Archaeology

When you tell your daughters that you collect images of Jonah and they send you one from a Basilica

Pretty cool kids… 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 …

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Roman Earthquake Cloaking

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 …

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New Reading of the Mesha Stele

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 biblical story of 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 in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. New …

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Prehistoric Proto-Writing System

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. Source: Stone Age Cave Symbols May All Be Part of a Single Prehistoric Proto-Writing System

Introducing the Assyrians

  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. Source: Introducing the Assyrians – The British Museum Blog My work, Asia …

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Sumer and the Modern Paradigm

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 …

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Show and Tell: Handling Art at the Wurtele Center

My time with the incredible finds from Dura Europos at the Yale University Art Gallery are some of my fondest memories… Walking alongside the shelves, one can step from intricate African sculptures to ancient Greek vases to Chinese porcelain to a collection of Picasso ceramics. Opposite the entrance and behind glass display cases are a series of white, metal sliding shelves. They are filled with, among other things, wooden staffs, tea cups and wall fragments …

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James C. Scott’s New Book

James C. Scott is one of the scholars I always enjoy reading. I was introduced to his work Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts while in a (wonderful) seminary class on the Parables. The insightful connection that our beloved professor made between Jesus’ acts and words in his performance of the parables with the essence of what Scott described as “public” and “hidden” transcripts still resonates with me today anytime I read the …

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Grain counting technologies

“The truth, Scott proposes, may be the opposite. What if early civilization was not a boon to humankind but a disaster: for health and safety, for freedom, and for the natural world? What if the first cities were, above all, vast technologies of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite? If that is where we come from, who are we now? What possibilities might we discover by tracing our origins to a different kind of …

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In honor of #nationalpetday here’s a fun piece on pets from ancient Greece and Rome

The ancient Greeks and Romans were more lavish than the modern world in their expressed affection for beasts. Theirs was a splendid opportunity to know animal life at first hand, not because there were more animals, but on account of the very close relationship effected by polytheistic principles and religious customs.1 Both literature and art attest that there were but few animals not dedicated to gods or goddesses; since religion penetrated ancient life so deeply, …

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Digital Repatriation or Theft?

“I would point to some of the recent trends in 3D scanning as potential new sites for digital colonialism, not just repatriation.  Is prosecution of stolen code related to contested heritage objects a form of digital colonialism?  Is keeping the code private, accessible only to the museum or scholars who obtain access a form of colonialism?  Is publicly releasing the code while holding tight to the physical object reinforcing colonialism?  As this episode tells us, the materiality of these cultural …

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Don’t Buy Into the Myth of Human Progress

Integral calculus, like theology, are areas we imagine we have forward progress as humans… not always the case. “What is perhaps more surprising is the sophistication with which they tracked the planet, judging from inscriptions on a small clay tablet dating to between 350 B.C. and 50 B.C. The tablet, a couple of inches wide and a couple of inches tall, reveals that the Babylonian astronomers employed a sort of precalculus in describing Jupiter’s motion …

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Are we sure Chancellor Palpatine didn’t write this?

“Though imperialism is now held in disrepute, empire has been the default means of governance for most of recorded history, and the collapse of empires has always been messy business…Back then it was states at war; now it is sub-states. Imperialism bestowed order, however retrograde it may have been. The challenge now is less to establish democracy than to reestablish order. For without order, there is no freedom for anyone.” Source: It’s Time to Bring …

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Dura Europos Looting and Devastation Update

Tragic. “There is a complete and massive change to this site,” Wolfinbarger says, comparing the pre-war images to those collected in 2014 of the renowned archaeological treasure. British soldiers discovered Dura Europus in the 1920s. They hit on the wall of the ancient city while digging a trench during World War I. Excavation revealed a provincial Roman town founded in 300 B.C. Brian Daniels, director of research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center in Philadelphia, …

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Dura Europos as a “Moonscape of Craters”

More sadness regarding ISIS and looting at Dura Europos in Syria… “I am fearful that there will be mass looting as in Syria,” said Katharyn Hanson, a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Heritage Centre and a specialist in Mesopotamian archaeology, who is visiting Erbil. She says that Nineveh, Nimrud and other cities of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which once stretched from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, will “become like Dura-Europos on the Euphrates, a …

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Dura Europos and Its Art

 Just received my 1938 first edition copy of M. Rostovtzeff’s Dura Europos And Its Art today. I’ve now been able to secure every first edition of books about Dura (outside of the Final Reports, which I’m working on). Good day. 

Why We Should Care About Archaeological Destruction

This is terrible… The Islamic State group released a video on Thursday showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, describing them as idols that must be removed, according to the Associated Press. The destructions are part of a campaign by Islamic State, who have destroyed a number of shrines — including Muslim holy sites — in order to eliminate what they view as heresy. via Islamic State Video …

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Bejeweled Skeletons of Forgotten Martyrs

That’s one impressive way to go out (despite being forgotten)… In his new book, art historian and author Paul Koudounaris elucidates the macabre splendor and tragic history of Europe’s catacomb saints via Meet the Fantastically Bejeweled Skeletons of Catholicism’s Forgotten Martyrs | History | Smithsonian.

Yale’s Religious Treasures

My masters degree in religion is from Yale, and it’s great to see the religious treasures there highlighted. However, I can’t believe the Dura Europos baptistry (from the earliest house church we’ve recovered and one of the first depictions of Jesus we have) didn’t make the list (the Mithraeum did, though… which is also spectacular). Nevertheless, good read and makes me miss my days working in the Yale Art Gallery as a grad assistant… In …

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Edge of Empires at Dura Europos

Finally got my copy of Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos. It’s a fascinating and beautiful book (I actually took some of the photos in there during my time at Yale University Art Gallery when I worked on digitizing our amazing Dura Europos collection). I could literally go on and on about Dura (ask my wife), but here’s the Amazon description: Strategically located high above the Euphrates River between Syria and …

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