TIL of the “Tiffany Problem”. Tiffany is a medieval name—short for Theophania—from the 12th century. Authors can’t use it in historical or fantasy fiction, however, because the name looks too modern. This is an example of how reality is sometimes too unrealistic.
“Authors can’t use it in fantasy fiction, eh? We’ll see about that…”
–Terry Pratchett, probably
Try to implement anything but a conservative’s sixth grade education level of medieval or Victorian times and you will butt into this. all. the. time.
There was a literaly fad in the 1890′s for nipple rings for all genders(and NO, it was NOT under the mistaken belief that it would help breastfeeding–there’s LOTS of doctors’ writing at the time telling people to STOP and that they thought it would ruin the breast’s ability to breastfeed well, etc). It was straight up because the Victorians were freaks, okay
Imagine trying to make a Victorian character with nipple rings. IMAGINE THE ACCUSATIONS OF GROSS HISTORICAL INACCURACY
people just really, REALLY have entrenched ideas of what people in the past were like
tell them the vikings were clean, had a complex democratic legal system, respected women, had freeform rap battles, and had child support payments? theyd call you a liar
tell them that chopsticks became popular in china during the bronze age because street food vendors were all the rage and they wanted to have disposable eating utensils? theyll say youre making that up
tell them native americans had a trade network stretching from canada to peru and built sacred mounds bigger then the pyramids of giza? you are some SJW twisting facts
ancient egypt had circular saws, debt cards, and eye surgery? are you high?
our misconception of medieval peasants being illiterate and living in poverty in one room mud huts being their own creation as part of a century long tax aversion scam? you stole that from the game of thrones reject bin
iron age india had stone telescopes, air conditioning, and the number 0 along with all ‘arabic’ numbers including algebra and calculus? i understand some of those words.
romans had accurate maps detailing vacation travel times along with a star rating for hotels along the way, fast food restaurants, swiss army knives, black soldiers in brittany, traded with china, and that soldiers wrote thank-you notes when their parents sent them underwear in the mail? but they thought the earth was flat!
ancient bronze age mesopotamia had pedantic complaints sent to merchants about crappy goods, comedic performances, and transgender/nobinary representation? what are you smoking?
Adding my personal favorite: people in medieval Europe took baths.
Truth is stranger than fiction, and history is weirder than you think.
this post gets better every time it comes across my dash. To provide some more: those Romans also had vending machines, automated puppet plays, doors that opened to the sound of horns when you lit a fire in front of them, and working steam engines. All invented by one dude, Hero of Alexandria.
People generally want to think that the Dark Ages is the sum of the entire history of the world.
Charlemagne had a frigging PET ELEPHANT, sent as a present by the Caliph over in Bahgdad.
Emperor Frederick II. (around 1200) crossed the Alps with his own private zoo, including giraffes, in order to impress and dazzle his Germanic subjects, and it frigging worked. He also introduced legislation that a doctor was not allowed to also sell medicine (to prevent obvious charlatanery), but had to write a recipe for an apothecary to then redeem, which is a system STILL IN USE in Germany and other countries. He spoke several language, was tolerant towards his Muslim subjects in southern Italy (you read that correctly) and was opposed to trial by combat on reasons of it being unfair and irrational. Oh, and he wrote a book on ornithology.
Ancient Persians knew how to make frozen desserts even in summer, thus basically being the inventors of ice cream.
Medieval monks had an efficient way of testing for pregnacy (by pouring the urine of a woman on a toad, which, if the woman was pregnant, would change colour…).
One of my favorite things to do is to send posts like this to my brother, a historian. He had MANY potential additions to this thread, but my favorite:
My pet peeve is that everyone thinks that nobody traveled in the middle ages.
I have a letter from a monk at Ripoll, near Barcelona, sent to a monk in Fleury (Central France) asking that they return a book they had lent. The book was first obtained in Pavia (Italy). The monk wanted it back really fast because he hadn’t asked for permission from the librarian to loan it.
This was from around 1020. The more things change …
The Ancient Egyptians had an efficient pregnancy test as well. They’d get a woman to wee on some barley and wheat seeds, and if they sprouted it would mean that she was pregnant.
There was a study done on this in 1936 and apparently it had a 70% accuracy rate, which isn’t a patch on modern pregnancy tests but is very impressive for a civillisation that hadn’t invented the wheel.
Stone age people took surprisingly good care of each other. There have been skeletons found of people (homo sapiens and neanderthal) with physical disabilities that would have prevented them from providing for themselves who still lived fairly long lives and were buried nicely. Because it turns out even prehistoric humans thought that people had a right to life whether or not they were ‘useful’.
They also had a primitive form of surgery that involved drilling holes in people’s skulls, we think to prevent migraines or something. Whatever it was, it must have worked at least slightly, because we’ve found skulls with multiple healed over patches, meaning that people survived this and then kept coming back.
Not to mention language. I don’t know why this in particular is so hard for people to grasp, but if you’re talking about homo sapiens then there is literally no reason to assume that their language wasn’t as complex and fluent as ours. For that matter, a lot of what we in Europe think of as ‘the stone age’ was happening at the same time as the Ancient Egyptians were building pyramids and having a whole civilisation and shit.
You might as well present them as speaking only in grunts.
There was a long held belief that most peasants were illiterate in the 1500s until literally schoolbooks from the 1500s were excavated in Russia of a 7 year old boy’s learning to read and write.
The the point where we actually have pieces of his writing where he GOT BORED and started drawing pictures about how big and brave he was and drew a picture of himself as a warrior AND wrote his friend (presumably also a 7 year old boy)’s name on it to show him “Hey look at this cool thing I wrote about me fighting a bear”
hold on. *gets up to pull my book from my shelf*
OK! The boy’s name was Onfim because he had to write his name on his spelling exercises. The city was called Novgorod and is the most ancient recorded Slavic city in Russian history. The message to his friend was “Greetings from Onfim to Danilo” and just because he was unsure if the pictures he drew on his spelling homework made sense, he labeled the creature he was fighting with “I am a wild beast!”
Before these types of writing were discovered it was thought that the peasant class was illiterate and that writing was ONLY for the church and the ruling class. But after finding these as well as THOUSANDS of other letters, it became clear even the lowest peasant class in this time period were not only litirate but taught writing and spelling as serious subjects to the point where 7 year old peasant children could read and write.
Oh and in a completely different time period in a completely different country there’s also this fucker.
It’s rusted and its box has rotted away because it was made around 86 BC. So here’s a replica that’s been made of what it use to look like
And here’s a cross section
It’s from Greece and like I said, it’s from roughly 86BC.
It’s a computer.
On the front it calculates with extraordinary accuracy the movement of planets, constellations, moons etc etc and can be used for everything from religious holidays and rites to navigation by ship. The back is used for keeping score in the Olympic games of the various competitors, their athletes and nations etc etc.
Another fun one is the fact that the Steam Engine was first invented in the first century AD, however since it was fueled by wood because it had not been discovered that coal could be used as fuel, it was more a parlor trick to show people because it would cost more to employ a slave to fuel the machine with wood than what power the machine gave.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the steam engine is over 2000 years old.
Oh and the 13th century Syrians had swords made of Damascus Steel and we have no idea how the steel was forged. There have been numerous attempts to replicate it and some have gotten close but still fail to match the durability and ability to stay sharp of the originals. Some individuals have claimed to have replicated the steel perfectly but none of them have been recognised by officials. So we still don’t know how to make these even with all our modern technology.
AND ANOTHER THING!!
The “People believed that the Earth is flat in the past” myth only became a “fact” that people believed in the 1800s. Every scientist since the ancient Greeks knew the world was round and there are even Bible passages referring to the Earth as round.
Quote from Historian Jeffrey Burton Russel:
“With Extraordinarily few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the 3rd century BC onward believed that the Earth was flat. The myth that people in the middle ages thought the Earth was flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of a campaign by Protestants against Catholic teachings. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s “History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science” (1874)and Andrew Dickson White’s “History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom” (1896).
Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purposes, but historical research gradually demonstrated that Draper and White had propagated more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict.”
Also here’s a illustration from the 15th century from the book “On the Properties of Things” by Bartholomeus Anglicus, showing the Earth covered in buildings and spires
Here’s one from the 13th century, showing the 4 seasons on a spherical Earth
The comment about “we can’t do Damascus steel anymore” feels incorrect to me, but I don’t feel qualified to say why it feels incorrect. @petermorwood, this seems like a discussion in your wheelhouse?
IMO “We can’t do “real” Damascus steel any more” is correct.
There was a report some years ago that “the secret of Damascus Steel has been rediscovered”, but IIRC that was based more on analysis of historical examples to learn what made it special (carbon nanotubes etc.) rather than how to remake it.
There’s even a theory that “real” Damascus steel can never be made again because the source of its raw material - the particular iron ore, iron-bearing sand or whatever - has been exhausted or lost. You can’t make something properly if you can’t get the ingredients.
Writer note: “watered steel” is a term you sometimes see because of the way light reflects in swirls and ripples from the layers of the metal…
…though it can also be patterning like the grain in wood.
It’s good for fantasy writing because it doesn’t include the real-world name “Damascus”. Google searches also turn up layered steel, folded steel, wootz steel and pattern-welded steel, which aren’t different names for the same thing, nor synonyms for Damascus steel.
Watered silk is called that for the same reason…
…and it’s why Kipling wrote…
“It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk.”
The term “Damascus steel” nowadays most often refers to knives, swords and jewellery (I’ve seen some very nice rings) that look like this…
…while “damask” is fabric with a pattern woven into it, like the lustre-on-matte finish of Irish damask linen.
…and “damascene” is a decorative gold or silver inlay treatment for metalwork, though I think it’s often used as a catch-all term for similar-but-different techniques like koftgari (Indo-Persian)…
…Niello (European / Asian)…
…and zogan (Japanese).
Get educated fools
Mega Post TL;DR
Humans we’rent idiots in the past you chronological snobs.
I mean, humans were TOTALLY idiots in the past, but they’re idiots in the present and they’ll be idiots in the future; “humans being idiots” doesn’t prevent them from coming up with useful and functional and cool things, it just means that they’ll use those things in stupid ways.
Imagine if we had compounded and collected our knowledge over the millennia, instead of two steps forward one step back, if we could hold onto out achievements and build on them, what world could we be living in.
This all makes me wonder, in 2000 years will they think that the 2000′s were a dark age? All digital media should have degraded beyond recognition, so all of this will be lost.
If i think about it that would only happen if there was some kind of disruption that didn’t allow preservation to continue, we only need like 100 years of break for stuff to dissapear and only durable records to be preserved, and all the web would be a memory, maybe regarded as a weird thing that maybe future people would think is talking with supernatural beings or telepathy or stuff like that.
Some of the things here show that there is almost nothing to “invent” but stuff to “discover”, and many times people discovered stuff ahead of the things that would make them sustainable / usable in daily life. And if something is not “useful” in daily life it goes forgotten unless any effort is made to preserve it.