First, some news from the banks of the River Nile:
“‘Lost golden city’ found in Egypt reveals lives of ancient pharaohs: The discovery of a 3,000-year-old city that was lost to the sands of Egypt has been hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds since Tutankhamun’s tomb.”
And this is rather interesting, as well:
And now, some old news from the banks of the River Ouse and its environs:
On my father’s side, I’m Norwegian and Danish. My maternal ancestry comes from England and Scotland. As it happens, though, the parts of England and Scotland from which my maternal ancestors come have exceptionally strong links to the Vikings and their successors.
The Selby District of North Yorkshire, for example, which was formerly reckoned within the East Riding of Yorkshire, falls squarely within the historical boundaries of the so-called “Danelaw.” And, in fact, Riccall, the town that figures most prominently in my Yorkshire heritage, was the site of the base camp of King Harald of Norway, also known as Harald Hardrada, just prior to his victory at the Battle of Fulford, some eight miles to the north, in 1066. After claiming Denmark in 1064, he had sailed up the Humber Estuary in order to establish his claim to England, and he encamped near Riccall on the banks of the River Ouse.
Sadly for Harald Hardrada, though, his army was met and defeated — and he was killed — on 25 September 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, roughly fifteen miles to the north northeast of Riccall, by the English king Harold Godwinson, who was himself half-Danish. (His mother was Gytha Thorkelsdóttir.) Alarmed by the defeat of a hastily assembled Anglo-Saxon army at Fulford, Harold Godwinson had marched rapidly to meet the Norwegian threat.
But Harold Godwinson’s victory at Stamford Bridge came at enormous indirect cost to Harold himself. Having been obliged to march to the north to face Harald Hardrada and the Norwegians, he had left the southeastern English coast undefended. And it was precisely at this time that William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, chose to invade England by crossing the English Channel. (The Normans, as their name indicates, were descendants of Viking invaders, Norsemen, who had entered today’s France back in the tenth century.) So King Harold had to force march his weary troops back down to the south where, less than three weeks later, on 14 October 1066, they were defeated and he was killed at the famous Battle of Hastings. And the Norman Conquest changed England and the English language forever.
So much for the English side of my maternal line. On the Scottish side, we come from Ayrshire, which, from the beginning of the 1100s, had been ruled by local authorities who were effectively vassals of the kings of Norway. In fact, the entire western coast of Scotland had been repeatedly raided and invaded and at various points more or less occupied by Vikings for a period of approximately five centuries, which only came to an end with the 2 October 1263 Battle of Largs, in North Ayrshire. That battle, between forces loyal to Haakon IV Haakonsson, King of Norway, and soldiers led by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland, would probably not have been so decisive were it not for another factor: Haakon wintered at Kirkwall, in the Orkney Islands, intending to resume his Scottish campaign when the weather improved in the following year. But he fell ill, and died on 16 December 1263. So Ayrshire, it turns out, was the last stand or the last holdout of the Vikings in Scotland.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I may well be of Scandinavian Viking descent on my mother’s side as well as on my father’s. Thus, in a way, maybe I come by my legendarily cold-hearted cruelty and viciousness honestly. It could be genetic. In an earlier age, I would very possibly have been a Viking berserker, pillaging and destroying Irish villages and the like. Except that, now, some modern Swedish killjoys — “of course it would be Swedes!” my Danish and Norwegian forebears might point out — are suggesting that such rationalizations aren’t really based on solid science:
Finally, a couple of items related to volcanology:
The photographs in that second article are especially spectacular. But this next item, drawn from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File© will just depress you, if it doesn’t altogether leave you gasping in horror:
“Response of the Church of Jesus Christ During Volcano Eruption in St Vincent: Updates about the status and work of members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ amidst the La Soufrière volcano eruption.”
Posted from Park City, Utah