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  • Wrong Time Bread, Wrong Place Fairies September 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Wrong Time Bread, Wrong Place Fairies

    Beach wants to introduce today a folklore custom that survived unexpectedly for three hundred years in the dark, before emerging to be briefly photographed by stunned folklorists at the end of the twentieth century. The tradition in question relates to bread. It was believed in south-west England in the 1600s that if you carried bread […]

    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia July 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia

    The Vikings were attacking everyone in the ninth-century and this included the Arabs of southern Spain. After their most famous raid, in 844, when Seville was memorably captured by those northern psychos, the Emirate of Seville did something quite extraordinary. He decided to send an embassy to the Viking homelands to buy them off. This […]

    The Furthest Viking Raid June 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Furthest Viking Raid

    From the very late eighth century Scandinavians left their homelands to raid. These raiders were called vikings and historians usually capitalize the word to give us the Vikings: pagan crusaders out for money, slaves, blood and saga-glory. They began with what was close at hand, the northern islands (Shetland, Orkney etc), then they moved onto […]

    Is St Francis’ Horn Egyptian? April 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Is St Francis' Horn Egyptian?

    A medieval ivory horn is pictured with two mysterious wooden rods, which look like nunchaku, but were actually ‘silence sticks’, banged together before a sermon. The horn is kept at Assisi among the most precious relics of St Francis (obit 1226), because this horn, says tradition, was brought back by Francis from Egypt as a […]

    Greeks in Buddhist India? March 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Greeks in Buddhist India?

    Basnagoda Rahula argued in his doctorate, written in sometimes shaky English, but full of fascinating ideas, for wholesale Indian influence on Greek culture and above all, Greek philosophy. The arguments are exciting but annoyingly insubstantial: no fault of BR, of course. It would be exciting to have some kind of outside input into the beginning of […]

    The Durham Serpent May 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Durham Serpent

    Here is a weird little story that allegedly appears in St Nicholas’ Parochial Register, Durham for 1568. Mdm. that a certain Italian brought into the cittie of Durham, the 11th day of June, in the yeare above sayd, a very great strange and monstrous serpent, in length sixteen feet, in quantitie and dimentions greater than a […]

    Canary Slaves in the Arab World April 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Canary Slaves in the Arab World

    It is sometimes said that the furthest travelled people in the ancient and medieval world were slaves. Consider four points. First, average men and women were not foolish enough to pass beyond the frontiers. Second, when they were foolish enough to travel they often risked becoming slaves (St Patrick, Frumentius… there are many examples). Third, […]

    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 […]

    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription January 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription

    Inscriptions come in many shapes and sizes from graffiti scratched in Romanesque churches, to the huge stone book of Gal-Potha in Sri Lanka, to the panel recalling the first Chinese Christians. However, in Beach’s endless quest to hunt down the bizarre he recently stumbled upon this classic. It was found in Sumatra and was put up […]

    A Monkey in the Late Roman Army December 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Monkey in the Late Roman Army

    Do you remember the ape buried in Iron Age Ireland? Well, here is a cousin, who also travelled far from home. In 2001 a monkey, a macaque, in fact, was dug up at Iulia Libica (Llívia), a late Roman settlement in the Pyrenees. He was, at death, 78 cms tall: a young male. It goes without […]

    Roman Bowl in Ancient Japan?! December 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Bowl in Ancient Japan?!

    Thanks to Ed for this story! This blog has long pioneered wrong place objects, artifacts that turn up thousands of miles from where archaeologists would have expected to find them. So how about a round of applause for this beautiful blue glass bowl that was removed from a tomb in the Nara prefecture in Japan […]

    Persians and Romans at the Ends of the Earth December 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Persians and Romans at the Ends of the Earth

    The story is a simple one. A Roman and a Persian arrive by boat at the same time in a foreign port. Both are taken off to see the king (suggesting that the visitors were actually dignitaries) and the king decides to provoke them ‘Which of your kings is the greater and the more powerful?’ Of course, […]

    Ethiopian Boat Arrives in the Mediterranean?! November 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Ethiopian Boat Arrives in the Mediterranean?!

    Here’s a strange text to say the least. It appears in that remarkable tenth-century Arab work Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems by Abu Zayd, the kind of miscellany of marvels that only the Arabs could write: the non-fiction reflex of Sinbad. In the Sea of Rum [the Mediterranean] near the island of Iqritish […]

    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!) […]

    Greeks in Ancient India? The Heliodorus Pillar November 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Greeks in Ancient India? The Heliodorus Pillar

    The Heliodorus Pillar is one of those wrong place Euroasian antiques, which should make any self-respecting bizarrist choke up. It is a simple, still standing sandstone Hindu column, at Vidisha near Bhopal in India, known locally as the Khambh Baba. The column was placed there in about 110 BC so it is a good two thousand […]

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