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  • Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Female Poison Circles July 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Female Poison Circles

    As is well known periodically through history groups of frustrated women have banded together to poison their violent, somnolent, poor or idiotic husbands. Six or sixty or one hundred and fifty would  find a local gypsy who sold tastless, colourless (in short undetectable) poisons and then run home and start dosing gins and tonics or […]

    Burning Libraries: A Saucy Roman History Book July 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Burning Libraries: A Saucy Roman History Book

    This blogger remembers some sweaty hours reading Robert Graves’ translation of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, Roman history reduced to salacious tabloid gossip. The sex, the violence, the sex, the poison, the magic, the sex and, of course, that swimming pool… But once Suetonius stops writing Roman history lovers have almost nothing until Ammianus Marcelinus’ surviving […]

    Ghost Universals and Human Universals June 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ghost Universals and Human Universals

    Let’s say that your neighbour meets a ghost. What will they typically see/hear/experience other than a human form: a floater, strange clanking, glowing body parts, missing body parts? We might guess one or the other from this list, but there is no need to guess. There are statistics out there (or data amenable to statistics) […]

    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed June 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed

    331 BC was a very bad year in Rome. Livy (obit 17 AD) is our only record for the catastrophe. I include here an online translation from 8, 18 (with some slight changes) and the Latin as I hate translating ‘the Padovan’. The foremost men in the State were being attacked by the same illness, […]

    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland? June 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland?

    So here’s a teaser. The Barbary ape is an African primate whose only toehold on the European continent is at Gibraltar, where a tiny population has survived into modern times. How, then, did a Barbary Ape get to Co Armagh in Northern Ireland in the Iron Age? Archaeologists have waxed lyrical over the find of […]

    Comparing Present Money with Past Money June 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Comparing Present Money with Past Money

    Money makes the world go round, but how much? Today the question is relatively easy to answer because we ‘feel’ money: but if you got back in time all your coordinates are gone, it is an extreme version of travelling to another country where they use a different currency. In most other countries you can […]

    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die? June 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die?

    Soldier, forget principle, forget country, forget pride, forget hate: your one aim is to survive, with or without your legs. Now ask yourself this: given that you want, at all costs, to live would you prefer to fight in WW2 battle or a battle in the Punic wars in antiquity? Perhaps the first thing to […]

    How to Train a Griffin! June 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    How to Train a Griffin!

    Beni Hassan is a collection of ancient Egyptian tombs in central Egypt. The tombs there have many precious illustrations of day-to-day life under the Pharoahs. And one of the most curious images is that above from the tomb of Khety (eleventh dynasty). Reader, what are you looking at? No, idea? Well, there is little doubt […]

    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post! May 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post!

    Barbie  is an American doll that has been marketed across the globe since 1959 and that was based on an earlier German ‘sexy’ doll Bild Lilli (another post, another day). Barbie was, of course, an instant success and continues to outsell all rivals – there is a Barbie doll purchased every three seconds somewhere in the world – […]

    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland May 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland

    A recent story on the supposed archaeological discovery of shuck – [sorry can't give links, wordpress playing up] – has set me thinking about large violent dogs in history, the way that ancient and medieval peoples used these animals and one particularly evil-sounding example: the Irish archu or slaughter hound. First, though, some background. Dogs, of […]

    In Defence of the Dark Ages May 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    In Defence of the Dark Ages

    The Dark Ages is a much despised term for the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the tailing off of Viking raids in the tenth and eleventh centuries and the arrival of a new stability in Europe. Most historians agree that the period deserves a name, in other words it stands out […]

    Caesar and a German Unicorn? May 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Caesar and a German Unicorn?

    Karl Shuker has recently put up a post on an ancient cryptoid: the Hercynian Unicorn. KS, always interesting, quotes the work of a German author Markus Bühler (whose work I’ve not read), suggesting that we are dealing with a ‘freak deer’ across the Rhine. However, before conjuring up abberant creatures to explain curious antique references, […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    Egyptian Quisling in Canaan? April 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Egyptian Quisling in Canaan?

    This year has been a particularly exciting one in Egyptology: the brewer’s tomb, a new pharaoh (and dynasty), Horemheb’s pyramid… Not least of the prizes has been a very unusual Egyptian grave found outside the bounds of the Nile valley. In fact, the grave in question was dug up in, of all places, ‘Canaan’ (Jezreel, […]

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