Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Later Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Friday, 1 April 2016

Black Death and self-punishment - remains of medieval whip found at Rufford Abbey

Archaeologists have discovered pieces of what is believed to be a monastic copper scourge in the grounds of Rufford Abbey – one of only four in the country.
Scourges, whips or cat-o-nine-tails – were woven copper-alloy wires braided together used by people in the Middle Ages to chastise themselves. They perhaps saw it being a way of cleansing the soul or self-punishment for society’s sins, and were popular after the devastation of the Black Death.

The Black Death plague ravaged the country from 1348, and put an end to prosperity at Rufford and the Abbey went into decline. It is possible that the Cistercian monks used the scourges in this period in an attempt to keep the Black Death at bay, or for the mortification of the human body.

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