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  • The Oldest Record of an Escaped Slave? November 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Oldest Record of an Escaped Slave?

    Consider this record reporting an escaped slave named Hermon or alternatively Nilus. About 18 years old, of medium stature, beardless, with good legs, a dimple on the chin, a mole by the left side of the nose, a scar above the left corner of the mouth, tattooed on the right wrist with two barbarian letters. […]

    Italy’s World War Disaster November 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Italy's World War Disaster

    Italians and World Wars don’t really get on. A combination of poor military culture and one of the most macho yet incompetent political classes on the planet made for messy interventions, and amputations rather than extrications. However, even by sorry Italian standards, the six weeks beginning 28 Oct 1940 and ending 7-8 Dec 1940 were […]

    Roman Adventures in Ethiopia November 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman Adventures in Ethiopia

    There is absolutely no doubt that Roman merchants passed down the Red Sea and traded with the Ethiopians. But how exciting when every so often we see more than just coins and broken pots. Here is an account of some Roman Syrians who had visited India in the early fourth century AD (for philosophical purposes!) […]

    The Earliest African Unicorn Evidence November 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The Earliest African Unicorn Evidence

    This blog, several years ago, ran a series of posts on unicorns. Here is a late appendix based on reading Cosmas Indicopleustes’ Christian Topography, a work that dated to the mid sixth century of our era. Cosmas was a widely travelled Greek. He had been to Ethiopia and he may have been to Sri Lanka, […]

    Who Was the First Victim of a Machine Gun? October 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Who Was the First Victim of a Machine Gun?

    The machine gun was one of the most vicious military innovations of the late nineteenth century; and in the twentieth century, it slaughtered more individuals than the motor car, Ebola and ISIS put together. However, who had the honour of being first penetrated and killed by a machine gun bullet? The answer depends, of course, on […]

    The Ashanti Ewer August 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Ashanti Ewer

    ***Thanks to RG for the tip*** A brilliant wrong place story that has just come strangehistory’s way. Imagine that in the late nineteenth century you stumble upon a medieval ewer (a kind of jug), the heaviest of its kind, in fact, weighing an incredible 18.6 kilos (just for the record that’s almost exactly how many […]

    A Medieval Phoenix and Heliopolis March 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    A Medieval Phoenix and Heliopolis

    The phoenix has been written about for well over two thousand years. Here though is a late version, a medieval version, in fact. It is interesting for its vividness and also for the curious confusion over Heliopolis, which the author situates in Ethiopia (rather than Egypt): any help with where this confusion begins, drbeachcombing AT […]

    A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo! March 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo!

    Our latest contribution to the burning library series is glimpsed, painfully briefly, in a tenth-century Arabic source. In the year 947, by the Christian calendar, the Islamic scholar Al-Mas’udi (obit 956) was rifling the shelves of a library in Cairo when he came across a suprising work. He had stumbled upon A History of the […]

    The Mummy, the Slitter and the Mortuary Mob February 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Mummy, the Slitter and the Mortuary Mob

    Been reading a lot about Egyptian mummies recently. There are nauseating details, intermershed with fascinating stuff. Here is the single most famous description to come down to us in Herodotus: The best process is this one: as much as possible of the brain is taken out through the nose with an iron hook, and what […]

    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia? January 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia?

    This passage appears in an 1863 book about a Briton’s residence in Abyssinia. The author seems to be in two minds about the monster he is describing. Is it real or is it a figment of the locals’ imagination? In the text he seems to account for it as legend, but note that he had […]

    14 Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro, Mushin: the Kalakuta Republic! January 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    14 Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro, Mushin: the Kalakuta Republic!

    The Kalakuta Republic appears as part of our longstanding Forgotten Kingdoms tag. Kalakuta was the brain child of one of the most significant African musicians of the post-war period, Fela Kuti. Kuti, for those who don’t know the name, was a Nigerian with both talent and attitude. He spent formative years outside his home country living in […]

    The Sphinx: Bushed, Plumed and Painted January 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Sphinx: Bushed, Plumed and Painted

    The Sphinx needs no introduction. The vast majority of educated people would be able to close their eyes and visualise his face almost perfectly, not least because of his use as an icon for antiquity and for Egypt and even for mysticism. But when we imagine the Sphinx in  our mind’s eye we, of course, […]

    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview December 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview

    Huge thanks to Dr Ian McIntosh who agreed to this interview about the Wessel Coins, about progress in last summer’s expedition and about hopes for next year. Previous posts on the medieval African coins that ended up in Australia are gathered together in this link. All readers please note that there is also a relevant […]

    In Search of the Hippophugi December 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of the Hippophugi

    Recently reading a good deal of medieval beast lore and came across this curious creature. As always there is that half-formed suspicion that this must be something real, if only we could pare back the description to its absolute essentials: In the same regions of the river Briso [in Ethiopia, there is much debate?] there […]

    Napoleon and the Great Pyramid: Myth and Reality December 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Napoleon and the Great Pyramid: Myth and Reality

    One of the best WIBT (wish I’d been there) moments in history must have been that wonderful occasion when Napoleon ascended to the royal chamber in the Great Pyramid and asked to spend a minute alone with the pharoahs: perhaps it is so fantastically attractive as history because no one was there and so there […]

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