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  • Rhyming with Death December 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Rhyming with Death

      Death concentrates the mind wonderfully and, at least in the east, a longstanding custom has been to pen a final poem: a last communiqué to the world. This custom stretches far back into the Middle Ages  and perhaps the greatest thing to recommend it is the brevity of the works in question So we […]

    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia? December 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia?

    An incredibly busy day today – exams are drawing near – and so Beach is going to put up a cheat post with apologies, using an extract sent in by a reader. This appeared a couple of weeks ago and was pasted under a previous post on Amazons. However, Beachcombing is not interested, at least […]

    Don’t Play with Fire (in Scotland)! November 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Don't Play with Fire (in Scotland)!

    In prehistoric times early humans – or, depending on which chronologies you follow, man’s ancestors – were not able to create fire but harvested it from natural conflagrations. Even in more recent times – ask any scout who has ever had to start a fire without matches on a camping trip – the creation of […]

    Letting Off Steam November 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Letting Off Steam

    All societies need moments when kings, citizens and slaves let off steam. The police in the United States allow adolescents to get away with things on Halloween that would land them in a jail cell every other night of the year. The Romans had Saturnalia when masters had to serve their slaves the dinner and […]

    Haunted Chessmen November 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Haunted Chessmen

      Invisible writes in with the news that the Lewis Chessmen are about to go on exhibition in New York. And Beach took this as a prompt for one of his favourite archaeological stories. The unnamed Lewis farmer in the following account was one Malcolm ‘Sprot’ Macleod In 1831 a high tide on the coast […]

    DNA Champion November 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    DNA Champion

    Our DNA is the damnedest stuff, it gets everywhere: not only forensically but also historically. Just the other day, Beach reviewed the evidence (2010) that one medieval Amerindian woman in Iceland passed on her DNA to eighty modern Icelanders. Then there are plenty of other dramatic examples of DNA spreading through history, especially now that […]

    American Indian Settlers in Iceland? November 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    Iceland, the tiny nation floating between Britain and Greenland, has been isolated for much of its history. This isolation has given the island two extraordinary resources: one is a spectacular landscape, untainted by industrialisation (see above); and the second is a closed DNA pool. A closed DNA pool = an extraordinary resource? In days gone […]

    Big Bones in Churches November 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Big Bones in Churches

    At the end of the nineteenth century the Reverend Wilkins Rees put together a short collection of examples of enormous bones that had found their way into English and Welsh churches. He mentioned five impressive instances, four of which he seems to have seen himself. 1) Foljambe Chapel, Chesterfield Church: ‘This bone, supposed to be […]

    A Dark Age British Sasquatch? November 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Dark Age British Sasquatch?

    *** This post is dedicated to Adrian S *** One epic poem survives from Anglo-Saxon England: Beowulf. Beowulf, for those who do not know, was a Danish hero who, in the course of said poem fights three monsters: first Grendel, second Grendel’s mother and third a dragon who gets the better of him. Grendel particularly […]

    Self Decapitation in South East Asia November 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Self Decapitation in South East Asia

    A short post today as the Beachcombing family celebrates its reunion. The following text comes from the mid fourteenth century and relates to the experiences of a visitor to the court of the Sultan of Mul Jawah (Java or more likely East Sumatra). In this Sultan’s assembly I saw a man with a knife like […]

    35 cms from Oxfordshire November 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval