In the past 4,000 years, the human race has come a very long way. We once used arrows and swords to fight wars, now we use guns and missiles. Only the rich used to know how to read and write, but now every single person has the opportunity. We even used to look up at the sky and dream about flying and touching the stars, and now we can fly anywhere we want to, including outer space. In 2016, there may be conflicts and instances of terror, but we still live in a time of great scientific and medical advancements, in a time when information is just a click away, and a time in which social issues and gender equality are at the forefront and causing real change. Several centuries ago though, none of this was the case, as people lived in a time period where no one would want to go back in time to visit.
Medieval Times, or the Dark Ages, is a historical period that is also known as the Middle Ages, because of the fact that it lasted between the fall of the Roman Empire all the way to the start of the Italian Renaissance. Those who lived during this time had to deal with many things, like a lack of proper healthcare, terrible living conditions, constant outbreaks of disease, and instances of social oppression and inhumane treatment. Every period in history is filled with stretches of time which makes us grateful of the fact that we are lucky to live in the 21st Century; and this list will try to prove that point by offering you 15 things you probably did not know about the Dark Ages.
15. Their Use Of Eagle Dung
In most cases today, when a woman goes into labour, she will go to a hospital where she will be attended to by a nurse and doctor, and where she will receive an epidural to help relieve some of the pain associated with the birthing process. Women today are incredibly lucky to have been born in the last two centuries, because medicine and health care has greatly improved since the Dark Ages, where giving birth resulted in the death of many women. Even during the Dark Ages though, women were often given special remedies in order to help alleviate their labour pains, remedies which included feeding the expectant mother spoonfuls of vinegar and sugar, or rubbing her belly with scented oils. There was one other type of remedy used though, which was a lotion made from the dung of eagles, which would be applied to the entirety of the woman’s belly; and how that managed to reduce the pain of childbirth is a question that only the midwives of that time can answer.
14. Forks Did Not Exist
Nowadays when we sit down for a meal at breakfast, lunch and dinner, there are always utensils around for us to use whenever we eat food that is presented to us in a bowl or on a plate, and the reason for that is because using utensils makes eating less messy and more hygienic. If we go to an ordinary restaurant that provides full-course meals, we sometimes look oddly at individuals who eat with their hands instead of using a fork, because of the outwardly dirty appearance of it; but during the Dark Ages, unless people were using a spoon for stew or some form of knife, people would only eat using their hands. At this point in human history, people did not really care about hygiene, and as a result, they did not believe in washing hands that often, even if they were covered in dirt and bodily waste. As we now know, not washing your hands while handling food can be a huge health hazard because of possible diseases, which makes the existence of the fork quite important.
13. Jails Were Terrible
It is true that going to jail is a terrible thing to happen to an individual, especially when they did not commit a violent crime, but at least in modernized regions today we treat most of those who are imprisoned as human beings, a statement that could not be said during the Dark Ages. In most cases, whenever an individual was sent to prison during the Dark Ages, that person would not leave alive, as all prisoners, no matter the crime, were forced to endure truly inhumane conditions. Prisoners were never allowed to go into a yard for exercise and fresh air like they are today, and instead they were kept shackled in their cells for the entirety of their sentence. They were also not given daily food or water, and were not allowed to receive medical care, which is why many prisoners ended up dying of either sickness or starvation, or a combination of the two. Many non-violent offenders today may hate the fact that they served time and possess a criminal record; but at least they can count themselves lucky that they were not convicted during that time period.
12. Barber Shop Surgery
It is generally a good thing when a person is specialized in multiple fields, in fact it is something that is encouraged, because if someone is capable of performing several different skills, then the probability of them finding a job tends to increase. With that being said though, if you want to get a haircut, you go to a barber, if you have a tooth problem, you go to a dentist, and if you need to have some kind of surgery, you get operated on by a surgeon; each of those jobs are very different, but during the Dark Ages a person could literally be all three. Barbers at that time were mainly responsible for cutting hair and shaving off facial hair like they do today, but they also performed dental work like pulling out teeth. They would also operate on people who needed any kind of minor surgery done, and in order to promote that service, barbers would wrap a bloody cloth around a white pole, which is the origin of the iconic barber pole. Just picture it, going in for a haircut, and then asking your barber if they would mind removing your appendix as well.
11. Lice Was Everywhere
Lice can be incredibly annoying, especially if it affects you, your child, or anyone else in your family, because of how badly they make a person’s head itch, and because of how hard they are to get rid of. As annoying as it is to get lice, at least we now have methods with which to rid ourselves of them in a hasty manner, but that was not the case during the Dark Ages when no one really knew how to manufacture specific chemicals. In the Dark Ages, it did not matter whether you were a part of the peasantry, the nobility, or a member of the royal family, because virtually everyone at the time had lice, and the infestations were so bad that the only real available treatment method was for a person to shave their head. It is in fact because of the huge lice problem, that movies set during that time, depict both men and women wearing big fancy wigs, because they were all bald underneath. Unfortunately, people back then did not know that lice do not care whether the hair on a person’s head is real or fake.
10. Very Low Life Expectancy
In 2016, the average life expectancy in highly developed countries is somewhere over 80 years old, but in many third-world countries around the world, life expectancies drop as low as the mid 40s. Although having a life expectancy of just over 40 years seems short, it is a great improvement over the average life expectancy of a person who lived during the Dark Ages, which happened to be 31. Now, 31 may be very young, but it makes sense when you take into account the fact that hygiene at the time was terrible, that healthcare was abysmal because of a lack of knowledge and sterilization, and that there were numerous disease outbreaks and conflicts. Most men did in fact usually die in their early 30s, but luckily many women, who were fortunate enough to survive childbirth, were able to live past the average to see their own children grow up
9. Artificial Eyebrows Were In
Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder, and even though looks aren’t everything, both men and women continue to think the opposite, which is why every large convenience store and pharmacy has its own aisles dedicated to beauty products. There are also instances where people alter their own faces in some form because they believe that someone else’s look brings out real beauty (like when some girls were enlarging their lips like Kylie Jenner…). This is nothing new though. Because people have been altering their appearances from as far back as the Dark Ages. At some point during the Dark Ages, there was an English king who thought that women without eyebrows were attractive, which led to many women shaving off their own eyebrows and then applying special oils to prevent the hairs from growing back. As time passed though, shaved eyebrows were no longer considered to be attractive, which forced women who had already gotten rid of them to use artificial eyebrows, which turned out to be made from the hair of mice.
8. Humans Licked Wounds Of Others
Religion continues to be a very important thing in our world, and although religion often clashes with scientific and social progress, it still offers a sense of peace and comfort for millions of people around the world. In the Roman Catholic faith, the clergy and even the Pope himself can sometimes be seen visiting the homeless and the sick, who they offer prayers to, and who they can sometimes even tend to. During the Dark Ages, the church was even more prominent as it is today, and the members of the church would be even more involved with the sick, especially those who suffered from leprosy. Whenever a high ranking church official would visit with lepers, they would actually lick some of their wounds and eat their scabs in hopes of healing the individual through God. Obviously these officials must have believed that their faith made them immune from all illnesses, because why else would a person eat a scab off a leper.
7. Pee-Based Laundry Detergent
The vast majority of us do laundry on a weekly basis, because most of us believe heavily in the idea of cleanliness, and because we do not want to permanently leave a visible stain on our favorite pieces of clothing. You can actually wash your clothes different ways, like by hand using just water, or with a bar of soap, but the most common method is to just put clothes into a washing machine, then add detergent, fabric softener, and bleach, and just let the machine do all the work. The washing machine has only been around for a relatively short amount of time though, and prior to that everything was washed by hand, but during the Dark Ages, people actually started using a very primitive form of laundry detergent which was made from ingredients that by today’s standards, would keep it from being sold at stores. The detergent of the Dark Ages was made by combining ash with actual human urine, which must have given people’s clothing and bed sheets a very pleasant aroma.
6. Extreme Beauty Methods
A couple of entries ago, it was mentioned that people do a lot of things in order to look more attractive, and the oldest method with which people have made themselves more beautiful is by using makeup. As was also mentioned earlier, there are entire aisles devoted to makeup, aisles which at times seem to be filled with an endless amount of lipsticks, eyeliners, mascaras, and blushes. Makeup has existed since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and during the Middle Ages, it was primarily used only by the nobility to give themselves pale white skin, because the paler a woman was, the more beautiful she was apparently. The problem is that the makeup they used back then contained lead in it, which for those who do not know, can be toxic to humans. For those who could not afford makeup though, they would go to a barber and get cut so that they could bleed out until they went pale.
5. Actual Chastity Belts
The main purpose of a belt is to keep a person’s pants from falling down, but over the last few decades, belts have become more of a fashion statement than a simple piece of supportive clothing. In 2016, women like to accessorize with belts, but if they lived during the Dark Ages, the only belt that they would have been allowed to wear would neither have been fashionable or comfortable. Chastity belts were created solely for women, and came equipped with their own locking mechanism that required a key, and their main purpose was to prevent women from pleasuring themselves, and to keep couples from getting intimately involved with one another before marriage. Husbands would also sometimes place these belts on their wives before they set out for battle to ensure that they could not have relations with anyone else.
4. Effective Birth Control?
For many of us, birth control is the greatest and most important invention in all of human history and the reason for that is simple, because birth control greatly reduces the chances of contracting an STD, and it prevents people from also having to deal with any unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. During the Dark Ages, people were a lot more religious than they are today, which means that the very idea of contraception was taboo and went against the will of God. With that being said though, there were still people back then who for one reason or another, did not want to have children, which is why some decided to take certain mystical steps to try and keep a bun out of the oven, because it was the only real kind of ‘contraception available’. For women, their method usually involved drinking some kind of rancid liquid concoction, which some men also did, but there were a few who decided that wearing an amulet which contained weasel testicles, was the best way to prevent pregnancy.
3. Animals Could Be Put On Trial
For a long time, there were no laws put in place in order to defend animals against poaching and abuse, but luckily we now live in a time where those laws do exist, and animals have indeed benefited from them. It was mentioned earlier that when a person living in the Dark Ages was convicted of a crime, that they would have to endure truly inhumane treatment, but surprisingly, human beings at the time were not the only living things that could be convicted of a crime. There were instances in which animals, who had absolutely no malicious intent, were convicted of crimes like theft, but they could even be convicted of murder, which is what happened to multiple pigs who were left to roam around and accidentally caused the death of a child. We all get that our criminal justice system can at times be unfair and ineffective, but at least our tax dollars are not spent towards deciding whether or not to convict an animal for stealing food out of a garden.
2. Really Poor Sanitation
In most developed countries, people have access to pipes that carry clean running water into their homes, and there are sewer systems that properly dispose of bodily wastes and runoff water caused by rain or melting snow. Nowadays, we take this form of sanitation for granted, because every building we enter tends to have at least one functioning toilet, but for our ancestors who lived during the Dark Ages, they lived in far less sanitary conditions. During this time, there was no such thing as indoor plumbing, meaning that there were no toilets, so to do their business, people would use a chamber pot to go to the bathroom with. As the name suggests, it was in fact just a pot, and when it got filled, people would just toss the contents out a window, hitting anyone who just happened to be walking by. The contents’ intended destination though, was a primitive sewer which was located right in the middle of the crowded street, which forced people to have to walk through it, and which led to bad smells and disease outbreaks.
1. Women Were Not Allowed To Be On Top
At the number one spot on this list is something that by today’s logic, everyone will see as completely and utterly absurd, because during the Dark Ages, the church was so powerful, that it even mandated how people were supposed to have intercourse. Today, when a couple gets intimate, they can enjoy multiple positions together without anyone in a position of power telling them what is permitted, and one of those positions is when the woman is on top. During the Dark Ages, this position was deemed illegal by the church, because it gave off the impression that the woman was more dominant than the man, which was considered a sin; the church also viewed it as a position that served to give the woman pleasure instead of just getting her pregnant, which back then, was also considered to be a sin. If a woman was ever caught being on top, they could even be placed on trial and sent to one of those terrible prisons.