Monday, 2 June 2014

The Golden Middle Ages

Glass from the Merovingian times
Last week I went to an exhibition about the early Middle Ages in Leiden.

Most people think the Middle Ages were a period in time when nothing happened and all civilization was gone. After all, the Roman empire had fallen and Charlemagne and his Carolingian renaissance had not yet arrived. So live must have been miserable then.

In truth, the early Middle Ages was a time of peace. The south of The Netherlands was part of the Merovingian empire that had its base in France and in the north lived Frisians and Saxons.

Most people lived on farms, but there was also (long distance) trade. Beautiful jewelry was found, made in England, or from stones that originated from India or Pakistan.

Golden helmet
Medical knowledge was quite advanced, complicated bone fractures could be healed and even cataract operations were performed, with success!
Of course, more children died than nowadays, but most people lived longer and were healthier than they were in Roman times or in the centuries to come.
So, no Dark Ages, but Golden Ages.

Wooden bucket with bronze handle
I loved seeing the different objects in this exhibition. In the first room they had everything to do with everyday life, and in the second room of the exhibition you could see the role The Netherlands played in the Merovingian empire.

It was great to see the jewelry, the glass vases, the swords, the tools for spinning or the wooden buckets. It all reminded me why I studied Medieval History at University, it is simply the most fascinating period in history!

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