Was Writing Developed by Poets, Priests, our Accountants?

Fun read:

As a writer of nonfiction, I can’t help but love writing’s roots in enumerating concrete objects and reality itself. The textual analyst part of me loves how Mesopotamian tokens were wrapped in clay envelopes after being impressed on the soft exterior – perhaps clay-wrapped tokens of meaning give rise to the notion that text is both a surface and an interior, and that that’s what leads us to talk so relentlessly (in English and other languages) about what is ‘in’ a given text. The poet in me wants to repurpose the heavy thumb of authority’s use of writing on behalf of the powerless. The linguist in me recognises the cognitive significance of the layers of writing’s invention, none of which the brain was evolved to do specifically but with which we have co-evolved. And as a partisan of text, I know its deep history won’t ever be erased.

— Read on aeon.co/essays/the-roots-of-writing-lie-in-hopes-and-dreams-not-in-accounting

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 Has Claims Upon New England: Assyrian Reliefs at Yale, covers the American reaction (primarily northeastern colleges meant to educate ministers such as Yale, Harvard, Williams, Union Seminary, Amherst etc) to “Assyriamania.”

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).

Viking Color Palette

Well now I think this blog needs a visual overhaul (we Harrelson’s do come from the Vikings after all):

Archaeologists and chemists have now studied colour use in the Viking Age based on the chemical analyses of pigments from a number of objects and a review of existing information on the topic.

These colours are now available to all in the form of a colour palette: A Viking paint chart.

— Read on sciencenordic.com/how-decorate-viking

“Where did Angels come from?”

I got asked that question during a Sunday School class on Old Testament conceptions of the divine a few years back. I struggled to gather my thoughts quickly and do that Middle School Teacher “Well, actually… it’s very interesting you see…” thing.

But it is a long and interesting history to process how we went from the regional deity of Yahweh to having monotheism to having the middle tier of gods deleted and the lower tier of gods transformed into individual angels with specific names and identities etc.

It’s hard for modern Christians to hear, but we shouldn’t always take the easy route of reading our own modern conceptions of the divine spheres back into texts like Genesis…

Good post here with more of the history behind the concept:

Since they no longer posed a threat to Yahweh, angels began to gain individuality, leading to the explosion of interest in the angelic and demonic worlds in late Second Temple times. The shift to a single-god system led to another late Second Temple split with seeds in Genesis 6 and a full flowering in the Christian New Testament: the lowest divine tier further divided into good angels and bad angels or demons (see, for example, Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7-9). These beings fight not over supremacy in heaven, but rather over the souls of humanity. This final movement established the basic framework shared by Christian and Islamic monotheism—a single, universal god whose rule is contested by demonic figures.

— Read on www.asor.org/anetoday/2018/06/Making-of-Monotheism