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Human Trousers from Iceland April 8, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Human Trousers from Iceland

Regular readers of this blog will know the name ‘Leif’, who always sends in excellent copy about Viking culture, correcting my excesses and offering new perspectives. Leif recently sent in these reflections on Lappish breeches (extraordinary and horrific picture at the foot of this post) after my post on a human drum. Here we return […]

Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World April 3, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World

Year in year out birds follow migratory routes from north to south and from south to north. These travelling birds have long intrigued humans who have looked amazed as waves upon waves of birds fly to destinations unknown. These birds have entered human legend: the storks going to Africa to fight the pygmies, the wild […]

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. […]

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 […]

Pre-Viking Vikings in the Faroes? August 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Pre-Viking Vikings in the Faroes?

F ***Special thanks to PGR, Chris and Wade for signaling this*** Beach has never hidden his dislike for the Vikings and so was particularly happy to hear that Faroe, those lonely islands, between Shetland and Iceland are having their history rewritten (or rather their archaeology because history was in short supply back then). Orthodox history […]

Zen Letters and Names March 10, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Zen Letters and Names

The Zen letters are the now lost and the perhaps never existing fourteenth-century missives that described a Venetian visit to the northern Atlantic and perhaps to New England or Canada. A supposed outline of them survive in a sixteenth-century publication by Nicolò Zen, a scion of the family. NZ describes the northern Atlantic and offers […]

A Fisherman’s Tale or a Venetian Invention? February 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
A Fisherman's Tale or a Venetian Invention?

Lots of emails received in the last week about the Zen brothers and the possibility of a pre-Columbian crossing of the Atlantic by a northern route in the fourteenth century. We have decided to put up the most interesting passage in this respect that relates to some wind-blown fishermen from Europe who end up ‘over […]

A Mysterious Island, Incest and a Twelfth-century Papal Letter February 21, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Mysterious Island, Incest and a Twelfth-century Papal Letter

Greenland certainly had contact with the New World in the late tenth century. Did though this contact continue into the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth century? This controversy is one we have looked at before, showing that there is some evidence that it did: though the evidence is intermittent. Here is a further document […]

The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives February 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives

***Dedicated to KR who pointed Zenwards*** The story (as always) is a simple one, perhaps deceptively, perhaps dishonestly so. In 1558 in Dello scoprimento dell’ isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda e Icaria fatto sotto il Polo artico da’ due fratelli Zeni, M. Nicolo il K. e M. Antonio (Of the Discovery of Frisolanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda and Icara […]

Viking Zombie February 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Viking Zombie

A Viking zombie story from medieval Iceland courtesy of Chris from Haunted Ohio Books: thanks Chris!! Glam is an uncouth and enormous Swede who is taken on as a shepherd in a ‘haunted’ part of Iceland (Vatnsdal): he is rash enough to guard the sheep from whatever beast comes out in the Icelandic moonlight. This […]

Bishop Erik’s Unorthodox Trip, 1121 January 14, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Bishop Erik's Unorthodox Trip, 1121

Let’s start with historical orthodoxy. From c. 950-1000 Viking Greenlanders crossed the Davis Strait and set up a settlement or perhaps several small settlements in Canada. This settlement or these settlements may or may not have been just for the summer, but the fact is that, in any case, they were shortlived. The Greenlanders simply […]

Thirteenth-century Viking Legend in Canada? January 10, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Thirteenth-century Viking Legend in Canada?

Did the Vikings believe that mythical outlaws dwelt on Canada’s Baffin Island, perhaps parallel to the outlaws of the Icelandic interior that we have looked at before on this blog? It seems unlikely given that Greenlanders – the closest ‘Vikings’ to Baffin – are not supposed by some to have visited North American after about […]

Further Thoughts on the Inventio Fortunata with Thanks to Readers December 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Further Thoughts on the Inventio Fortunata with Thanks to Readers

The Inventio Fortunata (the Happy Discovery) is a text that we’ve already looked at twice on this blog. A first post described its extraordinary survival in a burnt copy of a copy of a copy in the wrong language. A second post alleged that the IF detailed an English trip to Arctic Canada in 1360. […]

European America or American Europe? Calculating the Probability of Pre-Columbian Contact December 9, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
European America or American Europe? Calculating the Probability of Pre-Columbian Contact

The idea of pre-Columbian contact between the Americas and Europe or even Africa has been one that has understandably excited a lot of attention. What are the possibilities that Europeans ended up in, say, Florida or that ‘Floridans’ made it to, say, Scandinavia in 1491? Well, in this post we are going to take the […]

Viking Family Memories December 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Viking Family Memories

Back to families and remembering. This time though in the Northern Isles with the last of that cursed breed the Vikings… Occasionally there are examples of writing in stone, which under special conditions, survive beautifully through the centuries. This is true of the several sheltered runic inscriptions found in the Maeshowe megalithic tomb on Orkney, […]

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