I'm fascinated by the personal documents that survive from earlier historical periods, particularly the ones for which reconstructing daily life is a matter of digging up trash heaps and attempting to relate what one finds there to the scanty documentation available. An afternoon spent perusing the Vindolanda tablets
, for instance -- a cache of wooden tablets unearthed north of Hadrian's Wall at a fortress staffed by Roman auxiliaries during the first and second centuries of the common era -- is a joy to me: they include everything from business correspondence to birthday party invitations (Tablet 291, if you want to have a look). It's like eavesdropping on your ancestors. (Or somebody's ancestors, anyway.)
So running across a link to "The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child"
over at Making Light
brightened my morning considerably. Young Onfim liked to doodle on birchbark and, by a happy combination of environmental circumstances, his doodles survive. Talk about the chance preservation of ephemera -- this is wonderful stuff, the refrigerator art of the Middle Ages, as Teresa Nielsen Hayden puts it. Go and have a look ...