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  • Vintages Past January 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Vintages Past

    There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

    Israel Saved by the Soviets in 1973? January 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Israel Saved by the Soviets in 1973?

    In 1948, 1967 and 1973 Israel fought wars that could conceivably have seen the destruction not only of the Israeli state but also of the Jewish community in Palestine. None of these wars came closer to Arab success than the last, the Yom Kippur war. Egypt and Syria (with Iraqi backing) managed to achieve almost […]

    Plotinus Meets a God January 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Plotinus Meets a God

    A WIBT (Wish I’d been there) moment from later antiquity, brought to mind, in part by stories at the end of 2011 about Socrate’s daemon. The subject is Plotinus, a follower of Plato and the thinker who offered the ancient Mediterranean a ‘sensible’ alternative to Christianity: neo-platonism. Plotinus, as all Platonists, had mixed feelings about […]

    Cocaine, Nicotine and Ancient Egypt October 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cocaine, Nicotine and Ancient Egypt

    As regular readers of this column will attest Beachcombing is your typical small-minded historian. He doesn’t much like novelty and if there is a controversy he will float effortlessly into the orthodox camp. But with the argument over cocaine use in the ancient world he risks, however briefly, going the other way: if only to […]

    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia October 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia

    Inspired by thoughts of Nag Hammadi, Howard Carter and Leslie Alcock at Cadbury Beachcombing spent an  evening wondering about archaeological fantasias, discoveries that he hopes will be made before he  himself becomes an archaeological subject and is put into the ground. Boudica’s grave. Boudica was, of course, the queen of the Iceni who gave Nero […]

    Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi October 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi

    Howard Carter whispering ‘wonderful things’, Leslie Alcock finding Dark Age timber at Cadbury (‘that was Camelot’), Bedouin shepherds investigating a complex of caves at the Dead Sea… All wonderful, of course. But for Beachcombing none of these quite match the thrill of the discovery at Nag Hammadi in 1945. In that year, possibly in December, […]

    Tute’s Glass Ball September 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Tute's Glass Ball

    Beach is in a meteor mood again and has been flicking back through his notes to some particularly interesting cases that Andy the Mad Monk sent him last year. Andy, in fact, provided a series of remarkable examples but Beach’s favourite is probably this curious case from ancient Egypt. In the picture above we see […]

    Perpetua’s Death Dream July 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Perpetua's Death Dream

    Beachcombing decided to bring night visions into the day a month ago, opening a new tag on – note the failure to alliterate – Historic Dreams. He offered as a start Lincoln’s prophetic dream of the President’s own death and raised some questions about how prophetic said dream really was. Today, he offers,  instead, a […]

    Incest in Ancient Egypt June 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Incest in Ancient Egypt

    Incest is a fringe interest in most societies. However, Beachcombing has learnt, on a morning trip to his local library, that there are some curious exceptions: a number of Hawaiian clans, certain tribes in the Solomon Islands and, of course, the most famous of them all, the Egyptian pharaohs. Now, it is common knowledge among […]

    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt June 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt

    Time brings its chopper down on generation after generation, annihilating almost all memory. How little we know of our grandparents’ lives, how very little of our great grandparents’: while most people living in the west today have no idea where their great grandparents lived or, indeed, their names. Yet every so often history gives evidence […]

    Woolly Mammoths among the Pharoahs? April 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Woolly Mammoths among the Pharoahs?

      **This post is dedicated to Andy the Mad Monk who put Beachcombing onto it** Beachcombing has long wondered if the publishing world would not have room for a volume on long-travelled exotic animals in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: giraffes turning up in Renaissance Italy; polar bears being brought down to the medieval Arabs; […]

    A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria January 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria

      Ancient pillars survive even when associated buildings collapse. Many Greco-Roman pillars, indeed, are still standing today: a testimony to the durability of early Mediterranean civilisation. The medieval dwarfs looking back at the achievements of the classical world often got excited by pillars. Pillars were probably in part responsible for causing an early English poet […]

    The Dog-Headed Saint January 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The Dog-Headed Saint

      St Christopher is in many ways a typical early eastern saint. He was for many years a prisoner of war: check. He was a Roman soldier when he turned to Christ: check. His staff miraculously took to life and began to bloom: check. An angel – Raphael no less – gave him the gift of speaking […]

    The Karma Sutra of the Ancient Mediterranean July 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Karma Sutra of the Ancient Mediterranean

                    If there is a heaven then Beachcombing hopes that, past the brass-band podium and the daisy strewn park, there will be a public Library of Lost Books, stocked with the works of antiquity and the middle ages that inconsiderate ancestors forgot to hand down to us. And, […]

    Circumnavigating Africa six centuries before Christ June 1, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Circumnavigating Africa six centuries before Christ

            Beachcombing can barely take down M. Cary and E.H. Warmington’s The Ancient Explorers without a tremble of excitement running through his body, such treasures are to be found there. One of his favourite sections is their dissection of Herodotus 4, 42-43, a passage where the Greek historian describes, with requisite scepticism, a […]

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