British archaeologists have solved the mystery over some ancient pieces of woven copper-alloy wires that were unearthed at a Medieval monastery.
Found in 2014 at Rufford Abbey, Nottinghamshire, the braided-together length of copper wire, turned to be part of a whip or cat-o-nine-tail used by monks for self-flagellation.
According to Nottinghamshire County Council, the true meaning of the 14th century wire was realized after comparing it with a similar metal scourge found at another British monastery.
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"This is a fascinating discovery which helps us to build a picture of what life could have been like for the monks living in the Abbey during the dark days of the Black Death and its aftermath," Councillor John Knight, committee chairman for culture, said in a statement.
The Black Death plague ravaged the country between 1348 and 1350, causing the decline of Rufford Abbey which lost much of its income from the wool industry. Because of the Abbey's dire financial situation, various kings excused the Abbey from paying taxes during this time.
The whip is one of only four uncovered in the country. It would have been used in this period by the Cistercian monks in an attempt to ward off the Black Death, or as an act of penance to take the population's sins upon themselves.
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The monks lived in austerity - they would rise at 4.30 a.m. to take part in church services and then labor in the fields for long hours.
Despite the use of the self-flagellating whip, historical records reveal that some Rufford monks strayed from the monastic vows. They include Brother William, arrested for the murder of Brother Robert in 1280, and two monks who were charged with the £200 ($285) robbery of Thomas De Holme.
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According to Medieval specialist Glyn Coppack, monastic copper scourges are very rare.
"This is an exceptional find," he said.