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A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England March 9, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England

***Dedicated to Stephen D*** Our knowledge of the ancient and medieval movements of peoples depends on extraordinarily inadequate contemporary sources and the  deadly (and often unsupported) prejudices of historians and archaeologists. But now, with the use of DNA sampling and other techniques, including isotope analysis, science is coming to the rescue: giving us surprising insights […]

American Indian Settlers in Iceland? November 20, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
American Indian Settlers in Iceland?

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 […]

Skraelings and Demons August 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Skraelings and Demons

Here’s a nice example of how intelligent men and women were able to create beasts/demons from a compounded misinterpretation. First, in the early Middle Ages, some of the Viking dragon boats sailing out of Scandinavia missed the party to the south, where the pointy-headed ones were wrecking settlements in Britain, the Baltic, northern France, Spain […]

Battle of Maldon and Overheart August 10, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Battle of Maldon and Overheart

Beachcombing has a long tradition of screwing up anniversaries – wrong days, wrong months, wrong years… But just for once he thought that he would get things right and offer his readers a story on the right day – 10 August– and hopefully in the right tone. What we have here is a Weird War, […]

Last Human Sacrifice in Europe? August 2, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Last Human Sacrifice in Europe?

Beachcombing has often set a Guinness-Book-of-Records-style competition for the last cavalry charge, the last head hunters or the last execution by blade in the west. And recently an email from the Sword and the Beast got him thinking about the last human sacrifice. SandB who has travelled extensively in eastern parts writes: ‘I take the […]

Cat Burial in Iceland July 31, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Cat Burial in Iceland

This site has long tried to further the place of cats in history: something that typically involves describing the horrible things that humanity has done to felines. However, to date it has all been theoretical: a letter about Shelley’s refined animal cruelty; a Belgian tourist brochure about throwing cats off towers; or spurious but strangely […]

Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition May 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition

There is, across the world, an epic literature, sometimes in prose more often in poetry, celebrating the deeds of men who lived, in happier times, caught between the gods and the earth. The ‘shapers’ who sang the heroic ages of the world – in pre-Christian Scandinavia, Homeric Greece, prehistoric India… – had none of our […]

Viking and Pirate Black Cats May 8, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Viking and Pirate Black Cats

***This post is dedicated to BAY and Raspberry Beret*** Beachcombing would be the first to admit that he has been overdoing it with cats recently: this despite not even particularly caring for moggies, being much more a dog and tortoise person. But an email from BAY on Beach’s black cats – unlucky for some piece […]

Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK March 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK

Beachcombing has sometimes confessed in this place that he is not a great fan of the Vikings. Indeed, say ‘Viking’ to your average medievalist and they will get lyrical about sturdy boats and trips to Greenland. Beachcombing, on the other hand, sees burnt monastic libraries, lines of children being brought to slavery in the fiords […]

Reading Runes at Runamo March 25, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Reading Runes at Runamo

The horror! The horror! Beachcombing joined the rest of his family this morning with headlice and so is rushing this post in between a delousing shower and the preparation of an application for a new job for Mrs B. Apologies too to all those many correspondents to whom he has not yet replied. He hopes […]

Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment February 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment

*Post dedicated to Mathias B who inspired it with his readings in Jómsvikinga saga* Beachcombing is down in the flu doldrums and so apologies for any emails to which he’s not yet replied. Several of you though (Ostrich, Swedish Anna, SY) pointed out that yesterday’s request about the letter from a Frederick to Ethiopia was a letter […]

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 […]

The forgotten kingdom of Mannau November 24, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The forgotten kingdom of Mannau

It is difficult to not to get all lyrical when looking at the early history of Man, the tiny island that stands halfway between the UK and Ireland, not least because that history is so obscure. Beachcombing is not referring to the later Norse destinyof the island, when Man was a pirate base for several thousand frightful Norwegians and […]

A Medieval Coin in New England Soil September 11, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Medieval Coin in New England Soil

After much interest in the long-travelling Helgö Buddha Beachcombing is pleased to introduce a more controversial wrong-place piece, an eleventh-century Viking coin that allegedly ended up in New England’s soil several generations before Columbus. The Maine Penny, as it called, was found by an ‘amateur’ (an ugly word for archaeologists) at the Goddard site near the mouth […]

The Buddha in Viking Sweden August 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Buddha in Viking Sweden

                Beachcombing thought that today he would revisit a classic anomalous archaeological find: the Helgö Buddha. Knowing though his personal weaknesses, he first did some deep breathing exercises before the mirror repeating a score of times: ‘be nice about the Vikings’, ‘be nice about the Vikings’, ‘be nice […]

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