Category:
Medieval Era

Acoustic Skulls

When excavating medieval and early-modern buildings in northern Europe, archaeologists sometimes find horse skulls buried beneath them. One theory is that the skulls were placed there for magical, ritualistic reasons. Another possibility is that they served an acoustic purpose.

Sonja Hukantaival discusses this in her 2009 article "Horse Skulls and 'Alder-Horse': The Horse as a Building Deposit".

The practical, non-ritual, reason given for horse's skulls concealed in buildings is that they are placed under floors to create an echo. This has been suggested both in the British Isles and in Southern Scandinavia... Ceramic pots have also been concealed in buildings for acoustic reasons. The acoustic skulls were placed in churches, in houses and in Scandinavia especially in threshing barns.

In churches the acoustics were very important, of course. And in houses were people danced and music was played, but why in threshing barns? It was considered important that the sound of threshing carried far. Could this have some magic purpose? It is well known that in many cultures loud noises are considered to expel evil forces. So this "practical" custom of acoustic skulls may not be contradictory to magical and symbolic acts at all. One question to consider is also why horses' skulls were preferred. One would presume that the skulls of cattle would be available more often than those of horses, and possibly just as suitable for acoustics.

More info: IAC Archaeology

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 10, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Death, Medieval Era, Archaeology

St. Rumwold—the youngest saint

Due to the vagaries of medieval spelling, Rumwold is also known as Rumald, Rumbold, Grumbald, Rumbald, etc. The story goes that Rumwold was born in 662 and only lived for three days. But during that brief time he demonstrated the ability to speak and recited the Lord's Prayer. So, after his death, he was made a saint.

image source: .johnsanidopoulos.com



While a three-day-old saint is, on its own, odd enough, my favorite part of his story involves the picture of him that later hung in Boxley Abbey in Kent. It was used as a test of a woman's chastity. Those who were chaste would easily be able to lift the picture. But if a woman was not chaste, the picture would mysteriously become so heavy that she wouldn't be able to lift it.

The secret, unknown by those trying to lift the picture, was that it could be held in place (or not) by a wooden rod concealed behind it.

The story of the unliftable portrait is told by Sidney Heath in Pilgrim Life in the Middle Ages (1911):

At Boxley also was a famous image of St. Rumald, Rumbold, or Grumbald, the son of a Northumbrian king and of a daughter of Penda, King of Mercia. He died when three days old, but not before he had repeated the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed in Latin, a feat for which he gained canonisation.

His image at Boxley is said to have been small, and of a weight so light that a child could lift it, but that it could at times become so heavy that it could not be moved by persons of great strength.

Thomas Fuller, the quaint old divine, tells us that "the moving hereof was made the conditions of women's chastity. Such who paid the priest well might easily remove it, whilst others might tug at it to no purpose. For this was the contrivance of the cheat — that it was fastened with a pin of wood by an invisible stander behind. Now, when such offered to take it who had been bountiful to the priest before, they bare it away with ease, which was impossible for their hands to remove who had been close-fisted in their confessions. Thus it moved more laughter than devotion, and many chaste virgins and wives went away with blushing faces, leaving (without cause), the suspicion of their wantonness in the eyes of the beholders; whilst others came off with more credit (because with more coin), though with less chastity."

Posted By: Alex - Mon Nov 01, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Babies, Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators, Religion, Medieval Era





weird universe thumbnail
Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Contact Us
Monthly Archives
October 2022 •  September 2022 •  August 2022 •  July 2022 •  June 2022 •  May 2022 •  April 2022 •  March 2022 •  February 2022 •  January 2022

December 2021 •  November 2021 •  October 2021 •  September 2021 •  August 2021 •  July 2021 •  June 2021 •  May 2021 •  April 2021 •  March 2021 •  February 2021 •  January 2021

December 2020 •  November 2020 •  October 2020 •  September 2020 •  August 2020 •  July 2020 •  June 2020 •  May 2020 •  April 2020 •  March 2020 •  February 2020 •  January 2020

December 2019 •  November 2019 •  October 2019 •  September 2019 •  August 2019 •  July 2019 •  June 2019 •  May 2019 •  April 2019 •  March 2019 •  February 2019 •  January 2019

December 2018 •  November 2018 •  October 2018 •  September 2018 •  August 2018 •  July 2018 •  June 2018 •  May 2018 •  April 2018 •  March 2018 •  February 2018 •  January 2018

December 2017 •  November 2017 •  October 2017 •  September 2017 •  August 2017 •  July 2017 •  June 2017 •  May 2017 •  April 2017 •  March 2017 •  February 2017 •  January 2017

December 2016 •  November 2016 •  October 2016 •  September 2016 •  August 2016 •  July 2016 •  June 2016 •  May 2016 •  April 2016 •  March 2016 •  February 2016 •  January 2016

December 2015 •  November 2015 •  October 2015 •  September 2015 •  August 2015 •  July 2015 •  June 2015 •  May 2015 •  April 2015 •  March 2015 •  February 2015 •  January 2015

December 2014 •  November 2014 •  October 2014 •  September 2014 •  August 2014 •  July 2014 •  June 2014 •  May 2014 •  April 2014 •  March 2014 •  February 2014 •  January 2014

December 2013 •  November 2013 •  October 2013 •  September 2013 •  August 2013 •  July 2013 •  June 2013 •  May 2013 •  April 2013 •  March 2013 •  February 2013 •  January 2013

December 2012 •  November 2012 •  October 2012 •  September 2012 •  August 2012 •  July 2012 •  June 2012 •  May 2012 •  April 2012 •  March 2012 •  February 2012 •  January 2012

December 2011 •  November 2011 •  October 2011 •  September 2011 •  August 2011 •  July 2011 •  June 2011 •  May 2011 •  April 2011 •  March 2011 •  February 2011 •  January 2011

December 2010 •  November 2010 •  October 2010 •  September 2010 •  August 2010 •  July 2010 •  June 2010 •  May 2010 •  April 2010 •  March 2010 •  February 2010 •  January 2010

December 2009 •  November 2009 •  October 2009 •  September 2009 •  August 2009 •  July 2009 •  June 2009 •  May 2009 •  April 2009 •  March 2009 •  February 2009 •  January 2009

December 2008 •  November 2008 •  October 2008 •  September 2008 •  August 2008 •  July 2008 •