A false sense of security persists surrounding digitized documents: because an infinite number of identical copies can be made of any original, most of us believe that our electronic files have an indefinite shelf life and unlimited retrieval opportunities. In fact, preserving the world’s online content is an increasing concern, particularly as file formats (and the hardware and software used to run them) become scarce, inaccessible, or antiquated, technologies evolve, and data decays. Without constant maintenance and management, most digital information will be lost in just a few decades. Our modern records are far from permanent.
It’s always been my conjecture that the Dura Europos Baptistry had images of Jonah present as a representation of the 3-day Resurrection event in a Jewish/Chritian context. There were depictions of Adam and Eve in the Baptistry area (along with Jesus as the Good Shepherd as well as other common representations from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in places such as the Catacombs in Rome).
Here’s an image of the Dura Baptistry from the original printing of Dura Europos and Its Art by Prof. M. Rostovtzeff (1938, Oxford Press)… one of my favorite books and possessions:
The top register includes a depiction of Jesus telling the disabled person by the Bethesda Pool to grab their cot and get up and walk off (John 5). It’s a terrific passage.
The amazing (and frustrating thing) is that the register literally flows the pool into a depiction of Jesus walking on water on the Sea of Galilee and getting Peter to hop out of the boat to walk towards him (Mark 6, Matthew 14, and John 6)… which doesn’t turn out well for Peter. The depiction here actually shows Peter sinking in the waves!
Here are the two panels we have with the earliest depictions of Jesus that we know of …
While a grad student at Yale, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of years working at the incredible Yale Art Gallery with Prof. Susan Matheson and the talented staff there. One of my “jobs” (it was more like dream assignments) was working in the basement to catalog the Dura Europos collection with digital photography. I got to see this fresco on a pretty regular basis and we became good pals. If I knew then what I know now…
However, the frustrating part is that the water continues to flow to the next register… which has been lost to history after the sack of the (then) Roman Dura Europos in 256-257 CE by Sassanians and subsequent abandonment of the fort / town and eventual disappearance into history before the complete looting of the site by ISIS over the last decade. It’s a sad tale and I had always hoped to travel to Dura and participate in a dig where we’d uncover the other pieces of the top register in the Baptistry that would almost certainly have included Jonah being regurgitated from the fish and therefore seal my case about Jewish-Christianity extending well into the 3rd and 4th centuries. Alas.
Again, Jonah shows up quite often in early Christian artwork and imagery as a signifier of the Resurrection (the Catacombs especially), but I always wanted to see what those genius artists who designed the Dura Europos Baptistry did with the rest of the panels and the water theme as they perched between the edge of the desert and overlooking the Euphrates River.
I tend to agree with the physicist from UNCC here that the Colosseum and other buildings that exhibit these “metamaterial” designs were probably self-selecting (in that they didn’t fall down during earthquakes), but we definitely don’t give the ancients enough credit with their engineering and scientific prowess…
Scientists are hard at work developing real-world “invisibility cloaks” thanks to a special class of exotic manmade “metamaterials.” Now a team of French scientists has suggested in a recent preprint on the physics arXiv that certain ancient Roman structures, like the famous Roman Colosseum, have very similar structural patterns, which may have protected them from damage from earthquakes over the millennia.
Potentially huge (I appreciate Thomas Römer‘s scholarship a great deal):
A name in Line 31 of the stele, previously thought to read ‘House of David’, could instead read ‘Balak’, a king of Moab mentioned in the biblicalstoryof Balaam (Numbers 22-24), say archaeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein and historians and biblical scholars Prof. Nadav Na’aman and Prof. Thomas Römer, in an article published inTel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.
While studying some of the oldest art in the world found in caves and engraved on animal bones or shells, paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has found evidence of a proto-writing system that perhaps developed in Africa and then spread throughout the world.
Layard’s discoveries caused a media sensation and captured the public imagination. This had a major impact on painting and applied arts, in the UK and beyond, during the second half of the nineteenth century, which led to a brief phase of ‘Assyrian revival’. The Assyrian sculptures at the British Museum largely remain today where they were first installed over 160 years ago.
The British Museum has an incredible collection of Assyrian artifacts, as does the Metropolitan Museum in New York. However, these small (at the time) colleges were also collecting Assyrian reliefs not just for academic study or curiosity but to prove a point about the Bible to the young men they were training for a life in the ministry.
It’s a fascinating story and I hope to revisit it and do more exploration into the missionary-minded impetus behind collecting and displaying these archaeological (and theological) pieces.
Btw, in “Asia Has Claims…,” I was able to work with Prof. Samuel Paley to produce a computer animation (way back in 2001) that more accurately depicted what the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II’s palace would have looked like (the one drawn in the 19th cent for Layard that’s at the top of this post was waaaaay off).
Modern artists discovered Sumerian art between the world wars, at a time when British and American archaeological missions were working in southern Iraq. But archaeologists like Leonard Woolley, head of the mission in Ur were less fascinated by their finds. They considered Mesopotamian art inferior to Egyptian and to Graeco-Roman art and thought Mesopotamian iconography was an expression of a violent culture. Sacrificed bodies found at the Royal Tombs of Ur were the proof that the Bible was right about the Mesopotamian barbarism.