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  • 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 […]

    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia February 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia

      In 1940 a thrilling discovery was made at the Ethiopian monastery of Dabra-Dammo in northern Ethiopia. In the remains of a gold encrusted box in the holy house 104 Indian coins were identified. The coins were extremely valuable: the possibility that a practical joker – perhaps an Italian squaddie – brought these across in […]

    Diodorus’ Island February 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Diodorus' Island

    Perhaps next to Forgotten Kingdoms Beachcombing should set up a tag on Invisible Kingdoms: realms that very likely only ever existed in the imagination of ancient and medieval writers. There would be Atlantis, of course, the land of Prester John, the Seven Cities of Gold and El Dorado. And to these it would be a cinch […]

    The Allendale Wolf January 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Allendale Wolf

    As this has been the season of the werewolf Beachcombing thought that today he would introduce the last English wolf, for yes, unfortunately the British Isles no longer have any of the howling ones. The conventional answer – and Beachcombing, in happier days, planned a book on British Dodos – is that the last English […]

    First Greek Encounter with a Parrot December 30, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    First Greek Encounter with a Parrot

      In the ancient Mediterranean parrots were an exotic bird. They were rare, they were multicoloured and they could even repeat human words more convincingly than the native mimics: starlings, magpies and nightingales. Understandably, then, when they appeared, they were attention-grabbers. Indeed, in some periods of antiquity Beachcombing can barely read a source without tripping […]

    Homer Hasenpflug Dubs and Roman Legionaries in Ancient China December 20, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Homer Hasenpflug Dubs and Roman Legionaries in Ancient China

    Drum roll, trumpet blast enter Homer Hasenpflug Dubs (obit 1969) an American-born Oxford don with a name that sounds as it it was purloined from an 1890s feel-good novel. Homer, to friends, was a capable if eccentric sinologist based out of ‘the other place’ for most of his teaching life. He wrote – as was […]

    A Medieval Buddha at St Pancras Station? December 16, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Medieval Buddha at St Pancras Station?

    Beachcombing is rapidly coming down with flu at the moment and so will have to satisfy himself with a short post today. He will, in fact, take the reader to nineteenth-century central London, at a time when St Pancras Station (opened 1868) was being built up and connected. Beachcombing – sick or well – loves stations because they are vortexes of anarchy and […]

    Pytheas and the Mysterious Marine Lung October 25, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pytheas and the Mysterious Marine Lung

    Pytheas of Marseille was a Greek sailing captain who, in the fourth century BC, ventured from the comfortable and known Mediterranean out into the northern Atlantic describing what he found there. Later generations believed that Pytheas was a fantasist and decried him. But, from the bits and pieces of Pytheas’ work that have survived – […]

    Antique Christians in Furthest China October 7, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Antique Christians in Furthest China

    Beachcombing has often visited in these pages his favourite WIBT (‘wish I’d been there’) moments from history. And today he takes the gentle reader to another this time in China in honour of his mother and step-father who have recently fled the dominions for a holiday in the Far East. It is 1625 and the gutsy Portuguese […]

    Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan September 19, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan

    There are many reasons for which individuals have travelled a long way from home in history: money, love, fear… But a vitally important and generally overlooked motive is imprisonment. Soldiers taken in battle have often (and very sensibly) been moved from where they were captured to the furthest possible point from their own country to avoid […]

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