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Alexander Bastoky





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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 5:19 pm    Post subject: Comparing Pictoral Evidence/Sources for Arms and Armor         Reply with quote

What makes any source any better or more accurate than another source (aside from date or a very clear depiction, for example a warrior riding a camel probably can't be interpreted as a 12th century French knight in the area of Toulouse)? For example what makes something like images in the Maciejowski Bible better than the carvings or sculptures in the Rheims Cathedral? What makes one thing more reliable or accurate than another? What are the criteria?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Archaeological evidence is best but we all have seen archaeologists make mstakes about what they have dug up. Eyewitness accounts are pretty good but you have to keep the bias of the author in mind. If he was writing for a patron then he will slant things in favour of what the author expects his patron to like. Illustrations are virtually useless by themselves - there are just too many ways to interpret them. But they can be used to support conclusions drawn from textual and archaeological evidence.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 6:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Comparing Pictoral Evidence/Sources for Arms and Armor         Reply with quote

Alexander Bastoky wrote:
What makes any source any better or more accurate than another source (aside from date or a very clear depiction, for example a warrior riding a camel probably can't be interpreted as a 12th century French knight in the area of Toulouse)? For example what makes something like images in the Maciejowski Bible better than the carvings or sculptures in the Rheims Cathedral? What makes one thing more reliable or accurate than another? What are the criteria?
Who said the Mac Bible was "better" than the Rheims Cathedral? It depends on what you are trying to use either to assert...

To back up what Dan said, what is important is the totality of the supporting evidence. If a practice or armour or tactic or what have you is supported by only one debatable source, then its likely to be viewed as uncertain. However if it is supported by eye-witness accounts, depictions in period art, and an archeological find, all but the most out there interpretations will usually accept it as fact.

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Y. Perez





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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 7:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you have archelogical evidence and manuscripts of the time in question then most probably it will be accepted as fact. You can't go wrong with both especially if its a dark period with little to no evidence.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Illustrations are virtually useless by themselves - there are just too many ways to interpret them. But they can be used to support conclusions drawn from textual and archaeological evidence.


I disagree with illustrations being "virtually useless by themselves," but I agree with the rest. Each of the three main categories of sources we have--period art, textual accounts, archeological evidence--are incomplete in some way. Textual accounts often lack pictures or some element of impartiality/realism. Archeological evidence often lacks a full picture of who used an item and when/how it was used. Period art has the issues that have been mentioned.

To know the value of a particular source, you have to compare it to others in its category and combine what that tells you with what sources in the other categories tell you.

Happy

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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2012 9:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think what is important is collaboration and also what you know about the source. Also, some sources can be clearer. A lot of sources weren't designed to teach future generations about arms and armour, so there isn't a clear statement. Additionally, it is questionable that the authors and artists knew about the arms and armour they describe and draw.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2012 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I disagree with illustrations being "virtually useless by themselves," but I agree with the rest. .

Unless we have another source to help us interpret contemporary illustrations then there is no way to know which version is more accurate. All interpretations are no better than a baseless guess. How would you interpret the armour on the Bayeux Tapestry without physical examples of mail in the record? How in the world could you interpret the armour on Trajan's column without some physical example from which to reduce the possibiliies? How about boars tusk helmets? For centuries we had illustrations of them and a description in the Iliad - that's two separate sources - and most scholars still thought that Homer made them up until some physical examples showed up at Mycenae. An illustration by itself is completely useless without supporting evidence to help interpret what we are seeing. Get a hold of any work by D'Amato. He is the master of taking an illustration and twisting it to fit a pre-conceived theory. Without supporting evidence his crackpot ideas are just as valid as any other.
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2012 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All available sources should be brought to bear in research; extant pieces, visual sources, written record, other previous research, any and all info should be used concurrently.......using one single type of information, even if it's a surviving artifact, doesn't give a complete picture, even if a complete picture were obtainable, which I believe it's not.

That said, the research sources alone are not enough without the knowledge and expertise to interpret them. Just ask a museum curator.

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Jeffrey Hedgecock
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Mark T




PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2012 5:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To prevent us slipping into a discussion trafficking in totalisations, generalisations, and dichotomies, perhaps we can draw out some useful questions, such as:

- Did the illustrator have experience with arms and armour?
- Did they draw from real-life / eye-witness experience?
- What's the context for the creation of their work? As posted above, some chroniclers took a highly-particular viewpoint; this was the same for some illustrators.
- How long did they have to prepare their works? Did they work from models wearing real examples of period armour (such as Dürer)?
- What kind of illustration are we talking about? How much will the medium reduce detail affect what we can infer - such as the limited detail in the Bayeux tapestry (which some have described as being like a 'cartoon') vs the highly-detailed Pastrana tapestries, or some battlefield images that show very little detail versus those which are known for it)?
- How soon after the period was the artwork made?
- How was the artwork regarded at the time?
- How internally consistent is the work? How consistent is it with other works of the time?
- What time and culture was the artist from, and what do we know about the depiction of warfare during this time that would be relevant to how we interpret images?

And so on ...

One great source that touches on these issues is Artists and warfare in the renaissance, JR Hale. Hale gives some great examples of the differences between German and Italian depictions, and a discussion of the relevant cultures at the time - he shows how depictions changed in relatively short periods of time in each culture, as well as the differences between the cultures at the same time. While it won't answer all the relevant issues for the much larger questions posed by this thread, it's a great beginning point for understanding how to interpret artists' representations of warfare within their specific time and place.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2012 7:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,
I'm not going to argue with you, as we agree more than you want to think. Happy All sources, including surviving examples, are "virtually useless" in your words, as they lack context. Surviving mail could be useless without textual descriptions or period art to give it context. Without those, we could guess at what this metal mesh shirt was used for, and we might well guess correctly (seems pretty obvious). Or we could assume that it was just a metal shirt for wearing around the house.

My only disagreement is with the black and white, extreme way you portray your opinions. I wouldn't have called them "virtually useless," I would have just said they lack context without corroborating evidence. We're saying the same thing; you're just saying it differently.

Happy

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Alexander Bastoky





Joined: 24 May 2007

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PostPosted: Mon 14 May, 2012 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks to everyone for the inteligent and helpful replies. Mark, thank so much for your reading recommendation. Does anyone have any other books or articles that they feel would be really helpful or even just a start when trying to make inferences based on archaeological, textual, and visual evidence?
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