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  • 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 […]

    Pheidippides Remembered in Art June 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pheidippides Remembered in Art

    Beach recently enjoyed himself with three posts about the Athenian runner Pheidippides and while he was dipping into half forgotten but much loved sources he became curious about the treatment of the Pheidippides legend in the ‘art’ of the last couple of centuries, art understood in the loosest and most general sense. He, therefore, spent an […]

    The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France May 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France

    Oô in southern France has two things going for it. First, that name, I mean what…?! And second the pierre d’Oô one of the weirdest objects to emerge the last three or four thousand years of human endeavour: a sculpture of a lady and her pet. At this point, readers should take a moment and […]

    Execution by Dogs? May 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Execution by Dogs?

    North Korea is a frequent source of joy for bizarrists: if not for the poor wretched put upon people who live there. For example, last month Beach wrote up the Indian custom of death by cannon, only to be trumped by Kim Jong-un who had just executed his minister of defence with an anti-aircraft gun. This got Beach […]

    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy May 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy

    Beach has recently been enjoying serpent folklore. This study has led him to question, as often happens to inadequate human beings when new information comes along, ‘facts’ that has been fed him in his time living in Italy: almost a decade now. Here are six involving reptiles and their relatives. Some of these Beach discounted […]

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