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  • First Unicorns? April 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    First Unicorns?

    Beachcombing is returning with some relief to familiar territory after the Shakespeare wars of the last couple of days. The subject: unicorns and the earliest human accounts of these mysterious creatures. In the Indus Valley about 3000 BC a series of seals were created that portray an animal with one horn: they predate the mention […]

    Review: Shadow Pasts April 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Shadow Pasts

    Beachcombing has only a few minutes today before class begins – a spring cold has meant that he is sleeping double his regulation five or six hours. But he wants to take what little time he has to celebrate William Rubinstein’s Shadow Pasts: ‘Amateur Historians’ and History’s Mysteries (2007), a gem of a book he […]

    Eden in the Persian Gulf March 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    Eden in the Persian Gulf

    Beachcombing finds himself on the train hurtling through the early morning. He cannot then do the necessary research into an unusual theory he just ran across, though he throws it out there for anyone who might be interested or opinionated. The theory is described by Colin Tudge in Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers (1998) (p. 37) – […]

    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies March 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies

      Politics is supposedly the art of the possible, but, in medieval times,  politics was more often the art of the barely believable. Beachcombing has long loved the particularly incredible tones that the Middle Ages throw up and had a particularly pleasant memory – recently refreshed by Ostrich – of a letter exchange between Frederick I and Saladin  around […]

    Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre March 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre

    Another birthday party visit for Little Miss B this afternoon: birthday parties are rapidly becoming, along with potty training, bad Disney and the satanic Little Miss Kitty, the worst things about parenthood. Beachcombing is forced, in any case, to limit himself to a quick post on Lucian of Samosota today. Now, to get down to […]

    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies March 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a fairy phase recently, played out in his evening readings after he’s put little Miss B to bed. And he has particularly been interested at the different explanations that our ancestors – distant and recent – offered to explain the fact that ‘little folk’ lived in the cairn […]

    Iambulus’s Island March 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Iambulus's Island

    **Beachcombing dedicates this post to author and Diodorus scholar Ed Murphy (After the Funeral) who inspired the following** Ancient historian, Diodorus Siculus (obit 1st cent BC) has appeared before on this blog for his description of a mysterious island out in the Atlantic. However, Diodorus, at the end of his second book, also wrote about an […]

    Queen Victoria Drinks Blood from a Skull in Tibet March 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Queen Victoria Drinks Blood from a Skull in Tibet

    Leaders who think that they are gods are par for the course: the ancient Egyptians, the Persians, the medieval Japanese, Idi Amin… The insidious eastern idea of divine rulers even leapfrogged the Levant and seeped into Greece and Rome in antiquity. Alexander encountered and enjoyed the privileges of divinity as he pushed his armies east, having his […]

    Josephus’ Armies in the Sky February 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Josephus' Armies in the Sky

    One of the most celebrated reports from antiquity of bizarre goings on in the sky appears in Josephus, History of the Wars relating to c. 65 AD. Besides these, a few days after that feast [of the unleavened bread], on the twenty first day of the month of Artemisius, a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon […]

    Review: Lost Worlds February 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Lost Worlds

      Beachcombing has, on several occasions, had the experience of justifying (or trying to justify) to a television or publishing company an idea. Essentially you the ‘artist’ are beholden to write on one side of A4, preferably in Times New Roman, a succinct pitch, explaining why the public will go into ecstasy on purchase or […]

    Flat-earthing: the Destruction of Knowledge February 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Flat-earthing: the Destruction of Knowledge

    **Note that this has become a controversial post – read to the bottom for important riders and arguments** Beachcombing is at heart a whig, at least in historical terms: he sees the sunlit uplands off on the horizon and believes, perhaps stupidly, that humanity is gradually evolving and moving towards a happier, freer future. However, […]

    Flexible Glass in Tiberius’ Rome February 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Flexible Glass in Tiberius' Rome

    Beachcombing has never understood the irrational pleasure of glass. Holding a wine glass in our hands – whatever the content – is surely one of the house’s hidden joys and conversely having a chipped glass or one with any line of imperfection is strangely irritating. It was while contemplating one such imperfect glass yesterday in Beachcombing’s favourite […]

    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia February 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia

      In 1940 a thrilling discovery was made at the Ethiopian monastery of Dabra-Dammo in northern Ethiopia. In the remains of a gold encrusted box in the holy house 104 Indian coins were identified. The coins were extremely valuable: the possibility that a practical joker – perhaps an Italian squaddie – brought these across in […]

    Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians February 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians

    Liars and history go together like a horse and carriage. Beachcombing gave a chance reference to Herodotus as ‘Father of Lies’ in yesterday’s post. ‘Pseudo-‘ and ‘Mythic-History’, typically found in tribal societies, are porkies by modern standards. But most interestingly, at least for Beachcombing, are the scholars/antiquarians who betray the very rules that they claim themselves to […]

    Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Total Eclipse

      A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

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