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  • The Slave Free Centuries February 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Slave Free Centuries

    Slavery is regrettably everywhere in the past. It underlies all the great achievements of Antiquity: when Plato was discoursing on the immortality of the soul there were Syrian dancing girls and Scythian catamites lining up in the background. European colonialism grew under the shadow of the chain: it used to be said that the streets […]

    The Valley of Sweet Bells and Dead Bodies February 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Valley of Sweet Bells and Dead Bodies

    Usually when Christian missionaries come face to face with a pagan shrine, the vitae tells us that the axe comes out and the splinters fly. But imagine if you were one of these (perhaps God-forsaken) missionaries in the woods of early medieval Germany or the great mountain ranges of Asia. How many really felt courage […]

    The Valley of Elves, Nymphs, Cars, Swans or Whatever February 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Valley of Elves, Nymphs, Cars, Swans or Whatever

    The elves were Anglo-Saxon fairies and as such deserve a bizarrist’s respect. They are though – not unlike the medieval fairies that come after – gone almost without trace. But there is, every so often, a Dark Age charm, a riddle, a line of Anglo-Saxon poetry that recalls belief in this receding people. Make no […]

    Beachcombing’s Invisible Library February 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Beachcombing's Invisible Library

      Beachcombing has had a lot of fun over the last year and a half cataloging invisible libraries, libraries that only exist in the imagination of authors and connoisseurs. Today, Beach thought he would take stock of the achievement to date and also, in a fit of utter self-indulgence, introduce readers to Mrs B’s contribution […]

    The Soul Zoo January 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Soul Zoo

    So many interesting replies to recent posts to put up but little Miss B has a nasty flu so she is home from school and Beachcombing will be spending the morning with her – she is a state of such anxiety that the poor kid needs to be held at all times. Saturday seems a […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    Throne Room Tricks January 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Throne Room Tricks

    Beachcombing previously had some fun describing the tricks the ‘civilised’ use to frighten ‘savages’ in jungles and deserts far from the capital cities of Europe. But what about – today’s subject – the tricks that the civilised used when ‘savages’ came to visit them on home ground. Take, for example, the shenanigans found in the […]

    Medieval Dog-Heads: An Eye-Witness Report January 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Dog-Heads: An Eye-Witness Report

    An interesting passage from the Itinerarium of Friar Odoric (obit 1331), a pioneering Italian traveller in Asia: Odoric may have been the first European to reach Lhasa. He certainly stood before the great Khan and penetrated China. He also visited the south seas. The island of Moumoran has never been satisfactorily identified but probably lies […]

    Accidentally Obscene January 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Accidentally Obscene

    The Belfast Telegraph recently ran a story on the Limerick town of Effin – named for St Eimhin no less! ‘Ann Marie Kennedy is proud to live in Effin – and now she has launched an online campaign to have Facebook recognise the town whose name was blacklisted for being too offensive [urban dictionary]. Ann […]

    Snakes, Fairies and St Patrick January 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Snakes, Fairies and St Patrick

    A lead up to tomorrow’s epiphany gift to all readers: Scary Fairies: the Proto Edition. Bede begins his Ecclesiastical History of the English in 731 with a geographical overview of the island of Britain and also, given its importance in the conversion of the English to Christianity, Ireland. It is a memorable passage not least […]

    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery January 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery

    There is a cute game that academics play where the more exciting the results of your research the more boring your abstract must be. Take the following tedious example from the 2011 American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Read through the miasma of low-key, lead on sentences and consider what an extraordinary discovery has allegedly been […]

    Highland Gladiators December 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Highland Gladiators

    If Beachcombing had another ten years to add to his natural lifespan he would study duels: there is enough bizarre material there for at least a decade of honest work. As it is the years pass and there is little time. So he will offer up here, in passing, just one of those many collected […]

    Death by Laughter December 20, 2011

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