old English poetry. If these branches of sin are understood as offshoots from the fruit of the Tree of Death, planted in Eve’s heart in Eden in the composite Junius Genesis, the mere’s frosty trees serve as a reminder to the attentive reader of the continuing grasp of evil over humankind

    The translation of St Oswald’s relics to New Minster, Gloucester: royal and imperial resonances

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    The relics of St Oswald were translated to New Minster, Gloucester, in the early tenth century, under the authority of Æthelflæd and Æthelred of Mercia, and Edward the Elder. This was ostensibly to empower the new burh, sited in the ruins of the former Roman town, with the potent relics of one of Anglo-Saxon Christianity’s cornerstones. This article argues that the relics of Oswald were not only brought to Gloucester to enhance its spiritual and ideological importance, but also to take advantage of the mythologies attached to this king, saint, and martyr, which were perpetuated by a contemporary translation of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica. This work, which emphasizes Oswald’s role in the unification of Northumbria under Christianity, consciously models Oswald on his imperial predecessor Constantine. These and other valuable attendant mythologies may have been consciously appropriated by the Mercians and West Saxons in the early tenth century, thereby staking a claim to the imperial Christian heritage of Rome and Northumbria, and furthering the notion of an Angelcynn that had only recently been promoted by Alfred the Great

    Brungen of Bearwe: ploughing common furrows in Riddle 21, The Dream of the Rood, and the Æcerbot Charm

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    Book synopsis: Trees were of fundamental importance in Anglo-Saxon society. Anglo-Saxons dwelt in timber houses, relied on woodland as an economic resource, and created a material culture of wood which was at least as meaningfully-imbued, and vastly more prevalent, than the sculpture and metalwork with which we associate them today. Trees held a central place in Anglo-Saxon belief systems, which carried into the Christian period, not least in the figure of the cross itself. Despite this, the transience of trees and timber in comparison to metal and stone has meant that the subject has received comparatively little attention from scholars. Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World constitutes the very first collection of essays written about the role of trees in early medieval England, bringing together established specialists and new voices to present an interdisciplinary insight into the complex relationship between the early English and their woodlands. The woodlands of England were not only deeply rooted in every aspect of Anglo-Saxon material culture, as a source of heat and light, food and drink, wood and timber for the construction of tools, weapons, and materials, but also in their spiritual life, symbolic vocabulary, and sense of connection to their beliefs and heritage. These essays do not merely focus on practicalities, such as carpentry techniques and the extent of woodland coverage, but rather explore the place of trees and timber in the intellectual lives of the early medieval inhabitants of England, using evidence from archaeology, place-names, landscapes, and written sources

    Beowulf’s foliate margins: the surrounding forest in early Medieval England

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