jump to navigation
  • 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 […]

    Sugar Hell December 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Sugar Hell

    Nutritionists disagree on almost everything. However, if you go and visit several score one of the few points of consensus (along with ‘eat vegetables’) is that sugar is bad for us: in fact, there is far more agreement about sugar than about fat. Humanity’s dalliance with sugar dates back to the first time that a brave […]

    The First Toothache and Tooth Worms December 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The First Toothache and Tooth Worms

    Try and decode this Babylonian text from the seventh century B.C. After Anu [a god] had created the heaven Heaven had created the earth The earth had created the rivers, The rivers had created the marsh And the marsh had created the worm. The worm went weeping before Shamash [god of Justice] His tears flowing […]

    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg December 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg

    Seneb’s tomb in the Giza Necropolis offers the first realistic portrait in history of someone suffering from dwarfism. Seneb is sculpted seated to the left of his wife and where his feet would normally be shown coming down to the ground there are two of his three children; an unconventional touch. Size is often misleading […]

    The Longest Ancient Snakes October 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Longest Ancient Snakes

    How long were the longest ancient snakes? In 2004, Richard Stothers published a fascinating article ‘Ancient Scientific Basis of the ‘Great Serpent’ from Historical Evidence’, Isis 95, 220-238. Among many other bits of ancient flotsam and jetsom Stothers brought together a list of the longest snakes recorded in antiquity. The following snakes need to be looked […]

    Roman Octopus: Sewer Gator or Godzilla? July 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman Octopus: Sewer Gator or Godzilla?

    What is the earliest instance of an exotic animal (gator etc) in a sewer? Well, go online and you will read about New York legends from the 1920s and some isolated cases from other cities in the US from the second half of the nineteenth century. But a couple of years ago, in a fascinating […]

    Where Are the Gods of the Modern World? July 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Where Are the Gods of the Modern World?

    Forget the Iron Age, the Nuclear Age, the Internet Age. There are three periods of human endeavor: nomadic hunter-gathering before history; agriculture, which began about 8000 BC and ended in most parts of the west in the last one hundred and fifty years (when a majority of citizens had left the land); then finally industrial […]

    Historically-Minded Immortals June 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Historically-Minded Immortals

    Imagine if you will a man or woman who has lived not three score years and ten, but three score centuries and ten. They have rutted, defecated, masticated there way through the generations, watching the changing nuances of human idiocy, the misleading crab walk of technology and the intolerable brightness of every new young generation […]

    Immortal Meals #23: Family Meals, Medan Style June 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #23: Family Meals, Medan Style

    This is a first in the immortal meal series, a repast that is probably, we must hope, mythical, but one that launches a genre that we are still trying to forget two and a half millennia later. First some background. Herodotus, the father of history, gives us only one account of the birth and childhood […]

    Page 2 of 2312345...1020...Last »