Sam Harrelson

Did ancient people see blue?

Realizing that the origins of colors in Mesopotamia are found in the idea of brightness and saturation allows us to dispel the notion that Akkadian has a poor and imprecise color vocabulary. Rather than look for equivalents to English words like red, blue and purple, we should understand how colors were imagined and experienced by ancient [hu]man[s] under the conditions of [their]his own speech community. Only then can we begin to appreciate the use of color in his art and poetry.

Source: – ANE TODAY – 201802 – Missing Shade Blue




Finding your column ain’t easy

“Symeon selected a three-metre-high column in the Syrian desert near Antioch, and there he stood day in, day out, eventually attracting such a crowd that the noise caused him to build his column higher, bringing him closer to God and 16 metres off the ground. Symeon managed to live like this for 30 years, and many other monks began to follow his example so that a whole stylite movement developed which was still going strong in the 11th century CE.”

via Byzantine Monasticism – Ancient.eu




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 ancestor?”

via “What made prehistoric hunter-gatherers give up freedom for civilization?” by Jedediah Purdy in New Republic




Of Siri and Hesiod

There’s a very subtle but very real history behind Siri (and Google Now and Amazon Echo’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana) having a female voice and persona…

“But because the creatures in these myths are virtually identical to their creators, these narratives raise further questions, of a more profoundly philosophical nature: about creation, about the nature of consciousness, about morality and identity. What is creation, and why does the creator create? How do we distinguish between the maker and the made, between the human and the machine, once the creature, the machine, is endowed with consciousness—a mind fashioned in the image of its creator? In the image: the Greek narrative inevitably became entwined with, and enriched by, the biblical tradition, with which it has so many striking parallels. The similarities between Hesiod’s Pandora and Eve in Genesis indeed raise further questions: not least, about gender and patriarchy, about why the origins of evil are attributed to woman in both cultures.”

Source: The Robots Are Winning! by Daniel Mendelsohn | The New York Review of Books




Classical Inscriptions, Fonts, and Avatar

“The Renaissance was chockablock with copyists who learned and then duplicated Latin epigraphic scripts for various purposes. This imitation game had a great amount of influence on the Renaissance antiquities market at the time (forgeries could be bought all over Italy), but it is also revealed in the fonts we use today–particularly Roman fonts. The invention of fonts by various printers and typesetters in the 15th and 16th centuries was often inspired by lapidary inscriptions from the catacombs or pulled from manuscripts recording antique stones. After all, these inscriptions were increasingly displayed in the houses of the Roman elite, by popes, in churches, and in newly established museums.”

Source: Times New Roman: Classical Inscriptions, Epigraphy Hunters, and Renaissance Fonts – SARAH E. BOND




“Dura Europos Fanboy”

Merianna just called me a “Dura Europos Fanboy” as she walked past me reading an article in this morning’s NY Times by Prof. Michael Peppard about Dura Europos while drinking coffee from my Dura Europos mug.

duranytimes

 




The New York Public Library Uploads 200,000 Images for Public Use

What the web was made for… much more beneficial to humanity than social media silos or native content ads:

The New York Public Library just uploaded nearly 200,000 images you can use for free | The Verge: “The New York Public Library just released a treasure trove of digitized public domain images, featuring epic poetry from the 11th century to photographs of used car lots in Columbus, Ohio from the 1930s. Over 180,000 manuscripts, maps, photographs, sheet music, lithographs, postcards, and other images were released online Wednesday in incredibly high resolution, and are available to download using the library’s user-friendly visualization tool. It’s a nostalgist’s dream come true.”




Roman Empire GDP Per Capita

NewImage

Fascinating…

Roman Empire GDP Per Capita Map Shows That Romans Were Poorer Than Any Country in 2015 – Brilliant Maps: “What a difference 2,000 years makes. The map above shows the GDP per capita in 14AD of the various provinces of the Roman Empire in 1990 PPP Dollars. On average, the GDP per capita across the whole Empire, was only $570.”




Thoughts in the Presence of Fear

We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

Source: Orion Magazine | Thoughts in the Presence of Fear

Wendell Berry is a modern day Amos, speaking to us in a prophetic voice that we are quick to admonish.

Although written shortly after 9/11, this essay still resonates just as the words of Amos and Hosea challenge us today.

Practice Resurrection.




Go Read Ezra and Nehemiah

dura-ezra“This story came out of nowhere and had me looking at other resources for answers. First, I didn’t really know that Ezra and Nehemiah were. And now, Nehemiah — a name I couldn’t spell in my notebook without writing out each letter looking at the Bible — and he was speaking to me. I flew through the pages.”

Source: A Catholic reads the Bible, week 22 – CNN.com

Whatever your religion, non-religion, perspective, or theology… go read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

People often look at me strangely when I tell them they are two of my favorite things in the Bible, but when I taught Old Testament at the college level we’d always spend way too much time with these books. Both (once the same) are very overlooked yet important for understanding our current situation, the development of Judaism, early Christianity, historical geography, and broader issues of colonialism.




Wait, it wasn’t handed to King James directly by Moses??

“An American professor happened upon a manuscript by one of the Bible’s translators at Cambridge, a discovery that may shed light on how the translators worked.”

Source: Earliest Known Draft of King James Bible Is Found, Scholar Says




18th Century Contextual Advertising

Does this advertisement from the May 10, 1764 issue of Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette make you want to pick up some Benjamin Jackson Mustard and Chocolate?

Source: 18th Century Advertising, When Brevity Wasn’t Key | Rag Linen | Online Museum of Historic Newspapers

We complain about ads on the web (or Facebook) today, but the convention is nothing new. Our ability to contextualize ads, and ignore them, are interesting developments in our own own structural literacies.

What is new is the ability of advertisers to “track” our digital selves on and off the web and our ability to actually block ads on the web with ad blockers.

How will the web “disrupt” humanity’s second oldest profession?

BTW, this ad totally makes me want to go to Philadelphia and buy some of this mustard.




“We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it.”

“We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him for it.”

Source: Lincoln – David Herbert Donald – Google Books

A little reminder of what’s good about the United States on this night of shameful performances at the GOP Debate on the question of Supreme Court litmus tests.




U.S. Poverty Shifts Since 1960

“Since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago, the characteristics of the nation’s poor have changed: A larger share of poor Americans today are in their prime working years and fewer are elderly. In addition, those in poverty are disproportionately children and people of any age who are black, Hispanic or both.

But perhaps just as striking is that the geographic distribution of the poor has changed dramatically, too. A new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds that the South continues to be home to many of America’s poor, though to a lesser degree than a half-century ago. In 1960, half (49%) of impoverished Americans lived in the South. By 2010, that share had dropped to 41%.”

Source: How the geography of U.S. poverty has shifted since 1960 | Pew Research Center




Destroying Dura Europos

A Greek settlement on the Euphrates not far from Syria’s border with Iraq, Dura-Europos later became one of Rome’s easternmost outposts. It housed the world’s oldest known Christian church, a beautifully decorated synagogue, and many other temples and Roman-era buildings. Satellite imagery shows a cratered landscape inside the city’s mud-brick walls, evidence of widespread destruction by looters.

Source: Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed

One of my biggest regrets in life is not making more of an effort to actually visit the site of Dura Europos (and Nimrud) before this bleak period in the area’s history. I’ll always have my memories from working with Yale’s collection of material from Dura, and my books, my journal articles, and my media clippings… but to have been there before ISIS…

carpe diem




Thomas Jefferson Was Obsessed with Mammoths

“For most of his life, Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with mammoths. (More correctly, he was obsessed with American mastodons, tree-chewing cousins of mammoths that lived in the Northern part of the continent—but at the time, he and the rest of the world thought they were mammoths.) He liked theorizing about mammoths, he liked talking about mammoths, he liked making his friends rack up exorbitant postage bills in order to mail him mammoth teeth. And for decades, from the mid-1760s onward, he was particularly dedicated to one surprisingly high-stakes activity—convincing a famous French naturalist that mammoths were still out there, tearing up the wild West with their tusks.”

Source: Thomas Jefferson Built This Country On Mastodons

I had no idea.




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 reality, this supposed bastion of elite godless education is teeming with people studying religion, teaching religion, and doing religion. Yale has a divinity school with a Christian identity, albeit a non-denominational one that welcomes students of other religions and no religions. It has two large chapels, the famed Battell Chapel on the undergraduate campus and the graceful Marquand Chapel at the divinity quadrangle. And Yale, a place that started out as a training ground for Congregationalist ministers (whose students included none other than Jonathan Edwards) retains to this day a dazzling array of religious treasures and relics, all publicly available.

via 15 Religion Treasures at Yale | Tom Krattenmaker.




Economic Virtue

Wendell Berry

We’ve been taught to think that the only economic virtue is competitiveness. This is a faith: I’ll get into it for all I’m worth, seeking the maximum advantage for myself.

via The “Mad” Farmer » American Scientist.




New Album with Old Music

Looks like a beautiful collection of ancient Mesopotamian poetry set to the original lyrics (relatively, of course) with close-to-original instruments.

I’ve always wondered what the Hymn to Nikkal (the world’s oldest song that we’ve recovered) might have sounded like.

Of course, we don’t really know what ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, or even Attic Greek really sounded like, but we do know that these languages were inherently more “musical” than English.

What did ancient Babylonian songs sound like? Something like this.

Ordered!




Shortest Day of the Year

Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship Christmas Service

The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December Solstice.

The December Solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun.

via TimeAndDate.com

At 6:03 PM EST last night, our geographic location was the furthermost position away from the sun that it will be until next December. I was lucky enough to be singing Christmas carols with my wife, our girls, and members of our faith community at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.

Solstice has long been a sacred day for those of us in the northern hemisphere and marks the “extreme of winter” or Donghzi in Chinese. It happens to coincide with major times of festivals in modern and ancient religions on purpose, as we continue to come to grips with our humanity while wrestling with concepts of existence, death, and faith in times of darkness.

Here’s to the lengthening of days and the spreading of candelight to remind us of the angels of our better natures as our mother planet makes yet another orbit around her own parental star. We are a young and curious species, indeed.