Deirdre O'Sullivan

Deirdre O'Sullivan

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester.

Location Leicester


  • only found the first response

  • This is a good simple exercise.

  • The medics say he developed the condition in adolescence

  • In Leicester we celebrate Eid, Vaisakhi and Diwali; there are public events and ceremonies and people go out to eat. We also have a statue of Mahtma Gandhi, set up in 2009.

  • That is a very useful comment, Catherine. the key thing that happened here was that the plan was flexible and could be instantly adapted to changing evidence coming from the ground.

  • There are some interesting things here but you need to provide more links as to how these can be explored.

  • You need to provide some links on which a discussion could be based

  • No. Museums operate within their own narrow discourse.

  • London is surely the type of a cosmopolis - full of diversity and rich in much that people value , but hard to live in if you are not actually affluent.

  • More depth is really needed in this analysis

  • This is all a bit celebratory... more critical perspective needed

  • the course should provide a bit more info about the museum - not just a 'expert voice'

  • Yes of course it can!

    Local authorities stick to secular agendas but they can support cultural events. in putting forward ideas for our bid for City of Culture Sikhs in Leicester proposed to offer langar - serving free food - to everyone. We never got the bid, but what a great idea it was!

  • Now this is interesting. In Leicester we have a huge range of places of worship of South Asian faiths. The majority of these are adapted from older buildings, including redundant places of Christian worship as well as industrial buildings. There are some new builds. Is the issue in Cologne about who determines urban monumentality rather than religious...

  • We cannot undo in the present the dreadful things that were done in the name of colonialism, or religion, or patriotism in the past. So perhaps heritage is clearly at odds with history here? A distraction from important goals that can only be met by political solutions in the present?

  • I think the idea that a 'city' 'comes to terms' with a contested heritage is too simplistic. Look at Belfast - an accommodation has been made and it is out of the news, for the most part, but the sectarian tensions are still there, even if people are not using violent means to reinforce these

  • I also live in Leicester, where there are many different strands of culture, some based on 'country of origin', some on faith. Tensions are rare but I do wonder about the extent to which identities can be excluding as well as supportive.

  • Medieval kings were indeed commonly buried in lead coffins -those of Edward 1 and Edward 11 have been seen in fairly recent times

  • Archaeologists tend to think so - or at least the start of the process whereby 'ordinary' people had some cash to spend on non essentials...

  • I believe she is awaiting reburial

  • We don't have the same documentary information to identify her as an individual, but she is likely to be an important patron or founder.

  • The burial in Leicester Cathedral was agreed in the event of a discovery, and before it, and followed appropriate Home Office practice. This was challenged some months later by an American-based group, the Plantagenet Alliance, who claimed kinship with the Plantagenet family, and thought they should be consulted. The resulting court case was pitched by the...

  • Indeed it is!

  • monks did indeed renounce personal possessions (known as evangelical poverty) , but the monasteries (apart from the friars) were supported by endowments and revenue from their estates

  • Choir monks were not usually involved in manual labour

  • Yes, you have hit the nail on the head.

  • For clarification: can't include sections from books on this course at it is an infringement of copyright. We are also aiming to keep resources free.

  • Remember I have identified two very rich houses! The majority of houses were far poorer. And the friars, who usually dominated the urban monastic scene, were not rich - they relied on begging themselves for their income.

  • The aristocracy had a preference for game rather than ordinary domesticates.

  • Eating a 'different' diet was a way of policing social rank. This was also done through sumptuary laws, which aimed to control the wearing of particular kinds of apparel.

  • There isn't any systematic set of records covering infringements of food standards, but weights and measures were regularly checked and market traders especially could expect to face fines or worse in the courts if they engaged in dodgy practice.

  • There is a shift towards increased consumption of dairy produce, following from the reduction in arable farming after the Black Death, probably in the late middle ages and certainly in the post medieval period, with increased transportation of butter and cheese from the Midlands for example, to London.

  • The current pope does seem to have a sense of humour. And I'm sure he needs it...

  • No, Christian belief in Purgatory is clearly evident in inscriptions, for example, from the 8th or 9th century. The big boost in sale of indulgences is in the Later Middle Ages.

  • All Souls Day involved prayers for everyone, and was an important feast.

  • The answer is, yes, some were basically pocket books

  • I've heard that too, but I asked our English Linguistics professor, Julie Coleman about this a couple of years ago and she said it was more likely west coast USA influence. It was just a chat so not to be quoted as fact!

  • I wondered about that too - elephant in the room?

  • I'm sure television has a lot to blame for the ways in which pronunciation shifts. But our written forms are surprisingly stable. Shakespeare still makes sense, for the most part, to modern English speakers, though there are clearly some redundant elements.

  • It looks as though many of you are at the stage where you have to downsize your book collection, but still value some books as physical objects. I do a lot of academic work online now - marking essays and giving student feedback for example - but in spite of the wonderful online resources available I still prefer to use physical books, and for leisure I...

  • Deirdre O'Sullivan made a comment

    One of the things I find reassuring about the middle ages is the lack of standard spelling! We are all so used now to thinking that any variation on a standard must be a 'mistake'. But it unfortunately can cause a lot of confusion, as the same person's name may be spelt in a number of different ways.

  • These drinking mugs vary quite a lot in size, from half pint- sized tipples to much larger vessels. Sometimes they have more than one handle and were probably passed around.

  • Yes, a prunt is just a blob stuck onto a vessel, often to receive a stamped piece of decoration.

  • It is interesting that the evidence from Richard's injuries supports the bit about the horse - we'll see this in week 6

  • The excavation was a result of a local development and the 'footprint' of the excavation restricted the area available. But there will be many other burial pits on the site. There is debate about the propriety of disturbing the battlefield dead.

  • Has anyone come across Michael Morpurgo's The Fox and the Ghost King, a children's tale released just in time for Christmas stockings - which makes a very entertaining link between King Richard's re-discovery and the success of the Leicester City football team in 2016? No pretensions to accuracy, but a good tale!

  • These sources are resources for all sorts of potential projects - I'd be interested to find out how you all use them during the course!

  • Spirits were distilled in small quantities for medicinal purposes in the late medieval period, but the evidence is hard to find.

  • An object of value, certainly, but not necessarily an indicator of wealth

  • It is interesting that many of you are prepared to change your minds on the value of re-enactments after hearing the views of others and listening to Richard Knox!

  • Some really interesting discussion points here - I particularly noted the idea that re-enactments put you 'in the middle of things' almost as if the outcome was not already known, which was of course actually the case on the day of battle itself.

  • Some very thoughtful comments here - re-enactment is an experience as well as a dramatic display, and I can quite understand that those for whom the experience of armed combat is real, do not enjoy the drama.

  • Richard III was a very experienced soldier and he had the better army; he would certainly have been the favorite to win. But it could be argued that it was his own belief in his military prowess that led to his fall and defeat.

  • The story of the Towton burial pit always awakens strong emotions. But forensic archaeologists must aim to determine the 'facts in the case' just as modern forensic scientists do. As we will see, forensic analysis shows that the loss of his helmet was crucial in Richard III's death.

  • Lots of interest in the experience of medieval warfare - as the next section shows, archaeology can bring you closer

  • Many people find this section a bit of a rush! But remember that you can come back to it at any stage, and also print out the transcript to remind yourself of who was who

  • Great to see so many of you diving in at the beginning!
    The Wars of the Roses, were, indeed a violent and tragic episode in English history - the name was applied after the period of conflict, and relates to the emblems of red rose and white rose, standing for the houses of Lancaster and York. Groups from Lancashire and Yorkshire still use these emblems...

  • St Peter's church in Leicester was demolished shortly after the Reformation. The site was lost, but rediscovered when a huge new shopping mall called the Highcross Centre was built in the 2000s. The skeletons were excavated to preserve them.

  • The digitisation project is yet to happen

  • There are no censuses as such for the Middle Ages, but we can get some idea of the size of the population from taxation records - the hated poll taxes of the later 14th century, for example, indicate how the population had declined after the Black Death, but do not include the very poor, who would not have been taxed. Compulsory parish records of baptisms...

  • Richard had a Christian burial, but not one appropriate to his high degree. He was certainly not buried in a coffin. I woonder if he might not have been buried in a friar's habit? This is consistent withthe evidence, though there is no proof.

  • There was an amazing atmosphere in the city yesterday - after the ceremony at the University I was with the crowds around the cathedral and it was moving to see the care and attention to detail at every stage - timing, the discipline of the horses, the simplicity and beauty of the service. There were lots of young people watching the procession, and the live...

  • I'm back in my office after the departure ceremony - all went well!

  • Henry VII was not nearly as experienced a military commander as Richard III - this is certainly true. He seems to have participatedin the battle of Edgcote, and led an unsuccessful invasion in 1484, before his successful campaign of 1485. His reputation for piety is based on his personal habits, as well as his foundation of a small number of friaries - at...

  • There is no evidence that Richard III ever made a will.

  • Individual monks took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the rule of Benedict (encoded in the 6th century AD) is very explicit about this - monks should not consider anything their own, personal property. This was no impediment to the convents acquiring property collectively, however, which was handed over as a meritorious gift , usually by wealthy...

  • Cider was certainly drunk in the middle ages, though I don't know of any detailed study of the scale of production. The Dominican friars of Hereford had orchards and an 'apple mill' at the Reformation - the tradition of cider -making in the area has clearly a long history.

  • Deirdre O'Sullivan made a comment

    Malmsey and Madeira: to clarify

    The two terms are often used synonymously today , but the history is a bit more complicated. 'Malmsey' wine, takes its name from the grape variety 'malvasia' which is native to Greece but grows in different parts of the Mediterranean. In the 15th century Malmsey denoted a sweet wine from this area, often shipped from the...

  • Deirdre O'Sullivan made a comment

    re George Duke of Clarence:

    the idea that he drowned in a butt of Malmsey is not a Shakespearean invention. I quote from the current Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

    "There is no doubt that Clarence was executed for treason in the Tower of London on 18 February 1478. It appears, however, that he was neither hanged nor beheaded, as was normal,...

  • You are all right to spot the inconsistencies here - but that is one of the real challenges and interest of the evidence. Rich monastic households had a high standard of living, but this was by no means universal in the sector - Westminster and Durham are extremes. 'Evangelical' poverty - the 'giving up' of individual wealth - was quite different from actual...

  • It is definitely 'foetal' rabbits. Still not great......

  • Fish bones are a bit of a challenge in archaeology, as they are small and hard to see; the bigger fish bones such as the head are also very friable. So we usually aim to sample deposits through sieving, but this is really only common in the past 30 years. But if a deposit contains a good quantity of fish, that can prove very rewarding.

  • A number of interesting questions raised here. A few quick answers.

    The site of St Peter's church is now under the massive Highcross shopping development in Leicester, and the excavation was carried out in advance, to remove archaeological deposits ahead of the construction. This is how urban excavation usually happens - ahead of big building...

  • Burials outside churches did not have 'grave stones' in the later middle ages. Commemorative monuments were usually inside the church, and for the better off. Churchyard monuments only become widespread in the 18th century.

  • The majority of people still did not make wills, trusting their next of kin to look after their estate (however small), and the interests of their families. Richard III did not make a will...!

  • Charlene mentions the Dance of Death. This was a well-known set of imagery in medieval Europe, and was depicted in St Paul's Cathedral in London - Old St Paul's, destroyed in the Great Fire in the 17th century

  • The Voices of Morebath is a really interesting read - I recommend it highly.

  • I hope learners accept the need to respect others' beliefs even it they are not shared. The purpose of this section is to understand, not to pass judgement. We cannot explain things that we do not understand.

  • Paul you are right, the great majority of medieval pottery is partially covered in a lead-based green glaze. What makes this pottery type distinctive is that the manufactory used a distinctive , light firing clay body, and the forms of pot are very standardised . The glaze here is also characteristically a very bright green. So it is not just the 'green...

  • Picking up on the issue about water -

    Whilst there was no formal scientific understanding of water-born disease, there was definitely a lot of awareness of water quality. Fresh springs were valued, and in many cases might be piped through conduits to provide a supply of water over some distance. This might simply supply a single household, or it could be...

  • The figures in the MOOC for the Black Death are based on those arrived at by Ole Benedictow, in his book The Black Death 1346-1353: The Complete History. This has recently (2012) come out in paperback. It is based on a study of many different parts of Europe. There are no 'accurate' figures - any estimate remains just that - but he brings in some persuasive...