Tag Archives | Middle Ages

Origins of the “Jewish Nose”

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Although there are very few distinguishing characteristics of Jewish people, (e.g. European Jews are almost entirely of European genetic stock with a few distinguishing esoteric alleles) due to the Jewish diaspora across many different regions of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Jews have traditionally been portrayed in Western art as having large, hooked noses. But does this proscribed depiction reflect actual Jewish features? Not very much. Why?

Elissa Goldstein of Jewcy.com relays the fascinating explanation given by historian Sara Lipton:

Historian Sara Lipton has penned a fascinating article for the New York Review of Books about the origins of the caricature of the hook-nosed Jew. In ‘The Invention of the Jewish Nose,‘ Lipton, author of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Iconography, explains that the image of the Jew with the massive schnoz—the one we know so well from Nazi propaganda, to name just one example—is “far from ‘eternal’” and in fact didn’t exist before 1000 AD.

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Hundreds Of Mystery Underground Tunnels Below Germany

image-239154-galleryV9-wqggWhy were vast networks of carefully constructed “goblin tunnels” built below Bavaria during the Middle Ages? Why is there not a single written word about their purpose or construction? Der Spiegel delves into the darkness:

There are more than 700 curious tunnel networks in Bavaria, but their purpose remains a mystery. Were they built as graves for the souls of the dead, as ritual spaces or as hideaways from marauding bandits?

At least 700 of these chambers have been found in Bavaria alone, along with about 500 in Austria. In the local vernacular, they have fanciful names such as “Schrazelloch” (“goblin hole”) or “Alraunenhöhle” (“mandrake cave”). They were supposedly built by elves, and legend has it that gnomes lived inside. According to some sagas, they were parts of long escape tunnels from castles. Similar small underground labyrinths have been found across Europe, from Hungary to Spain, but no one knows why they were built.

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Torture In The Middle Ages: Revisited

Torture rack in the Tower of London

Frank Thadeusz presents a light-hearted perspective of the common tortures of the Dark Ages:

A German researcher has studied medieval criminal law and found that our image of the sadistic treatment of criminals in the Dark Ages is only partly true. Torture and gruesome executions were designed in part to ensure the salvation of the convicted person’s soul.

Peter Nirsch would have been seen as a monster at any time in history. While traveling south through Germany, he had a penchant for cutting open pregnant women and removing their unborn babies. Nirsch butchered more than 500 people before he was captured near Nuremberg in September 1581.

The courts were not squeamish in their treatment of the serial killer. First he was tortured, and then hot oil was poured into his wounds. Then the culprit was tied to the rack, where his arms and legs were broken.

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