• experimental archeology •

Presently, and for some weeks, now, I have been on a creative journey which can best be described as experimental archeology (the idea with which, I first became acquainted, from the BBC television program, featuring history and ancient archeology, Time Team. They would occasionally do a ‘live experiment’, sometimes forging, using the ancient technologies, a bearded Viking hand-axe, or a sword, or build a Roman boat, or a dugout canoe, even going so far at times, to enlist a ‘volunteer’ to ‘join’ a ‘virtual convent’ in a virtual monastery, even go so far as wearing the period garb, taking a vow of silence, speaking to no one, in constant prayer, for a whole day, and a night, or march with the Roman army, and endure the rigors of being shouted at, in Latin, for twenty-four hours of dirty, sweaty fun, or to be a slave in a Viking community, for a day of grueling fetching and of doing the bidding of others, whilst being cursed at and spat upon. Ah, good times.)
Since those heady days of my early discovery, I have been dabbling in experimental archeology, of one sort, or another, almost continually. It is fun, and interesting, and it more than keeps me busy, it keeps me curious, and ever more appreciative of the innovation and creativity of our forbears, mindful of their courage, and (sometimes) adventurous spirit, their occasional big-hearted, dumb luck (and sometimes, not), ‘stick-to-it-tive-ness’, and perspicacity. And love of life, and of family, and community, when they weren’t busy sacking and pillaging, that is.
It’s the little (and big, but mostly, little) things which catch my attention, and then, by gum, I almost have to – let me correct that – I MUST try them, to see if I can figure out what was up with those farmers, or peasants, or landowners and lords, or clergy, or warriors, or artisans. It’s funny, some of the stuff I’ve learned. Shall I ‘count the ways’? Okay, maybe just a couple of items, oh, okay, maybe just one (though, believe me, there are many), just so’s you won’t worry about ‘that poor fella (me), frittering his life away…” (Ahem, who says ‘fritter’, anymore…wait a sec, who says, ‘ahem’? Not to fret… hey, fret? Really? There it goes again! Perhaps it’s an after-effect of ‘experimental archeology’: archaic expressionism. One must be wary. Oh, crap, it’s bad, isn’t it!)
Anywhoo. Can we get down to cases? Or in this case, case? Lets. Let’s start with the liripipe. What’s a liripipe? I’m glad you asked:
[lir·i·pipe
ˈlirəˌpīp/
noun
a long tail hanging from the back of a hood, especially in medieval or academic dress.]
A liripipe is a freakishly long extension from the back of a fourteenth century piece of apparel, which was a hood, which covered the head, more commonly worn by men, but some women, too (usually attached to a cowl, which extended to cover the shoulders), the liripipe, looking, to my eye, for all the world like a two to three foot long athletic tube sock, extending, at the top, from the back of the hood, and hanging down (in paintings and depictions of the day) most of the way down the back (of the wearer). “What the heck?” I said to myself, when I first saw the liripipe. What inexplicable bit of fashion-sense could have given rise (or more accurately, fall) to such a ridiculous-looking development? What could possibly be up with that?
And so, I made one, a liripipe, that is, oh, and a hood (they’re sort of conjoined, you see, like twins).
And I tried it on. And I wore it for a bit. (Alright, for more than a bit. Off and on, for days, would be more accurate. You’d be amazed how difficult it is to surreptitiously, wear strange apparel, in a house full of ‘normals’, unless you are into sporting ladies underthings, and then, too, only on your head.)
And now I get it, what was up with this liripipe, ‘thingy’, and, oh, my gosh, get a load of this.
In fact, the liripipe has many uses, when wearing a hood, especially if you have anything to actually do, other than flounce around the monastery, being ‘contemplative’, whilst wearing it.
Oh, alright, I do realize, of course, by the way, that a woolen hood isn’t much use around here, especially in summertime, even with (or without) said liripipe, but neither is a sombrero, so there. Oh…I have one of those, too. Yeah.)
Still, check out the varied and ingenious uses of the liripipe, aside from it’s obvious utility in helping drunkards keep track of each other in meandering home after dark from the Prancing Pony after ten too-many tankards of ale. (I’ve seen that depicted in a fourteenth century painting, as well. (See depiction, attached.))
Hoods tend to fall down over the eyes, if you lean forward even a little bit, so for farm workers, or craftsmen, this is a problem. So, with your handy-dandy liripipe, you just wrap it around the forehead, like a bandana, and voila!, problem solved, availing good visibility while keeping the head and shoulders warm as well, even keeping out substantial winds and cold air, and freeing up the hands for work, eliminating that pesky perpetual pushing out of the face, those random bits of unruly hair.
Or, for the fashion-conscious, if you just wish to look stylish in your hood, with a jaunty sweep of your liripipe (around your neck and over a shoulder), you can catch the eye of a fair maiden, (or, if you like, not-so-much-a-maiden, fair) with a casual flourish of – it goes without saying – debonair. Needless to say, at the, then, almost entirely unheard of, ‘ancient’ age of 57, I am, personally, a bit old for such vain, very probably, hopeless, peacockery, but I hear it’s very effective – if you happen to know the sort of women who go for men in hoods, that is.
Now, if you happen to be a horseman, on a hot day, this look is not only practical, but quite the fashion statement, which says, “Oh, this old thing? I can wear it any old way, and still look good!” This involves what I like to think of as thinking out of the box, or more accurately, out of the hood, which is irreverently rolled up on one side of the head (all of the floppy bits), and bound by the liripipe, and worn at a jaunty angle, upside down, and very probably, backwards (I haven’t quite worked it out, still): quite the statement for the bon vivant. And, to my taste, almost looks good, as well.
Of course, in a playful mood, one might just turn your swept-back hood, back to front, and go about looking like a wizard, sporting a faux knee-length beard, and all. Kids love a man with his clothes on backwards, and such a carefree attitude lets the myriad widows around town know that you aren’t broke, don’t have to be anywhere in particular, at that moment, and that you might just actually like kids, for themselves, instead of the usual merely having them around strictly for the asking of them for directions to the nearest pub, or as convenient hand mops for the ‘getting off’, of mud from your hands. Very fetching, the look, that is. They’ll love it, and you, for wearing it.
Archers, secure those encumbering floppy sleeves with a wrap of your liripipe! Swordsmen, why let archers have all’ the fun? Sleeve-free, slice and dice, parry away, at will. Make a cuffuffle and a furury, stylishly, and puffy-sleeve free! Get your liripipe (with attached hood: limit one per liripipe) today!
Oh, I could go on and on, about the liripipe, and what a grand time we should have, but time grows short (and, just between you and me, in this hood, in this heat, it is getting kind of hot in here).
Still, if you want to actually see some of these ways to utilize a liripipe (with hood), together with historic depictions, for reference, go to YouTube and type in, ‘Ten ways to wear your hood’ (Or, click:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GIx5L4dnri0). It’s both fun and informative. Plus, you don’t have to merely imagine a man looking completely ridiculous, right in front of you, you can actually see it, which is a plus.
Ah, the joys of experimental archeology! I hope I’ve shared some of the fulfillment I’ve had over the past weeks, and perhaps, even piqued your interest. Try it yourself, sometime, you won’t be disappointed. Even the kids in my household have gotten on the band wagon. Why, just the other day, after the boy had had himself locked in the only bathroom for over an hour, when I banged on the door, shouting, “Hey, other people live here you know! It’s been over an hour! What on Earth can you be doing in there?!!”
From the other side of the door came a muffled response, together with a chortle: “Experimental archeology,” he said.
~ Tim Burchfield
7/7/16

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