Irving Finkel, curator, British Museum I've just come from the press conference launching my new book, The Ark Before Noah. As I told the journalists, it all started with a fairly normal event for ...
diana buja's insight:
"This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the ancient Babylonian Story of the Flood. This story had been well known since the 1870s, when George Smith, a brilliant decipherer who worked at the British Museum, first identified the story known from the Book of Genesis in a seventh-century cuneiform tablet from Nineveh. The two accounts – Babylonian and biblical – were closely related. The new tablet, however, written in about 1750 BC, has startling new contents...
A course with Ömür Harmanşah Water is the source of life. In the midst of a global climate change, environmental crises for water resources and the political debates over water, we have come to the...
diana buja's insight:
Dr. Harmansah is Professor of Archaeology and Egyptology and Western Asian Studies at Brown - one of the 'new breed' of researchers who are busily combining various fields that historically have been treated as separate enclaves.
Slope deposits in North Pare provide evidence of two millennia of anthropogenically driven land clearance, soil erosion and land degradation. Drawing on deposit stratigraphy, soil magnetic parameters, stable carbon isotope composition and radiocarbon dating, three phases of soil erosion are distinguished characterized by distinct surface processes and increasing levels of agricultural land use.
Onset of slope deposit formation in Pare since about 300 BC documents soil erosion as an immediate consequence of new land use practices associated with the spread of agriculture and iron working across northern Tanzania. By AD 500, slope deposits extended into valley bottoms and to middle slopes suggesting catchment-wide land clearance and soil erosion. In the 15th century AD, progressive anthropogenic soil erosion had exhausted the topsoil resource and material changes of the slope deposits reflect widespread subsoil erosion. The exposure of subsoils represents an ecological tipping point and triggered the transition to a new morphodynamic framework dominated by runoff-based erosion processes that are recorded as sand lenses and sand layers. The most recent deposits show ongoing accelerated erosion and severe land degradation whilst cessation of sand lens preservation indicates pre-colonial intensification of agricultural land use. Land use changes and socioeconomic transitions associated with the establishment of the Ugweno chiefdom and the 19th-century caravan trade are discussed as possible responses to imperceptible long-term land degradation in Pare.
The study demonstrates that anthropogenic soil erosion and not external climatic drivers shaped landscape development in Pare and shows that the identification of environmental thresholds is essential for the assessment of resilience in human-dominated ecosystems.
It has long been recognised that organisms living in the soil are important for making nitrogen available to plants and for storing carbon in the soil but a new paper in PNAS by de Vries et al, Soi...
diana buja's insight:
Comprehensive studies of soil, such as this on, are so labor and finance intensive that similar studies in developing countries may not be possible. What are the next 'best bet' options?
In Sudan (el-Obeid area) we discovered local farmers identified a soil type that was not identified by researchers. The farmer-identified soil type was linked to specific forms of cropping. That, in itself, was reason enough to conduct our less intensive, but more farmer-centered study,of soils.
Similar findings here in Burundi, regarding micro-catchment soil types - identified by farmers - especially in wetland areas.
But the weakness of these studies relates to their less specific results.
As the study in the attached research notes:
"Researchers found a strong link between soil biodiversity and the performance of ecosystems, in particular on carbon and nitrogen cycling. Indeed soil biodiversity was a greater predictor of C and N cycling than land use. Intensive wheat rotation was found to reduce soil biodiversity across the food web in all countries. The authors hope that this and other research will lead to the development of sound land management practices that support soil biodiversity, in turn increasing the productivity of land while mitigating climate change.
Humans today eat gorillas and chimpanzees, so why would our prehistoric ancestors flinch at sitting down to a nicely roasted Neanderthal?
That's the shocking new hypothesis being raised by anthropologists in Spain who wonder if our closest extinct relative was exterminated in the same way as 178 other large mammals, so called megafauna, which are suspected of going at least partially by the hand of hungry human hunters.
"Except in its native Africa, in the other continents Homo sapiens can be considered as an invasive alien species," write researchers Policarp Hortolà and Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. They published their hypothesis in the May issue of the journal Quaternary International.
"The scale and nature of early cultivation are topics that have received relatively limited attention in research on the origins of agriculture.
We have assembled in this supplement the primary sources of archaeobotanical datasetsretrieved from sites in Southwest Asia (Part 1) and the radiocarbon dates by which these siteshave been assigned calendrical ages (Part 2). Part 3 presents the radiocarbon dates for earlyPPN sites that, to date, have not produced relevant published archaeobotanical assemblages.
The chart below shows student enrolments in higher education in three subject areas in the OECD or advanced industrial countries in 2010, with Britain and the United States identified separately. The data refer to the percentage of students enrolled in higher education who study science, engineering and also social science, business and law. The latter category is rather broad but the UNESCO data does not allow a finer distinction to be made between these subjects. The data are very relevant to the debate about the importance of science and technology as opposed to the arts, humanities and social science in stimulating investment and growth in Britain.
Dan Brown‘s new book ‘Inferno’ is nearly upon is with its references to the 13th century classic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante – let me give some friendly assistance with some of the people, places and concepts you’ll find in the book:
Now, all of our mummies are special, but this child mummy has several qualities that make her particularly endearing. One of the things that we really love is that her name is written on her wrappings, near her feet.
Her name is actually written in both Greek and Demotic – Demotic is the language/script that developed in later periods in Egypt (and is one of the languages inscribed on the Rosetta Stone, along with Greek and hieroglyphic Egyptian). In Greek, this inscription reads: “Tanous (daughter of) Hermodorus”. In Demotic her name reads as “Tanwa”.
So, based on this inscription, we know that she dates to the Ptolemaic Period, and that she is a girl. According to our Egyptologists, what is interesting about the names is that they give a good indication of the multi-cultural nature of this time period. Not only in the fact that 2 languages are represented, but that the girl’s name incorporates the name of an Egyptian goddess, Iwnyt, while her father’s name includes the name of a Greek god, Hermes.
Tanwa has been CT-scanned, which has confirmed the fact that she is a girl, and was likely right around the age of 5 when she died.
For approximately four centuries during ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (ca. 1567–1070 BCE), the Deir el-Medina community inhabited a small desert valley across the Nile from the splendid capital, Thebes. Because its houses were built of stone and located on the edge of the desert, and because its citizens boasted an unusually high level of literacy, Deir el-Medina has preserved an enormous number of documents for modern historians. Study the history and archaeology of this community, the everyday lives of its people, and their preparations for death and the afterlife. Examine the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens; learn how the men’s work was organized, and view their accomplishments. Lectures are illustrated with vivid slides, and you read and discuss translations of texts from Deir el-Medina to gain an understanding of this unique culture.
diana buja's insight:
If you are in the Bay area, here is an interesting course to take this summer. When at the (then) Lowie Museum at Berkeley, I worked on translations of several of the artifacts from Deir el-Medina that had been procured in the early 20th century by Reisner.
La papyrologie grecque et l’égyptologie sont des disciplines distinctes, l’une centrée sur les textes grecs et sur l’histoire de l’Égypte hellénistique, romaine et byzantine, l’autre consacrée à la langue, à l'histoire et à l'archéologie de la...
Even as publics in many of the surveyed Muslim-majority countries express a clear preference for women to dress conservatively, many also say women should be able to decide for themselves what to wear.
The presence in S.E. Spain of Vitis vinifera L. seeds at prehistoric siites of the 3rd millennium B.C., and pollen at Quaternary stations, are considered in the light of conflicting views about the origins of cultivation of the grape and their relation to spontaneous and subspontaneous Vitis in Western Mediterranean Europe. It is proposed that new findings from Spain cast doubt on the widely-held view that Vitis exploitation there is no older than Classical times. Botanical as well as archaeological arguments are put forward to support a greater antiquity of exploitation of Vitis in Mediterranean prehistory, based on a critical review of the literature about both palaeobotanical finds of Vitis and the modern distribution of spontaneous Vitis in the Mediterranean basin and adjacent regions.
Info. on ancient history and distribution of grape vines - it's greater antiquity than normally presented. There is quite early recording of (domestic?) grapes in ancient Egypt and I'll try to find the reference
Agriculture originated across a broader swath of southwestern Asia’s Fertile Crescent, and over a longer time period, than many scientists have thought, excavations in western Iran suggest.
Between 11,700 and 9,800 years ago, residents of Chogha Golan, a settlement in the foothills of Iran’s Zagros Mountains, went from cultivating wild ancestors of modern crops to growing a form of domesticated wheat called emmer, say archaeobotanist Simone Riehl of the University of Tübingen, Germany, and her colleagues. Until now, most evidence of farming’s origins came from sites 700 to 1,500 kilometers west of Chogha Golan, the scientists report in the July 5Science.
Dongola Citadel is located on the uplifted rock on the bank of the Nile. It was surrounded by fortifications built in the late fifth and sixth centuries. In the past, archaeologists stumbled upon its walls, but never before so well preserved fragments. This year, they unveiled the tower preserved to a height of more than 8 m.
diana buja's insight:
Massive fortifications - vs. Bishari and other pastoral groups - perhaps also from Egypt ?
Ancient egyptian administration and accounting - spectacular in its details:
"Offerings made from the solar temple of King Neferirkare to his funerary temple." The solar temple, located a few kilometers away, was the economic center. It sent goods from various agricultural centers or services to the funerary temple; these were all noted in vertical headings in this table. Three columns were devoted to each product:
But who invented the zero, which gives so much power to our number system? We don’t know who invented it, but we are pretty sure that the zero is an Eastern invention. The oldest zero in India with a confirmed date is from the mid-ninth century, and found in the Chatur-bujha temple in the city of Gwalior.
At one point, an older zero was known. In the 1930s a zero from the year AD 683 was found in Cambodia, and its great antiquity allowed a French researcher by the name of Georges Coedes to prove that the zero is of Eastern provenance. This is because, while the Gwalior zero is concurrent with the Arab empire based in Baghdad (the Caliphate), the zero from 683 predates extensive Arab trading. It also comes from a location that is much farther east than India. Its existence thus makes it highly unlikely that the zero was invented in Europe or Arabia and traveled east through Arab traders, as some had believed in the early 20th century. The Cambodian zero proved that zero was an Eastern invention. But this zero disappeared during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, and no one knew if it still existed...
The location where the oldest zero in the world—on a seventh-century stone inscription—was kept was plundered by the Khmer Rouge as late as 1990. I traveled to that location, not far from the famous Angkor Wat temple, and after weeks of searching among thousands of artifacts, many of them damaged or discarded, I was able to discover the inscription.
" The Arab I speak of was called Ahmed Ibn-Fozlan (or Fodhlan), who in one of the first decades of the tenth century A.D. was sent by the Caliph Al-Moktader (who reigned from. A.D. 907 to 932) as an ambassador to the King of Bolgaria (Volgaria), on the Volga. Here he came into contact with the merchants of that nation, whom the Arab writers of the middle ages called Eussian and by which they understood the people who in the greater part of Europe were called Northmen, and later Scandinavians. Ibn-Fozlan employed his sojourn in Bolgaria (among other things) in obtaining information regarding the so-called Eussian usages and customs, and writing a manuscript in which these are described. This manuscript was, in the thirteenth century, incorporated into an Arabic geographical work by Abdallah Yakut, of which manuscript copies are preserved at Paris, Oxford, Copenhagen, and St Petersburg.
1818: Education generates habits of application, of order, and the love of virtue, and controls, by the force of habit, any innate obliquities in our moral organization. We should be far too from the discouraging persuasion that man is fixed by the law of his nature at a given point—that his improvement is a chimera, and the hope delusive of rendering ourselves wiser, happier, or better than our forefathers were. As well might it be urged that the wild and uncultivated tree, hitherto yielding sour and bitter fruit only, can never be made to yield better; yet we know that the grafting art implants a new tree on the savage stock, producing what is most estimable both in kind and degree. Education, in like manner, engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth. And it cannot be but that each generation succeeding to the knowledge acquired by all those who preceded it, adding to it their own acquisitions and discoveries, and handing the mass down for successive and constant accumulation, must advance the knowledge and well-being of mankind: not infinitely, as some have said, but indefinitely, and to a term which no one can fix and foresee.
“He sits behind his desk, with mounds of books and all sorts of Egyptological paraphernalia spread about the room, and you sometimes feel like you’re talking to a sympathetic colleague and other times you feel like you’re talking to the high priest of Ma’at,” says Andrew Scholtz, associate professor and chair of the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department.
Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, law, morality and justice, personified as a goddess who wears a single feather on her head.
“He’s fond of wearing a Ma’at feather pin,” Scholtz says.
Objects originating from the site of Deir el-Medina, Egypt, now housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Gayer-Anderson donated part of the collection of Egyptian antiquities to Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The artefacts arrived between 1943 and 1949. Altogether the Fitzwilliam Museum obtained 46 pieces of ostraka. 15 of these have sketches on both verso and recto, so the number of representations is 61. Majority - 54 - are images of figures, only 4 carry text.
diana buja's insight:
This is a unique ostrakon from Deir el-Medina, showing a woman riding a stallion. I'm unaware of any other textual or pictoral representations of women riders in ancient Egypt