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Interactive digital maps plot murder cases that occurred in 14th century England

(SOUNDBITE OF DUFAY COLLECTIVE'S "ESTAMPIE. EDI BEO THU")

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

We are going to travel back in time now to medieval England, thanks to professor Manuel Eisner of the University of Cambridge.

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MANUEL EISNER: Early in the morning, there would be large markets. The main streets would be buzzing with people who are selling and buying all kinds of goods.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Eisner is not creating a time machine. No, he and his team created interactive digital maps.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUFAY COLLECTIVE'S "ESTAMPIE. EDI BEO THU")

EISNER: The Medieval Murder Maps are three maps where we have plotted cases of murder that occurred in the 14th century in London, Oxford and York.

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MARTÍNEZ: That's right - murder. The map shows the murder weapon - a knife, hammer or maybe a fist - at the location of each death. Each icon reveals a story of what happened. And some have narration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: On the Wednesday before the Feast of St. Valentine on the 12 of February, 1337, the coroner and sheriffs were informed that Margery (ph) of Uxbridge lay dead of an unnatural death.

MARTIN: The stories come from coroner's documents, which include descriptions about who was involved in the death and detail the investigation and sometimes the resulting punishment.

MARTÍNEZ: Like the case of a drunk woman in West London who insults workers, leading to a complicated story of revenge, mistaken identity and ending with, you guessed it, a murder.

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EISNER: These events that look so strange and weird at first sight are actually not too dissimilar of what is happening these days. Why are we so sensitive to insults to the extent that they make us so angry that at least some of us become violent and aggress against the other person beyond just a verbal exchange?

MARTIN: Eisner says learning about how people were killed helps researchers get a glimpse into what everyday life was like in medieval England.

EISNER: In some cases, we get the list of the objects that were being confiscated. So they tell us something about what a typical barber had at the time. Or they tell us something about what a tailor had with him or her at the time.

MARTÍNEZ: And though the justice system has changed a lot since then, the Medieval Murder Maps are another way to tell us what hasn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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