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  • Beachcombed 18 December 1, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 18

    Fraternal greetings to all readers!                                                             1 dec Beachcombing has had a bit of a tense month with various family members falling ill and repeated dreams about escaping from prison. This blog has, as so often, been a welcome distraction, growing appreciably  in terms of regular visitors: indeed, a correspondent wrote in a couple of weeks […]

    Preeminent Horses: Rodney November 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Preeminent Horses: Rodney

    Nathan Bedford Forrest… For those who have not heard of this rather frightening individual the ‘Wizard of the Saddle’ was a Confederate cavalry leader in Tennessee and Alabama, who repeatedly surprised Union commanders with his audacious charges and his clever use of dismounted riders. This post pays tribute to Forrest’s most famous horse, Rodney. But […]

    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 […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft! November 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft!

    This letter appears in an English journal in 1800 relating to events on 10 April 1744. It is an interesting document because it combines two paranormal facts typically kept apart: witchcraft and spontaneous human combustion. The following narrative will probably amuse some of your readers: though many may think it is a falsehood, it is […]

    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 […]

    How to Choose your Bride in the Late Nineteenth Century November 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    How to Choose your Bride in the Late Nineteenth Century

    The only advice Beachcombing can ever remember getting from a family member about how to choose a wife was ‘have a good look at her mother: she’ll be like that in fifty years’. The best advice he ever came across in his own reading, meanwhile, was in an Iris Murdoch novel (The Severed Head?): ‘only […]

    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union November 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union

    Beach has spent the day in bed reading books he once loved and in doing so came across this fabulous picture by Sergei Gerasimov (obit 1964). While not normally a big fan of Soviet art, except, of course, for its kitsch value, Gerasimov’s Mother of a Partisan (1943) is worth making an exception over. For […]

    A List of Supercentenarians November 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      The following list of long-living folks crops up in a book from the very early twentieth-century. Different versions of this same list had already appeared in various publications through the nineteenth century and names seem to have been added and dropped as easily as editors clumped decades onto the supposed Methuselahs: John Effingham, for […]

    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 […]

    Magic Translation and Flowers November 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern