Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
International living history standards
Very interesting (and old too) argument.
I remember this raged in the first years of the "after-gladiator-movie Era" when someone proposed a sort of list of good and not good groups, or a sort or certification/card that aimed to guarantee some historical hortodoxy.

Someone also tried to do that, but was not a success for many reasons.

I would like to get a sort of federation or a leading group of academic/professionals who are able to set a standard, write and share it and then groups can freely subscribe that "manifest" and then follow the relative guidelines. Who don't follow guidelines is taken out of the list and cannot tell to be in that list.
Very simple I think, but requires a huge work and a stable group of people who take care of the organization.
Luca Bonacina
Provincia Cisalpina - Mediolanum
Over the past few months I've been pursuing the idea that an international educational group, the International Baccalaureate, can help promote standards that adhere to their very rigorous international academic standards. This may not address the classics et al. soon, but is showing some results and the IB world is very enthusiastic about it.

Over on FB RAT I used distinctions given to me by EXARC's US president, Dr. Bill Schindler, of "experimental archaeology" and "experiential archaeology". Dr. Schindler feels that unless activities are performed to academic standards, and provide data to an academic study, it is 'experiential'. Naturally, the RAT members have a lot to say on this, and Roeland Paardekooper, the EU head of EXARC, and joined FB RAT and provided some interesting definitions to follow up on this, including universities who are entirely willing to use reenactors.
Richard Campbell
Legio XX - Alexandria, Virginia
RAT member #6?
I totally agree with the distinctions by Dr. Schindler. In the past years in Italy that was a debating point, now basically resolved thanks to academics, even if many groups still say to "make experimental archeology". We try to separate what can be experimental from what is just "an experience" and the difference for us is that what cannot be objectively measured, described and replicate exactly cannot be considered "experimental". It seems logic, but for many people it is not.
As example nothing that relies on human behaviour such as a "sport" or a "marching roman" cannot be "objective" so it is just, as you say, "experiental".

Old and very very interesting argument for me.

Just to smile a bit.
In my experience I tried to make a list of different levels on reenacting romans.

* fancy/fantasy level or modern thinking relativism
 I just want to dress as an ancient roman, my personal idea of romanity. I don't need studies or investigate archeology that is my personal idea so please don't tell me I'm not philological it's only my idea and for this reason cannot be wrong.
** hollywood level
 I am inspired by hollywood movies and I want to replicate their costumes as better as possibile exactly in the way star trekkers do with klingons. I don't care about a plastic sword, what is important to me is to have a proper appearence similar to the movies.
 So please let me wear "peplum movie" braces, a "gladiator style" fur on the shoulders, a bandana on the head and a red cloak as in 1959 Ben Hur.
*** basic reenactor level
 I love reenactors, I watched at them and I want to partecipate their hobby. So I spent some time over internet, download some pictures and according to my taste and opinions I chosen what fits to me and is not expensive to buy.
 I see other reenactors with braces, tatoos and fur on shoulders, so I do the same.

**** advanced reenactor level
 I don't like hollywood style or acritically copy other reenactors, but I try to figure out what romans really wear at least reading some basics from Connolly to some Ospreys and the try to establish a quality level that is for me acceptable in the appearance even if something in my equipment is not perfect, but please don't say it to other reenactors... ssst.  
***** top reenactor level
 I do not compromise. I hate the word purist, I hate cheapy stuff and I want only the best to wear. So I look for perfect recreations, I use gold and silver, I read everything about roman archeology spending thousands of euros/dollars per year in books and I partecipate actively to academic discussions, seminars, etc.
 Some of us also have written books and are recognized as "scholars" or define themselves as "academics".
Luca Bonacina
Provincia Cisalpina - Mediolanum
I think even those of us who are serious about experimental archaeology will always find ourselves combining it with experiential archaeology. I have experimented successfully with Roman cold weather clothing and weapons carriage, in order to test things we have literary or sculptural evidence for whilst omitting obvious modern assumptions, but I still march around as part of a group demonstrating reconstructed / imagined field formations and possible tactics, which surely are experiential. At the same time, within a group there may be a variety of combinations of these two states. I have carried my sword unbelted and on a shorter baldric, in line with consistent sculptural depictions, for ten years now without mishap, and have ably demonstrated that this arrangement works well and does not require a waist belt to hold it in place, but the majority of my own group still insist on ignoring this and continue to use longer baldrics which are held in place by their belts, despite there being zero evidence for the Romans doing this. Equally, many members of my own group still think trousers are necessary to keep out the cold and still hang their pugios from stupid leather straps, rather than attaching the rings directly to the frog buttons, which experimentation has shown to be more secure and which is in line with the visual evidence. Some also employ the lower suspension rings, despite having been told repeatedly that neither visual evidence nor the physical evidence support the practice.

So, I am a member of a group with a fairly high commitment to accuracy, where genuine experimental archaeology takes place, but which includes a number of people for whom the experiential aspect overrides all other concerns.

As for your scale, I would probably come somewhere between your four star and five star categories. I want everything to be accurate, even to the point of having some rust pitting and heavy evidence of much repeated sanding to get rid of new rust on my helmet and sword blade and patches over worn parts of my tunic, because I do not believe that as someone in my 40s most of my equipment should look new. It is important to make sure the equipment I use is correct. However, I do not have the budget to buy the top quality stuff made by Hogar Ratsdorf or Erik Koenig. I am very loath to ever compromise though so I do not buy cheap just to have what I want quickly. My helmet was custom made by White Rose Armoury (paid for over several months while I was working in a very low paid job), but I have made much of my other equipment myself, sometimes forcing myself to learn new skills in order to achieve the accuracy required (which also ends up including small mistakes such as mis-struck punch holes and parts occasionally affixed at slight angles rather than straight - my own mistakes which end up looking like the minor mistakes often seen on the genuine pieces).

I do have a fairly good practical skill set to use of course, but that has only developed through the necessity to be able to make my own kit in the absence of the budget that comes easily to many others.

Who is called \'\'Paul\'\' by no-one other than his wife, parents and brothers. :!: <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_exclaim.gif" alt=":!:" title="Exclamation" />:!:

<a class="postlink" href="">
Quote:hang their pugios from stupid leather straps, rather than attaching the rings directly to the frog buttons, which experimentation has shown to be more secure and which is in line with the visual evidence.

It is very interesting argument.  I never observed this detail on the reliefs and I have always committed the usual mistake to simply watch other reenactors doing.  Undecided  I don't bring a pugio, but I would like to further investigate this. Could you share some image details about?
Or is there already a RAT topic on that?
Luca Bonacina
Provincia Cisalpina - Mediolanum
This is how I'd rate it:

1. Costumes and Hollywood.

2. Reenactment groups that allow some inaccuracies like vambraces and leather musculata, butted maille, or senate tunics with that single vertical stripe, that list goes on and on. I think a lot of this is due to lack of knowledge in some cases - particularly in areas like Roman archery. I think I'd throw "2nd century" groups using 1st century equipment in this category too.

3. Standard Reenactment groups, like Legio VI Ferrata. Yes we use some modern stuff, but we focus on getting it right with our kits (our loaners are decent but not as good). We don't allow vambraces, etc. etc. They also have things like authentic goatskin tents, authentic replicas of construction cranes and artillery, etc. But still use things like painted canvas tents, etc (it's really cost prohibitive to have those nice goatskin tent replicas).

4. Groups that go above average or are exceptional with their impressions, kits, and equipment, but not quite all the way. Really good replicas in say bronze or sometimes enamelled/silvered/gilded, etc. Minor errors such as things like maille hauberks (because a historically accurate hauberk by Erik D. Schmidt will cost you like 10,000 dollars). Or Embroidered decor on Tunicae Manicatae rather than it being woven into the fabric.

5. The groups that literally go all the way, like Wulfheodenas (who aren't Roman but all their stuff is basically museum replicas).

I'd probably put most of the good reenactment groups in the 4 star category, I'd put myself at 4 star at the moment (I intend to hit that 5 star mark though, just need the money but I'm the kind of person who is going to do it 100% right and flaunt it!). I think most of us here in the US fall into the 3 star category to be honest, although there are some impressions that hit the 4 star, but not whole groups that do. And I think in the European groups, at least for Late Roman, most groups are in that 4 star area with only a tiny handful of individuals hitting that 5 star category.

This is just my 2 cents. Yes I can be harshly critical because I'm blunt and I'm brutally honest, but I always try to be respectful and offer avenues to improve. That's why I'm writing my guide to 5th Century Roman military equipment, with commentaries on Hun and Germanic.
I am not sure if there is a RAT topic on the matter, but I have mentioned it many times and quite a number of other RAT members have tested out the carriage method I have recommended as a solution to how we see pugios depicted on funeral stelae.

I wrote about it some years ago in a short article for my own group, which which includes a couple of clear images of pugios which are attached immediately adjacent to the frog buttons. Although I only included two such images in the article, these are consistent with virtually all other depictions you will find. The article can be found here:

I still need to update the article slightly to include mention of 'button-loop fasteners' for sword suspension for waist belts but after feedback from serving and former soldiers I also addressed the issue of positioning in a slightly later article on provincial military sculpture.

Who is called \'\'Paul\'\' by no-one other than his wife, parents and brothers. :!: <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_exclaim.gif" alt=":!:" title="Exclamation" />:!:

<a class="postlink" href="">
Thank you Paul for sharing it. I will mention this in our next internal newsletter, I will send you a copy.
Luca Bonacina
Provincia Cisalpina - Mediolanum

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Living History and advanced students, eg, IBO richsc 0 456 07-16-2017, 05:19 AM
Last Post: richsc
  EXARC and living history groups richsc 0 696 12-02-2016, 12:34 PM
Last Post: richsc
  Why do you reenactment / Living History caiusbeerquitius 48 13,207 07-23-2016, 09:39 PM
Last Post: Damianus Albus

Forum Jump: