PROJECTS

The Black Death Digital Archive Project

Our understanding of the Black Death, the plague pandemic that ravaged Europe, the Middle East, and north Africa between 1346 and 1353, has been transformed in the past 15 years due to new developments in genetics. An evolutionary history of the causative organism of plague, Yersinia pestis, allows us now to track plague’s movements across vast landscapes and demonstrate the connected stories linking outbreaks from China to Spain to sub-Saharan Africa. Just as the geographical footprint of the Second Plague Pandemic has grown, so, too, has its chronological scope. We can now demonstrate that a sustained proliferation of strains of Y. pestis started in the late 12th or early 13th century, and lasted up to the 19th century. This project serves as a portal for researchers from all disciplinary backgrounds, allowing them to find the best methodological work with links to biological, archaelogical, and documentary databases.

Discoveries of the Americas "Discoveries" of the Americas

Many theories of pre-Columbian travel to the New World have been put forth by historians, attesting to the enduring fascination human cultures have with travel and discovery. This site is not aimed at furthering any particular theories or developing arguments about who may or may not have arrived “first” in the Americas. We are devoted to collecting and presenting digital resources in a user-friendly manner that will allow site visitors to see and explore for themselves pre-modern cultures and their technologies and myths (written and oral) that led to their enthusiasm for exploration. We want you to experience some of what these travelers felt as they heard stories of fantastic places and difficult voyages, and worked with early technologies to understand their world. Recognizing that all travel resulted in some sort of cultural interaction and that the Americas already possessed vibrant cultures, our project is designed around moments of encounter.

Early Global Connections Early Global Connections: East Africa between Asia, and Mediterranean Europe

In this project we explore East African towns as nodal points connecting individual African traders from the southern African interior, the northern coastal and the transoceanic trade networks with the Far East, India, Europe, and the Middle East. During the Middle Ages, increasingly after the ninth century, East African towns were important centers of production and venues where trans-continental exchange of goods and natural resources, including human beings, took place.

Egyptian Evil Eye Evil Eye

The Evil Eye is a concept understood across time, space, and religion, from the medieval era to the present day. Apotropaic objects with color-coded significance support a timeless material culture designed to protect and defend individuals against evil, generated by the jealous gaze, in each of the three Abrahamic monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Amulets created, worn, and displayed in each religion resonate with shared anxiety and intent in the creation of visible defenses against the Evil Eye incarnated in protective eyes and hands.

 

 

Imagining Medieval Narrative: The Travels of Marco Polo

Follow the voyage of the Venetian traveller Marco Polo as it is depicted in his 13th century La Description du monde. The maps plot the individual steps in Polo’s voyage, drawn from his travel account written in Franco-Italian as he roamed through the various kingdoms of the Middle East and Asia.

 

Open spread folio 36v and 37r The Queen of Sheba Manuscripts, Monstrous Races, the Evil Eye

Illuminated manuscripts allow us to glimpse the real and imagined worlds of medieval artists, patrons, thinkers, writers, pilgrims, and travelers. In a time before the borders of cities, nations, and even continents were clearly defined or established, individuals could turn to texts – including epic romances, world histories, encyclopedias, travel literature, and sacred writings – to learn about distant lands and peoples. Many of these accounts were accompanied by stunning illuminations, which gave life to a world that was otherwise accessible only to indomitable travelers or a vibrant imagination.

map Mapping the Mongol Empire

This project aims to offer ways of mapping the Mongol empire that highlight its role in generating inter-ecumenical travel and writing, as well as in developing new ways of visualizing its structures that do not depend on mapping conventions developed in succeeding nation states, particularly China and Russia.

 

Images of monsters taken from European and Chinese manuscripts Monsters of the Global Middle Ages

Monsters are endemic to cultures throughout the world, present in mythological, religious, scientific, geographical, ethnographical, sociological, historical, and epistemological art and literature. Over the past twenty years, there has been an exponential increase in the production of serious scholarship on monsters and the monstrous, sometimes categorized as Monster Studies (wherein monsters are an area of investigation) or Monster Theory (wherein monsters become an analytical tool for the investigation of other cultural phenomena). Most studies are conducted within regional disciplines, though monsters, in their very nature, their embodiments, their behaviors, and their motions cross boundaries willfully, gloriously, violently, and wondrously. This project, Monsters of the Global Middle Ages, seeks contributions considering monsters and monstrous figures from throughout the medieval globe, especially those that set monsters of one region or culture in conversation with monsters of another.

Shell Cup from Peabody Museum, Cambridge, MA The North American Middle Ages: Big History from the Mississippi Valley to Mexico

Through virtual visits to key archaeological sites and a review of ancient cultures across several centuries, the North American Middle Ages project affords a user-friendly interface between archaeological details and the big history of the Mississippi valley south into Mexico. Graphic illustrations, site layout and architectural details, textual summaries and a walk-through visualization will be linked to a timeline that will act as the backbone of the website. This site is an exciting place to start rethinking the ancient history of North America.

Prester John The Peregrinations of Prester John: The Creation of a Global Story Across 600 Years

Of all the legendary material produced during the era of the Crusades, the kingdom of Prester John has proven to be unmatched in its influence on the European imagination. “The Peregrinations of Prester John” allows the viewer to experience the legend’s unfolding, piece by piece, as it swept up half of the world, from 1150 to 1700. The project traces the story of Prester John across the centuries during which legendary material accrued, alongside the geographies the myth touched and helped shape. By plotting the proposed locations of John’s kingdom in line with understandings of the globe contemporary to these conjectures, one begins to see the degree to which the Prester John legend helped Europeans explore the peripheries of the world, as understood by the medieval and early modern West.

Ottoman Medical Elite Prosopographical Study of Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Medical Elite

This project brings scattered evidence in the Ottoman archival and narrative sources to trace the formation and expansion of one profession: the Ottoman elite physicians. From a seemingly insignificant body of practitioners in the fifteenth century to a structured professional hierarchy, the rise of Ottoman elite physicians will be reconstructed here. The particular focus of the project will be individual physicians, their education, work experience, and their relationships with one another. By establishing the temporal and spatial connections between the individual actors, the project will enable us to study them in context.

Global Ivory The Story of Global Ivory in the Pre-Modern Era

The project brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines and specialties with a special interest and a unique, sometimes idiosyncratic “take” on ivory—all aspects of the material—its identification, origin and manufacture, how it traveled across the world, and its importance culturally as well as economically. “Global Ivory”—invites colleagues from diverse disciplines to contribute short occasional pieces—generic or theoretical—ways of approaching or conceptualizing the subject of study. More often than not, these short, compelling narratives focus on one object alone that epitomizes something important about ivory in this time-frame. Taken together, the papers constitute a mosaic of impressions and appreciations of ivory (“stories”) as an important building block in the fashioning of the global culture of the pre-modern period.

Icon for Syriaca.org using the Syriac alphabet Syriaca.org

A digital project for the study of Syriac literature, culture, and history. Today, a number of heritage communities around the world have linguistic, religious or cultural identities with roots in Syriac language and culture. Syriaca.org exists to document and preserve these Syriac cultural heritages for use by a wide audience including researchers and students, members of Syriac heritage communities and the interested general public.

Icon is the dragon head of a ewer found in the shipwreck. The Tang Shipwreck

In 1998, a shipwreck was discovered off Belitung Island in the Java Sea. It contained a remarkable cargo of more than 60,000 ceramics produced in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907), as well as luxurious objects of gold and silver. Bound for Iran and Iraq, the ship provides early proof for strong commercial links between China, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

 

Temasik: A Malay Port-Polity in Island Southeast Asia

A multi-disciplinary project that seeks to reconstruct the nature, activities and history of Temasik, a port-polity that existed on the southern coast of Singapore Island and the Malay Peninsula, during the late thirteenth to early seventeenth century. The project draws upon studies on the Maritime Asian context that gave rise to such port-polities in the late medieval period of Southeast Asian history, the nature of the port-city and its population, the regional and international linkages the port-polity maintained, and the sources from which information on this settlement, may be drawn.

 

Virtual Placencia Virtual Plasencia

Virtual Plasencia is a 3D walk-through model of a key portion of the fifteenth century, walled city of Plasencia, Spain. Within this digital world we reveal the lives and relationships of its Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim inhabitants. Virtual Plasencia Version 1.0 delivers a portal for the public to immerse itself within the medieval Plaza de San Nicolas, which was located in the city’s Jewish quarter. Within this zone, visitors can explore ten historical narratives from the fifteenth century, as well as view the Church of St. Nicholas, the synagogue, and the Palace of the Mirabeles. Through this virtual space, we aim to recreate the cooperative and challenging processes that emerged during this era of intercultural integration and violence in Spain and Europe. The 3D model and the historical narratives are based on Book One (1399-1453) of the Capitulary Acts of the Cathedral of Plasencia and other archival sources.