Medieval Forensics

Many authors have written medieval murder mysteries, including me! In The Irish Bride, my latest medieval mystery, a monk is found dead within moments of Gwen and Gareth’s arrival in Ireland. As medieval detectives, how do they go about finding the killer? What can they possibly determine forensically without laboratories, fingerprints, and all the trappings of modern investigations? Medieval forensics was primitive, but there were some things a medieval detective could determine, including time of death, whether poison was involved, and whether the body was moved (thanks to another author, Jeri Westerson, for some of this information): Time of death:  Rigor mortis—literally, “death stiffness,” happens very predictably. Beginning two hours after death and starting from the face and moving down the body, the body takes eight to twelve hours to become completely stiff, remains rigid for the next eighteen hours, Read more…

December 11, 1282

Today is the 735th anniversary the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Welsh Prince of Wales.  He was ambushed and cut down by Englishmen, somewhere in the vicinity of Builth Wells (Buellt in Welsh), Wales, late on the afternoon on 11 December 1282.  It was a Friday. And then Llywelyn ap Gruffudd left Dafydd, his brother, guarding Gwynedd; and he himself and his host went to gain possession of Powys and Buellt. And he gained possession as far as Llanganten. And thereupon he sent his men and his steward to receive the homage of the men of Brycheiniog, and the prince was left with but a few men with him. And then Edmund Mortimer and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, and with them the king’s host, came upon them without warning; and then Llywelyn and his foremost men were slain on the day Read more…

Medieval Diseases

In the Middle Ages, the range of types of diseases was similar to what we experience today, with some exceptions (HIV/AIDS).   Viruses, of course, are no easier to combat now than then, but without vaccines and if the infected person was living in unclean or freezing conditions, or suffering from a poor diet, the disease was made that much worse.  Antibiotics help with some diseases, but then again, more have sprung up in response to them (C-diff). That said, these are some of the most common diseases people experienced in Europe in the Middle Ages (not including the Black Plague, see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1000; or leprosy, see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=223) Dysentary:  Still common in poorer countries today, Dysentary is an infection caused either by bacteria or amoebas, spread through contamination of food and water by infected fecal matter.  Typhoid is another such disease spread through bacteria and fecal matter which Read more…

The Senghenydd Mine Disaster

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst mining disasters ever, and certainly the worst in Wales. “Britain’s worst ever mining disaster has been remembered a century after 439 miners and one rescuer lost their lives in an explosion at Senghenydd in South Wales. A new monument has been unveiled on the site of the old mine and a memorial garden opened to remember more than 5,000 miners killed in accidents across Wales since the 18th century.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24516312 The explosion killed almost the entire male population of the town. “The demand for Welsh steam coal before World War I was enormous, driven by the Royal Navy and its huge fleet of steam battleships, dreadnoughts and cruisers, and by foreign Navies allied to Britain and the British Empire. Coal output from British mines peaked in 1914, and there were Read more…

The History of Chicken Pox

Sadly, this post is relevant because my youngest son, who is eight, came down with chicken pox two days ago.  I have no idea where he got it and even worse, he has had it before, though as a five month old child, which seems to be why he was able to get it again.  I’d hoped that having it a second time might mean a milder infection, but it’s not looking good right now.  He has spots in some VERY uncomfortable places. Chicken Pox, so named, has been around for a long time.  From the CDC:  “Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is an infectious disease. Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected person’s coughing or sneezing. A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the Read more…