Saturday, November 25, 2023

Lost to Antiquity?


Yesterday, I was reading an intriguing article posted on the BBC website. It was about Tyrian purple—not the color itself, but the entire process of producing the dye that colored materials so remarkably as to remove them to the sole domain of royalty and the powerful (or, as we'd say in our day, the rich and famous). Ever since the fall of Constantinople, the craft of producing the dye—and with it, the entire merchandising of the fabric it yielded—has been lost to antiquity.

The very name itself—Tyrian purple—harkens back to biblical days, with "Tyrian" referring to the ancient Phoenician city-state of Tyre, and calls to mind the saga of the Apostle Paul's journey to the Roman colony of Philippi where he met a woman named Lydia, a "seller of purple." According to the BBC article, Tyrian purple was worth more than three times its weight in gold, making it a pricey commodity, indeed. Yet, for all that notoriety, it seems no one today is quite sure of how it was originally manufactured.

There are many aspects of the ancient world lost to us, but it doesn't take antiquity for items we consider precious to be lost. I'm thinking now of a footnote affixed to a transcribed index of original deeds and land grants of the Watauga Purchase, in the region which included what became Washington County, Tennessee. According to that explanation at the very end of the index, page 112 of the original Deed Book A included this handwritten note:

The chrystian name of the grantee in ye Deed from Robison to fitzgarald appears to be lost by the wearing of ye paper....

Makes me wonder what else might have been lost "by the wearing of ye paper" over time. I'm thinking particularly of my Tilson ancestors, who likely moved to the area after those original deeds were drawn up, but certainly by the earliest years of the 1800s. Or for their earlier forebears, who settled in the pioneer regions of southwest Virginia long before that time. For that matter, what about all of us whose genealogical losses over time might have involved those oft-mentioned courthouse fires or other disasters?

Just like the inquisitive researcher featured in the BBC article on re-discovering a craft lost to antiquity such as the making of Tyrian purple, we are seeing inventive researchers come up with ways to discover our roots which in the past we may have felt were lost to time. Genealogical "archaeologists" are digging up past records which were once inaccessible, or illegible, or otherwise considered irreplaceably lost, and piecing together stories we thought we'd never learn. It's an exciting time for those of us yearning to discover more about our ancestors and their past. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...