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  • Japanese Torpedo Boats in the Baltic March 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Japanese Torpedo Boats in the Baltic

    In 1904 the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, ordered his Baltic navy to travel around the world to take on the Japanese (who had already destroyed Nicholas’ Pacific fleet). It proved an extraordinary ‘voyage of the damned’ as almost forty Russian ships, including five capital ships sailed towards their doom at the hands of the able […]

    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery January 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery

    There is a cute game that academics play where the more exciting the results of your research the more boring your abstract must be. Take the following tedious example from the 2011 American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Read through the miasma of low-key, lead on sentences and consider what an extraordinary discovery has allegedly been […]

    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia? December 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia?

    An incredibly busy day today – exams are drawing near – and so Beach is going to put up a cheat post with apologies, using an extract sent in by a reader. This appeared a couple of weeks ago and was pasted under a previous post on Amazons. However, Beachcombing is not interested, at least […]

    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962 December 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962

    One of the problems of looking for the bizarre in history is that, after a while, you’ve read everything before: mermaid funerals in the Hebrides, tick; bats used in bombs against Japan, tick; Roman legionaries in China, tick… But then every so often something comes along that is fresh and that has completely escaped your […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    American Indian Settlers in Iceland? November 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    Iceland, the tiny nation floating between Britain and Greenland, has been isolated for much of its history. This isolation has given the island two extraordinary resources: one is a spectacular landscape, untainted by industrialisation (see above); and the second is a closed DNA pool. A closed DNA pool = an extraordinary resource? In days gone […]

    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London November 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London

       Beach has a longstanding thing about elephants (see many previous posts and many posts to come) and has been wondering recently about opening up a second front on the rhinoceros: a distant reading of a text about Romans importing this beast for their games has been jumping up and down in his head. He […]

    Suger’s Sherbert Holder October 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Suger's Sherbert Holder

    In previous posts Beachcombing has celebrated objects that have long and interesting histories: take, for example, the Baltic buddhas, Cellini’s canon or the Dauphin’s heart. It was with some excitement then that he just recently stumbled upon a vase that made, in the Middle Ages, its way from Moorish Spain through the hands of several […]

    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 […]

    An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain August 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain

    The Inquisition  it can’t have been that easy. Mass in the morning, torture in the afternoon and, yet another blasted auto da fe in the evening… Who can blame the good men with the blood red cloth if sometimes they decided to create, let’s call it, ‘recreational space’ for themselves. This extraordinary – and apparently […]

    A Celtic Tribe in Kazakhstan? July 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Celtic Tribe in Kazakhstan?

    When Beach was still a green blogger – before he had learnt about spiders, search engine optimization and RSI feeds  – he spat out a little post about a group of Celtic hoodlums who, as mercenaries, travelled around the Mediterranean causing havoc everywhere they went. Beach sold this as a Wrong Place post: an example […]

    Anglo-Saxons in Southern India? July 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Anglo-Saxons in Southern India?

    **Beachcombing dedicates the following to DGM, who has an excellent post on this subject** For those like Beachcombing who lick their lips at descriptions of long and unlikely journeys in antiquity and the middle ages there are few more exciting sentences than this one-liner in some versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the year 883, […]

    Cellini’s Canon April 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cellini's Canon

    Beachcombing has been thinking in the last hour about objects that are far travelled – for example the Indian buddhas that made it to Viking Scandinavia or, say, the Viking coin that (allegedly) ended up in pre-Columbian Maine. And it was while musing on these far-flung things that Cellini’s canon came to mind. Now admittedly […]

    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; […]

    Thirteenth-Century French Envoys in Mongolia February 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Thirteenth-Century French Envoys in Mongolia

    As Beachcombing plunges into his spring flu a short but sweet post on an extraordinary diplomatic mission that Louis IX (obit 1270) sent to the King of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. There is something necessarily surreal about any contacts between such distant realms, though this did not stop the two monarchs plotting. Indeed, there had already […]

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