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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 […]

Monotheistic Moments November 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Monotheistic Moments

There seems to be no question that early human societies were polytheistic. Might it even be said that polytheism is the natural human condition? Perhaps monotheism is the equivalent of Big Macs and fried mars bars, whereas we should all really be eating freshly killed gazelle and the fruits of the forest? There is, in […]

The First Pictured Sub Saharan African? November 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
The First Pictured Sub Saharan African?

It would be untrue to say that the woman portrayed above is the first Sub-Saharan African to be reproduced by an artist, as there are various cave paintings pre-dating this work by several thousand years, some in the Saharan desert itself. But this is to the best of my knowledge: drbeachcombing at yahoo dot com […]

African in Tenth-Century Britain September 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
African in Tenth-Century Britain

***Thanks to Borky for this lovely piece*** People and perhaps particularly kids are forever pulling things out of rivers. So the fact that, in July of this year, a couple of thirteen-year-olds dragged some human bones out of the Coln river in Gloucestershire is hardly a world-stopper.  Nor it is suprising that these bones turned […]

The Wessel Coins #3: Kilwa and its Sultanate July 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The Wessel Coins #3: Kilwa and its Sultanate

  Kilwa (or Quiloa as it was often called in European sources) was a small almost-tidal island off the coast of Tanzania. ‘Almost tidal’ because in its early history there was allegedly a causeway and even in later centuries it was possible to wade to Kilwa at low tide. The city of Kilwa was a […]

The Wessel Coins #2: The Coins July 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
The Wessel Coins #2: The Coins

In a previous post we examined the background to the discovery of the Wessel Coins. Today, instead, it is time to look at why the coins are so exciting. It will be remembered that Morrie Isenberg came across nine coins on the beach in Jensen Bay. These coins break down into two classes, and this […]

Colonialism and Burying the Irish Under Buildings July 18, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Colonialism and Burying the Irish Under Buildings

Luise White published, in 2000, her Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa. Very crudely – the book is difficult to reduce to a simple core because it recognizes complexity on the ground –White shows how colonial anxiety was played out through what she chose to call ‘vampire’ legends. Europeans and their agents […]

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