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I think I qualify as a legitimate historian in this situation (I actually did buy a plane ticket to Rome last year and spent a week looking through physical texts at the Vatican archives). I'm thrilled by any efforts to digitize and OCR this texts and so is everyone else I know who does archival work. So I don't really know where the tone of dismissal/cynicism I'm picking up in your posts is coming from.

As anyone who does archival work will tell you, one of the biggest problems is the "too much to know" issue: it's basically physically impossible to look at every relevant page of every relevant text when you only have at most a few months to a year to do your field work. So aside from the convenience aspect of being able to double check your work without flying back to Rome (or wherever), OCR also offers a qualitatively different style of research that lets you trawl for words or phrases across a very large corpus. That's super valuable for doing intellectual or cultural history, or biography.


In case the linked article is behind a paywall for some, there's a shorter write up in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/28/turkish-site...


This is HN, link to the actual paper http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/6/e1700564.full and to the researchers own site https://tepetelegrams.wordpress.com/ There is ZERO reason to link to some site regurgitating a press release, even if it is the Guardian.


This struck me as a good article with a bad headline, and I wasn't sure how to reword it so I just used part of the subheadline (dek). Open to other suggestions for it.


Disclaimer: yes, there is some annoying, borderline clickbait-y language in this article, including in the title. And yes, it is badly overstating things to claim, as the author does, that the Roman empire was not a "dim backwater by comparison" to Asia. That said, lots of interesting information and imagery here that seemed worth a share.


> a philosopher and statesman known as Kung Fuzi (“Master Kung,” known in the West as “Confucius”) codified the heavenly rules into a series of texts that would form the backbone of Chinese culture for the next two thousand years. Master Kung’s intricate philosophy, known as kung fu, utterly permeated every area of Chinese existence, from statecraft to family life, from etiquette to martial arts.

(emphasis mine, obscuring emphasis present in original)

This doesn't inspire much confidence. I can't read it except as trying to suggest that the english word "kung fu" (modern chinese: 功夫 gongfu, meaning skill, labor, or martial arts) is derived from the name of Confucius (modern Chinese: 孔夫子 kong fuzi, meaning, as advertised, "master Kong"). I am not aware of any support for that claim -- you'll note that the "kung" of "kung fu" is the character 功, and the "k'ung" of k'ung fu-tsu, Confucius, is 孔. There was (and of course still is) a word for Confucian philosophy: it is 儒 ru, not "kung fu".


It sounds so cool, it's almost worth the fake etymology. Who could deny that Jackie Chan is a worthy successor to Confucius?


I'm going to be that guy: me, their philosophies are almost completely incompatible^^


I would. You must be joking.


Isn't Kung Fu is closely related to Taoism? It's the Yin to Confusionism's Yang.


That is actually another debate in itself. One origin story is that kungfu was taught to the chinese by Bodhidharma an indian who is also taken as the first patriarch of Zen. This claim is of course rubbished by many.

https://np.reddit.com/r/CIWO/comments/3o2y7u/kung_fu_came_fr...

Confucianism/Confucius was more of a target of jokes for daoists.


> it is badly overstating things to claim, as the author does, that the Roman empire was not a "dim backwater by comparison"

I think you mean "it is overstating to claim Rome was a dim backwater".


Especially given that Rome was the largest city in the world from maybe 100 BCE to in the neighborhood of 400 CE.


So Kung Fu isn't from Kong Fuzi (WP has no relationship between the two, and since Kung Fu was Gong Fu I guess it's not surprising).

I had to stop reading because I felt something weird in it. Maybe too much hyperbole. Or the non academic sources. But it did make me want to broaden my knowledge of history outside the western nationalized scope we're fed.


Here's my translation of the first part of the article:

"Paintings of an exceptional quality have been discovered in Poitiers cathedral this year: 900 square meters of painted murals dating to the 13th century, hidden under a coat of whitewash since the 18th century. The vivid colors and the designs have in large part survived. It took an infiltration of water in the southern transept of the Saint-Pierre catheral in Poitiers to rediscover these works. Damaged stones needed to be replaced, and historical researchers took the opportunity to examine the stones.

Good choice! Behind the layer of whitewash laid down in the 18th century, undoubtedly to hide these sublime paintings, which were too damaged or outdated in terms of the taste of that age, there was color. The simple masonry construction was transformed suddenly into a monumental site."


I really hate to link to the Daily Mail but I have to admit that this seems to be the most detailed article available. And if anything it's actually (arguably) less clickbait-y than the rather eccentric press release put out by the University of Oslo:

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=154673&Cult...

Edit: if anyone can find a better source on this, please don't hesitate to post it!



That looks reasonable. Url changed from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3162129/Stunn....


Bioarcheaologists have been finding out all sorts of new stuff recently using forensic tools to analyze human remains. One of my favorite blogs along these lines is Kristina Killgrove's "Powered by Osteons" which discusses her research into lead levels in the bones of ancient Romans, among other interesting things:

http://www.poweredbyosteons.org

From a more specifically historical point of view, it's true that we know quite a lot about 17th century material culture (especially of France) due to probate records from wills, and the survival of many pieces in museums, etc. But it's still interesting to see the divergence between textual records of burials and belongings and how they actually played out in practice, especially because most museum pieces are completely decontextualized from the original context (i.e., we might have some cork-soled shoes that survive in other collections, but these ones are still on the feet of the wearer).


Thanks for that reply!


More on Denisovans (surely one of the more fascinating recent discoveries relating to human evolution and prehistory):

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/the-ot...


Here's a link to the original article ("The ontogeny of the chin: an analysis of allometric and biomechanical scaling"):

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joa.12307/full


This detail is particularly striking (in regards to the fact that only five dirks like this have ever been found, and four of these were in France or the Netherlands rather than the British Isles):

"Their dimensions and details are so similar that all dirks likely came from the same workshop, perhaps even the same hand. They are virtually identical in form, decoration and cross-section."


These artifacts were found by random chance, often while plowing a field. Which means that the vast majority of such artifacts has never been found. So if we found a few already, it is quite likely that there are many more such identical dirks out there --it is possible they were mass produced to an extent, or at least that a same model was being produced for relatively long periods.


Almost all of the old 'trades' were to produce certain well proven designs over and over. So it's no surprise they're close to identical.

See here for a nice example of such skill:

http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2012/07/30/gunsmithing-in...

Being able to copy a 'known-good' design was an essential skill for a smith back in the days. If it works don't change/fix it, and this kind of copying would go all the way down to the decorations. (Those Pakistani gunsmiths would even copy the serial numbers.)

True innovation was slow, and required taking risks (just like today...).

For ceremonial things like this dirk there was even less freedom for change.


I remember reading (can't find a reference now) that when Japanese engineers acquired their first western steamship and copied it, their first version included copies of seams from the repairs that had been made on the original's boiler.

IIRC the story was cast as a "look how methodical Japanese people are" kind of thing, but IMO it was totally logical to copy everything perfectly -- they didn't yet know all of the details of how it worked, so they didn't know what was relevant and what wasn't. Later versions, once they'd experimented a bit, could strip things down.

(If anyone does have a reference, or knows that the story is an urban legend, I'd love to know.)


This makes some serious assumptions regarding what exactly "close to identical" means.

"Similar in design" or even "identical in design" definitely do not equate to "close to identical" in execution in all cases, despite the provided anecdote. If we're talking about something that qualifies as the same type of tool or weapon, OK. If we're talking about something with extremely similar metallurgical qualities, size, design, age, etc., then it's likely a little more than just "well, it's an x made of y found at z, they're all the same."


> This makes some serious assumptions regarding what exactly "close to identical" means.

Let me spell that out for you: so close to each other that if you exchanged two of those items and you wouldn't be intimately familiar with it (scratches, dents) that you wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

> "Similar in design" or even "identical in design" definitely do not equate to "close to identical" in execution in all cases, despite the provided anecdote.

Not in all cases, but in quite a few of them. Examples:

- wheels bands and hubs (the rest was usually wood)

- weapons

- utensils

- tools

- hardware (like nails, which were insanely valuable)

Almost all of those would be copied very accurately from template designs over a wide region. Decorations (handles and such) would be the first to vary, then dimensions, then materials then the actual design of the business bit and finally the process.

> If we're talking about something that qualifies as the same type of tool or weapon, OK.

Exactly.

> If we're talking about something with extremely similar metallurgical qualities, size, design, age, etc., then it's likely a little more than just "well, it's an x made of y found at z, they're all the same."

No, that's what you'd expect. If they would be made in the same region and time then that's more or less the default since that puts serious constraints on the metallurgical knowledge of the time and on the designs that were permitted and/or in fashion.

We still have this even today, walk into any toolstore and pick tools from roughly the same quality level and you'll find that at that level they're pretty much identical.

Rare exceptions like Estwing hammers do happen but for handtools they're not the norm.

When 'mass production' wasn't possible yet there was greater variability than there is today but that was not because variability was a goal, it was rather an unfortunate side effect of making things by hand. The whole idea of being a good tradesman was to deliver constant quality and to get that variability under control as much as possible.

Having your sword break in battle because it has a nice new pattern on it isn't going to give you many happy customers so better stick to knowing what works.


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