How else are you going to get to Christmas Island?
A free online talk from the The Royal Museums Greenwich will educate you about 400 years of celebrating Christmas afloat. The Zoom lecture is Tuesday 7 December, 5.15pm – 6.45pm (I presume that’s Greenwich Mean Time, so check your time zone).
Focusing largely on British ships, our panel of experts will discuss the experience of spending Christmas at sea from 1600 onwards.
What did sailors and passengers do to mark Christmas? How did eating, drinking, socialising and worshiping differ when done at sea? How did events such as the Interregnum and the Second World War, as well as changing understandings of Christmas, influence the festive season afloat? Was spending Christmas at sea better or worse than spending it on land?
Each panelist will give a short presentation on the experience of spending Christmas at sea in a specific era, before taking questions from attendees. Covering Stuart sailing vessels to warships of the 1940s, this seminar will put the tide back in yuletide.
Featured image (which has no relation to the museum talk): Santa Claus and two assistants in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by Joseph Janney Steinmetz, 1965. www.floridamemory.com Florida State Library and Archives.
I recently stumbled upon two more passenger pigeon mounts I was unaware of. The Horninam Museum and Gardens in London, England, has two mounted passenger pigeons, a male and a female. Photos of the birds (NH.Z. 1768 and 1769) can be seen at the museum website.
The two pigeons are part of a natural history collection amassed by Samuel Prout Newcombe in the nineteenth century. Newcombe had owned a number of photography studios in London in the mid 1800s. He also was a writer, and in 1851 wrote a guide to the The Great Exhibition (also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition) that focused on foods of the world, including an entry on the passenger pigeon. Around 1870, Newcombe sold his photography studios and retired to life a leisure.
Keenly interested in natural history, Samuel Prout Newcombe had amassed a large collection of specimens and books on natural history. … “Nature“, the International Journal of Science, reported in 1899 that: “Mr. S. Prout Newcombe has offered the London County Council his educational collection of natural history specimens and literature. This collection, which consists of about 21,000 objects, included a considerable number of works on natural history subjects“.
Here’s the Time Team episode from 2000, when the team excavated the Roman site in Greenwich Park. Surprisingly, they don’t get into the whole camel controversy, in fact, I don’t think they mention bones at all.
Reviews of the archaeological record of camels in Europe include one reported occurrence from a Roman site in Greenwich Park, England. Examination of the site reports and the surviving bones from the Greenwich Park site indicates that it is unlikely that camel remains were ever found there, and therefore there is no existing osteological evidence for camels in Roman-Britain.
Neither the one-hump dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) nor the two-hump Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is native to Europe, but both species of camel were used by the Romans. Scattered remains of both species of camel, as well as hybrids of the two, have been reported in Roman-era archaeological sites in Europe, including a single site in Great Britain, at Greenwich Park near London (Applebaum 1987:514; Bond 2017; Green 2017; Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Webster 1902).
Other finds of one or a few isolated camel bones have been reported from Roman sites in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Russia (Albarella et al. 1993; De Grossi Mazzorin 2006; Muñiz et al. 1995; Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Tomczyk 2016), and a partially complete skeleton was found at both Saintes in France and Viminacium in Serbia (Pigière and Henrotay 2012; Tomczyk 2016; Vuković and Bogdanović 2013).
While most of the other camel finds in continental Europe are based on relatively recent analyses of actual osteological material, the Greenwich Park record is based on a report dating back to the very early twentieth century (Webster 1902). A review of the published reports and an examination of the surviving bones from this site cast doubt on the presence of camel at Greenwich Park.