While walking around the U shaped room, squinting my eyes, trying to view each detail on the Bayeux tapestry, I was struck with a question about story telling. I wondered, how many different ways were there to affectively tell a story? I always associated story telling with printed words on paper or the soothing sounds of someone’s voice, but while trying to comprehend the nearly one thousand year old linen tapestry, I realized story telling could come in all forms. The Bayeux tapestry depicts the Norman invasion of England with more beauty and clarity than any combination of words could create, so why was it that this form of story telling has become almost unknown to the modern world? While today we focus mostly on phonetic story telling, in the past pictographic writing was quite common across many cultures. This year in history I learned about the Maya people’s pictographic script, so it was interesting to see the other ways in which pictographic writing had been used. While the Bayeux tapestry was created in a time where phonetic writing was known, it is still interesting to see the ways in which pictographic depictions were present.
Today in the caves of Grotte de Rouffignac, the 14,000 years old drawings on the walls tell another pictographic story. While these striking illustrations of mammoths, ibex, mastodons, and horses seem just simple artwork, to me, they tell the story of the lives of these prehistoric people. Pictographically, they display what these people saw and encountered in their sector of world history, as well as showing which animals were the most important to them. Animals like the mammoth, portrayed several times throughout the cave, were sources of food, clothes, tools, etc. for these people.
While these were ways of story telling I had given little thought to beforehand, thinking back on our experiences in Normandy provided me with another view on story telling. The battle on the beaches on D-Day tell the story of heroism, teamwork, and determination. Being present at the cemetery and on the beaches really allowed me to understand and really get a feel for the story that this great day in history told.
After stepping off the plane in Paris, there was no hesitation for us. We began our adventures straight away. Although inevitably a bit tired, everyone’s faces were bright and smiling as we took our first walk around the beautiful streets of the city. First starting by exploring the archaeological crypt beneath Notre Dame and then admiring the unimaginable allure of inside the cathedral, we were both somewhat taken aback and excited for what else was to come, I mean, it was only the first day! For me, it was not just the architecture itself that astonished me, but the history behind the architecture that really got me thinking. I knew so much about the building of Notre Dame (which started in 1163 and finished in 1250) and had even been to see the outside, but standing inside brought a whole other level of intrigue. As our time in Paris continued, it was amazing to see how this sense of history within the architecture continued to an almost increasing degree. On the second day we visited the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye which was not only an incredible museum experience, but also the château where Louis XIV was born. The next day in Versailles we were able to feel the weight of the Treaty of Versailles which ended World Word I in 1919 with people like Winston Churchill, President Woodrow Wilson, Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau of France, and Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando of Italy present in the very room in which we were standing. Not only that, but also realizing that a decent amount of the incredibly famous paintings hanging on the walls of the Palace, and even in the Louvre, were completed after the establishment of Andover in 1778. That realization was something almost unfathomable to a lot of us. The simple history within each room of these buildings was something I never would have imagined affecting me the way it had, but it did, and I am cannot stress enough how being able to have this experience challenged what I knew of history on the surface. There simply is no way of grasping the depth of our past from reading history books and having discussions. This kind of understanding and knowledge about our history is something that can only be gained from physically being within the same walls where so much of our history was created and staring at the same ceiling our great historical figures once had. All of this really allowed me to question why some of us work to erase our past of simple misfortunes, when our larger scale past, as a civilization and a culture, can have such a lasting impact on a young girl like me.