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Why Didn’t the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas? March 17, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Why Didn't the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas?

It is well known that viruses proved absolutely essential in the colonization of the Americas. Unlike in Africa and Asia native populations died on a massive scale as they came into contact with viruses from animals and people, viruses that had been blunted by human immune systems over several thousand years in Europe. By some […]

American Indian Map Making: A Rare Talent? March 3, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
American Indian Map Making: A Rare Talent?

Mapmaking is often seen as a modern, even a western preoccupation. But, of course, map-making, albeit with rather different rules, has existed in other cultures from the earliest times. This is true even in hunter-gatherer societies where permanent records are slighter and more difficult to achieve. After all, the hunter-gatherer depends more on knowledge of […]

Vision Quest #2: The Rainbow Enema May 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Vision Quest #2: The Rainbow Enema

How could a ‘serious’ bizarrist ignore  Brian Stross and Justin Kerr’s 1990 exploratory article ‘Notes on the Mayan Vision Quest by Enema’? After all, in this piece the two intrepid Meso-American scholars make the case that enemas were used to pump hallucinogenic substances into the bodies of Mayan visionaries. And the image above (and the […]

Christian Indians in Sixteenth-Century Brazil? May 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Christian Indians in Sixteenth-Century Brazil?

Today a return to the Amazon and a passage from Carvajal’s journal of Orellana’s mad rush for the sea in 1542: the Spaniards were, it will be remembered, sailing down that river towards the Atlantic. Regular readers will recall that we dedicated a number of posts to this expedition to try and uncover more information […]

Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss April 17, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss

Around the world different peoples have pioneered different methods to ‘open the doors of consciousness’ through what doctors call hallucinations. Possible keys to said doors include mushrooms, toad poison and smoked grasses (of various descriptions). Beach knew about all these but he was surprised, recently to read about blood loss causing hallucinations. The science behind […]

Death As A Basketball April 14, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Death As A Basketball

Death by basketball… We examined this quaint pre-Columbian custom just last week. But what about the strangest death of them all death AS a basketball? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The place is Central America and we are in pre-Columbian times again. This is the epoch of the great ball games of the Maya and […]

The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence April 11, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence

Hallucinogens are frequently found in the traditional religious life of hunter-gatherers and rural communities. There are, of course, literally hundreds of different ways of intoxicating yourself ranging from toad glands to nutmeg, from jimson weed to ergot spores. And naturally, these techniques which, depending on your point of view, canker or enhance reality, are important […]

Death By Basketball April 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Death By Basketball

Humanity is extraordinarily ingenious in terms of the different ways it has found to execute people. We’ve reviewed on this blog before elephant executions; Mike Dash has recently given space to the Viking’s blood eagle; there is necklacing in Sub-Saharan Africa (a lynching rather than judicial capital punishment); the brazen bull in ancient Greece (another […]

Irish-speaking Argentinean Indians!! January 8, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Irish-speaking Argentinean Indians!!

One of the weaker proofs of Pre-Columbian contacts with Europe is the legend of the ‘white Indian’. Typically, a pioneer in the sixteenth or seventeenth or eighteenth or even the nineteenth century comes upon an Indian who by his appearance or his actions shows that he is really of European descent. Prior to today Beach […]

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 […]

Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers October 14, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers

***Dedicated to Amanda and BFM*** Bad Archaeology, a necessarily quarrelsome but very worthwhile corner of the internet, is presently hosting an article on Out of Place Artefacts: objects that have turned up in places or in times where they would not be expected. As readers of Strange History will know the present author has frequently […]

The Mysterious Island of Chronos/Cronos: Stonehenge, New Hampshire or Lundy!? July 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
The Mysterious Island of Chronos/Cronos: Stonehenge, New Hampshire or Lundy!?

One of the most peculiar texts that Beachcombing has ever read is the description of the Island of Cronos – the titan pictured here with thanks to Goya – in Plutarch (c. 120 AD). Much has been made of this island and attempts to fix it on the map have been undertaken frequently: some have […]

The Buckle That Came In From The Cold July 14, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Buckle That Came In From The Cold

***Dedicated to Mike Z who sent this one in*** Beach has made it his business to put up here records of objects from the past that end up hundreds or better still thousands of miles away from where they should have been found. Recent examples have included Roman glass beads in, ahem, Japan and Roma […]

America Come Lately: Why? February 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
America Come Lately: Why?

Forget Moses praying in the Desert, Luther getting temperamental at Wittenberg, the sword of Islam lifting above Medina, the signing of the Bill of Rights, the opening of the Bridgewater Canal and the explosion of Little Boy at Hiroshima. In the last three thousand years by far the most important historical event was the discovery of America […]

Mayan Blood and Mayan Victims October 8, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Mayan Blood and Mayan Victims

Beachcombing has had a bad week and so to perk himself up a little he thought that he would resort to the last strategy of the truly desperate: pity someone who is worse off than himself. In this spirit and in continuance of his wcih (‘worst careers in history’) series he has decided to rememeber the […]

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