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  • Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

    Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

    Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland January 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland

    ‘Shaman’ is a much misused word. But here is a medieval account of shamnism from northern Europe that is, to the best of this blogger’s knowledge without parallel. The text is a saga: Vatnsdaela Saga, a thirteenth-century Icelandic text. The author tells of Ingimundr the Old who was born and brought up in northern Norway. […]

    Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed? January 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed?

    One of these cute medieval stories that may even have a factual basis. There was a knight in Catalonia in our times, of very high birth, dashing in warfare, and gracious in manners, whose name was Guiraut de Cabrera. This man had a horse of outstanding quality, unrivalled in speed and – unprecedented marvel – […]

    The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The British and Invasions

    I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

    Chinese Dragons Head West January 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Chinese Dragons Head West

    Dragons have long been part of the mythic corpus of Europe, Asia and Africa and, if you include the various Amerindian Giant Serpents, the Americas as well. However, different cultures celebrated or reviled dragons in different ways and a dragon from Sweden with a breath that reaked of ragnarok and a wingless dragon from China […]

    More, Good Digestion and a Prayer December 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    More, Good Digestion and a Prayer

    Beach, in the tradition of rather straitened New Years Day posts wishes his readers the best of 2014 with this little prayer that was sent in by a friend. As always replace ‘Lord’ with ‘Allah’, ‘First Contact’, ‘the Universe’, ‘Historical Materialism’ till your tastes are satisified… Give me a good digestion, Lord, And also something […]

    A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285? December 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285?

    Those stray British, Scandinavian and Dutch references to exploration in the medieval northern Atlantic have frequently been set out on this blog: remember the inventio fortunatatae, or the incest island, brave bishop Erik or, for that matter, Vinland the Good?  Occasionally there is a hint that adventurers or, more typically, storm-driven sailors had stumbled into […]

    Finns, Snow and Magic December 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Finns, Snow and Magic

    The earliest eyewitness account of the Laplanders (the Sami) to leak into European writing comes in Alfred’s translation of Orosius (late ninth century). It depends on the testimony of one Othere (aka Ohthere), a Viking who had travelled along the freezing coast of Norway and who had encountered the peoples of the White Sea. Note […]

    Swan Courts? December 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Swan Courts?

    A previous post offered up the legends of magpie parliaments and other collections of birds in assemblies. Here, instead is a medieval equivalent. Any knowledge of swans acting in groups in this way? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The events described here took place at Ongar in Essex probably in the twelfth century. The writer […]

    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview December 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview

    Huge thanks to Dr Ian McIntosh who agreed to this interview about the Wessel Coins, about progress in last summer’s expedition and about hopes for next year. Previous posts on the medieval African coins that ended up in Australia are gathered together in this link. All readers please note that there is also a relevant […]

    In Search of the Hippophugi December 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of the Hippophugi

    Recently reading a good deal of medieval beast lore and came across this curious creature. As always there is that half-formed suspicion that this must be something real, if only we could pare back the description to its absolute essentials: In the same regions of the river Briso [in Ethiopia, there is much debate?] there […]

    The Medieval Water That Would Not Boil! December 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Medieval Water That Would Not Boil!

    An early thirteenth-century source comes up with this strange little story. The modern editor suggests that Piroletti may be Piolenc near Orange in southern France: but the names are not that close. In any case whatis far, far more interesting is the fact that water from a local stream, wherever we are, does not boil. […]

    Review: Imaginary Animals November 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Review: Imaginary Animals

    Any parent will know that animals are important. Children make animal sounds before they make words. They draw and paint animals. They cherish animal toys. The books they read have animal characters. They pretend to be animals. Animals, in fact, become a kind of meta-language for their experience and their emotions: Little Miss Beach has […]

    Monotheistic Moments November 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Monotheistic Moments

    There seems to be no question that early human societies were polytheistic. Might it even be said that polytheism is the natural human condition? Perhaps monotheism is the equivalent of Big Macs and fried mars bars, whereas we should all really be eating freshly killed gazelle and the fruits of the forest? There is, in […]

    Romans and Fairies? November 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans and Fairies?

    ***Dedicated to Invisible who sent the Notts example in*** Beach has slowly become aware that Roman remains in Britain were misinterpreted by imaginative yokels. Of course, already by the seventh century Roman Bath (probably?) was the City of Giants in an Anglo-Saxon poem. By the twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth was claiming that some Roman […]

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