The Medium was the Weather

Well, not quite, Marshall McLuhan’s famous saying that the Medium is the Message, can be reframed as the medium was shaped by weather in Britain. At least back in Roman times.

The first depiction of anyone writing was of a young girl in the ruins of Pompei, writing on what then passed as a jotter, a wax tablet. This is also interesteing as it shows women were literate back then.

When Romans came to Britain, the most common form of recording was still onto papyrus, similar to the many that have been found throughout the Middle East. But they have survived there due largely to the dry climate that preserves them well. This must have been known to people at the time, because recent excavations at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall have found no papyrus – if scrolls were here they have long since rotted away. There are lots of Roman writing, but here it is on wood, a far more durable substance, made from trees that are plentiful here but rather more scarce round the Mediterranean . 

 And as an annoying post script to this, I heard an interview some time ago with an English folk group who had written a song about a piece of Roman graffiti from Hadrian’s Wall that had intrigued them. I cant’ remember the name of the group, but they had been intrigued by some script. I also can’t recall the name of the song, but it was a person’s name, and said they didn’t do it. So hundreds of years later, we still don’t know.  But does this make it the most intriguing piece of graffiti ever written? I’ve tried to trace this on Youtube and on Hadrian’s wall sites to no avail.

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8 thoughts on “The Medium was the Weather

    • Thanks so much for this. Great song. I knew someone in the folk world would know. Folkies are a huge font of obscure knowledge, maybe they should hook up to form wikifolk. Or perhaps it’s better to stay quirkily independent.

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