Sunday, June 6, 2010

Time Travel

This weekend, I visited the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill, Arkansas -- an awesome site, great folks, interesting stuff to learn and explore. Since the structure and environs will resemble a 13th-century castle that could reside quite well in the French countryside, there were times I seemed to have stepped onto the set of Timeline (the not great, not bad movie made from Michael Crichton's entertaining novel of the same name, in which archeologists and other scientists travel back in time to a French fortress under attack by the English).

James was the tour guide for my group Saturday afternoon; he is knowledgeable, funny, and makes history seem far from dusty. Here he's demonstrating how a rope with 13 knots is used by craftsmen to measure lengths (it's also handy for right angles, roof pitches, and more):

The trebuchet and the "Greek crane" (human hamster wheel) are fully operational, and the crane is used by the craftsmen building the castle.

trebuchet from the back

front of trebuchet, through an arrow port in the lower level of a tower

Greek (and Roman) crane

Despite sunburn, heat, my bottle running dry 'cause I kept swigging, and a touch of heat exhaustion after a few hours of exploration, I can't wait to go back -- maybe in the fall when the temperature's closer to 70 than 100, and the humidity feels more like a damp windbreaker than a thick wet coat. I may just bring a van-load of kids from the Boys & Girls Club, too.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in history or various crafts, anything from basket weaving to blacksmithing, quarrying to stone dressing, pottery to rope-making, and all manner of other skills necessary to the construction and operation of a medieval fortress.


Note: The bellows in use by a blacksmith on the site is the same as the one I described in Dragon's Rook, first manuscript in a fantasy cycle I am still writing. It was encouraging to see that I described it correctly, and even cooler to see it in action. Here's a shot of the bellows just after the smith released the rope (on the right), which was still swinging when I snapped the photo:

all photos c. Keanan Brand


Matt said...

Wow. That looks like a lot of fun. I love the trebuchet!

Keanan Brand said...

Pretty cool stuff, isn't it? I should have noted, however, that the "fully operational" trebuchet is not rigged, probably so visitors won't muck around with it.

I saw the crane in action, sometimes with other visitors inside while the fortress workers supervised.

There's a lot more to see that I didn't post, simply because I didn't want to spend all that time loading photos!

Joycee said...

Good to see they are up and running. Looking forward to watching the castle go up. My Mom's farm is at Lead Hill, AR.

Keanan Brand said...


As I wandered the site, a few of the workers asked if I was interested in helping, and I said, "I wish I had a skill."

"We'll train you!"

I wish I lived closer, then I could go hang out at the blacksmith shop or learn to spit rocks at the quarry, or learn the intricacies of basketweaving or pottery. I'd really like to know more about making wheels and carts and barrels and weapons -- the list goes on.