WRITING ON BARK. One reason we tend to think of people in the past as warriors is that weapons, jewelry and “grave goods” usually last longer than writings. Day to day activity—farming and commerce—leaves few records. There are exceptions. Literary manuscripts have often survived, although sometimes with narrow escapes. David M. Herszenhorn had an article in the New York Times (October 18) about the birch bark documents which have been preserved in the mud near Novgorod in Russia. The documents preserve traces of ordinary life—business transactions, love letters, a child’s homework . Novgorod was a member of the Hanseatic League, trading with Lubeck, Bruges, Ghent and London. The birch bark documents survive from the 1000’s to the 1400’s. This wikipedia entry says that over 1000 of them have been discovered.

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