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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  October 2007

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION October 2007

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Subject:

ferrea zona - archaeological evidence

From:

Chris Daniell <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 31 Oct 2007 16:41:47 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Following this thread, I came across some archaeological evidence for this 
practice:

A google search came up with (which includes a picture of the burial 631 
and the girdle). (Fourth para gives details.)

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/walespast/article.shtml?id=13

Ideal Homes Wales Ltd had contracted archaeologists from Cotswold 
Archaeology to excavate land earmarked for a new housing development in 
Llandough (Vale of Glamorgan). 

The site lay just outside the churchyard of the present parish church, 
reputedly the site of the early medieval monastery of St Dochdwy, and the 
excavation discovered over 800 burials dating from the 4th to the 11th-
century. 

Careful study of the skeletons by Louise Loe (Bournemouth University) has 
shed fresh light on the population of Wales at this time, but one grave in 
particular was exceptional. 

Burial 631 lay in the middle of the cemetery. The skeleton was that of a 
young man, aged between 25 and 35, and about 1.75m tall (5.75 feet). 
Radiocarbon dating of the bone suggest that he died between AD340-660. 
However, it was not his antiquity that made him special, but rather the 
two iron straps he wore around his waist. 

The ends of these straps were secured behind his back. The tapered ends 
passed through lugs and were hammered over by a second person, making it 
impossible for the wearer to remove them unaided. Clearly this was more 
than a fashion accessory, but what other functions could it have served? 

It has been suggested that the straps may have been worn as an act of 
penitence - a fitting purpose in the context of a monastic community. 
Similar cases are certainly known in the middle ages. For example, there 
was a visionary monk at the monastery of Much Wenlock (Shropshire) in the 
early 8th-century called Begga, who wore 'an iron girdle about his loins 
for the love of God'. 

An alternative explanation - that the iron bands served as a hernia belt - 
has parallels on the continent where the use of hernia belts is first 
recorded in Roman texts. Examples have also been excavated from 6th and 
7th-century burials in France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain

Regards

Chris

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