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  • Finns, Magic and Murder February 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Finns, Magic and Murder

    ***Dedicated to Leif who always gets me good Viking stories!*** There are Viking traditions dating back into the Middle Ages about the magic abilities of Finnish sorcerors (almost certainly Lapplanders). It is, though, bewildering to find a version of this belief surviving as late as the 1860s. This from a British newspaper. On Friday, Kar […]

    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity’s Innate Conservatism February 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity's Innate Conservatism

    Tomatoes are one of the fundamentals of modern cuisine in all continents. Yet just five hundred years ago they were a practically unknown Andean plant of the nightshade family that, when grown in New England or French or Italian gardens, were labelled as ‘ornamentals’: i.e. no one put a tomato near their mouth. Why were […]

    The Earliest Moustache in History? February 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Earliest Moustache in History?

    The strangest things survive in the strangest places. Take the separated moustache of antique Persia, which is sometimes found in ancient visual representations. Heading this post is a Roman sculpture of a dying Persian and, here below, is a Parthian woolen piece that somehow survived from the first century B.C. and which is kept in […]

    A Beautiful Korean Water Thief February 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Beautiful Korean Water Thief

    The clepsydra or water thief refers to clocks, typically used in ancient times and even the Middle Ages, that measured time through dropping water: e.g. 300 drips in an hour etc etc. By the European middle ages clepsydra were on their way out but in some other corners of the world they were continually refined […]

    Britain’s First Glider: Charles Spencer February 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Britain's First Glider: Charles Spencer

    ***an important correction to this article from Nathaniel below*** In 1868 the Aeronautical Society put up a stand at the Crystal Palace exhibition and prepared to show the nation their wares. There were many of the usual suspects: a miniature version of Stringfellow’s aerial steam carriage, for example, and prizes for anyone who get a […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

    Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

    This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

    Men Wearing Mirrors: Portuguese Conquistador in Northern Australia? December 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Men Wearing Mirrors: Portuguese Conquistador in Northern Australia?

    The Portuguese ‘discovery’ of Australia is one that has excited Australians and Europeans for most of the last century, since, in fact, it was first realized that there was a very real chance that Portuguese ships could very easily have headed south from their base at Timor and have run smack-bang into ‘the lost continent’. […]

    Last State Persecuted Witch in Europe October 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last State Persecuted Witch in Europe

    We are in 1862 and a letter arrives in the UK from Hungary and Reka. A few days since a farmer, residing in the commune of Bazas, denounced his daughter-in-law as a witch, and said it was she who had for a long time prevented rain from falling. He moreover affirmed that for several months […]

    Pre-Viking Vikings in the Faroes? August 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Pre-Viking Vikings in the Faroes?

    F ***Special thanks to PGR, Chris and Wade for signaling this*** Beach has never hidden his dislike for the Vikings and so was particularly happy to hear that Faroe, those lonely islands, between Shetland and Iceland are having their history rewritten (or rather their archaeology because history was in short supply back then). Orthodox history […]

    Go Web Young Man: Why Books Are Dying August 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Go Web Young Man: Why Books Are Dying

    ***Dedicated to L*** Beach has been having a tortured year thinking about books and the books he’s written and would like to write. For many years he wrote non-fiction books for money or with the hope of making money and lived as a writer. Now he has the luck to write but to make his […]

    The Wessel Coins #1: Morry Isenberg’s Discovery July 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Wessel Coins #1: Morry Isenberg’s Discovery

    28 February 2013 the Indiana-University-Purdue-University sent out a press release announcing modestly: ‘IUPUI led expedition seeks source of thousand-year-old coins in Aboriginal Australia’. Nothing to see, move on? Well, it took the world’s press some time to catch on, the real interest only came in May. But, of course, ‘thousand’ year old coins in Australia […]

    The Schist Disc: A Sceptic Speaks July 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Schist Disc: A Sceptic Speaks

    ***Dedicated to Wade, who sent this treasure in*** If you hang round ancient archaeologists long enough you end up being shown pictures of strange objects and being asked ‘What do you think that is for? What did they do with that?’ The sophistication of ancient technology and the complexity of ancient societies – compared with […]

    Turning Back the Years in Oz July 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Turning Back the Years in Oz

    ***With thanks to Invisible and Wade*** Consider a curious thing. Australian prehistory is far easier to rewrite than American prehistory. If you begin to question the route by which the Aborigines arrived in Australia, or posit an early Indian influx onto the continent or even begin to speculate about mahogany boats and seventeenth-century Caucasoid skulls […]

    Dowry Fossil May 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Dowry Fossil

      A wrong time post… There are few things in history as fascinating as the archaic customs that have been handed down from generation to generation and that survive in our societies like the tail-bone’s pointy edge on our spines. A particular Beachcombian favourite is the dowry. Civilisations basically fall into three categories here: those […]

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