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  • Ragamuffin Purring in 1873 (Preston) May 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ragamuffin Purring in 1873 (Preston)

    In the early days of this blog Beach celebrated the ancient Lancashire sport of purring or clog fighting (1, 2), where an opponents shins are reduced to bloody jelly with the white bone showing through. Sorry for that. In the hope of reviving this thread of posts here is a nineteenth-century allusion to the sport […]

    Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don’t Count On It… May 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don't Count On It...

    In 1542 Francisco de Orellana crossed from Chile (under Pizarro) and then passed down the Amazon to the sea with fifty men. It was an extraordinarily dangerous and uncomfortable journey and it says something for the courage and ruthlessness of the Spaniards that most were still alive when the Amazon vomited them into the Atlantic […]

    The Earliest Description of a Zoo? April 30, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Earliest Description of a Zoo?

    There is a long-standing argument among historians and archaeologists about the world’s earliest zoo. Candidates come from across Euro-Asia, from the Mediterranean to China, and include the exciting recent digs at Hierakonpolis (Hawk City), where now well over 100 animals, ranging from hippos to baboons and wildcats to dogs, have been disinterred.  However, archaeology always […]

    Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards April 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards

    It will be remembered that the year is 1542 and that a small Spanish party is making its way down the Amazon under the command of Francisco de Orellana. There follows the fourth and the most dramatic of the Amazon episodes in the work of Gaspar de Villar (for 1, 2 and 3 follow the […]

    Amazons 2#: ‘They’ll Kill You’ April 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 2#: 'They'll Kill You'

    The women warriors of the Amazon basin appear for the first time in a European account in 1542 when Gaspar de Carvajal, a friar on the expedition of Francisco de Orellana was passing down the river that would soon be named for them. Beach has already described an earlier Indian description of these women from […]

    Amazons 1#: First Contact April 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 1#: First Contact

    In 1542, a small party led by Francisco de Orellana, a thuggish conquistador (was there any other sort?) was making its way down a huge South American river towards the sea. In the depths of this dangerous region, where no white man had ever gone before, the Spaniards began to hear strange stories of… Well, […]

    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 […]

    Mrs T’s Revolving Eyes April 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mrs T's Revolving Eyes

    In the tradition of writing topical posts a week after they have ceased to be topical, Beachcombing thought that he would celebrate, today, Margaret Thatcher’s eyes as part of his occasional maverick politicians series. Coming of age in a country where that loathed/loved woman reigned, this blogger has long been fascinated by the way that […]

    The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats March 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats

    Beachcombing has a bit of a thing about unsuitable placenames: placenames that may once have been efficient but that by now are simply inappropriate. A favourite example of this is Ancoats in central Manchester. Ancoats for those who have never had the chance to walk on its dirty cobbles was once one of the most […]

    The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River March 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River

    There is perhaps no worse sign of enthusiasm than a talented man or woman finding ciphers hidden in celebrated texts. The Bible, Shakespeare, Milton… All have been examined with such passion that only the unimaginative could fail to notice that peculiar patterns emerge when you take the second final word from each penultimate sentence. Beach […]

    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 […]

    The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement January 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement

    Imagine a Mary Celeste incident – an empty apparently abandoned ship – but extended instead to an entire land. At least one such account comes down to us and that is the abandonment of the Western Settlement in Greenland, one of the most mysterious events in European – or is it North American? – history. […]

    Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel January 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel

    Jean Fouquet was the greatest French painter of the fifteenth century. He is of special interest in this blog because JF created the fifth love goddess in our series: the notorious, terrifying Madonna from the Melun Diptych, c. 1450. Thanks to Invisible for the tip. Let’s start by remembering that madonnas were everywhere in the […]

    King Arthur’s Last Men: Stranded in the Arctic North? December 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    King Arthur's Last Men: Stranded in the Arctic North?

    *** Sorry I’m an idiot, I accidentally published two posts yesterday, one was left and one was withdrawn: this was the second that should have come out today** The Inventio Fortunata is a lost English text describing Arctic exploration that survives only in an emended form in a copy of a copy of a copy. […]

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