Rio History: Sea Beans

Special to the PRESS

Sea Beans have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs, in burial grounds throughout Europe, in the ashes of ancient Viking campfires on Iceland and along the shores of virtually every body of water in the world.

Probably the most ubiquitous drift seed found germinating on tropical beaches, is the nickernut. A climbing, shrub, the nickernut is festooned with vicious thorns. Even the pods are prickly.. The smooth, marble-like seeds are commonly strung into necklaces and bracelets. The yellow and gray beans are often mixed with other colorful seeds. In Ecuador, nickernuts are sold by street vendors as amulets to ward off evil spirits. On some Caribbean islands nickernuts are used in a strategy board game called “Island Waurie.” The game goes like this; Two players sit on opposite sides of a board with six depressions (wells) on each side, each well holds four nuts. Each player attempts to empty all six of their wells before their opponent can do so. Legend has it that Island Waurie was originally introduced to the Cayman Islands by Blackbeard the Pirate on one of his voyages from South Africa. The game became popular with Cayman Islanders and was enjoyed by Ernest Hemingway whenever he visited the islands. Known in Africa as “mancala,” the game was played thousands of years ago in Egypt, where boards have been found carved into the stone of the pyramid of Cheops and the temples at Luxor and Karnak.

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