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  • Forgotten Anglo-Irish Inventor Anticipates the Modern Age July 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Forgotten Anglo-Irish Inventor Anticipates the Modern Age

    A remarkable piece of dream engineering from the latter half of the eighteenth century, the creation of the obscure but fascinating Richard Lovell Edgeworth (obit 1817), one of those men cursed to have ideas that his day could not possibly understand or produce: an Anglo-Irish Leonoardo da Vinci though with more circumspection.

    The Nanjing Belt July 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    The Nanjing Belt

    Beachcombing always comes to China with a certain trepidation. After all, he doesn’t have much Mandarin (i.e. absolutely zilch), he has an embarrassingly modest knowledge of Chinese historiography and yet he must admit to having nothing but fascination for the exotic flowers that grow in the swamps of the Chinese past – recent oriental posts […]

    Oaks: Sacrificial and Otherwise June 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Oaks: Sacrificial and Otherwise

    ***This post is dedicated to Justin, who introduced Beach to the Tree that Owns Itself*** ‘From little acorns might oaks…’ blah blah blah. But, seriously, oaks have long caught the human imagination from sacrificial oaks – Beach has a ‘book’ memory of a German tribe that use to hammer one part of their victim’s guts […]

    Jousting with Medieval Tanks June 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Jousting with Medieval Tanks

      Leonardo da Vinci: what isn’t there to like? Beachcombing certainly has always found LdV much more entertaining company than the obnoxious and pitch-perfect Michelangelo. And as a tribute of sorts  Beachcombing thought that today he would share Leonardo’s attempt to build a tank four hundred years before the Cambrai front was swarming with them […]

    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt June 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt

    Time brings its chopper down on generation after generation, annihilating almost all memory. How little we know of our grandparents’ lives, how very little of our great grandparents’: while most people living in the west today have no idea where their great grandparents lived or, indeed, their names. Yet every so often history gives evidence […]

    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines May 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines

    A Roman charm from, of all places, Carnuntum in the Alps offers one of the earliest recorded cures for migraine. Written on a piece of silver (and badly eroded) it does not discourse on low-dairy diets or darkened rooms. Rather… Well, Beachcombing will quote from the translated Greek: ‘Antaura came out from the sea. She […]

    Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China May 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China

    **This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. who put Beachcombing onto the Chinese kite** School’s out for ever! Well actually just for ten days before the summer students arrive and another course  is pushed off the cliff… Still for now it feels like for ever and Beachcombing is properly grateful. So much so that he […]

    From Ox Carts to Railways May 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
    From Ox Carts to Railways

    Archaeologists love the idea of continuity, the notion that little really changes, that from generation to generation, though the forms, languages and professions of faith may alter, the substance remains the same. Historians are, generally speaking, the opposite. They fixate on change and have little patience with the archaeological fraternity – Beachcombing wrote for many […]

    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 […]

    The Meson del Fierro April 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
    The Meson del Fierro

    The Meson del Fierro was a huge piece of iron in the depths of the Chaco in the badlands of South America (modern Argentina). Eighteenth-century estimates claimed that it weighed about fifteen tons. And, in 1783, Michael Rubin de Celis, A Spanish naval official who had approached the lump of ore with some two hundred […]

    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; […]

    The Day Wager April 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Day Wager

    A recent post that has haunted Beachcombing was that concerning an early submarine exploring a world of Merfolk near the Isle of Man in the seventeenth century. What most interested Beachcombing was not curiously the mermaids, welcome as they were, but the fact that an innovative technology had slipped unnoticed into an eighteenth-century Manx folk […]

    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence April 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence

      Beachcombing promised just the other day that he would leave blood alone for at least a month. He wants then to be very clear that this post will not involve bloodshed. It will describe though one of the last ordeals by fire of the Middle Ages, an attempt to use flames to judge a human […]

    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials March 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials

        You are a member of the minor nobility in some part of northern Europe found guilty of murder in the fifteenth century. After the capital sentence is passed you are thrown in the back of a cart and driven out to the local place of reckoning.  However, as you are also interested in history […]

    The Last Foodtaster in History? March 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Foodtaster in History?

      Beachcombing has long thought that food tasting must have been among the very cushiest jobs to have had in the Middle Ages. Why? (i) No one is going to be stupid enough to kill a monarch or a duke by poisoning their food if they know there’s a taster around. You are safe. Beachcombing doubts there’s […]

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