Monday, 13 November 2017

Life in 1000 AD

I've been reading up about life in 1000 AD because I'm writing about it as well as watching archaeological digs. One of the interesting facts to come out of archaeology is the skeletons of the time are always larger than expected and they have wonderful teeth; ground down with use on coarse foods, perhaps, but otherwise healthy. 

Life was shorter then. The life span was forty, and those who reached fifty exceptional. For men the cause of death was often violent - war, and if not instant death then death from battle wounds. 
Not that everyday activities in the home were always safe; a harmless cut from a slipped  gutting knife could end in death because blood poisoning could set in and there was nothing to combat it back then. 

Everyone worked hard, famine was not unknown and sometimes a family had to sell a child. 
Too much rain could rot the crop in the fields, and frost at the wrong time could spell disaster. If a family's feudal lord could not provide, then starvation was all too likely. Hedgrows would be scoured for herbs, roots, grasses, nettles - anything that could be eaten. 

A twelve year old boy could swear an oath of allegiance to the king and a girl of the same age could marry a much older man than herself. Consummation was usually delayed until the girl was in her teens, but not always. Since the contract of marriage was all about land, estates, property among the richer folk, what would it have been about for the poorer families? 

Girls would have been married off as soon as someone willing to take them on could be found, because it would mean one less mouth to feed for her family. Or she could go and work as a maid in a larger household and hope she was well fed.
Men who sought wives presumably had the means to feed them, which meant they would be older than the girls. Young men would have to work until they had somewhere to live and 
 something to offer a wife. This went on right up into living memory. It is not unusual to find our parents and grandparents  listed in the census reports as "servant" in a family with a different name to them right up to the thirties and forties.

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