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  • Giraffes in Medieval China June 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Giraffes in Medieval China

    The giraffe, it is hardly necessary to say, is not indigenous to China. Yet from at least the thirteenth century, rumours began to travel back to the Middle Kingdom about a strange, long-necked creature in the west. This beast, sometimes called by the medieval Chinese the Camel-Ox, aroused only moderate interest: did Chinese travellers in […]

    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon? June 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon?

    Challacombe is a small village to the west of Exmoor in Devon in the south-west of the UK. On the edge of the moor there are many ‘hillocks of earth and stones, cast up anciently in large quantity’, i.e. prehistoric burial mounds. So far so normal, this is a classic landscape in a marginal agricultural area, that […]

    Islands, Epidemics and Local Knowledge May 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Islands, Epidemics and Local Knowledge

    Human beings have immune systems. These immune systems are supposed to protect us from illnesses. Usually the immune system is up to the job, but every so often a new virus comes along that can skip around all defences with fatal consequences. The ‘new’ Black Death, for example, killed perhaps a third of medieval Europeans […]

    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post! May 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post!

    Barbie  is an American doll that has been marketed across the globe since 1959 and that was based on an earlier German ‘sexy’ doll Bild Lilli (another post, another day). Barbie was, of course, an instant success and continues to outsell all rivals – there is a Barbie doll purchased every three seconds somewhere in the world – […]

    The Non-Discovery of Shuck May 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Non-Discovery of Shuck

    Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in […]

    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues May 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues

    Another love goddess, though this time from Germany. If you go to Nuremberg and make sure you don’t get distracted by recent traumatic events there (trials, fire storms etc) you will discover a beautiful medievalish city in the heart of Bavaria. On the edge of Lorenzer Platz you will find perhaps the most curious fountain in Western […]

    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland May 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland

    A recent story on the supposed archaeological discovery of shuck – [sorry can't give links, wordpress playing up] – has set me thinking about large violent dogs in history, the way that ancient and medieval peoples used these animals and one particularly evil-sounding example: the Irish archu or slaughter hound. First, though, some background. Dogs, of […]

    In Defence of the Dark Ages May 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    In Defence of the Dark Ages

    The Dark Ages is a much despised term for the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the tailing off of Viking raids in the tenth and eleventh centuries and the arrival of a new stability in Europe. Most historians agree that the period deserves a name, in other words it stands out […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    The Index Biography #6: Prize = A Good Book April 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Index Biography #6: Prize = A Good Book

    **LeifEd just won this at about 10.00 am GMT, for answer scroll below*** 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 […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum? April 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum?

    One-eyed Jan Ziska was one of the wildest and the best of the generals of the late medieval religious wars. As a Hussite he defended his people, predominantly Czechs, from carnivorous Catholic neighbours and his enemies breathed a huge sigh of relief when, in 1424, JZ was struck down by the plague. However, one of […]

    Who Built Offa’s Dyke? April 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Who Built Offa's Dyke?

    Offa’s Dyke is an important earthwork that runs along, very approximately, the English Welsh border. Its name comes from the little known (but apparently impressive) eighth-century Mercian king Offa (obit 796). The problem is that the dyke’s name may be a misnomer. Certainly, over the last generation there have been increasingly forceful attempts to wrest […]

    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God April 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God

    This account is given by William of Malmesbury in one of his histories. It is interesting for many reasons, not least because it supposedly came from a doctor in his monastery, who told it to William, when the future historian was a boy. When I [William's informant] was seven years old despising the mean circumstances […]

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