Category: Geology

Rome-Christanity and the Ending of Worlds (by )

When confronted with a graph on facebook showing the "dark ages" and the ensuing arguments over weather Christianity was the savour/cause of it... I write this:

The two events were entwined - the fall of the Empire was also plagued by natural and human fed disaster which led to desperation which fuelled the new religion which in some cases caused its own disasters but also monotheism in general was on the rise - if we'd have ended up with an Abrahamic religion which ever way we turned - the world was ending and they are doomsday/death cults on the most basic of levels. The loss of information and learning oscillated between the Christians and the Vikings with both also picking up the slack at moving education forward at various points of history as well as being the book burning racists at others ie one good period in England for education was due to Christian Missionaries from Africa (before the Norman conquest). History is a many threaded rug.


This maybe why people get grumpy with me on Facebook. Obviously this is a very very simplified statement and that in general is the issue with history - everyone wants and was taught simple narratives which not only do not paint the full picture but are often twisted to agendas and that's before you look at how biased the original sources were anyway - remember history was written by the battle winners and as writing was often the preserve of priests of one variety or another they are tinged with that element plus of cause the story telling needs and until relatively recently history was seen as something that was given to you by divine inspiration - a little factoid is missing or inconvenient? Pray and get a juicer more interesting thing to put in your script. Many of the older religions ie Judaism have mechanisms to try and prevent these copying errors/mutations but even then you are looking at scripts that spent many generations as oral transitions before they were ever confirmed in script on a page.

So yeah the Roman Empire's falling - but you know it was gradual - it became too big for it's communication network - it tried having multiple leaders which started well until Constantine decided to murder the other Empire and his son - the kid was his nephew - he let his sister live. And yes he was the first Christian Emperor due to a miracle he saw on route to battle (probably a meteor breaking up before it impacted the ground - if there was anything at all - but equally it could have been something else - maybe even the divine). But it was a political move also, a lot of the wealthy in the Empire where playing with the new religion - it was hip and trendy - it had eeking out past it's oppression (just) - it was the religion of the town - pagan comes from the latin for country side as the pantheon of gods got pushed out of the cities and was considered to only be for the unenlightened.

I think it was his mother that was obsessed with the new religion and traveled to the holy lands to find the roads that Jesus trod - she in many respects is the first archaeologists we have on record and her somewhat mythical landscape is still imprinted on the area with many pilgrims still following all that she found and was told - though this was hundreds of years after Christ had actually walked those roads.

But this was only one time in the break up of the Empire - another saw the reclaiming of the Mediterranean sea as an Imperial lake and a rejuvenation of trade and art... only to be struck down by the first virulent plague out break - the Emperor survived - his wife didn't and he was fatigued and in constant pain afterwards - many blamed his wife for being a hoar (she was a dancer when he met her and fell in love).

Yet another ending saw a sop of an Emperor, who fled the city of Rome leaving his sister as a prisoner of the Goth's - yes this was the sacking of Rome by Alaric in 410 AD - there were fires so fierce that they fused gold coin and limestone pavements - it was off course a misunderstanding - climate change and war had left the Goths with no home and little food and they considered themselves to still be part of the Empire that had still been wringing taxes out of anyone and everyone they could reach. So they fled to the capital as refugees hoping for aid - the Emperor panicked and a lot of the damage was done by the Romans themselves.

This is often seen as The End and the Emperor's sister married Alaric's bother (can't remember if it was a half/step or full brother) and it seemed to be a marriage for love and not politics.

But that wasn't The end as there was Holy Roman Empire's and time periods shift and change slowly on human time scales. And things where up and down and up and down.

The end of Roman Britain is the beginning of Anglo-Saxon/Viking Britain - but it wasn't a distinct cut off it was an overlap - and one that was gradual as the Romans pulled out the tribes come and saw no resistance, warred and then settled. The Romans took their time pulling out and didn't even really all go as many of them where intermarried and actually native born by this point.

Because I have an interest in this stuff anyway and because it is relevant to my novel series I have spent my teens and adult life reading and watching and prodding at ruins (well mostly taking photographs) - not full time - not even really part time - I am not an historian or archaeologist though people keep insisting on calling me that at the moment (last night I was referred to as a "proper" medievalist when I went to speak to someone about their talk on medieval humour and art - they were worried that I would pick holes in their talk! O.o ). I have collected a kind of over view - being a geologist I tend to bring things back to the rocks and the earth systems and this is my take on it:

The plagues did a lot of damage - the plagues were caused by over crowded cities with good travel and trade interconnects - a transport networks for the disease vectors to move along. But the plagues could only get a hold of a population if and when they became malnourished as that weakens the immune system - this is the difference between it being an outbreak and it going full blow PLAGUE. Healthy individuals who are cared for have good chances of surviving even the roughest of illnesses. Weak, hungry, over crowded, tired and overworked people with little scope for cleaning, washing or just having contaminated water to begin with - they... will not recover - they will die and it will spread like wild fire.

Weather calamities muck up food production - hungry people war over resources which causes even worse resource problems as it cuts down trade - you get a sickness, starvation, war cycle - this of course results in DEATH - the four horse men are ridding out. Religion sometimes precipitated the disaster and ones that were avoidable or had the chances for some serious damage limitation where exploded into carnage (I think it was the 13th century European plague out break that saw families abandoning the sick because it was seen as a judgement from god thus increasing the death toll drastically - sick people need to be fed during the recovery period or they will die of starvation if not relapse of the illness). OF course religion at other junctures was the balm that allowed to people to care for they're stricken neighbours and to rebuild afterwards.

When proper pandemics hit with no modern medical care (possibly even with) - you have a crash in population numbers - civilisation relies on an intricate series of feedback loops that all rely on everyone doing their part of the system. If you loose a chunk of your population - you have a problem. Even 10% is going to have a huge impact - that is 1 in 10 of the farmers, the teachers, the army. You can't produce as much food, education and knowledge transfer falters and you are in a weaker position to those around you who may be having similar food issues.

So actually my conclusion in looking at history as a whole is that these turning points - the collapsing civilisations and transition appear to be connected to the weather - to climate. Whether it is an increase in drought, damp, stupid long winters that catch you expected or rising sea levels. Some of these seem to be linked to volcanic events and others to human activity ie deforestation by the meso-ammerican cultures occurred around the right time to be a factor in the mini-iceage which is thought to have been a big factor in the "dark ages" of Europe - these things are global but we often only look at the localised focal most relevant to us.

I have asked historians at talks and so on if they think this is plausible - most just look at me slightly confused so this really is just my thoughts on the subjects. I even think the witch trials and things can basically be boiled down to... something disrupted the system and people panicked. That something I think is nearly always factors beyond our control - what then happens during the disastors is very much humanities own invention... war, famine, plague loop-la-lopping around each other in diminishing loops until things have settled and are stable again. The "dark ages" is probably the last BIG one of these but it is not the only one and I don't even think it was the biggest it is just most people don't seem to realise what a wealth of very very old and advanced history there is outside of Europe.

Dino-Roar (by )

Mary building a dinosaur sanctuary

Warning contains some spoilery things for Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.

Saturday as a treat for trying so hard with the allotment and housework, Mary got to pick the film we went to watch - we were expecting Star Wars but instead Dinosaurs won. Main decider was finding out that there would be no BB8 who apparently I have been misgendering and who according to Mary is obviously a girl.

She even put on her dino claw shoes, and was... noisome all the way there, Al asked her why she didn't have a little rest before the cinema - her reply?

"But I have to sit quiet and still for the WHOLE film" and so she continued to hurtle about with her very loud voice. First off she couldn't see the screen properly so a booster seat was arranged and then she noticed it was a 12 A and had to be reassured that she was allowed in the film.

Once the film started - like the first scene! She climbed onto a lap and spent most of the film on either mine or Alaric lap with some Jean hand holding. She loved LOVED loved the film so much, she identified with the child who was obviously not going to go to bed and the dinosaur Blue. Hence she is now called Blue-Maisy and has asked to see the next film. Actually she keeps asking when the next film is out!

We all preferred this film to the last one, it is going more in the direction I thought the story would have to go to still work - a few things irked - and it is not quiet how I would have done it though the result in world building is basically the same.

On the way home there were conversations about dinosaurs hunting as in the fossils, genetics and subspecies, stem cell research and medical/vetinery care and even computing and building design.

Fiction has always been a gateway to science and science has always inspired new fiction. Something which I think can get lost somewhat in the higher echelons of science and/or education who sweat the small stuff - because you know it doesn't actually matter that Jurassic Park (back in the day) wasn't accurate it drew you in as a story, it showed you a world or science being the tool for the good and the bad, it showed that everyone could be part of that world and... DINOSAURS!

I belong to a generation who's love of space and dinosaurs was sparked by such programmes and you know those inaccuracies where actually really useful - it was awesome finding out about the real creatures and the time periods over which they lived and laughing at the scariest things turning out to be, you know the size of chickens!

It was certainly one of he more enjoyable trips we've made and it mirrored so perfectly when my family went to see the original film right down to the youngest sibling sitting curled up on a lap!

However, there was one disappointment for Mary to find out that she can't go to the US and find lots of dinosaurs rampaging around the place - she was already planning her trip!

She has since been building a dinosaur sanctuary to keep them away from those awful human beings! (pictured above)

Cephalopod Week 2018 (by )

June the 15-22 is Cephalopod Week this year - Cephalopods are creatures such as squid, octopuses, cuttle fish, nautilus and the extinct groups such as ammonites. These creatures are pretty amazing and I love following all the little snippets and art work about them on social media.

With in the coral

My own seascape drawing nearly always contain at least one said creature though sometimes they are quiet hidden!

You can read a basic over view on these lovelies over at Wikipedia.

Here is last years blog post on it 🙂

The ammonite picture mentioned in it is now available as a free colouring in sheet on The WigglyPet Press under the Cuddly Science section!

I have even set up a new category on this blog - Ammonites and All Things Cephalopod, it is under Quests as they are creatures I like learning about and there will be more stuff written about them. Obviously at some point I need to go back through the archive and find everything I've already blogged about... mainly ammonites!

For those wanting to join in on social media the hash tag is #CephalopodWeek and there is a facebook group.

The Quest for Aethelflaed Hots Up!!! (by )

This year is the 1100 yr anniversary of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia and Warrior Queen's death - living in the city she was buried in means that of course I have become involved with the celebrations to mark the occasion!

Here. is a little summary - though it does not yet mention everything that is happening 🙂

There is so much AWESOME going on for this event - I'm taking Cuddly Science's Histories to the event and have been researching and amassing much stuff for workshops including metallurgy, textiles, music, a new puppet, mud squishing, art history, wood work and more!

I have been privileged to work with the people at the Museum of Gloucester and have been pestering historians everywhere - I might also have high jacked the family holiday and various story telling gigs to slip in some extra research. I've reached the stage of trying to track down copies of various Chronicles (in translation) and have revived my interest in Viking/Saxon et al poetry.

Last year I decided it was time to move Cuddly Science onto phase 2 - Cuddly Histories and so found myself at the Archaeology Festival and even at some digs <3 Being a geologist by training this reminded me of my love for archaeology and history - I went on to take part in the History festival with a talk on Cave Art and so on...

I'd already decided to make the Aethelflaed puppet for this year when the chance of being involved in the festival came up and so my Quest for Aethelflaed and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon started - I have taken photos of rocks and statues and medallions and fallen down rabbit holes of Norse language roots, I am using my science, technology, art, and craft skills, I am researching and learning and this makes me very happy - I am also meeting lots of interesting people on the way.

I am also learning so much about the city I live in - things I just didn't know.

With only about a month or so to go before the festival it's time to turn the heat up on my Quest - can you work out what I am up to with this little piece of kit?

Silicon mould

Ruins and Rain (by )

As part of Mothers Day Alaric took me for a walk around the ruins of St Oswald's Priory here in Gloucester - I realised that I had not explored it properly and he decided that that needed to change - in general I like exploring old buildings and plan to do it a bit more this year including more Cuddly Histories as well as the science. This was only part of our walk which also included the industrial run down bits but I've separated them out for now. These photos are not meant to be academic though I really do want to study them more as being a geologist I kind of want to know the full story of each and every stone!

If you want to know more about the history then go here (actually the lovely website I was going to link to seems to have disappeared so I will try and do a write up on the blog at some point), also this year is really important for the Priory and there are going to be all sorts of things happening in and around it this summer due to one of the founders Aethelflaed!

Serious check this woman out - warrior queen and all sorts!

Now to the photos - I am putting them up here as I know several people want to use them for art projects (me included), you are welcome to use them to draw from - if you use the actual photos this is fine for non profit works (though please still credit me) but could you please talk to me for anything else. 🙂

You can see larger version of the photos by just clicking on them - there will also be a prose-poem type thing at some point but for now this is the photo dump for us artists to be getting on with 🙂

St Mary's Gloucester (I think) The ruins of St Oswalds Priory Looking through the window St Oswalds Priory Remnants of rooms Gloucester History Wood in stone St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Structures in Stone St Oswalds Priory Clouds Through Stone Gloucester History Buildings within buildings St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Nature reclaiming ruins Gloucester Shapes in the stone St Oswalds Priory Striations in the stone St Oswalds Priory History and Geology Gloucester Roots of like on the decay of ages St Oswalds Gloucester Hidden features St Oswalds Priory Some arches are older than others St Oswalds Patterns and shapes St Oswalds Priory Accidental crenulation St Oswalds Priory Blocks and shapes St Oswolds An arch that was St Oswalds Priory Two ages envisioned St Oswalds Layers of History Gloucester Looking along the ruins St Oswalds Gloucester Regal Ruins St Oswalds Priory Which window is which St Oswalds Priory The angle of ruin St Oswalds Priory Tower through the window St Oswalds Priory Tree through ancient window St Oswalds Priory Alaric examining the stones St Oswalds Priory Gloucester A Little Nook St Oswalds Priory Shapes and Hidden Ages Amongst the Stones St Oswalds Priory Structures within and without St Oswalds Priory Colour and shape History Gloucester A view down the stones Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Shape and Space St Oswalds Priory Stone and structure St Oswalds Priory Ruins through the arch St Oswalds Priory The dark and the light Gloucester Through the arch more arches can be seen St Oswalds Ruins Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Brick and Stone Gloucester History Life's struggle Gloucester St Oswalds Priory St Oswalds through the Gate Graves shape curve and angle St Oswalds Priory Branch and Ruin St Oswalds Priory The Wall and the Branch St Oswalds Fragments of self eaten by time St Oswalds Priory Stone and shape and weathering St Oswalds Priory Shapes cut from stone St Oswalds Pillars and supports St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Rocks and rocks and different rocks St Oswalds Priory

p.s. it kept raining hence the title!

Form more images to draw from you can look through the archive on this blog or check out some of the stuff on my photo and images blog, or look at my Flickr.

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