Sunday, June 24, 2018


No Roman Empire. No Mongols. No ancient Chinese dynasties or early Indian states. And you can forget about the Incan and Aztec empires before the Europeans dropped their anchors. That’s a sample of what would be missing from the Advanced Placement World History exam if the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the A.P. program, follows through with a plan to start the test material at the year 1450.

The board’s announcement last month that it would drastically revise the test prompted a swift backlash from history educators across the country, many who assert that the move would turn the course into a meditation on the rise of the West. “They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” said Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, president of the World History Association and a former developer of the exam and course.

The College Board is reconsidering its decision in response to the vocal opposition, Trevor Packer, the head of the organization’s A.P. program, said in an interview. The board is now weighing moving the start date to “several centuries earlier” than 1450, he said. The final decision will be announced in July.

The College Board’s original plan would have split A.P. World History into a two-year course, with the first year covering material from before 600 B.C.E. to 1450. Mr. Packer said the plan, set to take effect starting in the 2019-20 school year, was based on feedback from teachers that they struggled to cover 100 centuries of material in one year.

Other world history teachers fear their diverse groups of students will lose the chance to learn about Asia, Africa and the Americas before European dominance. Amanda DoAmaral, who taught A.P. World History for five years in Oakland, Calif., said she valued the way the curriculum allowed students of color to learn about eras in which empires other than those in the West were in power.

For other world history purists, the only correct syllabus is the current one. All 10,000 years of it.


Riding a camel and fighting like a Bedouin tribesman, T.E. Lawrence played a leading role as a British adviser to Prince Feisal during the Arab revolt against Turkish rule (1916–1918) and was clearly torn between his pro-British and pro-Arab sympathies. As an adviser to Winston Churchill after the war, Lawrence helped establish Prince Feisal’s family, the Husseins, as rulers in the Middle East. The present King Hussein of Jordan is the beneficiary of Lawrence’s work in helping his grandfather, King Abdullah, solidify control of Transjordan.

Much of Lawrence’s story is fairly well known, But despite all this publicity, it is sometimes forgotten that Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888–1935) was a very competent Middle Eastern archaeologist before the war and that his archaeological activities and Biblical interests helped shape him for the military and political role he later played. Although his pre-war work focused on the Crusaders and on the Hittites, he contributed to the resolution of at least one important issue in Biblical archaeology and touched on several others.

Indeed, Lawrence derived his earliest interest in the Middle East from his religious training. The Bible was read in Lawrence’s home in the mornings before he and his four brothers went to school and on Sundays, and he studied the Holy Land during his Sunday school classes. Given this training and his exceptional abilities, it is not surprising that at the age of 16 Lawrence achieved distinction in an examination of religious knowledge.1

Lawrence’s family was more devout than most—with special reason. His father, originally named Chapman, was the lord of a manor in Ireland. He ran off with the family governess, leaving four daughters and a wife who never divorced him. The father and the governess
had Lawrence. He was dispossessed of his rightful inheritance because of his parents’ illicit relationship, which may have given him sympathy for the national movements of various groups who considered themselves dispossessed. It may also have strengthened his steadily developing interest in castles and their lords.

At a relatively early age, Lawrence began studying the Middle Ages, especially the time of the Crusades. When he was only nine, he took up the very British hobby of “brass rubbing,” recording the inscriptions and insignia on medieval tombs by placing a cloth over them and rubbing them with a waxy substance, leaving a black impression on the cloth. He loved medieval artifacts, including books, crypts and clothing.

At 13, Lawrence bicycled to various castles and churches in England, and during the summers of 1906 through 1908, he toured France, again on bicycle, studying castles and sending home detailed letters, sometimes accompanied by excellent sketches, concerning them. During his student days at Oxford from 1907 to 1910, these pursuits culminated in a professional interest in the great strongholds built by the Crusaders in the Holy Land. He was encouraged in this interest by D.G. Hogarth, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, who had noticed Lawrence’s exceptional abilities when Lawrence worked at the museum as an undergraduate.

Lawrence chose the topic of Crusader castles, then a relatively new subject of academic study, for his honors B.A. thesis, and in the summer of 1909 set out to do fieldwork in the Middle East. This involved a 1,100-mile walking tour in broiling heat. During that summer, Lawrence who turned 21 on August 16, 1909, visited no fewer than 36 castles in the area that now comprises Syria, Lebanon and Israel. During this trip, Lawrence, although never as religious as his mother, was nonetheless influenced by Biblical memories.

Based on this firsthand research, Lawrence’s thesis was so good that his tutor threw a dinner party in his honor and he received a “First,” the rare, highest grade possible at Oxford. The thesis was first published in 1936 and has recently been published again in two different editions. In it, Lawrence advances the controversial idea that except for the newer fortresses of the Templars, the Crusader castles were influenced almost exclusively by Western designs. The prevailing opinion at the time was that the Crusaders had been strongly influenced by Eastern architectural designs. It now appears that Lawrence was extreme in finding only Western influence in Crusader architecture, apart from that of the Templars. It is now generally agreed that all Crusader orders were influenced by both Eastern and Western castle architecture and that they often created their own unique designs. The longer the Crusaders stayed in the East, the more Eastern influence exerted itself on them.

After Lawrence’s graduation in 1910, Hogarth used a small scholarship to bring him to the dig that he himself was conducting in Jerablus, Syria. This was the site of Carchemish, the eastern capital of the ancient Hittite empire. The Hittites (and later the neo-Hittites) ruled much of the Middle East from about the 13th through the 9th century B.C.E.a They are referred to in many places in the Bible: Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23) and both David and Solomon enlisted Hittites among their soldiers. David had Uriah the Hittite killed so that he could have Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Solomon apparently had Hittite wives and sold chariots and horses to the Hittites (1 Kings 10:29; 11:1). This powerful people was, however, defeated by the Assyrian king Sargon II at Carchemish in 717 B.C.E.

At this dig, Lawrence worked not only with Hogarth but with C. Leonard Woolley, who later discovered Ur of the Chaldees.b Here Lawrence served as the foreman of a group of local workers. He copied inscriptions, photographed finds, catalogued discoveries, bought antiquities and used his mechanical ingenuity to solve any small problems that would arise. This dig and the subsequent publication of its results, titled Carchemish: Report on the Excavations at Djerabis on Behalf of the British Museum, containing contributions by Lawrence, set the course of future British study of the Hittites. During the dig, Lawrence played a leading role in salvaging many important objects from a cemetery that was being looted, and recognized that some of the graves were from the later Parthian period (c. 250 B.C.E.—250 C.E.).5

As an apprentice at Carchemish, Lawrence increased his knowledge of archaeology and made worthy contributions of his own. He also took part in covering up a spying expedition—a precursor of things to come.

In December 1913 a telegram from the British Museum directed Woolley and Lawrence to join Captain Stewart Newcombe of the Royal Engineers in Beersheva, then part of Palestine, for a six-week survey. On the surface, the expedition was archaeological: to look at the Biblical, Nabatean and Byzantine sites in the northern Sinai and southern Negev deserts for the Palestine Exploration Fund. This archaeological expedition (which came to be called the Wilderness of Zin survey) received prior Turkish approval and was confined to a relatively small area. But as Lawrence wrote his mother, the real object was to spy on the Turkish defenses in southern Palestine, about a hundred miles from the Suez Canal.

Working with his mentor Leonard Woolley (who later excavated Ur), T. E. Lawrence helped draw plans of the Nabatean city Shivta that are still used. Prominent traders, merchants and caravan guides, the Nabateans controlled much of the land between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea in the first century C.E. Located in the central Negev desert, Shivta was probably founded during the reign of the Nabatean king Aretas IV (9 B.C.E.–40 C.E.), whose daughter married Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The city prospered as the Nabateans began to breed horses and to farm the desert.

Since Aqaba was outside the Turkish-approved survey area, Lawrence and Dahoum had to evade the Turkish police to explore this town, which would become the site of Lawrence’s most important military victory during World War I. After a daring swim during which they used an improvised raft made of their camel water-tanks, they explored the ruined structure, possibly of Crusader origins, on the Ile de Graye (now also called Jezirat Faroun and the Coral Island), about 250 yards from the Sinai coast and approximately 7 miles south of Aqaba.c Lawrence was ordered away from Aqaba after this expedition but was able to study the area north of Aqaba on his return journey to Carchemish via Petra, Maan and Damascus.

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Lawrence and Woolley were in England. They were told to finish their report on the survey quickly, to make the survey appear to have been solely archaeological in intent. While subscribers to the Palestine Exploration Fund publications received Woolley and Lawrence’s archaeological report, titled The Wilderness of Zin, Newcombe’s detailed maps and photos of the area went to the British military. The surprising thing is that this rushed book, designed as a cover for a relatively brief spying survey, remains of permanent importance in Biblical studies.

The Israeli archaeologist Rudolph Cohen has noted that Lawrence and Woolley were the first to study the remains on the Ain el-Qudeirat tell.d He bases his identification of the site as Kadesh-Barnea on the reasons given by Lawrence and Woolley in The Wilderness of Zin, and by Woolley in a 1914 article,9 even though Cohen’s own excavations uncovered no remains dating earlier than the tenth century B.C.E., the time of King Solomon. In The Wilderness of Zin, Lawrence and Woolley speculate that the tribes of Israel must have numbered some thousands and were possibly “a tribal group keeping to one district and moving a mile or two in this direction or in that as they devoured the pasture.” If so, they reasoned that only in the Kossaima district, which includes the sites of Ain el-Qudeirat, Kossaima, Muweilleh and Ain Kadeis, was there enough water and greenery to support a large tribal group. Moreover, Moses, in writing to the King of Edom, described Kadesh as “a city in the uttermost of thy border” (Numbers 20:16), and Lawrence and Woolley thought that the fortifications at Ain el-Qudeirat—assuming, on the basis of pottery, that they dated from the time of Moses—more nearly fit that description than any other site in the Kossaima area.

Woolley and Lawrence were also the first to identify the rough earthenware pottery now known as “Negev” pottery.

After the war, from 1919 to 1926, Lawrence wrote and rewrote a memoir of his role, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which is now widely regarded as one of the finest British autobiographies of the 20th century. Given his firsthand knowledge of and meditation on the Biblical sites in the Negev and Sinai, as well as his early Biblical training, it is no surprise to find that Lawrence refers to both the Old and the New Testaments at many points in this book.

Just as interesting as Lawrence’s use of Biblical phrases are his thoughts on Judaism and Islam, which he at first regarded as too ascetic and abstract to embody real love between God and man. But as he cleansed himself of the dirt of war and politics in a pool in the Wadi Rumm, in modern Jordan, as if in a baptism, he met an old Arab man. This man, whom he names a “new prophet,” declared, “The love is from God; and of God; and towards God.” This statement seemed to overturn all of Lawrence’s theories about the distance between God and man in Judaism and Islam, and to bring those religions closer to his conception of Christianity.

Because of the trust they placed in him, Lawrence was able to play a major role in bringing together Jews and Moslems in the service of peace. In 1919, when he was at the Paris Conference, he served as go-between for Prince Feisal, the leader of Arab nationalism at that time, and Chaim Weizmann, the head of the Zionist movement, when they signed the only treaty between the two movements until the 1978 Camp David accords. Both sides pledged to help one another and to work together. When Feisal was evicted from Syria by the French in 1920, this treaty became void. But that it existed at all was thanks entirely to Lawrence’s persistence and persuasion. To get them to sign it, Lawrence may have even mistranslated a bit to convince each party that the other was being more flexible than was in fact the case. But both Feisal and Weizmann always felt that Lawrence was friendly to their movements and that he had done them a service by bringing them together.


A new book, Megalith, has re-examined the ancient geometry of Neolithic monuments and concluded they were constructed by sophisticated astronomers who understood lengthy lunar, solar and eclipse cycles and built huge stone calendars using complex geometry. One contributor, megalithic expert Robin Heath has even proposed that there exists a great Pythagorean triangle in the British landscape linking Stonehenge, the site from which the Preseli bluestones were cut in Wales, and Lundy Island, an important prehistoric site.

Pythagoras’ discovery that the sum of the areas of two squares on the sides of a triangle will add up to the area of a square on hypotenuse has been used for millennia to help builders attain perfect right-angles.

The new book, published today to coincide with today’s summer solstice, shows how within one of Stonehenge’s earliest incarnations, dating from 2750 BC, there lies a rectangle of four Sarsen stones which when split in half diagonally forms a perfect Pythagorean 5:12:13 triangle. The eight lines which radiate from the rectangle and triangles also perfectly align to important dates in the Neolithic calendar, such as the summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes.

They also mark Imbolc, the ancient date for the beginning of Spring on February 1, Beltane, or May Day, lammas, the start of the wheat harvest and Samhain, October 31 which traditionally marked the time when cattle were brought down from summer pastures and slaughtered for the winter which has become Halloween.

Pythagorean triangles have also been found at Avebury, the inner ring of the Druid Temple in Inverness, Castlerigg in Keswick, Cumbria, Barbrook, in Derbyshire, Borrowston Rig, on the Scottish borders, and Daviot ‘B’, in Aberdeenshire. Consequently many stone ‘circle’ were not fully circular but have geometry derived from Pythagorean triangles often in whole numbers of Megalithic yards (2.72 feet) which were probably laid out using ropes and pegs.

Mr Heath added: “The phrase ‘a length of time’ may originally derive from an epoch when the length of a ruler, rope or set measure actually represented a time period—a technique manifested within many megalithic structures, which enshrine the time periods of the Sun and Moon.”

The huge stones of Stonehenge were also once surrounded by 56 wooden posts or stones which could be used for predicting eclipses as well as showing the position of the Sun and the Moon and the lunar phases. And the bluestone horseshoe in the center is thought to contain 19 stones to represent the number of years it takes for the Sun and Moon metonic cycle to go full circle and reset.

Megalith is published by Wooden Books.


Archaeologists have raised the alarm over damage caused by “nighthawks” illegally searching for treasure along Hadrian’s Wall. More than 50 holes have been found at the Brunton Turret section of the 1,900-year-old world heritage site. Nighthawks, the term for illegal metal detectorists, have targeted the turret and well-preserved section of wall, which was built by the Roman army’s 20th legion.

The ruins just south of the border are surrounded by further buried archaeological remains, which are very vulnerable to damage from nighthawks, according to Historic England. In the past three years there have been other incidents along the wall, at Corbridge, Housesteads and Steel Rigg. All the sites are scheduled monuments where using a metal detector without authorisation is a criminal offence.


A Kenyan archaeologist has discovered ancient stone artifacts in Nyeri County, opening a new frontier in the study of human origins and evolution of technology. The stone tools are similar to those found in the world-famous Olorgesailie site on the road to Lake Magadi, and which date close to 1.2 million years. Similar stone tools have been found in Kariandusi in the Rift Valley. The artifacts, which include Acheulian hand axes, were found in Gatarakwa, Kieni, on the foothills of the Aberdare Ranges.

Their discovery changes the narrative on the early human habitat as it means early man could have lived in the highlands and not just on the floor of the Rift Valley, as previously thought. Last year, an early human species classified as Australopithecus Afarensis and dating close to 3.5 million years was discovered near Ngong Hills on the outskirts of Nairobi, the first such site in the highlands.

Previously, early man was thought to have occupied the open grasslands only, but new evidence is now leading scientists to the woodlands, too. The Nyeri tools were discovered by 51-year-old archaeologist and farmer Richard Kinyua. They have a striking similarity to those used by Homo Erectus. Mr Kinyua discovered the stones in April this year on the Kiawara-Belleview Road, which is under construction. Professor Christopher Nyamai, a geologist at the University of Nairobi, described the findings as unique. He said they are being studied. Mr Kinyua’s findings came almost by chance as they were excavated unknowingly by construction workers.

“As they were grading and digging the road, I would follow them searching for clues. After the recent heavy rains, I spotted a rock that looked a bit different. I gave it a closer look and realized it was actually an early man tool,” he says. On further examination, Mr Kinyua was convinced that the rock had an identical formation to that of a hand axe made by Homo Erectus.

“Looking at the edges and the flaking on the stone, it is evident this was a hand axe used by early man,” he explains. The discovery pushed him to set up a roadside museum and to map out a study area where he dug for more clues. His efforts bore fruit and he has so far collected more than 40 artifacts. From the samples collected, he has identified tools that were possibly used by early man, among them a hand axe, light hand axe, stone hammer, flakes and discoid.

Flakes and discoid were used for slaughtering while stone hammers were for carving out tools and crushing. Mr Kinyua and various other scientists now believe early man could have lived in the highlands and not just in the Rift Valley. Theories of possible habitation of the highlands by early man emerged around 1997 after palaeontologists researched on fossils found in Gatarakwa. But there was no tangible proof to substantiate the theory. “We studied a site known as Nguruwe but there wasn’t sufficient evidence at the time. But right now these findings are enough evidence to carry forward the research,” Mr Kinyua says. With the ongoing road construction and human activities in the area, he is afraid that some crucial artifacts may be lost.

Monday, June 18, 2018


In China archaeologists have found the oldest rocks pictures

Experts explained that this discovery will push you to new stages of the study of life in ancient times. As shown by the results of the examination, inscriptions due to the unusual method of mixing paint with glue.

In China in the area of the Small Hinggan mountains (province of Kalunasan) archaeologists have found drawings on the rocks by the age of 12 thousand years. Scientists have suggested that this area was populated by hunters, because the quality of the images the artists chose mammoths. This fact also gave experts reason to believe that this is the age of the drawings.

Archaeologists said that in those days, to draw on the rocks could be using a paint called ochre, but without the impurities the duration of its preservation was not so good. Therefore, experts have suggested that the ancient inhabitants of the area mixed with glue of animal origin, so that the drawings still adorn rocks.


A fine and complex burial cave dating from the Roman period (c. 2,000 years ago) came to light a few days ago in Tiberias, in the course of development works carried out by the Tiberias municipality for a new neighborhood in the northern part of town. The contractor immediately informed the Israel Antiquities Authority after a mechanical digger exposed the cave entrance, and an antiquities inspector rushed to the site.

The rock-hewn cave comprised an entrance hall decorated with colored plaster, a central room with several burial niches, decorated ceramic and stone ossuaries (burial chambers), and a small inner chamber. Carved stone doors stood at the entrances into the rooms. In one of the chambers, Greek inscriptions were engraved with the names of the interred. These inscriptions will be studied by specialists.
The cave was probably robbed in antiquity. According to Yair Amitsur, Antiquities Inspector of Tiberias and Eastern Lower Galilee for the IAA, “the cave must have served as a burial complex for a family who lived in the town of Tiberias or in one of the adjacent villages.”

Two thousand years ago, in 18 CE, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and Governor of the Galilee, established the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Over the centuries, Tiberias served as the capital of the Galilee, and was one of the largest cities in the country. The city extended from south of the Hamei Tveria hot springs to the center of the modern city.

In the Roman and Byzantine periods, several smaller villages grew up on the outskirts of the city, including Bet Ma’on, the home of gladiator-turned-rabbi Reish Lakish, Kofra, and Be’er Meziga. The cave must have been owned by a family from Tiberias, or from one of the surrounding villages, who chose to be interred north of Tiberias, overlooking the Lake of Galilee.

According to Amitsur, “the burial cave is a fascinating discovery since it is an almost unique find in this area. The high-quality rock-hewing, the complexity of the cave, the decorations, and the Greek inscriptions point to the cave belonging to a wealthy family, who lived in the area in the Roman period.”


—According to an Associated Press report, rock art panels and extensive flint-working areas have been discovered in Egypt’s Eastern Desert by a team of Egyptian archaeologists and researchers led by John Coleman Darnielen of Yale University.

Bulls, donkeys, Barbary sheep, an addax, and a giraffe are said to be among the images found in three areas in the Wadi Umm Tineidba.
The oldest of the panels is thought to date to the Predynastic period, between 3500 and 3100 B.C.

The team also found an ancient well, burial tumuli, and a previously unrecorded settlement dating to the Late Roman period. One of the burial tumuli contained the remains of a woman who had been buried with a strand of carnelian beads and shells from the Red Sea.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Why returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece would be madness
The Parthenon Sculptures have been on display in the British Museum for more than 200 years
The Parthenon Sculptures have been on display in the British Museum for more than 200 years CREDIT: GETTY
Nick Trend
5 JUNE 2018 • 10:53AM
Jeremy Corbyn declared in an interview with the Greek newspaper Ta Nea this week that, as prime minister, he would open negotiations for the return of the Elgin Marbles - more properly known as the Parthenon Sculptures - to Athens. This apparently on the grounds that the original permission for their removal 200 years ago came not from the Greeks, but from the Ottoman Empire which occupied Greece from 1458 until the 1820s.

Mr Corbyn has been making this argument for many years, but I don’t know how much thought he has given to the ramifications. From his latest statement it seems that he is anticipating a widespread repatriation of all artefacts “stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession” included those “looted from other countries in the past”. That could quite conceivably leave the archaeological galleries of the British Museum denuded and, if applied in other countries, virtually empty many of the world’s great museums.

Let’s take this one step at a time. First, in pure academic terms, it would surely be a good thing to see all the surviving sculptures and friezes that once adorned the Parthenon re-united (and - in a perfect world - remounted on the building). That wouldn’t happen if the British Museum returned its marbles. The risk from pollution and earthquake is too great to re-install them and they would therefore join the other remnants already in the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, which has a view over the original building. And there would still be lots of missing pieces - other decorative fragments and panels from the Parthenon are held in seven other museums around the world.

There are fragments from the Parthenon held in museums around the world The immediate consequence of the repatriation would then be that the sculptures are seen by far fewer people. The Acropolis Museum gets about 1.5m a year compared with over 6m who come to the British Museum. Those 6m would not only miss out one of the high points of world art, but the sculptures could no longer be studied or appreciated against the relics of other great cultures from around the globe.

Because that is why the British Museum is so important. It - and great museums like it, from the Louvre, to the Pergamon, the Hermitage and the Met - are not just some of the biggest academic institutions and tourist attractions in the world, each is a world in it own right, an extraordinary repository of the high points of human achievement across many different cultures. For 250 years, visitors have been able to walk into the British Museum and travel in wonder through both time and space. We owe two of Keats’ greatest poems - Ode on a Grecian Urn and On Seeing the Elgin Marbles - to his visits to the British Museum. In many, many ways, the museum it is a far more important and influential cultural construct than the Parthenon. Repatriation of its treasures would destroy it forever.

And now perhaps you think I am just over-complicating things. Not that many artifacts are, in practice, being argued over. But how that would surely change if the sculptures were returned and other countries saw a chance to build new museums and fresh tourist attractions. And then it wouldn’t be me who was complicating the argument, it would be the international lawyers and nationalist politicians sensing a precedent. And once legal arguments start, things rarely end well.


Jeremy Corbyn will order the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if elected Prime Minister, opening the door to dozens of historical artifacts being repatriated under a Labour government.

The Labour leader has claimed that the Parthenon sculptures “belong to Greece” and that on entering Downing Street he would begin “constructive talks” with its government to begin the process of their return.

In an interview with the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, Mr Corbyn said that the Marbles had been made in Athens and had adorned the Parthenon temple for “hundreds of years” prior to some being brought to Britain in the 19th century.


Not a day goes by without new archaeological discoveries in Regio V, a hitherto largely unexplored area of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing hot ash and rubble over the settlement and killing over 1,000 of its inhabitants. According to Laura D’Esposito, one of the many experts toiling away to uncover the buried remains of Pompeii, the site has become an area of archaeological interest unmatched by any other.

This was the first time the press had been invited for a tour of the Regio V site since archaeologists began the painstaking work of excavation there a year ago. Since then, experts have uncovered three new domus residences, which once housed the upper echelons of Roman society. The vibrant walls, often red in typical Pompeii fashion and only slightly dulled by the passage of time, slowly come to light as excavators chip away at the layers of encrusted ash.

One such domus was dubbed the “house of the dolphins” after a depiction of two golden dolphins adorning its interior wall. Teams on site have also found upturned Roman pots and jugs, left in situ where they were laid out in the sun to dry on that fateful day.

These relics owe their well-preserved condition to the fact that they have spent the better part of two millennia suspended in a pile of ash and rubble sandwiched between the ground and a collapsing wall.

Perhaps the best-known finding in Regio V so far is the skeleton of a man whose flight from the eruption was brought to an abrupt end when a huge rock smashed him in the face. Images of his remains were shared by media the world over.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


In an area below the southern wall of the Temple Mount, across the road from the City of David, Hebrew University Prof. Eilat Mazar revealed construction and fortification walls, which she contends date back to the time of King Solomon. Based on distinctive pottery shards, she identified the city wall which Solomon built on the edge of the Kidron Valley (Kings, I, 3:1). The 6-meter-high wall, built on bedrock, she says, was part of a 10th century BCE city gate and tower system that provided access to and protected the entrance to the royal quarter.

In addition, she found dozens of small seals used for official documents, bullae, and engraved jug handles in ancient Hebrew script from the 7th and 8th centuries BCE. She recently discovered a seal thought to be used by the Prophet Isaiah. Over 50 such seals were found inside the City of David 30 years ago – bearing names found in the Bible.

Mazar is also excavating what she believes was the palace of King David in the City of David, although she has yet to find enough evidence to prove her contention conclusively. Also in the City of David, at Warren’s Shaft and at the bottom of the valley below, around the Gihon Spring, Prof. Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukron have exposed structures which date back to the pre-Israelite Jebusite period. At the southern end of the City of David, they excavated what they believe was a large open ritual bath, mikve, from the Second Temple period, a site mentioned in John 9, as “the pool of Siloam,” where, according to the New Testament, Jesus healed a blind man.

Adjacent to the pool, Reich and his team uncovered a stairway used during the Second Temple period which reached the Temple Mount. Recently, a tiny seal from the First Temple period was found with the word “Bethlehem” – the earliest proof that the city of Bethlehem existed at that time.

Excavations just inside the Jaffa Gate, led by Prof. Ofer Sion, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, exposed a Byzantine-era street depicted in the 6th century CE Madaba Map, part of a mosaic floor from that period found in a church in Jordan. Discovered about a hundred years ago, the Madaba Map includes major churches and streets of “Holy Jerusalem” at the time. After 1967, archaeologists revealed many of these sites, including the Cardo, in the Jewish Quarter, and a secondary Cardo near the Western Wall. The dig at the Jaffa Gate is the first confirmation of a street depicted in the Madaba Map, which is now called the Arab shuk (market) and an aqueduct from the late Second Temple (Roman) period.

As Mazar says, stones and artifacts can’t speak, but, as silent witnesses, they often reveal the authenticity of Biblical sources and provide a link between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland. Contested by those who believe that Biblical stories are myths with no connection to archaeology, these discoveries are also disputed by Arab and Muslim activists and academics who view them as “Palestinian,” rejecting their origins and Jewish history.

Regardless of which side you’re on, archaeological discoveries in areas once under Jordanian occupation and often claimed by Palestinians are impacting not only our historical understanding, but are shaping political reality based on Jewish history. Archaeology provides the most powerful proof of the authenticity of Jewish history and the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and particularly, Jerusalem.

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist.

Sunday, June 03, 2018


Homer’s Odyssey has been voted as the most influential story to have shaped the world, according to a poll of more than 100 international authors, academics, journalists and critics conducted by Britain’s BBC. The Odyssey is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other great work ascribed to Homer, and is the second-oldest extant work in Western literature. Scholars believe the Odyssey was composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.

The poem mainly focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus, king of Ithaca, and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus a decade to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War.

Explaining why she voted for Homer’s Odyssey, Natalie Haynes, a writer and broadcaster in the U.K. said: “Because it is one of the great foundational myths of Western culture, because it asks what it means to be a hero, because it has great female characters in it, as well as men, because it is full of gods and monsters and is properly epic and because it forces us to question the assumptions we might have about quests, war, and the ever-current issue of what it means to return home.” Bethanne Patrick, a contributing editor at Lit Hub, added: “I believe the journey of Odysseus defined a streak of individualism particular to Western culture that has led to much change in the world — good and bad.”

The top 10 stories are:

The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)

Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)

One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th centuries)

Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)

Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)

The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)


The Bank of Greece has unveiled (30th May) the first new coins which launch a new series entitled “Greek Historians,” focusing on the many personalities who have shaped the nature of recorded history since the practise began. The first coin focuses on the man considered to be the Father of History, Herodotus from Halicarnassus (c. 484-425 B.C.). He is remembered as an ancient Greek historian, whose work and recordings during the Persian Wars with the Greek states constituted a greater and permanent knowledge of the events which occurred.

Believed to have been born in the settlement of Halicarnassus, a Greek city in southwest Asia Minor that was then a part of the Persian Empire, the precise dates of his birth and death are unknown. Herodotus is thought to have moved to Athens, then the primary city-state within the Greek-speaking world, and to have been a contemporary of the writer Sophocles. Herodotus later moved to the Greek colony of Thourias (present-day Sibari in the province of Cosenza, Italy), which was populated with Athenians around the year 448 B.C. Scholars believe that he was in Athens or close by during the early years of the Peloponnesian War from 431 B.C. and that his work was published and known there before 425 B.C. Known to have been widely travelled, his recordings attest to having visited a large part of the Persian Empire, including Egypt, as far south as Elephantine (present-Day Aswan), located in Upper Egypt and is known to have visited Libya, Syria, Babylonia, Lydia, and Phrygia in Western and Central Anatolia. During his lifetime, he also journeyed to parts of Byzantium such as the Dardanelles, Thrace, and Macedonia, and travelled as far north beyond the Danube and to Scythia along the northern shores of the Black Sea.

His narrative contained a number of excursions that provided a huge wealth of information for the people of his time. Although in the explanation of historical events, Herodotus was the first to apply fundamental principles of historical science such as criticism and an approximation of sources, the intersection of information, and dissection of events. Although his writings have been available for a long time, there has been little raised regarding a credible doubt about the accuracy of his testaments and recordings over the years since recent historical and archaeological research has generally lead to a positive valuation of his work and to the recognition his pioneering contribution to historical science has left to western civilization.

The silver Proof-quality coins are produced by the Hellenic State Mint at their facilities in Athens, on behalf of the Bank of Greece, and are designed by engraver and artist George Stamatopolous. The obverse of the coin includes a front-facing depiction of Herodotus, which is based on an ancient bust of the historian. The text ΗΡΟΔΟΤΟS 484-425 π.Χ. (Herodotus 484–425 B.C.) is placed along the left side of the portrait along the rim with the year of issue, 2018, placed to the right of the primary design with the mintmark of the Greek Mint above the year.

The reverse depicts a stylized version of the typical type of sailing ship prevalent in ancient times, which were used both for the transport of goods and people to the colony of Thouras, the one-time home of Herodotus. The value of 10 EYPΩ (EURO) is placed below the primary design and the text ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΉ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΊΑ (Hellenic Republic) is seen along the upper left edge.


The man, believed to be in his 30s, was fleeing the spectacular explosion of Mount Vesuvius that buried the Italian city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. He had an infection of the tibia that may have made walking difficult, archaeologists say. So while he fled the first furious eruption, when the volcano fully rumbled to life after being dormant for more than 1,500 years, he did not get very far.

The man died not in contorted agony, buried in pumice and ash, but by decapitation from a large block of stone that had most likely been propelled through the air by volcanic gases, crushing his thorax and his head.

Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site announced on Tuesday that they had found the man’s remains, almost 2,000 years after he died. They released a photograph showing the skeleton protruding from beneath a large block of stone, believed to have been a door jamb that had been “violently thrown by the volcanic cloud.”

The skeleton showed evidence of a bone infection in one leg, which could have hindered the man’s ability to escape “at the first dramatic signs which preceded the eruption,” officials said. Archaeologists have yet to find his head, though they believe it may lie “probably under the stone block,” according to a statement sent by email on Wednesday.

Massimo Osanna, general director of the archaeological site, called it “an exceptional find” that contributed to a better “picture of the history and civilization of the age.”

“This discovery has shown the leaps in the archaeological field,” he said in another statement to CNN. “The team on site are not just archaeologists, but experts in many fields: engineers, restorers,” he said, who used technical tools like drones and 3-D scanners.


To obtain this dating and overcome the different challenges which arose over the study duration of almost three years, collaboration was needed from specialists in different scientific disciplines such as geochronologists, geologists, archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, among whom are included several researchers from the CENIEH such as Josep María Parés and José María Bermúdez de Castro, coordinators of the program, as well as Laura Martín-Francés and Isidoro Campaña.

With the constant improvement over time of the analytical techniques and dating methods, it has been possible to progressively refine the chronology of the archaeological site of Gran Dolina since its initial study, published in 1995.

The present work joins other recent studies centering on the lower levels. In fact, relatively recently the chronology of the level TD4, where the oldest lithic industries of the site were identified, was successfully refined.

In TD1, it has likewise been possible to date a level at the base of the sedimentary fillings, where a change of magnetic polarity, identified as the Jaramillo event, was observed: this is very difficult to detect at archaeological sites in caves and it marks a very well-defined moment approximately one million years ago.

"Gran Dolina thus becomes one of the best-dated archaeological sites in the world, adding this new direct dating of a human fossil," says Bermúdez de Castro.

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