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  • The Furthest Viking Raid June 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Furthest Viking Raid

    From the very late eighth century Scandinavians left their homelands to raid. These raiders were called vikings and historians usually capitalize the word to give us the Vikings: pagan crusaders out for money, slaves, blood and saga-glory. They began with what was close at hand, the northern islands (Shetland, Orkney etc), then they moved onto […]

    Medieval Whaling Account from Ireland? June 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Whaling Account from Ireland?

    Beach was very excited to find this reference yesterday from the works of al-`Udhri an eleventh-century Arab writer in Spain (thanks to Caitlin Green). Al-‘Uhdri was quoted by another author (al-Qazwini) in the thirteenth-century. This passage allegedly shows a glimpse of Ireland through Arab eyes. The Norsemen have no capital in all the world save […]

    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live? June 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live?

    Life expectancy is a tricky thing. Every demographer knows that, in the modern world, the difference between a national life expectancy of 40 in country A and 70 in country B is predominantly about how many children die in their early years of life. If you look at life expectancy for fifteen year olds then […]

    The Origins of Excalibur and Late Medieval Funerals June 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    The Origins of Excalibur and Late Medieval Funerals

    It is perhaps the single most famous image from the Arthurian canon: the sword being returned to the water, into the grasp of the Lady of the Lake. Beach includes here the scene from the 1981 film Excalibur, which caused his seven year old daughter to audibly gasp when she watched it this morning. Scholars have […]

    Saint Francis Meets the Sultan June 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Saint Francis Meets the Sultan

    It is a WIBT moment from the Middle Ages. At the centre of his court, the highest of the lords of the earth, Sultan al-Kamil, nephew of Saladin and protector of the holy places; and before him, an unkempt Christian holy man with a reputation for doing unpredictable things, St Francis of Assisi. The meeting took […]

    Silly Helmets from the Middle Ages June 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Silly Helmets from the Middle Ages

    As he reported in an earlier post Beach has recently been looking through the various volumes of medieval armour and arms, particularly those of Guy Francis Laking (all online and all free if you have time and inclination). Last time he did crests. This time he thought that he would try silly hats. It goes […]

    Index Biography #30: Prize a book May 31, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Index Biography #30: Prize a book

    ***BT got it scroll down for the result*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We […]

    The Earliest Broomstick Witch? May 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Earliest Broomstick Witch?

    Witches fly in many different cultures: the British anthropologist Needham argued that it was a way of expressing their power, their ability to bring maleficum to all who get in their way or on their nerves. But in the European tradition witches have been associated, above all, with broomsticks: though note that witches were also […]

    What Language is Closest to English? May 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    What Language is Closest to English?

    English is a Germanic language and its closest living relation should be one of the Continental Germanic tongues, German, Dutch and the like. However, try speaking English to a German who knows no English, or try understanding German (with just English) and you will find that they are very distant relations. An Italian listening to Spanish: or […]

    Silly Crests May 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Silly Crests

    Beach has recently been looking lovingly through the various volumes of medieval armour and arms, particularly those of Guy Francis Laking (all online and all free if you have time and inclination). Particularly fascinating is the high silliness of the crests that were put on the top of the helmets. Above is perhaps the only […]

    Painting on Water May 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Painting on Water

    The strangest painting technique ever employed? The Mountain Man of Fan-Yang, an artist from T’ang China perhaps holds the prize in what for Europe would have been the early Middle Ages. The Mountain Man’s preferred method was as follows: as you remember this think about a French or Irish monk inking a manuscript. Mountain man […]

    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic May 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic

    Ronald Hutton (ed), Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain: A Feeling for Magic (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) Academic essay collections fall into different categories including such old and tried favourites as: ‘new directions’; ‘pot pouri’; ‘the EU gave us some money so we had a conference’; and ‘x is wrong and […]

    Index Biography #29: Prize a book April 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Index Biography #29: Prize a book

          ***Invisible first across the line, look below for the answer*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts […]

    Hashish and Assassination April 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hashish and Assassination

    The Assassins were a well known medieval Shiite sect who delighted in sending out their fida’is (assassins) to kill enemies with daggers. Our word ‘assassinate’ (already used routinely by Dante), of course, comes from these charming individuals. The etymology of Assassin in Arabic has long been supposed to come from the word for hashish (Hashshashin […]

    Is St Francis’ Horn Egyptian? April 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Is St Francis' Horn Egyptian?

    A medieval ivory horn is pictured with two mysterious wooden rods, which look like nunchaku, but were actually ‘silence sticks’, banged together before a sermon. The horn is kept at Assisi among the most precious relics of St Francis (obit 1226), because this horn, says tradition, was brought back by Francis from Egypt as a […]

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