Saturday, April 12, 2003

BAGHDAD MUSEUM STRIPPED (from the New York Times via The Command Post):

Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum Of Its Treasure


BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 12 � The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. But once American troops entered Baghdad in sufficient force to topple Saddam Hussein's government this week, it took only 48 hours for the museum to be destroyed, with at least 170,000 artifacts carried away by looters.


Nothing remained, museum officials said, at least nothing of real value, from a museum that had been regarded by archaeologists and other specialists as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East.

I feel sick.
"The U.S. in the Bible
Are America and Great Britain mentioned in Bible prophecy?"

Uh, no.
Apologies for some of the banner ads above.
THE CURRENT ISSUE OF BIBLICA online has an article of paleojudaic interest:
John J. KILGALLEN, �Hostility to Paul in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13,45) � Why?� , Vol. 84(2003) 1-15
Throughout Acts 13�14 Luke brings to the reader�s knowledge opponents of Paul who are called " the Jews" . The present essay attempts to clarify the meaning of this short-hand identification of Paul�s Jewish opponents. It seems best to understand these particular Jews in the light of zealotry which has its roots in centuries of vigorous defense of Jewish religious convictions.
MOSUL'S MUSEUM LOOTED (from the Guardian). And the ground floor of the Baghdad Archaeological Museum has been as well. See the article from ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and two from the Charlotte Observer here and here.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Lehigh University Archeology Professor Calls Looting of Ancient Artifacts a 'Tragedy of Great Proportions'
By Ascribe, 4/11/2003 14:27

BETHLEHEM, Pa., April 11 (AScribe Newswire) -- Reports coming out of Baghdad (and just confirmed by ABC News) indicate that mobs have looted Iraq's largest acheological museum amid a breakdown in civil authority following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Lotters helped themselves to treasures in the National Museum of Iraq, which housed the remains of ancient civilizations, one of the richest archeological heritages in the world.

''It's a tragedy, a disgrace,'' says David B. Small, professor of sociology and anthropology at Lehigh University and an expert in ancient civilizations. ''The world's heritage is being destroyed, and the public information will quite possibly be lost to us forever.''

Small predicts that some of these artifacts will end up in the hands of private collectors, which means that ''priceless, invaluable artifacts will be lost to the public. It is a tragedy of great proportions.''

If true, this is a terrible tragedy. But so far I can't find any confirmation on the ABC News web page.


US lobby could threaten Iraqi heritage

Donald MacLeod
Thursday April 10, 2003

Apparent lobbying by American art dealers to dismantle Iraq's strict export laws has heightened fears about the looting of the country's antiquities as order breaks down in the last stages of the war.

After the last gulf war a lot of treasures disappeared onto the black market and archaeologists in Britain and the US are concerned this will be repeated on a much larger scale in the power vacuum after the fall of Saddam Hussein, as happened in Afghanistan. For poor Iraqis the temptation to sell stolen antiquities will be greatly increased if it is known there is a ready market in the west.

Iraq, which encompasses Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilisation, is so rich in remains dating back 10,000 years that it has been described as one vast archaeological site.

Dominque Collon, assistant keeper in the department of the ancient near east at the British Museum, said today that alarm bells had been set ringing by reports of a meeting between a coalition of antiquities collectors and arts lawyers, calling itself the American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP), with US defence and state department officials before the start of the war. The group offered help in preserving Iraq's invaluable archaeological collections, but archaeologists fear there is a hidden agenda to ease the way for exports post-Saddam.

The ACCP's treasurer, William Pearlstein, has described Iraq's laws as "retentionist", and the group includes influential dealers who favour a relaxation of the current tight restrictions on the ownership and export of antiquities.

This week an international group of archaeologists petitioned the UN and Unesco, a cultural education body, to ensure that whatever body oversees post-war Iraq takes steps to preserve its priceless heritage from destruction and looting.

They urge that security personnel be posted throughout Iraq at its many archaeological sites and museum storage facilities as soon as possible to halt future thefts. "In the aftermath of the previous gulf war, Iraqi archaeological sites and museum collections suffered from extensive looting, the fruits of which continue to disappear into the international black market for illegally procured antiquities," they say.

There's more, so read it all, including the linked petition. This story makes me pretty nervous. Getting antiquities collectors involved in reforming Iraq's antiquities laws sound to me about like getting the fox to help out in the henhouse. And I'm all for having armed guards at the antiquities sites. But I don't have much confidence in the U.N. either and I'm not sure it's wise to involve them. I wish that House resolution weren't still in committee.
SCHOLAR FRANZ ROSENTHAL DIES AT 88 (from the Yale Daily News).
Near Eastern Languages and Civilization professor emeritus Franz Rosenthal, a noted Arab scholar and esteemed mentor, died April 8 in Branford, Conn., after a battle with cancer. He was 88 years old.

Rosenthal, who taught at Yale from 1956 to 1985 and became a Sterling professor in 1967, published prolifically, including a "Grammar of Biblical Aramaic" and a three-volume translation of Ibn Khaldun's "Muqaddimah."

"He was a scholar of tremendous international reputation," religious studies professor Steven Fraade said.

Rosenthal was one of the premier Aramaic scholars of the twentieth century as well.
LOOTING OF SCROLLS: according to this New York Times article on looting in Baghdad, "Ancient Jewish biblical scrolls were stolen from a museum annex" yesterday.
THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES online has several paleojudaic articles:

Flavius Josephus on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
Paul Spilsbury
pp. 1-24

The Eighteen Benedictions and the Minim before 70 CE
David Instone-Brewer
pp. 25-44

[phgr][agr][rgr][agr][ngr] or [beta][agr][rgr][agr][dgr] in Philo's QG
Howard Jacobson
pp. 158-159

High-Priestly Succession in Jewish Apologetics and Episcopal Succession in Hegesippus
T. C. G. Thornton
pp. 160-163

The full-text PDF files for all of these can be accessed on the linked page. There are lots of book reviews too and I don't have the patience to list the relevant ones, except to note that my book Descenders to the Chariot is there. Again, the same page has the PDF files.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

THIS IS A "VULNERABLE MOMENT" for Iraqi antiquities according to this ABCNews article:

Some fear a valuable location like the Baghdad museum, which was a government-run building and dates back to the 1920s when it was founded by a British diplomat, could be an easy target. The museum is located near one of Saddam's presidential palaces in central Baghdad on the west bank of the Tigris River.

Baghdad Museum Likely Target

"It's a beautiful, sprawling building with an elaborate gateway out front," said [specialist John] Russell. "It's L-shaped and has three to four courtyards."

After the previous Gulf War in 1991, archaeologists estimate that looters seized thousands of ancient artifacts and then sold them on the black market. The Baghdad museum remained safe from looters during that conflict, although nine of 13 museums in Iraq's south and north were raided by mobs, who smashed exhibits and stole artifacts.

"If there is a time when you're going to lose the collection it's now � during this volatile transition between Saddam Hussein's regime and whatever comes next," said Elizabeth Stone, an archaeologist at State University of New York in Stony Brook. "Even here when Hurricane Gloria came through, people were looting and doing outrageous things.

"And that was just a hurricane. This is a regime change."

Russell has tried, but not managed to reach his colleagues at the Baghdad museum since the war began. Phone lines haven't worked and his friends haven't been able to use e-mail.

"There isn't even a Web site for the museum yet � things have been pretty closed, " he said. "But now, maybe that's one thing that will change."

No web page! When things settle down maybe we can get them to start a blog.
A REFERENCE TO A MUSEUM AT RUINS OF BABYLON in an article in the New York Times:

As they spoke, another general, Benjamin C. Freakley was calling for an army fuel truck to deliver diesel to a water plant. During the battles over the last week, General Freakley had been the forward commander, and he drove from one battlefront to the next, discussing tactics with everyone from commanders with maps to privates in bunkers.


Later, General Freakley stopped briefly at the Babylonian ruins. At a museum, the curator explained that the Hussein government had ordered one of the gates cinder-blocked up. This made the entryway inconvenient. Perhaps the general could help by having the cinder blocks removed?

General Freakley promised that he would. In his Humvee, he radioed the Army engineers, gave them a map grid number to steer them to the museum, and then turned north to Baghdad, where the 101st would join other troops.

"This has been a pretty good day," General Freakley said.

300 DEAD SEA SCROLL LINKS. Count 'em. Quality varies.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003


From a Reuters article from several hours ago:

Babylon flourished twice in ancient times and laid the foundations for much of today's civilisation, with its emphasis on a legal code, culture and science. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

But Babylon does not attract the visitors its heritage deserves, in part due to Iraq's international isolation during Saddam's rule. To add to the ignominy, the war has cut off its electricity and the museum is closed to prevent looting.

Staff at the site idling in the shadow of a replica of the blue-brick Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous landmarks in the Babylon of King Nebuchadnezzar II, said they hoped peace would bring more tourists back to the area -- after the war.

UPDATE (9:12 pm): Note the following from earlier the same article:

Some soldiers were more sensitive than others to the site.

A general rebuked one officer after a tank from his unit of the 101st Airborne Division rumbled onto the main Babylon site containing extensive -- if, to some purists, rather vulgar -- reconstructions of the city: "We just can't have that," he said.

No we can't. Well done, General.

CENTRAL IRAQ: U.S. forces moved through the site of King Nebuchadnezzar's ancient Babylon, a cradle of civilization which also houses one of the many lavish palaces of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. soldiers combed the area in a search for Iraqi forces and weapons in and around the city of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital. But Iraqi fighters had already left town.
BY THE WAY, the car keys were recovered today.
ARTICLES OF PALEOJUDAIC INTEREST in the current volume of the online Journal of Hebrew Scriptures include:

Christine Mitchell, "Accession in Chronicles: Transformations in Meaning: Solomon's Accession in Chronicles"

R. Christopher Heard, "Echoes of Genesis in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10: An Intertextual and Contextual Reading of Jabez's Prayer"

I've linked to the PDF versions of the articles, since the web version doesn't seem to work in Netscape. The reviews are not arranged according to volume, but you can find lots of them in alphabetical order according to surname of author by following the link

Tuesday, April 08, 2003


Leon Levy, a hedge fund pioneer who began investing at 13 with $200 and went on to make many millions, enough to make him one of the main individual backers of archaeological research, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 77.
The support he and his wife gave to archaeology resulted most famously in the 1990 dig in Israel that found a golden calf of the kind described in the Bible as being worshiped as an idol.

Mr. Levy funded the Ashkelon excavation, on which, as I mentioned earlier, I worked in the 1980s and where the "golden calf" was found. May his memory be for a blessing.
CTESIPHON AVOIDED. Note this passing comment in a widely published article on the capture of an apparent terrorist training camp (quoted here from the Guardian):

In attacking the military base, the Marines kept away from the nearby ruins of Ctesiphon, a Persian capital - its main architectural wonder, the 3rd century, 99-foot-high arched dome of King Sapor's great banqueting hall, still standing.
A SURVEY OF THE HISTORY OF MEGIDDO in the Toronto Star (via Archaeologica News).

Silent stones, scattered bones, Armageddon


MEGIDDO�On a deceptively tranquil spring day, one can sit on the crumbling stones of this ancient site, hypnotized by the birdsong and the sweet, heady scent of early jasmine and almond blossom, feeling at peace with the world.

But this is Armageddon, originally the Hebrew "Har Megiddon," a name that has gone through the ages as the sum of all fears: the biblical place of the final battle on Earth. A place of war, suffering and death.

Oddly, the article never explains how Mount Megiddo became the eschatological "Armageddon" (see Revelation 16:16).

Monday, April 07, 2003

SOME BOOK REVIEWS of paleojudaic interest in the current issue of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies online. The whole book review file for vol. 62.1 (2003) must be opened as a single PDF file - you can't access a single review on its own.

MARY JOAN WINN LEITH. Wadi Daliyah I: The Wadi Daliyeh Seal Impressions (Mark B. Garrison)

ERIC M. MEYERS ed. Galilee through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures (Edgar Krentz)

JOHN WILLIAM WEVERS. Notes on the Greek Text of Numbers (Nathan Jastram)

MAURICE CASEY. Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel (Michael O. Wise)

JOHN J. COLLINS. Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (Chris A. Rollston)

SHAYE J. D. COHEN. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Lester L. Grabbe)

WE'RE BACK IN ST. ANDREWS and, yes, we made it to the castle. On Friday my son's finger had an unfortunate encounter with two Boules balls and the law of inertia, which led to an exciting visit to the casualty ward that afternoon - made more exciting by the fact that he'd lost his mother's car keys in the supermarket on Thursday and getting everyone to the hospital involved a kind neighbor, a kind coworker, and musical cars. But he was still up for the holiday and the bandaged finger caused no inconvenience apart from a short trip to the Dunfermline hospital on Sunday to get the dressing changed. Besides the castle and a visit to the Raptor Centre, we found some interesting potsherds in the vacant lot next to our motel and we brought back a rim with a cool design. (No, it wasn't discarded from the Food Court's dishware either, although I have no idea how old it is, apart from being, well, "old.")