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  • Iberian Hedgehog Graves May 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Iberian Hedgehog Graves

    Aristotle writes in his Politics (7, 2) that ‘among the Iberians, a warring people, they fix obeliskoi in the earth around a man’s grave corresponding to the number that they have killed’. This is a much quoted sentence and one that has caused some confusion over the years because of the translation and mistranslation of obeliskoi. […]

    What Language is Closest to English? May 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    What Language is Closest to English?

    English is a Germanic language and its closest living relation should be one of the Continental Germanic tongues, German, Dutch and the like. However, try speaking English to a German who knows no English, or try understanding German (with just English) and you will find that they are very distant relations. An Italian listening to Spanish: or […]

    Review: Lost Book of Moses May 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Lost Book of Moses

    Chanan Tigay, The Lost Book of Moses (Harper-Collins, 2016) This blogger has a dilemma. There are three pages of a century-old book he wants about an obscure English county. The book is not present in any library in the world, but one copy exists in the hands of a bookseller who wants about two hundred […]

    Burning Library: Intepretation of the Pythagorean Sayings April 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Burning Library: Intepretation of the Pythagorean Sayings

    Before we get to the lost book, wait  and reflect on its author, the younger Anaximander of Miletus. ‘Our’ Anixmander must not be confused with Anixmander the Elder, arguably the first recorded philosopher who, in the sixth century BC, put down the some lines about the origin of the universe that have, against all the odds, […]

    The Buddha in Sicily? April 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Buddha in Sicily?

    The following appears in a Greek fragment of Empedocles (obit c. 430 B.C.), a Greek Sicilian and the grandfather or godfather of sophism. The problem is that we lack context. All that we know is that he is writing here to a disciple, Pausanias about an important and knowledgeable individual in the past. There was […]

    Creepy Scythian Graves March 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Creepy Scythian Graves

    Here is an extraordinary royal burial ritual for the Scythians described in Herodotus, 4,73: The tombs of their kings are in the land of the Gerrhi, who dwell at the point where the Borysthenes is first navigable. Here, when the king dies, they dig a grave, which is square in shape, and of great size. When it is […]

    Greeks in Buddhist India? March 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Greeks in Buddhist India?

    Basnagoda Rahula argued in his doctorate, written in sometimes shaky English, but full of fascinating ideas, for wholesale Indian influence on Greek culture and above all, Greek philosophy. The arguments are exciting but annoyingly insubstantial: no fault of BR, of course. It would be exciting to have some kind of outside input into the beginning of […]

    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf March 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf

    A subtitle like How Jesus Led to Moon Golf promises a swish historical read. Beach immediately, in fact, thought of some of Graeme Donald’s history writing and books like Mussolini’s Barber and other stories of the unknown players who made history happen. This proved naïve. Mussolini’s Barber offers some cute episodes from recent history and Graeme […]

    Immortal Meals #26: The Honey Baby March 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #26: The Honey Baby

    It is a story still told in hushed voices by archaeologists and classicists. Here is a recent version by Ken Albala from his (very good) lecture series on the history of food. So there is this revealing story of this group of Egyptologists and they find this perfectly sealed jar of honey and they open […]

    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?! March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?!

    There is lots of enjoyable nonsense about the Welsh and the Romans. The medieval Welsh genealogies are full of supposed Welsh connections to Caesar and other luminaries of the Empire. If memory serves correctly Gerald of Wales claims that the Welsh of his time sported Roman hairstyles (or was it their clean beardless faces that […]

    Pythagoras and His Troubled Biography March 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pythagoras and His Troubled Biography

    Pythagoras (c. 570-480 BC) is a shadowy figure who stands at the beginning of the Greek philosophical tradition: though we are not sure really whether he ‘did’ philosophy at all. He is also often sold as a kind of long-haired Greek guru: though others have argued that he had little interest in religious matters. Still […]

    Ergot Madness in Historians March 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ergot Madness in Historians

    Ergot is a fungus that grows on some crops, particularly rye, and is most common in northern temporal climes. When ingested by humans or animals it can cause hallucinations, temporary neurological disorders and circulation difficulties including burning limbs and, in serious cases, gangrene: there are records of peasants who lost all four limbs to ergot poisoning […]

    British Iron Age Peyote February 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    British Iron Age Peyote

    There are lots of internet sites out there talking (and sometimes raving) about how to have visions courtesy of plants that grow in the British and Irish countryside: the ‘fruits of the forest’ as Beach’s disreputable younger brother calls them. This is not the aim of the present post. Rather it is to ask: what […]

    Ancient Saunas with Cannabis January 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Saunas with Cannabis

    What is the first recorded use of cannabis? There follows what is unquestionably the first European reference, though it relates to a Steppe people. Herodotus (4,73) is here describing the Scythians, the barbarians beyond the Black Sea, a region note that Herodotus may have visited: certainly he had lots of surprisingly accurate information about Scythian […]

    Bosom Serpents and False Operations January 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Bosom Serpents and False Operations

    Bosom serpents refers to the belief that an animal, typically a reptile or amphibian has taken up residence in a human body. Two truisms to start with. First, there is no way that these animals could live in a human body. Second, if the patient believed in the BoS, the doctor had to deal with […]

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