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  • 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 […]

    A Westerner in Early Medieval China? September 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Westerner in Early Medieval China?

    Here is a story that has come out of the Chinese media in the last few days and that has been little noticed in the west, certainly it has been little discussed. The reports are unsatisfactory in all kinds of ways. But the bare bones of information includes the following: in M1401, an early medieval […]

    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 […]

    Strange Encounter in Ninth-Century Tunisia August 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Strange Encounter in Ninth-Century Tunisia

    In the late ninth century A.D. a curious encounter took place in Islamic Tunisia, an encounter between outsiders. On the one hand, there was the Jewish community of Kairouan, living now under Arab rule, but with its roots stretching back to Roman times and perhaps beyond. On the other, was a foreigner named Eldad Ben […]

    Irish Colony in Medieval Spain!? July 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Irish Colony in Medieval Spain!?

    ***Thanks to Invisible for this piece*** Not every day brings with it really bizarre history, but here is a cracker. An American and a Galician scholar, respectively, James Duran and Martín Fernández Maceiras have gone on record as claiming that a mysterious fourteenth-century inscription on a north-western Spanish church (Betanzos, Galicia) is Irish. Now really […]

    Blue Bottoms and Samurai in 17 C. Spain June 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern
    Blue Bottoms and Samurai in 17 C. Spain

    ***This story came from Invisible for which many thanks*** In 1613 a group of Japanese soldiers and diplomats undertook an extraordinary journey that would end with blue spots on the bottoms of babies in Andalucia (Spain). The diplomatic group was led by a northern aristocrat, Hasekura Tsunetaka and a crew of 180 under HT sailed the Pacific landing […]

    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland? June 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland?

    So here’s a teaser. The Barbary ape is an African primate whose only toehold on the European continent is at Gibraltar, where a tiny population has survived into modern times. How, then, did a Barbary Ape get to Co Armagh in Northern Ireland in the Iron Age? Archaeologists have waxed lyrical over the find of […]

    Giraffes in Medieval China June 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Giraffes in Medieval China

    The giraffe, it is hardly necessary to say, is not indigenous to China. Yet from at least the thirteenth century, rumours began to travel back to the Middle Kingdom about a strange, long-necked creature in the west. This beast, sometimes called by the medieval Chinese the Camel-Ox, aroused only moderate interest: did Chinese travellers in […]

    A Travelling Chair June 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Travelling Chair

    Beach has recently been trying to explain to his daughters the meaning of an heirloom. Interesting how children lack the essential measure of time – Beach’s eldest is 5, and doesn’t really do ‘centuries’. ‘This ring was in our family before Granddad’s granddad was born’ cue blank expression and ‘Let’s watch Tom and Jerry’. Anyway […]

    Egyptian Quisling in Canaan? April 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Egyptian Quisling in Canaan?

    This year has been a particularly exciting one in Egyptology: the brewer’s tomb, a new pharaoh (and dynasty), Horemheb’s pyramid… Not least of the prizes has been a very unusual Egyptian grave found outside the bounds of the Nile valley. In fact, the grave in question was dug up in, of all places, ‘Canaan’ (Jezreel, […]

    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots? March 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots?

    In the Middle Ages there emerged two kinds of artificial humans into the Christian imagination: the real thing needs, unfortunately, to be dismissed with Aztec jet planes and Pharonic nuclear bombs. First there were moving statues, brass and gold figures that were somtimes found guarding treasure hordes or, what might loosely be called, fairyland. These […]

    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword? February 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword?

    Little is known of Jean d’Alluye’s life. He belonged to the nobility of central France and he travelled to the Holy Land as a crusader in 1241 coming home three years later, 1244. Given that it will have taken him many months to get to Outremer and many months to return this was a relatively […]

    A Pregnant Christ?! January 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Pregnant Christ?!

    This beautiful mosaic is an eleventh-century work in the church of San Miniato in Florence, one of the most extraordinary religious buildings in the world. The mosaic is unusual as, though put together in central Italy, it shows, as does an accompanying mosaic outside the church, clear eastern influences. Are we to think of itinerant […]

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