I’d like to try cooking them

I was amused to read that clay tablets, many thousands of years old, containing ancient Babylonian recipes have been decoded, and researchers are trying to prepare the dishes they describe. The instructions for lamb stew read more like a list of ingredients than a bona fide recipe: “Meat is used. You prepare water. You add fine-grained salt, dried barley cakes, onion, Persian shallot, and milk. You crush and add leek and garlic.” But it’s impossible to ask the chef to reveal the missing pieces: This recipe’s writer has been dead for some 4,000 years. Instead, a team of international scholars versed in

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Saturday snippet: the opening battle of the Red River War in 1874

Today’s snippet is taken from the autobiography of legendary Western scout and Indian fighter Billy Dixon, as recorded by his wife during the last year of his life, and completed by her after his death in 1913.  It’s titled “Life of Billy Dixon, Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer“. Dixon (shown below) was one of the great figures of the Indian Wars and the Old West. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Buffalo Wallow fight of 1874, shortly after the events narrated here (one of only eight ever awarded to civilians).  Due to his status as a civilian scout,

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An amazing find in naval and military history

I was amazed to read about a recent discovery in England. A sketch hand-drawn by Admiral Lord Nelson showing his plan for victory at Trafalgar has been discovered tucked inside the pages of a scrapbook after nearly 200 years. The map was found by Martyn Downer, a historian who is an expert on Nelson, in a book dating from the 1830s which was recently sold at auction. It shows his plan for splitting the Royal Navy fleet into three divisions to break and destroy the enemy French and Spanish lines coming out of Cadiz harbour. Lines representing wind direction also appear on

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An historic way of life to a different, slower drumbeat

Courtesy of Old Salt Blog, I was interested to come across a novel, centuries-old method of shrimp fishing – on horseback. Intrigued, I looked for more information, and found this longer, more detailed view of the same “industry” in Belgium.  I found it equally interesting. It’s fascinating to think that such an ancient method of fishing has survived so long;  and it’s good to know that the number of mounted fishermen in training has actually increased in recent years.  I imagine the occupation is a lot less stressful than much of modern living, which is an attraction in itself. Peter

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I bet that got dust up his intakes

An Algerian Mig-29 made an extraordinarily low pass over Mecheria airfield a few days ago.  If he’d towed a lawnmower behind him, I reckon he’d have got a full bag of grass cuttings in no time at all . . . The heavy smoke from the engines is a hallmark of the Mig-29, just as it was for the F-4 Phantom II. The later development of the MiG-29, the MiG-35, is better in that respect, but the smoke is still visible. Peter

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A remarkable man

I recently came across a video interview of a British Army veteran who, at the age of 94, jumped into Normandy, France, as part of this year’s 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Landings in 1944.  It surprised me to see it, because I’d met him before, more than 30 years ago. This interview with Mr. Hutton was filmed a few years earlier. Little did the cameraman and reporter know that Jock Hutton was far more than just another D-Day veteran.  He was – and remains – a living legend in the Special Forces community. Former Squadron Sergeant Major of the Rhodesian Special Air

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Saved from the scrap heap of history – for now, at least

I was interested to learn that one of the ancient crowns of Ethiopia’s emperors has been saved from looters. After 21 years tucked away inside a Rotterdam flat, a priceless 18th century crown is finally being repatriated to Ethiopia with the help of a Dutch art detective. For more than two decades, the crown has been guarded by Dutch-Ethiopian national Sirak Asfaw in a secret location in his Netherlands home. A former refugee, Sirak fled Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” purges in the 1970s. Over the ensuing years, he hosted Ethiopian pilots, diplomats and refugees as they passed through the city.

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A fascinating piece of history

A reader sent me this photograph of the ceremonial axe of Pharaoh Ahmose I (c. 1549–1524 BC) of ancient Egypt.  Click the image for a larger view. According to the Egyptian Museum: This axe was executed to commemorate the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos. The copper blade together with its cedar wood handle is entirely covered with gold and ornamented with precious stones. The inlaid decoration of the axe is divided on each side into three compartments, all decorated with motifs alluding to the expulsion of the Hyksos and the re-unification of the country by Ahmose. The side shown here is ornamented with

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Remarkable Bronze Age weapons and craftsmanship

While doing research for a future book, I was fortunate to stumble across the Web site of Neil Burridge, who makes authentic replicas of historic Bronze Age swords, spears and other artifacts, mostly based on archaeological discoveries of actual weapons.  His craftsmanship is remarkable.  Here’s an excerpt from his Web site, interspersed with photographs of some of the swords he’s made (reduced in size to fit this blog). My name is Neil Burridge and this site showcases my work as a bronze sword smith. Over the last 12 years I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the leading

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