birch_bark_document_210A sheet of birchbark, the beresta, was the usual medium for letters, records, and documents at the time of Mythic Russia, often salvaged from broken baskets and the like. A fascinating example was the trove of 17 beresty archeologists found from the 13thC Novgorodian boy Onfim. Along with pictures, including one of himself as a monster (with the words “I am a beast” and “Greetings from Onfim to Danila”), are five with text. These are apparently homework, writing out the alphabet and familiar psalms. Nonetheless, kids will be kids: in some of the beresty, he starts out working, but then starts to doodle, too…

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