Fifty Early Medieval Things introduces readers to the material culture of late antique and early medieval Europe, north Africa, and western Asia. Ranging from Iran to Ireland and from Sweden to Tunisia, Deborah Deliyannis, Hendrik Dey, and Paolo Squatriti present fifty objects—artifacts, structures, and archaeological features—created between the fourth and eleventh centuries, an ostensibly "Dark Age" whose cultural richness and complexity is often underappreciated. Each thing introduces important themes in the social, political, cultural, religious, and economic history of the postclassical era.
Some of the things, like a simple ard (plow) unearthed in Germany, illustrate changing cultural and technological horizons in the immediate aftermath of Rome's collapse; others, like the Arabic coin found in a Viking burial mound, indicate the interconnectedness of cultures in this period. Objects such as the Book of Kells and the palace-city of Anjar in present-day Jordan represent significant artistic and cultural achievements; more quotidian items (a bone comb, an oil lamp, a handful of chestnuts) belong to the material culture of everyday life. In their thing-by-thing descriptions, the authors connect each object to both specific local conditions and to the broader influences that shaped the first millennium AD, and also explore their use in modern scholarly interpretations, with suggestions for further reading. Lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, Fifty Early Medieval Things demonstrates how to read objects in ways that make the distant past understandable and approachable.
"Fifty Early Medieval Things is an important teaching text that serves to underline the importance of material culture studies to the medieval era. The scholarship is outstanding, the range of objects impressive, and the geographic coverage welcome in its breadth. The entries for the ‘things’ are clear and delightful."
Valerie Garver, Northern Illinois University, and author of Women and Aristocratic Culture in the Carolingian World
"Fifty Early Medieval Things does an excellent job of presenting objects as agents in, and informants of, the medieval world, as well as how medievalists have come to understand the nature of 'things.' Suitable for medieval survey courses and beyond, this book's innovative presentation opens new possibilities for teaching the early Middle Ages."
Edward M. Schoolman, University of Nevada, Reno, and author of Rediscovering Sainthood in Italy
"The objects and their biographies in Fifty Early Medieval Things open up all sorts of interesting questions and present a varied and complex picture of the early medieval world. There is a really wonderful selection of things here, and I will certainly use this book in my early medieval class."
Robin Fleming, Boston College, and author of Kings and Lords in Conquest England