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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 […]

Toasting Poland February 26, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Toasting Poland

  Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about the Poles: a nation of warriors and survivors. It is difficult not to get a little teary-eyed then when, in 1918, Poland officially becomes, after 120 years of dreaming, a nation again. Unlike Italy’s pretend risorgimento – to have a ‘resurrection’ you need to […]

Review: Lost Worlds February 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Review: Lost Worlds

  Beachcombing has, on several occasions, had the experience of justifying (or trying to justify) to a television or publishing company an idea. Essentially you the ‘artist’ are beholden to write on one side of A4, preferably in Times New Roman, a succinct pitch, explaining why the public will go into ecstasy on purchase or […]

Flat-earthing: the Destruction of Knowledge February 22, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Flat-earthing: the Destruction of Knowledge

**Note that this has become a controversial post – read to the bottom for important riders and arguments** Beachcombing is at heart a whig, at least in historical terms: he sees the sunlit uplands off on the horizon and believes, perhaps stupidly, that humanity is gradually evolving and moving towards a happier, freer future. However, […]

Flexible Glass in Tiberius’ Rome February 20, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Flexible Glass in Tiberius' Rome

Beachcombing has never understood the irrational pleasure of glass. Holding a wine glass in our hands – whatever the content – is surely one of the house’s hidden joys and conversely having a chipped glass or one with any line of imperfection is strangely irritating. It was while contemplating one such imperfect glass yesterday in Beachcombing’s favourite […]

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