Monthly Archives: July 2014

GUEST BLOG POST – Celts and Sheep (Ovis aries) in AoE II (Age of Empires 2)

Age of Empires

This week’s blog post is on the Age of Empires blog. Click here to go there now.

We have a special sort of text to look at this week… a 21st century one!

This week’s entry, hosted on the Age of Empires blog looks at how accurately sheep are depicted in the computer game.

Species mentioned: Several but most interestingly sheep, (Ovis aries) which are the most frequently exploited animal in Age of Empires.

Source: Age of Empires II, one of the most influential RTS games of all time.

Date of Source: Age of Empires II is a 21st century game, but it’s based on the vague “middle ages”. For the Celts that’s c.550-1650.

Highlights: Although the developers of AoE II seem to have no idea what a medieval sheep looked like, they knew exactly what they were doing when they gave the medieval Celts a bonus with livestock. “Celts” ranging from the heroes of ‘Táin Bó Cúailnge’ to the ballads of the Borderers have specialised in being able to steal livestock from anywhere, no matter how isolated and well-guarded.

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The Bear (Ursus arctos) in ‘Y Naw Helwriaeth’ (The Nine Huntings)

brown bear

Photograph of a brown bear taken by Malene Thyssen, Licensed under CC-AT-SA.

Species mentioned: Eleven, but most importantly the BEAR (U. arctos).

Source: ‘Naw Helwriaeth’ (the Nine Huntings). A secret book written by a gentleman to explain to other gentlemen which wild animals are the most fun to hunt down and/or eat if you’re bored.

Date of source: Sixteenth-seventeenth century Welsh text, and therefore NOT a good insight into pre-Conquest times.

Highlights: Even though a grizzly is mentioned among all the other animals in this text, this doesn’t mean that brown bears managed to survive in hiding until 1600, or even 1000 AD.

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The Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in ‘Passio Sancti Eadmundi’ (the Passion of Saint Edmund)

hedgehog friend

A sick European hedgehog out in daylight. Hereby released under CC-BY-SA.2.0 by Lee Raye.

 Species mentioned: One curled-up hedgehog (E. europaeus). Not aggressive.

Source: ‘Passio Sancti Eadmundi’ (The Passion of Saint Edmund) and its Old English translation.

Date of source: 985-7 A.D. Translated shortly afterwards.

Highlights: King Edmund is compared to a hedgehog. That would be an insult to most kings but Edmund was a terrible king anyway, so the author of the text tries to make him a saint instead.

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Book Review: ‘The Natural History of Ireland’, edited and translated by Denis O’Sullivan

The Natural History of Ireland by Philip O’Sullivan Beare.

O’Sullivan D (2009) The Natural History of Ireland by Philip O’Sullivan Beare. Cork University Press.
Display of this cover comprises fair-use under the 1988 Licenses, Designs and Patents Act.

Species mentioned: ALL OF THEM, except silly invertebrates.

Source: The ‘Natural History of Ireland’ by Philip O’Sullivan, a man who really hated Gerald of Wales too much.

Date of Source: 1626 A.D. (post medieval)

Highlights: This is a review of the modern edition and translation by Denis O’Sullivan. Ultimately the book is a truly amazing one for historians and ecologists but may not be a reliable guide to Ireland’s contemporary fauna. The translation needs to be used with caution.

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The salamander (Salamandra sp?) in the ‘Liber Monstrorum’ (The Book of Monsters)


Photograph of fire salamander, taken by Thomas Bresson and licensed for use under CC-BY-2.0.

Species Mentioned: One non-native fire-proof salamander.

Source: ‘Liber Monstrorum’ (The Book of Monsters), a kind of Latin encyclopaedia of scary beasties.

Date of Source: c.650-750 A.D.

Highlights: The idea of a salamander living in flame isn’t original to this text, but this text lets us know the story had reached Britain by 750 A.D.

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