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  • Vivid African Execution May 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      There follows a particularly vivid description of an African execution/sacrifice of a witch. The witness, Paul B. Du Chaillu (obit 1903) was describing his travels in West Africa in the 1850s: Du Chaillu has gone down in history as the first westerner to see gorillas (though there is Hanno…) Here he instead he learns […]

    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts April 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts

    The slave trade to America was banned in 1807, but slaves were still brought to America illegally in the decades that followed. The last known slave ship that brought slaves across the Atlantic was the Clotilde in 1859. What is extraordinary about the Clotilde’s journey is that the young slaves who were sold in Alabama, […]

    The Earliest Cargo Cult? March 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Earliest Cargo Cult?

    Cargo cults are Melanesian religious movements centred on the ability of the colonial powers to bring the kind of trinkets that fill shopping malls and dollar stores to the some of the virgin corners of the earth. The first references to cargo cults, the Vailala Madness, which began in 1919, for example, saw Papuans preach […]

    Last King Killing February 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Last King Killing

    Armchair anthropologists (such as this blogger) often thrill over the stories of mutilated and better still murdered kings and the rituals described by Frazer and his heirs in the tropics and reconstructed (ahem imagined) in European history. The king is the land, and as he becomes old and frail he must be sacrificed so life […]

    Morris Dancers from Hell December 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Morris Dancers from Hell

    Imagine that you have a problem in your west African village. A witch is believed to be among you, or worse still someone has been indulging in cannibalism. How do you deal with such miscreants: there is no police force with the resources, and the local chief is at the end of his tether. Well, […]

    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 […]

    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland November 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland

    The following was a written answer given in a written exchange in the British parliament 13 March 1962. At this date Nyasaland (aka Malawi) was a British territory and would be for another two years. (In the postwar period the British government was often put under pressure over the question of responsibility for colonial possessions […]

    Snake Friend/Enemy in Egypt September 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Snake Friend/Enemy in Egypt

    There are many stories of snakes from world folklore becoming parts of human households and being fed by grateful family members. In some parts of the globe, in the early modern Baltic for instance, this practice seems to have had cultic associations. In most of the world there are folk stories about snakes saved by […]

    The Mermaid Con September 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Mermaid Con

    Before starting out his research on swindles and confidence tricksters, Beach would never have imagined that there could be a mermaid con. This one came from the Gold Coast in Africa and was reported by the head of British administration there in 1923. Not Eve Pos, 6 Oct 1923, 3 A rogue will tell a […]

    The Nile’s Flooding and the Limits of Logic May 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Nile's Flooding and the Limits of Logic

    Herodotus was fascinated by Egypt, a kind of topsy-turvy version of his Greek world, and above all, in the second book of the Histories, he shows that he was fascinated by the Nile that ran through Egypt. The great mystery with the Nile for Herodotus and his readers, though it seems to have little bothered […]

    A Roman Coin in the Congo! February 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Roman Coin in the Congo!

    Roman coins turn up in the wildest places: Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Iceland… But who would have ever guessed the discovery of a Roman coin in sub-equatorial western Africa? The reference was first given Italian Rivista of Numismatica (vi, 1893, 45). However, the passage quoted here is a digest from Mouvement Géographique (26 Nov 1893): En […]

    The Rhino’s Horn and Memory February 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Rhino's Horn and Memory

    Every so often Beach gets a post from a reader that practically writes itself and the extent of this blogger’s work is the cut and paste button. Here is one such example that goes in the well established oral transmission tag.  The correspondent and author was Indranil. Can any reader help out Indranil and his […]

    Burning Library: Apion’s Writings January 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Burning Library: Apion's Writings

    Beach has sometimes in the past celebrated burning libraries, books (and for the multimedia age films) which we know once existed but that have long since disappeared into the dusty maws of time. An impressive burning library author to add to the growing file is Apion Plistonices, impressive because Apion managed to lose not a […]

    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 […]

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