Mirror, mirror on the wall …

Christina here. I have always found mirrors fascinating and I’m sure that’s been true for most people ever since the first caveman/woman happened to catch sight of him- or herself in a still pond or lake somewhere. Therefore, a recent TV programme I watched (Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez on BBC2) about amazing archaeological finds in the 9,000-year old city of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, caught my attention. The presenter held up a mirror that was 7000 years old! It wasn’t what we would call a mirror really, but a piece of obsidian – rounded on one side to fit nicely into the palm of your hand and polished flat on the other side to such a shine that you could see your face in it. I was astonished to think such a thing existed so long ago!

Janina

Janina Ramirez ©BBC Television

It made me start thinking about mirrors in the past and of course I went down a rabbit hole …

Clearly, still water must have been the first type of mirror, and if no ponds, lakes or puddles were available, some water in a dark bowl or vessel could have been used. But that’s not very practical if you want to see yourself from any direction other than leaning above the surface. Apart from polished obsidian, apparently volcanic glass was also used in pre-historical times, then came polished copper, bronze and silver, and later steel. These are not very satisfactory though as the reflectivity is poor and these metals also tarnished quickly so had to be polished often.

Read more

Iceland – In the Footsteps of the Vikings (Part I)

Christina here. When I planned out my current Viking time travel series a couple of years ago, it seemed like a great idea to have one of them set in Iceland. This massive island in the North Atlantic was more or less empty before the Vikings arrived to settle there around 860-870 AD. As my story took place in 875 AD, it made sense to have my characters be part of those first groups of settlers.

ReykjanesOf course, this would necessitate a research trip to Iceland – I’d wanted to visit for a long time so great excuse, right? Then Covid happened. For 18 months I waited to see if travelling would be possible again, and in the meantime, I had to work on my story using only information gleaned from books, travel blogs and other peoples’ remembrances. Definitely not ideal!

By early June this year, I had less than a month to finalise the edits for the book (TEMPTED BY THE RUNES) when at last the borders opened and travel was allowed! I jumped at the chance and with my husband quickly organised a trip which, despite hassle with paperwork and tests, turned out to be magical, so I thought I’d tell you about our journey. Here’s the first part:-

The main Icelandic airport, Keflavik, is about an hour’s drive away from the capital Reykjavik. First impressions of Iceland were of vast skies and a strange, flat and rather barren landscape with volcanic rock covered in moss, but with mountains in the middle. One of them, Fagradalshraun, recently erupted, but by the time we were there, all you could see was a cloud of smoke in the distance.

Read more

Meet Historical Honey!

HH Logo for emailNicola here. Today I am thrilled to welcome Historical
Honey to the Word Wench blog! I first came across the Historical Honey website
a few months ago and was very taken with their eclectic mix of historical
articles, interviews and reviews, from quizzes to discover which of Henry
VIII’s wives you would be to details of costume exhibitions and suggestions for
great places to visit. It’s a box of historical delights!

1. Annabelle,
Jenna and Polly, thank you for joining us today. Where did the idea for the
Historical Honey site first come from?

It all started as a bit of joke, that
we would be historical superheroes, or the ‘historical honeys’ who would bring
history to the masses. Anyway, we soon got serious, dropped the ‘S’, and
Historical Honey was born!

2. Historical Honey’s mission is to
make history more accessible for all. Why is this important to you and how are
you doing it? 

As much as we started off a bit silly,
the premise of the site has always been the same. Whether you are an industry
professional, a student or someone who dips in from time to time, we are
genuinely passionate about creating a platform where people from all walks of
life can share their interests. History is universal, and should be accessible
to everybody, not just people who can understand the archaeological journal. We
like to say it’s ‘history without the cobwebs’.

We know it’s controversial to say, but
the majority of historical sites out there are dull, and even
August newsletter header though the
content can be fascinating, the delivery isn’t accessible and the majority of
people are put off by history for this very reason. Annabelle and Polly are archaeologists, and there are
publications/TV shows (which shall not be named) which in theory they should
read and watch religiously…but they don’t. Why? Because they are boring.

We want to present history in a fun and
engaging way. We actively encourage people to contribute and write 500 word
articles on a subject of their choosing. In the beginning we thought we would
get dozens of articles on popular subjects such as Rome or Egypt. To our
surprise we haven’t received one yet! It’s an amazing insight into how varied
peoples interests are, and there truly is something for everyone.

Whether you visit us just once or
religiously every day, we hope you will learn something, have a giggle and
maybe pass on a little trivia to a friend.

3. The site features all kinds of
quirky articles on history, from badass history boys to how to have sex like
Socrates. How do you decide what sort of articles fit the image of the
Historical Honey site? What are you looking for from potential
contributors? 

We can best describe Historical Honey
as a pick n’ mix of historical content. Sometimes we can be silly, sometimes
naughty, but it’s all what makes us human, right? Folks from history were
certainly no different!

There really are no set rules when it
comes to contributor articles; if someone can bring passion to a subject, it
can’t help but be interesting. It really is passion that is a fundamental
driver behind the whole concept of Historical Honey, and all of our
contributors have passion in abundance!

Alongside articles written by
contributors we also write our own, in-house; ranging from general topics, book
reviews, quizzes, interviews… the great thing about working for Historical
Honey is that we get to write about whatever takes our interest (as long as its
historical!).

4. What are your own historical
interests and passions, heroes and heroines? 

Annabelle: I am a massive medieval
fan. I dream about life at the Tudor court and chat to Jenna daily
Jenna annabelle polly v2 about Henry
VIII and Anne Boleyn (face to face, via text, Whatsapp…seriously, one day we
should think about publishing our inane conversations about our Henners and
Annie B!) It’s such an obvious one to choose but Anne really is my
heroine.  We will never know what made her tick, and that’s just what
holds our fascination. She had a tragic end, but her strength is something
every woman can relate to.

Jenna: My parents and friends have
always regarded me as a bit of a history geek. As the only member of the HH
team without a background in history or heritage, I can safely say I am your
‘Average Joe’ who loves to learn about the past! Aside from my love for the
Tudor and Victorian periods, my historical interests are limitless. I love to
read about anything morbid; asylums, graveyards, witchcraft and bodysnatching.
I am particularly passionate about fashion throughout history, and the Honey
team are renowned for dressing up in historical garb! As for historical
heroines, that is a hard one, as I am quite changeable! Probably Jane Austen or
John Lennon; both great writers who have changed the world through their work.
Both timeless artists.

Polly: I recently completed a
masters in forensic archaeology and anthropology so I do love a good skelly! I
love how just a few small bones can provide a window into someone's life and
times – even if they lived thousands of years ago. I have a big honey crush on
Charles Darwin, I love Leonardo Da Vinci (especially his anatomical drawings) but
my No.1 hero has to be Agatha Christie. She was an archaeologist before
women were called archaeologists, and wrote many of her stories whilst
travelling around the world – what a life! 

5. If you could back in time to a
moment in history, when would you choose?

Annabelle: There are too many, I
couldn’t possibly choose!

Jenna: Versailles at the time of
Marie Antoinette. I want to know what she was really like.
Second to that, I would love to be a fly on the wall and find out what actually
happened to the Princes in The Tower.

Polly: The roaring 20s – for the
dresses and the cocktails!

6. Historical Honey also reviews
historical fiction. What do you look for in a good historical novel? 

Annabelle: I am sucker for books
which allow me get inside the head of the characters; allowing me to travel
along with them on their journey. Oh and obviously, a little romance never goes
amiss!

Jenna: I love to get lost in time,
so descriptions of surroundings, dress, smells and food are all important in
building the image in my mind of where the action is taking place. And,
anything a little bit sexy.

Polly: The little details that
show that an author has really read up and done a lot of research about a topic
really makes a historical novel. You need to be able to trust that the author
knows what they are talking about before you can trust in the story.
Topic-wise, I love a good mystery or anything set during the early 20th
Century. 

7. Can you give us a sneak peek of
what’s coming up next in the Hive? 

Something that has always been really
important to us is helping young people get on the career ladder in the
cultural sector. The HH team have all personally struggled, so we are currently
building a space where all industry jobs and internships from across the
country will be posted. We are also in the process of recruiting industry
professionals to act as mentors for young people, as and when they need it.
Working in this sector is a dream for many people, but with a bit of drive and
a lot of passion it can become a reality.

SECRETBOOKCLUBFORNEWSLETTERAdditionally, we have recently launched
the exciting ‘#SecretBookClub’. Members will receive a free historical novel,
at random, to read. The only catch is they have to send us a short review. As
the majority of us are stuck in a rut when it comes to choosing a book to read,
the #SecretBookClub will allow contributors to read something completely out of
their comfort zone, hopefully providing a more honest review. Whether they love
or hate it, we want to hear about it!

A big thank you to Annabelle, Jenna and
Polly for visiting Word Wenches today and sharing some of the secrets of the
hive. If you would like to find out more about Historical Honey you can find
them here:

Website: www.historicalhoney.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Historicalhoney

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HHHive

If you have any questions for Historical Honey
please go ahead and ask! Their question to you is which
historical character would you like to exchange places with for a day and how
do you think that person would cope with your life? One commenter gets
the choice of one of my books as the prize.