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  • Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand August 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand

    The Arab writer Ibn al-Nadim included this extraordinary record of contact between east and west in his Index of the Sciences, finished in 988. He is reporting an encounter between a Chinese student, visiting Baghdad, al-Razi, perhaps the greatest of the Persian writers of the golden age, and the writings of Galen, the greatest Mediterranean […]

    A Sumerian Heliocentric Universe July 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Sumerian Heliocentric Universe

    Beach got this email from ANL, an old friend of the blog, a couple of months back and he wondered whether any enthusiast, astronomer or logician can help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Something about circles has been bothering me for some time, and I was wondering whether you or one of your readers can […]

    Burning Libraries: Seleucus of Seleucia July 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Burning Libraries: Seleucus of Seleucia

    Seleucus of Seleucia is one of the most intriguing writers of all antiquity: not least because practically everything about him is up for debate, a natural consequence of the loss of his writings. When did he live? Probably the mid second century B.C., but there is some uncertainty. Where was he from? Seleucia certainly, but is that […]

    Historical Children Scarers July 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Historical Children Scarers

    ***Dedicated to Invisible*** Parents have scared children for generations with conjured horrors: the fairies, the black boggart, Jenny Greenteeth and many, many more. However, Beach today wants to look at a very select category. Historical personalities who were so horrific (or at least were imagined to be so horrific) that parents could credibly say: ‘Get […]

    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live? June 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live?

    Life expectancy is a tricky thing. Every demographer knows that, in the modern world, the difference between a national life expectancy of 40 in country A and 70 in country B is predominantly about how many children die in their early years of life. If you look at life expectancy for fifteen year olds then […]

    The Origins of Excalibur and Late Medieval Funerals June 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    The Origins of Excalibur and Late Medieval Funerals

    It is perhaps the single most famous image from the Arthurian canon: the sword being returned to the water, into the grasp of the Lady of the Lake. Beach includes here the scene from the 1981 film Excalibur, which caused his seven year old daughter to audibly gasp when she watched it this morning. Scholars have […]

    Visiting Duat in Dreams June 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Visiting Duat in Dreams

    Every culture in history has had its own unique take on dreams from Viennese voodoo to Zhuang Zhou dreaming of butterflies, from the Aboriginal dream quest to lucid ‘shamanic’ dreaming, looking at your life line on your left hand as you gently snore. However, Beach has recently become intrigued by the Ancient Egyptians and dreams. […]

    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 […]

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