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  • Roman Coins in Iceland December 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Coins in Iceland

    Roman coins have been found within and without the Empire. Denarii and solidii turn up in Scandinavia, Free Germany, Ceylon, Mainland India and Ethiopia, there is even one fascinating outlier in Madagascar (another post, another day). These coins will have arrived in two separate ways. Some will have been brought by Roman traders and some […]

    Treasure Dragon Graffiti in Orkney July 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Treasure Dragon Graffiti in Orkney

    Maeshowe was a Megalithic tomb on Orkney. At some point our Viking ancestors broke in and desecrated the innards of Maeshowe with their tiresome graffiti. We have visited some of these graffiti before while in search of an axe. However, of special interest today is the treasure graffiti: translation Bruce Dickinson. It is true what […]

    Finns, Magic and Murder February 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Finns, Magic and Murder

    ***Dedicated to Leif who always gets me good Viking stories!*** There are Viking traditions dating back into the Middle Ages about the magic abilities of Finnish sorcerors (almost certainly Lapplanders). It is, though, bewildering to find a version of this belief surviving as late as the 1860s. This from a British newspaper. On Friday, Kar […]

    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. […]

    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 […]

    Jasper and Butternuts on the Edges of Vinland June 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Jasper and Butternuts on the Edges of Vinland

    ***Dedicated to Wade*** Jasper is a silica stone that was used by our ancestors both as a decoration and as a form of primitive match. Because of its fire-making properties jasper is often found in archaeological digs. A nice example of this is the dozen odd pieces of jasper that have been discovered over the […]

    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 […]

    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts January 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts

    Could you draw a perfect, to scale map of the area that you live? Close your eyes, consider the fields, the rivers and streets and then give it a go. After you’ve spent ten minutes with some coloured crayons compare your effort with a professionally produced map, contours and all. The chances are that you […]

    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 […]

    Tanfield Valley: Europeans in Pre-Columbian Baffin Island? January 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tanfield Valley: Europeans in Pre-Columbian Baffin Island?

    Tanfield Valley [A] is one of the most exciting sites to have come under the archaeologist’s trowel in the last fifty years: less golden but in its way as thrilling as Tutankhamen’s tomb. The valley – more a hollow – is an unusually green part of rocky Baffin Island and for five seasons, Patricia Sutherland, […]

    Mysterious European Figure in Pre-Columbian Baffin Island December 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Mysterious European Figure in Pre-Columbian Baffin Island

    A thirteenth- or fourteenth-century Thule ivory carving from southern Baffin Island in Canada should hardly surprise anyone. After all, the Thule Inuit did dwell in this place at that time. But when Debora Sabo dug up the carving pictured above in 1972 she was understandably jolted by her discovery, so much so that she dedicated […]

    The Horror of Sea Hedges! December 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Horror of Sea Hedges!

    The Norse had a whole series of sea-monsters ready to gobble up unwary sailors: the kraken, the hafstramb (the Norse merman) and other saline lovelies. But at least to this blogger’s mind the worst of all was the Hafgerdingar, ‘the Sea Hedge’. Perhaps the nightmare quality of the Sea Hedge comes from the fact it […]

    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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