Reconstructing the material culture of the medieval world allows us to hold, touch, or wield an object in order to gain a deeper understanding of a task, or a way of life, often missing from purely documentary study. We must be mindful though to treat these reproduced items as interpretations of, not replacements for, the original items that they attempt to represent. Using the reconstruction of late medieval cookery and kitchen material culture, this paper will look at some of the pitfalls of reconstructing objects from the past and look at the ways that errors are compounded to distort our impressions of past lives.
This paper draws on research for my PhD in Informal Learning in Medieval Re-Enactment. Specifically I am looking at the experiences of re-enactors who portray medieval royalty and how they have become their characters. My research looks at the sourcing of both information and of reproduced artifacts for the re-enactors to be able to portray their characters. Many of these artifacts are made by the re-enactors themselves, so my research has focused on how they have acquired the skills and knowledge to be able to do this. I am also focusing on the notion of identity and how they have used sources to enable them to portray their roles in public re-enactment situations.
Many Irish churches, such as Clonfert Cathedral and St Mary’s Priory in Clontuskert, contain sculptures of mermaids swimming with or holding fish. Patricia Radford (2003) argues that this is meant to symbolise the Christian soul being captured by their lust. Furthermore, in the late 1600s many sculptures of mermaids holding both mirrors and combs (such as that seen on the side of Galway Cathedral, also in Ireland) to remind us of the sin of pride and warn us against vanity. Over the years as technology advances, the depiction of mermaids has become similar to those shown in places of worship. Due to social websites such DeviantArt, 3D imagery of mermaids has been repeated time and time again. Most cast light on the traditional Irish tales rather than the classical era’s Sirens. But a commonality between computer generated images and the Irish tales is that, more often than not, mermaids are depicted sexually and often revolve around the theme of Lust.