Monthly Archives: July 2014

Chests and caskets

So far, I’ve been talking about containers for food. But we do need containers for some other things, things that aren’t wet, things we won’t eat or cook. What did they use in medieval Europe to store “stuff” in general? … Continue reading

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Bushels and other measures

Baskets, of course, were the cheapest universal carrying container. We still use the standard English basket size that emerged from medieval measuring: the bushel. Bushels started as the typical size that a merchant could load onto a pack mule. During … Continue reading

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Balances with weights

In shops, merchants used the pan balance to weigh out goods for customers. It had two pans hung from a centrally-balanced arm; the merchant owned a set of iron or brass weights to set on the empty pan until the … Continue reading

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Measuring weight in the market

During the Middle Ages, European measurement standards went from diverse, local and confusing, to something like “national though still confusing.” Originally, each trade in each city policed measurements, so not only did the sizes vary from place to place, but … Continue reading

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Containers in the market

Today’s marketplace is all about packaging. Modern packages assure us that the product is clean, sterile if that’s an issue, properly measured and not going to spill on the way home. We buy produce without packaging, but what’s the first … Continue reading

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Cooking containers

Containing liquids presents a set of problems; but when the liquids are heated to cooking temperatures, often to boiling, there’s another set of problems. Wooden buckets and barrels don’t work for cooking, even if a Girl Scout can boil an … Continue reading

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Glass containers

During the Dark Ages, the Franks had some rudimentary glass-making skills. Of course, the Mediterranean regions continued to make glass as the Romans had done, and during the Islamic era new glass techniques came from the East. Eastern glass was … Continue reading

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Pitchers and cups

In Northern Europe, wood was the basis for most containers, at first. Wood could be carved into bowls, which served as cups. Sometimes they really did use hollowed-out horns as cups, but these may have always been ceremonial. Horns can’t … Continue reading

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Measuring liquid volume by barrels

In the medieval Europe of popular comic portrayal, everything is dirty and nothing is accurate. But real medieval Europe was obsessed with the regulation of weights and measurements. Almost everything was regulated, partly so that somebody could extract a fee … Continue reading

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Barrels for wine and ale

Barrels intended for wine and beer needed to be strong enough to hold an expanding volume and higher pressure. The way to make wood strong enough is to put it under pressure of its own. (Is there a moral here?) … Continue reading

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